of the Day
- November 3, 2009
some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local
newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage
of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood
activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible
issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular
point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From LA Times
Riverside County man booked on child pornography charges
November 2, 2009 | 6:40 pm
A Riverside County man has been arrested for allegedly possessing and distributing child pornography, authorities said today.
Michael LaValley, 53, of Menifee allegedly distributed a CD containing images of young children being posed in a sexually explicit manner and engaging in sexual acts, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said.
LaValley was taken into custody last week at his home in the 27200 block of Murrieta Road in Menifee , the department said. Investigators seized his computer and other digital media.
Anyone with information is asked to call Deputy Jake Adams at (951) 210-1052.
Physician convicted in cycling case
November 2, 2009 | 3:52 pm
A physician accused of deliberately injuring two cyclists by slamming on his car's brakes on a narrow Brentwood road last year was convicted Monday of assault with a deadly weapon, mayhem and other serious criminal charges.
The three-week trial of Dr. Christopher Thompson drew close attention from cyclists , many of whom viewed the case as a test of the justice system's commitment to protecting cyclists.
Thompson, wearing a dark blue suit, bowed his head as the verdicts were read. He faces a possible prison term.
Prosecutors alleged that on July 4, 2008, Thompson stopped his car after passing the two cyclists and shouting at them to ride single-file. One cyclist ran face-first into the rear windshield of the doctor's red Infiniti, breaking his front teeth and nose, and leaving his face scarred. The other was sent hurtling to the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder.
A police officer testified that Thompson told him soon after the accident that the cyclists had cursed at him and flipped him off, so he slammed on his brakes “to teach them a lesson.”
Thompson, a veteran emergency room physician, testified that he had never meant to hurt any of the cyclists. He said he and other residents were upset at unsafe cycling by some riders along Mandeville Canyon Road, a winding, five-mile residential street that has become an increasingly popular route for cyclists. But they had struggled to identify problem riders.
Thompson told jurors that he stopped his car so that he could take a photo of the cyclists he had overtaken and believed he had left enough room for them.
Prosecutors alleged Thompson had a history of run-ins with bikers, including a similar episode four months before the 2008 collision, when two cyclists told police that the doctor tried to run them off the road and braked hard in front of them. Neither of the riders was injured.
Nonprofit company makes its owners wealthy
While the state cuts services for the disabled, the owners of a company that provides vocational help for them have made more than $7 million in five years.
By Alan Zarembo
November 2, 2009
Edward Dawson started his business from scratch in 1978. He and his wife, Marcia, built it into a $63-million-a-year enterprise with offices throughout California.
The couple, who earned more than $7 million in salary and deferred compensation in the last five years, now own a villa overlooking the beach in Palos Verdes and other real estate worth millions of dollars.
FOR THE RECORD:
Nonprofit's wealthy owners: An article in Monday's Section A about a nonprofit company, Social Vocational Services, run by a Palos Verdes couple included a garbled sentence that should have read, "In 1999, the Dawsons arranged to sell SVS to ResCare Inc., a for-profit company headquartered in Kentucky." (The garble said "not sure you kno" in place of "ResCare.") —
Theirs is a classic tale of entrepreneurial success -- except their wealth comes from running a nonprofit that is sustained by taxpayer dollars.
The company, Social Vocational Services, provides job training, life skills instruction and group housing for people with developmental disabilities -- an industry that relies on low-wage workers and government handouts.
The Dawsons made their millions while navigating the murky boundaries of nonprofit law. By definition, nonprofit companies exist for the public good. Federal law says that executive pay must be "reasonable" -- a vague standard that regulators and watchdogs say essentially allows nonprofits to set their own limits.
While the state is slashing the budget for the developmentally disabled, it places no ceiling on how much executives like the Dawsons can earn. In addition to their pay, they collect more than $700,000 a year for renting properties to SVS, including a San Francisco condominium for their own use.
Their financial practices were unusual enough to prompt an investigation by the state attorney general in 2000 into whether SVS' board of directors was placing the Dawsons' personal gain above the nonprofit's public mission.
But after the investigation ended in 2004 with a confidential settlement -- obtained last month by The Times through the Public Records Act -- the board gave them raises. Over the next four years, Edward Dawson's salary as chief executive jumped from $368,508 to $872,311.
Determining what constitutes "reasonable" compensation under the law can come down to a debate among experts.
"These cases are often challenging to prosecute because there is no bright line for what constitutes reasonable compensation," said Belinda Johns, head of the charitable trusts section of the California attorney general's office.
Pushing for stricter rules on nonprofit executive pay, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) recently told the Senate Finance Committee that boards have "rubber-stamped compensation packages which they know to be unreasonable."
