Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:
A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS
B. ARTICLES IN FULL
A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS
Silenced Memories: Lori Berenson Speaking Engagement
Sunday, April 10 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
- 3105 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94705
$5 at the door (suggested donation for event costs)
Lori Berenson's reflections on political imprisonment and the omitted voices of collective remembrance in post-conflict Peru.
Lori Berenson was a political prisoner in Peru for 20 years on charges of collaborating with an insurgent organization, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). She recently completed her sentence and has returned to the United States. Prior to living in Peru she worked in El Salvador with the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) during the national peace process.
For more information: 415-205-9111
Tell Mayor de Blasio: Fire ALL Officers Involved in Killing Ramarley!
Sign the petition:
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org and cc email@example.com
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
B. ARTICLES IN FULL
1) Dashing Hopes, Study Shows a Cholesterol Drug Had No Effect on Heart Health
It is a drug that reduces levels of LDL cholesterol, the dangerous kind, as much as statins do. And it more than doubles levels of HDL cholesterol, the good kind, which is linked to protection from heart disease. As a result, heart experts had high hopes for it as an alternative for the many patients who cannot or will not take statins.
But these specialists were stunned by the results of a study of 12,000 patients, announced on Sunday at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting: There was no benefit from taking the drug, evacetrapib. The drug's maker, Eli Lilly, stopped the study in October, citing futility, but it was not until Sunday's meeting that cardiologists first saw the data behind that decision.
Participants taking the drug saw their LDL levels fall to an average of 55 milligrams per deciliter from 84. Their HDL levels rose to an average of 104 milligram per deciliter from 46. Yet 256 participants had heart attacks, compared with 255 patients in the group who were taking a placebo. Ninety-two patients taking the drug had a stroke, compared with 95 in the placebo group. And 434 people taking the drug died from cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or a stroke, compared with 444 participants who were taking a placebo.
"We had an agent that seemed to do all the right things," said Dr. Stephen J. Nicholls, the study's principal investigator and the deputy director of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide. "It's the most mind-boggling question. How can a drug that lowers something that is associated with benefit not show any benefit?" he said, referring to the 37 percent drop in LDL levels with the drug.
Two other drugs in the same class as evacetrapib, known as CETP inhibitors, have also failed: One, which lowered LDL levels by only 20 percent, had toxic side effects. The other raised HDL levels but did not lower LDL levels at all. Cardiologists thought evacetrapib, a safe and potent drug, would be different.
"All of us would have put money on it," said Dr. Peter Libby, a Harvard cardiologist. The drug, he said, "was the great hope."
Evacetrapib acts by siphoning cholesterol out of HDL, a cholesterol-carrying scavenger protein, so the cholesterol can be discarded in bile. Statins, in contrast, pull cholesterol from the other major cholesterol-carrying protein, LDL, into the liver, after which it can be discarded. It seemed logical that evacetrapib, by ridding the body of cholesterol in HDL and lowering the amount of LDL proteins, would work to protect against heart disease.
Researchers have hypotheses, but no one is certain what went wrong. "It may be that the LDL level is less important than how it gets changed," said Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital. "But we don't know that."Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic added, "These kinds of studies are wake-up calls."
Cardiologists still have high hopes for a new class of cholesterol drugs, known as PCSK-9 inhibitors, that cause LDL to plummet to levels never seen in drug treatments. One reason for their optimism is that these drugs have the same end effect as statins: They cause liver cells to draw out cholesterol.
These drugs are being tested in large clinical trials to see if their effects on LDL levels translate into reduced incidences of heart attacks, strokes and death. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the drugs based on their LDL-lowering effects for a number of patient groups, including those at high risk for heart disease who report painful muscle aches or weakness when they take statins.
The PCSK-9 inhibitors can cost more than $14,000 a year, while statins can cost just pennies a day, so determining what portion of patients are truly statin intolerant has become an important question.
A second study presented at the cardiology meeting on Sunday and published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed just how vexing the issue is.
The study, directed by Dr. Nissen and paid for by Amgen, a pharmaceutical company, included more than 500 people with extremely high levels of LDL cholesterol who had tried two or more statins and had reported aching or weak muscles so severe that they said they absolutely could not continue taking the drugs.
The participants were randomly assigned to take either a statin, atorvastatin or a placebo for 10 weeks. Then those taking a statin were switched to a placebo for 10 additional weeks, and those taking a placebo were switched to a statin. The result: Less than half of the patients seemed to be truly unable to tolerate statins, and complained of muscle pain only when they were taking the drug. A quarter of the patients reported muscle problems with a placebo. And nearly one in 10 had muscle issues with both the statin and the placebo.
That indicated that 57 percent of patients actually could tolerate statins. Researchers then randomly assigned the remaining 43 percent to take either Amgen's PCSK-9 inhibitor, evolocumab, or another cholesterol-lowering drug, ezetimibe, which is often taken by statin intolerant patients but has never been shown to reduce heart disease risk when taken without an accompanying statin. The patients tolerated both drugs.
The statin tolerance results were not a total surprise. Smaller studies had indicated that most patients who said statins caused muscle aches actually could tolerate the drugs. But this was the largest such study and raised a real question about how to treat patients who are at high risk of heart disease and say they cannot or will not take a statin because of intolerable side effects.
"We don't know how to assess these patients," said Dr. Robert Eckel of the University of Colorado. No lab test can pick out the truly statin intolerant from those who feel muscle pain that may be caused by something else.
"That is a major, major problem," said Dr. Thompson, the cardiologist at Harford Hospital, who led a smaller study that came to a similar conclusion about statin intolerance.
Dr. Daniel Rader, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, would like to give patients who say they cannot tolerate statins a clinical trial in which the patient is the only participant. He would give the patient either a placebo or a statin for a few weeks and then switch the pills. That way the doctor and the patient could get an idea of whether the patient's muscle pain was really caused by statins.
Wendy Todd, a patient of Dr. Daniel Soffer, also of the University of Pennsylvania, was surprised after she entered a statin intolerance study. She had already tried at least three statins, including atorvastatin, the one being tested, but always developed flulike symptoms and cramps in her legs so painful she could barely walk.
But she had no such effects when she took atorvastatin during the study, without knowing if it was the drug or the placebo. She was astonished, but accepted that she was not actually intolerant to the drug. She began taking it when the study ended. It does not bother her now.
Ms. Todd said she liked Dr. Rader's idea about an individualized trial for patients like her.
"I would opt for that," she said.
2) Undercover Officers Ask Addicts to Buy Drugs, Snaring Them but Not Dealers
The 55-year-old crack addict counted his change outside a Harlem liquor store. He had just over a dollar, leaving him 35 cents short of the cheapest mini-bottle.
The 21-year-old heroin addict sat in a McDonald's on the Lower East Side, wondering when his grandmother would next wire him money. He was homeless, had 84 cents in his pocket and was living out of two canvas bags.
Each was approached by someone who asked the addict for help buying drugs. Using the stranger's money, each addict went to see a nearby dealer, returned with drugs, handed them over and was promptly arrested on felony drug-dealing charges. The people who had asked for drugs were undercover narcotics officers with the New York Police Department.
A review of the trials in those cases and two others illuminates what appears to be a tactic for small-scale drug prosecutions: An undercover officer, supplying the cash for the deal, asks an addict to go and buy $20 or $40 worth of crack or heroin. When the addict — perhaps hoping for a chance to smoke or inject a pinch — does so, he is arrested.
In the case of the 21-year-old at the McDonald's, the undercover officer was an unkempt woman who gave the impression she was about to experience withdrawal, the 21-year-old testified. In one of the other cases, an officer allowed an addict to use his cellphone to call a dealer.
It is impossible to determine how widespread this law enforcement tactic is, but the four recent cases reviewed by The New York Times raise troubling questions about the fairness and effectiveness of the way the Police Department uses undercover officers. Officers neither arrested nor pursued the dealers who sold the drugs to the addicts. Instead, the undercover officers waited around the corner or down the block for the addict to return with the drugs before other officers swooped in.
The department's tactics and prosecutors' pursuit of such cases have drawn criticism from defense lawyers and juries. In interviews — and, in one instance, in a letter to prosecutors — jurors have questioned why the police and prosecutors would so aggressively pursue troubled addicts. The 21-year-old man and the 55-year-old man were both acquitted of the felony charges.The tactic would seem at odds with the public positions of some of the city's top politicians and law enforcement figures, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who have expressed support for reducing prison and jail populations by finding ways to treat mental health problems and addiction.
"We all talk a lot in this city about the public health crisis of drug addiction, and yet we take a very regressive approach to locking people up," said Tina Luongo, who heads the Legal Aid Society's criminal practice.
Last year, nearly 5,000 people were charged in New York City with dealing small quantities of heroin or cocaine, and in 2014, just over 6,000 people faced such charges. But the number of those that involved buy-and-bust cases against addicts is unknown. A vast majority of drug-dealing charges end in plea deals, so there are few trials during which such distinctions might emerge.
