Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Fire THIS Time

Seven counties in Southern California and Baja California are aflame in an elemental cauldron. Hot temperatures and Santa Ana winds--dry, hot winds that wick moisture from the air and often set the final condition for natural fires-- have spawned firefighters' nightmares come to life. Despite the valiant efforts of firefighting teams from local fire stations, volunteer fire personnel, and neighboring firefighters from other parts of California and neighboring states, nearly 800,000 acres are charred, skeletal remains of formerly beautiful expanses of national forest and evacuated residential areas.

At this moment, news reports speak great news of a lull in the high-speed winds that swept flames uncontrollably over freeways and valleys, across mountain ranges, and through cities. Brave firefighters are drawing every ounce of personal determination and time-worn experience they can utilize to prevent the spread of this giant force of nature. Lessons learned in 2003 during the Cedar fires, in which thousands of acres of land, homes and city buildings were destroyed and many human lives lost, helped local public services to work quickly and jointly to evacuate residents from endangered areas and minimize the loss of lives (Two people are reported dead presently.). Still, injuries among firefighters are increasing, and relief efforts are surging to meet the needs of thousands of displaced residents around Southern California.

Government action has moved at record speed. Governor Schwarzenegger (Rep.-CA) declared a state of emergency shortly following reports of the disastrous fires (3 large wildfires and several smaller but still dangerous fires), and President Bush has announced that federal aid and personnel assistance are at the state's beck and call. FEMA representatives are currently cutting through the usual red tape to avail the fire-ravaged areas with all the aid that they can handle.

Thank God this disaster happened a year before a major election. Perhaps the federal and state governments in California, where I now live, will NOT fail the people here in Southern California as the Fed and the powers that rule in Louisiana failed my people. Perhaps...

I shall wait with baited breath and guarded cynicism.

Meanwhile, my prayers are with every soul who has run from home and comfort with family and animals in tow to avoid possible fiery destruction. As for me, I sit safely in my apartment congested from breathing trace ash in the air and nursing the woman I love who is suffering slightly more than I. We are safely planted within the safety of home roughly two miles from Qualcomm Stadium, where thousands have been gathered away from risk zones and flame-engulfed areas for nearly two days. So far none of our friends have been forced from their homes. So far...and I pray they remain safe and relaxed in their own digs.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Late Monday Groove

Bernard Purdie on drums...instant smile for me. David Walker on guitar...heaven on wire strings. Enjoy.

Monday, October 15, 2007

God, Protect the Children

After reading this, I may consider having a drink. What is going on in America these days?


Police said late Monday they had arrested Chester "Chet" Arthur Stiles, the man accused of videotaping himself while raping a 3-year-old girl.

Stiles, 37, had been the focus of a nationwide manhunt since police identified him as the man who raped and sexually assaulted a girl in a homemade videotape that surfaced last month in the rural Nevada town of Pahrump. He was arrested Monday night during a traffic stop in Henderson, just outside Las Vegas, police said at a news conference.

Henderson police officer Mike Dye said he stopped Stiles at about 7 p.m. on a busy thoroughfare. He said Stiles was driving a white Buick sedan with no license plates.

Stiles provided an expired California drivers license with a photo that Dye said looked "suspicious."

"The picture on the license didn't quite match the gentleman in the vehicle," Dye said.

After further questioning, the officer said Stiles revealed his true name.

"He said I'm Chester Stiles, the guy you're looking for," Dye said. "He said I'm tired of running."

Dye said Stiles cooperated and didn't resist. Dye called for backup and another officer arrived to handcuff Stiles.

Las Vegas Police Capt. Vincent Cannito said Stiles has been wanted since Oct. 5 on warrants issued for 21 felony charges in connection with the acts seen on the videotape, including lewdness with a minor, sexual assault and attempted sexual assault.

Stiles was alone in the vehicle and unarmed, but police have not fully searched the car, Cannito said. Police were awaiting a warrant.

