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Former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo arrives at the Edward R. Roybal Federal building and United States courthouse on Monday. Rizzo received 12 years in prison and was ordered to pay nearly $9 million in restitution for a scheme to pad his salary. (AP)

Ex-City Manager Caught In Calif. Salary Scandal Gets 12 Years

Apr 16, 2014

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Scott Neuman

Robert Rizzo, the former city manager of Bell, Calif., who pleaded no contest to conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds and falsification of public records, has been ordered to serve 12 years in state prison and repay nearly $9 million.

Rizzo, who was city manager of Bell until 2010, apologized during sentencing, telling Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy that he "[breached] the public trust" and that "I am so sorry for that. I will never do anything like this again."

But Kennedy rebuked the defendant for what she called his greed, including giving himself a $1.5 million annual salary and benefits package to run the town of 40,000. His $800,000 salary alone was double that given to the president of the United States.

"It is a good thing to hear that he is sorry, and I'll take him at his word that he is sorry," Kennedy said. "But it doesn't change the fact that, Mr. Rizzo, you did some very, very bad things for a very long time."

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," she said.

"That is the theme of what happened in Bell," adding that "there were no checks and balances to control Mr. Rizzo and those that were in power in the city."

The Associated Press says:

"On Monday, Rizzo was sentenced separately to 33 months in federal prison for income tax evasion after he acknowledged reporting more than $700,000 in phony deductions to reduce tax liability on money authorities say he stole from Bell.

"The sentence in the corruption case will run concurrently with the federal term. Rizzo will serve the first 33 months in federal prison then go to state prison. He will be on parole for three years after he serves his time. He was ordered to surrender by May 30."

Shirley Jahad, of member station KPCC, reports:

"The judge allowed Rizzo to remain free until May 30, when he must surrender to start his sentence. 'I would not trust his word' to surrender, Kennedy said, 'but I would take 3 million reasons.' The bail for Rizzo was set at $3 million. He's set to serve his state prison term and his federal term for income tax evasion concurrently.

"Unlike Rizzo, his chief assistant Angela Spaccia — who was sentenced last week to 11 years, 8 months in prison — was taken in an orange jumpsuit and chains directly to jail following her sentencing.

"Bell residents also testified at Rizzo's sentencing hearing, with one resident telling the judge that Rizzo preyed on the people of Bell and that he deserves as much time in prison as he can get."

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McFadden has learned to capture various hues of brown skin. (Courtesy of the artist)

Light And Dark: The Racial Biases That Remain In Photography

by Tell Me More Staff
Apr 16, 2014 (Tell Me More)

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Tell Me More Staff

When Syreeta McFadden was a child, she dreaded taking pictures after a family photo made her skin appear dulled and darkened.

"In some pictures, I am a mud brown, in others I'm a blue black. Some of the pictures were taken within moments of one another," she wrote in a story for Buzzfeed, digging into an "inherited bias" in photography "against dark skin."

She tells Tell Me More's Celeste Headlee that certain cameras and photographers who are unfamiliar with different shades of skin often distort the images and color of black and brown people.

McFadden is now a photographer herself. And though technology has improved and has allowed her to capture the many hues of brown skin, she says photography still has a long way to go.


Interview Highlights

On why technology doesn't capture brown skin well, and didn't especially in the past

In the design of film and motion technology, a lot of this was conceived of the idea of the best representation of white people. And I don't mean to say that it was a deliberate and exclusionary practice, but [it was] much more of a willful obliviousness, if you will. So color film in its early stages pretty much developed around trying to measure the image against white skin. ...

Kodak Eastman had a model named Shirley, which they used as a human face to meter the printed color stock. So she's a pale, white-skinned woman [with] dark hair, that's set against a rather banal background to try and see how white skin faired in a high-contrast light situation. So the Shirley cards became a rubric to set up or establish what would be a much more perfected color image.

On push back from black photographers

It wasn't so much that Kodak didn't encounter a groundswell of resistance from the African-American community. I think a lot of folks just thought that, perhaps, the color film, they're not very good photographers. That's probably why the color isn't reading our skin tones in varied lighting situations correctly. ...

[Photographer Jean Luc Godard] was very vocal. He was commissioned to film for the Mozambique government... and what was fascinating about Godard's position is that he felt that the film was inherently racist — and said so. His experience with the film stock, and Kodak film stock was more than what we just put inside our cameras, it's also the film stock that was likely used in motion picture making. So for him to also recognize that there's a lack of variety and nuance or complexity in dark brown or dark skin images is very telling.

On the current discussion around photography and skin color

One of the things I definitely uncovered is that there's been a lack of a conversation — a frank conversation — about taking pictures of darker skinned peoples in mixed company. Pairing dark brown, dark black faces along with pale, light-skinned faces. We're all aware of it because we're all photographers now and to a certain extent we're becoming a little bit more versed in terms of how different lighting adjustments affect skin tones and how that looks against each other because of the variety of the technology that we have available to us. So say that darker skin people, we're going to be vigilant and sensitive to whether or not there is a lightening that happens when certain celebrities, say a Beyonce, or a Lupita, appear on fashion covers...

