• RL NEWS Briefs: Jan. 13, 2015

    Suspect Fires at LBPD Officers; Leads Police on Pursuit
    LONG BEACH — On Jan. 10, 22-year-old Joseph Gonzales was booked for attempted murder, evading police, child cruelty that could result in possible injury or death, assault with a firearm on a police officer, felon in possession of a firearm and parole violation.
    The incident that led to his arrest started at about 2 a.m. that day, when Long Beach Police Department officers responded to a residence on the 6500 block of East Rosebay Street to investigate a shooting involving a domestic dispute. The incident resulted in two officer involved shootings and injury to one officer. (more…)

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  • The Importance of Being Charlie

    By William C. Below Jr.

    At 10:30 on Wednesday morning, January 7, I was slogging through my routine at the gym on a small side street off the Place de la Bastille in Paris’ eleventh arrondissement. About a block from there, across a broad and curving tree-lined strip that covers a navigable canal leading out of Paris to the north—the Boulevard Richard Lenoir— is a patchwork enclave of industrial spaces and bland apartment buildings from the 19th century mixing with even blander social housing from the 1970’s and 80’s. On a short street within that enclave—rue Nicolas Appert—are the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

    Charlie Hebdo (which translates to “Charlie Weekly”) occupies a unique place in French consciousness. It’s a mix between National Lampoon, Mad Magazine, The Onion and Fritz the Cat. Add to that a healthy portion of Voltaire’s anti-clericalism and what might be called “radical cheekiness” and one begins to get some sense of the magazine. Its main contributors that were gunned down Wednesday, the cartoonists Cabu, Wolinksi, Honoré and Tinous, all took up their pens during the events of May 1968, the apogee of student and civil unrest that rocked France. They choose satire as their weapon of choice at a time when French society was in the midst of massive upheavals. The status quo and the errors associated with it, notably the atrocities committed by the French forces during the Algerian War, inspired numerous forms of rebellion, but theirs was with the pen; it was about societal change through derision and satire—and constantly testing the limits of tolerance of institutions that espoused liberty but just as often sought to squelch it. In another time and context, they might have been heroes to the very individuals who gunned them down. But while its humor can be scathing, Charlie Hebdo is not mean-spirited. It does not spread hate. It is a slayer of sacred cows. Its tone is cynico-humanism. But the role of national gadfly is not without risk. It has been criticized by the Christian right and by Muslim and Jewish associations. The previous offices were firebombed in 2011. Stéphane Charbonnier, the magazine’s unrelenting editorial director, among the victims Wednesday, was on Al Qaeda’s hit list and had constant police protection. The officer protecting him, a muslim, was summarily executed in the rue Nicolas Appert Wednesday.

    On Wednesday morning, as I was leaving the gym, two brothers were making their way to the offices of Charlie Hebdo a block away. Within an hour the self-described jihadists had forced their way into the offices and, calling out Charbonnier by name, executed him. Within minutes, twelve people were dead, most of them shot in the head. I learned about the massacre from the LA Times. I was crossing the Seine by bus, picking up my daughter on the Left Bank when I received the push notification. The shock was compounded by the news of who the victims were. These were cartoonists that were well known by the French public. Each contributed to the press through outlets other than Charlie Hebdo. Each had a reputation beyond the magazine. It’s as though the most recognizable names in US political cartooning were summarily executed. Cartoonists? Really? The effect was ghastly and hugely disturbing, a reaction that would be shared by the country and the world.

    Everyone in our circle took to Facebook. Ahmed, who works in the building next to the Charlie Hebdo offices was on the phone with a client when he thought he heard firecrackers—the mind doesn’t immediately turn to thoughts of Kalashnikovs, or doesn’t want to. Later, as he evacuated the building he saw the bodies, an image he can’t get out of his mind. Later, we went to meet with him. The area was cordoned off. Flowers had begun to accumulate at the foot of the barricades. The global press corps had gathered with its equipment and transformed an otherwise quiet street that I go down twice a week. A familiar and unremarkable neighborhood corner had been transformed into a scene of death and horror the world was now gazing on. We hugged and Ahmed bravely went back to work.

