Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Eve and Inaguration closings

There will be No Parking in the following areas from Tuesday, December 31st at 12:01 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 1st: All cross-town streets from 33rd to 59th Street between 6th and 8th Avenue; West side of 5th Avenue, from 37th to 52nd Streets; West side of 6th Avenue, from 34th to 59th Streets; East side of 6th Avenue, from 37th to 52nd Streets; East side of 8th Avenue from 34th to 57th Streets; 48th Street between 5th and Ninth Avenues; 43rd Street between 5th and 8th Avenue; 42nd Street between 5th and 9th Avenue; 37th Street between 5th and 8th Avenue; 34th Street between 5th and 9th Avenue; 48th Street between 5th and 9th Avenue; 52nd Street between 5th and 8th Avenue; 58th Street between 6th and 8th Avenue; 59th Street between 5th Avenue and Columbus Circle.

At approximately 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 31st, the following streets will be closed to all vehicular traffic: Seventh Avenue from 41st to 59th Streets; Broadway from 47th to 59th Streets; 43rd to 47th Streets from Sixth to Eighth Avenue.

Beginning at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, December 31st, 42nd Street from Sixth to Eighth Avenue will be closed to traffic

After 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 31st, the remainder of the traffic closures will be instituted as crowd conditions warrant: All cross-town streets from 37th to 41st Streets - Sixth to Eighth Avenues; All cross-town streets from 49th to 59th Streets - Sixth to Eighth Avenues; 48th Street from Fifth to Ninth Avenues; Cross-town access for emergency vehicles will be available on 42nd, 48th, and 59th Streets.

People are strongly advised to use public transportation. On-street parking will be extremely limited in the Midtown area. People should avoid all cross-town streets from 34th to 59th Streets, as well as Sixth and Eighth Avenues.

This information and other details are available on the NYPD web site at http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/pr/pr_2013_traffic_2013_new_years_eve.shtml

Mayoral Inauguration Street Closures, Traffic and Parking Restrictions – January 1

Chambers Street between Broadway and Centre Street will be closed to traffic and parking from 4 pm on December 31 until 3 am on Thursday, January 2.

Broadway between Worth and Vesey Streets will be closed to traffic from 11 am until 3 pm on January 1.

Park Row between Broadway and Spruce Street/Brooklyn Bridge will be closed to traffic from 11 am until 3 pm on January 1.

The following streets will not have access to parking:
* Park Place, Murray and Warren Streets between Broadway and Church Street
* Chambers Street between Broadway and Centre Street
* Broadway between Reade and Vesey Streets
* Park Row/Centre Street between Broadway and Reade Street
* Spruce Street between Nassau and Williams Street

To cross Broadway, pedestrians will be directed north of Chambers Street and south of Vesey Street.

No vehicles will be allowed on all closed streets, including official permit parking, and all cars parked illegally will be towed. Public transportation should be used whenever possible to stations outside of the event area.

NYC's 511 System

NYCT’s 511 in-bound call center is currently experiencing technical issues. We regret any inconvenience. Always visit www.mta.info for up to date information.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Want to rent a ‘hotel’ room in the projects?

Public-housing residents are renting rooms to strangers — making extra dough over the holidays while taxpayers fund their apartments, The New York Post has learned.

Several ads for nightly or monthly sublets were posted on Craigslist last week, including a $650 room in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay Houses — which was swooped up in a few days.

“Huge room available immediately in a 3-bedroom apartment for rent,” the ad says. “Females only . . . no drugs, no smoking, no drama.”

The tenant, who listed a cellphone number and a New York City Housing Authority address, declared that two people could also share the room for $350 each.

That’s an extra $7,800 a year in the pocket of someone who is living on the public dime.

Online photos show a barren room with a graffiti-covered, wood-paneled wall and mattress on the floor.

Meanwhile, another Sheeps­head Bay tenant posted “$400 public housing room for rent” on Craigslist on Dec. 11.

“If you are looking for a cheap furnished room then here you have it,” the resident wrote, adding, “[Two] month rent required to move in. First come first served.”

Under NYCHA rules, only residents authorized by the agency may live in the apartments. Residents who violate the rules will be given an administrative hearing or taken to Housing Court.

Last year, Manhattan resident Sherman Gamble was charged with theft of public funds after impersonating his cousin — an NYCHA tenant who moved elsewhere — to access and rent out his Baruch Houses apartment, according to a federal complaint.

More than 160,000 families are on NYCHA’s waiting list, and 55,000 tenants are living in pads larger than they’re entitled to, agency chair John Rhea has said.

More than 25,000 single residents are living in two-bedroom units — which require at least three people under federal rules.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Towers in Harlem, one tenant who lives alone in a two-bedroom pad posted a Craigslist ad offering a spare room for $500 a month.

“This is not Trump Plaza,” he told a Post reporter who visited the apartment. “You don’t have to have 20 applications. You don’t have a broker’s fee. It’s simple.”

The $500 room has a ­linoleum floor and closet. Utilities are included.

“You’re not the first one here, and you’re not going to be the last,” he said. “As soon as you go, I’m going to find somebody else because I need the finances.”

Meanwhile, other NYCHA residents are turning their government-funded homes into cheap hotels.

Mike Velasquez, 38, who lives in the Alfred E. Smith Houses, has turned his two-bedroom apartment into a hotel — offering a private room or sofa for $50 to $100 per night.

“I don’t care,” he told The Post when confronted about the legality of his rental. “There’s plenty of people who rent rooms — everyone does it.

“I pay my rent. I can do what I want.”

Velasquez’s 13th-floor apartment overlooks the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and is blocks from the South Street Seaport. Web sites show that he has been a secret innkeeper since at least 2011.

If he rents out the apartment three days a week, that’s up to $1,200 in extra spending cash a month.

Opinion: Obama’s terrible, horrible, very bad year

When Barack Obama sings “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, he will have reason to think back, with a deep sense of nostalgia and not a small amount of regret, on the last time he sang the song.

If he gets a lump in his throat as he recollects that glorious night one year ago, who would blame him? After all, he was riding about as high as a man can ride on New Year’s Eve 2012.

There he was, almost literally the master of the universe — the canny victor of the 2012 election, having run what was instantly regarded as the most brilliant technical campaign in American history. He used that victory to prevail in a “fiscal cliff” showdown with Republicans the last week of December that led to the significant tax increases on the well-to-do he had sought since the beginning of his first term. He had a 53% approval rating; only 40% disapproved.

In a few weeks, he would be inaugurated for a second term and, liberated from the demands of running again and emboldened by his win, he would that day offer the country an unabashedly and unapologetically left-wing vision of the American future toward which he was guiding it.


“Preserving our individual freedoms,” he said in a startling turn of phrase, “ultimately requires collective action.”

There were guarantees to move forward on climate-change legislation, on new tax hikes as a means of combatting inequality, and on a panoply of liberal social policy goals from so-called “pay equity” to further steps on gay rights beyond his support for marital equality. And let us not forget the issue on everyone’s mind — gun control, in the wake of the Newtown school massacre of December 2012.

This was his moment. And moments of blissful triumph for great men are precisely why legend has it that Roman emperors hired men to walk beside them as they paraded through the Eternal City, whispering the words “Caesar, thou art mortal.”

For, as he rings in the new year of 2014, Obama has rueful cause to reflect on the words of the prophet Samuel: “Oh, how art the mighty fallen.”

In his case, we can calculate the fall precisely — anywhere from 10 to 15 points in his job-approval rating. And he has taken severe hits when it comes to how much people like him and how trustworthy they find him.

All in all, when it comes to public opinion, Barack Obama ends his fifth year in worse shape than any president since Richard Nixon. And Nixon didn’t even manage to finish his sixth year.

That fate will not befall Obama, obviously. But as the hopeful stories pour out of Washington about how he’s retooling his White House to dig himself out from under the rubble of the ObamaCare launch, and as liberals continue to assure themselves that once the website is working all will be well, the truth is that Obama’s return to his former glory in the coming year is highly unlikely.

For one thing, the president has gone from being someone in charge of events to someone who is being buffeted about by them — and once a leader loses his hold on the levers of power it’s very difficult to get them back.

Machiavelli says in “The Prince,” the greatest analysis of political power ever written, that successful leaders work to control their fortunes the way people construct dams and dikes to contain and direct powerful rivers.

“Fortune shows her power where the brave have not made preparations to resist her,” Machiavelli writes.

“She turns her forces where she knows that barriers and defenses have not been raised to constrain her.”

In the eyes of his friends and admirers, who are shocked at how badly things have gone, Obama did not raise “barriers and defenses” to prepare for the exigencies of fortune and now “everything is flying before it, all are yielding to its violence, without being able in any way to withstand it.”

His response to the nightmarish ObamaCare rollout was only the capper in a year when his general response to questionable behavior by the executive branch was, almost literally, to play dumb.

When the IRS confessed it had inappropriately targeted conservative groups for scrutiny entirely owing to their political stances, the White House expressed bewilderment, some concern and upset, but acted as though it was happening far, far away — in some field office in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, senior IRS officials were taking the Fifth before Congress, there were hurried retirements, and a general sense that something very, very dirty had gone down. The president’s general attitude was that he hadn’t known and anyway it wasn’t his business.