Earlier, SVS was among five nonprofits nationwide singled out in a 2005 report on employment programs for the disabled by the U.S. Senate's Commission on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The commission found their executives benefited from excessive compensation, lavish perks or self-dealing -- conducting business with one's own company.
But the law is also open to interpretation on self-dealing. It's allowed if the board considers other options and finds them less beneficial to the company.
"If you have good lawyering and you are very brazen, you can work around things," said Jim Fishman, a law professor at Pace University in New York.
Frances Hill, a law professor at the University of Miami who reviewed the 2004 settlement for The Times, called the agreement "insufficient" because it left the Dawsons too much room to keep enriching themselves.
The Dawsons did not return calls seeking comment and refused to see a reporter who visited their headquarters in Torrance. SVS board members could not be reached.
A lawyer for SVS, Savery Nash, said the Dawsons believe they should be compensated as if they worked in the private sector, an idea now embraced by many nonprofits, notably hospitals and arts organizations.
Nash also defended the rental arrangements and other side deals, saying that Edward Dawson has always provided the nonprofit a bargain and is entitled to a return on his investments.
"All along he has been sticking his neck out for the company," Nash said.
Edward Dawson was a 31-year-old graduate student at UCLA when he found a way to combine his interests in developmental disabilities and real estate. SVS began as a series of group homes.
By the time he got his doctorate in education in 1982, his company was adding programs for clients and vans to transport them.
Most of the money came from the state -- and still does.
Under the Lanterman Act of 1969, people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities are guaranteed a wide range of state-funded services. Money flows through a network of 21 regional centers, themselves nonprofits, which then contract with providers, including SVS.
Marcia Dawson, who has a mentally retarded son, was a caseworker at Harbor Regional Center in Torrance before she met her husband. They married in 1984. As the nonprofit grew, the Dawsons bought more homes, then leased them to SVS.
By the end of the 1990s, SVS had grown into a $32-million-a-year business.
In 1999, the Dawsons arranged to sell SVS to not sure you kno Inc., a for-profit company headquartered in Kentucky. Such a sale requires the attorney general's approval.
The deal fell apart, but only after the interest of the attorney general had been piqued, said Nash, the SVS attorney.
The investigation focused on the Dawsons' compensation and a van rental company, according to the settlement agreement, which detailed the state's concerns.
Tax filings show that SVS was paying up to $1.8 million a year to rent vans from Glynhart Corp., a for-profit company owned by the Dawsons.
Glynhart had no employees or other customers. SVS paid for maintenance, gas and drivers.
The state also raised questions about whether the SVS board of directors had properly vetted the Dawsons' pay packages and other business deals.
But it was far from an open-and-shut case. Past board members said in interviews with The Times that the van deals were approved only after comparing what outsiders would have charged.
Nancy Bloch, a former SVS board member whose adult son is a client, said the directors also followed proper legal procedures when setting the Dawsons' salaries. "If they were paid $5 million, it'd be worth it," she added. "It takes everything to run it. This man has a PhD."
The investigation eventually became a negotiation. In the resulting settlement, the Dawsons paid nothing.
Instead, an insurance policy that covered the board for inadvertent fiduciary missteps reimbursed the nonprofit $175,000.
Edward Dawson agreed to stop renting vans to SVS, and the board agreed that the Dawsons' total compensation would not exceed the 90th percentile of executives at similarly sized nonprofits.
In the months leading up to the settlement, the Dawsons collected $1.5 million in deferred compensation, a figure that brought their total pay for the year to $2.2 million.
It made 2004 their best year ever.
In the wake of the settlement, the Dawsons continued to prosper.
They sold the van rental company to SVS for $1.9 million. The price, former directors said, was based on outside offers.
They went on to start a new company, Torrance Commercial Properties, which bought SVS' headquarters for $2.3 million. Then the for-profit firm began collecting rent for it and three other properties from the nonprofit. Last year's tax filings show the rent totaled $626,664.
The Dawsons also receive $84,000 a year in rent from SVS for a San Francisco apartment. Tax filings say they use it when traveling on business.
Nash said the Dawsons collect fair rents for their properties.
In addition to his salary, Edward Dawson also receives $50,300 a year for running Glynhart, the van company he sold, according to 2008 tax documents. His wife makes $606,862 as chief financial officer at SVS.
Those salaries are far outside the norm for similarly sized nonprofits, calling into question whether SVS is complying with the 90th percentile requirement of the settlement agreement.
Charity Navigator, a watchdog group in Washington that tracks salaries of 5,500 nonprofits across the country, generated data showing that among charities with budgets between $50 million and $75 million, the average pay for chief executives was $331,000.
