Rashed Mian

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

McAdoo Right Choice for Giants Organization that Favors Stability

It’s been 12 years since the Giants have found themselves in the position where the team is transitioning to a new head coach.

Of course, that’s quite an accomplishment—and it’d be even more impressive if the Tom Coughlin-era culminated in at least one last playoff birth. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

This year’s Giants’ injury-ridden roster was not talented enough to begin with, even in an embarrassingly lowly NFC East, but the 69-year-old Coughlin was the only one to pay for the team’s disappointing output in 2015. Coughlin was not fired, but given his club’s four-year absence from the postseason, it’s safe to assume that the Giants hierarchy gently shoved the veteran coach aside. Despite the letdown that was the Giants regular season, co-owner John Mara declined to give general manager Jerry Reese the pink slip for his years of lousy draft selections and repeated failures on the free agent side. At the end of the day, the miserable season was Coughlin’s cross to bear—and he did so with class, as you’d expect from a coach who has never once blamed anyone else for his team’s failures.

The Giants’ recent failures have been well documented, but Coughlin’s legacy is in tact, so much so that the Giants have decided to promote offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to head coach. Coughlin may have not personally selected McAdoo to run his team’s offense two years ago, but as Coughlin’s deputy, you’d have to expect that he learned a thing or two about coaching from the man who restored pride to the Giants organization and, before that, showed guts by taking over the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 and, four years later, had them one win away from the Super Bowl.

“It has been a privilege to work and learn under Coach Coughlin,” McAdoo said in a statement posted on the team’s website Thursday aftenroon. “I have been preparing for this moment my entire professional life, and without the guidance and support of many people, I would not be here right now.”

Fair or not, now it’s up to McAdoo to turn Big Blue around because Mara’s apparent support for Reese means he’s not willing to point the finger at the person most responsible for the team’s deficiencies.

At 38, McAdoo is young for a head coach. His appointment as offensive coordinator in 2014 was his first coordinator job after spending time in Green Bay as an offensive assistant. When he was hired, McAdoo was seen as a potential Coughlin successor because of the head coach’s advancing age, but his meteoric rise is remarkable. McAdoo is younger than Coughlin by three decades and has never been a head coach at any level.

Most importantly, McAdoo has the backing of star quarterback Eli Manning, who in his two years at the helm of McAdoo’s fast-paced, West Coast-style offense, has thrown 65 touchdowns compared to 28 interceptions, and statistically just had the best year of his career—throwing for career highs in passing yards (4,432) and touchdowns with 35. His second best year in terms of passing yards was in 2014, again under McAdoo. The year before McAdoo came along, Manning had thrown for only 18 TD’s and 27 interceptions. His QB rating in 2013 was a dismal 69.4. When this season ended, it was 93.6.

Manning himself admitted that having to run a new offense next season would not be ideal. At 35, Manning easily has four great years left. Forcing him to learn a new offense now would essentially be wasting a year of his career. Although he put up strong numbers in 2014, Manning needed nearly the entire season to master McAdoo’s system.

Turning the keys over to McAdoo is the right decision. The Giants brought in a half-dozen candidates to interview for the job but McAdoo was the perceived favorite the whole time. It also helped him that the rival Philadelphia Eagles reportedly expressed a strong desire to pry him away from the Giants.

The Giants are betting that McAdoo can translate his success as one of the premier offensive coordinators in the league to leading an entire team.

It’s a good bet, given the head coach he learned under and the quarterback in charge of his offense.

Although he’s employed in a league where yearly production is paramount, McAdoo should have time to grow as a coach. As the Giants have shown with Coughlin, they favor continuity over anything. When the Giants sign a coach, they hope he’ll be around for the long haul. McAdoo may very well be capable of parlaying his success as an assistant to the more demanding job of head coach, but without more help from Mara-approved Reese, there’s little that he, or any other head coach for that matter, can do on the field.

Oscar 2016: ‘The Revenant’ & ‘Mad Max’ Lead Nominees

The biggest night in Hollywood may finally see the long-awaited coronation of Leonardo DiCaprio after the Oscar-starved actor and the film he was nominated for, “The Revenant,” scored several high-profile Academy Awards nominations Thursday.

“The Revenant” grabbed 12 total nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for DiCaprio, who has famously never won an Oscar despite five nominations, the most recent coming in 2013 for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

“Mad Max: Fury Road” was not far behind, securing 10 nominations. “Mad Max” will compete against “The Revenant” for Best Picture. Interestingly, Tom Hardy, the star of the audacious post-apocalyptic film received a nomination for Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in “The Revenant.” Where his loyalties lie will no doubt supply Hollywood with enough fodder to keep their awards season appetite in check until the Academy Awards air Feb. 28 on ABC at 8:30 p.m., with Chris Rock as the host.

Rounding out the Best Picture category were six other films: “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Room,” “Spotlight,” “The Big Short,” and “The Martian.” “Carol,” which was one of the best drama nominees at last weekend’s Golden Globes, was notably snubbed by the Academy. Momentum may very well be on the side of “The Revenant,” which took home the Golden Globe awards for drama, actor, and director during Sunday’s much-hyped but overwhelmingly dull awards program, despite Ricky Gervais’s snarky hosting.

The Academy panel charged with the nominations once again presented a group of nominees lacking in diversity, selecting all white actors and actresses in the major acting categories. To some observers, Will Smith’s performance in “Concussion” and Michael B. Jordan’s impressive showing in “Creed” appeared deserving of nominations. Smith, it should be noted, received a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a drama. The critically acclaimed film “Straight Outta Compton,” which follows the rise of hip-hop group N.W.A., received a nod for best original screenplay, the only category it was nominated in, despite strong reviews. The Academy’s all white nominees for best actor and actress and supporting roles could be a source of consternation after the organization received a deluge of criticism for last year’s snub of performers and the director of “Selma.”

