Bay Area United Against War: Our activist-oriented San Francisco-based newsletter.
BAUAW NEWSLETTER, FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2015
Sunday, June 28th, join Courage to Resist and the Chelsea Manning
Support Network in this year’s 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade!
for our heroic WikiLeaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning and show your
support for Chelsea, whistle-blowers, and government transparency.
2013, the Chelsea Manning contingent was awarded the highest honor,
“The Absolutely Fabulous Overall Contingent”. That contingent was the
largest non-corporate group with well over 1,000 people! And last year,
Chelsea Manning was honored as an official Parade Grand Marshal! With
Chelsea’s legal appeals beginning soon, she needs your support more than
* Help lead the Chelsea Manning parade contingent by holding our lead banner!
* Wave from the motorized cable car!
* Cheer on our Flash Mob Dancers!
* Help staff the Chelsea Manning booth at the TransMarch
are urgently needed to attend a one hour contingent monitor training
prior to parade day. Contingent monitors walk (or ride) along with us
during the parade to double-check everyone is following the parade rules
and being safe. SF Pride requires each contingent to provide their own
monitors to participate, and we’ll need about 20 monitors to
Organized by the Chelsea Manning Support Network and
Courage to Resist – Please contact us to list your organization as an
endorser! To RSVP, volunteer, and/or become a monitor, please contact:
email@example.com / 510-488-3559
Starting this September, Rising Tide
North America is calling for mass actions to shut down the economic and
political systems threatening our survival.
Already, hundreds of
thousands are streaming into the streets to fight back against climate
chaos, capitalism and white supremacy.
This wave of resistance
couldn’t be more urgent. To stop climate chaos we need a phenomenal
escalation in organizing, participation and tactical courage. We need a
profound social transformation to uproot the institutions of capitalism,
colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, the systems that created
the climate crisis. And we need to link arms with allies fighting for
migrant justice, dignified work and pay, and an end to the
criminalization and brutal policing of black and brown bodies.
We need to #FloodTheSystem.
the lead up to the United Nations climate talks in Paris, in December,
we will escalate local and regional resistance against systems that
threaten our collective survival. Together, we will open alternative
paths to the failing negotiations of political elites.
not another protest. It is a call for a massive economic and political
intervention. It is a call to build the relationships needed to sustain
our struggles for the long haul. To build popular power along the
intersections of race, class, gender and ability. To collectively
unleash our power and change everything.
The Story So Far
Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have flowed into the streets to fight back.
food workers in over a hundred cities went on strike, with thousands
arrested demanding $15 an hour and a union. Young people in Ferguson,
protesting the murder of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, showed us the
power of sustained action as they fought back against state violence for
weeks, reinvigorating a national movement for Black liberation.
Hundreds of thousands of climate activists marched at the People’s
Climate March in New York, and the next day Flood Wall Street shut down
the heart of New York’s financial district.
Across the country,
and the world, powerful movements are using nonviolent direct action to
to disrupt business as usual and demand lasting systemic change.
moments show that broad mobilization and disruption are ways that we
can transform our society. It is time we move beyond conventional
strategies. Its time we connect across movements and #FloodTheSystem.
Tide North America and its allies call on communities, networks,
affinity groups and organizations across the continent to join together
this Fall to rapidly escalate the pace and scale of the anti-capitalist
climate justice movements.
We need to wash away the root causes
of climate change -- capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and
colonialism. These systems enable the domination of people and Earth.
They place gains for the elite before the well being of our communities.
To build the scale of movements necessary to take on this
challenge, we need everyone. Using sustained, coordinated direct action
we can bring more people into a movement for radical social
transformation than ever before.
The upcoming United Nations
meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP 21) at the end of
the year provide us with an opportunity. Framed as climate negotiations
they are really about capitalism and the corporate elites. We have an
opportunity to focus the debate on capitalism itself as negotiators
wedded to and benefiting from the status quo refuse to discuss the
systems that drive the crisis. This is a natural moment to preemptively
highlight community resistance and radical alternatives in advance of
another colossal failure of international leadership. Through our
combined action we can turn the failure of these critical talks into a
moment in which the systemic nature of the crisis moves to the center
and in which our movements begin to connect and collaborate.
the past, the climate movement has repeatedly tried days of action and
one-day marches. While these have built important relationships, they
have not created the sustained movement swells we need. To lay the
groundwork for exponential movement growth we are asking groups to
convene Action Councils, like those forming in the Pacific Northwest,
California, Montana, Northeast and elsewhere, with the intention of
coming together to organize sustained actions beginning in late Summer,
continuing through November and beyond.
With luck, waves of
mobilizations breaking across the continent and world will build off
each other to create a flood of resistance to fossil fuel extraction,
capitalism and colonialism.
#FloodTheSystem invites the Rising Tide network, the larger climate
justice movements, and other non-climate focused groups to create a
flood of massive economic and political disruption of the systems that
allow the climate and economic crisis to continue to escalate. This is not a simple call to action or day of action, it’s a long-term process. We want to organize a series of actions that would:
Build a more robust anti-capitalist movement that clearly defines
climate change as a symptom of capitalism. Specifically, we hope to
support and catalyze regional organizing networks and relationships to
challenge extreme energy infrastructure and the systems of oppression
that enable it.
Build long term local, regional and continental networks that can
continue to coordinate, build connections between movements, and
escalate these fights in 2016 and beyond.
Begin to work closely with other movements through the analysis of
where our struggles intersect and through a commitment to
anti-oppressive organizing practices.
Share, implement and gain experience in innovative models of
horizontal movement structures and mass democracy in organizing that
will serve radical forces for the long haul.
Create a flood of energy within regions that inspires others to join
in with organic, spontaneous actions and organizing. Regional blocks of
escalating action are already planned that will lead into, and play
off, each other. More emerge everyday.
Preemptively highlight community resistance and real alternatives to
the fossil fuel economy ahead of the inevitable colossal failure by
global elites at the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris.
#FloodTheSystem will organize and act according to the following principles.
Anti-capitalism/colonialism/racism/patriarchy - We see the climate
crisis as a symptom of hierarchical social systems based upon domination
and exploitation of lands, and predominately people of color.
Addressing the crisis at its roots means joining with and supporting
those who are fighting for liberation from these and other oppressive
systems, and for their replacement with relations based upon equity,
mutual aid, and ecological stewardship.
Grassroots Led, NGOs in Support Role - Non-profits and NGOs often
function to co-opt and defuse resistance into reform-based avenues which
are amenable to the social systems we are ultimately seeking to
dismantle and replace. The priorities of this mobilization should be
driven by groups grounded in and accountable to the communities most
impacted by white supremacy, capitalism, and settler colonialism, with
NGOs in a support role -- not the other way around.
Community-Based Alternatives - Corporations, nation-states, and
multilateral institutions like the United Nations are integral pillars
upholding global capitalism and colonialism. We see alternatives to
extreme energy and the climate crisis arising out of social struggles
which challenge and seek to replace these institutions and their logics.
However, we recognize that there may be important defensive struggles
within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, such as fighting
the expansion of carbon markets or advancing state recognition of
Indigenous land rights.
Amnesty for all those arrested demanding justice for Freddie Gray!
Amnesty for ALL those arrested demanding justice for Freddie Gray!
Sign and distribute the petition to drop the charges! Spread this effort with #Amnesty4Baltimore
"A riot is the language of the unheard" — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
estimated 300 people have been arrested in Baltimore in the last two
weeks. Many have been brutalized, beaten and pepper-sprayed by police in
the streets, and held for days in inhumane conditions. Those arrested
include journalists, medics and legal observers.
individual arrested for property destruction of a police vehicle is now
facing life in prison and is being held on $500,000 bail. That's
$150,000 more than the officer charged with the murder of Freddie Gray.
legal system has made it clear that they care more about broken windows
than broken necks; more about a CVS than the lives of Baltimore's Black
They showed no hesitation in arresting Baltimore's
protesters and rebels, and sending in the National Guard, but took 19
days to put a single one of the killer cops in handcuffs. This was the
outrageous double standard that led to the Baltimore Uprising.
Sign the petition to drop the charges on all who have been arrested.
Petition to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake
City Hall, Room 250,
100 North Holliday St.,
Baltimore, MD 21202
Dear Mayor Rawlings-Blake:
I stand in solidarity with those in Baltimore who are demanding that
all charges be dropped against those who rose up against racism, police
brutality, oppressive social conditions and delay of justice in the case
of Freddie Gray. The whole world now recognizes that were it not for
this powerful grassroots movement, in all its forms, there would be no
It is an outrage that peaceful protesters have been brutalized,
beaten and pepper-sprayed by police in the streets, and held for days
in inhumane conditions. Those arrested include journalists and legal
Even the youth who are charged with property destruction and looting
should be given an amnesty. There is no reason a teenager -- provoked by
racists and justifiably angry -- should be facing life in prison for
breaking the windows of a police car.
The City of Baltimore should work to rectify the conditions that led
to this Uprising, rather than criminalizing those who took action in
response to those conditions. Drop the charges now!
Dear President Obama, Senators, and Members of Congress:
now owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. Eighty-six percent of that money
is owed to the United States government. This is a crushing burden for
more than 40 million Americans and their families.
I urge you to take immediate action to forgive all student debt, public and private.
American Federation of Teachers
Campaign for America's Future
Democracy for America
RH Reality Check
Student Debt Crisis
John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York
524 W. 59th St at Amsterdam Ave. WHY WE FOCUS ON U.S. IMPERIALIST WARS
Saturday, May 30
Session 1, 10:00-11:50 am, Room 1.83
Many antiwar groups have joined with the U.S. in condemning Russia or
ISIS or others that the U.S. government sees as its enemy. This has led
some to not take up the fight against U.S. military attacks in Libya,
Syria or Ukraine. However, it is the U.S. that is the main terrorist
force and the cause of war in all these areas. This panel will discuss
the role of the U.S. military abroad and how we can stop it
Joe Lombardo, Co-Coordinator, UNAC
Sara Flounders, Co-Director, International Action Center
Additional speaker tba THE WARS COME HOME
Sunday, May 31
Session 6, 12:00-1:50 pm, Room 1.85
Since 9/11, we have not only seen continuous war abroad but increased
militarization of the police, attacks on Muslim and communities of
color, austerity and attacks on our civil liberties. This is what UNAC
means when we call for an end to the War at Home and Abroad. The panel
will discuss this situation and how we can fight against it.
Margaret Kimberley, Editor and Senior Columnist, Black Agenda Report
Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire and a
Co-founder of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice
Marilyn Levin, Co-Coordinator, UNAC
FREE OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA!
EAST COAST MARCH 2015
Saturday, May 30, NYC
West Harlem – El Barrio
age 72, Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera has served
more than 30 years in prison, convicted of seditious conspiracy for his
commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico, though he was not accused
or convicted of causing harm or taking a life. Serving a sentence of
70 years, he is among the longest held political prisoners in the
history of Puerto Rico and in the world.
Route & Rally:
Assemble at 11:00 am 125th & Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. March
east to Lexington, then south to 106th & Lexington St. rally site.
Red Crescent relief ship to Yemen stopped by US-backed Saudi destruction of Yemeni port.
taken from report of U.S. resident Caleb Maupin of the International
Action Committee who was on the ship delivering humanitarian aid,
writing from Djibouti on May 23, 2015.)
I Have Witnessed A Crime Against Humanity! - A Message from Caleb Maupin in the Port of Djibouti
the Port of Djibouti in North Africa, it is with great sadness and
burning outrage that I announce that the voyage of the Iran Shahed
Rescue Ship has concluded. We will not reach our destination at the Port
of Hodiedah in Yemen to deliver humanitarian aid. The unsuccessful
conclusion of our mission is the result of only one thing: US-backed
Saudi Terrorism. Yesterday, as it appeared our arrival was imminent,
the Saudi forces bombed the port of Hodiedah. They didn’t just bomb the
port once, or even twice. The Saudi forces bombed the port of Hodiedah a
total of eight times in a single day! The total number of innocent dock
workers, sailors, longshoremen, and bystanders killed by these eight
airstrikes is still being calculated.
With its so many criminal
threats and actions, the Saudi regime was sending a message to the crew
of doctors, medical technicians, anesthesiologists, and other Red
Crescent Society volunteers onboard the ship. The message was “If you
try to help the hungry children of Yemen we will kill you.” These
actions, designed to terrorize and intimidate those seeking to deliver
humanitarian aid, are a clear violation of international law. I can say,
without any hesitation, that I have witnessed a crime against humanity.
the context of the extreme Saudi threats, after lengthy negotiations
which have been taking place around the clock in Tehran, it has been
determined that the Red Crescent Society cannot complete this mission.
