Famous quotes

"Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually" - Stephen Covey

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code passed by the Parliament is a welcome overhaul of the existing framework dealing with insolvency of corporates, individuals, partnerships and other entities. It paves the way for much needed reforms while focussing on creditor driven insolvency resolution.

BACKGROUND

At present, there are multiple overlapping laws and adjudicating forums dealing with financial failure and insolvency of companies and individuals in India. The current legal and institutional framework does not aid lenders in effective and timely recovery or restructuring of defaulted assets and causes undue strain on the Indian credit system. Recognising that reforms in the bankruptcy and insolvency regime are critical for improving the business environment and alleviating distressed credit markets, the Government introduced the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Bill in November 2015, drafted by a specially constituted 'Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee' (BLRC) under the Ministry of Finance. Trilegal worked with the BLRC to assist with the drafting of the bill.

After a public consultation process and recommendations from a joint committee of Parliament, both houses of Parliament have now passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Code). While the legislation of the Code is a historical development for economic reforms in India, its effect will be seen in due course when the institutional infrastructure and implementing rules as envisaged under the Code are formed.

THE CODE

The Code offers a uniform, comprehensive insolvency legislation encompassing all companies, partnerships and individuals (other than financial firms). The Government is proposing a separate framework for bankruptcy resolution in failing banks and financial sector entities.
One of the fundamental features of the Code is that it allows creditors to assess the viability of a debtor as a business decision, and agree upon a plan for its revival or a speedy liquidation. The Code creates a new institutional framework, consisting of a regulator, insolvency professionals, information utilities and adjudicatory mechanisms, that will facilitate a formal and time bound insolvency resolution process and liquidation.
Key Highlights
1. Corporate Debtors: Two-Stage Process
To initiate an insolvency process for corporate debtors, the default should be at least INR 100,000 (USD 1495) (which limit may be increased up to INR 10,000,000 (USD 149,500) by the Government). The Code proposes two independent stages:
Insolvency Resolution Process, during which financial creditors assess whether the debtor's business is viable to continue and the options for its rescue and revival; and
Liquidation, if the insolvency resolution process fails or financial creditors decide to wind down and distribute the assets of the debtor.
(a) The Insolvency Resolution Process (IRP)
The IRP provides a collective mechanism to lenders to deal with the overall distressed position of a corporate debtor. This is a significant departure from the existing legal framework under which the primary onus to initiate a reorganisation process lies with the debtor, and lenders may pursue distinct actions for recovery, security enforcement and debt restructuring.
The Code envisages the following steps in the IRP:
(i) Commencement of the IRP
A financial creditor (for a defaulted financial debt) or an operational creditor (for an unpaid operational debt) can initiate an IRP against a corporate debtor at the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
The defaulting corporate debtor, its shareholders or employees, may also initiate voluntary insolvency proceedings.
(ii) Moratorium
The NCLT orders a moratorium on the debtor's operations for the period of the IRP. This operates as a 'calm period' during which no judicial proceedings for recovery, enforcement of security interest, sale or transfer of assets, or termination of essential contracts can take place against the debtor.
(iii) Appointment of Resolution Professional
The NCLT appoints an insolvency professional or 'Resolution Professional' to administer the IRP. The Resolution Professional's primary function is to take over the management of the corporate borrower and operate its business as a going concern under the broad directions of a committee of creditors. This is similar to the approach under the UK insolvency laws, but distinct from the "debtor in possession" approach under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code. Under the US bankruptcy code, the debtor's management retains control while the bankruptcy professional only oversees the business in order to prevent asset stripping on the part of the promoters.
Therefore, the thrust of the Code is to allow a shift of control from the defaulting debtor's management to its creditors, where the creditors drive the business of the debtor with the Resolution Professional acting as their agent.
(iv) Creditors Committee and Revival Plan
The Resolution Professional identifies the financial creditors and constitutes a creditors committee. Operational creditors above a certain threshold are allowed to attend meetings of the committee but do not have voting power. Each decision of the creditors committee requires a 75% majority vote. Decisions of the creditors committee are binding on the corporate debtor and all its creditors.
The creditors committee considers proposals for the revival of the debtor and must decide whether to proceed with a revival plan or liquidation within a period of 180 days (subject to a one-time extension by 90 days). Anyone can submit a revival proposal, but it must necessarily provide for payment of operational debts to the extent of the liquidation waterfall.
The Code does not elaborate on the types of revival plans that may be adopted, which may include fresh finance, sale of assets, haircuts, change of management etc.

(b) Liquidation
Under the Code, a corporate debtor may be put into liquidation in the following scenarios:
(i) A 75% majority of the creditor's committee resolves to liquidate the corporate debtor at any time during the insolvency resolution process;
(ii) The creditor's committee does not approve a resolution plan within 180 days (or within the extended 90 days);
(iii) The NCLT rejects the resolution plan submitted to it on technical grounds; or
(iv) The debtor contravenes the agreed resolution plan and an affected person makes an application to the NCLT to liquidate the corporate debtor.
Once the NCLT passes an order of liquidation, a moratorium is imposed on the pending legal proceedings against the corporate debtor, and the assets of the debtor (including the proceeds of liquidation) vest in the liquidation estate.

Priority of Claims
The Code significantly changes the priority waterfall for distribution of liquidation proceeds.
After the costs of insolvency resolution (including any interim finance), secured debt together with workmen dues for the preceding 24 months rank highest in priority. Central and state Government dues stand below the claims of secured creditors, workmen dues, employee dues and other unsecured financial creditors. Under the earlier regime, Government dues were immediately below the claims of secured creditors and workmen in order of priority.
Upon liquidation, a secured creditor may choose to realise his security and receive proceeds from the sale of the secured assets in first priority. If the secured creditor enforces his claims outside the liquidation, he must contribute any excess proceeds to the liquidation trust. Further, in case of any shortfall in recovery, the secured creditors will be junior to the unsecured creditors to the extent of the shortfall.
2. Insolvency Resolution Process for Individuals/Unlimited Partnerships
For individuals and unlimited partnerships, the Code applies in all cases where the minimum default amount is INR 1000 (USD 15) and above (the Government may later revise the minimum amount of default to a higher threshold). The Code envisages two distinct processes in case of insolvencies: automatic fresh start and insolvency resolution.