    News the next morning that a policewoman had been shot just south of Paris introduced a small voice of dread that gradually grew louder over the day. Paris had had a string of terrorist attacks in the summer and fall of 1995 and all of us wondered if Wednesday’s massacre was the start of another awful series. Over the next two days, as the manhunt for the two terrorists played out, sirens and emergency vehicles were constantly present throughout the city. This came to a head on Friday morning. Walking to an appointment, my wife Amy and I encountered a huge convoy of police vehicles speeding eastward on the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, sirens blaring. As police surrounded the brothers in Dammartin outside of Paris, a hostage situation had broken out less than two miles from us on the eastern edge of the city. That afternoon, the world watched in real time as four more victims died, this time singled out for being Jewish.

    Three nights of spontaneous gatherings followed the carnage, at the Place de la République, a ten-minute walk from the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and throughout France and the world. President Hollande announced a Unity Marche set for Sunday to pass directly under our windows. Before the end of Friday, some 60 world leaders had chosen to attend in solidarity.

    Saturday night was a sleepless one, punctured by the sounds of barricades going up and sirens. And then there was the doubt: How could 60 heads of state, let alone the rest of us, march safely through the streets of a city on high alert? By 9 am Sunday, the street beneath our flat was blocked by dozens of riot vehicles. The synagogue down the street was cordoned off with military personnel standing guard with automatic rifles. This is the new status quo for synagogues and Jewish establishments throughout the city. By 4 pm, a huge crowd had gathered in the square downstairs, the mid-point in the symbolic route from Place de la République to Place de la Nation. Soon, the leaders of 60 countries would appear before our building, accompanied by the families of the victims of the massacres. We joined the crowds marching towards Place de la Nation, a crowd subdued, dignified and resolute. It was the largest gathering since the liberation of Paris. The takeaway: when you mess with cartoonists, you mess with the very foundations of a free society.

    The protest brought some comfort and sense to an otherwise tragic and extremely disturbing week, where the ugliest violence hailed down on a neighborhood then set a city, a country and the world into movement. As the throngs poured into the place de la Nation just blocks from the supermarket where 4 Jewish individuals were gunned down 48 hours previously, there were no speeches, no one to bring the week to a proper end… if such a thing were possible. It wasn’t a destination, it was a process; a demonstration, not a conclusion. In the end, the million and more people disbanded and went home, each to deal with horrors of the week privately.

    Paradoxically, one advantage of a reasonably functional democracy is the luxury of apathy. We expect the great ship of state to continue its course as we go about our busy lives. But, as France and the world learned, it is a fragile luxury, even a dangerous one. Charlie Hebdo was a weekly test case of one of the founding principles of the French Republic, and indeed of all modern democracies. With the massacre of its staff and the murder of three policemen and four individuals because they were Jewish, the luxury of apathy has been suspended. For how long, only time will tell.

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  • Why “I Am Charlie,” Whether or Not I’m on the Same Page as ‘Charlie Hebdo’

    I had never so much as heard of Charlie Hebdo when I awoke to news of the murders in Paris last week. And I still knew next to nothing about the publication when I, along with millions of others, proclaimed my solidarity with the publication and its writers, along with the principle of free expression, by taking to social media with the hashtags #iamcharlie and #jesuischarlie, the latter reportedly becoming one of the most Tweeted hashtag in history.

    What I did not have a grasp of until later was how divisive Charlie Hebdo has been over the years, with many charges of racism—particularly Islamophobia—being left at their doorstep.

    I now have a sense of why, but I refuse to debate that matter on its merits, because in the context of the killings it is completely irrelevant. I am Charlie because when free expression is persecuted, I stand up for the expression, regardless of its content.

    Say what you will about Charlie Hebdo: no-one can accuse them of being cowards. In 2006, for example, the magazine was one of the only publications in the world willing to reprint the drawings of Mohammad that had incited so much controversy when originally published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten a few months earlier.

    Nine years later, few major media outlets dare to display even benign images of Mohammad. The television network Comedy Central, for example, barred South Park from depicting Mohammad in both 2006 and 2010, despite having allowed a depiction of Mohammad in the 2001 South Park episode “Super Best Friends”.  Associated Press, the world’s largest news organization, censors all images of Mohammad, along with any “deliberately provocative images” (as an AP spokeperson told the Daily Beast), regardless of their newsworthiness.