In the category for Actress in a Leading Role, Cate Blanchett is vying for her third Oscars win, but she’ll have to earn it. She’s up against Brie Larson who won a Golden Globe for her performance in “Room,” and Jennifer Lawrence, who also walked away with a trophy during Sunday’s telecast. This is the 25-year-old Lawrence’s fourth Oscar nomination. Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) and Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) round out the category.

Actor in a Leading Role is made up of Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”), DiCaprio, Matt Damon (“The Martian”), and Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”).

Kate Winslet, who is fresh off her Golden Globe win for her performance in “Steve Jobs,” is pitted against Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”), Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”), Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight”), and Rooney Mara (“Carol”) for Actress in a Supporting Role.

Their male counterparts in the supporting role category are: Christian Bale (“The Big Short”), Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight”), Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”), Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”), and Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”).

Competing in the Directing categories are: George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”), Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”), Adam McKay (“The Big Short), and last year’s winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“The Revnant”). Noticeably absent is Ridley Scott, who directed “The Martian.”

Here’s a complete list of all the nominees.

Bay Shore Bank Robbery Ends in Police Chase, Woodbury Crash

Two Bay Shore bank robbery suspects following a police chase crash in Woodbury on Weds., Jan. 13, 2016, police said. (Photo by Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

Two accused Bay Shore bank robbery suspects who led police on a chase were arrested after crashing their getaway vehicle in Woodbury on Wednesday morning, prompting Syosset schools to be on lockout, authorities said.

The armed suspects, Murray Hawkins and Kevin Highland, both of Queens, allegedly flashed a pistol when they robbed the Capital One Bank outside South Shore Mall on Sunrise Highway in Bay Shore at 9 a.m., authorities said. Following a police chase, the suspects crashed at the last exit of Route 135, where the expressway meets Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury.

Hawkins and Highland were both charged with first-degree robbery. Highland was also charged in the armed robbery of a Capitol One bank in Babylon on Dec. 29.

“We do not believe any shots were fired,” Suffolk County Police Deputy Tim Sini told reporters during a news conference.

Police said two officers suffered minor injuries during the pursuit. One was arrested near the Eagle Rock apartment complex and the other was arrested while running across the expressway, police said. Out of precaution, authorities had searched the area for a third suspect, but only Hawkins and Highland are believed to be involved, police said.

“At their request and as a precautionary measure, we have instituted lockout procedures at all of our school buildings,” the Syosset Central School District said in a statement on their website shortly before 10 a.m. “This means we will not allow any persons in or out of our buildings until the police have issued an all clear directive.”

Police said the money bag was recovered from the 2015 Ford Escape used in the chase. Highland, who was behind the wheel of the vehicle, according to police, was also charged with unlawful fleeing a police officer.

Both men will be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Central Islip.

This post was updated on Jan. 14 to include the identities of the alleged suspects and their charges.

-With additional reporting by Timothy Bolger

NYPD Muslim Spying Lawsuit: Civilian To Scrutinize Terror Probes

NYPD Muslim Spying
The ACLU announcing its intention to file a lawsuit against the NYPD for spying on Muslim Americans. (Photo: ACLU)

The New York City Police Department agreed to increased oversight of counterterrorism investigations as part of a settlement in a lawsuit challenging the department’s mass surveillance of Muslims—including on Long Island—after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The settlement, which was filed in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday, stipulates that the city appoint an independent civilian representative entrusted to monitor police investigations and report any violations to the police commissioner or federal judge.

The city and civil rights attorneys representing three New York Muslims, two mosques and a nonprofit also agreed to a cap on how long investigations can take place, several safeguards to make certain that investigations don’t violate a person’s constitutional rights, anti-discrimination measures, and a requirement that the use of undercover officers and confidential informants be authorized by a high-ranking police official.

“There must be an objective, factual basis for initiating” an investigation, the settlement states. “A mere hunch is insufficient.”

Civil rights attorneys lauded the agreement for establishing much-needed safeguards to prevent abuse and religious profiling of a disenfranchised population. NYPD officials argued that the settlement wouldn’t hamper anti-terrorism efforts.

As part of the settlement, the city admits no wrongdoing.

“This settlement is a win for New York Muslims and for all New Yorkers, who have a right to be free from discriminatory police surveillance and to practice their religion without stigma or fear,” Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, said in a statement.

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the agreement is the latest step in an effort to build bridges with the Muslim community. The new measures, he said, brings policing practices “closer in line” with FBI protocol.

“The proposed settlement does not weaken the NYPD’s ability to fulfill its steadfast commitment to investigate and prevent terrorist activity in New York City,” added Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.

The ACLU, along with several other civil right firms, sued the city after the Associated Press revealed mass surveillance of Muslims in the five boroughs, New Jersey and Nassau and Suffolk counties. The AP’s series on the NYPD’s clandestine targeting of Muslims won the outlet a Pulitzer Prize. The so-called Demographics Unit, which has responsible for monitoring Muslims, created maps of Muslim communities and documented mundane interactions at mosques, businesses and coffee shops—and even an occasion in which belly dancers provided entertainment at a Huntington kebab restaurant. The NYPD disbanded the unit in April 2014.

The post-9/11 initiative did not lead to a single terrorism probe, officials have said. Rather, Muslim groups contend, revelations of a vast spying network sowed deep fear in communities and did little to build trust between Muslim Americans and police.

The safeguards included in the settlement are intended to ensure terror investigations are warranted, and not sparked solely on the basis of a person’s religion. It also calls for the removal of a controversial report from the NYPD’s website dubbed “Radicalization in the West,” which was published in 2007.

Under the agreement, which is pending approval by a federal judge, police have 180 days to conduct an investigation, with the possibility of a 90-day extension. Also, the office of the Chief of Intelligence is responsible for reviewing preliminary investigations every six months “to discuss the status…including what operational steps should be taken.”

Among the NYPD’s most controversial tactics was its use of undercover officers and confidential informants to gather information inside mosques and Muslim Student Associations. Under the agreement, those tactics must be authorized by the Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and any request must be made in writing and include facts to justify such an investigation.

