Obama played 81 rounds of golf and attended 75 fundraisers since re-election

While domestic crises simmer and international conflicts flare, President Obama can be counted on to pitch and putt.

The big guy has played 81 rounds of golf and had attended 75 political fund-raisers in the 628 days since his 2012 re-election, a Post analysis of his schedule found.

The president is on pace to double the 104 days he spent on the links during his first term.

While many criticize the president for making birdies instead of policy, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the habit.

“They criticize him for going and playing golf with people who he’s got to deal with,” Bloomberg said. “He should be doing that every weekend. You always can work better with somebody that you have a chance to build a social relationship with.”

That would hardly explain the rounds he’s played with Tiger Woods, however, or the fact that he rarely plays with women. (He once played a round with former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.)

But it’s the timing of fund-raisers and tee times that makes some critics seethe.

On July 17, the day Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by Russia-backed separatists, Obama attended two fund-raisers in Manhattan, with little mention of the incident. He golfed three days later.

This article was originally published in the New York Post.


Brooklyn’s older singles have toughest time dating online

Brooklyn’s older singles have the hardest time dating online — and hipsters might be to blame — according to a new study.

Of 6.2 million online interactions surveyed, a Brooklyn dater over 40 was contacted by just 7.3 percent of people who viewed their profiles, according to research done by the dating site AYI.com.

“We’re clearly obsessed with the young and beautiful in NYC, but maybe it’s really the ultra-hipster, youth-oriented culture in Brooklyn [that’s to blame],” said AYI spokeswoman Joanna Barber.

Older Brooklyn daters say they’re forced to search over the bridge or through the tunnel for love.

“I’ve spoken to a couple on the phone, but I really want someone who’s more educated,” confessed Elaine Vaizer, 59, of Sheepshead Bay.

Brooklyn seems to have had some work done recently, she noted, which is drawing a younger crowd to the area.

“If you go down Sheepshead Bay, so much has changed,” Vaizer said. “There’s all kinds of people here now, but you can only be attracted to what you’re attracted to.”

Manhattan geezers fare the best, with an 8.9 percent chance of being contacted by a fellow dater, the study shows. Queens was second-best with 8.4 percent, followed by Staten Island with 8.1 percent, and The Bronx at 7.7 percent, according to the data.

“It gets worse as I get older,” said Jane, 57, from Astoria. “When you put a 50 in front of it, it changes things.”

“When I was younger, you’d actually want to meet and explore a relationship. Now, I’m not exactly sure that that’s what they want,” she added.

Online daters might have more luck finding love in Salt Lake City, one of the best cities for older singles with a 13 percent response rate.

This article was originally published in the New York Post.

‘Newburgh Four’ terrorism case was FBI entrapment: HBO film

On May 20, 2009, four Muslim men from upstate Newburgh were arrested by the FBI and charged with plotting to bomb two Jewish synagogues in The Bronx and shoot missiles at military supply planes at Stewart International Airport.

The FBI and NYPD claimed they caught the infamous “Newburgh Four” red-handed. But was the sting really a setup, and were the men more guilty of simple greed than terrorism?

Those are the questions “The Newburgh Sting,” an HBO documentary premiering Monday at 9 p.m., seeks to answer. It was directed and produced by Emmy Award winners Kate Davis and David Heilbroner.

When Pakistani-born Shahed Hussain first showed up at the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque 60 miles north of New York City in spring 2008, worshippers took note of his fine cars and fancy clothes — much of it provided by the FBI.

Hussain, convicted of fraud for helping illegal aliens get driver’s licenses and desperately trying to avoid deportation, had turned FBI informant in 2002.

Hussain’s flash attracted the attention of James Cromitie, a Walmart employee and drug dealer. Conversations of hypothetical situations quickly turned into discussions of a plot to bomb synagogues in the name of Allah.

At Hussain’s urging, Cromitie recruited three others: David Williams, a part-time student with a past drug rap who needed cash to get treatment for his brother’s liver cancer; Payen, a Haitian immigrant who Cromitie believed was “a little slow”; and Onta Williams, a drug dealer who had served time. None of the four men, all broke, even owned a car.
Hussain promised $250,000 for a successful mission. All four men agreed to help under one condition:

“We don’t want to hurt nobody,” David Williams is heard telling Hussain on FBI hidden-video footage “We want to just destroy property. We don’t want to take no lives.”

The foiled terror plot was trumpeted as a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted” by then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

But Mike German, a former FBI agent not involved in the case, told the filmmakers the sting turned the men into people they were not.

