Sunday, April 21, 2013

FLASH: Writer Details Her Encounters with the Tsarnaev's Mother

Here is by writer Alyssa Lindley Kilzer's piece published today in
The Tsarnaevs and me I saw the suspects' mother for facials. She was hard-working but her political leanings made me nervous.

I started getting facials from Zubeidat Tsarnaeva (pronounced Zu-bey-da) six years ago when I was 17 at a spa in the Boston area. She soon after left the spa and contacted my mom to have us start coming to her house, at [redacted], right on the line of Cambridge and Somerville. All throughout my senior year of high school and four years of college I went to her house about three times a year. The last time I went to the house was in December and January of 2011/2012.

The first few years the third-floor apartment was often crowded with her two sons, now identified as the alleged Boston Bombers, and her two daughters, one of whom was around my age. It was definitely not a glamorous place to get a facial, as the “spa” was set up in her living room, and during these years the family expanded. The staircase was crowded with their shoes, the house filled with noises of arguing, cooking, etc. She would often apologize for this. Her daughters and Dzhokhar, the younger son, always struck me as perfectly nice and normal kids about my age. As far as I knew the daughters also attended Rindge (the local public high school) along with their brother. She gave a damn good facial, often working on my skin for two or three hours, and this is why my sister, mom and I continued to go back to her home for years.

During this time first one of Zubeidat’s daughters, and then the other, were set up in arranged marriages, and started having kids. This was something I found slightly disturbing, as one was just my age (18-19) and didn’t seem to be happily married. Within two years I heard that she had been beaten badly and eventually filed for divorce, which was at first against her mother’s wishes. Later Zubeidat said that she had accepted the divorce because it was an unhappy marriage. Her daughter then moved back into the house with her child. Her younger son, Dzhokhar, was often in the room or the room next door looking after his nephew while I was getting my facial. There were usually issues with parking on her crowded Cambridge Street. Sometimes she would have Dzhokhar go down to the street to put the visitor-parking pass into my car window (Yes, I gave him my car keys). Once he moved my car, which made me nervous, as the street was so crowded and parking spots so small. Dzhokhar was always friendly to me and seemed easy going. In 2010-11, there was a day when Dzhokhar wasn’t home, so Zubeidat took the parking pass out to the street for me. I noticed that she first put on a hijab before going outside. She had never worn a hijab while working at the spa previously, or inside the house, and I was really surprised.

Between 2008 and 2012 I got to know her pretty well. During those 2-3 hours I spent a lot of time asking her about her personal life, background and her family. (I’m a writer and tend to ask people exhaustive questions about their personal lives, especially as interesting a character as this.) The hijab shouldn’t have surprised me so much, because she had become increasingly religious while I was in college. She often mentioned Allah, and the lessons of the Koran. “Allah will reward him,” she said once about my brother, when I told her that my brother and mom were close, and that I thought my brother would take care of my mom later in life. She started to refuse to see boys that had gone through puberty, as she had consulted a religious figure and he had told her it was sacrilegious. She was often fasting. She told me that she had cried for days when her oldest son, Tamerlan, told her that he wanted to move out, going against her culture’s tradition of the son staying in the house with the mother until marriage. She started saying things like, “Don’t worry, there aren’t men in the house today,” when I asked if I could use the bathroom, which I thought was kind of funny at the time, since I didn’t mind if there were men in the apartment or not.

In my last year of college I was getting a facial from her, and asking her about why she had originally come to the United States with her family about eight or ten years previously. She told me that she and her husband had been lawyers and political activists in Russia. They had fled the country after “something that her husband did.” Her daughter had recently been divorced at this time, and her daughter’s ex-husband had taken their child to Russia, refusing to return him. Finally the child was returned. When my mom asked Zubeidat how they had gotten the child back, she told her that “my [Zubeidat’s] husband is crazy” and everyone knew it. When he threatened the daughter’s ex-husband’s family, they returned the child. During this facial session she started quoting a conspiracy theory, telling me that she thought 9-11 was purposefully created by the American government to make America hate Muslims. “It’s real,” she said, “My son knows all about it. You can read on the internet.” I have to say I felt kind of scared and vulnerable when she said this, as I am distinctly American, and was lying practically naked in her living room.

