purple-line-mapOnce upon a time in Los Angeles, before the Second World War, the Red Car ruled.

If a person wanted to trip from their downtown apartment to the beach, they would hop onto a Red Car, ride along Santa Monica Boulevard and end up at the beach in about an hour, a little less than it takes nowadays to drive the route during rush hour.

But the automobile culture wrought by returning service members with new families, good jobs and digs in the suburbs birthed the ultimate car culture consumer corridor – that portion of Wilshire Boulevard known as the Miracle Mile right here in the center of Los Angeles.

Last week at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Therese McMillan, acting administrator for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) described the treats greeting the new 1950s window shoppers – drive by shoppers.

“Every store was designed to appeal to drivers,” she said as she spoke to a crowd of public officials, county employees and labor representatives.

But that ‘advance’ came at a cost, the one we pay today, she said. “We’ve learned that when you design every aspect of a community around cars, you become dependent on them.”

It was that small introduction that Ms. McMillan turned over the podium to the elected officials who had, over decades of effort, developed the web of community-cooperation, federal, state and county funding and conquered technical challenges to make the subway from its current end point at Western and Wilshire to its eventual end point at Wilshire near Westwood.

Two of those taking special bows, nay, victory laps during the METRO Purple Line Extension groundbreaking ceremony were Rep. Henry Waxman and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

It was Mr. Yaroslavsky who recalled the resuscitation of the project.

He recalled how nearly thirty years ago, a methane gas explosion ripped through the Fairfax District near Beverly Boulevard, injuring nearly two dozen people and delivering a seemingly fatal blow to plans to build a subway along Wilshire Boulevard to the Westside of Los Angeles.

Congress designated the area a “methane gas hazard zone” shut down development.

Money was restored to subway construction and other major transit projects in 2008, when Mr. Yaroslavsky promoted a successful half-cent sales tax.

Measure R is expected to generate $40 billion over 30 years. The measure detailed specific rail and highway projects that will be undertaken besides the Purple Line extension subway on the Westside and on the Expo Line, a light rail project backed by Mr. Yaroslavsky that begins in Downtown Los Angeles and will end in Santa Monica when completed in 2017.

“This is one of the densest corridors — actually, the densest outside of downtown,” Yaroslavsky said. “The reason it is going down this corridor, the reason it has to go this way, is because it is serving the most people.”

He added that the western side of the city hasn’t had a mass transit rail system since the Red Line disbanded in the area approximately 60 years ago.

Henry Waxman took his judos for formulating the financial packages need from the federal government at a time while the Democrats still had a House majority. He called it “the largest public infrastructure project in the country.”

Both Mr. Waxman and Mr. Yaroslavsky are retiring from politics this year.

“For almost 20 years this segment of our subway has been stalled,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Calling herself a “city girl,” California Senator Diane Feinstein said, “The ability to bring a system to bear — that will provide transportation literally for hundreds of thousands of people, keep pollutants out of the air, people don’t have to worry about parking or gas costs — that is really a service to a growing city.”

Pointing out the likelihood of the new GOP-controlled House and Senate to play hanky-panky with the funding for the nearly $3 billion project, she promised to do battle for the rest of the funds and for additional funding to expand the system further into neighborhoods.

West Hollywood, as the central station, car yard and generating plant for the Pacific Red Car had hoped to be included in the extension of the subway to the westside, but the Metro planners found that the most regular commuter traffic would be served by the Wilshire extension alone.

In 2008, METRO began studies that whittled 17 possible subway routes down to four, plus a fifth in which a dedicated bus lane was proposed, to be built for roughly $6.5 billion.

West Hollywood’s so-called Pink Line was included in two of the four subway finalists, offering a short cut from Century City to Hollywood and the Valley.

It became clear after more community meetings and study that the WeHo Pink Line would not experience enough regular ridership to pay its way, a huge disappointment to city officials.

Finally, the METRO planners admitted that, “While the (study) identifies that the West Hollywood line has very high potential as a transit corridor, further study is needed to determine if a more cost-effective transit alternative such as light rail subway may provide a project that would be more competitive under federal funding criteria.”

