Rashed Mian

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Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: rmian@longislandpress.com. Twitter: rashedmian

Snow Squalls Hit Long Island Amid Bone-chilling Temperatures

Long Island Weather: Polar Vortex

Long Island got its first real taste of snow this season as squalls moved across the region Thursday morning amid bone-chilling temperatures.

The National Weather Service’s Upton office warned of near-zero visibility from snow squalls, potentially creating whiteout conditions in some areas. Accumulation is expected to be minor, but poor vision and icy roads were the agency’s top concern.

The sudden burst of snow comes as the Island is enveloped by an arctic air mass that has slowly moved across the middle of the country and finally arrived in our area Wednesday night. The frigid air is expected to hang around until Friday, forecasters said. Numerous vehicle crashes were reported across LI as a result of the snow.

Temperatures are expected to be in the 20s Thursday with wind chills in the single digits by the evening.

The weather service has issued a wind advisory until 6 p.m. Thursday and a high wind warning until Friday morning as gusts are predicted to top off at 60 mph. The force of the winds could topple trees and power lines and cause widespread power outages, the weather service warned.

Wind gusts are supposed to die down considerably on Friday, but frigid temperatures will remain. Forecasters are calling for the mercury to sit around the high 20s throughout the day before falling to the low 20s in the evening. There’s also a possibility that the Island will receive 1 to 2 inches of snow, the weather service said.

Long Island will get a break from the brutal cold this weekend with temperatures rising to the 40s and 50s, but rain is in the forecast.

Long Islanders will be more familiar with this arctic blasts more culturally-accepted moniker: the polar vortex. The air mass is always present but occasionally dislodges and heads south, as is the case now, unfortunately.

Get Ready for Brutally Cold 36 Hours on Long Island

Long Island polar vortex

For the next 36 hours, a swarm of arctic air will plunge temperatures into the teens, giving the region its first true taste of winter—which is still officially a week away.

Long Islanders will begin to feel the effects of the brutal cold snap Wednesday night, with wind chill values dropping the mercury into the teens, according to the National Weather Service’s Upton office.

Freezing temperatures will continue through Thursday, which will hang around the 20s for most of the day. Thursday evening will be dreadful, with forecasters calling for a low of 15, made worse by wind chill values in the single digits.

Contributing to the biting cold will be powerful wind gusts as high as 41 mph. A chance of scattered snow in the morning and a slight chance of snow late in the evening are also in the forecast.

The arctic blast will continue into Friday. Forecasters are calling for temperatures in the 20s with gusts as high as 26 mph.

Despite a chance of snow and rain Saturday, the temperature will rise to 45 on Saturday and 55 on Sunday, giving residents a much-needed reprieve from the arctic blast. Forecasters say rain is likely over the weekend.

Long Islanders can once again thank the notorious polar vortex for the frigid air that’s on its way. The vortex is also present in the arctic but occasionally becomes displaced and heads south during the winter—as its happening now.

The Northeast is hardly the only victim of the polar votex’s descent.

“As this high continues to drift southeastward through the next few days, a very cold air mass will overspread areas from the northern plains and Midwest to the Ohio valley, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast in the wake of a fast-moving arctic cold front,” the National Weather Service said in a forecast discussion. “High temperatures [Wednesday] are expected to be 20 to 30 degrees below average over the north central U.S., with these cold temperatures spreading eastward on Thursday.”

In Chicago, for example, wind chills could be as low as -15.

Now that we think of it, maybe we shouldn’t be complaining.

Long Island Reps Call For Investigation Into Alleged Russian Hacking

Russian hacking
Russian President Vladimir Putin/Courtesy Maria Joner

Several Long Island congressional representatives have joined a growing chorus of elected officials urging an investigation into Russia’s purported interference in the presidential election and alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, even as disagreements remain regarding the veracity of recently leaked intelligence assessments.

The calls for a probe come amid news reports of a secret CIA assessment concluding that Russia interfered in the election to boost now President-elect Donald Trump’s chance of winning—instead of simply undermining the United State’s electoral system—and on the heels of his announced pick for secretary of state, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has close business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The reports in the Washington Post noted that the agency has not yet uncovered evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the attack. The paper also acknowledged “minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.”

Shortly after the publication of the explosive WaPo story, The New York Times reported that Russia had infiltrated the Republican National Committee during the election campaign but did not publicly release any documents from that purported hack.