The 2,500 tons of medical supplies, food, and water are being unloaded,
and handed over to the World Food Program, who has agreed to distribute
them on our behalf by June 5th. ……….
The people of Yemen, like
the forces of resistance in so many other parts of the world, have
refused to surrender. As they face a horrendous onslaught with US made
Saudi bombs, I hope that news of our peaceful, humanitarian mission has
reached them. I hope they are aware that in their struggle against the
Saudi King, the Wall Street bankers, and all the great forces of evil,
they are not alone. There are millions of people across the planet who
are on their side.
Imperialism is doomed, and all humanity shall soon be free!
Remove U.S. Drone Relay Stations from German Soil
the UNAC Convention, May 8-10, American German activist Elsa Rassbach
spoke powerfully about the need to stand in solidarity with German
activists who are protesting the use of the U.S. Base in Ramstein,
Germany to host a satellite relay necessary to the military drone
program. All targeted killings and surveillance by US drones in
Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia require the use of this
relay, which sends data received overland from domestic U.S. bases to a
satellite which then forwards the signals to individual drones. This is
a gross violation of the sovereignty of Germany, just as the drone
surveillance and strikes themselves are violations of the sovereignty of
Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and the other countries where
they are used, and targeted killings are a violation of the most basic
human rights of the victims, all of whom are technically civilian.
UNAC supports the campaign to remove the relay from German soil, and stands in solidarity with the people of Germany.
Wednesday, May 27, Faisal bin Ali Jaber will have his first hearing in a
lawsuit against the German government's complicity in the deaths of his
brother-in-law and nephew by a drone strike in Yemen. Jaber's
brother-in-law was a cleric and a peacemaker. He was arranging a
meeting to show the local Al Qaeda converts the error of their
understanding when he ws killed. Drone strikes prohibit local
solutions to local problems. The relay in Germany was installed in
secrecy under the cover of the U.S. - German Status of Forces
agreement. Now that it's existence is known, the German government
must respond appropriately in light of German, EU and International
We support Faisal bin Ali Jaber's right to justice, and
the rights of all the victims to a just hearing, and the right of the
German people not to be made complicit in U.S. war crimes
Please click here to donate to UNAC:
The ‘Mumia Abu-Jamal Needs Medical Care NOW!’ team just posted:
1 new Announcement:
Dateline May 17th 2015:
have not seen or spoken to Mumia Abu-Jamal for a week. He is being
held incommunicado in a hospital without access to visits of any kind or
This is deeply troubling.
On Tuesday May 12th in the evening Mumia was taken from the prison to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA.
The Legal & Medical Team working 24/7.
Bret Grote, Esq, and co counsel Bob Boyle are preparing an emergency court action in Federal Court. Bret Grote, notes
DOC demonstrating its contempt for human rights and proper health care
by holding Mumia Abu-Jamal incommunicado from his family and lawyers.
Instead of recognizing the value of family support and legal
consultation in protecting and improving his health, the DOC is treating
Mumia like a piece of property that it can withhold access to and
information about arbitrarily and with impunity. Demand that Mumia be
permitted visits and phone calls "
A delegation from
Collectif Français 'Libérons Mumia' from Paris, France went to the
hospital & the prison. The prison guards denied their visit. On
Saturday Mark Lewis Taylor, of Princeton Theological Seminary was
Keeping Our Eyes on Munia
past two weeks, Mumia’s doctor has identified seriously inadequacies in
the medical care provided by the infirmary. Mumia’s doctor stressed
that a cat scan was needed. The prison said it was fine. There were
serious medical issues raised by the troubling cat scan results. Then
Mumia was given a topical cream that was on the warning label counter
indicated to the very specific and rare potential cancer that is a
possible cause of his extreme skin ailment. Clearly, a biopsy was
called for. Upon hearing that on Monday a biopsy would be conducted,
Mumia’s doctor immediately specified that it should be taken from his
trunk area. When Mumia told the Physician’s assistant who conducted the
biopsy at the infirmary this, he could not change the standing order
which was to take the biopsy from his arm.
concern is that what might be driving the extreme skin condition is
subcutaneous T cell lymphoma – a treatable cancer. Mumia was told that
the physicians at SCI Mahanoy in March were prevented from ordering
additional tests by officials of the Wexford Corporation that has the
health care contract.
Clearly Mumia needs an
immediate diagnosis, and then a competent treatment plan. Please join us
in keeping Mumia alive, and then seeing him free.
Noelle Hanrahan, P.I. Director Prison Radio
Take Action Now!
that the Department of Corrections permit Mumia to have an examination
by his doctor! Click here to call and fax the Prison and State officials
and state our demands.
We need to keep up the pressure
with phone calls:
SCI Mahanoy Superintendent John Kerestes and Secretary of Corrections
John Wetzel know we insist that Mumia have medical specialists of his
own choosing, and that they have daily access rights to examine and
treat him. Also let them know that Mumia’s family needs regular and
frequent visitation rights.
Superintendent John Kerestes
Chief Health Care Administrator Steinhardt
Director, PA Department of Corrections Health Care Services
Secretary, PA Department of Corrections
NO EXECUTION BY MEDICAL NEGLECT!
SAVE MUMIA'S LIFE!
Mumia is Innocent! Free Mumia Now!
This message by:
Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
20 April 2015
Call now to demand freedom and medical care for Mumia:
when we call in, prison and state officials have taken their lines off
the hook. Know that every action matters, even when they don't pick up.
If they don't answer, please leave a voicemail:
John Wetzel, PA Secretary of Corrections: 717-728-4109
Governor Tom Wolf: 717-787-2500
SCI Mahanoy: 570-787-2500
For a full list of addresses and faxes, visit prisonradio.org
Support Prison Radio
$35 to become a member.
$50 to become a member and receive a beautiful tote bag. Or call us to special order a yoga mat bag.
$100 to become a member and receive the DVD "Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary."
$300 to become a member and bring one essay to the airwaves.
$1,000 (or $88 per month) will make you a member of our Prison Radio Freedom Circle. Thank you!
1, 2015—The prosecutor has run away from (almost) every issue raised in
my PCRA by begging the Court to dismiss everything as “untimely”. When
they don’t do this, they suggest that me and my lawyers were
“defamatory” towards either my former prosecutor Christopher Abruzzo or
Detective Kevin Duffin, in our claims they withheld, misused or hid
evidence of my Innocence, in order to secure an unjust conviction in
this case. If I charged, a year ago, that about a dozen AGs (attorneys
general) were involved in circulating porno via their office computers,
people would’ve laughed at me, and seen me as crazy.
guess what? During 2014, we learned that this was the truth. How can it
be defamatory to speak the truth? Notice the OAG (Office of Attorney
General), never said the obvious: That AG Abruzzo didn’t inform the
Defense about the relationship between his Motive Witness and his head
detective (Victoria Doubs and Det. Duffin); that Det. Duffin doesn’t
deny Doubs was his god-sister, and that she lived in his family home, or
that he assisted her whenever she got into trouble.
not? Because it is true. How can you defame someone who defames
himself? Mr. Christopher Abruzzo, Esq., when a member of the higher
ranks of the OAG, sent and/or received copious amounts of porno to other
attorneys general and beyond. What does this say about his sense of
judgment? He thought enough about his behavior to resign from his post
in the Governor’s Cabinet. If he thought that his behavior was okay,
he’d still be sitting in the Governor’s cabinet, right? The OAG cannot
honestly oppose anything we’ve argued, but they try by seeking to get
the Court to do their dirty work, how? By denying an Evidentiary Hearing
to prove every point we’ve claimed.
The prosecution is
trying desperately to avoid dealing with the substance of my claims in
Com. v. Lorenzo Johnson. So, they slander my Legal Team and blame them
for defaming the good AG’s and Cops involved with this case. They try to
do what is undeniable, to deny that they hid evidence from the Defense
for years. They blamed me for daring to protest the hidden evidence of
their malfeasance and other acts to sabotage the defense. They claim
that they had an “Open File” policy with my trial counsel. But “Open
File” is more than letting an attorney read something in their office.
If it’s a search for the truth it must include what is turned over to
the attorney, for how do we really know what was shown to her?
say it is inconceivable that an attorney would read a file, beginning
on page nine (9), and not ask for the preceding eight (8) pages. Yet, it
is conceivable if trial counsel was ineffective for not demanding the
record of the first eight pages. Pages that identify the State’s only
witness as a “SUSPECT” in the murder for which her client was charged!
How could such an attorney fail to recognize the relevance of such an
issue, barring their sheer Ineffectiveness and frankly, Incompetence.
seeking to avoid an evidentiary hearing, the prosecution seeks to avoid
evidence of their wrongdoing being made plain, for all to see. If they
believe I’m wrong, why not prove it? They can’t. So they shout I filed
my appeal untimely, as if there can ever justly be a rule that precludes
an innocent from proving his innocence! Not to mention the fact that
the prosecution has failed to even mention the positive finger prints
that ay my trial they said none existed. Don’t try to hide it with a
lame argument about time. When isn’t there a time for truth? The
prosecution should be ashamed of itself for taking this road. It is
unworthy of an office that claims to seek justice.
the trial verdict The Patriot-News (March 18, 1997) reported, “Deputy
Attorney General Christopher Abruzzo admitted there were some serious
concerns about the strength of the evidence against Johnson and praised
the jury for doing a thorough job.” I guess he forgot to mention all of
the evidence he left out to show Innocence.
Now, more than ever, Lorenzo Johnson needs your support.
Publicize his case; bring it to your friends, clubs, religious
December 15, 2014 the Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan
was thrown into prison for 2.5 to 10 years. This 66-year-old leading
African American activist was tried and convicted in front of an
all-white jury and racist white judge and prosecutor for supposedly
altering 5 dates on a recall petition against the mayor of Benton
The prosecutor, with the judge’s approval,
repeatedly told the jury “you don’t need evidence to convict Mr.
Pinkney.” And ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE WAS EVER PRESENTED THAT TIED REV.
PINKNEY TO THE ‘ALTERED’ PETITIONS. Rev. Pinkney was immediately led
away in handcuffs and thrown into Jackson Prison.
This is an outrageous charge. It is an outrageous conviction. It is an even more outrageous sentence! It must be appealed.
With your help supporters need to raise $20,000 for Rev. Pinkney’s appeal.
can be made out to BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community
Organization). This is the organization founded by Rev. Pinkney. Mail
them to: Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney, 1940 Union Street, Benton Harbor, MI
Donations can be accepted on-line at bhbanco.org – press the donate button.
For information on the decade long campaign to destroy Rev. Pinkney go to bhbanco.org and workers.org(search “Pinkney”).
We urge your support to the efforts to Free Rev. Pinkney!Ramsey Clark – Former U.S. attorney general,
Cynthia McKinney – Former member of U.S. Congress,
Lynne Stewart – Former political prisoner and human rights attorney
Ralph Poynter – New Abolitionist Movement,
Abayomi Azikiwe – Editor, Pan-African News Wire<
Larry Holmes – Peoples Power Assembly,
David Sole – Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
Sara Flounders – International Action Center
MESSAGE FROM REV. PINKNEY
am now in Marquette prison over 15 hours from wife and family, sitting
in prison for a crime that was never committed. Judge Schrock and Mike
Sepic both admitted there was no evidence against me but now I sit in
prison facing 30 months. Schrock actually stated that he wanted to make
an example out of me. (to scare Benton Harbor residents even more...)
ONLY IN AMERICA. I now have an army to help fight Berrien County. When I
arrived at Jackson state prison on Dec. 15, I met several hundred
people from Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids. Some people
recognized me. There was an outstanding amount of support given by the
prison inmates. When I was transported to Marquette Prison it took 2
days. The prisoners knew who I was. One of the guards looked me up on
the internet and said, "who would believe Berrien County is this
Background to Campaign to free Rev. Pinkney
political prisoner the Rev. Edward Pinkney is a victim of racist
injustice. He was sentenced to 30 months to 10 years for supposedly
changing the dates on 5 signatures on a petition to recall Benton Harbor
Mayor James Hightower.
