state department

Ex-diplomat ‘peace-loving,’ says lawyer at NYC halal hate hearing

An ex-U.S. diplomat and adviser to former President Barack Obama accused of harassing two Manhattan halal vendors with words of hate was described by his lawyer Thursday as without a hateful bone in his body.

“The person standing before this court is not a warmonger or Islamophobe,” said lawyer Scott Bookstein at his client Stuart Seldowitz’s arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court. “He’s a peace-loving person devoid of hate for Muslims or anyone else.”

Seldowitz, 64, faces charges of aggravated harassment and stalking as a hate crime after multiple videos surfaced showing him surfaced of him harassing vendors at the Q Halal food cart on E. 83rd St. and Second Ave. on the Upper East Side in a string of incidents beginning Nov. 7.

In the videos posted online, Seldowitz is depicted saying to the vendors that “Muhammad was a child molester,” asking “Did you rape your daughter like Muhammad?” and declaring “If we killed 4,000 Palestinians kids … it wasn’t enough.”

Stuart Seldowitz is walked from the 19th Pct. Wednesday, Nov. 22, in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)
Stuart Seldowitz outside the 19th Pct. on the Upper East Side on Wednesday. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Seldowitz’s lawyer claimed that the halal cart vendors — identified by cart owner Islam Moustafa as Mohammed Hussain, 24, and Baha Kamil — provoked his client’s tirade.

“What’s not contained in the people’s recitations of these allegations — what wasn’t contained in any press reports — were comments made by the complainant that actually instigated this whole mess,” Bookstein said in court.

Bookstein did not provide any additional details during the arraignment about how the halal vendors incited Seldowitz’s multiple outbursts, and declined further comment after the proceedings.

In an interview with the Daily News before Seldowitz’s arraignment, Moustafa said that regardless of how the 30-year State Department veteran attempts to portray himself, the footage released online paints

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CT AG sues food service operator to recover unpaid wages

A New Haven-based company that provides food service at 23 state-owned highway plazas on Interstates 95 and 395 as well as Route 15 is being sued by Attorney General William Tong to recover $6.1 million in unpaid wages and damages.

It seeks to recover unpaid wages for more than 2,000 workers, although state Labor Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo said her office continues to receive complaints and is actively investigating additional potential instances of wage theft at the service plazas. 

Tong’s office sued the company on behalf of the state Department of Labor.  The lawsuit seeks to recover $5.4 million in unpaid wages and is also seeking $722,000 in civil penalties that had been previously assessed, but were never paid.

Tong said said his office was “left with no choice” because complaints about the company’s non-payment of wages date back to 2017.

“These workers did their job, and they deserve to be paid their full compensation,” Tong said Friday. “Project Service was put on notice years ago that their subcontractors were underpaying workers in violation of state law. They have continuously refused to make their workers whole despite repeated warnings and demands.”

Project Service has held a food service contract since 2009 with the state Department of Transportation for the 23 state-owned service plazas. There have been at least two chief executive officer since then; the website for the Secretary of State’s office lists Trevor Moore as a principal of the company website currently.

Company officials were not available for comment Friday.

Tong was joined at a news conference Friday by representatives of the Service Employees International union.

“It’s more than a contract dispute,” Tong said of the union’s interest in the lawsuit being filed. “It is a violation of our state’s wage and hours laws.”

When asked about the possibility of

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Attorney general and Cohoes’ Norlite plant reach agreement on dust

COHOES — Attorney General Letitia James and the Norlite aggregate plant on Wednesday reached an agreement regarding the state’s injunction that will prompt extensive dust control measures and monitoring.

The plant still might have to suspend operations if dust levels get too high, however. And a related lawsuit filed by the attorney general and state Department of Environmental Conservation against Norlite continues.

Norlite will install extensive on-site air quality monitoring systems and hire engineers who can offer the best long-term solutions to dust emissions.

