EGYPT’S LAST INTERNET LIFELINE HAS INDEED BEEN SEVERED REPORTS FORBES MAG Here’s a clip.
When Egypt’s government took the dramatic step of shutting off the entire country’s Internet last Friday amidst nationwide protests, one strand of connectivity remained: the Internet service provider (ISP) Noor, which serves many of the country’s corporations, including its banks.
As of Monday evening, that remaining connection to the Internet seems to have been mostly severed. “It looks like our last terrestrial hope has been shut down,” writes Jacob Appelbaum, a spokesperson for the anonymity and anti-censorship organization Tor in his Twitter feed. “my connections to systems on Noor are all down.”
As Egypt moved Monday to shut down its sole operating Internet service provider, Google and Twitter teamed up to create a service for people to send tweets from the nation through a phone call.
Over the weekend, a small group of engineers from the companies got together to create the service that allows anyone with access to voice service — landline or mobile — to leave a messsage that automatically gets transmitted into a tweet, according to the Google blog. People cut off from Internet and mobile services in Egypt could call +16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855. Tweets from the call would be sent with the hashtag: #egypt.,,,,
Onward to the Million Egyptian March.
AlJazeera says that people are already streaming steadily to Tahrir Square for the march. Inshallah.
Just after 5 pm on Monday, Jerry Brown gave his 8th ever State of the State speech—the first of his new term, and his first in 30 years. (The last time he delivered one of these he had a very full head of dark hair.)
Brown’s oration was not overly polished. There was no teleprompter. Instead, he tended to hunch over the podium, bird-of-prey-like, staring more at his notes than at the camera.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who introduced Brown, was many times more camera-courting and telegenic.
Surface style aside, however, Jerry’s speech came across as the no-punches-pulled, straight talk that was needed. And it was presented by a governor who gave the distinct impression that he had personally poured over the scope and details of our state’s ghastly budget mess, and was now prepared to be the guy in charge of leading us to solutions, harsh though they might be.
In short, what we got with this State of the State speech was a leader.
As he had already done in more detail over the last month, Jerry told us that the cuts made necessary by the state’s $25.4 billion cash-flow shortfall will be deep and difficult. He also made clear that he intended to let the voters of California decide whether or not to continue $12 billion in tax extensions, and woe betide those who, for political reasons, would stand between him and the electorate.
“At this moment of extreme difficulty, it behooves us to turn to the people and get a clear mandate on how we should proceed — either to extend the taxes, as I fervently believe, or to cut deeply into the programs from which, under federal law, we can still extract the sums required.”
Then, in case anyone missed the point, Brown even invoked the historic struggle for democratic rule going on in Egypt.
“When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can’t say now is the time to block a vote of the people.”
Not exactly what you’d call a straight-line connection, but its old fashioned Power to the People message was both canny and sincere and thus managed to resonate.
He was also humorous—Jerry style, wryly taking to task those legislators who only applauded along party lines.
“In all honesty, we need the best thinking,” he said, then paused for a beat and fixed his California condor’s stare at the chamber. “Republicans….? You can applaud on that. Come on!”
Judging by the after SOTS interviews, Republicans seem determined to block Brown’s Let My People Vote strategy. However, the smart money says Brown will get the tax question to the voters, who will likely give him the tax extension he says we need.
California has been longing for a grown-up to lead them— us—out of this mess. In Jerry Brown on Monday night, they got one.
AN AMERICAN PROFESSOR IN CAIRO (AND LONGTIME MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT) WEIGHS IN ABOUT HIS STUDENTS IN THE STREETS
Be sure to read American University prof Scott MacLeod’s LA Times Op Ed. Here are some clips:
I’d been looking forward to greeting my Egyptian students Sunday, the first day of the spring semester at American University in Cairo. Instead, classes have been canceled and Egypt burns.
I am hunkered down in my apartment with the cat. Outside, gunshots ring out through the night. My local supermarket was looted and burned, and our landlord, Tareq, came by Saturday to say that he and other neighbors have barricaded our street and formed a private militia to protect us from the anarchy.
Yet I have never been more optimistic about Egypt’s future.
Whatever happens next — and there is still plenty of time for the government to do something stupid — this youth-led revolt on the Nile will somehow prevail….
