Sunday, August 28, 2005

Bank robbery

Hostage ordeal ends in suicide
Suspect hangs self in Albany bank; 4 captives are safe

By MATT PACENZA and BOB GARDINIER, Staff writer, Albany (NY) Times Union
First published: Sunday, August 28, 2005

ALBANY -- An armed man who took four hostages at a Pine Hills bank hanged himself Saturday evening, ending a tense five-hour standoff with police in the midst of a busy neighborhood. The hostages were unharmed.
Just after 6 p.m., three female employees and one male customer of the Trustco Bank at Madison Avenue and West Lawrence Street hustled out the bank's front door, just across the street from the Albany Police Department's Center Station. When a police SWAT team stormed the bank, they found the suspect dead, hanging in a back room.

The scene unfolded as nearby streets and restaurants were busy with families dropping off arriving college students. Dozens of residents peered around police barricades as the drama played out. An official using a bullhorn pleaded with the hostage-taker to surrender and free the hostages.

Police officers surreptitiously entered the building at about 5:15 p.m., but they were not directly involved in the release of the hostages or the suicide of the suspect, police said. They gained entrance after a police helicopter hovered 30 feet above the bank, creating a diversion so that a team could enter the building for a possible rescue attempt.

But less than an hour later, officers saw the hostages inside the bank gesturing for them to enter. Police in turn waved for the hostages to exit. They exited the bank at 6:07 p.m. As a precautionary measure, officers handcuffed the three employees and one customer. They determined that the suspect was still inside.

They even ordered the bank customer, a man, to drop to his knees and put his hands behind his head. Police reacted cautiously, authorities said, because they did not know until that moment that there was a fourth hostage in the bank. It was quickly determined that the customer was not the suspect. The hostages were debreifed, taken to an area hospital for evaluation and then released to their families, police said.

The confrontation began at around 1 p.m., when the suspect -- who police declined to identify by name Saturday night, saying only that he was a "youngish," white male -- entered the bank as it was closing. A silent alarm in the bank was triggered, said Detective James Miller, Department of Public Safety spokesman.

About 30 minutes after the drama ended, Mayor Jerry Jennings held an impromptu conference. "All four of them are safe; he committed suicide," said Jennings.

The standoff paralyzed a bustling neighborhood. Police escorted diners and bar patrons at several Madison Avenue establishments out their back doors as the afternoon dragged on.

Gari McGladrigan was in Albany to drop off her 18-year-old son, an incoming freshman at The College of Saint Rose, at his dorm room. She waited anxiously Saturday afternoon, unable to get to her car that was trapped behind police barricades.

"I had to say goodbye to my son in the middle of all this," said McGladrigan.

The Middletown, Conn., resident and emergency room nurse is no stranger to stress.

Her husband, a paramedic and the Saint Rose student's stepfather, is currently serving in a medical unit in Tikrit, Iraq.

"It's been a trying year," she said.

About an hour before the standoff ended in suicide, an official's voice amplified by a bullhorn could be heard. These sentences were clear: "Open the door. ... We can work it out. ... We need some way to talk now. ... Pick up your phone and call."

Officers were in communication with the hostage-taker earlier in the afternoon, according to Jennings, but those talks broke off as the afternoon waned. The police's work was complicated by the fact that the suspect was able to view security cameras from inside the bank that gave him a view of the street outside, according to the mayor.
As of Saturday night, police were not saying why the unidentified man had entered the bank or why he had taken the hostages. They also would not specify with what weaponry he had.

At least two teams of SWAT officers, police snipers and other police converged on the bank at about 1 p.m. Vehicles and officers from the FBI were also on scene.

Madison and Western avenues were closed between Allen and North Main streets. Police, in cordoning off the area, shut down neighborhood businesses, asking employees and patrons to stay inside places like the Price Chopper at 1060 Madison, a Mobil station at 1075 Madison, and Mahar's tavern at 1110 Madison.

Susan Graham, a nearby resident who was dining at Junior's, just west of the bank, said a police officer had told patrons at 1:30 p.m. to remain inside the restaurant. About two hours later, those inside were escorted out a back door and evacuated from the area.

Scores of neighborhood residents and the media gathered on sidewalks and street corners watching the scene unfold.

"The Albany Police Department did a fantastic job," said Bob Leonard, a Trustco bank spokesman. After being asked about previous robberies at the location, he said, "It's just unfortunate, we wish it didn't happen."

Matt Pacenza can be reached at 454-5533 or by e-mail at

Monday, August 22, 2005

Gay Batman

Swiped from

'Gay Batman' show riles comics publisher
PlanetOut Network - published Friday, August 19, 2005

Paintings of gay fantasies involving comic book heroes Batman and Robin have raised more than just eyebrows while on display in a New York gallery -- especially for DC Comics, which owns the copyrights to the characters.

