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Authorities Continue to Search for a Motive for Attacker at Ohio State U Who Injured 11 – UPDATED

November 28th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


At around 10 a.m. ET, reports of an active shooter broke out at Ohio State University, as university officials and students frantically tweeted an alert of “run, hide, fight.”

The “shooter” turned out to be an attacker who, at first, rammed several students with his car at around 9:40 a.m. ET, then jumped out and started slashing students with a large knife.

By midday on Wednesday, the suspect was identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, an OSU student of Somali descent, who was a permanent legal resident of the U.S., and was listed as logistics management major in OSU’s online directory. In 1915, Artan reportedly graduated with an associate of arts degree from Columbus State Community College, where he was reportedly on the school’s dean’s list and graduated cum laude. A photo of Artan in his cap and gown shows him beaming after collecting his diploma.

Although officials are still trying to piece together clues to determine what motivated the attack, in August 2015, Artan, who is a Muslim, told an OSU student reporter at the university’s publication the Lantern about his fear about being negatively stereotyped. “I wanted to pray in the open,” said Artan, “but I was kinda scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But, I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads,” he told reporter Kevin Stankiewicz.

Yet the expression was more one of anxiety. Artan went on to say that, he found a place to pray without incident.

Officials continue to gather information about Artan’s history in their efforts to determine what caused the young immigrant man—who appeared to be succeeding as a student—to go off the rails between his August 2015 interview, and his vicious attack fifteen months later.

Among the clues being examined is a Facebook diatribe, posted minutes before Artan’s potentially deadly attack, which rants against U.S. policy toward Muslims, mentioning Myanmar specifically, which he reportedly wrote had pushed him to a “boiling point.”

“I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters being killed and tortured EVERYWHERE,” Artan reportedly posted.

“America!” the Facebook post continued, “Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak.”


When the attack began, students started posting photos and videos on Twitter warning each other of the danger, and trying to get information.

Eleven people were reported hospitalized after the attack. All were in stable condition, save for one victim who was in critical condition. Yet while serious, the injuries were reportedly not life threatening.

At first there were reports of two attackers, one with a gun. But as time went by, the shooter story was amended. Despite rumors of a second suspect, police believe there was one person involved in the attack. Less than a minute after the attack, an OSU police officer fatally shot the suspect, after ordering him to drop his weapon.

The Washington Post reported conversations with bystanders, including the following:

“We were waiting for the firetrucks to go. As soon as the firetrucks started to pull away, a white Honda Civic came flying into the crowd,” Chapman said. “It probably hit three or four people. We thought it was an accident at first. Once the car had stopped, everyone was making sure the driver was okay. But he got out of the car and immediately started slashing people closest to the car with a knife.

“He got out of the car and started slashing everyone nearby,” Chapman said. “After that, I ran. Once I recognized he was attacking people with a knife I got out of there as fast as I could. The guy next to me, his hand got cut.”

The police officer who took quick action and fatally shot Artan was identified as OSU Officer Alan Horujko, who is 28. Authorities said Horujko’s quick action helped minimize the toll of the attack.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was updated on 11/29/2016 at 11:40 a.m.

Posted in Life in general | 4 Comments »

Beloved Stanislaus Deputy Executed & California Grieves

November 14th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


Deputy Dennis Wallace, 53, was a 20-year veteran of the Stanislaus Sheriff’s Department and was well-known in the community for his involvement in youth soccer, as a referee for local football games, for his work to help keep kids off drugs, and for his calm, dedication to his work in law enforcement.

Deputy Wallace was killed on Sunday morning after he entered a county fishing access in Stanislaus County’s Fox Grove Park to investigate a suspicious van that dispatchers said was stolen. He requested that another police unit be sent to the scene, but Wallace was dead by the time the second unit arrived, shot execution style in the head outside the vehicles. The suspect, David Machado, who is now in custody, was wanted on a felony warrant at the time of the traffic stop, and was captured after after he carjacked a motorist, robbed a liquor store, then attempted to snatch a purse from a woman in Tulare County, who called the cops.

“He was just one of the happiest guys there was. And even in hard times he was smiling. If we could just learn from that… that the sun is going to shine tomorrow and evil will not win,” said Dave Wallace, Deputy Wallace’s younger brother, at a spontaneous gathering that drew thousands on Sunday night to honor the slain deputy.