The 55-year-old crack addict, Reginald J., agreed to speak to a reporter on the condition that only the first letter of his surname be used when identifying him. In an interview, he articulated one of the issues with these sting operations: It is tough for addicts to say no.
"For him to put the money in my hands, as an addict, let me tell you what happens," he said. "I like to think I could resist it, but I'm way beyond that. My experience has shown me that 1,000 times out of 1,000 times, I will be defeated."
At one trial in January, a defendant testified that he had shown an undercover officer track marks on his arm. At another trial, in December, the defendant testified that he had even told an undercover officer about his desire to get clean. "You know what? We got to stop getting high," the man, Mitchell Coward, testified. "That's what I told him."
Joan Vollero, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office, which prosecuted three of the four cases reviewed by The Times, declined to say whether the office considered such sting operations to be appropriate. But she did say that in some cases, addicts who pleaded guilty to felony drug-dealing charges were steered toward treatment instead of prison.
Law enforcement officials said that undercover stings remained a necessary and sensible response to neighborhood complaints about drug dealing and narcotics use.
"They are going to a location where there are prior incidents," Brian McCarthy, an assistant chief who commands the narcotics division, said in an interview. "And at the same locations, where there are community complaints," he added.
He acknowledged that the line between users and dealers was not always fixed. "It is common that the people we arrest are also using the narcotics they are selling," Chief McCarthy said, but he added that his team was after the dealers. "I believe that we attempt to do our jobs in a planned manner with the utmost integrity where we do get people who are selling narcotics."
Jurors and a judge expressed skepticism in the four cases. One juror, Seth Silverman, wrote a letter to prosecutors after the trial of Mr. Coward in December, saying he felt it was "approaching absurd that you would use the awesome power of your office to represent the people of New York County, along with it and the court's limited resources, on such a marginal case."
Since December, juries and judges in Manhattan have acquitted men of the main charge in three of the cases and deadlocked in the trial of a fourth. In each episode, an undercover investigator had approached men, largely at random, at locations where the police believed drug dealing was occurring.
The 21-year-old heroin addict at the McDonald's, Brian L., also agreed to be interviewed on the condition that only the first letter of his surname be used. He described how an anxious, unkempt-looking woman approached the table where he and a friend were chatting. The woman, an undercover officer, would later testify that she approached the table at random.
Brian L. "was telling me how he was homeless and he didn't have a place to stay, small talk," the officer, identified only as No. 279, testified in January.
Brian L. said that the undercover officer told him she was staying with her grandmother in Brooklyn and was worried she would soon go into withdrawal.
"I said I would help her," he testified. They walked from the McDonald's, at Delancey and Essex Streets, toward East Sixth Street, where Brian L. said he often bought heroin. About a block away, he told the woman and his friend to wait, at the steps of an elementary school. The undercover officer handed him $20. He returned with two bags, which he gave the officer. Minutes later, he was arrested.
He had less than a dollar in change with him and no drugs, a police officer later testified. After the arrest, officers logged the dozens of possessions, including toothpaste, winter hats and stuffed animals, that Brian L. carried in his two canvas bags.
His lawyer, Sam Roberts of the Legal Aid Society, asked Detective David Guevara, an investigator working on the case, whether any officers of the nine-member field team on the case followed Brian L. to see where he bought the drugs. The answer was no.
That was a common theme in the three other trials. In one, the addict, who owned no phone himself, had to use an undercover detective's cellphone to call his drug dealer. But after the addict was arrested, the undercover officer testified he could not remember whether he ever followed up and called the drug dealer's number, which was logged in his phone, to try to track the dealer down.
The jury took less than an hour to acquit Brian L. of felony charges of dealing narcotics near a school. Most jurors then remained behind to chat with him after the trial.
One juror said that what troubled the jury the most was that a nine-person narcotics squad — which included two undercover officers, several investigators and supporting officers — would bring a case against a single addict.
"The big underlying question is why a nine-person buy-and-bust team did not follow him to the dealer where he got it from," the juror, Scott Link, said in an interview. "Everyone was scratching their heads, wondering what the heck is wrong with our system."
Brian L. said that even his acquittal had come at a cost. He said he had lost his job at a consignment clothing shop because of the six days he needed to be in court during his trial.
3) Federal Housing Officials Warn Against Blanket Bans of Ex-Offenders
Private landlords who have blanket bans on renting to people with criminal records are in violation of the Fair Housing Act and can be sued and face penalties for discrimination, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development said.
Julián Castro, the HUD secretary, is expected on Monday to announce guidance that details his agency's interpretation of how the fair housing law applies to policies that exclude people with criminal records, a group that is not explicitly protected by the act but falls under it in certain circumstances. Federal officials said landlords must distinguish between arrests and convictions and cannot use an arrest to ban applicants. In the case of applicants with convictions, property owners must prove that the exclusion is justified and consider factors like the nature and severity of the crime in assessing prospective tenants before excluding someone.
Mr. Castro said housing bans against former offenders were common.
"Right now, many housing providers use the fact of a conviction, any conviction, regardless of what it was for or how long ago it happened, to indefinitely bar folks from housing opportunities," Mr. Castro said in a statement. "Many people who are coming back to neighborhoods are only looking for a fair chance to be productive members, but blanket policies like this unfairly deny them that chance."
The new federal housing guidance applies a legal standard that was upheld by the United States Supreme Court last year that allows plaintiffs to challenge housing practices that have a discriminatory effect without having to show discriminatory intent. The ruling allows plaintiffs to show instead that the practices both have a "disparate impact" on racial groups and are not justified. Blacks and Latinos are arrested, convicted and imprisoned in disproportionate numbers, and civil rights groups say they face equally disparate discrimination in finding housing.
Federal housing officials said the guidance was meant to emphasize to landlords that blanket bans are illegal, as well as to inform housing applicants of their rights. Housing officials said they can investigate violations and bring discrimination charges against landlords that could result in civil penalties for them, and damages for a person denied housing.
Lawyers who represent former prisoners said they expected HUD's stance to lead landlords to revise their screening policies to avoid litigation. The guidance, which is similar to an instruction federal officials already have for public and subsidized housing, could also lead to more and stronger lawsuits against those who continue to deny housing based on criminal history.
"The agency in charge of interpreting the Fair Housing Act agrees with us, and that will have a lot of weight," said John P. Relman, a lawyer and specialist in housing discrimination cases who is representing the social services group Fortune Society in a federal lawsuit against a rental complex in New York City over screening policies.
Concern over restrictions that hinder former prisoners' efforts to find jobs and homes has taken on urgency in recent years, as pressure has built to ease the high rates of incarceration that followed decades of tough sentencing for drug offenses, which took a harsh toll on minority communities.
Research shows that obtaining housing reduces recidivism. But groups like Fortune Society said they have encountered landlords who ban tenants with criminal histories without individual reviews or any regard to evidence of rehabilitation or whether the person poses a threat to safety.
Some landlord groups said owners had the right to exercise their own judgment given the liability they face from other tenants if the person commits another crime. Some have partial bans and screen only for certain crimes, such as sex offenses or arson, or allow those who were convicted of misdemeanors but not felonies.
(Landlords can continue to exclude those convicted of manufacturing or distributing drugs, the only crimes that are exempted under the Fair Housing Act.)
In their response to the Fortune Society lawsuit, Sandcastle Towers Housing Development Fund, the owner of a rental complex in Far Rockaway, Queens, with more than 900 units, and other co-defendants argued that the use of criminal records "serves valid business and security functions of protecting tenants and the property from former convicted criminals." (The lawsuit, filed in 2014, is pending in United States District Court for the Eastern District in Brooklyn.)
"A person who has already demonstrated a disregard for the law, upon penalty of imprisonment, is at greater risk for repeating that conduct, is a greater security risk and is a greater risk of defaulting in making rental payments or in complying with leases," the defendants said, adding that "convicted criminals lose some of their rights and privileges as a result of their convictions."
But federal housing officials said that landlords would have to take a more individualized approach to avoid violating the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing based on race, national origin and other protected characteristics. Even those with a partial ban must prove that their policy does not discriminate, by showing that it "accurately distinguishes" between criminal conduct that poses a risk to safety and conduct that does not.
"Policies that exclude persons based on criminal history must be tailored to serve the housing provider's substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest and take into consideration such factors as the type of the crime and the length of the time since conviction," the guidance reads.
Some landlord groups said they already advised case-by-case reviews of potential renters.
"We always urge owners not to use a blanket policy and to look at the tenant's ability to pay rent and be a good tenant," said Debra Carlton, a spokeswoman with the California Apartment Association, which represents 50,000 rental property owners.
Officials with the Real Estate Board of New York said they would issue their own guidance to members on HUD's interpretation.
"It would require everyone to revise whatever policies they have," said Neil Garfinkel, a lawyer who advises brokers for the trade association. "I always advise a holistic approach and to look at the applicant as a whole."
4) Indonesia's Orangutans Suffer as Fires Rage and Businesses Grow
NYARU MENTENG, Indonesia — Katty, a docile, orange-haired preschooler, fell from a tree with a thump. Her teacher quickly picked her up, dusted off her bottom, refastened her white disposable diaper and placed her back on a branch more than seven feet off the ground.