The 90th percentile was $531,000.
A Times review of tax filings could not find any California nonprofits serving the disabled that paid their executives more than Edward Dawson earns.
The next highest paid chief executive -- with $540,126 in salary and benefits -- runs Pride Industries, which is based in Rocklin, Calif., and has a budget twice that of SVS.
Bill Nikkel and other former board members said that after the 2004 settlement, the board hired a consultant who presented survey data showing that the Dawsons deserved raises.
Officials at both the state Department of Developmental Services and the regional centers said it is not their place to question the Dawsons' salaries. Providers for the disabled are paid a standardized rate per client.
"We're not paying SVS differently than other vendors," said Robert Riddick, the executive director of the Central Valley Regional Center in Fresno. "We have not gone in and said to folks, 'What's your salary?' " he said.
But several experts questioned how SVS was able to pay its executives so much more than its competitors, many of whom are suffering from state budget woes.
Rate freezes have been in effect for several years, and as a result, some providers have reduced their staffs or cut pay. Amid protests this year, the Legislature trimmed state spending on regional centers by $334 million, or roughly 12%, though the number of clients has been rising.
Catherine Blakemore, executive director of Disability Rights California, an advocacy group, said, "People with developmental disabilities are going to have a much harder time getting the services they need."
Veteran LAPD officer surrenders after being indicted on weapons charge
Johnny Augustus Baltazar, 50, is accused of illegally shipping 10 handguns and 1,500 rounds of ammunition to the Central American nation of Belize, where he owns a private security company.
By Scott Glover
November 3, 2009
A veteran Los Angeles police officer who owns a private security company in Belize surrendered to federal authorities Monday after being indicted on a weapons charge.
Johnny Augustus Baltazar, 50, is accused of illegally shipping 10 handguns and 1,500 rounds of ammunition to the Central American nation, where he owns a company called Elite Security, according to authorities. Prosecutors suspect the guns were intended for use by employees of the company. Baltazar did not have the required license to export the firearms, officials allege.
"As a law enforcement officer, this defendant should know full well why there are strict controls on the export of dangerous firearms," Michael Unzueta, a top official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, said in a statement. "These laws are designed to ensure that potentially lethal weapons don't fall into the wrong hands. That threat is the reason cases like this are an ICE priority."
Baltazar, a 23-year LAPD veteran, made a brief appearance in federal court Monday afternoon and was expected to be released on a $10,000 bond. He will plead not guilty when he is arraigned Nov. 16, said his attorney, Arthur Avazian. Outside the courtroom, Avazian said Baltazar was a dedicated police officer who was now facing a felony prosecution for what he called a "technical violation" of the law.
The officer, assigned to the department's West Los Angeles Division, has been on administrative leave since October 2008 pending an internal investigation into his activities in Belize, according to sources familiar with the investigation. Beyond the alleged weapons violation, LAPD investigators were scrutinizing the nature of the work Baltazar's company performed and for whom it was performed.
An LAPD disciplinary hearing in the case has been postponed several times, Avazian said.
Frustration grows as search for missing woman continues
Family and friends of Mitrice Richardson, who disappeared Sept. 17, pass out fliers in South L.A. Her father says, 'I'm at a breaking point.'
By Corina Knoll
November 2, 2009
In the month and a half since 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson left a sheriff's station near Malibu Canyon, her family and friends have passed out fliers, canvassed colleges and flagged down motorists. "Have you seen this woman?" they ask, holding up a photo of the Cal State Fullerton graduate.
On Sunday, the group gathered in South Los Angeles, where Richardson lived with her great-grandmother, to once again hand out leaflets with her picture. Among them was the missing woman's father, Michael Richardson, 42, who is now pressing authorities to release security footage from the night Richardson was taken into custody, believing it will prove that she was in no state to be discharged.
"I'm at a breaking point," he said.
Mitrice Richardson vanished after leaving the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Malibu/Lost Hills station Sept. 17 on foot with no purse or cellphone. She had been released shortly after midnight after being arrested on suspicion of failing to pay for her meal at Geoffrey's Malibu and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Witnesses said Richardson behaved strangely that night, telling people she was from Mars.
Since then, several sightings have been reported, but none has panned out, LAPD Det. Steven Eguchi said last week, adding that no evidence of foul play had been found.
Tessa Moon, 25, who has dated Richardson for two years, said she believes her girlfriend is alive and scared. "If I could tell her anything right now, it would be 'Don't be afraid. We're coming,' " she said.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Richardson's whereabouts. Anyone with information is asked to call (213) 485-2531.
