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Man Sentenced in Online Threat Case Tied to Larger Debate

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FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2014 file photo, police officers watch protesters as smoke fills the streets in Ferguson, Mo. after a grand jury's decision in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Six months after 18-year-old Michael Brown died in the street in Ferguson, Missouri, the Justice Department is close to announcing its findings in the racially charged police shooting that launched "hands up, don't shoot" protests across the nation. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

In this Nov. 25, 2014 file photo, police officers watch protesters as smoke fills the streets in Ferguson, Mo. after a grand jury’s decision in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

MARTHA BELLISLE, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — A Washington man who posted Facebook comments threatening a former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer will avoid prison but has been ordered to stay off social media sites in a case that is part of a broader legal debate about when social media rants go beyond hyperbole and become a crime.

Before U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik handed down Jaleel Abdul-Jabbaar’s sentence Thursday, he said it was one of the hardest he has had to decide. He noted that in a separate case — the recent killings of two New York police officers — the gunman posted Facebook threats before shooting the officers.

But Lasnik accepted the defense argument that Abdul-Jabbaar’s comments were simply a strong reaction to the unfolding events in Ferguson, and he had no intention of following through on his threat to shoot Darren Wilson.

Abdul-Jabbaar told the judge he made a mistake, “and it won’t be repeated.”

The judge agreed that the two months Abdul-Jabbaar already spent behind bars was enough and ordered three years of supervised release.

In arguing for government monitoring of Abdul-Jabbaar’s computer, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg said: “It’s OK to be frustrated, it’s OK to be angry about current events, and it’s OK to express that frustration. But our society cannot tolerate the type of violent threats the defendant made.”

Abdul-Jabbaar pleaded guilty Feb. 2 for posting a threat against Wilson on Facebook that included a call to “give back those bullets that Police Officer Darren Wilson fired into the body of Mike Brown.”

Federal prosecutors said Abdul-Jabbaar posted inflammatory messages for months after the Aug. 9 killing of Brown sparked protests nationwide. Assistant Federal Public Defender Kyana Givens said each note was in response to the news of the day out of Ferguson.

The popularity of social media sites like Facebook and its users’ willingness to speak their minds have landed people in jail and left lawyers arguing over what constitutes a “true threat” — one not protected by the First Amendment — and what is simply an exercise of free speech.

“It’s definitely an area of law that is in a state of flux,” Judge Lasnik said.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in December on another Facebook threat case that legal experts say could answer some of those questions.

When Anthony Elonis’ wife left him, he vented on his Facebook page by posting violent threats against her in the form of rap lyrics. The justices are considering whether an “objective” standard should be used in these cases, meaning an average person would believe the writer intended to harm someone, or whether the threat was “subjective,” meaning he was just venting and didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

“Facebook ‘threats’ may be different because the person is not ‘sending them’ to the intended target; indeed, the target may find out from someone else,” said Loyola Law School Professor Marcy Strauss. “It also may depend on whether the ‘threat’ is written on the ‘victim’s’ wall, or whether it is posted on the speaker’s. Whether that is important may turn on the standard the Supreme Court adopts.”

U.S. Justice Department data shows the federal government has prosecuted many of these cases: 53 cases in 2012; 63 in 2013; and 53 cases in 2014.

Ayn Dietrich, an FBI spokeswoman in Seattle, said her agency often receives tips about social media posts, but this is the only case it has seen that focused on Ferguson.

“In general, when the FBI becomes aware of publicly posted messages online, the FBI has the authority to conduct an investigation when it has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has engaged in criminal activity or is planning to do so,” she said. “This authority is based on the illegal activity, not on the individual’s political views, position, or any other beliefs.”

Another Seattle man, Mark Brian Verhul, received prison time last year for posting on Facebook a photograph and message that said: “This is the cop I am going to kill.” A Nevada man was indicted in January for posting threats on Facebook to kill an African American police officer.

In the case the judge referred to, a Massachusetts man was arrested for posting “Put Wings On Pigs” on his Facebook page in December. The message was a repeat of the final remarks of the man who shot the two New York officers.

___

Follow Martha Bellisle at https://twitter.com/marthabellisle

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Education

Utility Company Recruits Black Californians for Tech Scholarships, Jobs

The scholarship will cover tuition and needed tools. It will also provide support services, such as transportation and childcare, through an agreement with Brotherhood Crusade, a charitable nonprofit.