    Jyllands-Posten is one of those publications who have toed that line, and they admit to the real reason: fear. As the editorial staff explains* in a recent piece entitled “Violence Works,”

    Some editors have tried to rationalize their decision [not to republish such cartoons] arguing that all are well aware [what] the drawings look like, and therefore there is no reason to bring them again and again. Well, we also know what [Danish Prime Minister] Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Barack Obama or the falling twin towers in New York look like, but it does not stop us from publishing pictures of them when they are the focus of the news flow. [… T]he reason why no one has reprinted the famous drawings, of course, fear. Everything else is excuses. Fear, however, is a legitimate feeling, not least for the employees of this newspaper. We have lived with the fear of a terrorist attack for nine years, and yes, it explains that we do not reprint cartoons, whether it be our own or Charlie Hebdo‘s. […] We are also aware that we therefore bow to violence and intimidation […].

    If for no other reason than its mass and scope, the World Wide Web is far more robust in these fights than the print world ever was, and so the controversial Charlie Hebdo images are not hard to find. The Huffington Post, for example, republished a few of the newspaper covers that constituted part of the offense for which the murderers felt Mohammad must be avenged.

    I shared the Huffington Post article on Facebook, a move that was greeted by my anthropologist friend, whom I hold in the highest regard, making clear her displeasure. “I actually think it is a shame that they republished these. (And I was disappointed to see your own version earlier),” she said, referring to a bearded stick-figure drawing— labeled “The Prophet Mohammad,” who I have saying, “Je suis Charlie!”—included with my #iamcharlie Tweet. “Of course I believe in free speech, and that Charlie Hebdo had the right to publish this in the first place, and certainly the violence this week in Paris has been horrific, but I don’t think we should be celebrating this racist, Islamophobic and frankly offensive (potentially hate) speech.”

    The point she misses is that these acts are not celebrations of Charlie Hebdo, any more than finding Charlie Hebdo offensive is to approve of the murders. Sharing the content the murderers claimed as their justification is a means to highlight just how completely without justification the murders are. Many in the world who have heard of the Paris attacks will not have seen the images in question. To share them is to reify the idea that 12 people were murdered over frigging cartoons and nothing more.

    On the other hand, to discourage or prohibit the sharing of the images—especially while talking about how terrible they are—leaves the conceptualization of the crime in a morally more nebulous state of the murders being perpetrated because the victims themselves did something so repugnant that we ought not to look at it, even when reading news articles about the killings, of which the drawings are undeniably a seminal part.

    Had I been old enough to be cognizant of the pertinent issues in play when in 1977 the National Socialist Party of America maneuvered to march in Skokie, Illinois—a predominantly Jewish community where one of every six residents was a Holocaust survivor—I would have vehemently supported their right to march there or anywhere. The march never materialized, but let us imagine that it did, and that offended Jews gunned down a dozen Nazi marchers as they passed through Skokie’s main square. In such a case I would have felt compelled to stand in solidarity with the Nazis against the barbaric act of murdering those who offend us with their words, ideas, or mere presence.

    This would not have meant I was standing in solidarity with Nazism. Even were I not Jewish on my mother’s side, even if one-quarter of my bloodlines did not run through Poland, even if I did not have relatives who perished in the Nazi death camps, I would hate the Nazis and all they stand for.

    But when it comes to Nazism, I do have skin in the game, and yet I would unequivocally stand with the Nazis against any and all who would physically attack them over the expression of their horrendous ideas. This would not be my standing up for the Nazis’ freedom of expression so much as my own, because when it comes to freedom, there is—or should be—no dividing line based on taste or content, save perhaps for the “clear and present danger” limits on free speech, such as incitement to riot (see Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) or the classic example of falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater (see Schenck v. United States (1919)).

    It is never mainstream expression or opinion that needs protection: it is the minority opinion, the unpopular belief, the expression generally deemed odious. Our First Amendment is only as good as its breadth, and our lip service in favor of freedom of expression is worth only what we’re actually willing to do to support it.

    Surely there is a time to debate the merits Charlie Hebdo‘s content—or even to protest and boycott the publication should one feel the world would be better off without it. But that time is not in the immediate wake of its staff members being murdered over that content. No matter how wrong the ideas expressed in Charlie Hebdo may be, that wrong is so far exceeded by the wrong of murdering people for expressing themselves that the only appropriate response is to stand against the attackers and all they represent.

    This isn’t about a magazine or its cartoons. No matter what Charlie Hebdo has published, #iamcharlie #jesuischarlie.

     

    *Note: For the purposes of this article, the original Danish text of the Jyllands-Posten editorial was rendered into English by Google Translate.