Further muddying the intelligence assessment are disagreements between the federal intelligence agencies, such as the CIA and FBI. The latter has said it has yet to find evidence supporting the notion that the Russian hack was intended to support Trump. Underscoring the contrasting points of view, the CIA, WaPo reported, told several U.S. Senators in a private security briefing that it was “quite clear” Russia interfered to improve Trump’s chances of winning.

Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle now say they support an investigation into allegations that Russian interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“Congress’s national security committees have worked diligently to address the complex challenge of cybersecurity, but recent events show that more must be done,” a group of senators, including incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said in a statement. “While protecting classified material, we have an obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society.”

Long Island Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford), Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) and retiring Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) all said they welcome a probe into potential Russian intrusion. The office of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) did not respond to a request for comment.

For his part, Trump says he has scrutinized the intelligence reports and does not believe the Russians interfered, calling the analysis “ridiculous.”

Questions regarding how Russia was able to hack into the Democratic National Committee’s system, and, perhaps most consequential, who directed the alleged intrusion into the DNC, as well as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s email, are high on the list for politicians aghast at the brazen pilfering of correspondences passed along to WikiLeaks during the election.

The constant drip of leaked emails prior to the Nov. 8 election, many of them mundane but others more damaging to Clinton, contributed to public concerns that the former US Secretary of State and First Lady was dishonest.

“Russia’s reported interference in our elections—regardless of whether their motivation was to undermine the integrity of the process or, as the CIA has concluded, to help a specific candidate—is a direct attack on the foundation of our democracy, and it demands a rigorous bipartisan investigation,” said Rice, a minority member of the House Homeland Security Committee, in a statement.

King, also a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, told the Press that there’s little doubt that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by Russians. But he remains unconvinced that Russia was behind the breach into Podesta’s email or that the series of election-related attacks were managed by top officials inside the Kremlin in an attempt to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

“It’s the pretty solid consensus that they did hack into the Democratic National Committee, also that they attempted to hack into the Republican National Committee but did not succeed,” said King, adding that the recent disclosures amounted to “selective leaking” by people with an agenda.

Still, King acknowledges that intelligence agencies may not have all the facts yet, thus he supports an investigation, which he said should be conducted by the Homeland Security Committee because special select committees often take months to get off the ground.

As for Trump’s outright rejection of the intelligence agencies’ assessments, King said he disagreed.

“I’m no expert on cyber security or hacking, I try to be an expert on knowing who to rely on,” he said, adding that there’s consensus the Russians hacked the DNC. “Why Donald Trump doesn’t accept that, [he’d] have to explain that.”

The intelligence leaks came just hours after President Barack Obama ordered a full review of the Russians’ hacking efforts during the presidential election.

Trump’s choice of Tillerson, who received Russia’s “Order Of Friendship” from Putin in 2013—one of the highest honors that country can bestow upon a foreigner—has also received growing criticism. Sen. McCain called Putin “a thug and a murderer” on CNN Monday, repeated the description on NPR, and said, “I don’t see how anybody could be a friend of this old-time KGB agent.”

(Top Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin/Courtesy Maria Joner)

It looks Like The Polar Vortex is Returning to Long Island

Long Island Weather: Polar Vortex

Forget winter—the polar vortex is coming.

Temperatures are expected to plunge into the single digits later this week as an arctic blast rumbles toward the Northeast, forecasters say.

By Wednesday night Long Islanders should begin to feel the effects of a deep freeze moving across the Midwest as the polar air begins to filter in, Jay Engle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Upton office, said. The cold surge will mostly be felt Wednesday night through Friday, with the region warming up once the arctic front veers off.

“It’s not going to last for a long time,” Engle said. “It’s kind of like a 30-36 hours of arctic air.”

Temperatures will moderate quickly, he said, pushing the mercury to the 40s on Saturday and potentially even back to the 50s on Sunday.

While the potential for a reprieve is heartening, the plummeting temperatures preceding the warm-up is no joke.

Engle expects temperatures to be in the 20s Wednesday night and most of the day Thursday before potentially plunging into the single digits in the evening. If that’s not cold enough, the wind chill could make it feel close to zero, if not subzero, overnight.

Long Islanders may remember the polar vortex’s last major romp across the Island in 2014, when it brought record cold temperatures not felt in four decades. At the time, the arctic blast set a 118-year record at Central Park.

