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Copiague Teachers Kneel During Pledge on Trump Inauguration Day, Sparking Probe

Donald Trump

By John Dundon

Two Copiague high school teachers kneeled in protest during the Pledge of Allegiance in class on Friday before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, sparking an internal investigation by school administrators, the Press has learned.

The two teachers who took a knee during the morning announcements were identified as long-time social studies teachers, according to sources with knowledge of the protest. The incident outraged some in the community and is expected to be among the subjects discussed at the next Copiague school board meeting.

“The district is aware of an incident that occurred Friday morning involving two high school staff members who interrupted the educational process of a first period class in Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School by engaging in a form of personal protest,” the district said in a statement posted online Sunday morning. “We take this matter very seriously, and an internal investigation is continuing to ascertain all of the relevant facts. Please be assured that neither the Board of Education nor District Administration condones such conduct in the classroom in any fashion, and will take appropriate action in response.”

Taking a knee during the salute to the flag became a widespread form of political protest after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick grabbed national headlines last year by kneeling during the national anthem at the start of NFL games to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Copiague students informed their parents of the protest shortly after it occurred, sources said. The reaction was nearly immediate in the community’s Facebook groups, where dozens of people posted irate messages detailing the incident. These posts prompted phone calls to the district from outraged parents.

“Teachers are to educate and not pass along personal beliefs,” wrote one commenter, who said they were appalled at the protest.

Kathleen Bannon, Copiague School District superintendent, declined to comment on the incident beyond its statement.

“The district has received many complaints from concerned residents regarding these staff members,” the administration said. “Because this is a personnel matter, we are limited by law regarding the information we can share about the nature of the district’s response. We assure the public that the district is addressing the matter and we intend to bring the matter to a close as soon as possible.”

Asked for perspective, Darius Charney, senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the Press that kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is constitutionally protected free speech. Charney wondered how the teachers’ kneeling could have disrupted the class since it is a silent form of protest.

“The First Amendment of the US Constitution clearly protects this kind of protest on matters of serious public concern,” said Charney. “So unless there is evidence that the kneeling actually caused a real disruption in the classroom—which, given its silent nature, seems highly unlikely—the school authorities cannot discipline these teachers for exercising their constitutional rights.”

The next Copiague school district board meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Copiague Middle School was rescheduled due to the weather. A new date has yet to be announced.

—With Timothy Bolger and Rashed Mian

‘The Uncondemned’ Documents Historic Prosecution of Rape Amid Genocide

The Uncondemned

Exploding munitions. The endless rat-a-tat of bullets bursting out of military assault weapons. Tanks rolling through streets and villages.

Those are often the sights and sounds of weapons of war. But one horrific use of force that often goes unmentioned is rape, which has been used in genocides, such as the one in Rwanda that claimed 800,000 lives. The job of collecting the number of rape crimes amid bloodshed is a tall task. So in lieu of concrete numbers, researchers have estimated that an estimated 20,000 children were born from rape during the Rwandan genocide.

Shedding much-needed light on sexual violence amid conflicts is “The Uncondemned,” a documentary about the historic prosecution of rape as a war crime. Award-winning investigative reporter Michelle Mitchell of PBS produced the documentary. The film will be screened at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

What separated these tribunals from others was that this was the first time rape was being prosecuted as a war crime. And the people behind the cases were not seasoned lawyers or investigators but a group of underdog lawyers and activists who pursued justice despite the odds. The film also tells the story of the brave survivors who testified to the atrocities.

“These were the leads who intersected on the way to making judicial history,” the documentary states on its website. “They were between 27 and 34, making up international criminal law as they went along. They probably had absolutely no business being the leads on the first genocide trial in history, but there was no one else to do it. And as for tying sexual violence into the charges—no one was sure they could make it stick. The case at hand was a small-potatoes mayor who hadn’t raped anyone himself.

“But then, three women came forward…and the world of criminal justice changed forever.”

Absolutely a must-see.

Women’s March Mobilizes Millions To Protest In Washington, NYC, L.I. & Across Country

Women's March
Thousands of protestors swarmed the streets on their trek to Trump Tower in New York City on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 as part of the Women’s March On Washington and associated Sister Marches across the country. (Long Island Press / Spencer Rumsey)

By Jaime Franchi, Spencer Rumsey & Christopher Twarowski

Millions of people took to the streets of Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and cities and towns across the country Saturday as parts of a Women’s March to have their voices heard by the new Trump administration on a wide range of issues, centered on the main message of women’s rights.