Throughout my years of knowing Zubeidat I certainly had more contact with her daughters, one of whom attended the Catherine Hinds Institute and aspired to open a spa, and Dzhokhar, than with the older brother Tamerlan. Those three children were always friendly and kind to me. I think I only met Tamerlan twice, and he wasn’t friendly. Zubeidat certainly mentioned arguing with him, and being worried about him in general after he got his girlfriend pregnant. I never met Zubeidat’s husband. I know that a few years ago her husband got cancer, but she told us that the doctors had caught it early, and that he was doing well. She made one long trip to Russia in the period of 2011-2012.

While Zubeidat was very good at giving facials, I can say that her increased religious zeal and offensive political suggestions about 9-11 in part influenced my decision to not return to her home since January 2012. Those details aside, she struck me as a hard-working woman who cared a lot for her family. When my mom called me earlier today, telling me about how she had seen the picture of Dzhokhar this morning and called the FBI, I couldn’t believe it. As her client for years I felt affection for Zubeidat and was very distraught to hear that her sons could have committed such horrific crimes. When I read online that she had left for Russia a few months ago, my first reaction was to think that she might have known about the attacks her sons were allegedly planning. Articles online suggest that she is in Russia because of her husband’s poor health. I know that her husband often went to Russia without her, and for extended periods of time. She was also very close with her sons and showed many signs of political leanings herself. Of course this is only my personal conjecture, and to my knowledge there is no proof about the parent’s involvement at all.

The actions of the two men have been atrocious beyond words. I wrote this story in order to help clarify some of the untruths I read online during the past few days, and I hope that any knowledge I have shared about the family can help investigators get to the bottom of these terrorist actions and not cause any further harm. Since writing the original article I have experienced enormous relief following the capture of Dzhokhar. I continue to pray and think about the victims of the bombings and everyone in Boston.

Alyssa Kilzer is a 23-year old writer and yoga teacher. She is earning her Master's degree in Writing, specializing in life-writing and non-fiction works. She is originally from the Boston area. This piece was originally published on her tumblr. More Alyssa Lindley Kilzer.

Friday, April 19, 2013

BREAKING: 2nd Suspect Captured, Alive, in Watertown / MA. Gov. Deval Patrick Begins News Conference

Joint state, local and FBI dragnet and capture of the second Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, captured at 67 Franklin Street, Watertown, Massachusetts, between Mt. Auburn Street and Arsenal Street. Suspect is suffering from blood loss from two gunshots wounds including in one in the neck. He is in transit to Mt. Auburn Hospital, in western Cambridge.
Second suspect is in photo at left. This is the same hospital where a transit (MBTA) police officer, shot early today, is recovering from gunshot wounds. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were thrown at police officers.
On the scene with the suspect is the high value interrogation (HVIG) unit. No Miranda warning has been issued, with a public safety investigation exemption.
His older brother, 26, was shot in a pre-dawn pursuit in Cambridge. Brother died under treatment in hospital. Convenience store was robbed by the two brothers, who fatally shot a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus police officer.
The suspect was holed up under a tarp in a small boat in a house yard. A citizen noticed movement in the boat and made the pivotal tip report to authorities.
Bombs were found at the suspects' home.
The lockdown of western Boston suburbs is over. However, others, in New Bedford, are under investigation, as police are interviewing past roommates of the brothers. Investigators are going through personal computer files.

9:29: Press conference was held by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. As of 10:09 pm, EST president Barack Obama made a statement at the press briefing room at the White House.

Sources: WHDH-TV, NBC affiliate in Boston; NBC News; CBS News.

