July 24, 2014
By STEVEN HERBERT
City News Service
President Barack Obama arrived aboard Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday afternoon for a planned 24 1/2-hour visit to conduct two political fundraisers and speak at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. Los Angeles was the final stop on Obama’s three-day, three-city West Coast fundraising trip, which began Tuesday July 22, in Seattle, where he spoke at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. Obama will begin his day in San Francisco, where he is to attend a morning fundraiser benefiting the House Majority Political Action Committee.
He spoke and answered questions at an early afternoon Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser in Los Altos Hills. Obama’s first stop of his visit to Los Angeles was at the Hancock Park home of television producer Shonda Rhimes for a late-afternoon DNC fundraising reception and dinner. Tickets for the event begin at $1,000, according to an invitation posted on the website, PoliticalPartyTime.org, which tracks political fundraisers.
The price was $10,000 to attend the reception and for the opportunity to have a photo taken with Obama, and $32,400 — the maximum allowable contribution to a national party committee in a calendar year — to be a co-host of the event, which also allowed the donor to attend a dinner with Obama in addition to the reception and the photo opportunity. The event’s co-chairs included Kerry Washington, the star of the Rhimes-produced ABC drama “Scandal.” Rhimes is also a producer of two other ABC dramas, the long-running “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” which is set to premiere Sept. 25.
“The overwhelming majority” of tickets for the fundraiser were priced at $1,000 “because most of the people I know cannot afford” a $32,400 ticket, Rhimes told City News Service.
On Thursday, Obama was scheduled to participate in a roundtable discussion with about 30 people at the Los Angeles home of Michael Rapino, CEO of the concert promotion firm Live Nation, with tickets costing $32,400 each, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Proceeds benefit the Democratic National Committee. The lone planned non-fundraising event of Obama’s visit to California was also scheduled Thursday at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, where he was expected to speak on the “importance of job-driven skills training, particularly for fast-growing sectors such as health care,” according to the White House.
Various groups describing themselves as pro-immigration and pro-Palestinian planned to protest outside Trade-Technical College, calling for ending deportations of immigrants in the country without legal permission, for the U.S. to demand Israel end its attacks on Palestinians and for the creation of a Palestinian state. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who will become House majority leader on Aug. 1, criticized Obama on Tuesday for not addressing California’s drought during his visit to the state, calling him “clueless to the fact that Californians care more for solving our problems than they care for high-dollar presidential fundraisers.”
Obama spoke about the drought at a farm in Los Banos in the San Joaquin Valley in February. The Obama administration has provided assistance to the state's farmers and ranchers in a variety of programs, sought to increase coordination and flexibility in water allocations; and improve drought monitoring, research and tools. The trip was Obama’s 19th to Los Angeles or Orange counties since taking office in 2009 and the third in three months. All but three of his trips have included political fundraisers.
July 17, 2014
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (District 2) announced his support for Chief Jim McDonnell for LA County Sheriff.
“Chief Jim McDonnell has the integrity and foresight to lead the Sheriff’s Department into a new era of transparency and success,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Throughout his years of public service, he has shown that he is not just tough on crime, but smart on crime, with the insights to recognize the value of investing in prevention and crime reduction strategies that keep our community safe and also help promote more positive outcomes for those at risk of entry into the justice system. I look forward to working with Chief McDonnell to ensure we are providing community-based treatment options instead of incarceration for those who suffer from mental illness and could benefit from these services.”
At the press conference, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Chief McDonnell were joined by more than a dozen local South LA community leaders and ministers, including Pastor Xavier Thompson, President of the Baptist Ministers Conference.
Pastor Thompson said, “Chief McDonnell understands the balance that the Sheriff’s Department must have within our communities, protecting the rights of our residents while ensuring the safety of our families. There is no question that Chief McDonnell is the right person for this job.”
Chief McDonnell has now received the support of all five current supervisors, Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky, as well as Supervisor-Elect Hilda Solis and a host of other elected officials, law enforcement professionals and community leaders from all sides of the political spectrum.
In response to the endorsement, Chief McDonnell said, “I’m proud to have the support of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, a highly regarded County leader who is deeply committed to transparency and accountability in the Sheriff’s Department and a tremendous advocate for community engagement. I look forward to working together to find ways that we can protect our neighborhoods and help our children and families thrive.”
Chief McDonnell has served as Chief of the Long Beach Police Department since 2010 and previously served as the second in command in the Los Angeles Police Department. He was appointed to the Los Angeles Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence to “initiate and carry out a community-level review of alleged inappropriate use of force by deputies assigned to the jails.” Chief McDonnell is been a vocal supporter of developing diversion programs to help provide support for the mentally ill in the justice system, believing there are some inmates who would be better served by community-based treatment options that can address the underlying problems, while still maintaining community safety.
July 10, 2014
City News Service
Deputies hoping to stem the illegal sale of “designer” drugs such as “bath salts” and “spice” found the contraband in two of four tobacco shops they checked in the Santa Clarita Valley, it was announced. The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Juvenile Intervention Team conducted the operation July 8 and issued two citations to the shopkeepers, said Deputy Joshua Dubin of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. Selling the contraband is a misdemeanor punishable by county jail time and/or hefty fines, Dubin said.