Over at the Department of Justice, it came to light that his attorney general Eric Holder had approved a highly problematic surveillance of the Associated Press in its effort to find a leaker, and had consented to the appalling designation of Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “criminal co-conspirator” in another leak investigation. The president’s response was no response: “I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general.”

Then came the discovery of what may be the worst security breach in US history, with contractor Edward Snowden dancing around the globe with tens of millions of highly classified documents. The president looked powerless and feckless when he proved unable to get the Chinese or the Russians to intercept or intercede to assist in Snowden’s return — indeed, Snowden is now living under the Russian umbrella.

In response, a peeved Obama cancelled a visit to Russia — only to find himself in Vladimir Putin’s perverse debt a month later. The president had announced he would strike Syria because of its use of chemical weapons, but was clearly reluctant to do so. Putin said he’d get the Assad government to cough up the weapons and Obama was let off the hook at the cost of an evil going unpunished and the regime solidifying its hold on power.

None of this made the president look good — even avoiding military action in Syria didn’t, because he was the one who had said he would do it in the first place.

The one moment when he seemed to have gotten the upper hand was the government shutdown at the beginning of October, but that was only because the Republicans looked worse. And that was illusory in any case, because polls during the shutdown showed he was accruing little or no benefit from it — the public blamed the GOP more but people blamed him plenty too.

And, of course, there came ObamaCare — two months of unrelievedly disastrous news followed by news that wasn’t so bad only by comparison with what had preceded it. Most important for Obama’s future, the killer moment wasn’t when the website didn’t work but when everybody had to acknowledge his four-year claim that “if you like your plan you can keep it” was an out-and-out lie.

This was so important because it exposed another lie — what you might call the great cover story of 2013.

People have come to believe Obama is out of touch and in over his head because having us believe these things was actually the least bad option for the president this year. It is actually better (or less damaging) for Obama to look incompetent than for him to look purposeful.

That’s one leadership device even Machiavelli didn’t foresee.

So now his admirers and supporters worry the job is too much for him, while those who are neither watch the spectacle with a certain grim satisfaction.

And so Barack Obama’s 2013 comes to its ignominious close. Auld lang syne, indeed.

 

Obama’s 2013: A year to forget
  • January 16 — In the wake of the Newtown shootings, Obama outlines his gun-control proposals. After a backlash, nothing gets passed. In fact, gun sales skyrocket — up 55% in Texas and 46% in Pennsylvania.
  • January 20 – Obama is sworn into his second term; his inaugural address is “heavy on broad rhetoric and light on policy specifics” according to the Washington Post. More people talk about Beyonce lip-synching the National Anthem. 
  • January 29 – In Las Vegas, Obama addresses the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. Though the Senate passed a bill in June, Obama again couldn’t get anything passed in the House.
  • February 12 – President Obama delivers the State of the Union address and announces a drawdown in Afghanistan. While “green on blue” insider attacks on US troops continue, President Karzai of Afghanistan holds out on signing any sort of security agreement. Without the deal, all US troops will be gone from Afghanistan in 2014. 
  • March 1 — Despite saying his sequestration plan “will not happen” during the 2012 presidential campaign, Congress fails to reach a deal and sequestration cuts $85 billion across the board.
  • March 2 — Open-air parks like the WWII memorial are closed by the parks department. Insiders later tell reporters the reason was political. The administration wanted the public to “feel the pain” of sequester cuts. 
  • May 10 — Lois Lerner, a director in the IRS, responds to a planted question at a speaking engagement, admitting the tax agency targeted conservative groups — delaying and denying their tax-exempt status. It’s later alleged that the IRS leaked tax returns of conservative groups and ordered up audits of political enemies.
  • May 12 — It’s revealed that the administration, angry that the AP broke a story about a terrorism plot, had the private phone records of reporters secretly subpoenaed. Attorney General Eric Holder denies knowing about the seizure, but defends it because of the “very, very serious leak.” 
  • May 22 — Lerner claims before Congress she “didn’t break any laws” then invokes the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.
  • May 23 — At the National Defense University, Obama tries to placate the left about his drone attacks by saying, “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance. For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power — or risk abusing it.” Apparently that “discipline” is “whatever Obama thinks is right.” Drone attacks continue unabated — including a strike on a Yemen wedding party earlier this month that killed at least 11.
  • June 6 — The Washington Post and Guardian newspapers both publish information about spying programs by the NSA, courtesy of Edward Snowden, a former NSA employee who stole the material and fled to Hong Kong. 
  •  June 23 — Edward Snowden arrives in Moscow, where Vladimir Putin refuses to give him up, and smirks when asked about him.
  • June 25 — In a speech on climate change, Obama again waffles on the Keystone pipeline, pleasing neither side. As months go on without it being built, Canada has been making plans to ship oil by sea to China instead. 
  • July 2 — After taking off from Russia, the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales is re-routed to Austria and searched, on reports he could be carrying Snowden. He isn’t — and the heavy-handed stop increases pressure on the US and angers NATO allies.
  • July 19 — Obama decides to weigh in on one criminal case out of thousands nationwide, saying, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago” after George Zimmerman is found not guilty of murdering the teen. Obama calls for “soul searching.” 
  • August 31 — Obama claims Syria has used chemical weapons in the country’s civil war, crossing the “red line” he had laid down. Obama claims he doesn’t need authorization to strike, but will ask Congress anyway. He later says even if Congress even says no, he can still do it.
  • September 15 — Weeks after his Syria ultimatum, Obama accepts a Russian deal that allows Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to stay in power if he gives up chemical weapons. Putin smirks. 
  • September 23 — Lois Lerner retires suddenly; the investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative groups is ongoing.
  • October 1 — Depsite passing in 2010, the actual launch of ObamaCare is a complete failure — the website crashes, few if any people can sign up and millions discover that their insurance is cancelled. Obama is forced to admit that his promise that “if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance” is a lie. 
  • October 1 — Unable to reach a budget deal, the government shuts down.
  • October 17 — In a rare Obama victory, the shutdown ends with no concession to Republicans on the budget. 
  • October 23 — Snowden’s leaks reveal the US listened to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls. She angrily confronts Obama and latter compares the behavior to the Stasi.
  • November 1 — Obama signs an executive order saying local governments must prepare for the “impact of global warming” — like making buildings stronger. 
  • December 10 — With the selfie seen round the world, Obama upstages Nelson Mandela’s memorial with a cellphone picture with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish PM Helle Thorning Schmidt.
  • December 18 — Congress passes a bipartisan budget agreement. Bob Woodward says deal was reached, “because Obama was not part of the negotiations.” 
  • December 19 — Under pressure, Obama says people who have had their insurance cancelled don’t have to pay the penalty for not having insurance for one year. It’s the 14th change to the law since passage.
  • December 31 — Estimates indicate more people may find their old health-care policies cancelled than who successfully signed up for new health insurance from ObamaCare.

NYPD on alert after failed terror bombing in Israel

The NYPD went on alert Sunday — ordering increased security for city subways and buses and at local Jewish houses of worship — after the failed terror bombing of a bus in Israel, The New York Post has learned.

Law-enforcement sources said cops were ordered to immediately start searching city transit facilities — including buses and subways — and “to stay vigilant and to take a proactive approach” while doing so.

Cops were also directed to provide additional security at synagogues and other “sensitive locations” in the city tied to Israel and its government, the sources said.

According to international media reports, quick action prevented any injuries in Israel when a pipe bomb believed to have been planted by Palestinian terrorists exploded on a bus just moments after it was evacuated in the coastal city of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv.

The explosive device was hidden in a black bag found in the back of the bus. The driver stopped the bus and ordered all 12 passengers off when no one claimed ownership of the suspicious package, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Local police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said it blew up while being inspected by a bomb-squad member who wasn’t apparently injured but was taken to a hospital for evaluation, according to The Associated Press.

“Based on the findings at the scene by bomb disposal experts, it was a terrorist attack,” Rosenfeld said.
“We’re continuing to search the area for suspects.”

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, which marked the most serious attack inside Israel since 20 people were injured in a Tel Aviv explosion in November 2012.

‘Lone Survivor’ hero relives SEALs’ nightmare mission

All  ever wanted to be was a Navy SEAL. When he was 7, he learned to shoot a gun — taught by his dad, a Vietnam vet. He learned how to scuba dive, build shelter, kill a wild boar. As a teen, he trained with a former Green Beret, and at 25, Luttrell became a member of the Navy SEALs — “the gods of the US Armed Forces,” he writes.

These gods were soon to be humbled.

What would happen to Luttrell and 19 other special-operations soldiers is the basis for the new movie “Lone Survivor,” adapted from Luttrell’s best-selling account of the worst single death toll for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.

On June 28, 2005, Luttrell and three other SEALs — Lt. Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz — were helicoptered into a mountainous region on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Their mission was known as Operation Red Wings, and their objective was to locate a Taliban leader called Ahmad Shah, then radio headquarters. Shah would be taken out by an air assault.