While most of the measures call for full cooperation of police brass to effectuate the new stipulations, a public advocate will be included in monthly meetings to scrutinize investigations and ensure the department is acting appropriately. This civilian will be appointed by the mayor, and serve an up-to five-year term.

The settlement is an extension of the decades-old Handschu Guidelines, which barred the NYPD from investigating individuals based on political or religious views unless specific information existed connecting purported suspects to a crime or future plot. After 9/11, the NYPD received court approval to modify the guidelines so it could better investigative terrorism. Attorneys involved in the Handschu case argued in this suit that the NYPD’s mass surveillance of Muslims violated the Handschu Guidelines.

While the city is not admitting guilt, it has agreed to pay $1.6 million in lawyer fees.

With the settlement, two out of three cases challenging the NYPD’s spying of Muslims have come to a close. A case involving New Jersey residents is pending after the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reinstated the lawsuit. A lower court dismissed the suit in October 2014.

The controversial surveillance program was implemented under former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner Raymond Kelly. The mayoral successor, Bill de Blasio, promised to reform the NYPD. Since taking office the NYPD has disbanded the Demographics Unit, and, in a sign of pursuing a more inclusive New York City, de Blasio added two Muslim holidays to the school calendar.

But de Blasio has displayed mixed messages.

In court papers de Blasio administration lawyers called on judges overseeing the New Jersey lawsuit to support a lower court’s decision not to assign blame to the NYPD.

“All of the harms alleged by plaintiffs occurred, if they occurred, only after the Associated Press made public certain confidential NYPD documents and did so in unredacted form,” the city wrote in its 79-page brief.

Thursday’s settlement, however, appears to more in line with de Blasio’s earlier promises to end Bloomberg-era policies directed at Muslim communities.

And those representing Muslim communities appeared eager to see the city move away from policies they argued violated basic Constitutional rights.

“Our clients brought this lawsuit to enforce two of the Constitution’s most fundamental guarantees: freedom from government discrimination and freedom of religion,” Shamsi of the ACLU said. “The lawsuit was motivated by the concerns of our clients, and those of New York Muslim communities and their allies, about the of the surveillance, which stigmatized Muslims and chilled their speech and religious practice because of fear of attracting unwarranted police scrutiny.”

Catholic Priest Arrested for Crack Cocaine, Cops Say

Michael Oyola (left) and Robert Lubrano, a Roman Catholic priest, were both arrested on drug charges.

A 63-year-old Roman Catholic priest from Farmingdale was one of two men netted in a drug arrest during an unrelated sting at a Bethpage motel early Wednesday morning, Nassau County police said.

Rev. Robert Lubrano, who is a confirmed Roman Catholic priest but is currently unassigned, was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance after police allegedly found crack cocaine in his motel room. The other suspect, 32-year-old Michael Oyola of the Bronx, was charged with criminal possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of marijuana. Lubrano will be arraigned Wednesday at First District Court in Hempstead; Oyola was released on a desk appearance ticket.

Det. Lt. Richard Lebrun, the department’s chief spokesman, said at a press conference Wednesday that Bureau of Special Operations was conducting an unrelated undercover narcotics investigation at Bethpage Motel on Hempstead Turnpike when they saw Oyola and Lubrano exchange money in the parking lot just after midnight, police said. LeBrun did not specify why officers were staking out the motel.

Officers pulled Oyola over for a traffic stop and found a brown, hand-rolled cigar in his sweatshirt, which he allegedly attempted to conceal, LeBrun said. Police also discovered a bag of marijuana, he said. Oyola was subsequently arrested.

Police saw Lubrano enter a motel room and, after an investigation, placed him under arrest. Police said a “white/yellowish” substance believed to be crack cocaine and a silver-colored metal pipe with what appeared to be crack cocaine residue was recovered at the scene.

LeBrun declined to say if the Lubrano obtained the crack cocaine as part of the alleged transaction with Oyola.

Lubrano is the brother of Pat Ward, a SUNY Farmingdale professor who was the victim of a brutal murder-suicide in October 2014, in which Ward was beheaded by her son Derek. After killing his mom, Derek committed suicide by jumping in front of an eastbound LIRR train.

Both Nassau police and the Diocese of Rockville Centre confirmed that Lubrano was related to Ward.

According to an alleged statement given to police at the time of his arrest, Lubrano turned to drugs after his sister was violently killed.

“It is believed that he did state that he was using crack cocaine because of the fact that his sister was murdered,” LeBrun told reporters.

“Ms. Ward,” he added, “did meet a very violent end.”

Lubrano is currently unassigned to a parish. He has been on authorized leave for five years, which predates Ward’s death. Priests seek authorization to leave for a number of reasons, including medical purposes, to teach at a university or to serve as a military chaplain. Dolan did not say why Lubrano requested that the Bishop place him on authorized leave.

Dolan said he was not aware if the Diocese was privy to any information indicating that Lubrano using drugs. Even if the Diocese had any indication that Lubrano was a user, that information would be confidential, Dolan said.

Lubrano was ordained in 1985, and was eventually assigned to Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Roosevelt, and Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Hempstead, Dolan said.

“The diocese will cooperate with law enforcement in anything they ask,” Dolan said.

Lubrano’s nephew had a history of mental illness, police said at the time. He had psychiatric disorders spanning a decade and had multiple run-ins with authorities. Police officials said Ward’s issues worsened after his grandfather Carl J. Lubrano died.

“He killed my sister because we couldn’t get the prescriptions he needed,” Lubrano told the New York Daily News after the tragic incident. “For four days, he didn’t have his meds.”

An obituary published in Newsday in August 2013 said Carl J. Lubrano had served in the US Marines during World War II. He also worked as a sacristan at St. Kilian RC Church in Farmingdale.

2015: So Much TV, So Little Time

Every time I think back to the past year in television, I’m reminded of Andy Samberg’s clever introduction to the 2015 Emmy Awards: he suddenly escapes to an underground bunker and resurfaces a year later after finally watching the top shows of the year.

