All posts by Al Sharpton

First day Iceman and Golden Girl into Sunset Beach Shelter Island… Front page Drudge..

CNN’s Chris Cuomo erupted at a man in public who apparently called him “Fredo,” in a wild moment caught on video that went viral Monday night.

The encounter between Cuomo and the man happened at a Shelter Island bar — that appears to be Sunset Beach — on Sunday. The video, surreptitiously filmed by the man Cuomo was shouting at, was uploaded to Twitter by a user who said he was sent the clip.

“Punk-ass bitches from the right call me Fredo,” Cuomo told the man, who claimed he thought the CNN anchor was named Fredo. “My name is Chris Cuomo. I’m an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from The Godfather.”

“They use it as an Italian aspersion. Any of you Italian?” Cuomo continued. “It’s an insult to your fucking people. It’s like the N-word for us.”

They went back and forth, and at one point Cuomo said, “I’ll fucking ruin your shit. I’ll fucking throw you down these stairs like a fucking punk.”

A CNN spokesperson told Mediaite in a statement, “Chris Cuomo defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup. We completely support him.”

Cuomo is receiving support from outside CNN as well. His 9 p.m. rival at Fox News, Sean Hannity, tweeted “good for [Cuomo]” in response to the video. “He’s out with his 9 year old daughter, and his wife, and this guy is being a jackass in front of his family,” Hannity wrote. “Imho Chris Cuomo has zero to apologize for. He deserves the apology.”

Cuomo is off air this week, but he will return on Monday. CNN told Mediaite his vacation was pre-planned.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler Confirms “formal impeachment proceedings” Against Trump

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. has confirmed that they have began the official process of impeachment against the President.

This is formal impeachment proceedings,” Nadler said. “We are investigating all the evidence, we’re gathering the evidence and we will at the conclusion of this, hopefully by the end of the year, vote to, vote articles of impeachment to the House floor or we won’t. That’s a decision that we’ll have to make. But that — that’s exactly the process we’re in right now.”

Read More: Fox News

TERROR ALERT Intelligence agencies warn of ‘another 9/11’ after death of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza

Hamza bin Laden is claimed to have died in the secret hit job by the US government and intelligence agencies are braced for a retaliation.

 Osama bin Laden's son, Hamza bin Laden, 30, is dead, it is reported

Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden, 30, is dead, it is reportedCredit: AP:Associated Press
 Fears are mounting that an atrocity on the scale of 9/11 is being plotted

Fears are mounting that an atrocity on the scale of 9/11 is being plottedCredit: Getty Images – Getty

The Sunday Mirror has been told by security sources there have been warnings of an al-Qaeda resurgence and spectacular attacks.

One western intelligence analyst said: “There is a strong will still out there for another 9/11 so the bin Laden nightmare is far from over – even though it is likely the founder’s only possible terrorist heir has been killed.

“Operationally, Hamza was inexperienced but as a scion of the most famous terror mastermind the world has known, he was irresistible.”

“Osama bin Laden knew his son’s true value and hoped that one day Hamza would take up the challenge of leading al-Qaeda so he could not be allowed by the west to rally support for a new and more dangerous al-Qaeda.”

Hamza was reportedly present when his killer dad plotted 9/11.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Centre’s twin towers in New York and on the Pentagon in Washington DC.

The father and son also spent time together as they fled to Pakistan during the US invasion of Afghanistan.

It comes as the United Nation warns a huge 30,000 strong army of Isis fighters may still be alive and are bent on revenge after the collapse of their so-called Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

A report said: “Their future prospects will be of international concern for the foreseeable future.

“Some may join al-Qaeda or other terrorist brands that may emerge. Some will become leaders or radicalisers.”

The report is based on information supplied by intelligence agencies of UN member states, and offers a glimpse into security services fears around the world.

Original Article

Things have gotten so bad in Congress that a priest prayed to ‘cast out all spirits of darkness’ on the House floor

WASHINGTON — It has been quite the week in Congress, with lawmakers battling over a forced impeachment resolution for President Donald Trump, partisan squabbling, and rampant infighting within the House Democratic Caucus.

Things have become so vexed in the Capitol that Rev. Patrick Conroy, the House of Representatives’ official chaplain and a Jesuit priest, prayed to “cast out all spirits of darkness” on the House floor Thursday morning during his opening prayer.

Read more:‘I abandon the chair’: A congressman presiding over the House got sick of partisan fighting and literally dropped the gavel and left

“This has been a difficult and contentious week in which darker spirits seem to have been at play in the people’s House,” Conroy said. “In your most holy name, I now cast out all spirits of darkness from this chamber. Spirits not from You.”

“I cast out the spirit of discouragement, which deadens the hope of those who are of good will,” he added. “I cast out the spirit of petty divisiveness, which clouds the sense and the desire to be of fruitful productivity in addressing the issues more appropriately before this House. I cast out any sadness brought on by the frustration of dealing with matters detrimental to the honorable work each member has been called to engage in.”