Cannabinoids, which include synthetic marijuana or “spice,” and synthetic cathinones, otherwise known as “bath salts,” are increasingly available over the counter, according to authorities and referral networks that help get addicts into treatment. According to a recent report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the number of synthetic drugs being sold on the streets or over the counter rose by more than 50 percent over the past three years. The unregulated “designer” drugs are sold as tablets, capsules, or powder — often with names such Vanilla Sky and Bliss —and purchased in places such as tobacco and convenience stores, gas stations, head shops and via the Internet.
A study published in the August issue of Neuropharmacology shows that “bath salts” appear to be more addictive than methamphetamine.
July 10, 2014
By Michael McGee
Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner
“The most disadvantaged, troubled students in the South and the nation attend schools in the juvenile justice systems,” the 2014 report from the Southern Education Foundation begins. The document, Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform Juvenile Justice Systems into Effective Educational Systems raises a number of questions: If so many children with educational needs are segregated or incarcerated, what will become of them and the society they will enter once they age out of the system? Are their needs being met? What can be improved?
Data within the report suggests that the current condition the juvenile justice system is in creates the potential for lifelong disadvantage for many youth who are a part of the system. Dr. Kent McGuire, president of the Southern Education Foundation, is concerned by what he saw in the report.
“The first thing I think we need to remember is that we’re talking about kids, not adults,” he said. “Kids need help and support as they grow up, as they develop, and they’re entitled to and deserve opportunities to learn through education so that they can participate fully in the economy and the democracy.” The president noted that all children have such needs, be they in an off-campus alternative school, a boot camp or high school in a suburban community.
“So we’re talking about school,” McGuire said. “The good news is that they’re set up to do education. The bad news is, from our look in, is that the education function, we think, gets short shrift.” He said if education was understood to be a primary focus to juvenile justice the dividends would be greater in the future.
“In terms of lower recidivism rates, high school graduation rates and smoother transitions into post-secondary opportunities and the world of work,” McGuire stated. “So there’s just lots of reasons, before we even get to the cost associated with the population of that system, lots of reasons to get the education piece right.”
The report from 2010 suggests that there were 70,000 young people across the U.S. detained within the system on any given day. About one-third of those kids were found in 15 states of the Southern U.S. McGuire reflected upon how those numbers got to be so high.
“Most things we come to worry about don’t happen overnight, which means that they’re long, slow, developing trends which take a trained eye to see,” he admitted. To some extent, he praised aspects of the No Child Left Behind legislation for identifying problem areas for many school-aged children.
“On the other hand, [there’s] this preoccupation with accountability to the absence of what I’ll call capacity-building,” McGuire criticized. “It’s one thing to hold adults accountable; it’s another to actually help them get better results. We’ve done a lot of one. We haven’t done very much of the other.”
Many kids within the system have learning disabilities, behavioral and emotional problems, and are behind in their education to begin with, the SEF report cites. The report also notes that, of the total number of youth detained in 2010, almost two-thirds “did not involve any wrongdoing directly against another person.” Most kids in the system were there not due to violence, but because of property damage, drug issues, or they “had been unruly, incurred technical violations, or had committed a status offense,” the SEF said.
July 03, 2014
By MICHELLE FAUL
Leaders at an African summit have voted to give themselves and their allies immunity from prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide at a new African Court of Justice and Human Rights.
The decision comes as the continent confronts human rights violations and has two sitting presidents and one ousted president facing charges at the International Criminal Court.
Amnesty International called it “a backward step in the fight against impunity and a betrayal of victims of serious violations of human rights.”
“At a time when the African continent is struggling to ensure that there is accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses, it is impossible to justify this decision which undermines the integrity of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, even before it becomes operational,” said Amnesty’s Netsanet Belay.
The decision came June 27 at an African Union summit vote in Equatorial Guinea from which journalists were excluded, Amnesty International said. News of the vote was imparted obliquely in a statement recently, about the summit outcomes. A paragraph listing legal instruments agreed at the meeting included the “Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.”
That amendment bars the court from prosecuting sitting African leaders and vaguely identified “senior officials.”
Forty-two African and international civil society and rights groups had objected to the amendment, noting in an open letter before the summit that the impunity violates international and domestic laws as well as the constitution of the African Union.
Simon Allison of the South African-based Institute for Security Studies wrote in an op-ed piece before the vote that “there are enough compromised African leaders who might stand to benefit from the immunity on offer.”
He noted that there is an argument to be made that guaranteed immunity for presidents and senior officials might actually encourage African states to engage more enthusiastically with the proposed new court, and to abide by its rulings.
“If Africa’s leaders aren’t worrying about their own fate, they won’t have anything to lose by cooperating,” he wrote.
And it might keep the court clear of the complicated political issues that have bogged down the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
That court has been accused of unfairly singling out African leaders. Earlier this year the African Union urged its members to “speak with one voice” to prevent criminal proceedings at ICC against sitting presidents. Only Botswana objected then, as it has now against the promised impunity at the African court.
The African Union has failed to persuade the U.N. Security Council to defer the trials of Kenya’s president and his deputy on charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating postelection violence that killed more than 1,000 people in 2007. Both men deny the charges. The Africans also wanted the deferral of criminal proceedings against Sudan's president, who has been charged with genocide in Darfur.