Woman who police say was run over by her father dies
Noor Faleh Almaleki was in a coma for nearly two weeks. Police in Arizona say her Iraqi father struck her and a friend with his car because she had become too Westernized.
November 3, 2009
A young Iraqi woman whose father allegedly ran her down with his car because she had become too Westernized died from her injuries Monday.
Noor Faleh Almaleki, 20, had been in a coma for nearly two weeks. She had been hospitalized since Oct. 20, when police say her father ran over her and her boyfriend's mother with his Jeep as the women were walking across a parking lot in the west Phoenix suburb of Peoria.
The other woman, Amal Khalaf, is expected to survive.
Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 48, fled after the attack but was arrested Thursday when he arrived at Atlanta's airport, where he was sent from the United Kingdom after authorities there denied him entrance.
Peoria police interviewed him and brought him back to Arizona. At a court hearing over the weekend in Phoenix, county prosecutor Stephanie Low told a judge that Almaleki had admitted the crime.
"By his own admission, this was an intentional act and the reason was that his daughter had brought shame on him and his family," Low said. "This was an attempt at an honor killing."
Family members had told police that Almaleki attacked his daughter because he thought she had become too Westernized and was not living according to his traditional Iraqi values.
Almaleki, wearing a jail uniform, said only his name and birth date during the hearing. He has declined requests to be interviewed.
Almaleki had faced charges of aggravated assault, but Peoria police spokesman Mike Tellef said the charges would be upgraded in light of Noor Faleh Almaleki's death.
Police said the Almalekis moved to Peoria from Iraq in the mid-1990s.
From the Daily News
CASA volunteers look out for the interests of abused children
By Sue Doyle, Staff Writer
Updated: 11/02/2009 08:15:59 PM PST
With some 27,000 foster children in Los Angeles County, the caseworkers - and the youngsters - can find themselves overwhelmed by the system.
But thanks to CASA, the youngsters have another person looking out for their interests. Volunteers for the Court Appointed Special Advocate program work on behalf of the child, gathering information that is used by judges making life-changing decisions in dependency court.
"They keep in front of both the system and the community about who this child is and what the child needs," said David Melendez, executive director of the Monterey Park-based nonprofit.
"It's another voice. It's a voice that's independent and is focused on the individual child."
The local chapter is one of 1,000 operated by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, which has helped more than 2 million abused children since its launch in 1977.
For 30 years, hundreds of volunteers from the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita and Los Angeles have advocated for children removed from their homes following allegations of abuse and neglect. Currently, about 320 trained volunteers serve some 500 foster children - those with exceptionally challenging cases - whose cases are heard in Children's Court in Monterey Park or Lancaster.
"Some children have tremendous needs," program supervisor Sarita Carden said. "It really does take more than one set of hands to do this."
One 11-year-old boy, for instance, had never attended school. Uncertain of how to handle his case, school officials had placed him in English as a Second Language classes, although his native language was English.
"He didn't speak Spanish at all," program supervisor Jessica Tachibana said. "Meanwhile, his mother was on the sidelines telling him not to listen to authority. So the boy was torn."
The judge assigned a CASA volunteer to help sort out the situation, and the youngster was eventually placed in remedial English-language classes. He graduated from high school and became emancipated from the foster care system at age 18, officials said.
While CASA is always looking for more volunteers, entry into the program is selective. Of the 60 applications recently submitted to the Monterey Park office, 28 are now graduating from the extensive training program, interviews and security clearance checks.
The program requires 12 hours annually of continuing education, plus a two-year commitment of five hours each week.
Over time, relationships build between the volunteers and children, who in particular relish the idea that advocates are not paid to be involved in their lives, said program supervisor Sue Thompson.
"The kids begin to understand that (volunteers) don't get paid to be there," she said. "It becomes meaningful."
Gang rape watchers a product of schools' moral void
By Paul D. White
Updated: 11/02/2009 05:01:52 PM PST
THE refusal by dozens of students and adults to intervene in a two-hour gang rape at a Richmond, Calif. high school should not surprise anyone. The reason? We only know what we've been taught.
Every recent White House, including the current one, has said our schools' sole goal is to raise academic achievement. The mantra of every president and secretary of education in recent memory has been "higher scores." And ever so slightly, our children's ability to memorize and recite relatively meaningless academic factoids has increased.
But this proclaimed improvement in our education system has come at a price. It was accomplished by gutting school curricula of time spent teaching children about character, integrity, compassion, unselfishness, and moral courage. Also marginalized or eliminated from the school day has been the inspiration to care about fellow humans that comes from studying music and art.