AlterNet: Grad Student Debunks Academic Claims of Harvard Profs Who Drove Global Austerity

AlterNet / By Lynn Stuart Parramore 163 COMMENTS
Meet the 28-year-old Student Who Exposed Two Harvard Professors Whose Shoddy Research Drove Global Austerity
Economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, the academic champions of austerity, are exposed.

April 18, 2013

The world of economics has just changed, and somebody has some 'splaining to do! Please savor the following twisted tale of bad math, academic folly and pundit hubris.

Since 2010, the names of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have become famous in political and economic circles. These two Harvard economists wrote a paper, “Growth in the Time of Debt” that has been used by everyone from Paul Ryan to Olli Rehn of the European Commission to justify harmful austerity policies. The authors purported to show that once a country's gross debt to GDP ratio crosses the threshold of 90 percent, economic growth slows dramatically. Debt, in other words, seemed very scary and bad.

Their historical data appeared impressive, as did their credentials. Policy-makers and journalists cited the paper to convince the public that instead of focusing on the jobs crisis that was hampering recovery, we should instead focus on deficits. The deficit hawks jumped up and down with excitement.

But something didn’t smell right.

Progressive economists I knew were shocked at what appeared to be the shoddiness of the research and the absurdity of the conclusions. In their paper “A World Upside Down? Deficit Fantasies in the Great Recession,” Thomas Ferguson and Robert Johnson observed that R&R had truncated their sample of British data in a way that skewed their conclusions, eliminating more than a century of data in which British debt loads exploded but economic growth raced ahead (see pages 11-13). The always savvy Marshall Auerback called them out in a blog for New Deal 2.0, which I edited at the time, criticizing the relevance of the cases they had used to justify their conclusions.

But plenty of pundits took their suspect arguments as gospel. The editorial board of the Washington Post declared that "debt-to-GDP could keep rising — and stick dangerously near the 90 percent mark that economists regard as a threat to sustainable economic growth." The economists cited were Reinhart and Rogoff, whom the WP passed off as speaking for the entire field. A new Washington consensus was born, and the public was hammered with the idea that cutting jobs, stripping away vital public services and letting infrastructure crumble was a good way to get the economy going. Most any ordinary person on the street would probably intuit that this made no sense, but there was this Academic Research By Esteemed Persons, so the argument was over.

Enter Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the heroes of this story. Herndon, a 28-year-old graduate student, tried to replicate the Reinhart-Rogoff results as part of a class excercise and couldn’t do it. He asked R&R to send their data spreadsheet, which had never been made public. This allowed him to see how the data was put together, and Herndon could not believe what he found. Looking at the data with his professors, Ash and Pollin, he found a whole host of problems, including selective exclusion of years of high debt and average growth, a problematic method of weighing countries, and this jaw-dropper: a coding error in the Excel spreadsheet that excludes high-debt and average-growth countries.

Herndon, Ash, and Pollin write: "A coding error in the RR working spreadsheet entirely excludes five countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, and Denmark, from the analysis. [Reinhart-Rogoff] averaged cells in lines 30 to 44 instead of lines 30 to 49...This spreadsheet responsible for a -0.3 percentage-point error in RR's published average real GDP growth in the highest public debt/GDP category."

A coding error! Reinhart and Rogoff had been so sloppy in their work that they had not bothered to check their own spreadsheet.

When you fix R&R's problematic methodology and coding errors, you get a very different result that – guess what? – does not support austerity and shows that countries can most certainly cross the phony debt-to-GDP “threshold” and grow.

In their newly released paper, "Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff” Herndon, Ash and Pollin show that "when properly calculated, the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public-debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0:1 percent as published in Reinhart and Rogoff. That is, contrary to RR, average GDP growth at public debt/GDP ratios over 90 percent is not dramatically different than when debt/GDP ratios are lower."

Herndon, Ash, and Pollin have set off a firestorm, with those who long suspected that R&R's work was crap shouting hallelujah and defenders scrambling to figure out a way to support deficit hysteria despite the body blow to their theory.

