Christopher Twarowski

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Christopher Twarowski is editor in chief of the Long Island Press and its chief of investigations. He holds an M.S. in Journalism with a specialization in investigative journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and was an inaugural member of the school’s Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. He also holds an M.A. from the school with a concentration in business and economics. Twarowski has written for the financial and metro desks of The Washington Post and has earned more than 100 local, state and national journalism awards and accolades.

Lou Reed, Velvet Underground Founder, Dead At 71

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Lou Reed, the singer/songwriter/guitarist who redefined rock and roll with the Velvet Underground, died Sunday at his home in Southampton, according to his publicist, losing a battle with liver disease. He was 71 years old.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Freeport, Reed founded the Velvet Underground in 1965 with musician John Cale. Known for their experimental, often haunting and sonically crushing art-punk-noise that came to define and embody the image, attitude and darker elements of ’60s counterculture New York, the Velvet Underground, though not commercially successful during its time, ranks as one of the most influential groups in rock and roll history, and Reed the scene and genre’s outlaw poet laureate.

The band was infamously managed by Andy Warhol and house band at his Factory.

Reed’s solo career spans decades and more than two dozen albums since his departure from the Velvets in the early 1970s, including such hits as the addictively gritty “Walk On The Wild Side” in 1972 and among his most recent projects, 2011’s spoken-word metal-noise album Lulu with Metallica.

Reed’s songs encompass subjects ranging from love and drugs to sex and street life, delivered with an intimacy and visceral clarity that thread even the most tragic and depressive storylines with strands of pure beauty. They are sincere, honest. They bleed life.

Artists, writers and musicians from Salman Rushdie to the Pixies posted online tributes to the late, great rock innovator and pioneer across social media sites Sunday, with the latter Tweeting: “R.I.P. LOU REED….A LEGEND”

“The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet,” Tweeted Cale. “I’ve lost my ‘school-yard buddy.'”

 

Imagine: John Lennon on Long Island

JohnLennonYokoOno

By the time John Lennon and Yoko Ono purchased a secluded, sprawling mansion overlooking Cold Spring Harbor in November 1979, the Beatles had been broken up for nearly a decade and it’d been almost five years since John had released an album of his own.

Following his notorious two-year “lost weekend” away from Yoko with May Pang and Harry Nilsson in California, he’d spent the past four years away from the spotlight, out of the studio, and for the most part, away from his rock and roll friends. He was mostly holed up at The Dakota, rearing their son Sean, born on John’s 35th birthday in 1975. Two days before Sean’s birth, a state Supreme Court judge had reversed a deportation order, granting John legal stay in the United States and ending a vicious campaign by the Nixon administration to have him sent back to England.

He’d later describe himself during this period as a househusband, telling Playboy magazine that “I’ve been baking bread and looking after the baby.”

“But what have you been working on?” the writer persisted.

“Are you kidding? Bread and babies, as every housewife knows, is a full-time job.”

The Lennons—well, Yoko—had been on a “massive real estate shopping spree” that fall, writes John’s personal assistant at the time, Fred Seaman, in a 1991 tell-all The Last Days of John Lennon: A Personal Memoir, who was sent to scout out potential homesteads in, among other places, upstate New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Long Island. (He’d later plead guilty to one felony count of grand larceny in connection with the disappearance of some of John’s personal journals, sentenced to five years’ probation in 1983.)

John Lennon Long Island
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE: Cannon Hill, the Cold Spring Harbor mansion where John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent time with their son, Sean.

When the then-26-year-old saw that fantastical Long Island house on the hill, tucked away on a bluff off a private road in the secluded community of Laurel Hollow, Seaman was convinced it was the one. It just had to pass Yoko’s psychics.

“Of the dozens of properties I scouted out for the Lennons in 1979, none seemed more suitable than a waterfront mansion overlooking Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island’s North Shore,” he writes. “The Tudor-style house, called Cannon Hill because of the cannon by its swimming pool, nestled at the bottom of a winding driveway and from a distance looked like a gingerbread house. From the moment I first laid eyes on the old ivy-colored wooden mansion I knew it would be ideal for John and Yoko.

“It had more than a dozen rooms on three floors, including a large master bedroom with a balcony that offered a spectacular view of the harbor,” he continues. “There was even a small beach, as well as a private dock. John had begun to hint that he wanted to buy a boat, and this looked like the perfect place for it.”

Double Fantasy
The last album John Lennon recorded, Double Fantasy, got its initial spark of inspiration from his time in Cold Spring Harbor.

“The rambling wooden house dated from the Eighteenth Century whaling era and took its name from the antique cannon embedded beside the swimming pool,” concurs author Philip Norman in 2008’s John Lennon: The Life. “With it went a private beach and dock, looking out on a panorama of motorboats, sailboats, and skiffs, much like the scene Aunt Mimi saw from her bungalow in faraway Poole.”

John’s “Aunt Mimi,” Mary Elizabeth Smith, was the older sister of his mother, Julia, who’d separated from John’s father, Alfred, and given her guardianship of the then-5-year-old. Mimi raised John for most of his childhood, though John had grown close to his mother (who’d taught him how to play the banjo and ukulele) before she was struck and killed by a drunken off-duty police officer when John was 17.

Following the success of the Beatles, John bought Mimi a bungalow in Poole on the south coast of England. They remained close the rest of his life. He never got over Julia’s death.

Biographers and former employees have painted myriad portraits of the Fab Four leader—paranoid acid-dope fiend, violent and tortured sexual deviant, depressed genius are but a few. The Beatle known for his humanitarianism and social activism was a complex man, but by all accounts, the secluded estate up on that bluff was a place of refuge for the then 39-year-old-turned-40 superstar-turned-caring father, who relished in its calm-yet-vibrant, new, seafaring environ.

Cannon Hill was a retreat, somewhere to relax, escape, collect himself, break off a splinter of peace, find inspiration.

That’s also the portrait painted by home video recordings of the family’s time there, taken by John (and Seaman), which found its way to You Tube in recent years. The footage offers rare, never-before-seen glimpses of the Lennons’ day-to-day life within its ivy-laced walls. It’s raw, uncensored, and personal.

“Welcome, my dear!” says an ebullient, scraggly bearded John, scurrying to the door to greet Yoko. “Have a seat. Welcome to Cold Spring Harbor.”

“This is a gorgeous place,” she tells him, while John pours her some tea.

“It’s nice to wake up here, isn’t it?” he asks her the next morning as he lights a cigarette.

“So different than waking up in New York,” she says, lighting a smoke, too.