We've taught our children that school is not about us, or the good of the group, but about you and making sure your test scores go up. By extension of this reasoning, who would care about someone else being raped? We've taught students that the most important thing is keeping your future safe by securing your test scores. With no moral exceptions to this directive being taught, of course no students risked personal danger to rescue the victim.
The damage of this no-values approach to education has spread further than the children. School employees, too, allegedly observed and ignored the young girl's urgent need for help. Why? Because the same amoral approach to learning that staff promote with their students has poisoned their souls as well.
Fearful, apathetic responses like the one in Richmond occur because school leaders have prevented teachers from educating children's hearts as well as their minds. This has resulted in a moral illiteracy that could annihilate our civilization.
The tragic sexual assault in Richmond was the sociological equivalent of an exploding warhead within our education system. If America's schools don't immediately start putting a higher priority on teaching the moral and character dimensions of education, cries of "Incoming!" will become a daily occurrence on campuses and communities all over our nation.
Paul D. White is a career public educator from Ventura, and the co-author of "White's Rules - Saving Our Youth, One Kid At a Time."
Should crowd who witnessed girl's rape be liable for inaction?
Updated: 11/02/2009 04:22:31 PM PST
JUST what responsibility does a person have to intervene in a brutal crime that occurs in front of them? That's a question that many people are contemplating in the wake of the alleged gang rape of a 15-year-old Northern California girl after a homecoming dance two weeks ago.
Police say the young woman, who was intoxicated, was stripped naked and then raped on a bench by as many as seven boys near the dance. That's bad enough, but apparently a group of people did not just watch, but cheered on while she was raped, beaten and robbed. As many as 20 people did nothing while the teenager was brutalized, some going so far to pull out their cell phones - not to call police, but to photograph the spectacle.
Police arrested a handful of people for the actual crime. But the audience of the crime might go free, despite their inaction that night.
What do you think? What should happen to those who watched and did nothing? Should there be different punishments for those who watched and did nothing, versus those who applauded and cheered the rapists on? How about those who took photographs?
What should be the price for silence?
Send your responses to email@example.com . Please include your full name, the community or city in which you live and a daytime phone number.
We'll print as many as we can in Sunday's Opinionated section.
Bratton's legacy: It's going to be a tough job for the next chief
Updated: 11/02/2009 01:28:52 PM PST
MONDAY morning, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to name one of three men to head the Los Angeles Police Department, replacing William Bratton, whose last official day was Saturday.
In a sense, the mayor can't make a bad pick. All three of the men - Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Michel Moore and Deputy Chief Charlie Beck - are intelligent, competent LAPD vets whose careers and policing styles were nurtured by Bratton. While each brings something different to the bargaining table, all three candidates can be expected to continue transforming the Los Angeles Police Department which Bratton began seven years ago.
It will be no easy job for the man who is chosen. Besides the inevitable comparisons to Bratton, whose reputation was approaching near mythological status toward the end of his tenure, this is a highly political job in an intensely political municipal government. And this transition comes at a delicate time for the LAPD, as the City Council is trying to reverse the hiring boom that was begun under Bratton.
Bratton wasn't the perfect chief or the perfect man. He meddled in politics more than was seemly for a department head. He mouthed off unwisely at times. He tried to dictate what was news to journalists.
But those imperfections are eclipsed by the shape of the department he leaves behind - bigger, smarter, more respected by the community - and the shape of the city itself - no longer the murder capital of the world, and getting safer, it seems, every week. It's true that the seeds of many feeds his legacy - the end of the consent decree, a new police headquarters building, expansion of the force - were planted years earlier. The man who hired him, Mayor James Hahn, was talking about making "Los Angeles the safest big city" long before the Boston-brogued Bratton came to Los Angeles.
Bratton's gift, however, was nurturing those seeds of change, growing them healthy and strong - and fighting off those who would uproot them. Continuing that protection is going to be job No. 1 for Beck, Moore or McDonnell.
Bratton's genius was also to appear as the community's champion in a department that Angelenos felt cared little for their civil rights. When officers clashed with protesters under his watch, he cleaned house immediately, recognizing that it was time to end the long-standing practices of protecting bad behavior in the rank and file.
Though his trash-talking got him into pointless political battles, Bratton's breezy honesty was refreshing to a city used to empty speeches and politically correct interactions by the city's elected officials.
The brashness we could do without. The next chief would be wise to emulate Bratton's straighforwardness, but not his bravado. There's no need to ruffle feathers in City Hall, particularly at a time when the council holds the purse strings to the department and can decide whether it will grow or not.
We wish the best of luck to the next chief. Bratton's a tough act to follow, but whoever does it well - building on the same foundations Bratton laid - is sure to be able to leave their own impressive legacy.