Conroy then prayed to God to “anoint your servants here in the House with a healing balm to comfort and renew the souls of all in this assembly.”

“May your spirit of wisdom and patience descend upon all so that any spirit of darkness might have no place in our midst,” he added.

Conroy typically leads the opening prayer on the House floor, while leaders of other religious groups will often take his place to perform as guests.

Read more: Reliable, friendly, and masters of one-way communication: Meet the dog mayors of America

The last time Conroy made headlines was in the spring of 2018, when then-House Speaker Paul Ryan attempted to fire him as House chaplain. According to several lawmakers at the time, Ryan became frustrated with one of Conroy’s prayers in which he called for a fair tax code while Republicans were pushing through their landmark Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Conroy ultimately rescinded the resignation that Ryan had requested after many members of Congress came to his defense. He then continued in his role as House chaplain, a position he has held since 2011.



The black woman who will be the next 007

Since Daniel Craig announced he was standing down as James Bond, debate has raged whether the next 007 should be a woman, or black.

Now The Mail on Sunday can reveal that she will be both – thanks to the intervention of feminist TV writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

In what’s been called a ‘popcorn-dropping moment’, British star Lashana Lynch, will be given Bond’s licence to kill in the 25th movie in the franchise, currently being shot in Italy and the UK.

Come in 007: British star Lashana Lynch walks in when the James Bond spy number is called

Come in 007: British star Lashana Lynch walks in when the James Bond spy number is called

Take a behind the scenes look at the Bond 25 filming in Jamaica
However, traditionalists can relax: she’s not the new Bond, but a new character who takes over his secret agent number after he leaves MI6.

The story begins with Bond retired in Jamaica. But spymaster M – played by Ralph Fiennes – calls him back in desperation to tackle a new global crisis.

A movie insider said: ‘There is a pivotal scene at the start of the film where M says ‘Come in 007’, and in walks Lashana who is black, beautiful and a woman.

‘It’s a popcorn-dropping moment. Bond is still Bond but he’s been replaced as 007 by this stunning woman.

‘Bond, of course, is sexually attracted to the new female 007 and tries his usual seduction tricks, but is baffled when they don’t work on a brilliant, young black woman who basically rolls her eyes at him and has no interest in jumping into his bed. Well, certainly not at the beginning.’

The source added that the phrase ‘Bond girls’ is now forbidden, saying: ‘We were all told that from now on they are to be addressed as ‘Bond women’.’

Waller-Bridge, who wrote the BBC comedy Fleabag and the female-led thriller Killing Eve, was recruited to ensure the 57-year-old franchise moved with the times. She said: ‘There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not Bond is relevant now because of who he is and the way he treats women.

British star Lashana Lynch is reportedly the new 007

007: Daniel Craig in action in the new movie which promises to be packed with humour

007: Daniel Craig in action in the new movie which promises to be packed with humour

‘I think that’s b******s. I think he’s absolutely relevant now. [The franchise] has just got to grow. It has just got to evolve, and the important thing is that the film treats the women properly. He doesn’t have to. He needs to be true to his character.’

Ms Lynch, 31, had a breakthrough role as the fighter pilot Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, released earlier this year.

Film-makers create avatar of Daniel Craig’s face for dangerous stunts

Daniel Craig’s desire to do all his own stunts on the new Bond film has been thwarted by injury.

But now producers have come up with a high-tech solution worthy of Q to make it look as if he’s in the thick of the action.

Special-effects wizards have created a computer avatar of the 51-year-old star, which will enable his face to be digitally superimposed on to the body of his stunt double – Frenchman Jean-Charles Rousseau, 31.

Craig was forced to change his stunt plans after injuring an ankle while filming a chase scene in Jamaica in May. In his 13 years as Bond, he has also smashed two teeth, dislocated a shoulder, sprained a knee and sliced the tip off one of his fingers.

A source said: ‘Daniel is in great shape but there are some scenes he can’t do because they are too physically challenging. Plus the insurance company won’t let him. So his face will be superimposed later.

Originally from Hammersmith, West London, she made her debut in the 2011 drama Fast Girls, has appeared in Silent Witness and Death In Paradise and was a regular cast member on the short-lived 2015 BBC show Crims. She also played Rosaline Capulet in the American period drama series Still Star-Crossed, set after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

The source said: ‘Lashana is absolutely brilliant and Phoebe’s script is as sharp and funny as you would expect. This Bond pays tribute to some of the earlier films with a lot of humour.’

Indeed, one photograph taken on set shows Ms Lynch in a safari suit similar to the one Roger Moore famously wore when he played 007.

‘This is a Bond for the modern era who will appeal to a younger generation while sticking true to what we all expect in a Bond film,’ the source added. ‘There are spectacular chase sequences and fights, and Bond is still Bond but he’s having to learn to deal with the world of #MeToo.’

