Tell Mayor de Blasio: Fire ALL Officers Involved in Killing Ramarley!
Sign the petition:
Four years ago, NYPD officers unlawfully busted into my home without a warrant or legal justification and murdered my son, Ramarley Graham. He had committed no crime, was unarmed, and should have been safe within his own home, but they still shot and killed him in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother. Afterwards, police officers abused, intimidated and threatened our family, and engaged in dishonest activities to cover up the killing. Four years later, NONE of these officers have faced discipline and they remain on the NYPD.
Demand that the officers who killed Ramarley and tried to cover it up be fired now.
Every level of the justice system has failed to provide justice, all the way up to the Justice Department's U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who sent a disgraceful message that Black lives don't deserve justice, and that conduct that would be considered criminal if done by a civilian are beyond legal accountability when committed by police officers.
Now, our only hope for accountability lies with NYC Mayor de Blasio, who was elected largely with support from Black and Brown New Yorkers because of his pledges to advance police reforms. But the officers responsible for killing my son, abusing my family, and attempting to cover their tracks remain on the NYPD under the De Blasio administration. Some officers have even received pay raises, with the officer who shot Ramarley receiving nearly $25,000 in pay increases since the murder.1
The killing of my son and actions after the killing by officers to distort the facts surrounding it and intimidate us represent the most severe forms of police misconduct and should be cause for immediate firing. Yet, de Blasio's NYPD is not being transparent or serious about an investigation. It has failed to clarify which officers are facing charges and what charges have been filed, acknowledging to a media outlet that only three officers are targets of their investigation when AT LEAST A DOZEN WERE INVOLVED. The one officer it has identified as facing charges is the one who pulled the trigger, but he's only facing one charge from 2012 of "incorrectly discharging a firearm" – nothing for initiating an unlawful home entry, using excessive force or threatening my mother at gunpoint.
This is unacceptable, shameful and displays an utter disregard for my family and Black lives. ALL the officers involved in Ramarley's killing and attempting to cover it up through lies, distortions and intimidation of my family should be fully investigated and fired.
Over 30,000 ColorOfChange members supported my families demands of the Mayor when they read the message below last week. Join us in demanding justice for my son, Ramarley Graham.
'Cop Who Gunned Down Ramarley Graham Gets a Raise' Huffington Post, 1.21.15 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5999?t=6&akid=5546.46097._uK0WA
'Officer in fatal Ramarley Graham shooting faces Police Dept. Charges' New York Times, 3.10.16 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/6000?t=8&akid=5546.46097._uK0WA
In the year 2012, the number of young Black men that were victim of stop and frisk searches in New York nearly exceeded the city's population of young Black men.1 Unsurprisingly, at least twenty-one people were killed by the NYPD that year, including 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, who was stalked and gunned down by NYPD Officer Richard Haste.2 A judge threw out the grand jury's indictment of Officer Haste, and after two years of investigating, the Department of Justice has just ended their investigation by deciding not to file any charges.
After four years of fighting for Ramarley, his family must now accept that no one will ever be held accountable in a court of law. However, they are not giving up on holding the officers involved accountable. Outrageously, Officers Haste and others who tried to cover up the killing are still employed by the NYPD. Join Ramarley's family in demanding they be fired.
Demand New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio fire NYPD Officer Richard Haste and all the officers responsible for killing Ramarley as well as those that tried to obscure the case and abused his family.
Over the last two years, local officials have claimed they could not act until the conclusion of the DOJ investigation, delaying any discipline for Officer Haste or others.3 It has now been four years since Ramarley was murdered. How much longer will his family have to wait for justice?
Murdered in what should have been the safety of his own home, Ramarley was fatally shot by Officer Haste in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother after the officer entered their residence without a warrant. Following the unjust shooting, police officers quickly began covering their tracks by promoting false statements about the incident, some of which were later retracted. Officers even tried to intimidate Ramarley's family, interrogating his grandmother for 7 hours and even assaulting his mother at the precinct4.
Join us in calling for Mayor de Blasio's administration to hold NYPD Officer Richard Haste and all the officers responsible for killing Ramarley, as well as those involved in obscuring the case and intimidating the Graham family.
The local justice system and the Department of Justice have failed Ramarley Graham and his family. Mayor de Blasio and NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton claim to be reforming the NYPD but they need to demonstrate that their commitment goes beyond press releases and PR announcements.
The killing of young Black men who pose no threat to officers or public safety — like Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and now, Ramarley Graham — are anecdotes of the long history of NYPD inflicting brutality and violence on Black people. In 1999, officers fired 41 shots at Amadou Diallo, killing him in his Bronx apartment. In 2006, police fired 50 shots at Sean Bell, killing him on his wedding day in Queens. In both of these horrifying cases, the district attorney's office was unable to secure a guilty verdict. A lack of police accountability is what perpetuates these deadly police shootings in Black communities.
The officers who were involved in the killing of Ramarley and the attempted cover up should never be allowed to put on a police uniform again. Don't let them do what they did to Ramarley and his family to anyone else.
Tell Mayor de Blasio to Fire Officer Richard Haste and all the officers responsible for killing Ramarley and the subsequent cover up NOW!
In peace and solidarity,
Scott, Rashad, Arisha, Enchanta and the rest of the ColorOfChange team
1. "Analysis Finds Racial Disparities, Ineffectiveness in NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Program; Links Tactic to Soaring Marijuana Arrest Rate," NYCLU, 05-22-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3414?t=14&akid=5546.46097._uK0WA
2. "Will There Be Justice for NYPD Victim Ramarley Graham," The Nation, 08-21-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5950?t=16&akid=5546.46097._uK0WA
3. "Why Ramarley Graham's Parents Just Slept On The DOJ's Steps," Huffington Post, 02-03-2016 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5951?t=18&akid=5546.46097._uK0WA
4. "Ramarley Graham's Family Sues NYPD," The Guardian, 02-03-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5952?t=20&akid=5546.46097._uK0WA
Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:
A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS
B. ARTICLES IN FULL
A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS
Protest Big Pharma!
Public Health, Not Corporate Wealth!
Free Harvoni for Hep C Prisoners! Free Mumia Now!
The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, together with the Oasis Clinic in Oakland, urges you to support this demonstration to protest the outrageous price-gouging of Big Pharma corporations, like Gilead Sciences! Corporations such as Gilead hike-up the cost for essential, life-saving medications such as the cure for the deadly Hepatitis-C disease (HCV), in order to reap huge profits. Prisoners are among the chief victims.
Join us at Gilead Sciences' HQ!
333 Lakeside Drive, Foster City
12 Noon, Friday April 1st
Public transportation is available --
Allow about 90 minutes or more:
Take BART Richmond/Daly City line to Milbrae Station,
transfer to Caltrain Shuttle. Take this shuttle to: 353 Lakeside,
then it's a short walk to Gilead, at 333 Lakeside Dr.
One pill a day for 12 weeks does the trick to cure Hepatitis-C with a 95 percent success rate. But Gilead charges $1,000 per pill, or nearly $100,000 for a full course of treatment!! Gilead Sciences, the "owner" of Harvoni, which is the effective new cure for HCV, did not develop this cure: it bought another company! Now its profit gouging threatens many thousands of lives! Obama Care does not protect against Big Pharma's outrageous price gouging!
Nearly 5.2 million Americans are infected with HCV, according to the Center for Disease Control. And political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is among as many as 700,000 prisoners who are victims.
Prisoners who are infected with Hep-C are among the least likely to receive the newly available cure for the disease, due to both the exaggerated price, and the refusal of prison authorities to provide proper health care for inmates!
Mumia Abu-Jamal was infected in 1981, after he was shot by police and as a prisoner given a tainted blood transfusion. Falsely convicted for killing a cop and sent to death row (he's now serving life without the possibility of parole), Mumia's infection began to show symptoms in 2015, which is typical for this slow-incubating but usually fatal (if untreated) disease. Mass mobilization by supporters is the only reason Mumia got any medical attention at all, and he is still denied the curative Harvoni treatment which can ensure his survival! The PA prison system is now trying to kill Mumia by medical neglect!
In violation of National Institute of Health (NIH) regulations, Gilead canceled its program to supply a certain amount of the drug at low cost. And the New York Times reported that in "a complicated deal to sell hepatitis drugs at a small fraction of their usual cost while imposing tight restrictions intended to protect lucrative markets in the West... for the past year, Gilead has sold the drug to the Egyptian government for about $10 a pill."
Mumia Abu-Jamal, though he nearly died for lack of treatment last year, points out that he is only one of many. He supports the demands for treatment of some 10,000 prisoners in Pennsylvania who suffer from HCV infection.
In a recent federal appeal, lawyers fighting for treatment of Mumia brought out evidence in court of a secret PA Department of Corrections (DOC) protocol which explicitly provides for observation, but NO treatment, for HCV infected prisoners, until they are at death's door (if then)!
WE DEMAND: PUBLIC HEALTH, NOT CORPORATE WEALTH!
NO EXECUTION BY MEDICAL NEGLECT!
FREE TREATMENT FOR HCV-INFECTED PRISONERS & OTHERS NOW!
JAIL DRUG PROFITEERS, FREE MUMIA!
Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222 • Oakland CA 94610 • www.laboractionmumia.org
Mumia Is Innocent! Free Mumia!
From Akai Gurley to Mario Woods …
Rally for Justice for ALL Victims of Racist Police Brutality
Fri. April 1, 6:30pm
24th and Mission Sts., San Francisco
The following is in response to a national Call to Action (for April 1-11) put out by the Justice for Akai Gurley Family Committee.
Fire SFPD Chief Suhr!
Stop Police Terror!
As racist presidential candidate Donald Trump emboldens white supremacist groups to openly organize and lash out against the most oppressed sectors of society, the police in the United States continue to terrorize and murder Black, Brown, Native, immigrant, and poor and working people who are targeted by the same racist hate groups with impunity.
These acts of racist police terror continue largely unchallenged by the so-called "justice system." The rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore along with the mass mobilizations in Chicago have forced concessions from those in power to remove police chiefs and prosecutors and make department-wide reforms, proving the struggle to be the determining factor in the outcome of these cases.
In New York, the struggle for justice for Akai Gurley, who was murdered by NYPD, has reached a critical point where killer cop Peter Liang is facing potential jail time. While some reactionaries have mobilized to prevent this conviction, we demand that all killer cops must be held accountable for their crimes.
With the recent sham civil trial surrounding the murder of Alex Nieto in San Francisco that reinforced the right of officers to kill with impunity, it's time to stand up and fight back against the militarized gangs of police that criminalize and terrorize people like Akai Gurley, Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez-Lopez and every other person stolen from our communities.
Join the ANSWER Coalition on Friday, April 1 for a rally to demand "From Akai Gurley to Mario Woods, justice for all victims of racist police brutality!"
To endorse or for more info: www.ANSWERsf.org or 415-821-6545
General Motors is Guilty in Flint!
Demand GM, which made $9.7 billion in 2015, immediately contribute $4 billion to rebuild Flint's water infrastructure, housing and schools, and provide quality, lifetime healthcare and services for Flint's youth!
Working people across the U.S. and even many celebrities have made significant contributions to aid the people of Flint, who are experiencing the devastating effects of the Water Lead Poisoning Scandal. One entity, however, has been notably silent: General Motors Corporation. This is despite the fact that it was the actions of GM that are responsible for the financial destruction of Flint, which led to the city being placed under racist Emergency Management with the disastrous consequences that followed.
- GM eliminated 72,000 union auto worker jobs in the Flint from 1970 to the present, driving out half of the population, and turning Flint from one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S. to the poorest. GM moved operations all over the globe seeking low wages and replaced workers with robots in its drive for super-profits.
- When GM became aware of the toxic nature of Flint's water supply in October 2014, it didn't alert the public or call for the end of its use in family water taps. No, it negotiated an exemption for itself to get water from Lake Huron so its parts would not be corroded, the people be damned.
- GM is the single greatest polluter of the toxic Flint River, using it to dump industrial waste for years.
- GM promoted lead-based gasoline for 60 years to make its engines more efficient at the least cost, knowing full well the poisonous effects of lead.
- GM got a bailout from the federal government in 2009 which cost taxpayers $11 billion. The State of Michigan, under governors Granholm and Snyder, gave GM $4 billion in tax credits through 2030, meaning every year GM is profitable it pays ZERO state taxes.
- GM pocketed $9.7 billion in profits in 2015. It's time for GM to pay its debt to the people of Flint.
For more info: 313-680-5508
This farmworker documentary project needs your support
This coming year is going to be a watershed for farm workers.
Wages have been going down, people are living in crowded conditions - sometimes even outside under the trees, in tents and in cars. The communities of indigenous migrants who harvest our food up and down the Pacific Coast have been rising in protest, and last year organized strikes from Baja California to Washington State.