Under the automatic fresh start process, eligible debtors (basis gross income) can apply to the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) for discharge from certain debts not exceeding a specified threshold, allowing them to start afresh.
The insolvency resolution process consists of preparation of a repayment plan by the debtor, for approval of creditors. If approved, the DRT passes an order binding the debtor and creditors to the repayment plan. If the plan is rejected or fails, the debtor or creditors may apply for a bankruptcy order.

3. Institutional Infrastructure

(a) The Insolvency Regulator
The Code provides for the constitution of a new insolvency regulator i.e., the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Board). Its role includes: (i) overseeing the functioning of insolvency intermediaries i.e., insolvency professionals, insolvency professional agencies and information utilities; and (ii) regulating the insolvency process.
(b) Insolvency Resolution Professionals
The Code provides for insolvency professionals as intermediaries who would play a key role in the efficient working of the bankruptcy process. The Code contemplates insolvency professionals as a class of regulated but private professionals having minimum standards of professional and ethical conduct.
In the resolution process, the insolvency professional verifies the claims of the creditors, constitutes a creditors committee, runs the debtor's business during the moratorium period and helps the creditors in reaching a consensus for a revival plan. In liquidation, the insolvency professional acts as a liquidator and bankruptcy trustee.
(c) Information Utilities
A notable feature of the Code is the creation of information utilities to collect, collate, authenticate and disseminate financial information of debtors in centralised electronic databases. The Code requires creditors to provide financial information of debtors to multiple utilities on an ongoing basis. Such information would be available to creditors, resolution professionals, liquidators and other stakeholders in insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings. The purpose of this is to remove information asymmetry and dependency on the debtor's management for critical information that is needed to swiftly resolve insolvency.
(d) Adjudicatory authorities
The adjudicating authority for corporate insolvency and liquidation is the NCLT. Appeals from NCLT orders lie to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal and thereafter to the Supreme Court of India. For individuals and other persons, the adjudicating authority is the DRT, appeals lie to the Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal and thereafter to the Supreme Court.
In keeping with the broad philosophy that insolvency resolution must be commercially and professionally driven (rather than court driven), the role of adjudicating authorities is limited to ensuring due process rather than adjudicating on the merits of the insolvency resolution.

CONCLUSION
India currently ranks 136 out of 189 countries in the World Bank's index on the ease of resolving insolvencies. India's weak insolvency regime, its significant inefficiencies and systematic abuse are some of the reasons for the distressed state of credit markets in India today. The Code promises to bring about far-reaching reforms with a thrust on creditor driven insolvency resolution. It aims at early identification of financial failure and maximising the asset value of insolvent firms. The Code also has provisions to address cross border insolvency through bilateral agreements and reciprocal arrangements with other countries.

The unified regime envisages a structured and time-bound process for insolvency resolution and liquidation, which should significantly improve debt recovery rates and revitalise the ailing Indian corporate bond markets.

Kevin Durant : From NBA to Silicon valley

When Durant chose to leave OKC, he became everyones favorite villain, but it has all worked out for him . He sacrificed his salary by losing around 20 mill per annum but instead he has received two championships, a great team culture and an ever better monetary benefit to his brand and business. The economic benefit of being a 2 time champion will pay dividends in the future rather than the immediate salary hike. He has understood that and has opted for lower salary in the near future to the regular cash flow stream of a NBA superstar which he is assured of being due to his championships.

How Kevin Durant Is Becoming A Force In Silicon Valley BY JOSHUA EFERIGHE

Back in June, after losing game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant had a huge decision ahead of him.

His contract with Oklahoma City was in its eighth and final year and the former MVP and two-time scoring champ found himself being one of the most coveted free-agents since LeBron James.
The Maryland native had many options, too. His old coach, Scott Brooks had found a new home in his former superstar’s hometown and with star-power of their own in youngsters John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Boston was very attractive. Their new head coach, Brad Stevens, is considered one of the youngest brilliant minds in basketball. He took over a losing team in 2013 and increased their win total every year.
This year they’re second in the east only behind the champion Cavs. With Budding superstar Isaiah Thomas, Durant would have been a great fit. They even brought in Brady and his rings to sweeten the deal.
Then, of course, he could have stayed in OKC. With the human cyborg Russell Westbrook as a wingmate and barely losing — lost 3-1 lead — the Western Conference Finals, it too was a viable option.
However, Durant did neither of the three.
Kevin Durant picked the Golden State Warriors in efforts to win a ring. It shocked both the NBA and the entire sports world, but even more importantly, made him one of the most scrutinized players in the league.
If you are familiar with Oklahoma city you would understand the market limitation. Kevin Durant, who has a reported $300 million deal with Nike and is currently ranked as one of GQ’s Most Stylish athletes, has other aspirations.
And in his short time in the bay, he’s shown just that. This past winter Durant had a speaking engagement at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, California. Something he could have never done in OKC.
When the largest start-up town is down the road from your day job and you have money to blow, Silicon Valley sort of becomes Vegas with much safer bets.
Teammate Andre Iguodola was bitten by the bug first. The All-Star forward is a noted investor in companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Tesla. Durant saw his moves and decided to take a stab at the booming industry himself.
Durant and his agent Rich Kleiman unveiled a start-up of their own called the Durant Company.
The portfolio includes investments in tech companies like Postmates and Acorns, in addition to hotels and restaurants as well as film and television development.
They are also investing with Ronald Conway, one of Silicon Valley’s “super angel” investors and a front-row fixture at Oracle Arena and consulting with Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’s widow, on his own charity foundation.
Half-way into the season and Durant still gets criticism from everywhere. His severed relationship with Westbrook is an easy storyline and the fact that his team is blowing everyone out has people in fits.
However, Durant says he’s used to not having friends. Besides, his plays off the court are going to be the ones that last a lifetime.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

NBA Finals Game 7

It has not happened since the 1970s the NBA final in both the confeerences have gone to Game 7.

It clearly shows why NBA always seems to increase its audience year on yer despite the league seems to be top heavy with the the increased salary cap.

If Lebron somehow manages to win Game 7 then he will be the undisputed king of basketball cause there is no other player in the past decade who could have pulled his team through turmoil and lackadaisical display like him

LeBron James put forth another all-time performance in an elimination game Friday night against the Celtics.

James pushes all issues aside, wills Cavs to a win and a Game 7

by Candace Buckner of Washington Post

CLEVELAND — Quicken Loans Arena had fallen into a hush and four concerned teammates huddled and stared at the city of Cleveland’s — and the Cavaliers’ — biggest fear realized: LeBron James, down on the court, holding his right knee and wincing in pain.

