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Archive for April, 2012

THE HORROR, THE HORROR: How Family Court And DHS Left 6-Year-Old Khalil Wimes To Die

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


INQUIRER: When police arrested the parents of Khalil Wimes and accused them of starving and torturing their 6-year-old son to death, Mayor Nutter decried the boy’s demise as tragic, but said the city could not have prevented it. Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services had no official oversight – no “open case” – for Khalil Wimes, the mayor stressed. “None,” Nutter told reporters in March. “Next question.” In fact, Khalil had spent the final months of his life beaten, bone thin, desperately ill, and out of school – and DHS had failed to see what was right in front of it. An Inquirer review of Khalil’s death – including interviews with his siblings, foster parents, and other family members, and a review of police reports, court documents, and DHS files – found the city missed many chances to save him. […] Four times DHS visited the apartment where the boy spent his last days in a latched, empty bedroom on a soiled, plastic mattress. He was never enrolled in school. His parents claimed they were home-schooling him. There is no indication DHS ever verified that with school officials.

During these months, Khalil’s parents beat him regularly, with books, shoes, extension cords, and a belt, according to interviews with two adult sisters. Three large welts on his forehead are visible in an October 2011 family photograph.The signs of Khalil’s abuse and deteriorating health were visible during DHS visits, according to family members. The social worker questioned Khalil’s mother about his scars and bruises but did not act. Khalil was dead from head trauma when his parents – Floyd Wimes, 48 [pictured, below right], and Tina Cuffie, 44 [pictured, above right] – brought him to the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania on the night of March 19. His corpse was “extremely emaciated” – weighing only 29 pounds, just over half the weight of an average boy his age – and bore a sea of scars across the face, neck, back, arms, and legs, according to court documents and police reports obtained by The Inquirer. Investigators believe he had been abused for as long as two years.”There was no surface of his body that didn’t have an injury,” said First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: When doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia laid their eyes on Khalil Wimes on Monday night, they saw a broken and emaciated little boy.He was unconscious, sunken, and sallow, 6 years old but weighing only 29 pounds.His mother, Tina Cuffie, 44, had five other children who were removed from her care. She had taken her son to the hospital, saying he had slipped in the bathroom. She could not explain the sea of scarring along the boy’s arms, face, back, and neck. Khalil died within the hour of blunt-force trauma to the head, a medical examiner ruled. Cuffie and the child’s father, Latiff Hadi [pictured, lower right], 48, were charged with murder. Searching the family’s South Philadelphia walk-up the next day, police found a latch on the boy’s bedroom door – so it could be locked from the outside. The room was bare save for a urine-soaked crib mattress on the floor. MORE

INQUIRER: According to police reports, Tina Cuffie  struck her final and fatal blow on the morning of March 19 inside the bathroom. “I popped him in the back of the head and knocked him to the floor,” she told police. “He fell flat on his face and split his lip. He didn’t even try to break his fall.” The couple waited 10 hours before bringing his body to the hospital.  MORE

DAILY MAIL: The family argue that they pleaded with the DHS and the court system to protect the young boy and his sister from their parents – writing letters of appeal to the mayor, DHS, and the judge, begging for the decision to be overturned. ‘DHS is supposed to protect the children. He was in a very safe home; he was ripped from a safe home and taken back to squalor. I’m very saddened but I’ll be honest with you, I’m extremely angry, I’m angry right now,’ uncle Sulaiman Hadi said. It’s unclear why Khalil and his 3-year-old sister were still living at the home and DHS have not made comment on the case. It is believed that the DHS had no open cases on Khalil and his sister. On Tina Wimes Facebook she lists the births of all her children and beneath a picture taken of Khalil she writes: ‘My angel sent on Valentine’s Day’ – referencing his February 14 birthday. MORE

PHAWKER: Ordinarily, we are anti-death penalty, but we’d be willing to look the other way on this one.