So hopefully the script will be the least of the problems for a film that has already been hit by the replacement of original director Danny Boyle, injury to Craig, and a crew member getting hurt in an explosion on set.


Con Ed warns more blackouts could be coming

Con Edison is still baffled over what caused the weekend’s major blackout — and warned on Monday that more outages could be coming with a heat wave on the way.

“We expect that there could be service outages — those things happen during heat waves,” the power company’s chief spokesman, Mike Clendenin, said during a morning appearance on PIX11.

Insisting that the company invests $2 billion every year to prepare for soaring electricity demands when the mercury rises, Clendenin claimed Con Ed will be “prepared.”

“We know it’s going to be intense,” he said of forecasts predicting temperatures reaching 100 degrees this week. “This heat wave coming up is something else and we’ve got to get ready for it.”

But he admitted that engineers still have no idea what caused Saturday’s outage that left 73,000 without power in Manhattan.

“We are very, very focused on examining exactly what transpired and caused that outage,” Clendenin told the station, saying they have no idea why breakers “did not isolate the problem” of a “significant” transmission disturbance.

“There’s a lot of patience and poise that New Yorkers displayed during the outage itself. The same kind of patience and diligence is gonna be needed as engineers and experts dive into the date and actually analyze how equipment tripped off, or what went wrong, that led to the large outage,” said Clendenin. “Unfortunately, with outages like this, it takes a little bit of time and understanding.”

Confirming that the blackout was not connected to heat or overusage, he said that “fortunately, there was no major or extensive damage” — conceding that that would have left the power out for even longer.

Clendenin tried to shake off criticism of the company — with Gov. Andrew Cuomo warning Con Ed “can be replaced” — by insisting that it provides “the absolute best grid that New Yorkers expect and deserve.”

“In fact, New York’s grid is probably better than any other grid you’ll find anywhere else in the United States,” he told PIX11, saying they were “open to anyone’s ideas” on becoming even better.


The Manhattan blackout proved how fragile our infrastructure is

Midtown Manhattan was surreal Saturday night.

The center of our little island is supposed to be the center of the universe — yet I am writing this after eating a lukewarm peach for dinner by (hot) candlelight in 90-degree temperatures with the windows shut tight, racing against time to finish it before my computer runs out of its last moments of electricity.

Yes, we want to be the center of finance, tech and media, but we cannot even keep the lights on for a Saturday evening. Meanwhile, our fearless leader, Mayor Bill de Blasio, is radioing it all in from Iowa, where they have plenty of power.

Yesterday, at about 7 p.m., the lights in our apartment just west of Midtown flickered — hard.

We had seen this before. This past winter — Feb. 16, to be exact — as my husband and I were eating dinner, our lights went out, then went back on.

We looked at each other and then suddenly, boom! A manhole had exploded right outside our window. The next two manholes exploded in succession, each boom rattling the windows harder, and sending our next-door neighbor, two small dogs in tow, over to ask what she should do.

Our answer: nothing. The entire street in front of us was in raging flames; even the firefighters were standing well behind their trucks, which were well behind the fire, waiting for a good half-hour for Con Ed to turn off the power before they could put water on it. We couldn’t evacuate directly into a fire; we just stood, far from the windows … and the lights didn’t go out.

That incident took, maybe, half an hour, but it has caused months of chaos since then. Con Ed has spent the last five months digging up our street — 50th Street, just a five-minute walk west of the business capital of the nation — and refilling it, sometimes digging and refilling on the same day, trying to replace yards of burned-out infrastructure across two blocks while still allowing car and truck traffic to snake by. They work during the day; they startle us by waking us up in the middle of the night with klieg lights.

I have no idea if a Saturday night 49th Street substation “incident” — not far from our little one in February — has anything to do with the fact that Con Ed has been desperately digging up our street, one block north, for half a year.

I do know that our infrastructure is fragile — and our emergency response is inadequate. Walking around Midtown Saturday evening was an exercise in picking which dystopia you wanted to focus on.

Thousands of people spilled out of canceled theater performances — spilling into streets and avenues, where they were vulnerable to a wave of cars, buses and trucks moving past nonworking traffic signals, should this have been a terror attack.

Diesel generators kicked in at the World Wide Plaza office building on the West Side, spewing toxic fumes for more than an hour into the windows of nearby elderly tenement residents just a few hundred feet away

Their choice was to shelter in the heat or breathe in poison — this, 12 years after New York supposedly designed a “sustainable” plan for the environment.

Times Square was half-dark and half-light, depending on what venues had invested in generators that, long-term, make the island even hotter for people without air conditioning.

The MTA did a truly heroic job in getting trains stuck in tunnels to the next station so that people could clamber upstairs, but the power cut in Midtown meant that a dozen lines — traveling from Brooklyn to The Bronx — were paralyzed. You weren’t going anywhere if couldn’t go through Manhattan.

