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 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.
June 26, 2014
LAWT News Service
Plan ahead, allow extra travel time, or steer clear of airport-area traffic the weekend of July 25-28. These are the messages that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), and Caltrans are advising the public in advance of a major bridge demolition that will result in 57-hour street closure of a portion of Century Boulevard, a major artery leading into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), that weekend.
“We’re advising motorists to steer clear of the construction zone and avoid getting caught in traffic during the 57-hour closure,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. “We’re also encouraging the public to visit Metro’s web site at metro.net/crenshaw for the latest updates including recommended detours.” DuBois noted that the demolition work is necessary at this time for Metro to stay on schedule for the new light rail line that will connect the Metro Green and Expo lines in 2019.
“World class cities have world class airports, and world class cities have world class transit. And we all know Los Angeles is the greatest city on earth,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “So we are going to take down this bridge and we’re planning ahead to make sure that disruption is minimized just like we did with the Carmageddon that never materialized.”
For the effort, dubbed the “Century Crunch,” Walsh Shea Corridor Constructors, a contractor working for Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, will demolish a defunct railroad bridge at the intersection of Century and Aviation boulevards from 9 p.m. Friday, July 25 until 6 a.m. Monday, July 28. The work is necessary to clear the site for a new light rail train station. Demolition will close a portion of Century Boulevard at the Century/Aviation intersection. The street is a major artery leading into LAX during one of the busiest travel times of the year.
The “Century Crunch” will also reduce lane capacity on Aviation Boulevard by half. All southbound bound traffic lanes will be closed in the area, while Aviation’s northbound lanes will remain open.
“Angelinos, we’ve been through this before, and we’re asking for your patience as we tear down an old bridge to make way for a state-of-the-art light rail system,” said Los Angeles Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas. “So we’re asking you to reroute your drive for two days at the end of July. In return we’re going to build you a system that ultimately will connect our urban center to LAX and the South Bay.”
Motorists are advised to monitor real-time traffic conditions prior to beginning their trips and to follow recommended detour routes.
The detour area is approximately 1-mile between La Cienega and Airport boulevards.
Westbound: For westbound traffic on Century Boulevard heading to LAX, motorists can head northbound on La Cienega Boulevard, turn left (west) onto Manchester Boulevard, turn left (south) on Airport or Sepulveda boulevard, and then turn right (west) on Century Boulevard to enter the airport.
Eastbound: Leaving LAX on Century Boulevard, motorists should turn left (north) onto Airport Boulevard and proceed to Manchester Boulevard.
Motorists can then turn right on Manchester Boulevard to proceed eastbound to La Cienega Boulevard or turn right (west) to proceed southbound to Century Boulevard.
“While there is no way to predict with certainty how much extra time passengers will need to be on time for flights, the Century Crunch will significantly impact traffic in and around the airport,” LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said. “This year's summer travel season is expected to break records for the number of passengers using the airport, so whether flying out, picking someone up, or if you work at LAX, plan ahead and expect to take longer to get there.”
Travelers to and from LAX are not the only ones impacted.
Employees of local businesses and hotel guests also will be affected. Metro and its contractor are conducting extensive community outreach in an effort to mitigate the closure’s impacts.
As part of the traffic management plan, freeway message signs on the I-405 and I-105 freeways will advise motorists of street closures.
“Like the major I-405 closures before it, the closure of Century Boulevard will require cooperation among transportation agencies and with the public,” said Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen. “Los Angeles has a great track record of handling these traffic impacts like champs, and we are confident we can all work together to keep freeway traffic running smoothly.”
On local streets, LADOT will monitor real-time traffic conditions in efforts to help keep traffic moving as quickly as possible. LAPD traffic officers will also be stationed at key intersections during the effort.
“This intersection averages over 92,800 motorists daily, which underscores the importance of managing the traffic at this location,” said Jon Kirk Mukri, general manager, City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
“The Department of Transportation is committed to working with Metro by monitoring the traffic flow and making the necessary real-time adjustments to the traffic signal timing and by providing traffic and intersection control as it is needed, to help manage the impeding traffic congestion along this project route.”
Airport travelers are encouraged to use public transportation to access the airport, including the Metro Green Line. Passengers traveling to the airport should exit at the Aviation/LAX Station, and then catch the free 'G' Shuttle bus from Bays 6 and 7. The 'G' shuttle, operated by the airport, serves all passenger terminals. Metro Line 120 (Imperial Highway) also serves the Aviation/LAX Station. Metro Bus lines serving the airport include Lines 102, 111, 117, and 232. These lines all terminate at the LAX City Bus Center on 96th Street just east of Sepulveda Boulevard. Municipal providers with service to LAX on the weekend include Beach Cities Transit Line 109, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Line 3, Culver City Line 6, and Torrance Transit Line 8. All four lines serve the LAX City Bus Center. Flyaway buses provide a one-seat ride to the LAX passenger terminals. Flyaway provides service on four routes connecting LAX to LA Union Station, Van Nuys, Westwood, and the Expo/La Brea Metro Rail station. To plan your trip on public transportation, visit metro.net and use the trip planner.
Traffic will not return to normal after the bridge demolition is completed. For the next 16 months, one lane in each direction on Century Boulevard will be removed as the contractor builds infrastructure for a new elevated light rail station at Aviation and Century. This will leave three traffic lanes in each direction. The public is advised to continue to allow extra time when traveling through this area.
For more information on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, the Century bridge demolition, related street closures and recommended detours go to metro.net/Crenshaw. Join us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CrenshawRail and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/crenshawrail.
By Stacy M. Brown
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer
Not even the Supreme Court can stop the Congressional Black Caucus from moving forward in its mission to protect African-American voters and others at the polls.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), led a contingent of caucus members and several minority groups in a public plea to Republicans on June 18 to take up legislation that would restore the voting rights protections shot down last year by the nation’s highest court.