WitnessLA grieves along with California at the loss of Deputy Dennis Wallace, who leaves behind his wife and children.

Posted in law enforcement, Life in general | 6 Comments »

Good Bye to Leon Russell, a Piano Player’s Piano Player – 1942-1916

November 13th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

Before Leon Russell went out on his own as a singer, he played with nearly everyone as a session musician—Bob Dylan, George Harrison, the Beach Boys, his wide-fingered two-fisted style of founded the piano keys so distinctive that Elton John claimed Russell as his mentor well before actually meeting him. (And decades later it would be John who arm twisted the arms of the right people to make sure that Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

When Russell finally went out on his own, others often had bigger hits with the music he wrote. Joe Cocker made Delta Lady a hit. A Song For You was recorded by a list of nearly 100 artists that includes Cocker, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Russell’s friend, Willie Nelson. Yet, Russell was able to dazzlingly reinvent the songs written by far bigger stars, such as the Stones’ Wild Horses, and Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (which you can listen to here).

Leon Russell died in his sleep on Sunday in Nashville.

Posted in American artists, Life in general | 1 Comment »

With Our Deepest Thanks to All Our Veteran Brothers & Sisters, Sons & Daughters

November 11th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

The string of Springsteen songs below is from the 2014 Concert for Valor.

Dave Grohl played a version of There Goes My Hero at the same concert.

Last, the great Ray Charles in 1991: “And crown thy good with brotherhood….”

Posted in Life in general | No Comments »

Leonard Cohen: The Death of the Incandescent Songwriter-Poet, 1932 – 2016

November 10th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

RollingStone explained the irreplaceable Mr. Cohen and his music very well:

“Leonard Cohen, the hugely influential singer and songwriter whose work spanned five decades, died at the age of 82. Cohen’s label, Sony Music Canada, confirmed his death on the singer’s Facebook page.

“‘It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away,’ the statement read. ‘We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.’ A cause of death and exact date of death was not given.

“Cohen was the dark eminence among a small pantheon of extremely influential singer-songwriters to emerge in the Sixties and early Seventies. Only Bob Dylan exerted a more profound influence upon his generation, and perhaps only Paul Simon and fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell equaled him as a song poet. Cohen’s haunting bass voice, nylon-stringed guitar patterns, Greek-chorus backing vocals shaped evocative songs that dealt with love and hate, sex and spirituality, war and peace, ecstasy and depression. He was also the rare artist of his generation to enjoy artistic success into his Eighties, releasing his final album, You Want It Darker, earlier this year.

Here’s the title song from that newest—and last—album, You Want It Darker. It’s Leonard’s good-bye, telling us that he would soon be exiting the building. And so he did.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Cohen. We will miss you terribly.

And then there are all the rest…

Other singers have interpreted Mr. Cohen wonderfully, Rufus Wainwright and Nick Cave among them, along with once-lover and recording collaborator, Jennifer Warnes.

And of course there is Jeff Buckley with his heart-tearing and luminous version of Hallelujah.

But nobody does Cohen’s work quite like the man himself.

Posted in Life in general | 4 Comments »

STUNNING TRUMP VICTORY….Next Step: Come Together

November 8th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

Posted in Life in general | 35 Comments »

Tom Hayden, 60′s Anti-War Activist Turned State Lawmaker, & Champion of Social Justice Causes, Dies at 76

October 24th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


Many on all sides of the political spectrum were stunned and saddened Sunday night to learn of the death of Tom Hayden. The texts and emails and Facebook posts that passed Sunday night between friends, or just acquaintances of Tom’s, were filled with shock and sorrow.

Hayden had been struggling with heart problems and a stroke, then reportedly became ill during the Democratic National Convention in July, according to his wife, Barbara Williams. He died on Sunday, October 23. He was 76.

Still, in typical Hayden fashion he managed to record at least one more long and chatty interview with an NPR reporter at the convention, talking about his hopes for the country’s political future, and how he hoped to contribute to that future.

Even those who disagreed with Hayden expressed admiration for his passion, his shimmering intelligence, and his commitment to causes he believed to be important.

It would be difficult to count all the ways he has mattered in the realm of social justice.

Due to his early days of activism, however, he was sometimes a polarizing figure.