The “Women’s March On Washington,” with “Sister Marches” throughout the nation, poured into metropolises and towns a day after billionaire real estate mogul-turned reality TV star Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States—the oldest and wealthiest incoming commander-in-chief ever, and the first from New York in 72 years.

An estimated half a million people crowded The Mall in Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas amid their march past the White House, which reportedly, due to its sheer size, could only be accomplished by spilling through side streets not on its officially planned route. Similar situations arising from greater-than-anticipated numbers of participants also occurred in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. Dozens of associated marches also took place in cities around the world, including Berlin, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Melbourne, Australia.

On Long Island, hordes of protestors carrying signs with various messages and slogans lined Long Island Rail Road stations throughout the morning, eager to join the tens of thousands already demonstrating in Manhattan, where seas of participants flowed from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, south on 2nd Avenue to 42nd Street, then west along 42nd to 5th Avenue and Trump Tower. Streets and avenues not on the official “Women’s March” route were also congested with demonstrators.

Several hundred protestors gathered along 347 in Port Jefferson Station, hoisting banners and shouting messages, such as “Long Island Rising,” “Don’t Tread On Me” and “On 11-8 America Lost!” as motorists passing by in cars honked and cheered in support.

Women's March
“Very Small Protest. Sad!” mocks one protestor’s sign in New York City on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 amid the millions of demonstrators who took to the streets in cities and towns across the country and globe in solidarity as part of the Women’s March On Washington. (Long Island Press / Jaime Franchi)

Despite the historic numbers, there hadn’t been reports of mass arrests or violent disturbances as of late Saturday afternoon, with one NYPD officer along the march route telling a Press reporter it’d so far been “the most peaceful march in 16 years.” In contrast, the majority of more than 200 people arrested on Inauguration Day Friday—with an attendance potentially dwarfed by the Women’s March turnout—will be charged with felony rioting charges, the AP reported Saturday.

Among the tens of thousands pouring through New York City, messages spanned the gamut, with many rallying against misogyny, racism, and hatred—themes some said they felt dominated then-Republican presidential candidate, now-President Trump’s vitriolic campaign, and have set the tone for the long four years of his administration.

Several women interviewed by the Press along the route said they believed that women had fallen into a state of complacency under the Obama administration, especially in light of his passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and with Vice President Joe Biden’s Violence Against Women Act, which was reauthorized again after fierce opposition in 2013. Now, these women believed it their duty to act and demonstrate to ensure they not lose the ground they’ve made in the struggle for equality.

Pink, knitted “Pussy Hats” were donned by NYC protestors in the thousands.

Women's March
Thousands of protestors flooding New York City on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 to participate in the Women’s March wore pink-knitted hats to champion women’s rights issues. (Long Island Press / Spencer Rumsey)

Julia Garber, a 24-year-old from Los Angeles who now lives in Manhattan, tells the Press she was marching for women’s rights and because she doesn’t “want a straight white male making decisions about women’s bodies.”

Throughout the route, protestors often broke into unified songs and choruses championing their many causes. “We shall overcome” was a popular chant along the constant wave along the route. “We are the popular vote!” “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!” “No Human Is Illegal” and “Hey Hey Ho Ho Donald Trump Has Got To Go!” were others.

The messages scrawled across their countless signs and posters were as diverse, with some including: “Pussy Power,” “Peace, Love, and Women’s Rights,” “Dissent is Patriotic,” and “My Body, My Choice.” A small child in a second story window inside a nail salon held up a poster he made in crayon: “Turmp Hate.”

Thick throngs of protestors slowly paraded through the streets surrounding Trump Tower, cheering and chanting as temperatures fell.

Besides championing women’s rights and rebuking Trump, protestors were also marching for climate change, healthcare, Black Lives Matter, and immigration, among other causes.

Stephanie Fazzio, 28, told the Press near 45th Street that she and Helen Stewart, of Brooklyn, were there marching “because women’s rights are human rights.”

“And for education, climate change, EPA, the sense of betrayal from so many people in our country who don’t think these things matter, added Stewart. “As women, we saw so many people in the public show that they don’t thing our rights are important.”

Zoe Burkholder, 42, from Monte Clair, NJ, told the Press she was marching for the “the civil rights for many, many groups.”

Miki Weiss, of Ossining, NY, said she was marching because “Democracy is at stake. Plus, for my three daughters. I fear for all the rights they can lose—for them, living in a world where hate is okay.”

“Trump will put democracy at stake,” she continued. [That’s] why we need a demonstration.”

Quoting a nearby banner she noticed, and loved, Weiss added:

“Make racism wrong again.”