In this crucial year I'm going to travel through the Pacific Coast's indigenous farm worker communities, working with and guided by community activists as we document peoples' lives. We will produce a reality check - the hard work, the bad housing, but also the vibrant culture and the way people organize in response.
I'm writing to ask you to help me.
I need to raise at least $20,000 to make this happen. Beacon Reader has generously offered to help raise the money, and even to match every contribution made on its website, dollar for dollar. But I only have a month, starting today. You can make your donation HERE:
The money will be used in the following ways:
--- It will produce large photographic prints that will travel through urban and rural communities
--- It will produce written narratives by indigenous migrants that will accompany the photographs
--- It will produce an interactive website combining the photographs and voices
--- It will publish the photographs and narratives in mainstream media, and eventually collected as a book.
You can make this photojournalism and deep reporting possible, by making a donation to this crowdfunding campaign. I've been doing this work for over a decade, and your pledge will be carefully used.
Your pledge will have an impact on people's lives.
It will be used to help reduce anti-immigrant hysteria, and support indigenous migrant communities as they seek understanding and justice. It will educate people living in cities, concerned about the food they eat, about the lives of the people who put it on the table. People worried about the impact of pesticides on their children might also consider how much greater the impact is on those working in the fields, and on their children who breathe the dust blowing into their schoolyards.
All donations are appreciated and will be acknowledged. But if you donate at least $100, you can get an 8.5x11" print from the series we'll take this year. If you donate more, we'll send you a larger print and books. I'll even come and talk about the project with you. The website explains it all.
There's a short, 90-second video on the website that also shows you the power of combining the voices of community leaders with photographs that document their reality.
Please be as generous as you can, and put me on the road this coming year. You won't regret it.
In the 38th Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards David Bacon won first-place in the photo series category for his August 6, 2014 cover story for the East Bay Express, "Living on the Streets of Oakland," a photo essay that examined the situation of homeless people in the Bay Area's third largest city.
THE REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog
EN LOS CAMPOS DEL NORTE: Farm worker photographs on the U.S./Mexico border wall
Youtube interview about the show with Alfonso Caraveo (Spanish)
David Bacon radio review of the movie, Cesar Chavez
Interviews with David Bacon about his book, The Right to Stay Home:
Book TV: A presentation of the ideas in The Right to Stay Home at the CUNY Graduate Center
KPFK - Uprisings with Sonali Kohatkar
KPFA - Upfront with Brian Edwards Tiekert
Books by David Bacon
The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration (Beacon Press, 2013)
Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)
The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)
EL DERECHO A QUEDARSE EN CASA (Critica - Planeta de Libros)
HIJOS DE LIBRE COMERCIA (El Viejo Topo)
For more articles and images, see http://dbacon.igc.org
Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring exchanges with an Outlaw Kindle Edition
State Seeks to Remove Innocent PA Lifer's Attorney! Free Corey Walker!
The PA Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed legal action to remove Corey Walker's attorney, Rachel Wolkenstein, in November 2014. On Tuesday, February 9, 2016 the evidentiary hearing to terminate Wolkenstein as Corey Walker's pro hac vice lawyer continues before Judge Lawrence Clark of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas in Harrisburg, PA.
Walker, assisted by Wolkenstein, filed three sets of legal papers over five months in 2014 with new evidence of Walker's innocence and that the prosecution and police deliberately used false evidence to convict him of murder. Two weeks after Wolkenstein was granted pro hac vice status, the OAG moved against her and Walker.
The OAG claims that Wolkenstein's political views and prior legal representation of Mumia Abu-Jamal and courtroom arrest by the notorious Judge Albert Sabo makes it "intolerable" for her to represent Corey Walker in the courts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Over the past fifteen months the OAG has effectively stopped any judicial action on the legal challenges of Corey Walker and his former co-defendant, Lorenzo Johnson against their convictions and sentences to life imprisonment without parole while it proceeds in its attempts to remove Wolkenstein.
This is retaliation against Corey Walker who is innocent and framed. Walker and his attorney won't stop until they thoroughly expose the police corruption and deliberate presentation of false evidence to convict Corey Walker and win his freedom.
This outrageous attack on Corey Walker's fundamental right to his lawyer of choice and challenge his conviction must cease. The evidence of his innocence and deliberate prosecutorial frame up was suppressed for almost twenty years. Corey Walker must be freed!
Read: Jim Crow Justice – The Frame-up Of Corey Walker by Charles Brover
Go to FreeCoreyWalker.org to provide help and get more information.
TAKE ACTION: Mumia is sick
Date & Time:
Thursday, March 24, 2016 - 18:00
SUPPORTERS OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL, AND FREE QUALITY HEALTH CARE FOR ALL:
The Oasis Clinic in Oakland, CA, which treats patients with Hepatitis-C (HCV), demands an end to the outrageous price-gouging of Big Pharma corporations, like Gilead Sciences, which hike-up the cost for essential, life-saving medications such as the cure for the deadly Hepatitis-C virus, in order to reap huge profits. The Oasis Clinic's demand is:
PUBLIC HEALTH, NOT CORPORATE WEALTH!
PUBLIC HEALTH, NOT CORPORATE WEALTH!
IMMEDIATE AND FREE TREATMENT FOR ALL HCV-INFECTED PRISONERS!
NO EXECUTION BY MEDICAL NEGLECT!
JAIL DRUG PROFITEERS, FREE MUMIA!
This message from:
Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222 • Oakland CA 94610 • www.laboractionmumia.org
06 January 2016
Mumia Is Innocent! Free Mumia!
Imam Jamil (H.Rap Brown) moved
Some two weeks ago Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) was moved by bus from USP Canaan in Waymart, PA. to USP Tucson, Arizona. His mailing address is: USP Tucson United States Penitentiary P.O. Box Tucson, AZ. 85734 (BOP number 99974555)
Sign the Petition:
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, THE Bureau of Prisons, The Governor of Georgia
We are aware of a review being launched of criminal cases to determine whether any defendants were wrongly convicted and or deserve a new trail because of flawed forensic evidence and or wrongly reported evidence. It was stated in the Washington Post in April of 2012 that Justice Department Officials had known for years that flawed forensic work led to convictions of innocent people. We seek to have included in the review of such cases that of Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. We understand that all cases reviewed will include the Innocence Project. We look forward to your immediate attention to these overdue wrongs.
ASAP: The Forgotten Imam Project
P.O. Box 373
Four Oaks, NC 27524
Luqman Abdullah-ibn Al-Sidiq
Haneef Bey (Beaumont Gereau), Abdul Azziz (Warren Ballentine), Malik Bey (Meral Smith)
"AMERICA'S PARADISE" HAS BEEN THEIR HELL, 44 YEARS OF POLITICAL IMPRISONMENT, THE PAST 15 OF THEM WITHOUT EVEN THE PRETENSE OF THEM SERVING SENTENCES
While the U.S. today declares that the natural inhabitants of the Virgin Islands have "no fundamental rights," it claims that it fairly tried these men in 1972, then held them in the U.S. federal prison system for 29 years. In 2000, even though the U.S. retired their "sentences," it directed the colonial government to hold them nonetheless, indefinitely, and illegally, and this is exactly what it has done for 15-years.
FOR RAISING THE FACT THEY HAVE BEEN ILLEGALLY HELD FOR THE PAST 15-YEARS BY THE u.s. COLONIAL GOVERNMENT THEY WERE LOCKED DOWN AS "SECURITY RISKS." THIS IS SPITE OF YEARS OF THEM GOING OUTSIDE THE PRISON TO COMMUNITY EVENTS WITHOUT ESCORT AS INVITED QUEST SPEAKERS AND HAD IN FACT, HAD JUST RETURNED FROM ONE. tHIS ACTION TOOK PLACE aT THE VERY TOME THAT THE COURT WAS TO HAVE ACTED ON THEIR HABEAS PETITIONS. oN THE DAY THEY SHOULD HAVE FREED, THEY ARE PUT IN THE WHOLE AND REMAIN THERE TO THIS DAY. tO DATE, IN UTTER VIOLATION OF THE LAW, THE u.s. dISTRICT COURT HAS WITHHELD PROCESS, IN VIOLATION OF THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS AS WELL.
WHO ARE THE VIRGIN ISLAND 3
THE VIRGIN ISLAND 3, FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE "VIRGIN ISLAND 5," HAVE BEEN IMPRISONED FOR 43-YEARS FOR THE KILLING OF SEVEN WHITES AND A MULATTO AT THE FOUNTAIN VALLEY GOLF COURSE IN ST. CROIX IN 1972. EVEN THOUGH THE INCIDENT WAS DESCRIBED AS A "ROBBERY GONE BAD," THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TREATED IT AS THE TIP OF SOME SORT OF "MAU MAU" UPRISING TO FORCE ALL WHITE PEOPLE OUT OF THE ISLES. IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE INCIDENT THE U.S. SENT IN AN ARMY OF RACIST WHITE FBI AGENTS, ALONG WITH 300 MARINES, AND PLACED ALL OF THE ISLES IT CLAIMS TO "OWN" UNDER A STATE OF RACIST MARTIAL LAW. THE ENTIRE BLACK POPULATION WAS SUSPECT, PARTICULARLY YOUNG BLACK MEN, WITH OVER 100 OF THEM BEING ROUNDED UP IN HOUSE TO HOUSE SEARCHES. MOST OF THE YOUNG MEN WERE SUBJECTED TO VARIOUS FORMS OF TORTURE THAT INCLUDED BEATINGS, WATER-BOARDING, ELECTRIC SHOCK, AND BEING HUNG FROM TREES AND BUILDINGS BY THEIR FEET. (for a more detailed account click this link "Maracatu")
WITHIN A WEEK AFTER THE INCIDENT THE FBI SETTLED ON FIVE YOUNG MEN AS THE CULPRITS WITH SCANT EVIDENCE AND "CONFESSIONS" OBTAINED THROUGH TORTURE. THOSE FIVE YOUNG BLACK MEN WHERE ISHMAEL LABEET, RAPHAEL JOSEPH, WARREN BALLENTINE, BEAUMONT GEREU, AND MERAL SMITH. THEY WERE QUICKLY TRIED TOGETHER IN THE U.S. DISTRICT COURT BY A JUDGE WHO USED TO SERVE AS THE ATTORNEY FOR THE ROCKEFELLER FAMILY, WHICH OWNED THE GOLF COURSE. THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE TO CONVICT A ONE, WHICH WAS WHY THE STRATEGY WAS TO TRIE THEM TOGETHER, IN ORDER TO FUDGE THE FACTS. THE GUN USED TO KILL THE PEOPLE WAS AN AUTOMATIC RIFLE REGISTERED TO THE VI POLICE DEPARTMENT, BUT NO POLICE OFFICER WAS EVER MADE SUSPECT. THE ASSAILANTS WERE MASKED THE ENTIRE TIME AND THE INCIDENT OCCURRED IN A MATTER OF MINUTES WITH THE ASSAILANTS ALLEGEDLY DISAPPEARING BACK INTO THE SURROUNDING RAIN FORREST FROM WHICH THEY CAME. HOWEVER, SOME WITNESSES REPORTED THAT THE MEN DROVE OFF IN A CAR AND THAT THE INCIDENT WAS SOME SORT OF "HIT."
AFTER A HASTY TRIAL, WHEN THE JURY INFORMED THE JUDGE THAT THEY COULD NOT CONVICT, HE ORDERED THEM HELD FOR NINE DAYS UNTIL THEY CAME BACK WITH GUILTY VERDICTS AGAINST ALL FIVE. WITHIN THE HOUR AFTER GETTING THE GUILTY VERDICTS THE JUDGE HAD ALL FIVE BROUGHT BEFORE HIM AND SENTENCED EACH TO EIGHT CONSECUTIVE LIFE SENTENCES, THEN HAD THEM MARCHED FROM THE COURTHOUSE DOWN TO THE HARBOR IN CHRISTENSTED. IN THE HARBOR WERE A NUMBER OF SEA PLANES THAT THEN FLEW THE FIVE OFF TO FEDERAL PRISONS IN THE UNITED STATES. THE SPEEDY ARREST, TRIAL, CONVICTION, AND IMPRISONMENT WERE INTENDED TO SEND A MESSAGE TO THE NATURAL INHABITANTS AGAINST EVEN CONTEMPLATING OPPOSING U.S. RULE, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME TO ENSURE WHITES THAT ANY BLACK UPRISING WOULD BE DEALT WITH QUICKLY, HARSHLY, AND EFFECTIVELY. THE QUICK ARREST, PROSECUTION, TRIAL, CONVICTIONS, HARSH SENTENCES, AND QUICK EXECUTION AMOUNTED TO A LYNCHING IN ORDER TO TERRORIZE THE NATURAL INHABITANTS. AND THIS IS WHY THESE MEN REMAIN IMPRISONED TO THIS DAY, IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN THAT TERROR MESSAGE.
iN 1983, WHILE BEING TRANSPORTED BACK TO PRISON IN THE STATES AFTER APPEARING BACK IN ST. CROIX FOR A COURT HEARING, , ISHMAEL LABEET HIJACKED THE PLANE AND ESCAPED TO CUBA WHERE HE WAS GIVEN POLITICAL ASYLUM AND LIVES TODAY. IN 1992, RAPHAEL JOSEPH ALONE WAS PARDONED BY THE GOVERNOR FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR, EVEN THOUGH HIS BEHAVIOR WAS NOT ANY BETTER THAN THE OTHER THREE.