This push to transform Egypt is coming from a broad nationalist movement. I know officials in the Mubarak regime whose sons are in the protests. My students have taken to the streets, as have the children of my friends. These are ordinary people, inspired by a simple desire for freedom. The best insurance of stability in relations between Egypt and the United States is a good relationship between our government and a democratic Egyptian government supported by the people….
A LOOK AT THE CRAZY LAWS THAT CRIMINALIZE AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDING IN AMERICA
Lauren Kelley writing for Alternet looks at the absurd and scary laws that can get you a 15-year prison jolt for openly recording the police. Here’s one example:
[Tiawanda] Moore, a 20-year-old Southside resident, did not know it was illegal to record a conversation she had with two police officers last August, and she too faces a prison sentence of up to 15 years for doing so. Moore’s case is especially troubling because she was in the process of filing a complaint with the two officers about a third officer, who Moore alleges sexually harassed her in her home. She told the Times that she “was only trying to make sure no other women suffered at the hands of the officer” by making the recording. Presumably, she was also trying to protect herself in case she faced another lewd advance. Instead, the officers tried to talk her out of filing her complaint and then slapped her with eavesdropping charges when they found out her Blackberry was recording.
In 1942, 23-year old Fred Korematsu refused to go to the US government’s interment camps for Japanese Americans, and was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1944, arguing that the incarceration was justified due to military necessity. In 1983 a team of lawyers went to battle in Korematsu’s and the decision was overturned, cementing his place in civil rights history.
Steve Kroft interviews Julian Assange. Love Assange or hate him, be sure to listen here if you didn’t see the interview Sunday night—both Part 1 and Part 2.
“We operated just like any U.S. publisher operates … and there has been no precedent that I’m aware of, in the past 50 years, of prosecuting a publisher for espionage,” Assange said. “It is just not done.”
Sometimes the Supreme Court simply decides cases and sometimes it seems to have something bigger in mind. In the past two weeks, it has been in scold mode, and its target has been the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
In five straight cases, the court has rejected the work of the San Francisco-based court without a single affirmative vote from a justice.
“We’ve waited for this revolution for years… ” Mona Eltahawy for The Guardian writes. “But here now finally are our children—Generation Facebook—kicking aside the burden of history, determined to show us just how easy it is to tell the dictator it’s time to go.”
Police are being shot—and in too many cases killed-–in rising numbers around the country.
But such was NOT the case in the shooting of the LAUSD officer at the perimeter of the El Camino Real High School.
At—as the LA Times described it, —a hastily called press conference by the LAPD, at 9 p.m. Thursday night, Chief Charlie Beck announced that, in fact, there was no shooter. The school police guy, Officer Jeff Stenroos, made up the whole thing, one presumes to cover for the fact that he shot himself, although that part is not yet entirely clear.
P.S. And do remember that this faux “shooting” resulted in a giganzoid LAPD tactical alert in order to mount a massive, 300 plus officer search effort for the fictional cold-blooded mo-fo whom we all believed heartlessly shot a school police cop. That little prank cost our budget-challenged city a whole hell of a lot of money.
The LAPPL—the police union—issued a quick and very forceful apology for Mr. Stenroos’ behavior, even though the union does not represent LAUSD officers. The statement, which quotes LAPPL Prez Paul Weber, reads in part:
“The Law enforcement community is disgusted upon learning that Mr. Stenroos filed a false police report and apparently may have shot himself. His lies set into motion the largest search for a suspect in recent history and inconvenienced thousands of people for hours. While Mr. Stenroos is a disgrace to the badge, his individual and dangerous actions should not reflect on the hard working men and women in law enforcement. On behalf of all in law enforcement, we want to apologize to the public that a police officer would intentionally betray all of our trust. If these allegations are proven true, Mr. Stenroos is now where he belongs, behind bars.”
You got that right.
After the news broke, I talked to some LAPD officers who work at one of the Valley Bureau divisions closest to El Camino High School, and they were as flabbergasted as the rest of us. “Yeah,” one sergeant said. “We were pretty shocked. And we don’t know any more than what’s been on TV. Like everyone else, we’re waiting for the rest of the story to unfold. We’re just glad it’s not one of ours.”
When asked how much the hoax had cost the department he said that the final number has probably not been calculated as yet. “They’ll do what’s called an ‘after action report’ to determine that. I wouldn’t want to estimate, but I can just tell you, it cost a lot.”
