of the Day
- November 7, 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
A story of shock, chaos and bravery unfolds in Ft. Hood shooting
Eyewitnesses say the gunman sat and appeared to pray before calmly firing on his comrades. Officials say he got 100 rounds off before civilian officers brought him down in a firefight.
By Ashley Powers
November 7, 2009
Reporting from Ft. Hood, Texas
In the end, the shooting rampage at Ft. Hood came down to a gunfight between two civilian base police officers toting standard sidearms and a 39-year-old psychiatrist armed with .357 Magnum and a pistol equipped with laser sighting and extra bullets, officials said.
Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, disturbed about his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan (not Iraq, contrary to earlier reports), reportedly entered the Soldier Readiness Processing Center just before 1:30 p.m. Thursday. He took a seat at a table.
It seemed as if he was there to help soldiers who were undergoing medical exams and finishing paperwork before shipping out to war. Hasan, who had prayed at his mosque that morning, allegedly mumbled something to himself -- it may have been a prayer -- then jumped up. Witnesses reported that he said: "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great."
After that, the blood began to flow. Thirteen people would die; 38 others were injured.
As investigators began their probe into the motivations of the gunman, President Obama urged people Friday to reserve judgment until more is known. Base commander Lt. Gen. Robert Cone said that Hasan remained hospitalized, unconscious and on a ventilator.
Friday, as government officials and eyewitnesses gave their accounts, a clearer picture of the attack emerged.
When the shooting began, 138 soldiers were about to celebrate their college graduation with hundreds of relatives and friends in an auditorium nearby. Alarmed, many leaped to their feet, threw off their caps and gowns and rushed to the chaotic scene.
Inside the Readiness Center, Pfc. Marquest Smith, 21, was in a cubicle, across the desk from an employee, finishing paperwork ahead of his deployment in January to Afghanistan.
"All I heard was popping noises," Smith said. The noise was followed by something more ominous: screaming and moaning. Then, "Somebody's got a gun!"
The next minutes were frenzied. He pushed the employee under her desk. A bullet nicked the heel of his right boot. Outside the cubicle, the scene was grotesque. "There were chairs, blood, tables," Smith said.
Smith dragged several victims outside and returned to help others. He kept hearing popping. Then a pause. Then whispers: "He's reloading!" Smith saw the gunman, whose back was to him. He ran outside. The gunman fired after him.
It takes seconds to place a new magazine into a pistol's grip; the gunman reloaded more than once, investigators said, and moved around the crowded room in a half-moon pattern before going outside into a courtyard.
Police Sgt. Kimberly Munley and her partner, Sgt. Mark Todd, heard a radio report and raced toward the action. As the gunman was shooting at a wounded soldier, said Chuck Medley, Ft. Hood's director of emergency services, Munley rounded a corner between two buildings and spotted him. They exchanged fire.
A firearms instructor and SWAT team member who had trained for such a moment, Munley shot at the gunman with her 9-millimeter Beretta. He charged her, and they exchanged fire.
Todd, who had become separated from Munley, saw that she had been shot. Hasan was 15 yards from him, Todd told CNN, "standing there hiding behind a telephone pole waving his weapon, firing it at people." Todd said Hasan saw him, calmly pointed and shot. Todd couldn't see a weapon -- only a muzzle flash -- and fired back. Hasan, who by then had allegedly shot 100 rounds, fell.
Munley took bullets in each thigh and one in her wrist, which she later dismissed as "minor scratches."
Smith's buddy Jeffrey Pearsall, also a 21-year-old private, was sitting in his white Ford F-150 in a nearby parking lot. Suddenly, people began rushing his way. He was confused -- maybe it was a fire? Then he spotted a soldier covered in blood. And right after that, two friends, leaning on each other, pain etched on their faces.
Get in, get in, he urged as they came toward his truck. They got into the truck's bed. Smith jumped in too, and Pearsall rushed toward the hospital.
"Stop!" Smith yelled.
They had left one of their wounded friends behind. Smith hopped out and ran a mile back toward the Readiness Center. His wounded friend already had gotten into his own car and was driving erratically to escape the horrific scene. Smith took the wheel.
At the base hospital, Pearsall pounded on the emergency room door. No answer. He began to panic, and pounded on a window. Finally, a nurse appeared. "We got people shot that need help!" he said.
Sgt. Andrew Hagerman, 27, a military police officer, was patrolling a residential neighborhood on the base when he heard the distress call on his radio: Shots fired! Officer down!
He sped to the Readiness Center, where he encountered a terrible sight: People were running, bleeding, screaming for medics. Victims were splayed on the ground. Soldiers had torn up their shirts and uniforms to stanch the bleeding of their wounded comrades. Others broke tables to use as stretchers.
The suspected gunman was down, apparently unconscious. Someone shouted to uncuff him so he could get first aid. Was there more than one gunman? Hagerman had no idea. He saw Munley being loaded onto an ambulance. He'd worked with her a few times and knew she was good at her job.
Hagerman took a moment to assess the situation. After two tours in Iraq, it felt familiar. The floor in the Readiness Center was so bloody that he had to step carefully. As he walked through buildings, he stared hard at the people who remained. Were they OK? Were they hiding something?
Go back and lock your doors, he told them. Then he helped load the wounded onto ambulances.
Maj. Steve Beckwith's shift was just ending. The 33-year-old director of emergency medical services had been at Darnall Army Medical Center, the base hospital, since 6 a.m. Leaving was out of the question; as gunshot victims began arriving outside, Beckwith jumped in to assess their injuries. He was touched by displays of selflessness. Some drivers had slung shirts together to carry their friends to cars. Soldiers with wounded legs and arms told him to take care of patients with more serious wounds first.
Sgt. Howard Appleby, 31, a combat engineer with two deployments to Iraq under his belt, had an appointment with his psychiatrist. Appleby is grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury that has left him plagued by headaches, flashbacks and memory loss. His visit was canceled because of the shooting. As he left, he saw ambulances and gunshot victims outside. It reminded him of Iraq -- only there, you just see one guy die a day, he said.
His combat training kicked in. He felt calm and started pulling people out of ambulances. But something about the scene triggered a flashback. As he helped the wounded, he thought, I can't stand to see another person die. He could not help but cry.
Spc. Refugio Figueroa, 22, whose wife is five months pregnant, was at the hospital for her sonogram. After the procedure, he noticed the place was jumping with people in security vests. What was going on? He made some calls, found out and threw himself into action. He helped calm the growing crowd outside. He helped direct traffic.
He was shocked to hear that another soldier was thought to be responsible for the carnage. A spurned boyfriend going crazy, he could understand. But not a soldier. His wife waited for him in the car, phoning her family with the news: Yes, we are safe. And we are having a girl.
Capt. Reis Ritz, 30, an emergency room physician, was finishing some paperwork on his day off. He heard an announcement that trauma victims were coming in. Curious, he went over to the emergency room. A colleague said they needed help.
His first patient, a female soldier, had been shot in the abdomen.
"Who shot you?" he asked.
"I don't know."
Ritz got a sinking feeling. Something was very wrong.
The hospital's dozen or so emergency room beds filled up quickly. As did the half-dozen operating rooms. Some of the wounded needed to be airlifted out, including Hasan. Most of the bullet wounds were in the chest or lower, a blessing in disguise.
Rumors were racing around the hospital: There were four gunmen. There were five gunmen. They were all loose on the base.
After treating the barrage of patients, the staff scrubbed everything down and waited for a second wave of injured. It never came.
On Friday, under a faultless sky at Ft. Hood, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army's chief of staff, praised all those who had helped save lives. He singled out Munley, the mother of a 3-year-old girl.
"She probably saved a lot of lives with her actions," he said.
Munley has not spoken publicly, but her biography on Twitter seemed especially poignant in light of Thursday's events: "I live a good life . . . a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully @ night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life."
Retracing steps of suspected Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan
As authorities try to find a motive for the Texas attacks, details of a devout Muslim begin to emerge.
By Bob Drogin and Faye Fiore
November 7, 2009
Reporting from Killeen, Texas, and Silver Spring, Md. -- Over the last few weeks, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan drove off the vast Army base at Ft. Hood, Texas, at least a dozen times to enjoy seafood dinners with Duane Reasoner Jr., an 18-year-old he was mentoring in the ways of Islam.
They would pray at the simple Masjidu-Ttaqwa prayer hall out along the highway, hit the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Golden Corral and then rush back for evening worship. Twice they drove to Hasan's one-bedroom apartment to pick up books or to talk.
Only once -- on Wednesday, the night before Hasan allegedly shouted, " Allahu akbar ! " pulled out two guns and opened fire on dozens of fellow soldiers -- did the dinner talk stray from religion.
"He said he didn't want to go to Iraq or Afghanistan," said Reasoner, who was raised as a Catholic. "He didn't want to be deployed. He said Muslims shouldn't be in the U.S. military, because obviously Muslims shouldn't kill Muslims. He told me not to join the Army."
And around 1:30 p.m. the next day, authorities say, Hasan, a 39-year-old military psychiatrist, went on the shooting rampage at Ft. Hood that left 13 people dead and at least 38 wounded. Hasan was shot by two civilian police officers and remains hospitalized in stable condition with multiple gunshot wounds.
On Friday, agents were trying to find a motivation for the attack, retracing the suspect's steps in the last days and months, interviewing colleagues, neighbors, friends and family to glean details about Hasan's life -- and whether he was moved, at least in part, by radical Islamic ideology.
But officials also warned the public against drawing conclusions about the attack until more facts are known. President Obama said as much at the White House, as did Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. at Ft. Hood.
Much of the furious hunt for answers Friday occurred behind closed doors, as FBI cyber-agents and other forensic experts scoured Hasan's computer, his home and even his garbage.
FBI officials would not say whether they had definitively confirmed that Hasan was the same "NidalHasan" who in one Internet posting -- a comment to an essay titled "Martyrdom in Islam Versus Suicide Bombing!"-- likened a suicide bomber to a soldier who jumps on a grenade to save the lives of his fellow officers in that both were sacrificing their lives "for a more noble cause."
But there were indications that Hasan was active on the Internet and that he had posted numerous inflammatory comments.
By all accounts, Hasan was devout. He worshiped at the mosque each day at 6 a.m., and often prayed there five times a day, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. Hasan's devotion sometimes put him in conflict with the military.
In 2007, Hasan went to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., for a disaster and military psychiatry fellowship, part of a master of public health degree that he completed this summer.
