February 28, 2013


City New Service


A judge this week issued a tentative ruling that Michael Jackson's mother can move forward with her lawsuit contending that the promoters of Michael Jackson's never-realized London concerts negligently hired Dr. Conrad Murray as the singer's personal physician. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos said she also is leaning toward tossing aside all other claims that could hold AEG Live liable for Jackson's death. Defense attorneys had moved for dismissal of the entire complaint, saying that two years of litigation failed to show the company or its executives did anything wrong. Palazuelos took the issues under submission and did not say when she would issue a final ruling.

The entertainer was set to perform a string of 50 shows dubbed ``This Is It,'' but he died on June 25, 2009, at age 50, of acute propofol intoxication at his rented home in Holmby Hills while rehearsing for the concert series. Katherine Jackson sued in September 2010 on behalf of her son's three children, Michael Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine and Prince Michael, claiming that the company picked Murray to be pop star's personal physician. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's 2009 death and was sentenced in November 2011 to four years in the Los Angeles County men's jail.

AEG Live attorney Marvin Putnam maintained his clients never hired Murray and that he, in fact, had been one of many doctors who had treated the singer in the past. He said after the hearing that he was pleased with the work Palazuelos did in preparing her tentative ruling and that he was hopeful she would conclude that the negligent hiring claim also should be dismissed. Plaintiffs' attorney Kevin Boyle declined to comment after the hearing.

He said during arguments that AEG Live, in allegedly hiring Murray, gave little consideration to red flags showing that the doctor was in debt and was not a board-certified cardiologist. Putnam said most doctors are not board-certified and that the fact that he was in debt was irrelevant. Putnam also said Jackson had a drug problem for years before he entered into any agreements to perform on behalf of AEG Live.

Palazuelos also said in her tentative ruling that she is leaning toward dismissing Timothy Leiweke, AEG Inc.'s president and chief executive officer, and that company as defendants. Defense attorneys maintain AEG Inc. and AEG Live are two separate entities. Boyle maintains that the two companies' interests are intertwined.

Leiweke stated that he had preliminary talks with Jackson and his manager in the fall of 2008 about a potential tour deal. He said he did not talk with the singer about any medical treatment and that he never had any conversations with any of the entertainer's physicians.

``I never met or communicated with Dr. Conrad Murray,'' Leiweke stated. ``To my knowledge, no other AEG Inc. employee or agent every met or communicated with Dr. Murray either. Given that I never communicated with Dr. Murray in any way, I certainly had no role whatsoever hiring, training or supervising Dr. Murray.''

The tentative ruling would keep Paul Gongaware, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Concerts West (a division of AEG Live) and AEG Live President and Chief Executive Officer Brandon Phillips in the case, which is scheduled for trial April 2. Gongaware stated in his sworn declaration that he never told Jackson or any of his doctors what medications the singer should take.

``At no point did I ever require Jackson to take propofol,'' Gongaware states. ``I had no idea Jackson was taking propofol until after I learned how Jackson died in press reports. I had no suspicious whatsoever that Dr. Murray was giving Jackson propofol.''

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

February 28, 2013

Thandisizwe Chimurenga

LAWT Contributing Writer


Mumia Abu-Jamal is currently serving a life sentence for the alleged murder of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.  Considered by many to be a “political prisoner,” Abu-Jamal was originally sentenced to death; his case was appealed in 2011 and his sentence was commuted to life in prison.  He continues his efforts to get a new trial, arguing that his original trial was rife with judicial and prosecutorial error and misconduct.

In December of 1981, Abu-Jamal was working as a radio journalist during the day and driving a cab at night.  On the night of December 9, he witnessed Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in an altercation with a Black motorist.  Abu-Jamal recognized the motorist as his own brother and left his cab to intervene.  What happened next has been disputed for the last 30 years.

The prosecution argues that Mumia Abu-Jamal, armed with a hatred of police since his days as a member of the Black Panther Party, shot Officer Faulkner several times, killing him.  Before he died, according to the prosecutor, Faulkner was able to shoot Mumia once in the stomach.

Mumia maintains that not only did he not shoot Faulkner, but that the Philadelphia police department decided to frame him for the murder as payback for his years of reporting on their brutality against Blacks in the city.  No gunshot residue was found on Mumia’s hand; no search was undertaken to find the motorist (Mumia’s brother) who was involved in the altercation with Faulkner; and several witnesses who originally testified that they had seen Mumia shoot Faulkner later recanted their testimony, saying that they had been pressured by Philadelphia police to implicate Mumia.

