Tell Mayor de Blasio: Fire ALL Officers Involved in Killing Ramarley!
Sign the petition:
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
April 10 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
- La Peña Cultural Center
- 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
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: email@example.com and cc firstname.lastname@example.org
- White House switchboard: 202-456-1414 for telephone numbers of your Senators and Representatives.
- Email your Senators and Representatives:
-Contact Ashton Carter Secretary of Defense: Go to http://www.defense.gov/About-DoD/Biographies/BiographyView/Article/602689 and select appropriate icon.
- Contact John Brennan, CIA Director: Go to
https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/leadership/john-o-brennan.html and select appropriate icon.
For more information on the 4 Drone Whistleblowers:
(Must see Democracy Now interview with the 4 drone operators)
Code Pink Women for Peace: email@example.com
Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence
Sign the Petition:
Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.
"The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case
Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.
In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.
Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.
Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.
Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."
Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.
Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.
In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.
Senior Death Penalty Campaigner
Amnesty International USA
Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org
Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.
Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin. He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence. In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.
There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:
The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?
The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."
Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.
These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.
The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.
Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.
The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.
The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited… (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)
This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015
For Immediate Release – Thursday, October 29, 2015
Solitary Prisoners' Lawyers Slam CDCR for Sleep Deprivation
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, lawyers for prisoners in the class action case Ashker v. Brown submitted a letter condemning Pelican Bay prison guards' "wellness checks," which have widely been viewed as sleep deprivation. The letter was submitted to United States Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, and calls on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to put an end to the checks.
Last month, prisoners achieved a historic victory in the settlement of Ashker v. Brown where the indefinite long term solitary confinement was effectively ended in California, with Magistrate Judge Vadas currently monitoring implementation of the settlement terms.
The guards at Pelican bay Security Housing Units have been conducting disruptive cell checks every 30 minutes around the clock for three months, causing prisoners widespread sleep disruption. The process is loud and according to prisoners, "the method and noise from the checks is torture."
Attorneys representing Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have just completed extensive interviews with prisoners who demand that "the every 30-minute checks have to be stopped or people are going to get sick or worse." In addition, they report that regular prison programs have been negatively impacted.
"To sleep is a fundamental human right," said Anne Weills, a member of the prisoners' legal team and one of the attorneys who conducted the interviews with prisoners in Pelican Bay. "To take away such a basic human right amounts to severe torture, adding to the already torturous conditions of being in solitary confinement."
Most prisoners report low energy, exhaustion and fatigue. Most state that they have trouble concentrating. They try to read, but they nod off and/or can't remember what they have read. Their writing is much slower ("I can't think to write"), and describe the constant welfare checks as having a negative impact on their mental state.
While this recent attorney survey was specifically focusing on sleep deprivation and its effects, prisoners volunteered information about the negative impact of these frequent checks: yard policy and practice has reduced access to recreation, access to showers has been reduced, programs and meals are being delayed, and property for those newly transferred to Pelican Bay is still being delayed and withheld.
Sleep deprivation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners and their attorneys are demanding that these checks be halted.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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) How New York Allowed Gentrification for $16 Million
Late last year, as Mayor Bill de Blasio worked to change zoning codes to compel the creation of more affordable housing, an obscure New York City agency quietly lifted all restrictions on the use of a former nursing home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
For decades, the blocklong property had been protected from the neighborhood's transformation by its restrictive deed, which prevented any use for it other than nonprofit residential health care. But the agency, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, was paid $16.15 million in November by the building owner to lift those protections, without conditions.
That move came amid a whirlwind series of transactions: The building had been sold months before to Allure Group, a nursing-home operator, which then flipped it in February to a condominium developer for $116 million.
Mr. de Blasio said he was blindsided and angered by the developments. But a review of city records, correspondence and lobbying reports suggests that the city mismanaged the situation, accepting more than $16 million to pave the way for precisely the type of luxury housing it has sought to limit.
Lifting deed restrictions in New York is a rare act in itself: Since Mr. de Blasio took office in 2014, there have been at least nine deed restrictions modified or lifted by the city, mostly on vacant lots in areas under development such as First Avenue in Manhattan or areas of the Bronx and Brooklyn.
Former officials with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services could not recall the city's having received a comparable sum in exchange for lifting such a restriction. Indeed, in three instances since 2014, the city took no money for the change, accepting new restrictions instead. In others, the city received a relative pittance for unused spaces in exchange for lifting the restrictions altogether: $44,000 for a property on Kosciuszko Street in Brooklyn, $86,000 for another on East 137th Street in Harlem. A more desirable lot on St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem fetched $875,000.
In the case of the former nursing home, the deed restrictions were originally put in place by the city when it sold the property, a red brick former school at 45 Rivington Street, to Village Care, a nonprofit that agreed to run an AIDS hospice at the site."The $72 million question is whether the city's process was manipulated to give a windfall to a few individuals at the public's expense and deprive a community of a much-needed health care facility," said Scott M. Stringer, the city's comptroller, who has opened an inquiry into the matter. The investigation was reported by The Wall Street Journal.
"It's alarming to think that the people charged with protecting the public's interest could have sold a binding deed restriction without a legally enforceable guarantee of further community use in return," he added.