Never have I’ve been so exhausted sitting on the couch than I was this year. Binge watching has become the norm in our household because we can hardly keep up with our favorite shows. Combine our maxed-out DVR with the ever-growing stack of newspapers and magazines under the coffee table, and it’s a shock we even make it out of the house!

I’m not here to tell you which show was better than the rest. How could I? From cable, to network television and Netflix to Amazon, the deluge of content makes it nearly impossible to name a top show. If this so-called Golden Age of television has done anything, it has made it easier to weed out all the bad stuff on the tube—and they are legion.

Here’s a brief recap of my favorites from this past year:

The-Americans
Keri Russell and Matthew Rys play KGB spies in FX’s “The Americans.” (Photo credit: The Americans/Facebook)

The Americans
During each awards season I mine the list of nominated shows carefully to see if The Americans has finally received its just due. Alas, FX’s incredible Cold War spy drama has been left out in the cold once again. You’d think those people responsible for nominating the top shows are still suffering from Cold War-fatigue. Their failure to give a nod to The Americans is proof that the award season is a bunch of corporate-manifested garbage designed to drive viewers to a supreme state of anxiousness so they fly to their TV screens and consume everything their advertisers so badly want them to watch. But I digress. For the uninitiated, The Americans follows Russian KGB spies Elizabeth and Philip in 1981 as they deftly balance their perceived ho-hum suburban life with their responsibilities to the Soviet Mother Land. Instinctively you want to hate the couple for their murderous misdeeds, but we’re left to root for them, if not for their sake, but for their two innocent children, one of whom has already been partly sucked in to their life of lies.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Premiere Announced
(Photo: HBO/Game of Thrones)

Game of Thrones
[SPOILERS!!] After four long seasons we finally got to see what winter looks like, and it’s a hell of lot scarier than we ever imagined. The destruction heaped on the Wilding enclave of Hardhome by the White Walkers was nothing compared to season five’s final scene in which a know-nothing Jon Snow is lured into a trap and stabbed repeatedly by fellow members of the Night’s Watch because they think he’s committed treason. The season was not without controversy, as it again featured brutal rapes of women and went too far, even by GOT standards, when a poor child was burned at the stake. We can’t wait to see where we go from here. Will Jon Snow return? Probably. What will come of Daenerys? And what does the return of Bran Stark mean for Westeros?

Rami Malek (R) and Christian Slater (L) play skilled hackers in USA Network's "Mr. Robot." (Photo credit: USA Network/Mr. Robot)
Rami Malek (R) and Christian Slater (L) play skilled hackers in USA Network’s “Mr. Robot.” (Photo credit: USA Network/Mr. Robot)

Mr. Robot
After the show’s premiere, we wrote that Mr. Robot would save our summer. The USA series more than lived up to the hype. The show was so dark at times that the week in between episodes served as a much-needed reprieve. Mr. Robot went where no show has gone before it by ushering into the mainstream the shadowy world where hacktivists—digitally savy Robin Hood types—who use their talents to upend the status quo and seek to expose our corporate overlords with the hope of spawning a long-delayed, but much-needed revolution.

Better Call Saul Breaking Bad
‘Breaking Bad’ creator Vince Gilligan hit a homerun with spinoff sequel ‘Better Call Saul,’ starring Bob Odenkirk.

Better Call Saul
No show had more pressure to succeed then AMC’s Better Call Saul, the much-hyped Breaking Bad spinoff written by Vince Gilligan himself. Bob Odenkirk’s depiction of lowlife attorney Saul Goodman, Albuquerque’s slimiest criminal defense lawyer, was so masterful that AMC knew fans demanded more. Now we get the back-story of how Jimmy McGill, a career con man turned struggling lawyer, becomes Saul Goodman. McGill’s early pitfalls explain a lot about Breaking Bad’s Goodman, and now it’s easy to see why he and Walter White, although sometimes hostile toward one another, were a perfect match. Both yearn for greatness. Each probably has the talent to break the bonds of mediocrity, but instead chooses the easy way out. Sometimes a person can only take so much.

Peter Quinn has had a tough go at it this season. First he was enlisted to kill Carrie and then he was shot and poisoned with sarin gas. (Photo credit: Homeland)
Peter Quinn has had a tough go at it this season. First he was enlisted to kill Carrie and then he was shot and poisoned with sarin gas. (Photo credit: Homeland)

Homeland
The CIA thriller became such a disappointment after its first season that even I couldn’t justify hanging on for another year. I was so down on the show that I didn’t even know the season 5 premiere had aired until a colleague reminded me that Carrie and her quivering lip had returned to Showtime. Give it a shot, she told me. And so I did. Three weeks ago we documented why we fell back in love with the show, so I won’t be long-winded. Taking Carrie out of the CIA and placing her in Germany to work as a civilian was exactly what Homeland needed. The season felt more like a reboot than a continuation of season 4, which was marred by uninspired writing and unnecessary rage-inducing scenes, Carrie’s near-drowning of her baby daughter chief among them. But this time we had three strong women who took it upon themselves, it seemed, to save the series. The showrunner’s ability to navigate modern day politics also moved the show back on track. Let’s hope it doesn’t careen into TV oblivion once again in season 6.

Master of None Netflix

Master of None
Aziz Ansari is well on his way to cultural iconic status. The Parks and Recreation star has been busy since NBC’s hit show completed its 7th and final season last February. He navigated a comedy tour and had his first book published, which turned into a best seller. Ansari has not grown complacent. Master of None, released on Netflix in November, follows Ansari’s character, Dev, as he contemplates important societal and cultural issues from one episode to the next.

The Man in The High Castle series review

The Man in the High Castle
Let the streaming wars begin! Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is the latest binge-worthy show to hit our digital library, and it may very well be one of the best. The show, based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, documents an alternate history in which the United States and its allies lose World War II and is subsequently conquered by the Nazis. The Nazis share the US with Imperial Japan, and as the show moves we see tension arise as the Japanese suspect that Germany may soon renege on the agreement. A small but persistent band of resistance fighters eager to see America rise once again are in pursuit of explosive propaganda videos created by the so-called “Man in the High Castle,” that if viewed by the general public could incite mayhem.