There’s footage of the two gazing out the window across the harbor, Yoko commenting about the seagulls. A mop-topped Sean is lying atop Yoko on a couch as they both laugh and squeal. The family is seated in lawn chairs out on the bluff, John, his hair pulled tightly back in a samurai bun, sketching diagrams for Yoko of a nearby house that’s “the most beautiful” one he’s ever seen. And then there’s John, acoustic guitar in hand, performing two takes of “Oh, Yoko!” to the camera, with tidbits of his trademark humor:

“Welcome, Missus Lennon and your wonderful mother Baba,” he says as an intro to the first. “Welcome to Cold Spring Harbor. This is a recitation, which you might call ‘Oh, Yoko, Part Two,’ circa 1970, one, two, or three,” he adds, striking a chord. “Maybe this time we’ll get it.”

“God bless you, mom, thank you, dad, peace on Earth, goodwill to all men, but don’t forget any women, of course,” he jokingly bows at the end of a second take.

John would often go antiquing. He’d venture into Huntington for flowers and health food.

It’s at Cold Spring Harbor, too, that John takes up sailing.

“He was interested in sailing all his life,” Tyler Coneys, of Coneys Marine in Huntington, tells the Press.

Tyler sold him a 14-foot O’Day Javelin, which John subsequently named Isis, after the Egyptian god of fertility, and was almost immediately enlisted to take John and—“against Yoko’s wishes,” he says—Sean for sailing excursions “frequently.”

“I said, ‘Bring him, she’s not here,’” the then-25, now 59-year-old laughs. “And that was a good thing, because of the way things went down, that was a good decision.

“We were always talking about stuff,” Tyler says of their time out on the water. “He was very interested in regular people.
“He was a regular guy,” he adds. “One of the boys.”

Little did Tyler know that he’d be one of just a handful to accompany John on a defining trip in rock history to Bermuda. Apparently, it was written in the stars.

“In June, he was told by his better half that ‘you should go on a trip now,’” Tyler recalls, quoting Yoko. “‘Because it was in the stars,’ the astrology. ‘So it’d be good for you to go on a trip.’ And he did. So it had to be all put together really quickly.”

Before long, John, Tyler and his cousins Kevin and Ellen Coneys were screened by one of Yoko’s psychics. Soon they were flying out of Republic Airport bound for Newport, R.I., where they boarded a 43-foot boat named the Megan Jaye and met its captain, a burly Beatles fan named Hank Halsted.

What would normally have been a four- or five-day trip took an extra day “because we had a big storm,” says Tyler. “We were blown away from Bermuda for a little while, off-course.”

What happened next cements the journey into rock and roll (and boating) mythology.

John had mostly served as the cook on board, says Tyler, but when the ocean’s ferocity was at its worst and the experienced crew was overtaxed, somehow the musician from Liverpool managed to steer the ship safely through it.

“At one point, he was the only person awake on the boat, at the helm, for a couple of—for awhile, during the storm, at the peak of the storm,” Tyler says. “It was the most exciting adventure you could have, without dying.”

Once ashore, he says John was jubilant. They celebrated with a huge feast.

“It was pretty amazing,” Tyler says of the trek. “He always wanted to do that and he finally did. He was forced to do it, almost.”

It’s during that trip that John began writing music again, capitalizing on the prodding of a fierce, if imagined, rivalry between former bandmate Paul McCartney, whose hit single at the time “Coming Up” had also motivated him. Tyler says John had been jotting down notes throughout the journey. Once in Bermuda, his creativity was awakened, with a vengeance.

He spent two months on the island: playing guitar, singing, writing, recording, and honing the songs that would comprise the bulk of Double Fantasy—released in November 1980 and named after a species of freesia he saw while on a trip with Sean to a Bermuda botanical garden—and 1984’s posthumous Milk and Honey.

Tyler and crew’s fatefully epic journey made it onto the album, too—immortalized on the record and by John’s handwritten doodles and verses in the Megan Jaye’s logbook:

“He’d write down my lick, it’s one of his album discs, and it’s in the diagram of the Megan Jaye: [Dear Megan,] ’There’s no place like nowhere, T.C., 1980,’” says Tyler. “That’s me, he put that in the log and quoted me. Yeah. That was on the Double Fantasy album, ‘When no place is the place to be.’”

“Suddenly, I got the songs,” John later said in his last interview, given just hours before his tragic demise. “Suddenly I had, if you’ll pardon the expression, diarrhea of creativity.”

On Dec. 8, 1980, after returning from the Record Plant Studio, John was entering The Dakota to say good-night to Sean when he was shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman, a fan he’d signed an autograph for earlier that day.

Tyler was at Cannon Hill when the fateful call came.

“It was very eerie,” he recalls. “It was just pretty unbelievable. I look out the windows and there were crows everywhere.

“All over, all over the yard,” Tyler says. “Until recently I never knew that that’s called a ‘murder,’ when there’s that many crows together…which kind of made my hair standup.”

Imagine.

Art League of Long Island: L.I.’s Masters of Fine Art

Art League of Long Island
Art League of Long Island
“Sophia” by Nanette Fluhr, oil on linen.

To the passing motorists humming along Deer Park Road in Dix Hills, the Art League of Long Island’s arching white edifice and paned glass exterior resembles a church.

It could indeed double as a cathedral because to the nearly 100 art instructors, students and artists-in-residence who call the spacious gallery home, it’s almost just as holy—a creative sanctum where art in its purest form transcends imaginative divinity and takes shape, becomes tangible to the senses, real.

As its two front glass doors swing open and the sun bounces bright slivers of light off the canvas-soaked walls of a vestibule, creating a tidal wave of immaculate hues dancing through the echoing notes of a woman in a shiny blue dress singing Adele, visitors surely know they’ve stumbled onto something magical, unexpected, though not a typical house of worship.

“I knew this was a very special place to learn and develop my skills,” says Charlee Miller, the group’s executive director. “I could see from the instructors and the students that it was a place where you just felt very nurtured.”

Miller was but one of dozens of artists, art aficionados and fans meandering about Art League’s vast museum and Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery during the group’s recent annual open house and Instructors’ Exhibition—a scene characterized by what appeared to be a haphazard sea of hundreds of artistic creations, yet was in actuality a meticulously choreographed painting in itself. She’s been at the Art League’s helm since January and speaks passionately of its stated mission of “enhancing Long Island’s cultural life by promoting the appreciation, practice and enjoyment of the visual arts,” a commitment the nonprofit’s been fulfilling since its inception in 1954. A banking industry executive for nearly 40 years, Miller has been an active artist since 2004 and took ceramics classes at the Art League for two years prior to her appointment to its top.