For an administration claiming to be bent on curbing gentrification, and a hands-on mayor who often demands rigorous multisignature memos for making big decisions, questions remain about how the former nursing home, known as Rivington House, came to be unprotected by the city and then sold for a steep profit. Questions have also arisen about the role of the city's leading lobbyist, James F. Capalino, who, at different points, came to represent the initial seller and final purchaser of the property.
"I'm not happy that it happened," Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, told reporters on Monday. "I'm not happy about the fact that I didn't hear about it in advance, before it became public."
On Jan. 27, however, the local community board sent a letter to Mr. de Blasio requesting "information as to what transpired as to this transaction." The letter was remarkably prescient; it warned that Rivington House could be converted into free-market housing, "as has been made possible by the lifting of the deed restriction." The building was sold in February; city officials never responded to the letter, according to the community board, and Mr. de Blasio never saw it, said Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
Mr. de Blasio has since expressed disbelief, saying that city officials had been "lied to" by the nursing-home company, Allure Group, which bought Rivington House in February 2015 from Village Care for $28 million. Allure had promised to create a for-profit nursing home that could serve low-income New Yorkers, city officials said. The city has yet to explain why it did not secure that assurance in writing.
On March 1 of this year, before the mayor said he had learned of the issues at Rivington House, the city put a halt on all new deed changes amid an internal review of procedures. "We are looking to see what actions we can take to penalize this company," the mayor told reporters on Monday, "and again, any policy changes that would inhibit this in the future."
In seeking to secure the deed change, Village Care had a powerful ally in its corner: Mr. Capalino, a fund-raiser for Mr. de Blasio whose firm earned a record $12.9 million lobbying City Hall in 2015.
Mr. Capalino had been hired in 2013 through October 2014 to push for changes to the Rivington House deed. Village Care had bought the building from the city in 1992 with the permanent restriction on its use, and had cared for patients with H.I.V. and AIDS. In recent years, the nonprofit found that it could no longer support the building and sold it to Allure Group.
In October 2014, Joel Landau, representing Allure Group, wrote to the city about his company's plans for the building, suggesting it would become a for-profit nursing home. "We are now ready to do whatever we can to move this project forward," Mr. Landau wrote. "I would also like to keep the home as it is."
The email, shared by City Hall officials, appeared to be the only written assurance from Allure Group that it would operate a long-term care center in the building if the deed restriction was lifted. Mr. Landau, who also spoke about the building with local officials and the community board, did not respond to a request for comment.
"We were just shocked when we heard that this Allure Group, that gave us the understanding that they were going to run it as a long-term care facility, turned around and sold it," said Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a Democrat, who advocated keeping some sort of nursing home there.
On May 11, 2015, for a single day, a public notice of a hearing on the proposed deed changes appeared in the City Record. On the same day, Allure Group went into contract to sell the property to the condominium developer. "This action is in the best interest of the city," the notice read, as do all such notices. None of the local advocates and elected officials were alerted.
"When we found out about it, it was a done deal," Susan Stetzer, the district manager of the local community board, said of the deed changes. "If there had been proper notification, it's very likely this never would have happened."
The city settled on $16.15 million based on two appraisals of the property — one in April 2013, another in December 2014 — using "longstanding valuation practices," Austin Finan, a spokesman for the mayor, said. Current and former city officials said that the sum, though significant, in fact undervalued the potential resale value of the unrestricted property. The deal was approved by the Mayor's Office of Contract Services.
In April 2015, before Allure's sale of the building, Mr. Capalino began representing Slate Acquisition, the developer that would buy the property from Allure Group, though its contract did not cover lobbying related to 45 Rivington Street.
City Hall officials said the deed restriction changes did not come up in the three documented meetings last year between Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Capalino. Instead, the mayor and Mr. Capalino, who has bundled $44,940 in campaign contributions for Mr. de Blasio's re-election campaign since October, discussed Chinese tourism, a downtown heliport and rezoning in Manhattan, the officials said.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Capalino said he had limited his lobbying on behalf of Village Care to the administrative agency and had had no discussions with the mayor about Rivington House.
Nor was the deal a factor, officials said, in the decision to replace the commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services in January. The former commissioner, Stacey Cumberbatch, declined to discuss the reason for her removal when reached by phone; she currently works for New York City Health and Hospitals.
"I really don't want to speak to you, thank you," she said before hanging up.
2) With 'Gigs' Instead of Jobs, Workers Bear New Burdens
3) More Racist and Homophobic Texts by San Francisco Police Are Found
San Francisco police officers sent dozens of racist and homophobic text messages in the past several months, even as another group of officers was being investigated by prosecutors for having traded similar messages, the city's district attorney said Thursday.
The disclosure of the new round of text messages, which includes derogatory references to blacks, Asians, lesbians, gays and transgender people, comes as the Police Department is under federal investigation after complaints that some officers routinely behave in a racially biased manner.
Along with dozens of other police departments around the nation, the San Francisco police — who work in one of the nation's most culturally diverse cities — have come under scrutiny during the past year.