Featured Photo: Thousands of protestors swarmed the streets on their trek to Trump Tower in New York City on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 as part of the Women’s March On Washington and associated Sister Marches across the country. (Long Island Press / Spencer Rumsey)

Alt-Rapper Aesop Rock Plays Homecoming Show On Long Island

Long Island concerts
Aesop Rock shreds The Paramount in Huntington on Jan. 21! (Photo: Aesop Rock Facebook profile)

By Patrick Kelton

Alternative hip hop artist Aesop Rock, who ranks as having the largest vocabulary of all major rappers, returns to his Long Island roots when he plays The Paramount in Huntington on Saturday.

The Northport native currently living in Portland, Ore. will take the stage to spit rhymes from his two-decade-deep catalogue of shape-shifting, otherworldly tracks, including fan favorites “None Shall Pass,” “Daylight” and “Preservation.” Those unfamiliar with Aesop may have heard his collaborations with The Weathermen, Hail Mary Mallon, The Uncluded and Two of Every Animal.

“It’s not the most accessible music in the world,” the up-and-coming indie rapper told Guernica magazine when asked to address criticism that his lyrics are too complex. “It may pose a slight challenge to the listener beyond your average pop song. I’m no genius by a long shot, but these songs are not nonsensical.”

Aesop, whose real name is Ian Bavitz, is touring to promote his seventh solo album album, The Impossible Kid, which dropped last April. The album was partly recorded in a barn in the woods where he lived during its production, which explains why it’s his most introspective work to date.

But this won’t be a one-man show. Also performing will be Homeboy Sandman of Queens, plus Rob Sonic & DJ Zone. For those that care about supporting top-notch, underground hip hop artists, this is a show not to be missed.

Aesop Rock will be performing at The Paramount, 370 New York Ave. in Huntington at 9 p.m. Jan. 21. For more information, visit paramountny.com Tickets range in price from $20-$45. 

Do This: Long Island Concerts & Events January 19 – 25

Long Island concerts
Aesop Rock shreds The Paramount in Huntington on Jan. 21! (Photo: Aesop Rock Facebook profile)

Coastl Wolf
With his debut EP K O K O winning over fans left and right through iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music, this incredible sonic maestro will undoubtedly be bringing it, hardcore, to this extraordinary gig. Expect infectious sounds that will have pretty much everyone in attendance up on their feet, raising their arms high into the air, shouting “Yesss!” as their absolutely swept up within wave after wave of crushingly melodious numbers. Whoa. Opening the show is Maeson Clark, Old Fiction, Break Out Day, Adix, Summer Haze and DeePro. Amityville Music Hall, 198 Bwy., Amityville. amityvillemusichall.net $12. 6 p.m. Jan. 19.

Tiberius
Performing for nearly 23 years, this incredible tribute band has a wide repertoire of the best rock bands of all time, from the Rolling Stones to the Beatles to their favorite, the Grateful Dead. Fans of these great bands as well as anyone who just enjoys rock music performed live are in for a treat. The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Ave., Westbury. thespaceatwestbury.com $10. 8 p.m. Jan. 19.

The Full Monty
The 10-time Tony Award nominee is filled with honest affection, engaging melodies and a raucous mix of razor-sharp humor and toe-tapping pizazz, not to mention the most highly anticipated closing number in Broadway history! In need of quick cash and low on prospects, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers come up with the outrageous idea to put on a strip act after seeing their wives’ enthusiasm for a touring company of Chippendales. As they prepare for the big night, working through their fears, self-consciousness and anxieties, they overcome their inner demons and find strength in their camaraderie. And what a show! John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. engemantheater.com $71-$76. Jan. 19-March 5.

The Association
California pop band The Association is best known for their 1960s hits including “Windy,” “Cherish”, “Never My Love” and “Along Comes Mary.” Since making history as the first band, anywhere, to open a rock festival with their performance at the historic Monterey Pop Festival, the band has been nominated for seven Grammys and has gone on to reunite multiple times to produce their folk/soft rock genre music. Wow. Suffolk Theater, 118 E Main St., Riverhead. suffolktheater.com $49-59. 8 p.m. Jan. 20.

Jessie’s Girl
Break out the Converse, strap on a headband and dust off the jean jacket, because this Back to the Eighties Show will do everything short of taking you in a Delorean back to the decade when Men at Work, Flock of Seagulls and Debbie Gibson ruled the airwaves. That’s because Jessie’s Girl is more than just a cover band. They’re here to party like it’s 1989! The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $15-$30. 8 p.m. Jan. 20.