The polar vortex—which forecasters refer to as a “latitudinal displacement”—is always present in the arctic but occasionally it becomes displaced and travels south during the winter. Typically it’s the jet stream that dictates when the blast of arctic air pulls away from the poles, Engle said.

The good news is that forecasters aren’t looking for any major storms in the coming week.

Meanwhile, temperatures on the Island will hover around the low 40s Tuesday and Wednesday before the polar vortex strikes.

Valley Stream Best Buy Workers Give WiiU to Kid Who Visited ‘Every Day’ [VIDEO]

Valley Stream Best Buy WiiU
A Valley Stream Best Buy employee presents a frequent guest with a surprise WiiU for Christmas. (Credit: YouTube/Rahiem Storr)
Valley Stream Best Buy WiiU
A Valley Stream Best Buy employee presents a frequent guest with a surprise WiiU for Christmas. (Credit: YouTube/Rahiem Storr)

Christmas came early for at least one shopper, courtesy of perceptive employees at a Valley Stream Best Buy store.

In a video that has since gone viral, an employee presents the store’s frequent visitor with a brand new WiiU video game console. The employee said the workers made the gesture because the shopper had visited the store every day to play with the console’s store display model.

“On behalf of all of us at Best Buy, we got you a WiiU so you don’t have to come here every day and play,” the employee tells the shopper, who appears shocked.

“I’m being serious,” he added when the kid looked confused. “This will be your Christmas present.”

In a caption accompanying the widely shared video, the employee said: “We saw an opportunity to make a child smile and did just that. They chipped in and purchased a WiiU for him with their own money. This is amazing. Why shop at Amazon when you can have genuine people in this world that you can continue to help keep a job?”

The video was uploaded on Dec. 7 and currently boasts more than 1 million views.

‘Reprehensible’ Swastika Graffiti at Nassau Community College Probed

swastikas nassau community college

Multiple swastikas, at least one anti-Jewish message, and the words “Heil Hitler” were discovered on the Nassau Community College campus over the last two months, and now authorities are investigating the incidents as possible bias crimes.

In total, the college has reported five separate incidents to Nassau County police from Oct. 15 to Dec. 2, police said. In three of the incidents, multiple swastikas were discovered inside campus bathrooms. The anti-Semitic symbol was also found on a handrail and a wall of the campus’ “B” building.

Police did not repeat what the derogatory message said, but Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, the department’s chief spokesman, noted that it was “biased against the Jewish community.”

All of the cases remain unsolved.

“The individual who did this is absolutely misguided,” LeBrun told reporters. “It’s reprehensible. It’s not appropriate in our thinking and the public’s thinking.”

He said, “We all work together to try to make good, good communities.”

In a statement, Nassau Community College President Dr. Hubert Keen said the school has “zero tolerance for any and all kinds of hate speech,” adding that the disconcerting discoveries are “unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

“While it is unclear whether the graffiti crime was committed by trespassers or not, the institution will take all steps necessary to ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that Nassau Community College remains a safe haven for all students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Keen said.

Evan R. Bernstein, New York regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, released a statement expressing concern over the multiple swastika discoveries.

“Institutions of learning must be a safe space for all students,” he said. “No one should ever be subjected to such hateful anti-Semitic imagery or be made to feel vulnerable on campus. We hope Nassau Community College leadership will do all it can to discourage such acts of hate and encourage respect among its student body.”

The swastikas were uncovered by the college’s staff on Oct. 15, 28, 29 and Dec. 2, LeBrun said, adding that the perpetrator could face one to four years in prison on a Class E felony. On Friday evening police responded to NCC yet again after a student found the words “Germany” and “Heil Hitler” drawn with a black marker inside the men’s bathroom of the “E” building, police said.

Although three of the incidents occurred before Nov. 8, the latest discovery has further troubled minority and Jewish groups amid a surge of hate crimes across the country following the election of Donald Trump.

Earlier this week, Nassau police said it is investigating a hate crime in Mineola in which “Make America White Again”—a play on President-elect Donald Trump’s oft-repeated slogan—as well as a racial slur and swastikas were found spray-painted on a Mineola sidewalk.

Anti-hate groups have documented hundreds of similar incidents across the country, though Long Island has yet to have any reports of physical attacks.