On Tuesday night, a tactical alert was called for both the Central and South Bureaus of the LAPD. It lasted for a little over an hour—from 7:45 pm until 9 pm.
A tactical alert in and of itself isn’t terribly unusual at all.
Generally speaking, one is called whenever a whole lot of police are needed in an area or areas—if there is, say, a crowd forming unexpectedly at a demonstration. Or if some kind of large police action is suddenly needed for any reason.
For example, most recently, a tac alert was called after the LAUSD officer was shot last week outside El Camino High School.
It means that those officers due to go off duty have to stay on until the tactical alert has been called off. It also usually means that only the high priority radio calls are answered.
What made Tuesday’s tactical alert different was that it was called “due to the radio call load.” In other words, there were a lot of 911 calls within a given period and not enough uniformed police on the streets to handle them.
This is unusual according to the officers I spoke with when I asked around.
“Maybe I’ve just missed it, but I’ve never seen that reason used before,” said one watch commander from South Bureau.
So here’s the question: Does this tactical alert suggest that, due to budget cuts, LAPD officers are stretched too thin on some nights in some areas of town and thus we may see more of these tactical alerts based sheerly around the numbers?
OH AND ABOUT THE SHUTTING OF THOSE CITY ATTORNEY BRANCHES THIS WEEK Two people I spoke with said they thought the radio traffic tac alert provided one more illustration of why it was a lousy idea for City Attorney Carmen Trutanich to shut down his branch offices, thus forcing LAPD deputies in the valley and in the harbor area to waste critical time driving downtown every time they need to file a case with the CA’s office.
Their point was: if we don’t have enough police on the street some nights as it is, suddenly making piles of cops do unnecessary driving across town would seem to be a less than workable plan from a cost/benefit perspective.
In the February issue of Reason Magazine, Radley Balko has a worthwhile feature about the very real pressure on police and other law enforcement officers not to be whistleblowers.
Here’s a clip:
In January 2003, [Barron] Bowling was on his way to fill a prescription when Timothy McCue, an on-duty DEA agent, tried to pass him illegally on the right side of a wide one-lane street. Bowling accelerated to prevent McCue from passing, and the two cars collided. After the collision, McCue and another agent got out of their car. McCue drew his gun, threw Bowling to the ground, and beat him to the point of inflicting brain damage. McCue later justified the violence by saying Bowling “resisted arrest” when he lifted his head from the pavement. According to witnesses, McCue threatened to kill Bowling, whom he called “white trash” and a “system-dodging inbred hillbilly.”
McCue, the DEA, and officers of the Kansas City Police Department then conspired to cover up the beating. Bowling was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and assaulting McCue with his car during the collision. He was later acquitted on those charges but convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia—a marijuana pipe police found in his car. Witness statements incriminating McCue for both the accident and the beating were lost or destroyed, as were photos of the damage McCue inflicted on Bowling’s face.
Only one of the officers at the accident scene that day had any integrity. That would be Seifert, a cop with an exemplary record. Seifert took the witness statements that implicated McCue. He documented Bowling’s injuries and testified for Bowling in his lawsuit. He actively fought the cover-up.
As Judge Robinson pointed out, Seifert was forced into early retirement because of his actions. He lost part of his pension and his retirement health insurance. He was “shunned, subjected to gossip and defamation by his police colleagues, and treated as a pariah,” Robinson said. “The way Seifert was treated was shameful.”
FAMILY OF AUTISTIC MAN KILLED BY SINCE-FIRED LAPD OFFICER IS AWARDED $1.7 MILLION
Joseph Cruz, the officer who, in March 2008, shot and killed an unarmed autistic man, Mohammad Usman Chaudhry, then 21, saying Chaudhry pulled a knife on him, has since been fired from the LAPD for reportedly lying in two other excessive force cases.
On Wednesday a jury evidently decided Cruz was lying in the Chaudhry case too, and awarded Chaudhry’s family $1.7 million.
Since the killing, Cruz has insisted that Chaudhry tried to attack him with a knife and that he fired his gun in self-defense. On Monday, however, after four days of testimony, the jury rejected Cruz’s account when it returned a unanimous verdict finding that the ex-officer had used excessive force and acted in “a reckless, oppressive or malicious manner” when he shot Chaudhry.