Bill Staines
Staines is an intimate, compelling performer, out of the folk scene of the 1960s, encouraging his audience to sing with him on his choruses. Mixing traditional tunes with his own contemporary folk ballads, his humorous tales of life on the road and observations of everyday people provide an entertaining blend of story and song, and is sure to amaze and inspire. Our Times Coffeehouse, 38 Old Country Rd., Garden City. ourtimescoffeehouse.org $15-$20. 8 p.m. Jan. 20.

Maria Walsh
Vocalizing what most people are thinking and are afraid to say, “America’s Naughtiest Mommy” mocks the art of child rearing in an age of extreme coddling and child worship. Using her own experiences growing up with four older brothers and parenting, quick wit and hilarious facial expressions, Walsh has earned respect in clubs and casinos across America offering original parenting tips, anecdotes and showing that she is more than an SUV driving, latte drinking, suburban soccer mom. Be prepared to laugh, uncontrollably! McGuire’s Comedy Club, 1627 Smithtown Ave., Bohemia. mcguires.govs.com $17. 8 p.m. Jan. 20; 7, 9:30 p.m. Jan. 21.

Kerry Kearney
This Long Island blues legend & New York Blues Hall of Famer and slide-guitar master works his six-string to its virtuosic limits, creating sounds that amaze even the most seasoned musician or jaded music fan. His music features wailing upbeat styles of blues, guitar riffs and infectious rhythms. Get ready to groove, groove, groove! Treme Blues and Jazz Club, 553 Main St., Islip. tremeislip.com $10. 8 p.m. Jan. 21.

Larry The Cable Guy *** POSTPONED TO SUNDAY, MARCH 26 ***
Blue collar comic David Lawrence Whitney is a multiplatinum recording artist, Grammy Award nominee, top country comedian and Billboard award winner, whose show, Only In America With Larry the Cable Guy, has broken viewing records with its premise of him visiting areas across the country, trying out new jobs, hobbies and lifestyles celebrating the American experience. Also a best-selling author of a book titled Git-R-Done, named after his catchphrase, his dynamic personality has made him an American favorite. NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury. venue.thetheatreatwestbury.com $54.50-$99.50. 8 p.m. Jan. 21.

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams
This husband-and-wife duo were a vital part of the late Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles, with Campbell winning three Grammys for his work with Helm. The couple’s impeccable harmonies and songcraft have brought them accolades as they step into the spotlight for the first time in their careers. The Associated Press dubbed them “The First Couple of Americana” upon the release of their self-titled Red House Records debut. Most definitely a gig for the books. YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts, 37 West Main St., Bay Shore. boultoncenter.org $30. 8 p.m. Jan. 21.

Aesop Rock
Known for fronting a new wave of underground and alternative hip hop acts in the late 1990s and early ’00s, Aesop Rock is responsible for hits including “None Shall Pass,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Dorks.” A Syosset native, Rock has been a member of the groups The Weathermen, Hail Mary Mallon, The Uncluded and Two of Every Animal. Also performing will be Rob Sonic & DJ Zone, and special guest Homeboy Sandman. Not to be missed! The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $20-$45. 9 p.m. Jan. 21.

Lost & Found: The Art of Assemblage
An opening reception will celebrate the debut of this exhibit featuring the works of artist and sculptor RJ Rosegarten, who combines disparate objects and breathes new life and meaning into “the old.” Each process differs significantly when materials are chosen, collected, and combined with one another, and this extraordinary exhibit showcases three-dimensional assemblage pieces alongside one another to create a complex language. Phenomenal. Exhibit runs through March 12. Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck. GoldCoastArts.org 4 p.m. Jan. 22.

Alejandro Escovedo
Mexican-American singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo is known for his celebration of rock and roll life, contemplations on mortality, and belief in the healing power of love in his music. In a trailblazing career starting with San Franciscan premier punk innovators The Nuns, Escovedo went on to produce hits including “Always a Friend,” “Sensitive Boys” and “Down in the Bowery.” Don’t miss this insane chance to catch this amazing artist all up close and personal! YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts, 37 West Main St., Bay Shore. boultoncenter.org $45-$50. 7 p.m. Jan. 22.

An Examination of Ed Wood
Join Long Island-based film historian and director Keith Crocker for an insightful examination of the notorious filmmaker Ed Wood, the man who directed the unintentionally hilarious Plan 9 From Outer Space. Wood has often been accused of being Hollywood’s worst filmmaker, but is this criticism fair? You be the judge! Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington. cinemaartscentre.org $10-$15. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23.