James slowly rose, his expression turned placid, and he finished what he started, turning in another dominant performance in a 109-99 win in Game 6 over the Celtics, forcing these Eastern Confrerence finals to a seventh game Sunday night in Boston.

With his team facing elimination, James pushed past his fourth-quarter leg issue to finish with 46 points in 46 minutes to go with 11 rebounds and nine assists.

 Friday night was not a “flu game” — the iconic moment Michael Jordan created in the 1997 NBA Finals — nor did it ascend to Willis Reed levels. Yet, James added another level to his legend. Consider: James has either had a triple-double or a 40-point game in each of the past seven games with his team facing elimination. He was 17 of 33 from the field against the Celtics, doing most of his damage after Kevin Love left the game in the first quarter.

He received help in the form of three teammates reaching double figures but make no mistake, the responsibility in beating back the Celtics belonged to James and he scored the big shots and made the necessary plays with the resolve of a man who has spent the last seven Junes on the hardwood.

When asked for his thoughts on James’s night, Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue stifled a chuckle then started with just one word. “Greatness,” Lue said. “I think championship pedigree. You know, giving it his all. We needed that, especially when Kevin went down.” While the backcourt of Terry Rozier (28 points) and Jaylen Brown (27) stabilized Boston, the duo could not stop James. Quite literally. Within the final minute of the game, James no longer limped as he drove at Brown and scored at the rim while getting hacked. After teammate Larry Nance Jr. fell into his knee, James went on to score 12 points.

“I’ll try to get him to bang his other knee, so he could get 24,” Lue joked after the game. “He delivered. He was up for the challenge,” Lue said. “He carried us home, as usual.” The chants of “M-V-P” resounded in the sold-out arena, and that praise peaked at the buzzer when the arena announcer intoned: “We’re going to Game 7!” James improved to 13-9 in elimination games.

In the 21 previous elimination games over his career, James has averaged 33.5 points, the most of any player in league history in those moments. Although he also played as an all-around threat (10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists in elimination games), James embraced the instinct to score — quite possibly, because he had to take over. Only five minutes into the game, Love experienced a painful encounter with Jayson Tatum. As the Celtic rookie chased George Hill from the baseline to the three-point arc, Love, who was standing still and unaware of the action happening behind him, absorbed the worst end of a head-to-head collision with Tatum. Love crumpled to the hardwood, only peeling his hands from his head to signal to the Cleveland bench for help. Love walked to the locker room on his own power but his injury sapped Cleveland’s depth. After one freak accident, James was left without an all-star wingman and yet the crucial moment served as the backdrop to yet another masterful performance.

By the time Love exited the game, James had attempted just two shots but soon turned aggressive. He attempted a plodding drive against Marcus Morris, who’s not easily moved as a 6-foot-9 forward, and that post possession ended with a miss at the rim and James raising his arms in protest for a foul call. But by his next drive, James quit begging and simply barreled over the younger and skinnier Tatum. After the first quarter, Brown scored 15 of Boston’s 25 points and the Celtics held the five-point lead. James sat on eight points but wouldn’t rest again through the half. His night was just beginning.

In-game updates, by Tim Bontemps The Eastern Conference finals are headed to a seventh game. Back-to-back dagger threes from LeBron James in the exact same manner from the exact same spot pushed him up to 44 points on the night, giving the Cavaliers an 11-point lead in the final minutes. This is now the seventh time James has scored over 40 points in these playoffs, and Cleveland has needed all of them in a game the Cavaliers lost Kevin Love in the first quarter. When you have James on your side, though, it doesn’t matter.

 With under three minutes to go in Cleveland, the Cavaliers are clinging to a seven-point lead, and trying to get over the finish line to force a Game 7 Sunday night in Boston. With no Kevin Love, and with LeBron James having played all but 57 seconds at the end of the third quarter, the Cavaliers look to be tiring late — but should have enough of a lead to hold on. James has shown little bounce since injuring his leg, but has 38 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as he tries to drag himself and his team over the finish line. LeBron James finally took a seat for the final 57.3 seconds of the third quarter, the first time in this game he’s spent any time on the bench. It’s been a remarkable performance from James with his season on the line, with 32 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while committing only two turnovers. Meanwhile, Cleveland goes into the fourth quarter leading 83-73 after Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier sandwiched three-pointers around a Kyle Korver triple inside that final minute as James watched from the bench.

It seems likely James will return to start the fourth quarter, and play the remainder of this one. And, with Kevin Love out for the game, James will need to keep banging home buckets for Cleveland to close this game out. Want to know what makes LeBron James special? This sequence:  There is no other player in the league capable of both sprinting out in a 2-on-1 fast break and converting that layup, only to then come flying back down at the other end full speed to reject Rozier’s layup at the rim. That’s especially true when one factors in James having played every second of this game so far, and playing in the 99th game of the 15th season of his NBA career. Has anyone figured out officially if he’s a cyborg yet? Because he just might be one.

Want to know one of the reasons why Boston finds itself in yet another hole on the road? Al Horford just scored his first basket of the game … in the first minute of the second half. It has truly been baffling how this series has zigged and zagged back and forth, depending on which team was the home team in each game. It’s one thing if that happened in the first round between evenly matched teams. But in the Eastern Conference finals? That’s another thing, entirely. The Cavaliers are without Kevin Love. They had to play LeBron James for the entire first half. And they still lead by 11 at halftime. A 28-8 run covering most of the second quarter allowed Cleveland to storm into the lead and take a 54-43 edge into halftime, putting the Cavaliers 24 minutes from a return trip to Boston for Game 7 Sunday night.

James was magnificent in the first half, going for 25 points, five rebounds and five assists while playing every second — something that may have happened anyway, but had to happen once Love went to the locker room a few minutes into the first quarter after a collision with Jayson Tatum and didn’t return. Jaylen Brown had an outstanding first quarter for Boston, scoring 15 of his 17 points, while Terry Rozier added 13 on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. Jeff Green, meanwhile, gave Cleveland a big boost off the bench with nine points playing in place of Love, and likely will get the start for him in the second half. Love is being evaluated for a concussion and will not return to the game. LeBron James remains on the court well into the second quarter, and Kevin Love remains in the locker room. That might be the case for the remainder of this game. If Love is unable to come back, it might take a 48-minute effort from James for Cleveland to win this game. The Cavaliers needed George Hill to have a big game in Game 6, and that was before Kevin Love left the game in the first quarter after colliding with Jayson Tatum. With six quick points early on, Hill is delivering. Cleveland has been a far different team in this series when Hill has been engaged and attacking, taking the Cavaliers from a staid offense to a dynamic one. Like so many things on both sides in this series, Hill has looked generally looked this way at home and then far less on the road.

