of the Day
- November 8, 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 ...
November 7, 2009 | 6:22 pm
From LA Times
Thousands walk in fundraiser to house the homeless
At least 5,000 people took a stand against homelessness today by participating in United Way's third annual HomeWalk.
The 5K walk, which raises money for housing, took place in the Exposition Park area. Mobile billboards along the route displayed statistics about homelessness and stories about people United Way has helped.
Proceeds from the walk go toward a variety of programs to provide short-term rental subsidies and permanent housing to the homeless.
Today's event drew 1,000 more participants then last year, said Christine Marge, director of housing and health for United Way of Greater Los Angeles.
Live grenade turned in at Inglewood Gifts for Guns event
November 7, 2009 | 5:26 pm
The Inglewood Police Department was expecting to see handguns, sawed-off shotguns and assault rifles at its Gifts for Guns exchange today. The live hand grenade took officers by surprise.
They discovered the grenade about an hour after the event started, in one of several boxes of loose ammunition a man surrendered in exchange for a $100 American Express gift card, said Lt. Mike McBride of the Inglewood Police Department.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's bomb squad was called in to dispose of the grenade, McBride said. No injuries were reported.
This is the first year the Inglewood event has taken place, allowing people to surrender weapons, no-questions-asked, and receive gift cards.
Today's event, held in the rear parking lot of a shopping center, brought in at least 85 weapons in the first hour. By noon, about 149 firearms had been turned in.
Murder-suicide claims the life of a 16-year-old Lincoln Heights girl, police say
November 7, 2009 | 11:15 am
A 20-year-old man shot and killed his teenage girlfriend Friday night during a domestic dispute in Lincoln Heights before turning the gun on himself, police said
The shooting was reported about 8:30 p.m. at an apartment complex in the 2400 block of Daly Street. Police officers of LAPD's Hollenbeck Division found a teenage girl dead from a gunshot wound to the back of the head, said LAPD Officer Gregory Baek. She was identified by the LAPD as Maria Valderrama, 16.
A short time later, as police searched for the gunman, the 20-year-old man, identified by police as Juan Carlos Mendez, was found in a nearby alley with a gunshot wound to the chest area, Baek said.
"At some point, either at the scene or in the ambulance, he admitted to shooting the girl," Baek said.
Paramedics took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police said Mendez and Valderrama had been dating for two years and were involved in a dispute at the apartment when Mendez allegedly shot her. He then fled and shot himself nearby, Baek said.
Sexual assault suspect tricked lone female drivers, police say
November 7, 2009 | 10:48 am
A 35-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a string of sexual assaults in the Mid-City area against female drivers who were tricked into pulling to the curb by a man cautioning that sparks were coming from their tires.
Authorities say Carlos Mares of Los Angeles was arrested Friday. He allegedly groped six women between August and October, police said.
The attacks occurred between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. after the suspect, driving a late-1990s white compact car, pulled up next to lone female drivers, claimed sparks were coming from their vehicles and offered to check their tires and brakes, police said.
Los Angeles police detectives believe there may be more victims and ask that they contact them at (213) 473-0447.
DA: 'Seriousness of crime' justified charging teens as adults in killing of Long Beach honors student
November 7, 2009 | 8:27 am
An L.A. County prosecutor said his office decided to charge two teens accused of killing a Long Beach honors student as adults because of the "seriousness of the crime."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Dean Bengston told reporters outside a Long Beach court that the district attorney's office charges juveniles as adults only in "rare instances" but that they warranted in this case because of the nature of the shooting and because authorities believe it was gang-related.
"You have to look at the seriousness of the crime," he said.
Tom Love Vinson and Daivion Davis, identified by authorities as 16-year-old gang members, were each charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder, according to the 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 who police said was a 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 that the men may have been the intended targets and that the shooting was the result of a gang feud.
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.
On Friday night, students and the Wilson High School football team honored Ross. There was beefed-up security on campus.
The suspects are being held on $3-million bail and face life in prison if convicted. They will be arraigned today in Long Beach.
Historic healthcare overhaul passes House
The 220-215 vote marks the first such victory in decades of efforts to expand insurance coverage. The bill wins a lone GOP vote and loses many Democrats, pointing to challenges awaiting in the Senate.
By Noam N. Levey and Janet Hook
November 8, 2009
Reporting from Washington
The House of Representatives on Saturday approved the most sweeping healthcare legislation since the creation of Medicare 44 years ago, giving a boost to President Obama's campaign to guarantee health coverage to almost all Americans.
The gargantuan Democratic measure passed 220 to 215, with a single Republican vote, capping a contentious daylong debate that underscored the ideological divide separating the two parties over healthcare.
The narrow Democratic victory underscored the difficult road ahead as the issue moves on to the Senate. But it also meant that the party had reached a historic landmark: It has been trying since the Depression to win a vote to extend the government's social safety net to include healthcare.
The House plan would cover an additional 36 million people by 2019, leaving 4% of the nation without coverage, compared with the estimated 17% who do not have insurance now, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
"For generations, the American people have called for affordable, quality healthcare for their families. Today, the call will be answered," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who rallied her members behind the legislation after weeks of cajoling and deal-making.
The Democratic side of the House cheered loudly when the vote count reached 218, a majority. Like a crowd waiting for the final gun at a football game, they counted down the final seconds of the voting period in unison, and roared their approval when Pelosi went to the speaker's chair, grabbed the gavel and declared, "The bill is passed."
President Obama hailed the vote in a statement from Camp David, saying: "Thanks to the hard work of the House, we are just two steps away from achieving health insurance reform in America. Now the United States Senate must follow suit and pass its version of the legislation. I am absolutely confident it will, and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year."
Republicans, who have fought Obama's healthcare campaign for most of the year, charged Democrats with pushing the nation toward government-run healthcare and threatening to bankrupt the treasury at a time when the deficit is skyrocketing.
"People have a grave concern about what Washington is doing to them, not for them," Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, said Saturday, citing last week's GOP electoral victories in Virginia and New Jersey.
Louisiana Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao was the only Republican to cross the aisle and vote for the bill. Thirty-nine Democrats voted against it.
The legislation -- which includes more than $1 trillion in new healthcare spending over the next decade while also reducing the deficit by an estimated $106 billion -- will ultimately have to be reconciled with the Senate bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is working to unite his members in time to hold a vote on the Senate bill before Christmas.
With the unemployment rate continuing to rise and the public increasingly jittery about Obama's healthcare campaign, Democrats are racing to push through an overhaul before what many see as a historic opportunity slips away.
Pelosi had hoped to get a bill through the House sooner than November. But she and her lieutenants had to spend months hammering out a series of difficult compromises to satisfy the liberal and conservative wings of the party.
New requirements on businesses and insurance companies have alienated major industry groups, many of which actively fought the House bill, charging that it would actually make healthcare less affordable.
"The healthcare reform bill just passed by the House of Representatives fails the crucial test of reducing the soaring cost of health coverage for businesses or individuals," U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Bruce Josten said after the vote.
But even as opposition to the bill stiffened, Democratic leaders managed to defuse major disagreements over the shape of a new government insurance plan and the scope of new income taxes on wealthy Americans.
They picked up major endorsements from AARP and the American Medical Assn., which joined a collection of leading consumer and patient groups and labor unions that have backed the healthcare campaign all year.
And facing the possible collapse of the legislation late Friday night, Democratic leaders brokered a deal to settle a debate within party ranks over abortion.
Under pressure from a group of socially conservative Democrats and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pelosi and other lawmakers who favor abortion rights were forced to accept a last-minute compromise that placed tight restrictions on federal funding for abortion services.
The amendment was added to the bill Saturday by a coalition of 240 Republicans and conservative Democrats; 194 Democrats voted against the amendment.
The move outraged many liberals. But in the end, just enough rallied behind the bill after a furious several days of lobbying by party leaders, including the president.