Original Article

Big Government And Big Tech Are Partnering To Track Us Everywhere

George Orwell was a brilliant individual.  A man of incredible insight – and foresight.

In his unfathomably predictive novel 1984, Orwell warns of Big Brother:

“(O)stensibly the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state wherein the ruling party Ingsoc wields total power ‘for its own sake’ over the inhabitants.

“In the society that Orwell describes, every citizen is under constant surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens.…The people are constantly reminded of this by the slogan ‘Big Brother is watching you’: a maxim that is ubiquitously on display.

“In modern culture, the term ‘Big Brother’ has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.”

As brilliant as Orwell was, something continuously struck me as incorrect as I read 1984.

Orwell’s government – was extraordinarily competent in its totalitarian imposition of technological power.

In Reality – no government in the history of man has ever been even remotely close to that competent.

For Orwell’s Big Brother dystopia to become Reality – Big Government would need private sector help.

Enter private sector Big Tech.

Seton Motley | Red State |

Big Tech has delivered much of the technology Orwell envisioned.  As but one of many examples – Orwell’s telescreens:

“(D)evices that operate as televisions, security cameras, and microphones….(T)elescreens are used by the ruling Party in the totalitarian fictional State of Oceania to keep its subjects under constant surveillance, thus eliminating the chance of secret conspiracies against Oceania.”

We’re already all the way there – via Big Tech.

How Google and Amazon Are ‘Spying’ on You:

“The study found that digital assistants (Google Home and Amazon Echo) can be ‘awake’ even when users think they aren’t listening….

“(T)he devices listen all the time they are turned on – and Amazon has envisioned Alexa using that information to build profiles on anyone in the room….

“Amazon filed a patent application for an algorithm that would let future versions of the device identify statements of interest, such as ‘I love skiing’, enabling the speaker to be monitored based on their interests and targeted for related advertising.

“A Google patent application describes using a future release of it smart Home system to monitor and control everything from screen time and hygiene habits, to meal and travel schedules and other activities.

“The devices are envisioned as part of a surveillance web in the home to chart a families’ patterns….”

Why Google’s Spying on User Data Is Worse than the NSA’s

Is Amazon Spying on Users Through Alexa? Thousands of Employees Listen to Conversations

Amazon-Owned Ring Has Reportedly Been Spying on Customer Camera Feeds

Microsoft Windows 10 Is Spying on Almost Everything You Do

Yes, Webcams Can Spy on You

Eleven Insanely Creepy Ways Facebook Is Spying on You Right Now

This is ALL insanely creepy.

Big Tech is…insanely big.

Microsoft (Market Cap: $1.1 trillion)

Amazon (Market Cap: $942 billion)

Google (Market Cap: $775 billion)

Facebook (Market Cap: $550 billion)

These four spying companies – are currently worth a combined $3.7 trillion.  Our nation’s entire economy – is $19.4 trillion.

Which mans these four companies – all by themselves – are worth 19% of the United States.

But it’s Big Tech doing the spying – not Big Government.

Anyone who looks at Big Tech’s all-encompassing spying ability and thinks Big Government is capable of doing anything remotely similar – hasn’t paid attention to the past 10,000 years of human history.

The ONLY way Big Government can impose Big Brother – is to partner with Big Tech.

Uh oh.

The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance

Tech Companies Concede to Surveillance Program

Four High-Tech Ways the Federal Government Is Spying on Private Citizens:

“Right now, the government is tracking the movements of private citizens by GPS, reading private citizens’ emails, and possibly even reading what you’re saying on Facebook.”

Big Tech once offered at least token resistance to Big Government’s demands – at least after being outed for acquiescing to Big Government’s demands.

Facebook, Amazon, Google Call for Government Surveillance Reform:

“It first gained attention after the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Congress is in the process of weighing reforms for the program. It must vote to renew Section 702 before the end of the year, otherwise it will expire.

“The letter, addressed to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asks Congress to consider several reforms to the program to ensure greater transparency and privacy protections.”

We can now officially refer to those – as the Good Old Days.

Why would Big Tech fight Big Government – when they can get paid to join them?

And the Big Government-Big Tech surveillance state – is getting closer and closer to home.

In fact – just outside…and inside it.

Amazon’s Helping Police Build a Surveillance Network with Ring Doorbells:

“Police departments across the country, from major cities like Houston to towns with fewer than 30,000 people, have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon’s products.

“While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested….

“(T)he sheer number of cameras run by Amazon’s Ring business raises questions about privacy involving both law enforcement and tech giants….(C)ritics have pointed out the retail giant’s (other) ventures with law enforcement, like offering facial recognition tools….

“More than 50 local police departments across the US have partnered with Ring over the last two years, lauding how the Amazon-owned product allows them to access security footage in areas that typically don’t have cameras — on suburban doorsteps….

