Last week, Botso Korisheli sadly passed away after a life filled with so much excitement and music. We mourn his passing but celebrate the long life he lived.
I’m very excited to announce that in early March, I will be interviewing the Los Angeles District Attorney, Jackie Lacey. She is an incredibly accomplished prosecutor and the first woman and first African-American to hold this office. Her office provides a great source of biographical information:
District Attorney Jackie Lacey has spent most of her professional life as a prosecutor, manager and executive in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. On Dec. 3, 2012, she was sworn in as the 42nd District Attorney.
Her top priority is keeping the streets ofLos Angeles County safe from violent and dangerous criminals. She is committed to safeguarding our children from human sex traffickers, our seniors from financial elder abuse and our communities from environmental crimes that threaten our health and our livelihood.
District Attorney Lacey has worked with business leaders on how best to protect consumers from computer network intrusions that jeopardize our bank accounts and credit ratings. She also remains committed to prosecuting government officials who violate the public’s trust.
A Los Angeles native and graduate of the University of Southern California Law School, District Attorney Lacey leads a staff of roughly 1,000 lawyers, nearly 300 investigators and about 800 support staff employees. Her office prosecuted more than 71,000 felonies and nearly 112,000 misdemeanors in 2014.
She is the first woman and first African-American to serve as Los Angeles County District Attorney since the office was established in 1850.
District Attorney Lacey created the Human Trafficking Unit that focuses on putting pimps behind bars and helping their victims. In recent years, gang members have been responsible for the proliferation of underage prostitution in Los Angeles County – a criminal enterprise that can be more lucrative than the sales of drugs or guns.
She launched the Elder Financial Abuse Outreach Campaign to alert seniors about scams that target them and their assets. The effort was honored in 2014 with the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission’s Top Ten Award.
That same year, District Attorney Lacey established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Crimes Rollout Team, which dispatches specially trained prosecutors and investigators to the scene of environmental threats and industrial accidents involving occupational deaths or serious injuries.
As founder and chair of the Los Angeles County Criminal Justice Mental Health Project, District Attorney Lacey is leading a multidisciplinary effort to develop a comprehensive mental health diversion program. An estimated 17 percent of the inmates in county jails are mentally ill. They often are unable to assist in their legal defense because of mental illness, resulting in longer – and more costly – incarceration and delayed justice.
District Attorney Lacey also has worked to reduce overcrowding in jails and prisons. She has encouraged her prosecutors to route nonviolent offenders into alternative sentencing courts, in which defendants agree to participate in evidence-based treatment programs instead of incarceration. These defendants are less likely to re-offend than those in state prison.
She is actively involved in the implementation of legislative and voter action, such as the Public Safety Realignment Act and the Three Strikes Resentencing Law. She successfully sought legislative reforms, including passage of a new law that gives counties a stronger voice when judges are considering the conditional release of sexually violent predators.
District Attorney Lacey joined the office in 1986. She won national attention for her successful prosecution of the county’s first race-based hate crime murder.
She is active in her profession. District Attorney Lacey is a member of the National District Attorneys Association, the California District Attorneys Association and the National Black Prosecutors Association. She serves on the boards of the Los Angeles County Prosecutors Association and the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County.
District Attorney Lacey has received many honors, including the Trailblazer Award from the National Black Prosecutors Association; the Benito Juarez Attorney of the Year Award from the Mexican American Bar Association; the Distinguished Professional in Public Service Award from the University of California, Irvine; the Silver Achievement Award from the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles; and the Ernestine Stahlhut Award from the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles.
For five years, District Attorney Lacey dedicated one lunch hour a week to teaching fifth-graders at Lorena Street Elementary School in Boyle Heights about the criminal justice system. As District Attorney, she has led an effort to share Project LEAD, the office’s law-related education program, with other prosecutorial agencies across the country.
A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, and Dorsey High School, District Attorney Lacey began her legal career as an associate in a small civil law firm. She then became a trial deputy in the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Lacey and her husband, David, have two adult children.
While watching the Vice documentary on the Golan Heights and the tourism that has expanded with the Syrian Civil War, I noticed one of the people I interviewed there, Ilan Shulman, sharing more of his expertise. Here is the Vice clip where he is interviewed at a little after 6:30 and the interview I conducted with him.
I just read an article that alerted me to a terrible injustice that is being almost completely neglected by the media in this country.
The Tanzanian government is exiling over 40,000 Masai people from their native land and selling it to a company in Dubai to build a private hunting ranch for the royal family. Please share this petition and have the US help stop this tragedy.
It was a very sad day when I had to say goodbye to my host family in Sharjah. They had embraced me as a member of the family and taught me much more than Arabic. I learned another perspective on the current conflict in Syria because their family had immigrated from there to the UAE. I had previously only known the hundreds of thousands killed in the Syrian Civil War as just another series of ever increasing numbers that although tragic, did not have a large impact on me. However, once I heard my host mother describe how Assad’s forces had murdered her brother, a university professor, and his whole family, I realized that it took a personal story for the tragedy of the conflict to truly resonate with me. Recognizing the effect the story had on me, I realized just how transformational some of the stories that people have shared on Reaching 4 Peace would be to people who had thought of groups or issues in broad terms and not in terms of individual stories.