Officers have been accused of using unnecessary deadly force and brutality, and of focusing enforcement efforts on black neighborhoods while ignoring similar infractions elsewhere. Police critics, including many among the city's dwindling black population, have held protests and called for the resignation of the police chief, Gregory P. Suhr.
On Thursday, George Gascón, the city's district attorney, said that the text messages were a worrying sign that the department had a problem with racism and homophobia that was more ingrained than investigators had anticipated.
Especially concerning, Mr. Gascón said, was that the officers involved in the new case were sending offensive texts even as the city investigated 14 of their colleagues last year for sending and receiving similar messages.
"This indicates some significant and deeper problems within the department," said Mr. Gascón, who is a former San Francisco police chief. "This conduct is clearly a danger to the administration of justice and makes the work of San Francisco police more difficult."
Mr. Gascón said the officers recently found to have sent or received the messages were probably involved in at least several hundred criminal cases that would need to be reviewed for signs of bias. He said his office was beginning to examine those cases.
"We know that there will be cases that will be in jeopardy," Mr. Gascón said.
Chief Suhr said Thursday that the department turned over the text messages to the district attorney's office in October as part of a sexual assault investigation of an officer. As part of that inquiry, the cellphones of several officers were examined, he said.
Chief Suhr said that his department had no tolerance for the derogatory language contained in the texts and that he had quickly moved to discipline the officers implicated.
He said that of the seven officers involved in the new case, four had been suspended and three others who had received a single text but had not responded inappropriately had not been punished.
Two of the four suspended officers subsequently left the department, and the other two are facing departmental discipline, he said.
"Certainly to have officers like this among the fine men and women in the department is disconcerting, but we will root them out," Chief Suhr said.
Martin Halloran, the president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said that the group "condemns the appalling racist behavior committed by a handful of officers."
The episode, in which at least 15 shots were fired at Mr. Woods by at least five officers, was captured on a cellphone video, prompting protests in the city. The police said Mr. Woods had had a knife and had refused to obey police orders.
The federal review, requested by Mayor Edwin M. Lee, will examine a variety of aspects of the Police Department, including officers' stops of civilians, use of force and training protocol.
The district attorney's office is also continuing to review criminal cases related to the officers involved in the initial text messaging case. Those texts disparaged gays, women, Mexicans and Filipinos, and proposed lynching blacks.
A review by prosecutors of some 4,000 cases handled by those 14 officers — including 1,600 convictions — is continuing, to determine if the arrests or prosecutions were corrupted by the officers' beliefs. So far, 13 cases have been dismissed, according to the district attorney's office.
The Police Department's effort to dismiss some of those officers was later overturned by a Superior Court judge, who said the department had failed to act within a one-year statute of limitations.
4) Guatemalan Women's Claims Put Focus on Canadian Firms' Conduct Abroad
LOTE OCHO, Guatemala — Her husband was away in the fields, she said, when the truckloads of soldiers, police officers and mining security officials arrived. A half-dozen armed men swarmed into her one-room house, blocking her exit and helping themselves to the meal she had made for her children.
For a long time, the woman, Margarita Caal Caal, did not talk about what happened next that afternoon. None of the women in this tiny village high in the hills of eastern Guatemala did, not even to each other. But that day, Mrs. Caal said, the men who had come to evict her from land they said belonged to a Canadian mining company also took turns raping her. After that, they dragged her from her home and set it ablaze.
"The fear is not over," she said recently, staring down at her hands while her daughter served coffee to visitors. "I still fear, all the time."
Mrs. Caal has taken her case to the courts, but not in Guatemala, where Mayan villagers like her, illiterate and living in isolated areas, have had little legal success. She has filed in Canada, where her negligence suit, Caal v. Hudbay Mineral Inc., has sent shivers through the vast Canadian mining, oil and gas industry. More than 50 percent of the world's publicly listed exploration and mining companies had headquarters in Canada in 2013, according to government statistics. Those 1,500 companies had an interest in some 8,000 properties in more than 100 countries around the world.
For decades, overseas subsidiaries have acted as a shield for extractive companies even while human rights advocates say they have chronicled a long history of misbehavior, including environmental damage, the violent submission of protesters and the forced evictions of indigenous people.
But Mrs. Caal's negligence claim and those of 10 other women from this village who say they were gang-raped that day in 2007, as well as two other negligence claims against Hudbay, have already passed several significant legal hurdles — suggesting that companies based in Canada could face new scrutiny about their overseas operations in the future. In June, a ruling ordered Hudbay to turn over what Mrs. Caal's lawyers expect will be thousands of pages of internal documents. Hudbay, which was not the owner of the mine at the time of the evictions, denies any wrongdoing.
Canadian law does not provide for huge American-style payoffs, even if the court rules in the plaintiff's favor. But the Hudbay case is being watched carefully because it appears to offer a new legal pathway for those who say they have suffered at the hands of Canadian subsidiaries. A ruling in this case, experts say, could also help establish powerful guidelines for what constitutes acceptable corporate behavior.
"Up until now, we just have not had judicial decisions that help us consider these sorts of relationships," said Sara Seck, an expert on corporate social responsibility at the Faculty of Law, Western University, in London, Ontario. "For once, the court is going to look at what really happened here, and that is important."