The Uncondemned
In 1997, a group of lawyers and activists prosecuted rape as a crime against humanity. This is the story of the fight for their first conviction. Director Michele Mitchell will appear in person to discuss the film at a reception. Absolutely a must-see. Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington. cinemaartscentre.org $10-$15. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24.

Featured Photo: Aesop Rock shreds The Paramount in Huntington on Jan. 21! (Aesop Rock Facebook profile)

-Compiled by Ellie Schoeffel, Timothy Bolger & Zachary B. Tirana III

Putting Magic On The Shelf: A Mom Reflects On Her Daughter’s ‘Elf’ Revelation & Her Own Childhood

Elf On The Shelf
The Elf on the Shelf sits up high in a Christmas tree. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Davis)

By Keri Plassmann Crocco, Contributor

Last night I couldn’t find my phone, and my 10-year-old daughter offered to help me look for it.

We checked in my bag, in the car, and finally under my bed. I had forgotten that a few weeks ago I hastily tossed the Elf on the Shelf box, full of elf, under that same bed. She found it, and I knew it the second I heard her voice.

“Mom?” she called, a slight creak as she adjusted herself on her knees. “Mom, why is this Elf on the Shelf box here under your bed?”

I froze as I heard her pulling the box toward her, the hairs on my arm raising like they were the fibers of the rug that the box moved across. She knew the answer in that instant, but she had a hopeful look as our eyes met across opposite sides of the bed. I couldn’t keep the fear and pain from my own eyes; I couldn’t protect her from the truth of the situation. It was then that she really knew, and the crack in the dam began to burst.

She pulled the box out completely, opened it, looked for a quiet moment at the elf inside. And in that moment, I watched the magic start to rush out of her. She looked at me, and then collapsed fully onto her knees, her head on the floor, and big hard sobs pushed their way out of her lungs. I was frozen there on the other side of the bed. I couldn’t see anything but the top of her heaving shoulders.

I had to go to her, to help soften the blow, and I came around to put my hand on her back. She heard me approach and flung her hand up behind her. I stopped, and she got up and ran to the living room. I stood there alone, trying to decide how much time to wait before joining her. It felt like an eternity, listening to my child sob from another room, but knowing she needed space to process what had just happened.

And that she needed to do it without me.

When I couldn’t wait another second, I went into the living room and curled up next to her on the couch. She had covered herself in a big fluffy blanket, and I tucked it under her back, her legs, swaddling her. I didn’t dare lift it off of her head. I just lay there and waited, listening to her heartbroken sobs. All of the sadness of my own “finding out” moment rushed back to me, all of the anger I felt at being lied to for so long, the object of a cruel deception. It silenced me. All I could do for my own child–my youngest child, my baby–was listen and wait.

When she did speak, it was a choked apology.

“I’m so sorry, Mommy. I’m so sorry I was mad at you.”

Oh dear lord! Why was this child apologizing to me?? I told her I was sorry, too, that she was right to feel angry and sad and confused, and that this was one of the hardest moments of being a kid. I told her she could ask me any questions she wanted. She nodded, but after a long silence I realized that she couldn’t bear to make it more real by putting her own words on it.

So I talked to her about being a parent, and how we all want to make childhood a magical time for our kids. I told her that the spirits of every holiday are part of that magic. That those spirits get into parents’ hearts and make them do things they normally wouldn’t do, like buying things they’d sworn they’d never buy or letting their kids eat tons of candy in the morning. And I told her that, now that she was on the other side, it was her turn to create magic for others.

She’s a giver, a soft and kind soul, and she nodded. She understood the idea, like handing down a favorite toy to a younger cousin.

Her sobbing slowed and, as we cuddled up together on the couch, she announced:

“I’m not going to tell my friends about this, in case they don’t know. I don’t want them to feel so sad.”

My heart broke anew, seeing my sweet girl trying to protect her friends from the obvious pain she was still in. Then my baby, a little older now, with the magic of childhood all wrung out of her, stood up and made her way to the kitchen for a glass of water.

It was only this morning, after I put her on the bus, that I realized that the magic was over for me, too.

And as I sit here typing, I want to cover myself in a big fluffy blanket and find the magic that will take me back. Back to when my babies were young and Christmas morning sparkled with sunlight and tree lights and the pure joy of believing.

Wistfully, mournfully, I suppose we all have to move forward.

Photo: The Elf on the Shelf sits up high in a Christmas tree. (Courtesy of Rachel Davis)

Chelsea Manning To Be Freed; Whistleblower’s Sentence Commuted By Obama

Bradley Manning Trial
Sketch of Chelsea Manning Trial Courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, (www.debvanpoolen.com)

By Christopher Twarowski and Rashed Mian

Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army whistleblower sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified U.S. State Department and military documents in 2010 regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, is coming home.

