2015.10.16: Local’s Family Caught in Middle East Violence (NBC 7 San Diego)

Screenshot 2015-11-06 15.55.34
Local’s Family Caught in Middle East Violence

Hatem Mohtasab says he came to San Diego to study construction engineering so he can have a better future. Now he’s concerned about the future of his family in Jerusalem after his father suffered a gun shot wound from the ongoing conflict. NBC 7’s Omari Fleming reports.

Source: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/on-air/as-seen-on/omari11PM1015_San-Diego-333197331.html#ixzz3qkNOcCxb

2015.09.10: Leon Letwin dies at 85; UCLA law professor, activist and Angela Davis defender (L.A. Times)

Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2015

Leon Letwin dies at 85; UCLA law professor, activist and Angela Davis defender

Although Letwin later backed away from the party, he spent the rest of his life fighting for social justice. In the courts, the longtime UCLA law professor helped win important cases involving the rights of criminal defendants and high school journalists. On campus he helped defend Angela Davis when she…

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2015.08.29: Angela Y. Davis: Honor Leon Letwin By Reinstating Steven Salaita

Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

The following message from Angela Y. Davis was presented at the celebration of Leon Letwin’s life, held at UCLA on August 29, 2015.

Angela Davis, 1969

To the Family and Friends of Leon Letwin,

I wish I could be with you in person as you collectively evoke the phenomenal life and legacy of Leon Letwin. Although I am not able to be present today, I do want to offer a few reflections. I knew Leon as a man who helped to inform trajectories of social justice for more than a half century, and specifically as one of the driving forces behind the UCLA campaign that defended my right to teach. Shortly after I arrived on campus, facing a torrent of anti-communism unleashed by the Regents’ decision to fire me, it was Leon, as chair of the Committee on Equal Opportunity, who stepped up to write an official letter…

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2015.07.13: Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

Leon PixPhoto credit: Rick Clarke

An expert on evidence, civil procedure and constitutional law, Leon Letwin was on the faculty of UCLA Law School for more than fifty years. A lifelong social justice activist, he pioneered law school affirmative action programs, was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, and was at the forefront of defending the rights of political protesters, criminal defendants, high school students, and many others.

Family Background

Leon Letwin was born on December 29, 1929 to Bessie (née Rosenthal) (1898-1987) and Lazar Letwin (née Litvak) (1892-1957), who came from the Jewish shtetl (town) of Mogilev-Podolski in the Ukraine. His parents had participated in the Russian Revolution of October 1917, and narrowly escaped an anti-Semitic pogrom during the ensuing civil war by fleeing across the frozen Dniester River into Romania. Arriving in Milwaukee in 1921, they joined the fledgling Communist Party, and later opened Letwin’s Grocery…

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2015.05.16: An Appreciation of Mike Marquee (1953-2015)


An Appreciation of Mike Marqusee (1953-2015)
By Michael Letwin
May 16, 2015

[The following was presented at a celebration of the life of Mike Marqusee, held at Conway Hall, London, on May 16, 2015.]

Mike and I didn’t know each other all our lives, but we could have. He was just a few years older than me, we both from leftwing Jewish families in the US, in our teens involved with the black freedom and antiwar movements of the Sixties, high school revolutionary journalism, the anti-apartheid movement, Palestine solidarity, Marxism, and we both ended up in Britain, me in 1970, he in 1971.

Despite these parallels, we didn’t meet until the dark days after 9/11, when Mike sought out those of us from New York City Labor Against the War. We were so glad to find each other. At his invitation, I came over to speak at the November 2001 antiwar rally in Trafalgar Square, and for a tour of American antiwar activists in this very room, as the Iraq war began in 2003. He sent us Jeremy Corbyn to speak at the first national US antiwar protest in April 2002, and we brought Mike himself to speak at the massive NYC antiwar rally on 15 February 2003.

Central throughout were common efforts against Zionism, including defense of Gaza, the BDS movement, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, and an unshakeable belief in one democratic, secular state throughout historic Palestine, from the river to the sea, with equal rights for all.