Cleveland can worry about that changing in a possible Game 7 if the Cavaliers can make it there. In the meantime, they’ll take Hill keeping this up for another 36 minutes or so. The last thing the Cavaliers needed in the do-or-die situation in which they find themselves was for Kevin Love to be lying on the court holding his head halfway through the first quarter. That’s exactly what happened after Love got the worse end of an accidental head-to-head collision with Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum, crashing to the ground and holding his head, to the point where George Hill had to commit an intentional foul to stop play while Love made no attempt to get up. Love headed to Cleveland’s locker room, having gingerly walked off the court. It seems likely that he will be entering into the league’s concussion protocol, which he’d have to pass before returning. Cleveland has struggled to get consistent offense in this series outside of Love and LeBron James. If Love has to miss any time here, that could be a massive problem for Cleveland’s chances of pushing this series to a seventh game Sunday night.

When this season began, the expectation was that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers would meet for a fourth straight time in the NBA Finals. Now, the NBA heads into Memorial Day weekend with a seemingly unfathomable scenario unfolding: first the Cavaliers, and then the Warriors, hosting games that could end their seasons. That’s not how this was supposed to happen. Cleveland and, in particular, Golden State, were supposed to roll through the playoffs. But here we are, staring at the two teams that have ruled the league for four years both on the brink. Cleveland will first welcome the Boston Celtics to Quicken Loans Arena Friday night. Boston — a dreadful road team this postseason, going just 1-6 away from the friendly confines of TD Garden — will try to become the first team to dethrone LeBron James in the East since … the Celtics, when they beat James in 2010 to end his first stint in Cleveland with a resounding thud.

The circumstances this time are different. The Cavaliers have won a championship this time, and have made the Finals the past three years in a row. This year’s team wildly and unpredictably swings from one pole to the other, never providing a good barometer on a game-to-game basis for how it will perform. Still, it’s hard to see James and the Cavaliers losing this game, in part because it’s just hard to ever see him losing a game that matters. As the greatest player of his generation, James always seems to find a way to get it done when it counts. But the Celtics’ wretched play away from Boston also factors in. Will that change in a road elimination game against James? That seems like a bridge too far for a team that couldn’t close out the Milwaukee Bucks in the same situation two rounds ago. Stopping James is just a bit harder than that. For the league, though, there’s nothing better than a potential holiday weekend full of climatic action, with the league’s two most iconic teams fighting for their playoff lives.

NBA playoffs: Cavaliers finally play good defense but fizzle on offense in Game 5 loss LeBron James and the Cavaliers miss Kyrie Irving more than the Celtics do The Warriors’ unbalanced roster is catching up with them at the worst possible time Rockets draw even with Warriors in Western Conference finals The graybeard Cavaliers have turned experience into their best weapon against the Celtics The Cavaliers were left for dead. Now, it feels like their series to lose. Only Steph Curry can make the Warriors the most dangerous version of themselves The NBA Finals blueprint for the Cavs, Celtics, Rockets and Warriors If the Rockets are going to get back into this Warriors series, they must play faster With all these blowouts in the NBA playoffs, will fans stop paying attention? Stephen Curry’s mom scolded him over his potty mouth Luka Doncic should go No. 1 and other thoughts from the NBA draft combine In Cavaliers-Celtics, a tale of two coaches: Scorn for Tyronn Lue, praise for Brad Stevens At the NBA draft combine, mystery is more valuable than getting on the court Draymond Green trademarks ‘Hampton 5,’ doesn’t seem to realize it’s not The Hamptons Faced with a make-or-break moment, the Rockets responded like champions If the Rockets beat the Warriors, Clint Capela will be the reason LeBron James may have had a lousy Game 1, but he still has a mind like a steel trap LeBron James owns the NBA’s Eastern Conference and isn’t ready to let go What I got wrong about the Boston Celtics James Harden’s biggest advantage is his brain The Rockets can limit the effectiveness of the Warriors’ ‘Hamptons Five’ lineup Steve Kerr touts Warriors’ experience edge over Rockets: ‘Our guys have rings’ Rockets are the toughest playoff opponent Steve Kerr’s Warriors have ever faced Pau Gasol: ‘Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.’ Dragging these flawed Cavs to the NBA Finals would be LeBron James’s most remarkable feat

Sunday, May 20, 2018

O Captain My Captain - Walt Whitman

O Captain! My Captain!

By Walt Whitman



O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Collar Bomb Heist

This incredible real life crime story has more twists and turns which is far more intriguing than any Hollywood movie

Thank for the Stuff you should know podcast to introduce me to this remarkable story

By Rich Shapiro in the Wired magazine

THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF THE COLLAR BOMB HEIST

At 2:28 pm on August 28, 2003, a middle-aged pizza deliveryman cane in his right hand and a strange bulge under the collar of his T-shirt. Wells, 46 and balding, passed the teller a note. "Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000," it said. "You have only 15 minutes." Then he lifted his shirt to reveal a heavy, boxlike device dangling from his neck. According to the note, it was a bomb. The teller, who told Wells there was no way to get into the vault at that time, filled a bag with cash—$8,702—and handed it over. Wells walked out, sucking on a Dum Dum lollipop he grabbed from the counter, hopped into his car, and drove off. He didn't get far. Some 15 minutes later, state troopers spotted Wells standing outside his Geo Metro in a nearby parking lot, surrounded him, and tossed him to the pavement, cuffing his hands behind his back.

Wells told the troopers that while out on a delivery he had been accosted by a group of black men who chained the bomb around his neck at gunpoint and forced him to rob the bank. "It's gonna go off!" he told them in desperation. "I'm not lying." The officers called the bomb squad and took positions behind their cars, guns drawn. TV camera crews arrived and began filming. For 25 minutes Wells remained seated on the pavement, his legs curled beneath him.

"Did you call my boss?" Wells asked a trooper at one point, apparently concerned that his employer would think he was shirking his duties. Suddenly, the device started to emit an accelerating beeping noise. Wells fidgeted. It looked like he was trying to scoot backward, to somehow escape the bomb strapped to his neck. Beep... Beep... Beep. Boom! The device detonated, blasting him violently onto his back and ripping a 5-inch gash in his chest. The pizza deliveryman took a few last gasps and died on the pavement. It was 3:18 pm. The bomb squad arrived three minutes later.

