Berends's work put him in great peril back in 2008, when he was detained by the Nigerian government while filming Delta Boys, a firsthand look at rebels in the river oil towns of that resource-rich yet vastly impoverished country -- Africa's most populous. Securing his freedom after 10 days of captivity required the intercession of New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. He was never in fear for his life, he says -- but his status as a documentarian offered him no particular protection whatsoever, he realized. Delta Boys was released in 2012 having received financing and support from the Sundance Documentary Film Fund, the Gucci/Tribeca Documentary Film Fund and Cinereach. Berends's most recent film, Madina's Dream, provides an unflinching glimpse into a forgotten war as it tells the story of rebels and refugees fighting to survive in Sudan's Nuba Mountains. The film will have its world premiere next month at South By Southwest International Film Festival.
Last week, I wrote a piece in this space lamenting the fact that so many Democrats had voted for a budget package that gutted a key provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. The so called swaps push-out provision, now repealed, required banks to separate their speculative business in derivatives from depository banking covered by government insurance and further protected by the Federal Reserve. The broader budget deal, technically a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through next September, also cut a lot of needed public spending and added several odious riders, including one that raises the ceiling on individual campaign contributions to party committees about tenfold. Had Democrats resolutely opposed the deal, I argued, it would have revealed Republicans as friends of Wall Street and enemies of Main Street -- a useful party differentiation between now and 2016.
Yorkville and East Harlem already have some of the worst pollution and highest asthma rates in the city, and now 100 to 500 extra diesel trucks are going to roar through an entirely residential neighborhood to dump their loads in a stinking, two acre, heavy-duty industrial facility in front of public housing.