The behavior of multinational companies working in poor countries has come under increasing fire in recent years. Social expectations have changed, experts say, with many citizens of rich countries demanding that corporations be more responsible in the countries where they operate.In Canada, efforts to define a code of good behavior for extractive corporations are longstanding, if so far unsuccessful. Many mining companies are based there because Canada offers a concentration of expertise in mining finance and law, and the government offers incentives including tax breaks.
A bill that would have created an ombudsman to investigate complaints and deny access to government loans — and even consular services — to companies accused of behaving poorly failed by a narrow margin in 2010 after facing fierce opposition from the extractive industry. John McKay, a member of Parliament from the Liberal Party who sponsored that bill, said he expected Canada's new government to try again soon.
"There are companies out there doing things that they would never do in their own countries," he said.
In a 2014 report, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a policy group in Washington, concluded that Canadian companies, accounting for 50 percent to 70 percent of the mining in Latin America, were often associated with extensive damage to the environment, from erosion and sedimentation to groundwater and river contamination. Of particular note, it said, was that the industry "demonstrated a disregard for registered nature reserves and protected zones."
At the same time, the report said, local people were being injured, arrested or, in some cases, killed for protesting.
Victims, however, have had little success gaining access to Canadian courts. Their lawyers have often tried to get cases heard on the basis of violations of human rights or international criminal law. But most were told that Canada had no jurisdiction, and that their claims would be more appropriately heard in the country where the events took place, even if that country's courts were notoriously corrupt or otherwise dysfunctional.
The lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Hudbay case, Murray Klippenstein and Cory Wanless, took a novel approach, however, making a simpler claim. They said the Canadian parent company was negligent for failing to put an effective monitoring system in place to understand what its Guatemalan subsidiary was doing. Framing the claim in this way allowed the plaintiffs to draw a clear connection between the negligence and Canada.
In addition to the claims brought by Mrs. Caal and the other women who say they were raped in Lote Ocho, Hudbay, based in Toronto, is facing claims over the death of a prominent local leader, Adolfo Ich Chamán, 50, and the shooting and paralysis of a bystander, German Chub, 28, during demonstrations against mining in the nearby town of El Estor in 2009.
Hudbay lawyers moved to have the case dismissed both because of jurisdictional grounds and because it was "plain and obvious" that the claims would fail. Before the ruling on jurisdiction, they dropped that claim and went forward with the other one. In July 2013, however, the judge ruled it was not obvious that the claims were without merit.
Turning to the courts has not been easy for the plaintiffs, most of whom speak only Q'eqchi', a Mayan language, have had little or no schooling, and find the prospect of going to Canada terrifying. In addition, they face animosity from a sizable portion of the local population, particularly in El Estor, where there is a giant nickel processing plant.
Hudbay officials dispute most of the plaintiffs' claims. They say that no mining security officials were present during the Lote Ocho evictions and that no rapes took place. The company's website also points out that at the time, Hudbay had nothing to do with the mine. It was owned by Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, a subsidiary of another Canadian company, Skye Resources Inc., which Hudbay bought in 2008, assuming its liabilities. Hudbay has since sold the mine.
Hudbay officials also maintain that there was no negligence in 2009 when it did own the mine. Officials say the killing of Mr. Ich, a teacher, and the shooting of Mr. Chub, a farmer, took place as the mine's security guards were defending themselves from armed protesters.
But some recent events appear to lend credence to the plaintiffs' claims. The head of the mine's security during the 2007 evictions and the 2009 shootings, a former army colonel named Mynor Padilla, is now on trial in Guatemala over the shooting of Mr. Ich and Mr. Chub.
Moreover, an army officer and a paramilitary officer were convicted in February of raping and enslaving indigenous women in the 1980s, during Guatemala's long civil war, suggesting, some advocates say, that such behavior has long been entrenched in this country. During the war between the United States-backed government and leftist rebels, the indigenous population in this region was repeatedly attacked for trying to make land claims.
Even now, the local Q'eqchi' population believes much of the land in the area belongs to it, and not to the mining company.
At the time of Mrs. Caal's eviction, there was no mining anywhere near Lote Ocho, but mining officials moved to evict the villagers anyway. The community is made up of about a dozen scattered, flimsy wooden houses, home to about 100 people, most of them children.
There is no electricity here or a school for the children. The village is a bumpy 45-minute ride in a pickup truck uphill from the nearest town. But that costs money, so most of the villagers walk there using a footpath, which takes about two hours.
Mrs. Caal said the armed men who attacked her during the eviction were so brutal with her that she could not get up from the spot where they had left her. But when her husband asked what had happened to her, she told him only that she had fallen, afraid of how he might react.
It is still a subject she turns to reluctantly.
"Remembering is reliving," Mrs. Caal said. "It hurts. It hurts as a woman."
5) Unable to Pay $100 Bail, Homeless Man Dies in New Hampshire Jail
In their last conversation, Jeffrey Pendleton told his father that he was doing well, living in New Hampshire with a woman and working at a Burger King restaurant.