To all this, Mike brought not only brilliant analysis, but an unshakeable hope, as reflected in a message he sent me on February 19, 2013, so strikingly reminiscent of Trotsky’s words shortly before his own death so many years earlier:

“One thing I feel more certain of than ever is this: that the greatest privilege in my life, apart from the love of those who love me, has been taking part in the global movement for social justice (or whatever we want to call it).  For a long time I was very hung up on the various political failures and  disappointments I’d experienced. But whether it’s thanks to cancer, or just the turning of the world all those seem pretty minor (though not painless) compared to the scale of our struggle, the scale of the forces lined up against us and the scale of our goals (human emancipation). I wouldn’t have missed this for the world and I feel sorry for those who have missed out.”

I was always inspired by Mike, and am very thankful to know he and Liz, who so generously welcomed me to their home.

Earlier this week, I was at home with Liz and his niece Hannah, visited his memorial bench in Stoke Newington, and felt Mike’s presence, as strong as ever. Clearly Mike is very much here today, and he always be.

2014.12.17: Defense Lawyers March In Brooklyn To Protest Police Killings (CBS New York)

CBS New York

Defense Lawyers March In Brooklyn To Protest Police Killings


Eric Garner (credit: CBS2)

In Brooklyn, public defenders and other lawyers marched at courthouses and a prosecutor’s office and staged a die-in outside a city jail. They later stood in front of a criminal court, chanting, “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe,” a reference to the last words of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island resident who was killed in July.

In Philadelphia, a group of lawyers participated in a die-in at the Criminal Justice Center.

Defense Lawyers March In Brooklyn To Protest Police Killings

Demonstrators Gather In Philadelphia To Protest Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
Rich Lamb reports

Decisions by grand juries to not bring charges against police officers in the cases of Garner and of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, exposed flaws and reflect racism in the system, the lawyers in Brooklyn said.

Both Garner and Brown were black. The officers involved are white.

“We wanted to lend our voices to protest what’s been going on for decades, not only in this courthouse, but in courthouses across the five boroughs and across the United States in terms of a really unequal criminal justice system,” Deborah Wright, president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, said afterward.

“We believe that every police officer who takes a life wrongly should be indicted and convicted,” attorney Michael Letwin told 1010 WINS. “Moreover, we think that the police department needs to stop targeting communities of color for disproportionate and discriminatory arrests and prosecutions and convictions that all lead to the kinds of killings that we’ve seen with Eric Garner and Mike Brown in Ferguson.”

Garner, a father of six, died after police officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

In cellphone video of the incident, Officer Daniel Pantaleo is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.

Garner is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.

The New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s apparent chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.”

Pataleo’s lawyer and police union officials have argued that the officer used an authorized takedown move, not a chokehold, against a man who was resisting arrest. They also said Garner’s poor health was the main cause of his death.

The grand jury’s failure to indict Pantaleo has touched off a wave of protests, including one in Manhattan last week that drew tens of thousands of people.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning to meet with members of the Justice League at City Hall on Friday. The group held a small protest Monday outside Gracie Mansion.

Meanwhile, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer may attempt to negotiate a settlement of the $75 million civil rights claim brought forth by Garner’s family.

If an agreement is reached, it would avoid what could be a long trial in federal court.

Officials with the comptroller’s office said Wednesday that the push is part of Stringer’s strategy to settle major civil rights claims before lawsuits are even filed.

2014.Spring: Matthew Ides, “Dare to Free Your Self”: The Red Tide, Feminism, and High School Activism in the Early 1970s (Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Spring 2014)

The Red Tide (1971-1981)

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 2014, pp. 295-319

Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/hcy.2014.0031


In 1971, a group of radical students at University High School in West Los Angeles began publishing the Red Tide newspaper. Using the Tide and oral histories of alumni, this article analyzes the relationship between feminism and youth culture in the early 1970s. It argues that the Tide’s authors successfully tied together strains of women’s liberation, 1960s movement cultures, and the counterculture; through their activities they integrated this synthesis with the youth culture of their community. As explored in this article, a feminist youth culture charted alternatives to the norms of adult authorities, and provided students with peer-driven discussion of sex, sexual orientation, and gender roles.