No material or circumstantial
evidence was presented at the trial that would implicate Pinkney in the
purported5 felonies. Many believe that Pinkney, a Berrien County
activist and leader of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization
(BANCO), is being punished by local authorities for opposing the
corporate plans of Whirlpool Corp, headquartered in Benton Harbor,
In 2012, Pinkney and BANCO led an “Occupy the
PGA [Professional Golfers’ Association of America]” demonstration
against a world-renowned golf tournament held at the newly created Jack
Nicklaus Signature Golf Course on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The
course was carved out of Jean Klock Park, which had been donated to the
city of Benton Harbor decades ago.
officials were determined to defeat the recall campaign against Mayor
Hightower, who opposed a program that would have taxed local
corporations in order to create jobs and improve conditions in Benton
Harbor, a majority African-American municipality. Like other Michigan
cities, it has been devastated by widespread poverty and unemployment.
Benton Harbor corporate power structure has used similar fraudulent
charges to stop past efforts to recall or vote out of office the racist
white officials, from mayor, judges, prosecutors in a majority Black
city. Rev Pinkney who always quotes scripture, as many Christian
ministers do, was even convicted for quoting scripture in a newspaper
column. This outrageous conviction was overturned on appeal. We must do
To sign the petition in support of the Rev. Edward Pinkney, log on to: tinyurl.com/ps4lwyn.
Contributions for Rev. Pinkney’s defense can be sent to BANCO at Mrs Dorothy Pinkney, 1940 Union St., Benton Harbor, MI 49022
New Action- write letters to DoD officials requesting clemency for Chelsea! November 24, 2014 by the Chelsea Manning Support Network
Secretary of the Army John McHugh
President Obama has delegated review of Chelsea Manning’s clemency appeal to individuals within the Department of Defense.
write them to express your support for heroic WikiLeaks’ whistle-blower
former US Army intelligence analyst PFC Chelsea Manning’s release from
It is important that each of these
authorities realize the wide support that Chelsea (formerly Bradley)
Manning enjoys worldwide. They need to be reminded that millions
understand that Manning is a political prisoner, imprisoned for
following her conscience. While it is highly unlikely that any of these
individuals would independently move to release Manning, a reduction in
Manning’s outrageous 35-year prison sentence is a possibility at this
Take action TODAY – Write letters supporting Chelsea’s clemency petition to the following DoD authorities:
Secretary of the Army John McHugh
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0101
The Judge Advocate General
2200 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-2200
Army Clemency and Parole Board
251 18th St, Suite 385
Arlington, VA 22202-3532
Directorate of Inmate Administration
Attn: Boards Branch
U.S. Disciplinary Barracks
1301 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304
Suggestions for letters send to DoD officials:
letter should focus on your support for Chelsea Manning, and especially
why you believe justice will be served if Chelsea Manning’s sentence is
reduced. The letter should NOT be anti-military as this will be
unlikely to help.
A suggested message: “Chelsea Manning
has been punished enough for violating military regulations in the
course of being true to her conscience. I urge you to use your
authorityto reduce Pvt. Manning’s sentence to time served.” Beyond that
general message, feel free to personalize the details as to why you
believe Chelsea deserves clemency.
your letter on personalized letterhead -you can create this yourself
(here are templates and some tips for doing that).
A comment on this post will NOT be seen by DoD authorities–please send your letters to the addresses above
clemency petition is separate from Chelsea Manning’s upcoming appeal
before the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals next year, where Manning’s
new attorney Nancy Hollander will have an opportunity to highlight the
prosecution’s—and the trial judge’s—misconduct during last year’s trial
at Ft. Meade, Maryland.
Help us continue to cover 100% of Chelsea’s legal fees at this critical stage!
Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave. #41
Oakland, CA 94610
8) One-Time Bonuses and Perks Muscle Out Pay Raises for Workers
the past 12 months, real average hourly earnings have increased by just
2.2 percent. Since 1979, most of the gains in pay have gone to those at
the top of the salary pyramid while, except for brief periods in the
1980s and late 1990s, those in the middle and at the bottom have been
Department investigators have identified criminal wrongdoing in General
Motors’ failure to disclose a defect tied to at least 104 deaths, and
are negotiating what is expected to be a record penalty, according to
people briefed on the inquiry.
A settlement could be reached as soon as this summer. The final number is still being negotiated, but it is expected to eclipse the $1.2 billion paid last year by Toyota
for concealing unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles, said
the people, who did not want to be identified because the negotiations
G.M.’s eagerness to resolve the investigation —
a strategy that sets it apart from Toyota, which fought prosecutors —
is expected to earn it so-called cooperation credit, one of the people
said. That credit could translate into a somewhat smaller penalty than
if G.M. had declined to cooperate.Former G.M. employees, some of whom
were dismissed last year, are under investigation as well and could face
criminal charges. Prosecutors and G.M. are also still negotiating what
misconduct the company would admit to.
For more than a year,
federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the F.B.I. have homed in on whether
the company failed to comply with laws requiring timely disclosure of
vehicle defects and misled federal regulators about the extent of the
problems, the people who were briefed on the inquiry said. The
authorities also examined whether G.M. committed fraud during its
bankruptcy proceedings in 2009 by not disclosing the defect.
agreement with the Justice Department, which could still fall apart,
would represent a crucial step as G.M. tries to move past a
scandal-laden year that tainted its reputation for quality and safety
and damaged its bottom line.
“We are cooperating fully with all
requests,” the automaker said in a statement. “We are unable to comment
on the status of the investigation, including timing.”
February 2014, the automaker began recalling 2.6 million Chevrolet
Cobalts and other small cars with faulty ignitions that could
unexpectedly turn off the engine, disabling power steering, power brakes
and the airbags. The switch crisis prompted a wave of additional
recalls by G.M. for various safety issues. All told, G.M. recalled more
than 30 million vehicles worldwide last year — a record for the
G.M.’s aggressive expansion of its recalls after the
disclosure contrasted to the approach of Toyota, which kept unsafe cars
on the road despite signs of trouble, a decision that underpinned the
criminal case against it. The case against Toyota was a warning shot to
the automotive industry, which has been quicker to issue recalls ever
The case also led prosecutors in Manhattan, under Preet
Bharara, the United States attorney, to secure control over the
subsequent G.M. investigation as well. While federal prosecutors in
Detroit wanted to run the investigation, people briefed on the matter
said, Mr. Bharara’s office pointed to its experience in the Toyota case
and noted that G.M.’s bankruptcy filing came in New York.
Justice Department in Washington, which mediates turf disputes, steered
another prominent auto investigation, into the airbag maker Takata, to
Detroit. Mr. Bharara’s office initially investigated how the Japanese
supplier had handled a defect that could cause its airbags to deploy
violently and send metal shards into the passenger compartment of
vehicles, the people said. But the investigation is now being run by
prosecutors in Detroit and the Justice Department’s criminal division in
Washington. On Tuesday, Takata, under pressure from safety regulators,
agreed to declare nearly 34 million vehicles defective, doubling the
size of its recall in the United States and making it the largest
automotive recall in American history.
The penalty from Mr. Bharara’s office would be the latest in a long line of expenses for G.M.
company has spent an estimated $3 billion on recalls and other safety
issues in the last year, including setting aside $600 million to
compensate switch-related accident victims and their families. In
addition, G.M. paid a $35 million penalty
to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal auto
safety regulator, for failing to report the switch recall in a timely
manner. The company has been required to report regularly to regulators
about its safety practices since last May.
A penalty exceeding
Toyota’s penalty last year would be the largest levied against any
automaker by the Justice Department. In the Toyota case, the agency
agreed to defer prosecuting the Japanese automaker for wire fraud if it
complied with a continuing review of its safety practices by regulators.
If Toyota meets all conditions set by the government for three years,
the charge could be dismissed.
It is unclear whether G.M. will
also receive a deferred-prosecution agreement, or if prosecutors will
force it to plead guilty to a crime. A guilty plea would carry the
symbolic weight of making G.M. a felon.
Even if it reaches an
agreement with the Justice Department, G.M. still faces numerous
consumer fraud investigations by state attorneys general, and numerous
wrongful-death and personal injury lawsuits.
For Ken Rimer, who
lost his 18-year-old stepdaughter, Natasha Weigel, in a 2006 Chevrolet
Cobalt crash, some recognition from the Justice Department of G.M.’s
criminal wrongdoing would offer some peace of mind because it might
prevent similar tragedies.
“Is it going to be closure? No,” he said. “But it’s going to be a little bit of justice.”
Wilson, a 42-year-old environmental advocate, lives on a sailboat,
wears flip-flops and doesn’t care much for personal care products like
fancy creams and moisturizers. But to the companies that make those
products, some of the largest corporations in the world, Mr. Wilson
tends to be more abrasive than the scrubs they sell.
than two years, Mr. Wilson, director of campaigns at the nonprofit group
The Story of Stuff Project, has helped lead the fight against
microbeads, tiny plastic balls used in face washes, moisturizers and
toothpaste, which activists say wind up in the nation’s lakes and
rivers. On Friday, the California State Assembly approved a measure to
outlaw the use of the particles in what could become the strictest ban
in the country.Microbeads look like tiny, colorful dots suspended in
cleansers and other personal care items. Manufacturers like Johnson
& Johnson and Procter & Gamble advertise their exfoliating
power, offering consumers a little luxury in the form of a D.I.Y.
But when the beads are rinsed off, they flow through pipes and drains and into the water. By the billions.
effect is similar to grinding up plastic water bottles, other products
of concern to environmentalists, and pumping them into oceans and lakes.
But because microbeads are small enough to be ingested by fish and
other marine life, they can carry other pollutants into the food chain.
of like the Trojan horse effect,” said Dave Andrews, a senior scientist
with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. “You’re increasing the
quantity that’s ending up in the lower organisms, and then they could
make their way up the food chain.”
Water treatment plants cannot
process the nearly 19 tons of microbeads that may be washing into New
York’s wastewater every year, according to a recent report from the office of the state’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman.
The State Assembly has approved a proposal from Mr. Schneiderman’s
office to ban microbeads, but the bill has stalled in the State Senate.
states — Illinois, Maine, New Jersey and Colorado — have enacted
legislation to restrict the use of microbeads, according to the National
Conference of State Legislatures, while bills are pending in others,
including Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon. If the California
bill becomes law, the state would ban not only synthetic particles but
the biodegradable ones that many companies have been developing as
Environmentalists like Mr. Wilson say many of those
bills do not go far enough, because they allow companies to come up
with biodegradable, but insufficiently tested, alternatives. There is
not enough evidence to show that these new microbeads dissolve in the
natural marine ecosystem, they say.
One such alternative,
polylactic acid, can degrade faster than other plastics, but only under
extreme heat and other conditions not typically found in marine
environments, environmental advocates say.
“Everything on earth
is biodegradable on a geological time scale,” Mr. Wilson said. “It’s not
biodegradable in a meaningful time frame.”
Lisa Powers, a
spokeswoman for the Personal Care Products Council, an industry trade
group, said in an email, “There is considerable global, cutting-edge
research efforts focused on developing biodegradable plastics in
accordance with internationally accepted standards.”
The trade group removed its objections to the California proposal and has a “neutral” stance, Ms. Powers said.
bill is Mr. Wilson’s second chance to win the war against microbeads in
California. An earlier attempt passed the State Assembly but failed by
one vote in the State Senate last year. The bill that passed in the
Assembly this week contained concessions that supporters hope will
improve its chances in the State Senate.
Representatives Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan, and Frank
Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, introduced federal legislation to
ban synthetic plastic microbeads effective in January 2018.
environmental advocates may get their way even if only a few large
states enact such bans. Consumer product companies cannot afford to make
multiple versions of the same product and could decide to manufacture
the version that will pass muster under the strictest state standard.
only way that federal legislation is going to pass is if the
environmentalists, wastewater and industry all agree on a policy, and we
haven’t gotten there yet,” said Mr. Wilson, who has helped draft
similar legislation in a number of states. “You don’t need a federal
solution to this on a global scale.”
Consumers have more outlets
than ever to voice concerns about products, particularly online, where a
whisper of danger can turn into a roar. Seeing the effect on their
sales, manufacturers have increasingly faced pressure to respond to
But reformulating products to remove
objectionable ingredients can be time-consuming and expensive. And
companies say they do not want microbead legislation that limits them
“We believe the current bill in California is overly
restrictive, inhibits innovation and does not allow for current and
future advancements in biodegradable exfoliate alternatives,” said Carol
Goodrich, a spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, in an email. In
2013, Johnson & Johnson pledged to remove polyethylene microbeads,
the most common type of microbeads, from its personal care products by
Procter & Gamble, another global consumer products
giant, has made a similar pledge. Unilever, the multinational consumer
goods company, phased out the use of plastic microbeads from its Dove
soaps and other products at the beginning of the year.
More than 3,000 products now contain polyethylene, according to the Environmental Working Group’s online database.