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In an effort to increase Black representation in its workforce and the tech industry beyond it, Edison International (EI), a Los Angeles County-based utility company, has developed a four-year, $1 million program to provide scholarships of up to $25,000 to eligible students. 

 

The scholarship program initially focuses on Black men and women in California, but military veterans are also encouraged to apply, according to the company. 

 

“We believe a diverse applicant pool and workforce that reflects the communities we serve to make for better business,” said representatives of the company, which also invests in energy services and technologies, in a statement. 

 

Edison International provides renewable energy and distributes electric power through its main holding company Southern California Edison. 

 

The annual scholarship will include tuition and targeted support services while students are enrolled at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College for the Powerline Mechanic Certificate and Class A license programs.

 

Eligible applicants must enroll at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College for the Fall 2021 semester, enroll in the Powerline Mechanic Certificate program, and have a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) equivalent.

 

Applicants must be eligible to work in the United States, possess a valid driver’s license, and be eligible to obtain a Class A license.

 

Applications must be submitted by May 17.

 

The scholarship will cover tuition and needed tools. It will also provide support services, such as transportation and childcare, through an agreement with Brotherhood Crusade, a charitable nonprofit. 

 

According to Edison, the program’s graduates may qualify for a job at Southern California Edison (SCE), and those who pass new employee assessments will be eligible to start as “groundsmen,” employees who maintain and service equipment and facilities. 

 

Program administrators say the scholarship is being offered in partnership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 47, which also distributes funding for the program.

 

For more information, visit www.edison.com/home/edison-international-lineworker-scholarship.html

 

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Technology

Marian R. Croak Invented Technology So You Can Make a Call Using Computer

Marian R. Croak (1955–) has not only been in the forefront of the field, she has contributed to the expansion of technology, specifically Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), throughout her career.

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Marion R. Croak is now a vice president of Google

A 2016 study by the New York Times revealed that Black and Hispanic workers who graduated with computer science or engineering degrees were more likely than their white and Asian counterparts to hold jobs outside the fields of technology or engineering. These biased-hiring practices have historically limited opportunities for people of color.

Despite these challenges, Marian R. Croak (1955–) has not only been in the forefront of the field, she has contributed to the expansion of technology, specifically Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), throughout her career.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), VoIP is the technology that converts your voice into a digital signal, allowing you to make a call directly from a computer, a VoIP phone, or other data-driven devices.  It may also be referred to as IP telephony, internet telephony, broadband telephony, or broadband phone service.

Croak began her career at AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1982. During her tenure, she served in various positions within voice and data communication. Among the more than 200 patents she holds in several areas, 100 are in VoIP. She has helped advance VoIP technology, including calling and text messaging on cellular phones.

Currently, Croak has more patents under review, and has applied for and been granted more than 350.

During her tenure at AT&T, Croak was aggressive in climbing the ladder. While serving as vice president of Services Network in Research and Development, she was responsible for more than 200 programs dealing with AT&T’s wireline and wireless services, supervising engineers and computer scientists who would assist her in running the programs.

She was later promoted to AT&T’s senior vice president of Applications & Services Infrastructure, where she supervised more than 2,000 computer scientists and engineers. She was also in charge of development, testing, service planning, and product realization.

Croak left AT&T in 2014 for a position at Google. There she served as vice president for site reliability engineering, overseeing hundreds of staffers who troubleshoot complicated software problems across the conglomerate. She was responsible for getting the internet into areas of the world where there was none.

According to a 2020 Wall Street Journal article, that accomplishment makes her “one of the highest-ranking Black female executives among Google’s roughly 200,000 full-time and contract workers.” Only 2.6% of Google’s leadership is Black.

Little has been documented about Croak’s early life. We know that she was born in Pennsylvania and that she often spoke of her father as having an influence on her success. Throughout her childhood, she said, he “pushed her to pursue her passion for science through as many creative ways as possible, such as building a chemistry lab in their home.”

Croak started out on her journey toward engineering and technology in the New York City public schools. She later attended the University of Southern California and Princeton University, earning a PhD in Qualitative Analysis and Social Psychology  in 1982.

During a 2020 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Croak said: “I do care more about doing well at work, and yet many of the things I hear people say they’ve experienced, I’ve experienced as well. I feel immensely comfortable having white colleagues and friends and relatives, but sometimes there’s just this slight unawareness that we live in parallel universes.”

