An immigrant’s invisible life – and death – in America


Shahbaz Mughal, another cabdriver, brought Ahmad back to their home village for burial

When the 43-year-old man died in a New Jersey immigration jail in 2005, the very fact seemed to fall into a black hole. Although a fellow inmate scrawled a note telling immigrant advocates that the detainee’s symptoms of a heart attack had long gone unheeded, government officials would not even confirm that the dead man had existed.

In March, more than three years after the death, federal immigration authorities acknowledged that they had overlooked it, and added a name, “Ahmad, Tanveer,” to their list of fatalities in custody.

Even as the man’s death was retrieved from official oblivion, however, his life remained a mystery. The New York Times reported in an April article on the case that pointed up the secrecy and lack of accountability in the nation’s ballooning immigration detention system. But just who the man was and why he had been detained were unknown…

Tanveer Ahmad, it turns out, was a longtime New York City cabdriver who had paid thousands of dollars in taxes and immigration application fees. Whether out of love, loneliness or the quest for a green card, he had twice married American women after entering the country on a visitor’s visa in 1993. His only trouble with the law was a $200 fine for disorderly conduct in 1997: While working at a Houston gas station, he had displayed the business’s unlicensed gun to stop a robbery.

It would come back to haunt him. For if Mr. Ahmad’s overlooked death showed how immigrants could vanish in detention, his overlooked American life shows how 9/11 changed the stakes for those caught in the nation’s tangle of immigration laws.

In the end, his body went back in a box to his native village, to be buried by his Pakistani widow and their two children, conceived on his only two trips home in a dozen years. He had always hoped to bring them all to the United States, his widow, Rafia Perveen, said in a tearful telephone interview through a translator.

“He said America is very good,” she recalled. “When it comes to the treatment of Muslims in the U.S., he had faith in the rule of law. He said, ‘In America, they don’t bother anyone just for no reason.’ ”

RTFA. A long, sad, cautionary tale.

You have to wonder after a while if one of the essential qualifications for American federal bureaucracy – is bigotry. Followed by pigheadedness and ignorance. Obviously, a sense of fairness and justice would also only be an impediment.

Yes, it is possible to be an optimist even if I’m obviously a cynic.

My grandfather just came back from the dead to ask, “What in hell has happened to CNN?”

They might as well call it “Breaking Wind”.

A long time ago, I signed up to receive CNN “Breaking News” alerts. It’s a total joke these days. Here are the two I have received today:

— 1:48 p.m. — Michael Jackson’s golden coffin is placed in front of the stage as his
memorial service gets under way in Los Angeles.

— 3:53 p.m. — At memorial service in L.A., Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris says he was
“the best father you could ever imagine.”

Even my deceased grandfather came back shaking his head over the state of CNN. “Have you seen Nancy Grace?” I asked. “No,” he answered. “Go back before it is too late,” I advised.

As Unbreakable as … Glass? You betcha!

To truly appreciate how glass can be used structurally, make your way to 233 South Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. More precisely, make your way 1,353 feet above South Wacker, to the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower.

Once there, take a few steps over to the west wall, where the facade has been cut away. Then take one more step, over the edge.

You’ll find yourself on a floor of glass, suspended over the sidewalk a quarter-mile below. If you can’t bear looking straight down past your feet, shift your gaze out or up — the walls are glass, too, as is the ceiling. You’ve stepped into a transparent box, one of four that jut four and a half feet from the tower, hanging from cantilevered steel beams above your head. The glass walls are connected to the beams, and to the glass floor, with stainless-steel bolts. But what’s really saving you from oblivion is the glass itself.

The boxes, which opened last week as part of an extensive renovation of the tower’s observation deck, are among the most recent, and more outlandish, projects that use glass as load-bearing elements. But all glass structures have at least a bit of daring about them, as if they are giving a defiant answer to the question: You can’t do that with glass, can you?

You can. Engineers, architects and fabricators, aided by materials scientists and software designers, are building soaring facades, arching canopies and delicate cubes, footbridges and staircases, almost entirely of glass. They’re laminating glass with polymers to make beams and other components stronger and safer — each of the Sears Tower sheets is a five-layer sandwich — and analyzing every square inch of a design to make sure the stresses are within precise limits. And they are experimenting with new materials and methods that could someday lead to glass structures that are unmarked by metal or other materials.

Continue reading

South Carolina serial killer had a 25-page rap sheet! WTF?

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Patrick Tracy Burris was released from a medium-security prison two months before Cowpens peach farmer Kline Cash was fatally shot, the first of five deaths blamed on the Cherokee County serial killer, according to the North Carolina Department of Corrections.

Burris, 41, was shot to death early Monday in a shootout with Gaston County, N.C., police.

Burris’ death brought to an end the killing spree that began with the June 27 shooting death of Cash, 63. Items taken from Cash’s home were in Burris’ possession.

Authorities said the motive remains a mystery…

Burris was released from Lincoln Correctional Center in Lincolnton, N.C., on April 29, according to prison records. His offenses included being a habitual felon and five counts each of felony breaking and entering and larceny after breaking and entering, records show…

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Reggie Lloyd said he became angry when he saw that Burris’ rap sheet extended about 25 pages and included crimes from Maryland to Florida.

At some point the criminal justice system is going to need to explain why this individual was out on the street,” Lloyd said. “We owe that to the victims in this case. We owe that to the citizens who lived in terror for days.”