He was put on probation early in his postgraduate work, however, for allegedly proselytizing about his Muslim faith with patients and colleagues, NPR reported . The university would not confirm the probation, citing the ongoing military investigation.
One of Hasan's classmates in the program said he doubted the man's commitment to the military.
"He told students, 'I'm a Muslim first and an American second,' " Dr. Val Finnell, now a lieutenant colonel at the Los Angeles Air Force Base, said in a telephone interview. "I really questioned his loyalty."
Finnell said he first became suspicious of Hasan shortly after the program began when Hasan gave a provocative presentation in an environmental health class.
Other students focused on topics including mold and water contamination. Hasan's project asked "whether the war on terror is a war against Islam," Finnell said.
"It was very off-topic," Finnell said. "I raised my hand and said, 'What does this have to do with environmental health?' "
Finnell said Hasan became agitated when he was challenged and became "sweaty and nervous and emotional."
Finnell said he and his classmates never brought up Hasan's faith and never asked him about his views of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"If those topics came up in conversation, it was because he brought those things up," Finnell said. "It was a self-fulfilling prophesy. He made himself a lightning rod by making his extreme views known to everyone."
Hasan, who was born in Virginia and had long worked in the region, moved to Texas in July. It wasn't always an easy fit.
Victor Benjamin, 30, a business student at Central Texas College, also spoke to Hasan after prayers on Wednesday. They talked about Hasan's struggle to find a woman to marry in the Islamic community here, which comprises only a few hundred people. "He told me he was praying to God for guidance," Benjamin said.
In Maryland, Hasan prayed two or three times a week at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, sometimes coming in uniform from nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"He didn't give an impression that he was a fanatic or angry," said Dr. Asif Qadri, an internist and cardiologist who directs the community center's medical clinic.
"He was very pleasant; he had a smile on his face," agreed Mona Ayad, an administrative assistant. "Always calm and peaceful. . . . That is not the person you would think would resort to this activity. It must have been personal problems."
Akhtar Khan, 64, a member of the center for 25 years, said Hasan would sit in a corner and read books about his faith, sometimes listening to lectures and, "once in a blue moon," attending a social function.
"He was not a real talkative person, but not a loner either," Khan said, describing Hasan as soft-spoken and unimposing. "You knew when you talked to him that you were talking to an educated person."
Like everyone at the center, Khan is mystified by what happened. "What made him do that?" Khan asked. "Were people making fun of him or fun of Islam? Because whatever people do, there is some kind of a reason behind it."
Noel Hasan, the suspect's aunt, said he had suffered name-calling and harassment about his religion after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and had tried unsuccessfully for several years to win a discharge from the military.
And at Ft. Hood, a community accustomed to death far away -- not here, not of their own -- other acquaintances of Hasan struggled to understand what happened.
"We're better than this," said Sgt. Fahad Kamal, 26, an Army combat medic who wore his fatigues to Friday afternoon prayers at the mosque, and who worked near Hasan at Ft. Hood. "It's not because he was Muslim. It's because of his mental problems."
American Muslims express fear, frustration after Ft. Hood shootings
The news that the suspect is one of their own brings up familiar feelings. Besides fears of retribution, they're tired of sensing pressure to apologize for someone else's 'maniacal brutality.'
By Duke Helfand and Richard Fausset
November 7, 2009
Reporting from Los Angeles and Atlanta
The news made Nihad Awad sick to his stomach.
Like the rest of the nation, Awad, who heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations, learned this week that it allegedly was a Muslim who opened fire at a U.S. Army base in Texas, killing 13 people and injuring many more. According to witnesses, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan issued the great, exalting cry of his faith before opening fire:
" Allahu akbar !" God is great.
Hearing the story, Awad too would invoke his maker -- but with a weary lament that is echoing coast to coast among American Muslims.
"I said, 'Oh God, here we go again,' " Awad recalled. "We know what will come when a Muslim name flashes across the [television] screen. What will come is guilt by association."
In response to Thursday's shooting, mosques around the U.S. denounced the violence and implemented a range of overt and subtle security measures. In the Los Angeles area, Islamic groups contacted law enforcement officials, who stepped up patrols of mosques and Muslim community centers.
USC sophomore Janan Al-Henaid said that her mother called Friday, asking her to come home to Claremont and to be careful when going out. "And she's never done that before," Al-Henaid said.
Muslim groups participated in a conference call Friday with federal agencies -- including the Homeland Security and Justice departments -- to discuss Muslim Americans' safety.
Eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, mainstream Islam remains a subject of suspicion to some Americans -- a perception fueled by prejudice and fear, but also by recent allegations of foiled terrorist plots hatched by homegrown Muslim radicals.
Despite eight years of post-9/11 education campaigns, the suspicion and the scrutiny remain a source of deep frustration for Muslim American leaders.
Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, said that the Ft. Hood massacre would be exploited "by groups like Al Qaeda that will use it as a card to justify more religious extremism and violence, and by Muslim-haters who will use it to divide our country and foment fear and hatred."
Al-Marayati said he first prayed for the victims. Then he offered another prayer.
"We prayed," he said, "that it was not a Muslim."
Hasan, a Virginia-born psychiatrist, was in many ways a product of the American mainstream. But among some observers, the rampage freshly stoked long-standing fears that even moderate Muslims may have divided loyalties.
The right-wing news site WorldNetDaily said that according to an "explosive new book," Hasan was "just the tip of a jihadist Fifth Column operating within the ranks of the U.S. military." Lt. Col. Lee Packet, an Army spokesman, called that assertion "total speculation."
Muslim leader Maher Hathout addressed such fears head-on in a raw, emotional sermon at the Friday afternoon prayer service at the Islamic Center of Southern California. Speaking to 2,000 quiet worshipers, Hathout told of a call he had received after the shooting. The caller posed a question: Could any Muslims be trusted now?
"This is the question on the minds of your co-workers, on the minds of your neighbors -- this is the trust, and we have to do something about it," Hathout said.
He implored his fellow Muslims not to hide in the wake of the shooting, but to speak with their neighbors about any lingering misperceptions.
Muslim groups that say they represent the mainstream rushed to denounce the Texas shooting in the most forceful terms -- much as they did after Sept. 11 and after the breakup of other foiled terrorist plots.
Awad's Washington-based group, known as CAIR, noted that it had launched an anti-terrorism petition drive and a TV ad campaign against religious extremism, and coordinated an anti-terrorism fatwa , or religious ruling, condemning extremism and terrorism.
Some Muslim leaders worry that Americans ignore such messages, because the messages either appear to be a matter of form or are overshadowed by news of isolated terrorist plots.
Complicating their efforts are some outsiders' suspicions about the motives of CAIR, one of the most prominent Muslim civil rights groups. In a letter last month, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and three other members of Congress asked the House sergeant-at-arms to determine whether the group was a "security threat." The representatives alleged a relationship between CAIR and terrorist groups, citing that as a basis for the FBI's recent decision to cut ties with the group.
Meanwhile, Islamic leaders find themselves again denouncing a crime hundreds of miles from their communities.
At Masjid Omar ibn Al Khattab, a mosque near USC, retired professor Fathi Osman spoke about how some people misinterpret the Koran to fit their twisted thinking. But afterward, college student Tasbeeh Herwees of Cypress expressed frustration over having to hear another sermon that she felt was apologizing for someone else's actions.
"I think it's kind of tiring to have to do these sermons over and over again, and I think the general public should understand that Islam is not synonymous with violence," she said.
In Dearborn, Mich., home to a large Arab and Muslim community, Kassem Allie received a call Friday from a TV news reporter. Allie, a member of the board of trustees at the Islamic Center of America, called the shooting an act of "maniacal brutality."
The reporter said he was trying to "gauge" Allie's reaction to the news in Texas. Allie became rather annoyed.
"I said, 'What do you mean by gauge ? That we condemn this strongly enough? What do you want me to do -- stand on my head and say I'm sorry?' "
Allie said a few hours later: "It was probably a poor choice of words on the reporter's part. But that's what we're faced with."
Times/USC poll finds majority of California's registered voters have no plans to get H1N1 vaccine
November 6, 2009 | 12:13 pm
As concern spreads about H1N1 flu, a new survey of California voters found that while most consider the vaccine safe, a majority had no plans to get vaccinated. The poll also found that blacks and Latinos are far more likely than other groups to say they believed the vaccine could be unsafe.
The findings come from a new Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California College of Letters, Arts & Sciences Poll. The survey, which interviewed 1,500 registered voters from Oct. 27 through Nov. 3, was conducted for the Times and USC by two nationally prominent polling firms, the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies . The results have a margin of error of +/-2.6 percentage points.
Only 5% of those polled said they already had been inoculated. Of the rest, 52% said they did not plan to get vaccinated. Of the 40% who said they wanted the vaccine, 12% said they already had attempted to find it but failed.
Of those polled, 70% said they think the H1N1 vaccine is safe for most people, while only 17% said there was a strong chance the vaccine is unsafe.
The Times/USC poll findings regarding minorities and young adults, however, may be of particular concern to public health officials.
Blacks and Latinos are among those at risk of catching H1N1 flu, mostly because they suffer disproportionately from asthma, diabetes and other health problems. They are also four times more likely than whites to be hospitalized with H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in September.
Yet blacks and Latinos in California were more likely to doubt the safety of the vaccine, according to the Times poll: 34% of blacks and 25% of Latinos consider the vaccine unsafe, compared with 14% of whites and 16% of Asians.
Blacks were the least likely to get vaccinated: 65% said they had no plans to get inoculated, compared with 52% of whites, half of Latinos and 41% of Asians. “People are very skeptical,” said Desiree Harris, 45, of Pasadena, an African American polled by The Times.
A Pentecostal minister, Harris said she has not been vaccinated, but considers the vaccine safe, knows some people who have received it and has encouraged others at her church to get inoculated.
Harris, a conservative Democrat who voted for President Obama, said many Americans distrust federal authorities and must be reassured that they need the vaccine for their own safety.
“This current administration, they are having to rebuild our faith in the government,” Harris said. The Times/USC poll also found that 59% of people ages 18 to 29, among the most at-risk of any age group, said they had no plans to get the vaccine. People in their late teens through mid-20s are considered one of the five priority risk groups.
Cody Bannerman, 24, of San Francisco, was among those who said he does not intend to get the vaccine. Bannerman, an unemployed financial analyst, said he considers the vaccine safe but getting vaccinated would be inconvenient.