“‘What we have here is a perfect marriage between law enforcement and one of the world’s biggest companies creating conditions for a society that few people would want to be a part of,’ said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.”

That’s the outside of your home.  Here’s the in….

The Government Just Admitted It Will Use Smart Home Devices for Spying:

“If you want evidence that US intelligence agencies aren’t losing surveillance abilities because of the rising use of encryption by tech companies, look no further than the testimony…by the (then) director of national intelligence, James Clapper….

“Clapper made clear that the internet of things – the many devices like thermostats, cameras and other appliances that are increasingly connected to the internet – are providing ample opportunity for intelligence agencies to spy on targets, and possibly the masses. And it’s a danger that many consumers who buy these products may be wholly unaware of….

“Privacy advocates have known about the potential for government to exploit the internet of things for years. Law enforcement agencies have taken notice too, increasingly serving court orders on companies for data they keep that citizens might not even know they are transmitting. Police have already been asking Google-owned company Dropcam for footage from cameras inside people’s homes meant to keep an eye on their kids.”

Orwell got the tech right – just not Big Government’s ability to create it for totalitarian ends.

Freedom has allowed for the free markets – that allowed the rise of the private sector Big Tech Orwell thought Big Government would produce.

And now Big Tech and Big Government are partnering – to end that freedom.

Well…for we plebeians, anyway.

I’m sure Big Tech and Big Government will be just fine.

Original Article

Worship leader penned these lyrics for North Korea in exact spot Trump walked on

A worship leader celebrated President Trump‘s historic meeting with Kim Jong Un Sunday as a “prophecy fulfilled” in the country that he described as the “darkest, hardest” place in the world for Christians.

Sean Feucht, penned lyrics for his song “Finish What You Started (Song for North Korea),” which was released in 2012 as part of an album called ‘Songs For Nations,” in the exact spot on the Korean Demilitarized Zone where Trump and Kim embraced before their 50-minute meeting — their third — in pursuit of peace. The song calls for peace and hope.


Through his non-profit, Light A Candle Project, the Bethel Music singer/songwriter goes into some of the most heavily persecuted areas for Christians worldwide and has seen incredible things happen. But he told Fox News he “never imagined that the song would come true.”

Sean Feucht, Bethel Music worship leader and founder of Light A Candle Foundation, wrote lyrics for a song for North Korea in the same spot President Trump embraced Kim Jong Un on soil in the Hermit Kingdom.

Sean Feucht, Bethel Music worship leader and founder of Light A Candle Foundation, wrote lyrics for a song for North Korea in the same spot President Trump embraced Kim Jong Un on soil in the Hermit Kingdom. (Courtesy of Sean Feucht)

“Oh my God you can do anything, Oh my God Nothing is too hard for you,” Feucht wrote these words from the North Korean side of the DMZ eight years ago.

He shared an image on Instagram with his 97,000 followers of his blue guitar case in the exact spot where Trump and Kim walked Sunday, the first time a sitting president walked into the Hermit Kingdom.


“Oftentimes we have no idea how God can use our simple songs and prayers to change history,” he added. “Long ways to go still but celebrating small steps (or giant leaps) today!”

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said “President Trump is the maker of peace in the Korean Peninsula” in announcing the Trump-Kim meeting.


“I never expected to meet you at this place,” Kim, who appeared overjoyed in the moment, told Trump through an interpreter.

“I was proud to step over the line,” Trump told Kim later, inside the Freedom House on the South Korea side, according to the Associated Press. “It is a great day for the world.”

Christians around the world have been praying for peace on the Korean Peninsula, especially for believers in South Korea, one of whom told Feucht she is still singing his song regularly in prayer meetings for North Korea.


North Korean defectors describe situations of life back home, where they quietly sing Christian hymns every Sunday while someone is on alert for informers. Another cowered under a blanket or in the toilet to pray, and another detailed a fellow prison inmate who’d been severely beaten for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

And while this is a sign of hope to many, Open Doors USA told Fox News in February that Christian persecution was “worsening” in the nation where God is virtually outlawed and Kim is treated as a deity.


Feucht believes what his song says about God: “You’re faithful to the end. You will finish what you started.”



Bills to Decriminalize Prostitution Are Introduced. Is New York Ready?

New York took a significant step toward expanding the national conversation about sex and crime when a collection of lawmakers on Monday introduced bills to decriminalize prostitution.

Described as the first decriminalization bills ever in the state, and the most comprehensive decriminalization effort ever initiated in the United States, the bills expand upon recent attempts in several other states and the District of Columbia.

If passed, the bills would allow paid sex between consenting adults — decriminalizing both the buying and the selling of sex, as well as promotion of prostitution — while maintaining prohibitions on trafficking, coercion and sexual abuse of minors.

There is no assurance that the measures will pass anytime soon; the legislative session is scheduled to end next Wednesday, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has not endorsed the effort.