I'm talking much more specifically about studio lighting and what the light design is.

On why it's important to care about photography and skin color

I think it matters because we're talking about a saturation of images of darker skinned people that somehow we've accepted in our popular culture that kind of diminishes our humanity and we're in an era where we're seeing a wider representation of black and brown life, particularly in American life.

We've seen so many images of black bodies denigrated, or rendered as criminals, or rendered in a way that doesn't necessarily reflect a kind of normalcy. We see in stock images, whether it's in commercial advertising or in television, we just see images of a normalcy of living and existing that seems to center around whiteness and that shows the full variety in humanity of white folks, or of lighter skinned people.

And to have to always account for my humanity in situations where people would deal with me one-on-one, but the images they were exposed said something very different about the kind of community and people I come from, it matters.

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What motivated Edward Snowden to leak NSA secrets? Bryan Burrough, Suzanna Andrews and Sarah Ellison explore Snowden's background in an article for Vanity Fair. (The Guardian/Getty Images)

Edward Snowden: From 'Geeky' Dropout To NSA Leaker

Apr 16, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has revealed some of the group's most carefully guarded secrets.

The reporting on the documents he leaked won a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post and The Guardian, announced on Monday.

But there's still a lot we don't know about Snowden himself — and his motivation.

In a new article in Vanity Fair, Bryan Burrough, Suzanna Andrews and Sarah Ellison take a closer look at Snowden in an effort to explain how a high school dropout, a "seemingly aimless geeky kid from the Maryland suburbs," came to possess and expose secret NSA documents.

The trio spent six months researching their Vanity Fair article, "The Snowden Saga: A Shadowland of Secrets and Light." Burrough reflects on the article with Fresh Air's Terry Gross.


Interview Highlights

On Snowden's background

He dropped out of high school at 15. ... What ensued is, for me, one of the most fascinating periods of his life — this period from the age of 15 to the age of 20 where he didn't have anything like an actual job, nor was he doing anything other than occasional community college classes. What he appears to have done is spent five years on his computers, on the Internet.

While I think if we didn't know what we know now we'd say, "Ah, he's a virtual slacker," in fact, it seems to be a period of incredible self-education in which he became an expert on systems, became an expert on so many things to do with navigating the Internet. The amazing thing is [that] it appears to be largely self-taught. And whatever you may say or believe about Edward Snowden, he is an invention of himself.

On the turning point when Snowden left his CIA job in Geneva

Reading between the lines, you take away a couple things: He got into a big snit with his supervisors because he felt he knew more about the computers and the NSA software than they did — and I don't have any doubt that that's true. What I thought was telling is we talked to a number of people that said, if you just look at the totality, this is a young man who clearly believed that he was destined to be some type of a player here. There was a condescension in his comments.

He had quite a life there in Geneva maintaining the station's computers. He went from being a security guard in suburban Maryland to having his own nice apartment in Geneva, able to drive all around Europe. ... This is a kid who was fairly parochial at the time and he ... got this exciting life [in Europe] and what you see when he lost it, when he came back, is when you see those tremendously angry Ars Technica posts that suggest the depth of the anger that he was experiencing, having lost what appeared to ... be a charmed life.

On why Snowden had so much access to NSA files during his project in Hawaii

The NSA now tells us they're able to explain why Snowden was able to roam so free through the computers — including many niches he should not have otherwise been able to access. And it turns out, the NSA tells us, it was because they had given Snowden a different assignment, a unique assignment if you will, just because he was in Hawaii.

Hawaii is at the end of a long, long tagline with Washington and it's not necessarily always up to date on the latest procedures and things that should be gotten from Washington. Further, if there's ever any type of disconnect between Fort Meade and Hawaii — technically or communications-wise — Fort Meade, the headquarters of the NSA, was very concerned that somehow they would not be able to reach Hawaii: literally [would be unable to] communicate with them in the event of, I don't know, a nuclear problem or an earthquake or something.

What Snowden was doing was downloading and copying and backing up hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of pages of documents to make sure Hawaii had it all in case something went wrong. ... What no one realized at the time, of course, is that he was also making copies for his own reasons.

On the British and U.S. governments' attempts to stop the articles based on Snowden's documents

There was very little that either government could do to stop the publications because The Guardian just sprang this on the U.S. government two hours before the first thing got published and it took the NSA another four days. At least initially the NSA had no idea they were looking at a single leak of this PRISM program.

They didn't know if it might've come from a congressional aide, someone overseas, someone left a set of documents on the Metro in Washington; they just had no idea. And it wasn't until about the third day that it kind of dawned on them that this must be an actual leaker, a person. That's when they went in, and it took them about two days further to find out that it was Snowden.