“There's a lot of time you have to put into getting the vaccine, finding out where to get it and standing in line,” Bannerman said. “If they had like a vaccination station in my neighborhood and you could just drop by, I might be more inclined to get it.”
He said he does not known anyone who has had H1N1 flu, but every time a friend catches a cold they joke about having it.
“They're not actually concerned about it. I'm definitely not,” he said. “A lot of people my age have the mentality they're invincible and nothing can happen to them.”
The Times/USC poll also found that people who identified themselves as conservative Republicans were nearly twice as likely than those who said they were liberal Democrats to say there was a strong chance that the vaccine was unsafe.
Overall, many polled may not feel compelled to get vaccinated because they do not know anyone recently stricken with the flu. Nearly 90% said neither they nor a member of their immediate family had contracted H1N1 flu during the past four weeks, while 10% said they did. Others may be wary of long lines at public vaccination clinics and waiting lists for private healthcare providers due to national vaccine shortages.
Teens charged as adults in slaying of Wilson High honors student
November 6, 2009 | 10:54 am
Two 16-year-olds were charged as adults this morning in the shooting of a Long Beach honors student last week after a Wilson High School football game.
Tom Love Vinson and Daivion Davis, identified by authorities as gang members, were each charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Vinson and Daivion allegedly opened fire a week ago outside the school, striking and killing Melody Ross, a popular 16-year-old whom police said was an innocent bystander.
Two men -- an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old -- were wounded in the shooting, which occurred about 10 p.m. as crowds of students gathered near Ximeno Avenue and 10th Street for a dance. Police believe the men may have been the intended targets and that the shooting was the result of a gang feud.
At first, detectives struggled to find witnesses even though hundreds of students were in the immediate area when the shooting occurred. Police said more students came forward Monday, some at the urging of school officials.
The shooting shocked faculty and students at the campus, a diverse school that serves some of Long Beach's most affluent communities.
Ross was wearing a superhero costume to Wilson's homecoming game against Polytechnic High School. A number of students at the game were decked out in costumes on the day before Halloween.
The suspects are being held on $3 million bail and face life in prison if convicted. They will be arraigned later today in Long Beach.
California falls short in examining deaths of children
A law designed to allow public scrutiny of fatal abuse and neglect is unevenly enforced and leaves many unaccounted for.
By Kim Christensen and Garrett Therolf
November 5, 2009
A new law aimed at exposing child deaths to public scrutiny has given Californians their most complete view yet of the toll of abuse and neglect but falls short of legislators' intent and leaves many fatalities uncounted, according to interviews and The Times' review of previously confidential records.
Known as Senate Bill 39, the 2008 law was largely intended to highlight systemic flaws in hopes of preventing other children's deaths. More than a year after it took effect, however, it has shed limited light on how -- and how many -- children die of abuse and neglect.
"We do not know how many children have died in California," said William L. Grimm, senior attorney for the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law, one of SB 39's backers. "We did not know five years ago, and we don't know today."
The problem, in part, is that counties interpret the law's requirements differently. Their views vary on what constitutes abuse or neglect and on what information is subject to disclosure. And in at least one county, Los Angeles, deaths appear to have been mistakenly overlooked.
The Times early this year filed public records requests with all 58 counties, and they in turn reported a total of 109 child deaths in 2008 caused by abuse or neglect. Some pending cases were later substantiated, bringing the statewide total to 114, according to records obtained from the state Department of Social Services.
Los Angeles County, by far the largest with more than 10 million residents, reported 32 such deaths, but some other large counties noted far fewer. For instance, Alameda County, the state's seventh-largest with a population of 1.5 million, reported one -- an 18-month-old Hayward boy fatally scalded in a bathtub; his mother's boyfriend has been charged.
Twenty-eight other counties -- nearly half -- reported no deaths from abuse or neglect.
One of the law's sponsors, Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), said it has brought greater transparency to the child-welfare system, but she lamented that there still is a "lack of uniformity" in how the counties have responded. "Counties need to be given a clear and concise directive," she said. "Until we can say we have done everything possible to save every child from injury or tragic death, we have more work to do."
Beaten, shaken, shot or simply allowed to starve, scores of California children die each year from abuse and neglect. Until last year, virtually all information about these deaths was kept from public view, ostensibly to protect the privacy of children and their families.
But that secrecy also shielded child welfare officials and their sometimes lethal mistakes from public scrutiny, children's advocates argued. At their urging, state lawmakers mandated the release of previously sealed records, including those detailing dead children's prior contacts with child welfare agencies.
The results have shed some light on the problem -- showing, for instance, that 14 deaths occurred last year among children whose families had been at one time investigated by Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services.
It is impossible to know how many deaths were not counted that should have been. But in its review The Times found some clear instances of underreporting .
The Los Angeles County children's services department, for example, said in August that it had recorded four child deaths this year that resulted from abuse or neglect. Internal records obtained by The Times showed there actually had been nine.
Among those the county had not disclosed as abuse and neglect were the deaths of a 10-year-old boy killed in a June traffic accident when he and two siblings were thrown from a van that had no rear seats and that of a 3-month old boy who died in a motel room where his parents left him alone for 12 hours.
When a reporter raised the discrepancy with the department, Director Trish Ploehn acknowledged the additional deaths and pledged to institute "internal controls" to avoid such oversights.
Grimm, of the Oakland-based youth law center, which has collected death records from the 15 largest counties, said the totals fall short of what he would have expected.
"Our own experience making requests in counties across the state so far suggests that we are not getting a complete picture of the children who have died as the result of abuse or neglect," Grimm said.
Gail Steele, an Alameda County supervisor who has pushed for full disclosure of child deaths, said she thinks many abuse and neglect fatalities are not reported. Her office tracks all children's deaths in that county and reviews coroner's files to make its own assessments.
"My thing is you can't figure out how to prevent deaths or fix things if you don't know what happened," she said.
Often the problem is varying interpretations of what constitutes abuse and neglect.
Grimm cited the example of a small child who is killed in an auto accident because the intoxicated parent who was driving had not placed him in a car seat. Although that death would fit most people's definition of neglect, he said, some child welfare officials might deem it an accident, especially if the coroner did.
"The official cause might be accidental, but if you look more closely at it you say, 'My god, that's definitely neglect' and it should be labeled as a neglect death," Grimm said.
Bethany Christman, who oversees children's services in Kern County, said such latitude in interpreting the law could help explain why her county, with a population of about 820,000, reported nine deaths last year while much larger counties reported far fewer.
"If law enforcement or the coroner don't say anything [about abuse or neglect], some counties won't either," she said.
In passing the law in 2007, legislators said they wanted to bring to light not only child deaths but also the details of the young victims' experiences with child welfare officials.
"Without accurate and complete information about the circumstances leading to the child's death, public debate is stymied and the reforms, if adopted at all, may do little to prevent further tragedies," wrote the bill's sponsors.
Even when a death is disclosed as required, California law allows most records to remain closed if prosecutors or families' attorneys object to their release. Those that are made public often are so heavily redacted of names and other identifying information that it's impossible to decipher what happened -- or even who died.
Grimm and others complained in a March 13 letter to the California Department of Social Services that recently issued regulations made it hard for counties to determine what should be released or redacted. They also objected to the department's decision to exclude deaths caused by people who were not in a custodial role, including boyfriends, extended family members and family friends.
"The regulations are a tortured reading to say the least," said Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Assn., who also signed the letter. "The law is pretty explicit that all abuse or neglect deaths must be released."
Officials with the California Department of Social Services said in an interview that they were revising the guidelines and would consider the letter writers' criticisms.
Jan Viss, who heads the Child and Family Services Division in Stanislaus County, which reported that five children died from abuse or neglect last year, said the law is plain enough already.
"We are very clear about what we are supposed to report and we take that responsibility very seriously," she said, adding that her county thoroughly reviewed child deaths even before the law took effect.
"Even one death is a tragedy," Viss said. "All we can do is strive to do better for these kids in the future."
Police search for suspect in attacks on young girls in Westlake area
November 6, 2009 | 8:28 am
Los Angeles police are looking today for a suspect in the Westlake area who is believed to be responsible for multiple sexual assaults involving young girls.
The suspect is wanted for at least four sexual assaults dating to February 2008 involving girls ages 8 to 10, authorities said.
In each of those cases, the suspect approached the girls at about 7 a.m. and engaged them in conversation before “enticing them into apartment buildings and sexually assaulting them,” according to an LAPD release.
Police say the most recent assault occurred Wednesday at 7:20 a.m. when a 10-year-old girl walking to school near Beverly Boulevard and Commonwealth Avenue was approached by a man who lured her into an apartment complex in the 100 block of South Commonwealth Avenue. There, he took her to a roof where he allegedly attempted to sexually assault her.
“The girl begged the suspect to stop his advances and repeatedly pushed him away,” police said in the release. “It is believed that the victim's persistent actions caused the suspect to stop and leave the location.”
The suspect is described as a 25-to-45-year-old Latino with black hair and brown eyes, between 5-feet-6 and 5-feet-9 and 150 to 170 pounds.
He was seen on the apartment complex's video surveillance system, which shows the suspect walking with the victim and then later running northbound on Commonwealth Avenue.
Detectives are asking for the public's help. Anyone with additional information on the suspect, additional victims or witnesses is asked to contact the Robbery-Homicide Division, Special Assaults Section at (213) 485-2921 or 1 (877) 527-3247.
Orlando shooting suspect says company left him 'to rot'
Former employee Jason Rodriguez is in custody after a rampage in which one worker is killed and five wounded at a Florida engineering firm.
By Jeannette Rivera and Henry Pierson Curtis
November 7, 2009
Reporting from Orlando, Fla.
A former employee of an architectural engineering firm opened fire in the company's offices in a high-rise here, killing one person and wounding five others, according to authorities.
Jason Rodriguez, 40, was arrested at his mother's apartment three hours later.
Outside the police station, a reporter asked for a motive.
Rodriguez, who had been fired from the company two years earlier, said: "Because they left me to rot."
Reporters asked if he was referring to his former employer.
"No. No. I'm angry," he responded.
Later Friday night, Rodriguez shouted, "Innocent!" to a crush of reporters at the Orlando Police Department as he left for the Orange County Jail.
A police affidavit said that Rodriguez had complained that he was harassed at work and let go "for no reason at all."
Rodriguez told detectives that he spent a year and a half without work after leaving the engineering firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc., which has an eighth-floor office in the Gateway Center in downtown Orlando.