From the Washington Times
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
EDITORIAL: The U.N. housing police
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The United Nations is fretting that the United States might be violating human rights by not providing adequate housing. To get to the bottom of the issue, the U.N. Human Rights Council has dispatched Brazilian architect and urban planner Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, to our shores. We apologize for being unwelcoming hosts, but she should go back from whence she came.
Miss Rolnik's bureaucratic pity might be better targeted at her native Brazil, where 28.9 percent of the urban population lives in slums, according to the UN-HABITAT Global Urban Indicators database. Or China, where the rate is 32.8 percent. Or Kenya at 54.8 percent, Mozambique at 79.5 percent, or Sierra Leone, where 97 percent of people in cities are slum dwellers.
But instead, the U.N. is expending its limited time and resources on the United States, where the homeless population is a fraction of a percent, three-quarters of people below the poverty line live in homes with two or more bedrooms, and median square feet of living space per person in poverty is 91 percent of the national median, according to the 2007 American Housing Survey. This is not what you would call a human-rights nightmare.
Miss Rolnik's mission fits well with the Obama administration's objective to have government intrude on every aspect of American life. She promotes "really thinking out of the box" about housing, particularly by moving away from the American dream of individual homeownership and toward more collective solutions, including "rent schemes, subsidized rent schemes, with public housing, with other types of community development housing, and other types of schemes. And of course, putting more priority on that in the government agenda and take that as a responsibility of the state."
She believes that the Obama administration should "face the basis, original basis, of the financial crisis," which in her opinion is "the failure of housing policies to address the issue of housing, and the radical shift from taking housing as a social issue into housing as a commodity and a financial asset, opening ground to sub-prime, and the whole thing in terms of predatory lending that came after that." Miss Rolnik might want to glance over a July 2009 report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform titled "The Role of Government Affordable Housing Policy in Creating the Global Financial Crisis of 2008." This study found that government intervention in the marketplace to provide "affordable housing" played a significant role in creating the economic meltdown.
According to the House study, the government-backed corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "privatized their profits but socialized their risks, creating powerful incentives for them to act recklessly and exposing taxpayers to tremendous losses." The government promoted dangerous lending policies that encouraged lower down payments, looser underwriting standards and higher leverage." This malformed system created false incentives that produced "a nexus of vested interests - politicians, lenders and lobbyists - who profited from the 'affordable' housing market and acted to kill reforms." In the long run, the government-imposed systemic contradictions were too much to bear, and "the ultimate effect was to create a mortgage tsunami that wrought devastation on the American people and economy."
Miss Rolnik began her mission last week with a town-hall meeting with the homeless and housing-rights activists in New York City, and she will hold similar meetings in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Washington, the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She will report her findings to the U.N. General Assembly in March 2010. Miss Rolnik can be expected to deliver the same old tired socialistic rhetoric about public ownership and collective responsibility, sprinkled liberally with uncorroborated anecdotes and horror stories collected from her town meetings with radical pressure groups.
"I see this mission as an opportunity to open a dialogue, to open a movement, towards the achievement and implementation of the right to adequate housing," she said in explaining her investigation of America. "We know very well that changes will come only if people organize." Miss Rolnik is assuming the role of a global community organizer, with the U.N. acting as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) on steroids. This is part of a gradual encroachment on American sovereignty. The United Nations should not be in the business of organizing radical American interest groups to stir up trouble within our borders.
The United Nations should stay out of U.S. domestic politics. The international body's prescription for evermore government is not the cure-all this country needs. The U.S. government played a major role in causing the housing crisis; it will not provide the solution.
From the New York Post
Nov. 2, 2009, 2:22 PM
Queens imam pleads not guilty in terror case
Last Updated: 2:22 PM, November 2, 2009
Posted: 11:50 AM, November 2, 2009
An imam accused of lying to FBI agents investigating an alleged bomb plot against New York City by a suspected al-Qaida associate pleaded not guilty Monday.
“I have nothing to hide,” Ahmad Wais Afzali told reporters outside federal court in Brooklyn after his plea.
The 37-year-old Afzali was arrested in September as federal authorities tried to thwart the alleged plot by Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado airport van driver they say received explosives training from al-Qaida on a trip to Pakistan.
Authorities say Zazi conspired to use homemade bombs in a large-scale terror attack, possibly on the city's transit system. Court papers alleged that Zazi bought and tested bomb-making materials in a Denver suburb before traveling by car to New York, all while under FBI surveillance.
After federal authorities alerted the New York Police Department to the possible threat, detectives tried to gather information about Zazi from Afzali, who was an imam in the Queens neighborhood where Zazi once lived. The next day, Afzali called Zazi, telling him, “They asked about you guys,” according to court papers.