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OBAMA & FALLON: Slow Jam The News

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

With The Roots on top. Kinda mind-blowing that it even happened. Combined with the president’s press secretary declaring, in the middle of a White House conference, that Guided By Voices “the greatest rock n’ roll band of the modern era,” (for the second time!)it feels like some kind of cosmic joke that, for a change, we’re not the butt of. Feels good, man.

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SMELL YA LATER: Gingrich To Suspend Campaign

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

NPR: Fox News reports that “senior Gingrich aides” say former House Speaker Newt Gingrich “plans to formally suspend or end his presidential campaign next Tuesday.” CNN writes that “sources close to Newt Gingrich say he will end his bid for the GOP presidential nomination next week.” USA Today‘s On Politics blog notes that “Gingrich told a North Carolina audience today that he’s ‘working out the details of our transition.’ ” MORE

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TIME HAS COME TODAY: Brian Sims Unseats Babette Josephs To Become 1st Out PA Legislator

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


NEWSWORKS: At a time when so many of us say we’re sick of politicians and want to throw all the bums out, we generally don’t. And that’s one lesson from yesterday’s legislative races in Pennsylvania. Incumbents prevailed almost everywhere.But in Philadelphia, the rule was broken by Brian Sims, an openly gay attorney who mobilized a national constituency to unseat a fixture in the city’s Harrisburg delegation, Democratic state Rep. Babette Josephs of Center City. Josephs, who was elected when Ronald Reagan was president, was simply overhelmed by Sims’ direct mail and field effort. A veteran committeeman from the 8th ward told me he’d never seen anything like it: 10 direct mail pieces and two election day door-hangers, with plenty of sneakers on the street. If you look at Sims’ campaign finance report, you’ll see this is no mystery – scores of contributions, many from out-of-state, reflecting the push to make him the Commonwealth’s first openly-gay legislator. MORE

HUFFINGTON POST: Brian Sims never really had to come out to his college football team as gay. In fact, it was the other way around: his team more came out to him.

My quarterback and I… I think we were walking back to the car to get beer out of the trunk. And out of nowhere, the guy turns around and goes, “Yo, Sims. You gay?” And it completely caught me off guard, and I really quickly said, “Yeah, man, thanks for asking.” And we both sort of stood there. It was one of those things where it felt like five minutes; it was probably five seconds. And he says, “Cool, man, thanks for telling me.” And we just sort of kept on walking like it hadn’t happened. And we got to the car, picked up some beer, walked back.

For the next three months, Brian couldn’t go anywhere without one of his teammates stopping him to say, “Hey, man, just wanted to let you know, I heard, and it’s really cool with me, I got no problems with that, sorry about anything I might have said.” MORE

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ARTSY: Knight Arts Challenge Winner’s Circle

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

BY BRANDON LAFVING The Knight Arts Challenge 2012 winners were announced last night at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Awards were announced to the pleasant tune of $2.76 million, slated for reinvigorating Philadelphia’s vibrant cultural life.Everyone was there but you: the Mayor, Chief Cultural Officer, a host of other VIPs. They wore rakish suits, sleek cocktail dresses. I wore khakis and a brown sweater with elbow patches. I don’t think they would have let me in without the elbow patches. The look and feel of the ceremony may have shouted generic city publicity nonsense, but the façade – fortunately laden with tasty sliders and tangy scallops – belied the democratic initiative behind it all.

Suffice it to say that the Knight Foundation has simplified the grant application process. Anybody with an idea and a computer can enter by writing a short paragraph that outlines his/her general concept and how the city would benefit. After tasting the quality of the meat, I must admit experiencing some skepticism regarding the de facto rules. Sure, the set up was simplified, and the red tape was supposedly cut, but what about the execution? I wanted to know how many awards were given to smaller organizations, the ones that no one knew about beforehand.

The results provided some reason for optimism. One relatively new organization, The Hacktory (founded in 2007), received $40,000 to teach artists how to use technology in their work. An even more recent dance/theater troupe, Swim Pony, was meted out $50,000 to present contemporary plays in nontraditional spaces. They’ve only been around since 2009.There were plenty of more experienced, entrenched organizations there, too, which is allowed. University City District received $120,000 for The Porch – a legitimately awesome project to revitalize 30th Street Station with daily public arts programming.Other recipient projects followed the laws of attraction, literally. The Kimmel Center was given help to thankfully and finally attract younger audiences with new, innovative programming.

Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation was dished $350,000 for some late-night happenings that will cater to the same crowd.I left with a full belly but not fully slaked. I came looking for corruption and dirty politicking, and I found a generative, creative, and authentic, albeit formal, event that will undoubtedly help support artists and organizations that make Philadelphia a unique, cool town. Rainbows and unicorns don’t make good journalism, but there you have it.

PHOTO: The Bearded Ladies Cabaret Revolution’s “No Regrets: A Piaf Affair.” Courtesy of plate3photography
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Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

Monday, April 23rd, 2012


Actor Jack Black is best known for his comedic performances in films like Nacho Libre and School of Rock. In his latest film, Bernie, Black goes to a darker place: He plays a serious small-town funeral director who uncharacteristically murders his live-in companion, a wealthy widow played by Shirley MacLaine. The film is based on a true story. In 1996, 39-year-old Bernie Tiede of Carthage, Texas, murdered his 81-year-old companion, Marjorie Nugent, shooting her in the back four times with a rifle. A lengthy Texas Monthly article about the case notes that “what made the story peculiar was that Mrs. Nugent had been dead for almost nine months before people began searching for her. What made the story truly bizarre was the way many of the townspeople rallied around the 39-year-old man who had admitted to killing her and stealing her money — the soft-spoken, chubby-cheeked Tiede, the former assistant funeral director at Hawthorn Funeral Home who had gotten close to Mrs. Nugent when he supervised her husband’s funeral.” Tiede, currently serving life in prison, met with Black for 45 minutes at his maximum-security prison before filming began. “What was crucial was that he was really likable,” Black tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “You could really believe that the whole town could be in love with Bernie.” MORE

[Artwork by Thomas Kain]
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REWIND: R.E.M. @ The Mann 6/18/08

Monday, April 23rd, 2012


BY JONATHAN VALANIA First time I heard “Wolves, Lower” live was at the Beacon Theater in New York City, and The Dream Syndicate opened. It was 1984 and Michael Stipe had hair down to his shoulders. The second time I heard it live was last night at the Mann Music Center, and Modest Mouse and The National opened. Hate to sound like Bill Murray reviewing movies he didn’t see on SNL back in the day, but The National? Didn’t see ‘em, babe. I blame the traffic planner who thought just one or two little one-lane access roads would be more than enough for 12,000 murmuring fans and their Land Cruisers. Modest Mouse? Wish I missed ‘em. Message to Johnny Marr: Find Morrissey, make nice. Seriously. It’s time.

Really, aside from hour-long crawl from the Schuylkill exit ramp to the Mann parking lot and Modest Mouse, it was a perfect night: A crisp, autumnal evening within the warm, oaken confines of The Mann with one of the last great bands from the dawn of the alt-rock era in pinnacle form. Stipe was in fine voice, alternating between his hectoring bleat on the hard stuff and floating his pony-boy falsetto over the dreamy stuff, looking hale, healthy and dapper in a smartly-tailored pinstripe suit. Peter Buck was all blazing six-string Rickenbackers, doing his patented one-legged drunken-ballet rock moves in a black leather jacket that lasted all of three songs. Mike Mills looked like somebody covered him in honey and shot him out of a cannon thru Stevie Nicks wardrobe. Despite the turquoise, Mills nailed down the bottom end with drummer Bill Rieflin, and his gorgeous, candy-coated tenor put songs like “Fall On Me” and “Man On The Moon” over the top. In a good way.

The set list was impeccably drawn, plucking a neglected gem from nearly every album in the band’s canon (“Life And How To Live It”!), without reaching for the obvious (no “Everybody Hurts”, no “End of The World”) while making a persuasive case for the purity and power of the new material (“Man-Sized Wreath” and the ridiculously-titled “Supernatural Superserious” stomped on the terra). And there were a few pleasant surprises. “Let Me In”, the posthumous open letter to Kurt Cobain — a noisy feed-back-smeared tone poem on record — was transmuted into an acoustic hootenanny with down-from-the-mountain harmonies. As if to say: Oh brother, where art thou?