Rodriguez briefly worked at a Subway sandwich shop, but he couldn't get enough hours; he quit and filed for unemployment benefits, according to the affidavit.
He told detectives he didn't receive an expected unemployment check and blamed the company.
"I'm just going through a tough time now, I'm sorry," Rodriguez said as he was being taken into custody, the affidavit states.
State Atty. Lawson Lamar said he planned to seek an indictment against Rodriguez on a first-degree murder charge and attempted first-degree murder charges. He'll confer with prosecutors before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty.
"I think there's heightened premeditation here," Lamar said. "The fact that he went back there with a weapon and did what he did is very cold and calculating."
The shooting began shortly before noon, when the suspect entered the building through the main entrance with a handgun, police said.
Former co-workers recognized Rodriguez, and one saw him pull a handgun from a holster under his shirt, police said.
The suspect pointed it at an employee standing near the reception desk and fired at least two shots, killing him, police said. Orlando police identified the victim as Otis Beckford, 26.
Rodriguez then entered the main office area where he fired "multiple rounds," hitting several employees, police said. None of those injuries were considered life-threatening.
Orlando Police Chief Val Demings said the suspect appeared to shoot indiscriminately. Officers said they believed the shooting was confined to the firm's offices.
People trapped inside the office building used furniture to barricade doorways and serve as cover. A person matching Rodriguez's description was then seen leaving the scene in a silver compact car. One witness copied down a partial license number, and police found a four-door 2001 Hyundai registered to Rodriguez's parents at an apartment complex.
As Orlando police approached the car, Rodriguez appeared in the window of the apartment with his hands up.
Police ordered him to come outside, and Rodriguez was taken into custody without incident, Demings said.
At Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Rodriguez worked as an entry-level engineer for nearly a year, according to the company. Renato Gonzalez, a manager in the firm's DeLand, Fla., office, recounted that Rodriguez acted irritated when he was let go in June 2007, but he did nothing to indicate he would resort to violence.
"He took it a little worse than most people," Gonzalez said.
Records show Rodriguez filed for bankruptcy in Orlando in September.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist stopped at Orlando Regional Medical Center to speak with some of the victims who were heading into surgery.
"They said they felt very lucky and blessed to be alive," Crist said.
Beck will reach out to Latinos
November 6, 2009 | 1:55 pm
Charlie Beck, the mayor's nominee to head the Los Angeles Police Department, told Hoy Newspaper he will make a particular effort to reach out to Latinos through community meetings and by conducting news conferences and any other police function in English and Spanish.
“I need to get the concerns of all the communities in Los Angeles and some communities have more problem communicating with me than others,” Beck said.
He will also maintain Special Order 40, which prevents LAPD officers from inquiring about people's immigration status.
“Special Order 40 is part of the core values of LAPD and that will continue as is,” noted Beck, who has also designated Michoacan, Mexico-born captain Rigo Romero to be his Special Agent for the Latino Community.
“Rigo is not just a Spanish speaker. Rigo's personal history ties him deeply to the immigrant community. He and I are going to work very closely making sure that the police message goes out just as clearly in Spanish as it does in English,” Beck said.
“Rigo knows me, he knows my philosophy. He can tell you what it is that I think because he and I have that kind of relationship,” he said.
To read the full story in Spanish, visit http://www.vivelohoy.com/losangeles
ICE arrests migrants with permits to be in the country legally
November 6, 2009 | 1:40 pm
Two women who had applied and been approved under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that gives them permits to be in the country legally report being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, arrests that landed them in jail, in one case for an entire month.
Maria de Barrera was arrested in Los Angeles when ICE agents came to her house looking for people who no longer lived there.
“I showed the agents my worker's permit and he said that was not enough and took it away,” said Barrera, 46. She was taken to an immigration detention center and was released several hours later after her lawyer showed ICE agents Barrera had been approved under VAWA.
Elvira Ayon, 26, who also was approved under VAWA, was arrested in Delano, Calif., and later taken to an immigration detention center in Arizona where she spent a month before a lawyer gained her released.
Jorge Mario Cabrera, spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), says such cases are common and calls them proof of the “racial profiling” practiced by ICE.
“They [ICE] don't go looking for people in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood. They go to our communities to conduct raids,” noted Cabrera.
But Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for ICE, denies any racial profiling and says those are isolated cases.
“We detain people from Asia, Europe and all over the world who have violated immigration laws,” she said.
She blames the arrests of migrants legally allowed to be in the country to the fact that ICE agents don't have remote access to Department of Homeland Security databases to check whether someone has been approved for such permits or other immigration benefits. But she says those cases don't occur very often.
Kice also says their enforcement actions are specifically targeted to individuals who have avoided detention and have deportation orders, but that sometimes these people have moved and they encounter “collateral violators” in those residences.
“If they can not provide legitimate documentation and identification to show us that they're in the country legally, we take them to the office to check their status,” said Kice.
To read the full story in Spanish, visit http://www.vivelohoy.com/losangeles
Back to an open LAPD
The department needs, and the new chief should fight for, public accountability by its officers.
November 7, 2009
As he makes his early rounds, Police Chief-designate Charlie Beck is lending his support to an important principle that will go a long way toward defining his imprint on the Los Angeles Police Department. In an interview with columnist Tim Rutten and then with the editorial board of this newspaper, Beck made it clear that he believes police officers must be publicly accountable for their actions, and that he's willing to support legislation to ensure that it happens.
Beck is a veteran of the LAPD, so he can well recall that for decades, the rules governing officer accountability were appropriately demanding: In cases of police shootings and other serious uses of force, the department routinely released the results of its internal investigations, including its findings regarding the officers involved. Similarly, officers who were charged with serious disciplinary offenses had the cases against them heard by departmental panels known as Boards of Rights, which were open to the public. Officers occasionally complained about being subjected to public scrutiny and criticism, but the department -- under chiefs as varied as Ed Davis, Daryl F. Gates, Willie L. Williams and Bernard C. Parks -- recognized that its fundamental responsibility was to the public it served.
Those rules changed in 2006, after the California Supreme Court rejected the arguments of the San Diego Union-Tribune as it sought records relating to the termination of a sheriff's deputy. Although the ruling specifically noted that it was not addressing hearings, the LAPD took the opportunity to shut out the public anyway, arguing that it had no alternative under the reasoning of the opinion. Ever since, LAPD shooting investigation reports have identified officers only in code -- Officer A, Officer B, etc. -- and officers charged with serious offenses have had the evidence for and against them heard by Boards of Rights only in private, making a mockery of public accountability.
Twice, the Legislature has considered bills to roll back the 2006 ruling and to allow, though not to require, the LAPD to return to its more open past. Both times, the state's police unions have bullied lawmakers into rejecting the legislation, despite Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's efforts to drum up support for it. Police Chief William J. Bratton was little help in that fight, nominally backing the bill but barely lifting a finger on its behalf.
Beck has not committed to supporting a specific bill, and he's right not to sign a blank check. But he's also made clear that he believes police officers forfeit some measure of privacy when they are issued guns and batons and authorized to use them. Moreover, while he is properly committed to forging a working relationship with Los Angeles' police union, Beck also has recognized that there will be times when he and the Police Protective League disagree. This is one of those times. Beck should follow up his encouraging statements this week and endorse, support and lobby for a bill that will restore long-standing LAPD practices and meaningful public oversight of police.
Q&A with LAPD Chief-designate Charlie Beck
November 6, 2009 | 4:46 pm
Charlie Beck, chief-designate of the Los Angeles Police Department, visited with reporters, editannounced his nomination of Beck as the next LAPD chief ors and members of The Times' editorial board Wednesday, the day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa . In some areas, Beck distinguished himself (though cordially so) from former Chief William J. Bratton, pointing out that his method of effecting change by focusing on rank-and-file officers differs from his predecessor's emphasis on establishing policy and working with political leaders. Beck expressed support for greater transparency in police oversight (the subject of a Times editorial Saturday) and Special Order 40, the department mandate that prevents officers from obtaining the immigration status of detained suspects.
Below are audio clips of the session; I've included notable quotes by Beck on each topic. Segments two through eight begin, in order, with questions posed by Times staff members Jim Newton, Patt Morrison, Nick Goldberg, Marjorie Miller, Joel Rubin, David Lauter, Eddy Hartenstein and Newton. The first clip doesn't begin with a question.
LAPD reform, from the ground up
"You'll think of me as more of a cop's chief rather than a leader-manager with vision."
"I have a similar vision to his, but my character's different. I think I'm a better-suited leader to drive the changes down."
Federal consent decree
"All of the issues that the consent decree was created to address, I agree with, and those will continue. Now, some of the mechanics have become ill-suited because either we've reached universal compliance on them, but that doesn't necessarily declare victory on the issue. There are other ways to do this monitoring that is smart."
Transparency in police oversight
"My core belief is that when you become a police officer -- and you're entrusted with life, liberty and life and death of people in the community -- that you give up some right to anonymity that most other people enjoy. Unfortunately, state law doesn't agree with me on that."
Relationship with the Police Protective League
"I think the union is a huge ally. I think that a manager that ignores the authority and power of a union, such as some of ours have done in the past, ignores a huge opportunity to mold his workforce. So the union is very important. Do I think we're going to agree on all issues? No."
Immigration and drug enforcement
"I believe in Special Order 40. I believe in not just the words on paper, but the spirit of Special Order 40. I think that especially in Los Angeles, that we have to represent everybody, that everybody has the right to quality police service, regardless of status. I don't think that we should be an arm of the federal government in enforcing immigration laws specifically. However, if we make a legal arrest on another charge, and a criminal is monitored by Immigration, then they should have access to him."
"I think we are a police department that the majority of residents in Los Angeles feels comfortable with, and that's largely due to the increase in size."
"At 10,000 [officers], we can start to address core issues, because you are able to provide that basic level of service and add on the problem-solving piece. So I think that size that we're at right now should be looked at as a floor, the basement."
Beck's leadership team
"The team that got us here in the first place is still here. Nobody is being thrown out; nobody has told me that they're leaving. I intend to use the players that we have."
Work outside Los Angeles
"I'm going to go out a lot more than I would have if Bill Bratton had never been here, but I certainly won't travel as much as he did. This is my home, this is where my family is, this is where all my avocations are, all the things I like to do, so I'm going to be -- I'm a local boy, always have been. So that's the way I'll be as a chief."
Lessons learned from predecessors
"If I ever become a detriment to this police department because of my personality, because of something I did, then I'm gone."