Hayden began as an early 60′s radical and freedom rider who became nationally known for his opposition to the Vietnam War, and for his involvement in the civil rights movement.

He was one of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In 1962, he was the principal author of the Port Huron Statement, the influential organizing document of the SDS.

In 1968, he helped plan anti-war demonstrations to take place outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. When after weeks of trying without success to get permits to gather legally, Hayden and the other organizers went ahead with the demonstrations anyway. The resulting clashes with Chicago police were violent, deadly—and televised. Hayden and seven others were arrested and slapped with the newly minted federal charges of conspiracy to incite to riot.

The subsequent so-called Trial of the Chicago Seven, veered between theater and farce. (Defendant number eight, Bobby Seale, was tried separately.) Hayden was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, but the conviction was later overturned on appeal, because the highly colorful Judge Julius Hoffman had so opening sided with prosecutors.

By the late 1970′s, the FBI had a 22,000-page FBI on Tom Hayden.

He was famously—and sometimes infamously—married to actress Jane Fonda from 1973 to 1990. It was a second marriage for both Hayden and Fonda. Now that the Vietnam War had ended, anti-establishment Hayden decided to try his hand at conventional politics. Fonda financed the beginning of his political career, which started with an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate.

Then, in 1982, Hayden was elected to the California Assembly. Once he got his political feet under him, a newly-middle class Hayden served a total of 18 years in the state capitol—first ten years in the Assembly, then another eight in the state Senate.

After his divorce from Fonda, Hayden married Canadian actress Barbara Williams shortly after being voted into the California State Senate in 1992.

When he was termed out of the senate, Hayden’s political career ran aground. He ran unsuccessfully for California governor, for LA mayor, and finally for Los Angeles City Council, where he lost in a runoff by 369 votes to former prosecutor Jack Weiss.

Following the City Council loss, Hayden left politics, and went back to writing and organizing, championing a list of social justice causes, with the help of a new generation of young activists, including a group of former gang members whom he successfully mentored and championed.

Hayden began as a journalist during his student activist years, and remained a prolific writer, and author throughout his life. He was a member of the editorial board and a columnist for The Nation magazine, and was published with some regularity in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Harvard International Review, the Huffington Post and more

He also authored and/or edited more than twenty books, including “Inspiring Participatory Democracy: Student Movements from Port Huron to Today,” and his last book, “Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement,” which is scheduled to be published in March 2017 by Yale University Press.

“Tom Hayden changed America,” wrote Nicolas Lemann of The Atlantic. During his time in Sacramento, he was described as “the conscience of the Senate” by the Sacramento Bee’s political analyst. The Nation magazine named Hayden one of the 50 greatest progressives of the 20th century.

At WitnessLA we considered Tom a treasured friend. We sometimes disagreed with him, and he with us. But we were far better for having known him. We will miss his wildly intelligent and impassioned voice more than we can express.

If you’d like to hear more from Tom Hayden personally, here’s the NPR interview with Tom at the Democratic convention in July that we mentioned above. It’s weirdly poignant, given the timing. His energy, and his enthusiasm and optimism for affecting political change is still there in full force, despite his failing health.

Then if you’d like to read more about Tom Hayden, the Los Angeles Times obit by Michael Finnegan on Hayden is a good one.

Here’s a clip:

Looking back on the war in his memoir, Hayden voiced a few regrets. Time proved him “overly romantic about the Vietnamese revolution,” he wrote. Hayden also admitted “a numbed sensitivity to any anguish or confusion I was causing to U.S. soldiers or to their families — the very people I was trying to save from death and deception.”

As the war came to an end, Hayden embraced mainstream politics in California with a campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. John Tunney. He lost the June 1976 Democratic primary to Tunney, who was ousted in November by Republican S.I. Hayakawa. Some Democrats blamed the defeat on Hayden.

But the campaign laid ground for Hayden and Fonda to start the Campaign for Economic Democracy, later known as Campaign California. The group fought for such causes as Santa Monica rent control, public spending on solar power and divestment from apartheid South Africa.

Much of the group’s money came from Fonda, whose movie career was booming and whose workout video business would spawn a fortune in the ’80s. It helped elect scores of liberals to local offices statewide and campaigned for Proposition 65, the anti-toxics measure that requires signs in gas stations, bars and grocery stores that warn of cancer-causing chemicals.