Materials, a start-up based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is
developing what it hopes is a promising, environmentally friendly
microbead alternative. The new ingredient would be polyhydroxyalkanoate,
or PHA, a naturally occurring plastic produced by mushrooms.
PHAs could dissolve in many marine ecosystems within a month, said
Molly Morse, chief executive and co-founder of Mango Materials.
But while she supports initiatives to make California safer, she is concerned that the proposed bill might ban her product, too.
wording of the bill makes me nervous,” Ms. Morse said in a phone
interview. “I’m a small business with employees, and we love this
application and we’re thoroughly motivated by the positive effects our
product can have on the environment.”
— A police officer who climbed onto the hood of a car after a chase in
2012 and fired repeatedly at its unarmed occupants, both of them black,
was acquitted of manslaughter on Saturday by an Ohio judge.
trial of the white officer, Michael Brelo, following harrowing episodes
in communities such as Baltimore, Staten Island and Ferguson, Mo.,
played out amid broader questions of how the police interact with
African-Americans and use force, in Cleveland and across the country.
Brelo, 31, was one of 13 officers who fired 137 rounds at Timothy
Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, who were killed after a
chase through the area on Nov. 29, 2012. Officer Brelo fired his Glock
17 pistol 49 times, including at least 15 shots after he reloaded and
climbed onto the hood of Mr. Russell’s 1979 Chevrolet Malibu and the
other officers had stopped firing.The chase started downtown after
reports of gunfire from the car; prosecutors said the noise apparently
was the result of the car’s backfiring. More than 100 officers pursued
the car for more than 20 miles at speeds that reached 100 miles an hour.
They began firing when the car was stopped and cornered.
Officer Brelo did fire lethal shots at the two people, testimony did not
prove that his shots caused either death, according to the ruling of
Judge John P. O’Donnell of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. “The
state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant,
Michael Brelo, knowingly caused the deaths of Timothy Russell and
Malissa Williams,” he ruled.
Officer Brelo, a former Marine who
had opted for a bench trial, sat stoically throughout the four-week
trial. On Saturday, he could be seen shifting in his seat, at times
sitting back, and at other times resting his head in his hands. At one
point, he made a quick sign of the cross. He embraced his lawyers after
the verdict. He remains on an unpaid suspension.
said their client had feared for his life and believed gunfire was
coming from Mr. Russell’s car. No gun was recovered, and prosecutors
said Mr. Russell and Ms. Williams had been unarmed.
D’Angelo, one of Officer Brelo’s lawyers, said his team was “elated”
with the verdict, and he blamed an “oppressive government” for bringing
the charges. “We stood tall; we stood firm,” Mr. D’Angelo said, “because
we didn’t do anything illegal. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
But the verdict does not mean the end of scrutiny of the case or of police issues in Cleveland.
officials will review the trial testimony and evidence, and a city
panel is investigating Mr. Brelo’s actions and police conduct in the
episode. Five supervisors face misdemeanor charges for their oversight
of the case.
There are also two ongoing investigations of police shootings in November. One is looking into the death of Tamir Rice,
a 12-year-old black boy who was holding a replica gun when a white
Cleveland police officer shot him. That shooting, captured on video, has
also garnered national attention and resulted in protests.
the other, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office is investigating the
death of Tanisha Anderson. Ms. Anderson, a 37-year-old black woman whose
family said she suffered from bipolar disorder, lost consciousness and
died in police custody after being placed face down on the pavement. The
medical examiner ruled her death a homicide.
Marcia L. Fudge, a Democrat whose district is based in Cleveland, said
Judge O’Donnell’s verdict was “a stunning setback.”
is another chilling reminder of a broken relationship between the
Cleveland police department and the community it serves,” she said.
“Today we have been told — yet again — our lives have no value.”
a midafternoon news conference, Cleveland’s mayor and police chief said
there had been a number of nonviolent demonstrations in the city and
that officers were working to keep the protests under control.
far, the protesters are making their voices heard, but they are doing
it in a peaceful and very respectful way,” Mayor Frank Jackson said just
after 4 p.m. “Police are doing an excellent job of monitoring the
situation and protecting everyone’s rights — protesters and everyone
A protest march continued into the evening, with more than
100 demonstrators chanting and blocking traffic downtown. There were
several tense moments, including some minor scuffles and games of
cat-and-mouse with the police, and unruliness with Cleveland Indians
fans leaving the baseball stadium, but the event remained largely
peaceful. The crowd dwindled as the evening went on, and the police
first made a handful of arrests after 9 p.m., the time protesters were
ordered to disperse.
DeVrick Stewart, 29, of Cleveland, said he
had been marching since the morning and saw broad issues with how the
police treat people.
“I came out because this seems to be a world
issue,” said Mr. Stewart, who mentioned both the Brelo case and Tamir
Rice’s death. “It’s not a white or black issue. It’s a police versus
Timothy McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor,
said in a news conference after the verdict that the investigation had
led to several changes that he believed would prevent deaths, including
better use-of-force training and increased penalties for officers who
disregard department policies. As a result of the changes, “there will
never have to be another Brelo trial,” he said.
supervisors have been charged with dereliction of duty, a misdemeanor,
for failing to bring the fatal chase under control. “We look forward to
presenting another vigorous prosecution,” Mr. McGinty said.
statement, the United States attorney’s office, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice
said they would review the testimony and evidence.
continue our assessment, review all available legal options and will
collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available
and appropriate given the requirements and limitations of the applicable
laws in the federal judicial system,” the statement said.
2013, the Critical Incident Review Committee was formed to review the
shooting. Cleveland’s police chief, Calvin D. Williams, said during a
news conference that, so far, 72 officers had been suspended without
pay. One supervisor was fired, and two more were demoted. Administrative
charges against three officers were dismissed. The review was paused
during Officer Brelo’s trial, but was expected to resume after the
verdict.Nine of the police officers disciplined for their roles in the
shooting have filed a federal lawsuit against the city for racial
discrimination. The officers — eight whites and one Hispanic — claim
that they were disciplined more harshly because they were not black.
the verdict, Officer Brelo’s future with the department remained
unclear. Stephen S. Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police
Patrolmen’s Association, said Officer Brelo was going on a vacation with
his family, but it was not known if he would be able to return to work.
the trial, prosecutors argued that Officer Brelo’s actions crossed the
line from justifiable to reckless when he climbed onto the car’s hood,
but the judge disagreed.
Before rendering his verdict, Judge
O’Donnell spoke from the bench about widespread tensions between the
police and African-Americans, mentioning Ferguson and Baltimore.
many American places, people are angry with, mistrustful and fearful
of, the police,” he said. “Citizens think the men and women sworn to
protect and serve have violated that oath or never meant it in the first
But Judge O’Donnell said he would not let those
sentiments cloud his verdict, and he found that Officer Brelo had
reasonably perceived a threat from Mr. Russell’s car. The decision to
continue firing from the hood was protected by law, he ruled, clearing
Officer Brelo of all charges. The shooting was “reasonable despite
knowing now that there was no gun in the car and he was mistaken about
the gunshots,” Judge O’Donnell said.
“I reject the claim that 12
seconds after the shooting began, it was patently clear from the
perspective of a reasonable police officer that the threat had been
stopped,” he said, contrasting the prosecutors’ claims that the
justifiable action ended when Officer Brelo climbed onto the hood.
Brelo will remain on unpaid suspension while the review panel that was
formed after the shooting continues its investigation into his actions
and those of 12 other officers involved, Chief Williams said. In
November, the City of Cleveland agreed to pay $3 million to settle
wrongful-death lawsuits brought by the families of Mr. Russell and Ms.
Surrounded by members of Mr. Russell’s family on
Saturday afternoon, Paul Cristallo, a lawyer for the family, said
relatives were “hugely disappointed” with the verdict. He said that the
police created the chaotic circumstances that ultimately led to Officer
Brelo’s acquittal. Police officers are trained to de-escalate tensions
with civilians, he said, but that “doesn’t include surrounding them with
62 cars and having 13 officers shooting at them.”
“Fleeing and eluding shouldn’t get you the death penalty,” he added.
Russell’s sister, Michelle, lamented that the trial had relied on the
version of events told by police officers, and said her brother and Ms.
Williams were never able to tell their side of the story. The police
officers were angry, she said, and acted with a “mob mentality.”
knew that night that once they caught up to Tim and Malissa that they
were going to let them have it,” she said. “And that’s exactly what
But in closing arguments, Mr. D’Angelo said his client
believed he was under attack when he fired on the car. “What would make
him want to shoot through the windshield at another human being?” Mr.
D’Angelo said. “Could it be that he was shot at? Could it be that he
reasonably perceived that the occupants of the Malibu were shooting at
him? That’s what all the other officers perceived. That’s what Officer
Mitch Smith reported from Cleveland, and Ashley Southall from New York. Rodney Bengston contributed reporting from Cleveland.
Calif. — About 3,000 miles from New York, members of a camera crew
gathered around Anthony Quijada, trying to do for their not-famous,
not-rich client what some high-priced lawyers are doing for theirs in
New York courts: Make a video that can keep him out of prison.
are beginning to submit biographical videos at sentencings, and
proponents say they could transform the process. Defendants and their
lawyers already are able to address the court before a sentence is
imposed, but the videos are adding a new dimension to the punishment
phase of a prosecution.
Judges “never knew the totality of the
defendant” before seeing these videos, said Raj Jayadev, one of the
people making the video of Mr. Quijada, who lives in this Northern
California city of about 52,000 people. “All they knew was the case
Yet as videos gain ground, there is concern that a divide
between rich and poor defendants will widen — that camera crews and film
editors will become part of the best defense money can buy, unavailable
to most people facing charges. Videos, especially well-produced ones,
can be powerful. In December, lawyers for Sant Singh Chatwal, a
millionaire hotelier who pleaded guilty
in Federal District Court in Brooklyn to illegal campaign donations,
submitted a 14-minute video as part of his sentencing. Elegantly
produced, it showed workers, family members and beneficiaries of Mr.
Chatwal describing his generosity.
As he prepared to sentence Mr.
Chatwal, Judge I. Leo Glasser said he had watched the video twice,
including once the night before. The judge, echoing some of the themes
in the video, recounted Mr. Chatwal’s good works. Judge Glasser then sentenced Mr. Chatwal to probation, much less than the approximately four to five years in prison that prosecutors had requested.
efforts like those on behalf of Mr. Chatwal are hardly standard. While
every criminal defendant is entitled to a lawyer, a day in any court
makes it clear that many poor people do not receive a rack-up-the-hours,
fight-tooth-and-nail defense like Mr. Chatwal did.
cities with robust public defense programs, like New York City, lawyers
may be carrying as many as 100 cases at once, and they say there is
little room to add shooting and editing videos to their schedules.
hard for me to imagine that public defenders could possibly spare the
time to do that,” said Josh Saunders, who until recently was a senior
staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services,
adding that lawyers there are often physically in court for the entire
workday. He sees the humanizing potential of videos, he said, but “I
would also be concerned that defendants with means would be able to put
together a really nice package that my clients generally would not be
Mr. Jayadev’s nonprofit, Silicon Valley De-Bug,
a criminal justice group and community center in San Jose, Calif.,
believes that videos are a new frontier in helping poor defendants, and
is not only making videos but encouraging defense attorneys nationwide
to do the same. The group has made about 20 biographical videos for
defendants, one featuring footage of the parking lot where a homeless
teenage defendant grew up. With a $30,000 grant from the Open Society Foundation, De-Bug is now training public defenders around the country.
Given that a defendant has a right to speak at sentencing, a video is on solid legal ground, said Walter Dickey, emeritus professor of law at the University of Wisconsin Law School,
“though the judge can obviously limit what’s offered.” Professor Dickey
said that because, at both the state and federal levels, the lengths of
sentences are increasingly up to judges rather than mandated by
statute, it follows that videos that “speak to the discretionary part”
of sentencing are having a bigger role.
Mr. Jayadev takes a
standard approach to his projects: The producers identify the
defendant’s past hardships and future prospects, then select supporters
or family members to describe those, usually in a visual context, like a
pastor in a church pew. Mr. Jayadev said he found it was more natural
to have the defendant talking to someone off-screen, rather than staring
at the camera.
For Mr. Quijada, “this story is around this young
man’s transformation from a life that had sort of run its course,” Mr.
Jayadev said. Mr. Quijada, 23, a former gang member with some arrests as
a teenager, was paralyzed from the waist down in a 2011 shooting. In
2013, he was arrested and charged with possessing an unregistered gun.