“Were they the best people in society? No,” he said. “But they weren’t terrorists, and this government operation over the course of the year was specifically designed to turn them into terrorists.”

Nuns raise rents at immigrant home to oust residents

By Kate Briquelet and Stephanie Pagones

They’re kicking them like a bad habit.

The nuns running St. Joseph’s Immigrant Home in Hell’s Kitchen are boosting the rent on young female residents and trying to boot women who have lived there for decades.

Now tenants at the West 44th Street building are raising hell — claiming the nonprofit is blowing funds on luxury frills and ­refusing to provide accounting.

“You can really tell they do not want us in the building,” said Rachel Wunder, 21, a ballet dancer whose monthly rent is now $800, up from $600. “They’re trying to suck everybody dry here.”

“It’s very abrupt, and we’re not prepared for this,” said one longtime resident whose rent jumped from $385 monthly for a tiny room to $535. “They’re closing the door on people.”

St. Joseph’s is part of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and run by the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception in New Britain, Conn.

The five-story facility, established in the 1920s, has about 80 single-room-occupancy units and initially served immigrant women. Today it houses students and young professionals, as well as older, working-class immigrants who have lived in the small furnished rooms for years.

Tenants share a kitchen and bathroom and must pay electricity fees for their dorm refrigerators and AC units.

Earlier this year, the home’s administrator, Nancy Clifford, announced hefty rent hikes — in some cases by nearly 50 percent.

But nearly half the 70 residents are refusing to pay the new rate and putting funds in escrow after being slapped with legal documents demanding that they vacate the building by July 31.

“It’s a hostile relationship right now,” said JoJo Monsanto, who moved from the Philippines to St. Joseph’s in 2001. “Right now, they are not budging. They are very adamant that they want the money.”

Mother Mary Jennifer Carroll, superior general of the congregation, said the hike covers “recent unavoidable expenditures for the building repairs” but would not elaborate.

St. Joseph’s will “work appropriately with each to address individual situations,” Carroll told The Post in a statement.

Residents say Clifford wasted funds on unnecessary renovations and furnishings, including mirrors and tables in common hallways and new carpeting, and hired private security.

They say Clifford told tenants she had to borrow $300,000 to pay for repairs to the building, which is owned by the sisters.

“It’s a difficult situation,” said Wunder, who has been at St. Joseph’s since 2011. “There are many of us who can pay an increase. The issue is that there is absolutely no accountability.”

The nonprofit’s expenses soared in 2012, when it had revenues of $322,233 and operated at a $223,250 deficit, tax forms ­reveal. The previous year, it faced a $4,282 deficit.

From 2011 to 2012, expenses for “occupancy” jumped from $92,570 to $316,544, documents show.

In a meeting last week, residents again were told this cost was for “repairs.”

They wrote to Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, asking for financial help, to no avail.

Housing advocates and residents say the nuns haven’t been receptive to suggestions or alternative funding, including a grant from an elected official.

“The mission of Catholic Charities stresses upholding the dignity of each person and serving the needs of the poor,” said Marti Weithman, director of the Goddard Riverside SRO Law Project. “We don’t believe the way the tenants are being treated is in line with that mission.”

The Archdiocese of New York did not respond to questions.

This article was originally published in the New York Post.

Boy renews vows with wife 50 years his senior

The bride wore white — the groom wore a bib.

Age is just a number for a 9-year-old boy and his 62-year-old wife, who have renewed their vows in South Africa.

Saneie Masilela, believed to be world’s youngest groom, remarried his bigamist bride, Helen Shabangu, recently as part of a local tradition, BuzzFeed reported.

The pair, both of Kildare village, first exchanged vows in 2013 after Saneie believed he was instructed to do so by his dead ancestors, according to the site.

While villagers have spoken out against the union, the boy’s mother, Patience, is fully supportive.

“I know it’s what the ancestors wanted,” she said, according to the BuzzFeed. “If we hadn’t done what my son had asked, then something bad would have happened in the family.”
Shabangu’s husband of 30 years, Alfred, said he — and their five children — approve of the marriage, too.

“My kids and I are happy because we don’t have a problem with her marrying the boy. I don’t care what other people say,” Alfred Shabangu said.

Saneie says that while he’s happy to have pleased his ancestors, he is not planning on letting the marriage get in the way of his future.

Like his wife, he also plans to become a bigamist.