"There comes a time [when] men must act according to the dictates of their conscience and not according to political expediency," Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said on the House floor. "We have a moral obligation to lead this nation into a new era where healthcare is a right and not a privilege."
Obama, too, called on lawmakers to seize the moment, reminding them during a midday visit to Capitol Hill of the party's successful fights to create Social Security and Medicare.
"If we do not get it done this year, we will not get it done any time soon," the president said at a closed-door meeting, according to a senior Democratic aide who was in the room.
The more than 2,000-page legislation is designed to largely preserve the employer-based healthcare system in which most Americans get insurance through work. But the bill would also dramatically expand federal regulation of healthcare and provide more than $1 trillion in new aid to poor and middle-class citizens.
Federal law would for the first time require insurance companies to cover all Americans, regardless of their health status, and would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people who become sick.
Individuals would be required to buy insurance. And large employers would have to provide employees with health benefits or face a penalty.
The bill would open the nation's 44-year-old Medicaid insurance program for the poor to all Americans making less than 150% of the federal poverty line -- $16,245 for an individual or $33,075 for a family of four.
The government would also create new insurance marketplaces for millions of Americans who do not get coverage through work.
Commercial insurers, as well as the government, would offer plans in these marketplaces, or exchanges, and be required to provide a minimum set of benefits, including mental health services, maternity care and preventive care.
The most expensive feature is a commitment by the federal government to provide nearly $600 billion in subsidies over the next decade to help millions of low- and moderate-income Americans buy insurance in an exchange.
The bill is also designed to give relief to small businesses, providing about $25 billion in tax subsidies to help them offset the cost of offering their employees health benefits.
And the legislation would make prescriptions more affordable by closing the Medicare drug coverage gap, known as the "doughnut hole."
The major expansion in federal assistance to tens of millions of Americans is not without a cost.
To pay for their legislation, Democrats approved a 5.4% surtax on individuals who make more than $500,000 a year and couples that make more than $1 million.
The bill would also cut more than $400 billion from Medicare payments to hospitals, nursing homes and insurance companies that provide Medicare Advantage plans, a provision that proponents hope will ultimately help make the system more efficient.
Republicans contend that many seniors will lose benefits, and they more broadly attacked the bill as a costly government invasion of the medical system.
Teen fugitive captures imagination of many
Colton Harris-Moore, 18, escaped from a holding facility last year. Police say he's since stolen two boats, crashed three planes and burglarized homes and stores. Some call him a teen Jesse James.
By Kim Murphy
November 8, 2009
Reporting from Camano Island, Wash.
Colton Harris-Moore has been a one-boy crime wave since he was 7 years old.
He has broken into houses, stolen cars and burglarized markets, hardware stores and cafes for years on this rural, woodsy island north of Seattle.
Since early 2008, when he escaped from a juvenile holding facility, Harris-Moore, now 18, has been leading police on a fruitless chase through Washington, Canada and Idaho -- stealing two boats and crash-landing three planes (he taught himself to fly on his computer, authorities suspect) along the way, police say.
Now it looks like he may be back.
Police are investigating a wave of burglaries over the last few weeks on Camano Island and nearby Whidbey Island. There are no official suspects, but many here are convinced that the youth whose Facebook fan club numbers more than 7,000, often described as a teenage Jesse James, is responsible.
On Camano Island, where residents say sheriff's deputies have been combing the woods on foot and sending search helicopters up at night, Harris-Moore more often is considered, simply, a thug.
"If someone says he's not intelligent, I would say that person is a fool," Josh Flickner said. It was Flickner's market that Harris-Moore, with police in hot pursuit, famously plowed into with a stolen Mercedes before running off while the car was still moving.
"But the people who have called him Robin Hood or James Bond on his Facebook fan club, it makes me want to vomit," Flickner said. "It just makes me sad that there's so many people in our society who would give glory to someone whose only intention is to thrive on the hurt of others."
Harris-Moore's baby face -- which belies his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame -- is familiar to most people in Washington state. Mug shots, surveillance camera photos and Harris-Moore's self-portrait photo have been plastered for months in newspapers and on market bulletin boards and television news programs.
The fugitive's mother raised him in a run-down, single-wide trailer in the woods on the south end of the island. Posted along the driveway these days are multiple "No Trespassing" signs.
By the time Harris-Moore turned 12, he had a conviction for possession of stolen property. Over the next few years he racked up convictions for theft, burglary, malicious mischief and fourth-degree assault.
Neighbors said most often he stole not valuables but necessities: tools, blankets, food.
"He's broken in here a couple of times. He steals vitamin water, beef jerky, hot dogs. He doesn't like junk food," said Patty Arnett, a clerk at the Tyee Grocery on south Camano.
At one point he broke into the South Camano fire station and stole a thermal imaging camera, officials said, giving him night-vision capability in the woods.
Neighbors said Harris-Moore may have begun stealing as a child because his mother was unemployed and sometimes threw him out of the house.
"He had a horrible childhood," said Carol Star, Harris-Moore's next-door neighbor. "I could hear every kind of bad language out of her mouth, screaming and yelling at him. One time I yelled over there, 'I'm tired of hearing that! Knock it off!' And she screamed back, 'F--- you!' "
Robin Lowell, whose daughter was Harris-Moore's childhood friend, said theft became "a survival mechanism" for the boy.
"When you're told every day of your life that you are worthless and you are no good and get . . . out of my house, that's what you do. You get out," Lowell said. "And in order to eat, to have a place to sleep, you do what you need to do."
Harris-Moore became adept at setting up camps in the dense woods that cover the majority of Camano Island.
Island County sheriff's deputies, having found a load of pizza boxes at one of his camps, once caught him by posing as pizza deliverers. Another time, officers arrested him when they found a light on in an abandoned house.
But in April 2008, Harris-Moore escaped from a minimum-security juvenile home in Renton, Wash. Since then, he has been suspected in a rash of burglaries across northern Washington and into Canada.
His crimes may have reached a new level that November when authorities say a Cessna 182 belonging to a Seattle radio talk show personality was stolen from a hangar on Orcas Island and flown to a "hard landing" on the Yakama Indian Reservation.
Then on Sept. 11 this year, a Cirrus SR22 was stolen and flown to another of the San Juan Islands. The thefts accompanied a series of burglaries across Orcas Island.
San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming said Harris-Moore, who has long had an interest in aviation, is a suspect in both thefts; although he is not known to have any formal flight training, he did once buy a flight manual using a stolen credit card.
Officials believe he left the San Juan Islands in September on a stolen boat, which was found at Point Roberts, at the Canadian border.
From there, authorities theorize, Harris-Moore made his way across Canada to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, where another Cessna 182 was stolen Oct. 2 and landed in a logged-out forest area at Granite Falls, Wash.
"How he walked away from it is anybody's guess," said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus. "The wings were broken, the fuselage had a big crack in it, the nose was broken." The plane had about 10 to 12 gallons of fuel remaining, he said.
Neighbors on Camano Island are convinced Harris-Moore flew over the island before landing at Granite Falls.
"It was about a month ago. There was a plane flying around the house up here. It was a gold and white Cessna," said Star, who has been the victim of numerous burglaries and thefts over the years.
"I started waving and jumping around. It was really, really low -- about 100 feet, just over the treetops. He was just boosting his ego, I'm sure."
Three days after the plane theft, a house not far from where the plane crashed was burglarized, a case that seemed to fit Harris-Moore's M.O.: Blankets, shoes and food were missing. Police combed the woods, and someone -- police said they believe it was "the suspect" -- fired a shot at deputies.
A full-scale manhunt ensued, with three dozen officers, SWAT teams and search dogs. The FBI has been called in.
But the fugitive remains at large, and his fame, perhaps predictably, has spread.