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2014.09.19: Kicked Off Facebook, and Wondering Why (New York Times)

Kicked Off Facebook, and Wondering Why

SEPT. 19, 2014

20shortcut-pic1-master675 “It was a Kafkaesque thing,” said Michael Letwin, of Brooklyn, after he discovered his Facebook account had been disabled. Credit Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times



Michael Letwin, a lawyer living in Brooklyn, went to sign into his Facebook account, as he does almost daily, and received a surprising — and unpleasant — message.

“Your account has been disabled,” it said. “If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our F.A.Q. page.” Mr. Letwin, who besides his personal page also helps administer a Facebook page for the group Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, clicked onto the F.A.Q. page and found a reference to Facebook’s community standards, none of which he felt he violated, along with the option to appeal.

He did. And then he waited. And waited.

Mr. Letwin’s situation is not unusual, or new. The question of what role social media companies should play — a hands-off observer that steps in only in extreme circumstances, or a curator that decides what goes up and what comes down — has long been debated.

Recently, Twitter refused to allow posts with links to videos of the beheading of the American journalist James Foley. Facebook is currently involved in a continuing battle with drag queens who had their accounts disabled because they used their stage names in their profiles — a violation of the company’s rules — rather than their real names. The furor led this week to a meeting with Facebook representatives and a news conference called by a San Francisco supervisor.

“We don’t realize how ingrained Facebook is in our everyday lives,” a drag queen named Heklina told KNTV in San Jose, Calif. “I was shut out of Facebook for 24 hours and felt like I had a limb chopped off.”

But few users, until they are faced with a similar situation, are aware of how little control they actually have over something they view as their own — their pages, their posts, their photos.

“When Facebook makes a termination decision, it’s potentially life-altering for some people,” said Eric Goldman, a professor of law at Santa Clara University in California and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute there. “They’re cut off to access to their communities” and possibly to their clients.

That is not to say that Professor Goldman thinks social media platforms should be completely unregulated. And, he said, Facebook and other social media companies largely do a good job of monitoring so many users and posts.

His and others’ main criticism focuses on transparency.

“The average person’s soapbox is now digital, and we’re now in a world where the large social media companies have a governmentlike ability to set social norms,” said Lee Rowland, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s a massive power and it comes with a responsibility.”

These questions arise with all social media, but the relationship users have with Facebook is particularly passionate, Professor Goldman said. Even as some say its impact is waning, it still provides 1.3 billion people — compared, say, to Twitter’s 271 million active monthly users — with access to news about their friends and to community groups.

“Our goal has always been to strike an appropriate balance between the interests of people who want to express themselves and the interests of others who may not want to see certain kinds of content,” Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s global policy management, wrote in an email.

Social media companies have every legal right to take down content or kick someone off, said Danielle Citron, a professor of law at the University of Maryland School of Law. As private entities, they are not bound by the First Amendment. They also have immunity from liability under the federal Communications Decency Act.

Facebook, like other social media companies, has a list of standards that users agree to abide by when they set up their accounts, even if they never read the standards.

Among other things, they prohibit posting of hate speech (which means individuals or groups cannot attack others based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition), encouragements of self-harm, graphic content or threats of violence. And the user’s real name must be used.

Anyone can easily file a report against a user. And Facebook has hundreds of people working around the clock and around the world in 30 languages, reading and responding to reports of violations.

Obviously, many of these categories are open to interpretation. Breast-feeding, for example, is something Facebook has grappled with in the past — essentially, how much of the breast can you show before it becomes graphic?

If Facebook decides to remove content, it sends a warning to the user about the action. People can also be locked out temporarily for a few days or a week. Grounds for immediately disabling an account include using a fake name or promoting child exploitation.

But Heather Dorsey, who lives in Milwaukee, had not done any of those things when she found herself barred from logging onto Facebook three years ago.

“My profile didn’t break any rules. I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary prior to getting temporarily kicked off,” she wrote in an email. “It was frustrating not knowing how long it was going to take to get the issue resolved, as I do use Facebook to stay connected, particularly with friends and relatives who live out of town. I am a freelance writer and social media consultant, so it was also an issue for my work.”