IN 2000-01, ALTHOUGH THE U.S. FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS RETIRED THE SENTENCES OF THE REMAINING THREE AND DISCHARGED THEM FROM ITS CUSTODY, IT DID NOT RELEASE THEM FROM DETENTION. INSTEAD OF BEING RELEASED AS REQUIRED BY LAW, THE THREE WERE ILLEGALLY "TRANSFERRED" TO THE CUSTODY OF THE COLONIAL GOVERNMENT, EVEN THOUGH THEY NO LONGER HAD SENTENCES.
FOR THE PAST 15-YEARS THESE MEN HAVE BEEN DETAINED WITHOUT EVEN THE PRETENSE OF A PRISON SENTENCE, HELD BY A GOVERNMENT IMPOSED AND CONTROLLED BY A FOREIGN POWER - THE UNITED STATES. THIS GOES TO PROVE THAT FROM THE VERY OUTSET THEIR IMPRISONMENT WAS POLITICAL AND ILLEGAL, THESE MEN WERE MADE "TERROR SUSPECTS" 30-YEARS BEFORE GOERGE BUSH AND DICK CHENEY MADE THE TERM UP. jUST LIKE MANY OF THE SO-CALLED "TERROR SUSPECTS" AT GUANTANAMO BAY, THIS MEN WERE SWEPT UP IN A WARLIKE U.S. INVASION OF THEIR COUNTRY. AND JUST LIKE WAS DONE TO THE SO-CALLED "TERROR SUSPECTS" AT GUANTANAMO BAY, THESE MEN WERE ALSO SUBJECTED TO "ENHANCED INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES," OR TORTURE. AND JUST LIKE WITH THE SO-CALLED "TERROR SUSPECTS" AT GUANTANAMO BAY THEIR CONTINUED DETENTION IS OUTSIDE OF ALL KNOWN LAW AND MORALITY.
MALIK, HANEEF, AND ABDUL CAN BE REACHED BY MAIL AT THE GOLDEN GROVE PRISON, IF IN FACT THEY ARE STILL THERE AND NOT BEEN SPIRITED OFF TO SOME OTHER "BLACK SITE:"
RURAL ROUTE 1, BOX 9955, KNGSHILL VI OO8500
HOWEVER, PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT THERE IS NO INTENT TO JUST LET THEM TO CONTINUE TO HOLD THEM, WE ARE NOT GOING TO WAIT FOR JUSTICE TO COME FROM A PLACE WERE IT DOES NOT EXIST. WE HAVE WORK TO DO IN THE ISLES RIGHT NOW. YOU CAN HELP, PLEASE FOLLOW THE PEOPLE'S ALERT BELOW. THANK YOU
ON DECEMBER 31, 2015, THE VIRGIN ISLAND 3 WERE LOCKED DOWN FOR PETITIONING THE U.S. DISTRICT COURT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS, THE SAME COURT IN WHICH THEY WERE "TRIED" 44-YEARS AGO, TO END 15-YEARS OF BEING ILLEGALLY DETAINED BY THE COLONIAL GOVERNMENT OF THE "U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS." INSTEAD OF DUE PROCESS, INSTEAD OF JUSTICE, THEY HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO MORE OPPRESSION AND REPRESSION
INSTEAD OF DUE PROCESS AND JUSTICE, THEY GOT RETRIBUTION
We need people to do the following things
SIGN PETITION TO GOV. KENNETH MAPP
DONATE TO THE GROUND WORK
Kenneth Mapp is the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, a former police officer in the states, is directly responsible for the illegal detention of the Virgin Islands 3. All he does not need a court to order their release, all he needs to do is to decide that his government will no long violate the law and the Human Rights of its own people.
Read more at: http://virginislands3.yolasite.com/
Afrikan Black Coalition just started a petition to the University of California Regents, UC President Napolitano, and UC Chief Investment Officer Bachher stating:
Last year, we pushed the University of California to divest $25 million in private prison shares. We dedicate this victory to the millions of our people languishing in America's mass incarceration regime. But the University of California still has not divested the $425 million in shares from Wells Fargo, one of the largest private prison funders.
Wells Fargo maintains a $900 million credit line to private prisons. If we all truly believe that #BlackLivesMatter from the hood to the academy, we must stand with our family and friends who are currently incarcerated or are at a higher risk of incarceration because of their very Blackness.
Tell the UC to divest effective immediately, all of the $425 million it has currently invested in Wells Fargo!
Sign now →
UC, Divest from Wells Fargo Immediately!
We just started a petition titled "University California (UC) Divestment." Below is the appeal that we will deliver to the University of California next month:
We, the undersigned community members and justice seekers, are excited by the Afrikan Black Coalition's recent victory in getting the University of California to divest $25 million from the private prison corporations Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), The Geo Group, and G4S. The victory was historic because private prisons have exacerbated America's mass incarceration regime, are implicated in gross human rights violations, and should be outlawed.
However, we share the Afrikan Black Coalition's outrage and frustration resulting from the UC system's startling $425 million investment in Wells Fargo, one of the largest financiers of private prisons. According a report from Enlace, Wells Fargo acts as a syndication agent and issuing lender on CCA's $900 million line of credit. As of their latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wells Fargo owned 998,350 shares in CCA and 462,342 shares in GEO Group, nearly 1.5 million shares total. It bears noting that Wells Fargo is a bank that practiced discriminatory lending and maneuvered people of color (primarily Black and Latino) into subprime mortgages that led to the financial meltdown of 2007-2008; and in response to accusations of racial discrimination in its lending practices, Wells Fargo settled for $175 million in 2012 with pending litigations from several U.S cities about discriminatory practices.
I share the Afrikan Black Coalition's outrage and frustration resulting from the UC system's startling $425 million investment in Wells Fargo, one of the largest financiers of private prisons.
It is for these reasons that we stand in solidarity with the Afrikan Black Coalition in its call for justice for those who are systematically dehumanized by an unforgiving and unfair judicial system that continues to criminalize Black and brown bodies. We acknowledge these cases illustrate the evolution of America's legal institution to uphold race, gender, and class hierarchies. By investing in Wells Fargo Bank, the University of California is actively supporting a legacy of historical emphasis on profit margins at the expense of human beings, and the continued mass criminalization of Black existence. It is an ethical embarrassment and a clear disregard for Black and immigrant lives for the UC to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Wells Fargo as a financier of private prisons. In the age of Black Lives Matter and a reinvigorated Black Freedom Struggle, the UC should NOT be bankrolling the inhuman mass incarceration regime that has gripped America.
I am outraged that Wells Fargo spends almost $1 billion funding modern-day slave plantations. The University of California should not be in business with such an immoral bank!
In Solidarity and Struggle,
Afrikan Black Coalition
Sign now →
MAJOR TILLERY BACK IN THE HOLE!!
In her own words:
Listen to Chelsea's story in Amnesty podcast
Whistleblower Chelsea Manning was the subject of Amnesty International's podcast, In Their Own Words, a brand new series featuring the stories of human rights activists around the world.
One of the most trying aspects of Chelsea's imprisonment has been the inability for the public to hear or see her.
"I feel like I've been stored away all this time without a voice," Chelsea has said.
In this episode, Amnesty finally gives Chelsea a voice, employing actress Michelle Hendley to speak Chelsea's words. Through Michelle, we hear Chelsea tell us who she is as a person, what she's been through, and what she's going through now.
"I have to say, I cried a few times listening to this," said Chelsea, after a Support Network volunteer played the podcast for her over the telephone. "Hearing her speak, and tell the story. She sounds like me. It sounds like the way I would tell my story."
Since its release on Feb 5, the podcast has already been listened to over 10,000 times, passing up Amnesty's first episode voiced by actor Christian Bale by over 4,000 listens. It received attention from Vice's Broadley, BoingBoing, Pink News, Fight for the Future, the ACLU, the Advocate and numerous other online blogs and tweets.
Listen to the podcast or read the full transcript here
In her latest Guardian OpEd, Chelsea Manning shares about a rare and meaningful friendship she had while in the isolating environment of prison. "At the loneliest time of my life," explains Chelsea, "her friendship meant everything."
Chelsea Manning, Guardian OpEd
Feb 8, 2016
Prisons function by isolating those of us who are incarcerated from any means of support other than those charged with keeping us imprisoned: first, they physically isolate us from the outside world and those in it who love us; then they work to divide prisoners from one another by inculcating our distrust in one another.
The insecurity that comes from being behind bars with, at best, imperfect oversight makes us all feel responsible only for ourselves. We end up either docile, apathetic and unwilling to engage with each other, or hostile, angry, violent and resentful. When we don't play by the written or unwritten rules – or, sometimes, because we do – we become targets...
Read the complete op-ed here
When Drone Whistleblowers are Under Attack,
What Do We Do?
STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!
We honor Stephan, Michael, Brandon and Cian!
These four former ex-drone pilots have courageously spoken out publicly against the U.S. drone assassination program. They have not been charged with any crime, yet the U.S. government is retaliating against these truth-tellers by freezing all of their bank and credit card accounts. WE MUST BACK THEM UP!
Listen to them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43z6EMy8T28
PLEASE HELP THEM:
1. Sign up on this support network:
2. Sign this petition NOW:
3. Call and email officials TODAY, listed below and on FB site.
4. Ask your organization if they would join our network.
Statement of Support for Drone Whistleblowers
(Code Pink Women for Peace: East Bay, Golden Gate, and S.F. Chapters 11.28.15)
Code Pink Women for Peace support the very courageous actions of four former US drone operators, Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, and Stephan Lewis, who have come under increasing attack for disclosing information about "widespread corruption and institutionalized indifference to civilian casualties that characterize the drone program." As truth tellers, they stated in a public letter to President Obama that the killing of innocent civilians has been one of the most "devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world."* These public disclosures come only after repeated attempts to work privately within official channels failed.
Despite the fact that none of the four has been charged with criminal activity, all had their bank accounts and credit cards frozen. This retaliatory response by our government is consistent with the extrajudicial nature of US drone strikes.
We must support these former drone operators who have taken great risks to stop the drone killing. Write or call your US Senators, your US Representatives, President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and CIA Director John Brennan demanding that Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, and Stephan Lewis be applauded, not punished, for revealing the criminal and extrajudicial nature of drone strikes that has led to so many civilian deaths.
URGENT: Sign and Share NOW! Drone Whistleblower Protection Petition
Contacting your Government
- White House comment line: 202-456-1111
- Email President Obama: email@example.com and cc firstname.lastname@example.org
- White House switchboard: 202-456-1414 for telephone numbers of your Senators and Representatives.
- Email your Senators and Representatives:
-Contact Ashton Carter Secretary of Defense: Go to http://www.defense.gov/About-DoD/Biographies/BiographyView/Article/602689 and select appropriate icon.
- Contact John Brennan, CIA Director: Go to
https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/leadership/john-o-brennan.html and select appropriate icon.
For more information on the 4 Drone Whistleblowers:
(Must see Democracy Now interview with the 4 drone operators)
Code Pink Women for Peace: email@example.com
Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence
Sign the Petition:
Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.
"The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case
Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.
In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.
Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.
Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.
Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."
Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.
Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.
In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.
Senior Death Penalty Campaigner
Amnesty International USA
Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org
Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.
Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin. He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence. In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.
There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:
The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?
The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."
Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.
These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.
The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.
Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.
The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.
The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited… (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)
This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015
For Immediate Release – Thursday, October 29, 2015
Solitary Prisoners' Lawyers Slam CDCR for Sleep Deprivation
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, lawyers for prisoners in the class action case Ashker v. Brown submitted a letter condemning Pelican Bay prison guards' "wellness checks," which have widely been viewed as sleep deprivation. The letter was submitted to United States Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, and calls on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to put an end to the checks.
Last month, prisoners achieved a historic victory in the settlement of Ashker v. Brown where the indefinite long term solitary confinement was effectively ended in California, with Magistrate Judge Vadas currently monitoring implementation of the settlement terms.
The guards at Pelican bay Security Housing Units have been conducting disruptive cell checks every 30 minutes around the clock for three months, causing prisoners widespread sleep disruption. The process is loud and according to prisoners, "the method and noise from the checks is torture."