Second big surprise was Eddie Vedder appearing out of thin air for a stellar cameo on “Begin The Begin” that would have made Miles Standish proud. For better or worse, there would be no Vedder yarl if Michael Stipe never existed. So I am only half-kidding when I say that Pearl Jam and REM oughta switch singers for their next albums. Think about it guys.

I can count on two hands the number of times I have seen R.E.M. over the years, and last night was by far the best — for reasons far too innumerable to go into here, and for most to mean anything you had to be there. Sorry. You had your chance. But the one thing will I never forget is the image of the bookish, bespectacled girl next to me awkwardly dancing her little double-latte heart out — kinda looked like she was flapping her wings, to the casual observer — during “Losing My Religion.” She looked like somebody who is rarely, if ever, so physically demonstrative in public and for good reason — her semi-private choreography was straight out of the Elaine Benes Big Book Of How Not To Dance In Public. And I thought, you go girl: This is what REM was always about — the bookish, the arty, and the awkward finally feeling like they belong and trying, in their own way, to be free.

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SIDEWALKING: Confederacy Of Dunces

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Capitol dome, 10:21 AM Thursday, by JEFF FUSCO

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Living In The Tibetan Book Of The Dead

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Phawker South American Correspondent St. John Barned-Smith just completed a two year stretch in Paraguay for the Peace Corps. He is currently in Nepal, Katmandu to be exact, and you can almost see neighboring Tibet from there. Next stop is India. He will be sending intermittent dispatches as our newly deputized Himalayan Correspondent.

BY ST. JOHN BARNED-SMITH My Peace Corps service ended last Sunday. On Tuesday, I took a taxi to JFK airport through the ribbons of highway that look like a spider web of asphalt webbing and I boarded another international flight, this time for the Himalayas and Nepal. It was one of those lucky travel experiences that you sometimes get – the plane was only a third full, and I sprawled out over three seats for most of the 12 hour flight. After a day of flying I arrived in Katmandu. The mountains came out of the northeast with the sun, looking like a long shattered spine of ridges and bumps, rising above the thick haze of the much nearer Katmandu Valley. The city immediately set about revising my expectations and impressions. In Paraguay I had an idea of one developing nation. There were the diesel spewing buses bombing down the roads with the grinding clatter of gears. Here, I’m seeing long canyons of alleyways slick with moss and moist walls and taxis made from converted tractors. The air pollution –a haze confined by the rings of mountains around Katmandu Valley – is so bad that face-masks are almost every day fashion accessories. If Paraguay is a country of youth, Nepal seems far more remote. It wears ancientness like a shirt. In the old quarter there are pagodas and temples at every turn, and shrines appear at every bend in the road. I’m feeling the disoriented-ness that I felt when I first arrived in Paraguay, except here the language is one I won’t be able to learn. On the other hand, this being so influenced by nearby India and by its own massive tourism industry, English is ubiquitous. I’m staying in a house in Patan, with the family of my friend Yashas. It is two stories, with a large patio that has been overturned recently for the planting of summer corn. And there are guavas, oranges, and pear trees. Snapdragons and roses too. More when I actually understand some of this.

Photo by St. John Barned-Smith
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DEATH OF A HATCHET MAN: Charles Colson, Nixon’s Dirty Trickster, Dead At 80