For Mr. Quijada, a student at Gavilan College, a community college in Gilroy, a lot was riding on the video and his possible sentence.
lawyer, Lisa McCamey, had filed a motion requesting that his gun
conviction be downgraded to a misdemeanor from a felony. If the judge
acquiesced, Mr. Quijada could hold onto his Section 8 housing. If not,
those benefits would be in jeopardy.
In his wheelchair outside
the life sciences building on campus, with Mr. Jayadev and his
co-workers recording, Mr. Quijada gave a stiff explanation of how he
wanted to reform himself and become a business lawyer.
“You don’t have to give a speech, man,” Mr. Jayadev said kindly. “It doesn’t have to be formal.”
“I’m driven to be commercially successful ...” Mr. Quijada said, trying again.
“Take a deep breath. Relax,” suggested Fernando Perez, a De-Bug staff member, looking into the view screen of his camera.
the videographers got the footage they were after, particularly when
they followed Mr. Quijada to his small apartment. They filmed the
collage that his sister made after their father died; they recorded his
mother and sister talking about him as a child.
A few weeks later, De-Bug completed the nine-minute video.
It opens with Mr. Quijada at Gavilan, describing, over a light piano
soundtrack, his coursework at the college. (Until recently, De-Bug made
sentencing videos for free. When demand surged, the group began to
charge about $1,000 to $3,000 per video.) The videography is not
perfectly polished — there are some shots out of focus and some lighting
miscues. But it gives a sense of Mr. Quijada’s life outside the
At Mr. Quijada’s sentencing, Judge Edward F. Lee of
Santa Clara Superior Court said he had not looked at the video. He
stepped away to watch it but made no mention of it after he returned to
Rather, he questioned what made this case different from Mr. Quijada’s previous arrests.
I wasn’t paralyzed, and I didn’t lose my father yet, and I didn’t
realize that I don’t have other people to depend on anymore,” Mr.
Judge Lee denied the motion to reduce the felony to
a misdemeanor, and sentenced Mr. Quijada to 90 days in jail. Ms.
McCamey maintained that the jail cannot handle Mr. Quijada’s paralysis.
don’t know if it made a difference to the judge or not,” Ms. McCamey
said of the video. “It made a difference to everybody else.”
LaDoris H. Cordell, a former state court judge in Santa Clara County who is now the independent police auditor in San Jose and who has seen some of Mr. Jayadev’s videos, said she would like them to be used more widely at sentencings.
very wary, and I was as a judge, of the double standard,” where wealthy
defendants can afford resources that poorer defendants cannot, she
said. “It is a problem, and what Raj is doing, these videos, is
something that should be available to anyone who needs to have it done.”
A prosecution, she said, is “usually is a one-sided process, and now it’s like the scales are being balanced out.”
— For the Ingram clan, working for the Miami-Dade County transit system
has led to regular paychecks, a steady advance up the economic ladder
and even romance.
By driving buses in Miami’s sun-scraped
communities, Richard Ingram and his wife, Susie, were able to join the
ranks of the black middle class, moving with their four sons from a
rental in the down-and-out neighborhood of Overtown eventually into
their own house in central Miami.
Two of their children later
followed them to the county bus depot. The eldest son, also named
Richard, met his future wife there when she was assigned to the same
route as his father.
“I tell you, my job is a godsend,” Richard Ingram Jr. said.
his older son, 21-year-old DQuan, is applying to take the transit
system test, hoping to become a third-generation driver. But Mr. Ingram
said that unlike when he was hired, today the competition is tougher and
the jobs are a lot scarcer.
For the Ingrams and millions of
other black families, working for the government has long provided a
dependable pathway to the middle class and a measure of security harder
to find in the private sector, particularly for those without college
Roughly one in five black adults works for the
government, teaching school, delivering mail, driving buses, processing
criminal justice and managing large staffs. They are about 30 percent
more likely to have a public sector job than non-Hispanic whites, and
twice as likely as Hispanics.
“Compared to the private sector,
the public sector has offered black and female workers better pay, job
stability and more professional and managerial opportunities,” said
Jennifer Laird, a sociologist at the University of Washington who has
been researching the subject.
During the Great Recession, though,
as tax revenues plunged, federal, state and local governments began
shedding jobs. Even now, with the economy regaining strength, public
sector employment has still not bounced back. An incomplete recovery is
part of the reason, but a combination of strong anti-government and
anti-tax sentiment in some places has kept down public payrolls. At the
same time, attempts to curb collective bargaining, like those led by
Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, a likely Republican presidential
candidate, have weakened public unions.
The Labor Department
counts half a million fewer public sector jobs than before the start of
the recession in 2007. That figure, however, understates just how much
the government’s work force has shrunk, said Elise Gould, an economist
at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research organization
in Washington. That is because it fails to account for the normal
growth in the country’s population: Factor that in, she said, and there
are 1.8 million fewer jobs in the public sector for people to fill.
decline reverses a historical pattern, researchers say, with public
sector employees typically holding onto their jobs even during most
black workers overall, women in particular, also lost their jobs at a
higher rate than whites, Ms. Laird found. There was a “double
disadvantage for black public sector workers,” she said. “They are
concentrated in a shrinking sector of the economy, and they are
substantially more likely than other public sector workers to be without
In Miami’s public schools, many of the layoffs in recent
years have fallen on secretaries, school monitors and paraprofessionals,
said Fedrick Ingram, president of the United Teachers of Dade and one
of the Ingram brothers. His bargaining unit lost more than 6,000
positions since 2009 at the same time the number of students was
increasing, he said.
“During the recession, we had a really hard
time in the school system,” said Mr. Ingram, 41, who was previously a
music teacher, a career spurred on by the music and dancing lessons his
mother insisted he and his brothers take. “They’re still hiring a lot
more people part time so they don’t have to pay benefits. Even for
teachers, there’s no tenure and very little job security.”
Glenn, 47, an elementary schoolteacher in Dade for 22 years, is a
second-generation public sector employee, earning $55,000 a year. Her
mother was a cafeteria supervisor in the public schools, while her
father worked as a mechanic for the Postal Service.
Now she lives
in the middle-income suburb of Miami Gardens, a few blocks away from
Fedrick’s brother Richard. On a recent Saturday morning, she and Richard
stood together on the sidelines, snapping photos as their 12-year-old
sons ran drills in a free training camp sponsored by the Miami Dolphins.
Glenn said her 25-year-old daughter, Courtney, has two part-time jobs,
one providing after care in the schools and the other working for
Tri-Rail, South Florida’s commuter rail system.
“She can’t find a
full-time job,” Ms. Glenn said. “She’s waiting, waiting, waiting,
waiting, waiting for an interview right now.”
To make ends meet, they all live together: Ms. Glenn, her three children and her two grandchildren.
cuts have compounded the struggles of black communities. “We lost a lot
of programs,” Ms. Glenn said, remembering, for instance, summers in the
parks where she spent entire days as a child, swimming, playing tennis
and going on field trips, with lunch and tutoring thrown in.
Ingram Jr. nodded his head. “All you had to do was sign up,” he said.
“Now the park doesn’t have staff.” He tries to fill in, running a sports
league, chauffeuring his son’s friends to practices and even supplying
cleats when one of them cannot afford a pair.
The recession was particularly hard
on the black middle class, erasing three decades of economic gains. A
new analysis of foreclosures between 2005 and 2009 by researchers at Cornell,
for example, found that “mostly black and mostly Latino neighborhoods
lost homes at rates approximately three times higher than white areas.”
blacks are less likely than whites to own their own homes or have
sizable retirement savings, two of the primary ways most families
accumulate wealth. In 2013, the median white family had net assets of
$142,000 compared with $11,000 for the median black family, according to
the Pew Research Center.
The difficulty in closing that gap is compounded by the fact that the
median income for black households is just 60 percent of that of whites.
employed blacks are stuck in lower-wage industries that tend to have
fewer benefits and higher turnover, which is one reason public sector
jobs — more likely to be unionized and subject to stricter
anti-discrimination protections — have been such a magnet for blacks.
to a series of presidential executive orders and court decisions that
began in the 1960s, a rapidly expanding public sector welcomed blacks
and women who had been locked out of other corners of the labor market.
With the federal government paving the way, state and local governments
soon followed, and they continued to expand their work forces through
the late 2000s even as the size of the federal government stabilized.
else can you get a middle-class job without a college degree?” asked
Bruce Bodner, the lawyer for the Transit Workers Union Local 234 in
Philadelphia. A bus driver there who has been on the job for more than
four years earns an average of $64,000 a year including overtime pay, he
said, and skilled craft workers, like mechanics and carpenters, can
earn more. Nearly 60 percent of the roughly 5,000 people who work for
the city’s transit system, he said, are black.
State and local
government workers earned an average of $28.17 an hour in December 2014,
according to the Labor Department, in addition to a basket of other
benefits worth nearly $16 an hour. (For a typical 35-hour week, that is
roughly $51,000 a year, plus $29,000 in benefits.) Often their paychecks
are supplemented with overtime.
In Miami, a bus operator’s base pay falls between $32,000 and $50,000, without overtime, according to county figures.
senior Richard Ingram, now 62, worked as a porter, short-order cook and
roofer before he got a job cleaning buses with the transit authority in
1979 as a result of a now defunct federal jobs training program.
more than 30 years, most of them spent driving, Mr. Ingram — his
uniform a medley of green down to his avocado-color leather shoes — is
now off the bus, checking drivers’ schedules and paperwork, beginning at
4:30 a.m. each weekday and leaving at 2:30 p.m. He is thinking of
retiring this year with a pension, as his wife, Susie, did in 2013 after
20 years behind the wheel.
Their son Richard, 42, also remembers
a string of low-paying jobs, including stints at Burger King and Jiffy
Lube, and as a security guard and D.J., before he joined the transit
system in 2000.
“That was the stability I was looking for,” said
Mr. Ingram Jr., who works a 52-hour week. His younger brother, Randy,
who began driving at the same time, recently switched to a job as a
transit electronic technician, working from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. With
children at home, he found the night shift a struggle, but he wanted the
opportunity to move up.
Supporters of curbs on the collective
bargaining power of government employee unions like the one led by Mr.
Walker, of Wisconsin, said they were aimed at saving taxpayer money and
But some researchers and union officials also see a racial undercurrent in the campaigns.
public employment in general being under attack, it’s really an attack
on these communities,” said Mr. Bodner of the Philadelphia transit
workers union, referring to black people.
workers have been targeted as well, Fedrick Ingram said, noting that the
Republican Gov. “Rick Scott went directly after the unions here.”
Miami, the drivers have resisted attempts to take away benefits,
Richard Ingram said, but temporarily lost some paid holidays, overtime
Still, he is grateful for what he described as a “a
job that you can count on and that could get you what you wanted if you
worked hard enough.”
— The 10 a.m. service at Elizabeth Baptist Church should have been a
joyous occasion. It was Pentecost Sunday. The weather was beautiful.
Worshipers applauded schoolchildren who received A’s and B’s on their
But 24 hours before the congregants gathered to sing hymns and take communion, a judge had acquitted a Cleveland police officer
of manslaughter for his role in a car pursuit that ended with two
unarmed black people fatally shot. The not-guilty verdict sparked
demonstrations Saturday that began in orderly fashion but ended with
dozens of arrests and prompted conversations at Elizabeth and across
Cleveland about the city’s racial disparities.Cleveland’s streets had
calmed by Sunday morning, but many at Elizabeth suggested that the
verdict had only exacerbated tensions between the justice system and
this city’s African-American population. The Rev. Richard M. Gibson, the
church’s pastor, said from the pulpit that the acquittal had left him
angry, and eager for systemic change to the police and the courts.
“We cannot allow what has happened to go forward on our watch,” Pastor Gibson told his mostly black congregation.
Elizabeth is among roughly 40 faith groups that are part of Greater Cleveland Congregations,
an organization that has called for drastic changes in how the law is
administered here. Many members of Elizabeth say they live in a city
where the system is rigged against black people, a perspective that has
received increased attention amid heightened scrutiny of the Cleveland
police and officer-involved shootings.
The verdict came as the city awaits a decision from prosecutors on whether to charge the officer who last year shot and killed Tamir Rice,
12, who was playing with a replica gun near a playground, and the
officer who restrained Tanisha Anderson, 37. Ms. Anderson, who suffered
from bipolar disorder and heart disease, died after she was restrained face down on the pavement.
cases have also drawn national attention, and Tamir’s name was chanted
repeatedly Saturday. Many critics of the police say they fear that the
verdict bodes poorly for the chances of convictions in the other cases.
is also in negotiations with the Justice Department for a consent
decree that would mandate changes to the city’s police. A federal report found last year that Cleveland officers engaged in a pattern of “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force.”