Attorneys representing Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have just completed extensive interviews with prisoners who demand that "the every 30-minute checks have to be stopped or people are going to get sick or worse." In addition, they report that regular prison programs have been negatively impacted.
"To sleep is a fundamental human right," said Anne Weills, a member of the prisoners' legal team and one of the attorneys who conducted the interviews with prisoners in Pelican Bay. "To take away such a basic human right amounts to severe torture, adding to the already torturous conditions of being in solitary confinement."
Most prisoners report low energy, exhaustion and fatigue. Most state that they have trouble concentrating. They try to read, but they nod off and/or can't remember what they have read. Their writing is much slower ("I can't think to write"), and describe the constant welfare checks as having a negative impact on their mental state.
While this recent attorney survey was specifically focusing on sleep deprivation and its effects, prisoners volunteered information about the negative impact of these frequent checks: yard policy and practice has reduced access to recreation, access to showers has been reduced, programs and meals are being delayed, and property for those newly transferred to Pelican Bay is still being delayed and withheld.
Sleep deprivation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners and their attorneys are demanding that these checks be halted.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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.
An 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.
One 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.
The 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 residents.
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 indictment.
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 observers.
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!
[add your name below]
CANCEL ALL STUDENT DEBT!
Sign the Petition:
Dear President Obama, Senators, and Members of Congress:
Americans 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
Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson
Updates from the New "Team Free Lorenzo Johnson":
Thank you all for your relentless effort in the fight against wrongful convictions and your determination to stand behind Lorenzo.
To garner even more support for Lorenzo Johnson, we have been hard at work updating the website and developing an even more formidable and dedicated team. Please take a moment to visit the new site here.
During the month of July, Lorenzo wrote two new articles for The Huffington Post titled "When Prosecutors Deny Justice for the Innocent," and "Hurry Up and Wait for Justice: The Struggle of Innocent Prisoners." In these articles, Lorenzo discusses the flaws in the criminal justice system, which he deems is a "serious problem in this country."
Lastly, Lorenzo has a message to you all.
A Letter from Lorenzo:
July 23, 2015
Dauphin County Prison
I hope all is well with everyone and your families. As for myself, I'm still on my journey in pursuit of my vindication. Sorry for my website being shut down for a couple of weeks. It was being transferred to a new provider and management. I'm back and will do my best to keep everything up to speed with what's taking place.
I would like to thank ALL of my loyal supporters in the U.S. and in the MANY different counties that have signed on to support my innocence. Thanks for all of the letters, emails, photos, etc. Like I always say, I get energy to carry on and inspiration hearing form you, please stay engaged in my struggle.
As of this moment, nothing has changed, but – the continued delay tactics are constantly being used by my prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General William Stoycos. With the mounting of evidence that supports my innocence and police and prosecution misconduct claims that is steadily piling up, you would think that I would be having a couple of evidentiary hearings on my actual innocence appeal that have been pending since August 5, 2013.
At the time of this writing, I've been moved from SCI-Mahanoy to Dauphin County Prison and locked down for 23 hours and 40 minutes a day. In the 20 minutes I get to come out, I get to take a shower and make a short call. Prosecutor Stoycos had me moved so I can be a witness in his attempt to have my codefendant Corey Walker's attorney removed from representing him. How dare he call into question an attorney who is seeking justice for her client, when prosecutor Stoycos himself violated multiple constitutional rights of mine and Mr. Walker, that led to us being in prison for 20 years and counting.
Prosecutor Stoycos is continuously abusing his power and his endless resources he has at his disposal. He is not tough on crime, he's tough on Innocent Prisoners. Prosecutor Stoycos is doing everything in his power to prevent justice from taking place. I encourage everyone to continue to speak out against my nightmare, invite others to get involved by going to my website and signing my Freedom Petition and whatever else they're willing to do.
On a positive note, I just enrolled in warehouse management trade and started on July 13th. Unfortunately, you're only allowed to miss a couple of days and Prosecutor Stoycos had me temporarily transferred on July 14th … It's extremely hard on Lifers to get into these trades due to the fact that Lifers are placed at the back of the list of ALL vocational classes. I try to further my education every chance I get, so when I do come home, I will be certified in different work.
The month of the hearing has come and left, without me being brought to the courthouse … I'm one of MANY innocent prisoners who endures this non-stop madness in our pursuit of Justice and Freedom. Now that my webpage is almost caught up to speed, I promise prompt updates and as everyone knows that contacted me directly, I personally reply to those in the states and out of the country. For those who can make a financial contribution, everything counts. Take care and let's continue to fight until we achieve Freedom, Justice, and Equality for all innocent prisoners.
"The Pain Within"
Free the Innocent
Lorenzo "Cat" Johnson
[Note: Lorenzo has since been transferred back to SCI Mahanoy and can be reached at his usual address.]
Thank you all for reading this message and please take the time to visit the new website and contribute to Lorenzo's campaign for freedom!
Write: Lorenzo Johnson
301 Morea Rd.
Frackville, PA 17932
Email: Through JPay using the code:
Lorenzo Johnson DF 1036 PA DOC
Directly at LorenzoJohnson17932@gmail.com
Have a wonderful day!
- The Team to Free Lorenzo Johnson
Join the Fight to Free Rev. Pinkney!
Click HERE to view in browser
Today is the 406th day that Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan
languishes in prison doing felony time for a misdemeanor crime he did not
commit. Today is also the day that Robert McKay, a spokesperson for the
Free Rev. Pinkney campaign, gave testimony before United Nations
representatives about the plight of Rev. Pinkney at a hearing held in
Chicago. The hearing was called in order to shed light upon the
mistreatment of African-Americans in the United States and put it on an
international stage. And yet as the UN representatives and audience heard
of the injustices in the Pinkney case many gasped in disbelief and asked
with frowns on their faces, "how is this possible?" But disbelief quickly
disappeared when everyone realized these were the same feelings they had
when they first heard of Flint and we all know what happened in Flint. FREE
REV. PINKNEY NOW.
Please send letters to:
Marquette Branch Prison
Rev. Edward Pinkney N-E-93 #294671
1960 US Hwy 41 South
Marquette, MI 49855
Please donate at http://bhbanco.org (Donate button) or send checks to BANCO:
c/o Dorothy Pinkney
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
On 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 Harbor.
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.
Checks 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 49022.
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
I 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 racist."
Background to Campaign to free Rev. Pinkney
Michigan 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, Michigan.
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.
Berrien County 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.
The 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 this again!
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
Or you can donate on-line at bhbanco.org.
COURAGE TO RESIST
New Action--write letters to DoD officials requesting clemency for Chelsea!
Secretary of the Army John McHugh
President Obama has delegated review of Chelsea Manning's clemency appeal to individuals within the Department of Defense.
Please write them to express your support for heroic WikiLeaks' whistle-blower former US Army intelligence analyst PFC Chelsea Manning's release from military prison.
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 stage.
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:
The 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.
Consider composing 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
This 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
The Apple Fight
A joint statement from Access Now, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Apple is engaged in a high-profile battle against a court order demanding it write, sign, and deploy custom computer code to defeat the security on an iPhone. As civil liberties groups committed to the freedom of thought that underpins a democratic society, this fight is our fight. It is the fight of every person who believes in a future where technology does not come at the cost of privacy or individual security and where there are reasonable safeguards on government power.
This is a fight that implicates all technology users. There are already bad actors trying to defeat the security on iPhones, and an FBI-ordered backdoor will only assist their efforts. Once this has been created, malicious hackers will surely increase their attacks on the FBI and Apple, hoping to ferret out clues to this entrance route—and they may well succeed.
The precedent created by this case is disturbing: it creates a new pathway for the government to conscript private companies into building surveillance tools. If Apple can be compelled to create a master key to unlock this iPhone, then little will prevent the government from ordering any company to turn its products into tools of surveillance, compromising the safety, privacy, and security of everyone.
Our organizations are committed to defending the security and human rights of everyday people whose data will be implicated by this shortsighted policy.
We call on the Obama Administration to heed the advice of neutral security experts, engineers, and even his own advisors who have affirmed the dangers inherent in the order issued to Apple. We urge them to reject the calls of those who seek to undermine our security, whether through backdoors into our software, master keys to unlock our digital data, or pressure on companies to downgrade our security.
Over 100,000 people have called for President Obama to stand up for security in our devices through savecrypto.org. It's time for the President to be accountable to them, and to all of us.
In this fraught debate, we must let facts and reason prevail. We cannot compromise on our security or liberty.
—The Electronic Frontier Foundation, March 17, 2016
B. ARTICLES IN FULL
1) Charter Schools Suspend Black and Disabled Students More, Study Says
Black students are four times as likely to be suspended from charter schools as white students, according to a new analysis of federal education data. And students with disabilities, the study found, are suspended two to three times the rate of nondisabled students in charter schools.
These inequities are similar to those in traditional public schools, where black and disabled students are disproportionately disciplined for even minor infractions, and as early as preschool — although on average, charter schools suspend pupils at slightly higher rates than traditional public schools.
The analysis of charter school data from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights of close to 5,000 charters was done by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, a nonprofit civil rights research and policy organization.
Still, the report is likely to fuel an often fierce debate about disciplinary practices in charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Some charter networks have come under fire for "no excuses" behavioral codes, under which students can be suspended for offenses like clothing violations.
Based on data from the 2011-12 school year, the report found that charter schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels suspended 7.8 percent of students, compared with 6.7 percent of students in noncharter schools. Among students with disabilities, charter schools suspended 15.5 percent of students, compared with 13.7 percent at noncharters. At the extreme end, there were 235 charter schools that suspended more than half of their students with disabilities.
At the elementary school level, less than a third of charter schools suspended more than 10 percent of black students, while at the high school level, close to 40 percent of charter schools suspended one in four or more of black students enrolled that year. Black students were more likely to be suspended at even higher rates when enrolled in segregated schools, with high concentrations of African-American pupils.
Daniel J. Losen, the director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies, said the report should not be used to generalize about all charter school discipline, because there were also schools that did not suspend students at high rates. "There are other ways to address school discipline that hold kids accountable," he said.
Advocates for the disabled were particularly concerned about the higher rates of suspension at charters, given that charter schools enroll a lower proportion of students with disabilities than traditional public schools.
"So these are the children who manage to get in who are being suspended," said Diane Smith Howard, senior staff lawyer at the National Disability Rights Network.
Education researchers and policy makers worry about out-of-school suspensions because they can raise the risk that students will drop out of high school or lead to higher rates of crime and imprisonment.
Research has also shown that black students are suspended for infractions that white students are not, as well as for subjective behavioral categories like defiance or disrespect.
Advocates for changes to punitive discipline in schools say educators should be trained to work to resolve conflicts with students rather than using suspension to punish what might be typical childish or adolescent behavior.
Teachers and administrators should be "identifying what happened, identifying any needs of the parties involved in the conflict, and asking some really key questions, like 'what happened, how were you affected, how can we move forward?' " said Thena Robinson Mock, director of the Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track Campaign sponsored by the Advancement Project, a civil rights group.
Charter school advocates advised caution in relying too much on the report for comparisons of charters to traditional public schools.
"Parents should have the ability to choose a school that best meets their children's unique needs," M. Karega Rausch, vice president for research at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a group that represents oversight agencies, said in an email. "For some children, that may be a school with strict rules; for other children, that may be a school that is less strict. "
Schools in the Success Academy network in New York City, which have recently come under scrutiny for disciplinary practices, were not included in the report, as its authors found conflicting suspension data in federal and state databases. Success Academy declined to comment.
Michael Yudin, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services at the Department of Education, said in an email that the department would work with charter school leaders "to support the creation of stronger school communities and propose resources and guiding principles that reimagine the role of discipline in their schools."
Crossroads Charter School in Charlotte, N.C., suspended close to three-quarters of all black students in 2011-12. Adrian Sundiata, the operational director at the school, said it was now using more disciplinary measures to address infractions like taking a cellphone to school or using profanity, including after-school detentions and community service.
He said school officials were also considering changing some rules, like allowing students to have cellphones to use for research in class.
2) Angered by Cities' Handling of Police Shootings, Voters Oust Two Prosecutors
Irate protesters have charged for years that police officers kill black people with impunity, but that anger yielded something new on Tuesday in the counties that include Chicago and Cleveland, where voters defeated the prosecutors they held partly responsible.
In each place, one particular shooting in 2014, captured on video, galvanized attention, locally and nationally: the death in Chicago of Laquan McDonald, 17, and the killing in Cleveland of Tamir Rice, 12.
Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, announced in December that a grand jury had declined to indict the officers involved in Tamir's death, making it clear that he agreed. And Anita Alvarez, the state's attorney for Cook County, waited 13 months before taking action against the officer who killed Mr. McDonald, filing a murder charge only after a judge ordered that video of the shooting be made public.