Katty is an orangutan, about 9 months old, whose family is believed to have been killed by the huge fires last fall in the Indonesian regions of Borneo and Sumatra. The blazes are an annual occurrence, when farmers clear land by burning it, often for palm oil plantations. But last year's fires were the worst on record, and scientists blamed a prolonged drought and the effects of El Niño.
The blazes destroyed more than 10,000 square miles of forests, blanketing large parts of Southeast Asia in a toxic haze for weeks, sickening hundreds of thousands of people and, according to the World Bank, causing $16 billion in economic losses.
They also killed at least nine orangutans, the endangered apes native to the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra. More than 100, trapped by the loss of habitat or found wandering near villages, had to be relocated. Seven orphans, including five infants, were rescued and taken to rehabilitation centers here.
"This is the biggest in the world for primate rehabilitation, not just orangutans, but we're not proud of it," said Denny Kurniawan, the program director of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, who oversees the care of 480 orangutans at seven sites in Central Kalimantan Province on the island of Borneo. "The number of orangutans here is an indicator of the mass forest destruction due to lack of law enforcement and the local government giving out palm oil concessions."
The suffering of the wildlife is part of a larger story of corporate expansion in a developing economy crashing into environmental issues in an era of climate change.
Indonesia has approved palm oil concessions on nearly 15 million acres of peatlands over the last decade; burning peat emits high levels of carbon dioxide and is devilishly hard to extinguish.Multinational palm oil companies, pulp and paper businesses, the plantations that sell to them, farmers and even day laborers all contribute to the problem. Groups like Greenpeace and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment put most of the blame for the blazes on the large plantations, which clear the most land.
While it is against Indonesian law to clear plantations by burning, enforcement is lax. The authorities have opened criminal investigations against at least eight companies in connection with last year's fires, but there has yet to be a single high-profile case to get to court.
The government in Jakarta, the capital, has recently banned the draining and clearing of all peatland for agricultural use, and it has ordered provincial governments to adopt better fire suppression methods. But it has not publicly responded to calls for better prevention, such as cracking down on slash-and-burn operations by large palm oil companies.
"Investment is good, but so is the environment," said Eman Supriyadi, the director of a satellite rehabilitation center where two orphaned orangutans — 6-month-old Oka and 3-year-old Otong — are bottle-fed human infant formula and sleep in bamboo cribs. "There has to be a balance."
The government has admitted that it made a "mistake" in granting large strips of land to big corporate palm oil and pulp and paper companies over the past 10 years, said Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Indonesia's coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
"The Indonesian government has taken serious measures to freeze any new land rights or concessions for those giant industries," he said. "We are encouraging them to be more efficient, so productivity can grow without adding more land."
However, he said the main cause of the 2015 fires was the previous environmental destruction combined with the El Niño climate cycle.
Katty, the roughly 9-month-old orangutan, was found in a charred forest by villagers in Central Kalimantan last October and eventually brought to the Nyaru Menteng center, which was established by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in 1999.
She now lives with 20 other infants in an old, one-story wooden house that was converted into an orangutan nursery, where they sleep side-by-side in colored plastic laundry baskets stuffed with leaves.
They will spend the next seven or more years learning from their human minders how to climb trees, make a nest of leaves, spot edible forest fruits and avoid snakes and other predators, before being released back into the wild as young adults.
At 7 a.m. each day, they are carted by wheelbarrow, three or four per load, to a fenced-off forest area more than 300 feet away for survival classes. They subsist on fruit, mainly bananas and rambutan, and on human infant formula.
The minders take pains not to be overly affectionate with their adorable charges: The orangutans need to learn to avoid humans and not be accustomed to their presence, in preparation for their return to the jungle.
Most of the center's older orangutans are also orphans, found alone and rescued by conservationists or local villagers, or confiscated from people illegally keeping them as pets.
The center aims to release 68 young-adult animals per year. Each returned animal is tracked by a computer chip implanted near the base of the neck that sends signals to the center for about two years.
The release program has also been jeopardized by the fires, which have drastically reduced the potential orangutan habitat.
Over the years, thousands of square miles have been cleared for plantations, a majority in lowland areas that are the prime habitat for orangutans. The fires last year destroyed more than 1,650 square miles of forest in Central Kalimantan alone, or 16 percent of its total.
"Our challenge for now is, if we have information that orangutans should be rescued, we don't know where we will relocate them because in Central Kalimantan there is no forest left," Mr. Denny said. "Every day it's estimated that we're losing forests the size of a football field, and that's orangutan habitat."
Since 2012, his rehabilitation center has returned 158 orangutans into a 124-square-mile protected forest known as Batikap. But Batikap has reached its maximum recommended orangutan population, Mr. Denny said.
He said the center was negotiating with the federal government to establish a 288-square-mile preserve in Bukit Baka-Bukit Raya National Park, in Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan Provinces, for future releases.
Last year's fires caused such an outcry that the provincial government and local district chiefs in Central Kalimantan have approved no new palm oil concessions this year.
But with dry conditions again this year, new fires have broken out already. Last month, the governor of Riau Province in Sumatra declared a state of emergency because of fires, and the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency issued a warning about the increased risk of fire in Sumatra and Borneo through the end of April.
5) Crippling Strike in France May Have Been About More Than Labor Law
PARIS — It was published several years ago, but a cartoon on the front page of the French newspaper Le Monde roughly summed up the situation across the country last Thursday when several hundred thousand public employees and students went on strike.
"What if we went on strike for nothing," asks one demonstrator in the cartoon, which appeared in 2010 during one of France's periodic strikes. "Ah! Not a bad idea," another answers.
The strike and mass demonstrations by air traffic controllers, train drivers, schoolteachers and cafeteria staff, hospital and museum workers were nominally in protest against President François Hollande's attempt to change French labor law.
Like a similar but smaller show of force on March 9, the walkout had a crippling effect on Paris and cities across France. Parents had to stay home from work to take care of children, and nonstriking employees were forced to cram onto trains and subways with reduced service to reach their jobs.
In fact, the strike had less to do with the intricacies of the labor law than with a deepening disaffection, particularly among young people, with Mr. Hollande's government, now heading into the last year of its five-year mandate.
"The young were not only demonstrating against the labor law," said Roland Cayrol, a researcher at Sciences Po, during a televised debate on TV5. "They were demonstrating against the situation in general."
With unemployment still about 10 percent — 29.5 percent among those ages 15 to 24 — the mood in France is grim, made worse by lingering fears after the terrorist attacks in Paris last November.
Not all major unions joined the strike, and the effect was varied: Some schools were open, some were shut as a precaution, and some were blocked by garbage cans piled high by striking students; only five airports in France had to cancel flights; the Eiffel Tower was closed, as were many museums.
Newspapers were no help on Thursday, since the strikes prevented distribution, although their editions were available online.
Those who took to the streets, estimated at 400,000 across the country, were mostly public employees and students, two groups with the least to lose if the French Parliament adopts the proposed changes to the labor law this spring.
Chief among these is a proposal to cap payouts to laid-off employees, a move that employers say would allow them to hire more freely.
"In what kind of country do public employees, whose jobs are not affected, take to the streets with high school students, who don't have jobs but are worried about their retirement?" asked one viewer in a text message sent to the televised debate Thursday on TV5.
The answers could be found — sort of — on signs held by the 28,000 demonstrators in Paris on Thursday. "Labor law = insecurity for life," or "We don't want to lose our life in order to earn a living."
Interviewed on television, students accused the Socialist government of turning its back on leftist principles, without any reduction in France's high unemployment rate.
The demonstrations hardly stack up against some of Paris's famous protests, which have drawn crowds of a million or more. But even if their message was confused, the show of force by France's more militant unions and student associations does not augur well for Mr. Hollande's chances in the 2017 presidential election.
"And yet, he still believes," read the headline on Friday in the newspaper Le Parisien.
Mr. Hollande suffered an embarrassing defeat last week when he had to withdraw a proposed change to the Constitution that would have stripped French citizenship from convicted terrorists who possess a second nationality.
That idea, borrowed from France's right-wing parties and challenged on principle by many of his fellow Socialists, was proposed after the deadly attacks in Paris as a unifying symbol in the fight against terrorism.
Mr. Hollande's retreat was described in an editorial in Le Monde as "a major political disaster," the "worst fiasco" of his presidency, "a trap which he set himself."
Already weakened, with his popularity sinking to historic lows for a sitting French president, he now has no choice but to see through the changes to the labor law — seen as his last initiative — no matter who comes out on the streets next time, or why.
6) California Enacts $15 Minimum Wage
"Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed a bill on Monday that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022" [This is rediculous! We need at least $15.00 NOW! and that's still far below what is needed to live in California or anywhere else! BW]
Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed a bill on Monday that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, placing the state at the center of a closely watched economics experiment.
"This is about economic justice," Mr. Brown said before signing the legislation. "It's about people. It's about creating a little, tiny balance in a system that every day becomes more unbalanced."