Hayden represented Santa Monica, Malibu and part of the Westside in Sacramento. His legislative achievements were modest — research into the effects of the herbicide Agent Orange on U.S. servicemen in Vietnam; repair money for the Santa Monica and Malibu piers; tighter rules to prevent the collapse of construction cranes, to name a few.

Hayden paid a personal price for his work as a radical.

His father, a Republican, refused to speak with him for 13 years. They reconciled before his father’s death, a few days before Hayden won election to the Assembly in 1982.

PHOTO by Jay Godwin courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Posted in Life in general | 1 Comment »

Funding a Bridge for Cougar-Crossing

October 20th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Wednesday, the Annenberg Foundation announced that it will match every dollar raised, up to $1 million, as part of the #SaveLACougars campaign to build a cougar crossing over the 101 freeway in Agoura Hills. The crossing would help LA’s cougars—a population at great risk of extinction within the next 50 years because of inbreeding—by giving them the freedom to roam and breed with mountain lions to whom they aren’t related.

On Wednesday, a group of advocates, local officials, and scientists started a 4-day, 40-mile walk from Topanga, in the Santa Monica Mountains, to Griffith Park to symbolically retrace the steps of LA’s most famous mountain lion, P-22, whose impressive journey involved crossing both the 101 and the 405 freeways.

The LA Times’ Bettina Boxall has the story. Here’s a clip:

The roughly 15 mountain lions that live in the Santa Monica range desperately need new blood. Isolated by freeways and urban development, adults are breeding with close relatives and losing the genetic diversity necessary for population survival.

A recent study by UCLA and National Park Service scientists concluded that the inbreeding leaves the local cougar population at risk of extinction within the next 50 years.

“It’s easy to think of Los Angeles as a concrete jungle. The truth is, we’re home to one of the most richly diverse ecosystems in the entire world,” Annenberg President Wallis Annenberg said in a statement. “We need to do more to protect our mountain lion population, to help them breed and thrive.”

A 2015 Caltrans report presented two alternatives for the 101 crossing, which would rise immediately west of Liberty Canyon Road.

A bridge that’s 165 feet wide and 200 feet long would cost $30 million to $35 million. A longer span over the freeway and Agoura Road — the choice of wildlife advocates — would cost $50 million to $60 million.

Posted in Life in general | No Comments »

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day

October 10th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

Most states, cities and counties still call today Columbus Day.
But the movement to celebrate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day is growing.

South Dakota was the first state to do away with the Columbus-related designation in 1990, replacing it with Native American Day. Seattle changed in 2014. Last year 19 municipalities and the state of Alaska embraced the new holiday. This year, at least 17 municipalities plus the state of Vermont voted to ditch Columbus day in favor of a day that celebrates the nation’s first people.

Denver, Co. made the change on October 3. The city council of Boulder, CO, voted in August. Phoenix, AZ, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM, also recently switched.

A few years ago, the California state legislature tried to pass a bill to rename today, however it didn’t pass. Yet, nationally, the movement is expanding, not slowing down.

So, Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day everyone.

And happy day after John Lennon’s birthday, while we’re at it.

NOTE: The two videos above are not from an October celebration but rather from North American Indian Days, the fabulous annual powwow held the second weekend of July in Browning, MT. The first video features the Chicken Dancers’ competition. The second is the performance of one group, known as the Bull Horn drummers, in the drumming competition.

Posted in Life in general | 3 Comments »

Many Mourn Respected LA Sheriff’s Sergeant Steven Owen, Slain in Lancaster

October 5th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

Like many in Los Angeles County, we are devastated at the news of the fatal shooting of highly-respected Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sergeant Steven Owen, 53,
who died on Wednesday after being shot by a suspect while responding to a call about a residential burglary in Lancaster.

We will have a full story about Sergeant Owen late tonight. In the meantime, our thoughts go out to Sergeant Owen’s wife, his two grown sons, his step-daughter, extended family and friends, and the many members of the Los Angeles County law enforcement community who knew Steve Owens as a friend and colleague, plus the members of the wider LA County community, many of whom also knew and valued him, and whom he protected and served for 29 years.

Posted in LASD, Life in general, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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