In Democratic primaries on Tuesday, both veteran prosecutors were soundly defeated by lesser-known challengers. In each county, the campaign became a referendum on the incumbent, with some protesters stating plainly that they would vote for any viable alternative.
"There's no way that we could condone Anita Alvarez being our state's attorney for another term," said Veronica Morris Moore, a leader of a coalition of black community groups called the Bye Anita Campaign. "This does not mean that we believe in Kim Foxx," the winning challenger.
Critics of law enforcement hope the results send a message to prosecutors, but they do not claim they are part of a trend. In Missouri, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch, easily won re-election in 2014, days before announcing that a grand jury there had not indicted an officer for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson. In New York, the Staten Island district attorney, Daniel M. Donovan, won election to Congress in 2015, after a grand jury decided not to indict an officer in the death of Eric Garner.
"It's really hard to gauge whether it's something that's going to spread or not," said Representative Marcia Fudge, Democrat of Ohio, a critic of Mr. McGinty and the Cleveland police. "It always depends on the case. In Cleveland, it was a number of things that came together, kind of a perfect storm."
Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and the former police superintendent Garry McCarthy have been battered over the McDonald case and other police shootings; Mr. Emanuel has become so unpopular that in the Democratic presidential primary, Bernie Sanders's campaign worked hard to link the mayor to Hillary Clinton.
But Mr. McCarthy was ousted in December, and Mr. Emanuel, after being forced into a runoff, survived a re-election fight last year, before the release of the McDonald video. That left Ms. Alvarez as the target for voters' ire. Signs and social media posts often paired the hashtags #ByeAnita and #ByeRahm.
"I've been criticized that I wasn't a very good politician, and that's probably right," she told supporters on election night. "But I'm very damn proud of the fact that I am a good prosecutor."
Critics claimed that she had dragged her feet in charging Officer Jason Van Dyke, who fired 16 shots into Mr. McDonald, who was holding a knife but walking away. They also said she had intentionally botched the prosecution of Detective Dante Servin in the shooting of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed woman. Ms. Alvarez vehemently denied those charges.
"She had been under fire for a number of things, but there's no doubt that the Laquan McDonald case was the crystallizing factor," said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a former Chicago alderman. "People blamed her and Rahm Emanuel and Garry McCarthy, but only she was on the ballot."
Tamir was shot while playing in a park with a realistic-looking pellet gun, at a time when the Cleveland police were already under a Justice Department investigation that found a pattern of civil rights violations and excessive force. In the Rice case, like those in Staten Island and Ferguson, people clamoring for the officers to be charged accused Mr. McGinty of steering the grand jury away from prosecution.
A few months later, they accused Mr. McGinty's office of mishandling the prosecution of an officer, one of several who had fired more than 100 shots into a car, killing two unarmed people. The officer was acquitted at trial. And Mr. McGinty stirred new resentment over the Rice case in November, when he said that the boy's mother and her lawyer, in criticizing him, "have their own economic motives."
Mr. McGinty lost on Tuesday by about 12 percentage points to Michael O'Malley, a former Cleveland councilman and former prosecutor. Ms. Foxx, a former prosecutor, defeated Ms. Alvarez by about 19 points.
In both cases, winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning office. No Republican filed to run in Cuyahoga County, and in heavily Democratic Cook County, the Republican candidate, Christopher E. Pfannkuche, is relatively unknown.
3) Newark Schools to Test Pupils for Lead as Officials Cite Longstanding Problem
As they prepared to begin testing young children for lead poisoning this week, school officials in Newark on Wednesday acknowledged that water in the city's schools had contained elevated levels of lead for years.
Reports from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to be released on Thursday showed that levels of lead above 15 parts per billion, the threshold at which the federal Environmental Protection Agency suggests taking action, had been found in about 250 samples of water in the schools in the past four years. Similar levels of lead had been found in the tests taken over the past few months, which led officials to shut off the faucets and drinking fountains at 30 of the city's 67 schools and immediately bring in bottled water.
"As a parent, I too find the fact that the district has identified elevated levels of lead in water in each of these past years extremely concerning," Christopher Cerf, the superintendent of Newark Public Schools, said in an interview.
Mr. Cerf said the school district was working with the state environmental department to develop a plan for testing and retesting the water in the schools, starting on Saturday. He said that samples would be taken from school buildings that had not previously been tested, and that the 30 schools where high levels of lead had been found most recently would be tested again.
Mr. Cerf was appointed superintendent in July by the state, which controls the schools in Newark, the largest city in New Jersey. He said that when he became aware last week of the high levels of lead in the most recent tests, he reviewed reports from earlier years. He said he could not explain why his predecessors had not reacted to the results as he did last week, saying he had "decided to address the situation differently."
But Mr. Cerf said the discovery of dangerously high levels of lead in the public water system in Flint, Mich., had changed the way people responded to the issue.
"Our national consciousness has been raised by other national events," he said. "I think the way the world would receive these data is different after Flint."
Schools are not required to test their water, but the Newark schools have been having it tested for more than a decade, Mr. Cerf said. The Newark schools have had a protocol of flushing pipes and replacing filters since 2004, he said.
From 2004 through 2011, different companies collected the samples, and those reports will be released when they are available, the district said.
About 12 percent of 2,067 samples taken in the schools since 2012 had lead above the "federal action level" of 15 parts per billion, the school district said.
Health officials say that there is no safe amount of lead in drinking water and that it poses the most danger to young children, potentially causing behavior problems and learning disabilities. Testing of children for lead poisoning is being offered first, starting on Thursday, at two of the affected schools that have early-childhood programs.
School officials hope to allay parents' worries about the levels of lead that have been found, but on Wednesday afternoon word of the testing was having the opposite effect.
"It seems a lot more serious," said Sahmara Brown, who picked up her 3-year-old daughter, Myasia Brown, from prekindergarten at Early Childhood School West. Like other parents, Ms. Brown was holding a sheet of paper that provided details about the testing that would be offered at the school on Friday.
On Tuesday, Mayor Ras J. Baraka said that 17,000 children were potentially affected and that "parents have the opportunity to go get tested."
But Mr. Cerf said the immediate plan was to offer testing for about 330 children who attend the two early-childhood programs among the 30 schools. He added that the city's health department already offered free testing of children for lead poisoning.
Hassan Banks said he grew more fearful for his 4-year-old son, Aljaquan Briller, who is in prekindergarten, when he learned lead tests would be offered.
"I'm worried that they feel the need to do it," he said. "He's been drinking water in the school all year."
Nakia Mickel said that before learning about the contaminated water in the school, she already had her daughter, Aubrey St. Jean, 4, checked twice by a doctor for lead. Aubrey's levels were a little high, the doctor said, but not yet dangerously so.
Ms. Mickel said she would bring Aubrey, who is in prekindergarten, to her school on Friday to be tested for lead a third time.
"I'm going for testing because she was still drinking the water," Ms. Mickel said. "You figure that would have been checked before your kids came to school."
In response to the findings in the schools, the Newark Housing Authority this week began testing the water in its older buildings that house families with children, said Gloria Wright, a spokeswoman for the authority. She said it hoped to have the results of those tests next week.
Terrell Jones, who lives in public housing in Newark, said he worried what would happen if his building's water tests positive for unhealthy levels of lead.
"Low-income people, they're not going to buy water all day," Mr. Jones, a janitor, said. "Can't afford it."
Nate Schweber contributed reporting.
4) U.S. Investigating Elevated Blood Lead Levels in New York's Public Housing
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are conducting a sweeping investigation of environmental health and safety conditions, including cases of elevated blood lead levels, in public housing and homeless shelters and the possibility that the New York City housing and homeless agencies filed false claims to federal housing officials for payment related to the conditions.
The investigation was disclosed on Wednesday in a letter from the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and in a judge's subsequent order, which were both filed in federal court.
The order, from Judge Deborah A. Batts, compels the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to produce information about the cases of elevated blood lead levels among residents and complaints of "unsafe, unsanitary or unhealthful conditions" in public housing and homeless shelters.
The documents said the health agency, in response to an earlier civil investigative demand from the prosecutors, had declined to provide the information without a judge's order, to avoid violating the city and state health codes.
Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city's Law Department, said late Wednesday that the health department was "cooperating with the investigation."
The Housing Authority, known as Nycha, has been struggling with deteriorating conditions in its aging complexes and is already under the supervision of a court-appointed special master to address issues of mold among the 178,000 apartments it manages.
The agency has blamed a lack of money to address maintenance needs and major capital projects because of deep cuts in federal funding over more than a decade.
But the court documents noted that Nycha is required to comply with federal requirements regarding lead-based paint and to maintain public housing "so that it is decent, safe, sanitary and in good repair." The investigative demand said the investigation "concerns possible false claims" submitted by the city to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is a major source of funds for the Housing Authority.
The prosecutors' initial demand for documents, dated Nov. 20, sought the addresses of all buildings of the Housing Authority and the Department of Homeless Services where people with elevated blood lead levels had been identified; the date when those people's elevated blood lead levels were identified; the date of any environmental investigation; the date the results of any such investigation were sent to the agencies; and the date the property in question was cleared, if lead hazard control was required by local law.
Prosecutors also sought any notification letters and lead-based-paint evaluation results regarding the relevant people, properties and incidents. They also sought documents reflecting complaints about health conditions in public housing and homeless shelters, including those about "leaks, water damage, mold, particulate matter peeling paint in pre-1978 buildings, lead paint, rodents or insects, and all documents reflecting any response to, investigation of or evaluation of such complaints" by any city or state official or agency.
The initial demand also sought all communications between the city's health, homeless and housing agencies, or any city, state or federal agency, about problematic health conditions in city public housing or homeless shelters. Prosecutors also sought documents reflecting any city or state analysis of the health effects of lead, mold, particulate matter, rodents or insects on residents of city public housing or homeless shelters.
Asked about the investigation on Wednesday night, during an appearance at a panel discussion at Cooper Union titled "The Next 100 Years of Affordable Housing," the Housing Authority chairwoman and chief executive, Shola Olatoye, said she had no comment. Referring to herself and Mayor Bill de Blasio, she said, "What we all care about is having a safe and healthy community."
The public housing stock of red brick towers dates as far back as the 1930s and 1940s — with many still likely to contain lead paint — and the agency has struggled to keep up with a backlog of work orders, including for lead paint removal.
This month, State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, and Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from the Bronx who is chairman of the City Council's Public Housing Committee, released the results of a door-to-door survey their offices conducted among more than 200 Nycha residents, with 63 percent of those surveyed reporting something damaged or broken in their unit.
The officials said staff members took pictures in common areas of "egregious" violations, like electrical wiring, mold and peeling paint.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, has committed $300 million over three years for roof repairs, which officials said would help deal with the root cause of mold and excessive moisture.
Mr. Torres said he was surprised by the inquiry into possible false claims, but not by the concerns about health, given what he said was the agency's "dubious" record addressing hazards.
He said the agency was "both poorly funded and poorly managed" and should be doing better with the funds it gets.
"When you're under investigation by Preet Bharara," Mr. Torres said, "that's as serious as it gets."
Alex Vadukul contributed reporting.
5) Bill to Stop States Requiring Labeling of GMO Foods Fails
A bill that would prevent states from requiring food labels to note the presence of genetically engineered ingredients failed to pass the Senate on Wednesday.
Republicans in Congress, led in the Senate by Pat Roberts of Kansas, had been scrambling to come up with a bill that would head off mandatory labeling in Vermont, which goes into effect on July 1.
Many food companies have already gotten approval for the language they will use on packaging there, but they worry that other states will pass similar laws, creating a patchwork of requirements that will add to the cost of compliance.
Connecticut and Maine have passed laws requiring labeling, but the measures are contingent on bordering states' adopting similar requirements.
Mr. Roberts's bill failed in a procedural vote, getting only 48 votes when it needed 60.
"Unfortunately, the impact of these decisions will be felt across the country," he said after the vote. "Those decisions impact the farmers in fields who would be pressured to grow less efficient crops so manufacturers could avoid these demonizing labels."
The failure was a defeat for the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the major food and biotech companies that are its members, which have spent hundreds of millions of dollars fighting labeling requirements.
"Despite today's vote, there continues to be a strong bipartisan consensus to protect American consumers from the increased food costs and confusion of a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws," Pamela G. Bailey, chief of the association, said in a statement.
Ms. Bailey said the group would work with the Senate leaders to come up with a compromise that would establish federal standards.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic presidential candidate and a strong voice behind killing the bill, hailed the result. "Today's vote was a victory for the American people over corporate interests," he said in a statement.
Supporters of labeling also favor of a federal law, but one that would be mandatory.
The House passed a bill last summer that would pre-empt states from passing laws on labeling and establish a voluntary federal system instead, an approach similar to the bill that failed in the Senate.