From the minute Luttrell and his team fast-roped 20 feet down onto this desolate moonscape in total darkness, things went wrong. The rope was cut loose and dropped into the field instead of flown away — if the SEALs hadn’t found and hidden it, locals would have proof American forces were near.

They were in such cold conditions, made worse by freezing rain, that to stop moving could mean death.

Every 500 yards, one of them fell on the treacherous terrain, and with so little vegetation, they were easy targets.

“This was my nightmare,” Luttrell writes, “the four of us starkly silhouetted against a treeless mountain above a Taliban-occupied village. We were an Afghan lookout’s finest moment, unmissable.”

 

THE GOATHERDS
Through the night, the SEALs made their way from Waypoint 1 to Waypoint 2 to their final destination. It was a 4-mile-long, seven-hour trek up and down a steep mountain. As dawn broke, they had made their way to a slender ridge.

“In its way, this place was perfect,” Luttrell writes, “with the most commanding views any surveillance team could wish for. We just somehow had to burrow into this loose, rocky shale, keep our heads down, stay camouflaged, and concentrate. We’d be OK as long as no one saw us.”

They lay there, face down and still. The extreme cold of the night gave way to extreme heat.

Then came footsteps. Luttrell looked up and there, standing on a log, was a man in a turban, holding an ax, staring at him.

“I damn near fainted from shock,” Luttrell says.

He leveled his rifle, thinking this man was about to behead him, but the man dropped the ax and sat on a log as small bells began to ring. Up came 100 goats and two more figures — a young man and a boy no older than 14.

“Are you Taliban? Are you Taliban?”

“No Taliban. No Taliban.”

Luttrell offered the 14-year-old a PowerBar. The boy took it and put it on a rock and glowered. The SEALs could feel the men’s loathing. Luttrell understood: Here they were, goat herders in the most primitive of lands, stumbling upon four American soldiers “with enough weapons and ammunition to conquer an entire Afghan province.”

Even so, the SEALs felt at a disadvantage. These men, while civilians, were clearly hostile, and if the SEALs let them go, it would be a matter of minutes before the Taliban knew where they were. But these men were not enemy combatants, and it is a violation of the Geneva Convention to kill unarmed civilians.

The SEALs debated for several minutes while Dietz tried and tried to get through to headquarters. No one
picked up. They were on their own.

They let the goat herders go.

 

SURROUNDED
The SEALs retreated, as swiftly as possible, to the first spot they’d picked — one with poor visibility but denser tree coverage. It took nearly an hour, and again, they kept trying headquarters, to no avail.

The operation was now strictly defensive: Avoid being seen, make radio contact and get out. The assumption was the goat herders had talked.

It was now almost two hours since the SEALs had turned the herders loose. The mood had lightened a bit, the guys cracking lame jokes, then Murphy made the soft sound of high alarm, and Luttrell raised his rifle, looked up and saw, at the top of a hill, a slew of armed Taliban. Just how many remains a matter of debate — in Luttrell’s after-action report, he estimated 20 to 35, but in the book he claims between 80 to 100.

“My heart,” he writes, “dropped directly into my stomach.”

Luttrell saw movement behind a tree 20 yards away. He fired the first shot, to the head of a Taliban fighter, killing him.

Then it was an eruption of gunfire. The SEALs were outnumbered and outflanked, but confident. “No one can shoot like us,” Luttrell writes.

But the situation was dire. The enemy was advancing, bullets coming in from both sides, closer and closer, and Murphy ordered his men to fall back and over the edge of the mountain.

Down they rolled, their gear flying, hitting rocks and trees. Luttrell thinks they were doing 70 mph. He compares the final impact to feeling “like we’d jumped off a goddamned skyscraper.” Half his face was missing its skin, and his back and shoulder were badly injured.

 

‘NEVER OUT OF IT’
In came the RPGs, and now Luttrell knew they were dealing with a sophisticated force. He, Murphy and Axe kept firing as Dietz fell. He wasn’t moving.

“The folklore of the brotherhood stood starkly before both Mikey and me,” Luttrell writes. “No SEAL was ever left alone to die on the battlefield. No SEAL.”

He and Murphy grabbed Dietz and tugged him back. Luttrell was sure he had broken vertebrae; Murphy had been shot once, in the stomach, and Dietz regained consciousness, in agony. His right thumb was gone.

All three resumed shooting with Axe, but the Taliban were pushing in from above and both sides — “known, in military vernacular, as a balls-to-the-wall situation,” Luttrell writes.

They had one option: to drop again, another 30 feet off this shelf of rock, which they did. Once at the bottom, Dietz was hit in the back.

“He was still firing,” Luttrell writes. “Christ knows how, but he was. Danny’s mouth was open, and there was blood trickling out. There was blood absolutely everywhere.”

More gunfire. More grenades. Another shot to Dietz, through the neck.

Despite his injuries, Dietz not only kept firing but made another leap, this one 15 feet down as they continued to retreat, Luttrell says. Forty minutes had gone by.

Axe and Luttrell were now the main shots, but they could make only a dent. Dietz, Luttrell writes, was shot again in the neck, and Luttrell grabbed and dragged him, and again, he says, Dietz somehow kept firing.

In that moment, Luttrell was still convinced they might get out alive. Then he saw movement, and he turned to Axe, who was hit in the chest. He, too, Luttrell says, kept firing, and seconds later, Dietz was shot in the face. He died.

“Remember, bro,” Murphy told Luttrell. “We’re never out of it.”

 

LONE SURVIVOR
Then Murphy took a shot to the chest, and Axe took a bullet to the head. Murphy, struggling, took out his mobile phone and performed his final act of heroism: He walked out into the open, his best chance at getting a signal to reach headquarters, and made the call.

“My men are taking heavy fire,” he said. “We’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here . . . We need help.”

Murphy took another shot to the back. Luttrell writes Murphy got right back on the phone and said, “Thank you,” and resumed firing, climbing above Luttrell to a shelf of rock.

Axe, he writes, stumbled right by him, “the right side of his head almost blown away . . . I knew Axe was dying.”

He heard Murphy screaming. “Help me, Marcus! Please help me!” Murphy was dying, too, but there was nothing Luttrell could do, and, after a few minutes of silence, he saw four Taliban surround Murphy and fire rounds into his dead body.

Luttrell scrambled down to Axe’s hiding place. The whites of his eyes were pooled in blood. Luttrell tried to comfort Axe the best he knew how.

“Hey, man,” he said, “you’re all f- -ked up!”

“Marcus, they got us good, man,” Axe said. “You stay alive, Marcus.”

Axe died.

In that moment, Luttrell says, he no longer cared what happened to him. He’d sit and wait for the Taliban to come. Then in came another grenade, blowing Luttrell farther down the mountain. He prayed. He crawled on his belly. He found a crevasse, and he hid there for hours.

He was petrified. He had no way of knowing that Murphy’s call had been successful, that two Chinooks were in the air, having taken off without the Apaches that normally provide cover.

One of those Chinooks was hit by an RPG. Eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers — everyone aboard — were killed.

Once the sun began to set and there had been enough sustained quiet, Luttrell crawled out of the crevasse, desperate for water. He was sure he was about to die of thirst, and suddenly, there were six men upon him, rifles on their backs.

“Taliban? You Taliban?”

“No Taliban! No Taliban!”


THE RESCUE

Those men saved Marcus Luttrell’s life. They were Pashtuns, and they adhered to lokhay warkawal, a tribal law that requires all help be extended to a wounded man, even if he’s the enemy. Luttrell’s hero is Muhammad Gulab, the man who took him in and refused to hand him over to the Taliban, even after the Taliban threatened to kill his entire family.

Luttrell was in hiding for five days, unaware that Gulab’s elderly father had set off for the town of Asadabad, alone and on foot, to alert the Americans that there was a SEAL still alive.

Luttrell considers Gulab, too, a brother. Gulab’s cousin was killed by the Taliban in retribution, and he and his family are now in hiding. He comes to visit Luttrell on his ranch in Texas and hopes for a green card.

When Luttrell first came back, his house was a shrine to all the SEALs lost that day, a tombstone engraved with their names in the center of his living room. He has since married and is now a father of two, including a little boy named Axe.

Murphy, a Long Island native, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Luttrell writes that the war is unwinnable. “Al Qaeda are running around in broad daylight, mostly doing what the heck they want, until we show up and chase the little pricks back over the border to Pakistan. Where they stay. For about 10 minutes.”

Exclusive: Wife rats out hubby’s illegal $600K Super Bowl pools

She knew bettor.

A wife furious with her football-obsessed husband dropped a dime on a Staten Island gin mill — sparking a rare raid that shut down $600,000 in ­Super Bowl pools last week.

“How can the SLA allow a $1 million illegal football pool at Talk of the Town?” the angry spouse wrote the State Liquor Authority on Nov. 13.

“My husband spends all his money on these pools and not on our children.”