The legislation introduced in Albany makes clear that the sponsors view centuries of criminalizing prostitution as failed public policy that has done far more harm than good, driving it “into the shadows in an underground illegal environment where sex workers face increased violence, abuse and exploitation, and are more vulnerable to trafficking.” The bills would also allow for those convicted of prostitution-related offenses to potentially vacate such convictions.

Such arguments echo those made by some of those who have worked in the sex trade, several of whom expressed satisfactionthat their concerns were finally being heard by state politicians.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for 30 years,” said Cecilia Gentili, a transgender woman who did sex work and is now a member of Decrim NY, the coalition behind the decriminalization push in New York.

“We are trying to change the lives of many New Yorkers who have historically been criminalized for using their bodies to survive. And it’s time we change that.

Could Prostitution Be Next to Be Decriminalized?

In some ways, the push to decriminalize came about as a result of last fall’s Democratic wins in the State Legislature. The bill’s two sponsors in the State Senate were both newly elected in November: Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, and Senator Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat, whose campaign for office last year included an endorsement of decriminalization.

Ms. Salazar said she had been impressed by how rapidly decriminalization has become more mainstream to discuss, both nationally and in New York, where Democrats unseated eight Republican incumbents in the Senate in November.

“It’s only been in the last several months that this issue got more attention and has gained more popular support,” Ms. Salazar said, adding, however, that “it took years of sex workers fighting, having to face stigma, discrimination and abuse in trying to advocate for their rights.”

The idea has long had a prominent supporter in the Assembly in Albany, where the health committee chairman, Richard N. Gottfried, argued that “trying to stop sex work between consenting adults should not be the business of the criminal justice system.”

“It has not worked in a couple of thousand years,” he said. “And requiring sex workers to work in an underground, illegal environment, promotes abuse and exploitation.”

Prostitution is legal only in a few counties in Nevada, and few supporters believe any state will soon fully decriminalize prostitution.

Opponents of the decriminalization movement say that efforts such as the one being undertaken in New York are misguided, arguing that full decriminalization will create a demand that encourages underground sex trafficking.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, said the decriminalization effort, if successful, would effectively set up a new industry and give legitimacy to existing brothels and pimps.

“Pimps would now just be promoters,” she said, adding “you can’t protect the exploited by protecting the exploiters.” Like some other opponents of full legalization, Ms. Ossorio said she supports a form of partial decriminalization known as the “Nordic model,” which emphasizes the prosecution of people who buy sex, but not the prostitutes themselves.

“It is the wise policy solution,” said Dorchen A. Leidholdt, the director of Sanctuary for Families legal center and a chairwoman of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, saying such modified plan would “shrink demand, shrink the market and shrink the industry.”

Full decriminalization, however, would be a “public-policy disaster for New York” that would “increase the size of this predatory industry,” Ms. Leidholdt said.

“And prostitution is always predatory,” she added.

Mr. Cuomo’s record on liberalizing once-forbidden activities is somewhat uneven: He has recently backed legalizing marijuana, for example, not long after calling it a “gateway drug.” He expanded gambling in the state, but has balked at backing mobile sports betting.

And on Tuesday, he said he had not read the decriminalization bill and had no opinion on it yet. “This is going to be a controversial issue,” said Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat.

But for activists like Ms. Gentili, after years of waiting to have their issue taken seriously, now is the time to demand action from their lawmakers.

“Are we really progressive or are we not?” asked Ms. Gentili. “I guess we are about to find out.”


US Blames Iran for Recent Attacks on Oil Tankers in Gulf of Oman

Thursday saw two oil tankers- one Norwegian, the other Japanese- attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Crew members rescued from the Japanese vessel said, “that the ship was attacked by a flying object”. These fresh attacks come after four vessels were targeted a month ago.

The US have blamed Iran for the attacks, claims the Iranians deny. It is thought the Iranians are seeking to disrupt international shipping in one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. US-Iranain relations have deteriorated recently. The US have sent an aircraft carrier in response to the heightened threat from Iran in the region.

Read More BBC

The working witches of Los Angeles just want you to be your best self

The working witches of Los Angeles just want you to be your best self
Amanda Yates Garcia, also known as “The Oracle,” is a working witch. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The Oracle of Los Angeles was feeling frazzled.

It was already 2 p.m. and she hadn’t had time to prepare lunch, much less wipe the ash from her altar. A tarot card client had just left her yellow Craftsman house in West Adams, evidenced by the smell of incense still lingering in the air. Within an hour, she was scheduled to meet with another client who was struggling to complete a PhD thesis.

In the meantime, she still had to prepare for her weekly podcast, create a purifying ceremony for a new business–and get her nails done for a reality TV appearance. Any downtime would be consumed with writing. The second draft of her memoir was due to her publisher in a week.