Many companies have already begun labeling their products, even those that contributed money to the campaign to fight labeling. And the Non-GMO Project, the oldest of the groups that certify products to be free of genetically altered ingredients, has its seal on 34,774 products.
Jennifer Steinhauer contributed reporting.
6) The Prison-Commercial Complex
ORANGE, Conn. — LAST week, an order from the Federal Communications Commission that caps rates for United States prison telephone calls went into effect. A late stay by a federal appeals court, sought by phone companies suing the F.C.C., had threatened to delay the order's implementation. The stay affects several portions of the F.C.C.'s regulation, but key rate caps and restrictions on charges now apply — to the delight of advocates for prisoners and their families who have long criticized the call rates as a form of price gouging.
But the celebrations are premature. Companies that cater to correctional populations target people who have a desperate need and no other options. Capping phone rates will provide little check on a $1.2 billion industry.
Despite the rate-capping order, the phone companies' litigation against the F.C.C.'s efforts to rein in their excessive charges is likely to continue. But even as they fight in court, the companies are dodging oversight by exploiting a system that is largely unregulated: prison financial services.
Unless they've known someone who's been incarcerated, most people don't know that the corrections system has an entire commerce arm of its own. Everything an inmate can buy — phone calls, commissary, copays for substandard medical care, video visitation or the new email service — is purchased through a special account created by the prison or a private company.
Merely to add funds to an account, the family or friends of inmates must pay a service fee. I have an account myself with the prison phone giant Securus so that inmates I want to keep in touch with can call me. In February, I'd loaded my phone account without any fee. Then, a few weeks ago, I was charged $6.95 to add $5 of call time. So, the $11.95 that used to buy 49 minutes then purchased only 20.
It is hard to determine exactly how the fees are being applied: The commissions system is opaque, with the prison itself collecting a portion of the companies' revenues, leading the companies to charge more service fees to an inmate's phone account to make up the difference.
These fees are an additional money grab by the phone companies and the prison commissions system. There's a fee to create an account, a fee to fund an account, even a fee to get a refund. The companies are also taking advantage of a loophole in the F.C.C. order that allows them to add special fees for single calls by a user who doesn't want to set up an account with them. For the "PayNow" option from Securus, for example, the call cost is $1.80, but the transaction fee is $13.19. Before the F.C.C.'s order was implemented, ancillary fees added nearly 40 percent to phone call costs for prison customers.
Earlier this year, while researching for the Prison Policy Initiative, a Massachusetts-based think tank, I discovered that, partly to offset lost revenue from the F.C.C.'s rate-capping, inmate call providers were making agreements with financial service companies like Western Union and MoneyGram to share the money-sending service fees for purchasing phone time.
The phone companies' strategy was clear before the F.C.C.'s rate cap kicked in. Last year, Securus acquired JPay, one of the nation's largest prison financial services providers. JPay handles financial transactions for 70 percent of prison inmates; its fees are as high as 35 to 45 percent of the money being sent. JPay could potentially charge a fee to create a JPay account to pay the service fee to load a Securus phone account.
It's not just that this system is exploitative and cruel, taking from those who have little enough already. But this profiteering is also imposing costs on society. It's been established that regular contact between inmates and their friends and family on the outside lowers the rate of reoffending upon release. So, if that contact is rationed because of phone company profiteering, the result is more recidivism.
I know this from my own experience. Prison calls are made collect — that is, the called party must agree to speak to you. When that person presses "1" to connect with you, it's a sign of acceptance, that your eventual homecoming won't be so hard.
I called my family every day I could. Transcripts of the conversations might make it seem that the only purpose of my calls was to inquire about legal proceedings. In reality, it was about connecting with another person who had a much larger worldview than I did inside, someone whose habits and thoughts weren't being crushed by the institutionalizing routine of correctional life.
It's true that without the F.C.C.'s intervention, prison phone call rates could have continued to balloon, preventing the contact that helped me and helps so many other inmates. The phone companies may find new ways to charge fees that are outside the F.C.C.'s order; the commission may dispute that. Regardless of the outcome of that legal fight, other regulatory agencies could join the fray.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be scrutinizing the whole prison service provider market, including the money transfer system and so-called release cards — prepaid debit cards for prison use that charge higher fees than debit-card customers face on the outside. The Federal Trade Commission, and its Bureau of Consumer Protection, could also buttress what the F.C.C. has achieved.
Prisoners are consumers, too, and deserve protection, for everyone's benefit.
Not long ago the new television ad featuring Sesame Street's Cookie Monster pitching the iPhone 6 would have been considered a deplorable exploitation of children's culture for profit. But this final collapse of a putatively public educational project into the realm of corporate marketing caused little stir, quite possibly because Big Capitalism was written into Sesame Street's DNA from Day One.
Sesame Street was born as a ruling class experiment in social control, managed and funded by the Carnegie Endowment in concert with the Ford Foundation and federal agencies. Carnegie's Children's Television Workshop (CTW) created the show as a conscious response to late 60s urban insurrections and African-American revolutionary sentiment. CTW, "with its aim to serve the educational needs of the disadvantaged, was born at a moment in the nation's life when when … racial riots in Newark and Detroit were still fresh in our collective memory." (James Day, The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television, Berkeley, UC Press, 1995, p. 168.)
Carnegie's project meshed neatly with the goals of the federal Corporation for Public Broadcasting, then chaired by Frank Pace Jr., a former Secretary of the Army with extensive intelligence connections. Pace, who had created the US Army's Office of Psychological Warfare, was frankly interested in public television's "potential for riot control." (Ralph Engelman, Public Radio and Television in America: A Political History, Thousand Oaks, Cal., Sage, 1996.)
Hence early seasons of Sesame Street were set in a grungy ghetto alley where the peace was kept via the ministrations of a hip young black man sporting an Afro — a model of the federally-funded "community organizers" dispatched to the inner city as a safe alternative to the Panthers. (I also recall a kindly, implicitly Jewish, shopkeeper character, presumably intended to address inner-city resentment toward absentee business owners.) While a multiracial cast endlessly enacted what was then called "brotherhood," the show's target audience was offered the basic skills necessary to work behind the counter at McDonald's.
Seen in this light, Sesame Street was all about recommending a worldview that encouraged coping with racism and bare subsistence rather than daring to imagine social change. Protest was plainly off the menu: the worst thing you could be was a "grouch." Sunny day; everything's AOK.
Exemplary fables of racial harmony were of course nothing new in postwar American culture. In fact Sesame Street's true innovations were not in the area of content but of form. Reflecting Carnegie's longtime interest in harnessing TV marketing schemes for pedagogical purposes, CTW punctuated its narratives with brief "educational" segments explicitly modeled on television commercials. Numbers and the alphabet were not taught, but rather imprinted, on youthful minds through strategies of repetition and arresting imagery. As both Madison Avenue executives and Washington propagandists well knew, these techniques could lull viewers into a passive, hypnotic state that rendered them especially vulnerable to advertising messages. (Douglas Gomery, "The Rise of American Advertising, Media in America: The Wilson Quarterly Reader, Washington DC, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1989, p. 57.)
Corporate America immediately took notice. Most famously, the transnational giant General Foods Corporation produced "Multiplication Rock," a look-alike series of Saturday morning commercials disguised as educational programming, following up with further TV travesties of civics and American history that hammered home potted lessons in ruling class ideology. Other marketers followed suit, seeing a way to outflank federal regulations governing the content of advertising directed toward children.
Children's television, and kiddie culture in general, rapidly became an unsavoury mishmosh of corporate messaging and sham "education." Probably the original Sesame Street generation was the first to grow up without perceiving a clear distinction between teaching and marketing. Their children, now ceaselessly assaulted by corporate sales pitches in the classroom, on television, and via the Internet, may well see no difference at all.
Thus Sesame Street has been instrumental to neoliberalism's gradual erasure of traditional distinctions between disinterested pedagogy and the pursuit of profit. While corporations seized the opportunity to infiltrate the public sector with commercial messages, the ruling class was well served by a new educational approach that tended to disable critical thinking and encourage passivity among poor children. The latter phenomenon anticipated the current agenda of school privatizers, who are enthusiastically pursuing ever more powerful means of social control via punitive high-stakes testing, rote learning in the form of "skills matrices," and routine terror in the classroom.
As the Cookie Monster makes clear, today's poor children need aspire to nothing better than a brand new iPhone 6 as they're systematically shunted off to privatized chain schools, menial jobs, prisons, and the imperial military. The truly ambitious — emulating Black Lives Matter "spokesman" and charter school advocate Deray McKesson –might even hope for a Patagonia fleece vest.
Jacob Levich is a university administrator and independent researcher who tweets as @cordeliers.
8) "Insider Threat"
When will the U.S. stop persecuting whistleblowers?
The U.S. government is heavily invested in an internal surveillance program that is unsustainable, ineffective, morally reprehensible, inherently dangerous and ultimately counterproductive.
In the months following the U.S. government's initial charges against me over the release of government records in 2010, the current administration formed the National Insider Threat Task Force under the authority of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several other U.S. government agencies.
The mission of this taskforce is breathtakingly broad. It aims at deterring threats to national security by anyone "who misuses or betrays, wittingly or unwittingly, his or her authorized access to any U.S. Government resource." Unfortunately, the methods it outlines amount to thousands of government personnel being effectively under total surveillance.
These kinds of operations usually result in doing more harm than good. As articulated by James Detert and Ethan Burris in a recent Harvard Business Review article, such training and surveillance programs greatly diminish productive and innovative capabilities within organizations. They have a tendency to "promote fear of embarrassment, isolation, low performance ratings, lost promotions, and even firing." When your employer is the U.S. government, that fear—of surveillance, public humiliation, warrants, arrest, trial, exorbitant legal fees and imprisonment—is orders of magnitude higher.
Flaws in the program exacerbate these problems. There is a reliance on "anonymous feedback" which can create endless witch-hunts, "general invitations" to report or file complaints through so-called open door policies, and vagueness about what feedback is expected. According to Deter and Burris, the program creates a perfect storm of conditions against innovation, creativity and whistleblowing.
The implementation of the Insider Threat program has shown predictably troubling results. For example, an ODNI webinar, entitled Simple Steps and Guidance to Secure Classified Networks, describes excessive surveillance protocols and invasive secret investigations by the U.S. government and military into their own officials. In its early stages, it has become clear that this program conflates any attempt to seek redress, transparency or the promotion of legitimate public interests with grave threats to national security.
The program will have tangible effects on the lives of many officials. For instance, over the period of several years, a former senior government official, Thomas Drake, repeatedly attempted through many official and internal channels—including inspectors general and the U.S. congressional intelligence committees—to prompt scrutiny of some questionable NSA programs. After getting nowhere, he finally communicated his unclassified concerns to a reporter. Drake was then investigated for nearly half-a-decade, and charged with violations under the broadly interpreted Espionage Act of 1917. In 2011 he pled guilty to a federal misdemeanor after accruing hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in legal defense fees.
However, the Insider Threat program wasn't done with Drake, nor others like him. Late last year, the ODNI released internal training material that characterized Drake, and other government officials, as threats akin to the Fort Hood and Navy Yard mass shooters. When this revelation was made public, a letter from 22 civil liberties and press freedom organizations decried the government's "wanton misuse of the term 'threat'" and their failure to "understand the distinction between a whistleblower and a genuine threat."
As evidenced by a slideshow obtained in February 2016 through a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, internal training material based on my own psychological profile and history—using male pronouns and my old name, despite it being legally changed in April 2014—has been widely published and presented. The program alleges that I am "disgruntled" based on my perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, questioning my "self-image as a man" while acknowledging that "he [sic] wanted to be an openly accepted female." It describes me as "an advocate for homosexuals openly serving" in the military, and my concern and advocacy of queer and trans rights as being expressed "obsessively."
The broad sweep of the program means officials have been given a blank check for surveillance. Agencies implementing the Insider Threat program could examine anyone who has motives of "greed," "financial difficulties," is "disgruntled," has "an ideology" a "divided loyalty," an "ego" or "self-image," or "any family/personal issues"—the words used to describe my motives. Such subjective labeling could easily be applied to virtually every single person currently holding a security clearance.
This lack of focus has already led to the program becoming industrialized. In an April 2015 report to the U.S. House armed services committee, the U.S. Department of Defense revealed the existence of "continuing evaluation" of 100,000 personnel on and off the job.
The Insider Threat program works against innovation, creativity and the prevention of institutional corruption. Perhaps this is the real intent of the intelligence community and the Insider Threat Task Force—to instill fear and project dominance throughout the intelligence community, the military, and among government employees and contractors at large.
Perhaps a better approach for the government would be to create a Transparency and Accountability Task Force, comprising different government agencies and departments, the inspectors general, the National Archives and Office of Government Information Services, and a committee or other body that can work directly with current and former government employees, service members, veterans and journalists.