Stiles was being booked at the Clark County jail. He had not yet hired a lawyer or been assigned a court date, police said.

Cannito said police were continuing the investigation.

"We don't know if we're going to find any other victims," Cannito said.

The girl in the videotape was found with her mother in Las Vegas on Sept. 28. Now 7 years old, she has been described as happy and healthy, with no memory of the 2003 encounter with Stiles.

Authorities had sought the public's help in finding Stiles, who was wanted on state and federal warrants in a case in which he was alleged to have groped a 6-year-old girl in 2003.

Police were also looking into an allegation that he had sexually assaulted a young girl in 2001.

Police say they had received hundreds of tips about Stiles, who they had called dangerous and possibly armed. Stiles had previously been arrested on charges including assault, battery, resisting a police officer, auto theft, leaving the scene of an accident and contempt of court, authorities said.

He was convicted in 1999 in Las Vegas of carrying a concealed weapon, and in 2001 of conspiracy to commit grand larceny. He pleaded no contest in Houston in 1993 to unlawful carrying of a weapon.

Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett said others have characterized Stiles as a "survivalist type" who claimed to have weapons, a Navy SEAL background and who always carried a knife.

The man who turned the tape in, Darrin Tuck, 26, was arrested last month on a probation violation charge, and was likely to face pornography charges, Beckett said.

Now playing: Kirk Franklin - Let It Go
via FoxyTunes

News story and photo reference URL: Yahoo/Associated Press

Now playing: Kirk Franklin - Imagine Me
via FoxyTunes

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gettin' Close to the Edge...Need a Break

Time to listen to some music...since my world is a little crazy right now. Enjoy.

OH YEAH: Respect to the artist(s) who did the multicolored skull mural behind Jay-Z (the still you see above). Dope.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Smell Gunpowder...Another School Tragedy

I read this only 4 minutes ago. My prayers and concern are with the teachers, the parents, and the students of the SuccessTech Academy of Cleveland, Ohio. God bless them all.


By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer 21 minutes ago

A 14-year-old suspended student opened fire in his downtown high school Wednesday, wounding four people as terrified schoolmates hid in closets and bathrooms and huddled under laboratory desks. He then killed himself.

A fellow student at SuccessTech Academy alternative school said Asa H. Coon, who was suspended for fighting two days earlier, had made threats in front of students and teachers last week.

"He's crazy. He threatened to blow up our school. He threatened to stab everybody," Doneisha LeVert said. "We didn't think nothing of it."

Armed with two revolvers, Coon fired eight shots and may have targeted teachers, Police Chief Michael McGrath said.

Math teacher David Kachadourian, who was treated at a hospital for a minor wound to the back of one shoulder, said Coon had been a student in a beginning algebra class he taught. But the 57-year-old teacher said he had not disciplined Coon and knew of no reason why Coon might target him.

"I never felt personally threatened or personally at risk," Kachadourian said after leaving the hospital. "I had concerns about him, yes. He seemed like an angry young man. I did not fear for my own safety."

Police found a duffel bag stocked with ammunition and three knives in a bathroom but found no suicide note, McGrath said.

Parents were angry that firearms got into a school equipped with metal detectors that students said were intermittently used.

Coon spent time in two juvenile facilities after a domestic violence episode and was given home detention, and he was suspended from school last year for trying to injure a student, according to juvenile court records obtained by The Plain Dealer. He had a history of mental health problems and threatened to commit suicide last year while in a mental health center, the paper reported.

"That's the most basic, profound and saddest part of the whole thing, knowing he was in so much pain and torment," Kachadourian said. "Anytime someone takes his own life, it shows he was desperate."

Officials said two teachers and two students were shot, and that a 14-year-old girl fell and hurt her knee while running out of the school.

