Christopher Atkins is apparently the not-so-vigilant warden of the Franklin Correctional Institution in Florida’s Orange County on whose watch two convicted murderers were allowed to waltz out of prison with years still to go on their terms. Joseph Jenkins was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and Charles Walker was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. But somehow they each ended up with forged court documents that their time was up. Nobody working under Atkins thought to double-check so away the convicts went until they were caught again weeks later. We shouldn’t be surprised that this injudicious escape clause could happen in a state that made “hanging chads” a national obsession but what’s up with the fraudulent paperwork in Florida? Maybe Atkins should be a ballot inspector in 2016.
Choosing one scapegoat from the list of conservative Congressional culprits who caused the federal government shutdown and thereby cost the country billions of dollars in lost productivity—let alone the lasting damage these clods did to our economy, our image and our future—makes listening to Sen. Ted Cruz’s 21-hour homage to Dr. Suez on the Senate floor a piece of cake by comparison. At least that filibuster could be regarded as a performance piece for masochists and Tea Party zealots. But somebody must pay for this idiocy. So why not Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)? He was the acting Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee who admitted in a video that went viral that his leaders had indeed taken away an individual lawmaker’s normal right to force a vote on a bill when there is a dispute between the House and the Senate. News reports were saying that a Congressional coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans wanted to end the shutdown—if they only could. But the passage of an obscure resolution (HR 368) denied them the chance. Chaffetz was the one who publicly conceded, “The House adopted that resolution.” To which Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) asked, “Why were the rules rigged to keep the government shut down?” Chaffetz wouldn’t say. That’s why he’s our fall guy. He didn’t start the fire but he kept it burning.
As front pages go, The New Express’s offerings didn’t offer any word play or salacious gossip. In fact, they played it rather straight: “Please Release Him” was one, followed by “Again: Please Release Him.” But they were extraordinary just the same because they reportedly marked the first time in China that a newspaper dared to challenge the police for holding a journalist in custody. Chen Yougzhou was detained by authorities in Changsa, the capital of Hunan province, because of his investigation of the finances of Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Company, China’s second-largest construction equipment maker. The reporter wrote that the partly government-owned company was accused of faking its sales figures, improperly privatizing state assets and spending $84.3 million on “abnormal marketing.” Then state media said he had admitted writing false stories for money but didn’t reveal who had paid him. Youghzhou was handcuffed and flanked by cops when he made his “confession” on state-run television. Earlier this year, Xu Shousheng, who joined the Communist Party of China in 1973, was elected governor of Hunan province, making him the man ultimately responsible for denying Yougzhou his freedom. This poor journalist committed no crime—he was just reporting the facts as he saw them—and his becoming the bigger story says a lot about the sorry state of affairs in the most populous country in the world.
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst
Baptized “the Bishop of Bling” in the tabloids, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst had such a taste for the good things in life that the Vatican finally had to suspend him just after he’d been summoned to explain himself. In some ways, it brings back fond memories of Pentagon excess but here’s a partial accouting of his luxurious lifestyle: this 60-year-old plutocratic prelate spent $42 million on renovations of his mansion in Limburg, Germany, which included $474,000 for carpentry and cupboards, $610,000 for art, $135,000 for windows for a private chapel, $34,000 for a conference table and $20,000 for a bathtub. We think he actually scrimped on the bathtub, but who’s counting? Apparently Pope Francis is. Once this soon-to-be ex-bishop turns in his mitre, maybe he could become a broker on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing shows. He’d fit right in.