The SLA put a rush investigation on the anonymous complaint. Last Sunday night, two investigators barged into the neighborhood saloon’s annual Christmas party. They flashed badges and snapped photos of pool boards taped to the mirrored bar back, witnesses told The New York Post.

The Talk of the Town Tavern, at 24 Giffords Lane in the Great Kills section, was advised to shut down the gambling. SLA lawyers are now reviewing whether to slap the owner, Larry Burkert, 55, with violations carrying a typical fine of $2,500 for a first ­offense. The bar has told patrons the pools are dead and bettors will get ­refunds, sources said.

The crackdown comes as New York/New Jersey hosts the first-ever local Super Bowl on Feb 2.

The 71-year-old Talk of the Town tavern, known for its $1.50 drafts and sawdust-covered shuffleboard table, has been running Super Bowl pools for decades — like thousands of other bars in New York City. Its friendly barkeeps sell “boxes” to mostly blue-collar and civil-servant patrons for six different pools.

One pool goes for $2,000 a box, bringing in a total of $200,000. Two pools are worth $100,000 each, and four are $50,000 each.

Local authorities have long looked the other way as New Yorkers drop millions of bucks on the big game in bar and office pools. That’s because the contests are random and the “house” usually doesn’t profit from them.

“Nobody gets hurt,” said an SLA insider.

But that was before an angry wife piped up.

“The Talk,” as locals call it, is known to take 10 percent off the top — patrons view it as a “tip” to the organizers who spend a year collecting bets and keeping the books. Burkert declined to comment on the SLA sting, saying it would be litigated.

An SLA spokesman said the agency “does not comment on pending complaints or investigations.”

Under state liquor law, “No person licensed to sell alcoholic beverages shall suffer or permit any gambling on the licensed premises.”

“It’s really a victimless crime, but a money-making operation for the SLA,” the insider said.

“The fines are substantial considering the severity of the violation.”

But the potential winnings are big. The Post found a bar in The Bronx last year with a “5,000-point-per-box” pool — code for a $500,000 total prize at $5,000 per box.

And pools have been known to grace even the walls of police station houses and district attorney’s offices.
Gotham’s biggest boxes are the hardest to get into. Even if you have a cool $5,000 to pony up, big- money pools are usually word-of-mouth affairs spoken of in hushed tones.

“If somebody desperate hears about it and shoots up a bar looking for half a million — that’s why nobody wants to talk about it,” said a man in a North Bronx saloon.

HOLIDAY - Wednesday, December 25, Christmas Day

Subways operate on a Sunday Schedule as follows:
• 5 service runs between Dyre Av and Bowling Green only.
• No 6 express service.
• No 7 express service.
• No B trains – use the A, C, D and/or Q instead.
• M service runs between Metropolitan Av and Myrtle Av (Broadway) only.
• Q service runs between Coney Island and 57 St-7 Av only.
• R service runs via the Manhattan Bridge from 71 Av, Queens to 95 St, Brooklyn.
• No Z trains – use the J instead, which runs between Jamaica Center and Chambers St.

‘Duck Dynasty’ star: ‘Them gays’ make life hard in NYC

Those who know “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson — or have listened to him speak — shouldn’t be surprised by his recent anti-gay statements.

Earlier this year, during a candid moment with a female New York Post reporter, he asked whether she was seeing anyone.

When she said no, he responded, “Must be hard in New York — what with all them gays.”

Robertson’s opinions about gays and religion were so widely known, in fact, that members of his family are accusing the A&E network of “hanging him out to dry” — setting up an inflammatory interview with GQ magazine just so they could punish him.

Sick of the Robertsons and their Christian beliefs, liberal television executives at A&E manipulated the situation to control the Louisiana family, the Daily Mail reported, quoting sources within the clan.

The sources claim that not only has the network exploited the controversy to throw the conservative family under the bus, but that it could have prevented the whole fiasco from the get-go.

An A&E representative was with Robertson, 67, during his GQ chat and easily could have pulled the plug before his comments about gays became public.

“You have to ask yourself why this interview happened and why it ever became public. Someone from A&E was there and was aware of the kind of answers Phil was giving,” one source said. “But despite that, they didn’t ever try to stop it or control it. Instead, they let it hit the headlines and then released a statement condemning it.”

The source also pointed out that the whole premise of the reality show — from the network’s perspective, at least — was mocking the conservative Southerners it depicted.

“When the TV executives came up with the concept for the show, they wanted it to be a case of people laughing at a bunch of backward rednecks,” the source said.

“But when it didn’t turn out like that and people actually started identifying with the way the family behaved and were laughing with them, not at them, they became uncomfortable. It did not sit well with the New York TV types.”

Representatives from A&E did not return calls from The Post.

Robertson and his show came under fire from gay-rights groups after he talked about homosexuality and bestiality in the same breath.

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” he was quoted by GQ as saying. “But, hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical . . . Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

Medallion Auction Information

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission wishes to announce that 168 Accessible Independent Medallions will be offered for sale, in lots of one, through the receipt of sealed competitive bids.  The TLC will receive bids in person on February 20, 21, 24, and 25, 2014, from 9:00 A.M. through 12:00 Noon at its offices at 33 Beaver Street, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10004.  These bids will be publicly opened on February 26, 2014, commencing at 9:00 A.M. at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007.
Leading up to the February 26, 2014 auction, the TLC will be hosting an Independent Medallion Auction Exposition on January 15, 2014.  We encourage all potential bidders to attend and visit with representatives from various taxi industry groups and business services.  The Expo will be located at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016 from 10:00 A.M to 7:00 P.M.  The purpose of the Independent Medallion Expo is to inform potential bidders about the bidding process and the requirements associated with owning a Medallion.  To register, please use the link below.

http://auctionexpo.eventbrite.com

If you are interested in becoming a vendor at the 2014 Independent Medallion Exposition, please register your company using the link below.  Participation is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis, so early registration will increase your chances of securing a table.  Once registered, you will receive additional Expo information via email.

Yankees fan growing up, Beltran dons pinstripes

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran's longtime dream of one day donning Yankees pinstripes officially became a reality on Friday morning, when the Yanks introduced their latest offseason addition in a news conference at Yankee Stadium.

Beltran, who signed a three-year deal reportedly worth $45 million, was joined by his wife, Jessica, and daughters, Kiara and Ivana, as the Yankees unveiled their newest outfielder by presenting him with a jersey with the No. 36 on the back.

Beltran not only grew up a Yankees fan, but also offered the Bronx Bombers his services at a discounted rate during a previous go-around in free agency following the 2004 season. The Yanks passed on signing Beltran at the time, thanks largely to the fact that one of Beltran's all-time favorite players, Bernie Williams, was still patrolling center field in New York. Beltran ultimately struck a deal with the crosstown rival Mets, where he spent most of the next seven seasons.

This time around, however, things seemed to be a much better fit for both sides.

"For me, it's a great honor to be able to come back to this city where I was a long time ago," Beltran said. "I learned about the city, learned about everything, and having the opportunity to come back again as a Yankee really means a lot to me."

An eight-time All-Star, Beltran's signing marked the Yankees' third marquee offensive addition this offseason -- and second in the outfield alone. Along with the switch-hitting Beltran, the Yankees have also added left-handed hitters Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, giving manager Joe Girardi plenty of balance up and down the lineup.

The trio also brings with it a wealth of postseason experience. Ellsbury is coming off a championship run with the Red Sox, who defeated Beltran's Cardinals in the World Series. Together, the three have 101 games of postseason experience, including 51 for Beltran himself.

"To be able to add another switch-hitter to the middle of our order gives me so much flexibility," Girardi said.

"We've talked about it -- at times we had trouble scoring runs last year. But our lineup has gotten so much deeper with guys who hit the ball out of the ballpark, get on base, hit for average and grind out at-bats.

"We all know the success that Carlos has had in his career and the success in the postseason and I'm really looking forward to October with our new player, Carlos Beltran."

Beltran's deal came as a direct response to Robinson Cano's decision to leave the Yankees earlier this month for a 10-year, $240 million offer from the Mariners. Beltran also inked his previous deal on the heels of a star player being lured away for an identical 10-year, $240 million deal when Albert Pujols left the Cardinals to sign with the Angels.

"Last year I went to St. Louis and a lot of people thought, 'Well, he's going to replace Pujols,'" Beltran said.

"There's not many players that can replace Pujols, you know? He's one of a kind. Cano is one of a kind, like myself. We have to understand our jobs as individuals and go out there and play the game."

The Yankees wasted no time reloading in the wake of Cano's departure and Beltran is confident that his latest deal will bring him his first ring.

"With the signings of Ellsbury, McCann, myself and the players we already we have," Beltran said, "I believe that we have a good team that can go all the way. I believe that."

At 36, Beltran's deal certainly has a share of risk involved, especially considering his past knee issues. The slugger was limited to just 145 combined games from 2009-10, but has played in at least 142 in each of the past three seasons, all of which came in the National League -- without the luxury of being used as a designated hitter.

Despite the Yankees' injury woes from a season ago, general manager Brian Cashman said this was a risk certainly worth taking. It also helps that the Yankees now have four capable starting outfielders in Ellsbury, Beltran, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano, giving Girardi the ability to plug in Beltran as the designated hitter whenever he feels the 16-year veteran could use some added rest.