Freeport Man Charged With Murdering Father

A 24-year-old man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly stabbing his father to death following a heated dispute inside their Freeport home, Nassau County police said.

Jordan Johnson
Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson, 24, charged with second-degree murder, will be arraigned Wednesday at First District Court in Hempstead. His father, 55-year-old Russell Johnson, was pronounced dead just before 4 p.m. Tuesday, police said. Investigators have yet to determine what the dispute was over and what prompted it to turn violent.

“I don’t have a motive,” Det. Capt. John Azzata, commander of the Homicide Squad, told reporters during a news conference Wednesday at police headquarters in Mineola. “Obviously, it was something that disturbed both of them severely for it to end like this.”

Russell Johnson’s sister was talking on the phone with her brother when she heard an altercation at his house and called 911. Freeport Village police responded at 3:45 p.m. and placed Jordan Johnson under arrest.

The elder Johnson was stabbed multiple times, Azzata said, adding that the pending autopsy report would determine the number of stab wounds. He declined to identify the murder weapon and did not say if it was recovered.

Tuesday was not the first time police had been called to the Loretta Lane home where father and son lived alone. From 2007 to 2013, police came to the residence eight times to respond to domestic disputes involving either another one of Russell Johnson’s sons or an ex-wife, Azzata said. Only one arrest was made over the six-year period, and in that case it was Johnson’s other son who was taken into custody for unspecified reasons.

“All others were closed after an investigation,” Azzata said.

Aside from Tuesday’s call, the most recent incident was in June, when Jordan Johnson was removed from the home and taken to a local hospital, Azzata said. He was not charged with any crimes.

“He does have a medical history,” Azzata said of Jordan Johnson. The homicide detective declined to elaborate. Jordan Johnson has no prior arrest record.

Long Island Muslims Condemn Terror, While Islamophobia Intensifies

Muslim American Rally Huntington

It was 2 p.m. on a recent Friday when the cold, pattering rain finally ceased, just in time for dozens of American flag-waving Muslim Americans to stream out of Masjid Noor following a passionate sermon attended by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

As dozens of congregants exited the Huntington mosque, they turned toward a busy road and made the small climb up the mosque’s rain-soaked parking lot. There was a determination in their strides that belied the anxiousness enveloping their much-maligned community.

It’s not unusual to see dozens of people sharing laughs and congregating near a mosque on the busiest prayer day of the week. But this particular service boasted an impressive showing of around 100 congregants kneeling for prayer, while about a dozen dignitaries—Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, New York State and local lawmakers, interfaith leaders and police brass—respectfully watched the prayer service from two rows of seats in the rear of the mosque.

Leaders of Masjid Noor, who were motivated by recent high-profile attacks and virulent anti-Islam comments emanating from the Republican presidential candidates, organized the interfaith rally they tellingly called: “Proud to be an American.”

Standing under cloudy gray skies, a bearded man proudly waving an American flag bellowed, “God bless America!”

A young man in a wool Ohio State hat held a sign that declared:

“Whoever kills an innocent life, it is as if he’s killed all of mankind.”

An older Pakistani man who proclaimed his love for not only America but his adopted hometown of Huntington was toting a sign featuring a girl wearing a pink Hijab with Old Glory in the background that announced:

“No to bigotry, violence & Islamophobia.”

The huddled masses stood with their backs to the road and trained their eyes on the mosque as speaker after speaker passionately stood up for their beliefs.

“Donald Trump,” Dr. Hafiz Ur Rahman said, “when I came here from Africa, I burnt my boat, so I am not going back. I am here to stay.”

Rahman’s unexpected quip prompted chuckles from the close to 100 people rallying in support of their religion. Indeed, Muslims can tell jokes, too.

Trump’s increasingly inflammatory remarks may have provided the incentive for the rally, but the billionaire real estate magnate’s name was hardly mentioned. Instead, non-Muslim speakers pledged their support to this beleaguered community while Muslim leaders sought to reaffirm their allegiance to a republic they adore because of the bountiful opportunities it offers.

“There’s no such thing as how an American looks; what you see right here is America,” Dr. Mamoon Iqbal, a board member of Masjid Noor, yelled into the microphone. “Everyone who came into this country came from somewhere else. We are the immigrant population: We have first generation here, we have second generation here; this is America!”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone agreed.

“This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, this is an American issue,” said Bellone, a Democrat, to applause. “This is about what we stand for as a country, and we must always be cognizant of the fact that there will be—in every generation, in every time—people who will stand up and who will attempt to undermine what this country represents, and that is that all people have the right and the ability to practice their faith and their religion. That is what this country is founded upon.”

Once again, Long Island Muslims were compelled to let their voices be heard in unison after the recent terror attacks in Southern California and Paris. Here they were again answering for the atrocities perpetrated by a small band of bloodthirsty, apocalyptic terrorists perverting a religion worshiped by 1.6 billion people worldwide. A religion that President George W. Bush said, six days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, represents “peace.”

Yet suspicion abounds unabated despite the persistent pleas for tolerance and understanding.

After each deadly strike, a common refrain seems to ricochet through American mass media: that Muslims don’t condemn terror. Yet Muslims insist they do condemn these terrible atrocities but the coverage is woefully inadequate. At last Friday’s rally in Huntington, there were no TV cameras in sight to broadcast the emphatic, heartfelt, broad-based rebuke of terror, rampant Islamophobia, violence and bigotry.

An organizer said invitations were sent to multiple news organizations in the area, but the Press appeared to be the only outlet reporting on the event. It was as if these leaders were shouting into a void that keeps expanding after each terror attack.

Since media coverage was virtually non-existent, here’s what Long Islanders didn’t get a chance to see in the comfort of their own homes: Muslim Americans proudly displaying their affection for a country that many of them were not born into but said they cherish once they came here. The image of flag-waving Muslim Americans proudly professing their devotion to the United States directly contradicts the mainstream perception of Muslims.