There are now at least three Colton Harris-Moore T-shirts to be had ("Mama Tried," reads one), a "Ballad of Barefoot Harris" can be found on YouTube ("He was born in the woods with a lockpick in his hand") and the Facebook fan page set up by three young men in Washington and Oregon has members from all over the world. "Fly, Colton, fly! Come in Greece and marry me!" one young woman invites.
Zack Sestak, a 26-year-old writer from the Seattle area who started the fan page, said he was intrigued after researching Harris-Moore's story for an article. And he was amazed to see the page grow at the rate of "10 new people every five minutes" once the fugitive's story began spreading.
"People that are struggling with this huge economic downturn, people feeling very disillusioned . . . CEOs getting million-dollar bonuses off of taxpayer dollars -- people are seeing this and they're feeling let down by the system," Sestak said.
"And to see an 18-year-old kid that seems to be taking on the system and winning -- I don't want to say people are inspired by that, but it strikes their imagination," he said.
Sometimes, it seems the only people here not talking about Harris-Moore are the authorities.
"We've had some burglaries on Camano Island, and we've had them on Whidbey Island, and we're investigating them, and that's what I can say," Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said. "I'm just not going to comment on the ongoing investigation, and I think you can appreciate why."
In the meantime, residents said, they've been told to lock their doors.
"I think most people are long past the fear stage," Flickner said. "Now you've got people who are either sympathetic or people who are sick of him and just want to see him caught. . . . I lock my doors at night. But it's not from fear. It's that I'll be damned if he breaks into my house."
List of 13 Fort Hood shooting victims
November 8, 2009
The 13 killed
CAPT. JOHN GAFFANEY
56, San Diego
Gaffaney was a psychiatric nurse who worked for San Diego County for more than 20 years, and on the day before the shooting he had arrived at Ft. Hood to prepare for deployment to Iraq. Gaffaney, born in Williston, N.D., had served in the Navy and the California National Guard, his family said. After Sept. 11, he tried to sign up again for military service. Although the Army Reserves at first declined, he got the call about two years ago asking him to rejoin, said his co-worker Stephanie Powell: "He wanted to help the boys in Iraq and Afghanistan deal with the trauma of what they were seeing."
MICHAEL GRANT CAHILL
62, Cameron, Texas
Suffered a heart attack two weeks ago but had already returned to work as a physician's assistant.
MAJ. LIBARDO EDUARDO CARAVEO
52, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Arrived as a teenager in the U.S. knowing very little English but went on to earn a doctorate in psychology.
STAFF SGT. JUSTIN M. DECROW
32, Evans, Ga.
Helped train soldiers on how to help new veterans with paperwork.
SPC. FREDERICK GREENE
29, Mountain City, Tenn.
Was assigned to the 16th Signal Company, Ft. Hood.
SPC. JASON DEAN HUNT
22, Frederick, Okla.
Joined the military after high school and was married two months ago.
SGT. AMY KRUEGER
29, Kiel, Wis.
Joined the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks and vowed to take on Osama bin Laden.
PFC. AARON THOMAS NEMELKA
19, West Jordan, Utah
Chose to join the Army instead of going on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
PFC. MICHAEL PEARSON
21, Bolingbrook, Ill.
Quit what he saw as an unfulfilling furniture company job to join the military about a year ago.
CAPT. RUSSELL SEAGER
51, Mount Pleasant, Wis.
A nurse, he was preparing to deploy to Iraq and had been eager to serve abroad.
PVT. FRANCHESKA VELEZ
Pregnant and recently returned from deployment in Iraq, she had sought a career in the Army.
LT. COL. JUANITA WARMAN
A physician's assistant, she joined the military like her father and grandfather.
PFC. KHAM XIONG
23, St. Paul, Minn.
Was a father of three whose family had a history of military service.
Please see latimes.com/forthood for detailed biographies.
Aceh's morality police on the prowl for violators
The only Indonesian province with Sharia, or Islamic law, has a 1,500-member force whose job is to go after women not properly covered and couples engaging in public displays of affection.
By John M. Glionna
November 8, 2009
Reporting from Banda Aceh, Indonesia
The young couple are totally busted. They huddle at a beach-side park, near signs forbidding teens from sitting too close. He has his arm around her shoulder. She isn't wearing her jilbab jilbab , the traditional Islamic head scarf.
Just like that, the morality cops are in their face.
"You two aren't married, right?" asks Syafruddin, the rail-thin leader of the six-man patrol, standing stiffly, one hand behind his back. "So you shouldn't sit next to one another."
He separates the two and confiscates their IDs. Later, he says, the team will open an investigation of the couple, especially because the young man had lied, at first insisting the girl was his sister.
"We want to see how far this relationship has progressed," says Syafruddin, who goes by one name. "What they were doing could have led to something sexual."
The team is known as "the vice and virtue patrol," on the beat in Aceh, the only province in the world's most populous Muslim nation to employ Sharia, or Islamic law, for its criminal code. The laws were introduced in 2002 after the Indonesian region was granted autonomy as part of efforts to end a decades-long guerrilla war.
The Sharia police consider themselves the community's public conscience. And on their weekly patrol, they take seriously their role of enforcing the religious strictures.
Now their mission may become deadly serious.
In September, Aceh's provincial parliament passed a law saying married people who commit adultery can be sentenced to death by stoning. It also toughened laws on public caning, adding more lashes for gays, pedophiles and gamblers.
The new law, which still requires the approval of the provincial governor, has outraged human rights groups here, who say the code unfairly targets women and violates international treaties.
They say the law cuts even deeper into private lives. Under the guidelines, the Sharia police could even raid hotel rooms in search of violators, develop informants and work undercover.
Many of Indonesia's 200 million Muslims are moderates. Some worry that the law will discourage much-needed foreign investment in a province leveled by the 2004 tsunami.
None of it fazes the Sharia police.
"We know many foreigners and some Indonesians do not understand this," says Marzuki Abdullah, commander of the 1,500-member Sharia force.
"But Muslims must obey the law. They must go to prayer, do their fasting. Women should dress in an acceptable way.
"Our job is to make sure that they do."
Worse for women
Norma Manalu wistfully runs her colorful purple silk jilbab through her fingers. She has a love-hate relationship with the elegant garment.
"It's hot. It's not appropriate for the climate," says the 35-year-old director of Aceh's Human Rights Coalition. "It's something I choose because it's beautiful, not because a man tells me to do so."
Manalu is a rebel. Often, to make a point about women's rights she walks in public wearing jeans, her head uncovered, ignoring the taunts.
She is sickened by the sight of men and women being publicly caned by a tormentor in a mask.
Manalu contends that women get the worst of the bargain. Many are treated as outcasts after their punishment; men are welcomed back into society.
"It amazes me that in a modern world with sophisticated law and order, we even consider doing this," she says. "It's barbaric."
She dismisses the Sharia police, who she believes enjoy harassing young women.
"Men make these rules based on some misguided image of how women should look," she says. "Here in Aceh, women must accept it or suffer harassment."
A mile away, at religious police headquarters, Abdullah dismisses the uproar over the stoning law. And he says the harsher caning laws also have been overblown. Since 2003, he says, only nine people have been caned in Aceh.
"Men take their lashes like the women," he says. "They're equal."
Abdullah is angered each time he sees couples holding hands or a woman without a veil. He favors a proposed ordinance in one Aceh area that would ban women from wearing pants.
"Most pants are too tight," he says. "They show the curves of a woman's body. With many you can see the shadow of the vagina."
But the religious thought police know they cannot fight television, the racy shows broadcast from Malaysia and Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
As Abdullah speaks, an office TV shows a shampoo ad featuring a woman in a towel, caressing her long black hair.
Aceh's top morality cop pauses in mid-sentence. He blushes, then catches himself and scoffs.
Searching for sin
The morality cops are on the move. They crouch in military formation, closing in on their prey.