Lawyers for the comic books publisher wants the display closed and has threatened legal action against the Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery, which opened the exhibit in February.

The watercolor paintings by Mark Chamberlain show the superheroes in a number of semi-naked, homoerotic poses. One depicts the Caped Crusader and his companion kissing.

"DC Comics wants me to hand over all unsold work and invoices for the sold work," said gallery owner Kathleen Cullen.

The Web site Artnet posted several images of the paintings, and it reported receiving a similar letter from DC Comics. DC Comics reportedly refused to comment on the matter.

Conflicts over the use of commercial or cartoon imagery in fine art is not uncommon, according to Artnet. Both Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg settled suits over copyright violations in their work, and artist Jeff Koons took a similar case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


When I meditated on the word Guidance, I kept seeing "dance" at the end of the word. I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing. When two people try to lead, nothing feels right. The movement doesn't flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky. When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music. One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another. It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully. The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other. My eyes drew back to the word Guidance. When I saw "G" I thought of God, followed by "u" and "I". "God, "u" and "I" dance." God, you, and I dance. As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life. Once again, I became willing to let God lead.

My prayer for you today is that God's blessings and mercies be upon you on this day and everyday. May you abide in God as God abides in you. Dance together with God, trusting God to lead and to guide you through each season of your life.

There is no cost but a lot of rewards; so let's continue to pray for one another. And I Hope You Dance!


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Message Thing By JIM WALLIS

Since the 2004 election, there has been much soul-searching and hand-wringing, especially among Democrats, about how to "frame" political messages. The loss to George W. Bush was painful enough, but the Republicans' post-election claims of mandate, and their triumphal promises to relegate the Democrats to permanent minority status, left political liberals in a state of panic.

So the minority party has been searching, some would say desperately, for the right "narrative": the best story line, metaphors, even magic words to bring back electoral success. The operative term among Democratic politicians and strategists has become "framing." How to tell the story has become more important than the story itself. And that could be a bigger mistake for the Democrats than the ones they made during the election.

Language is clearly important in politics, but the message remains more important than the messaging. In the interests of full disclosure, let me note that I have been talking to the Democrats about both. But I believe that first, you must get your message straight. What are your best ideas, and what are you for - as opposed to what you're against in the other party's message? Only when you answer those questions can you figure out how to present your message to the American people.

Because the Republicans, with the help of the religious right, have captured the language of values and religion (narrowly conceived as only abortion and gay marriage), the Democrats have also been asking how to "take back the faith." But that means far more than throwing a few Bible verses into policy discussions, offering candidates some good lines from famous hymns, or teaching them how to clap at the right times in black churches. Democrats need to focus on the content of religious convictions and the values that underlie them.

The discussion that shapes our political future should be one about moral values, but the questions to ask are these: Whose values? Which values? And how broadly and deeply will our political values be defined? Democrats must offer new ideas and a fresh agenda, rather than linguistic strategies to sell an old set of ideologies and interest group demands.

To be specific, I offer five areas in which the Democrats should change their message and then their messaging.

First, somebody must lead on the issue of poverty, and right now neither party is doing so. The Democrats assume the poverty issue belongs to them, but with the exception of John Edwards in his 2004 campaign, they haven't mustered the gumption to oppose a government that habitually favors the wealthy over everyone else. Democrats need new policies to offer the 36 million Americans, including 13 million children, who live below the poverty line, as well as the 9.8 million families one recent study identified as "working hard but falling short."

In fact, the Democrats should draw a line in the sand when it comes to wartime tax cuts for the wealthy, rising deficits, and the slashing of programs for low-income families and children. They need proposals that combine to create a "living family income" for wage-earners, as well as a platform of "fair trade," as opposed to just free trade, in the global economy. Such proposals would cause a break with many of the Democrats' powerful corporate sponsors, but they would open the way for a truly progressive economic agenda. Many Americans, including religious voters who see poverty as a compelling issue of conscience, desire such a platform.

Similarly, a growing number of American Christians speak of the environment as a religious concern - one of stewardship of God's creation. The National Association of Evangelicals recently called global warming a faith issue. But Republicans consistently choose oil and gas interests over a cleaner world. The Democrats need to call for the reversal of these priorities. They must insist that private interests should never obstruct our country's path to a cleaner and more efficient energy future, let alone hold our foreign policy hostage to the dictates of repressive regimes in the Middle East.