The Oracle, who also goes by Amanda Yates Garcia, is a former arts educator with a master of fine arts in writing, film and critical theory from California Institute of the Arts. For the past eight years she has made her living as a professional witch, performing “energetic healings,” “intuitive empowerment sessions” and the occasional exorcism, while also teaching workshops on the art of magic online and at her home, independent stores, and sites like the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The Oracle understands the value of marketing, so she also devotes several hours each week to outreach: writing newsletters, updating her website and sharing tips on social media on topics such as how to break a curse using the ”disruptive energy of a lunar eclipse.”

“If you think being a witch is just sitting around doing spells all the time, you think wrong,” she says. “Half my business is being on Instagram.”

What do you think of when you hear the word “witch”? Pointy black hats? The Salem witch trials? The free-spirited members of the pagan religion Wicca?

Today’s working witches, whose prominence is growing thanks to social media, primarily see themselves as healers. They help clients who are struggling to cope with life’s hurdles — heartache, aging, misogyny, work stress — and who find that more culturally accepted remedies, such as therapy and meditation, aren’t enough.

They want to help you be your best possible self, or as the Oracle puts it, “My contribution is to … cultivate beauty and love in my clients and help them thrive.”

There’s no official list of job duties for witches, no state licensing board that notes educational or training requirements (which means clients proceed at their own risk). Services run the gamut, from herbal workshops to love spells to communing with spirit guides; some witches charge up to $200 an hour for their time.

Sara Benincasa, a comedian and writer who started seeing the Oracle last August, says the sessions feel like “part therapy, part religious ritual.”

“I would say she’s doing spiritual coaching,” Benincasa says. “You can go to see her the way you might see a rabbi or pastor.”

(Yates Garcia is quick to note that “people should not use magic as a way of avoiding their problems,” adding: “Sometimes clinical help with a therapist, social worker, medical doctor, or financial adviser is really what they need.”)

If you think all this witch-talk is fringe thinking, it isn’t.

A 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center that examined New Age beliefs in America found that 40% of respondents believe in psychics and another 40% believe that inanimate objects like mountains and trees are imbued with spiritual energy.

It also found that 33% of Americans believe in reincarnation, 29% believe in astrology, and 60% say they hold at least one of these New Age beliefs.

Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate the number of people who call themselves witches is growing.

“Interest in witchcraft waxes and wanes, but it is waxing, again, particularly among young women,” says Helen Berger, a professor at Brandeis University who has been studying witches and pagans for 30 years.

At least half a dozen books on witchcraft have been released in the past six months alone. Museums and universities like LACMA, UCLA, UC Berkeley and Smith are inviting witches to lecture and lead workshops on their campuses.

And there are more places than ever to buy crystals, candles, incense and other tools of the witch trade — both online and in stores. Here in Southern California, the magical supply shop House of Intuition opened in Echo Park in 2010. In the last few years it has expanded into a full-fledged chain with storefronts in Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Highland Park and West Hollywood.

Instagram has also helped spread the word. Search the hashtag #witchesofinstagram and you’ll find 2.6 million posts including spiritual affirmations, Gothic selfies, and a substantial sprinkling of cats.

“Instagram has been a huge way to make magic and mysticism accessible for everyone,” says Bri Luna, who goes by the name “Hoodwitch” and has 420,000 followers on the social media site. “Old witches try to dismiss it, but the internet has made it possible for black people, brown people and trans people to be part of this community and this movement, too.”

Sabina Magliocco, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says the growing interest in magic and witchcraft is a natural response to a cultural moment in which many people feel marginalized and silenced.

She says a loss of faith in institutions, particularly the government, and organized religion has led large swaths of the population to feel unmoored — like the world no longer makes sense.

“Studies have shown that people turn to magic and ritual in high-risk and high-stress situations,” Magliocco says. “And that describes the world for a lot of people right now. People are flipped out.”

The queer witch, or bruja, who goes by Loba Loca specializes in herbalism and traditional massage. However, much of Loba’s work involves simply talking with clients — “pure counseling.”

Loba Loca
“This is the only way I support myself,” says Loba Loca, whose work is often simply talking with clients. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

Loba, who uses the pronouns they/them, grew up in Peru and Chile, and now lives in a first-floor apartment near MacArthur Park with a sprawling garden in front. Inside their dimly lit living room, dozens of jars of dried flowers and leaves are stacked on metal shelves. Some of these go into the scrubs, moisturizers and facial sprays Loba sells on their website.

Loba learned their craft from peers, and on trips to Mexico and South America, talking to family members and healers. They see their work — teaching and supporting mostly queer people of color — as feminist, antimisogynist and political — all things they believe have long been associated with the practice of witchcraft.

“I do a whole workshop on how the people who were burned as so-called witches in Europe were actively participating in dismantling the government,” Loba says.

They try to keep prices low, charging $45 for an hourlong consultation on gardening or sexual health or $150 for traditional bodywork and massage.