West Hollywood officials still wanted a subway line running through town and were willing to spend seed money to get one, contracting with a lobbying firm in 2010 to investigate the numbers presented in the Westside Subway Extension Draft EIR by Metro.

There is continued hope that a Green Line extension up to Century City can be extended the few miles East to West Hollywood and then Hollywood to link the Green light rail with the Red subway line.

Now that Phase 1 of the Purple Line extension has begun, the $2.821 billion undertaking will take until approximately 2023 to get from its current terminus at Western to La Cienega Boulevard.

More stations are planned for Wilshire Boulevard at La Brea and Fairfax avenues. The entire length of Phase 1 is 3.9 miles.

The Purple Line Phase 2 will extend the subway an additional 2.6 miles, and should be constructed beginning in 2019, taking until 2026 to complete. Phase 3 is to finish the project with the final 2.9 miles ending at the VA Hospital – by approximately 2035.

While the Purple Line budget is approximately $6.3 billion, no one knows how much money will be needed, nor from where METRO will find it to build the project out.

That means that Los Angeles city, county, state and federal officials, in order to see the task completed as envisioned, must stay ever vigilant for new funding mechanisms and any attempts to raid the project of funding.

– See more at: http://www.wehonews.com/z/wehonews/let-the-subway-ground-be-broken/#sthash.DnvHxEa7.dpuf

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christian-bale-batman_articleFor much of the past decade, the name Batman has been synonymous with one man – Christian Bale. Having played Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader for all three films in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy, Bale was the rock on which that entire franchise was built and often doesn’t get enough credit for the job he did.

Now, Bale is out there doing press rounds for Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and during his first interviews he was asked about the next man to take on the cape and the cowl – Ben Affleck in Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. He tells Empire (via CBM) that when he first heard the news of them doing another Batman, he was a bit taken aback at first that he didn’t get to play Batman again:

“I’ve got to admit initially, even though I felt that it was the right time to stop, there was always a bit of me going, ‘Oh go on… Let’s do another’. So when I heard there was someone else doing it, there was a moment where I just stopped and stared into nothing for half an hour.”

The studio of course is going with a decidedly older and more burned out Batman for their new film, along with it being in an entirely different cinematic universe to the Dark Knight Films. Even so, Bale obviously still cares about the character and has already been in touch with Affleck to offer advice:

“I’m 40. The fact that I’m jealous of someone else playing Batman… I think I should have gotten over it by now. I haven’t spoken with Ben, but I emailed him offering bits of advice that I learned the hard way. I would imagine he is doing everything he can to avoid anything that I did.”

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Deputy_AG_James_Cole_WideAgency feels it’s best to give up freedoms, privacy to “keep the kids safe”, Apple and Google say “yea, right”

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, James Michael Cole, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States (DAG-US), last month met with high-ranking Apple, Inc. (AAPL) executives to discuss their plans to allows consumers to encrypt their personal data on their smartphones.  During the meeting he expressed strong disdain for the company’s privacy protections and lofted a wild argument that his critics complained was inflammatory hyperbole.

I. “Won’t Somebody, PLEASE Think of the Children!”

The report states that DAG Cole, the second highest-ranking official at the U.S. Department of Justice, claimed that children would die if Apple carried out the scheme.

His argument reportedly boiled down to that law enforcement might be able to find details in a missing child case on a suspect’s phone, but be stymied by encryption, leading to a delay in finding the child.  Such a delay, he argued could allow a child to die.

Apple executives weren’t buying into the DOJ official’s hypotheticals.  The WSJ report states:

The meeting last month ended in a standoff. Apple executives thought the dead-child scenario was inflammatory. They told the government officials law enforcement could obtain the same kind of information elsewhere, including from operators of telecommunications networks and from backup computers and other phones, according to the people who attended.

Both Apple and Google Inc. (GOOG) in recent months adopted features that allow users to fully encrypt their pictures, video, messages, and other data on their mobile device.  As mentioned above, while the data on the device is encrypted, data stored in the cloud by Apple or Google is still vulnerable to court ordered data grabs.  Likewise, data stored locally on the user’s PC associated with the device may be less secure, depending on their level of encryption on that computer.