"As we move forward, we'll have a little bit more ability to protect him, because of the DH spot," Cashman said. "And I hope we have the same results the Cardinals had the last couple years. But yeah, there's some risk there with the knees, but we knew that going in."

Though coy about any specific moves, Cashman added that the Yankees are looking to improve in certain areas, particularly starting pitching, ahead of Opening Day.

"We have some more stuff to do," Cashman said. "We had a lot of holes and we've been addressing them slowly, from my perspective. But there's still some questions to be answered."

As for Beltran, he reiterated that playing in the Bronx will be a dream come true, regardless of what other moves may or may not come to fruition. After all, he feels strongly that his pursuit of that elusive World Series ring will finally be realized in Yankee pinstripes.

"As a player and, first of all as a fan, I used to look up at this organization because they always did what it takes to put good teams out there and win championships," Beltran said. "As a player, you always want to join an organization where you're going to have an opportunity to win a championship."

Father drops toddler from high-rise, jumps to his death

A father tossed his toddler from a 14th floor window of an Upper West Side high-rise apartment building and then jumped after himself – killing them both, police said.

The unidentified 35-year-old dropped his 4-year-old child then leapt from an open window just after noon at the 52-story South Park Tower at 124 W. 60th Street. They both landed on the roof of John Jay College next door.

Police say the man was pronounced dead at the scene. The child was taken to the hospital, and pronounced dead there.

A witness said the boy was wearing Christmas pajamas.

“They were pumping his chest and working on him, and nothing,” said Luis Ortiz, who was at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, a block away from the scene, when paramedics rushed him in.

“You could tell he was slipping away. They said the father was up there, but they didn’t bring anyone else in.
It was just heartbreaking. I have two kids of my own. They tried to do the best they could.”

A source said the boy and his father did not live in the building.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yanks 'surprised' that Cano 'didn't feel respect'

NEW YORK -- Yankees officials were confused and surprised to hear Robinson Cano say that he "didn't feel respect" from his former club throughout the negotiations that led to the second baseman's massive new contract with the Mariners.

Cano made the comments during his introductory news conference on Thursday at Safeco Field, as Seattle officially finished off a 10-year, $240 million pact with the five-time All-Star.

The Yankees' top offer to Cano was seven years and $175 million, and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said that he was not taking Cano's comment personally.

"I'm a little surprised," Steinbrenner said. "There was nothing disrespectful about the last offer that was on the table. I'm not quite sure why he feels that way, but it is what it is."

Steinbrenner continued: "Robbie was a great Yankee. He's a great player and we wish him all the best. He's going to do great there and he's going to be a big part of that organization. Bottom line with us was, we never got close. We were always a significant distance apart."

Team president Randy Levine pointed out that the seven-year, $175 million deal the club offered to Cano would have represented the third-highest current average annual value in baseball, behind only Alex Rodriguez ($27.5 million) and Justin Verlander ($25.7 million).

"I feel bad for him, because I think he's disappointed he's not a Yankee," Levine said. "But I respect him and he's free to say whatever he wants to say. We still respect him and he'll always be fondly remembered as a Yankee."

Levine said that the Yankees "tried very hard" to re-sign Cano, and he added that "nobody begrudges him" for taking the biggest offer on the table. But Levine said that the Bombers have decided to set a policy to no longer offer 10-year contracts to players over 30.

"They just have not worked out for us," Levine said. "They have not worked out -- I believe -- for the industry. When we signed Derek Jeter to a 10-year contract [in February 2001], I believe he was 26. In that context, it makes sense. If Mike Trout was here, I'd recommend the 10-year contract. But for people over 30, I don't believe it makes sense."

General manager Brian Cashman said that Cano's representatives replied to their seven-year, $175 million offer by insisting that it would take 10 years and $235 million to keep Cano in New York; just $5 million less than he eventually received from Seattle.

Cashman said that prompted the Yankees to recognize that Cano would be leaving. They pivoted to outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, inking him to a seven-year, $153 million contract that includes a vesting option for an eighth season.

Asked on Thursday if he felt the Yankees wanted him back, Cano replied: "I'd have to say no. I didn't feel respect. We never got that close commitment about anything."

Cano added that he was disappointed about how his negotiations with the Yankees wrapped up.

"I would never say anything bad about them," Cano said. "I just want to leave the good memory I have in New York. I respect my teammates and the organization. I want to be able to go back and say hi to them."

Cashman said that the Yankees still view Cano as a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but they balked at his contract demands at every stage of negotiations, including when talks with agent Brodie Van Wagenen opened with a $310 million request this past spring.

"I wish him the best of luck. I can't tell you anything more than good things about Robbie," Cashman said.

"I'm sorry he feels that way. I understand that that's also usually a part of the process when things don't go the way you want them to go from both ends.

"Bouquets, bouquets, bouquets. I'll throw him bouquets all he wants, but I couldn't throw him $235 million."

Bells toll in Newtown as a nation remembers Sandy Hook

NEWTOWN, Conn.  — Bells tolled 26 times to honor the children and educators killed one year ago in a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School as local churches held memorial services Saturday and President Barack Obama observed a moment of silence.

With snow falling and homes decorated with Christmas lights, Newtown looked every bit the classic New England town, with a coffee shop and general store doing steady business. But reminders of the private grief were everywhere. “God bless the families,” read a sign posted at one house in the green and white colors of the Sandy Hook school, and a church posted that it was “open for prayer.”

Ryan Knaggs, a chef who lives in Newtown, said that as the bells tolled he thought of two young victims who played soccer with his 7-year-old daughter.

“The echo of the bells, knowing some of the children personally, you feel the exactitude with each bell … the exactitude of the loss and the grief,” Knaggs said.

The bells rang 26 times at St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown beginning at 9:30 a.m. — the moment the gunman shot his way into the school on Dec. 14, 2012 — and names of the victims were read over a loudspeaker. Connecticut’s governor had asked for bells to ring across Connecticut and directed that flags be lowered to half-staff.

In Washington, the president and first lady Michelle Obama lit 26 votive candles set up on a table in the White House Map Room — one each for the 20 children and six educators.

In his weekly radio address released hours earlier, Obama said the nation hasn’t done enough to make its communities safer by keeping dangerous people from getting guns and healing troubled minds. Gun restrictions backed by the president in response to the shooting faced stiff opposition and ultimately stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for,” Obama said.

Anniversary observances were held around the country, including in Tucson, Ariz., where former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband were planting a yellow rose bush in a memorial garden created after the 2011 shooting that nearly killed her. Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, said it is important to pause and support families of the Newtown victims.

Newtown asked for quiet and privacy on the anniversary.

Satellite television trucks filled Newtown’s streets in the days after the shooting, and media have often returned since to the community of 28,000 people for stories related to the attack.

In an effort to keep the anniversary focused on quiet reflection, First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra announced in October that Newtown would not host any formal remembrance events. The news media were asked to keep their distance, and “No Media” signs went up around town as they did in the weeks after the tragedy.

Some news organizations stayed away Saturday from Newtown. A reporter and photographer for The Associated Press, whose reports are available to media worldwide, were present in the community, and some townspeople were willing to share their thoughts.

Andrew Snow, a mechanic who was drinking coffee at the general store with a friend, said it was an
especially difficult day.

“You kind of hope the town can put it behind without actually forgetting about the victims,” said Snow, who grew up in Newtown and is moving back from nearby Southbury to support the community. “But it’s not easy to do. I think about it every day.”

The gunman, Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother inside their Newtown home before driving to the school and took his own life as police arrived.

Just how accurate is ‘Anchorman 2′?

By the bedpan of Gene Rayburn, Ron Burgundy is back!

In “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” opening Wednesday, the arrogant journalist is recruited to join a 24-hour cable news network during the early 1980s. The plot centers around how he and his team — suave reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), clueless weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and sports yahoo Champ Kind (David Koechner) — battle a rival anchor (James Marsden) and try to earn big ratings.

And, like the original 2004 film, this sequel expertly spoofs the perception that anchors are hollow shells with sparkling teeth. “I’m going to do the thing that God put Ron Burgundy on this earth to do,” the character says. “Have salon-quality hair and read the news.”

The movie also sends up the boozing, racism and sexism that were, it turns out, rampant in the biz during the 1970s and ’80s. (As when Burgundy can’t stop blurting out “black” when he meets his African-American boss, played by Meagan Good.)

The New York Post asked a few longtime on-air personalities — some national, some local — for their take. (Among them: Mort Crim, who, at least in part, inspired star Will Ferrell to create Burgundy.) Their memories are shocking . . . and shockingly hilarious. Fisticuffs! Backstabbers! And Sue Simmons flashing her ta-tas? Stay classy, news world.


Connie Chung
“Every part of [Ron Burgundy] depicts the quintessential anchorman. Every single one [I worked with], with the exception of one, [was] just like Ron Burgundy. They were egotistical, they loved to hear the sound of their own voices. They hogged air time when it came time to ad lib.