“This is the only way I support myself,” Loba says. “When I first started, I was charging basically nothing because I was living in a garage and I didn’t have to pay much rent; but as I’ve grown up and had to spend more money on living, I’ve had to pump up my prices.”

For most of history, “witch” has been associated with malevolence — especially malevolent women. Witches are condemned in the Old Testament. Ancient Norse and Roman laws forbade magic for nefarious purposes.

The rise of Christianity prompted vigorous prohibitions against witchcraft (and many denominations continue to denounce it). Historians estimate that at least 50,000 people were tried and either imprisoned or executed for witchcraft in Western Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Up to 80% of them were women.

Europeans who colonized the New World brought a fear of witches and witchcraft with them, a fear that culminated in colonial Massachusetts. In a span of about 15 months, starting in February 1692, 15 women and four men were hanged after accusations of witchcraft reached a frenzied pitch in the town of Salem.

Even today, witches can still inspire fear and anger.

“It makes people very nervous, the possibility that witches do have powers,” Berger says. “If witches have the power to heal you, do they also have the power to harm you?”

Top photo: Altar of Amanda Yates Garcia, also known as The Oracle. Bottom photos: Collection of herbs and tinctures from the bruja known as Loba Loca.

In recent years, people who brand themselves as witches have had an easier go of it — especially in Southern California — where they have joined a thriving community of empaths, energy workers and other healers. They’ve also encountered — and been influenced by — people who brought their belief in magic from other regions and cultures around the globe. In some cases this has prompted accusations of cultural appropriation.

In addition to being the targets of skeptics, cynics, atheists and certain religious denominations, people who promote themselves as magical practitioners sometimes attract the attention of law enforcement.

In January, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office released a warning about a blessing scam in which victims, many of them seniors in immigrant communities, were told that a terrible misfortune would befall their family unless a blessing ceremony was performed on their valuables.

One senior put more than $70,000 in cash and jewelry in a bag for a blessing. She was told not to open the bag for two days. When she finally did, all she had was a bag full of newspaper.

“There are always people who might be charlatans,” Berger says, “but in my experience most people who call themselves witches believe they are helping clients, and their clients believe they are being helped. Whether you think it’s ‘real’ or not, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Aja Daashuur
Aja Daashuur has been a witch for five years. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

On a recent Wednesday, the witch and spirit medium Aja Daashuur was preparing her home for a magical workshop that would be attended by 10 women, including her assistant.

The candles were lit. Dozens of long-stemmed pink roses were arranged in a circle in the center of the room. Meditative music played softly in the background. Her final task? Sweep the negative energy out of her 100-year-old A-frame house high in the hills of northeast Los Angeles.

 As she pushed the broom an inch above the wooden floors, she murmured a prayer under her breath:

Only light and love may walk through this door.  

Protect it from negative energy, psychic attacks and lower vibrational energy.  

I ask the sun and the moon, as I am a daughter of both…  

Daashuur is a former musician and celebrity stylist who now earns her living channeling spirits and sharing their insights with her clients.

She calls herself the Spirit Guide Coach.

Over the past two years she has seen private clients several times a week in a small pyramid-shaped space on the grounds of her home. The 75-minute sessions cost $200.

Daashuur and her clients begin with an offering to the spirits — candles, flowers, sage, chocolate — and a meditation. Then, she says, she goes into a light trance and starts to communicate with the spirit guides.

“I kind of picture it like we’re all sitting around an old ’70s kitchen table,” she says. “We have a chat.”

The Oracle of Los Angeles likes to say that magic does not defy the laws of physics.

“It’s not like you wiggle your nose and your life is completely different,” she explains. “We work incrementally. If you want to win a Grammy, but you haven’t written a song yet, we have a lot of work to do.”

The Oracle
Amanda Yates Garcia, known as the Oracle, works with magic as a way to focus energy, not to defy laws of physics. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

She tells her clients that magic is a way of taking the stuff we all have swirling around in our minds and getting it out into the material world where we can see it and deal with it.

That might mean writing down a painful memory on a piece of paper and then burning it or throwing a piece of jewelry into the ocean to release the emotions associated with a difficult relationship.

Yates Garcia usually gives her clients “labors” that she expects them to do on their own time.

“If you want to build more confidence, then you will have tasks that you are going to do, like maybe taking a public speaking course,” she says.

This may sound more like practical advice than witchcraft, but Magliocco says that’s how magic traditionally works: “I think when people sneer at ‘magic’ it’s because they don’t understand how people are using it. It works on the parts of you that are nonverbal, that are pre-verbal, that respond to images, smells, metaphors and stories.”

Yates Garcia put it this way: “Magic and ritual is a way of focusing your energy.”

Then she looked at her phone. A client was supposed to arrive in a few minutes. Her memoirs needed work. The Instagram DMs were piling up.

The Oracle of Los Angeles had to get back to work.