In an astonishing announcement Tuesday, President Obama commuted the bulk of Manning’s sentence, stating the former private first class will be released in five months, on May 17.

Related: Who Is Chelsea Manning?

Manning, 29, was convicted on 20 charges, including six under the Espionage Act—a World War I-era law—on Aug. 21, 2012 during a military court martial in Ft. Meade, Maryland, the home of the National Security Agency (NSA), and has since been imprisoned in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. At the time of the leaks and her conviction, she was known as Bradley Manning, having changed her name and announced her identification as a woman the following day.

“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning, said in a statement Tuesday. “Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement—including for attempting suicide—and has been denied access to medically necessary health care. This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”

“Ms. Manning is the longest serving whistleblower in the history of the United States,” said Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward, Manning’s appellate counselors, in a joint statement. “Her 35-year sentence for disclosing information that served the public interest and never caused harm to the United States was always excessive, and we’re delighted that justice is being served in the form of this commutation.”

The lawyers remarked that the president’s decision came after “an outpouring of support for Manning since her unfair and egregious sentence and the ongoing mistreatment throughout her incarceration,” additionally noting that in December, the ACLU and more than a dozen other LGBT groups sent a letter to President Obama urging him to grant Manning clemency, in addition to an official White House petition with the same request that secured more than 100,000 signatures.

The ACLU has also represented Manning in a lawsuit against the Department of Defense originally filed in 2014 “over the department’s refusal to treat Manning’s well-documented gender dysphoria,” continues the attorneys’ statement.

The Manning disclosures were made to whistleblower site WikiLeaks, and included the cockpit footage of a U.S. Apache helicopter as it massacred more than a dozen unarmed civilians including two Reuters journalists in a video dubbed “Collateral Murder.”

Manning twice attempted suicide while incarcerated, and has been subject to solitary confinement.

The New York Times was the first to break news of Manning’s sentence being commuted by Obama late Tuesday afternoon.

Supporters celebrated across social media sites at the news:

Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence is extraordinary in that throughout his eight years in office, the Obama Justice Department has spearheaded eight Espionage Act prosecutions against whistleblowers, more than all U.S. administrations combined.

Related: Obama’s Legacy: A Historic War On Whistleblowers

Other caught in the crosshairs, besides Manning, include NSA whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Thomas Drake, former CIA employees Jeffrey Sterling and John Kiriakou, former FBI agents Shamai Leibowitz and Donald Sachtleben, and state Department contractor Stephen Kim.

Following the release of “Collateral Murder” was Wikileaks’ publication of the so-called “Afghan War Diaries”—comprised of more than 75,000 US military reports from 2004 to 2010. Next were the “Iraq War Logs,” the largest classified military leak to date, encompassing roughly 400,000 U.S. military reports. In November 2010, WikiLeaks released U.S. diplomatic cables, and in April 2011, the “GITMO Files,” which documented the cases of several hundred Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, who has been covering Manning’s plight from the very beginning, expressed gratitude upon hearing the news of her commutation.

“I am grateful to the president, not only for, of course, the mercy that he’s shown towards Chelsea Manning but really the wiseness that he’s also shown,” she told the Press. “Executive clemency is very important; it’s an important part of our criminal justice system, and it’s important in national security, too. But specifically in the context of criminal justice, the criminal justice system is infallible, and in terms of national security, our laws are not perfect.

“I think Obama’s decision was the kind of mercy that’s borne of wisdom,” continued O’Brien. “Ultimately, the public trust in the laws, in the rule of law, and the public’s right to information, securing that right…is really critical to national security.”

Speculation about the possibility Obama may commute Manning’s sentence percolated in the days leading up to Tuesday’s announcement, with speculation additionally swirling about whether any presidential leniency would apply to Snowden.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, however, seemed to temper any optimism about the latter last Friday at a press briefing.

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” he said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.

“So I think the situation of these two individuals is quite different,” he continued. “I can’t speculate at this point about to what degree that will have an impact on the President’s consideration of clemency requests. But I know that there’s a temptation because the crimes were relatively similar to lump the two cases together.

“But there are some important differences,” Earnest added, “including the scale of the crimes that were committed and the consequences of their crimes. Obviously, as Chelsea Manning has acknowledged, and as we have said many times, that the release of the information that she provided to WikiLeaks was damaging to national security. But the disclosures by Edward Snowden were far more serious and far more dangerous.”