The police began sorting through a trove of physical evidence. In Wells' car, they discovered the 2-foot-long cane, which turned out to be an ingeniously crafted homemade gun. The bomb itself was likewise a marvel of DIY design and construction. The device consisted of two parts: a triple-banded metal collar with four keyholes and a three-digit combination lock, and an iron box containing two 6-inch pipe bombs loaded with double-base smokeless powder. The hinged collar locked around Wells' neck like a giant handcuff. Investigators could tell that it had been built using professional tools. The device also contained two Sunbeam kitchen timers and one electronic countdown timer. It had wires running through it that connected to nothing—decoys to throw off would-be disablers—and stickers bearing deceptive warnings. The contraption was a puzzle in and of itself.

The most perplexing and intriguing pieces of evidence, though, were the handwritten notes that investigators found inside Wells' car. Addressed to the "Bomb Hostage," the notes instructed Wells to rob the bank of $250,000, then follow a set of complex instructions to find various keys and combination codes hidden throughout Erie. It contained drawings, threats, and detailed maps. If Wells did as he was told, the instructions promised, he'd wind up with the keys and the combination required to free him from the bomb. Failure or disobedience would result in certain death. "There is only one way you can survive and that is to cooperate completely," the notes read in meticulous lettering that would later stymie handwriting analysis. "This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions... ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!" It seemed that whoever planned the robbery had also constructed a nightmarish scavenger hunt for Wells, in which the prize was his life.

In the frantic hours after Wells was killed, the cops tried completing the hunt themselves. The first note was straightforward enough: "Exit the bank with the money and go to the McDonald's resturaunt [sic]," it read. "Get out of the car and go to the small sign reading drive thru/open 24 hr in the flower bed. By the sign, there is a rock with a note taped to the bottom. It has your next instructions." Wells drove straight there after he left the bank with the bag of cash. He retrieved a two-page note from the flower bed, which directed him up Peach Street to a wooded area several miles away, where a container with orange tape would hold the next set of instructions. Wells was caught before he got to that clue, but the investigators picked up the thread, locating the container with the orange tape. In it, they found a note directing them 2 miles south to a small road sign, where the next clue would be waiting in a jar in the woods nearby. When they got there, they found the jar, but it was empty. Whoever had set this macabre ordeal in motion, it seemed, had called it off once the cops had appeared—and had probably been watching them every step of the way.

Wells' clothing added another layer of intrigue. He died wearing two T-shirts, the outer one emblazoned with a Guess clothing logo. Wells wasn't wearing the shirt at work that morning, and his relatives said it wasn't his. It appeared to be a taunt: Can you guess who is behind this?

That was just one of the questions that perplexed investigators. What, for instance, was the purpose of the scavenger hunt? Why send a hostage hopping around Erie in broad daylight? Why scatter clues in public locations where they might be discovered? How was Wells chosen to be the hostage?

The bomb was rigged such that any attempt to remove it would set it off. Photo: Erie Federal Courthouse; Erie Bureau of Police; Newscom The riddles transfixed the city of Erie and drew headlines in newspapers from St. Louis to Sydney. It also set in motion a byzantine investigation, with federal agents sniffing out clues and hunting down leads in twisted pursuit of the shadowy criminal who came to be known as the Collar Bomber. For seven years, the FBI was engaged in a scavenger hunt of its own, one that the Collar Bomber seemed to have planned as intricately as the one that had ensnared Wells. The only question was whether the Feds would get any further than Wells had.

The hunt began at Mama Mia's Pizza-Ria. That's where Wells was working at 1:30 pm on the day of the robbery, when an order came in for two small sausage-and-pepperoni pies to be delivered to a location on the outskirts of the city. Wells was a loyal employee—in 10 years, the only time he had called in late for work was when his cat died. Even though he was at the end of his shift, he agreed to deliver the order. He walked out of the shop, two pies in hand, at about 2 pm.

Wells entered the bank with this ingenious handmade gun disguised as a cane. Photo: Michael Schmeling The delivery location, reachable only by a dirt road, was a TV transmission tower site in a wooded area off of busy Peach Street. When investigators combed the vicinity, they discovered shoe prints consistent with Wells' footwear and tire tracks matching the treads on his Geo Metro. But the site offered no clues as to who may have lured him there or what happened once he arrived.

The next day, a reporter and a photographer for the Erie Times-News headed to the tower. The dirt road leading there was cordoned off by authorities, but the journalists spotted a tall, heavyset man in denim Carhartt overalls pacing in front of a home that sat right next to it. His backyard extended almost to the transmission tower. The man identified himself as Bill Rothstein.

Rothstein, 59, was an unmarried handyman and a lifelong resident of the area. He spoke elegantly, like someone who takes great pride in his mastery of the English language. (He was also fluent in French and Hebrew.) Rothstein seemed oblivious to the investigation unfolding beyond his backyard. The journalists, eager to get a view of the scene, asked Rothstein if he could lead them through his yard. He agreed. They headed into the thick brush but still couldn't see much. After spending about 15 minutes at Rothstein's place, they took off.

Bill Rothstein may have appeared to be just a man who owned a house next to a TV tower. But he turned out to be hiding a dark secret. On September 20, less than a month after the bomb killed Wells, Rothstein called 911. "At 8645 Peach Street, in the garage, there is a frozen body," he told the police dispatcher, referring to his own address. "It's in the freezer."

Within hours of making the call, Rothstein was in custody. He told the cops that he had been in agony for weeks. He had considered killing himself, he told them, and had gone so far as to write a suicide note, which investigators found inside a desk at his home. Writing in black marker, Rothstein expressed his apologies "to those who cared for or about me," identified the body in his freezer as that of Jim Roden, and noted that he "did not kill him, nor participate in his death." The note opened with a curious disclaimer: "This has nothing to do with the Wells case."

Bill Rothstein was a handyman with the skills to fabricate an elaborate explosive device. Photo: Erie Federal Courthouse; Erie Bureau of Police; Newscom Over the next two days, Rothstein explained to police how a dead man came to be in his freezer. In mid-August, he said, he'd received a phone call from an ex-girlfriend, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, whom he had dated in the 1960s and early 1970s. Diehl-Armstrong told him she had shot her live-in boyfriend, James Roden, in the back with a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, in a dispute over money. Now she needed help removing the body and cleaning up the scene inside her Erie home, about 10 miles from Rothstein's place. Rothstein did what she asked. He kept the corpse in a chest freezer in his garage for five weeks. He painstakingly melted down the murder weapon and scattered the pieces around Erie County. But, Rothstein said, he couldn't go through with the plan to grind up the body, and he called 911 because he was afraid of what Diehl-Armstrong might do to him.