About four months later, a different story unfolded. Mr. Pendleton was homeless, and on March 13 he was found dead in a jail cell in Manchester, where he was being held for a misdemeanor because he could not pay the $100 bail.
"The police told me to talk to the detective in New Hampshire," Mr. Pendleton's father, Joseph, said Friday from his home in Palestine, Ark. "He said they did a cell check, and found him unconscious. Then two hours later he was dead."
His family buried him last week in Palestine, but the authorities are still investigating how the 26-year old black man who had no known health problems died so suddenly.
"They said they did not find anything wrong with the body, that he shouldn't have been dead," the elder Mr. Pendleton said he was told by the coroner. "What they found was a healthy 26-year old man."
Jennie V. Duval, the deputy chief medical examiner working on his case, said Mr. Pendleton's autopsy was inconclusive and the official cause of death was awaiting the toxicology report, with blood test results not expected for four weeks.
"There was no naked eye evidence of trauma or disease," Ms. Duval said. "We definitely ruled out foul play."
Mr. Pendleton's death has drawn attention to New Hampshire's practice of putting in jail people who cannot make bail, often on misdemeanor charges. As The New York Times has reported in a series of reports, specialists say the money-based bail system in the United States routinely means that poor defendants are punished before they get their day in court, often keeping them incarcerated longer than if they had been convicted right away.
Last month, the Justice Department sent a letter asking state chief justices and court administrators around the country to change their practices on fines and fees. The aim, it said, was to avoid the harm that falls on people who are unable to pay, and who "lose their jobs and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape."
The department urged the courts to consider alternatives to jail for defendants unable to pay fines and fees.
"Bail that is set without regard to defendants' financial capacity can result in the incarceration of individuals not because they pose a threat to public safety or a flight risk, but rather because they cannot afford the assigned bail amount," the letter said.
Mr. Pendleton was arrested on March 8 at about 10 p.m. at a house in Nashua, where the police were sent to help probation and parole officers. Officers discovered two warrants for Mr. Pendleton's arrest for nonpayment of fines: one for disorderly conduct and the other for a city ordinance violation, said Capt. Eric Nordengren of the Nashua police.
Mr. Pendleton was taken to the Nashua police station, where they found a small quantity of marijuana, and then to the county jail in Manchester, Captain Nordengren said. In a preliminary appearance in Nashua District Court, his bail was set at $100, which he was unable to pay.
Then on March 13, Mr. Pendleton was found unconscious in his cell at 2:45 p.m. and could not be revived; he was pronounced dead at 3:19 p.m., the jail said in a statement. "There appeared no indication that Mr. Pendleton was in any form of distress," David Dionne, the jail superintendent, said in a report by The Union Leader.
A court document said that Mr. Pendleton was to have been held on the "act prohibited" misdemeanor charge until a hearing on April 7.
"That's approximately one month," said Gilles Bissonnette, a director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire who had provided Mr. Pendleton with legal support. "At that point, he would have effectively served his sentence before he ever had an opportunity to contest the charge — an outcome that only a poor person would be confronted with."
Mr. Pendleton's ordeal also garnered some attention because he had previously won settlements worth thousands of dollars against two New Hampshire cities for run-ins with the police.
The City of Nashua agreed to pay $15,000 to settle a civil claim by the A.C.L.U. and Mr. Pendleton after he was arrested in 2014 for walking in a public park, according to a copy of the settlement provided by Mr. Bissonnette. About $10,315 went to Mr. Pendleton and the rest to the A.C.L.U. in New Hampshire.
The following year, the City of Hudson agreed to pay $37,500 to settle a lawsuit filed by the A.C.L.U. for Mr. Pendleton that said the police issued him a summons for panhandling, which they said was illegal. Mr. Pendleton was allotted about $7,000 of that money.
According to the Hudson lawsuit, Mr. Pendleton arrived in the Nashua area in 2009 and worked in low-wage jobs at fast-food restaurants. He had been homeless since a divorce in 2013, then lost his job and started sleeping in the woods.
Mr. Bissonnette said his office did not have significant contact with Mr. Pendleton after the cases were resolved with settlements. Asked why Mr. Pendleton was unable to pay the $100 bail last month, he said, "I don't know that answer."
6) Satellite Images Can Pinpoint Poverty Where Surveys Can't
7) Death by Overwork on Rise Among Japan's Vulnerable Workers
TOKYO — Japan is witnessing a record number of compensation claims related to death from overwork, or "karoshi", a phenomenon previously associated with the long-suffering "salary man" that is increasingly afflicting young and female employees.
Labor demand, with 1.28 jobs per applicant, is the highest since 1991, which should help Prime Minister Shinzo Abe draw more people into the workforce to counter the effect of a shrinking population, but lax enforcement of labor laws means some businesses are simply squeezing more out of employees, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Claims for compensation for karoshi rose to a record high of 1,456 in the year to end-March 2015, according to labor ministry data, with cases concentrated in healthcare, social services, shipping and construction, which are all facing chronic worker shortages.
Hiroshi Kawahito, secretary general of the National Defense Counsel for Victims of karoshi, said the real number was probably 10 times higher, as the government is reluctant to recognize such incidents.