Instructors stand proudly alongside their work—paintings and sculptures too numerous to count adorning the walls and halls of the Art League’s spacious two-story gallery—while answering questions and trading tips with curious visitors. The annual open house and exhibition offers each teacher the chance to showcases their work and styles, demonstrating in the process that they are all still student-lovers of the art they dedicate their lives to. Each has his or her own unique story to tell about how art came to command their lives.

Art League of Long Island
Dozens of visitors enjoyed Art League of L.I.’s Instructors’ Exhibition August 24.

“There’s a real gutsy quality to it,” says Irene Vitale, one of the Art League’s more than 70 fine art instructors, of why she loves oil painting. “The different layers, thick paint, thin paint, and the range, I think, and the luminosity with oil—it’s just a different sensibility.”

Vitale, wearing a sleek red dress, says she began her career at the League in the ‘80s as a student. She gazes at one of her creations, “Rende Family Seascape”—a framed, oil-on-canvas of four young children, two girls and two boys, lazily playing among the waves of a vast blue-green ocean. The painting is for a client who “didn’t want a traditional suit-and-tie family portrait.”

Patrons gather around the piece, reflecting on Vitale’s attention to detail—her use of light and shadows transforming the wall of the gallery into a portal into that light-hearted summer day she dreamed up for the family.

“We collaborated together, and I said, ‘I want to do something different,’ so she was all in agreement, and she gave me several photographs of all different positions,” she says, explaining that the childrens’ positioning was entirely her decision.

That’s something about art Vitale says she truly identifies with: freedom.

“One of the things I love about art is you edit it. It’s knowing what to leave out, what to put in, how to manage the colors, how to have it be blue, yet cut it with pinks and greens,” she beams. “If you can have someone respond emotionally to your art,” Vitale muses, “there’s no money number to that; it’s a response.”

Art League of Long Island
(Top to Bottom): “The North Sea” by Joseph Perez, oil on board
“Huntington Bay” by Ward Hooper, watercolor
“Sue Grisell at Her Meal” by Bill Merklein, oil

Tiny sparkling gems project miniature glimmering rainbows from a small cabinet nearby, housing local jeweler Peter Messina’s unique piece, “Unchain My Heart”—a sterling silver, 14k- and 18k-gold diamond ring—along with the works of two other jewelers. Messina has been honing his craft—fashioning perfection from precious metals and gemstones, ranging from gem-studded earrings, bracelets, pendants and engagement rings, among other creations—since 1974.

Though Messina sells his creations, he confesses a strong attachment to the pieces, which over time, he explains, has evolved into a genuine fondness for both the artwork and their new owners.

“In the beginning, when you make a piece that you fall in love with, it’s hard to part with,” he explains while scratching his salt-and-pepper beard. “But as you get into it, the more you start to enjoy presenting and handing it over to the new owner and see how much they enjoy and how much they react to it, it’s a good feeling.”

One of these new owners includes Tim Allen, star of the hit ’90s television sitcom Home Improvement. Messina’s brother is Allen’s manager.

“I had an ‘in’ there,” he jokes.

It takes dedication to one’s vision and commitment to one’s craft to establish oneself as an artist and since that path also means constant evolution and growth, that journey can last a lifetime. And exactly what art means to the individual artists who work toward those visions can be as varying as the limitless colors a painter can conjure from his or her palette.

“It means poor,” laughs Carol Jay, the former curator of the gallery, standing beside her work, “Seed XXX”—a transfer oil pastel with pencil on handmade paper. “You wake up in the morning thinking about art. You see things every day that could potentially be art. Art is your life.”

And it is art that awakens something inside the human soul, that moves a person to tears at its very sight, that flips a switch in the recesses of their mind whereby, in a split instant, the viewer immediately forms a relationship with what is being conveyed and sometimes also knows just as quickly that they must have that piece, no matter what. As Jay explains, it’s that reaction—positive or negative—that makes it all worthwhile.

“It gives me pleasure,” she says. ”It’s more about: if they enjoy, that’s good. If they don’t enjoy, that’s good too, because you’re getting a reaction. A reactionary interaction to me is more important than just looking at it.

“I don’t think you can ever be satisfied,” Jay adds. “Few artists ever are. You’re never satisfied with your work but you send it to bed, and you can revisit it if you want or not, and you go on to the next piece. I don’t think anyone is totally satisfied. There’s always room for change.”

And Long Island is home to so many talented and successful artists, says Miller. Many of whom, she explains, began their fantastical journey into the arts right here, within the Art League’s painting-laden walls and halls. The League’s more than 70 fine art instructors host workshops for aspiring artists of all ages—boasting students ranging in age from 5 to 95, she adds.

“They grow and develop their skills under the supervision of some great teachers,” says Miller. “We have students here who have been coming here for over 40 years.

“It’s a very special place.”

 

Art League of Long Island’s Instructors’ Exhibition runs through Sept. 22. For more information about the League, including future exhibits, visit artleagueli.org

Vanished: Dix Hills Father Still Missing After 2 Months

Robert Mayer missing
A missing person flyer tucked onto the windshield of a car at the Long Island Rail Road Deer Park Station, where his bright red 2004 Pontiac GTO was found. (Photo credit: Bob Savage)
A missing person flyer tucked onto the windshield of a car at the Long Island Rail Road Deer Park Station, where his bright red 2004 Pontiac GTO was found. (Photo courtesy of Bob Savage)

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]obert Mayer left his Dix Hills home around 4:30 a.m. on Friday, June 14, in his bright red 2004 Pontiac GTO, the same routine he’s had on countless mornings as an electrician, rising before dawn to get to his jobsite—this time, a massive theater complex under construction in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Around 9 a.m., he spoke with his wife Ida about their weekend plans. Father’s Day was that Sunday, and his mother and in-laws were coming by for a barbeque. Ida told him she’d buy some lobster; he asked her to also pick up some oysters. Mayer loved to barbeque.

They also talked briefly about an upcoming vacation to Italy that they’d been planning for July 7.

“He was happy,” Ida tells the Press. “Everything was good.”

Unbeknownst to her, it would be the last conversation she’d have with her husband of 18 years. Robert never came home that night, and has not been seen since.

His car—which Ida says he “loved”—was discovered the next day abandoned in the Long Island Rail Road’s Deer Park station parking lot. Its keys were missing, the front seat was moved forward closer to the steering wheel than he’d have it, and the trunk, where Mayer typically would keep his tools, lunchbox and water bottles, was empty; the latter found on the front seat.