On September 21—the day after Rothstein called 911—Diehl-Armstrong was arrested for the murder of Roden. Sixteen months later, in January 2005, she pleaded guilty but mentally ill and was sentenced to seven to 20 years in state prison. But by that time, Rothstein was past caring about the old girlfriend he'd given up to the cops: He had died of lymphoma in July 2004.

The team of federal agents investigating the collar bomb mystery hadn't been paying much attention to the Roden murder. It was a local matter and seemed to have nothing to do with their case. But in April 2005, they got a phone call from a state police officer who had just met with Diehl-Armstrong about an unrelated homicide. Rothstein's suicide note, it seemed, was a lie; Diehl-Armstrong had said that Roden's murder had everything to do with the collar bomb plot. When the Feds met with Diehl-Armstrong, she told them that, if they could arrange a transfer from Muncy state penitentiary to the minimum-security prison in Cambridge Springs, a facility much closer to Erie, she would tell them everything she knew.

Even before she was arrested for killing Roden, Diehl-Armstrong was one of Erie's most notorious figures, well known for her string of dead lovers. She first drew public attention in 1984 when, at 35, she was charged with murdering her boyfriend, Robert Thomas. Diehl-Armstrong claimed she shot him six times in self-defense, and a jury eventually acquitted her. Four years later, her husband, Richard Armstrong, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The death was ruled accidental, but questions lingered; Armstrong had a head injury when he arrived at the hospital, but the case was never forwarded to the coroner's office.

Back in high school, according to former classmates, Diehl-Armstrong was known for her dazzling intelligence, and she still possessed an almost encyclopedic knowledge of literature, history, and the law. But over the years, that brilliance had become spiked with madness. According to court records, she suffered from bipolar disorder. Her moods swung sharply, and she appeared unable to control her nonstop, rapid-fire speech. She was paranoid and narcissistic. In 1984, investigators found 400 pounds of butter and more than 700 pounds of cheese, nearly all of it rotting, inside her trash-strewn house. Psychiatrists deemed her mentally incompetent seven times before a judge finally ruled she was fit to be tried in the Thomas case.

She seemed to be exactly the kind of person—murderous, eccentric, and intent on demonstrating her intellectual gifts—who might devise an overly complicated bank heist. She also seemed to be the kind of person who would likely be unable to stop herself from telling the world about her brilliant ruse.

Evidence collected over the course of the complex investigation: a Remington shotgun shell. Photo: Michael Schmeling When Diehl-Armstrong met with federal investigators for a series of interviews, that's exactly what she appeared to be doing. While she insisted that she was not in any way involved in the plot, she admitted that she knew about it, that she had supplied the kitchen timers that were used in the bomb, and that she was within a mile of the bank at the time of the robbery. She also said that Wells, the dead pizza delivery guy, was not just a victim but had been in on the plan. And so was Rothstein, the man who turned her in for Roden's murder. In fact, she asserted, he had masterminded the whole thing.

But even as Diehl-Armstrong pointed the finger at Rothstein, she was implicating herself. Indeed, even before hearing her self-incriminating testimony, investigators had begun to suspect that Diehl-Armstrong was behind the collar bomb plot. Over the previous weeks, they had met with four separate informants who revealed that Diehl-Armstrong had talked about the crime in intimate detail. One kept notes of the conversations, which included Diehl-Armstrong's assertions that she killed Roden because "he was going to tell about the robbery" and that she had helped measure Wells' neck for the bomb.

Then, in late 2005, a few months after Diehl-Armstrong first talked to the Feds, they received another break in the case: A witness came forward to say that an ex-television repairman turned crack dealer named Kenneth Barnes was also involved. Barnes, an old fishing buddy of Diehl-Armstrong, had spoken too freely about the plan, and his brother-in-law had turned him in while Barnes was already in jail on unrelated drug charges. Threatened with even more time behind bars, Barnes agreed to a deal: He would give a full account of the crime in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Barnes confirmed the Feds' belief that Diehl-Armstrong was the mastermind behind the collar bomb plot. He claimed she needed the cash so that she could pay him to kill her father, who she believed was blowing through his fortune—money she expected to inherit. Barnes insisted he was kept in the dark about several aspects of the plot. But even with holes, his account corroborated much of what the agents had already heard. The investigation, finally, was gaining steam.

On February 10, 2006, federal agents met again with Diehl-Armstrong, who had brought her attorney. The agents told Diehl-Armstrong they had enough evidence to bring an indictment against her. She went ballistic, slamming her fist on a conference table and cursing out the agents and her lawyer. But, incredibly, she continued to speak with them. In a subsequent meeting, she even agreed to drive around Erie with them to point out where she was the day Wells robbed the bank. At the conclusion of the drive, in which she admitted to being at several locations linked to the crime, Diehl-Armstrong told the agents she wouldn't provide any more information without receiving an immunity letter. It was too late. The woman who couldn't stop talking had already said far too much.

In July 2007, a month shy of the four-year anniversary of Wells' death by collar bomb, the US attorney's office in Erie called a news conference about "a major development" in the case. Standing before a bank of TV cameras, US attorney Mary Beth Buchanan announced that the investigation was over. Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes were charged with carrying out the sensational crime—a plot that Diehl-Armstrong had put into motion. The indictment also charged that other conspirators were involved. Rothstein was one. And Wells, the purported victim, was another. Pulling together information culled from more than a thousand interviews over almost four years, the indictment charged that Wells was in on the scheme from the beginning. He had agreed to rob the bank wearing what he thought was a fake bomb. The scavenger hunt, he was told, was simply a ruse to fool the cops; if he got caught, he could point to the menacing instructions as evidence that he was merely following orders.

But over time, Buchanan said, Wells went from being a planner to "an unwilling participant." At some point, instead of merely playing the part of a hostage, Wells was double-crossed and actually became one. The fake bomb turned out to be a real one. And the scavenger hunt went from a clever piece of misdirection to a real-life race against the clock. Sitting in the press section, Wells' family seemed stunned. One of his sisters, Barbara White, repeatedly shrieked "Liar!" as Buchanan completed her statement.