"The government hosts a lot of symposiums and makes posters about the problem, but this is propaganda," he said.
"The real problem is reducing working hours, and the government is not doing enough."
The labor ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Kawahito, a lawyer who has been dealing with karoshi since the 1980s, said 95 percent of his cases used to be middle-aged men in white-collar jobs, but now about 20 percent are women.
Japan has no legal limits on working hours, but the labor ministry recognizes two types of karoshi: death from cardiovascular illness linked to overwork, and suicide following work-related mental stress.
A cardiovascular death is likely to be considered karoshi if an employee worked 100 hours of overtime in the month beforehand, or 80 hours of overtime in two or more consecutive months in the previous six.
A suicide could qualify if it follows an individual's working 160 hours or more of overtime in one month or more than 100 hours of overtime for three consecutive months.
Work-related suicides are up 45 percent in the past four years among those 29 and younger, and up 39 percent among women, labor ministry data show.
The problem has become more acute as Japan's workforce has divided into two distinct categories - regular employees, and those on temporary or non-standard contracts, frequently women and younger people.
In 2015 non-regular employees made up 38 percent of the workforce, up from 20 percent in 1990, and 68 percent of them were women.
Lawyers and academic say unscrupulous employers operate a "bait-and-switch" policy, advertising a full-time position with reasonable working hours, but later offering the successful applicant a non-regular contract with longer hours, sometimes overnight or weekends, with no overtime pay.
Refusing overtime pay and break time are illegal, and the applicant could refuse the job, but activists say companies tell them they will be given regular contracts after six months or so.
They say young applicants often accept due to lack of experience, while women trying to re-enter the workforce after childbirth often feel it would be difficult to get a foothold elsewhere.
Emiko Teranishi, head of the Families Dealing with Karoshi support group, said she hears lots of complaints about hiring tactics, with some companies telling new hires that their salary includes 80 hours of overtime, and they must reimburse the company if they work less.
"Some people don't even make minimum wage under this system," said Teranishi, whose own husband committed suicide after working long hours.
Such abuses have become so common in the past 10 years that such companies have been dubbed "black" companies in the media.
Hirokazu Ouchi, a professor at Chukyo University, wrote a book last year about such companies when he realized some of his students were being treated illegally at their part-time jobs.
Ouchi said their hiring practices typically follow a similar pattern.
"Companies will hire someone for two to three years, but they have no intention of investing the time or the money to nurture that employee," said Ouchi.
He added that the labor ministry lacked the manpower to follow up on complaints.
A ministry official working in corporate surveillance acknowledged that his department was somewhat short-staffed but the government was taking steps to recruit more every year. He declined to give his name as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Japan's working-age population has been falling since the mid-1990s, which would normally lead companies to improve working conditions to attract workers, but Ouchi said it was not happening because they can get away with bending the rules.
"This is a way for companies to keep labor costs down, but it is also a path that leads to death by overwork," he said.
8) The Panama Papers: Global Investigations Begin Following Damning Tax Haven Revelations
April 4, 2016 | 4:20 am
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) said on Monday it was investigating more than 800 wealthy clients of Mossack Fonseca, the firm from whose files more than 11.5 million documents were leaked, and the British HM Revenue and Customs asked for a copy of the leaked data so it could "closely examine" the information and act on any possible tax evasion "swiftly and appropriately."
More than 70 current and former heads of state are among those implicated by the data, which was given to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) more than a year ago and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and more than 100 other news organizations around the globe.
"Currently we have identified over 800 individual taxpayers and we have now linked over 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong," the Australian tax office said in a statement emailed to Reuters, which said it would work closely with the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and anti-money laundering regulator AUSTRAC to further cross-check the data from the documents. It did not name the Hong Kong company.
The 800 individuals under investigation include some taxpayers who had previously been investigated and others who had reported themselves to the tax office under a voluntary disclosure initiative, as well as a large number of taxpayers who had not previously come forward.
New Zealand's tax agency also said it was "working closely" with its tax treaty partners to obtain full details of any New Zealand tax residents who may have been involved in arrangements facilitated by Mossack Fonseca.
French President Francois Hollande said on Monday that his government would carry out its own investigations. "These revelations are good news because they will increase tax revenues from those who commit fraud," he told reporters as he visited a company in Paris' suburbs.
Sweden's Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) said it had contacted authorities in Luxembourg to ask for information related to allegations that Swedish banking group Nordea helped some clients to set up accounts in offshore tax havens.
In Iceland, Prime Minister Sigmundur Davîo Gunnlaugsson is facing calls to step down due to the revelation he co-owned a shell company with his wife that stored some of her wealth, and did not disclose this on Iceland's parliamentary register of MPs' financial interests. When questioned about the company on camera by journalists from Swedish television company SVT he walked out of the interview.
The documents reveal a network of secret offshore deals and loans allegedly used by a circle of close associates of President Vladimir Putin to launder billions of dollars.