Ida subsequently discovered Robert’s green mountain bike missing, and found his wallet and $300 cash in a drawer in the garage.

A Suffolk County Police Department spokesman tells the Press detectives do not believe Mayer’s disappearance to be the result of foul play at this stage and that there is an active and ongoing investigation into “all leads.”

Ida, however, fears the worst.

“This is a man who never once spent a night away from home,” she stresses, between sobs. “Not once, not one night in 18 years was he not with me.

“He didn’t like the Long Island Rail Road parking lot because of all the thefts [there],” Ida continues, explaining that they’d go so far as to drive into Queens where relatives lived and hop a subway from there rather than take the LIRR whenever heading into the city. “His car, that was his baby, aside from the family, that was what he loved the most, was his car. He just would never leave it there. To find it there without a Club on it—he wouldn’t park it there.

“He wouldn’t walk away from everything he has, everything he’s worked for his whole life,” she adds, weeping. “He had no reason to—and his children. We have two children. My son is 15 and my daughter is 11. They mean the world to him.”

Their son plays in a band, and Robert, a drummer, attends his shows and helps set up equipment. Their son had a gig on Saturday, the weekend Robert went missing—he just wouldn’t have missed that show, Ida insists.

Robert Mayer missing
Dix Hills father Robert Mayer has been missing for more than two months. (Photo courtesy of Ida Mayer)

“I believe that he’s in danger,” she cries. “Something happened to him.”

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound electrician was last seen around 2:15 p.m. on June 14 at the Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon—where he sold scrap metal from his jobsite. His cell phone went dead about a half hour later. An Arrow foreman tells the Press Mayer had been a longtime, if sporadic, “customer” of the recycling center.

“He was a nice, well-composed individual,” he said on Aug. 2—exactly seven weeks to the minute of Mayer’s last known visit—but with little other details to offer. “Over the years, he probably came in here every so often to scrap some metal.”

Arrow’s surveillance cameras are aimed at the parking area and the entrance, but the foreman declined to say whether they captured Mayer’s sharp red sports car the day he vanished—a vehicle, said another worker, that would have stood out from the typical daily parade of beat-up pickups and trucks filled with wiring and wreckage that the majority of sellers haul their scraps to the center in. Ida tells the Press that an internal camera did capture Robert that day and “he looked scared. He looked worried.”

“So strange,” said the scrap metal worker, shaking his head and expressing sympathy for Mayer’s family as he clenched the “Missing” flyer.

Workers at Heavy Metal Scrap a few blocks away—the other recycling yard in the area that deals with the type of materials Mayer would have sold—did not recognize him, nor his car, when shown the handout.

About a week after her husband’s disappearance, Suffolk police detectives informed Ida that a neighbor’s camera had recorded what appeared to be her husband’s car by her driveway at approximately 2:41 p.m., June 14, and then showed it pulling out of the driveway 10 minutes later. Only the top of the car was spotted; the driver and/or passengers weren’t. The camera caught Ida’s car pulling into the driveway at about 3 p.m.

Further searching the garage, Ida found Rob’s cell phone, turned off, in another drawer in the garage. The $300 she’d found previously matches the transaction he made June 14 at Arrow, she says.

“It means to me that he came home,” says Ida. “It means to me that something happened.”

“I feel bad for the family,” says Bob Savage, 53, of Port Jefferson, one of dozens of volunteers—many complete strangers—who’ve been searching for answers and trying to raise awareness about the case since Mayer’s abrupt disappearance.

He joined about 60 others on July 7, along with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials and nonprofit Long Island Search and Rescue, scouring 813-acre Oak Brush Plains Preserve at Edgewood in Deer Park. Savage also teamed up alongside about two dozen others handing out flyers and searching for clues and potential witnesses July 21 at the Deer Park train station, which abuts the preserve. He and others have also participated in other, more recent searches.

Savage, a photographer and mountain biker who heard about Mayer’s disappearance from a friend, has been contributing photos he’s taken during the searches to the “Robert Mayer Search Group” Facebook page, which currently has nearly 3,000 members. The page serves as a bulletin board for updates and to strategize future searches, flyer-handout drives and media attention.

Robert Mayer missing
THE SEARCH CONTINUES: Volunteers from across the Island and country have been strategizing online and conducting searches, such as this one, of Oak Brush Plains Preserve at Edgewood in Deer Park, for clues of Robert Mayer’s mysterious disappearance. (Photo courtesy of Bob Savage)

Its members span the country. One woman set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the family in Robert’s absence. (They’ve also started a drop-subscription drive against the Island’s lone daily newspaper, which has yet to publish an article on the case as of press time.) Another member, Matthew Berkowitz, has taken to the air.

The 45-year-old filmmaker and adjunct professor at Five Towns College, with the assistance of a team of volunteers, has been using GoPro Drone Quadcopters—remote-controlled mini-helicopters equipped with surveillance cameras—to scour and map the preserve and landfills for signs of Robert.

Mayer was last seen at Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon June 14, 2013. (Christopher Twarowski/Long Island Press)
Mayer was last seen at Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon June 14, 2013. (Christopher Twarowski/Long Island Press)

Berkowitz, with the help of the owners of Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre, has also been mass producing “Missing” flyers and posting them across Long Island. He tells the Press he went to school with Robert and made a commitment to Ida “that I would do everything I could to help, so that’s what I’m doing.

“People are nothing without other people,” he says. “This is a father and a husband. We’ve got to get him back.”

These selfless actions mean the world to Ida, who gets emotional at the mere mention of the grassroots efforts. She calls them “amazing.”

“The community support and just the support of people all over has been overwhelming,” she tells the Press. “Thank God for them, because they’re working so hard to try to find him… They’ve supported me.”

“It helps so much,” she says, weeping. “It gives me hope.”

Local Union 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has also posted the Mayer’s “Missing” flyer on their website. His most recent worksite had been at the Theatre for a New Audience complex on Ashland Place in Downtown Brooklyn’s BAM Cultural District.

Robert Mayer has short brown hair, hazel-green eyes and possibly a beard by now. Mayer was wearing a grey polo shirt with a J.C. Electrical logo emblazoned on it, light blue jeans and black work boots. His left middle finger is slightly chopped off at the tip.

Until there is “concrete evidence” otherwise, Suffolk police will treat Mayer’s vanishing as a missing persons case, Ida says, despite his lengthy disappearance.