Long Distance Revolutionary:  A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal is not the first film on Abu-Jamal however, this one is different; this film does not examine his case but rather, it looks at his life as a writer and revolutionary – from joining the Black Panther Party for Self Defense as a teenager through becoming a celebrated author of eight books while on Pennsylvania’s death row. 

The film, written and directed by Stephen Vittoria of Los Angeles-based Street Legal Cinema, features Cornel West, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Rubin Hurricane Carter, Dick Gregory, Peter Coyote, Ruby Dee, M-1 from the Hip Hop group Dead Prez, and a host of others.

Thandisizwe Chimurenga spoke briefly to both Mumia and Vittoria on Feb. 25, 2013.

TC: How did you come to journalism?

MAJ: I didn’t go to j-school, my experience in journalism was working on papers when I was in high school first, but when I left and dropped out of high school, I joined the Black Panther Party and I was recruited into its Ministry of Information.  There I put out leaflets and bulletins and little 8 pages magazine for our local chapter in Philadelphia.  I was then sent to the Bronx, NY and after that to the national headquarters [Oakland, CA] to work on the national paper, the Black Panther.  And that was my first experience truly with journalism other than high school, and I found it very enriching… a wonderful experience where you were able to study and learn and write at your heart’s content.  It was also fun for a young teenager.

TC: How old were you when you left school:

MAJ: I was about 15

TC: Once the Panther Party had their “split” due to COINTELPRO [counter-intelligence program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation] in 1970, and things progressed, you remained a journalist?

MAJ: I did, because I think some of the ‘flavor’ of those experiences remained with me, and I found that I enjoyed writing, and I enjoyed reading [aloud] what I wrote, so radio was really a kind of normal progression for me.  So I began working in some non-commercial college radio stations in Philadelphia and gradually made my way to some commercial stations, and I probably got fired from more stations than most people worked at because [laughs] my bosses didn’t really like the kind of stuff that I was doing, but I was having fun.  I enjoyed it.  I felt like I was doing the right thing so, what the hell.

TC: As a radio reporter, you reported for NPR?

MAJ: That is true, I worked at an NPR affiliate in Philadelphia and they took several of our pieces of local stuff that was happening in the city and broadcast it over their main show back then, all things considered- morning edition, and … for a local reporter to be on the national network it was a great thrill to know that people all over the country were hearing you.  That happened several times.

TC: And your reporting won an award?

MAJ: The George Polk Award [given by the University of GA’s School of Journalism] … that was for a local program we had called “91 report,” and we covered the arrival of the Pope in 1980 … the arrival of the Pope in Philadelphia and, kind of ‘disparate’ reactions.  I covered north Philly, actually a part of Hispanic Philadelphia and Black Philadelphia where there wasn’t a lot of reaction, shall we say, unlike other parts of Philadelphia that are far more catholic in their response.  But the show itself and our staff got one of the highest awards in journalism for our reporting.

TC: So you’ve reported for NPR, you won one of the highest awards in journalism, and yet, all things considered, one of the shows that you reported for had been carrying your commentaries and then all of a sudden, they caved to pressure and stopped carrying them.  What was that about?

MAJ: I think that, you know, we think about journalism in this country as a kind of free speech issue or even a constitutional issue in terms of freedom of communications, but, you know, there’s nothing free about it.  If it’s private, it’s owned and what the owners like to get - and people on staff learn very quickly what the owners like and what the owners don’t like.  If you step on the toes of the people who own that communications outlet you will be fired. 

Its as real as steel, and I got used to that because one of my first commercial jobs, when I began reporting on the MOVE organization, my news director called me in the office and said he didn’t want to hear the word “MOVE” as long as I was speaking over his station’s microphone.  We argued about that, I said it was news, and he went into a tirade.  I kinda talked him down and said ‘what’s up’ and he said when he was a younger reporter at another station he had gotten into an argument and they [MOVE members] treated him disrespectfully and he never forgot or forgave them.  And I said ‘ … that’s not a reason,’ but he was inflexible on that.  So I left that station and went to another station, after I got an agreement from the news director of the station that I could report [on the MOVE organization] and I did so.