Michael Brelo, the patrolman acquitted on Saturday, was one of several
officers who fired a combined 137 shots at Timothy Russell and Malissa
Williams in a car chase on Nov. 29, 2012. Police said they believed
gunfire was coming from Mr. Russell’s car during the pursuit, but he and
Ms. Williams were later found to be unarmed. Officer Brelo was singled
out for the manslaughter charges because he climbed onto the hood after
the pursuit ended and fired at least 15 rounds into the car, which
prosecutors claimed was unjustified. In his acquittal, a judge ruled
that Officer Brelo had feared for his life and that his actions were
protected by law.
Though Cleveland’s population has a black
majority, and though the mayor and the police chief are black, many
African-Americans here say racial tensions and mistrust of law
enforcement are common. Some speak of “two Clevelands” — a mostly white
city with a bustling downtown and increased commercial development, and a
mostly black one where schools are struggling and crime rates are high,
and the police are not trusted.
That dichotomy was on display
Saturday night as more than 100 protesters, many of them black, blocked
traffic and chanted downtown about the verdict and broader perceived
injustices. As the police followed the march, the protesters passed
group after group of patrons dining outside at fashionable restaurants.
Most of the diners were white, and many had come downtown for a
Cleveland Indians baseball game. The protesters walked past many such
places without incident, but at one point, the police said, a protester
threw a sign at a restaurant patron. At other times, baseball fans
loudly suggested that the protesters go home.
As the evening
progressed and tensions rose, officers ordered demonstrators to leave.
Most did not do so, and the police said 71 were arrested, many on
charges of aggravated rioting and obstruction of justice.
only moved in to make arrests when things got violent and protesters
refused to disperse,” Police Chief Calvin D. Williams said. “We want
people to understand we’re going to help you in this process, but if
things turn violent in this situation, we will take action.”
Saturday’s flare-ups, Cleveland has mostly avoided the violent unrest
seen in Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer fatally shot an
unarmed black man last year, and Baltimore, where a black man died after
being injured in a police van. Cleveland officials have worked with
clergy members and other community leaders in hopes of staving off
violence, and the efforts seem to have worked so far.
Cleveland Congregations, the group Elizabeth belongs to, released a
statement after the verdict, seeking broad changes to the region’s
justice system. The statement mentioned high incarceration rates, racial
disparities in arrests and felonies for nonviolent offenders. The
congregations group, which is a local chapter of the national Industrial Areas Foundation, also seeks a consent decree between the Justice Department and the Cleveland police.
am certain that things are going to change in this community,” Pastor
Gibson said from the pulpit Sunday. “I am certain that there will be
leadership change in this city.”
But after the service, Pastor
Gibson said he was unsure that the city’s leadership was truly committed
to change. In news conferences over the weekend, Mayor Frank Jackson
repeatedly said that the city welcomed peaceful protests, and that he
believed demonstrations could lead to meaningful changes. Through a
spokesman, he declined an interview request Sunday seeking further
details. Some protesters have spoken in support of an effort to recall
In the case involving Officer Brelo, the city has
settled wrongful death lawsuits brought by the couple’s families for $3
million. Seventy-five officers have been disciplined for their roles in
the chase and the shooting. An internal review that was paused during
the trial was expected to resume after the verdict. Officer Brelo will
remain on unpaid leave until the review is completed.
church on Sunday, many at Elizabeth Baptist said they were disappointed
in his acquittal, but far from shocked. That lack of surprise, they
said, hinted at a deeper problem.
“Leading up to the verdict,
there was already conversation about preventing rioting because the
assumption was, in fact, that he was going to get off,” said Jacqueline
Gillon, a church member and lifelong Cleveland resident. “That’s
troubled me from the beginning, that there was never a general belief
that justice would be done. It’s another smack in the face for our
— Cleveland has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over
what federal authorities said was a pattern of unconstitutional policing
and excessive use of force, people briefed on the case said Monday.
The settlement, which could be announced as early as Tuesday, comes days after a judge declared a Cleveland police officer not guilty of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a car’s two unarmed occupants, both of them black.
verdict prompted a day and night of protests and reignited discussions
about how police officers treat the city’s African-American residents.
details of the settlement were not immediately clear, but in similar
talks in recent years, the Justice Department has required cities to
allow independent monitors to oversee changes in police departments.
Settlements are typically backed by court orders and often call for
improved training and revised policies for the use of force.A
spokeswoman for the Cleveland Division of Police referred questions to
the mayor’s office, which would not comment on Monday. Dena Iverson, a
spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also had no comment.
Justice Department opened an inquiry into the Cleveland police force
months after the 2012 shooting of the unarmed occupants in a car, and
issued its report in December. Cleveland is among several cities,
including Ferguson, Mo., New York and Baltimore, that have become focal
points of a national debate over policing and race.
demonstrators spent hours marching through Cleveland after a judge
acquitted Officer Michael Brelo of manslaughter for his role in the 2012
shooting, which began with a police chase of the car. While several
officers fired a combined 137 shots, Officer Brelo was singled out for
manslaughter charges because he climbed onto the hood of the car after
the pursuit ended and fired 15 shots into the vehicle.
occupants, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, died from gunshot
wounds. The judge ruled that the actions of Officer Brelo, who is white,
of protesters appeared in court here Monday on misdemeanor charges.
Some still wore T-shirts with messages like “I Can’t Breathe,” a
reference to Eric Garner, who died after being put in a police chokehold
in Staten Island last year, and “Black Lives Matter.”
Cleveland, a settlement with the Justice Department averts a long and
costly court fight and the appearance that city leaders are resisting
change. Mayor Frank Jackson faces a recall petition from city activists who say, among other grievances, that he has not done enough to prevent police abuses.
The Justice Department has called Mr. Jackson a full partner in its effort to improve the police force.
Justice Department has opened nearly two dozen investigations into
police departments under the Obama administration. Federal investigators
found patterns of unconstitutional policing in cities including
Seattle, Newark, Albuquerque and Ferguson. Federal authorities recently
announced they would investigate the Baltimore police after Freddie
Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died of injuries he suffered while in
In Seattle, the federal inquiry led local officials to
overhaul training and focus on how officers can calm tense situations
without using force. In Albuquerque, city officials agreed to change the
way the police are trained, outfit officers with body cameras and
improve how the department investigates officer-involved shootings.
Officials in Ferguson are negotiating a possible settlement over accusations that officers routinely violated the Constitution.
Justice Department’s report on the Cleveland police was among its most
scathing, finding that they engaged in a pattern of “unreasonable and
unnecessary use of force.”
Investigators said officers
unnecessarily used deadly force; used excessive force against mentally
ill people; and inappropriately resorted to stun guns, chemical sprays and punches.
It detailed tactical blunders, and said officers too often imperiled bystanders when they used force.
Justice Department also criticized a “structurally flawed” discipline
policy that it said made it too hard to punish officers for improperly
The report highlighted one case in which officers
kicked an African-American man in the head while he was handcuffed and
on the ground, then did not report having used force during the arrest.
throughout the chain of command endorse questionable and sometimes
unlawful conduct by officers,” Vanita Gupta, the Justice Department’s
top civil rights prosecutor, said in December. “Officers are not
provided with adequate training, policy guidance and supervision to do
their jobs safely and effectively.”
The report was compiled too
early to cover the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with
a replica gun in a Cleveland park in November when the police shot him.
Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to charge officers in his death
or in the case of Tanisha Anderson, 37, who died after she was
restrained in a prone position on the pavement.
Most of the
protesters arraigned Monday were charged with refusal to disperse, and
35 pleaded no contest to an amended charge of disorderly conduct, which
carries no jail time. Twenty people pleaded not guilty and will contest
the charges. More protesters are expected to appear in court on Tuesday.
Gage, 31, a Cleveland native now living in a different part of Ohio,
was among those who pleaded no contest and was released Monday morning.
As with others who pleaded no contest, he was sentenced to time served
and was not issued a fine. Mr. Gage said he joined the Saturday protest
because he believed that Officer Brelo was guilty of a crime.
happened was not justice,” Mr. Gage said outside the courthouse shortly
after his release. “It was unfair for this man to walk away with no
jail time at all.”
Mitch Smith reported from Cleveland, and Matt Apuzzo from Washington.
8) One-Time Bonuses and Perks Muscle Out Pay Raises for Workers
the past 12 months, real average hourly earnings have increased by just
2.2 percent. Since 1979, most of the gains in pay have gone to those at
the top of the salary pyramid while, except for brief periods in the
1980s and late 1990s, those in the middle and at the bottom have been
bonuses for Wall Street big shots and employee-of-the-month plaques for
supermarket standouts are nothing new, but companies’ continued efforts
to keep costs down have pushed employers to increasingly turn to
one-off bonuses and nonmonetary rewards at the expense of annual pay
“There is a quiet revolution in compensation,” said Ken
Abosch, a partner at Aon Hewitt, a global human resources company.
“There are not many things in the world of compensation that are all
that radical, but this is a drastic shift.”
According to Aon
Hewitt’s annual survey on salaried employees’ compensation, the share of
payroll budgets devoted to straight salary increases sank to a low of
1.8 percent in the depths of the recession. It dropped to 4.3 percent in
2001, from a high of 10 percent in 1981. It has rebounded modestly
since the recession, but still only rose 2.9 percent in 2014, the survey
of 1,064 organizations found. (These figures are not adjusted for
inflation.)Aon Hewitt did not even start tracking short-term rewards and
bonuses — known as variable compensation — until 1988, when they
accounted for an average of 3.9 percent of payrolls. Ten years later,
that share had more than doubled to 8 percent. Last year, it hit a
record 12.7 percent.
course, companies have long rewarded top executives and rainmakers with
bountiful bonuses — and that continues to be true — but compensation
experts say the prevalence and types of one-time rewards and perks have
spread further down the ranks than ever before. Although
pay-for-performance rewards for top achievers and signing bonuses to
attract talent account for most of the one-shots, they also include
companywide amenities and targeted perks, like lunches out with the boss
or Visa gift cards.
“It affects the C.E.O. all the way down to
the guy who sweeps the factory floor,” Mr. Abosch said. Ninety-one
percent of the companies surveyed have at least one broad-based reward
program, up from 78 percent in 2005 and 47 percent in 1991.
more surprisingly, the trend now extends to sectors like higher
education and agriculture, as well as to the government, which
historically resist performance-based rewards because they often rely on
With the economic recovery nearing its sixth anniversary, stubbornly sluggish wage growth
has become a central issue, eroding people’s faith in the American
dream, shaping the economic messages of potential presidential
candidates and weighing on the Federal Reserve Bank’s decision of
whether to raise interest rates from their near-zero levels.
the past 12 months, real average hourly earnings have increased by just
2.2 percent. Since 1979, most of the gains in pay have gone to those at
the top of the salary pyramid while, except for brief periods in the
1980s and late 1990s, those in the middle and at the bottom have been
Several developments help account for wage
stagnation: the economy’s globalized and technological nature, which has
placed more bargaining power in the hands of employers, and long
periods of relatively high unemployment, compounded by waves of layoffs
and excessive numbers of discouraged and underemployed workers, leaving
some employees fearful to ask for more.
The shift in compensation
that favors one-shot-only rewards over incremental increases in salary
that compound over time also appears to be playing a significant role.
is something that has not gotten as much attention in conversation
about flat wages,” said Linda Barrington, executive director of the
Institute for Compensation Studies in the Industrial and Labor Relations
School at Cornell University.
The shift to short-term rewards took off after the economy went into a nose-dive in 2001, she said.
in the Great Recession, it really skyrocketed,” she said. “It’s really
hard to cut wages and salaries, so the more compensation you can give in
other forms, the more nimble you can be in a recession.”
Some experts expect the trend to continue even as the unemployment rate drops and the labor market tightens.
like one-shots precisely because they are temporary. They save money
over the long run because they don’t lock in raises, giving managers
greater control over budgets, particularly during downturns.
“It’s so much easier to not give a bonus than to cut someone’s pay,” Ms. Barrington said.
Squaremouth, a software company in St. Petersburg, Fla., most employees
received an annual raise of 0.8 percent for 2015, just enough to match
last year’s rise in consumer prices. But staff members have been treated
to other sweeteners like new Apple Watches — preordered with choice of
size and color — a $200 “beer” bonus, birthdays off and the installation
of a “hangover couch” for midday snoozes.