The rally was preceded by a powerful sermon that gave non-Muslims a glimpse into what the religion dictates.

“None of you can complete your faith until you provide for your neighbors what you have for yourself,” shouted Dr. Mufti Mughal.

“A person has no faith who goes to sleep while his stomach is filled while his neighbor does not have anything to eat,” he added. “This person cannot be a believer.”

The spread of hateful rhetoric has caused deep angst in the community. Muslim leaders in both Nassau and Suffolk counties have told similar stories of congregants so fearful of being admonished for their faith that they are hesitant to even go out in public.

“Of course, they’re afraid to go out! I’m afraid to go out,” Nayyar Imam, Suffolk County police’s first-ever Muslim chaplain, told the Press. “I used to go out, like 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock, to the mosque, but now I don’t go before 6 [a.m.]. I go there late because there are crazy people out there, and you should not be alone, especially at night in dark places.”

That fear is widespread.

On LI, hostility toward Muslims has even seeped into a school in Suffolk, where a student reportedly called a 7-year-old classmate who wears a Hijab a “terrorist.” Just as disturbing, Suffolk police are investigating a repulsive competition instigated on Facebook recruiting people to tear Hijabs off women’s heads, officials said.

All these social anxieties have come to a head as Republican presidential candidates have successfully channeled fear of “The Other” to win support. The most prolific anti-immigrant candidate is Trump, who recently proposed to ban all Muslims from entering the US, the latest in an ever-growing list of what many immigrants see as objectionable policy recommendations espoused by the GOP frontrunner, whom they consider to be a xenophobic demagogue pandering for votes.

Since the attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, Muslim Americans and other faith leaders on the Island have been working behind the scenes to improve relations inside their respective communities. They’ve met at churches and mosques and discussed tangible ways to retake the narrative about Islam from the grasp of terrorists. They hope their outreach efforts will give Americans who have had little or no interaction with Muslims a truer sense of what the religion represents.

Muslims in both counties have also met with police officials and discussed various initiatives they hope to implement in the near future. One of the first requests from Muslim leaders, that police bolster patrols around mosques during heightened prayer times, has already been implemented. Other mechanisms intended to improve cooperation between Muslims and law enforcement are in the works.

Much of what Muslims are doing flies under the radar. They are being proactive, leaders in the community say. They are reaching out to other faiths. Yet stats show that the majority of Americans—62 percent—don’t know any Muslims, and most of what the American public hears or sees about Muslims are images of masked murderers justifying mass bloodletting by invoking Islam. Leaders on Long Island agreed that much more remains to be done to create better understanding between people of different faiths.

“I ask all our community members to please come together and condemn all sorts of hate, of violence, of bigotry, of Islamophobia, of anti-Semitism; any kind of thing that makes differentiation between us, we condemn it wholeheartedly,” said Iqbal to the crowd at Friday’s rally.

”This is why we are here on this cold day in the middle of our work day,” he continued. “We’re here to stand together as a community to show the people who have hate for us, that this is what Islam means and this is what being an American means.”

American Muslims know that some of the responsibility falls on them to change the discourse. And they’re eager to get their message out because they realize their religion is once again unfairly under attack.

Muslim leaders held a rally at Masjid Noor in Huntington on Dec. 18, 2015 to condemn violence and bigotry. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)
Muslim leaders held a rally at Masjid Noor in Huntington on Dec. 18, 2015 to condemn violence and bigotry. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

STANDING UP TO HATE

Habeeb Ahmed was standing in a bare, sheet-rocked room inside the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, which will eventually serve as a classroom for young Muslims when the mosque’s $4 million expansion is finally complete. He’s expected to take over as ICLI president in three years.

Ahmed had been busy all day. The San Bernardino attacks had happened a week-and-a-half before and Trump had just proposed to ban all Muslims from coming into the country. News crews had been at the mosque to discuss the attacks, which as a Muslim, he had to answer for.

“We are at the bottom of the barrel these days in the community,” Ahmed lamented.

Like many leaders at ICLI, Ahmed, who has spent three-quarters of his life in America, is an eternal optimist. Despite following a religion hijacked by terrorists and criticized for ostensibly being used as the vehicle to carry out their attacks, Ahmed and others insist things will get better, that everything they’ve worked toward—peace, harmony and mutual respect—will one day come to fruition.

Just before Friday’s services, two women from a nearby Unitarian church had visited Ahmed because they wanted to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community.

“It is very powerful,” a grateful Ahmed told the Press. “It was so kind. It is very powerful. Believe me, I thanked them 10 times. They looked at me like this guy is losing his marbles.”

Ahmed laughed at the way he had responded to their entreaty.

“Really,” he continued, “to me that was a million-dollar gesture.” He recalled telling them, “You have your own life to live, but you said, ‘Let me go and spend some time with these people.’”

After 13 people were killed in Southern California earlier this month, interfaith leaders suggested that members of the ICLI visit a local church to meet with congregants there and sit down for coffee. Interfaith leaders got the ball rolling, and within days Ahmed made plans to visit Parkway Community Church in Hicksville.

The pastor at Parkway Community Church is Rev. Harold Lay. He has been involved in interfaith work since 9/11, when he was living in New Jersey. But his interaction with Muslims goes back further than that. When he was a student, Lay took a trip to Beirut, Lebanon, where he got to speak to Lebanese people and learn about their culture. (Beirut was the site of a suicide blast that killed 40 people one day before the Paris attacks on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people and injured scores more.)

Lay told the Press his congregation had welcomed 15 members of the ICLI for Sunday services.

“Our people were pleasantly surprised,” he said on a recent Thursday morning inside the church.

It’s small exchanges of greetings like these that can exact change, he said.

“The interaction is very important because it breaks down the stereotypes,” Lay told the Press. “When the media says a ‘Muslim did this,’ you have to ask, ‘Well, would all Muslims do this?’ ‘A Christian did this.’ ‘Would all Christians do this?’