Anyone who may have seen Robert or who may have information about his disappearance is asked to call the Suffolk County Police Second Squad detectives at 631-854-8252. Mayer’s family is also offering a $10,000 reward.

Ida, who has been completely consumed with grief since Rob’s disappearance, describes her husband as a “homebody” who enjoyed lounging around the house watching TV and playing video games with their children. She said he’s a loving, caring family man who would do anything for his family, friends and neighbors.

“His family is the most important thing to him,” she says, between long pauses and sobs, “followed by his friends. During Hurricane Sandy, he was the one helping everyone set up generators and lending them anything they needed. He was the first one out there, and my neighbors will tell you that.

“Someone out there knows something,” Ida insists, vowing never to give up on finding her husband. “Whether it’s at the scrap yard or at the worksite in Brooklyn, any of the last places he was seen—or the train station. Someone saw something, someone knows something.

“My husband would not just disappear.”

Robert Mayer missing

Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison

Bradley Manning
U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, for leaking confidential materials about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to whistleblower website WikiLeaks. (Artwork courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, www.debvanpoolen.com)
U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, for leaking confidential materials about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to whistleblower website WikiLeaks. (Artwork courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, www.debvanpoolen.com)

U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, convicted of leaking more than 700,000 classified military and state department documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in federal prison, with 1,294 days credit and dishonorable discharge.

Military judge Col. Denise Lind announced her decision against the 25-year-old just after 10 a.m. from the Fort Meade, Md. courtroom where a military trial into the disclosures—the largest leak of confidential materials in U.S. history—has been proceeding since June. Manning has been in custody of the U.S. Army since his arrest in 2010.

Manning’s defense attorney David Coombs, at a press conference held several hours after the ruling, said he and other members of his team broke down in tears at the news, while his client did his best to cheer them up.

“‘It’s okay,'” Coombs says Manning told them. “‘It’s alright. Don’t worry about it, it’s alright. I know you did your best. It’s okay.'”

The ruling caps a more than three-year-long legal saga against Manning both unprecedented in its scope and controversy.

Enlisting in 2007, Manning had been deployed to Baghdad as an intelligence analyst in 2009. In February 2013 he pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him, including leaking classified cockpit gun-sight footage of U.S. Apache helicopters killing a dozen unarmed civilians and two Reuters photojournalists in Iraq in 2007. Manning told Lind during a lengthy statement Feb. 28 that the “most alarming” part of the video—dubbed “Collateral Murder“—for him “was the seemingly delightful blood-lust the Aerial Weapons Team seemed to have.”

“They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed not to value human life, and referred to them as quote-unquote ‘dead bastards,’ and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers,” he told Lind during his statement. “At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage.

“For me, this seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass,” he added.

Manning said the fact the footage had been sought by Reuters through Freedom of Information requests, yet the news agency was told it may have been destroyed, further motivated him to send it to WikiLeaks.

Manning has spent the past three years leading up to his June court martial in pre-trial confinement, oftentimes subject to harsh and unlawful treatment. Time served will be credited to his sentence, some of which he spent in solitary confinement, without a window, clothes or a blanket. Lind ruled these conditions illegal and in January 2013 credited Manning with 112 days toward his ultimate sentence.

His court proceedings were also conducted without the typical transparency provided in civil court. No official court transcripts were made accessible to the public. Audio and video feed for the handful of media supplying continuous coverage of the proceedings many times cut out. Periodically, the court would enter closed sessions, further restricting public access.

“Every day I left thinking ‘Why are we in a closed session?'” Coombs told reporters. “There was nothing that was said, in my mind, that warranted a closed session.”

Often, the only news of the trial was from a handful of journalists and activists who sacrificed much to provide the public with a record: journalist Alexa O’Brien, Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake, Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News Service and the Bradley Manning Support Network’s Nathan Fuller [all the subject of a July Press cover story multi-media package].

Manning’s prosecution had been viewed by whistleblower advocacy groups and civil rights activists as the latest front in an ongoing war by the Obama Administration against American civil liberties, with tremendous ramifications for free speech, freedom of the press and investigative journalism, specifically. O’Brien called Manning’s verdict “an act of aggression against a free press, civic society, and the conscience of a young man.”

Prosecutors and Manning’s defense team made closing arguments Monday. Capt. Joe Morrow requested the intelligence analyst be sentenced to at least 60 years, telling Lind, “He deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in prison.” Defense attorney David Coombs argued Manning’s actions simply didn’t warrant that amount of time and punishment, citing that the court record reflected a naive, young, isolated soldier with emotional issues who truly believed he could change the world, “end the war in Iraq…end the war in Afghanistan…future wars.”

Coombs had asked the judge for a sentence allowing Manning “to have a life.”

Under military law, his case will immediately be reviewed by the convening authority, U.S. Army Military District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan. Manning can petition him with letters for clemency and Buchanan can reduce or strike a guilty finding, but not add any additional time to his sentence. Then, if Manning is convicted to more than one year, his case will immediately be reviewed by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. If its decided the case warrants their review, Manning’s case will then go to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The U.S. Supreme Court can also review the case, if the justices wish.

Manning will serve his time at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Coombs, who will be representing Manning during the clemency and appeals process, told reporters at Wednesday’s post-sentencing press conference he had asked President Obama for a pardon, adding that Manning’s sentence was more time than what murderers and child molesters he’d defended received.

“This was designed to send a message,” he said of the government’s prosecution. “The loser is anybody who hopes that you’ll have whistleblowers in the future willing to [talk to journalists].

“This does send a message, and it’s a chilling one, and it’s endorsed at the highest levels,” he continued.

“Bradley Manning is a man of honor.”


Robert Mayer, Dix Hills Husband and Father, Still Missing After 7 Weeks

Robert Mayer missing
Robert Mayer, a 46-year-old husband and father of two from Dix Hills, has been missing since June 14, 2013, when he did not return home. His 2004 bright red Pontiac GTO was discovered abandoned the following day at the LIRR Deer Park station. Mayer was last seen at Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon.
Robert Mayer, a 46-year-old husband and father of two from Dix Hills, has been missing since June 14, 2013, when he did not return home. His 2004 bright red Pontiac GTO was discovered abandoned the following day at the LIRR Deer Park station. Mayer was last seen at Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon.

Robert Mayer left his Dix Hills home around 4:30 a.m. Friday, June 14 in his bright red 2004 Pontiac GTO, the same he’d done countless mornings as an electrician rising before dawn to get to his jobsite—this time, a massive theater complex under construction in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Around 9 a.m., he spoke with his wife Ida about that weekend’s plans. Father’s Day was on Sunday, and his mother and in-laws were coming by for a barbeque. Ida told him she’d buy some lobster; he asked her to also pick up some oysters. Mayer loved to barbeque.