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

GUARDIAN: Charles “Chuck” Colson, the former special counsel to President Richard Nixon who was jailed for his role in a Watergate-related case and became an evangelical Christian, has died aged 80. Colson, who compiled Nixon’s infamous “enemies list” before the Watergate scandal led to the president’s resignation in 1974, died of complications from a brain haemorrhage after undergoing surgery. He was jailed for obstruction of justice in 1974 after being involved in an attempt to discredit Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg who leaked secret defence papers on the Vietnam war to the New York Times. Colson, who was known for his ruthlessness and trademark horn-rimmed glasses, helped to run the committee to re-elect the resident, otherwise known as CREEP, which was set up to gather intelligence on the Democratic party. His efforts included the use of the “plumbers”, a covert group established to investigate White House leaks in 1971, which broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to look for information to discredit his anti-war efforts. Colson, who became a born-again Christian while under investigation, was sentenced to one to three years in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in attempts to defame Ellsberg. MORE

Ellsberg was a State Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, a secret account of the Vietnam War and its pretexts to The New York Times, which revealed endemic practices of deception by previous administrations, and contributed to the erosion of public support for the war.The Pentagon Papers revealed the knowledge, early on, that the war would not likely be won and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was admitted publicly. Further, the papers showed a deep cynicism towards the public and a disregard for the loss of life and injury suffered by soldiers and civilians. Ellsberg knew that releasing these papers would most likely result in a conviction and sentence of many years in prison. Throughout 1970, Ellsberg covertly attempted to convince a few sympathetic senators to release the Pentagon Papers on the Senate floor under privilege. When these efforts failed, Ellsberg, with the assistance of Anthony Russo, copied them and leaked them to Neil Sheehan at The New York Times. On June 12, 1971, the Times began publishing the first installment of the 7,000 page document. For 15 days, the Times was prevented from publishing its articles on the orders of the Nixon administration. However, the Supreme Court soon ordered publication to resume freely. Ellsberg went underground, and was not caught by the FBI, even though they were under enormous pressure from the Nixon Administration to find him. The Nixon administration also began a campaign to discredit Ellsberg: Nixon’s plumbers broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in an attempt to find damaging information. The revelation of the break-in became part of the Watergate scandal. On June 28, 1971, Ellsberg publicly surrendered to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, Massachusetts. He was taken into custody believing he would spend the rest of his life in prison; he was charged with theft, conspiracy, and espionage. But due to the gross governmental misconduct, all charges against Ellsberg were eventually dropped. White House counsel Charles Colson was later prosecuted and pled no contest for obstruction of justice in the burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. MORE

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TONIGHT: All Jazz Hands On Deck

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

BY ZIVIT SHLANK Saxophonist, improviser and composer Steve Coleman is reticent to call himself a jazz musician because of preconceptions. It’s probably best to just call him a musical expressionist. Originally from Chicago, Coleman’s early explorations stemmed from his dad’s love of Charlie Parker. He gained foundational insight early on studying Windy City legends Bunky Green and Von Freeman at play. From there, it was onto New York in 1978 and that’s where the real work began. Coleman as an early, foundational member of the collective MBase, through countless collaborations and his most prolific vehicle, Five Elements, has been consistently challenging and expanding our perceptions of sound. Armed with a fierce intellect and insatiable curiosity, for Coleman, music has always been about communication: language that can be both universal and personalized to reflect his individuality. Coleman’s music is a beguiling combination that can be as perplexing as it is revelatory. For Coleman, the pursuit of knowledge through composition, performance and improvisation has been going on for three decades and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Tonight Ars Nova brings Coleman and Five Elements to Johnny Brendas. In the midst of a globetrotting tour, Phawker recently got on the horn with Steve from Geneva.

THE EARLY WORD: Metal Circus

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Calling all electric warriors, metal gurus, jeepsters and Telegram Sams! Creem Circus — from the people who brought you Wastoid, i.e. Chris DiPinto of DiPinto Guitars fame — celebrates the release of their debut 7-inch 10 PM tonight at Gunners Run in the Piazza. The show is free. Why should you go? This is their cover sleeve art. Enough said. Still not convinced? Here’s how Creem Circus describes that thing they do: Tandem lead, sparkle-faced riffs, chocolate covered choruses with glamtastic outfits! Word has it the kids are gonna kill a man and then they’re gonna have to break up the band, or at the very least crush his sweet hands, so catch ‘em while you can.

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Via BuzzFeed

Cost of the War in Iraq
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