Such a taskforce could focus on advocating for and protecting employees who have concerns. It would help to send a message to employees, military service members, contractors and department and agency heads that even if the official channels fail, those who raise concerns will still be protected, listened to and given the chance to speak out in a meaningful forum. It would encourage dissent. It would allow dirty laundry, drama and corruption to be aired out rather than allowed to fester.
We could all—citizens, the government and its employees—benefit from that.
9) Dozens Reported Dead in US Airstrike on 'Al Qaeda Camp' in Yemen
March 23, 2016 | 5:39 am
The attack reportedly took place as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) recruits queued for food at the camp, west of the port city of Mukalla on Yemen's south coast.
The Pentagon said on Tuesday that a US airstrike on an AQAP training camp had killed dozens of fighters but it gave no further details. Previous American airstrikes purportedly killing militants in Yemen have later been reported to have killed civilians, with more than 100 estimated to have died in total.
The strikes set off huge fires inside the camp, residents said, and at least 30 people were wounded.
"The planes struck as al Qaeda people stood in line to receive their dinner meal," a local official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters by telephone.
Micah Zenko, a counterterrorism analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations who has been tracking US airstrikes, speculated to the Guardian newspaper that the high number of fatalities suggested the US had changed its strategy regarding counterterrorism operations.
Until Tuesday's strike in Yemen and another in Somalia earlier this month that killed more than 150 people, the average casualty toll over 575 US air strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia was seven deaths per strike.
"The Somalia and Yemen strikes suggest that the White House has authorized a significant opening of the aperture to target gatherings of suspected terror groups, rather than named individuals who pose imminent threats," Zenko told the Guardian. The Pentagon denied any change in policy.
AQAP has exploited the war in Yemen to expand its control in the country, seizing control of Mukalla, the capital of Hadramout province, in 2015 and recruiting more followers.
The US regards AQAP, formed by the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni wings of the group in 2009, as one of the deadliest branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.
The group had used Yemen to plot attacks against Western targets, including an attempt to bomb a US-bound airliner in 2009. It also claimed responsibility for an attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that killed 12 people last year, although some analysts suspect its role was more inspirational than direct.
The US has frequently targeted al Qaeda militants across Yemen with drone strikes, killing many prominent leaders of the group over the past few years.
Yemen is also being hit by air strikes by a Saudi-led Arab coalition targeting Iran-allied Houthi rebels, a campaign which has killed thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian catastrophe.
On Wednesday, the World Food Program (WFP) warned that nearly half of Yemen's 22 provinces were on the verge of famine as result of the war.
Aid groups have blamed curbs imposed by the Saudi-led coalition on access to Houthi-controlled ports for the crisis and also accuse Houthis of preventing supplies from reaching some areas, including the city of Taiz in the southwest.
"From a food security perspective, 10 of Yemen's 22 provinces are classified as emergency, which is one step before famine," Adham Muslim, deputy director of the WFP office in the capital Sanaa, said as the agency launched a food voucher program to help the most needy.
Fighting over the past year has displaced about 2.3 million people and left more than half of Yemen's 26 million population in need of food aid, Muslim said.
Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews
10) Nuclear Plant Leak Threatens Drinking Water Wells in Florida
MIAMI — When Florida's largest power company added two nuclear reactors to an existing plant that sat between two national parks — Biscayne Bay and the Everglades — the decision raised the concerns of environmentalists and some government officials about the possible effects on water quality and marine life.
Now more than four decades later, Florida Power & Light's reactors at Turkey Point, built to satisfy the power needs of a booming Miami, are facing their greatest crisis. A recent study commissioned by the county concluded that Turkey Point's old cooling canal system was leaking polluted water into Biscayne Bay.
This has raised alarm among county officials and environmentalists that the plant, which sits on the coastline, is polluting the bay's surface waters and its fragile ecosystem. In the past two years, bay waters near the plant have had a large saltwater plume that is slowly moving toward wells several miles away that supply drinking water to millions of residents in Miami and the Florida Keys.
Samples of the water at various depths and sites around the power plant showed elevated levels of salt, ammonia, phosphorous and tritium, a radioactive isotope that is found in nature but also frequently associated with nuclear power plants. The tritium, which was found in doses far too low to harm people, serves as a marker for scientists, enabling them to track the flow of canal water out from under the plant and into the bay. The tritium levels in December and January were much higher than they should be in ocean water.
Environmentalists, who have waged a longtime battle over water quality with the power company, among the largest in the country, said Tuesday that they planned to sue Florida Power & Light in 60 days for violating the federal Clean Water Act unless it addressed the problem.
The company has faced criticism and scrutiny from a judge and Miami-Dade County officials who said it was slow to react to the changes in water quality after the company overhauled Turkey Point in 2013 to increase its energy output. The plant, whose canals are filled with extremely hot water, was built on Florida limestone, which is highly porous.
"We now know exactly where the pollution is coming from, and we have a tracer that shows it's in the national park," said Laura Reynolds, an environmental consultant who is working with the Tropical Audubon Society and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which intend to file the lawsuit. "We are worried about the marine life there and the future of Biscayne Bay."
At a news conference on Tuesday, José Javier Rodríguez, a Democratic member of the Florida House, called on the federal government to intervene. He said state regulators had failed to adequately enforce the law and had shied from forcing the politically influential energy company to address a problem it had long ignored. The power company has not been cited for any violation by the state.
"What's happening at Turkey Point is a real danger to us, to our water supply," Mr. Rodríguez said. "The fact that there is salt being dumped into the aquifer and the fact that there are contaminants in Biscayne Bay really should have sounded an alarm. But as of yet, we're still waiting for state regulators to step up."
Dee Ann Miller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency had acted to ensure that the power company reduce the salinity levels in the canal system, including issuing an administrative order.
Robert L. Gould, a spokesman for Florida Power & Light, said the company had been working under a consent decree with Miami-Dade County since October to address the high salinity in its canals. Salinity levels have been cut in half from their high point, he said. He attributed the high salinity levels and the algae bloom to drought conditions in 2013 and 2014, which drastically increased water temperatures in the canals, not to the overhaul of the plant's two nuclear reactors.
The company is also moving to address the spikes in nutrients, tritium and ammonia, Mr. Gould said, although he added that ammonia was not a byproduct of nuclear plants. He emphasized that the trace levels of tritium were far below the danger levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. The company has been in contact with the federal agency, he said.
None of these problems, Mr. Gould said, are threatening the state's drinking water supply or even the bay's health. The problem is mostly in areas right near the plant, he added. The closest the saltwater plume is to the water wells is about four miles away. "I really need to stress that there is no safety risk: There is no risk to the bay or to the drinking water," Mr. Gould said. "The way it's been portrayed by some is simply unfair. It's extremely misleading."
But last month, a Florida administrative judge, Bram Canter, chastised the state and Florida Power & Light, finding that the cooling canal system is "the major contributing cause" for the growth of the large underground saltwater plume and for its westerly move toward the drinking water well fields. He ordered the state and the company to clean up the cooling canals, which it had started to do under an October consent decree with the county.
The Biscayne Aquifer, the judge noted in his ruling, is an "important natural resource." It is the main source of drinking water in the county and is vital to irrigation and the marsh wetland communities, he added. Judge Canter made his ruling after a Florida rock mining company sued the company over the saltwater plume.
11) Rule to Require Employers to Disclose Use of Anti-Union Consultants
WASHINGTON — The Labor Department on Wednesday released the final version of a rule requiring employers to disclose relationships with the consultants they hire to help persuade workers not to form a union or support a union's collective bargaining position.
The department said the rule, which will be published on Thursday and apply to agreements made after July 1, is necessary because workers are frequently in the dark about who is trying to sway them when they exercise their labor rights.
"In many organizing campaigns, decisions that workers make about whether to choose to stand together are often influenced by paid consultants, or persuaders, who are hired by employers to craft the management message being delivered to workers," Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a call with reporters. "About 75 percent of employers hire such persuaders, and too often, workers do not know."
The 1959 law on which the regulations are based already required employers to disclose the hiring of such consultants. But the Labor Department argued that previous administrations had allowed an enormous loophole that effectively exempted consultants who coached supervisors on how to influence employees so long as the consultants didn't interact with the employees directly.
The use of consultants has proliferated since the 1970s, and the techniques they deploy to discourage workers from forming unions have become progressively more sophisticated — more akin to modern political campaigns than workplace discussions.
There are consultants "scripting what managers and supervisors say to workers," Mr. Perez said.
The new rule will require employers to disclose in government filings any consultant they hire to develop plans or policies for supervisors involved in attempting to persuade workers, who create materials that will be distributed through the workplace for this reason, and who lead seminars on how to discourage workers from forming unions or bargaining collectively.
In addition to disclosing the hiring of a consultant, the employers will have to disclose the fees involved. The consultants will also have to disclose the relationships and fees in filings of their own.
Opponents of the rule said it was a clear effort by the Labor Department to intervene on behalf of unions. "It is intended to aid organizing by tying one hand behind the back of the employer," said Marshall Babson, counsel at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw and a former National Labor Relations Board member who works with management on labor issues.
Mr. Babson argued that the fee disclosure requirement would discourage law firms from providing advice to clients, much of which, he said, involves discouraging them from making unlawful threats or promises to workers during organizing campaigns, or unlawfully interrogating them.
"It's something that tends to chill the seeking of legal advice," he said. "How is that in anyone's interest?"
But Mr. Perez and his aides said that lawyers would only have to make the relevant disclosures if they provide advice about how to discourage the formation of a union or collective bargaining. He said that advice on pure legal matters would remain uncovered by the rule. Moreover, the specific content of lawyers' discussions would be protected by attorney-client privilege and not subject to disclosure.
More broadly, they said, the rule was about restoring a measure of balance between labor and management. Department officials point out that under the original 1959 law, labor unions must disclose spending related to workplace organizing campaigns.
Paul Secunda, a professor of labor law at Marquette University Law School who recently proposed that employers who address workers during organizing campaigns be required to give union organizers a similar opportunity, said that the consultants tend to be extremely effective at creating an environment in which many workers fear for their job if they opt to form a union.
Employees should "understand that the employer is not just speaking generically in their best interest," Mr. Secunda said. "They wouldn't spend so much on persuaders if it wasn't important to keep unions out of the workplace."
12) The Racism at the Heart of Flint's Crisis
An important new report makes clear the principal cause of the water crisis in Flint, Mich.: the state government's blatant disregard for the lives and health of poor and black residents of a distressed city.
The report released Wednesday by a task force appointed last year by Gov. Rick Snyder to study how Flint's drinking water became poisoned by lead makes for chilling reading. While it avoids using the word "racism," it clearly identifies the central role that race and poverty play in this story. "Flint residents, who are majority black or African-American and among the most impoverished of any metropolitan area in the United States, did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities," the report said.
Mr. Snyder, a Republican, and many Republicans in Congress have tried to deflect and minimize the state's responsibility for the Flint crisis. Mr. Snyder has said the crisis represented a collective failure of local, state and federal governments. And congressional Republicans like Jason Chaffetz of Utah have sought to pin virtually all of the blame on the Environmental Protection Agency, which many of them oppose for ideological reasons.
The task force cut through to the truth and said the agency most at fault was the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which reports to Mr. Snyder. The agency failed to instruct officials in Flint, which was under state control at the time, to treat its water with chemicals that would have prevented lead from leaching from pipes and plumbing fixtures into the drinking water. The agency continuously belittled the concerns of local residents and independent experts, and lied to the E.P.A., telling it that Flint was properly treating the water.
Mr. Snyder's office comes in for harsh criticism for relying on the department's assurances that the water was safe despite mounting evidence that it was in fact poisoning residents. The emergency managers Mr. Snyder appointed to run Flint's city government decided to switch the city's water source to the Flint River from the Detroit water system and later refused requests by residents and the City Council to reverse that decision, because it would cost more money. The E.P.A. made mistakes, too, by not intervening forcefully enough until it issued an emergency order in January, even though some of its employees began raising concerns about Flint's water early last year.
The five-member task force, which includes two doctors, a water expert and two former state lawmakers, made 44 recommendations. It said that Mr. Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature should provide long-term health care to Flint residents who have lead poisoning and replace water lines in Flint and other Michigan cities. It also called for changes to the state emergency manager law to give residents a way to appeal decisions made by those managers.
Mr. Snyder says Michigan is making most of the recommended changes and is reviewing the rest. There is no doubt that many of these reforms will take years to carry out, but it is essential for the governor and the Legislature to demonstrate that they are up to the task. Mr. Snyder did not inspire confidence when he said on Wednesday that he did not know if race was a factor in the Flint disaster, even though the record shows that the concerns of poor and minority residents were dismissed by his administration in ways that would never have happened with rich white communities.