Bottom line: The foundation of the entire global push for austerity and debt reduction in the last several years has been based on a screwup in an Excel spreadsheet and poorly constructed data.

Reinhart and Rogoff are on the defensive. As Mathew O'Brien at The Atlantic put it, "this is the academic's version of the dream where you're naked in public." They have screwed up royally. They have also done a great deal of damage to the world. As Paul Krugman has observed, their replies to their critics have thus far only compounded the confusion. They need to come clean, stop talking like their mistakes are minor, and own up to the enormity of their errors. And a big round of applause goes to the folks at U Mass Amherst for getting to the bottom of this insanity.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of 'Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.' She received her Ph.d in English and Cultural Theory from NYU, where she has taught essay writing and semiotics. She is the Director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.

BREAKING: Boston bombing suspect dead; partial shutdouwn of metropolitan Boston

BREAKING NEWS: Suspect #1 in Boston Marathon Bombing of April 15, 20013 shot by police early this morning. Died while under treatment in hospital. West suburban town of Watertown, Massachusetts in lockdown in massive manhunt for the remaining surviving suspect. People told to stay indoors and businesses close, in hunt for remaining suspect. Governor Deval Patrick has shutdown the MBTA subway system including bus and commuter rail also. Numerous institutions such as schools and universities are closed. Pers the site,, ALL Service on ALL Modes Currently SUSPENDED. Please check T-Alerts,, and @MBTAGM on Twitter for Updates. Suspects are brothers from the Russia, near Chechnya. Source: WBUR radio.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Italian Court Makes Cellphone-Tumor Link

Forbes Magazine, long advertising itself as a "capitalist tool," ran a story recently that an Italian court ruled in favor of a complainant in a cellphone tumor case:
Now, in a decision that has hitherto received little publicity in the United States, an Italian court may have opened the floodgates to a torrent of lawsuits against cellphone makers and service suppliers. The decision was handed down last week in Rome in a case brought by an Italian businessman Innocente Marcolini. He had used his cellphone up to six hours a day for twelve years and developed a brain tumor. The court backed his allegation of a causal link. . . . How much will the Italian decision cost the U.S. cellphone industry? And will service providers like A T & T, Verizon, and Sprint take the brunt or will manufacturers like Nokia and Motorola also find themselves in the firing line. If Angelo Gino Levis, a doctor who testified in the Italian case, is to be believed, the decision will prove a goldmine for class action lawyers. He was quoted in The Sun saying that the decision will “open not a road but a motorway [expressway] to legal actions by victims.”

For the industry, there is, however, a finite upper limit on their liabilities in that brain tumors are still relatively rare. According to the Cleveland Clinic, fewer than 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with primary brain tumors each year.

The Forbes article offered these safety tips:
[Writer Nick] Tate comments that in the absence of definitive evidence clearing cellphones of suspicion, they should be used sparingly, particularly by children. He offers these further tips:

* Use a wired earpiece with an external microphone, or a wireless headset, such as a small Bluetooth device.
* Use the speakerphone function to keep the phone away from your head.
* Instruct children to text rather than talk on the phone unless it is an emergency.
* When driving, use an installed wireless device with an antenna located outside the vehicle.
* If the signal is weak, hang up and try again: Radiation is highest when the phone is seeking a connection and the signal is weak.
Another report, this one from 2009, argues that placing a cellphone on your hip can lead to weakened bones.

Thanks to Alternet for the backlinks to both of these stories.

World's First Cellphone, the Real Story Behind Time Traveler Rumors

Daily Mail of UK ran this story on how a Leominster, Massachusetts office worker was the person in 1938 film sporting an experimental test model of a cellphone: Gertrude Jones, coming out of a Dupont building. Is this the world's first cell phone? Film from 1938 shows a woman talking on a wireless device... but it is not 'time travel' family say to the disappointment of conspiracy theorists

Watch the video for yourself; link supplied by Huffington Post.