A few days after arriving in Dubai, I knew that the Burj Khalifa was the first sight I wanted to see, and the family I’m staying with agreed that it was really incredible. We drove over from Sharjah to Dubai and through the Dubai Mall to see the tallest building in the world. It was just as amazing as I had expected, and in fact was so high that it could not be captured in one picture. However, like much of Dubai, the glittering façade hides the dark truth of its construction. The Burj Khalifa was built by migrant laborers from South Asia working in atrocious conditions. Numbering over 250,000 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), these workers are housed in primitive work camps miles from the city of Dubai and crammed into small rooms with other workers. Now, anyone knowing these horrible conditions, would ask why the workers do not simply return to their home countries. The answer is that it is impossible.
When laborers arrive in the country, the construction companies confiscate their passports and force them to work. This situation has led to many protests against the unjust system by the workers, but all demonstrations have been brutally broken up by the government. Although Dubai’s infrastructure may be the height of modernity, its laws banning strikes of any kind are reminiscent of the 19th century. The workers are unable to organize and so just keep working under horrendous conditions unless they give up, like a defeated Indian worker who jumped off the very building he had worked tirelessly to build, the Burj Khalifa.
After a five hour flight to DC, a three hour layover, and a thirteen hour flight to Dubai, I had finally arrived. When the captain said we were fifteen minutes away from landing, I started looking out the window. It was a very unusual experience. Normally when a plane gets close to a city, you start to see the rural landscape become suburban and then urban, but with Dubai, there was just desert as far as the eye could see until suddenly skyscrapers rose out of the sand-covered landscape, and I could see the city.
I stepped off the plane and immediately felt the blazing desert heat through the small space between the plane and the gate. Luckily, as I walked farther into the airport, the air conditioning kicked in. As I looked around the airport, it was immediately obvious that I was not in America anymore. The palm trees inside the terminal and the women running around in long black niqabs along with the designated “Prayer Room” seemed so foreign and fascinating at the same time. I quickly went through customs and baggage claim to find the father of the family I am staying with, Bassam. When I stepped outside, I jumped back. It was 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit)!
After a while, I found Bassam, and we drove from Dubai to Sharjah, a distance that wasn’t that long but took over an hour because of the traffic. As he drove, I looked out the window and saw familiar stores like Samsung and Sony as well as jet black buildings labeled only in Arabic. When I arrived, I met my host family, and we had a great dinner together where we talked a lot about the World Cup. I found it so interesting that even halfway around the world, people were still as engrossed in the same event. Right now, I’m going to sleep because I’m tired and jet-lagged.
Twenty-five years ago, Chinese university students marched into Tiananmen Square to mourn the passing of a liberal leader who had fought for reform. Over the course of the peaceful protest, over one million people stood in Tiananmen Square, supporting freedom of speech and economic reform. At first, the government showed a willingness to allow the protest to continue, refusing to take any action on the issue. However, hardliners, led by Deng Xiaoping, imposed martial law and sent in over 300,000 troops to restore order. The soldiers shot into the crowd to disperse the protest. Many were injured or killed, and the demonstration officially ended on June 4.
This protest became famous worldwide when this photograph was taken. It depicts an average citizen challenging the might of the central government by refusing to move even when heavily armored tanks are in front of him. He stood for liberty and never got out of the way. Eventually, the tanks went around him, and he continued to go about his daily business. To this day, he remains anonymous.
Now, at the twenty-fifth anniversary of this protest, the Chinese government is desperately trying to prevent all remembrance of the government-sanctioned massacre. They are blocking online searches for the date, Tiananmen Square, and all names connected to this event. In fact, they have done such a tremendous job of censoring the Internet that most Chinese have forgotten the significance of this day, and most of the protests will be conducted overseas. It is an immense tragedy that ordinary Chinese will not know why this day is important. The very fact that all traces of this event have been wiped from the Chinese Internet speaks to the still relevant demand of the protesters for an end to government censorship. We wish any potential protestors the best of luck and hope that things will soon change in China.
On Memorial Day, it is important to think about the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Soldiers have fought and died throughout American history, from the Revolutionary War to the War in Afghanistan. They are not often thought about because it is hard to ponder the concept that others have died to preserve our freedom. Others have sacrificed to save us from tyranny. Soldiers have entered conflicts where victory was doubtful but still pressed on, knowing that back home, their families might never see them again.
To me, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the most meaningful monument because it acknowledges that there are those who have lost their lives for their country yet will never be recognized personally. We will never know their names, but we know their sacrifice. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said in his famous Memorial Speech of 1884, “Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death–of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”