TC: You have been very prolific and productive while you’ve been on death row.  Your first book was live from death row, a book of your essays.  You’ve gone from that book to now co-authoring books, you’ve co-authored a book with Marc Lamont Hill [of Columbia university] and you’re working with Stephen Vittoria [director of Long Distance Revolutionary].  Can you talk about that process?

MAJ: It is a new experience, I’ve had to get used to it. [Marc and I] literally made a book by talking to each other over the phone, he had this technological hook-up where he could record all of our conversations.  I would call him every Friday night about 7 o’clock, we would talk for 15 minutes, and the last 30 seconds he’d say ‘next week let’s talk about so-and-so, what do you think about so-and-so, and we would do that for maybe 6-8 months, and before we knew it, we really did have a book.  I have to say that’s the easiest book I’ve ever written.

What I’m doing with Stephen is something completely different because we actually are writing as opposed to talking to each other.  We’re reading, we’re researching, we’re really carving up the world, in half, to look at imperialism.  So it’s a different experience, it’s challenging, it’s interesting, and I think we’ll have something quite remarkable in a relatively short period of time.

TC: Every writer is different, but can you give me an idea of your writing process?

MAJ: I’ve never had ‘writer’s block.’ I know that may cause envy among a lot of writers and journalists but, I’ve always been stimulated by what I read, what I study, what I’ve been thinking about, really, since my late childhood.  So, I read a lot and I think a lot and, for me, I write in my head before I ever pick up a typewriter or pick up an ink pen.  I feel so juiced by the material that I’m able to write with a certain flow, ‘cause I’ve been doing it for so long I know where I’m going.  I take extensive notes from books that I read, pages and pages of notes, and that kind of frees me up to go back and forth within various volumes.  It is a work of discovery, because sometimes you’ll go places and say, ‘no, I need to change this, I need to change that,’ but , it has its challenges but it is the closest thing you can have in here to an illicit form of fun. 

TC: When we think about “life on the inside,” a lot of times we think about the censorship of mail, mail being held up; what kind of access to fresh information do you have?

MAJ: I do get newspapers … USA Today … I like it ‘cause its brief and ‘bright’ in some ways.  I read a lot of the radical press, foreign journals and newspapers.  Le Monde Diplomatique from France, other journals from London, and I try to keep informed.  I read a lot of books, and that’s been very helpful.  I continue to study, and continue to learn so that I can work with some basis of information. 

TC:  Why did Mumia appeal to you [as a subject] and why this type of film?

SV: I had been inspired by Mumia’s writing early on with the release of “Live from Death Row” back in the mid 90s and I was always astounded at the level of brilliance in his writing, especially when you factor in he’s operating under such harsh and draconian conditions – he’s never been on a computer, he doesn’t have access to a library, he has truly been … from death row, I think his work has been a complete herculean task, and that always inspired me, that his spirit was able to transcend prison and I always thought that Mumia’s work and his career was so much more than what the mainstream media has made it out to be. I question greatly his guilty verdict and the more you get into the facts of the case the more you see that, there’s no doubt in my mind that they have imprisoned a completely innocent man on death row, they have stolen his life for more than 30 years, they’ve stolen his family’s life. 

And I started to look into, ‘Who was this man?  What made him tick?’  And I was doing another film in 2005-2006 called ‘Murder Incorporated: Empire, Genocide and Manifest Destiny,’ and Mumia had recorded 25 answers to 25 questions that I had for that film and they were some of the most brilliant pieces of writing Mumia has ever done, and based on that work, I really started to focus on the idea of turning my storytelling eye and my filmmaker’s eye on the complete arc of his career – from the time that he was a young child in Philadelphia, growing up in what is clearly one of the most racist cities in America, at the time it was an utter and complete police state in the 60s with [former police chief] Frank Rizzo and [former mayor] Ed Rendell running the city, and it was remarkable to see him rise out of that , to leave high school and join the Black Panther Party at the age of 15 and just really mature as a writer and a revolutionary, at such a young age, was really an incredible story.

“Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey With Mumia Abu Jamal” will screen for one week at the Laemmle Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd. (LA 90211) beginning Friday, March 1.


Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

February 21, 2013



 You’ll have lots of contact with folks you wanted to hear from this week. Your telephone is your best tool, and you’ll enjoy talking and listening to many supportive and loving friends. A letter may arrive with an invitation. Soul Affirmation: I smile and trust in the powers beyond myself.