She tried to call, but ended up in an endless circle of recordings. She found an email address for advertisers and contacted it, asking what she had done wrong. And as suddenly as she was taken off, she was allowed back on.

In 2012, the website Gawker published a far more detailed list of Facebook’s Abuse Standards Violations used by the company’s regulators.

Facebook refused to confirm that the list was valid.

While the community standards are global, the company does obey a country’s laws.

For example, visually or verbally insulting Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is illegal in Turkey, so if Facebook is notified of such a post, it immediately limits the visibility of that post in Turkey. The same with Holocaust denial in in countries where that is against the law.

Facebook would not release the number of reports it receives nor how much content it takes down. It also would not say how many accounts are suspended or disabled. But it does not take more than a quick search on the Internet to see that many users are confounded when they try to log in and find they cannot.

That includes the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization last year posted a photo of a bare-chested bronze female statue in an article on its Facebook page about controversial public art in Kansas.

Facebook took the post down, telling the organization that it had violated Facebook’s community standards. It then blocked the A.C.L.U. from posting for 24 hours, contending it had posted again, which it had not.

Once the A.C.L.U. contacted Facebook’s public policy manager, apologies were given and the post was allowed back up. It was all a mistake. But as Ms. Rowland said, “Our ultimate success is cold comfort for anyone who has a harder time getting their emails returned than does the A.C.L.U.”

Professor Citron, author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace,” said of Facebook, “I think it’s a positive thing that they’re allowed to set community norms.” The problem is a lack of “technological due process,” she said.

“They should give meaningful notice so you know what you did wrong and have a meaningful appeal process,” Professor Citron said.

Ms. Bickert of Facebook acknowledged that “one area where we’re focusing is improving the information we share with people about our community standards and when we take action on reported content.”

For Mr. Letwin, that can’t come soon enough. A month after his account was disabled, he received an email apologizing, saying it had all been a mistake on Facebook’s part.

A Facebook spokesman said a report was filed against Mr. Letwin for using a fake name, which he had not done, and a reviewer looking at his account then mistakenly thought it violated Facebook’s standards regarding promotion of violence and terrorism. But the process took far longer than it should have, he acknowledged, saying that typically, an appeal should be responded to within a few days.

“It was a Kafkaesque thing,” Mr. Letwin said. “You don’t know if you did too many posts, too many likes. The rules are constantly changing.”

2014.02.14: Sign: Jews of Conscience Salute the ASA for Boycotting Apartheid Israel

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

Please sign, repost and share widely:

‘Jews For Palestinian Right of Return’ endorse American Studies Association boycott of Israeli academic institutions

JFPROR tinyurl

We salute the American Studies Association’s courageous endorsement of the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli academic institutions, which are leading accomplices in more than six decades of ethnic cleansing, colonization, war crimes, and apartheid.

As Jews, we refuse to remain silent as a so-called “Jewish state,” armed by the U.S. and its allies, commits these injustices with impunity in our name.

Contrary to baseless charges of “anti-Semitism,” BDS resembles the boycotts that “singled out” similarly racist regimes in Jim Crow United States and apartheid South Africa.

Applying the same standards to apartheid Israel, BDS demands nothing more — nor less — than freedom and justice throughout…

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2014.02.14: Leslie Daniels (1949-2014)



Leslie Lang Daniels was born in Mobile, Alabama on December 18, 1949 to Raleigh Daniels Sr. and Oralie Lang-Allen; both preceded him in death. Leslie was the sixth child born to this union. As a young boy, he attended Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic School and served as an altar boy for Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church. At the age of twelve, he relocated with his mother and siblings to Los Angeles, CA. From day one, Leslie never met a stranger and was a friend to all. He especially shared a deep and loving bond with each of his brothers and sisters until his untimely death. Leslie was definitely the life of his family; with the biggest heart and gleaming “potato chip” green eyes.