     

     

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  • Police and Racial Profiling: The Great American Tragedy

    By John R. Gray, Guest Columnist

    Several folks approached me about the seeming proliferation of young Afro-American men being killed by white police officers.

    To begin it is a horrible tragic situation for the victim’s family, and perhaps, the police officers involved.  We all should feel pain when any family loses a child unnecessarily to some holocaust-like misunderstanding of judgment, intent or motive, leading to an urban combat death.

    But, for young Afro-American males, there is concern about what we all know of as the imperfect world. Part of the imperfect world is the caveat of racial profiling, which has emerged as another one of America’s unsolvable problems.  Doctor, doctor, “Who do we call?” How about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Save your energy don’t call Attorney General Eric Holder. He is the most hated person in the American criminal justice. (more…)

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  • Dear Mr. President: Our New Year’s Wish List on Latin America

    By Rachel Bruhnke and Tanya Cole, Guest Columnists

    Editor’s Note: Rachel Bruhnke and Tanya Cole are board members and regional director of Witness for Peace/Southwest. Witness for Peace is a 25,000-member U.S. organization that seeks to change U.S. policy in Latin America through education and activism.

    Congratulations, Mr. President, for your actions on Cuba. Now it’s time to do more on Latin America.

    Beginning the U.S. thaw toward Cuba and freeing the remaining three of the Cuban 5 was a courageous and historic act. As a result, the hope for peace seems to have broken out in a major way for millions of people all over the United States and for our neighbors to the south. Throughout Latin America, the people are poised, waiting. They are waiting for even more justicia from you. There is more to be done to right the historic and profound wrongs of United States policy toward Latin America. Here are some of the things you could do: (more…)

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  • Latinos Should Make A New Year’s Resolution Not To Remain Silent

    By Carson Councilman Albert Robles

    News stories that will unfortunately carry into 2015 will be the ill treatment of African-Americans by our justice system.

    While everyone is outraged at the injustice, particularly deafening is the silence of Latinos at rallies demanding justice.

    While every racial, ethnic and demographic group is guilty of screaming louder for their injustices than the injustices suffered by others, it seems Latinos are more hypocritical.  For example, (1) Latinos were silent when the fundamental right to marry was denied to gays, (2) Latinos were silent when the right to freedom of religion was denied to Muslims, and now (3) Latinos are silent as Justice is denied to African-Americans.  Yet, Latinos are outraged when others are silent at their injustices?  In 2015 Latinos should make a New Year’s resolution to stop being hypocritical. (more…)

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  • Your Workout Routine 2015

    By David Johnson Contributing Writer
     
    Body weight training is the number one workout trend of 2015, according to The American College of Sports Medicine’s worldwide fitness survey.

    The training system, which has existed for centuries, saw a recent rebranding in the past few years in gyms. With its minimalistic approach to training, bodyweight training has fast become a popular inexpensive yet effective regimen.

    The survey, now in its ninth year of listing the top 20 fitness trends worldwide, listed high intensity interval training, like Crossfit, and certified personal training, which ranked closely behind. (more…)

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  • Long Beach Opera Becomes San Pedro Opera (Unofficially)

    By John Farrell, Theater Writer

    They’ve been everywhere.

    One opera was performed in the water (and we mean in the water) at the Belmont Shore Olympic Pool, which has seen both international competition and day-time exercise swimmers. It was repeated. (That was Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Eurydice.)

    Another was given in two different parking garages, to great success (Grigori Frid’s The Diary of Anne Frank was that subterranean work.)

    They have performed in San Pedro, too, most recently The Fall of the House of Usher in 2013 at the Warner Grand. (more…)

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  • Freda Rente’: The Compassionate Outsider

    Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    San Pedro’s own Freda Rente’ (also known as Sista Sin) is celebrating the presence of the African American female presence in the punk-rock scene with a film-in-making called, Under the Underground, A Chocolate Girl’s Phobic Adventures within the Realm of Rock-N-Roll.

    Under the Underground will be narrated by Freda with story segments, art and music with about 20 interviews with other artists including, Kyra Rossler of Black Flag and DOS and Dave Travis, producer and director of The Year Punk Broke.