"It's more important that the Los Angeles Police Department and the city of Los Angeles do well than it is that Charlie Beck does well. So I think that is the key lesson."
Terror at home
As the shootings in Ft. Hood, Texas, and Orlando show, violence is always with us.
November 7, 2009
In a 2005 speech at Ft. Bragg, N.C., President George W. Bush laid out his latest justification for the war in Iraq: "There is only one course of action against [terrorists]: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq -- who is also senior commander at this base -- Gen. John Vines, put it well the other day. He said, 'We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us.' "
But of course, fighting the enemy overseas doesn't mean we're not still fighting him here at home too. He struck Thursday in Ft. Hood, Texas, killing 13 people and wounding 30. With the nation still mourning those deaths, he hit us again Friday in Florida, shooting six in an Orlando office building.
Sometimes, the enemy we're fighting is a radical Muslim fundamentalist. The suspect in the Ft. Hood slayings may have been that kind of terrorist; he was certainly Muslim, and allegedly shouted "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," before opening fire. Sometimes he's a communist maniac, such as Lee Harvey Oswald. Or he's a government-loathing, right-wing conspiracy theorist, such as Timothy McVeigh.
Domestic terrorists tend to be loners, not organized militias like the ones we're fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Organized or not, terrorists think it's heroic to murder unarmed and unsuspecting people. They nurse bitter resentments in the dark against those who live in the light. They are driven by a kind of messianic zeal that, to them, justifies even the most heinous acts. They are so blinded by hatred that they will believe virtually anything about their enemies -- us -- no matter how farfetched. They are an unstable compound made up of ignorance and anger, often mixed with religion or political extremism. They could go off at any time.
Not all killers, of course, are terrorists. The suspect in the Orlando killings may have been a copycat emboldened by the previous day's blood bath, or he may have been just a disgruntled worker with a grudge and a gun. Terrorists use violence against ordinary people to further a cause. What they hold in common is self-righteousness -- an unshakable conviction that their actions are universally correct, even divinely sanctioned. They are always wrong.
Even if we "win" the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and at this point it's hard to picture what "victory" would look like -- it won't keep us safe from such people. The enemy may be weak, but he has always been with us and always will be.
Cruel life in prison
Juvenile offenders should not receive a sentence that offers no hope for eventual release.
November 7, 2009
The U.S. Supreme Court recognized in 2005 that it is unconstitutionally cruel to execute people for crimes committed before they were 18, because youths lack the sense of responsibility that society requires of adults. Their personalities are not yet fixed; they are more susceptible to the negative influences of other people or events. Society's understandable demand for retribution is necessarily blunted when the perpetrator of a crime is a juvenile. Likewise, the threat of a stiff penalty cannot have the same deterrent effect on a youth as it does on an adult; young people have too little experience to fully grasp the consequences of their actions.
The court on Monday will hear arguments in the cases of two Floridians sentenced, in effect, to eventually die in prison because they lack even the slightest chance of release on parole. The same reasoning that bars execution for crimes committed in youth should also block such sentences of life without hope for young people, at the very least for those whose crimes fall short of murder.
Terrance Jamar Graham was 16 when he joined two others in a failed attempt to rob a restaurant; a year later, he was on probation when he participated in a home invasion robbery. His crimes were brutal; he was a repeat offender; and he deserved to be punished, to be imprisoned, and even, perhaps, to be sentenced to life. But not without a chance, in the future, for a court or parole board to review his growth and development and consider another chance at parole.
There are, to be sure, youths who mature earlier than others, just as there are adults who never fully mature. But there must be a line, and age 18 is the point at which society determines people are ready to sign contracts, marry without parental consent, serve on juries and be drafted into the military.
Society can and should countenance a hopeless existence in prison for adult perpetrators. But not for juveniles. The U.S. is, for now, the only nation that has not banned life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders, and more than 2,000 are serving such terms behind bars.
But there are, fortunately, few in the position of Joe Sullivan, sentenced in Florida to life without parole for a crime he committed when he was only 13. That kind of sentence for a crime committed at such an early age shocks the conscience and cannot be seen as anything but unconstitutionally unusual -- as well as cruel.
From the Daily News
Fort Hood gunman cleaned out apartment days before the rampage
Associated Press Updated: 11/06/2009 07:30:39 PM PST
FORT HOOD, Texas - An Army psychiatrist suspected of opening fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood cleaned out his apartment and left a phone message saying goodbye to a friend in the days before the rampage that left 13 people dead, neighbors said Friday.
One neighbor, Patricia Villa, said Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan came over to her apartment Wednesday and Thursday and offered her some items, including a new Quran, saying he was going to be deployed on Friday.
Authorities said the 39-year-old Hasan went on a shooting spree later Thursday at the sprawling Texas post. He was among 30 people wounded in the rampage and remained hospitalized Friday in a coma, attached to a ventilator. All but two of the injured were still hospitalized; all were in stable condition.
Investigators were trying to piece together how and why Hasan allegedly gunned down his comrades in one of the worst mass shootings ever on an American military base. Though his motive wasn't known, some who knew Hasan said he may have been struggling with a pending deployment to Afghanistan and faced pressure in his work with distressed soldiers.
Hasan's family said in a statement Friday that his alleged actions were "despicable and deplorable" and don't reflect how the family was raised.
President Barack Obama ordered the flags at the White House and other federal buildings be at half-staff and urged people not to draw conclusions while authorities investigate.
"We don't know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts," Obama said in a statement.
The shooting spree began as some 300 soldiers had been lined up to get vaccinations and have their eyes tested at a Soldier Readiness Center, where troops who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening. Nearby, others were lining up in commencement robes for a ceremony to celebrate soldiers and families who had recently earned degrees.
Soldiers reported that the gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar!" - an Arabic phrase for "God is great!" - before opening fire, said Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the base commander. He said officials had not confirmed that Hasan made the comment.
Officials are not ruling out the possibility that some of the casualties may have been victims of "friendly fire," shot by responding military officials.
When the gunfire subsided, soldiers described a scene that looked like a war zone: too many wounded to count, shells and blood on the floor, and comrades ripping off their clothes to make tourniquets to keep the injured alive. One woman, suffering from a wound to the hip, carried another victim to get help.
"You had people without tops on. You had people ripping their pant legs off," said Sgt. Andrew Hagerman, a military police officer from Lewisville, Texas.
Hagerman arrived at the scene minutes after the shooting stopped. When he entered the building, he kept his head down to avoid stepping in the pools of blood or kicking any spent shell casings.
"You could go around it," he said. "There was definitely a path."
The gunman was struck four times by a civilian police officer who was wounded herself. Base officials said Kimberly Munley fired on the suspect just three minutes after the gunfire erupted and that her efforts ended the crisis. Munley was recovering Friday at a hospital.
"It was an amazing and aggressive performance by this police officer," Cone said.
Hagerman said he saw Hasan laying on the ground receiving medical assistance for a gunshot wound as responders tried to get his handcuffs off to better treat him.
Hasan reported for duty at Fort Hood in July, after working at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for six years. Though he apparently had problems at Walter Reed, Fort Hood officials said they weren't aware of any issues with his job performance.
One of Hasan's bosses praised his work ethic and said he provided excellent care for his patients.
"Up to this point I would consider him an asset," said Col. Kimberly Kesling, deputy commander of clinical services at Darnall Army Medical Center.
Neighbors described a man who appeared to be getting his affairs in order just hours before the shooting. Hasan was set to deploy to Afghanistan with an Army Reserve unit that provides what the military calls "behavioral health" counseling, Army spokeswoman Col. Cathy Abbott said.
Villa, who moved next door to Hasan about a month ago, said she had never spoken to him before he came over to her apartment.
She said Hasan gave her frozen broccoli, spinach, T-shirts and shelves on Wednesday, then returned Thursday morning and gave her his air mattress, several briefcases and a desk lamp. He then offered her $60 to clean his apartment Friday morning, after he was supposed to leave.
Another neighbor received a phone message from Hasan at 5 a.m. Thursday.
Jacqueline Harris, 44, said Hasan called her boyfriend, Willie Bell. "He just wanted to thank Willie for being a good friend and thank him for being there for him," Harris said. "That was it. We thought it was just a nice message to leave."
The manager of the apartment complex said Hasan recently was involved in a spat with another soldier living there over Hasan's religious beliefs. A bumper sticker that read "Allah is Love" was ripped off Hasan's car, which was keyed, said the manager, John Thompson.
Thompson said the neighbor had been in Iraq and was upset to learn that Hasan was Muslim.
Hasan's mindset about his mission overseas wasn't clear. Someone who used to work with Hasan said he had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but neighbors said he appeared fine with his pending deployment.
"I asked him how he felt about going over there, with their religion and everything, and he said, 'It's going to be interesting,'" said Edgar Booker, a retired soldier who now works in a cafeteria on the post.
Cone said authorities have not yet been able to talk to Hasan, but interviews with witnesses went through the night.
The wounded were dispersed among hospitals in central Texas. The dead included a man who quit a furniture company job to join the military about a year ago, a newlywed who had served in Iraq and a woman who had vowed to take on Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
U.S. Muslims reacted with both anger and fear of backlash after revelations that Hasan is a practicing Muslim. The nation's major Muslim organizations and several mosques quickly condemned the attacks as contrary to Islam and highlighted the military service of U.S. Muslims, including those who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The community is in a state of agony," said Muqtedar Khan, director of the Islamic studies program at the University of Delaware and a well-known progressive Muslim intellectual.
Some U.S. mosques stepped up security on Friday, the main prayer day for Muslims.
Hasan, who was born in Northern Virginia, pursued a career in psychiatry at Walter Reed, working as an intern, a resident and a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. The Army major received his medical degree from the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001.
But his record at Walter Reed wasn't sterling. He received a poor performance evaluation, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly. And while he was an intern, Hasan had some "difficulties" that required counseling and extra supervision, said Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Hasan's aunt, Noel Hasan of Falls Church, Va., said he had been harassed about being a Muslim in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and he wanted out of the Army.
"Some people can take it and some people cannot," she said. "He had listened to all of that and he wanted out of the military."
At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law enforcement officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats, including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades.
Investigators had not determined for certain whether Hasan was the author of the posting, and a formal investigation had not been opened before the shooting, said law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.
Federal authorities seized Hasan's computer Friday during a search of his apartment, said a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
LAPD reduces majority of rape kit backlog
CLEARED: Number of cases yet to be DNA tested shrinks from 7,038 last year to 2,527
By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer Updated: 11/05/2009 10:06:49 PM PST
The Los Angeles Police Department has cleared almost two-thirds of its backlog in testing DNA rape kits after coming under pressure from women's rights groups and City Council members to speed the process, officials announced Thursday.