Both Apple and Google have been very cooperative with detecting and reporting child abuse material detected in their messaging and cloud storage services.  In fact, they’ve been so proactive that they’ve actually come under fire from some users who claim the companies shouldn’t be inspect user data for signs of child abuse.

Ironically, even as some users criticize Google and Apple for “violating their privacy” by inspect the data users willingly give them, federal law enforcement agency are attacking on a polar opposite grounds, claiming Google and Apple aren’t doing enough to assist law enforcement.  Thus far the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s director, James Brien Comey, Jr., has been the leading voice of criticism against smartphone encryption.

In a recent interview, he admitted that the FBI had abused the public’s trust in the past with investigations against civil rights activists and other abusive actions.  And he admitted that his agency operates relatively non-transparently so the public has no real way of knowing if those kinds of abuses have stopped.  But he argued that the public should take the FBI’s word that it’s since improved.

Director Comey argued that by giving users tools to protect their privacy, American tech firms would “allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”

Congress recently rejected Director Comey’s calls for legislative action banning consumer encryption.  They said the FBI Director’s requests were out of touch with reality and would allow Americans to fall victim to criminals.  The majority in both the House and Senate argued that banning encryption was overreaching and inappropriate.

II. 1984 In the Real World, Three Decades Later

This criticism was echoed by his colleague at Britain’s Orwellian spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), recently condemned the privacy protections.  In a recent op-ed in The Financial Times (UK), he wrote:

[Google and Apple’s smartphone platforms] have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us.

The GCHQ works hand-in-hand with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on hundreds of millions of law abiding citizens in the U.S. and Britain, saddling taxpayers with annual costs in the tens of billions of dollars to finance this unprecedented police state.  The NSA and GCHQ have reportedly worked together to sabotage encryption standards.  While that expensive effort damages both countries’ national security by creating vulnerabilities that can be exploited by criminals or hostile nation states, the intelligence agencies feel it is worth it, if citizens can be stripped of protections and monitored at all times.

The DOJ, for its part, seemed to take a more ambiguous stance.  Departing Attorney General Eric Holder in a recent speech seemed at times to praise the American tech leaders, and at other times to come close to echoing Director Comey’s stern commentary.  Behind closed doors, though, the Justice Department’s comments were apparently less vague.

Apple and Google show little signs of budging on the issue, though.  At an October global technology conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Timothy Cook stated:

Look, if law enforcement wants something, they should go to the user and get it.  It’s not for me to do that.

American business leaders complain that the government’s overreaching surveillance efforts are damaging their reputation, particularly overseas, where many regions are boycotting American tech products due to security concerns.

III. AT&T Files Suit to Block “Enormous” Volume of Data Request Targeting Law-Abiding Americans

Even at the telecom level, there’s increasing pushback, as companies like AT&T, Inc. (T) believe that mass surveillance programs are damaging consumer confidence.  AT&T on Monday filed an appeal seeking to stop the current volume of requests for customer data and phone records under the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act).

Due to the secrecy provisions in the act, AT&T cannot say precisely how many requests it has received, but reportedly the NSA and other agencies are collecting data on hundreds of millions of Americans using PATRIOT Act general warrants issued by the FISA court.  These general warrants are a wholly new development in the American legal system, that borrow from similar provisions the imperial British used in the mid-1700s in an attempt to suppress colonial freedoms.

AT&T says these general warrants and the data grabs they order are poorly justified judicially using 1970s Supreme Court decision regarding landline telephones.  They say those decisions “apply poorly” to the world of modern digital communications, a world in which many more Americans are connected to communications networks and a world in which data is far easier to grab in bulk.  AT&T could only legally say that the volume of consumer request by the American federal government was “enormous”.

AT&T’s bid to block the American government from spying on millions of law-abiding citizens will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, Georgia.  In the meantime, the conflict will continue to play out on a different level as smartphone platform providers battle their country’s government over whether Americans have the right to privacy.
– See more at: http://www.dailytech.com/Top+Obama+Admin+DOJ+Official+to+Apple+Google+Encryption+Will+Lead+to+Dead+Kids/article36914.htm#sthash.6HUbCZg9.dpuf

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