Leslie attended Mount Vernon Jr. High School and graduated from Dorsey Senior High School where he was a star basketball player. His love for basketball would follow him when he joined the U.S. Army in 1967. Serving in Van Berg, Germany during the Vietnam War; Leslie not only served his country, he served opponents on the court. He was “Spud Web” before there was a “Spud Web”. In 1970, he returned home to his family an honorably discharged Veteran. Upon his return to the States, Leslie became a work source recruiter for Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC). As a recruiter, he assisted individuals with acquiring the necessary work ethics and skills needed to gain employment. It was during this time, he met a beautiful woman who caught his eye and ultimately, his heart.

Leslie was a very confident, strong and intelligent man. He loved helping others and had a gift of making people laugh. He was a great cook and had a way about himself that made everyone he encountered feel special. It was these qualities and more that would capture Rhoda Cole’s attention. Leslie courted Rhoda and they were married in a beautiful garden ceremony at Yamashiro Restaurant in 1978. To this union, two daughters were born, Kellie Cole Daniels and his namesake, Leslie Lang Daniels. He was an awesome stepfather to Richard “Richie” Norris and raised him as his own son. Leslie adored his children and grandchildren endlessly and forever professed his undying love for them.

Leslie continued his passion for serving by working almost a decade for the U.S. Post Office as a Postman. He would later work for BNS Technical Institute as their Director until he retired. Upon retiring, Leslie relocated to Las Vegas, NV where he remained until his passing on January 27, 2014. In usual Leslie fashion, he became very popular at The Manor, the senior housing community where he resided. True to his ability to unify and bring neighbors together to have a good time, Leslie was affectionately named, “The Mayor of The Manor”… A position he took seriously.

There are many great things that can be said about Leslie but what he will most be remembered for was his love for his family and friends. He was a sports fanatic, a huge jokester and had a nickname for everyone. He absolutely loved the Dodgers and the Lakers. He had an unbreakable bond with Terry and Glen Gibson and the entire Gibson family. He was a loving father to his children, a best friend to his brothers and sisters; his nieces and nephews’ playmate and protector and lastly, Leslie always had a smile on his face no matter what obstacles life dealt. Leslie has undoubtedly left his family and friends with a void in their hearts; but a lifetime of memories and great laughs.

Leslie leaves to mourn his memory: The love of his life, Rhoda Cole; daughters, Kellie C. Daniels (Victor) and Leslie L. Daniels. His step-son Richard Norris; grandchildren, Kedan, Layla, Xavier and Victoria. His siblings: Beryl Warren, Raleigh Daniels (Joann), Ronald Daniels (Norma), S. John Daniels (Vita), Alexander Daniels and Marian Allen. His nieces and nephews and a host of extended family and friends.

Political Life 

Leslie “Slaus” Daniels was a revolutionary activist at the height of the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s-1970s. Slaus became a political activist along with his older brother, John Imani Daniels. Starting in 1968-1969, as recalled by Lil Joe Johnson, Imani was a Black student leader at Los Angeles City College, working in alliance with the Black Panther Party and other grassroots activists, and “was among the first intellectually developed and openly Marxist theoretical as well as political leaders in the Black liberation movement in L.A.” As Lil Joe puts it, “We were deeply involved in practical politics from a revolutionary perspective, praxis!” In this he was also joined by joined his brothers Raleigh and Ronald in participation in the revolutionary movement.

Meanwhile, while stationed in West Germany, Slaus helped organize GI protests against the Vietnam War and widespread racism in the military. In the early-mid Seventies, he joined Imani, Joe and others to organize the Socialist Collective, a South Central-based Marxist group.

The SC and its predecessors organized grassroots campaigns around the war (1969-1973); LAPD brutality in the community during that time period, the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee (1973), the CIA-sponsored coup in Chile (1973), LAPD assassination of the Symbionese Liberation Army (1974), defense of the “Attica Brothers” (1974), solidarity with the Portuguese Revolution (1974) and numerous other issues of the time. Les was selected to be on the International Socialists “central committee” and moved briefly to the Midwest to fulfill that role.

Throughout, Slaus was particularly focused on treating young activists as equals, and helped build close ties between the Socialist Collective and the Red Tide, a multiracial Marxist youth organization in L.A. As he wrote in 1974: “The youth of this country, and of the world, have been the most revolutionary elements of the movement. The time for their development is now.”