Nassau police’s Third Precinct is investigating the crimes at Nassau Community College’s campus and in Mineola. The department has also increased patrols in the impacted areas.

When asked why the public is only now learning of the October incidents, LeBrun explained that the Third Precinct was being given the appropriate time to investigate the case and that the incidents were not immediately reported to the department’s Public Information Office, which is not uncommon. LeBrun’s department was not notified until Dec. 7, he said.

“They’re [Third Precinct investigators] looking at surveillance tapes. They’re interviewing college personnel. If they are looking for an individual, they necessarily don’t want the attention drawn to that,” LeBrun said.

The police department does not see the delay in reporting the incident “as a problem,” LeBrun said, adding, “There’s no hiding of facts here.”

At the press conference, Robert Solomon, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island, said that his group “stands in solidarity” with police “against these harmful acts.”

Still, Solomon said it is necessary to consider the spate of hate crimes together as opposed to singular incidents.

“It seems to me that since the election there hasn’t been a day when…I haven’t seen something in the paper,” said Solomon, as he referenced various recent news articles, including one about US Jews struggling with anti-Semitism.

“I think we have to connect the dots here. There are dangerous winds of hate, which are blowing across America,” he added. “And whether it’s under the guise of alt-right or nationalism or Brexit, or whatever you call it, things are happening that are inciting the passions of those people in this country.”

“We stand with all our brothers from all ethnicities, religions, backgrounds, to stand for a position against hate,” Solomon continued, “because for evil to triumph, all it takes is for good people to do nothing.”

Since the election, many minority groups have coalesced around one common foe: hate. Jews and Muslims gathered together at a mosque in Westbury last week and plan to hold monthly events across the Island. Various ethnic groups have created a collective dubbed, “Long Island Together,” with a stated goal of protecting vulnerable people and standing up against hate.

This story has been updated to include the messages found on Friday.

(Featured photo credit: NCC/Facebook)

Nikola Tesla Wardenclyffe Lab to Receive World Historic Site Designation

Nikola Tesla, left, and Wardenclyffe Laboratory and Tower in Shoreham. The tower has since been demolished, but the lab still stands.

The Tesla Museum and Science Center at Wardenclyffe is still a year away from opening to the public but Nikola Tesla’s last remaining science lab in the world will get a much-welcomed historical recognition this weekend.

On Sunday, the American Physical Society (APS) will present a plaque declaring Wardenclyffe in Shoreham a world historic site, honoring its role in raising awareness of physics, commemorating past scientific progress, and paying homage to Tesla’s incomparable achievements.

Read: Tesla ‘Tower to the People’ Premieres at New Yorker Hotel

Tesla, whose groundbreaking work in the field of electricity once landed him on the cover of Time magazine, spent much of his career at various laboratories through the US, but the building in Wardenclyffe is the last of his labs that still stands. From there he hoped to send free electrical power to the world. But it was not to be.

The APS’ plaque presentation is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday. The APS is headquartered in Maryland and has an office in Ridge.

Renovations to Tesla’s dilapidated lab are still in the beginning stages, said Marc Alessi, executive director of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, a nonprofit organization that acquired the site after it was slated to be sold to developers.

The organization, which is committed to redeveloping the lab and reintroducing Tesla’s work to the public, is hoping to open two buildings by January 2018, said Alessi, a former New York State Assemblyman. The Tesla Science Center raised $850,000 three years ago to purchase the former Superfund site from Agfa Corporation.

Read more: Tesla’s Last Stand on Long Island

The center is currently awaiting permits by the Town of Brookhaven, which should be approved in time for crews to begin construction next spring.

The plan is to complete the welcome center first before renovating the former administration building, which was originally designed for Tesla by the famed architect Standford White. The welcome center will be home to administrative offices, exhibits and a small space for meetings or special programs.

Given the laboratory’s historic status, it will take several more years for that building to be restored. It was in total disrepair before the nonprofit stepped in to save it. The lab’s iconic tower, once visible across the Sound, has long since been demolished.

As the center begins its long-awaited reconstruction, it will continue to raise money toward the effort. To date, the organization has gotten about $3.5 million in donations and grants. Among the contributors is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and rocket company SpaceX, who two years ago pledged $1 million toward the rebuild.

Tesla’s lab was designated a historic landmark by Brookhaven Town in 2014.