Beneath a row of gracefully bending palms, they've spotted several shady characters at a lonely beachside youth hangout. They could be unmarried young men cavorting with girls not wearing a proper jilbab . They could be holding hands, kissing or, well, who knows what.
Waves breaking at their feet, the officers round a rocky promontory. They confront six baffled men casting nets into the water.
"They were just fishing," says a disappointed Syafruddin.
And so it goes. All afternoon, they chase down suspects, like the college girls caught without their jilbabs .
As Syafruddin launches into his lecture, a woman wearing a black T-shirt reading "Lucky Girl" examines her shoes.
"For women," the officer says, "wearing a veil is like a motorcycle rider wearing a helmet. It's for your own protection."
When the police move on, the woman shrugs. "I wear a veil at work," she says. "I didn't think it mattered here. It's the beach ."
Within moments, the team stops three girls on a motorcycle, all wearing veils. This time, Syafruddin has another problem. Their leggings are too tight, too revealing, he says. They should go home and change them at once.
He walks off in search of other laws to enforce. The girls climb back aboard the motorcycle, looking embarrassed.
One patrolman lingers for a moment. He smiles at the girls.
Getting over the wall
Former East Germans to talk about their experiences as citizens of a reunited Germany.
November 8, 2009
The fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, marked the end of the Cold War and the making of a new world map. For those who had come of age in East Germany, the change was both exhilarating and disorienting. Overnight, East Germans had unfettered access to goods, travel and, above all, to ideas that had been denied them for decades. They were reunited with relatives in the West and no longer had to fear inquisitive neighbors and Stasi police. Their national narrative of the good socialist was replaced by a Western narrative of the liberated capitalist. Within a year, their country was gone too, absorbed into a reunified Germany.
In the 20 years since, cranes have remade the Berlin skyline. Street names have been changed and landmarks razed. The warp-speed change was thrilling, but it left many former East Germans feeling exposed as they struggled to keep their balance in a shifting landscape.
"I don't know if you can imagine in 1989, from one day to the next, suddenly none of the old rules of society still applied, and all values were turned on their head," recalled Jana Hensel, author of "After the Wall: Confessions from an East German Childhood and the Life That Came Next." "Masses of people were forced to look at themselves from an outside perspective and tell their stories in a different way."
The two countries have been sewn back together over the last two decades, although political and economic development has been uneven throughout the East, and some former East Germans -- particularly the elderly -- remain on the margins of the reunited country. Many people raised in East Germany have fully embraced the West; others are more ambivalent and say they still experience the mauer im kopf -- the wall in the mind. Many feel their histories have been erased in the process of assimilation. A nostalgia for the old East is prevalent enough to have given birth to its own term, ostalgie .
In Berlin and Los Angeles last month, Times editorial writer Marjorie Miller asked former East Germans to talk about their experiences as citizens of a reunited Germany. We are publishing edited transcripts of their remarks.
Kathrin Schmidt, 29
Travel agent from Neubrandenburg
Imoved to West Germany as a child of 9, three months before the wall came down. It was very hard. They made fun of me. The way I spoke was a little different. My handwriting was different. I didn't wear any brand-name clothes.
After the wall fell, I kind of created my own wall. I started lying when people would ask me where I came from because teachers and other people had an opinion about boys and girls from East Germany.
My mom was always a capitalist. She was married to a man (not my dad) who originally came from the West and always wanted to go back to be self-employed, to earn more money to build a company. So they had more opportunities in the West than most people, and they have been very lucky.
I moved to Berlin four years ago, and I think of myself as East German now. I am done lying about my past. I was never unhappy in the East, so inside me I was always the girl from the East. As soon as I realized there were people interested in my past in a positive way, it made me more confident to say, well, yes, I am from there. It still makes me kind of proud to say I'm East German.
I was really happy the years I lived there. I felt safe. I felt proud at school because we were honored for everything good we did. Sometimes I wonder, where would I be right now if the wall were still there, if the German Democratic Republic still existed? What would I be doing now?
There's conflict between my mom and me. She lives differently. She fancies another lifestyle, very nice suits, lots of jewelry, playing golf and everything. She was like that in the East too, but there was no way to get all of this. She's like she always wanted to be, but my heart still beats like a socialist. That's a great difference between her and me. Usually I vote the Socialist Party.
People from the East concentrate on the small things. We didn't have a lot of big cars and TVs; you didn't concentrate on the material things. It was nice when you got a car after 14 years, but you had more time to concentrate on people, on being together and nice moments. You had more time to talk.
Falko Hennig, 40
Writer, performer from Berlin
Officially it was called the anti-fascistic wall, erected to protect us from the fascists, but everyone knew it was there to keep us from escaping.
I was in Koln when the wall came down. I had escaped in August. Coincidentally, the morning after the wall fell, I had a ticket to go to Berlin, and so I flew there and went back to East Berlin against the stream of people going west.
I found it was more socialistic in West Germany than in East Germany. It was hard to explain to the East German worker that workers in West Germany had more money and better conditions, more vacation. They had told us that East Germany was a workers' paradise and that workers owned the means of production, but in truth, in West Germany, workers had many more rights in production than in East Germany.
By the '80s, when I grew up, East Germany was less dangerous. It was much more frightening in the '50s and '60s, with a stronger Russian presence. My father was in prison for two years in the late '60s for political reasons. He saw the police beat somebody up, and he compared the way they acted to West Berlin police. That was enough to put him into prison for two years.
I think democracy in Germany today is all right. The history kids are taught is less filled with lies than the history we were taught in East Germany. But what is true is history is always written by the winners.
When I was in school, the teachers told us all the Nazis were in West Germany and the good people in East Germany. But I knew in my family that my grandfather had been a Nazi, and later he became a communist in the Communist Party. In the one dictatorship you had to be a member, and then in the other dictatorship you had to be a member to get a good job. I guess my grandfather could believe both in Hitler and the Nazi Party and later on in the Communist Party.
Things are better since I escaped and the wall came down. My daughters don't speak differently at home and at school, as we did; the public and private talk doesn't exist anymore. On the other hand, in East Germany we were very equal, with just a few powerful people.
Anja Vogel, 36
Anthropologist from Berlin
I was not quite 16 in 1989. My dad was in sales and was allowed to travel out of the country to Africa and other non-communist places, so we were privileged. The trade-off was that we were not allowed to have any West German contacts. My parents were pretty apolitical, critical at times but rather satisfied overall. My dad had a job; we had Western products. When the wall came down, they were both uncertain of what was to come.
I didn't find out until I went to school the next day. Everyone was talking about how they'd opened the wall. The teacher let us out early, and we all decided to go, but we didn't really know where to go. You didn't go to West Berlin, so why would you know where the checkpoints were, especially at that age? A classmate had an aunt in West Berlin, so we followed her, and then at some point you just had to follow the masses.
There were lots of people on the other side, and video cameras. But as exciting as it all was, I tried not to smile because I didn't feel they had freed me from anything. I was happy in my country, and we didn't know about a lot of the atrocities that had happened. We were not afraid at all; it was just a big adventure; we felt they wouldn't keep us or close the border; the border guards were wearing flowers and weren't threatening.
You were allowed to go pick up 100 marks in "welcome money" from the banks, something the West German state offered. We got our money and stopped at the first department store. That was the moment when I said, OK, this is what's different. I bought two stuffed dogs, one pink and one blue, and gave them to my parents for their nightstands.
I didn't have much contact with West Germans in the early years. At that age, you mostly stayed in your district. And, in West Berlin, you felt weird that people always were observing you, saying, "I can detect East Germans by their shoes, by their hair, by their dialect." In West Berlin, a dialect was by social class, but in the East, the dialect crossed through all social strata.
One of my first trips abroad was to England in 1991, a little more than a year after the wall. There I had a guide from Frankfurt who was the first Westerner I really got to know. She showed me their style, certain things. Then I spent a year in Baltimore as an au pair. I've always wanted to be hip, and I didn't want people to have an impression of me without knowing me.