Witnesses said the shooter moved through the converted five-story downtown office building, working his way up through the first two floors of administrative offices to the third floor of classrooms. Officials said he was wearing a Marilyn Manson concert shirt, black jeans and black-painted finger nails.

Police released audio from three 911 calls — two from students who had fled the building after the first two shots and one from a distraught mother, calling on behalf of her son, who was huddled in the back of a fourth floor classroom.

"They just shot somebody in his room!" the crying mother told the dispatcher.

The first person shot, 14-year-old student Michael Peek, had punched Coon in the face right before the shootings began, said student Rasheem Smith, 15.

Coon "came out of the bathroom and bumped Mike and he (Mike) punched him in his face. Mike started walking. He shot Mike in the side," Smith said.

Antonio Deberry, 17, said he and his classmates hid under laboratory tables and watched the shooter move down the hallway. "I saw him walking past. He didn't see us, we saw him." The shooter swore and shot several times, Deberry said.

LeVert said she hid in a closet with two other students after she heard a "Code Blue" alert over the loudspeaker. She said she heard about 10 shots.

Darnell Rodgers, 18, was walking up to another floor when the stairway suddenly became flooded with students.

"It took me a couple of minutes to realize that I was actually shot, when I felt my arm burning in the area, that's when I realized that I had got shot," Rodgers said.

"They were screaming, and they were saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God.' I knew something was wrong, but thought that it was probably just a fight, so I just kept going," Rodgers said.

Rodgers was released from a hospital after treatment for a graze wound to his right elbow.

Coon had been suspended since Monday for fighting near the school that day, said Charles Blackwell, president of SuccessTech's student-parent organization. He did not know how Coon got into the building Wednesday.

Blackwell said that there was a security guard on the first floor, but that the position of another guard on the third floor had been eliminated.

Student Frances Henderson, 14, said she often got into arguments with Coon, who once told her, "I got something for you all." He would often wear a trench coat, black boots and a dog collar, she said.

Students stood outside the building, many in tears, hugging one another and on cell phones. Others shouted at reporters with TV cameras to leave them alone. Family members also stood outside, waiting for their children to be released.

Michael Grassie, a 42-year-old history teacher, was in fair condition at Metro Health Medical Center after about two hours of surgery. The hospital would not disclose the nature of the surgery.

The other two injured teens were taken to a children's hospital, which would not release their names, ages or conditions.

People at Coon's home declined to comment Wednesday evening.

Deberry's mother, Lakisha Deberry, said she was upset that metal detectors at the school were not always in use.

"You never know what's going on in someone's mind," said Deberry, adding that she was required to go through a metal detector and present an identification card whenever she wanted to drop off something at school for her children.

Students were being sent to the FBI office across the street.

Classes at all schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will be canceled Thursday, said Eugene Sanders, chief executive officer of the district. Counseling will be available Thursday for students at recreation centers throughout the city, Sanders said.

SuccessTech Academy is an alternative high school in the public school district that stresses technology and entrepreneurship for about 240 students, most of them black, with a small number of white and Hispanic students. It opened five years ago and ranks in the middle of the state's ratings for student performance. Its graduation rate is 94 percent, well above the district's rate of 55 percent.

"It's a shining beacon for the Cleveland Metropolitan School system," said John Zitzner, founder and president of E City Cleveland, a nonprofit group aimed at teaching business skills to inner-city teens. "It's orderly, it's disciplined, it's calm, it's focused."


Associated Press writers James Hannah, Terry Kinney, M.R. Kropko, John Seewer, Thomas J. Sheeran and Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report.

News story reference URL: Yahoo/AP News

Monday, October 8, 2007

Walking Down New Paths

I am still blogging, my friends! I have some new projects in the works including the new blog MUSIC...LIFE...LOVE, a chance for me to celebrate the artists I admire--both visual and musical--and to introduce to the world at large some of the most intriguing thinkers and doers we may ever know. That is my mission; that is my task.

Until we talk again, be happy, be proud, and be YOU.