On his own changing view of American intelligence issues

My working theory about all of these things ... has always been against conspiracy theories and in favor of human fallibility. I must say that what Snowden has put out there suggests that I need to be a little bit more aware of the conspiracy theories because in this case, many, many things were said [about what] the NSA could do, which sounds like a conspiracy theory — eavesdropping on [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel or the Indonesian prime minister's mistress — I might have scoffed at, and we now know are not only capable of being done, but have been done. The only thing that surprises me now is when I'm told that there's something the NSA can't do.

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Crime writer Giorgio Scerbanenco was born in Kiev in 1911, grew up in Rome and worked for decades as a journalist in Milan. (Melville House )

Exploring Life's Incurable Soiledness With The Father Of Italian Noir

Apr 16, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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Although there's no rigid dividing line, fans of the crime genre generally fall into two camps. There are those who prefer stories which, after titillating us with dark transgressions, end by restoring order — the show Law & Order is an aptly named example. And then there are those who prefer stories which, even after the mystery is solved, leave you swimming in the murk — think Chinatown. This is the male-dominated realm of noir.

While the noir sensibility can be found all over the globe — it's one of the key signatures of the modern — some countries have a particular knack for its moody blend of violence and bleakness. One of them is Italy, where corruption and world-worry cynicism are almost an ancient birthright. This patrimony has given us such present-day noir favorites as Massimo Carlotto, Carlo Lucarelli and Maurizio de Giovanni — all available in English from Europa Editions. I'd urge you to read them.

But you should also look back to the 1960s and read the writer these guys would acknowledge as the father of Italian noir. He's Giorgio Scerbanenco, who was born in Kiev in 1911, grew up in Rome and worked for decades as a journalist in Milan. Scerbanenco's lasting achievement is known as "The Milano Quartet," which does for that city some of what James Ellroy does for L.A. The first of these novels — A Private Venus — has just been released by Melville House in a crackling new translation by Howard Curtis. I read it in a single sitting.

Like all good noirs, A Private Venus centers on a disillusioned loner — in this case, Duca Lamberti, a loner with good reason to be disillusioned. Once a doctor, he was imprisoned for murder after compassionately helping a dying woman kill herself. Now free, but forbidden to practice medicine, Duca gets hired by a Milanese plastics mogul who, like most rich men in noir, is a respectable creep. The assignment is to straighten out the mogul's 22-year-old son, Davide, who has gone from being a normal, spoiled heir to a guilty, taciturn young alcoholic.

Duca knows something has driven Davide to such self-destructive straits — probably a woman. And so, he sets about looking into what changed him, enlisting help from a police superintendent who was friends with Duca's cop father. The investigation takes him from chic nightclubs into the sinister underbelly of fashion-mad Milan, where pretty young women exist to have their bodies stripped, sold and carved up by thugs. Along the way, Duca befriends a smart, attractive young woman, Livia, who has her own reasons for bringing the bad guys down. Suffice it to say that everything does not turn out perfectly.

Through it all, Duca remains a terrific, brooding, conflicted character — an accidental detective. On the one hand, he believes that (and I quote) "hope is a kind of secret vice that nobody ever managed to rid themselves of completely." On the other, he's a decent man righteously disgusted by evil. He fights, however hopelessly, for some form of justice — both here and in the quartet's even better next volume, Traitors to All, which is coming out in June.

Now, Scerbanenco was not Italy's first great crime novelist. That honor goes to the Sicilian Leonardo Sciascia, who is, frankly, a much greater writer. But Scerbanenco was a trailblazing radical who pulled the mask off a whole era. Even as Sixties Italy was supposedly flowering around him — people finally getting richer and living la dolce vita — Scerbanenco wasn't convinced. As a journalist, he'd seen the poverty and gangsterism behind the fashionable fašade of Milan, the rich, conservative, northern city that prides itself on being cleaner than the unruly South.

Of course, noir isn't truly noir if the pain and darkness it depicts can be eliminated simply by, say, electing the right political candidate. Noir requires a metaphysical dimension, a sense of life's enveloping, incurable soiledness that you find in Jim Thompson and the so-called "hard novels" of Georges Simenon. Scerbanenco has this cosmic vision in spades. And so does Duca Lamberti, who lives in a fallen world where moral chaos keeps devouring law and order. Duca knows that even when the guilty lose, the innocent still don't win.

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Robert Cray. (Courtesy of the artist)

Robert Cray Band On World Cafe

Apr 16, 2014 (WXPN-FM)

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It is great to have Robert Cray back with a new album called In My Soul. We will hear performances from Cray and his band in front of an audience at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, plus conversation with WXPN's Michaela Majoun.

Believe it or not, the blues wasn't the first thing Cray wanted to play on guitar. As a kid, like so many others, he was inspired by seeing The Beatles. It was later that he fell under the spell of Jimi Hendrix and Albert Collins, whom he backed for a while. Cray's breakthrough album, Strong Persuader, came out in 1986 and won two Grammy Awards. He tells Majoun that album's success has allowed him to have a career.

Copyright 2014 WXPN-FM. To see more, visit http://www.xpn.org/.

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