I went to UCLA for graduate school, where I did my dissertation in anthropology on children born after German reunification. I studied 10th-graders to see how history was taught and how students and teachers discussed it. What I found was that the teachers still very much identified with the East or West, but not all of them expressed it when dealing with the students. West German teachers were more cautious not to identify with one or the other, while East German teachers who had a feeling of losing their history and identity were trying to pass the identity on to their students. The students saw themselves as German and don't want to be identified with a past that wasn't theirs; that was history.
For years in the United States, I had the luxury of just feeling like a German, not an East or West German. Now that I am back, I primarily identify as a German, but there are situations in which I feel like a German with a "special history." I think that's how I would identify myself. I was part of a huge historical event that took place. A lot of East Germans feel that way.
Jochen Schmidt, 38
Writer from Berlin
The wall came down on my 19th birthday.
If you grew up in East Berlin at this time and with a Christian background, as in my case, there were two ways to talk. One for the family and friends, and one for the teacher and officials. It was in your body, where to say what. I didn't feel bad about it.
Some parents tried to protect the children and didn't tell them the truth, because if they knew, they would have problems at school. In my case, my parents told us, for example, what happened in Budapest in '56, and they said you couldn't talk about it in school. There were other families more openly in the opposition, but that meant you couldn't study, and you wouldn't have a good job. Open opposition was a decision to live apart. We didn't want this.
I had joined the army eight days before the wall fell, because I was 18 and going to study, and if you had a place in university, you had to serve in the army first. Things didn't fall apart right away. By December, we had just two cases of desertion -- people who stayed in the West. You'd think everyone would have left, but we didn't know what would happen. We didn't know if we would survive in the West.
It's hard to understand now how unimaginable everything was. Even on the 9th of November, the idea that reunification would take place a year later was utopian. I was even against it because I was young and stupid.
I remember that everyone in my army squad thought they were so clever that they would get a job in the West. But a lot of them would be jobless very soon, and that was the hard part of reunification. The East German was very able to solve problems. Everyone could fix his car. You had to know how. You saw a West German guy with a fancy car, but he didn't know how to change the spark plug. In East Germany, everyone had a job and a second job to get things. People were really handy. But then there were no jobs because companies from the West that produced something a company from the East also produced would buy up the Eastern company. Then they closed the company in the East to eliminate the competition. On top of that was the problem that if you were from the East, everyone had been conditioned for 40 years to think that everything from the West was better, so even East Germans bought everything from the West.
I'm not adjusting very well to the changes. I can make a living, but I'm not really happy. They destroyed the charm of Berlin, and they seem determined to destroy things from the East. Take the Palace of the Republic, the former parliament and leisure center. I didn't really love it before; it wasn't an important memory for me. But I think it was wrong to tear it down and rebuild the center of Berlin as if the past never happened.
At 38, I already feel old, because there's already a part of my life that has disappeared completely, and it's part of my job to keep it alive. It leaves me in the position of fighting to preserve the memory of things I was against when they existed.
Maik Orlyewski, 41
Construction worker from Berlin
I had just come back from the army when the wall came down. I didn't watch television, so I didn't realize what was going on until I went to work the next day. Someone told me what had happened. I said, "Are you crazy?"
I grew up in Berlin, so I was always aware the wall was there and you couldn't cross. It was a strange feeling to know that suddenly we could. We headed to the border with our baby. I got goose bumps. But we crossed, and it was unspectacular. I was a little disappointed in what I saw there. What impressed me was the situation. There were so many people; there was no violence; people were embracing each other. There was an old man, and he gave a child 20 marks.
Berlin still doesn't feel completely united. We grew up differently. We have a whole different set of experiences. We had to learn how everything worked in the West. It took a couple of years before there were people you could go to to get help with income taxes or health insurance. After deutsche marks were introduced, the doorbell would ring every day and someone was trying to sell you an insurance policy or a washing machine. It was confusing.
In the GDR, the state did everything. I was trained as a bricklayer. I never suffered any repression in the GDR; I was never spied on by the Stasi. Of course we would talk, but I was politically inexperienced, so I didn't have a lot of opinions. I was happy that I had learned a craft. Crafts were good as gold.
I want a reunited Germany. My wife, on the other hand, would have liked the GDR to remain separate. It was very comfortable. Life was very easy. You had work; everyone had a job. If your child was sick, you could take care of him without losing your job. My wife thinks more from the GDR could have been adopted by the West.
I think overall it's better now. There are many things I couldn't do in the old system. We can be spontaneous now, go out in the countryside with our bikes for a picnic -- just get dressed and go without planning for the food. There's a night life. Back then, we were all in bed at 10.
We tell stories about the old days, but for my kids it's not interesting. They're Germans. The kids in the East and West have the same experiences now; they grow up in the same system and same schools. Back then, we had the Cold War. Today they go to sports clubs together. Some don't even know where the border used to be.
Gabriele Hayes, 42
Company owner in Los Angeles, originally from Jena
I never thought about leaving East Germany because it was next to impossible. I didn't want to go to prison or get shot. You heard about neighbors, friends, doctors leaving because they couldn't make a good salary, but I was kind of content until I met Mark.
It was July 1985. I was hitchhiking home, and suddenly this minivan pulls up with a couple of guys. I thought they were West Germans. They turned out to be Americans. I struck up a conversation, eager to practice my English. Mark and his friend invited me for dinner. My parents were away, which was good because my mother was worse than the Stasi. We liked each other right away. He came back every few months. We kept it very secret. We wrote letters in code through my brother-in-law, who was a doctor and could receive mail from abroad without drawing attention. He would put the letter in a different envelope and send it to me. Mark would stay at a hotel and list phony reasons he was visiting East Germany, like doing research on Martin Luther.
Once when we were in Hungary, Mark brought some news magazines that told the story of the wall. He thought I'd be thrilled to read the real history, about how they'd rolled out barbed wire in the night, built the wall and shocked the whole world. But I started crying. I said, "Look, I'm stuck in East Germany. You can go, but I have to go back." Suddenly I felt locked in.
Mark asked me to marry him in 1986, but I said no. I had to finish my studies, and I was afraid of losing my scholarship. Languages were my passion, and I had wanted to be a translator. But I couldn't go to university, even though I had joined all of the youth organizations and had the grades, because my parents were not members of the Communist Party and we were Catholics. So I worked in a factory making irons during the day and went to high school at night. I finished my degree in 1989, but in exchange for my free education, I had agreed to teach for three years. By then things were getting a little looser, however. Family members could move to the West. My girlfriend was dating someone from the West and applied for permission to get married, and she said, "Look, nothing happened. I didn't get kicked out of school, so maybe you should try."
We were married on Aug. 24, 1989, and I applied for my exit visa. By then it was crazy. You'd see people one day having coffee, and the next day they were gone. It was spinning apart. Then suddenly our exit visa arrived. We packed up everything and left.
From the Washington Times
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Wife of envoy raises funds to help women, children
One of Washington's most powerful women is a child of war who today is promoting peace, using her high-profile status to raise millions of dollars to help resettle refugees, fight malaria, build schools and fund hospitals for children.
"I'm in a unique position where I can make a difference in the lives of women and children, and it just feels right," said Sheikha Rima al-Sabah, the wife of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States. "If each of us makes a small contribution in any way we can, we will make the world a much better place."
"Helping women and children is my passion," she added. "I can't bear to see a child suffer. I can't bear to see a woman suffer."
Tall, blond and beautiful, Sheikha Rima, at 47 with four sons, looks like a fashion model. The glamour she radiates belies the horror she knew growing up in her native Lebanon during a civil war that devastated her homeland from 1975 to 1990. She was 13 when the conflict broke out.