Obama’s unprecedented crackdown on leakers hasn’t just applied to federal employees, either. Journalists have also been targeted—creating a so-called “chilling effect” among reporters and sources, especially in regards to investigative reporting and national security matters.

The government’s aggressive litigation against Sterling, for example, also included New York Times reporter James Risen, and the Obama Justice Department has also seized phone records from the Associated Press. Also targeted was independent journalist Barrett Brown, who, originally facing more than 100 years in prison for sharing a publicly available hyperlink and threatening an FBI agent, was released in November after serving five years.

Sterling is currently serving 42 months in federal prison. Snowden is relegated to Russia, since his passport has been revoked.

While Manning’s clemency is just one battle in a still-ongoing war against whistleblowers many believe may only intensify under the incoming Trump administration, at least in Manning’s case, there’s some relief and closure that comes from her no longer facing decades in prison for exposing some ugly truths regarding the United State’s covert military actions.

“It’s been six years now, and certainly three years since the trial,” said O’Brien, the independent journalist who’s covered Manning’s case from the very start. “There have been many peaks and valleys through that whole experience. Certainly the weight of a 35-year sentence and that sort of conclusion—you feel it. One of the greatest of difficulties trying to surmount and cover in her trial was the lack of clear public information related to facts about her case and this was even promulgated by people who are her supporters. So I have to say that this decision to me—I’m grateful for it.

“I know there are a lot of people in the criminal justice system who don’t necessarily feel this kind of sense of closure and I don’t want to overlook that, so I’m grateful that I get to feel a sense of closure on the work.”

Introducing News Beat: An Unconventional Podcast Challenging Conventional Wisdom

News Beat
Welcome to News Beat, a short-form educational news podcast from MP Studios that melds the worlds of journalism and music to deliver a powerful, important message.

It’s free verse. It’s spoken word. It’s rap, scat, poetry, rhythms, rhymes, beats and melodies—with a powerful, important message.

Welcome to News Beat, a short-form educational news podcast melding the worlds of journalism and music to elevate storytelling, foster a deeper connection with listeners, and deliver an alternative narrative on some of the most pressing issues, happenings, events and people shaping our world.

Morey Publishing, parent company of Long Island Press, is launching News Beat to continue the mission of truth-telling and journalistic integrity that’s guided the Press for its nearly 15 years of publication. News Beat utilizes verse, beats, and audio to educate, inform, and inspire our readers and listeners—interacting with the public on a whole new level in the process.

News Beat combines all the facets of Morey Publishing—content production, inbound marketing and alternative news perspective—and embodies our ideals and our strengths as a company: collaboration, storytelling, alternative news, history and education.

Podcasting is a logical extension of our brand, and News Beat is a natural progression of the alt-journalism the Press has been crafting since its inception.

With News Beat, you’ll no longer simply read the news; you’ll hear it, and you’ll literally feel it. Most importantly, News Beat presents an alternative take to widely accepted narratives on its featured topics, arming listeners with important knowledge and insights that they likely wouldn’t hear from mainstream media—provoking thought, spurring questions, and challenging long-held beliefs.

 

No matter the gravity of the topic, News Beat’s musical format is easily digestible. In the day of instantaneous digital gratification, “fake news,” 24/7 kitten memes and deteriorating attention spans, News Beat episodes will clock in at roughly 16 minutes each—far less than the typical podcast length of 30 minutes, and yet long enough to listen to in their entirety during the commute to work.

Think how “Schoolhouse Rock” broke down educational barriers by leveraging an original score in a televised cartoon format, and more recently, how “Hamilton” has brought history to life through hip hop and theater.

While the musical genre may change, each News Beat podcast follows an established story arc rooted in traditional journalism and songwriting. Journalists will recognize the lede, nut graph, body and kicker, while all listeners will hear choruses and verses following a musical structure.

Listeners are presented with a version of a story or topic they’re familiar with. Narration and audio clips reinforce that narrative, before a rhythmic interlude, called “The Breakdown,” well, breaks-it-down.

Wha-whaattt?!

Guest artists fill various roles throughout each podcast—some lending spoken word, some rapping, some even singing. Each episode ends with an “Upshot” encapsulating that presentation’s key takeaways.

News Beat is an MP Studios production, a division of Morey Publishing. Its producer is Manny Faces, hip-hop journalist, producer and lecturer, founder of New York hip-hop publication Birthplace Magazine and hip-hop non-profit The Center for Hip-Hop Advocacy. Its Original Music Supervisor is Eden White. News Beat’s executive editor is Morey Publishing President and Long Island Press Publisher Jed Morey. Its editor-at-large is Christopher Twarowski, Morey Publishing and Long Island Press editor in chief.