The bill was approved last week by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
While the bill is intended as a way to raise living standards, observers say they will keep a close eye on unemployment rates. Business groups say the increase will lead to thousands of job cuts.
7) Donald Blankenship Sentenced to a Year in Prison in Mine Safety Case
8) The CIA Helped Produce an Episode of 'Top Chef'
April 6, 2016
What do the movies Argo and Zero Dark Thirty have in common with the novel The Devil's Light by Richard North Patterson; Bravo's Top Chef Covert Cuisine; the USA Network cable series Covert Affairs; the History Channel documentary Air America: The CIA's Secret Airline; and the BBC documentary The Secret War on Terror?
They all received "support" from the CIA's Office of Public Affairs (OPA), the division that interacts with journalists and acts as the liaison with the entertainment industry.
But the exact nature and extent of what the OPA did while working on Patterson's book and the two documentaries is unknown because the CIA does not have a record of its meetings with Patterson and the documentarians. Furthermore, the CIA has only limited records about its work on the five other projects, according to a declassified December 31, 2012 CIA inspector general's audit of the agency's dealings with the entertainment industry obtained by VICE News in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.
The audit said "OPA and other CIA employees did not always comply with Agency regulations intended to prevent the release of classified information during their interactions with entertainment industry representatives."
A version of the 20-page audit was released last September to the conservative group Judicial Watch and later to the National Security Archive in response to their open records requests. But the eight entertainment projects the CIA worked on were redacted, as were footnotes that stated the specific regulations for dealing with the media that CIA officials violated when working on at least one of the projects. That portion of the audit, however, was unredacted in the version turned over to VICE News this week.
Other than Zero Dark Thirty, the entertainment projects with which the CIA was involved over the past decade had not been previously revealed, although it was assumed that the Oscar-winning movie Argo received production assistance from the agency since it's based on a covert CIA operation. The audit reviewed a sample of eight projects out of 22 the CIA had supported between 2006 and 2011. One of the eight, a book, was redacted on national security grounds. The CIA won't reveal the other 14 projects it has supported. (The agency receives multiple requests to support entertainment projects every week.)
On the CIA's website, the agency says its entertainment industry liaison helps producers, screenwriters, directors, and authors "gain a better understanding of [CIA's] intelligence mission."
"Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, and the skill, innovation, daring, and commitment to public service that defines them. If you are part of the entertainment industry, and are working on a project that deals with the CIA, the Agency may be able to help you. We are in a position to give greater authenticity to scripts, stories, and other products in development."
The entertainment industry liaison also offers up recommendations to inspire authors and filmmakers. The CIA's current recommendation is "The Vilification and Vindication of Colonel Kuklinski," a Polish colonel who spied for NATO.
Dean Boyd, director of the CIA's office of public affairs, told VICE News that when the CIA engages with the entertainment industry, "CIA's priority is the protection of classified material and national security equities, while ensuring an informed, balanced portrayal of the women and men of CIA."
The CIA's relationship with the entertainment industry, which dates back to the 1950s, was scrutinized following the 2012 release of Zero Dark Thirty, a movie about the CIA's clandestine operation to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Two separate Inspector General investigations, one of which probed potential ethics violations by CIA officers, later revealed that filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal showered CIA officers involved in the operation with gifts and received unprecedented access, which included the disclosure of classified information to Bigelow and Boal by CIA director Leon Panetta. The audit said the CIA provided "significantly more support" to Zero Dark Thirty than the other seven entertainment projects on which the CIA worked.
"Because of the lack of significant documentation, it was not possible for us to determine that Zero Dark Thirty was deserving of greater CIA support based on the 'merits' of the project... or that Zero Dark Thirty had been deemed to have greater potential for furthering the CIA's goal for interacting with the entertainment industry," the audit said.
Undercover CIA officers who met with Bigelow and Boal to discuss the bin Laden operation told the inspector general "they were unclear concerning what information could be discussed in the interviews and uncomfortable with the information being discussed," and that OPA "could have better prepared them for the interviews and OPA officials should have exercised greater control of the interviews."
"CIA officers who supported entertainment industry projects (Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, respectively) told us that they were contacted directly by entertainment industry representatives after the initial meetings conducted with OPA." The CIA's regulation governing communications with the media does not authorize CIA officials to speak with media or with the entertainment industry outside of the presence of an OPA representative.
Argo, the true story about the CIA's covert operation to rescue six American diplomats hiding at the official residence of the Canadian ambassador in Iran in 1979, was based on CIA officer Tony Mendez's book, The Master of Disguise. The film won three Academy Awards in 2013. In November 2014, the CIA, in a series of tweets marking the 35th anniversary of the hostage crisis, fact-checked the film. The CIA said Affleck took creative liberties with some of the dramatic scenes about the rescue operation.
For three of the entertainment projects — Top Chef Covert Cuisine, The Secret War on Terror, and Argo — foreign nationals "may have participated in briefings, interviews, and visits provided by the CIA."
"However, because of the lack of adequate records, we were unable to determine the extent of the CIA's support to the eight projects, the extent to which foreign nationals participated in CIA-sponsored activities, and whether the Director, OPA approved the activities and participation of foreign nationals," the audit report said. "Failure on the part of CIA officers to adhere to the regulatory requirements could result in unauthorized disclosures, inappropriate actions, and negative consequences for the CIA."
One of the regulations previously redacted in an earlier version of the audit says that many CIA employees who spoke with and/or were interviewed by entertainment industry representatives did not submit a written or oral presentation to the CIA's Publications Review Board, as they are legally required, prior to speaking with entertainment industry reps.
Panetta was also involved in the Top Chef Covert Cuisine episode, which aired in 2010. The episode called for the chefs to "transform a well-known dish into something entirely new, cooking for none other than CIA Director Leon Panetta, who knows a thing or two about taking on a new identity. The chefs serve CIA Director Panetta and his closest allies in his private dining room inside the agency's closely guarded headquarters."
A spokesperson for Bravo and the producers of Top Chef did not respond to a request for comment.
Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, told VICE News that, in all likelihood, "there was no security concern raised by the presence of foreign nationals" in any briefings provided to the producers by the CIA.
"CIA would not have disclosed highly classified information even to uncleared US citizens in that context," he said. Still, "it is the role of counterintelligence to consider unlikely or even implausible scenarios. So, for example, the foreign nationals might have been undercover intelligence officers. They might have been surreptitiously scouting out the location of the meeting, establishing relationships for future exploitation, identifying potential recruits, or otherwise seeking to take advantage of the opportunity."
According to a synopsis of Patterson's book posted on Amazon, his novel "tells the story of an Al Qaeda operative named Amer Al Zaroor, who, on orders from Osama Bin Laden, directs the theft of a nuclear weapon from the Pakistani military, and then transports it toward its intended target, Israel.... Deep inside Washington, Brooke Chandler, a CIA operative whose cover was blown by an incompetent colleague in Lebanon, thinks he knows how the bomb is being moved toward its target and how to find it. First he must overcome the skepticism of the CIA and the White House, and then he must find the bomb and disable or detonate it before it causes the Middle East to go up in flames."
The BBC describes its 50-minute documentary hosted by journalist Peter Taylor as the "inside story of the intelligence war which has been fought against al-Qaeda over the last decade since 9/11." The BBC boasts of "unparalleled access" it gained to "Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and exclusive interviews with those who have been at the sharp end of fighting the terrorists — from the CIA and the FBI to MI5 — Peter Taylor asks whether the West is winning and whether we are any safer from attack."
The History Channel summarized Air America as a look "at the unique civilian airline known as Air America secretly owned and operated by the CIA which began as an outgrowth of WWII's Flying Tigers. From secret missions over China and Korea to aerial support in Vietnam and the secret war in Laos Air America formed a cornerstone of US policy in Southeast Asia."
Neither Patterson nor a spokesperson for the BBC responded to requests for comment.
The cable series "supported" by the CIA, Covert Affairs, follows CIA agent Annie Walker, a "skilled linguist and spy whose work takes her on secret missions. Seemingly picked for her linguistic skills, it may be something from her past that her CIA bosses are really after."
The series ran for five seasons on the USA Network. It was canceled in December 2014, two years after the Inspector General's audit was issued, which resulted in a complete overhaul of how OPA interacts with the entertainment industry. Several months before the audit was completed, the CIA issued a new policy: "Management Guidance on Contact with the Entertainment Industry and Support to Entertainment Industry Projects."
Boyd, the CIA's director of public affairs, told VICE News that the CIA now requires employees who work in the OPA to attend annual ethics training and that the OPA has "strengthened policies and procedures to ensure the protection of classified information and to safeguard against unauthorized disclosures."
"The many changes implemented since Zero Dark Thirty are part of our continuing obligation to the public, to Congress, and to CIA to uphold the highest standards of accountability and ethics as we communicate the CIA mission," Boyd said.