Kurt Paschke & Jaclyn Nugent
Among all the craziness in this Jets season—and it ain’t over yet—watching a Long Island guy the Daily News dubbed a “Gang Green goon” punch a female New England Patriots fan in the face has to be right up there in the hall of shame. Kurt Paschke, 38, of Holbrook was charged with assault and disorderly conduct by the New Jersey State Police as was Jaclyn Nugent, 26, of Boston for a despicable incident caught on camera after the Jets pulled off their first upset of the season at the Meadowlands (the Jets won with a last-second field goal facilitated by an obscure penalty call). In this early October post-football fracas, cameras recorded Paschke hitting Nugent with a right hook as she and her two friends from Massachusetts kicked and punched him. All involved have been banned from attending any more events at MetLife Stadium, which means that Paschke’s juvenile JetsMobile probably won’t be taking up space in the parking lot any time soon. It doesn’t matter here that Paschke once served three years in state prison for fatally stabbing a 17-year-old in a fight behind a Sayville pizza parlor in the 1990s because this son of a policeman should have known better than to slug a lady—even if she was a snotty-nosed, potty-mouthed Pats fan whose team is going to win the division no matter what these idiots do after a game.
Wojciech Braszczok is the undercover NYPD detective who wound up riding with a motorcycle mob terrorizing Alexian Lien, a young father who was driving his wife and baby daughter in a Range Rover in Manhattan before he ran afoul of a biker on the West Side Highway. All told, seven suspects were busted as a result of the mayhem. Videotape allegedly shows Braszczok smashing the vehicle’s rear window with his helmet. He did nothing as Lien, 33, was pulled from the Range Rover and nearly beaten to death before a hero intervened. This undercover dick also infiltrated the Occupy Wall Street encampment, according to news reports. Here he may have crossed the line from working undercover to becoming an active participant in biker-gang violence because he took three days after the incident to come clean. Now it looks like his 10 years on the force are down the drain. Maybe his handler should get a Pink Slip, too.
All the inquiring reporter wanted was a minute with actress Marion Cotillard at the Toronto Film Festival to pose one question before the premiere of her movie “Blood Ties.” But apparently that was asking too much of Cotillard’s publicist Bryna Rifkin, who snapped at her in a clip watched by more than 11,000 YouTube viewers that whether the reporter had been promised a chance or not, she didn’t care because “nobody told you that…and either way, I’m saying no.” ID PR’s Rifkin should be the star of her own Mean Girl movie, judging by the reaction to her mistreatment of the press. Being rude to reporters is not part of a good publicist’s job description—that’s just a perk for losers.
Doug Lamborn, Scott Tipton, Mike Coffman & Cory Gardner
This gang of four Republicans is from Colorado’s Congressional delegation. They voted to screw New York and New Jersey out of much-needed federal aid following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. When killer floods recently wiped out towns and bridges in the Centennial State, these generous Americans voted for disaster relief so Uncle Sam could help out the victims there. Their “real hypocrisy” was too much for Long Island’s lone Republican Congressman to take. Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) had to work his butt off to get the House to bail out the Northeast after the deadly hurricane struck a year ago—when too many members of his own party were all too eager to let us drown in our misery. “They should just thank God we didn’t use the same tactics against them that they used against us,” King told the Daily News. As has been shown time and time again, Mother Nature is unwaveringly non-partisan.
We don’t know the extenuating circumstances but the details are sordid enough. Tiona Rodriguez was busted for allegedly carrying her dead newborn son in a canvas bag while swiping a pair of jeans at Victoria’s Secret, according to the NYPD. The jeans cost about $45. But the reaction of the store’s security guards when they reportedly found the eight-and-a half pound corpse in her belongings must have been priceless. This 17-year-old subsequently pleaded not guilty to the shoplifting charges and wasn’t arraigned on anything else—although that could come later. In the mean time, a Pink Slip, not a sales slip, will suffice. But it’s a very sad story all the same.
Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation (whoever the hell they are) has stomped on the First Amendment to announce that his group intends to turn the Dec. 14 anniversary of the massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., into a “Guns Save Lives” day. Gottlieb, who looks like a stuffed shirt in a polka-dot bowtie in his press photo, also heads the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. All he’s doing, he claims, is countering the push for gun control that has sprung up in light of the horrific massacre last year that left 20 first-graders and six educators shot to death. He reportedly said: “We are going to use the day to get our views out… We don’t want (pro gun-control groups) to own that day…We are gonna be there first.” But he doesn’t say that the National Rifle Association already got there—and bought control of Congress. This sick publicity-hound should quit while he’s ahead.