You are too kind this week and it’s a wonderful thing.  By doing things for others without thought of a reward, you’re racking up beneficial vibrations for your future! Take personal pleasure in what you do for others this week. Soul Affirmation: I let my friendships guide my way.



Exercise prudence this week in your handling of personal funds. Let your mind wander into the future and you’ll receive the happy answer that you are looking for. Time shared with a partner tonight will be very enjoyable. Soul Affirmation: Helping others is the true measure of my worth.



Work with a partner or colleagues goes exceptionally well this week. You receive praise for a job well done! Feel free to change your mind regarding a personal issue. News from a distance arrives. Soul Affirmation: I go inside myself to find peace and joy this week.



 You are a superstar at work. Efficiency seems to be your middle name. As you go your charming way, don’t forget to delegate tasks with a smile. Soul Affirmation: I give my mind a holiday again this week.



A relationship may be heating up. Make sure you know what you want, then go ahead. Minor challenges on the home front are easily dealt with. Soul Affirmation: The widest outlook comes from the look within.



 You make important progress at work this week by seizing the initiative and letting your leadership abilities shine. What you do makes things better for everyone around you, so rock steady. Meetings and conversations go especially well. Soul Affirmation: The word is in me. I bring it forth.



Pay attention to the details in your big bright beautiful picture this week. You’ll handle everything that comes up if you keep your focus sharp. A grand social event is in store for the week. Soul Affirmation: I am willing to make changes in my life.



Things are going your way in wonderful ways this week. Happy news may arrive from a distance, and on the home front, a romantic question may be answered. Friends are glad to be with you. All in all, a very pleasant week! Enjoy! Soul Affirmation: Success is mine because I feel successful.



Your social life gives big rewards during the week. However, give attention to e-mail contacts. Don’t be afraid as your mental horizon expands into new areas. Soul Affirmation:  You are gifted with the ability to give



Your relationships can receive a big boost from a trip that beckons. Business is also highlighted. Your strong mental energy is sustained through the week. Work it out by talking it out. Soul Affirmation: This week is the week the Lord has made. I rejoice in it.



Your vibes are calling to you this week to think fondly of all the love you are now giving and have given. Love itself makes you a better you. So act the fool and love with all your big sunny self. If things get stressful repeat your magic word to yourself: LOVE! Soul Affirmation: Freedom of mind is the greatest gift for me this week.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

February 21, 2013

Associated Press


The Supreme Court has passed up another chance to deal with an anomaly of constitutional law that requires federal juries to reach unanimous verdicts in criminal cases, but allows states to make different rules.

The court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of the rapper known as C-Murder, who is serving a life sentence for killing a 16-year-old fan in Louisiana. A jury voted 10-2 to convict the rapper, whose real name is Corey Miller.

Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that allow for non-unanimous convictions for some crimes.

The justices recently have rejected similar appeals asking them to treat state and federal trials equally. Decisions involving gun rights and other issues generally require states to extend the same constitutional rights as the federal government.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

February 21, 2013

By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr. Associated Press


Quincy Jones says he has co-created the music version of Rosetta Stone.

The 79-year-old composer-producer launched a new music education application Tuesday called Playground Sessions, which teaches users how to play the piano. He said the app will help children and adults learn how to read music and understand the mechanics of piano playing.

There’s “such a need for this,” Jones said in an interview last week. “The concept is brand-new. I have been praying for this for a long time. It has a learning concept similar to Rosetta Stone. I’m blown away by this.”

Playground Sessions is a musical app with real-time feedback and video tutorials from pianist David Sides. It features about 70 popular songs by Beyonce and Justin Bieber, and well-known tunes like Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

Jones, who produced Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and other successful albums, hopes Playground Sessions will have an impact on music education programs in schools around the world. One of first schools that will use the app is Jones' alma mater, Garfield High School in Seattle.

“Our kids in this country know less than any other country,” Jones said of music education in the United States. “We need something like Playground Sessions to push us forward.”

Chris Vance, who co-created the app and founded Playground Sessions, got together with Jones more than a year ago after working alone on the application for three years. He said Jones immediately saw a vision for the product and wanted to make learning music a fun experience.

Vance also said Sides was an easy pick when he was selecting a pianist for the project. Jones calls Sides a very talented piano player who has an engaging personality.

“I wish I had someone like him teaching me how to play the piano,” Jones said of Sides, known for his popular piano covers on YouTube, including his rendition of OneRepublic’s “Apologize,” which has garnered more than 10 million views.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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