Sexism was rampant. You want examples? Do you have a year? For example, [the typical male anchor] had to say ‘Good evening’ and ‘Good night.’ He had to start the program and every single time out of a commercial. [Women] were not allowed. It’s almost as if she could not speak until spoken to. Oftentimes, that was legislated in [the man’s] contract.

They should all go to homes for old anchorpeople, where all day long they can practice [saying], ‘Good evening.’ I worked with an anchorman in Washington, DC, and he would literally sit in his office and go,
‘[Loudly clears throat] Good evening.[Loudly clears throat again] Good evening.’

The network anchors had entourages. These were minions who’d travel with them. There was the makeup person, the hair person, the person who carried their bag. Then a producer, a researcher. Honestly, I would show up by myself. If we were going to the Middle East, I’d just show up and do my thing. We’d all be side by side. There would be a platform for all the major networks, so we could see who was bringing an entourage. It was pretty comical.”

 

Len Berman

“The movie is a great send-up. I think it’s mostly a farce. My experience with so-called pretty boy anchormen is that they were great writers [of their own scripts].

I will tell you, though, about one unnamed anchorperson I worked with. I walked into his office one day, and there was a list of New Year’s resolutions on his wall. Stay 175 pounds forever, jog a couple miles a day.

The last thing on his list was, ‘Stay on top of current events.’ I thought that was part of the job description.
I’m not saying I’ve worked with Ted Baxter [Ted Knight’s legendary blowhard character from ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’], but there are times when elements may creep in. But none of the anchors I worked with in New York fit that bill.

I mean, my goodness, before I got to Channel 4, [anchor] Sue Simmons would turn around and flash Marv Albert while he was doing sports. It wasn’t a boys’ club.”

 

Geraldo Rivera

“I thought in the first movie that they modeled the [Paul Rudd] character [Brian Fantana] after me. He’s a ladies man with long hair, mustache, bell bottoms, platform shoes. What the film captures wonderfully is these burlesque aspects of the we’re-all-in-this-together, local-news-team-as-family, where the anchormen are the surrogate parents and there’s one of each kind of character in the team.

At [WABC in 1970], I was the Puerto Rican — and there was the Jewish one, the fat one, the tall one, the skinny one and the black one, and we’d do commercials. They’re classics now. In one, I bring [anchors] Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel and [weatherman] Tex Antoine and [sportscaster] Frank Gifford to a Puerto Rican wedding. ‘Eh, hombres, here’s my family.’ At least in the promotional aspect, it was a bridge too far.

[WABC producer] Al Primo was the architect of [the news team as family]. People forget how segregated the news businessbwas. Primo’s genius was to say that the news team should be a reasonable reflection of
the audience we’re looking to serve, in terms of ethnicity and race and age and all the rest of it.

Back in the ’70s and ’80s, it was a wild time. In terms of [hitting on] interns, there was a free-fire zone. Hard drinking was still the mark of a man. Roger used to go to a pub on Columbus Avenue and have three, four, five drinks between the six o’clock news and the 11 o’clock news.

Roger and I had at least two brawls. I remember one time he insinuated [off air] that Johnny Mathis was gay. I was doing a report on Mathis returning to New York, and Roger intimated very strongly that Johnny was gay. It really threw me off and I got mad and punched him.

It was quite a time. More of a Wild West. It was a miracle that we didn’t get in more trouble than we did. On the other hand, [the reporting] was a lot more spontaneous, vivid and real than the live shots are today.”

 

Joan Lunden

“The movie is ridiculously over the top, but it is absolutely art imitating life. Back then, [male anchors] were sexist, racist, unapologetically pompous and arrogant.

I came to New York [from Sacramento in 1975]. I was hired with a blond guy named Peter Bannon. They called us Ken and Barbie. Everyone in the newsroom hated us. They’d write stories with complicated sentences or tongue-twisters, and all the writers and everybody would get on the set and wait to see if I stumbled. Everything you see on the screen [in ‘Anchorman’], I’m telling you, it happened in real life.

I’d been at WABC for a year when Barbara Walters came over [in 1976 to become the first female network anchor]. [ABC political reporter] Sam Donaldson was famous for walking the halls and yelling, ‘The women are coming!’

Half the time Roger [Grimsby] threw to you, he did it with some super sarcastic remark. He called [gossip reporter] Rona Barrett ‘Rona Rooter’ on the air. One night he did a story about garbage pick-up in the city.

When he was done, he turned to Rona and said, ‘And speaking of garbage. . . ’ He was allowed to do that.
That first night when Barbara did the [national] news with Harry Reasoner, [WABC co-anchor] Bill Beutel called in sick and the news director said I’d be filling in [alongside Grimsby on the local newscast].

Now here I show up next to Grimsby on the set on the same night Barbara Walters was anchoring the [national] news for the first time, and he was so upset. He looked at me and said, ‘You don’t deserve to be here. You didn’t go to the school of hard knocks.’ He started the show, finished his first story, then turned to me and said, ‘Barbara?’ At first, I thought he was senile. But he did it again and again. All the male reporters threw back to me as ‘Barbara.’ And no news director stopped them.

When I started at ‘Good Morning America,’ no one told me it was written into [host] David Hartman’s contract that no one was allowed to be called a co-host. All the major magazines came to do stories on me. They’d ask me how it was to co-host the show, and I’d answer. All of a sudden I got a knock at my door, and the producer said, ‘You can’t call yourself a co-host. You can say you’re an in-studio interviewer.’ That’s what it was like.”

 

Mort Crim

“I saw the first movie. I thought it was hilarious. Will was looking at a documentary [about Crim’s co-anchor, Jessica Savitch, one of the country’s first female anchors] I was interviewed in, and I think he saw some of the comments I made about the adjustment period when Jessica [first started at a Philly station in 1974].

I don’t think we were chauvinist [to Savitch] in a traditional sense. The biggest resistance that we had was this was a 25-year-old novice with limited experience who was being brought in and put in the anchor’s chair because, in our view at that time, she was attractive. She proved herself to be a very good journalist. In the end, we all became tight friends.

Obviously ‘Anchorman’ takes a little grain of truth and puts it under the microscope of satire. I understand that, and I was not offended in the least [by Ron Burgundy]. I’ve been in the business long enough to know you have to have a thick skin.

I regret the clothes. I wore leisure suits. Synthetic fabrics, polyester. I wore one lime-green suit on the air. Today, it’s hilarious, but at the time, that’s what people were wearing. That part of the Ron Burgundy movies is true, I guess.

I’ve never met Will, but I got an e-mail from his agent asking for an autographed picture. I pulled one out of my desk and signed it, ‘Will, you’ve almost got it. Just a little more authenticity. Your friend, the real Anchorman, Mort Crim.’ Will has it hanging in his office.

My wife and I are both going to the premiere. Will says he’s going to give me a big fat kiss on the lips when he meets me. I think I’ll put my wife between me and him.”

Weekend Bridge Closures – December 14-15

The Brooklyn Bridge will be closed to Manhattan-bound traffic from midnight Friday to 7 am Saturday, from midnight Saturday to 9 am Sunday, and from midnight Sunday to 6 am Monday. The eastbound BQE exit onto the bridge closes 30 minutes earlier, the northbound FDR Drive exits close up to an hour earlier, and all other Brooklyn ramps onto the bridge shut down 5-15 minutes earlier.

The Grand Street Bridge over Newtown Creek will be closed on Saturday from 7 am to 1 pm to perform maintenance and structural repairs. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be detoured to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge.

The Ninth Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal will be closed on Saturday from 7 am to 1 pm to facilitate bridge repairs.

One lane in each direction on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek will be closed on Sunday from 7 am to 1 pm to facilitate bridge repairs.

Detailed information on weekend closures will be available on the DOT web site at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/wkndtraf.shtml.

Ellsbury: It was 'very clear they really wanted me'

NEW YORK -- The Yankees describe Jacoby Ellsbury as the type of dynamic force who could help bring a few more championship banners to the Bronx, and as he trades in his Red Sox for pinstripes, that idea seems to suit the speedy outfielder just fine.

Ellsbury was formally introduced in a Yankee Stadium news conference on Friday, putting the finishing touch on his seven-year, $153 million contract with the Bombers. The deal includes an option for an eighth season that would increase its total value to $169 million.

"In the beginning of the process, I think you want to hear what all the teams have to say, but it was a very easy decision once I started talking to New York," Ellsbury said. "They made it very clear they really wanted me. It went pretty fast and it was an easy decision."

Ellsbury will wear No. 22 for the Yankees, displaying his new jersey and cap proudly in a photo opportunity alongside manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman.

Girardi said that he is thrilled to have Ellsbury on his side after watching the 30-year-old spark the Red Sox over the years. This past season, Ellsbury batted .298 with nine home runs, 53 RBIs and a Major League-leading 52 steals in 134 games for the World Series champions.

"There are so many different ways he can beat you, whether it's with his power or with his speed or with his glove," Girardi said. "Jacoby, you are going to make my job so much easier. You are no longer a thorn in my side; you are a flower in our clubhouse."