    Black women in music often are invisible, specifically in the punk scene. The documentary has been in the works for almost five years and chronicles her adventures in music and performance. The California punk scene of the late 70s to early 80s was very eclectic. It included bands whose sound crossed over to art or experimental punk. (more…)

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  • Recapping Carson’s 2014 Reality Show

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    When it comes to news, Carson is its own reality show with backstories and plot lines that extend from season to season. Almost all major Carson stories this year were continuations of threads from previous seasons and almost all will continue into 2015 and beyond. There were political scandals, changes in community leadership and outrage about fracking and toxic contamination. Below, find some of Carson’s most epic moments of 2014:

    Wright’s Conviction
    Carson’s representation at the state level changed sooner than normal. On Jan. 28, a Los Angeles jury found Ron Wright, who represented Senate District 35, guilty of eight felony charges related to residency requirements for his office, including voter fraud. Isadore Hall III, who was termed out in Assembly District 64, had already announced plans to run for the SD 35 in 2016. He was elected to replace Wright in a special election that took place on Dec. 9, 2014.

    Gipson to Assembly  
    Beginning in the spring, four candidates sought to succeed Hall in the assembly: Carson Councilman Mike Gipson, Compton School Board Member Micah Ali, then-Long Beach Councilman Steve Neal, and Prophet Walker, who had no experience in elected office. When the June primary came, Gipson and Walker were advanced to a run-off in November. Gipson won and resigned his council seat, moving up to the assembly.

    Opposition to Fracking  
    In March, Councilman Albert Robles asked the city to consider a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). It was partly in response to the passage of Senate Bill 4, which directs the state to establish new oil industry regulations related to fracking. On March 18, the city council, reacting to concerns about effects of fracking on public health and safety, voted unanimously to establish a 45-day moratorium on not only fracking but “the drilling, redrilling, or deepening of any new or existing wells” within city jurisdiction.

    “We need to evaluate legal options,” said Mayor Jim Dear, at the time.

    The action was also related to a proposal from Oxy to reopen oil wells under the Dominguez Technology Center. Oxy has often assured Carson that fracking would not be appropriate for the proposed development. In a March 10 letter to the city, Oxy committed to not use any “well stimulation methods” covered by the state’s new regulations under Senate Bill 4.

    On April 29, the council declined to extend its moratorium on “drilling, redrilling, or deepening” of wells. The Carson Chamber of Commerce, Watson Land and other business representatives spoke against continuing it. Gipson abstained from the controversial vote. His abstention was used (unsuccessfully) against him by his opponents in the assembly race. The city then moved to update its oil code and include a ban on fracking, which is due this January 2015.

    In the aftermath of the vote, the district attorney investigated whether Robles had a conflict of interest, sitting on Carson’s city council, while also having office with the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. The investigation may have perhaps been triggered when the council looked into fracking’s possible effect on local water quality. The DA has not taken any further action.

    Toxic Carousel Keeps Spinning  
    During Thanksgiving week Carson and Shell signed off on a personal injury settlement affecting 1,491 current and former residents of the Carousel housing tract north of Lomita Boulevard. The settlement was negotiated after the neighborhood was found to be sitting on toxic soil in 2008. Reportedly, Shell has since asked the court to negate the settlement on grounds that confidentiality was violated when some details were leaked to media (not this outlet).

    Body Cams and New Leadership for LASD
    Changes in leadership happened at the top and community level in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction in Carson. At the top a new sheriff was elected—Jim McDonnell, the former chief of the Long Beach Police Department. Given the issues that plagued McDonnell’s former department and the sheriff’s department, it remains to be seen how effective a leader McDonnell will be.

    The Carson station got a new captain twice. In June Reginald Gautt assumed command. One of his first duties was to oversee a six-month pilot program on body-worn cameras, a possible tool to curb issues of police brutality and charges of excessive force. Seventeen deputies and two supervisors are participating at the Carson station, where such complaints are fortunately rare. In December, Capt. Chris Marcs took command.

    Water Board Shake-up  
    Ron Smith, who formerly represented District 1 (including Carson) for the West Basin Municipal Water District, was convicted of a conflict-of-interest charge in September. Leading up to the November election to replace him, one candidate, former Carson Mayor Mike Mitoma, questioned the board members’ salaries. Former Carson Councilman Harold Williams won the seat, while concerns about board members’ salaries remain unsettled.

    Dear Seeks Job Change
            As 2014 concluded, candidates emerged for the next General Municipal Election. Four offices—two on the council, plus clerk and treasurer—will be on the ballot in March. Jim Dear announced he’s challenging Donesia Gause for city clerk.

     

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