Wells' relatives weren't the only ones who were dubious. For those who closely tracked the case, the government's long-awaited announcement was severely unsatisfying. It seemed to provoke as many questions as it answered. Why would Wells participate in such a plot? Did he realize the danger that he was in? And could Diehl-Armstrong, with her myriad mental issues, really plan such a complex crime? The questions only multiplied a week later, when it was revealed that the FBI had concluded that the entire scavenger hunt was a hoax. The bomb was rigged such that any attempt to remove it would set it off. Wells was destined to die.

Barnes pleaded guilty in September 2008 to the conspiracy and weapons charges involved in the collar bomb plot. He was sentenced to 45 years behind bars, but he agreed to testify against Diehl-Armstrong in the hope of getting his sentence reduced.

More evidence collected over the course of the investigation (from left): a component from the collar bomb and directions leading the doomed victim to an orange-taped container in the woods. Photo: Michael Schmeling Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong's brilliance had become spiked with madness. Paranoid and narcissistic, her moods swung sharply and she appeared unable to control her nonstop, rapid-fire speech. Photo: Erie Federal Courthouse; Erie Bureau of Police; Newscom Diehl-Armstrong's trial promised to clear up the mysteries that had surrounded the collar bomb case. But those revelations would have to wait. First a federal judge ruled Diehl-Armstrong mentally unfit to stand trial. When she finally was deemed ready to face a judge and jury, she was diagnosed with glandular cancer, and the proceeding was put on hold again as she awaited her prognosis. The judge received the doctors' assessment in August 2010: Diehl-Armstrong had three to seven years to live. Prosecutors opted to press on, and the trial was rescheduled for October 12.

Most intriguing, Diehl-Armstrong's lawyer, Douglas Sughrue, had decided to let his client take the stand. It seemed to be a risky move. After all, she had already implicated herself in the murder. Was it wise to let such an erratic, unpredictable personality testify?

On day five of the trial in the Erie Federal Courthouse, Ken Barnes took the stand. By this time, the prosecutor—Marshall Piccinini, a fast-talking, silver-haired assistant US attorney—had already built an impressive case. Summarizing the strange characters linked to the Wells plot as a cast of "twisted, intellectually bright, dysfunctional individuals who outsmarted themselves," Piccinini had trotted out seven former inmates who recounted incriminating information that Diehl-Armstrong had shared with them. Barnes—the ex-crack dealer and would-be hit man—was Piccinini's star witness, and his final one. He was also the man who seemed prepared, finally, to tell the whole story of what happened in the days leading up to August 28, 2003, the day of the robbery. Barnes, who had the wan face and sparse collection of teeth of the former crack addict he was, approached the bench and took the oath. Then he sat in the witness box and matter-of-factly described the conspiracy to a rapt jury.

Diehl-Armstrong, Barnes said, devised the plan and enlisted a few coconspirators to help carry it out. Rothstein was one of them. Wells was another, lured in with the promise of a payday. He certainly needed the money. It turned out that the quiet pizza man had a relationship with a prostitute. With the help of his pal Barnes, he bought crack, which he then gave to the prostitute in exchange for sex. But in the weeks before the robbery, Wells fell into debt with his crack dealers and needed cash. It was only on the afternoon of the crime, when he delivered the pizzas to the TV transmission tower, that Wells realized he had been double-crossed and that the bomb was real. He was tackled as he tried to sprint away and locked into the device at gunpoint.

Throughout Barnes' testimony, Diehl-Armstrong angrily whispered to her attorney. Several times she blurted out "Liar!" drawing stern warnings from the judge. To all appearances, it was excruciating for her to listen to people like this discredit her.

On October 26, the eighth day of the trial, Diehl-Armstrong finally got the opportunity to tell her version of events. For five and a half hours over two days, she used the witness stand as her stage. Her wavy black hair looked greasy and clung to the sides of her face. Every time she opened her mouth, she unleashed a torrent of words. She ridiculed her lawyer: "That's a stupid question, Mr. Sughrue." She belittled the prosecutor: "If this is the kind of evidence you have against me, I'm telling you, this is a pitiful case." She cried. She yelled. More than 50 times, the judge sought—often futilely—to cut her off.

During her first day on the stand, she mentioned Brian Wells only once, in the final 10 minutes of a nearly 100-minute-long diatribe: "I never met Brian Wells, and I never knew Brian Wells. Never. I became aware of him the day that he died. I saw it on the news."

The jury didn't buy it. After deliberating for 11 hours, the seven women and five men returned guilty verdicts on all three charges: armed bank robbery, conspiracy, and using a destructive device in a crime of violence. She could face a mandatory life term when she is sentenced on February 28.

After seven years, the outstanding questions had finally been answered. At least, that's how most observers viewed Diehl-Armstrong's conviction. But that's not how Jim Fisher sees things. A retired FBI criminal investigator, Fisher started closely tracking the collar bomb case after he saw footage of Wells squirming on the pavement with the device yoked around his neck. The then-64-year-old criminal justice professor had a thing for unsolved crimes, and this was one of the most staggering he had ever seen. He obsessively pored over the media coverage of the case and studied every piece of evidence released by the FBI. And, according to Fisher, there is no way that Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong planned the collar bomb caper.

For proof, Fisher points to a profile of the Collar Bomber produced by the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. "It continues to be the opinion of the [department] that this is much more than a mere bank robbery," it reads. "The behavior seen in this crime was choreographed by 'Collarbomber' watching on the sidelines according to a written script in which he attempted to direct others to do what he wanted them to do... Because of the complex nature of this crime, the [FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit] believes there were multiple motives for the offender, and money was not the primary one." In other words, the robbery was never the point. Whoever planned the heist didn't care whether Wells ever delivered the cash. They just wanted to craft a beguiling puzzle, one that would resist explanation for years to come and that would keep cops and investigators hunting fruitlessly after clues just as Wells was sent on his doomed scavenger hunt.

None of this, Fisher says, sounds much like Diehl-Armstrong, who prosecutors credited with planning the whole affair in order to get enough money to pay a hit man. But if Diehl-Armstrong didn't set this plan in motion, who did? Fisher turns back to the FBI's profile, which states that the bomb builder was "comfortable around a wide variety of power tools and shop machines." He was "a frugal person who saves scraps of sundry materials in order to reuse them in various projects." And he was "the type of person who takes pride in building a variety of things."