On the issues that Republicans have turned into election-winning "wedges," Democrats will win back "values voters" only with fresh ideas. Abortion is one such case. Democrats need to think past catchphrases, like "a woman's right to choose," or the alternative, "safe, legal and rare." More than 1 million abortions are performed every year in this country. The Democrats should set forth proposals that aim to reduce that number by at least half. Such a campaign could emphasize adoption reform, health care, and child care; combating teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse; improving poor and working women's incomes; and supporting reasonable restrictions on abortion, like parental notification for minors (with necessary legal protections against parental abuse). Such a program could help create some much-needed common ground.

As for "family values," the Democrats can become the truly pro-family party by supporting parents in doing the most important and difficult job in America: raising children. They need to adopt serious pro-family policies, including some that defend children against Hollywood sleaze and Internet pornography. That's an issue that has come to be identified with the religious right. But when I say in public lectures that being a parent is now a countercultural activity, I've found that liberal and conservative parents agree. Rather than fighting over gay marriage, the Democrats must show that it is indeed possible to be "pro-family" and in favor of gay civil rights at the same time.

Finally, on national security, Democrats should argue that the safety of the United States depends on the credibility of its international leadership. We can secure that credibility in Iraq only when we renounce any claim to oil or future military bases - something Democrats should advocate as the first step toward bringing other countries to our side. While Republicans have argued that international institutions are too weak to be relied upon in the age of terrorism, Democrats should suggest reforming them, creating a real International Criminal Court with an enforcement body, for example, as well as an international force capable of intervening in places like Darfur. Stronger American leadership in reducing global poverty would also go a long way toward improving the country's image around the world.

Until Democrats are willing to be honest about the need for new social policy and compelling political vision, they will never get the message right. Find the vision first, and the language will follow.

Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine, is the author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It."

UMC Bishops Back Nuke Ban

United Methodist Bishops Back Complete Ban on Nuclear Weapons; Church Joins in Prayer for Victims of Hiroshima, Nagasaki Bombings

WASHINGTON – As the world marks the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, United Methodist bishops are urging governments to begin immediate negotiations for a complete ban on nuclear weapons.

“We are in prayer for the victims and survivors of the attack on Japan,” said Bishop Roy I. Sano, executive secretary of the council. “We are in prayer that peace will come to a troubled world where nuclear proliferation remains a constant and serious threat.”

The denomination’s bishops approved a resolution marking the early August anniversary of the bombings. In their resolution, the bishops noted that “many nations assume the United States’ nuclear arsenals are a real threat to world peace” because of the 1945 bombings in Japan.

This resolution is consistent with the Council of Bishops long-held position opposing nuclear proliferation, Sano said. In 1986, bishops authored a document In Defense of Creation: The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace that has served as a foundation for the denomination’s perspective on nuclear war.

The United Methodist Church has nearly 11 million members in the U.S., Africa, Europe, and Asia. The Council of Bishops consists of 69 active bishops and approximately 100 retired bishops around the globe.

The full text of the Council’s resolution follows:

60th Anniversary of Atomic Bombing
August 2005 marks the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church joins in prayer for the victims and survivors of the first, and hopefully the last, nuclear warfare. We pray that peace may soon prevail in this broken world, and such weapons of mass annihilation may never be used again on any nation or on any people.

We believe that the spirit of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty is to reduce and eventually eliminate the possibility of a nuclear disaster. It means not only to stop the nations that do not currently have nuclear weapons from developing such weapons of mass destruction in the future, but also to reduce and eventually to eliminate all nuclear weapons, including the 10,000 possessed by the United States. We realize that one of the causes of the alleged violations of non-proliferation treaty is the fear of possible nuclear attack by nations considered a “threat to national security.” Since the United States is the only nation in the world that has ever used nuclear weapons on another nation, not only once, but twice, many nations naturally assume that the United States’ nuclear arsenals are a real threat to world peace. In addition, other nations continue the research and experimentation for the development of nuclear arms and weaponry. In the midst of the danger of this proliferation, we yearn for God’s shalom.

Therefore, we urge the governments of all nations developing or possessing nuclear weaponry to stop further development and to vow never again to use their nuclear arsenals as a way of solving international conflicts. We call upon these nations to begin immediate negotiations with the rest of the world toward a complete ban on nuclear weapons.

We also urge, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the study and utilization of the Council of Bishops foundation document, “In Defense of Creation —The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace.”

Adopted May 2005

"Monster" by Steppenwolf

Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And 'til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end
While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

The blue and grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has it's share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But it's protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it's a monster and will not obey

The spirit was freedom and justice
And it's keepers seem generous and kind
It's leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won't pay it no mind
'Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
And now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it's all just an echo of what they've been told
Yeah, there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watchin'

Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin' the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can't understand
We don't know how to mind our own business
'Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who's the winner
We can't pay the cost
'Cause there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watching

America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster