10/22/2020

Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, October 22, 2020

                                     

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Summary:

Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced Patrick O'Neill of Garner, NC, to 14 months in prison for his role in the nonviolent protest on April 4, 2018 at the Kings Bay Naval Base in St. Mary’s, GA.

The remaining codefendants, Mark Colville, Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, and Carmen Trotta, go before Wood for sentencing on November 12 and 13. 


October 16, 2020

Patrick Challenges Judge, Judge Surprises Patrick

BRUNSWICK, GA—In a decision likely unexpected by both the defendants and prosecutors, a federal judge today passed down a significantly lower prison sentence to one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7.

Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced Patrick O'Neill of Garner, NC, to 14 months in prison for his role in the nonviolent protest on April 4, 2018 at the Kings Bay Naval Base in St. Mary’s, GA.

“I’m grateful that we were able to pull the heartstrings of the judge and help her be as merciful as she can be under the circumstances,” Patrick said afterwards. “Mercy is not her forte.”

Wood began the proceedings by telling Patrick she’d “received quite a lengthy, quite tall stack of records, of letters on your behalf.” (The KBP7 and their support team thank everyone who has written Judge Wood on their behalf!)

Federal prosecutors argued Patrick, 64, should serve the full extent of the recommended prison sentence, up to 26 months, because of his “past criminal history” of nonviolent protest and “noncooperation” during them as well as his “criminal associations” with nonviolent protesters. They argued that Patrick was not remorseful, risked his life and the lives of the people on the base including security personnel, and helped cause more the $33,000 in damages. The prosecutors’ so-called "risk of death" argument is unprecedented in 40 years of Plowshares federal prosecutions.

Representing himself before the judge, and once referring to “the fool for a lawyer that I am," Patrick objected to dozens of the prosecutors’ arguments. Over the course of the first hour the judge overruled all of Patrick’s objections to the prosecutors’ rationales for lengthening his prison sentence. 

Countering the argument that lives were at risk by their action, Patrick said the seven activists were at the site for three hours and seen by guards who repeatedly passed by but kept going. When a guard finally approached Patrick and some of the others the Navy sergeant cracked a joke.

”Now you know you're all in a bit of trouble don't you?” he said.

“I don't think he was feeling at risk of death at that time,” O’Neil told the judge.

Video from the body camera Patrick wore on his head the entire night provided the primary evidence against the defendants. “I went far beyond any acceptance of responsibility of any defendant. I signed a conspiratorial document with my codefendants,” he said. 

"You brought to bear the possibility, the specter, of deadly use,” the judge replied. "Thank goodness that nobody was shot."

Neither the judge nor prosecutor made mention that this protest took place at the locus of the most destructive weaponry in the known universe.

When Wood asked the prosecutor if there are any "victims" of the Plowshares’ “crime” available to speak, the prosecutor said there were none. 

Two of Patrick’s children testified on his behalf as character witnesses, as did his uncle who helped raise him after his father died when he was five years old.

On a video link from his home in Connecticut, Patrick’s uncle Dennis O’Donnell, 80, described his pride of his long time as a soldier in the US Army and 35 years as a Yonkers, NY police officer. O’Donnell, a Trump supporter, then spoke of his long admiration of his nephew and his wife Mary Rider’s kindness and generosity.

"I don't want to find fault with Patrick because I love him and the other parts of our family love him as well. He's a committed pacifist and that's not a dirty word. I'm not against the military in any way. I'm a proud soldier and so are my children. I’m proud of Patrick. I'm proud of Mary. And I'm proud of their children."

Patrick’s daughter, Bernadette Naro, 32 and a campus minister at a Catholic school in Atlanta, then read a statement describing growing up in the Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker House founded by her parents. (The statement will be available at www.kingsbayplowshares7.org.)

“Women and children who were in crisis came to live alongside us,” she said. “My parents chose to live in this way because of their commitment to living out their Christian faith, their commitment to sharing all that they have with the poor, and to taking personal responsibility for the problems they saw in our world. They centered their life around a few questions: Who is Jesus? What was he all about? And, especially what does he require of us?  He taught me to dig into these questions as I grew up and considered what to do with my life.

“When we were younger, and my sister and I would argue, my dad’s approach was to sit me down, stand my sister in front of me and say to me emphatically, ‘See your sister in front of you? See her? She is the body of Christ.’ His life is guided by the question of what it means to be a Christian. Not in words, but as a lived reality.”

When Wood asked her if there should be consequences to her dad's actions Bernadette replied, "I guess there already have been consequences.”

Timmy Patrick, 21, and a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said his father exemplifies "love incarnate, just positive intention towards everyone... (as opposed to) money and power and status.”

“He provides love and care not just for our family but for other people in our community, town, church community, and many of them receive substantial assistance in housing, food, and clothing, and human necessity from my father and mother.

“Dad's service to community is extended through this action,” Timmy Patrick said. “The Plowshares movement is a very internally consistent group with very strong held religious beliefs who are inspired by the teachings of activists and theologians throughout history.”

His father and his codefendants see nuclear holocaust as “a matter of when. They express legitimate dissent against the hegemony of militarism and violence that exists throughout our nation.”

Although his family members are the most important people in the world to him and they all share the same perspective, they do not agree on all things, he told the court. 

Judge Wood asked Timmy if it is possible to go too far in protesting nuclear weapons. He replied no, not compared to the trillions spent on war.

Seeming to some in the courtroom to be deflated following the testimony of the character witnesses, US Attorney Greg Gilluly referred to Patrick as "a man who has done so much good in this world and has a family to care for."

He then read a litany of Patrick’s offenses repeating the phrase "Unlike Martin Luther King... Unlike Martin Luther King…” arguing the sentencing guidelines are appropriate. 

Patrick then read a long statement to the judge. (It will be available at www.kingsbayplowshares7.org.)

“My hope is to never be vindicated. I hope the world can survive the nuclear arms race, and for global warming to turn out to be no big deal. I want our children and grandchildren to have a future with as much love, hope, and prosperity as most of you and I have enjoyed in our upbringings under First World circumstances. 

“I want my efforts on April 4, 2018 to essentially be viewed as misguided, foolish and in vain. In essence, I want to be judged wrong — not just by the findings of this court — but by the world,” he said. “For me to be a failure and a fool would be so much better than the calamity I fear for future generations if the Kings Bay Plowshares´ message turns out to be the horror we fear will come.

“This court, by its refusal to consider the lawlessness of weapons of mass destruction, is essentially declaring the end of the world to be acceptable. If the trident D-5 missiles are ever launched and millions of people die, including many of you who reside here at the center of Ground Zero, one fact will remain clear: No laws were broken.

“Rather than criminals, we are messengers, just like the abolitionists were in the face of legalized slavery, or pacifists who went to prison rather than kill. And we took a chance, risked our freedom, and were mischaracterized by this court as threats to the safety of the community.”

The “decision to invent, build, deploy and possibly use nuclear weapons will not stand the test of time as good moral choices,” just as slavery and other historical wrongs have now been judged by history to have been horrible mistakes, he said.

Patrick reminded the court that only three more nations are now needed for global ratification of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Ratification is expected soon.

In response to the defendants’ prior petition under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, an earlier judge concluded their act was "prophetic, sacramental, symbolic denuclearization.” Judge Wood, Patrick said, concluded instead that the compelling interest the court has in is to protecting the sanctity of Naval Station Kings Bay. That makes the unusual nature and risk of the action necessary above, he said, lobbying and writing letters.

“No one in this room today can deny that the theatrical tactics of the Kings Bay Plowshares has gotten your attention and the attention of thousands of people all over the world in a way no letter or phone call to Congress could.”

“I want you to see incarceration from the perspective of the convicted,” he said. “For me, walking into this courtroom is agonizing, emotionally horrifying and makes me feel physically sick. A person coming here for sentencing is likely experiencing one of the worst days of his or her life.”

“Trident is the opposite of love. It is a machine of mass destruction, that robs our neighbors of love and hope. 

“While I have not heard much support for us expressed by this court, my hope is that I have been part of an effort to plant a seed that will sprout and grow in your souls, and eventually bear the fruit of true peace in your hearts. And that all humanity will come together to reject war and trident and embrace the teachings of Jesus to Love One Another.”

Before passing her sentence Wood told Patrick, "You have a lot to put on the good side. And that must be counted for during sentencing…. But I have to take into consideration.... we are all bound by the laws of this country... There are consequences.”

Patrick must report to prison within 90 days. With time served and good behavior he might be eligible for release about 10 months later. He will then have supervised release for three years. Like the others, he is required to pay towards restitution to the Navy in the amount of $33,504 and $310 in special assessments. The judge ordered probation officers to have access to financial information, permission needed for getting credit, half of Patrick’s wages garnished.

The day before sentencing Patrick, Wood sentenced his codefendant, Jesuit Father Steve Kelly, to 33 months. Kelly has spent every day since the action in a southern Georgia jail and may be released soon, pending another judge’s decision about his probation violation from a protest at Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base in Washington state, the only other Trident submarine base in the US. 

"Your criminal history is not a storied as Fr. Kelly’s,” she told Patrick. Codefendant Elizabeth McAlister was sentenced to time served in June. The remaining codefendants, Mark Colville, Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, and Carmen Trotta, go before Wood for sentencing on November 12 and 13. 

Patrick intends to appeal.

It is perhaps a sideways victory. Patrick has received at least six months less time than expected. Still, he must serve a 14-month sentence in federal prison during a pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the United States alone. Twenty seven people, including a guard, have died of COVID at the Butner Federal Correction Institution, which Wood recommended for his sentence, Patrick said. He said 824 people there have contracted the disease. 

But, standing before the judge with his hands behind his back he gave a thumbs up to his family and supporters in the courtoom when Wood read his sentence.

“I think she saw how I live my life and she decided she wasn’t going to give me the maximum,” he said afterwards. “I’m not going away for as long as I thought I was going to be.

“I think this is a good omen for my codefendants.”

PLEASE DONATE 
We understand that many are struggling financially at this time. We ask for donations only if you are able and doing well. Thank you for all the support you have given through these past two and a half years. Your support for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 will help cover the ongoing costs surrounding the seven co-defendants while in prison and their families and communities. Checks can be sent to Plowshares, PO Box 3087, Washington, DC 20010. Or donate online here at this link: https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/donate_isaiah


TWITTER: https://www.twitter.com/kingsbayplow7

Emile de Antonio’s 1983 film, In the King of Prussia, is about the trial of the Plowshares Eight. The judge is played by Martin Sheen and the defendants are played by themselves. It’s available for viewing on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUph8GWFupE


The Plowshares 8: Fr. Carl Kabat, O.M.I., Elmer Mass, Phil Berrigan, Molly Rush, Fr. Dan Berrigan, S.J., Sr. Anne Montgomery, R.S.C.J., John Schuchardt, and Dean Hammer

You can read Fr. Daniel Berrigan’s reflections on the Plowshares Eight action from the book Swords Into Plowshares: Nonviolent Direct Action for Disarmament (1987), edited by Art Laffin and Anne Montgomery: http://www.nukeresister.org/2015/09/08/swords-into-plowshares-fr-daniel-berrigans-reflections-on-the-plowshares-8-nuclear-disarmament-action/

Here’s an article written by Anna Brown and Mary Anne Muller ten years ago, for the 30th anniversary: https://wagingnonviolence.org/2010/09/the-plowshares-8-thirty-years-on/

And here is a 1990 New York Times article about the Plowshares Eight: https://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/11/us/eight-sentenced-in-1980-protest-at-nuclear-unit.html

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares; their spears into pruning hooks. One nation shall not lift sword against another. Nor shall they train for war anymore.” (Is. 2:4) 






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VICE News Video: What Really Happened at Standing Rock, Featuring Chase Iron Eyes

We worked with VICE News to produce this powerful episode of "I Was There." Featuring an exclusive interview with Chase Iron Eyes, the episode describes the NoDAPL protests in depth and in relation to the present moment.


View video at:


https://www.lakotalaw.org/resources/vice-chase





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Denver Black Lives 


Matter Activists 


Arrested

Above: PSL activists marching in Colorado anti-racist protest 

By Left Voice

On September 17, six protest leaders, including four members of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, were arrested in Denver, Colorado in a coordinated  police action. Those arrested are now being threatened with a litany of bogus felony charges, including “kidnapping.” Four of the arrested individuals—Russel Ruch, Lillian House, Joel Northam, and Eliza Lucero—are protest leaders who have denounced the crimes of the Colorado police, most notably the racist murder of Elijah McClain. The repression against these activists, and many others, is nothing short of police-state retribution. As a PSL statement noted, 

“This attack on the Denver anti-racist movement and the PSL is part of a concerted national assault on the Black Lives Matter movement, an attack driven directly from the White House, from Governor’s mansions, and from local police chiefs and police departments around the country.”

It is clear from the manner of the arrests that the Denver area police are trying to punish and intimidate activists. Russel Ruch, for instance, was followed to Home Depot and arrested in the parking lot; Lillian House was surrounded by five police cars as she was driving; and a S.W.A.T. team was sent to Joel Northam’s home. According to the 30-page long arrest affidavits, the police used livestream footage, call transcripts, and social media posts to build a case against those arrested. These coordinated arrests, which utilized both surveillance and brute force, aim to instill fear in every Denver area activist. “Protest, and you could be next” is the message being sent. And the absurd list of felony charges, known as “charge stacking,” means the arrested activists could be facing years, if not decades, in prison. 

The arrest of these protest leaders in Denver are part of a larger nationwide crack-down on the Black Lives Matter movement. Across the country, protesters have been snatched off the streets by the police or federal forces in unmarked vehicles. In New York City, the NYPD used facial-recognition software to find and harass a Black Lives Matter activist. And earlier this month, in Washington, federal marshals gunned down Portland activist Michael Reinoehl without warning as he walked to his car. 

Left Voice denounces the attempts to repress or otherwise intimidate anti-racist, anti-police activists. It is unacceptable that the state, under direction from both Republican and Democratic Party leaders, targets and intimidates activists fighting for racial justice, while the murderers of Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and many more walk free. The real threat to public safety can be found in every police precinct, every city hall, and every seat of political power. 

Drop the charges against Denver PSL activists—Free all the arrested protesters! 


To sign the PSL’s petition to have the charges dropped, click here: 

https://www.pslweb.org/dropthecharges


To donate to the PSL’s legal defense, click here:

https://www.pslweb.org/donate4denver?utm_campaign=drop_the_charges_on_denver&utm_medium=email&utm_source=psl


— Left Voice, September 18, 2020

https://www.leftvoice.org/denver-blm-activists-and-psl-members-arrested-charged-with-multiple-felonies


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History, Great Britain, and Julian Assange

By Clifford D. Conner

Below are the comments Clifford D. Conner made at a September 8, 2020 press conference in front of the British consulate in New York City. Conner is an historian and author of Jean Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution and The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump. The court in Britain is holding hearings on the Trump administration’s request to have Julian Assange, the Australian editor, publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, extradited. Assange would be tried in a Virginia court on 17 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison.

In 2010 Assange had the audacity to post a video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter indiscriminately murdering a dozen civilians and two Reuters’ journalists in the streets of Baghdad.

Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, testified in court on September 16 that Assange could not receive a fair trial in the United States. When he pointed out that the Collateral Murder video was clearly a war crime, the prosecution maintained that Assange was not wanted by Washington for it but for publishing documents without redacting names. Ellsberg pointed out that when he leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did not redact a single name.

Assange’s lawyer has since informed the London court that in 2017 former Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Charles Johnson, a far-right political activist, relayed Trump’s offer to pardon Assange if he provided the source for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. This was described to Assange as a “win-win” situation for all involved.

A National Committee to Defend Assange and Civil Liberties, chaired by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker has been set up. For further information, go to: www.facebook.com/CommitteeToDefendJulianAssangeThe press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee: NYCFreeAssange.org

—Dianne Feeley for The Editors, Against the Current


Comments by Clifford D. Conner

I am here at the British Consulate today to protest the incarceration and mistreatment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison in Great Britain, to demand that you immediately release him, and above all, to demand that you NOT extradite Julian Assange to the United States.

As a historian who has written extensively on the case of the most persecuted journalist of the 18th century, Jean Paul Marat, I am in a position to make historical comparisons, and in my judgement, Julian Assange is both the most unjustly persecuted journalist of the 21st century and arguably the most important journalist of the 21st century.

Julian Assange is being hounded and harassed and threatened with life in prison by the United States government because he dared to publish the truth about American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for the whole world to see. This persecution of Julian Assange is an assault on the fundamental principles of journalistic freedom.

The sociopathic Donald Trump and his accomplice, Attorney General William Barr, are demanding that you deliver Assange to them to face false charges of espionage. Every honest observer in the world recognizes Trump and Barr as utterly incapable of acting in good faith. If they succeed in suppressing Julian Assange’s right to publish, it will be a devastating precedent for journalists and publishers of news everywhere—and above all, for the general public, who will lose access to the information necessary to maintaining a democratic society.

If you allow yourselves to become co-conspirators in this crime, History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.

Last November, more than 60 doctors from all over the world wrote an open letter to the British government saying that Julian Assange’s health was so bad that he could die if he weren’t moved from Belmarsh Prison, where he was being held, to a hospital, immediately. Your government chose to ignore that letter and he was not hospitalized, then or later. History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.

Of all crimes against humanity, the most unforgivable is torture. No nation that perpetrates torture has the right to call itself civilized. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has unequivocally characterized Julian Assange’s treatment in Belmarsh Prison as torture. History will neither forget nor forgive that terrible moral transgression.

Furthermore, the exposure of the widespread use of torture by the United States military and the CIA at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, at Guantánamo Bay, and at so-called “black sites” all over the world, absolutely disqualifies the United States from sitting in moral judgement of anybody. If you deliver Julian Assange into the hands of torturers, history will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.

So, I join together today with human rights advocates and advocates of journalistic freedom around the world.

I stand with the Committee to Protect Journalists, which declared: “For the sake of press freedom, Julian Assange must be defended.”

I stand with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which said that the attempt to prosecute Julian Assange is “a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news’.”

And I stand with the ACLU, which said: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”

History will not only record the names of the countries that collaborate in this travesty of justice, but also the names of the individuals—the judges, the prosecutors, the diplomats, and the politicians—who aid and abet the crime. If you, as individuals, choose to ally yourselves with the likes of Donald Trump and William Barr, be prepared for your names to be chained to theirs in infamy, in perpetuity.

History will certainly absolve Julian Assange, and it certainly will not absolve his persecutors.


Against the Current, November/December 2020

https://againstthecurrent.org/history-great-britain-and-julian-assange/



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Sign the petition at:

https://reinstaterichieventon.com

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Call for the immediate release of 

 

Syiaah Skylit from CDCR custody! 

 

#BlackTransLivesMatter


Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/gavin-newsom-call-for-the-immediate-release-of-syiaah-skylit-from-cdcr-custody-blacktranslivesmatter?recruiter=915876972&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=abi_gmail&utm_campaign=address_book&recruited_by_id=7d48b720-ecea-11e8-a770-29edb03b51cc 

Syiaah Skylit is a Black transgender woman currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). Syiaah has been a victim of multiple acts of brutal, senseless violence at KVSP at the hands of prison staff and others in custody. Many of these attacks are in retaliation for her advocacy for herself and other trans women. 

Syiaah’s life is currently at risk due to racist, transmisogynist violence at the hands of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCr). While all the offending officers should be fired, this isn’t about a couple of bad apples. We have centuries of evidence that prison will never be safe — for Black people, for trans people, and especially not for Black trans women.

“I’m not going to make it out of this prison alive if I’m left here any longer.” 

— Syiaah Skylit, June 2020

While incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison between 2018 and the present, prison staff have subjected Syiaah to severe and persistent physical, sexual, and psychological abuse (see below for examples, with content warnings). Staff at Kern Valley State Prison are also responsible for the 2013 death of Carmen Guerrero, a transgender woman who was forced to be housed with an individual who made it clear to officers that he would kill Ms. Guerrero if he was celled with her. Earlier this year, that individual was given the death penalty for killing Ms. Guerrero just eight hours after CDCR officers forced them to cell together. 

Facing immediate danger, Syiaah has repeatedly asked to be transferred to a women’s facility and CDCR has repeatedly denied her requests. We demand that Governor Newsom and CDCR immediately release Syiaah to her community and family before she falls further victim to the lethal danger that transgender people face in prison. 

[Content note: assault, sexual violence, anti-Black racism, transmisogny]

While in CDCR custody between 2018 and the present, Syiaah has:

- Been physically attacked by CDCR staff multiple times;
- Been threatened with sexual assault with a baton by CDCR staff; 
- Been forced by CDCR staff to parade through the yard naked from the waist down;
- Been stripped naked by CDCR staff and left overnight in her cell without clothes, blankets, or a mattress;
- Been attacked by other people in custody who admitted that CDCR staff directed them to do so;
- Had her property stolen and destroyed by CDCR staff;
- Been maced in the face and thrown in a cage after reporting an assault;
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as an individual she testified against who is facing attempted murder charges for his assault of a transgender woman. As Syiaah feared, this individual violently attacked her as revenge. This man was then allowed to attack a gay man after attacking Syiaah. 
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as individuals with histories of attacking trans women and other LGBTQI+ people, in spite of her pleas to be placed separately;
- Been thrown in administrative segregation after being the victim of an attack;
- Has had all of her recent documented complaints of discrimination and violence rejected under false pretenses;
- Has had contact with her legal representatives restricted to one phone call a week;
- Has been humiliated and discriminated against for going on a hunger strike as a form of protest;
- Has expressed numerous, documented concerns for her safety and had them blatantly ignored.

In spite of the constant violence Syiaah continues to survive, she continues to demonstrate her resilience and dedication to learning and growing. She has earned certifications in many educational and vocational programs and support groups. 

We as Syiaah’s community and chosen family are ready to support her with a safe and successful reentry plan if Governor Newsom uses his executive powers to grant her clemency. Organizations that can offer Syiaah comprehensive reentry support including housing and employment upon her release include TGI Justice Project, Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG), and Medina Orthwein LLP. 

You can read more about Syiaah's story in this article by Victoria Law for Truthout as well as this one by Dustin Gardiner for the SF Chronicle

Please sign and share this petition to #FreeSyiaah and declare #BlackTransLivesMatter! 

Please also check out our social media toolkit to support Syiaah!

[Please do not donate as prompted after signing, as the money goes to change.org and not to any cause associated with Syiaah.] 

Art by Micah Bazant at Forward Together.

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Snowden vindicated by court ruling – time to drop 

 

his charges.

Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA telephone surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden was illegal and likely unconstitutional. This ruling should finally end any remaining debate on whether Snowden’s actions constituted whistleblowing, and on his necessity of going to the press. The question now is how to remedy the legal and ethical dilemma he was placed into. It’s time to either drop his charges or pardon him.

The court’s ruling validates Snowden on multiple levels. It settles beyond doubt that his belief in the illegality of the programs he witnessed was reasonable. The panel of judges ruled that the mass telephone surveillance conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act was illegal. And while they refrained from issuing a ruling on the Constitutional challenge, they strongly suggested that the program was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They ruled that the government’s claims about the effectiveness of the surveillance had been lies, and that its legal theory about the necessity of mass collection of phone data was “unprecedented and unwarranted.”

Legally, a whistleblower does not need to ultimately be proved correct about the concerns they report. If they simply have a “reasonable belief” their employer is breaking the law, they are entitled to whistleblower protections. While any plain reading of the Fourth Amendment and the FISA statutes should have sufficed to prove a reasonable concern, this ruling is beyond sufficient affirmation that Snowden’s concern was “objectively reasonable”. 

While he should have been able to make a protected whistleblower disclosure based on such concerns, those channels were not a realistic option. As an outside contractor, he would not have been guaranteed protection under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) statute in place at that time. Critics of Snowden also conveniently ignore the history of other NSA employees who blew the whistle on these programs before him. The internal channels were used to “catch and kill” the complaints of at least four previous surveillance whistleblowers, placing them – and even the Congressional intelligence committee staffer they went to – under criminal leak investigations. Snowden saw, for example, the punitive treatment of NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake. Drake went through every conceivable internal channel: his boss, the NSA Inspector General (IG), the Defense Department IG, and the House & Senate Intel Committees. Not only did they fail to redress his grievances, many acted to further punish him: ignored his concerns, marginalized him, forced him out, blacklisted him, and ultimately drove his failed criminal prosecution.

Snowden correctly assessed that the only remaining option was to go to the press, and the 9th Circuit ruling credits him for choosing that path, noting that his disclosures enabled “significant public debate over the appropriate scope of government surveillance”. Indeed, this ruling simply would not have been possible without his public disclosures. The government had long maneuvered to keep mass surveillance programs beyond this kind of judicial scrutiny.

As a witness to large scale illegality, and without effective or safe channels, Snowden was placed in a dilemma: break his agreement to protect classified information, or break his sworn oath to uphold the laws and defend the Constitution. He chose to honor his higher duty and so turned to the only other available channel that could serve as a check against government wrongdoing: the press. Snowden turned to the “Fourth Estate” and it played exactly the role the Founders intended. We cannot now prosecute him as a spy or abandon him to a lifetime of exile for having done so.

In solidarity,

 

Jesselyn Radack
Director
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
ExposeFacts

Twitter: @JesselynRadack

Donate Now


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From Across the Pond


Johnson the Invisible Brat

By John Blackburn

Johnson the invisible brat,

Thinks he’s better than us all,

For he’s a posh prime minister,

Who defies international law,

No matter how many graves get filled,

Or the cupboards are running bare,

You bet you can rely on this,

Johnson won’t be there.

 

Hancock, Priti, any sycophant,

It doesn’t matter who,

Can keep a straight face on camera,

While reading the lies on the autocue.

Nursing homes, schools there’s Covid everywhere,

But whenever there’s a crisis,

Johnson isn’t there

 

Depravity, depravity there’s no match for his depravity.

He is nastiness in human form, with not a shred of common humanity.

You may read him in a by-line, or see his face in the morning paper,

But when there’s a problem to deal with,

Boris Johnson won’t be seen till later.

 

Depravity, depravity the are no bounds to his depravity,

He’s already broken every law and conduct of normality,

His powers of crass dishonesty are way beyond compare,

He lies in every sentence and doesn’t seem to care,

You may look for him in Downing Street or in another lair,

But when a job is needing done,

Boris Johnson is never there.

 

He’ll sack anyone who happens in his way 

And tear up any treaty he doesn’t like today,

He is outwardly respectably but he cheats all his friends

He’ll trample over anyone to get to his own ends,

Or he’ll send his hoodlum Cummings to crush dissenting minds.

Lies, corruption, negligence we know he doesn’t care

But when there is money to be made,

This time,

Johnson and mates will be there.

 

In Britain he acts like a dictator doing just as he wants,

Ignoring real life tragedies while posing for photo stunts,

For all his fake bravado, he’s just another coward,

A liar, a bully a posh self-centred fraud.

He’s an invisible prime minister who is never here, 

But whenever there’s Trump’s arse to kiss,

You can be sure that,

Boris Johnson will reappear.

 

Calamity then catastrophe with grand theft larceny,

Another billion of our money flushed down the lavat’ry,

He cares not for our suffering our deaths and our pain,

Fake news and lies again and again,

When things go wrong and account is called,

It is always someone else’s fault,

What ever the problem no matter where

He always can claim that he wasn’t there.

 

Covid 19’s, coming, 

He says we’ll take it on the chin,

World beating, moonshot, track and trace,

Endless lies and spin

Just more meaningless hot air from this uncaring buffoon,

Exam results fiasco, yet he never showed his face.

Children going hungry a national disgrace

We must take matters in our own hands,

To make things proper here,

Have confidence in our own powers,

Make Johnson and his kind 

Completely disappear.


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In April of 1971, Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, formerly David Rice, were sentenced to life in prison for the death of an Omaha police officer- a crime they did not commit. The two were targeted by law enforcement and wrongfully convicted due to their  affiliation with the Black Panther Party, a civil rights and anti-fascist political group.  Nearly 50 years later, Ed is still in prison and maintains his innocence. He has earned several college degrees, taught anti-violence classes to youth, authored screenplays, and more. His last chance for freedom is to receive a commutation of sentence from the Nebraska Board of Pardons. At age 75, he is at high risk for COVID related health complications. He must receive an immediate and expedited commutation hearing from the Board.-EMAIL: freedomfored@gmail.com@freedom4ed
Take Action Now
Write, email and call the Nebraska Board of Pardons. Request that they expedite Ed’s application, schedule his hearing for the October 2020 meeting and commute his sentence. 
WRITE: Nebraska Board of Pardons/ P.O. Box 95007/ Lincoln, NE 68509
*please email a copy of your letter..to freedomfored@gmail.com---EMAIL: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov
CALL:  Governor Pete Ricketts--402-471-2244  & SoS Robert B. Evnen---402-471-2554  & AG Doug Peterson--402-471-2683

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Urgent Action: Garifuna leader and 3 community members kidnapped and disappeared in Honduras

Share This 
On the morning of Saturday, July 18, Garifuna leader Snider Centeno and other three members of the Triunfo de la Cruz community where kidnapped and disappeared by a group of men wearing bullet proof vests with the initials of the Honduran National Police (DPI in Spanish). The DPI is the Investigative Police Directorate and when it was formed years ago, was trained by the United States. As of this Monday Morning, there is still no word on the whereabouts of Mr. Centeno, Milton Joel Marínez, Suami Aparicio Mejía and El Pri (nickname).
Snider was the president of the elected community council in Triunfo de la Cruz and his community received a favorable sentence from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2015. However, the Honduran state has still not respected it. The kidnapping and disappearance of Snider and the 3 other men is another attack against the Garifuna community and their struggle to protect their ancestral lands and the rights of afro-indigenous and indigenous people to live.
National and international pressure forced the Honduran Ministry of Human Rights to put out a statement urging authorities to investigate and act. Your support can make the difference!
For more information and updated on what is happening in Honduras, please follow the Honduras Solidarity Network

Contact Us

Alliance for Global Justice
225 E 26th St Ste 1

Tucson, Arizona 85713-2925
202-540-8336
afgj@afgj.org
Follow Us 
Having trouble viewing this email? View it in your web browser


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About Albert Einstein

In September 1946, (after the war, before the civil rights movement), Albert Einstein called racism America’s “worst disease.” Earlier that year, he told students and faculty at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the oldest Black college in the Western world, that racial segregation was “not a disease of colored people, but a disease of white people, adding, “I willl not remain silent about it.” 

His peers criticized this appearance. The press purposefully didn't cover it. He simply wanted to inspire young minds with the beauty and power of science, drawing attention to the power of ALL human minds, regardless of race.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” -Albert Einstein


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Party for Socialism and Liberation

Gloria La Riva nominated by Peace and Freedom Party in California

Now on the ballot in California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico!
Longtime San Francisco labor and anti-war activist Gloria La Riva was chosen today as the Peace and Freedom Party nominee for U. S. President. The party's state central committee cast 62 votes for La Riva and 3 votes for Howie Hawkins, with three abstentions. Anti-racist and disability rights advocate Sunil Freeman of Washington DC was then chosen without opposition as the party's nominee for Vice President.
La Riva received over 2/3 of the vote for the nomination in the March primary, but the State Central Committee's action Saturday will officially place the La Riva / Freeman ticket on California's November general election ballot. They will appear in a number of other states on the ballot lines of the Vermont Liberty Union Party and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Gloria La Riva said "We are honored to be the nominees of the Peace and Freedom Party. We are running not just to represent voters, but to represent the millions without the right to vote: undocumented immigrants, permanent residents, prisoners and parolees who are unable to cast a ballot. This is their country too."
Kevin Akin of Riverside, the new California State Chair of the party, reports that the ticket expects to get more votes in California than in any other state. "It's a clear way for a voter to show support for peace, socialism, and the immediate needs of the working class."

Read our Campaign Statements

Gloria La Riva Condemns Israeli Annexation Plan Calls for Solidarity with Palestinian People and End to U.S. Aid to Israel

Upcoming Events


Follow the campaign on twitter
Questions? Comments? Contact us.
You can also keep up with the PSL on Twitter or Facebook.
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Created with NationBuilder, the essential toolkit for leaders.


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https://www.nlg.org/federalrepressionresources/

Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 

The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 

State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:

Know Your Rights Materials

The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides. 

WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office

We also recommend the following resources: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective

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 Reality Winner Tests Positive for COVID, Still Imprisoned
With great anguish, I’m writing to share the news that NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, still in federal prison, has tested positive for COVID-19. Winner, despite her vulnerable health conditions, was denied home release in April – the judge’s reasoning being that the Federal Medical Center, Carswell is “presumably better equipped than most to deal with the onset of COVID-19 in its inmates”. 
Since that ruling, COVID infections at Carswell have exploded, ranking it now as second highest in the nation for the number of cases, and substantially increasing the likelihood that its medical capacity will be overwhelmed.
This news comes one week after Trump’s commutation of convicted felon Roger Stone, and two months after the home release of Trump’s convicted campaign manager, Paul Manafort:

Roger Stone’s Freedom Is All the More Outrageous While Reality Winner Languishes in Prison

Donald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence is galling on numerous levels. It’s a brazen act of corruption and an egregious obstruction of an ongoing investigation of the President and his enablers. There are few figures less worthy of clemency than a Nixonian dirty trickster like Stone. But the final twist of the knife is that Reality Winner, the honest, earnest, anti-Stone of the Russian meddling saga, remains in federal prison.

Continue Reading
Please share this with your networks, and stand with us in support of Reality Winner and her family during this critical time.
Thank you,
 
Jesselyn Radack
Director
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
ExposeFacts
Twitter: @JesselynRadack

You are receiving this list because you have opted in on our website.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

WHISPeR Project at ExposeFacts 1627 Eye Street, NW Suite 600 Washington, DC 20006 

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 JUSTICE INITIATIVE
Note: Below are comments from Ambassador Andrew Young, who is also the former Mayor of Atlanta. The Ambassador notes that Imam Jamil Al-Amin was wrongfully convicted and that it's time to 'rejudge'.

Below is also a correction in the title of the previous posting about Otis Jackson, who admitted to the killing of which Imam Jamil Al-Amin was falsely accused of committing. The article is included below with the title correction being, "There are demands for a new trial"

And again, please sign the petition for a new trial and ask your friends to do so as well.

August 10, 2020
Justice Initiative


"(There's one case) that weighs heavy on my heart because I really think he was wrongfully convicted."
 
This Man, a Muslim, helped "clean up" Atlanta's West End.
 
"I'm talking about Jamil Al-Amin," he said, "H. Rap Brown."
 
"I think it's time to rejudge. He's been dying of cancer and has been suffering away from his family in the worst prisons of this nation." 
 
Ambassador Andrew Young Jr. 
___

Otis Jackson Speaks - 
The Man Who Committed 
The Crime Imam Jamil Is Serving Life For
There are demands for a new trial for 
Imam Jamil Al-Amin
Please sign the petition for a new trial

The Confession - My Name Is James Santos aka Otis Jackson (We Demand A Retrial For Imam Jamil)
The Confession - My Name Is James Santos aka OtisJackson (We Demand A Retrial For Imam Jamil)


Otis Jackson is a self-proclaimed leader of the Almighty Vice Lord Nation (AVLN). Founded in the late 1950s, the AVLN is one of the oldest street gangs in Chicago.
According to Jackson, the group under his leadership was focused on rebuilding communities by pushing out drug dealers and violence.
In a never-before published sworn deposition, Jackson recalls the events of the night of Thursday, March 16, 2000, in vivid detail.
It was a cool night as Jackson remembers. He wore a knee-high black Islamic robe with black pants, a black kufi-Muslim head covering-underneath a tan hat, and a tan leather jacket. His silver sunglasses with yellow tint sat above his full beard and mustache.
He arrived at Mick's around 7PM, when he realized his schedule had changed. He was no longer the food expediter in the kitchen; his title was now dishwasher/cook, which meant he would wash dishes and then help close the kitchen at night.
Since his title changed, he wasn't required to work that Thursday night. It immediately dawned on him that he had a 10-hour window to do whatever he wanted. As a parolee under house arrest, the opportunity to have truly free time was rare if even existent. Jackson decided to fill his new found freedom like most people fill their free time-he ran a few errands.
His first stop was the West End Mall where he got a bite to eat, did some shopping and then headed toward the West End community mosque, led by Al-Amin. He knew it was a regular building off of Oak Street, but wasn't sure which one exactly.
He parked his black Cadillac in an open field and walked down toward a house that turned out to be the mosque. He passed a black Mercedes before he got to the mosque, where he met a man named Lamar "Mustapha" Tanner. They talked for a while during which Jackson explained to Tanner that he was looking for Al-Amin to talk about how the AVLN could help Al-Amin's community.
Tanner told Jackson to check the grocery store, since Al-Amin could usually be found there. Tanner then gave Jackson his phone number and hurried away to go pick up his wife. Jackson proceeded to the grocery store. He wanted to discuss with Al-Amin how his AVLN organization could help further clean the streets of drug dealers in the West End community.
By the time Jackson made his way to Al-Amin's store, it was already late. He was afraid the store would be closed since he didn't see anyone else on the street. His fear was affirmed; the store wasn't open.
Hoping that maybe the owner would be in the back closing up, he knocked on the door a few more times. No answer. As he turned to leave, Jackson saw a patrol car pull up. By the time Jackson walked by the black Mercedes, the patrol car was parked in front of it, nose-to-nose. The driver of the patrol car got out and asked Jackson to put his hands up.
Immediately, this scenario flashed through Jackson's head: Here he was, violating his parole by not being at work, with a 9mm handgun in his waist. Jackson was afraid the cops would think he was breaking into the store. That meant they would probably frisk him and find the gun. The gun would be a direct violation of his parole; he'd be sent back to prison in Nevada.
Jackson ignored the order to put his hands up and instead began to explain that he was not trying to break into the store. He stated that he wasn't trying to steal the Mercedes either; his car was parked down the street. Both officers were out of the car with guns drawn and demanding Jackson put his hands up. The cops were closing in and there was little space between them. Jackson made a quick decision. He backed up against the Mercedes, pulled out his gun and began to fire.
He fired off two shots. The officers, while retreating, returned fire. Jackson wasn't hit and bolted toward his car, where in the trunk he had an arsenal of other weapons. As Jackson explains, "the organization I was about to form, the Almighty Vice Lord Nation, we're anti-oppression, and we fight, you know, drug dealers and what not, so...we need artillery."
He quickly opened the trunk - the lock was broken and held together with shoe string-and grabbed a lightweight, semiautomatic carbine Ruger Mini-14 with an extended clip housing 40 .223 caliber rounds. Jackson then headed back toward the cops; one was moving for cover behind the Mercedes, the other was on the police radio screaming for backup.
Jackson approached the officer he thought was the most aggressive, who was using the Mercedes for cover and resumed firing his rifle. The officer returned fire, hitting Jackson in the upper left arm twice.
Jackson, now angered and fearful for his life, shot back, downing the officer. Jackson stood over him and shot him in the groin up to four times. The fallen officer, Deputy Kinchen, in a last attempt to plead with his killer, described his family, mother, and children to Jackson, hoping for mercy.
But Jackson admits that by this time, "my mind was gone, so I really wasn't paying attention." Jackson fired again at the officer on the ground. Dripping his own blood on the concrete where he stood, Jackson then turned his attention to Deputy English who was running toward the open field. Jackson believed English was flagging down another officer; he couldn't let him get away.
Jackson hit English four times. One shot hit him in the leg; he soon fell, screaming, thereby confirming Jackson's shot. After English went down, Jackson, in a state of shock, walked down pass the mosque.
Nursing his bleeding wounds, he tried to stop three passing cars on the road; no one dared pull over. He then walked back down the street and knocked on three different doors for assistance. Only one even turned the light on, but no one opened the door for Jackson. He then made his way back to his car and drove to his mother's home.
As he walked in the door, the phone rang. His mother was asleep, so Jackson hurriedly answered it in the other room. It was a representative from the Sentinel Company that provided the monitoring service for Jackson's ankle bracelet. The man on the phone asked where Jackson was; he responded that he was at work. The Sentinel representative explained that his unaccounted for absence would have to be marked down as a violation. Jackson agreed and quickly ended the conversation.
Although one bullet exited through the back of his arm, the other was still lodged in his upper left arm. Jackson called a couple of female friends, who were registered nurses. The women, who were informed by Jackson that he was robbed in the middle of the night, arrived at his house and worked for three hours to remove the bullet from his arm. Jackson then called Mustapha Tanner, whom he just met earlier in the evening, and asked him to come by his house.
Tanner arrived before 10am. Jackson explained what had happened the previous night and said he needed to get rid of the guns and the car. Jackson's car trunk contained enough artillery for a mini-militia: three Ruger Mini-14 rifles, an M16 assault rifle, a .45 handgun, three 9mm handguns and a couple of shotguns. Once Tanner left, Jackson called his parole officer Sarah Bacon and let her know that he "had been involved in a situation," but left out the details.
In the following days, Jackson was asked to report to the Sentinel Company. He checked in with the monitoring company and his parole officer, and was then given a ride back home. As they pulled onto his street, Jackson noticed many unmarked police cars. After entering his driveway, multiple police officers emerged. The police searched Jackson's house and found rounds of Mini-14, .223, 9mm, and M16 ammunition. Jackson's bloody clothes and boots from the shootout with the deputies the night before were left untouched in his closet.
On March 28, 2000, Jackson's parole was revoked and he was sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence in Nevada. Upon his detainment in Florida and later transfer to Nevada, Jackson confessed the crime to anyone who would listen. Jackson claims that when he reached the Clark County Jail in Las Vegas, Nevada, he made numerous phone calls to the F.B.I., after which an agent arrived to discuss the incident with him. Jackson recalls telling his story to "Special Agent Mahoney."
Special Agent Devon Mahoney recalls documenting the confession, but not much beyond that. Mahoney remembers getting a call from a superior to "talk to someone" in a Las Vegas jail and then to "document it and file it up the chain of command." The confession was documented and filed on June 29, 2000.

Gray & Associates, PO Box 8291, ATLANTA, GA 31106
Constant Contact
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Subject: Shut Down Fort Hood! Justice for Vanessa Guillén. Sign the petition!


 

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Timeless words of wisdom from Friedrich Engels:



This legacy belongs to all of us:

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forest to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. . . Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature–but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.” The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man 1876. —Friedrich Engels




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Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (Official Video 2019)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5TmORitlKk



Because once is not enough. Because sometimes music is my only solace. Because sometimes it hurts too much too care but to be human is to hurt. Because I feel lucky to have grown up with great music. Because that music was harmonic and melodious. Because that music had soul. Because I grew up with Blues and Motown and Jazz. Because I grew up with Black friends and we played ball everyday and we had fun and we were winners. Because they taught me about music and soul and acceptance. Because they didn't hate me for being white. Because I was brought up with Irish Catholics who taught me that fighting and arguing for justice kept depression in its place. Because they taught me that if you never quit fighting you haven't lost so never quit fighting for justice. Because I was in a union and learned that solidarity is the original religion. Because without solidarity you are alone. And alone is hell and because I have never been in hell. Because I am part of the human race. Because the human race is the only race on earth. Because I am grateful for Marvin Gaye, and John Coltrane, and Sam Cooke and because you know what I am talking about. Because we are going to win and we are going to have fun. Because that's the truth. Because no lie can defeat truth. Because you are there to hear me. Because I know I am not alone.  —Gregg Shotwell

https://www.greggshotwell.com



(Gregg Shotwell is a retired autoworker, writer and poet.)

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CODEPINK.ORG


Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers that police have used to kill thousands of Americans!

BlackRock loves to make a killing on killing: Over a thousand Americans have been killed by Tasers — 32 percent of them are Black Americans. Tasers are made by the colossal law enforcement supplier Axon Enterprise, based in Arizona.
One of their top shareholders happens to be Blackrock. Recently Blackrock has been trying to be sympathetic to the atrocities of murders waged on Black Americans and communities of color. If we ramp up massive pressure and blow the whistle on their deadly stocks, we can highlight that divesting from Tasers and the war in our streets will be a step in the right direction in building a fair and just society.
This issue is important to having peace in our streets. But this will only work if people participate. Send an email to Blackrock to divest from the Taser manufacturer Axon Enterprise which is responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans, and CODEPINK will pull out all the stops to make sure Blackrock execs hear our call:

Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers!

Blackrock could do this. They recently announced that they were divesting from fossil fuels — signaling a shift in their policies. If CEO Larry Fink cares about “diversity, fairness, and justice” and building a “stronger, more equal, and safer society” — he should divest from Tasers.
Plus, compared to Blackrock’s other holdings, Taser stocks aren’t even that significant!

But if Blackrock does this, it could be the first domino we need to get other investment companies on board too. Send an email to BlackRock and share this widely! 

Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers!

If there’s one thing our community stands for, it’s peace and social justice. And one way we can help achieve that is by cutting off the flow of cash into the manufacturing of Tasers. So, let’s come together to make that happen, and help prevent more innocent Americans from being killed with these senseless tools.

With hope,
Nancy, Carley, Jodie, Paki, Cody, Kelsey, and Yousef

Donate Now!

This email was sent to giobon@comcast.net. To unsubscribe,  click here
To update your email subscription, contact info@codepink.org.
© 2020 CODEPINK.ORG | Created with NationBuilder
    
 

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Rayshard Brooks, 27 years old, was shot to death while running away from police in Atlanta Friday, June 12, 2020.

SAY HIS NAME!


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/14/us/videos-rayshard-brooks-shooting-atlanta-police.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage


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Kimberly Jones

If you haven't seen this, you're missing something spectacular:

On Saturday May 30th filmmaker and photographer David Jones of David Jones Media felt compelled to go out and serve the community in some way. He decided to use his art to try and explain the events that were currently impacting our lives. On day two, Sunday the 31st, he activated his dear friend author Kimberly Jones to tag along and conduct interviews. During a moment of downtime he captured these powerful words from her and felt the world couldn’t wait for the full length documentary, they needed to hear them now.


Kimberly Jones on YouTube 


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BLACK LIVES MATTER


Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.
—BAUAW
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)


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George Floyd's Last Words
"It's my face man
I didn't do nothing serious man
please
please
please I can't breathe
please man
please somebody
please man
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
please
(inaudible)
man can't breathe, my face
just get up
I can't breathe
please (inaudible)
I can't breathe sh*t
I will
I can't move
mama
mama
I can't
my knee
my nuts
I'm through
I'm through
I'm claustrophobic
my stomach hurt
my neck hurts
everything hurts
some water or something
please
please
I can't breathe officer
don't kill me
they gon' kill me man
come on man
I cannot breathe
I cannot breathe
they gon' kill me
they gon' kill me
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
please sir
please
please
please I can't breathe"

Then his eyes shut and the pleas stop. George Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after.



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Credit...

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Trump Comic Satire—A Proposal
          By Shakaboona

PRES. TRUMP HIDES IN WHITE HOUSE BUNKER IN FEAR OF PROTESTORS
Hello everyone, it's Shakaboona here, on May 29, 2020, Friday, it was reported by NPR and other news agencies that when protestors marched on the White House, the Secret Service (SS) rushed Pres. Trump to a protective bunker in the basement of the White House for his safety. When I heard that news I instantly visualized 3 scenes - (Scene 1) a pic of Pres. Saddam Hussein hiding in an underground cave in fear of the U.S. Army, (Scene 2) a pic of Pres. Donald Trump hiding in an underground bunker shaking in fear beneath a desk from U.S. Protestors as Secret Service guards (with 2 Lightning bolts on their collars) in hyper security around him with big guns drawn out, and (Scene 3) a pic of Pres. Trump later stood in front of the church across from the White House with a Bible in hand & chest puffed out & threatened to activate the U.S. Army against American citizen protestors.
 ~ I think this would be an underground iconic image of the power of the People & the cowardice/fear of Pres. Trump, not to mention that I think such a creative comic satire of Trump would demolish his self image (haha). I ask for anyone's help to turn my above visual satire of Trump into an actual comic satire strip & for us to distribute the finished comic satire strip worldwide, esp. to the news media. Maybe we can get Trump to see it and watch him blow a gasket (lol).
 ~ Please everyone, stay safe out there, b/c Trump is pushing this country to the verge of Civil War. Be prepared in every way imaginable. Peace. - Ur Brother, Shakaboona

Write to Shakaboona:
Smart Communications/PA DOC
Kerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE7826
SCI Rockview
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733

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Still photo from Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove"released January 29, 1964

Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons 


Spending 2020

  In its report "Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons Spending 2020" the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has produced the first estimate in nearly a decade of global nuclear weapon spending, taking into account costs to maintain and build new nuclear weapons. ICAN estimates that the nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.9 billion on their 13,000-plus nuclear weapons in 2019, equaling $138,699 every minute of 2019 on nuclear weapons, and a $7.1 billion increase from 2018.
These estimates (rounded to one decimal point) include nuclear warhead and nuclear-capable delivery systems operating costs and development where these expenditures are publicly available and are based on a reasonable percentage of total military spending on nuclear weapons when more detailed budget data is not available. ICAN urges all nuclear-armed states to be transparent about nuclear weapons expenditures to allow for more accurate reporting on global nuclear expenditures and better government accountability.
ICAN, May 2020
https://www.icanw.org/global_nuclear_weapons_spending_2020

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Shooting and looting started: 400 years ago

Shooting, looting, scalping, lynching,
Raping, torturing their way across
the continent—400 years ago—
Colonial settler thugs launched this
endless crimson tide rolling down on
Today…
Colonial settler thugs launched this
endless crimson tide leaving in-
visible yellow crime
scene tape crisscrossing Tallahassee
to Seattle; San Diego to Bangor… 
Shooting Seneca, Seminole, Creek,
Choctaw, Mohawk, Cayuga, Blackfeet,
Shooting Sioux, Shawnee, Chickasaw,
Chippewa before
Looting Lakota land; Looting Ohlone
Land—
Looting Ashanti, Fulani, Huasa, Wolof,
Yoruba, Ibo, Kongo, Mongo, Hutu, Zulu…
Labor.
Colonial settler thugs launched this
endless crimson tide—hot lead storms—
Shooting, looting Mexico for half of New
Mexico; a quarter of Colorado; some of
Wyoming and most of Arizona; Looting
Mexico for Utah, Nevada and California
So, next time Orange Mobutu, Boss Tweet,
is dirty like Duterte—howling for shooting;
Next time demented minions raise rifles to
shoot; Remind them that
Real looters wear Brooks Brothers suits;
Or gold braid and junk medals ‘cross their
chests. Real looters—with Capitalist Hill
Accomplices—
Steal trillions
Not FOX-boxes, silly sneakers, cheap clothes…
© 2020. Raymond Nat Turner, The Town Crier. All Rights Reserved.       



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Veterans Join Call for a Global Ceasefire, The Lasting Effects of War Book Discussion, Sir, No Sir Viewing, VFP's Online Convention, Workshop Proposals, Convention FAQ, No More COVID-19 Money For the Pentagon, Repeal the AUMF, Community Conversation on Hybrid Warfare, St Louis VFP Delivers VA Lunch, In the News and Calendar




Veterans Join Call for a Global Ceasefire 


Veterans For Peace, as a United Nations Department of Global Communication affiliated NGO, is most gratified to see UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres make his plea for a worldwide ceasefire during this global pandemic. 

The first line of the Preamble of the UN's Charter says that they originated to save “succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. But sadly, because the UN was created by the victors of WW2 who remain the powers of the world, and because the UN depends for funding on those same militarily and economically dominant nation-states, primarily the U.S., much more often than not the UN is very quiet on war. 

Please join Veterans For Peace in appealing to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft to support the Secretary General's call for a GLOBAL CEASEFIRE! 


For more information about events go to:

https://www.veteransforpeace.org/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=fa5082af-9325-47a7-901c-710e85091ee1




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Courage to Resist
COURAGE TO RESIST ~ SUPPORT THE TROOPS WHO REFUSE TO FIGHT!
www.couragetoresist.org ~ 510.488.3559 ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist

484 Lake Park Ave # 41
OaklandCA 94610-2730
United States
Unsubscribe from couragetoresist.org 

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From Business Insider 2018

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"The biggest block from having society in harmony with the universe is the belief in a lie that says it’s not realistic or humanly possible." 

"If Obama taught me anything it’s that it don’t matter who you vote for in this system. There’s nothing a politician can do that the next one can’t undo. You can’t vote away the ills of society people have to put our differences aside ban together and fight for the greater good, not vote for the lesser evil."

—Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)

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When faced with the opportunity to do good, I really think it’s the instinct of humanity to do so. It’s in our genetic memory from our earliest ancestors. It’s the altered perception of the reality of what being human truly is that’s been indoctrinated in to every generation for the last 2000 years or more that makes us believe that we are born sinners. I can’t get behind that one. We all struggle with certain things, but I really think that all the “sinful” behavior is learned and wisdom and goodwill is innate at birth.  —Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)



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Support Major Tillery, Friend of Mumia, Innocent, Framed, Now Ill




Major Tillery (with hat) and family


Dear Friends of the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia,

Major Tillery, a prisoner at SCI Chester and a friend of Mumia, may have caught the coronavirus. Major is currently under lockdown at SCI Chester, where a coronavirus outbreak is currently taking place. Along with the other prisoners at SCI Chester, he urgently needs your help.

Major was framed by the Pennsylvania District Attorney and police for a murder which took place in 1976. He has maintained his innocence throughout the 37 years he has been incarcerated, of which approximately 20 were spent in solitary confinement. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture has said that 15 days of solitary confinement constitutes torture.

When Mumia had Hepatitis C and was left to die by the prison administration at SCI Mahanoy, Major Tillery was the prisoner who confronted the prison superintendent and demanded that they treat Mumia. (see https://www.justiceformajortillery.org/messing-with-major.html). Although Mumia received medical treatment, the prison retaliated against Major for standing up to the prison administration. He was transferred to another facility, his cell was searched and turned inside out repeatedly, and he lost his job in the prison as a Peer Facilitator.

SCI Chester, where Major is currently incarcerated, has been closed to visitors since mid-March. Fourteen guards and one prisoner are currently reported to be infected with the coronavirus. Because the prison has not tested all the inmates, there is no way to know how many more inmates have coronavirus. Major has had a fever, chills and a sore throat for several nights. Although Major has demanded testing for himself and all prisoners, the prison administration has not complied.

For the past ten days, there has been no cleaning of the cell block. It has been weeks since prisoners have been allowed into the yard to exercise. The food trays are simply being left on the floor. There have been no walk-throughs by prison administrators. The prisoners are not allowed to have showers; they are not allowed to have phone calls; and they are not permitted any computer access. 

This coronavirus outbreak at SCI Chester is the same situation which is playing out in California prisons right now, about which the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia, along with other groups, organized a car caravan protest at San Quentin last week. Prisons are enclosed indoor spaces and are already an epicenter of the coronavirus, like meatpacking plants and cruise ships. If large numbers of prisoners are not released, the coronavirus will infect the prisons, as well as surrounding communities, and many prisoners will die. Failing to release large numbers of prisoners at this point is the same as executing them. We call for "No Execution by COVID-19"!

Major is close to 70 years old, and has a compromised liver and immune system, as well as heart problems. He desperately needs your help. 

Please write and call Acting Superintendent Kenneth Eason at:

Kenneth Eason, Acting Superintendent
SCI Chester
500 E. 4th St.
Chester, PA 19013

Telephone: (610) 490-5412

Email: keason@pa.gov (Prison Superintendent). maquinn@pa.gov (Superintendent's Assistant)
Please also call the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at:Department of Corrections
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Telephone: (717) 737-4531
This telephone number is for SCI Camp Hill, which is the current number for DOC.
Reference Major's inmate number: AM 9786

Email: ra-contactdoc@pa.gov
Demand that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections immediately:

1) Provide testing for all inmates and staff at SCI Chester;
2) Disinfect all cells and common areas at SCI Chester, including sinks, toilets, eating areas and showers;
3) Provide PPE (personal protective equipment) for all inmates at SCI Chester;
4) Provide access to showers for all prisoners at SCI Chester, as a basic hygiene measure;
5) Provide yard access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
6) Provide phone and internet access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
7) Immediately release prisoners from SCI Chester, including Major Tillery, who already suffers from a compromised immune system, in order to save their lives from execution by COVID-19.

It has been reported that prisoners are now receiving shower access. However, please insist that prisoners be given shower access and that all common areas are disinfected.


In solidarity,

The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal




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Kiah Morris

May 7 at 6:44 AM

So, in MY lifetime....

Black people are so tired. 😓

We can’t go jogging (#AhmaudArbery).

We can’t relax in the comfort of our own homes (#BothemJean and #AtatianaJefferson).

We can't ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).

We can't have a cellphone (#StephonClark).

We can't leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).

We can't play loud music (#JordanDavis).

We can’t sell CD's (#AltonSterling).

We can’t sleep (#AiyanaJones)

We can’t walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).

We can’t play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).

We can’t go to church (#Charleston9).

We can’t walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).

We can’t hold a hair brush while leaving our own bachelor party (#SeanBell).

We can’t party on New Years (#OscarGrant).

We can’t get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).

We can’t lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).

We can't break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).

We can’t shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)p^p.

We can’t have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).

We can’t read a book in our own car (#KeithScott).

We can’t be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).

We can’t decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).

We can’t ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).

We can’t cash our check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).

We can’t take out our wallet (#AmadouDiallo).

We can’t run (#WalterScott).

We can’t breathe (#EricGarner).

We can’t live (#FreddieGray).

We’re tired.

Tired of making hashtags.

Tired of trying to convince you that our #BlackLivesMatter too.

Tired of dying.

Tired.

Tired.

Tired.

So very tired.

(I don’t know who created this. I just know there are so many more names to be added and names we may never hear of.)

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1) U.S. Schedules First Execution of a Woman in Nearly 70 Years

Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and attempting to pass the baby off as her own.

By Marie Fazio, Oct. 17, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/17/us/lisa-montgomery-execution.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage

If Lisa Montgomery is executed, her death will be the first federal execution of a woman since 1953, when Bonnie Heady was killed in a gas chamber for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City, Mo. Credit...via Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery


A date has been set for the execution of a Kansas woman who was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her abdomen in what would be the first federal execution of a woman in nearly 70 years, officials said on Friday.

 

The inmate, Lisa Montgomery of Melvern, Kan., was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death by a jury in federal court in Missouri in 2008. Her death, by lethal injection, is scheduled for Dec. 8 at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind.

 

Federal executions have not taken place in nearly 20 years, but Ms. Montgomery’s would be the ninth federal execution since they resumed in July.

 

In 2004, Ms. Montgomery told her friends and family that she was pregnant, despite having undergone a sterilization procedure years earlier, according to court documents.

 

In December of that year, she contacted Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was 23 and eight months pregnant, under the guise of wanting to buy a rat terrier puppy from a litter that Ms. Stinnett had advertised online, court records show.

 

Ms. Montgomery, who was 36 at the time, drove to Ms. Stinnett’s home in northwestern Missouri, where she strangled her to death and cut the baby girl from her abdomen. Ms. Montgomery then went home and attempted to pass the baby off as her own.

 

Ms. Montgomery, who confessed to the crime, lost all attempts to appeal her conviction and sentence, according to the Department of Justice.

 

Kelley Henry, an assistant federal public defender representing Ms. Montgomery, said in a statement on Friday that Ms. Montgomery has accepted responsibility for her crime, “but her severe mental illness and the devastating impacts of her childhood trauma make executing her a profound injustice.”

 

Ms. Henry said that abuses Ms. Montgomery endured as a child, including being sex-trafficked by her mother and gang-raped by adult men, “exacerbated a genetic predisposition to mental illness inherited from both sides of her family,” including complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

“Few human beings have lived through the kind of torture and trauma that was inflicted on Lisa Montgomery by her mentally ill, alcoholic mother,” Ms. Henry said.

 

If Ms. Montgomery is executed, her death will be the first federal execution of a woman since 1953, when Bonnie Heady was killed in a gas chamber for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City, Mo.

 

Ms. Heady, with assistance from her accomplice Carl Hall, took the boy from school, held him for ransom and killed him. She was the first woman executed for kidnapping, according to reports at the time.

 

That same year, Ethel Rosenberg was sent to the electric chair after she was convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. Ms. Rosenberg and her husband Julius were found guilty of stealing secrets from the United States’s atomic bomb project to aid the Soviet Union.

 

Only around 2 percent of inmates on death row and 1 percent of those executed are women, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In April, there were more than 50 women on state and federal death rows, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

 

Statistically, the violent crimes women commit are less likely to be considered for capital punishment than those committed by men, because of both the nature of the crimes and public perceptions of women, Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said on Saturday.

 

Most murders committed by women are domestic murders, which are often considered acts of passion and not eligible for the death penalty, Mr. Dunham said. Jurors, sometimes subconsciously, take into account stereotypical views of women, including that they are less violent and pose less of a future threat to society.

 

“The sense is that a woman is going to commit acts of violence only in extreme circumstances of extreme emotional stress or acting out of extreme mental illness,” Mr. Dunham said, noting that prosecutors who seek death penalties for women are often perceived as “bloodthirsty.”

 

In cases of women on trial for murder, prosecutors often attempt to portray women as “deviant” and not meeting traditional gender roles, and they tend to blame them for their own abuse or mental illness, he said.

 

Execution of women is rare: Since 1632, there have been 575 documented executions of women of the more than 15,000 confirmed executions in the United States, according to the Espy File, a database of executions in the United States and the earlier colonies.

 

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972, arguing that it constituted “cruel and unusual punishment,” then reversed its decision four years later, 16 women in death rows across the country have been executed.

 

Among them was Aileen Wuornos, a hitchhiking prostitute who killed six men along Florida highways. Ms. Wuornos initially claimed the killings were in self-defense after she was assaulted by clients but later told officials she did them intentionally. She was executed in Florida in 2002.

 

Last year, Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the Justice Department would resume executions of federal inmates sentenced to death, using a single drug, pentobarbital, after several botched executions by lethal injection renewed scrutiny of capital punishment.

 

The Department of Justice also on Friday scheduled the execution for Brandon Bernard, who was found guilty of the murders of two youth ministers in Texas in 1999.

 

Christopher Andre Vialva, another man convicted in the same killing, was executed last month.


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2) Man Sentenced to Life Over Theft of Hedge Clippers Is Granted Parole

Before 2017, a person in Louisiana could be sentenced to life in prison after receiving a fourth nonviolent conviction under the state’s habitual offender law.

By Allyson Waller, Oct. 17, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/17/us/louisiana-habitual-offender-parole.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
Fair Wayne Bryant walked out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary on Thursday after serving over 20 years. Credit...Kerry Myers/The Louisiana Parole Project

A Louisiana man whose life sentence for attempting to steal hedge clippers in 1997 drew a national spotlight to the state’s habitual offender law has been granted parole, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

 

The Louisiana Committee on Parole voted 3-0 on Thursday to release Fair Wayne Bryant, 63, who was convicted on a felony count of attempted simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in a storeroom at a home in Shreveport, La.

 

Under a state law that penalizes offenders with previous convictions, Mr. Bryant was sentenced to life in prison for the conviction.

 

Mr. Bryant already had four previous felony convictions: attempted armed robbery in 1979; possession of stolen store merchandise valued over $500 in 1987; attempted forgery of a check that was worth $150 in 1989; and a previous simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in 1992. His only violent crime, as classified under Louisiana law, was the attempted armed robbery.

 

“Mr. Bryant was given a second chance today,” said Robert Lancaster, a lawyer who represented Mr. Bryant at his parole hearing. “His life sentence, a result of an oppressive habitual sentencing scheme, came after a series of minor pecuniary crimes to fuel an untreated drug addiction. He was sentenced to a life in prison instead of given the help he needed.”

 

This summer, the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to review Mr. Bryant’s case. Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, the sole dissenter of the seven-member panel, wrote that Mr. Bryant’s life sentence was “grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.”

 

Chief Justice Johnson compared the state’s habitual offender law to statutes enacted after Reconstruction, where “Southern states criminalized recently emancipated African-American citizens by introducing extreme sentences for petty theft associated with poverty.”

 

So-called three-strikes laws became a pillar of the criminal justice legislation in the 1990s at both the federal and state level. Louisiana’s version passed in 1994, but Mr. Lancaster said there are some habitual laws that date back to 1928.

 

The laws have received renewed scrutiny across the country over the years — and states such as Louisiana and California undergoing reforms — with a focus on how they have affected a disproportionate number of people of color.

 

Black people, who are about 32  percent of the state’s population, make up almost 80 percent of Louisiana’s habitual offenders, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. A majority of the people in Louisiana’s prisons under the habitual offender statute are imprisoned for nonviolent crimes, the organization said.

 

In 2017, the state enacted changes to the habitual offender law as part of a bipartisan criminal justice reform package. The legislation eliminated the life sentence penalty for offenders like Mr. Bryant who received a fourth nonviolent conviction, and it reduced mandatory minimum sentences for repeated offenses. In 2019, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed legislation that would eliminate sentence enhancements for certain nonviolent offenses from the habitual offender law.

 

Mr. Bryant’s case drew attention from news outlets such as The Washington Post and USA Today in August when the state’s Supreme Court declined to hear his case.

 

Mr. Bryant’s conditions for parole include community service, mandatory attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and a requirement to check in with his parole officer once a week for 60 days. He will be released to the Louisiana Parole Project, a nonprofit that helps people readjust to life after serving lengthy prison sentences.

 

After his stay with the organization, Mr. Bryant is set to live with his brother in Shreveport, said Andrew Hundley, executive director of the Parole Project.

 

Christina Morales contributed reporting.


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3) Death Sentence: Why 4,998 Died in US Jails Without Getting Their Day in Court

By Peter Eisler, Linda So, Jason Szep, Grant Smith and Ned Parker, Reuters, October 18, 2020

https://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/65733-death-sentence-why-4998-died-in-us-jails-without-getting-their-day-in-court
SEEKING ANSWERS: Harvey Hill’s family: Mother Betty Hill and sisters Ella Anderson, Katrina Nettles and Cassandra Hill. They say the jail didn’t disclose Hill’s beating. REUTERS/Linda So

The U.S. government collects detailed data on who’s dying in which jails around the country – but won’t let anyone see it. So, Reuters conducted its own tally of fatalities in America’s biggest jails, pinpointing where suicide, botched healthcare and bad jailkeeping are claiming lives in a system with scant oversight.

 

Harvey Hill wouldn’t leave John Finnegan’s front yard. He stood in the pouring rain, laughing at the sky, alarming his former boss' wife. Finnegan dialed 911.

 

“He needs a mental evaluation,” the landscaper recalls telling the arriving officer. Instead, Hill was charged with trespassing and jailed on suspicion of a misdemeanor offense that could bring a $500 fine.

 

It was a death sentence.

 

The next day, May 6, 2018, Hill’s condition worsened. He flew into a rage at the Madison County Detention Center in Canton, Mississippi, throwing a checkerboard and striking a guard with a lunch tray.

 

Three guards tackled the 36-year-old, pepper sprayed him and kicked him repeatedly in the head. After handcuffing him, two guards slammed Hill into a concrete wall, previously unpublished jail surveillance video shows. They led him to a shower, away from the cameras, and beat him again, still handcuffed, a state investigation found. The guards said Hill was combative, exhibiting surprising strength that required force.

 

Video showed Hill writhing in pain in the infirmary, where he was assessed by a licensed practical nurse but not given medication. Mississippi law dictates that a doctor or higher credentialed nurse make decisions on medical interventions. But Hill was sent straight to an isolation cell, where a guard pinned him to the floor, removed his handcuffs, and left him lying on the cement. Hill crawled to the toilet. Then he stopped moving.

 

No one checked him for 46 minutes. When they did, he didn’t have a pulse. Within hours, he was dead. And he had a lot of company.

 

Hill’s is one of 7,571 inmate deaths Reuters documented in an unprecedented examination of mortality in more than 500 U.S. jails from 2008 to 2019. Death rates have soared in those lockups, rising 35% over the decade ending last year. Casualties like Hill are typical: held on minor charges and dying without ever getting their day in court. At least two-thirds of the dead inmates identified by Reuters, 4,998 people, were never convicted of the charges on which they were being held.

 

Unlike state and federal prisons, which hold people convicted of serious crimes, jails are locally run lockups meant to detain people awaiting arraignment or trial, or those serving short sentences. The toll of jail inmates who die without a case resolution subverts a fundamental tenet of the U.S. criminal justice system: innocent until proven guilty.

 

“A lot of people are dying and they've never been sentenced, and that's obviously a huge problem,” said Nils Melzer, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture and other inhuman punishment, after reviewing the Reuters findings. “You have to provide due process in all of these cases, you have to provide humane detention conditions in all of these cases and you have to provide medical care in all of these cases.”

 

The U.S. Constitution grants inmates core rights, but those provisions are hard to enforce. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees fair treatment to pre-trial detainees, but “fair” is open to interpretation by judges and juries. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel punishment forbids “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners,” but proving deliberate negligence is difficult. The Sixth Amendment assures speedy trials, but does not define speedy.

 

The Reuters analysis revealed a confluence of factors that can turn short jail stays into death sentences. Many jails are not subject to any enforceable standards for their operation or the healthcare they provide. They typically get little if any oversight. And bail requirements trap poorer inmates in pre-trial detention for long periods. Meanwhile, inmate populations have grown sicker, more damaged by mental illness and plagued by addictions.

 

The 7,571 deaths identified by Reuters reflect those stresses. Most succumbed to illness, sometimes wanting for quality healthcare. More than 2,000 took their own lives amid mental breakdowns, including some 1,500 awaiting trial or indictment. A growing number – more than 1 in 10 last year – died from the acute effects of drugs and alcohol. Nearly 300 died after languishing behind bars, unconvicted, for a year or more.

 

As with much of the U.S. criminal justice system, the toll behind bars falls disproportionately on Black Americans, such as Hill. White inmates accounted for roughly half the fatalities. African Americans accounted for at least 28%, more than twice their share of the U.S. population, a disparity on par with the high incarceration rate of Blacks. Reuters was not able to identify the race of 9% of inmates who died.

 

Jail deaths typically draw attention locally but escape scrutiny from outside authorities, a gap in oversight that points to a national problem: America’s system for counting and monitoring jail deaths is broken.

 

A broken system of federal oversight

 

America’s 3,000-plus jails are typically run by county sheriffs or local police. They often are under-equipped and understaffed, starved for funds by local officials who see them as budgetary burdens. A rising share have contracted their healthcare to private companies.

 

Yet there are no enforceable national standards to ensure jails meet constitutional requirements for inmate health and safety. Only 28 states have adopted their own standards to fill the gap. And much of the oversight that does exist is limited by a curtain of secrecy.

 

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has collected inmate mortality data for two decades – but statistics for individual jails are withheld from the public, government officials and oversight agencies under a 1984 law limiting the release of BJS data. Agency officials say that discretion is critical because it encourages sheriffs and police to report their deaths data each year.

 

The secrecy has a cost: Local policy makers can’t learn if their jails’ death rates are higher than those in similar communities. Groups that advocate for inmates’ rights can’t get jail-by-jail mortality data to support court cases. The Justice Department’s own lawyers, charged with taking legal action when corrections facilities violate constitutional standards, can’t readily identify jails where high death counts warrant federal investigation.

 

“If there’s a high death rate, that means there’s a problem,” said Julie Abbate, former deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section, which enforces civil rights in jails. Publicizing those rates “would make it a lot harder to hide a bad jail.”

 

The Justice Department does issue broad statistical reports on statewide or national trends. But even those fatality numbers don’t always tell the full story.

 

Some jails fail to inform BJS of deaths. Some report them inaccurately, listing homicides or suicides as accidents or illnesses, Reuters found. Justice Department consultant Steve Martin, who has inspected more than 500 U.S. prisons and jails, said that in all the cases he's investigated, he recalls only one homicide being reported accurately. The others were categorized as “medical, respiratory failure, or whatever,” he said.

 

Other jails find other ways to keep deaths off the books, such as “releasing” inmates who have been hospitalized in grave condition, perhaps from a suicide attempt or a medical crisis, so they’re not on the jail’s roster when they die. Sheriffs sometimes characterize these as “compassionate releases” that allow inmates’ families a chance to spend their final hours together without law enforcement supervision.

 

In all, Reuters identified at least 59 cases across 39 jails in which inmate deaths were not reported to government agencies or included in tallies provided to the news organization.

 

The Justice Department has grown more secretive about the fatality data under the Trump administration. While BJS never has released jail-by-jail mortality figures, it traditionally has published aggregated statistics every two years or so. The 2016 report wasn't issued until this year.

 

And, a Justice spokesman said, there are “no plans” to issue any future reports containing even aggregated data on inmate deaths in jails or prisons.

 

The report delays are “an outrage,” said Representative Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat who co-authored the original reporting law in 2000 with a Republican colleague. Scott said secrecy was never the goal. He co-authored a 2014 update, which restricts federal grant money when jails don’t report deaths and shifts data collection to a different Justice Department agency that would not be restricted from releasing jail-by-jail data. The updated law has yet to be implemented.

 

“The whole point,” Scott said, “is we suspect a lot of the deaths are preventable with certain protocols – better suicide protocols, better healthcare, better guard-to-prisoner ratios. You’ve got to have information at the jail level. You have no way of really targeting corrective action if you don’t.”

 

Because the government won’t release jail-by-jail death data, Reuters compiled its own. The news organization tracked jail deaths over the dozen years from 2008 to 2019 to create the largest such database outside of the Justice Department. Reporters filed more than 1,500 records requests to obtain information about deaths in 523 U.S. jails – every jail with an average population of 750 or more inmates, and the 10 largest jails or jail systems in nearly every state. Together, those jails hold an average of some 450,000 inmates a day, or about three out of every five nationwide.

 

Reuters is making the full data it gathered available to the public.

 

One finding: Since the last Justice Department report, for 2016, the death rate in big jails has continued to climb, leaving it up 8% in 2019, the highest point in the 12-year period of 2008-2019 examined by Reuters. In that time, the suicide rate declined as many facilities launched suicide awareness and response initiatives. But the death rate from drug and alcohol overdoses rose about 72% amid the opioid epidemic.

 

The data also reveals scores of big jails with high death tolls, including two dozen with death rates double the national average.

 

Such data “would have actually been very helpful for enforcement purposes,” said Jonathan Smith, who ran the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section from 2010 to 2015.

 

Rare scrutiny, reform

 

Detailed insight into jail deaths can save lives.

 

In 2016, the Justice Department began investigating the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia, after state Attorney General Mark Herring and local civil rights groups called for a probe following several inmate deaths. Reuters found the jail, which serves five jurisdictions, averaged 3.5 deaths per thousand inmates over the years 2009 to 2019, more than double the national average of 1.5 deaths.

 

In December 2018, the Justice Department said the 900-bed jail violated inmates’ rights by failing to provide adequate medical and mental healthcare. The regional authority that manages the jail agreed to a “consent decree,” enforced by a federal judge, to ensure improved treatment of prisoners.

 

Inmate deaths dropped after the agreement, which required increased staffing, better training and enhanced medical services. The jail reported two fatalities in 2019 and one through this May, down from an average of five a year in the prior four years.

 

That was one of the Justice Department’s last jail investigations. From 2008 to 2018, the department opened 19 investigations into jails, three during President Trump’s tenure.

 

Yet since 2018, it hasn’t opened any. A memo circulated in November 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions put hurdles in the way of entering consent decrees for overhauling jails. In a telephone interview, Sessions told Reuters the policy he set forth adhered to Supreme Court standards on when consent decrees could be entered, allowing them when “appropriate” and “justified.”

 

In the absence of federal oversight, states have a patchwork of guidelines.

 

Seventeen states have no rules or oversight mechanisms for local jails, according to Reuters research and a pending study by Michele Deitch, a corrections specialist at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. In five other low-population states, all detention facilities are run by state corrections agencies. The other 28 have some form of standards, such as assessing inmates’ health on arrival or checking on suicidal inmates at prescribed intervals. Yet those standards often are minimal, and in at least six of the states, the agencies that write them lack enforcement power or the authority to refer substandard jails for investigation.

 

Deitch said these gaps make comprehensive nationwide statistics all the more important. “You can’t have good policy without good data,” she said. “Data tells us what is going right and what’s going wrong.”

 

The Fossil

 

Without jail-by-jail mortality data, even jails with extraordinary death rates can escape official intervention for years, and local officials can remain blind to the seriousness of problems their facilities face. One example is the Marion County Jail in Indiana, a decrepit 65-year-old facility nicknamed “The Fossil” within the sheriff’s department.

 

Overfilled and understaffed, the Marion County jail had at least 45 deaths from 2009-2019. Yet local officials rejected pleas from two consecutive sheriffs for additional funding to bolster staffing and build a new facility.

 

Reuters found that the jail is among the two dozen with an average death rate, 3.5 deaths per 1,000 inmates, at least double the national average from 2009 to 2019. And its record was troubling on one of the most challenging problems plaguing jails: suicide, which accounted for more than a quarter of all U.S. jail deaths.

 

Thomas Shane Miles, a married father of two, struggled for years with mental illness and opioid addiction when he was arrested in 2016 on a misdemeanor drug possession warrant. On his second day in jail, he flung himself down a stairway and swallowed the contents of a chemical ice pack.

 

Put on suicide watch, Miles was given a “suicide smock” – a heavy hospital-style gown closed with Velcro – and placed in a monitored cell. The jail’s policies, as well as American Bar Association guidelines, dictate that suicidal inmates be monitored continuously.

 

On Day 6, Miles was given a jail uniform for a hearing and escorted down an underground hallway to a holding cell below the adjacent court building – a cell with no video monitor or clear sightlines for deputies. Left alone, he tore a strip of cloth from the collar, looped it over a door hinge and hung himself. He was found unconscious 30 minutes after entering the cell. An internal inquiry said the supervising officer logged his rounds after the fact, leaving it unclear when Miles was checked.

 

In a wrongful death suit that settled this September, Miles’ family argued that despite being identified as a suicide risk, he was given the means and opportunity to kill himself. The sheriff’s office denied misconduct and said it admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement; details were not disclosed.

 

Miles’ suicide was the jail's seventh in just under 15 months. The Fossil’s suicide rate ranked it among the top 20 jails in the Reuters study.

 

In 2016, the sheriff called the suicide problem an “epidemic,” but county officials denied requests for more funding. While the county knew it had a suicide problem, there was no way to know how it compared. Like all other officials, Marion County’s leaders had no access to the Justice Department figures.

 

The sheriff’s jail-management mission often “came in second” in a budget system that pits it against the Indianapolis police department’s law enforcement duties, said Frank Mascari, who sits on the City-County Council. “We knew there were some deaths” at the jail, he said, “but we didn’t have the statistics” to know the rates were extraordinary.

 

From 2015 to 2017, the sheriff’s budget grew just over 1% a year, audit figures show. The inmate population rose 12% in that time, due to a rise in arrests and to state legislation dictating that some low-level felons serve their sentences in county jails, not state prisons.

 

The sheriff launched suicide-prevention efforts, hired social workers and trained deputies in spotting suicide warnings. From 2017 to 2019, the number of suicides dropped to two a year, but staffing remained critically low as deputies routinely left for better paying jail jobs in nearby suburbs.

 

Jail deaths remained stubbornly high despite the decline in suicides, reaching six last year, the heaviest toll in more than a decade, driven in part by drug and alcohol overdoses. Still, there has been no state or federal intervention.

 

In July 2018, Kyra Warner, 30, went quiet about 90 minutes after arriving at the jail. As her limbs twitched, cellmates called for help, telling nurses and deputies that Warner said she had been using methamphetamine and anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

 

Jail video shows Warner unable to walk on her own as deputies moved her to a monitored isolation cell, where they left her on the floor, still twitching. She lay unresponsive as they checked her periodically over two hours – until medical staff found no pulse. She died of an accidental overdose.

 

“The officers that are watching aren’t medically trained,” said Rich Waples, a lawyer handling the family’s ongoing wrongful death lawsuit against the sheriff and Wellpath, the company providing the jail’s healthcare. “If she’d gotten prompt care, they could have reversed the effects of those drugs.”

 

Jail officials denied wrongdoing and noted in their response to the suit that deputies checked on Warner numerous times, but added they are not medical professionals. Wellpath, also contesting the ongoing suit, denied any misconduct.

 

“We’re not built to be the largest mental health hospital in the state,” said Colonel James Martin, who oversees the jail. “We’re not built to be the largest detox facility in the state.” Yet the jail has “more detox beds than any single hospital in the state.”

 

The jail’s shortcomings have been documented, including a county-commissioned review in 2016 that found the Fossil “antiquated,” with inadequate staffing and design flaws that severely hamper inmate monitoring. In 2018, after another independent study highlighted the jail’s challenges, the county approved a new $580 million criminal justice complex, with dedicated facilities to treat mental illness and substance abuse. In 2022, the Fossil will be history.

 

Another flaw in the U.S. system for monitoring jail fatalities is misleading disclosure. The John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Florida's Seminole County reported one death to the Justice Department in 2019. But at least one other death at the jail was not reported in its official filings.

 

On June 2, 2019, Thomas Harry Brill, 56, was found hanging by a bed sheet in his cell. Staff tried but failed to resuscitate him, the jail said. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kim Cannaday said he “was released out of our custody” before he died. “Therefore, it would not technically be considered an in-custody death.”

 

Brill’s sister, Tracy, was shocked to learn his death was excluded from the jail’s official count. “They’re trying to avoid responsibility,” she told Reuters. “They’re playing with the numbers. That’s just wrong.”

 

Brill graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a mathematics degree and lived on a sailboat for years, she said. He had been wrestling with mental illness when he flew from his home in San Diego to look at a boat in Florida. Out of money, he was found in a stolen car and arrested, but couldn’t afford bail. He died unconvicted of the charge. “He needed $500 to get out,” she said. “It was an awful, ridiculous waste that he died.”

 

A death in Mississippi

 

The Reuters death database also points to another benefit of collecting and publishing jail mortality rates: It can identify an unusual number of fatalities at jails that typically have few. One is Mississippi’s Madison County Detention Center, where Harvey Hill died after being beaten by guards.

 

The jail had occasional deaths, and in several years reported none. Yet in 2018, it had two deaths, including an inmate who died of complications from an ectopic pregnancy. Few other jails its size had multiple deaths that year.

 

Hill grew up in the poorest county in the poorest state in America. West, his town of 185 people, is intersected by a four-lane highway in Mississippi’s rural Holmes County. He did landscaping work an hour’s drive south in Canton, a city of 13,000 in the state’s wealthiest county, where 19th Century antebellum shophouses packed with antiques line a postcard-perfect downtown square.

 

When he was 18, Hill was arrested on charges of sexual battery and robbery. He pleaded guilty and served 14 years in prison. Friends and family say he began piecing together his life after his 2015 release, taking landscaping jobs with business owner Finnegan. “He was an incredible worker,” said Finnegan.

 

Through the winter of 2017 into the spring, Hill showed signs of mental illness, displayed flashes of paranoia and complained of insomnia, said Finnegan. After he let him go in 2018, Hill started showing up at his home, claiming his old boss owed him millions of dollars. “Harvey, if I had taken your millions, I wouldn’t be landscaping. I would be on an island,” Finnegan recounts telling him.

 

Hill kept returning. In May 2018, Finnegan called the Madison Police Department. If he wanted Hill removed, he had to press charges, Finnegan said he was told, so he did. “That’s not something I really wanted to do,” he said. “Harvey needed to be in a mental hospital.”

 

At the station, Finnegan told the officer he’d drop the charges and take Hill to a mental health facility if they could find a room. Instead Hill was booked into Madison County’s jail that Friday morning. “I’ll pick you up on Monday,” said Finnegan. “And we’ll get you some help.”

 

The Madison Police Department said there were “no remarkable or extraordinary events related to his arrest.” Mississippi has no standards or oversight for jails.

 

In their response to a family lawsuit, the guards said their actions were proper under jail policy. Michael Wolf, an attorney for one of the guards, James Ingram, told Reuters that Hill bit and then tried to head butt an officer, “and continued to resist and exhibited unusual strength. The control techniques were consistent with the County use of force continuum.” The other guard named in litigation, James Buford, declined to comment.

 

The family believes the force was unjustified. “Harvey Hill was in handcuffs and beaten to death,” said Derek Sells, a lawyer representing the family. “Someone needs to be held responsible.”

 

Hill’s death was one of four Reuters identified at the jail over the 12-year period. After he died, the jail filled out a form for the BJS with Hill’s name and details including his race, age and charges. The box for “homicide” was left unchecked. Two years later, no “cause of death” has been sent to the BJS, the jail said, citing an ongoing investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. No one has been charged.

 

The family said the jail lied about his death. “They just told us that Harvey had passed and he had had a heart attack,” said Katrina Nettles, his younger sister. The jail did not respond to requests for comment. Its medical contractor, Quality Correctional Health Care, and the nurse who treated Hill denied wrongdoing in litigation.

 

An autopsy ruled Hill’s death a homicide, however. The report showed that abrasions speckled his head and chest. Severe internal bleeding swelled his neck. His liver had been lacerated.

 

The state medical examiner, citing a backlog, didn’t release the findings to the family until this June, 25 months after he died and 13 months after the statute of limitations had expired for litigation involving assault. The family filed its ongoing lawsuit last February, before receiving the autopsy.

 

Told by Reuters of the autopsy’s grim findings, Finnegan bent forward and choked back tears. “God Almighty,” he said, dragging a hand over his face. “Harvey was a friend.”

 

How Reuters tracked and analyzed deaths in America’s largest jails

 

The Reuters examination of deaths in U.S. local jails represents the largest collection and publication of inmate mortality data undertaken outside the federal government.

 

The news organization filed more than 1,500 public records requests to collect data on inmate populations and deaths from more than 500 local jails. That universe includes the 10 largest jails in each state, as well as any jail in the country with an average daily population of 750 or more inmates.

 

In all, the Reuters data captures about 60% of the total inmate population in the nation’s 3,000-plus jails. Similarly, Reuters data accounts for about 60% of all inmate deaths nationwide, based on the latest national data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. BJS issues national-level and state-level data on jail deaths, but no statistics for individual jails. The Reuters investigation is the first to provide individual jail death data on a national scale.

 

Reuters calculated annual death rates at more than 500 jails by dividing the total number of deaths in a given year by the average daily population in the same year – the same formula used by BJS and other experts in criminal justice statistics.

 

States and local law enforcement agencies have varying definitions for what constitutes a jail death. Reuters counted all deaths that occurred in a jail, as well as deaths of inmates who were hospitalized for injuries or conditions incurred at the jail. When inmates are in life-threatening condition, some jails release them and do not count their subsequent death as an inmate fatality. Reuters, like many jurisdictions across the country, included those cases in its tally of jail deaths.

 

Reuters received responses from more than 95% of the jurisdictions from which it sought public records. Not all jails were able to provide accurate data on inmate populations for every year covered by the analysis, particularly the earlier years. Data was not available on race for about 9% of inmates who died and for conviction status for about 17% of fatalities. In cases where data was available for adjacent years, Reuters used that information to estimate inmate populations for the years in which no data was provided – a statistical method also used by BJS.

 

Reuters also used court records and news accounts to identify deaths that were not documented in jails’ responses and, in many other cases, to augment information jails did provide. Several dozen unreported deaths were identified in this manner and added to the Reuters tally. Court records and other official records, such as autopsy reports, also were used when available to fill in data that some jails declined to provide, such as cause of death or age.

 

Reuters also collected information on how healthcare services are provided in each jail, identifying those that relied on private companies to manage and deliver that care. Reuters only considered jails to have privatized or contracted care if they relied on a company to manage and staff the facility’s entire healthcare operation. If a jail contracted with individual practitioners for discreet medical services or hired staffing agencies to provide clinicians, Reuters still considered that care to be publicly managed, just as it would if the jail was running its own healthcare operation or relying on a public health agency.