Congress, which has refused to invest sufficiently in the nation's public works and has been antagonistic to environmental protection, must also learn from the crisis. For years, poor and minority communities have suffered disproportionately from environmental degradation. Examples include the poorest neighborhoods of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the breach of the levees in that city, communities in West Virginia that faced chemical spills and even Washington, D.C., which had its own lead contamination crisis about 10 years ago. Most of these disasters could have been avoided or mitigated by aggressive government action.
13) A Mailman Handcuffed in Brooklyn, Caught on Video
14) Fidel Castro to Obama: We Don't Need Your 'Presents'
HAVANA — Fidel Castro responded Monday to President Barack Obama's historic trip to Cuba with a long, bristling letter recounting the history of U.S. aggression against Cuba, writing that "we don't need the empire to give us any presents."
The 1,500-word letter in state media titled "Brother Obama" was Castro's first response to the president's three-day visit last week, in which the American president said he had come to bury the two countries' history of Cold War hostility. Obama did not meet with the 89-year-old Fidel Castro on the trip but met several times with his 84-year-old brother Raul Castro, the current Cuban president.
Obama's visit was intended to build irreversible momentum behind his opening with Cuba and to convince the Cuban people and the Cuban government that a half-century of U.S. attempts to overthrow the Communist government had ended, allowing Cuban to reform its economy and political system without the threat of U.S. interference.
Fidel Castro writes of Obama: "My modest suggestion is that he reflects and doesn't try to develop theories about Cuban politics."
Castro, who led Cuba for decades before handing power to his brother in 2008, was legendary for his hours-long, all-encompassing speeches. His letter reflects that style, presenting a sharp contrast with Obama's tightly focused speech in Havana. Castro's letter opens with descriptions of environmental abuse under the Spaniards and reviews the historical roles of Cuban independence heroes Jose Marti, Antonio Maceo and Maximo Gomez.
Castro then goes over crucial sections of Obama's speech line by line, engaging in an ex-post-facto dialogue with the American president with pointed critiques of perceived slights and insults, including Obama's failure to give credit to indigenous Cubans and Castro's prohibition of racial segregation after coming to power in 1959.
Quoting Obama's declaration that "it is time, now, for us to leave the past behind," the man who shaped Cuba during the second half of the 20th century writes that "I imagine that any one of us ran the risk of having a heart attack on hearing these words from the President of the United States."
Castro then returns to a review of a half-century of U.S. aggression against Cuba. Those events include the decades-long U.S. trade embargo against the island; the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack and the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner backed by exiles who took refuge in the U.S.
He ends with a dig at the Obama administration's drive to increase business ties with Cuba. The Obama administration says re-establishing economic ties with the U.S. will be a boon for Cuba, whose centrally planned economy has struggled to escape from over-dependence on imports and a chronic shortage of hard currency.
The focus on U.S-Cuba business ties appears to have particularly rankled Castro, who nationalized U.S. companies after coming to power in 1959 and establishing the communist system into which his brother is now introducing gradual market-based reforms.
"No one should pretend that the people of this noble and selfless country will renounce its glory and its rights," Fidel Castro wrote. "We are capable of producing the food and material wealth that we need with with work and intelligence of our people."
15) Schools Nationwide Still Grapple With Lead in Water
'They feel it's almost better not to sample, because you're better off not knowing,' Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech civil engineering professor who has fought for lead safety nationwide, said in an interview....while the utilities test their water, virtually all lead contamination occurs inside schools — in lead pipes, water-cooler coils and linings, and in leaded-metal fountains and taps....The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children whose blood lead content exceeds five micrograms per deciliter — 50 parts per billion, or less than a millionth of an ounce in a pint — should see a doctor. High blood lead levels can stunt a child's mental development and damage a range of organs. But even smaller amounts can affect children's intellectual development, and the agency says no level of lead is safe....Jersey City taps and fountains went untested until the E.P.A. took samples in 2006, again part of the federal outreach program, and turned up lead concentrations up to 60 times the federal threshold at eight schools. Not until early 2008, after more tests found fresh contamination at six of the schools, did the superintendent at the time, Charles T. Epps Jr., switch those students to bottled water....The district tested all its fountains and taps in mid-2008 and found that water in 27 more schools was as much as 80 times higher than the E.P.A.'s lead threshold. Under pressure from advocates, the district tested selected water sources at 38 buildings in 2010 and found yet more lead. In a 98-year-old school, Nicolaus Copernicus Elementary, 16 of 19 water fountains and coolers were found above permissible levels."
JERSEY CITY — Anxious parents may wonder how a major school system like Newark's could overlook lead in the drinking water of 30 schools and 17,000 students. The answer: It was easy. They had to look only a few miles away, at the century-old classrooms of the schools here, across the Hackensack River.
The Jersey City Public Schools district discovered lead contamination in eight schools' drinking fountains in 2006, and in more schools in 2008, 2010 and 2012. But not until 2013 did officials finally chart a comprehensive attack on lead, which by then had struck all but six schools.
This winter's crisis in Flint, Mich., has cast new attention on lead in water supplies. But problems with lead in school water supplies have dragged on for years — aggravated by ancient buildings and plumbing, prolonged by official neglect and tight budgets, and enabled by a gaping loophole in federal rules that largely exempts schools from responsibility for the purity of their water.
Children are at greatest risk from lead exposure, and school is where they spend much of their early lives. But cash-starved school administrators may see a choice between spending money on teachers or on plumbing as no choice at all.
"They feel it's almost better not to sample, because you're better off not knowing," Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech civil engineering professor who has fought for lead safety nationwide, said in an interview.
The problem is persistent and widespread. Baltimore's public schools switched entirely to bottled water in 2007 because ripping out the lead plumbing would have been impractical. Sebring, Ohio, found elevated lead levels in August after workers had stopped adding an anti-corrosion chemical to the water supply.
The E.P.A.'s 1991 lead rule — the one that requires most public water systems to periodically test for lead and copper — limits the amount of lead in drinking water to no more than 15 parts per billion. The rule is being revised, though, and that limit could soon be lowered. Even though the rule does not apply to most schools, districts that do monitor drinking water generally use it as a guideline.
Tainted water is not the biggest source of lead exposure in humans; on average, the E.P.A. says, it makes up about a fifth of contamination. Pregnant women working in schools are at greatest risk because fetuses are most profoundly affected by contamination. Women face an increased risk of miscarriage, along with potential organ damage and developmental problems in the baby.Schools built before 1986, when an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act banned lead plumbing, pose the greatest hazard. Fountains may be fed water through lead pipes commonly used in the early 20th century. Older water coolers may have lead linings and components.
But even newer buildings can face a threat. Under industry pressure, Congress defined "lead-free" in the amendment as no more than 8 percent lead. Plumbing hardware like faucets and connectors often contained that much lead until 2013, when the permissible level fell to near zero.
Los Angeles school officials learned of the 8-percent rule the hard way. In the 131 schools built over the last decade, the district installed thousands of water fountains with long-lasting brass fittings to reduce maintenance costs. They later discovered that the leaded brass fittings tainted the water in some fountains beyond the E.P.A.'s lead standard.
The district's $19.8 million lead initiative seeks, in part, to correct that. "The approach we're taking now is to get rid of anything with a brass fitting," Roger Finstad, the district's maintenance and operations director, said.
In New York City, officials have uprooted and replaced all lead pipes leading from water mains into schools, swiftly replaced equipment when tests showed high lead levels, and ordered weekly pipe flushing at any school with a violation. All schools' water is regularly tested. The result? Only 1.3 percent of nearly 90,000 water tests have exceeded the city's lead threshold. The program is "a model for the nation," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, an expert on lead and a professor of preventive medicine and pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
That scorched-earth approach is the surest way to control lead threats, but few school systems have the money or knowledge to pursue it. Many instead follow a whack-a-mole strategy, testing a sample of water sources, then fixing or disabling ones with excessive lead concentrations.
The Los Angeles Unified School District allotted $19.8 million in September to retrofit or remove its 48,000 drinking fountains to erase a small but tenacious lead threat. Ithaca, N.Y., schools switched temporarily to bottled water in January after water tests found elevated lead levels at two schools.
Congress could easily have cracked down on lead in schools. In fact, it once did. The 1988 Lead Contamination Control Act required schools to scrap lead-lined water coolers, test drinking water and remedy any contamination they found. But a federal appeals court struck down part of the law affecting schools in 1996. And while some states have devised their own lead-testing rules, federal lawmakers have yet to revisit the issue.
The only regulation left is a 1991 rule by the federal Environmental Protection Agency requiring periodic tests for lead and copper by most public water systems, whether the supplier is a big utility or a well in a trailer park or campground.
But although schools and day care centers are the main sources of water for children on most weekdays, only the few schools that operate their own wells fall under the rule. The vast majority of schools use treated water from utilities.
And while the utilities test their water, virtually all lead contamination occurs inside schools — in lead pipes, water-cooler coils and linings, and in leaded-metal fountains and taps.
"If you're a mom-and-pop coffee shop in Sparta, New Jersey, and have a private well, you're required to certify every quarter," said Robert Barrett, the chief executive of Aqua Pro-Tech Laboratories, a New Jersey environmental testing laboratory. "But if you're a school, you don't have to do anything."
Mr. Barrett, whose firm tests water in 13 states, said the Newark and Flint revelations prompted reassessments by schools and other institutions that had not scrutinized their plumbing in years, if ever.
"No one was testing," he said. "Now all of a sudden they're all going crazy."
In Newark, where school officials disclosed elevated lead levels earlier this month, Mr. Barrett's firm began testing water systemwide on March 19. Students at the 30 schools now drink bottled water, and the youngest students were offered free blood tests.
There, as in Los Angeles, high lead levels persisted even though workers flush the water pipes every weekday to push out lead that accumulates overnight. Nor did some filters on Newark school fountains reduce contamination sufficiently.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children whose blood lead content exceeds five micrograms per deciliter — 50 parts per billion, or less than a millionth of an ounce in a pint — should see a doctor. High blood lead levels can stunt a child's mental development and damage a range of organs. But even smaller amounts can affect children's intellectual development, and the agency says no level of lead is safe.
That can be ineffective, because the levels at any fountain or tap can swing wildly as residue breaks loose in lead plumbing. Dr. Edwards, the Virginia Tech specialist, recalled testing a single tap 10 times. Eight tests judged the water perfectly safe. The other two showed "astronomical amounts of lead," he said, "like eating five to 10 paint chips."
"This is like Russian roulette," he said.
So it was in Newark, where the E.P.A. sampled water in 2003 as part of an outreach program on lead, and found contamination in three schools. The district began replacing school water fountains and installing filters on violating water sources, but never got ahead of the problem. From 2012 through 2015, nearly one in eight water samples exceeded the E.P.A.'s 15 parts-per-billion threshold.
"Did we know we had a problem? Yes," said Marion A. Bolden, Newark's superintendent early last decade. " Did we think we had adequately remediated the problem? Yes."
Here in Jersey City, the public schools are classic candidates for a lead problem. Two-thirds are over 80 years old, and a third more than a century old. The system had been under state control since 1989 because of poor management and low test scores; only recently, with Marcia Lyles as the superintendent, did the state agree to return control to local officials.
Jersey City taps and fountains went untested until the E.P.A. took samples in 2006, again part of the federal outreach program, and turned up lead concentrations up to 60 times the federal threshold at eight schools. Not until early 2008, after more tests found fresh contamination at six of the schools, did the superintendent at the time, Charles T. Epps Jr., switch those students to bottled water.
Jersey City's mayor then, Jerramiah Healy, declared the matter closed. "We believe this is a situation that is isolated to the affected schools and to certain water fountains within those schools," T he Jersey Journal newspaper quoted him as saying.
Mr. Healy was wrong. The district tested all its fountains and taps in mid-2008 and found that water in 27 more schools was as much as 80 times higher than the E.P.A.'s lead threshold. Under pressure from advocates, the district tested selected water sources at 38 buildings in 2010 and found yet more lead. In a 98-year-old school, Nicolaus Copernicus Elementary, 16 of 19 water fountains and coolers were found above permissible levels.
That school and some others were switched to bottled water, and fountains and taps were turned off. But that was not the end.
A 2013 retest of all 2,000-plus water sources found yet more contamination, including one fountain whose water tested 853 times the accepted maximum. Among those water sources were 10 in prekindergarten classes where daily tooth brushing was part of the regimen.
"Any fountains in this building, they don't even work," the Nicolaus Copernicus principal, Diane Pistilli, said this week. "Parents were concerned, and rightly so."
Michael Wines reported from Jersey City, and Patrick McGeehan and John Schwartz from New York. Kate Taylor contributed reporting from New York, and Tyler Alicea from Ithaca, N.Y. Alain Delaquérière and Doris Burke contributed research.
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