Robert Mayer
Robert Mayer, of Dix Hills, disappeared June 14, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Ida Mayer)

They also talked briefly about an upcoming vacation to Italy they’d been planning, for July 7.

“He was happy,” Ida tells the Press. “Everything was good.”

Unbeknownst to her, it’d be the last conversation she’d have with her husband of 18 years. Robert never came home that night, nor any since.

His car—which Ida says he “loved”—was discovered the next day abandoned at Long Island Rail Road’s Deer Park station. Its keys were missing, the front seat was moved forward closer to the steering wheel than he’d have it, and the trunk, where Mayer typically would keep his tools, lunchbox and water bottles, was empty; the latter found on the front seat.

Ida subsequently discovered Robert’s green mountain bike also missing.

A Suffolk County Police Department spokesperson tells the Press detectives do not believe Mayer’s disappearance to be the result of foul play at this stage and that the investigation is ongoing.

Ida, however, fears the worst.

“This is a man who never once spent a night away from home,” she stresses, between sobs. “Not once, not one night in 18 years was he not with me.

“He didn’t like the Long Island Rail Road parking lot because of all the thefts [there],” Ida continues, explaining that they’d go so far as to drive into Queens where relatives lived and hop a subway from there rather than take the LIRR whenever heading into the city. “His car, that was his baby, aside from the family, that was what he loved the most, was his car. He just would never leave it there. To find it there without a Club on it—he wouldn’t park it there.

“He wouldn’t walk away from everything he has, everything he’s worked for his whole life,” she adds, weeping. “He had no reason to—and his children. We have two children. My son is 15 and my daughter is 11. They mean the world to him.”

Their son plays in a band, and Robert, a drummer, attends his shows and helps set up equipment. Their son had a gig that Saturday the weekend Robert went missing—he just wouldn’t have missed that show, Ida insists.

“I believe that he’s in danger,” she cries. “Something happened to him.”

Mayer was last seen at Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon June 14, 2013. (Christopher Twarowski/Long Island Press)
Mayer was last seen at Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon June 14, 2013. (Christopher Twarowski/Long Island Press)

The 6-foot, 200-pound electrician was last seen around 2:15 p.m. June 14 at Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon—where he sold scrap metal from his jobsite. His cell phone went dead about a half hour later.

An Arrow foreman tells the Press Mayer had been a longtime, if sporadic, “customer” of the recycling center.

“He was a nice, well-composed individual,” he said Friday, August 2—exactly seven weeks to the minute of Mayer’s last known visit—but with little other details to offer. “Over the years, he probably came in here every so often to scrap some metal.”

Arrow’s surveillance cameras are aimed at the parking area and entrance, but the foreman declined to say whether they captured Mayer’s sharp red sportscar June 14—a vehicle, said another worker, that would have stood out from the typical daily parade of beat-up pickups and trucks filled with wiring and wreckage the majority of sellers haul their scraps to the center in (as was the case Friday afternoon).

“So strange,” said the worker, shaking his head and expressing sympathy for Mayer’s family as he clenched the “Missing” flyer.

Workers at Heavy Metal Scrap a few blocks away—the other recycling yard in the area that deals with the type of materials Mayer would have sold—did not recognize him, nor his car, when shown the handout.

“I feel bad for the family,” says Bob Savage, 53, of Port Jefferson, one of dozens of volunteers—many complete strangers—who’ve been searching for answers and trying to raise awareness about the case since Mayer’s abrupt disappearance.

Volunteers handed out Robert Mayer "Missing" fliers and searched for witnesses at LIRR Deer Park train station July 21, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Bob Savage)
Volunteers handed out Robert Mayer “Missing” flyers and searched for witnesses at LIRR Deer Park train station July 21, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Bob Savage)

He joined about 60 others July 7, along with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials and nonprofit Long Island Search and Rescue, scouring 813-acre Oak Brush Plains Preserve at Edgewood in Deer Park. Savage also teamed up alongside about two dozen others handing out flyers and searching for clues and potential witnesses July 21 at Deer Park train station, which abuts the preserve.

Savage, a photographer and mountain biker who heard about Mayer’s vanishing from a friend, has been contributing photos he’s taken during the searches to the “Robert Mayer Search Group” Facebook page, which currently has more than 1,000 members. The page serves as a bulletin board for updates and to strategize future searches, flyer-handout drives and media attention.

These selfless efforts from complete strangers mean the world to Ida, who gets emotional at the mere mention of the grassroots efforts.

“There’s over 900 people on this group that I don’t even know, that are amazing,” she tells the Press, sobbing. “And they have reached out to me and they’ve supported me.

“The community support and just the support of people all over has been overwhelming,” she adds. “Thank God for them, because they’re working so hard to try to find him.”

Local Union 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has also posted the Mayer’s “Missing” flier on their website. His most recent worksite had been at the Theatre for a New Audience complex on Ashland Place in Downtown Brooklyn’s BAM Cultural District.

Robert Mayer went missing June 14, 2013, two days before Father's Day. Suffolk County Police ask anyone with information about his disappearance to call 631-854-8252. (Photo courtesy of Ida Mayer)
Robert Mayer went missing June 14, 2013, two days before Father’s Day. Suffolk County Police ask anyone with information about his disappearance to call 631-854-8252. (Photo courtesy of Ida Mayer)

Robert Mayer is 6’0 and weighs about 200 pounds. He has short brown hair, hazel-green eyes and possibly a beard by now. Mayer was wearing a grey polo shirt with a J.C. Electrical logo emblazoned on it, light blue jeans and black work boots. His left middle finger is slightly chopped off at the tip and he didn’t have his wallet or any identification with him at the time of his disappearance.

Until there is “concrete evidence” otherwise, Suffolk County police will treat Mayer’s vanishing as a Missing Persons case, Ida says, despite his nearly two-month-long disappearance.

Any one who may have seen Robert or who may have information about his disappearance is asked to call the Suffolk County Police Second Squad at 631-854-8252.

Ida describes her husband as a “homebody” who enjoyed lounging around the house watching TV and playing video games with their children, and a loving, caring family man who would do anything for his family, friends and neighbors.

“His family is the most important thing to him,” she says, between long pauses and sobs, “followed by his friends. During Hurricane Sandy, he was the one helping everyone set up generators and lending them anything they needed. He was the first one out there, and my neighbors will tell you that.”