9) Monsanto's Willing Executioners
"Monsanto's scientists are not engineering seeds that generate extra seeds so farmers can expand planting during the next season or even eat during times of famine. That would certainly help African farmers who lack seeds and assist Indian farmersstruggling to afford Monsanto's seed monopoly. Instead, the company developed a "Terminator gene" that rendered offspring seeds infertile...scientists at the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds found '467 unique cases of herbicide resistant weeds globally' and that weeds evolved resistance to '160 different herbicides' in '86 crops in 66 countries.'....Using poison causes the farmers using the poison to have to buy ever-more toxic poison to deal with the resistance caused by the use of poison."
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 09:47
By JP Sottile, Truthouthttp://www.truth-out.org/news/item/35517-monsanto-s-willing-executioners
Is Monsanto "evil"?
Just pop that question into Google and you'll find out quickly why Monsanto ranks near the top of every "most hated company" list. And ask any news editor ... the name "Monsanto" is guaranteed clickbait that reels in readers by the bushel.
It's probably why you are reading this right now.
Perhaps you, like many anti-GMO farmers, environmental watchdogs and consumer advocates, see Monsanto as the embodiment of everything that's wrong with corporate America. Its name is synonymous with unbridled greed, indifference to the environment, bipartisan cronyism and a demonstrated willingness to steamroll the little guy.
To wit, Monsanto wields a three-decade-old Supreme Court patent ruling like a scythe as it cuts down farmers who dare to save seeds for the next planting season. It has also beaten back challenges from organic farmers who fell victim to "genetic drift" when Monsanto's patented crops cross-pollinated with their non-GMO neighbors and therefore rendered them unsellable.
Monsanto acts like a corporate Borg, methodically amalgamating conventional farmers while also quietly eliminating their organic competition through the sheer ubiquity of its patented pollen. With 90 percent of soybean, corn and cotton acreage in the United States now planted with genetically modified (GM) seeds -- and with other common food crops quickly following suit -- noncompliant farmers are quite literally surrounded.
Interestingly enough, Monsanto spent decades as a fairly typical industrial chemical company, producing PCBs, DDT and even Agent Orange. But it pivoted away from its chemical business -- which it oddly calls "former Monsanto" -- in the mid-1970s. Luckily for the new Monsanto, Congress recently inserted a paragraph into a pending revamp of the Toxic Substances Control Act. It shields the new Monsanto from "hundreds of millions" of dollars in lingering liability from the PCBs made by the former Monsanto.
Today's Monsanto took shape when its patented formula for glyphosate hit the market in 1974. Sold under the name "Roundup," glyphosate demonstrated an uncanny ability to kill every plant it touched -- an ability that eventually transformed Monsanto into a globe-spanning, gene-patenting agrochemical empire worth $47 billion. Monsanto also became a consumer market titan as millions of weekend warriors strapped on their "sharpshooter" spray nozzles to do battle with the dreaded weeds they simply don't have the patience to pull or the willingness to mulch.
Monsanto's perennial "Wild Western-style" ad campaign sells convenience with the sound of ricocheting bullets and the kind of satisfied look that only comes with shooting first and not asking questions later. Roundup is the United States' "second most widely used" lawn and garden poison. Roundup products populate the best-seller list on Amazon. And it's used by gardeners around the world, bureaucracies seeking weed-free parks and, of course, farmers running on the agrochemical treadmill.
Monsanto's globe-spanning agrochemical business model came together in 1982 when it developed the first engineered plant cell and, quite presciently, it acquired the Jacob Hartz Seed Company and its soybean seed empire. Monsanto ultimately launched Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996. Those glyphosate-resistant soybeans literally killed the competition. They also sparked an industry-wide race to modify crop seeds. By 2013, Monsanto controlled 90 percent of the United States' soybean seed market. It's now the world's largest seed company and it's one of six titanic agrochemical companies that together control 75 percent of the world's agricultural inputs (seeds, plant material, fertilizers and pesticides).
That catalyzing role is why Monsanto -- but not DuPont, Dow, BASF or Syngenta -- became the face of agrochemical evil. The "new" Monsanto is a mega-monopolizing, life-patenting, food-controlling colossus many have rechristened "Monsatan."
That dark image wasn't helped by its recent push to get the comically named Safe and Accurate Food Labeling (SAFE) Act through Congress. Opponents shrewdly renamed it the "Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act" because it would've nullified state-level GMO labeling laws in favor of a national, "voluntary" labeling standard. Perhaps it's not surprising that the SAFE/DARK Act failed in an election year.
The public simply isn't on board the GMO train.
A Pew Research Center survey found that 57 percent of Americans think "GM foods are generally unsafe to eat." And a survey by Consumer Reports found "more than 70 percent of Americans say they don't want genetically modified organisms in their food." But Monsanto keeps pushing GM food through the approval process in spite of widespread public revulsion and vitriol.
Understanding this "Monsanto Mania," as journalist Lee Allen aptly termed it, is a zero-sum game. Allen points out that Monsanto's status as hero or villain depends on "who's wielding the paintbrush." More to the point, "Those who work for the multinational giant feel they're the good guys, wearers of white hats -- 'delivering agricultural products that support farmers all around the world.'"
Bill Nye echoed their enthusiasm after his infamous "Come to Monsanto" moment. Despite years of skepticism, the beloved Science Guy now believes GM crops hold the promise of safely meeting the growing demand for food in a rapidly changing climate. He joins 88 percent of scientists recently surveyed by the Pew Research Center who believe "GM foods are generally safe to eat." There is actual hard sciencethat seems to support their comfort, including a much-cited "trillion meal study" based on 29 years of animals "safely" eating GM feed.
However, a defiant article published last year in a peer-reviewed journal points out that there is no epidemiological data to support the "trillion meal" hypothesis nor do most studies even gather the type of toxicological data needed to properly assess risk. And it bluntly states that there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety outside of an "internal circle of stakeholders."
As a key influencer, Bill Nye is now one of those stakeholders.
The Science Guy spoke about his conversion in Monsanto's experimental greenhouse after it gave him the tools to assemble his own genetically engineered "foster grand-plants" in its high-tech laboratory. Let's face it, if you're a scientist it must be intoxicating to go into a lab and cook up a whole new form of life. Nye sure thought so. And so do the other stakeholders who benefit from practicing Monsanto's patented brand of science.
Who Is Monsanto, Anyway?
Monsanto certainly has its fair share of faceless "suits."
They are the lawyers, lobbyists, salespeople and business-schooled bottom-liners who make such easy targets for critics of corporate greed. The company's board of directors certainly is a target-rich environment with a former CEO of Peabody Energy, a professor of economics, a former president of McDonald's, the CFO of Procter & Gamble, a retired CEO of Sara Lee Corporation and, just for kicks, a retired CEO of Lockheed Martin among its members.
Additionally, just four of Monsanto's 12 executives have science degrees, but of those four, two also happen to be Monsanto's biggest wigs. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant has a degree in molecular biology and an annual compensation package worth nearly $12 million. Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Robert T. Fraley holds a Ph.D. in microbiology and biochemistry, received the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton in 1999 and received the World Food Prize in 2013. He earns a tidy $3.4 million for his efforts.
In fact, Fraley was literally present at the creation of the first GM plant cell in a Belgian laboratory in 1982. Now, as Monsanto's lead scientist, he directs a staff of 5,000 researchers who earn an average of $96,638 per year. So, who are these well-paid scientists who do the gene-altering, chemical-concocting work that makes Monsanto go?
Well, you are cordially invited to meet them on Monsanto's well-designed website. As it happily points out, Monsanto employs "a diverse group of thinkers with one common goal: helping to make a balanced meal accessible."
Sounds great, right?
Monsanto even has a YouTube pagebrimming with professionally produced videos and, if you're curious, you can find out why Laura -- a geneticist and mom -- works at Monsanto. As Laura quite earnestly points out, she and her fellow scientists just want to "improve the seeds that the farmers are planting." Oddly enough, Laura fails to mention that the seeds need to be "improved" because the plants will die if they're not genetically altered to withstand Monsanto's flagship product -- Roundup.
And therein lies the rub.
Monsanto's scientists are not engineering seeds that generate extra seeds so farmers can expand planting during the next season or even eat during times of famine. That would certainly help African farmers who lack seeds and assist Indian farmersstruggling to afford Monsanto's seed monopoly. Instead, the company developed a "Terminator gene" that rendered offspring seeds infertile. Monsanto says it will never commercialize this "genetic use restriction technology," which is good news. The bad news is that Monsanto can afford to keep that ace in the hole so long as its patents are enforced and farmers keep buying its pricey, patented seeds -- and the herbicide those seeds are built upon.
What's more, Monsanto's "white hats" in the white coats are not working on "open-source" drought-resistant crops for cash-starved farmers in poor nations. They are not working on "open-source" technologies to increase yields for a growing global population. No, they get paid to produce proprietary products for a profit-making company that ruthlessly enforces its monopoly.
They can argue that this is "science" and "progress." And they might point out that science is expensive. Patents help pay for the innovations that will "feed the world." Sadly, their science isn't really about true "sustainability." It's about sustaining an otherwise unsustainable agrochemical model that denudes soil, poisons water and stokes counter-evolutionary responses from Mother Nature. It's not "pure science." It's a business model. Frankly, Monsanto's "innovations" wouldn't be needed if its scientists weren't perfecting poison and playing poker with evolution. And now they're doubling down with a sci-fi-sounding surfactant that could literally change life with one simple spray.