Ellsbury was joined on the dais by his wife Kelsey, agent Scott Boras, Girardi and a contingent of the Yankees' front office staff, including managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost and Cashman.

Though Ellsbury has battled injury problems over his career -- he has missed 264 games over the past four seasons, mostly as the result of two on-field collisions -- Steinbrenner said that he expects Ellsbury to be a consistent performer for the Yankees.

"First of all, he's mentally tough. We know that," Steinbrenner said. "Second of all, a lot of the injuries, if you look at them, are freakish: running into walls, running into people, people falling on top of you. It's those kind of things. I'd be more concerned if it was a serious shoulder issue that is chronic or serious or something else that was chronic. I think he'll be fine."

Steinbrenner pointed out that Ellsbury played well in the postseason for Boston, even as he was battling a compression fracture in his right foot that did not heal until recently.

"You can't have enough grinders, can't have enough guys that work hard," Steinbrenner said. "Dynamic is a perfect word for him. He's great in the clubhouse, a good leader and tough. You just can't have enough of those guys. I think Brian McCann and him are two very good additions."

Cashman said that the Yankees pivoted to a pursuit of Ellsbury when it became apparent that Robinson Cano was going to leave via free agency.

"We tried to take him off the board as early as we could, especially with the feeling of how the conversations with Robbie Cano were going," Cashman said. "We were like, 'We'd better start moving on some things, because Robbie's not going to be here.' It was clear."

Ellsbury owns a .297 career average with 476 runs, 155 doubles, 65 home runs, 314 RBIs and 241 stolen bases in 715 career Major League games over seven seasons with Boston. He is expected to be the Yankees' center fielder, though club brass is still leaving some wiggle room in that decision.

As currently projected, Ellsbury will play alongside fellow speedster Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran, who took his physical on Thursday and should soon be introduced with a three-year, $45 million deal.

"Brett's tremendous out there," Ellsbury said. "He's a very good outfielder; I'm excited to play with him. We're going to cover a lot of ground out in the outfield. Not a lot of balls are going to be falling."

The Yankees also have Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells involved in a crowded outfield mix that figures to be whittled down before Opening Day.

Ellsbury is two years removed from an outstanding 2011 season in which he slugged a career-high 32 homers, and he agreed that the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium will be enticing. Ellsbury added that he also will appreciate the passion of New York's fan base.

"The biggest thing I've always enjoyed is the expectation of winning," Ellsbury said. "We had that in Boston, you have it in New York and the fans expect you to win. That drives me to push my game and compete at a high level each and every night. That was something that I loved about Boston, and I know I'm going to enjoy it about New York, the expectation of winning."

In the days before agreeing to sign with the Yankees, Ellsbury said that he reached out to Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, both of whom painted a picture of an inviting environment Ellsbury can't wait to experience
for himself.

"They just welcomed me with open arms and let me know they were excited to have me here," Ellsbury said. "The first thing they said was, 'You're going to love New York, you're going to love the city.' That's really what I came away with."

Obama’s selfie presidency: It’s all about me

Written by New York Post reporter Kyle Smith

This was the week the word of the year collided in slapstick hilarity with the picture of the year. Selfie! It’s the concept of the year. Maybe — given its accompanying connotations of technology, media, instantaneous global transmission, carelessness, solipsism, frivolity, youth, inappropriateness and ironic juxtaposition — it’s the concept of our age.

Selfie was last month proclaimed word of the year by Oxford University Press (take that, “twerking”!), whose word-use metrics showed a 17,000% jump in usage since last year. Oxford defined the word as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Three weeks later, President Obama starred in what is now the most infamous selfie of all time, one taken by a pretty, party-faced blonde named Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who turned out to be the prime minister of a country experts have identified as “Denmark.” Flanking her in a photographer’s snapshot of her selfie were Obama and, to her right, in the Kevin James role as chubby-faced sidekick of this farce, the clueless UK
Prime Minister David Cameron, the oaf who once left his 8-year-old daughter alone in a pub.

Let’s not understate the magnitude of Obama’s accomplishment. For this to become the Selfe of the Year of the Selfie took some doing. Let’s review the competition.


Less than a week earlier, on Dec. 4, The New York Post’s front page featured a snap of a woman who was taking a selfie arranged to include, over her left shoulder, a view of a desperate man who was apparently preparing to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. (He was talked out of it). The woman taking the selfie was half-smiling.

Among the other selfies included in The Post’s essential selfie Hall of Fame were: a guy laughing and giving a thumbs-up with a crumpled car visible in the background (caption: “Other persons car accident selfie”) and a guy making a mock-horror face while photographing himself at Auschwitz. A Florida high-school student took a selfie that included his teacher going into labor in the background.

Others who appeared to have a real shot at starring in the selfie of the year included Bashid McLean, 25, of The Bronx, who took a selfie with the severed head of the person he had just murdered, who was also his mother; and the deranged actress Amanda Bynes, who chronicled and, via Twitter, publicized her continuing breakdown with topless selfies.

Yet Obama’s selfie still managed to top them all. Why?

Candor. This is a president who is so fiercely protective of his image that dozens of media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post and ABC News, signed a letter of protest blasting the White House for barring news photographers while instead issuing its own carefully vetted press-release images. Usually when an image does escape the vault, it’s because it makes Obama look good. No, not good: Eminent.

Heroic. World-historical. Suitable for framing, autographing or carving into a mountain. One such publicity portrait, often mistaken for a news photo, was a shot of Obama visiting the former Robben Island prison cell of . . . Nelson Mandela. Journalists were barred from the event lest they disseminate an image that didn’t fit the occasion — Obama yawning, or smiling, or checking the White Sox score. Catching Obama off-guard is tricky: His guards never take the day off.

Inappropriateness. This was an occasion to mark the death of a great man. And yet Obama is using that devilish lip-biting half-smile that Bill Clinton used when he wanted to play the charming rascal. Thorning-Schmidt’s pose is even more celebratory. Her caption reads, “Whoo-hoo!” Her thought balloon adds, “Who says Norwegians have all the fun!” Cameron just looks like Cameron, sheepish and hoping to be allowed to stay.

Sexiness. Who knew that frosty Denmark was led by the anti-Angela Merkel? Who knew Obama was friendly with this Jennifer Lawrence of statesmen? Who knew David Cameron just liked to watch? True, just because a married man takes a picture with a colleague who happens to be attractive and female doesn’t mean there’s a charge of flirtation in the air. And unlike some Democratic presidents, President Obama is by all accounts a devoted husband and family man, not a lecher. But if photos didn’t lie, what good would they be?

The woman wronged. It’s a photographic miracle when you can catch an event and a reaction in the very same frame. When that reaction fuels gossip, so much better. Michelle Obama’s Grumpy Cat features gave the picture an effect it would have lacked if she had been smiling or even looking neutral.

President Obama was a natural to star in the Selfie of the Year. He’s associated with youth; so are selfies.

His campaigns leveraged the frenzy and reach of social media: Ditto the selfie. And since much of selfie culture depends on the ironic juxtaposition — the sublime and the ridiculous, the sacred and the profane, the individual and the group — the ultimate selfie would necessarily show the most powerful man on Earth looking like a dork.

What more solemn occasion could there be than a service for the contemporary Christ of South Africa? The operator of the Tumblr collection “Selfies at Funerals” announced this week that it was time to close up: “OBAMA HAS TAKEN A FUNERAL SELFIE, SO OUR WORK HERE IS DONE.”

“Selfies at Funerals” is an online compendium of inappropriate portraiture, mostly of very young people on Facebook or Twitter being delightfully/maddeningly solipsistic and ridiculous in the face of mortality. “Love my hair today. Hate why I’m dressed up. #funeral,” wrote one girl. “Killin the selfie game at pop’s funeral,” declared a young man.

Obama’s selfie marched to the tune of a long-playing meme. All it lacked was a caption reading, “South Africa is mourning but Denmark’s P.M. is slammin!” or “Today Mandela is in heaven but at least we still have Helle on Earth!”

Part of what makes funeral selfies so jarring is that the preening subject of the portrait doesn’t realize he’s also the butt of the joke: The individual in the moment is hilariously heedless of the greater structure of society and tradition.

Can’t these young people and/or presidents realize that, even at a funeral, it isn’t all about them? Funerals are supposed to be the time when we put aside thinking about ourselves, our hair and whether we are or are not killin it with our gangsta style. At least for an hour or two, we’re supposed to direct our thoughts at the disappearance of others, and if we can’t do that we’re supposed to at least shut up and pretend, to be respectful — to maintain a Michelle Obama face.

Obama’s selfie took place not at a funeral per se, but at a carnival-like memorial service that featured music, dancing and cheering and took place in a stadium. Moreover, it went on for four hours. Who can fake being sad for that long, especially when there are fun new people to meet?

Yet the selfie seems very Obama because the president has put himself at the center of so many tableaux that weren’t supposed to be about him. After a thousands-strong national-security and military apparatus tracked and assassinated Osama bin Laden, with the president’s input more or less limited to saying, “Sounds great, go ahead,” he told us about it in a speech that recast the operation as something that sprang from his ingenuity and dedication, a postgame locker-room chat larded with “I”s and “me”s (“at my direction” and “I determined”).