Through the recorded conversation, the FBI discovered that Zazi “learned directly that the law enforcement officers were tracking his activities,” federal prosecutors said in the court papers.
“Zazi ultimately purchased an airline ticket and returned to Denver on Sept. 12,” the court papers said.
Over the next few days, heavily armed investigators staged a series of raids in Queens and arrested Zazi, his father and Afzali on initial charges they misled investigators. Prosecutors allege that the imam lied in a statement denying he had tipped off Zazi.
Afzali, who is free on bail, faces up to eight years in prison if convicted of four counts of making false statements. He was ordered to return to court Dec. 11.
Authorities have said the terrorism investigation is still active but haven't announced additional arrests. Zazi has denied any wrongdoing.
From the Wall Street Journal
- NOVEMBER 3, 2009
Suicide Toll Fuels Worry That Army Is Strained
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
Sixteen American soldiers killed themselves in October in the U.S. and on duty overseas, an unusually high monthly toll that is fueling concerns about the mental health of the nation's military personnel after more than eight years of continuous warfare.
Sixteen American soldiers killed themselves in October, an unusually high monthly toll that has senior military officers worried about the impact of sending tens of thousands of new troops into Afghanistan. WSJ's Yochi Dreazen reports.
The Army's top generals worry that surging tens of thousands more troops into Afghanistan could increase the strain felt by many military personnel after years of repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The October suicide figures mean that at least 134 active-duty soldiers have taken their own lives so far this year, putting the Army on pace to break last year's record of 140 active-duty suicides. The number of Army suicides has risen 37% since 2006, and last year, the suicide rate surpassed that of the U.S. population for the first time.
The health of ground combat forces is emerging as an element of the Obama administration's review of its Afghanistan strategy. Conditions there have deteriorated in recent months amid lingering political instability and a worsening Taliban-led insurgency.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Kabul, wants more than 40,000 new troops, in addition to the 68,000 that will be in Afghanistan by year-end, and has warned that the U.S. faces possible "mission failure" unless it adopts a new strategy and quickly deploys significant reinforcements.
Some senior military officials worry that the troop-increase plans under discussion at the White House would require the Army and Marine Corps to keep forces in Afghanistan longer, or give forces less time in the U.S. between deployments, increasing the strain on military personnel.
At a White House meeting Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged President Barack Obama to send fresh troops to Afghanistan only if they have spent at least a year in the U.S. since their last overseas tour, according to people familiar with the matter. If Mr. Obama agreed to that condition, many potential Afghanistan reinforcements wouldn't be available until next summer at the earliest.
A recent study by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, concluded that the U.S. has only three Army and Marine brigades -- about 11,000 to 15,000 troops -- capable of deploying to Afghanistan this year after spending at least 12 months back in the U.S.
Army officials say the strain of repeated deployments with minimal time back in the U.S. is one of the biggest factors fueling the rise in military suicides.
The Army hit a grim milestone last year when the suicide rate exceeded that of the general population for the first time: 20.2 per 100,000 people in the military, compared with the civilian rate of 19.5 per 100,000. The Army's suicide rate was 12.7 per 100,000 in 2005, 15.3 in 2006 and 16.8 in 2007.
In response, the Army has launched a broad push to better understand military suicide and develop new ways of preventing it. In August, the Army and the National Institute of Mental Health said they would conduct a five-year, $50 million effort to better identify the factors that cause some soldiers to take their own lives.
A continuing Army suicide-prevention effort has shown modest signs of progress. Forty-one active-duty soldiers killed themselves in January and February, but the monthly suicide tallies for 2009, until October, were lower than the comparable periods in 2008. Army officials are now trying to determine whether the high October numbers were an anomaly or the start of a new upsurge in military suicides.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Napolitano Applauds President Obama's Intent to Nominate Grayling Williams as Director of the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement
Release Date: November 2, 2009
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today applauded President Obama's intent to nominate Grayling Williams as Director of the DHS Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement.
“Disrupting the flow of illegal drugs across our borders is critical to our nation's safety and security,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Grayling's years of experience in law enforcement and counternarcotics will enhance our coordinated efforts with federal, state and local partners to interdict drug traffickers and disrupt their links to terrorism and organized crime.”
As Director of the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, Williams will coordinate counternarcotics policy and operations within DHS, while working with the Department's federal, state and local partners to detect and disrupt drug trafficking operations.
Williams has twenty-eight years of federal and local law enforcement experience, including assignments in organized crime, operational policy development, intelligence and law enforcement information sharing.