Resistance Is (Almost) Futile
Monsanto is upgrading the Borg.
It's called the "BioDirect" initiative and it will eliminate costly resistance to glyphosate, eradicate vexingly resilient insects with "biopesticides" and even modify the genetic code of a plant by simply spritzing it with an RNA-infused surfactantspray. The technology is called "RNA interference" (RNAi) and it heralds a brave new world of profitability for agrochemical corporations. It also opens a Pandora's boxfull of as-yet unanswered ethical questions about genetic drift, patenting plants on the fly and, most ominously, whether RNAi can, should or will be weaponized like another Monsanto product -- Agent Orange.
RNAi technology hijacks DNA's messenger system -- the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that carries out DNA's instructions. In effect, RNAi sends human-made messages that can, in turn, alter or kill its target by scrambling cellular functions, turning off organs, dropping resistance to a herbicide (glyphosate) or altering the DNA's command system to produce an artificial gene expression.
BioDirect is an end run around the DNA-altering process Monsanto used to create Roundup Ready crops and "Bt" corn and cotton. Bt-infused crops have the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin built directly into the plant. That toxic protein kills hungry insects. But, like Roundup-doused weeds, insects are developing resistance to Bt crops. Whether it's lice in Texas, bacteria in India or superweeds choking American farms, resistance to human-made poison is literally a textbook response by Mother Nature.
Now this predictable evolutionary response is casting a pall over the agribusiness model.
The Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out that the superweed "plague" overshadows "60 million acres of U.S. cropland" and is "wreaking environmental havoc, driving up farmers' costs and prompting them to resort to more toxic weed-killers." Even worse, scientists at the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds found "467 unique cases of herbicide resistant weeds globally" and that weeds evolved resistance to "160 different herbicides" in "86 crops in 66 countries."
So here's the upshot: Using poison causes the farmers using the poison to have to buy ever-more toxic poison to deal with the resistance caused by the use of poison. Go figure.
Of course, Monsanto's scientists assured the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1993 that glyphosate posed a "low risk for weed resistance." Now, instead of conceding and working with nature, they are counterattacking with RNAi technology. Why? Because sales are flagging. The market is literally oversaturated with glyphosate. And Monsanto wants to extend the life and profitability of Roundup by knocking out resistance at the cellular level.
As a result, we face the unknown consequences of introducing a tidal wave of RNA into ecosystems that are not adapted to a sudden influx of genetic messages. Just think about that for a minute. Antonio Regalado pointed out in MIT Technology Review, "RNA may be natural ... but introducing large amounts of targeted RNA molecules into the environment is not."
The USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have already signed off on RNAi apples engineered by a Canadian company and although Monsanto is still awaiting approval, a 2014 statement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)indicates that their RNAi may already be baked into your cake: "Indications are that the majority, if not all, orally administered [RNAi] ... is degraded by the acid environment of the stomach and the action of pancreatic" enzymes. The EPA believes this should "lessen the probability" that RNAi will survive digestion and trigger responses in the consumer eating the material. The EPA does note, however, that "questions remain" about the survival of RNAi past the acid and enzymes in the human gut, but claims that "a number of reports" indicate it is unlikely, including "a paper co-authored by Monsanto researchers."
With Monsanto's scientists pushing favorable papers at the EPA and with farmers who are supportive of agrochemical options clamoring for new GMO herbicide technology, it sure seems like resistance to their solution to glyphosate resistance is futile.
A Killer Business Model
The simple fact is that Monsanto's power is based on transactions.
Monsanto's model relies on transactions with industrial-scale agribusinesses running on a treadmill of petrochemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
Its de facto monopoly forces farmers around the world into transactions as they struggle to compete with industrial-scale farming, superweeds and seed scarcity.
Monsanto negotiates transactions with political players in both parties who, in turn, drive regulatory agencies like a giant corporate-government combine that harvests short-term profits -- future fallowness be damned.
There is the key transaction with convenience-minded consumers who've helped make Roundup weed killer quite literally a household name. It's a subtle psychological "buy-in" that gets a little herbicide on everybody's hands.
And then there are the transactions with Monsanto's own scientists who make a killing off of the killing. And Big Agrochemical -- much like Big Oil and Big Tobacco -- actively purchases consensus by funding academic studies, public interest groups, high-profile "experts," key influencers and media outlets.
Crucial are the "independent" scientists and academics who tout the whiz-bang wonders of GMOs, while also enjoying Monsanto's largess. It's a practice Monsanto employed in the 1980s when it was under fire for the toxic, mutagenic effects of Agent Orange.
It took four decades for the World Health Organization (WHO) to list glyphosate as a "probable" carcinogen. Interestingly enough, the EPA listed glyphosate as a possible carcinogen from 1985 to 1991. But that was reversed -- some believe "mysteriously" -- when the science was called into question. Now Monsanto's multimillionaire CEO Hugh Grant predictably questions the WHO's science. And finally the FDA has been spurred into testing for glyphosate in food.
It shouldn't be hard to find.
Glyphosate has shown up in nearly everything, including: German beers, German dairy cows, actual Germans, French panty liners and tampons, a shocking number of American waterways, 75 percent of air and rain samples in Mississippi and, quite predictably, in "high levels," on 70 percent of genetically modified soy. As Douglas Main reported in Newsweek, humans have used enough glyphosate "to spray nearly half a pound of Roundup on every cultivated acre of land in the world."
Meanwhile, as the debate rages over genetically modified food, the real issue is whether or not the next best move after drenching the planet in pesticides, fungicides and herbicides is to then start pumping out RNAi biopesticides and spraying RNAi messages onto plants.
But that's a debate we're not having.
Sadly, this non-debate reflects a casual willingness to use poison that ultimately drives the entire agrochemical model. Monsanto is banking on the farmers who escalate their war on their own fields and on the trigger-happy consumers who don't realize that convenience is their true enemy. Most importantly of all, Monsanto's power comes from the scientists who should know better than to relentlessly challenge Mother Nature to an evolutionary showdown. It's a no-win situation -- unless, of course, you're one of Monsanto's well-paid stakeholders.
10) Report Ties U.S. Bombs to Saudi-Led Strike That Killed Yemeni Civilians
April 7, 2016
CAIRO — A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition used bombs supplied by the United States in an attack on a market in Yemen last month that killed at least 97 civilians, including 25 children, Human Rights Watchsaid in a report released Wednesday.
The group said it had found fragments of two American-made bombs at the market, in the northern district of Mastaba, linking the United States for the first time to the March 15 airstrikes, which were believed to be the deadliest coalition bombings during Yemen's yearlong civil war. The high death toll, along with images of children killed in the blasts, ignited international outrage and prompted calls for an investigation.
The Saudi-led coalition has been criticized for carrying out indiscriminate airstrikes that have hit markets, hospitals and homes as it has waged war against the Houthis, a rebel group from Yemen's north that seized power from the government last year.
Coalition airstrikes have caused most of the civilian deaths in the conflict, according to the United Nations, and have led to mounting calls in Europe for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia. An airstrike on another market, in February near Sana, the capital, led the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to call for an inquiry.
The debate in the United States over the airstrikes has been much more muted, in part because the Obama administration has provided few details about its precise role in the air campaign. American officials have said they provide assistance to the coalition, including intelligence from reconnaissance drones, airborne fuel tankers and advanced munitions.
The assistance is coordinated by a 45-person American military planning group with personnel in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, according to American officials.
In Houthi-controlled northern Yemen, where the airstrikes have been concentrated, the Obama administration's participation in the war has fueled growing anger at the United States, residents said. In its report, Human Rights Watch said the United States might be jointly responsible for war crimes violations if it had participated "in specific military operations, such as providing advice on targeting decisions and aerial refueling during bombing raids."
"The U.S. is obligated to investigate allegedly unlawful attacks in which it took part," the group said.
In response to questions about the Human Rights Watch report, Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, or Centcom, wrote in an email that the "decisions on the conduct of operations to include selection and final vetting of targets in the campaign are made by the members of the Saudi-led coalition, not the United States."
"The U.S. is confident that the information that we relay and noncombat support we provide to Saudi Arabia and other coalition members is sound and provides them the best options for military success consistent with international norms and specifically mitigating the potential for civilian casualties," he added.
"We have consistently reinforced to coalition members the imperative of target analysis and precise application of weapons in order to identify and avoid structures and areas that, if struck, could result in civilian casualties."
Human Rights Watch said its researchers had found fragments of what it said was a 2,000-pound American bomb called the MK-84 during a visit to the market on March 28.
The group reviewed photographs and footage showing fragments from a second bomb, found by journalists from ITV, the British television network, and determined that it was also an MK-84. The size of the ordnance was determined in part by reviewing photographs of bomb craters, the group said.