Days before the funeral selfie, the White House tweeted out a Pearl Harbor remembrance that consisted of a photo of Obama laying a wreath. Six days before that he honored Rosa Parks by tweeting out a picture of himself sitting on the bus she desegregated. Nine days before that he honored the anniversary of JFK’s death with a tweet of himself looking at the fallen president’s White House portrait. Obama simply can’t allow history to have occurred without airbrushing himself into it: He’s President Gump.

Even as he struggles for footing on the American Olympus, though, he is oblivious of ordinary folk and even his peers. Far from slapping backs or twisting arms on Capitol Hill like LBJ or Lincoln, Obama seems offended by the idea that he isn’t the only one who gets to make decisions in Washington. He hates meeting with lawmakers (even those from his own party) and prefers to connect with the world by either giving speeches to faceless throngs of worshipers or complaining quietly in Valerie Jarrett’s ear.

“The problem is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States,” he said last winter. “Mr. Obama,” The New York Times reported in 2011, “has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China.”

Obama is, despite all the “we” talk, as much of a loner as Al Gore or Richard Nixon, and yet he wishes he were even more alone still — “the emperor” in his palace who never has to come out and ask John Boehner’s permission for anything.

Those pictures of him in Rosa Parks’ seat, in front of the JFK picture — he’s all alone.

The White House publicity operation seems to think that showing the president by himself in a historical setting gives the president a holy halo of dramatic importance. In reality, these pictures merely emphasize his strange isolation — from the people, from his peers, from his own rhetoric.

The more he fails to shepherd, inspire and transform the nation, the more he retreats into empty symbolism, photo ops and unscripted frivolity. Obama’s is the Selfie Presidency.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mets agree to two-year deal with Colon

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Goodbye, austerity. So long, frugality.

The Mets are spending again.

Less than a week after lavishing outfielder Curtis Granderson with a four-year, $60 million contract, the team on Wednesday agreed to terms on a two-year, $20 million pact with right-hander Bartolo Colon, according to a source. The Mets have not confirmed the deal, as it is pending a physical and not yet official.

With the move, the franchise continued transforming its reputation. After spending $5 million on guaranteed contracts last winter, the Mets have doled out $87.25 million this offseason.

Nearly a quarter of that will go to Colon, 40, who should replace most of the innings the Mets lost when Matt Harvey decided to undergo Tommy John surgery. The 17-year veteran went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA for the A's last season, striking out 117 and walking 29 in 190 1/3 innings. He made 30 starts and earned an All-Star nod for the first time since 2005, when he won the American League Cy Young Award as a member of the Angels.

Colon, who has a lifetime 189-128 record and 3.94 ERA, missed the entire 2010 season because of injury. He has since gone 36-25 with a 3.32 ERA and 3.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio in three years split between the A's and Yankees, but he missed 50 games (plus the playoffs) in 2012-13 after testing positive for synthetic testosterone.

A three-time All-Star, Colon has also pitched for the Indians, Expos, White Sox and Red Sox.

"People might not think that he works hard, but he does," A's rookie Sonny Gray said of Colon in October. "He has a routine down, and he has it down to the minute, it seems, every single day. I think that's something that can help you stay in the game as long as he has."

Colon will be joining a rotation that includes three incumbents in Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese. If the Mets do not acquire another starting pitcher via trade, they can either invest in a cheap free agent to round out the rotation -- a Daisuke Matsuzaka type -- or allow youngsters Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom to compete for the final spot. The organization's top overall prospect, right-hander Noah Syndergaard, is tentatively scheduled to make his Major League debut around midseason.

That stable of young pitchers gave the Mets enough flexibility to offer a two-year deal to Colon, who will be 41 in May and has taken at least one trip to the disabled list every year since 2006 (except 2010, when he was unaffiliated and spent the entire year rehabbing).

Yet despite those hedges, the deal represents a fundamental shift for general manager Sandy Alderson, who until last week had not committed more than $12 million to any free agent since taking over in 2010.

Shrouding their plans all week, Alderson and COO Jeff Wilpon both indicated that they expected to remain financially cautious.

On Monday, Alderson said he would be "hesitant to give a multiyear contract" to any pitcher. On Tuesday, in response to a question regarding the Mets' readiness to win in 2014, Wilpon said they were "still building."

On Wednesday, agent Scott Boras took his annual shots at the Mets' financial situation, wondering out loud why the team has not spent seriously since 2010.

But by Wednesday evening, it became clear that things had changed.

Now the only question is what the Mets will do next. The top priority remains trading one of their lefty-hitting first basemen, Ike Davis or Lucas Duda. Following a flurry of first-base activity around the league on Wednesday, three obvious suitors emerged: the Pirates, Brewers and Rays. Alderson has made it clear that in any deal, he values young, controllable pitching as the return.

The Mets would also like to upgrade at shortstop, though Colon's signing may eliminate any chance they had at signing Boras' premier middle-infield client, Stephen Drew. Drew figures to command at least $10 million annually on the open market, and the Mets' 2014 payroll is now over $80 million. With a self-imposed limit of around $85 million to $90 million, that doesn't leave Alderson with much wiggle room unless he can deal both Davis and second baseman Daniel Murphy, who will make around $9 million combined. The Mets would also like to save some money for a veteran reliever.

"It's not just a question of 'What do we have to spend?' and 'How are we going to allocate those resources?" Alderson said on Wednesday. "It's also a question of value. As the cost continues to go up, generally speaking, the value continues to go down."

The 10 worst holiday presents women get men


There are so many great gifts for men this holiday season, but for some reason, women never seem to be able to figure it out, even if we constantly “accidentally” leave our Amazon wishlists open on their computers all the time. Maybe they wait till the last minute, maybe they’re in bed hung over, or maybe they’re just watching “Clueless” (or perhaps all three). We’re here to help. While The New York Post’s Tricia Romano gave her list of top 10 worst gifts men give women, here is the rebuttal of fairly terrible presents the fairer sex give men:

  1. Any clothing, especially ties
Skinny ties, like this tartan Canning model from Bonobos, are in, and bow ties are cool (thanks, Doctor Who), but they’re also a great way to ensure discord in the months to come when they sit unworn in the drawer for ages.

Even if you think you know a guy’s style, you probably don’t.

2. Anything gadgety
The Sharper Image (RIP) and Brookstone are fun places to kill a few minutes at the mall, but don’t come home with something like this Romo,which is a robot that holds your iPhone, for some reason. What am I, your grandfather? What is this, 1997? Thanks, but I’ll pick up my own SkyMall.


3. Grilling equipment
Sure, this branding gadget with interchangeable type from Think Geek is a great way to make sure no one steals your steak or Portobello mushrooms. But this is the male equivalent of buying a woman a whisk. And would you ever want me buying you a whisk?

4.Sports fan crap
Maybe some guys do still love the Giants, despite this terrible season, even enough that the sight of this Eli Manning-signed jersey from the official NFL store isn’t offensive. But the only framed Jersey that belongs in this reporter’s house is Springsteen, thanks.

5. A watch

Cool, a machine that tells time! If only it also made phone calls, received e-mails, played Angry Birds, had a flashlight, gave me restaurant reviews, had video chat, contained the daily newspaper and could summon all the world’s information at the touch of a finger, it might actually be useful. And at only $80,000 for pieces like this Cartier gold watch, it’s a real sensible gift.

6. Monthly grooming subscription
The perfect way to say: Even if our relationship doesn’t last, you’ll be burdened with the memory of it for the rest of the year with this monthly beard oil delivered to your door. And while this Birchbox for men is cool, surely even the most manscaped among us don’t really use THAT many grooming products a year?

7. A cheese-tasting course

Sitting in a room that smells like feet for two hours and trying to pretend like we can tell the difference between a Camembert and a Gruy√®re might sound like fun to some, but we’d rather just take the bottles of wine and go home instead of toiling through a class like Murray’s Tour of Italy class. Also, don’t you know that cheese can soften your libido like sun-ripened Velveeta?

8. A DVD set of a TV show

What do I look like, a caveman? Guys have Netflix, computers and limited apartment storage space for five seasons of “Breaking Bad“ that, tops, they’re going to watch all the way through maybe one more time. Giving DVDs as a gift in this day and age is essentially like saying, “Here, you throw this away.”

9. Protein powder
Maybe your man has resolved to go to the gym more in the new year, but that’s not a license to come home with bulk-up formula like this 100 percent whey from Gold Standard. It’s the relationship equivalent of that muscle-bound guy who dismissively kicks sand at the pipsqueak on the beach.

10. Couples mani-pedi
Spending a day having your feet and nails scrubbed by a woman in a surgical mask sounds like a scene out of “The Hunger Games,” not our ideal post-holiday relaxation session. Save the spa days, like this one from Bliss spa, for your girls’ brunch group. We’ll stick to the tried-and-true maintenance method: angrily biting off our nails while waiting in the eternal line at Walgreens.