The company must also make a series of reports to the state Department of Environmental Conservation on the dust control measures, with special reports when they exceed certain thresholds, according to James’ office. Certain operations at the plant could be suspended if certain dust levels are exceeded.

The company also agreed to start working on its dust control measures within 90 days.

“This order will govern the monitoring and operation of Norlite throughout the course of the litigation,” the attorney general‘s office said. The court order was approved by the state Supreme Court in Albany County Acting Justice Kimberly O’Connor.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement on the specifics of an emissions program with the New York state attorney general. We are especially pleased that this program has been developed in conjunction with the DEC. This agreement marks a new chapter for Norlite,” company CEO Ghia Rossi said.

“I am now working with a team of experts on additional steps that can and will be implemented to make sure the Cohoes facility is the gold standard for manufacturing and for community involvement.”

One of the key components will be a $250,000 water monitoring system. Monitoring will be ongoing and recorded in real time. The agreement also calls for creating a system to control

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Trump-backed Michigan attorney general candidate was ‘one of the prime instigators’ in a plot to breach voting machines, AG says

In this March 5, 2020 file photo, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel addresses the media during a news conference in Lansing,

In this March 5, 2020 file photo, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel addresses the media during a news conference in Lansing,Dave Eggert/AP

  • Michigan’s AG is asking a special prosecutor to probe her Trump-backed opponent, Politico reports.

  • GOP AG candidate Matt DePerno “orchestrated a coordinated plan” to breach voting machines, she said.

  • Reuters reported that DePerno led a team that accessed a voting machine in an attempt to prove fraud.

Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel is asking a special prosecutor to investigate her Trump-backed opponent for his role in a “coordinated plan” to breach voting machines, Politico reports.

Reuters reported on Sunday that Matthew DePerno led a team in accessing and possibly tampering with a ballot tabulator from Richfield Township in Roscommon County, a small county in northern Michigan that backed former President Donald Trump by 30 points in 2020.

DePerno, now the Republican nominee for attorney general in Michigan, presented the photograph and serial number of the Roscommon County tabulator, an Election Software & System DS200 scanner, in part of a lawsuit challenging the election results in a separate county, Reuters found.

Nessel, whose office has been investigating multiple instances of voting equipment breaches in Michigan for several months, asked for a special prosecutor to probe the breaches that DePerno is accused of leading in a court filing obtained by Politico.

In the petition, Nessel wrote that DePerno and three of his associates are accused of having “orchestrated a coordinated plan to gain access to voting tabulators” that were used in three counties.

Three of DePerno’s associates, according to the petition, took the machines to hotels and Airbnbs where they “broke into the tabulators and performed ‘tests’ on the equipment” and “it was determined during the investigation that DePerno was present at a hotel room during such as ‘testing.'”

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Human rights group says UAE has detained lawyer who represented Khashoggi

A human rights group alleged on Friday that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) detained a lawyer that previously represented the other journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said in a press release that Asim Ghafoor, who is a US citizen and a board member of the organization, sent a text early Thursday saying that he had been approached by two UAE security agents while he was at the airport in Dubai. Ghafoor was on his way to a family wedding in Turkey and had been waiting for his next flight.

DAWN said it also received a photo from him showing him inside a police wagon, but did not hear from him after that.

The group said in its press release it believed he had been detained “on what appears to be a politically motivated in absentia conviction.”

DAWN noted that it had also reached out to the State Department about the situation and that a senior official told it they were working on his case.

“We are outraged at the unjustified detention of our board member and extremely concerned for his health and physical security given the well-documented record of abuse in the UAE, including torture and inhuman treatment,” Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN’s executive director, said in a statement.

“We urge the Biden administration to secure the release of an arbitrarily detained American lawyer before agreeing to meet with the UAE’s leader [Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan] in Jeddah tomorrow.”

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the department was aware of Ghafoor’s arrest and had “raised his detention at senior levels with Emirati authorities.”

“We are watching his case closely and providing appropriate consular support; consular officers from the US Embassy visited him today. We have conveyed our expectation

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