“I’m happy that I married Helen, but I will go to school and study hard,” he said. “When I’m older, I will marry a lady my own age.’’

Why Times Square is becoming the worst place on Earth

Why Times Square is becoming the worst place on Earth

By Michael Gartland and Stephanie Pagones


It’s called the Crossroads of the World, but these days it’s the Worst Place on Earth.

Traffic, tourists, construction, commuters and a seemingly endless array of cartoon characters, nudists and hawkers add up to a nightmare on the Great White Way.

“There are really almost no rules out here,” said Matthew Lineham, 26, of Brooklyn, who has hawked tickets to comedy shows in Times Square for three years. “More and more people are running scams. Mascots and people selling tickets are aggressive.”

“I see Spider-Man mugging people all the time,” he continued. “I just saw a bus guy get in a fight like five minutes ago. I’ve been punched. I’ve been spit at. There are so many things that shouldn’t be going on out here.”

The chaos isn’t relegated to just one street corner or block — it’s everywhere, from 42nd Street all the way up to 48th.

And it’s so bad that Broadway officials blame the chaos for slumping ticket sales, prompting the Times Square Alliance to push for a law that would require costumed characters to register with the city to ply their trade.

“People are coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘This creeps me out,’ ” said Tim Tompkins, president of the business alliance.

For two muggy days last week, two Post reporters soaked up the noisy, stinky mess that is the new Times Square. What they saw wasn’t the hooker-, pimp- and junkie-packed Gomorrah of the bad old days, but it wasn’t pretty either:

A crowd of 10 cartoon characters and superheroes clogged a pedestrian island bounded by 46th Street, Broadway and Seventh Avenue.


Elmo and Minion stripped off their bulky costumes, sat down against a cluster of sticky recycling bins and puffed on cigarettes. Three Statues of Liberty — one on stilts, two others standing on crates — stood in a row.

A tatted-up, 5-foot-tall version of Bane, the Batman villain, grabbed a young boy’s arm, walked him away from his mother with no warning and posed with him. Bane, decked out with 4-inch platform boots and a fake hand grenade, flexed his biceps as the confused mother tried to pull her curious son away.

Captain America sidled up to a group of pretty teenage girls. “What’s up? Where you from?” he asked, coming closer. One girl pushed him away.

A teenage boy threw an empty plastic eyeglass case to the ground.

“I think you dropped something,” a man passing said. “Nah — I threw it,” he ­replied, without breaking stride.

Elsewhere, a man hoisted a placard that read: “ ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you’ — God.”

On Broadway between 47th and 48th streets, 11 men were trying to sell their demo CDs.
“Free hip-hop. Free hip-hop,” they bellowed.

A man walked by with one hand up in futile, silent protest.

“What, you don’t like black people?” said one hawker.

A harried pedestrian navigating the fray rubbed his hands against both temples in frustration.

And a Brit quipped to his wife, “Apparently, Americans will do anything for money.”


All photos courtesy of J.C. Rice.

Walsh appoints new commissioner/chief of Boston Fire Department

Boston Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph E. Finn, a member of the department for almost 30 years, will soon assume the role of both Commissioner and Chief of BFD, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced Monday at the fire department headquarters.

Finn, a 53-year-old Quincy resident, will take over for current Interim Commissioner and Chief John Hasson, a Monday release stated. A member of BFD since October 1984, Finn climbed the ranks, becoming Deputy Chief of Personnel in 2001 and Division Commander in 2005.

“Interim Commissioner/Chief Hasson has shown exceptional leadership and I’m grateful for his service as he passes the torch to Chief Finn,” Walsh stated in Monday’s release. “Chief Finn’s experience and leadership style, along with his commitment to diversity and fairness, will help move our Fire Department into an even more successful era of service to the people of Boston.”

Walsh began a nationwide search for BFD’s new Commissioner and Chief in March, hiring a consulting firm to begin compiling the nation’s most qualified candidates before ultimately selecting Finn for the role.

In his years at BFD, Finn has gained experience in ground operations, HAZMAT operations and high-profile events, the release stated. He initiated several training programs and investigations and has worked alongside Walsh on multiple planning and development committees.

“Deputy Chief Finn possesses a broad and impressive understanding of the Boston Fire Department, including personnel, public safety, and administration,” Walsh stated.

As a BFD firefighter, Finn significantly increased the number of emergency medical technicians at BFD by establishing an EMT training program, and he worked to integrate fire services and emergency medical services.

The city will formally swear Finn in as the BFP commissioner in the coming weeks.