“As you know more people of another faith, you would say, ‘Well, that person wouldn’t do that,’” he continued. “So the label has less significance, and we begin to see that the actions of people of all religions are unique to the person choosing to act and not specifically to the religion.”

Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter echoes the sentiment. He is very cognizant of how fear can flip a community upside down. Wolter is the pastor of The Congregational Church of Patchogue, which served as a refuge for local residents shaken up after the hate crime attack that killed 37-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in November 2008. Seven teens were convicted in the case, which received national attention and highlighted deep fissures in the community over race relations.

“When this issue began to rear its ugly head, it began to feel very viscerally like I was getting déjà vu,” Wolter told the Press.

Anti-Muslim sentiment in 2015 has reminded Wolter of Patchogue in 2008.

“I’m not going to sit around and let this thing happen again,” he said he thought to himself. So, instead of just preaching about acceptance, Wolter decided to act. Within days of the San Bernardino massacre, he created a movement called “Adopt-a-Mosque” with a goal of inspiring people of different faiths to mingle together.

“In the past 15 years of interfaith initiatives, I have learned that the vast majority of Muslim-Americans are peaceful, purposeful and patriotic,” Wolter wrote on the Adopt-a-Mosque program’s website. “It is unfortunate that the entirety of Islam is being held accountable for the heinous acts of a few fanatics claiming to be devout Muslims. Stories of successful relations between Muslims and non-Muslims are routinely ignored by the media whose commonly known industry mantra is, ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’”

About 100 Muslim Americans rallied at Masjid Noor in Huntington to reaffirm their love for America and denounce terror. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)
About 100 Muslim Americans rallied at Masjid Noor in Huntington to reaffirm their love for America and denounce terror. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

While initiatives like Adopt-a-Mosque have a chance of sparking productive conversations about Islamophobia, Wolter hopes many mosques and Islamic groups will reach out to churches and synagogues in their communities.

“I really believe mosques and Islamic civic associations need to do–and this is a generalization–a better job of getting out of the mosque, getting out of the Islamic associations, and into the churches and into the fellowships, synagogues,” he said.

“I know it’s not easy when you’re a Muslim to knock on a door…but I think this is what it takes,” he added.

It’s not only Muslims and Christians working hard to debunk dangerous myths about Muslim Americans, who make up less than 1 percent of the entire US population.

At the Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank has penned an online petition called “Clergy & Religious Organizations Against Terror.” In it, he reminds people that faiths are meant to promote peace and mutual understanding, while also noting that terrorists who use religion as the basis for bloodshed are “victims of insidious deception.”

Rabbi Rank acknowledged that there’s a real fear among Americans due to these high-profile attacks. It’s that dread that presidential candidates have used to promote policies that experts say plays into the hands of terror groups like the so-called Islamic State who can then use anti-Islam comments as propaganda to brainwash potential recruits under the guise that a Western war is being waged against Islam.

“That fear is not to be minimized,” Rabbi Rank told the Press, “but at the same time we have to make sure that people do not demonize other groups at the expense of those good people who are trying to lead lives of faith and lives of integrity.

“Generalizations are odious,” he added, “and when an entire group is demonized, we end up hurting good people, and we end up hurting ourselves as well.”

NOT GOING ANYWHERE

The attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have incited a level of Islamophobia that many Muslims say they haven’t felt since 9/11.

Across America Muslims have faced a backlash walking down the street, inside shops they own, at town hall meetings and in classrooms. Mosques, the symbol of the Islamic faith, have been defaced, burned and vandalized. Korans have also been defiled with feces and found on the doorsteps of mosques with bullet holes.

In Meriden, Conn. a man was arrested for shooting at the mosque next door to his home. In Astoria, Queens, a Muslim store owner was beaten so badly he thought he was going to be killed. A woman in Cleveland was almost run over for wearing a Hijab.

Similar incidents have occurred all over the country. Attacks like this have happened before, but never have mainstream presidential candidates been so willing to stoke that fear in order to win votes.

The response from Muslims is not to fight back, but to engage with their community. In Nassau and Suffolk counties, Muslim leaders have met with police brass to express their concerns and consider ways to improve communication.

On a recent Thursday in Yaphank, Muslim leaders were invited to Suffolk police headquarters to meet with newly-installed deputy commissioner Tim Sini, who is the county executive’s pick to take over as commissioner, and his own deputies.

“This is a particularly appropriate time to call this meeting in light of some of the national rhetoric about Muslims in America,” Sini told reporters at a press conference that day.

Among the ideas they had discussed, Sini said they talked about creating a private messaging service so Suffolk police and the Muslim community could seamlessly share messages. Officers of the police department may soon be visiting mosques to give members of the community several tips to prevent them from being victimized in public. The department is also considering establishing a liaison from the Hate Crimes Unit who would act as a direct point of contact for Muslim residents.

“What has happened, the rhetoric [is] much higher than after 9/11,” Dr. Hafiz Ur Rahman told reporters. “It has definitely frightened the community. Children are afraid to go out. Women are afraid to go out. Even the men.”

The rhetoric is so vitriolic that even young students seem to have been caught up in the wave of hate.

Dr. Mohamed Sameen, who was at the press conference, said his 7-year-old daughter became a victim when a classmate recently called her a “terrorist.” Sameen has two children, and his daughter wears a Hijab to school.

“She feels threatened,” he said. He and the police declined to identify the school.

Muslim Americans leaders met with deputy commissioner of Suffolk County police Tim Sini on Dec. 17 to discuss issues facing the community. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)
Muslim Americans leaders met with deputy commissioner of Suffolk County police Tim Sini on Dec. 17 to discuss issues facing the community. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

More disturbingly, Muslim-bashing is even being regarded as a sport.

Sameen noted that he’s seen some people on LI using a Facebook page to invite others to rip Hijabs off of women’s heads. Sini confirmed that the office of the chief of department is investigating the case. He forcefully condemned these attacks.

“The Suffolk County Police Department will not tolerate any sort of criminal activity toward any cultural group, any religious group in Suffolk County, and that includes the Muslim community,” he said.