Establishing the precise size of an air-delivered bomb is hard to do by crater analysis, and it was impossible to independently verify the organization's claims. But if confirmed, the use of 2,000-pound bombs would reflect a decision by the Saudi-led coalition that carried substantial risks for civilians.
The 2,000-pound general-purpose bomb, of the American standard Mark 80 series, is the largest of its class. American warplanes typically carry smaller bombs, often in the 500-pound class, in part to reduce property damage and dangers to noncombatants.
A spokesman for the Saudi coalition did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the report. The spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, previously told Reuters that the coalition struck the market after acting on information provided by anti-Houthi forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government.
Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the bombs fell about noon, five minutes apart. One landed near a tomato seller and the other near the entrance to the market.
A witness told the group that he saw the bodies of 10 Houthi fighters among the dead and that some Houthis frequented a restaurant about 200 feet from the spot where one of the bombs fell.
Mohamed Bikili, who had gone to the market that day to buy food, was among the victims, according to his father, Mansoor Ali Bikili. The father said he headed toward the market after hearing the first airstrike, and when he arrived, after the second bombing, "the dust in the market had turned black."
Mohamed Bikili, 18, was nowhere to be found. Over the next few days, Mr. Bikili recovered parts of what he believed to be his son's body, strewed across the market, he said.
11) Need to Hide Some Income? You Don't Have to Go to Panama
For wealthy Americans looking to veil their assets and shield some of their income from taxation, there is no need to go to Panama or any other offshore tax haven. It's easy to establish a shell corporation right here at home.
"In Wyoming, Nevada and Delaware, it's possible to create these shell corporations with virtually no questions asked," said Matthew Gardner, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonprofit research organization in Washington.
In some places, it can be more difficult to get a fishing license than to register a shell company. And it doesn't cost much more.
The Panama Papers — the cache of leaked documents from a Panama law firm, Mossack Fonseca — have revealed how thousands of the firm's clients, including an array of powerful figures around the world, stashed billions of dollars in tax havens. So far only a tiny number of American names have surfaced (although that could change as more of the documents are reviewed).
That in no way means that Americans citizens are refraining from such practices, experts emphasized.
"This is just one firm in one place," said Gabriel Zucman, an economist and the author of "The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens," "So it cannot be representative of what's happening as a whole in the world."
But Mr. Zucman, who estimates that about 8 percent of the world's financial wealth — more than $7.6 trillion — is hidden in offshore accounts, said another reason was that it is so simple to create anonymous shell companies within the United States.
Wealthy individuals and businesses that want to mask their ownership can conveniently do so in the United States, and then stash those assets abroad.
Yet while the United States demands that financial institutions in other countries share information about Americans with accounts abroad, it has refused to reciprocate.
"You see a ton of wealth in tax havens in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands that is owned by shell companies that are incorporated in Panama or in Delaware," he said. "The bulk of this wealth does not seem to be duly declared on tax returns."
A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy called "Delaware: An Onshore Tax Haven" noted that the state's lack of transparency combined with an enticing loophole in its tax code "makes it a magnet for people looking to create anonymous shell companies, which individuals and corporations can use to evade an inestimable amount in federal and foreign taxes."
Heather A. Lowe, the legal counsel and director of government affairs for Global Financial Integrity, a research and advocacy group in Washington, warned that the problem was much more widespread than just a handful of states.
"You can create anonymous companies anywhere in the United States," Ms. Lowe said. "The reason people know about Delaware, Nevada and Wyoming is because these states market themselves internationally."
In annual reports, Delaware's secretary of state has boasted of marketing efforts that have "helped the state reach thousands of legal professionals in dozens of countries across the globe" and visits by delegations to Brazil, Israel, Canada and Spain "to tell the Delaware story." The resulting incorporation fees make up a hefty portion of state revenue.
Although there are legitimate reasons that individuals and businesses want to screen their holdings — for privacy or to prevent competitors from discovering investment plans — several experts said cloaking wrongdoing was a more common purpose.
Aside from avoiding taxes, shell companies are routinely used by terrorist organizations to hide assets, by political donors to sidestep campaign finance laws and by criminals to launder money, Mr. Gardner said.
The Treasury Department indicated this week that it planned to require financial institutions to verify the identities of customers who set up accounts in the names of shell companies, thus closing a loophole in the American banking system that thwarts transparency efforts.
The Treasury also recently began a program that tracks people who use shell companies to purchase expensive real estate in New York and Miami.
But the new rules would not affect state law.
John A. Cassara, a former special agent for the Treasury Department, said that American and foreign law enforcement officials conducting investigations were regularly stymied by state secrecy laws surrounding shell corporations.
"If somebody is conducting an investigation and it comes back to a Delaware company and you want to find who or what is behind that company, you basically strike out," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's the F.B.I., at the federal level, state or local. Even the Department of Justice can't get the information. There is nothing you can do."
He recalled a case where investigators ended up abandoning their inquiry of a Nevada-based corporation that had received more than 3,700 suspicious wire transfers totaling $81 million over two years.
"Why incorporate in Nevada?" the state's website advertised in 2007. "Minimal reporting and disclosing requirements. Stockholders are not public record."
Mossack Fonseca, the Panama law firm, set up offices in Nevada and Wyoming.
After revelations came to light about Americans using Swiss bank accounts to evade taxes, the United States in 2010 passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which requires financial firms in other countries to disclose details about American clients with offshore accounts.
Yet the United States is one of the few countries that has refused to sign new international standards for exchanging similar financial information with other countries.
Another country that has failed to sign the standards? Panama.
"The United States demands that the rest of the world tell it when an American holds an account at a foreign institution, but the U.S. does not return the courtesy by automatically providing comparable information on foreign investors in U.S. banks to their home tax jurisdictions," said Edward D. Kleinbard, a law professor at the University of Southern California and a former chief of staff of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation.
Mr. Kleinbard and Ms. Lowe of Global Financial Integrity said that American banks are awash in money from foreign investors using shell corporations to conceal money from their own governments and law enforcement.
"Where is that money going?" Ms. Lowe asked. "Not to Delaware, Nevada and Wyoming, but New York, Miami and Los Angeles banks."
12) David Cameron Faces Calls to Resign After Finally Admitting He Had Shares in Offshore Fund
April 8, 2016 https://news.vice.com/article/british-pm-faces-calls-to-resign-after-admitting-he-had-shares-in-offshore-fund-1
After a week in which he has been forced into making daily public statements, British Prime Minister David Cameron finally admitted in a TV interview on Thursday that he once had a stake in his late father's offshore trust, which was named in the Panama Papers.
Opposition politicians immediately called on him to resign for being "less than honest" with the British people, and demanded he publish full details of his tax arrangements immediately. The topic #ResignCameron was trending on Twitter on Friday morning.
Cameron told ITV News that he had owned shares in the Panamanian trust, Blairmore Holdings, but had sold them in 2010, before becoming prime minister.
"We owned 5,000 units in Blairmore Investment Trust, which we sold in January 2010. That was worth something like £30,000," he told the television channel.
"I paid income tax on the dividends. There was a profit on it but it was less than the capital gains tax allowance so I didn't pay capital gains tax," Cameron said.
Cameron was expected to publish his tax returns as soon as possible, said Sky News.
Cameron's late father Ian was among tens of thousands of people named in leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca which showed how the world's rich and powerful stash their wealth.
The firm specializes in establishing offshore companies, which could be used to avoid taxes, but there are several legitimate reasons for individuals and corporations to set them up.
On Monday, a Downing Street spokesperson said the Prime Minister's tax affairs were a "private matter." At a press conference on Tuesday, Cameron told reporters that he had "no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds, nothing like that." A statement from a spokesperson later that day said "the Prime Minister, his wife and their children do not benefit from any offshore funds."
Questions were then raised about whether Cameron had ever benefited in the past from the fund or stood to inherit money from it in future. A statement was then released on Wednesday saying: "There are no offshore funds or trusts which the prime minister, Mrs. Cameron or their children will benefit from in future," adding it was now time for the prime minister's critics to "put up or shut up."
They didn't heed his advice, and the questions kept coming. Cameron at last bowed to pressure on Thursday and made the admission he had owned shares in Blairmore.
He immediately faced accusations of hypocrisy, given his repeated past statements about tax evasion being "morally wrong." There were also calls by the opposition for him to resign after being "less than honest" with the British public. Cameron had spoken "out of both sides of his mouth" in recent days, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith told the BBC, arguing there were now "doubts about the prime minister's trustworthiness."
Business Minister Nick Boles said while with the benefit of hindsight it might have been better if Cameron had immediately acknowledged his former stake in Blairmore, but the important thing was that the prime minister had not broken any laws and had paid all his taxes. He told Radio 4's Today program it was understandable why Cameron had delayed his admission: "Taxation is a private matter in this country ... So I think he thought 'I know I've compiled fully with all of the tax laws and I don't like feeding this mill of preying on his father's memory.' And his father is not here to defend himself."
13) At Least 17 Civilians Killed in U.S. Airstrikes, Afghan Officials Say
KHOST, Afghanistan — American airstrikes in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktika killed at least 17 civilians, local officials and elders said on Thursday, differing from official American and Afghan claims that only militants had been killed.