A daughter of upper-middle class professionals, she remembers sleeping on mattresses pulled into the hall of her parents' apartment in Beirut to avoid random gunfire that would pierce the outer walls or shatter windows, sending shards of glass flying. One day, a rocket exploded in the family dining room.
"Children of war are not like other children. They have their childhood stolen from them," Sheikha Rima said.
"You hear gunfire at night and wake up in the morning glad to be alive. You don't take life for granted," she said.
She joined Lebanon's Daily Star as political editor in 1984 and became a war correspondent for United Press International in 1986. One day as she was covering the conflict, a photographer standing next to her was wounded in the leg.
She also interviewed Terry Waite, the envoy of the Church of England, the day before he was kidnapped by the Islamic Jihad Organization as he was trying to negotiate the release of other hostages held by the terrorists.
"My dream was to become a war correspondent. I wanted to show the plight of those suffering from conflicts," Sheikha Rima said.
The war claimed 250,000 lives and wounded 1 million people, about one-third of the population.
By that time, however Sheikha Rima had found another life. She met Sheikh Salem al-Sabah at the American University of Beirut, where she had earned a bachelor's degree in political science. They married in 1988.
Soon the former Lebanese war correspondent and the future Kuwaiti ambassador, a member of his country's royal family, were off on a diplomatic adventure, first in New York at the Kuwaiti mission to the United Nations for eight years, then to South Korea, where Sheikh Salem had his first ambassadorial post. They arrived in Washington eight years ago.
By 2005, Sheikha Rima's humanitarian instincts drew her to hold annual gala dinners and raise money for charities through the Kuwait-America Foundation, which was founded in 1991 to express Kuwaiti gratitude for the U.S. liberation of the country from Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Ambassador Molly Raiser, chief of protocol under President Clinton, appealed to Sheikha Rima for help in resettling Iraqi refugees, mostly women and children. At the time, Mrs. Raiser was head of USA for UNHCR (the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees).
Sheikha Rima sought her husband's advice.
"I told him I wanted to raise $1 million for the refugees. He looked at me and said, 'You can do it,'" she said.
"My husband and I are a team," she added. "He does the political work, and I do the social and foundation work. My husband is my biggest supporter. He gives me my wings. I wouldn't have been able to do it without his support."
Sheikha Rima started writing letters to corporate executives, asking them to donate money to benefit the refugees and come to a gala dinner at the Kuwaiti ambassador's elegant residence. Then she wrote to government officials, knowing that high-ranking guests are key to successful Washington dinner parties.
Colin Powell, then secretary of state, and actress Angelina Jolie, who was the UNHCR goodwill ambassador, received the foundation's humanitarian award, and Broadway composer Marvin Hamlisch played piano. The corporate executives paid up to $100,000 to attend what Sheikha Rima called a "relaxed, intimate" dinner of 144 guests — 12 guests at each of 12 tables.
She reached her fundraising goal.
The next year, she raised $1.2 million for UNICEF, with first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and actor Michael Douglas as award recipients. Mr. Hamlisch returned to entertain the guests and played a piano duet with Miss Rice.
In 2007, Sheikha Rima raised $1.4 million to benefit Project HOPE and the Basra Children's Hospital in Iraq. Mrs. Bush and Miss Rice returned as honored guests and country music star Randy Travis played guitar with Josh Bolten, President Bush's chief of staff.
The 2008 gala brought in $1.6 million to combat malaria in Africa with President Bush as the guest of honor. Youssou N'Dour, the Grammy-award winning singer from Senegal, performed. This year the proceeds grew to $1.8 million when she honored Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Sheikha Rima is especially excited about next year's gala. She is raising money to help American philanthropist Greg Mortenson build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"He has built more than 130 schools, where 54,000 kids are being educated," Sheikha Rima said. "He is providing hope and promoting peace, one child at a time."
She has already collected $2 million to help Mr. Mortenson, with her top corporate guests now paying up to $350,000 each to support the cause.
Her charitable work has also attracted widespread media attention. The Washingtonian Magazine this year named her one of the 100 most powerful women in this city. In 2007, Marie Claire, the fashion magazine, said Sheikha Rima "strengthened ties between the U.S. and Kuwait and changed our view of Arab women."
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Fort Hood killings evoke bad memory
Steve Miller THE WASHINGTON TIMES
KILLEEN, Texas | The town that has for years been newsworthy for its violence is again in crisis.
Thursday's massacre of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, the nation's largest active-duty military installation, has brought crisis clinics, candlelight vigils and questions on the ability of the military to police its own.
For decades, Killeen, the de facto civilian arm of the U.S. Army base, has been subject to the vacillating and fickle arm of military budget cuts and call-ups.
It is watching a replay of the spotlight shone on it in 1991, when a man entered a cafeteria and fatally shot 22 diners.
"Eighteen years ago, we had the largest mass murder in U.S. history," lamented Corbett Lawler, who was principal of Killeen High School in 1991, when George Hennard rammed his pickup truck through the front of a Luby's Cafeteria and began shooting.
"Now, we have one of the largest military mass murders in the U.S."
On Saturday, knit-capped kids rode their bikes, and shoppers at the Killeen Mall sat in stalled traffic, all under a glowing autumn sun, giving the effect that nothing earth-shaking really happened just 48 hours earlier.
"But people will suffer the effects of what happened at Hood for years," said Mr. Lawler, whose school district lost four employees in the Luby's killings. "I know people who worked with me who were never the same."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Saturday hinted as much to reporters outside Scott & White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, Texas, where 10 of the 30-plus injured in Thursday's shootings are recovering.
"It's been almost two days now since this tragic event occurred, and I don't think anything has happened to dull any of our feelings emotionally about the incident," Mr. Perry said.
The Killeen Community Center, sitting on a major intersection, offered passers-by "counseling services here or call 211." Blood drives, including one scheduled Sunday at the Killeen Mall, have popped up at high schools, diners and banks within a 100-mile radius of Fort Hood.
And financial support efforts for the families of the fallen have been launched by a number of groups, including Fisher House, United Service Organizations and the Central Texas-Fort Hood chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.
The civilian-led police force at Fort Hood is almost back to normal.
"At least I think we'll be all right now," said Capt. David Ross, chief of the 180-member Fort Hood Police Department. His department was the first to respond when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan purportedly opened fire on a gathering of soldiers and civilians preparing to deploy to Afghanistan later this year.
Capt. Ross is also a Killeen convert. He was stationed at Mount Hood in 2005, where he served as a lieutenant colonel before transferring a couple of years ago.
It's a common move among servicemen and women from elsewhere. The weather, the open spaces, the services all beckon to a person seeking a placid but active post-military life. And never mind the occasional bursts of violence.
"Fort Hood has its share of issues, but it really is a safe place in terms of major crimes," Capt. Ross said. "Especially when you think of the cities around us."
Austin, 67 miles south, has battled a property-crime epidemic for years. Houston, 200 miles to the southeast, suffers from a prolific murder rate.
Killeen's population has increased steadily over the years, from 45,000 in 1991, when the Luby's shootings occurred, to about 114,000 today. In addition, Fort Hood has nearly 55,000 active troops and an additional 100,000 military family members in the region, which includes Temple, Belton and Copperas Cove.
Soldier arrests make the news with some regularity here - some for severe and violent crimes that are foreign to a lot of towns of a similar size.
In 1987, a Fort Hood soldier was convicted of the murder and dismemberment of his pregnant wife. In 1989, another soldier was sentenced to death for the murder of two cabdrivers. And so the crimes flow, violence endemic to the transitory status of a military town. Add to that the Luby's killings and last week's killings, and it's easy to see the area as one more military area hobbled by crime.
But the area suited Dave Washko as soon as he landed here in 1980, fresh from a hitch in Germany. The Army machinist and New Jersey native had endured a tour in Vietnam, traveled the world and was looking for a place to call home.