“We will respond effectively and we will respond with vigor,” he warned.

Similar steps are being taken in Nassau to protect Muslim citizens.

Acting Nassau County Commissioner Thomas Krumpter told the Press that his department held a meeting with leaders from the county’s mosques several weeks ago to discuss concerns that have been raised.

“We have a longstanding relationship with the Muslim community and the Muslim leadership in Nassau County,” Krumpter said.

The commissioner noted that he intends to visit mosques across the county over the next couple of months. Some recommendations from Muslim leaders, he said, are already being implemented.

“I think most people in Nassau County realize that Muslims are a good group of people, and there’s some people who have twisted ideology out there,” he told the Press.

The acting commissioner pointed out that the Muslims he met with had condemned those atrocities committed in the name of their religion.

Muslim Americans can only hope that their message of tolerance will take hold as the election year dawns.

“It’s very important not to judge a religion of over a billion by select thousands,” Yehia Sewid, 19, of Dix Hills, told the Press during the spirited rally in Huntington.

“A lot of people think that innocent Muslim Americans aren’t coming out and supporting the American cause,” he added. “It’s very important for us to come out in solidarity with innocent lives that are killed, regardless of faith, regardless of religion, color, creed. It’s very important to come out and display the message that we are not chaotic people. We’re not barbaric. We’re not who these groups of people display our religion to be.”

Muslims are speaking out. But who else is listening?

Cops: Boy Scouts Leader Gave Teen LSD, Alcohol

A 32-year-old assistant scout master allegedly provided a 13-year-old Boy Scouts member LSD and alcohol. (SCPD)

A 32-year-old assistant scout master from West Babylon was arrested last weekend for providing a teenage Boy Scout with LSD, marijuana and alcohol earlier this month, Suffolk County police said.

Lawrence Moschitta was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and unlawfully dealing with a child. He was arraigned on Tuesday and bail was set at $2,500.

Moschitta, who serves as an assistant scoutmaster at Boy Scouts Troop 183, allegedly used the drugs in the 13-year-old’s presence, said Timothy Sini, Suffolk police’s deputy commissioner, during a press conference Thursday. Moschitta allegedly shared the drugs and alcohol with the teen at Moschitta’s home on Dec. 3, Sini said.

Sini declined to say if the victim used any of the drugs or alcohol, and he wouldn’t elaborate on the teen’s condition because of his status as a minor. LSD, also known as acid, is a hallucinogenic drug that is classified Schedule 1 by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal agency’s most serious designation of illegal drugs, meaning it has no recognized medical value and does pose a dangerous risk of psychological harm.

When asked by a reporter why it took four days for police to publicly release information about Moschitta’s arrest, Sini cited the sensitivity of the investigation.

“It would be reckless for the police department to come out prematurely before we ascertained all the relevant facts,” Sini said.

The CEO of the Suffolk County Council of the Boy Scouts could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Moschitta had been removed from the troop and is no longer a member, according to a letter from the Boy Scouts to parents.

Pol: Rename Donald Trump State Park After Muslim Revolutionary War Hero

Donald Trump
(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

A Long Island lawmaker has proposed removing Donald Trump’s name from a vacant New York State park named in his honor and renaming it after a Muslim soldier in the Revolutionary War who played a prominent role in two historic battles against the British.

The proposal comes as Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, has proposed banning Muslims from entering the country and increasingly espoused anti-Islam rhetoric during his campaign rallies.

“When demagogues spew hate, it is our national and state responsibility to act because history has taught painful lessons that inaction enables the merchants of ignorance and hate,” state Assemb. Chuck Lavine (D-Glen Cove) wrote in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week.

Lavine suggested the state scrub Trump’s name from the state park’s signs and rename it “Peter Salaam State Park.”

Lavine is not the only state lawmaker to suggest a name change. On Monday, state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn), penned his own letter to Cuomo criticizing Trump’s “discriminatory” campaign. Squadron said he intends to introduce legislation to replace “the current name [of the park] with a more appropriate one.”

Donald J. Trump State Park, located in both Westchester and Putnam counties, was reportedly closed in 2010 due to budget cuts. Trump, according to a March 2010 story in The New York Times, donated 436 acres to the state after a failed bid to build a $10 million golf course on the land.

“If they’re going to close it, I’ll take the land back,” Trump reportedly said at the time.

His latest rallying cry—that the US ban all Muslims from entering the country—sparked worldwide condemnation and comparisons to Hitler. Trump’s campaign has focused largely on anti-immigrant sentiment in the US in the wake of high-profile attacks by terror groups like ISIS. In recent months he proposed that all mosques be monitored and suggested all Muslims carry identification.

While most of his GOP challengers have criticized the billionaire real estate magnate for his rhetoric, Trump’s remarks seem to have buoyed his campaign. People have been coming out in droves to his rallies and Trump has separated himself from the rest of the GOP pack in national polls despite losing ground to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in Iowa.

Lavine chose Salaam because of his “meaningful roles” in the Battles of Concord and Bunker Hill. Salaam, a former slave turned Revolutionary War soldier, is said to have fired the fatal shot that killed prominent British Marine Gen. John Pitcairn at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He also served in the Battles of Saratoga and Stony Point, according to Lavine’s letter.

“Renaming the parkland after a true American patriot is entirely fitting and will send the world a powerful message of the values we Americans and New Yorkers stand for,” he said.

Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment. In an interview with CNN on Monday, Cuomo compared Trump to an Islamic State recruiter.

“I believe it’s hurting this country. I believe it is actually fomenting the growth of ISIL,” Cuomo said, using another name for the so-called Islamic State, also know as ISIS.

“Donald Trump could be a recruitment poster for ISIL, because he is fanning the flames of hate,” the governor continued. “One billion Muslims were just alienated with one sentence. At this point…we don’t need more Muslim enemies. We need more Muslim allies. And saying that this country doesn’t trust or doesn’t like all Muslims and damns a religion, plays right into their hands.”