 

The data captures jails in 44 states plus the District of Columbia. It does not include six other states – five where all detention facilities are managed by unified state corrections agencies (Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont), and Alaska, which uses a hybrid model that also relies largely on a network of state-run facilities.


Harvey Hill's family: Mother Betty Hill and sisters Ella Anderson, Katrina Nettles and Cassandra Hill. They say the jail didn't disclose Hill's beating. (photo: Linda So/Reuters)



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4) Migrant Workers Restricted to Farms Under One Grower’s Virus Lockdown

The guest workers have been prevented from all but carefully controlled trips to avoid contracting or spreading Covid-19. ‘I never expected to lose my freedom,’ said one.

By Miriam Jordan, Oct. 19, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/us/coronavirus-tomato-migrant-farm-workers.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
A seasonal farmworker in one of the many tomato fields found along the remote Eastern Shore of Virginia. Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

CHERITON, Va. — Each spring, a thousand or more Mexican tomato pickers descend on Virginia’s Eastern Shore to toil in the fields of Lipman Family Farms, enduring long hours stooped over to pluck the plump fruit and then hoisting it on their shoulders onto a waiting truck. An adept worker will fill a 32-pound bucket every two and a half minutes, earning 65 cents for each one.

 

The region is considered the toughest on the tomato circuit: Heavy rain brings the harvest to a halt for days at a time and can cut into production, a source of anxiety for people eager to maximize their earnings in the United States. The muck ruins shoes and turns moist feet into hamburger.

 

This year, there is a new and even more difficult working condition: To keep the coronavirus from spreading and jeopardizing the harvest, Lipman has put its crews on lockdown. With few exceptions, they have been ordered to remain either in the camps, where they are housed, or the fields, where they toil.

 

The restrictions have allowed Lipman’s tomato operations to run smoothly, with a substantially lower caseload than many farms and processing facilities across the country that have wrestled to contain large outbreaks. But they have caused some workers to complain that their worksite has become like a prison.

 

In Virginia, gone are the weekly outings to Walmart to stock up on provisions; to El Ranchito, the Mexican convenience store, to buy shell-shaped concha pastries; and to the laundromat to machine wash heavily soiled garments.

 

“You put up with a lot already. I never expected to lose my freedom,” said Martinez, 39, who is in his third year working in the tomato fields along the East Coast. He said workers spent months on end without interacting with anyone at all outside the farms, though Lipman eventually relented and organized a carefully controlled trip for groceries each week.

 

“You’re practically a slave,” said another worker, Jesus, who like others interviewed for this article asked to use only a first or last name for fear of losing his job and, with it, his permission to work in the United States.

 

Lipman’s battle with its workers underscores one of the signature conundrums of the coronavirus pandemic. Locking down its employees — a drastic measure that would be intolerable to most American workers — appears to have kept both the employees and the community safe. But at what cost?

 

The large tomato enterprise has been able to impose the restrictions on its workers because they are beholden to the company for their visa, housing and wages. Invited to the United States under one of the country’s only remaining temporary worker programs, employees who refuse to comply could face the cancellation of their contracts and immediate expulsion from the country.

 

“If employers in any industry were to tell their American workers, ‘You cannot leave your worksite,’ there would be a societal outcry,” said Jason Yarashes, lead attorney for the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia, who has met with concerned farmworkers. “But, for farmworkers, this level of control is deemed acceptable.”

 

By the time they arrived on the Eastern Shore, a spit of land dangling off the Delmarva Peninsula where tomato fields stretch all the way to the horizon, the workers were already demoralized by the restrictions they had endured earlier in the harvest at Lipman farms in Florida and South Carolina.

 

“In years past, when we didn’t work, we were free to go to the beach, visit friends,” said Oscar, 36, who worked in the United States to pay his ailing wife’s medical bills. “Now, they don’t let us go anywhere.”

 

Agriculture workers are especially vulnerable to infection. They are often housed in crammed trailers or barracks, sharing rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, and are transported to the fields with up to 40 people on a bus.

 

Once the coronavirus infects a worker, it is almost impossible to prevent it from ripping through entire crews. Major outbreaks have been reported from vegetable and fruit farms in Florida and California to meat and produce packing plants in South Dakota and Washington.

 

Purdue University researchers estimate that more than 149,500 farmworkers had contracted Covid-19 as of Oct. 16. Jayson Lusk, the agricultural economist leading the study in collaboration with Microsoft, estimated that 3,750 have died.

 

Many farming operations rely on undocumented immigrants for a vast majority of their labor force; like American citizens, they generally live in the country year-round and go home at night to homes and families. Lipman, by contrast, has hired field workers under the H-2A agricultural visa program, one of the few temporary worker programs still in place after President Trump suspended the others this year to protect Americans from competition for jobs.

 

Under the program, laborers who travel across the Mexico border by the thousands ahead of the harvest each year are transported to pick strawberries in California, apples in Washington, tobacco in North Carolina — and tomatoes along the Eastern Seaboard.

 

Growers sponsored a record 258,000 workers for the temporary visas during the 2019 fiscal year. Lipman, which farms tens of thousands of acres across several states, received approval from the Labor Department for 2,658 of those positions.

 

The company would not disclose total coronavirus case numbers, but employees said they knew of no cases at the Virginia operation following about six infections that occurred before most of the seasonal workers arrived. Kent Shoemaker, Lipman’s chief executive, said the company was proud of its record protecting both its employees and the surrounding communities.

 

“As of today, we do not have any confirmed Covid-19 cases on our farms or in our packing facilities,” Mr. Shoemaker said in mid-October.

 

“And because of these practices over the last few months,” he said, referring to the lockdown measures, “our positive cases among farmworkers have remained substantially below the positivity rate in each of the communities within which we operate.”

 

Through the course of the pandemic, the federal government has yet to establish enforceable safety measures to contain the spread of the virus at agricultural operations.

 

Only 11 states stepped in to require growers to test workers, sanitize workplaces, enforce social distancing and provide protective gear. About 20 states issued unenforceable guidance, and the rest did nothing.

 

At Lipman, Mr. Shoemaker said, “we acted early to put measures in place that meet or exceed the latest public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control,” which recommended isolation for people who had became infected and 14 days of quarantine for those who came in contact with them.

 

The Fair Food Program, a Florida-based initiative that promotes humane treatment of farmworkers, credits the grower with keeping the tomato pickers healthy by restricting them to the farms.

 

“By limiting workers’ potential contacts with the coronavirus, the decision significantly reduced the risk of contagion in Lipman’s camps and surely contributed to extremely low rates of infection,” said Laura Safer Espinoza, director of Fair Food’s standards council.

 

But Mr. Yarashes said Lipman could have offered workers protections short of locking them down, such as assigning fewer workers to a barrack, making more bus runs to the fields and allowing state health authorities to conduct widespread testing in the camps.

 

The Virginia Department of Health was rebuffed in early June when it contacted Lipman about performing large-scale testing of the workers who were expected in large numbers the next month.

 

“The response we got from Lipman was ‘No, we are not interested in testing all our workers’,” said Jonathan Richardson, chief operating officer for the Eastern Shore Health District.

 

Without health insurance or paid sick leave, many workers said they feared coming forward if they had symptoms and worried that positive tests could cost them earnings, Mr. Yarashes said. “They were worried about being quarantined for two weeks without pay.”

 

Lipman does not provide paid sick leave for the field workers and is not legally required to.

 

In interviews, five workers employed at Lipman’s tomato operation said they felt fortunate to have been selected for the H-2A program after being interviewed in Mexico by labor brokers representing Lipman. In the United States, they could make in a day what it took a week to earn at home. If they proved to be reliable and productive, they would be invited back year after year.

 

“You kill yourself on the job, but thank God I have this work,” said Oscar, who was in his fourth season working for the company.

 

The workers remain in the country for four to 10 months, on average. In March, “the situation got complicated because of the pandemic,” said Martinez, who arrived last year. “They told us we couldn’t go anywhere. If they caught us leaving the camp, we would not be able to re-enter.”

 

He and other workers said that several people had been terminated for violating the policy.

 

In previous years, a company bus would take them once a week to cash their checks, send money home and shop at Walmart. On Saturday or Sunday, it would take them to the laundromat.

 

When it introduced its “shelter in place” order, Lipman began to provide staples, including beans, rice, milk and eggs, free of charge. It arranged for mobile check-cashing outlets and money-transfer agents to visit the camps to enable workers to send money home. Small grocers in a van brought tortilla flour, canned tuna and other items to sell.

 

But the workers said the prices were inflated, $4.50 for a 4.4-pound bag of tortilla flour compared with $2.88 at Walmart. And, in addition to buying food, they wanted to go out to buy T-shirts, trousers and underwear. Washing by hand was not getting their filthy clothes clean, they said.

 

“It’s illogical. We wear masks and take the same precautions as everybody else,” a farmworker called Juan said.

 

The workers were no longer allowed to hitch rides to the beach or convince the “busero,” the crew’s bus driver, to make a pizza run.

 

“Every human being deserves a little diversion from the grind,” said a worker named Antonio, in his first year on the job.

 

Some workers developed rashes from rewearing garments caked with dirt, moisture and sweat until worker advocates dropped off Vaseline and diaper-rash cream.

 

Workers filed complaints about the lockdown, and the company in July began allowing organized shopping trips to local grocery stores and some visits to Walmart. The workers said they were taken by bus to Food Lion once a week but to Walmart only once a month, at the whim of their bosses. They were still prohibited from leaving the camp otherwise.

 

Several workers have quit before the end of their contract, forfeiting wages and an employer-paid flight back to Mexico. One of them, a field worker named Manuel, said he understood it was unlikely he would be asked back next year.

 

“Our rights are being violated,” he said. “I couldn’t stand it anymore.”


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5) Nigerian Forces Fire on Demonstrators Protesting Police Brutality

The toll was unclear, but witnesses said several people were shot during escalating protests in Lagos. The governor said “miscreants” had hijacked mostly peaceful demonstrations.

By Shola Lawal, Published Oct. 20, 2020, Updated Oct. 21, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/20/world/africa/Nigeria-protests-shooting.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=World%20News
Police fire teargas at a crowd of anti-police brutality protestors near Abuja on Tuesday. Credit...Kola Sulaimon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigerian security forces opened fire Tuesday night at a demonstration in Lagos against police brutality, hitting several people according to witnesses, in a major escalation of the unrest that has gripped the country for two weeks.

 

The extent of the casualties was unclear, but some witnesses reported seeing people who were killed. Videos posted to social media crackled with apparent gunfire and showed people who were wounded and uniformed forces shooting into the air.

 

A police officer who witnessed the episode and spoke on condition of anonymity said that 11 people had been killed. But that report that could not be immediately corroborated.

 

The shooting came toward the end of a day of mounting violence in multiple cities, with the national police deploying riot squads in the capital, Abuja, in Lagos and elsewhere. The unrest spread even after President Muhammadu Buhari attempted to respond to the protesters’ demands by announcing last week that he would disband a special unit of police officers accused of brutalizing people.

 

Adding to the sense of spiraling chaos, officials said about 2,000 inmates had escaped on Monday in a prison break in Benin City, in southern Edo state.

 

After news reports early Tuesday that police had killed two or more people in Lagos, the country’s largest city and economic hub, a crowd set a police station there ablaze. Despite the violence and a curfew declared by the governor of Lagos State, protesters refused to disband, blocking roads and demanding that police officers accused of wanton violence be put on trial.

 

Uniformed forces were deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate area, an upscale suburb of Lagos, where the biggest ongoing protests have been held, largely peacefully, since October 7. Beginning at around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, some of them began firing — shortly after the streetlights unexpectedly went out and security cameras were removed from the scene, witnesses said.

 

A protester streaming the scene live on Instagram, Obianuju Catherine Udeh, a disc jockey who goes by DJ Switch, said she counted seven casualties around her. Sporadic gunfire went on for about an hour.

 

“We’ve already told them we’re not going anywhere,” she said. In front of her, a body lay motionless, and nearby protesters crowded around a man with what appeared to be a gunshot wound in his leg.

 

Demonstrators said they were corralled into one area by fires, with no safe way out.

 

“The whole place is blocked, there are soldiers everywhere and they came in guns blazing,” DJ Switch said, before her livestream suddenly ended. “Are they going to shoot all of us? The only weapon we have is the Nigerian flag.”

 

The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, said that people bent on creating chaos had hijacked the mostly peaceful protests against police brutality — a claim supported by witness accounts of the demonstrations.

 

“Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state,” the governor said in a statement.

 

After the police station was burned, the governor declared a 4 p.m. curfew, giving people about four hours to get home in an immense metropolitan area with some 14 million people and some of the world’s worst traffic jams. Many people had little hope of complying with the curfew; many others did not try.

 

Protesters in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, have been demanding that the government disband a rogue police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, commonly known as SARS, and that they say particularly robs, tortures and even kills well-dressed young people who the officers think might have money. The crowds have also called for punishment of officers who commit brutality.

 

Last week, President Buhari agreed to dismantle SARS and carry out other police reforms, vowing to “ensure that all those responsible for misconduct are brought to justice.”

 

But the demonstrations have not abated. People note that the government has promised before to do away with SARS, yet it still exists, and they argue that a newly created police unit will just be the same menace in new uniforms.

 

On Monday, Lagos inaugurated a panel of inquiry to investigate allegations of abuse, but proceedings have not begun. Three other states have also made the same move.

 

In the massive prison break, a spokesman for the interior ministry in charge of correctional facilities, Mohammed Manga, said armed crowds had attacked two correctional facilities in Benin City and overpowered guards on duty. He said 1,993 inmates were missing; it was not clear how many inmates were held before the attack.

 

“Most of the inmates held at the centers are convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offenses, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes,” Mr. Manga said.


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6) Breonna Taylor Grand Juror Says Homicide Charges Were Not Presented

A judge gave grand jurors in the case permission to speak publicly, a rare move that immediately led one juror to speak out.

By Will Wright, Published Oct. 20, 2020, Updated Oct. 21, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/20/us/breonna-taylor-grand-jury.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=US%20News

“Questions were asked about additional charges and the grand jury was told there would be none,” an anonymous grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case said Tuesday. Credit...Xavier Burrell for The New York Times


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky judge on Tuesday granted grand jurors in the Breonna Taylor case permission to speak publicly, a rare move that immediately led one juror to assert that prosecutors had not given the panel the opportunity to bring homicide charges in the case.

 

Ms. Taylor, 26, was killed in her apartment in March during a botched raid by Louisville police officers. After details of her death were made public, calls for justice helped propel protests over racism and police violence against Black people in the United States.

 

One of the primary demands of protesters, to charge the officers who fired the shots that killed Ms. Taylor, was left unfulfilled when the grand jury’s only charges were three counts of wanton endangerment against a former detective, Brett Hankison, who shot into a neighboring apartment but did not fire any of the rounds that struck Ms. Taylor.

 

Grand jurors are bound by secrecy rules that almost always keep their experiences unknown to the public, so the judge’s decision on Tuesday allowed them to shed rare light on the process. In a statement, an anonymous juror said the group “didn’t agree that certain actions were justified, nor did it decide the indictment should be the only charges in the Breonna Taylor case.”

 

“The grand jury did not have homicide offenses explained to them,” the anonymous juror said. “The grand jury never heard about those laws. Self-defense or justification was never explained either. Questions were asked about additional charges and the grand jury was told there would be none because the prosecutors didn’t feel they could make them stick."

 

The juror’s statement reflects how prosecutors hold enormous sway over grand juries that are tasked with deciding whether to bring felony charges against the accused. While grand juries have the ability to call witnesses and pursue charges other than what the prosecutor recommends, jurors may not understand the scope of their power. And prosecutors have no obligation to present charges other than the ones they choose to recommend.

 

One of the officers who shot Ms. Taylor also spoke up, telling ABC News and The Louisville Courier Journal that he was frustrated with what he called disinformation involving the case, according to interview excerpts that the organizations released on Tuesday night.

 

“This is not relatable to a George Floyd. This is nothing like it. It’s not an Ahmaud Arbery. It’s nothing like it,” said the officer, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, referring to other Black people who were killed this year.

 

“It’s not a race thing,” he added, “like people want to try to make it to be.”

 

Sergeant Mattingly said the officers were doing their job when they returned fire: “This is not us going hunting somebody down, this is not kneeling on a neck.”

 

During the raid, Sergeant Mattingly was shot in the leg by Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, who has said he thought the officers were intruders. Although officers said they announced themselves before knocking down her door, many neighbors said they did not hear any such warning.

 

The police fired a total of 32 rounds in response, at least six of which struck Ms. Taylor.

 

Sergeant Mattingly told interviewers that he believed “Breonna Taylor would be alive, 100 percent,” if officers had served a no-knock warrant or moved faster to enter the apartment, “to not give people time to formulate a plan, not give people time to get their senses so they have an idea of what they’re doing.”

 

Sergeant Mattingly also said that body cameras would not have made a difference. “The incident would have still happened but it would have been shown on camera what happened,” he said. “This wouldn’t have been an issue.”

 

When Attorney General Daniel Cameron of Kentucky, who led the prosecution, announced last month that no officers would be charged for Ms. Taylor’s death, he said the grand jury “was given all of the evidence, presented all of the information, and ultimately made the determination” to not bring charges.

 

The anonymous grand juror, in an initial legal motion seeking permission to speak publicly, accused Mr. Cameron of using the grand jury “as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility” and of planting “more seeds of doubt in the process.”

 

In response to a court order, Mr. Cameron released 15 hours of audio recordings from the grand jury proceedings, but the recordings did not include the instructions that prosecutors gave to the 12 jurors.