During the trial, lawyers for the Chaudhry family presented evidence aimed at putting doubt in the minds of the jurors over Cruz’s account. Testing on the knife that Cruz said Chaudhry had used, for example, found one person’s DNA profile on the handle and blade but showed that the DNA was not Chaudhry’s.
Also, after Cruz claimed he had never met Chaudhry before the shooting, a man testified that he had been present on multiple occasions when Cruz confronted Chaudhry and called him by name.
I notice the Cruz had a partner with him when he encountered and shot Chaudry. One cannot help but wonder what the partner said—or didn’t say— about the shooting.
More blogging on local issues later. In the meantime…
Some good SOTU lines, moments, ideas, points—grabbed based on first impressions.
BUT FIRST: SOME MEANINGFUL SOTU TWEETS:
@todgoldberg: The alien living inside John Boehner is signaling his planet that they can begin colonizing Biden’s forehead now.
@joanwalsh: Michele Bachmann is looking at my dog Sadie off to my left. That is SO sweet of her!
@keitholbermann: Boehner tear time exactly 10:09:30 – I won the pool! #sotu #ShootingSalmonInABarrel
NOW BACK TO THE SOTU
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.
The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.
When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”
Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country.
In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.
Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.
Over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change.
Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. ……..
What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition [etc.] So instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward.
Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same……
I recognize that some in this Chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. And let’s make sure what we’re cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.
Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.
It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.
….the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.
In LA’s most recent round of budget cuts last week, the mayor’s office, the city council and the office of city attorney Carmen Trutanich, all had another $1 million cut from their respective bottom lines.
As one might imagine, no one is very happy about this newest bout of fiscal slashing.
However, Mr. Trutanich has responded to the cut with a move that critics say is designed to throw a retaliatory punch at the mayor and the city council at the expense of the needs of the city and its police force.
Specifically, Trutanich has abruptly shut down all the CA’s branch offices citywide—most notably in Van Nuys, Hollywood and San Pedro. This means that LAPD detectives from, say, the department’s various Valley and Harbor divisions, who would normally file misdemeanor criminal cases at those city attorney satellites with comparative efficiency, will have to spend hours driving to and from downtown instead— longer in rush hour traffic. To make matters worse, the detectives worry, the downtown offices will likely be plagued by a processing pile up due to the sudden centralization. Thus cops will have to add waiting time to their new extra driving time.
“Somebody has to say – you know what - we’ve cut enough out of public safety,” Trutanich added. “It makes no sense to have 10,000 police officers and not be able to complete a prosecution.”
But many of the detectives who will be the most affected by Monday’s district office shuttering strategy believe that other less harmful cuts could be made and worry that Trutanich is simply using the move to play hard ball with the city council—at the expense of public safety.
While the city attorney makes his political point, they say, a large swath of LA’s already overstretched police force is going to have to spend precious hours driving and waiting, waiting and driving—when that same time could and should be spent….you know… policing.
There are assuredly more rounds to go in this fight. So stay tuned.
NOTE #1: I began reporting this story late in the day, thus by the time I tried to call the city attorney’s office for comment, it was exactly 6:01 pm. I knew I would likely not find Mr. Trutanich’s public information officer still at work, but I assumed that—as is the policy with most other PIOs for public figures and government agencies—the city attorney’s guy would have a cell-phone number or some other after hours form of contact to accommodate reporters on deadline. Alas, he did not.
NOTE #2: LOOKING FOR AN ANTIDOTE TO THE CABLE TV TALKING HEADS WHEN YOU WATCH TONIGHT’S STATE OF THE UNION MESSAGE?
Try KCET’s SoCal Connected, which goes live at 6 pm.
The show’s anchor Val Zavala will be joined by panelists Larry Elder, Patt Morrison, and SoCal Connected correspondent Brian Rooney—a good line up.
The live broadcast will also stream in real-time at www.kcet.org/socalconnected. Viewers are invited to offer feedback online during the broadcast at KCET’s FaceBook page, plus Twitter posts will air throughout the coverage.
The memorial for Reggie Doucet Jr. was held this past Sundayat North Monterey County High School where hundreds turned out to remember and grieve over the handsome 25-year-old college football star-turned-model and personal trainer, who was killed by an LAPD officer in the very early morning hours of January 14.