Chris Harvey, the
chief executive of Squaremouth, which produces a travel insurance
website, said he took his cues from the tech industry, which pioneered
creative incentives and amenities for workers like Ping-Pong tables and
on-site dry cleaning. “We wanted to find innovative ways to keep people
happy and keep people surprised,” Mr. Harvey said.
forms of compensation can be popular among workers, too. Some like the
idea that good work is recognized and rewarded. But while
across-the-board perks like free food or lunchtime yoga can make the
workplace more pleasant, others support performance-based bonuses.
personally love suddenly finding an unexpectedly large sum added to a
month’s pay,” said Michele Heisler, an associate professor of internal
medicine at the University of Michigan, who can receive a yearly bonus
based on quality-of-care ratings of her work as a physician at Veterans
Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Such pay-for-performance policies
are steadily becoming the norm among both private insurers and the
“It is like getting a surprise gift,” Ms. Heisler
said. “It probably wouldn’t seem nearly as thrilling if it were just
spread out across salary payments each month.”
While a few more
dollars in each paycheck may lack that Christmas-morning feeling, a
raise is the gift that keeps on giving. The benefits of wage increases
are compounded each year, with every future raise building on the back
of the one before it. In addition, salaries are the foundation of a
range of other benefits, like Social Security and pensions.
Abosch says that the biggest bang for the buck comes when workers can
see a direct return for specific efforts. In the days when bosses handed
out holiday hams or turkeys, he said, “employees would walk to the top
of the building and drop them off the side to show their displeasure.”
Their message: cash preferred.
To Stephanie R. Thomas, a research
associate at the Institute for Compensation Studies, says some
industries and jobs are more suited than others to rewards. Merit
bonuses (a sales commission, for example) work well when employees have
direct control over their performance and results can be objectively
measured, she said. But “it’s not right for all employees and all
organizations,” Ms. Thomas said, referring to professions like teaching.
big question now, said Kerry Chou, a compensation specialist at
Worldatwork, a nonprofit membership organization of human resources
professionals, is not so much whether variable compensation will
continue, but whether wage gains are permanently stuck in a low gear.
we just dealing with a cautionary economy where ultimately budgets get
back to where they were before the recession, or do we have a new normal
now?” Mr. Chou asked. “The jury is still out.”
Andrew Ross Sorkin, whose DealBook column normally appears on this page, is away and will return next week.
more than a year, Sister Megan Rice, 85, a Roman Catholic nun of the
Society of the Holy Child Jesus, had caught occasional glimpses of the
glittering World Trade Center from her living quarters: the Metropolitan
Detention Center, a federal prison on the Brooklyn waterfront.
when the Volvo she was riding in one morning last week crested the
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the skyscraper came into full view, it made
a strong impression.
“Oh, my gosh,” Sister Rice exclaimed.
Drinking in the scenery and the panorama of New York Harbor, she added,
“We’re well on our way.”It was her fifth day of freedom after two years
behind bars for a crime for which she is boldly unapologetic. In 2012,
she joined two other peace activists in splattering blood and antiwar
slogans on a nuclear plant in Tennessee that holds enough highly
enriched uranium to make thousands of nuclear warheads. All three were
convicted and sent to prison. But on May 8, an appellate court ruled
that the government had overreached in charging them with sabotage, and
ordered that all three be set free.
Since her May 16 release,
Sister Rice, a Manhattan native, had been reconnecting with family and
friends, as well as seeing doctors, lawyers and reporters. She took time
to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and she made her first purchase:
peanut butter frozen yogurt topped with hot fudge.
in a sweatsuit that fellow inmates had given her, the nun was traveling
to the American headquarters of her order in Rosemont, Pa., a suburb of
Philadelphia. The agenda was to confer with her superiors about her
future — one in which she plans to continue her anti-nuclear activism.
One threat was that the federal government might challenge the recent
ruling and try to have her thrown back in prison.
“It would be an
honor,” Sister Rice said during the ride. “Good Lord, what would be
better than to die in prison for the anti-nuclear cause?”
Her family and friends seemed slightly agog at her fiery commitment and rabble-rousing energy after so much time in jail.
unbelievable,” said a cousin with whom the nun is staying, who asked
that her name be withheld to avoid unwanted attention. “I would be
At the wheel of the Volvo on the drive to Rosemont
was Roberta Pyzel, a New York filmmaker, who joked and bantered with
her friend Sister Rice and a reporter, at one point extolling the merits
of road food. She urged the nun to expand her palate: “You can’t live
on peanut butter yogurt for the rest of your life.”
thin but seemingly healthy, was in high spirits and voluble as she
talked about her religious order, her atomic radicalization, her life in
prison and what may come next.
Even before she broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex
in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Sister Rice had been arrested dozens of times for
acts of civil disobedience. She and other peace activists once blocked a
truck rumbling across a nuclear test site in the Nevada desert. Twice
she had served six-month jail sentences.
The pacifists belong to the Plowshares movement, a loose, mostly Christian group that seeks the global elimination of nuclear arms.
Tennessee action took place on a Saturday night in July 2012. Sister
Rice, then 82, Michael Walli, 63, and Gregory Boertje-Obed, 57, cut
through barbed-wire fences at the Oak Ridge complex. Making their way to
the inner sanctum, full of uranium, they splashed human blood on the
windowless building, spray-painted its walls with peace slogans,
hammered at its concrete base and draped it in crime-scene tape.
being convicted in May 2013, Sister Rice was sentenced to three years
and the two men to five years. She was imprisoned in Tennessee, then
Georgia, and in March 2014 was sent to Brooklyn, just off the Gowanus
The nun told how a single large room at the Brooklyn prison had housed more than 100 women. Early this year, The New York Daily News
published an article calling the prison a “hellhole.” After that, some
inmates were moved. “The language bothered me,” Sister Rice recalled.
“But people wouldn’t have listened otherwise.”
She said a gifted
legal team, working pro bono, had seemingly materialized out of thin air
to fight the government’s sabotage charge. The court’s overturning of
the anti-nuclear conviction this month was hailed as a legal first.
action was meant to be,” Sister Rice said of the Tennessee protest.
“Things fell into place — unplanned. That’s the unbelievable part of
She said she had lost her access to email at the prison and
learned the specifics of her release not from her lawyers or her family,
but from a BBC News radio broadcast at 3 in the morning. Disbelieving,
she listened again at 4 a.m.
“I started packing,” she recalled, “just in case it was true.”
Sister Rice occasionally paused her recounting to make or take calls on borrowed cellphones, including an old flip model.
is well,” she said into the phone as the Volvo neared Philadelphia. “I
have too many funny stories to tell. And we’ll get together and I’ll
tell them all. O.K., much love, dearie, and three cheers.”
if she missed anything from prison, she spoke of the friends she had
made — especially a younger woman who had tutored her on prison
survival. “She was my guru,” Sister Rice said.
As the Volvo sped
through Pennsylvania, she explained the purpose of her meeting at
Rosemont. After Sister Rice’s conviction, Sister Mary Ann Buckley, the
leader of the religious order’s American arm, had issued a statement
saying the order intended to “stand behind Sister Megan” and the
Catholic Church’s “clear teaching” against the proliferation of nuclear
The meeting, Sister Rice said, was “to figure out what we
can look forward to this year.” The order, she added, was founded on the
philosophy that the nuns would meet the wants of their time.
“If you can show that,” she added, “there’s no problem. That’s why I had no qualms. I had a mission.”
later, on the way back to New York, Sister Rice said the meeting at
Rosemont had gone well. But she was now hours behind schedule and had a
television appearance set for that evening on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow
Asked about critics who advocate peace through strength,
Sister Rice conceded that nuclear arms did have a certain power of
intimidation. But she insisted that the United States, by keeping a vast
arsenal, was violating its global disarmament pledges and ultimately
“It’s making other countries feel compelled to have nuclear weapons,” she said, going on to mimic the me, too logic: “If you have them, we have to have them.”
Ms. Pyzel, the driver, heartily agreed. “It’s madness.”
Rice added: “We don’t want to end the industry. We want to transform it
into something that’s useful. What could be better than making
something that’s life-enhancing rather than life-destroying?”
the Volvo sped along the New Jersey Turnpike, Sister Rice joined in a
conference call with the Plowshares team. A group of what seemed to be
six or seven people talked for a half-hour about planned public
activities in August marking the 70th anniversaries of the atomic
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of the opportunities that Sister
Rice’s sudden release had presented.
“To me,” Sister Rice said,
“what needs to be done is to firm up the fervor and awareness that has
grown, to maximize the message around this particular action.”
it turned out, that same day brought good news. In Cincinnati, the
Sixth United States Circuit Court of Appeals gave federal prosecutors
more time to decide whether to challenge the overturning of the three
protesters’ sabotage convictions. Their new deadline is June 22.
For now, at least, Sister Rice is a free woman.
a long day, the skyscraper known as the Freedom Tower returned to view.
Sister Rice and Ms. Pyzel breathed a sigh of relief when approaching
the Holland Tunnel, certain they would have sufficient time to get to
MSNBC’s studios at Rockefeller Center.
“We’re still being led,”
the nun said, referring to the way things always seemed to fall into
place. “It’s the universe at work.”
so long ago, the murder of Kerrie Orozco, an Omaha police officer,
would have been held up as the sort of crime that the death penalty was
On May 20, Ms. Orozco, a seven-year veteran of the
Omaha force, was part of a gang unit serving an arrest warrant on a man
named Marcus Wheeler. Instead of surrendering, Mr. Wheeler shot at the
officers, who fired back. He was killed in the shootout, as was Ms.
Orozco, who was scheduled to go on maternity leave the following day to
care for her 3-month-old daughter, who had been born prematurely and was
going home from the hospital.
Yet only days after Ms. Orozco’s
death, Nebraska lawmakers voted to ban capital punishment for good.
Although the state’s unicameral Legislature is overwhelmingly
Republican, a bill prohibiting the death penalty passed three
preliminary votes by wide margins. A final vote on Wednesday —
overriding a veto on Tuesday by Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican — passed 30-19.
the override, Nebraska has become the first predominantly Republican
state to ban the death penalty in more than 40 years, and the 19th state
The American public’s taste for state-sponsored killing has been declining for years. Support fell to a new low of 56 percent
in a survey by the Pew Research Center released in April. Nebraska’s
vote highlights that trend. Ten men currently sit on the state’s death
row (an 11th died, apparently of brain cancer, last Sunday), but no one has been executed there since 1997. A recent A.C.L.U. poll
found that 58 percent of Nebraska voters supported alternatives to the
death penalty, while 30 percent would support capital punishment.
split was roughly reflected among state lawmakers. Some who voted for
the ban said it was the lengthy, costly capital appeals process that
finally convinced them. Others had moral objections, or concerns about
whether the state could procure the necessary lethal-injection drugs.
And still others were chastened by the exoneration of six people,
some of whom spent nearly two decades behind bars. (This is the third
time Nebraska lawmakers have tried to end capital punishment; a 1979 ban
and a 1999 moratorium were both vetoed.)
In response to the latest vote, death-penalty advocates resorted to the usual fearmongering. Governor Ricketts insisted that repealing capital punishment “puts the safety of the public and Nebraska families at risk,” and would “give our state’s most heinous criminals more lenient sentences.”
the death penalty has never been about protecting public safety, only
exacting hollow vengeance. And life without parole, while no less harsh a
sentence, has two distinct benefits: it gets states out of the sordid
business of killing their citizens, and it allows for a wrongfully
convicted person to be set free, as has happened in at least 153 cases nationwide since 1973.
Nebraska vote — passed by a coalition of Republicans, Democrats and
independents, many newly elected — is an acknowledgment by reasonable
people of all political ideologies that capital punishment is an
abhorrent and indefensible practice. If that realization can happen in
the deep-red heart of America, it can happen anywhere.
rains and widespread flooding in Texas have brought relief from a
yearslong drought to many parts of the state. Such unpredictable and
heavy rains are a big part of what climate scientists say that many
Texans can expect in years to come.
The relief has come at a
great cost. The death toll from storms across the state and Oklahoma has
reached at least 19, by some estimates, and the property damage is so
extensive that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has declared some 40 counties disaster areas.
was not long ago that the state was dealing with a searing drought. In
2011, the drought was so pronounced that the governor then, Rick Perry,
proclaimed three days in April “days of prayer for rain in Texas.”
Parts of the state began to see the drought ease by 2012, but much of
it has remained parched.Now, Texans are more likely to be asking for
divine intervention to provide a little sunshine. Reservoirs that had
reached historically low levels are brimming, or at least rising fast.