This sounds like American jurisprudence at its typical best. There are three reasons why a dangerous crook is let off from being warehoused separate from human beings:

1. Straight-up corruption in the judiciary. Someone provides the lawyer who happens to be a judge who happens to be a politician with some quid pro quo for time reduced or removed entirely.

2. A localized dungheap of the spooky ideology that says every criminal can be reformed and returned to society. Can some crooks make it back to decency? Surely. The rest should do something useful like repairing potholes under the supervision of armed guards.

3. Sheer incompetence sums up local policing and jurisprudence. A lethal combination that is the usual case. Sometimes it’s cheaper for your family to buy the dumb nephew a job in the local sheriff’s office if he can’t cut it in the highway department.

Former UBS honcho launches into Greentech

Former top UBS AG investment banker Jeffrey McDermott and several other Wall Street veterans have launched a boutique advisory firm focused on alternative energy and “cleantech” companies.

The formation of Greentech Capital Advisors LLC represents two of the biggest trends in financial services these days. The New York firm becomes the latest in a legion of new niche firms taking advantage of the Wall Street shakeout and training its sights on fast-growing sectors of the economy.

McDermott told Reuters much of the credit goes to his 14- year-old-son, Dylan, who expressed an interest in following his father into investment banking. As McDermott described what he thought would be an even better opportunity for his son — renewable energy and earth-friendly technologies — they agreed he had described a pretty good business idea.

I told him climate change is for real, that we’ll use energy differently, that there is more awareness of the environment,” McDermott recalled. “I decided I should look into this myself…”

Though every bank has beefed up coverage of the dynamic green corner of the economy, McDermott said the playing field is fairly uncrowded.

“This is a very new sector. There is no Frank Quattrone, no dominant figures. And as firms retrench, these new sectors get less focus and attention,” he said.

McDermott, who advised large industrial companies as a banker, sees the alternative energy and clean tech space as fertile ground for consolidation and expansion. The industry is also still in its early stages, with most firms having market values of less than $100 million.

“Over the next several years, there will be a lot of capital raising and a lot of M&A,” he said.

I suppose the most positive aspect of this article is recognition of the strength of the Greentech sector. Though the professional climate skeptics – and their openly paid-off associates – will undoubtedly devote a segment of their agitprop to denying [a] the need for such investment and [b] the actual existence of money moving in this direction.

Obviously the dude has a positive track record. Though you have to be concerned with the hows and whys of anyone who successfully climbed the ladder of international finance. Worth keeping an eye on.

Were they just paper airplanes? Why did KeyBank make these loans?

Looking back, students of the Tab Express flight school could see the danger signs.

They remember the long waits to use airplanes and flight simulators, the difficulty of getting a tuition refund if a would-be pilot withdrew from the program, and the two weeks when the school, in DeLand, Fla., north of Orlando, shut down with no warning.

Most worrying was the airline that the school’s owners kept trying to set up. Every time a federal inspector came to observe one of Tab’s pilots in action, in one of the nascent airline’s planes, some piece of equipment would break, recalled Edward C. Roe, a former Tab student.

“They got down over the ocean and they couldn’t fly back because one of the pressure gauges didn’t work,” forcing an unscheduled landing, he said. “That didn’t seem normal to me…”

Mr. Roe and about 50 other students pooled their resources to hire a lawyer, then accused the bank of conspiring with the school to fleece them. Their story, however, is more than a saga of taking on a big bank. It is yet another cautionary tale about the dangers of easy credit. Like homebuyers who took advantage of mortgages with risky terms to buy real estate that turned out to be overpriced, some students borrowed more than they should have for the education they received…

The students’ experience also sheds light on the risks of borrowing large sums to pursue an education in one part of the trade school world: institutions that operate outside of federal loan programs. If a school — say, a small, privately operated beauty school, a computer training school or a flight school — is not in those programs and collapses, students who took out loans to pay tuition may be left with poor job prospects and big debts.

In Tab’s case, the collapse set off a small avalanche of lawsuits contending fraud, and criminal investigations by the state attorney general, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and possibly other agencies. These investigations have ended, and no criminal charges were filed. The owners of Tab sued KeyCorp, which is based in Cleveland and is the parent of KeyBank. KeyBank sued Tab, and the students sued both KeyBank and Tab…

The Tab students learned a lot about these private student loans, which have one thing in common with the federal variety: They are very difficult to get rid of, either through bankruptcy or through the kind of legal battle the students waged.

RTFA. The flight school cum airline sounds like a Ponzi scheme and Keybank sounds like a rinky-dink small town bank run by an ambitious shoe clerk – instead of the 12th largest bank in the country.

I’d give up on the whole notion of commerce if every business was run the way both of these operations functioned.

Bayer gets stiffed by Levitra heist

A gang of four looted 4.9 million euros ($6.9 million) worth of potency pills in a burglary at Bayer AG’s headquarters, the company said on Monday.

After burglars stole two barrels filled with 320,000 of Bayer’s Levitra pills, Bayer said it had put up a reward of 20,000 euros for information leading either to the perpetrators being caught or the retrieval of more than half the swag…

Bayer, whose products range from Aspirin painkillers to Yasmin birth control pills, says on its Levitra website that the pill may help men fight erectile dysfunction when other oral treatments do not work.

The stolen amount is equivalent to about five days of production for the global market.

Har!

Could keep the Republican Party going for a year.