Jones Beach Air Show: US Air Force Thunderbirds Named 2017 Headliners

Jones Beach Air Show

There’s been no significant snowfall to date, no impending threat from the dreaded polar vortex, and Christmas is still more than two weeks away, but it’s never too early to start gearing up for the next air show at Jones Beach.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation on Wednesday announced that the United States Air Force Thunderbirds will headline next year’s Bethpage Air show at Jones Beach.

The May 27-28 event will mark the fifth time the famed demonstration squad will soar over the skies of Long Island to celebrate the unofficial start to summer. The Thunderbirds’ last appearance was in 2015, before an audience of more than 439,000 people over the course of two days.

“We are confident that their return to Long Island in 2017 will draw an equally large crowd as well,” Linda Armyn, Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s Senior VP of Corporate Affair, said in a statement.

This past air show, which for the first time in the event’s history featured a trio of jet teams, including the US Navy Blue Angels, set an attendance record with more than 453,000 spectators.

The 14th annual air show will also mean the return of Levittown native Major Kevin Walsh, who will be flying high in Thunderbird No. 7.

Officials announced that the US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team will also be on hand for the show, which is still five months away.

As they look toward the future, state officials said the Blue Angels have already committed to return in 2018.

Minorities Air Post-election Fears at Long Island Forum

Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, speaks at a forum on post-election fears at the ICLI in Westbury on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 (Rashed Mian/Long Island)

Should my daughter remove her hijab? Should I tell my son to shave his beard? What do I tell my young children when they ask if President-elect Donald Trump is going to deport us?

Those were just some of the pointed questions posed to a panel of religious leaders, elected officials, law enforcement and community organizers during an often-emotional forum that attracted close to 100 people at the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) in Westbury on Thursday night.

Muslim and Jewish leaders in Nassau County following Trump’s shocking victory last month coordinated the hastily arranged event. It sparked passionate discussion about tangible steps minority groups should take when confronted by hate-filled rhetoric and what role law enforcement can play in preventing bias crimes. Nationwide last year, anti-Muslim hate crimes saw a dramatic 67-percent increase from the prior year, and attacks on Jews, blacks and LGBT people also spiked.

The number of incidents this year won’t be available until 2017, but anti-hate groups have documented hundreds of bias crimes since the Nov. 8 election.

The event, the first of many to come, was in response to accusations that candidate Trump trafficked in hate, misogyny and Islamophobia to drudge up support from people distrustful or fearful of immigrants. Underscoring the anxiety many minority groups are feeling, Silvia Finkelstein of the Nassau District Attorney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs said she’s been to about a dozen similar events in the last three weeks.

At one point, a visibly perturbed Rabbi Michael White of Temple Sinai of Roslyn peered over at elected officials and questioned how they’d react if Trump’s incoming administration institutes a registration system for Muslims.

“We’ve been protected by a phenomenal police department, and I don’t expect that to change,” White, a panelist, said. “There has been a spike all over the country of horrific events in schools and in parks, phrases like ‘Heil Trump,’ swastikas, awful stuff…You raised the issue of this abominable potential of a registry…I want to know from our elected officials here: if the federal government calls for a registry based on religion, what will you do?”

RELATED: Trump Team Considering Resurrecting Ineffective & Discredited Bush-Era Muslim Registry

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, demurred. Instead she said the key is to be proactive and to continue holding similar events that unite the community.

“I grew up understanding the danger of identifying groups, of having groups feel that they were in any kind of danger of who they were, how they prayed,” she said. “And so our best approach is what we’re doing here tonight—it’s by standing together.”

Bosworth noted that after the election, a swastika was discovered in the bathroom of a Port Washington public school. The community responded by organizing a similar forum that attracted more than 500 people.

ICLI President Dr. Isma Chaudhry set the tone for the evening’s discussion when she recalled the palpable fear among mosque leaders for their congregation, particularly weekend school students and teachers. Chaudhry, who has made a career out of interfaith dialogue, said even she was unable to effectively respond to entreaties from worried parents.

“Parents are asking me, should they ask their girls to take their head covers off when they go out?” she recalled. “Do the young Muslim men now have to shave off their beard because their parents are afraid?”

RELATED: ‘Heil Hitler’: Reports of Hate Crimes Have Long Island, Nation on Edge

John Berry Jr., commander of Nassau County police’s Third Precinct, which covers Westbury, said practicing Muslims should not diverge from their faith.