The water level at Lake Travis near Austin rose nearly 24 feet in the last week. It was just 34.2 percent full a year ago; today it is 65.5 percent full. Across the state, reservoirs have collected about eight million acre feet of water, rising to 82 percent full from 73 percent full in a month, according to the Texas Water Development Board.
Texans are no strangers to extreme weather, said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate change
researcher at Texas Tech University and an author of the 2014 United
States National Climate Assessment. “It’s famous for floods and drought,
hurricanes and tornadoes, dust storms and ice storms,” she said.
“Climate change is not causing these events — they’ve always happened
naturally. But climate change is exacerbating these events.”
She noted that the enormous building boom
that Texas has enjoyed in recent decades has led to greater problems
with water runoff and higher costs of storm damage. “The choices we’re
making today are actually increasing our risk,” she added.
Trying to link individual weather events to climate change can invite criticism.
Bill Nye, a popularizer of science and a climate activist, came under attack this week for talking about the rains as a climate-change event; some pointed out that in 2012, he suggested
that the Western drought “is absolutely consistent with the
mathematical models and predictions associated with climate change.”
different parts of the country, and different parts of the country-size
state of Texas, can expect different kinds of weather extremes. Severe
rainstorms are consistent with the physics of a warming world, with
plenty of moisture evaporating off the oceans, Professor Hayhoe noted —
especially in the eastern part of the state near the Gulf of Mexico,
where things tend to be wet and getting wetter. But the western part of
the state is more like the American Southwest, and drier.
Nielsen-Gammon, Texas’ state climatologist and a professor at Texas A
& M University, said that Texas weather was heavily influenced by
long-term weather phenomena, including El Niño and natural variations of
temperatures in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
he said, the slight rise in sea surface temperatures may have added 4 or
5 percent to the recent rainfall, but the longer-term trends for much
of the state call for “a decrease of a few percent” in rainfall. It
could take many decades, he said, before the effects of warming become a
more important factor in the state’s weather than the natural
Andrew E. Dessler,
a climate researcher at Texas A & M, compared the question of
climate change and weather to trying to figure out which of Barry
Bonds’s home runs were caused by his steroid use.
statistically some of them were, but you don’t know which ones,” he
said. “Almost certainly, it would have rained a lot even without climate
change — but it’s possible climate change juiced it, added a little
state judge heard arguments on Wednesday on whether chimpanzees can be
considered persons with some legal rights, as advocates seeking to free two chimps in captivity on Long Island asserted they were “autonomous beings” and compared their plight to that of human slaves.
“They are the kinds of beings who can remember the past and plan ahead for the future,” Steven M. Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project
told the court, “which is one of the reasons imprisoning a chimp is at
least as bad and maybe worse than imprisoning a person.”
unusual hearing in State Supreme Court in Manhattan concerned the fate
of Hercules and Leo, two 8-year-old chimpanzees being studied by a
researcher at Stony Brook University. The Nonhuman Rights Project has sued to have them released, trying to use the time-honored writ of habeas corpus, a cornerstone of American law that allows a person to challenge unlawful imprisonment.
what is a person under the law? That was the focus of arguments before
Justice Barbara Jaffe. Mr. Wise contended that chimpanzees are enough
like humans that they should have a right to “bodily liberty,” even if
other rights, like voting or freedom of religion, are beyond them.
affidavits from nine experts on chimpanzees, Mr. Wise said recent
science has shown chimpanzees and other great apes are not governed
solely by instinct, but can make plans and take action to shape their
future. They are self-aware, he argued, possessing not only an
understanding of the passage of time, but also language and mathematical
skills. “These animals are indeed autonomous, self-determining beings,”
But Christopher Coulston, an assistant state attorney
general representing the university, countered that animals like
chimpanzees cannot enjoy the same rights as humans because they cannot
fulfill other duties required of them by human laws.
bear the moral responsibility in our society, and the correlative
rights and duties do not make sense to chimps,” he said. “They are just
not equipped the same way as human beings to be members of society.”
Coulston also warned that granting a right of bodily liberty to
chimpanzees, based on their cognitive abilities, would open the door to
arguing for similar rights for other animals, from livestock to pets.
“You are absolutely opening a possible floodgate,” he said.
the petitions for Hercules and Leo, the Nonhuman Rights Project has
filed writs of habeas corpus in New York on behalf of two other captive
chimpanzees: Tommy, owned by a couple in Gloversville, about 50 miles
northwest of Albany; and Kiko, housed at the Primate Sanctuary in
Niagara Falls. The group is seeking to transfer the chimpanzees to a
sanctuary in southern Florida, where they would live on a five-acre
island with 25 to 30 other chimpanzees.
Mr. Wise’s group does not
try to hide its goal of using the suits as test cases to promote a
novel legal theory that some animals — among them great apes, dolphins
and elephants — share enough human traits to be deemed persons under the
law and thus should not be held in captivity.
Lower courts in
Fulton, Niagara and Suffolk counties have rejected Mr. Wise’s arguments,
and those rulings were upheld by appellate courts. The most expansive
ruling came in December, when a five-member appeals court in Albany ruled against the group’s attempt to free Tommy, the Gloversville chimpanzee.
panel noted that “animals have never been considered persons for the
purposes of habeas corpus relief” and said that the chimps were not able
to live up to “the rights and duties that attach to legal personhood.”
Undeterred, Mr. Wise has appealed the rulings in the two upstate cases to the state’s highest court.
Suffolk County ruling dealt with Hercules and Leo. During the hearing
on Wednesday, Mr. Coulston accused Mr. Wise’s group of “forum shopping”
and urged Justice Jaffe to dismiss the motion because the matter had
already been decided.
But Mr. Wise responded that habeas corpus
petitions are one of the few legal actions that can be brought to any
justice in the state and can be submitted repeatedly. He pointed out
such lawsuits were used extensively in the 19th century to fight human
slavery and were often brought by abolitionists on behalf of slaves they
did not know.
Mr. Coulston also argued that, even if the judge
rules that chimpanzees can be considered persons under the law, merely
transferring Hercules and Leo from captivity at Stony Brook to a
different kind of captivity in Florida would solve nothing: They would
still be deprived of liberty. “The transfer from one facility to another
is never an appropriate remedy under Habeas Corpus,” he said.
addition, Mr. Coulston asserted that it was improper for a court to
decide whether the animals are entitled to a writ of habeas corpus,
saying Justice Jaffe should leave it to the Legislature to define
personhood in this case.
Justice Jaffe gave few clues about which
way she would rule. She quizzed Mr. Wise about why she should not
follow the appellate court’s rulings in the other two cases.
she also told Mr. Coulston that for centuries judges in England and
America have broadly interpreted the rules governing habeas corpus,
sometimes called the “great writ,” and have expanded the concept to
adapt to changing times.
“Isn’t it incumbent on the judiciary to
at least consider whether a class of beings might be granted a right or
something short of the right under the habeas corpus law?” she asked.
30 years, the federal government has helped millions of low-income
Americans pay their phone bills, saying that telephone service is
critical to summoning medical help, seeking work and, ultimately,
climbing out of poverty. Now, the nation’s top communications regulator
will propose offering those same people subsidized access to broadband
On Thursday, that regulator, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,
will circulate a plan to his fellow commissioners suggesting sweeping
changes to a $1.7 billion subsidy program charged with ensuring that all
Americans have affordable access to advanced telecommunications
services, according to senior agency officials.
The effort is the
F.C.C.’s strongest recognition yet that high-speed Internet access is
as essential to economic well-being as good transportation and telephone
service. Mr. Wheeler will propose potentially giving recipients a
choice of phone service, Internet service or a mix of both, the
officials said. He will also suggest new measures to curb fraud, a
source of criticism in recent years.
While the plan is likely to
secure the support of the F.C.C.’s Democratic majority in a vote next
month, it is almost certain to also set off fierce debate in Washington.
The subsidy program, Lifeline, has faced extensive scrutiny. And many of Mr. Wheeler’s previous actions, including his successful push to regulate broadband Internet as a public utility, have drawn indignation from opponents.
than 12 million households now participate in Lifeline, which was
created in 1985 by the Reagan administration to subsidize landline
telephone service. In 2008, the program was extended to cover the cost
of mobile phones. Enrollment rose sharply — as did abuse, with some
households receiving more than their single allowed subsidy. To qualify,
a household must have an income at or below 135 percent of the federal
poverty line, or must participate in a program like Medicaid or food stamps.
Kimmelman, who lobbied as a consumer advocate to create Lifeline, said
the program was meant to keep people from having to choose between
essentials like food, electricity and phone service. Now, he said,
Internet access needed to be added to the list.
every bit as important today as plain old phone service was 30 years
ago,” said Mr. Kimmelman, a former Justice Department official who is
now chief executive of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group.
Wheeler’s proposal is an effort to bridge the so-called digital divide,
the ever-widening economic and social inequalities of those with access
to technology and those without it. In 2000, 3 percent of Americans had
broadband at home, according to Pew Research. In 2013, 70 percent did. But the adoption of broadband in low-income and minority households has not kept pace.
According to Pew data
from 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 54
percent of those making less than $30,000 a year have broadband,
compared with 88 percent of those making more than $75,000. The same
survey found that 53 percent of Hispanics and 64 percent of blacks in
the United States have high-speed Internet at home, compared with 74
percent of whites.
For recipients like Sharell Harmon, a
23-year-old single mother from Elkins, W.Va., the Lifeline program has
made a big difference.
“Without a phone, I couldn’t connect with
my job, my kids’ doctors or their schools,” said Ms. Harmon, who works
full time in construction while pursuing a college degree. “You don’t
realize how many people you have to talk to until you can’t.”
her plan, she is entitled to 250 minutes of talk time and 1,000 text
messages a month, limits she says she never comes close to crossing.
But, Ms. Harmon said, she also needs high-speed Internet to feel fully
connected and has struggled to pay her broadband bill.
is online these days,” said Ms. Harmon, who said she supported any
effort to allow the subsidy to be applied to broadband. “I take classes
online, do my schoolwork. My kids play math and phonics games.”
vote on Mr. Wheeler’s proposal is expected on June 18, according to the
senior agency officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity
because they were discussing a plan that had not yet been circulated
among all five commissioners. If the plan wins majority approval, as
expected, the antifraud measures would take effect soon after. The
commission would then discuss the specifics of incorporating broadband
into the program, and write rules to govern it. A final vote on the plan
could come before the end of the year.The Lifeline program offers each
household a $9.25 monthly subsidy toward the cost of service; it was not
until 2008, when the benefit was extended to prepaid mobile phones,
which cost less than landlines, that some phone connections became fully
free for Lifeline recipients. Mr. Wheeler is proposing setting service
standards, which could include a specified number of mobile minutes and
minimum broadband speed. Debate over just how far a $9.25 credit can go
in covering the cost of broadband is sure to arise.
The plan will
almost certainly face strong criticism. Some Republicans recently
expressed skepticism that the F.C.C. has fully rooted out abuse from the
program. In April 2014, the Justice Department indicted three people on
charges that they defrauded the agency of $32 million in false Lifeline
claims from September 2009 to March 2011.
In 2012, the F.C.C.
instituted stricter safeguards, including the establishment of a
database that crosschecked that no household received more than one
subsidy. In March, the Government Accountability Office issued a report
evaluating the effect of those changes. It said that the number of
participating households had fallen to about 12 million in 2014 from
about 18 million in 2012, suggesting more households were being held to
“The reforms had some impact, but whether they’ve
reduced all of the fraud, we can’t tell,” said Michael E. Clements, an
acting director at the G.A.O. who helped write the report. Mr. Clements
said that of the 11 primary reforms the F.C.C. had said it would make in
2012, four had yet to be completed, according to his office’s recent
In response to the report, Michael O’Rielly, a Republican
commissioner on the F.C.C., called the Lifeline program “inefficient,
costly and in serious need of review.”
Mr. Wheeler’s push for new
safeguards may be partly an effort to pre-emptively answer the
program’s critics. Service providers currently must verify participants’
eligibility for Lifeline, and under the new plan, they would be
required to keep proof of that eligibility and make it available if
audited, senior F.C.C. officials said.
There has been speculation
in Washington for months about changes to the program. A Senate
subcommittee hearing is already scheduled for June 2 to examine its
effectiveness and ways to prevent further abuse. The office of the
senator who called the hearing, Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi,
did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
has been under attack, and the F.C.C. is currently facing incredible
political pressure,” said Michael Scurato, policy director of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “It wasn’t always this contentious to make sure our neighbors in this country are connected to communications of the day.”