City Controller Wendy Greuel released an audit showing the backlog of cases in one year has shrunk to 2,527 from 7,038. But Greuel called for continued improvements and changes in how the LAPD catalogs the cases.
Joining Greuel at a morning news conference, Police Chief-nominee Charlie Beck emphasized the important role such science would play in the department under his leadership.
As chief of detectives, Beck led a task force assigned to clear up the backlog and was nominated this week by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to be the department's next chief.
He said the issue goes beyond just addressing the current testing problem.
"This is not about these individual kits or the failures in the past," Beck said. "This is about justice for the future. We need to prepare the Police Department in a way to address crime in the future, and this is part of the solution.
"DNA testing eliminates the need for speculation. It builds confidence by the citizenry that the Police Department is effective."
He added that it also serves as a more effective deterrent if potential criminals think there is a much higher likelihood of getting caught.
Greuel said the audit was a follow-up to one last year that detailed the backlog.
While there have been improvements, she said, some of the figures may be inaccurate because of accounting problems.
"The department needs to immediately compare the difference in the rape kit reporting statistics with the physical inventory and eliminate the kits which have been tested," Greuel said. "If we don't have an accurate accounting of where we stand, it is impossible to say how much progress has been made."
Greuel recommended the LAPD change its database on how it tracks crimes, saying it now has three separate databases where one would help improve efficiency.
Beck said he agreed with Greuel and was in the process of putting the recommendation into effect.
"We have had a tremendous effort, a herculean effort, to clear up the backlog," Beck said, adding he hoped to fully clear the backlog by July 2011.
The city's DNA backlog has been a source of criticism from a range of public officials and human rights groups in recent years.
Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch, an international human-rights group based in New York, issued a lengthy report criticizing the LAPD, the county Sheriff's Department and other local police agencies for their backlogs, saying it was denying justice to rape victims.
On Tuesday, Tiffany Siart, a Los Angeles-based official with Human Rights Watch, said the city's progress sends an important message to women.
"What we have to realize is that these aren't just untested cases — this is about justice and bringing people to trial," Siart said.
Greuel said the problem has been a top priority for the city, with authorization to hire 16 new criminalists, the only new hiring allowed by the mayor and City Council during the current budget crisis.
Greuel also called for more attention to a long-standing issue with the FBI.
"Unfortunately, the FBI has a policy that requires all kits that are outsourced to be retested by a public agency," Greuel said. "This delay is outrageous because it has created a whole new backlog."
Greuel said former Police Chief William Bratton had sent a letter to FBI officials asking them to review their policy, and she has been in communication with members of Congress to see if any changes can be implemented.
Beck said it means the department has to take the work done by the private labs, confirm it and enter it into the national database.
"What this means is we are spending money with labs to process these cases and then have to spend money to confirm their work," Beck said. "It seems like a waste of money."
Cleaning up the backlog of DNA rape kits was one of the high-profile jobs given Beck by Bratton.
None of the remaining kits from the backlog represent ongoing investigations or stranger rapes, Beck said.
"We have processed all those," Beck said. "The remaining cases are those involving cases that have been decided or where the victim does not want to pursue. It's important for us to process these, to get them in the database."
Beck, whose nomination will be reviewed Monday by a City Council committee and then submitted to the full council, said he will provide officials with his vision for the LAPD and how to continue the reforms initiated by former Chief Bratton.
"I am not going to move anybody immediately," Beck said. "This is a deliberative process. This is an organization that is working. I am not going to make any changes that cause upheaval in the department.
"I will shift some things, but the reality is that this is a great department, and I'm smart enough to know to not change things that are working."
Jim Woodard: Rewards of volunteerism are priceless
By Jim Woodard Updated: 11/06/2009 09:56:31 AM PST
WHEN I learned I was to receive the President's Award for Volunteer Service from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America last week, I thought about the thousands of hours I've invested as a volunteer with youth-serving organizations during my lifetime.
Was it really worth it? How much money could I have earned if I used that time in income-producing pursuits? How could I have used those funds?
A bit of background info: I've been actively involved in volunteer activities for most of my adult life. It started in my late teens. I would drive to our local orphanage in Des Moines, Iowa, in my 1941 Ford every two weeks or so, pick up about a half-dozen boys and take them on fishing outings.
While sitting on the river bank waiting for fish to bite on our lines, I would tell the boys stories or just chat with them. It's amazing how candid kids can be in expressing their innermost thoughts while sitting on a river bank waiting for a fish to bite.
This experience led to a job as counselor at Boys Town, Nebraska, for a couple of years - my only paid youth service. Then, as I developed my own career in broadcasting, writing and storytelling, I became deeply involved in volunteer services with such organizations as Junior Achievement, Big Brothers of America and several Boys & Girls Clubs.
I also served as chairman of the Juvenile Justice Commission and Delinquency Prevention Commission of Santa Barbara County.
During the past two decades, my primary volunteer work has been with our local Boys & Girls Club in Ventura. I'm at the club two afternoons each week, telling stories to the kids and playing pingpong and other games.
Was all this giving of time really worth it? You bet it was. In fact, I consider those hours devoted to volunteer work as the most enjoyable and productive of all my time expenditures. It may have prevented me from becoming more affluent, but it gave me experiences of priceless value.
Incidentally, that award was presented by Kirk Dominick, executive vice president of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, on Oct. 30 at a special function in Long Beach.
Jim Woodard, who lives in Ventura, is the resident storyteller at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Readers can contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.
From the Washington Times
Saturday, November 7, 2009
'Gentle' Army psychiatrist displayed worrisome signs
Investigators worked doggedly Friday to piece together what apparently drove an Army psychiatrist to open fire on his comrades at Fort Hood in Texas.
While they searched for clues, a conflicting portrait of the accused shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Arlington native, has continued to emerge. On the one hand, he has been described by some as a gentle man who was involved in his mosque's charitable endeavors and spoke little of America's conflicts abroad; but there also seemed to be worrisome signs.
A neighbor said Maj. Hasan, who on Friday night remained hospitalized and unconscious, recently had given away his possessions. Maj. Hasan also may have written an Internet post that praised the heroism of Muslim suicide bombers; and he also was apparently sharply critical of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and dreading his upcoming deployment, which reportedly was set for Friday.
Whether any of those elements played a role in Thursday's shooting, which left 13 dead and 31 wounded, remains a mystery.
There were unconfirmed reports from witnesses that the gunman shouted "Allahu akbar!" - Arabic for "God is great" - before opening fire. Whether he actually said that is still under investigation, officials said.
"We have a suspect," said Army Secretary John McHugh said. "We have terrible crimes that have been alleged; we have to understand what caused that suspect to act in the way in which he did."
A civilian police officer, Sgt. Kimberly Munley, was apparently able to stop the rampage when she shot Maj. Hasan four times after she was shot and wounded. Among the dead: a pregnant woman who was preparing to return home, a man who quit a furniture company job to join the military about a year ago and a woman who had vowed to take on Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Maj. Hasan was transferred Friday afternoon from Fort Hood to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.
Maj. Hasan reportedly has not spoken to investigators, who have executed search warrants at his apartment.
The Associated Press reported Friday that Maj. Hasan had legally purchased a gun - a 5.7 mm pistol that was used in the shooting - at a Texas gun store called Guns Galore. The gun has been dubbed a "cop killer" by those who want it off the streets.
The AP also spoke to Maj. Hasan's neighbors, who said he gave them his belongings and told them goodbye.
Neighbor Patricia Villa said that as recently as the day of the shooting, Maj. Hasan gave her frozen vegetables, an air mattress, T-shirts and a copy of the Koran.
On the day of the shootings, Maj. Hasan also left a voice message to say goodbye to another neighbor, Willie Bell, according to Mr. Bell's girlfriend, Jaqueline Harris. "He just wanted to thank Willie for being a good friend and thank him for being there for him," Ms. Harris said. "That was it. We thought it was just a nice message to leave."
Maj. Hasan also said that it was "nice knowing you, old friend. I'm going to miss you."
Jose Padilla, the owner of Maj. Hasan's apartment complex, told the AP that Maj. Hasan gave him notice two weeks ago that he was moving out this week.
Earlier this week, Maj. Hasan asked Mr. Padilla his native language. When Mr. Padilla said it was Spanish, Maj. Hasan immediately went up to his apartment to get him a Spanish-language Koran. Mr. Padilla said Maj. Hasan also refused to reclaim his deposit and last month's rent, surrendering $400 that the major said should go to someone who needed it.
"I cannot comprehend that the enemy was among us," Mr. Padilla told the AP, as he teared up. "I feel a little guilt that I was basically giving housing to someone who is going to do so much destruction."
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, has said that Maj. Hasan dreaded his upcoming deployment to Iraq, and a member of his family said he was tired of the harassment he received from other soldiers for being a Muslim.
A soldier recently back from Iraq vandalized Maj. Hasan's car in August because he objected to Maj. Hasan's faith and a bumper sticker that read: "Allah Is Love," according to a Killeen, Texas, police report.
Kim Rosenthal, another neighbor, told the AP that Maj. Hasan didn't seem too upset by his scratched vehicle, even though it was damaged so much that he got a new one. "He said it was Ramadan and that he had to forgive people," Miss Rosenthal said. "He forgave him and moved on."
That stance of forgiveness seemed at odds with militant statements about Islam that a former colleague said Maj. Hasan also made.
"He said maybe Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor," retired Col. Terry Lee told Fox News. "At first we thought he meant help the armed forces, but apparently that wasn't the case. Other times he would make comments we shouldn't be in the war in the first place."
Investigators also are looking at an Internet post that appears under the name Nidal Hasan that equated a Muslim suicide bomber with the heroism of an American soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save his comrades.
"If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard, that would be considered a strategic victory," the post read. "You can call them crazy if you want, but their act was not one of suicide that is despised by Islam.
Asked at a news conference Friday whether that post was evidence of overlooked warning signs, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said: "Way to early to tell."
"I know that's part of the investigation, and I know they'll look very hard at that," he said.
Authorities still have not decided whether Maj. Hasan will face charges in federal court or through a military court-martial.
While investigators do their work, Maj. Hasan's relatives, who are cooperating with investigators, also wait for answers.