Today, he sits in the American Legion Post 223 here and sips Coors from a tall brown bottle, expounding the merits of his adopted hometown, despite its seediness.
Mr. Washko was 23 when he came here. He looked around Fort Hood and liked what he saw: "I liked the weather, I liked the people and I liked no taxes."
The Legion post has a perpetual plastic banner - "Welcome Home Troops" - hanging on the wall.
Mr. Washko, retired now at 62 after 20 years at the U.S. Postal Service, is a realist when it comes to Thursday's shootings.
"This is the military. There will be violence sometimes," he said. "We have the largest base in the country. That means we will have something like this happen. But look how rare it is. This is a good area with good people."
Sunday, November 8, 2009
EDITORIAL: Too scared to recognize terrorism
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was declared "not a terrorist" before the facts were out - even before officials were sure whether the attacker was alive or dead. Failing to honestly name a terrorist attack despite the evidence is as destructive and dishonest as leaping to call an attack terrorism without the facts to support that.
Apparently, the claim was based largely on the fact that Maj. Hasan appears to have been a lone gunman. However, terrorism is defined not by the number of people involved, but by the motivations and intentions of the attacker. If reports about him are true, Maj. Hasan clearly was a terrorist.
He reportedly was upset about the activities of the United States in the Middle East and purportedly had made postings about suicide attacks on jihadist forums. He told an associate that "maybe the Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor"; he was videotaped on the morning of the attack wearing traditional white clothing in the manner of someone about to martyr himself. The same day, he divested himself of belongings and handed out Korans, and he shouted the battle cry of the jihadists, "Allahu Akbar!" before opening fire. If these reports are true, this was not just terrorism; it was Islamic jihadist terrorism.
It is unclear whether Maj. Hasan acted alone or others were involved in this attack. It would not come as a surprise to learn more people were involved. If so, it will constitute a major counterterrorism failure.
Troubling questions are emerging. What diverted authorities from doing a more thorough job of investigating Maj. Hasan six months ago, when he was suspected of jihadist tendencies? Why was he allowed to remain on active duty in the Army, live amongst the troops and prepare for deployment to a combat zone? Those who claim that such an investigation would be some form of discriminatory profiling are simply wrong. It is not profiling to investigate someone based on probable cause. The fact that Maj. Hasan is a Muslim would not be reason enough to open an investigation. However, a Muslim in uniform openly discussing violence against the United States and posting his views on suicide attacks to jihadist forums should at least get a second look.
Those who want to explain this away as the result of stress, workplace violence or the "stretched force" are willfully blind. Condemned Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad, scheduled for execution this week for his role in killing 10 people and wounding three in October 2002, petitioned for clemency on the basis that he suffers from severe mental illness and Gulf war syndrome. Surely someone who hunts down and murders strangers is not in his right mind, but the primary motive in both Muhammad's case and Maj. Hasan's was jihadism.
The refreshing candor of someone like Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the shooter in the June attack on the Army recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., is rare. Reportedly, he said he was a practicing Muslim angry with the U.S. military for its crimes against Muslims and would have shot more than the two soldiers he killed if more had been available. This incident also was called "not terrorism."
The United States is engaged in a global struggle with violent adherents to an extremist Islamic creed. It does not besmirch the Muslim faith - or the vast majority of American Muslims - to admit that fact. The politically correct tendency to define attacks as something other than terrorism simply to avoid addressing the motives of the attacker is dangerous. Anyone who shouts "Allahu Akbar" and opens fire on a crowd of unarmed people is a terrorist. If Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is not a terrorist, no one is.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
NSA surveillance -- of you?
In the past several months, I have read a lot of articles about the National Security Agency and its motives and actions. Most, in some degree, warn that NSA is out to intercept our phone calls, our e-mails, our texts, our tweets (and, in some cases, our brain waves) to collect the details of our lives and pack them away in electronic databases to be accessed at NSA's whim.
Of course, we are all aware of the "warrantless wiretapping" disclosure by the New York Times in 2005, which led the many conspiracy theorists to scream of a police state, big brother and all the rest. This Presidential Surveillance Program was codified by Congress in 2008, but critics have hardly missed a beat.
One published theory presents the idea that because of this program, NSA has been so successful in compiling sensitive and personal data about Americans that it needs to build a huge new storage facility in Utah just to house it all.
Another concludes that those wiretaps violated the privacy of millions of American citizens. Millions!
Consider rationally for a moment the idea that the privacy of millions of Americans has been violated. How many analysts do you think would have to work at the agency for that to happen? (In addition, of course, to their real mission of listening to foreign adversaries involved in drugs, terrorism, network attacks and various other things that directly threaten our country.) Answer: Too many to count.
Other theories include a secret non-consensual human experimentation to tap into the electromagnetic frequency field of our brains so NSA can track us wherever we go and decode our thoughts - and possibly use us as assassins when the need arises. One of the psycho-electronic-weapon effects of this program includes sudden violent itching inside the eyelid or forced clacking of teeth. (I'm beginning to wonder what exactly has caused my bursitis.)
Many people would swear NSA is both incompetent and omniscient: It can't (they say) intercept terrorist communications to save its soul (or prevent acts like the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001); it can (they swear) read every word Americans write, speak or transmit electronically in any form. Many people still don't think NSA exists except, perhaps, as a fictional organization for movies. Others think it exists only to collect information on our private lives.
Has it ever occurred to anyone besides those of us who worked there that the mission of the National Security Agency is just what the agency says it is: ". . . to protect U.S. national security systems and to produce foreign signals intelligence information"? In English, this means NSA wants what we all want -a free and secure America - and it works hard to make that reality.
NSA has its problems, like any other large organization; problems with management, problems with bureaucracy, problems with change of any kind. But you know what it also has? A brilliant and dedicated work force that would work 24 hours a day, seven days a week if needed in a crisis. A work force that provides much of our country's "actionable" intelligence and does it with the utmost respect for the privacy of Americans. I was there. I know.
However, the world yawns at that ever-so-honorable pursuit. And if the world yawns, books don't sell, bloggers panic, newspapers fold and jobs are lost. It's much better, or at least much easier and more profitable, to twist, spin and distort the truth into a hodgepodge of conflicting motives and methods and hint at the beginning of tyranny and slip in enough fear of privacy concerns to bring the reader back for more.
Lest anyone mistake me for an NSA apologist or, even worse, an NSA shill, let me dissuade you of that thought. The National Security Agency would much prefer I simply keep my mouth shut. It certainly would insist, too, that I state that I am not a spokesperson for the agency. I am not.
There's an old joke that NSA stands for "no such agency" and "never say anything." Inside the complex, these are not just jokes; they are commands. Never respond to a press report, a verbal attack or a malicious movie or book.
The NSA culture - obscure, secluded, mystical and developed and perfected through 57 years of business - is a straightforward refusal to defend itself. The best defense is no defense. NSA employees take all the punches and simply stand and wait for the next one.
This has led to a situation in which most of the time, the only news we hear about the NSA is bad news. Often untruthful and very harmful news.
I would encourage NSA's Public Affairs Office to change its approach. It doesn't have to confirm or deny everything, but a firm "That is so not true!" at the most egregious accusations would cause me and plenty of others to cheer. Or, back during the worst of the "warrantless wiretapping" furor, why not simply state: "This program is lawful, effective and necessary, and everything we do at NSA is done with the utmost respect for the privacy of our citizens."
Retired Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former NSA director, recently said as much in an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times, and I don't believe the security of NSA has been compromised.
Of course, the media could be more objective (and selective) in publishing their articles about the agency. Oh, not always; I suppose they can't afford to let the yawns build up too much. However, some balance would be nice - and appropriate.
NSA is the most productive intelligence force we have; it would be good to say so occasionally.
So, is NSA listening to you talk to your grandmother? XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX. * Nonsense.
* Sentence redacted by the National Security Agency.
