for Peace, Justice and Dignity
June 20, 2016 International Day of Solidarity with Oscar López Rivera
The International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity stands in solidarity with Oscar Lopez Rivera and joins others from around the world calling for his freedom.
On June 20TH, Activists from 35+ Countries Will be Demanding;
Freedom for Oscar!
Community organizer, Vietnam veteran, and political prisoner for 35 years.
Join the International Day of Solidarity with Oscar López Rivera taking place in 35+ countries and also in New York City a rally will follow the Decolonization Committee Hearings at the UN to demand Oscar's immediate release!
OAKLAND, MONDAY, JUNE 20, 6-7 PM
At Lake Merritt, In front of the Lakeview Library, 550 El Embarcadero
(we will then walk to be in front of the Grand Lake Theater)
Countries organizing events include: Argentina * Australia * Belgium * Brazil * Burundi * Canada * Chile *Colombia * Costa Rica * Cuba * Dominican Republic * East Timor * Ecuador * Mexico * Mozambique * Namibia * Netherlands * Nicaragua * Pakistan *Palestine * Panama * Peru * Philippines * Puerto Rico * Rwanda * South Africa * Spain * Sweden Turkey * United States * Venezuela * Vietnam *
Message from the Campaign to Free Oscar López Rivera, National Boricua Human Rights Network
Dear Friends in Puerto Rico and the Diaspora,
This messages carries a warm greeting and the gratitude of the Human Rights Committee of Puerto Rico for your constant support and work in the struggle for the release of Oscar López Rivera. June 20, 2016 will mark a new series of events before the United Nations Decolonization Committee in New York to demand that the colonial case of Puerto Rico be examined by the General Assembly and a true decolonization process for our homeland be initiated.
At present, when the executive branch of the United States government has admitted to its Supreme Court and the world that Puerto Rico is a non-incorporated territory subject to the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress, it is our duty and obligation to struggle against what the United Nations has defined as a crime against humanity: colonialism.
We invite you to support the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, to contact the countries of the world which, as members of the United Nations, defend human rights and self-determination of the people, as well as the fundamental statutes of the United Nations. Our purpose is that peaceful activities be carried out in 35 countries (one for each year of Oscar's imprisonment) in an exercise of freedom of expression and a demand for justice. This will expose the public to the world-wide support for Oscar's release. We extend our gratitude and thank you for expressing your solidarity with Oscar. The message will be heard loud and clear throughout the world.
On June 20th at the United Nations in New York and throughout the world: Free Oscar López Rivera, a patriot of his Puerto Rican people!
Eduardo Villanueva Muñoz, CDHPR
Dr. José E. López, National Boricua Human Rights Network
For more information on the New York mobilization:
Ana López (646) 229-5133
To contribute contacts or for information on the international mobilizations:
In Puerto Rico:
In the US:
International Coordinating Committee
L. Alejandro Molina
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan
For more information:
Orlando response; Pride in Chelsea Manning
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We must not let the Orlando nightclub terror further strangle our civil liberties: Chelsea's new op-ed
After last weekend's tragedy in Orlando,Chelsea Manning cautions us that our response to such violence can be also be dangerous in her June 13th Guardianopinion article.
"We must grieve and mourn and support each other," Manning states, "but in our grief and outrage we must resist any temptations to let this attack – or any attack – trigger anti-Muslim foreign policy, attacks on our civil liberties or as an excuse to descend into xenophobia and Islamophobia."
"We are not safe and secure when the government uses us as pawns to perpetrate violence against others."
Chelsea Manning, Guardian OpEd
June 13, 2016
This morning, I woke up in my cell to an even more shattered and fractured world. We are lost. We are devastated. We are bewildered. We are hurt. And we are angry. I haven't been this angry since losing a soldier in my unit to an RPG attack in southeastern Baghdad during my deployment in Iraq in 2010.
An attack like this is carefully planned and executed to maximize attention by inflaming the passions of a helpless public..
We Stand with Chelsea Manning at Pride
It's Pride season, and Chelsea Manning contingents are forming nationwide to support our heroic US Army WikiLeaks whistle-blower.
Join us as we march for Chelsea, whistle-blowers, and government transparency!
In 2013, our San Francisco Chelsea Manning contingent was awarded the highest honor, "The Absolutely Fabulous Overall Contingent". That contingent was the largest non-corporate group with well over 1,000 people! In 2014, Chelsea Manning was honored as an official SF Parade Grand Marshal!
This year, with her legal appeals now underway, Chelsea needs your support more than ever!