In a statement released to the media by Maj. Hasan's family, his cousin Nader Hasan said his family was "shocked and saddened by the terrible events at Fort Hood" and sent "the families of the victims our most heartfelt sympathies."
"We, like most of America, know very few details at this time," Nader Hasan said. "Our family loves America. We are proud of our country, and saddened by today's tragedy. Because this situation is still unfolding, we have nothing else that we are able to share with you at this time."
Later on Friday, Nader Hasan, in an e-mail to the AP, said his family is mortified, and his cousin's reported actions do not reflect their beliefs or principles.
"We cannot explain, nor do we excuse what happened yesterday," he said.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Heroes kept bloodbath from being far worse
Allen G. Breed and Jeff Carlton ASSOCIATED PRESS
FORT HOOD, Texas | Pfc. Marquest Smith, who deploys to Afghanistan in January, was completing routine paperwork about a bee-sting allergy when the sounds erupted.
A loud, popping noise. Moans. The sudden, urgent shout of "Gun!"
The private first class poked his head over the cubicle's partition and saw an extraordinary sight: An Army officer with two guns, firing into the crowded room.
The 21-year-old Fort Worth native quickly grabbed the civilian worker who had been helping with his paperwork and forced her under the desk. He lay low for several minutes, waiting for the shooter to run out of ammunition and wishing he, too, had a gun.
After the shooter stopped to reload, Pfc. Smith made a run for it. Pushing two other soldiers in front of him, he made it out of the Soldier Readiness Processing Center - only to go back inside two more times to help the wounded.
Pfc. Smith had survived the worst mass shooting on an American military base, a rampage that left 13 dead and 31 wounded, including the alleged shooter, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.
It could have been much worse, but for the heroics of Pfc. Smith and others - like the 19-year-old private who ignored her own wounds, and the diminutive civilian police officer who single-handedly took down Maj. Hasan.
"Unfortunately over the past eight years, our Army has been no stranger to tragedy," said a somber Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff. "But we are an Army that draws strength from adversity. And hearing the stories of courage and heroism that I heard today makes me proud to be the leader of this great Army."
Home of the 1st Cavalry and 1st Army Division West, Fort Hood has seen more than its share of deployments and casualties in the past eight years.
As a psychiatrist, Maj. Hasan, 39, had listened to soldiers' tales of horror. Now, the American-born Muslim faced imminent deployment to a war zone. In recent days, he had been saying goodbye to friends. He had given away many of his possessions, including copies of the Koran.
At 2:37 a.m. Thursday and again around 5, Maj. Hasan called neighbor Willie Bell. Mr. Bell could normally hear Maj. Hasan's morning prayers through the thin apartment walls, but Maj. Hasan skipped the ritual Thursday.
Mr. Bell didn't pick up either time, but Maj. Hasan left a message.
"Nice knowing you, old friend," Maj. Hasan said. "I'm going to miss you."
About an hour later, surveillance cameras at a 7-Eleven across from the base captured images of a smiling Maj. Hasan, dressed in a long white garment and white kufi prayer cap, buying his usual breakfast - coffee and a hash brown.
At the processing center on the southern edge of the 100,000-acre base, soldiers returning from overseas mingled with colleagues filling out forms and undergoing medical tests in preparation for deployment.
Around 1:30 p.m., witnesses say, a man later identified as Maj. Hasan jumped up on a desk and shouted the words "Allahu akbar!" - Arabic for "God is great!" He was armed with two pistols, one a semiautomatic capable of firing up to 20 rounds without reloading.
Packed into cubicles with 5-foot-high dividers, the 300 unarmed soldiers were sitting ducks. Those who weren't hit by direct fire were struck by rounds ricocheting off the desks and tile floor.
When he decided that Maj. Hasan wasn't close to being out of ammo, Pfc. Smith made a dash for the door. He'd made it outside when he heard cries from within.
"I don't want to die."
"This really hurts."
"Help me get out of here."
Pfc. Smith rushed back inside and found two wounded. He grabbed them by their collars and dragged them outside.
His second time through the door, he ran into the shooter, whose back was to him. Pfc. Smith turned and fled, bullets whizzing by his head and hitting the walls as he rushed outside.
Around this time, Fort Hood Police Sgt. Kimberly Munley got the call of "shots fired." The SRP isn't on Sgt. Munley's beat; she was in the area because her vehicle was in the shop.
Sgt. Munley, 34, was on the scene within three minutes. As she approached the squat, rectangular building, a soldier emerged from a door with a gunman in pursuit. The sergeant fired, and the uniformed shooter wheeled and charged.
Sgt. Munley was hit at least three times in the exchange - twice through the left leg and once in her right wrist. Maj. Hasan was hit four times.
From the first shots to the last, authorities say, the whole incident lasted less than 10 minutes.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
9/11 crash site brings healing
Jennifer C. Yates ASSOCIATED PRESS
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. | Esther Heymann was overflowing with grief for her stepdaughter. Standing in a blustery snow, overlooking the empty field where United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed a couple of years earlier, she couldn't stop crying.
The only other person there was a local man, sitting in his warm car. Every few minutes he would come out, asking Mrs. Heymann if she was OK; mostly, he just let her grieve. Alone.
Finally, the man approached her. His wife was making soup at home. She should come and have some, get warm, wait for the snow to stop.
She did, following a man she didn't know through streets that to him were his neighborhood.
To her, they were the roads leading to her loved one's cemetery plot.
When the jetliner crashed into these rolling fields on Sept. 11, 2001, the people who live here and the relatives of the 40 passengers and crew killed were suddenly and inextricably brought together. That bond will be sealed further on Saturday, when ground is broken for a national park, a permanent memorial to the victims and a permanent reminder to the locals.
"The families of victims of Flight 93 and the community of Shanksville have really become one community," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who helped broker agreements between landowners and the government for the memorial land.
The community began to help immediately after the crash. Victims' family members were brought to a nearby ski resort and attended to by local Red Cross volunteers. School students held a candlelight vigil on the courthouse steps.
Bob and Phyllis Musser, who live near the crash site just past a thick grove of trees, brought turkey sandwiches and coffee to the first responders. They would later volunteer to man the temporary memorial and talk to visitors.
Known as Flight 93 Ambassadors, the volunteers are locals who noticed people showing up at the crash site with no idea what they were looking at. More than 130,000 people visit every year.
Featuring a 93-foot tower containing 40 wind chimes, the $58 million memorial to be built on 2,200 acres here will guide visitors on a path to the crash site, known simply as the "sacred ground." It is expected to open in 2011, the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
The Mussers volunteer weekly at the temporary memorial. Bob, 79, greets visitors and Phyllis, 75, shows photos of each victim and the path of the plane from her post inside a small, gray wooden shed.
United Flight 93 had left Newark, N.J., that morning for San Francisco when four terrorists commandeered the cockpit. The hijackers turned the plane around and headed for Washington, D.C., before passengers fought back. The hijackers responded by crashing the plane into the field, just shy of a school.
The Mussers have gotten to know many of the Flight 93 families.
Many, they say, just want to come and sit on one of 40 benches at the site, each inscribed with a victim's name.
"It's too bad this had to happen, but if it had to happen - it had to happen someplace," said Mr. Musser.
In August, the National Park Service reached agreements with eight landowners to purchase much of the land needed for the memorial, ending a slow and sometimes contentious acquisition process. Some landowners claimed the government had not made offers despite claims that negotiations were ongoing, while the government at one point said it would seize properties if deals couldn't be reached.
Aside from that, many locals have been involved with planning of the permanent memorial , with some working on an oral history project to preserve what happened that day.
"I think that the people in this community opened their arms," said Mark Miller, who helped his cousin, a coroner, at the scene in the days and weeks after the crash.
Mr. Miller owns the Pine Grill Restaurant in Somerset, the largest town near the crash site. Victims' relatives often stay at Somerset hotels, and Mr. Miller has befriended many who regularly eat at his restaurant. Some are even on his yearly Christmas card list now.
"I think this was a unique tragedy that fell on us, but I'd like to think that we're a friendly community," he said.
From the New York Post
Sat., Nov. 7, 2009, 8:59 AM
Call this horror by its name: Islamist terror
By RALPH PETERS
Last Updated: 8:59 AM, November 7, 2009
Posted: 3:25 AM, November 7, 2009
On Thursday afternoon, a radicalized Muslim US Army officer shouting, "Allahu akbar!" ("God is great!") committed the worst act of terror on American soil since 9/11. And no one wants to call it an act of terror or associate it with Islam.
What cowards we are. Political correctness killed those patriotic Americans at Fort Hood as surely as the Islamist gunman did. And the media treat it like a case of nondenominational shoplifting.
This was a terrorist act . When an extremist plans and executes a murderous plot against our unarmed soldiers to protest our efforts to counter Islamist fanatics, it's an act of terror. Period.
When the terrorist posts anti-American hate speech on the Web; apparently praises suicide bombers and uses his own name; loudly criticizes US policies; argues (as a psychiatrist, no less) with his military patients over the worth of their sacrifices; refuses, in the name of Islam, to be photographed with female colleagues; lists his nationality as "Palestinian" in a Muslim spouse-matching program and parades around central Texas in a fundamentalist playsuit -- well, it only seems fair to call this terrorist an " Islamist terrorist."
But the president won't. Despite his promise to get to all the facts. Because there's no such thing as "Islamist terrorism" in ObamaWorld.
And the Army won't. Because its senior leaders are so sick with political correctness that pandering to America haters is safer than calling terrorism "terrorism."
And the media won't. Because they have more interest in the shooter than in our troops -- despite their crocodile tears.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan planned this terrorist attack and executed it in cold blood. The resulting massacre was the first tragedy. The second was that he wasn't killed on the spot.
Hasan survived. Now the rest of us will have to foot his massive medical bills. Activist lawyers will get involved, claiming "harassment" drove him temporarily insane. There'll be no end of trial delays. At best, taxpayer dollars will fund his prison lifestyle for decades to come, since our politically correct Army leadership wouldn't dare pursue or carry out the death penalty.
Maj. Hasan will be a hero to Islamist terrorists abroad and their sympathizers here. While US Muslim organizations decry his acts publicly, Hasan will be praised privately. And he'll have the last laugh.
But Hasan isn't the sole guilty party. The US Army's unforgivable political correctness is also to blame for the casualties at Fort Hood.
Given the myriad warning signs, it's appalling that no action was taken against a man apparently known to praise suicide bombers and openly damn US policy. But no officer in his chain of command, either at Walter Reed Army Medical Center or at Fort Hood, had the guts to take meaningful action against a dysfunctional soldier and an incompetent doctor.