Offshore companies linked to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and family members of Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister David Cameron were also revealed by the files. Poroshenko has in the past "positioned himself as a reformer in a country shaken by corruption scandals," noted the ICIJ, while Cameron has repeatedly made public statements denouncing tax havens and claiming his government will take action against those who use them.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman is also implicated, apparently having used money from a company in the British Virgin Islands to pay for mortgages on luxury properties in London and for a yacht he keeps parked in Marbella, Spain. The vessel has its own banquet hall and enough space to comfortably sleep 30 guests.
The leaked data also points to a link between a member of global soccer body FIFA's ethics committee and a Uruguayan soccer official who was arrested last year as part of a wide-ranging US probe into corruption in the sport.
FIFA's ethics committee said in a statement on Sunday that Juan Pedro Damiani, a member of the committee's judgment chamber, was being investigated over a possible business relationship with fellow Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo, one of the soccer officials arrested in Zurich last year.
Damiani told Reuters in Montevideo on Sunday that he broke off relations with Figueredo when the latter was accused of corruption.
The leaked "Panama Papers" cover a period over almost 40 years, from 1977 until as recently as last December, and allegedly show that some companies domiciled in tax havens were being used for suspected money laundering, arms and drug deals, and tax evasion.
The head of Mossack Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing but acknowledged his firm had suffered a successful but "limited" hack on its database.
The firm's director, Ramon Fonseca described the hack and leak as "an international campaign against privacy."
Fonseca, who was up until March a senior government official in Panama, told Reuters on Sunday that the firm, which specializes in setting up offshore companies, has formed more than 240,000 such companies and noted the "vast majority" of these have been used for "legitimate purposes."
In a statement published by the Guardian, the firm said many of the people cited in press reports were not and never had been clients of Mossack Fonseca.
"For 40 years Mossack Fonseca has operated beyond reproach in our home country and in other jurisdictions where we have operations," it said.In their reporting of the story, Chinese news outlets have avoided mentioning the names of senior Chinese officials who are named in the papers, according to BBC Monitoring. A Russian opposition newspaper has a seven-page spread about the allegations about Putin's friends, while two Ukrainian outlets are reporting the allegations about Poroshenko.
9) Israel Expands Palestinian Fishing Zone Off Gaza's Coast
GAZA — Israel on Sunday expanded the Palestinian fishing zone off the southern portion of Gaza's coast to nine nautical miles from six, allowing fishing in areas that had been off limits for a decade.
"I can see hundreds of fishermen and boats — we are excited," said Zakaria Baker, the Gaza-based head of the fishermen's committee of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. He spoke by telephone from the small seaport in Gaza shortly before 3 p.m., when the expansion was scheduled to take effect.
But Mr. Baker questioned whether there would be proper protection for the fishermen in the expanded zone, complaining that Israeli naval forces sometimes opened fire on boats even within the permitted area. He said most Gaza fishermen used GPS equipment to measure their distance from shore.
The Israeli military enforces a naval blockade on the Palestinian coastal enclave of Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons smuggling.
Ismail al-Shrafi, 62, a fisherman, said Sunday that he was unable to join his friends who were preparing their boats because the Israelis had confiscated his boat five months ago and taken it to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Mr. Shrafi said that his boat had been fired on and impounded within four nautical miles of Gaza's coast and that his son, fishing with him, had been injured by the Israeli fire.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, had no comment on the case involving Mr. Shrafi. Colonel Lerner denied that naval forces had fired at boats within the permitted fishing zone. But he said, "Anybody who breaches the limit is stopped or arrested, and those who don't comply with the navy forces' calls to turn back — then, yes, their boats can be impounded."
Over the weekend, the Israeli Navy sank a suspected smuggling boat that was approaching Gaza from Egypt. Naval forces fired warning shots, and the boat's crew threw "suspicious cargo overboard" and jumped into the sea before the vessel was sunk, the military said.
Under the Oslo peace accords, the fishing zone was supposed to extend to 20 nautical miles, but it has shrunk over the years as Israel has imposed greater restrictions, citing security concerns. In the years before 2006, fishermen could go out 10 to 12 nautical miles, but from 2006 until 2012 the zone was limited to three nautical miles.
Israeli officials said the Israeli Navy and the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known as Cogat, the Israeli agency that serves as a liaison with the Palestinians on civilian affairs, had decided on Sunday's expansion to coincide with the opening of the fishing season.
Gaza's farmers are restricted from farming in a buffer zone along the border with Israel, and the fishing restrictions have added to the challenges facing Gaza's people, about 80 percent of whom receive some form of food aid. Egypt, Gaza's neighbor to the south, also tightly restricts movement to and from Gaza across its border.
The expansion of the fishing zone is expected to add 400,000 shekels, or nearly $106,000, to the 6 million shekels in annual revenue generated by Gaza's fishing industry, according to Cogat. The waters farther out offer greater quantities of fish and different varieties.
Cogat officials said the expansion was part of a policy of loosening restrictions on the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza to improve the economy and foster stability.
Majd Al Waheidi reported from Gaza, and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.
10) Health Scare at Malibu School Sets Off Media War
MALIBU, Calif. — The high school here is ranked among the best in the country, with students each year moving on to Ivy League colleges. The location, on a hill down the block from the beach where Baywatch was filmed, offers a multimillion dollar view of the Pacific Ocean.