Sources: https://thinkgrowth.org/14-black-inventors-you-probably-didnt-know-about-3c0702cc63d2

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/croak-marian-r-1955/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marian_Croak

Image:  New America – https://www.flickr.com/photos/newamerica/32576506570/

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Community

Barbershop 2.0: The App That’s Putting Black Health in the Palm of Our Hands

Last week, he launched a high-tech digital tool that he hopes will save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic — and beyond. He also hopes it will turn around the troubling disparities that exist when it comes to the health of Black Americans. 

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Photo credit: Black Doctor 24/7

Dr. Bill J. Releford, a Los Angeles County-based physician and founder of the Releford Foot and Ankle Institute in Inglewood, is putting Black health care in their own hands.

Last week, he launched a high-tech digital tool that he hopes will save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic — and beyond. He also hopes it will turn around the troubling disparities that exist when it comes to the health of Black Americans.

The “Barbershop 2.0,” Releford’s new app, allows users to access Black physicians from anywhere in the world. Dr. Releford says he is building on another project he launched in 2009, the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program. With that initiative, he worked to screen 500,000 Black men for diabetes and high blood pressure in over 100 barbershops.

Releford says during the development process, he has had to keep some of the features of his software program under wraps before it officially launched last week. In a one-on-one conversation with California Black Media contributor Charlene Muhammad, Releford talked about the benefits of the app — not just for Black men, but for their families and communities, too.

CBM:  Congratulations on your creation, Dr. Releford. It appears uniquely positioned to have an immediate effect on Black men’s health.  Barbershop 2.0. Tell us what’s it all about?

BR:  With my first health initiative for Black men, we were going to Black-owned barber shops across the country, screening men for diabetes and high blood pressure, with nurses and volunteers. Now, we have COVID-19. It has been bittersweet.  We know the bitter part very well, but some of the things that have come out of it have been beneficial. The sweet part would be the fact that it’s forced people to leverage a lot of technology that has always been there but has never been optimized.  Number two, we are launching the Black Barbershop Physician Network, where you can see a Black physician, on your phone in the comfort of your home.

Health disparities have a number of driving factors. One of the most prominent driving factors, other than the racism, of course, is that studies have shown that African Americans prefer to get care from Black doctors, and studies also have confirmed that outcomes are better when patients are treated by Black physicians, particularly Black men.

Study results that were particularly granular in their data showed that white doctors tend to make less eye contact with Black patients as compared to their white patients. White doctors also touch their Black patients less than their white ones.

One thing that I have been hearing over the decades in practice, is a Black patient will come to me and say, ‘Wow! We’re so glad to see you, because they act like they didn’t want to touch me at such-and-such office.’  I hear it all the time, not knowing that there was some scientific confirmation of the things that people were just saying to me organically. 

How does the app work?

You’ll be able to see a Black physician on your phone, in the comfort of your home, using telemedicine. We also have a remote vitals component, where I can check your respiration, your heart rate, and your oxygen saturation from your phone, just by downloading the app. We can check your vitals anywhere, around the world — whoever downloads this.

 Is this just for Black men?

It’s not just for Black men, but the focus, our main brand has been, of course, dealing with health disparities, focusing on African American men. It’s available to anyone who wants to use the application, but a lot of our messaging is related to African American men.

When is your launch?

The app was fully operable on December 19, however, I needed to give myself a little time to get the kinks out. It launched last week on all major digital app stores.

The urgency is now. It’s a health risk just being Black in America. We do live in the most technologically advanced country in the world. However, African

Americans usually are not beneficiaries of that technology until maybe it’s antiquated or never at all.  So, we know the bittersweet part, but the sweet part of this is I’m hoping we can start having some genuine conversations about our health.

How did you come up with this idea, and what was the draw for Black physicians?

Number one, they’re passionate about our people, and this is a program where money is not the driving force. Love has to be the driving force first.  People first, then money, then things.  I discourage people to join our network if their first question is, “well how do I get paid?” That’s not going to be for them.  Although there’s money to be made, I don’t want that to be your primary objective. Before you ask for money, tell me how you can serve, first.  How can you add value, first. Or add value, then ask.

So, there is a spiritual component so to speak?

It’s got to be!  It’s got to be.  So, this is a program that’s not for everybody.  An old man told me, “Men count numbers, but God makes numbers count.”  I’m passionate about this. Not just me, but for me to serve.

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