Chelsea Manning support is confirmed for Salina, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. And Boston and Philadelphia already had Chelsea contingents march last weekend!
- Salina- Saturday, June 25
Organized by Codepink Kansas
6-7pm, corner of Cloud & Ohio
- New York - Sunday, June 26
Organized by VFP Ch34, VVAW
Meet up info TBA
RSVP on Facebook
- Seattle - Sunday, June 26
Organized by Veterans for Peace
Meet up info TBA
- San Francisco - Sunday, June 26
Organized by Courage to Resist & Chelsea Manning Support Network
Meetup at 10am Howard and Beale Streets
More info & volunteer opportunities: nancymancias (at) gmail (dot) com
RSVP on Facebook
Chelsea can continue to be a powerful voice for reform, but we need your help to make that happen. Help us support Chelsea in prison, maximize her voice in the media, continue public education, fund her legal appeals team, and build a powerful movement for presidential pardon.
> > > Please donate today! < < <
Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:
A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS
B. ARTICLES IN FULL
A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS
Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring exchanges with an Outlaw Kindle Edition
by Kevin Rashid Johnson (Author), Tom Big Warrior (Introduction), Russell Maroon Shoatz(Introduction)
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.
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
Contact: Prison Radio (email@example.com)
Judge Robert Mariani of the U.S. District Court has issued an order in Mumia's case, granting Mumia's lawyers Bret Grote and Robert Boyle's motion to supplement the record.
Hepatitis C is a progressive disease that attacks Mumia's organs, skin and liver. Unless the court orders the new hepatitis C treatment - one pill a day for 12 weeks, with a 95% cure rate - Mumia's health will remain at serious risk.
Take Action for Mumia
Call prison officials to demand immediate treatment!
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
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."
Prison keeps us isolated. But sometimes, sisterhood can bring us together
Chelsea Manning, Guardian OpEd
Feb 8, 2016
Prisons function by isolating those of us who are incarcerated from any means of support other than those charged with keeping us imprisoned: first, they physically isolate us from the outside world and those in it who love us; then they work to divide prisoners from one another by inculcating our distrust in one another.
The insecurity that comes from being behind bars with, at best, imperfect oversight makes us all feel responsible only for ourselves. We end up either docile, apathetic and unwilling to engage with each other, or hostile, angry, violent and resentful. When we don't play by the written or unwritten rules – or, sometimes, because we do – we become targets...
Read the complete op-ed here
When Drone Whistleblowers are Under Attack,
What Do We Do?
STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!
We honor Stephan, Michael, Brandon and Cian!
These four former ex-drone pilots have courageously spoken out publicly against the U.S. drone assassination program. They have not been charged with any crime, yet the U.S. government is retaliating against these truth-tellers by freezing all of their bank and credit card accounts. WE MUST BACK THEM UP!
Listen to them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43z6EMy8T28
PLEASE HELP THEM:
1. Sign up on this support network:
2. Sign this petition NOW:
3. Call and email officials TODAY, listed below and on FB site.
4. Ask your organization if they would join our network.
Statement of Support for Drone Whistleblowers
(Code Pink Women for Peace: East Bay, Golden Gate, and S.F. Chapters 11.28.15)
Code Pink Women for Peace support the very courageous actions of four former US drone operators, Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, and Stephan Lewis, who have come under increasing attack for disclosing information about "widespread corruption and institutionalized indifference to civilian casualties that characterize the drone program." As truth tellers, they stated in a public letter to President Obama that the killing of innocent civilians has been one of the most "devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world."* These public disclosures come only after repeated attempts to work privately within official channels failed.
Despite the fact that none of the four has been charged with criminal activity, all had their bank accounts and credit cards frozen. This retaliatory response by our government is consistent with the extrajudicial nature of US drone strikes.
We must support these former drone operators who have taken great risks to stop the drone killing. Write or call your US Senators, your US Representatives, President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and CIA Director John Brennan demanding that Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, and Stephan Lewis be applauded, not punished, for revealing the criminal and extrajudicial nature of drone strikes that has led to so many civilian deaths.
URGENT: Sign and Share NOW! Drone Whistleblower Protection Petition
Contacting your Government
- White House comment line: 202-456-1111
- Email President Obama: firstname.lastname@example.org and cc email@example.com
- White House switchboard: 202-456-1414 for telephone numbers of your Senators and Representatives.
- Email your Senators and Representatives:
-Contact Ashton Carter Secretary of Defense: Go to http://www.defense.gov/About-DoD/Biographies/BiographyView/Article/602689 and select appropriate icon.