News Beat: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Unfinished Business - #MLK #MLKDAYOur inaugural episode is titled “MLK, Jr. – Unfinished Business,” and shares a side of the late, great civil rights pioneer’s legacy not often referenced in the history books. It features Silent Knight, solo rap artist and frontman for The Band Called FUSE and Pastor Roger C. Williams of the First Baptist Church of Glen Cove.

This alternative perspective of the holiday that celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. is designed to make our readers and listeners think differently and more authentically about the legacy of this important American icon. It’s also just the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in delivering meaningful content.

MP Studios will be creating more episodes of News Beat throughout the year, along with a host of other new shows and programs.

We encourage you to send us your feedback and share our debut podcast with others you think might enjoy it.

Check out all MP Studios podcasts at: moreypublishing.com/podcasts

Lil Jon Shows Long Island How to Crunk

Lil Jon

By Ellie Schoeffel

Lil Jon will bring his brand of Dirty South party rap to The Emporium in Patchogue on Saturday night.

The Atlanta native will get the crowd dancing to his long list of club favorites, including “Get Low” featuring the Ying Yang Twins and Grammy-nominated hit 2014 single “Turn Down for What,” for which he won an MTV Music Video Award with collaborator DJ Snake.

“The King of Crunk,” as the bejeweled rapper was dubbed, popularized his style of danceable, bass-heavy electronic hip hop.

The rapper, producer, songwriter and actor whose given name is Jonathan Smith got his start as a nightclub DJ who later formed Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz with rappers Big Sam and Lil Bo 20 years ago. He released his debut solo album Crunk Rock in 2010.

He twice competed on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice when the show was still hosted be President-elect Donald Trump, who hosted a campaign rally in April at the same venue where the rapper will perform this weekend. Lil Jon put the cut-throat business skills he learned on the show to work last year when he reportedly threatened to sue a Hamptons shop that was selling bedazzled flasks that said “Turn Down for What,” unless they agreed to share the sales profits.

During his DJ set, the chalice-carrying collaborative crunkster is likely to spin hits he produced—and lent backing vocals to—for other artists, such as LMFAO’s “Shots” and Usher’s “Yeah!” also featuring Ludacris, which won a Grammy Award in 2005 for best rap collaboration.

Will he tease any tracks from his forthcoming second solo album, Party Animal, which he’s reportedly been working on since 2011? Only one way to find out!

Lil Jon will be performing at The Emporium, 9 Railroad Ave. in Patchogue. For more information, visit theemporiumny.com Tickets are $25. Doors open at 10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14.

Village People Bring Disco Anthems To Suffolk Theater

Village People
Many disco dance legends The Village People will be taking Suffok Theater by storm on Friday, Jan. 13! (Photo: Village People Facebook profile)

By Russo Millien

New York City-based disco legends the Village People, known for their manly costumed personas, dance moves and enduring hits, will take the historic Suffolk Theater in Riverhead by storm on Friday night.

Fans can relive the disco-era as the sextet performs their late-1970s smash hits, such as “Macho Man,” “In The Navy” and “YMCA.” Don’t be surprised if they also play “Fire Island,” a lesser-known locally inspired song about their trips to the LGBT mecca of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines.

“The Kings of Disco,” as the group has been crowned, will also perform odes to other popular songs of that genre as well as their own chart-toppers that have rocked parties for decades.

The local performance comes as the Village People near the 40th anniversary of the release of their self-titled debut album featuring the classics “San Francisco” and “In Hollywood (Everyone Is a Star).”

The Village People were formed in ’77 by the late French musical composer Jacques Morali, who was inspired by a demo he received from actor/singer Victor Willis, the band’s original lead singer.

After a few lineup changes over the years, the current members include: Felipe Rose, who dresses as a Native American; Alex Briley, the soldier persona; Ray Simpson, the police officer; Eric Anzalone, the biker; Jim Newman, the cowboy; and Bill Whitefield, the construction worker.

Their first four albums have enjoyed major critical success, but their popularity fell with the resignation of Willis as lead singer and the decline of disco music in the ’80s. They later regrouped and took their show back on the road, performing for countless fans of their infectious hits.

Photo: Many disco dance legends The Village People will be taking Suffok Theater by storm on Friday, Jan. 13! (Photo: Village People Facebook profile)

The Village People will be performing at Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main Street in Riverhead. For more information, visit suffolktheater.com Ticket prices range from $45-$65. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m., Jan. 13.

Related: Do This: Long Island Concerts & Events January 12 – 18

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Fire Island

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