“You have our support—we are behind you 100-percent,” he told Chaudhry and the audience, many of whom were Muslim. “There’s no reason to change. This is what America is about; it’s a melting pot. In particular, New York and New York City [have] always been that way. I wouldn’t change any of your practices or customs—do what you’ve always done.”

When confronted by a young Muslim woman about discredited claims of Sharia law spreading in the US and questionable police tactics—most notably the NYPD’s years-long surveillance of Muslims on Long Island and elsewhere after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks—Deputy Chief of Patrol Kenneth Lack said cops, like religious groups, are frequently over-generalized as he defended his department.

“I think we do it better than most of those 18,000 other police departments,” he said of NCPD’s decades-old policy of community engagement, adding that each officer in the police academy participates in 12-hour hatred and intolerance training at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County.

While it was difficult for panelists and community members to agree to a consensus as to how best to address many of their fears among Long Islanders, their was near-unanimous agreement that schools must take a more prominent role in educating students about tolerance.

Jenna Freed of Roslyn, a parishioner at Temple Sinai and the parent of an adopted child from Ethiopia, said it’s important that parents air concerns to school officials.

“When the election happened I reached out to our school district…and said what are you gonna do?” she said. “Because if my kids come home and feel targeted, they’re going to be really devastated and I’m going to be really mad…your words will carry much more weight when you proactively send something out and address it then they will reacting to a crime.”

She said within minutes after her meeting, the principal of one of the schools sent a letter to all parents calling the school a “place of unity and community and we celebrate our diversity.” Similarly, an elementary school in the district tried to alleviate fears by reminding parents about the “No Place for Hate” initiative its involved in to address intolerance and hate.

Another parent of four echoed Freed’s sentiment.

“Fear spreads from ignorance,” the woman said. “They know nothing about Islam, they know what they hear in the media.

“I think we need to bring more speakers into our schools,” she continued, adding that a middle school-aged girl in her district in Suffolk County was harassed and threatened suicide. “This is how dangerous it is.”

A woman who identified herself as a longtime educator at Westbury Public Schools, said its no secret that some kids are fearful of new deportation policies.

“Since the election, nobody in the school district has really addressed the elephant in the room,” she told the panelists. “We hear our children in the hallway [talk] fearfully about whether or not their parents are going to be sent away—we’re not supposed to answer because we’re not supposed to be politically correct. And that more than disturbs me because, I too, was raised in a family of Holocaust survivors and I was taught the danger of silence.”

Despite the trepidation among many parents, some speakers offered hopeful messages.

Dr. Faroque Khan, a board member of the ICLI, reminded the audience about how support for the Muslim American community on Long Island has grown since 9/11.

“We have to be optimistic, this will pass,” Khan said. “We did not elect a new constitution, we elected a new president. That’s a crucial difference.”

Imprisoned Journalist & Whistleblower Barrett Brown Released

Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown is facing eight-plus years in prison after pleading guilty to three charges late last month. (Photo credit: Free Barrett Brown/Wikimedia Commons)

Barrett Brown, a Texas-based journalist who was imprisoned by federal authorities following a raid of both his apartment and his mother’s house amid his own investigations into government defense contractors, was released from prison Tuesday, five months before his scheduled release date.

Brown, who pleaded guilty two years ago to three Internet threats, accessory after the fact, and interfering with the execution of a search warrant, had originally been charged with more than a dozen crimes and faced more than 100 years in prison. A majority of the charges were dropped after his lawyers challenged the wisdom of the allegations in court.

The accusations that concerned press freedom and Internet advocacy groups most were those regarding his sharing of a publicly available link containing hacked material and thousands of credit-card account numbers related to the hack of Stratfor, a global intelligence firm.

Investigators say that the data breach was carried out by the hacking collective Anonymous. Brown had an often-contentious relationship with the group yet he was nonetheless regarded falsely as their spokesperson. Although Brown had no involvement in the hack, the court ordered that he also pay nearly $900,000 in restitution to Stratfor when he was sentenced last year to 63 months in prison.

The Press reached out to an advocate of Brown’s for a statement but one was not available as of press time.