Had Hasan been a Lutheran or a Methodist, he would've been gone with the simoom. But officers fear charges of discrimination when faced with misconduct among protected minorities.
Now 12 soldiers and a security guard lie dead. At least 38 people were wounded, 28 of them seriously. If heads don't roll in this maggot's chain of command, the Army will have shamed itself beyond moral redemption.
There's another important issue, too. How could the Army allow an obviously incompetent and dysfunctional psychiatrist to treat our troubled soldiers returning from war? An Islamist wacko is counseled for arguing with veterans who've been assigned to his care? And he's not removed from duty? What planet does the Army live on?
For the first time since I joined the Army in 1976, I'm ashamed of its dereliction of duty. The chain of command protected a budding terrorist who was waving one red flag after another. Because it was safer for careers than doing something about him.
Get ready for the apologias. We've already heard from the terrorist's family that "he's a good American." In their world, maybe he is.
But when do we , the American public, knock off the PC nonsense?
A disgruntled Muslim soldier murdered his officers way back in 2003, in Kuwait, on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Recently? An American mullah shoots it out with the feds in Detroit. A Muslim fanatic attacks an Arkansas recruiting station. A Muslim media owner, after playing the peace card, beheads his wife. A Muslim father runs over his daughter because she's becoming too Westernized.
Muslim terrorist wannabes are busted again and again. And we're assured that "Islam's a religion of peace."
I guarantee you that the Obama administration's nonresponse to the Fort Hood attack will mock the memory of our dead.
Ralph Peters' latest novel is "The War After Armageddon."
Sat., Nov. 7, 2009, 8:59 AM
Take a look at Hasan's old mosque
By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Last Updated: 8:59 AM, November 7, 2009
Posted: 12:38 AM, November 7, 2009
What interpretation of Islam influ enced Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan? As often before, the trail leads to the official sect of Saudi Arabia -- known as Wahhabism to most of us of who denounce it.
Confronting the role of radical Islam here is not Islamophobic, but common sense -- and the first response moderate Muslims themselves will have.
Hasan, though born in America, refused to have his picture taken with women -- an attitude distinct to fundamentalist radicalism among Muslims. The Prophet Mohammed cautioned his followers that when they go to live in non-Muslim lands they must accept the laws and customs of their new home. Millions of American Muslims get their picture taken with women, even ones not their wives, and don't worry about it. To refuse such an elementary and even trivial act of courtesy sets Muslims apart -- and that is the aim of radicals.
We've also learned that, before his transfer to Ft. Hood last year, Hasan served as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, and regularly attended Friday prayer at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Md.
The Silver Spring clerics have issued formal statements condemning the carnage at Ft. Hood. But Imam Faizul Khan, long the main prayer leader at the mosque and a friend of Hasan, said he never believed Hasan capable of such an act.
Yet what docrines did Hasan absorb at the mosque? While he was a communicant, it hosted at least four talks by Enver Masud, the founder of The Wisdom Fund, the main Muslim "truther" group in America.
And Khan is a leading board member of the Islamic Society of North America -- the main Wahhabi-lobby group in the United States, established by Saudi Arabia to impose extremism on American Muslims. ISNA has a long and disgraceful record of promoting radical Islam.
On the roster of the ISNA board (listed on its Web site), the Silver Spring center's Imam Faizul Khan is the fourth member under its president.
But the mosque has worse associations. On its own Web site (mccmd.org), it promotes a Sharia-based financial product -- the Amana Mutual Fund, put together by the Wahhabis at the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), in northern Virginia.
Federal antiterrorism agents raided IIIT in the Operation GreenQuest raids of 2002. That operation remains an ongoing inquiry; IIIT and the Amana fund are still under investigation. Convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian is still in US federal custody because of his refusal to give evidence about the Virginia Wahhabi ring caught in GreenQuest.
Most interesting of all: The button on the MCC's Web site titled "Islam" takes you to a pamphlet titled "Islam Is . . ." by a person calling himself "Pete Seda."
Seda is an Iranian also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty and Abu Yunus. He was one of three officers of the US branch of a Saudi-based "charity," the Al-Haramain Foundation -- until being indicted by the Justice Department for terror financing and tax fraud. Seda and his companions still await trial.
From a ghastly act to a Saudi-backed fundamentalist imam to a Saudi-run designated terror-financing "charity" is not a long trail. It is a small coil of associations that exists in too many US mosques. American Muslims must drive these elements out of their community. The problem's not traumatic stress, much less Islam. It's the ideology, the money and the interests of the Saudi hardliners.
Stephen Schwartz is the executive direc- tor of the Center for Islamic Pluralism (islamicpluralism.org).
From the Wall Street Journal
- NOVEMBER 7, 2009
Muslim Population in the Military Raises Difficult Issues
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
The deadly rampage at Fort Hood is forcing Pentagon officials to confront difficult questions about the military's growing Muslim population.
The military has worked hard to recruit more Muslims since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the number of Muslim troops, while still small, has been increasing. There were 3,409 Muslims in the active-duty military as of April 2008, according to Pentagon statistics.
Military personnel don't have to disclose their religions, and many officials believe the actual number of Muslim soldiers may be at least 10,000 higher than the Pentagon statistics. For instance, the military "Officer Record Brief" of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood shootings, said he had "no religious preference" and didn't identify him as a Muslim.
Even now, Muslim soldiers remain fairly rare in some parts of the military. At West Point, Army officials said there were just 24 Muslim cadets out of a total student body of 4,400. The Muslim cadets worship in an interfaith center on the bucolic New York campus, but don't have a dedicated mosque.
The push to boost Muslim representation has proven to be a double-edged sword for the military, which desperately needs the Muslim soldiers for their language skills and cultural knowledge, but also worries that a small percentage of those soldiers might harbor extremist ideologies or choose to turn their guns on their fellow soldiers.
In one of the military's most notorious cases of fratricide since Vietnam, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a convert to Islam, rolled a grenade into a tent filled with other soldiers in April 2003. The attack killed two officers and wounded 14 others. During his court-martial, prosecution witnesses testified Sgt. Akbar had committed the attack because he believed the U.S. military would kill Muslim civilians during the coming invasion. Sgt. Akbar was later sentenced to death.
Muslim soldiers also face challenges stemming from their dual identities as adherents of the Islamic faith and as members of the U.S. military. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Muslims serving in the U.S. military often use fake last names to avoid being singled out by insurgents as traitors and to prevent reprisals against their families elsewhere in the world.
The Pentagon's outreach to the Muslim community has expanded significantly in recent years. The first Muslim chaplain in the military, Army Lt. Col. Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, wasn't appointed until 1994. The military didn't open its first permanent mosque, the Masjid al Da'Wah facility at Virginia's Norfolk Navy Base, until late 1998.
|Faiths of our Forces
Religious breakdown of the U.S. active-duty military
No religious preference
Data as of April 2008,
Dept of Defense
Today, recruiting more Muslims is a top priority for many branches of the military. Under the Army's "09 Lima" program, Muslims willing to enlist and serve in Iraq and Afghanistan as military translators and cultural advisers receive hefty signing bonuses and expedited paths to citizenship.
The Army recently established its first full unit of Muslim personnel recruited under the program, the 51st Translator Interpreter Company at California's Fort Irwin. The unit has more than 120 soldiers who are native speakers of Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Dari.
In interviews in recent years, more than a half-dozen Muslim soldiers serving in Iraq said they had initially felt uncomfortable about being sent to fight in an Islamic country. But all the soldiers said they were proud of their service, and several re-enlisted.
Army officials at the Pentagon said that Muslim soldiers who felt their religion prevented them from fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan could claim conscientious objector status and seek noncombat assignments in the U.S. But they weren't aware of any Muslim soldiers who had done so.
Map of mass shootings in the United States
From the White House
Weekly Address: Tragedy at Fort Hood
Posted by Jesse Lee on November 07, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST The President condemns the "despicable" attacks at Fort Hood, honoring those who were killed and injured. He also commends those who stood up to help and console those affected: "even as we saw the worst of human nature on full display, we also saw the best of America."
(Includes video) http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/11/06/weekly-address-tragedy-fort-hood
November 6, 2009
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and World Customs Organization Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya announce preliminary results of largest global cash smuggling operation
BRUSSELS - Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and World Customs Organization (WCO) Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya today announced the preliminary results of Operation ATLAS-the largest multilateral operation in history targeting cash smugglers which took place from Oct. 26-30.
More than 80 countries participated in Operation ATLAS (an acronym for Assess, Target, Link, Analyze and Share)-leading to more than $3.5 million in cash seized and the identification of $24 million in undeclared currency that may have otherwise gone undetected at ports of entry around the world during the five-day period.
"In our increasingly networked world, multinational cooperation is critical to combating transnational criminal activity," said Secretary Napolitano. "Today's announcement reflects an unprecedented model of international collaboration that we will continue to build upon in the future."
"Operation ATLAS provided the perfect platform to promote the implementation of international anti-money laundering standards and recommendations, to improve national control techniques, and to enhance cooperation among all parties involved in fighting money laundering and terrorist financing," said Secretary General Mikuriya. "The operation's successful outcomes also demonstrate the benefits that accrue from coordinated and focused inter-agency cooperation at the national level."
DHS' U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led Operation ATLAS in close collaboration with fellow DHS component U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with the assistance of the WCO using CENcomm, a secure communication tool developed by the WCO. The operation was supported by Interpol and Europol.
Participating countries used real-time information sharing and coordination of cash declaration data to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that smuggle illicit cash around the world-employing several different methods to detect cash carried in baggage, on travelers and in shipments aboard commercial flights at designated airports.
Operation ATLAS reflects the commitment shared by Secretary Napolitano, Secretary General Mikuriya and WCO members to continue the expansion of cooperative efforts to deter transnational smuggling organizations around the world-bolstering global security and enhancing mutual efforts to deter terrorists and other criminals.
The announcement came during a press conference at WCO Headquarters in Brussels-part of Secretary Napolitano's week-long trip to Europe and the Middle East to meet with her international counterparts to discuss information sharing and privacy protection; collaborative efforts to secure cyber networks worldwide; the international response to the H1N1 global pandemic; and coordination to combat transnational criminal activity and the global threat of terrorism.
Secretary Napolitano's trip follows Secretary General Mikuriya's recent visit to the United States where he discussed trade security and facilitation as well as customs capacity building with top government and business leaders.