 

And though Mr. Cameron had initially said he had “no concerns” with grand jurors speaking about the prosecutor’s presentation, he later filed objections to them doing so.

 

Mr. Cameron argued that allowing a grand juror to speak could “destroy the principle of secrecy that serves as the foundation of the grand jury system.” He also said it could compromise Mr. Hankison’s right to a fair trial for the endangerment charges he faces.

 

Both of those arguments were rejected by the court.

 

In her opinion, Judge Annie O’Connell of Jefferson County Circuit Court said Mr. Cameron’s office could provide no evidence that the juror would endanger Mr. Hankison’s right to a fair trial. She wrote that Mr. Cameron’s other objection, that the juror would destroy the principle of secrecy, “reads as theatrical Sturm und Drang.”

 

In a statement, Mr. Cameron said that he disagreed with Judge O’Connell’s opinion, but that his office would not appeal it. Mr. Cameron said that he remained confident in the prosecutor’s presentation, and asserted that his office did “report the facts of the shooting death of Ms. Breonna Taylor.”

 

“As special prosecutor, it was my decision to ask for an indictment on charges that could be proven under Kentucky law,” Mr. Cameron said. “Indictments obtained in the absence of sufficient proof under the law do not stand up and are not fundamentally fair to anyone.”

 

A second anonymous grand juror said in a statement that they were “pleased with the result” of the judge’s opinion, and would be discussing possible next steps with a lawyer.

 

Alan Yuhas contributed reporting from New York.


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7) Activists Turn Facial Recognition Tools Against the Police

“We’re now approaching the technological threshold where the little guys can do it to the big guys,” one researcher said

By Kashmir Hill, Oct. 21, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/technology/facial-recognition-police.html
For an exhibit called “Capture,” Mr. Cirio collected police officers’ faces from 1,000 photos he had gathered from the internet and from photographers who attended protests in France. He described the project as the first step in developing a facial recognition app. Credit...Paolo Cirio

In early September, the City Council in Portland, Ore., met virtually to consider sweeping legislation outlawing the use of facial recognition technology. The bills would not only bar the police from using it to unmask protesters and individuals captured in surveillance imagery; they would also prevent companies and a variety of other organizations from using the software to identify an unknown person.

 

During the time for public comments, a local man, Christopher Howell, said he had concerns about a blanket ban. He gave a surprising reason.

 

“I am involved with developing facial recognition to in fact use on Portland police officers, since they are not identifying themselves to the public,” Mr. Howell said. Over the summer, with the city seized by demonstrations against police violence, leaders of the department had told uniformed officers that they could tape over their name. Mr. Howell wanted to know: Would his use of facial recognition technology become illegal?

 

Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, told Mr. Howell that his project was “a little creepy,” but a lawyer for the city clarified that the bills would not apply to individuals. The Council then passed the legislation in a unanimous vote.

 

Mr. Howell was offended by Mr. Wheeler’s characterization of his project but relieved he could keep working on it. “There’s a lot of excessive force here in Portland,” he said in a phone interview. “Knowing who the officers are seems like a baseline.”

 

Mr. Howell, 42, is a lifelong protester and self-taught coder; in graduate school, he started working with neural net technology, an artificial intelligence that learns to make decisions from data it is fed, such as images. He said that the police had tear-gassed him during a midday protest in June, and that he had begun researching how to build a facial recognition product that could defeat officers’ attempts to shield their identity.

 

“This was, you know, kind of a ‘shower thought’ moment for me, and just kind of an intersection of what I know how to do and what my current interests are,” he said. “Accountability is important. We need to know who is doing what, so we can deal with it.”

 

Mr. Howell is not alone in his pursuit. Law enforcement has used facial recognition to identify criminals, using photos from government databases or, through a company called Clearview AI, from the public internet. But now activists around the world are turning the process around and developing tools that can unmask law enforcement in cases of misconduct.

 

“It doesn’t surprise me in the least,” said Clare Garvie, a lawyer at Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology. “I think some folks will say, ‘All’s fair in love and war,’ but it highlights the risk of developing this technology without thinking about its use in the hands of all possible actors.”

 

The authorities targeted so far have not been pleased. The New York Times reported in July 2019 that Colin Cheung, a protester in Hong Kong, had developed a tool to identify police officers using online photos of them. After he posted a video about the project on Facebook, he was arrested. Mr. Cheung ultimately abandoned the work.

 

This month, the artist Paolo Cirio published photos of 4,000 faces of French police officers online for an exhibit called “Capture,” which he described as the first step in developing a facial recognition app. He collected the faces from 1,000 photos he had gathered from the internet and from photographers who attended protests in France. Mr. Cirio, 41, took the photos down after France’s interior minister threatened legal action but said he hoped to republish them.

 

“It’s about the privacy of everyone,” said Mr. Cirio, who believes facial recognition should be banned. “It’s childish to try to stop me, as an artist who is trying to raise the problem, instead of addressing the problem itself.”

 

Many police officers around the world cover their faces, in whole or in part, as captured in recent videos of police violence in Belarus. Last month, Andrew Maximov, a technologist from the country who is now based in Los Angeles, uploaded a video to YouTube that demonstrated how facial recognition technology could be used to digitally strip away the masks.

 

In the simulated footage, software matches masked officers to full images of officers taken from social media channels. The two images are then merged so the officers are shown in uniform, with their faces on display. It’s unclear if the matches are accurate. The video, which was reported earlier by a news site about Russia called Meduza, has been viewed more than one million times.

 

“For a while now, everyone was aware the big guys could use this to identify and oppress the little guys, but we’re now approaching the technological threshold where the little guys can do it to the big guys,” Mr. Maximov, 30, said. “It’s not just the loss of anonymity. It’s the threat of infamy.”

 

These activists say it has become relatively easy to build facial recognition tools thanks to off-the-shelf image recognition software that has been made available in recent years. In Portland, Mr. Howell used a Google-provided platform, TensorFlow, which helps people build machine-learning models.

 

“The technical process — I’m not inventing anything new,” he said. “The big problem here is getting quality images.”

 

Mr. Howell gathered thousands of images of Portland police officers from news articles and social media after finding their names on city websites. He also made a public records request for a roster of police officers, with their names and personnel numbers, but it was denied.

 

Facebook has been a particularly helpful source of images. “Here they all are at a barbecue or whatever, in uniform sometimes,” Mr. Howell said. “It’s few enough people that I can reasonably do it as an individual.”

 

Mr. Howell said his tool remained a work in progress and could recognize only about 20 percent of Portland’s police force. He hasn’t made it publicly available, but he said it had already helped a friend confirm an officer’s identity. He declined to provide more details.

 

Derek Carmon, a public information officer at the Portland Police Bureau, said that “name tags were changed to personnel numbers during protests to help eliminate the doxxing of officers,” but that officers are required to wear name tags for “non-protest-related duties.” Mr. Carmon said people could file complaints using an officer’s personnel number. He declined to comment on Mr. Howell’s software.

 

Older attempts to identify police officers have relied on crowdsourcing. The news service ProPublica asks readers to identify officers in a series of videos of police violence. In 2016, an anti-surveillance group in Chicago, the Lucy Parsons Lab, started OpenOversight, a “public searchable database of law enforcement officers.” It asks people to upload photos of uniformed officers and match them to the officers’ names or badge numbers.

 

“We were careful about what information we were soliciting. We don’t want to encourage people to follow officers to playgrounds with their kids,” said Jennifer Helsby, OpenOversight’s lead developer. “It has resulted in officers being identified.”

 

For example, the database helped journalists at the Invisible Institute, a local news organization, identify Chicago officers who struck protesters with batons this summer, according to the institute’s director of public strategy, Maira Khwaja.

 

Photos of more than 1,000 officers have been uploaded to the site, Ms. Helsby said, adding that versions of the open-source database have been started in other cities, including Portland. That version is called Cops.Photo, and is one of the places from which Mr. Howell obtained identified photos of police officers.

 

Mr. Howell originally wanted to make his work publicly available, but is now concerned that distributing his tool to others would be illegal under the city’s new facial recognition laws, he said.

 

“I have sought some legal advice and will seek more,” Mr. Howell said. He described it as “unwise” to release an illegal facial recognition app because the police “are not going to appreciate it to begin with.”

 

“I’d be naïve not to be a little concerned about it,” he added. “But I think it’s worth doing.”


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8) Parents of 545 Children Separated at the Border Cannot Be Found

A new report shows hundreds of cases in which the deported parents of migrant children who were taken from their families cannot be located.

By Caitlin Dickerson, Oct. 21, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/us/migrant-children-separated.html?searchResultPosition=1
A border fence near Brownsville, Texas. Attempts to find separated parents have been going on for years, but the number of parents who have been deemed “unreachable” is much larger than was previously known. Credit...Matthew Busch for The New York Times

Radio spots are airing throughout Mexico and Central America. Court-appointed researchers are motorbiking through rural hillside communities in Guatemala and showing up at courthouses in Honduras to conduct public record searches.

 

The efforts are part of a wide-ranging campaign to track down parents separated from their children at the U.S. border beginning in 2017 under the Trump administration’s most controversial immigration policy. It is now clear that the parents of 545 of the migrant children still have not been found, according to court documents filed this week in a case challenging the practice.

 

About 60 of the children were under the age of 5 when they were separated, the documents show.

 

Though attempts to find the separated parents have been going on for years, the number of parents who have been deemed “unreachable” is much larger than was previously known.

 

The new findings highlight the lasting impact of a policy that first came to light with wrenching images of crying children being carried away from their parents at the border and detained hundreds or thousands of miles away. Hundreds of these families, the new filing makes clear, have now endured years of separation.

 

The Trump administration first provided a court-ordered accounting of separated families in June 2018, stating at the time that about 2,700 children had been taken from their parents after crossing into the United States. After months of searching by a court-appointed steering committee, which includes a private law firm and several immigrant advocacy organizations, all of those families were eventually tracked down and offered the opportunity to be reunited.

 

But in January 2019, a report by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Inspector General confirmed that many more children had been separated, including under a previously undisclosed pilot program conducted in El Paso between June and November 2017, before the administration’s widely publicized “zero tolerance” policy officially went into effect.

 

Under “zero tolerance,” the Trump administration directed prosecutors to file criminal charges against those who crossed the border without authorization, including parents, who were then separated from their children when they were taken into custody. But some parents and children who crossed the border at legal ports of entry were also separated from each other.

 

Once the existence of a larger group was revealed, the Trump administration fought for months against providing data on the additional families, arguing that it was not necessary because the children had already been released from federally overseen shelters and foster homes into the care of sponsors, who are typically relatives or family friends. The parents of the children had already been deported without them.

 

But the court intervened in June 2019, and the government was ordered to acknowledge the extent of the additional separations. New data provided then brought the total known number of separated children to more than 5,500, including cases where the government said the separations were justified because of a parent’s criminal record.

 

Researchers are presuming that about two-thirds of the parents now being sought are back in their home countries.

 

Some of the families who have been identified have decided their children would be safer in the United States than in their home countries, and elected for the children to stay with friends or family members who agreed to sponsor them.

 

The Trump administration has often pointed to this to argue that not all parents need to be identified and tracked down. Chase Jennings, an assistant press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said the “narrative” of families searching for their children but not finding them had “been dispelled” by previous reunification efforts.

 

“The simple fact is this,” Mr. Jennings said in a statement. “After contact has been made with the parents to reunite them with their children, many parents have refused.”

 

Many of those working with separated families said the federal government had put up one obstacle after another to reuniting families.

 

While many families did elect to leave their children with friends and family in the United States, they said, none of them made the journey to the country with the intention of giving up their children, and most were forced by the family separation policy to make impossible choices.

 

One such parent, Juana, a mother of four girls ages 9 to 16, burst into tears on Wednesday when asked about being separated from her children at the U.S. border after fleeing Honduras, where she said their lives had been threatened.

 

The girls were released by the government to their father in Virginia, with whom they were not close. Juana, who asked to be identified by her first name to avoid being tracked down by people who want to harm her, was deported back to Honduras. She moved into a shelter for victimized migrants in a different city.

 

When she was contacted by the U.S. government about whether she wanted her girls to be deported as well, she said, it was one of the hardest decisions she had ever had to make.

 

“I’m not safe,” she said. “I’m in a shelter. I don’t go out at all.”

 

She said the girls were struggling without her, especially her youngest, who is going through puberty. “They cry when we talk on the phone. They say they miss me, that they want us to be back together again,” she said, adding, “Girls need their mother.”

 

The efforts to reunify separated families have been marred by poor record-keeping since they began in the summer of 2018. That is in part because the practice of separating families as a deterrent to the thousands of migrant families arriving at the border was at first introduced covertly; even the federal agencies that became involved, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, which was responsible for housing separated children, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which took custody of the parents, were not fully informed ahead of time.

 

When H.H.S. case workers began their efforts to track down the families of children they encountered, as is customary for any child in federal custody, they discovered that the immigration authorities had not, in many cases, kept records of who each child’s parents were or how to reach them.

 

And because the computer system used by border authorities for processing incoming migrants had not been updated to accommodate family separations, the agents often inadvertently deleted identification numbers that could have been used to keep track when parents and children were sent to different places.

 

The initial court order to reunite separated families led to a monthslong effort by workers at multiple federal agencies who worked through long nights and weekends to track down the parents of separated children, which often required culling through records by hand for clues as to who their parents were.

 

When it became clear that even more children were separated than had previously been known, that effort started all over again, but was made significantly more difficult by the amount of time that had passed between when the children were released from federal custody and when volunteer researchers began trying to find them. By then, many of the parents had relocated or gone deeper into hiding.

 

In some cases, members of the steering committee have had access to only names and countries of origin while trying to locate separated parents. Even after conducting public record searches to identify the cities where the families were from, they faced additional hurdles. Many of the families had fled their homes to escape violence or extortion, intentionally withholding information from friends and neighbors about where they were going.

 

The steering committee groups established hotlines for separated parents, or people with information about them. But the effort hit another roadblock with the coronavirus pandemic, during which travel through the Central American countries where most of the families live has been severely restricted.

 

“The Trump administration had no plans to keep track of the families or ever reunite them and so that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in now, to try to account for each family,” said Nan Schivone, legal director of Justice in Motion, which is leading on-the-ground search efforts for separated families.

 

The 545 children whose parents have not been found were all initially placed in shelters or foster homes under the supervision of H.H.S. They were then released to sponsors, who are typically relatives or family friends. About 362 of the children also cannot be located because the contact information provided by their sponsors is no longer current. Many of the children are believed to be in the United States, though some may have returned to their home countries since they were released from federal custody.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union is leading the court challenge to the family separation policy. Lee Gelernt, the primary lawyer on the case, said essential time was lost in the effort to track the families down.

 

“The fact that they kept the names from the court, from us, from the public, was astounding,” Mr. Gelernt said. “We could have been searching for them this whole time.”

 

The latest findings were earlier reported by NBC News.

 

As part of the legal case over family separations in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, overseen by Judge Dana Sabraw, the search efforts will continue and the government will be required to provide information about any additional families that are separated at the border.

 

As of October 2019, the government had provided contact information for more than 1,100 additional parents who had been separated from their children before the official introduction of the “zero tolerance” policy. But the government argued that it would not disclose information about some 400 of the parents because those individuals had criminal records that prevented the United States government from reuniting them with their children under Homeland Security policies.

 

The steering committee has been able to locate the parents of 485 children belonging to those 1,100 parents. The rest have not been found.


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9) Mass Grave Unearthed in Tulsa During Search for Massacre Victims

An excavation found 11 coffins in Oaklawn Cemetery, but painstaking work will be required to identify whether the remains are from Black victims of the 1921 race massacre.

By Ben Fenwick, Oct. 21, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/us/tulsa-massacre-coffins-grave.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
Excavation crews on Wednesday searched Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, Okla., for remains from the city’s 1921 race massacre. Credit...Joseph Rushmore for The New York Times

OKLAHOMA CITY — A forensic team in Tulsa, Okla., said on Wednesday that it had unearthed 11 coffins while searching for victims from the 1921 massacre in which hundreds of Black residents were killed.

 

The mass grave was discovered in an area of the city’s Oaklawn Cemetery where records and research suggested that as many as 18 victims would be found. Painstaking work will be required to identify whether the remains are from victims of the massacre.

 

The remains will not be moved until they can be exhumed properly to avoid deterioration, said Kary Stackelbeck, a state archaeologist. She said the discovery “constitutes a mass grave.”

 

“We have a high degree of confidence that this is one of the locations we were looking for,” she said. “But we have to remain cautious because we have not done anything to expose the human remains beyond those that have been encountered.”

 

The site of the dig, which began on Monday, was determined based on cemetery records dating from 1921 and from state truth commission findings in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A nearby dig in the cemetery in July did not uncover any graves.

 

For Brenda Alford, who heads the citizens’ oversight committee for the effort, and whose grandparents survived the massacre, the recent finding is encouraging.

 

“I’m very appreciative of all the hard work that is going into finding our truth, to again bring some sense of justice and healing to our community,” she said.

 

Ms. Stackelbeck said machinery removed the upper layers of an area in the cemetery that had originally been surveyed with ground-penetrating radar. The excavation revealed 10 coffins buried in the same pit and an 11th nearby.

 

The 1921 massacre began after white people tried to lynch a young Black man over allegations that he had attacked a young white woman who was an elevator operator at a drugstore. The man was cleared, but when a group of white men converged with a group of Black men at a police station, shots were fired and a fight broke out.

 

Within hours, white rioters attacked the Greenwood District, an affluent area of Tulsa once called “Black Wall Street.” From May 31 to June 1, 1921, the mob, law enforcement and the National Guard attacked Black residents and burned their homes and businesses.