Brown’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment appalled free speech groups around the world who expressed concern about a potential chilling effect his prosecution had on investigative journalism. That the federal government would prosecute a journalist over a hyperlink outraged sympathetic journalists and advocates. Global nonprofit group, Reporters without Borders, cited the hyperlink-related charge in its 2014 report on press freedoms, which, along with the Obama administration’s unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers, contributed to the United State dropping 14 spots in the organization’s annual Press Freedom Index.

READ: Barrett Brown: American Journalist, Whistleblower & Prisoner

The headline on the late New York Times media critic David Carr’s Sept. 8, 2013 column about Brown’s plight underscored the nervousness among some journalists: “A Journalist-Agitator Facing Prison Over a Link.”

Prior to his legal troubles, Brown had been a prolific writer and author. His work ranged from investigative journalism and satire, earning him a tremendous following. Brown’s writing appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Vanity Fair and The Huffington Post. Most recently, he’s penned award-winning commentary for D Magazine and the investigative outlet, The Intercept.

Brown’s writing career began with blurbs about bars and restaurants for a local alternative-weekly, along with satire columns. But his curiosity beckoned him, and he began scrutinizing the relationship between the U.S. government and private contractors.

In 2010, he created Project PM, a site he’d use to crowd-source leaked documents like those from Stratfor.

Some of the documents reportedly shed light on Stratfor’s inner workings, including revelations that it provided confidential intelligence to corporations and government agencies.

Among those disclosures that Brown and others had uncovered was a plot by a consortium of intelligence contractors, collectively dubbed Team Themis, to discredit whistleblower site WikiLeaks and journalists such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Glenn Greenwald.

Brown’s research also brought to light mass surveillance conducted by government contractors on behalf of the U.S. government.

“Unprecedented surveillance capabilities are being produced by an industry that works in secret on applications that are nonetheless funded by the American public–and which in some cases are used against that very same public,” Brown wrote on his site in June 2011.

READ: Revolution’s Family Tree: Franklin and Adams to Manning and Snowden

Federal investigators raided both Brown’s apartment and his mother’s home in 2012 armed with a search warrant looking for “evidence, contraband, fruits, and instrumentalities of criminal violations,” according to the search warrant obtained by the late BuzzFeed/Rolling Stone muckraker Michael Hastings. FBI agents were seeking recordings from government contractors, including HB Gary, Infragard, and Endgame Systems, as well as information related to Anonymous, the hacking group Lulzec, and pastebin.com, among other Internet entities. They were also looking for any computers or hard drives containing the aforementioned material.

Federal authorities in Dallas did not arrest Brown until six months after they executed their search warrant.

Over that time, Brown lashed out in a series of profanity-laced YouTube videos in which he threatened an FBI agent. The portion of his outburst related to the threat charge as part of his guilty plea included claims from Brown that he was armed and would regard government agents as Mexican cartel assassins.

“Any armed officials of the U.S. government, particularly the FBI, will be regarded as potential [Los] Zeta assassin squads and as the FBI and DPD know…I’m armed and I come from a military family, that I was taught to shoot by a Vietnam vet and by my father, a master hunter of all things…I will shoot all of them and kill them if they come and do anything because they are engaged in a criminal conspiracy and I have reason to fear for my life, not just from the Zetas but from the U.S. government,” Brown said.

He added: “And frankly, it was pretty obvious that I was going to be dead before I was 40 or so, so I wouldn’t mind going out with two FBI sidearms like a fucking Egyptian pharaoh. Adios.”

In court, Brown also admitted to concealing two laptops during the raids that contained his journalistic research.

Brown and his attorneys had been prohibited during the period leading up to his trial to speak with the media because of a court-induced gag order instigated by prosecutors.

READ: NDAA, Indefinite Detention, And The Battle Raging Against The Most Important Law You’ve Never Heard Of

In an interview in the Press following his guilty plea, Brown’s attorney at the time said his client was “remorseful” and intended to continue his journalism.

Brown’s most recent essay on behalf of The Intercept was published last month, in which he says, “I am fully capable of entertaining myself in prison for decades if needed.”

Brown will reportedly live in a halfway house following his release. As mandated by the court last year, Brown will participate in a drug and alcohol program and will periodically have his computer activity monitored.

Also on Tuesday, WikiLeaks unveiled a searchable database for 60,000 emails related to HB Gary, one of the contractors that Brown had been investigating prior to his arrest.

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