“Someone out there knows something,” Ida insists, vowing never give up on finding her husband. “Whether it’s at the scrap yard or with the worksite in Brooklyn, any of the last places he was seen—or the train station. Someone saw something, someone knows something.

“My husband would not just disappear.”

Bradley Manning Verdict: Not Guilty of Aiding the Enemy, Still Faces Life Behind Bars

U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, for leaking confidential materials about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to whistleblower website WikiLeaks. (Artwork courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, www.debvanpoolen.com)
U.S. Army Judge Col. Denise Lind announced her verdict against whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning July 30, 2013. The 25-year-old was acquitted of the heftiest charge, Aiding the Enemy, but still faces more than a century behind bars if found guilty of the remaining counts. (Artwork courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, www.debvanpoolen.com)
U.S. Army Judge Col. Denise Lind announced her verdict against whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning July 30, 2013. The 25-year-old was acquitted of the heftiest charge, Aiding the Enemy, but still faces more than a century behind bars. (Artwork courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, www.debvanpoolen.com)

A military judge has found U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning not guilty of “Aiding the Enemy,” the most serious charge the 25-year-old faced under the Espionage Act of 1917, though he still faces more than a century behind bars for leaking classified materials to whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

Manning, whose case was the subject of a Press multimedia package last month, was accused of sharing more than 700,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables and military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan with WikiLeaks. The government’s prosecutors had argued that the disclosures had assisted al-Qaida.

U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning (Artwork courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, www.debvanpoolen.com)
U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning (Artwork courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, www.debvanpoolen.com)

Ultimately, the military judge hearing the case, Col. Denise Lind, disagreed. Manning was also acquitted of one count that came from an accused leaking of a video showing a U.S. military airstrike in Farah, Afghanistan, which reportedly killed more than 100 unarmed civilians, including women and children.

But Lind did find Manning guilty of almost all the other charges against him. So he now faces up to 136 years in jail. The sentencing phase could last two to three weeks with more than two dozen witnesses from both sides. He’s also expected to appeal.

Manning’s prosecution has been viewed by advocacy groups, watchdogs, civil rights activists, and a handful of prominent journalists—such as Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, renowned linguist Noam Chomsky and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and journalist Alexa O’Brien, to name but a few—as the latest front in an all-out war being waged by the Obama Administration against American civil liberties with serious ramifications for free speech and journalism.

Manning’s conviction validates those fears, says O’Brien.

“This verdict is act of aggression against a free press, civic society, and the conscience of a young man,” she tells the Press from Maryland shortly after the verdict.

The Oklahoma-born Manning had enlisted in the Army in October 2007, and had been deployed to Baghdad as an intelligence analyst in 2009. While in uniform, he soured on the war and saw the conflict in a different light. In February, 2013, Manning had pleaded guilty to 10 of 22 charges, including giving classified cockpit gun-sight footage of U.S. Apache helicopters killing civilians in Iraq in 2007. Two of the victims were a Reuters news agency photojournalist and his assistant.

The judge, Col. Denise Lind, read her verdict from the bench at 1 p.m. July 30 at Fort Meade, Md., where the trial has been held since early June. No official transcripts have been made available to the public. O’Brien and a handful of other journalists and activists—including Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake, Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News Service and the Bradley Manning Support Network’s Nathan Fuller—provided the only public record of the proceedings.

After the verdicts in the specific charges were reported, O’Brien tweeted, “I am going back into the funeral of a young man.” Manning’s family also issued a statement, thanking Manning’s Army defense team and expressing gratitude that the judge did not find him guilty of Aiding the Enemy.

“Manning didn’t have a chance,” O’Brien told the Press, from Maryland. “He faced Aiding the Enemy and eight Espionage Act Charges, two violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and five charges for stealing U.S. Government property—each at ten years a pop.

“That the press just caught onto the fact that Aiding the Enemy is applicable to any person, that they are now wondering about the Espionage Act charges, speaks volumes to their negligence and dereliction of duty.”

NDAA Indefinite Detention Challenge Shot Down by Appeals Court

Hedges

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government Wednesday in vacating a permanent injunction sought by several prominent journalists and activists barring the enforcement of a provision of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which they claim, legalizes the indefinite detention of American citizens on U.S. soil.

In a 60-page decision, the court ruled against such an injunction—which had previously been granted, and the provision, Section 1021, ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge—additionally arguing that the case’s plaintiffs, which include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and renowned linguist Noam Chomsky, among four others (collectively nicknamed “The Magnificent Seven”), do not have standing.

“We conclude that plaintiffs lack standing to seek preenforcement review of Section 1021 and vacate the permanent injunction,” reads Wednesday’s decision. “The American citizen plaintiffs lack standing because Section 1021 says nothing at all about the President’s authority to detain American citizens. And while Section 1021 does have a real bearing on those who are neither citizens nor lawful resident aliens and who are apprehended abroad, the non-citizen plaintiffs also have failed to establish standing because they have not shown a sufficient threat that the government will detain them under Section 1021. Accordingly, we do not address the merits of plaintiffs’ constitutional claims.”

The Court of Appeals’ ruling was the latest in what has been a long and hard-fought battle waged by the plaintiffs against the NDAA provision. U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest ruled 1021’s language unconstitutional and had issued a permanent injunction on its implementation in September 2012.

Related: NDAA, Indefinite Attention, and the Battle Raging Against the Most Important Law You’ve Never Heard Of

“Here, the stakes get no higher: indefinite military detention—potential detention during a war on terrorism that is not expected to end in the foreseeable future, if ever. The Constitution requires specificity—and that specificity is absent from § 1021(b)(2),” wrote Forrest, additionally finding that Section 1021 “appears to be a legislative attempt at an ex post facto ‘fix’: to provide the President (in 2012) with broader detention authority than was provided in the AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force] in 2001 and to try to ratify past detentions which may have occurred under an overly-broad interpretation of the AUMF.”

The Obama Administration appealed that decision the following day, resulting in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issuing a stay on the injunction pending the outcome of the government’s challenge. In February, hundreds packed the oral arguments hearing and rallied outside the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in opposition of the provision.

Lead plaintiff Hedges posted his response to Wednesday’s ruling on TruthDig.com, where he’s a columnist:

“This is quite distressing. It means there is no recourse now either within the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches of government to halt the steady assault on our civil liberties and most basic Constitutional rights. It means that the state can use the military, overturning over two centuries of domestic law, to use troops on the streets to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers. States that accrue to themselves this kind of power, history has shown, will use it. We will appeal, but the Supreme Court is not required to hear our appeal. It is a black day for those who care about liberty.”