Last Friday word went around that Doucet’s family had hired attorney Jamon Hicks of The Cochran Firm—the law office founded by the late, great Johnny Cochran.
I spoke to Hicks on Monday at which time he told me that the firm will investigate the circumstances surrounding the young man’s death to determine whether or not a claim for damages will be filed against the LAPD. He said that although the investigation into Doucet’s killing is in its earliest stages, there are elements of the official story that he finds “counterintuitive” and troubling.
“There are things that concern me,” he said.
The LA Weekly has a more extensive account of that official story, but, in short, the following is a brief compilation of what the police and others say occurred:
Reggie Doucet a reportedly arrived home in a cab from a night of clubbing, then discovered he had no money on his person to pay for the cab rigde. He wanted to go inside his condo to retrieve the needed funds and had a loud, possibly drunken argument with the cabbie about it. At some point Doucet took off all his clothes with what is believed to be the off-kilter notion of proving to the cab driver that he wasn’t going to run off without paying. The disturbance grew, and several neighbors called the police.
The rest is from the official LAPD statement:
As the officers were responding to the call, additional citizens called to report a “415 man causing a disturbance.” Upon arrival the officers were directed and located the naked suspect, a male Black, 25- years old, behaving erratically. The officers attempted to speak and detain the suspect, however the suspect ran away and the officers followed the suspect on foot. The suspect ran to another location where he found his shorts and put them on. The officers tried again to talk and detain the suspect, who again ran to another apartment complex a very short distance away.
When the officers attempted to detain the suspect in the apartment complex doorway, the suspect immediately attacked the officers. During the fight the suspect aggressively punched both officers in the face and head. One officer, a male Black, 17 months with LAPD, shot the suspect to stop the attack. The second officer, a male Asian, 5 years with LAPD, was also physically battered and dazed during the incident. The Officers took the suspect into custody and immediately called for medical assistance.
Personnel from the Los Angeles City Fire Department responded and immediately transported the wounded suspect to a local hospital where he died as the result of his injuries.
The police statement was later revised to say that police were “fighting for their lives” and that Doucet was reaching for one of the officer’s service weapon.
Obviously, attempting to determine whether or not Doucet did or did not go for an officer’s gun will be crucial to any investigation.
Hicks says that, in addition to tracking down and interviewing witnesses, the legal firm is awaiting the toxicology reports on Reggie and the official autopsy, which will not be available for weeks. It is his understanding, said Hicks, that Doucet was shot twice. If that is indeed the case, the placement of the wounds will tell a great deal, he said.
Hicks said he is also bothered that the officers did not seem to be trained to find a better, less confrontative way to handle an obviously unarmed, but erratic and distressed person.
“I don’t understand what exigency caused them to escalate situation,” said Hicks. “Look, they can see he’s naked. So there can be no question of whether or not he has a weapon. It seems to me their concern should have been containment. But instead they cornered him until he had no way out.
“It’s things like this that concern me.”
Hicks told me that, thus far, he has discovered no notable prior run ins with the law for Doucet or indications that the young man was prone to violent behavior. He has mostly heard overwhelmingly good things about his clients’ dead son, which is one of the things, Hicks said, that bothers him.
“Of all the cases I’ve handled,” Jamon Hicks said, “Reggie Doucet stands out because he is one of the most loved people I’ve ever seen. I went to the event at the high school and the outpouring of just….love…was amazing.”
Hicks said that it will likely be necessary to actually file a lawsuit in order to get access certain kinds of information, like police reports.
In the meantime, the LAPPL—the police union—has posted several blog entries relating to the shooting. This is a clip from the most recent essay, posted Monday:
Last week, after initially fleeing from police officers, Doucet engaged them in violent, hand-to-hand combat, attempting to disarm at least one of two officers in what the officers described as a “fight for their lives.” When he grabbed for the officer’s gun after fighting with them, Doucet predetermined the tragic outcome of events.
In November 2010, Riverside police officer Ryan Bonaminio was reportedly killed with his own weapon. And only a few weeks ago, Rainier, Oregon Chief of Police Ralph Painter struggled with an “unarmed” suspect who used Painter’s own gun to kill him.
More to come on the case in coming weeks as information becomes available.