To Fisher, that sounds like a description of Bill Rothstein, the man who lived next to the TV tower and who agreed to keep a dead man in his garage freezer. The handyman had the skills to fabricate such an elaborate explosive device. Even more convincing to Fisher was the description of the mastermind directing others according to a written script that only he seemed to have access to.

In Fisher's view, Rothstein toyed with the investigators from the start, concocting the scavenger hunt at least in part to send them on a useless chase, eating up valuable time in the precious days after the robbery. Then there was the 911 call. Fingering Diehl-Armstrong in the Roden murder case allowed Rothstein to frame the Wells investigation on his own terms. If he hadn't gone to the Feds, he knew, Diehl-Armstrong or one of his coconspirators would have. So he implicated Diehl-Armstrong in the Roden case before she could rat him out, all while pleading ignorance of the collar bomb affair. He also gave the impression that he was a man with nothing to hide. After all, why would someone who was involved in the plot voluntarily call the cops and meet with them for hours? Rothstein continued to deny any knowledge of the collar bomb plot on his deathbed, even though he seemingly had no more reason to hide. Until his dying day, Rothstein was insulating himself, or in Fisher's words, "controlling the narrative."

In his closing argument at Diehl-Armstrong's trial, the prosecutor, Piccinini, described the crime as a "ludicrous, overwrought, overworked, desperately failed plan." If stealing money was the ultimate goal, then that's a pretty accurate summary. But Fisher thinks that this wasn't about money. Rothstein, who never accomplished much in life, wanted to prove his brilliance by executing a crime that would grab headlines across the globe and baffle authorities for years. He recruited coconspirators he knew he could control and kept crucial details of the plot from them—a tactic designed to further complicate the investigation.

"The son of a bitch ended up winning," Fisher says. "He died with all of the secrets. He died taking all the answers with him. He gets the last laugh in that sense. He escaped punishment. He escaped detection. He left us with these idiots and a bunch of questions."

Those questions, Fisher says, serve as a reminder of Rothstein's ultimate triumph. He died a free man. And the last step in the scavenger hunt, the clue that reveals the answers that the agents had been searching for all along, will forever remain hidden.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The man in the Arena

Theodore Roosevelt



It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The future is here !!! Google Duplex

How is this even possible. I just finished watching the movie Anon which seems to provide a premonition on our future and Google introduced Google Duplex and Google Lens which seems to be the exact same technology in Anon. An eeriee feeling came over me...

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Westworld Season 2

The series which many feel is more dense and complex than GOT has come back to HBO.


God of War 4 : All cutscenes

I thought the God of war is one of the best game series of the past decade and didnt require a reboot. It is like Prince of Persia series which is the iconic game of its time.This reboot seems deviate to a different genre. It felt more like a fallen hero concept in "Logan" which makes it worth buying.

WHy has the blockade on Qatar failed ?

The future of internet

Friday, April 27, 2018

Guilty : Finally a conviction in the celebrity harrasment case

I believe such convictions are imperative to act as a deterrent for other acts of coercion by people with fame or power.
By Margaret Sullivan of Washington Post

The guilty verdict against Bill Cosby might seem to say that American culture has changed overnight for women accusing powerful men of sexual misconduct.

After all, a year ago, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose dominated morning TV. Harvey Weinstein’s movie empire seemed untouchable.

In just months, it’s all come tumbling down.

The truth is that it’s taken decades — or more — for a slow heat to finally boil over.

Anita Hill told her truths to a public unfamiliar even with the term sexual harassment in 1991, and the man she accused became a Supreme Court justice.

But since the change began, it has come fast and relentlessly.

There is now a clear shift toward believing credible accusers. This is because of the now-undeniable truth — revealed in painstaking reporting — that some of the most powerful men in American media, entertainment, business and politics for too long abused women with impunity.

“This is fast culture change and an important milestone, but it’s taken centuries to get here,” said Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Gretchen Carlson in her suit against Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes. He stepped down from his post atop the media world in mid-2016.

Once the boiling point was reached, there was no turning down the heat.

The New York Times and the New Yorker wrote their first stories about Harvey Weinstein’s accusers barely six months ago. After that, so many other stories about sexual abuse and assault quickly followed. Congressmen, comics, business moguls, actors, journalists. Across many industries and workplaces, powerful figures have tumbled, one after another, like so many highflying birds falling from the sky.

“Anita Hill suffered the horror, initially, of not being believed,” said Jill Abramson, co-author with Jane Mayer, of “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas.” A year after the Thomas confirmation hearings, she told me, the number flipped: More Americans believed Hill than Thomas.

The scene in Pennsylvania after Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault

The 80-year-old comedian, once revered as ?America?s Dad,? faces a maximum of 30 years in prison after being convicted of assaulting Andrea Constand, a Temple University women?s basketball administrator whom he was mentoring.

“That was the beginning of mass understanding of how endemic the problem of sexual harassment is,” Abramson said.

Cosby’s retrial — following a hung jury last spring when prosecutors first took him to court — was the first prominent criminal trial of the #MeToo era. And though the jury was instructed not to bring recent headlines into their thinking, no one can control the effects of a culture that is righting itself.

“Things are much different now,” Steve Fairlie, a Philadelphia-area defense attorney told my colleague Manuel Roig-Franzia earlier this month.

Cosby’s defense team, Fairlie said, had to know that “the prosecution is marching into battle waving this banner of #MeToo.”


For many women — including those who have suffered harassment or abuse without being believed — the guilty verdict against Cosby seems almost miraculous. It’s a day they never thought would dawn.

Roig-Franzia wrote of the charged reaction in the Pennsylvania courtroom Thursday, relating how, as the forewoman of the jury said the words, “guilty, guilty, guilty — the courtroom rocked with emotion.”

But while there was profound relief, and release, there remains a sense of what hasn’t happened yet. What hasn’t changed.

Lauren Duca, the firebrand young writer for Teen Vogue, remained far from satisfied, tweeting that the verdict was just a start: “We’re all still part of the society that allowed him to traumatize over 60 women, silencing their stories with fear of backlash, while he thrived in the spotlight for decades.”

A memorable New York magazine cover image in July 2015 featured 35 Cosby accusers in four long rows. Its message was clear: There is strength in numbers.

That Cosby now faces perhaps decades in prison is almost unbelievable after all this time.

And within that sense of wonder, paradoxes abound.

The seismic change that seems so sudden didn’t happen overnight. And the verdict that centered on one brave woman’s truth-telling required the courage of hundreds.