Unreachable by telephone Wednesday, plaintiffs’ attorney Bruce Afran insisted to the Press the viability of his clients’ standing in February.

“The journalists are in fact directly within the scope of the law,” he contended. “The journalists are harmed or brought within the statute.”

Hedges v. Obama NDAA decision

Michael Hastings, Journalist and Author, Dead at 33

Journalist Michael Hastings, whose 2010 Rolling Stone profile of US Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal led to the commander's ousting by President Barack Obama, died Tuesday, June 18, 2013 in a car crash in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Blue Rider Press/Penguin)
Journalist Michael Hastings, whose 2010 Rolling Stone profile of US Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal led to the commander’s ousting by President Barack Obama, died Tuesday, June 18, 2013 in a car crash in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Blue Rider Press/Penguin)

Michael Hastings, the reporter perhaps best known for ending the career of US Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal following a candid 2010 profile in Rolling Stone, died early Tuesday morning in a car crash in Los Angeles, according to the magazine. He was 33 years old.

Besides a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, Hastings was a reporter for BuzzFeed, a frequent contributor to GQ, and former journalist at Newsweek. He was also a gifted author who penned two books: 2008’s I Lost My Love In Baghdad: A Modern War Story, chronicling his time as a war correspondent in Iraq and the tragic death of his then-fiancee, an aid worker there; and The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, based on his reporting for “The Runaway General,” the Rolling Stone article that led to President Barack Obama relieving McChrystal of his position as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan.

Hastings is survived by his wife, writer Elise Jordan.

“Hastings’ hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power,” wrote Rolling Stone reporter/contributing editor Tim Dickinson on the magazine’s website Tuesday. “While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal’s bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war.”

“Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity,” Dickinson quoted the magazine’s managing editor Will Dana as saying, “the sense that there are stories burning inside them, and that there’s no higher calling or greater way to live life than to be always relentlessly trying to find and tell those stories. I’m sad that I’ll never get to publish all the great stories that he was going to write, and sad that he won’t be stopping by my office for any more short visits which would stretch for two or three completely engrossing hours. He will be missed.”

“Hard-charging, unabashedly opinionated, Hastings was original and at times abrasive,” continued Dickinson. “He had little patience for flacks and spinmeisters and will be remembered for his enthusiastic breaches of the conventions of access journalism. In a memorable exchange with Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, Hastings’ aggressive line of questioning angered Reines. ‘Why do you bother to ask questions you’ve already decided you know the answers to?’ Reines asked. ‘Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?’ Hastings replied.”

“We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone,” Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement. “Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians. He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold. Michael was also a wonderful, generous colleague, a joy to work with and a lover of corgis — especially his Bobby Sneakers. Our thoughts are with Elise and and the rest of his family and we are going to miss him.”

Hastings won the 2010 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting, among other honors, for his revelatory expose of McChrystal. As Dickinson points out in his post, Hastings leaves behind a “remarkable legacy of reporting,” with topics ranging from a behind-the-scenes look at America’s drone program and the US Army’s PSYOPS to his exclusive, three-day interview last year with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while he was holed up in a loaned hide-out somewhere in the English countryside. (Those are just a few of his articles.)

That Hastings will be remembered for his fearless, award-winning journalism and relentless pursuit of the truth is undeniable. What’s equally undeniable, as evident from the outpouring of condolences and tributes flooding the Internet in the few hours since news of his death, is just how truly loved he is.

And just how many countless others – be they journalists, readers, family members or friends – he’s inspired during his brief, illuminating life.

NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Answers Questions From Public

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden fielded questions from the public Monday via a live Q&A session on The Guardian's website. (Photo screen grab courtesy of The Guardian)
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden fielded questions from the public Monday via a live Q&A session on The Guardian’s website. (Screen grab courtesy of The Guardian)

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who blew the whistle on several of its most covert surveillance programs earlier this month, fielded questions from the public for about two hours Monday via a live Q&A chat on The Guardian‘s website.

The 29-year-old, who’s been in Hong Kong since the end of May before being fired from consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, answered a range of inquiries spanning a host of topics, addressing remarks by US officials such as Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and former Vice President Dick Cheney that he is a “traitor” and insinuations he’s spying for the Chinese, to skepticism regarding the full extent of the outed programs.

To the former, Snowden responded:

“…it’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.”

On the latter:

“US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it’s important to understand that policy protection is no protection – policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection – a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the ‘widest allowable aperture,’ and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn’t stop being protected communications just because of the IP they’re tagged with.

This country is worth dying for,” Snowden responded when asked what he’d “say to others who are in a position to leak classified information that could improve public understanding of the intelligence apparatus of the USA and its effect on civil liberties.”

In response to whether he believed the treatment of other whistleblowers, such as former NSA crypto-mathematician William Binney and former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake, influenced his path and whether he felt the “system works,” Snowden warned:

Binney, Drake, [John] Kiriakou, and [Bradley] Manning are all examples of how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers. If the Obama administration responds with an even harsher hand against me, they can be assured that they’ll soon find themselves facing an equally harsh public response.

This disclosure provides Obama an opportunity to appeal for a return to sanity, constitutional policy, and the rule of law rather than men. He still has plenty of time to go down in history as the President who looked into the abyss and stepped back, rather than leaping forward into it. I would advise he personally call for a special committee to review these interception programs, repudiate the dangerous ‘State Secrets’ privilege, and, upon preparing to leave office, begin a tradition for all Presidents forthwith to demonstrate their respect for the law by appointing a special investigator to review the policies of their years in office for any wrongdoing. There can be no faith in government if our highest offices are excused from scrutiny – they should be setting the example of transparency.

The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald, who broke the news June 5 about the NSA’s collection of “the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon,” citing a “top secret court order issued in April,” began and ended the 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. EST session. (Snowden revealed himself as the The Guardian‘s source in a video interview posted on its site June 9.)

“1) Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities?” he wrote. “2) How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?”

Snowden’s responses:

“1) First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.

“Second, let’s be clear: I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the “consent of the governed” is meaningless.

“2) All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” he added.

The Guardian‘s Q&A came a day after it published an expose based on “evidence…contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian,” it reads, revealing that the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and NSA spied on allies including Turkey, South Africa and Russia at G20 summits by intercepting foreign politicians’ communications via among other techniques, fake Internet cafes.

To read a full transcript of The Guardian’s Q&A session with Edward Snowden CLICK HERE.