“Voter discrimination is real in America,” said Fudge, 61. “We have a voting rights bill that has been sitting in the House for months and months and it’s being held up by Chairman Bob Goodlatte.”
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and other Democrats have urged lawmakers to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013, the High Court voted to strike down key components of the law, including allowing nine states to change their voting requirements without advance approval from the federal government.
Fudge and other Democratic legislators said Goodlatte, (R-Va.), who serves as the House Judiciary Chairman, has blocked efforts to get a bill passed that would restore portions of the law that the Supreme Court struck down.
Democrats are seeking greater protection for minority voters and they want to ensure that individuals aren’t turned away from the polls because they don’t have proper identification or for other reasons.
Goodlatte, 61, has vowed to protect voting rights.
“I fully support protecting the voting rights of all Americans,” he said. “As Congress determines whether additional steps are needed to protect those rights, I will carefully consider legislative proposals addressing the issue.”
However, with June quickly coming to a close and legislators preparing to return to their home states for summer break, without a resolution Congress would be hard pressed to pass a bill prior to the November midterm elections.
It’s that scenario that Democrats said they fear because many minority voters could find it difficult to cast their ballots with the way the law currently stands.
“Voting is the language of the American democracy, if you don’t vote, you don’t count,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in Northwest.
“This principle has been echoed time and again by resounding bipartisan majorities in Congress and by presidents from both parties,” said Henderson, 66. “The issue of voting rights has historically been, and will forever be, bipartisan. The House Judiciary Committee cannot shrink from this historic obligation.”
CBC members and leaders of several other groups said they recognize this time as being crucial in the battle to achieve a more balanced voting rights law.
Lorraine Miller, interim president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said it’s imperative that Congress act now.
“This is a critical time for action. As we approach the anniversary [of last year’s Supreme Court decision], we must act with renewed urgency in advancing the Voting Rights Amendment Act through the congressional process,” Miller said. “The looming risk of voter disenfranchisement threatens our democracy and failure to advance this legislation gives a free pass to voting discrimination.”
By George E. Curry
The 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer is being commemorated this week in Mississippi and it provides the perfect backdrop to reflect on the transformation of not only Mississippi, then the deadliest state in the nation, but the entire region.
As I have written in the space before, there was a popular joke about Mississippi making the rounds during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Supposedly, a Chicago seminary student was awakened at 3 a.m. by a voice imploring him: “Go to Mississippi! Go to Mississippi!! Go to Mississippi!!!” The seminary student said, “Lord, you said that you will be with me always, even until the end of the earth. If I go to Mississippi, will you go with me?” The heavenly voice replied, “I’ll go as far as Memphis.”
Of course, if the Lord was reluctant to go to Mississippi, the chances of a Black surviving there were slim and none. I had just completed my junior year at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. in the summer of 1964. Alabama had its own violent history when it came to race relations, but Mississippi was the one state we knew was worse. In fact, whenever a national ranking of any kind came out, we would always say, “Thank God for Mississippi.”
Of course, we all awaited the beginning of Freedom Summer, a national mobilization of mostly college students who would descend upon Mississippi in 1964 to help civil rights activists, led by Bob Moses of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), assist Blacks in voter education and voting.
More than 1,000 students, about 90 percent of them White, participated. With so many northern Whites descending on the state, the nation would be watching. And Blacks like me, who grew up under America’s version of apartheid, knew that virulent White racists in Mississippi would not go quietly into the dark. They would go into the dark – where they did their most tawdry work – but they wouldn’t be quiet about it.
And sure enough, at the outset of Freedom Summer, three civil rights workers – James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman – were arrested in Nashoba County by Sheriff Cecil Price, a member of the Ku Klux Klan. That night, they were released. Tipped off about their impending departure, Klansmen abducted the three and murdered them. Their bodies were discovered seven weeks later 15 feet below an earthen dam.
While looking for the three civil rights workers in rivers and swamps, other Black bodies were discovered. One was Herbert Oarsby, a 14-year-old boy who was wearing a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) T-shirt. The bodies of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Eddie Moore, who had been expelled from Alcorn A&M College for civil rights activities, were also discovered. The remains of five more Black men were found, but never identified.
It wasn’t until 1970 that anyone was imprisoned for the slayings of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman, with six years being the longest time served.
In 1964, only 6.7 percent of Blacks were registered to vote, the lowest in the nation. Today, more than a third of Mississippi’s voters are Black and the state has the largest number of Black elected officials in the nation.
But that progress came with a price, with people losing their jobs –and even their lives – simply because they wanted to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The casualities extended beyond the three civil rights workers.
According to the book, Freedom Summer by Doug McAdam, in the summer of 1964 alone:
• At least four Blacks from Mississippi were murdered because of their civil rights activities
• Four people were seriously wounded
• 80 summer workers were beaten
• 1,062 people were arrested
• 37 churches were burned or bombed
• The homes or businesses of 30 African Americans were bombed or burned.
Visiting college students weren’t the only ones responsible for the success of that summer. When Berea College withdrew as a training site for students headed South, Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, now part of Miami University, stepped forward.
Attorneys volunteered from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU. Medical professionals, participating as individuals as well as members of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, also joined the caravans headed to Mississippi.
The level of national support emboldened Black Mississippians, such as Fannie Lou Hamer, to challenge the seating of the all-White Mississippi delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.
As Attorney Thomas N. Todd likes to remind us, this was done before the existence of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media.
It’s good that civil rights vets are celebrating Freedom Summer this week. But the challenge today is to reignite that passion and sense of commitment. Many of the problems of 1964 are still prevalent today. We need another Freedom Summer, Winter, Fall and Spring.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/ currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.
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