Hajji Muhammad Hasan, a former senator from the Gomal District, said that three drone strikes hit the area of Nematabad on Wednesday. He said that the first strike hit a pickup truck carrying Hajji Rozuddin, a local elder on his way to mediate a land dispute in the Kakarzai tribe. Also in the truck were four of Mr. Rozuddin's bodyguards and seven other people.
A second strike soon after killed two people who had come to pick up the bodies, Mr. Hasan said. A third strike killed three others who had climbed a small hill to try to see what had happened and why the previous two men had not returned already. (There is rarely any phone signal in Gomal, in rugged terrain along the Pakistani border.)
"Hajji Rozuddin was strongly anti-Taliban — he carried bodyguards because the Taliban were trying to kill him," Mr. Hasan said. "The car was completely destroyed, and there was little of the bodies left."
Shaista Khan Akhtarzada, the district governor of Gomal, said an investigation team had determined that "the people killed were civilians."
But the chief of police in Paktika Province, Gen. Zorawar Zahid, insisted that only Taliban had been killed in the strikes. In a differing account, the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement that operatives for Al Qaeda had been killed in Gomal.
A spokesman for the United States military in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland, said: "We can confirm that the U.S. conducted two counterterrorism strikes in Paktika on Wednesday afternoon. There was no evidence to indicate that there were any civilian casualties at all."
Officials and residents said that such airstrikes have been relatively rare in Paktika in recent months, even as the United States has intensified its air operations elsewhere in the country. Besides training and assisting the Afghan forces, who have struggled as they have taken over combat against the Taliban, some of the United States military presence here, numbered at about 9,800 troops over all, is focused on conducting counterterrorism operations.
In addition to targeting Al Qaeda, which continues to have a foothold in Pakistan and Afghanistan, President Obama in January authorized American forces to go after militants in Afghanistan who have claimed loyalty to the Islamic State.
The United States Air Force's public data on strikes in Afghanistan suggests 242 "weapons released" in January and February, compared with 76 in the same period last year.
General Cleveland said that most of the "just under a hundred" American counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan from Jan. 1 to March 31 were focused on Islamic State militants in eastern Nangarhar Province. (Each reported strike may involve more than one weapon.) He added that a few of those strikes had targeted Al Qaeda elsewhere in the country.
14) U.S. Presses Bid to Force Apple to Unlock iPhone in New York
WASHINGTON — In the next battleground in the Justice Department's fight to unlock some of Apple's well-encrypted iPhones, the agency on Friday pressed ahead with its efforts to get access to a locked phone linked to a methamphetamine ring in Brooklyn.
Although the F.B.I. unlocked a phone last month, ending its prominent legal battle with Apple in the case involving the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the Justice Department on Friday told a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York that it still needs the technology giant's help to unlock the phone in the Brooklyn case.
It is seeking to overturn an earlier order from another judge in Brooklyn who sided with Apple and said the Justice Department had overreached in trying to force the company to give it access to an encrypted iPhone used by a convicted drug dealer.
In its letter on Friday, the Justice Department said that "the government's application is not moot and the government continues to require Apple's assistance in accessing the data that it is authorized to search by warrant."
The F.B.I.'s fight with Apple over the iPhone used by one of the attackers in San Bernardino in December ended abruptly after the bureau paid an outside firm — which company and how much is still unknown — to demonstrate a way around two defense mechanisms in the phone.
With tensions high, the F.B.I. said this week that it had not yet shared that solution with Apple and had not decided whether to do so. Investigators have not said what data was retrieved or even whether it considers it useful.
15) Small, Piecemeal Mergers in Health Care Fly Under Regulators' Radars
Federal officials are expected to argue in court starting Monday that a large hospital merger in the Chicago area could hurt consumers and should be stopped. It would be the latest in a series of efforts by regulators to push back against a wave of consolidation among major health care providers.
But a frenzy of smaller transactions is also profoundly changing the landscape, many of which face little regulatory resistance.
The deals are often for a couple of doctors here, or a hospital there, making them too small to attract much attention. But as those deals add up, they are creating groups that in some cases dominate local or regional markets. And they are raising questions about whether the gaze of antitrust officials is directed in the right place.
"There's a lot of consolidation going on at a lot of levels," said Leemore S. Dafny, a former federal official who is a health economist at Northwestern University.
She added, "I don't think the antitrust laws are set up to stop it."
Doctors and hospitals are making the calculation that bigger is definitely better. Consolidation, they say, helps them better coordinate care and manage patients, making care more effective and less expensive.
Skeptics, however, say that the small combinations can eventually translate into higher costs. By gaining market share, they say, hospitals are able to charge more for their care and gain more influence about where patients are sent for lucrative services.
Regulators, meanwhile, are left with limited information about the smaller deals, including answers about whether they diminish competition, leading to higher prices and lower-quality care.
Dr. Farzad Mostashari, a former health official in the Obama administration, describes what is taking place as "creeping consolidation" — being done at a pace that keeps it away from prying eyes.
"If you move slowly enough, maybe nobody will notice," he said.
Many of the smaller deals go unreported, leaving any tally of them incomplete. But at least 940 health care service transactions took place last year, up from about 480 in 2010, according to Irving Levin Associates, a research firm. This mix of deals, which involved groups like physician practices, hospitals and nursing homes, totaled some $175 billion.
Because of the consolidation, patients are more likely to be getting care from providers with formal ties to one another. The doctor who is employed by a hospital, for example, may send a patient for a CT scan at a facility owned by the same hospital. Patients may be discouraged from going to a provider outside a given network, either by their insurer or their doctor.
The combinations taking place include smaller hospital mergers, like one in Arizona in March, when two hospitals merged. The same month, Baptist Health, a small hospital group in Kentucky, said it planned to reach into Indiana to add another hospital. Neither of those deals has generated significant attention.
The difference in regulatory attention is particularly stark in Illinois.
The hospital deal in Chicago, between Advocate Health and NorthShore University HealthSystem, brings together two large systems, including hospitals and doctors' groups. It was announced in 2014 and involves more than 6,000 doctors. Advocate and NorthShore say they will promise not to raise their prices above inflation. They also say they plan to introduce a health plan that will be cheaper than comparable policies offered by the insurers in the market.
But the deal is being opposed by the Federal Trade Commission in a case expected to start Monday at the United States District Court for Northern Illinois.
"This merger is likely to significantly increase the combined system's bargaining power with health plans, which in turn will harm consumers by bringing about higher prices and lower quality," Deborah L. Feinstein, the director of the F.T.C.'s competition bureau, said in a statement in December.
The same sort of attention has not been paid to the growth of the state's largest independent physician group.
The company, DuPage Medical Group, started as an eight-doctor practice in the Chicago suburbs in the 1960s and then combined with other practices. In the last five years, it has made about 16 deals and doubled in size to 500 doctors.
Many of its acquisitions barely register — eight specialists last month, two small physician groups in February, a handful of doctors joining at a time. But it has been enough that DuPage now has ambitions of going national. Late last year, it teamed up with a private investment firm to provide it with $250 million for its goal.
"We saw what was happening," said Michael A. Kasper, the chief executive of DuPage Medical Group. "There was going to be mass consolidation at the hospital and physician level."
As a bigger organization, he said, DuPage has more leverage with area hospitals. "There's no question we have a higher degree of influence because of our size," he said.
Several companies are also amassing doctors who specialize in fields like emergency medicine, trying to capture a sizable share of the physicians in that field and also expanding into related areas. In November, TeamHealth, which has about 16,000 doctors, bought IPC Healthcare, which specializes in care within the hospital, for $1.6 billion.
Federal Trade Commission officials have traditionally focused on deals known as horizontal combinations, when large hospital groups or physician practices merge in a local market. Last year, the agency and Idaho's attorney general prevailed in a case against St. Luke's Health System in Boise for buying the state's largest independent multispecialty group because it would control too many doctors.
The agency is also watching the addition of doctors into these big groups, Ms. Feinstein said. But making the legal case against so-called vertical combinations — when a hospital buys doctors' groups or expands into related areas like imaging or outpatient surgery — is not as straightforward.
These deals, experts say, can benefit consumers by making care more efficient. Integrated systems like Kaiser Permanente in California manage to combine the operations of hospitals, doctors' clinics and a health plan into a well-regarded system.
But the track record for others is not well known, and many make promises that never materialize into lower prices or better care.
"It's difficult to even understand the relationships between hospitals and doctors' practices," said Francine Lafontaine, a former F.T.C. official who is now at the University of Michigan. "We don't have a lot of clear research."
To keep track of what is going on in the market, Massachusetts now requires that any health care transactions be reported to a state agency. The agency has received notice of 57 deals since it began tracking them three years ago. A few other states are considering a similar reporting system.
But the expectation is that regulators will continue to have their hands full. The push toward new forms of payment and more coordinated care is pushing providers to enter these combinations, said Roger D. Strode, a health care lawyer for Foley & Lardner in Chicago.
"I don't see this abating," he said
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