M.E. Harrigan is a 27-year veteran of the National Security Agency and author of the first insider's book about the agency: "9800 Savage Road, A Novel of the National Security Agency" (Forge Books, 2009).
From the Wall Street Journal
- NOVEMBER 8, 2009, 12:25 A.M. ET
Military Hopes 'Resiliency Campus' Will Bolster Recovery
By ANA CAMPOY
FORT HOOD, Texas—Commanders at this massive military base have been experimenting for a year with unconventional ways of bolstering combatants' mental health, using everything from aromatherapy to video games to yoga.
Now, they are hoping that programs at what they call the "resiliency campus" will help troops recover from one of the worst episodes of soldier-on-soldier violence in U.S. history, the shooting rampage last Thursday that left 13 dead and 30 wounded.
On Saturday Brigadier General William Grimsley, second in command here, showed reporters around the campus, which is not far from where Major Nidal Malik Hasan fired more than 100 rounds on his fellow soldiers.
The campus, he said, is designed to impart a new army philosophy focused on nurturing soldiers' body, mind and spirit. It marks a radical shift from the philosophy under which the army operated for years, he said: "Suck it up and drive on."
Eight years of constant deployments have forced the army to revise its strategy, said the general, who has earned one star and is about to receive a second one for his service in Iraq and elsewhere.
"You have to build resiliency to be prepared for the rigors of combat," Gen. Grimsley said. "Rather than waiting until after the blast, let's get ahead of it."
He said the army is still monitoring the results of the new approach, but that the suicide rate had declined, although he wouldn't provide any figures.
At the network of buildings that form the campus, soldiers can meditate at the "spiritual fitness center," a converted chapel where Buddhist monk chants or classical music usually play in the background. Soon to be finished: a reflecting pond featuring boulders and an arched wooden bridge.
Soldiers can take cooking classes at the campus, get a massage or experience aromatherapy.
Other resiliency-building activities include kayaking, mountain biking, and rock climbing, as soon as a practice wall is installed.
Rather than calming the mind, these activities that are part of a program called "warrior adventure quest" intended to gradually wean the soldiers from the perennial adrenaline rush of the battlefield, said Gen. Grimsley, adding that he has incorporated some yoga into his daily routine.
Some soldiers who return from battle buy powerful motorcycles, he noted; troops at the base describe other popular activities as lifting weights and hanging out in bars.
The campus is supposed to provide alternatives. One of the most popular is cross-fit, a hardcore physical training that gives a fit soldier a full workout in less than 30 minutes.
That's the favorite of Specialist Eric Martinez, 22, of Albuquerque, N.M., who got back from Iraq in May. But he said he has also been to an instructor who taught him breathing techniques that help you calm yourself in stressful situations, and they seem to work. He's tried playing baseball on a Nintendo Wii, and his wife goes to yoga classes.
But he hasn't tried all of the offerings at the campus. Asked about aromatherapy, he smiled politely. "For me," he said, "I don't think it would work."
- NOVEMBER 7, 2009, 9:14 P.M. ET
Mexican Army Seizes Large Opium Shipment
MORELIA, Mexico -- The Mexican army said Saturday it has seized a shipment of almost a quarter-ton of opium in the country's northern mountains, one of the largest such seizures made in Mexico.
The 448 pounds of opium paste was found Thursday hidden in nine plastic containers in the township of Guadalupe y Calvo, in the border state of Chihuahua, the Defense Department said in a statement.
Seven rifles, three pistols and nearly 10,000 rounds of ammunition were found along with the opium, which can be refined to make heroin. The army said it could have yielded 200,000 doses of heroin or similar drugs.
The Defense Department called it "the largest seizure of opium paste ever in our country." However, police in the southern state of Guerrero seized 627 pounds of opium paste near the resort of Acapulco in 1999.
Also Saturday, one policeman was killed and four wounded in an attack by gunmen in a drug-plagued part of southern Mexico.
Gunmen opened fire on two police patrol vehicles responding to reports of a dead body left on a roadside. Authorities in the town of La Union, in Guerrero state near the border with Michoacan, said the unidentified gunmen fled following the attack. The victims were Guerrero state police officers.
Another body was found in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz with its arms and legs mutilated and its head hacked off. The head was found in a plastic bag next to the body.
A message left with the body read: "This is for showing disrespect for the letter 'Z'," a common reference to the Zetas drug gang.
The body was wearing a state Public Safety department T-shirt, and assistant state prosecutor Jose Luis Peri said Saturday that authorities are investigating whether the victim may be a police officer.
On Tuesday, federal police and navy personnel shot to death a top Zetas cartel suspect in the same area. The navy said suspect Braulio Arellano Dominguez was the reputed leader of the Zetas in Veracruz. The Zetas are a gang of hit men tied to the Gulf Cartel.
In the border state of Baja California, prosecutors said Saturday that gunmen attacked a hotel used by federal police agents in the city of Tijuana. One civilian at the hotel was seriously wounded in late Friday's attack, but no police officers were hurt.
Tijuana has been one of the areas affected by drug-related violence that has cost more than 13,800 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in December 2006.
From the FBI
|THE POST-9/11 FBI
Bricks and Mortar to Do the Job
You probably know that the FBI has transformed itself since 9/11 to be more proactive and preventive when it comes to terror and crime, becoming—really for the first time in its history—an intelligence-driven organization.
But that overhaul has been more sweeping than you might expect. It's had a ripple effect across the Bureau, impacting virtually every facet of our work—not just our investigations and intelligence operations, but also our recruiting, training, security, organizational structures, partnerships, records management, information technology, finances, forensics, and much more.
There's one other highly visible and important part of our operations that has undergone a similar shift: our brick and mortar facilities, particularly our 56 field office buildings across the country.
Our field reconstruction efforts actually started following the Oklahoma City bombing but took off after 9/11 and all the changes that came with it. “We hired more agents and analysts, we established more Joint Terrorism Task Forces, we created new Field Intelligence Groups, so we simply needed more room for our people and partners and workplaces more conducive to sharing information,” said Assistant Director Patrick Findlay of our Facilities and Logistics Services Division. That means large, open spaces; more Top Secret computer connectivity; and more and larger Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs), where our agents and analysts often sit alongside colleagues from other agencies working highly classified matters.
Since 9/11, 16 new offices have been completed , including Houston (dedicated 11/4/09), Jacksonville, Louisville, Omaha, and Jackson this year. Five more contracts have been awarded and are in design or construction, and 10 others have been authorized by Congress and are in acquisition. Our field office program is the largest lease-construct program in the history of the federal government. And we're planning the renovation or construction of other field offices—our goal is to make sure each one is properly sized, configured, and secured to carry out our mission.
Working with major developers and our partners at the General Services Administration, the FBI is involved at every step of each building project. “These $40-100 million development deals are exceptionally complex and challenging," Findlay explained. “And there is a huge commitment of time and effort on the part of our field divisions—they are the ones who are on-site everyday, enabling these projects to move forward."
Findlay also said we make sure that the design of each building reflects the surrounding area and is environmentally friendly, following U.S. Green Building Council criteria.
FBI field offices aren't our only spaces being transformed to help us carry out our mission, though. For example:
- In 2003, our Laboratory moved out of its cramped space at FBI Headquarters and into an ultramodern facility three times as large.
- We are planning a state-of-the-art, new records facility to centrally manage all FBI records and make them available to our investigators through fast online searches.
- We're working with the State Department to ensure the effectiveness of our Legal Attaché offices in U.S. embassies overseas, building SCIFs and providing Top Secret connectivity.
- We're evaluating, relocating, or expanding all of our satellite offices (our 400+ resident agencies) around the country—46 such offices moved just last year.
In the end, said Findlay, it's all about the mission. “The better our facilities, the better we'll be able to protect our communities.”
- Director Mueller's remarks at Houston office dedication