 

When the carnage was over, the unofficial count of the victims ranged as high as 300. Officials forbade funerals and buried the victims hastily without death certificates or other records.

 

Although many residents vowed to rebuild, the district was never as prosperous as it had been. In later years, much of it was buried beneath an overpass. Still, a lingering question remained: What happened to all the victims?

 

Mayor G.T. Bynum has said that the excavation was a matter of conscience and reconciliation for the city and that it should do everything it can to find the victims.

 

“Today is a significant moment in the history of our city in trying to do right by the victims of this event,” Mr. Bynum said at a news conference on Wednesday.


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10) The Pandemic’s Real Toll? 300,000 Deaths, and It’s Not Just From the Coronavirus

A C.D.C. analysis finds that overall death rates have risen, particularly among young adults and people of color.

By Roni Caryn Rabin, Published Oct. 20, 2020, Updated Oct. 22, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/20/health/coronavirus-excess-deaths.html?surface=home-discovery-vi-prg&fellback=false&req_id=434809658&algo=identity&imp_id=869704282&action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage
Health workers at the Brooklyn Hospital Center moved bodies to an overflow morgue trailer in May. Credit...Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic caused nearly 300,000 deaths in the United States through early October, federal researchers said on Tuesday.

 

The new tally includes not only deaths known to have been directly caused by the coronavirus, but also roughly 100,000 fatalities that are indirectly related and would not have occurred if not for the virus.

 

The study, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is an attempt to measure “excess deaths” — deaths from all causes that statistically exceed those normally occurring in a certain time period. The total included deaths from Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, that were misclassified or missed altogether.

 

Many experts believe this measure tracks the pandemic’s impact more accurately than  official Covid-19 death reports do, and they warn that the death toll may continue an inexorable climb if policies are not put in effect to contain the spread.

 

“This is one of several studies, and the bottom line is there are far more Americans dying from the pandemic than the news reports would suggest,” said Dr. Steve Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, whose own research recently reached similar conclusions about excess deaths.

 

“We’re likely to reach well over 400,000 excess deaths by the end of the year” if current trends continue, Dr. Woolf said.

 

Paul Sutton, deputy director of the division of vital statistics at the C.D.C. and an author of the analysis, said the study had set out to gauge the number of deaths that “we would not have expected to see under normal circumstances.”

 

The results indicate that the pandemic “is having a tremendous and significant impact on death in the country, and it may extend well beyond those deaths that are directly classified as Covid deaths,” Dr. Sutton said.

 

The analysis highlights two disturbing trends. The researchers discovered a high percentage of excess deaths in an unexpected group: young adults in the prime of life. And the coronavirus has greatly raised deaths over all among people of color.

 

Although the pandemic has mostly killed older Americans, the greatest percentage increase in excess deaths has occurred among adults ages 25 to 44, the analysis found.

 

While the number of deaths among adults ages 45 to 64 increased by 15 percent, and by 24 percent among those ages 65 to 74, deaths increased 26.5 percent among those in their mid-20s to mid-40s, a group that includes millennials.

 

Among those in the youngest age group, under 25, deaths were 2 percent below average.

 

People of color also had large percentage increases in excess deaths, compared with previous years. Hispanics experienced a 54 percent increase, while Black people saw a 33 percent rise. Deaths were 29 percent above average for American Indians or Alaska Native people, and 37 percent above average for those of Asian descent.

 

By comparison, the figure for white Americans was 12 percent, according to the analysis.

 

The report reviewed deaths from Jan. 26 to Oct. 3 of 2020, and used modeling to compare the weekly tallies with those of corresponding weeks in 2015 through 2019.

 

The researchers estimated that 299,028 more people than expected died in the United States during that period, with 198,081 deaths attributable to Covid-19 and the rest to other causes.

 

That estimate is significantly higher than the 216,025 coronavirus deaths officially reported by the C.D.C. as of Oct. 15. (The figure now is nearing 221,000, according to a database maintained by The New York Times.)

 

Other researchers have also found greater deaths over all during the pandemic. A study published July 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that deaths from all causes in the United States increased by 122,000 from March 1 to May 30, a figure that was 28 percent higher than the deaths attributed solely to Covid-19 during that period.

 

Dr. Woolf’s first study, published in the journal JAMA, examined the period from March 1 to April 25 of 2020 and found that Covid-19 deaths represented only two-thirds of the excess deaths in the United States during that period.

 

In 14 states, including Texas and California, more than half of excess deaths were linked to underlying health conditions unrelated to Covid-19. Dr. Woolf discovered large increases in deaths from diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease.

 

In New York City, for example, deaths from heart disease increased by 400 percent, and deaths from diabetes rose by 356 percent, Dr. Woolf’s analysis found.

 

A more recent paper by Dr. Woolf and his colleagues, published in JAMA on Oct. 12, looked at deaths in the United States from March all the way through August 1. It found deaths had increased by 20 percent over the expected number for that time period as well, and that only two-thirds of the excess deaths were attributed to Covid-19.

 

In many cases, patients may have delayed seeking medical attention or going to the emergency room, either out of fear of contracting the virus or because medical care was not available. Substance abuse disorders and psychological stress may also be playing a role in excess deaths, he said.

 

Going forward, Dr. Woolf said, “It’s important for people who have these conditions to not delay or forgo medical care because of their fears of the virus.”

 

“In many cases, the danger of not getting care is much greater than the risk of exposure to the virus,” he said.


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11) Purdue Pharma Plea Offers Little Solace to Survivors of Opioid Crisis

The company, which produced OxyContin, faces penalties of $8.3 billion. But families of those addicted are skeptical of the tangible benefits.

By Dan Levin, Oct. 21, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/us/oxycontin-victims-purdue-pharma.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=US%20News
Family and friends who had lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses protested outside of Purdue Pharma’s headquarters in 2018. Credit...Jessica Hill/Associated Press

Emily Walden’s son T.J. was prescribed opioids throughout his childhood to help him recover from a series of operations. But he became addicted only once he started using OxyContin. He was a 21-year-old member of the Kentucky National Guard when he died of an opioid overdose four years later.

 

Ever since her son’s death, Ms. Walden has devoted herself to a singular mission: convincing the federal government to hold pharmaceutical executives personally responsible for their role in the nation’s opioid crisis. At the top of her list is the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, and the wealthy Sackler family that owns the company.

 

Yet Ms. Walden felt little relief when the Justice Department announced on Wednesday that Purdue would plead guilty to criminal charges as part of an $8.3 billion settlement, or that the Sacklers would pay $225 million in civil penalties. The company is in bankruptcy court, so it is unlikely to pay anything close to the negotiated settlement, and the Sacklers remain free.

 

“Purdue, once again, played the game and won,” said Ms. Walden, the chairwoman of The Fed Up! Coalition, an advocacy group.

 

More than 20 years after the introduction of OxyContin — and nearly 450,000 opioid overdose deaths later — Wednesday’s announcement brought little solace to the survivors of the opioid crisis and the families whose loved ones became its victims. Purdue agreed to plead guilty to felony charges of defrauding federal health agencies and violating anti-kickback laws.

 

The deal does not end thousands of lawsuits brought by states, cities and others against the most prominent defendant in the opioid epidemic.

 

In North Caldwell, N.J., Lora Goldwater recalled the agony of watching her son struggle with an opioid addiction that began with OxyContin in college, leading to heroin and seven stints in rehab before he became sober nearly four years ago.

 

“I’m lucky because my son did not die,” she said. “But between the ages of 18 and 25, he must have gone to at least half a dozen funerals, if not more, of people who did not make it to the other side.”

 

For Ms. Goldwater, the settlement is insufficient unless the Sacklers and Purdue executives face criminal charges, which prosecutors said could still happen. “They definitely engaged in criminal activity due to greed, insensitivity and because they felt they could get away with it.”

 

Jake Bradshaw was a 17-year-old high school student in rural Minford, Ohio, two decades ago when OxyContin pills began appearing at parties. Soon, what started as a weekend dalliance became an unrelenting dependence for Mr. Bradshaw and many of his classmates. They swallowed opiates before school, snorted painkillers in the bathrooms and crushed up pills with a baseball at the back of classrooms. “In a very short amount of time, 30 percent of my class was addicted to a hard opiate that’s pretty much like heroin,” he said. “And no one knew how to deal with it.”

 

Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in Ohio’s fight against opioids. It would lead the state with high rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Drug overdoses killed more Ohio residents in May than in any month in at least 14 years, according to state data, as drug abuse has increased amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

“I’m a huge believer that if we had not seen OxyContin in this area, we would not have a heroin and fentanyl epidemic,” said Mr. Bradshaw, who was addicted to opioids for more than 10 years. While he was heartened by the news that Purdue would plead guilty to criminal charges, he questioned the tangible benefits of the deal for devastated communities. “Hopefully, it’ll bring some kind of closure to the families whose kids got addicted to OxyContin and now are dead,” he said.

 

One of Mr. Bradshaw’s former classmates, Ralph Boggs, 38, recounted how a doctor prescribed OxyContin to him in the early 2000s, a few years after he was seriously injured in a car crash. Soon, he was buying OxyContin at pill mills in the Midwest and Florida, where doctors took cash and asked no questions. “It was like walking in and out of a Family Dollar,” he said.

 

He ended his addiction during a seven-year prison sentence, but Mr. Boggs could not escape the destruction wrought by the opioid crisis. In March, his 18-year-old son, Ethan, fatally overdosed on fentanyl, shortly after his high school in Portsmouth, Ohio, closed amid the pandemic.

 

Mr. Boggs dismissed the $8.6 billion settlement as a slap on the wrist for causing so much grief to so many people. “We can’t get our loved ones back,” he said. “To me that’s not worth anything. You can’t write a dollar amount for that.”


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12) OSHA Criticized for Lax Regulation of Meatpacking in Pandemic

Critics say the agency has applied scant oversight and negligible penalties despite virus outbreaks at many plants in the spring.

By Noam Scheiber, Oct. 22, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/22/business/economy/osha-coronavirus-meat.html
Mourners with the coffin of a JBS employee who died of Covid-19 in April after an outbreak at the meat processing plant in Greeley, Colo. The plant was later cited for safety lapses. Credit...Alex Mcintyre/The Greeley Tribune, via Associated Press

When the pandemic hit in March, a JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo., began providing paid leave to workers at high risk of serious illness.

 

But last month, shortly after the plant was cited by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a serious virus-related safety violation and given two initial penalties totaling about $15,500, it brought the high-risk employees back to work.

 

“Now the company knows where the ceiling is,” said Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union local that represents the workers, about half a dozen of whom have died of Covid-19. “If other workers die, it’s not going to cost them that much.”

 

JBS USA said the return of the vulnerable workers in late September had nothing to do with the citation. “It was in response to the low number of Covid-19 cases at the facility for a sustained period of time,” a spokesman said, noting that the company began informing workers of the return in late July.

 

The JBS case reflects a skew in OSHA’s Covid-related citations, most of which it has announced since September: While the agency has announced initial penalties totaling over $1 million to dozens of health care facilities and nursing homes, it has announced fines for only two meatpacking plants for a total of less than $30,000. JBS and the owner of the second plant, Smithfield Foods, combined to take in tens of billions of dollars worldwide last year.

 

The meat industry has gotten the relatively light touch even as the virus has infected thousands of its workers — including more than 1,500 at the two facilities in question — and dozens have died.

 

“The number of plants with outbreaks was enormous around the country,” said David Michaels, an epidemiologist who headed the agency in the Obama administration and now teaches at the George Washington University School of Public Health. “But most OSHA offices haven’t yet issued any citations.”

 

The disparity in the way OSHA has treated health care and meatpacking is no accident. In April, the agency announced that it would largely avoid inspecting workplaces in person outside a small number of industries deemed most susceptible to coronavirus outbreaks, like health care, nursing homes and emergency response.

 

Experts concede that with limited resources for inspections, OSHA, part of the Labor Department, must set priorities according to risk. Some, like Dr. Michaels, argue that this makes it more important to issue a rule instructing employers on the steps they must take to keep workers safe. But the agency chose instead to issue a set of recommendations, like six feet of distance between workers on a meat-processing line.

 

A Labor Department spokeswoman said OSHA already had more general rules that “apply to protecting workers from the coronavirus.”

 

Around the time of the recommendations, President Trump signed an executive order declaring meatpacking plants “critical infrastructure” to help ensure that they remained open during the pandemic.

 

Some union officials representing health care workers praise OSHA for its enforcement work. “Given the times we live in, frankly I am thrilled that we’ve gotten OSHA to issue so many citations,” said Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, which represents about 14,000 nurses and other health workers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

 

“We see improved health and safety in the workplace because of those citations,” she said. “That’s a win for us.”

 

But when it comes to meatpacking, many union officials and safety experts said there had largely been a regulatory vacuum, one they worry will lead to another round of outbreaks as cases spike again this fall.

 

“We’re worried that we’re going to see what happened happen again,” Ms. Cordova of the Colorado local said.

 

OSHA’s oversight of the meatpacking industry has been in the spotlight in a case filed by workers at a Maid-Rite plant in Dunmore, Pa., accusing the agency of lax regulation.

 

The suit contended that OSHA had done little for weeks after a worker filed a complaint in April describing insufficient precautions amid an outbreak at the plant, and after other workers filed a complaint in May asserting that they faced “imminent danger” because of the risk of infection there.

 

When OSHA finds that conditions pose an “imminent danger” to workers, it typically intervenes quickly and asks the employer to mitigate the risk. But in a hearing before a federal judge in late July, a local OSHA official testified that she did not consider the term to be appropriate in the Maid-Rite case.

 

The official said that because OSHA’s central office had designated all meatpacking facilities to be “medium risk,” the agency would not rush to conduct a formal inspection absent some “outlying” issue. The OSHA area director said that of nearly 300 Covid-related complaints his office had received at the time, it had not deemed any an imminent danger.

 

The agency inspected the Maid-Rite plant on July 9, months after the initial complaint, finding that many workers were spaced two to three feet apart with no barriers separating them. A Labor Department lawyer said at the hearing that OSHA was still studying the feasibility of requiring the company to space them farther apart.

 

A Maid-Rite spokeswoman said the company was following guidelines suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “as we have been since they were released.”

 

OSHA has also been accused by union officials and even company executives of having been slow to visit the two meatpacking facilities that it has cited so far.

 

Ms. Cordova sent the agency a letter on March 23 asking it to conduct a spot check of the JBS plant and several other workplaces that her union represents. In response, she said, a local OSHA official told her that his office did not have capacity for inspections.

 

The agency eventually visited the 3,000-worker plant on May 14, after the plant had closed amid an outbreak and then reopened, and several workers had died.

 

At Smithfield, whose plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., was the other one cited by OSHA, even the company professed frustration over the agency’s inspection constraints.

 

Keira Lombardo, a Smithfield executive vice president, said in a statement that the company had “repeatedly urged OSHA to commit the time and resources to visit our operations in March and April,” adding, “They did not do so.”

 

The Labor Department spokeswoman said the agency had six months to complete an investigation under the law.

 

B.J. Motley, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers local representing workers at the plant, said an OSHA inspection there in mid-May had been thorough, including several dozen interviews. But he said that the company had taken too long to add safety features, and that the penalty was insufficient.

 

According to Ms. Cordova and Mr. Motley, both plants have provided protective equipment like masks since the spring, but workers often still stand within a few feet of one another.

 

JBS and Smithfield said they were contesting their citations because the violations applied to conditions at their plants before OSHA had issued guidance. “It attempts to impose a standard that did not exist in March,” the JBS spokesman said.

 

The companies do not have to take the steps the agency recommended, such as distancing, while they contest the citations, but said their current standards largely exceeded OSHA’s guidance. Both companies said that they had installed barriers between many workers, taken air-purification measures and started virus screening and testing programs. They said that many of the safety measures were in place by late April, and that the rates of infection among their workers were low today.

 

The Labor Department has defended the penalties for JBS and Smithfield as the maximum allowed under the law for a single serious violation. While OSHA could have cited each plant for multiple instances of the same safety lapses, John L. Henshaw, who served as head of OSHA under President George W. Bush, said this practice was supposed to be reserved for employers who willfully failed to protect workers.

 

“Either the inspector or the area director or the solicitor’s office — somebody sort of looked at all the evidence and saw what maybe the company was trying to do and did, even though it wasn’t successful,” Mr. Henshaw said.

 

But Ann Rosenthal, who retired in 2018 as the Labor Department’s top OSHA lawyer after working under administrations of both parties, said the agency could have cited each facility for multiple violations — for different portions of the plant where there were hazards.

 

“They could well have said that hazards exist on the first floor, the second floor, etc., and could have gotten the penalty over $100,000,” Ms. Rosenthal said. “At least it would have looked like an effort to start to be serious.”

 

Other experts said the agency could fall further behind in protecting meatpacking workers in the coming months, pointing not just to rising infection rates nationally but to recent changes in the way OSHA regulates employers.

 

Dr. Michaels, the former OSHA head, cited the agency’s recent reinterpretation of an Obama-era rule that had required employers to report any hospitalization or amputation that resulted from a workplace incident.

 

Under the new interpretation, outlined last month, an employer is no longer required to report a Covid-related hospitalization within 24 hours of learning about it. Instead, the employer must report only hospitalizations that occur within 24 hours of the worker’s exposure to the virus on the job — timing that may be impossible to determine.

 

The spokeswoman for the Labor Department said that after initially considering the more expansive interpretation, it had concluded that only the narrower interpretation could be defended in court.

 

Dr. Michaels said that the regulation was critical for highlighting hot spots and problem areas, and that its weakening was deeply concerning.

 

“It’s a way to guarantee you have no reports,” he said of the change. “They’re telling employers: ‘Don’t worry. We’re not going to make you do anything.’”


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Posted by: Bonnie Weinstein <bonnieweinstein@yahoo.com>

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