Williams currently serves as the Executive Assistant to the Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Operations Division. He has held several positions within the DEA since 1987—including Special Agent and Criminal Investigator (1987-1996), Special Agent Instructor at the DEA Training Academy (1996-1998) and Assistant Special Agent in Charge and Chief of the Policy and Source Management Section (2003-2008).
Williams holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice/law enforcement science from the University of New Haven and a master's degree in management from Johns Hopkins University.
November 02, 2009
ICE gives voice to victims of human trafficking in the United States
"Hidden in plain sight" theme shines a light on the problem of thousands estimated being held as modern-day slaves in the U.S.
WASHINGTON - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a media initiative to inform the public about the horrors and the prevalence of human trafficking, which is modern-day slavery.
As part of ICE's continued efforts, the agency has unveiled an outdoor public service announcement campaign, "Hidden in Plain Sight," to draw the American public's attention to the plight of human-trafficking victims in the United States. The campaign message explains that human trafficking includes those who are sexually exploited or forced to work against their will.
Posters, billboards and transit shelter signs were rolled out last month bearing the slogan "Hidden in Plan Sight." They are displayed in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Newark, New Orleans, New York, St Paul, San Antonio, San Francisco and Tampa. The campaign's goal is to raise public awareness about the existence of human trafficking in communities nationwide, and asks members of the public to take action if they encounter possible victims.
By going directly to the American public, ICE is hoping to root out the criminals associated with human trafficking. As the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security, ICE is poised to target individuals and companies suspected of using people as modern-day slaves.
"Most Americans would be shocked to learn that slavery still exists in this day and age in communities throughout the country," said John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE. "Because this heinous crime is extremely well-hidden, we need to help educate members of the public about human trafficking, and encourage them to keep alert for possible human trafficking victims."
It is estimated that 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked around the world each year. These victims are trafficked into the commercial sex trade, and into forced-labor situations. Many of these victims are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs; instead, they are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of forced labor.
The greatest challenge in combating human trafficking is victim identification. Surprisingly, many people are unaware that this form of modern-day slavery occurs every day in the United States. These victims may end up in a foreign country. They are often unable to speak the language and have no one to advocate for them. Traffickers often take away the victims' travel and identity documents. They tell their victims that if they attempt to escape, their families back home will be either physically or financially harmed.
ICE is asking for the public's help to remain alert to recognize and identify victims of modern-day slavery who are in our midst. They are domestic servants, sweat-shop employees, sex workers and fruit pickers who were lured here by the promise of prosperity. Ultimately, they are forced to work without pay and are unable to leave their situation. ICE is committed to giving them the help they need to come forward and help us end human trafficking with vigorous enforcement and tough penalties. As a primary mission area, ICE has the overall goal of preventing human trafficking in the United States by prosecuting the traffickers, and rescuing and protecting the victims.
One example that demonstrates the horrors of human trafficking is regarding a family of four in Newark, N.J. Lassissi Afolabi, Akouavi Kpade Afolabi, Derek Hounakey and Geoffrey Kouevi were all indicted in the District of New Jersey on numerous charges, including: visa fraud, forced labor, trafficking, transportation of a minor across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, smuggling and harboring aliens for commercial advantage and financial gain.
Their scheme involved smuggling young African women into the United States under assumed identities, and forcing them to work in hair-braiding salons in the Newark, N.J., area. The women worked six to seven days a week, eight to 12 hours per day. They were not allowed to keep the money they earned. Some of the victims were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse, and were held in servitude for more than five years. Ultimately, all the defendants were convicted or pleaded guilty to the charges and are awaiting sentencing.
In Atlanta, Ga., Amador Cortes-Meza, Francisco Cortes-Meza, Raul Cortes-Meza, Juan Cortes-Meza and Edison Wagner Rosa-Tort were indicted for adult and child sex trafficking. They physically abused young women and girls, some of whom were as young as 14 years of age. The victims were held against their will, and forced into prostitution. To force them to work as prostitutes in the Atlanta area, some of the victims were beaten, threatened, or their families in Mexico were threatened.
At least one of the co-defendants was always present in the home where the women lived to monitor them and direct the prostitution work. None of the victims were allowed to leave the house unaccompanied. The victims often had to service 20 to 30 men each night. Some of the $25 prostitution charge went to the drivers who transported the young women to the "johns." However, the majority of the money was kept by the traffickers. Earlier this year, four of the six defendants pleaded guilty to sex trafficking, which carries a minimum 10-year sentence; another pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. The last defendant is pending judicial action. All other defendants are pending sentencing.
Anyone who knows or suspects that someone is being forced to work against their will should contact the ICE tip line anonymously at 866-DHS-2-ICE. You can also view or download the video Public Service Announcement at www.ice.gov .