Yet parents here have been yanking their children out of Malibu High School, concerned about PCBs, the highly toxic chemical compounds, that have been found in caulking of the school's windows.
A battle over how to handle the PCBs, which were first discovered three years ago, is now convulsing this famously wealthy beach community, with parents, television stars and a supermodel pitted against one of the most elite public school districts in the country.
But not all parents and teachers are convinced: They blame PCBs for an array of maladies, including migraines, thyroid cancer and common colds, and they have sued to compel the district to remove all contaminated caulking. A judge ruled last week that the lawsuit could move forward.
In the meantime, school board meetings have turned chaotic, with parents shouting down district officials and calling them liars.
"The school district is telling us our kids are safe, but that's what they were telling parents in Flint, Mich.," said Jennifer deNicola, a mother of an eighth grader and a 10th grader who has spearheaded the push to remove PCBs. "We know there's a problem, and they refuse to acknowledge it."But school and health officials insist that simply because PCBs are in the building materials does not mean the students are at risk of exposure. The school district tests the air in classrooms — the primary medium through which children could be exposed — and cleans regularly to reduce dust from the caulking, school officials said.
"Just because something is present doesn't mean it can cause harm," said Doug Daugherty, a managing principal at Ramboll Environ, the environmental consulting firm the district has hired.
The district has already spent millions of dollars on lawyers, environmental consultants and a public-relations campaign.
But, this being Malibu, parents have waged their own media campaign, complete with environmental experts and celebrity advocates. Cindy Crawford, the supermodel, has gone on national television to explain why she pulled her two children from Malibu High, and offered to pay to test caulking for PCBs throughout the campus, which also includes an elementary school and a middle school. (Her offer was declined.)
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were widely used in building materials and electronics until they were banned in the late 1970s, and they remain in many older buildings. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health estimated that the substances could be present in upward of 20,000 schools nationwide. The compounds have been linked to cancer, immune problems and lower I.Q.s among children.
Federal law requires that any building materials found to contain PCBs be removed. But to the chagrin of parents here, there was no requirement to test the caulking in the first place.
The E.P.A. has endorsed the district's approach to handling the PCBs in its buildings. And scientists who studied PCBs in New York City schools said this method — of testing air quality and cleaning assiduously — was very effective.
Laurie Lieberman, the president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school board, said that the administration had confidence in the safety of its facilities and has been doing its best to reassure parents.
"We have tremendous empathy for people who are fearful and scared," Ms. Lieberman said. "We've really tried to explain why the schools are safe now."
Malibu parents have a history of skepticism about official health advice, including routine childhood vaccinations: At some local elementary schools in 2014, less than 60 percent of kindergarten students had received the full lineup of recommended vaccines, far below the state average.
In this case, the distrust on both sides became plain last fall, when supporters of caulking removal secretly took their own samples from classrooms and had them independently tested. Ms. deNicola announced that the results showed extraordinarily high levels of PCBs. The school district asked the sheriff's office to investigate her for trespassing and vandalism.
The battle now threatens to tear apart the school district: Concern over PCBs has fueled an existing effort here to break away from Santa Monica so that Malibu can be in control of its own schools.
Beth Lucas, a parent, pulled her son, Christian, out of Malibu High after their endocrinologist said it was especially dangerous for him to remain there. Christian, now 17, had a malignant brain tumor at age 6, and the radiation used to treat it left him with a diminished immune system and thus more vulnerable to the effects of PCBs, the doctor told the family.
"We moved to Malibu for the schools, so it has been a big slap in the face to have the school district treat the parents and teachers and children so poorly," Ms. Lucas said. She is also considering removing her daughter, who is in middle school, at the end of the year, but worried about the cost of private school.
"Yes, we live in this nice house," she said, sitting on a hilltop porch that overlooked a wide expanse of ocean. "I don't want to have to sell my house and leave Malibu. The district has put us in a horrible position."
Currently, only one of the seven school board members represents Malibu. He supports replacing the caulking, but has been voted down by board members who live in Santa Monica.
"I think the board members have convinced themselves that the science is right and the parents are overreacting," said Craig Foster, Malibu's representative on the school board, and the father of a seventh grader at the middle school here. "But what if in five years it turns out testing the air and dust wasn't enough? How do you sleep?"
Some other school districts across the country have acted more aggressively, often at the E.P.A.'s behest, to remove the source of PCBs. Parents here point to Clark Elementary School, in Hartford, Conn., as an example of a school district that handled matters responsibly: In that case, an entire school building was closed — and may be abandoned — because of PCB contamination.
But testing at Clark Elementary indicated elevated levels of PCBs in the air, whereas testing at Malibu High has not, E.P.A. officials said.
Jim Jones, an assistant administrator at the E.P.A., said the agency worked with schools to "get below the risk threshold using the best management practices."
"We're always trying to find what's a cheaper way," Mr. Jones said, adding that the caulking at Malibu High would all be replaced within several years as part of planned renovations. For now, he said, cleaning and ventilation were "far less costly than removal."
11) 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.
12) 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.
13) 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."
14) 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.
15) 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.
16) 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.
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