- Contact John Brennan, CIA Director: Go to
https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/leadership/john-o-brennan.html and select appropriate icon.
For more information on the 4 Drone Whistleblowers:
(Must see Democracy Now interview with the 4 drone operators)
Code Pink Women for Peace: firstname.lastname@example.org
Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence
Sign the Petition:
Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.
"The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case
Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.
In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.
Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.
Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.
Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."
Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.
Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.
In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.
Senior Death Penalty Campaigner
Amnesty International USA
Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org
Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.
Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin. He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence. In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.
There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:
The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?
The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."
Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.
These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.
The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.
Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.
The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.
The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited… (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)
This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015
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
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
B. ARTICLES IN FULL
1) Police Account of Decisions Made During Orlando Rampage Contains Crucial Gaps
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and MICHAEL WILSON
JUNE 13, 2016
Scores of people were already lying dead or injured inside a crowded Orlando nightclub, and the police had spent hours trying to connect with the gunman and end the situation without further violence. But when Omar Mateen threatened to set off explosives, the police decided to act, and pushed their way through a wall to end the bloody standoff.
That was a critical decision — one of many made by the police early on Sunday during the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub, that left 50 people dead, including the gunman, the authorities said.
A day after the shooting, many details of the police response remained in question, and the police account continued to contain crucial gaps — perhaps most critically, what happened during the hours that Mr. Mateen was hiding in a nightclub bathroom as he spoke intermittently to the police by cellphone.
But law enforcement experts said that based on the initial accounts, the Orlando police appeared to have acted appropriately, following well-established tactical protocols that may have prevented further carnage, despite a nearly three-hour gap between when the shooting started and when Mr. Mateen, 29, was killed by police officers.
The officers "acted very heroically and courageous and saved many, many lives during this operation," said John Mina, Orlando's police chief, at a news conference on Monday. Jeffrey L. Ashton, the Orange County state attorney, announced on Monday that his office would work with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the use of force by the police once the criminal investigation, led by the F.B.I., was concluded.
The authorities on Monday described a complicated series of events and a changing crime scene that forced them to shift their tactics. Protocols have changed since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, but the evolving situation in the club led the police to use both the current tactics of moving forcefully against a gunman, and the former strategy of stalling and buying time to draw the gunman out.
According to the authorities, the first police officers arrived on the scene not long after Mr. Mateen opened fire with an assault rifle and pistol. Shots were exchanged in two separate bursts, but then Mr. Mateen retreated to the bathroom, where he connected with the police by phone. The police waited for nearly three hours, they said, to try to convince Mr. Mateen to surrender.
That approach continued until Mr. Mateen threatened to deploy explosives, including what the authorities described as a bomb vest, which prompted officers to discard the notion that they were facing a barricaded hostage situation. No explosives were found.
"If there is a window of opportunity for us to resolve the situation peacefully, we'll take advantage of it," said Ed Allen, training program manager at the National Tactical Officers Association. "But when the suspect escalates the level of violence, we are forced to intervene."
Police special weapons team members initially sought to detonate a bathroom wall where Mr. Mateen was holed up with several hostages. But when the explosion did not bring the wall down, Chief Mina said, the SWAT team plowed through with an armored BearCat. As dozens of hostages fled through the approximately three-foot hole, the police said Mr. Mateen came out too, firing. Mr. Mina said eight or nine officers shot back.
It was not immediately clear if any hostages were injured during that final gunfight, or whether gunfire from the police had struck anyone inside the club during the two earlier shooting exchanges. Autopsies will be performed on victims.
Police tactical experts said that before Columbine, when two students fatally shot 13 people before committing suicide, the police would have hunkered down.
"Before Columbine, you would set up a perimeter, and wait for SWAT before you even thought about moving in," said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation. "Now, as soon as you have an active shooter, you move in, even if it's just one or two officers. The idea is if you don't take action, he's going to kill people."
James R. Waters, the chief of the New York Police Department Counterterrorism Bureau, said officers are trained in role-playing exercises to engage the shooter once they arrive on a scene.
"First police car rolls up, there are two officers there," he said. "They have vests on, sidearms. They are trained to move to the shooter. An experienced cop, he will know the difference between an active shooter or a barricaded perp."
But Louis R. Anemone, a former chief of department for the New York police, said that the nature of the situation might have been unclear in Orlando.
"Is it an active shooting case or a hostage case? It's a very fine line," he said. "What are the facts initially? If there were shots being fired inside when the police arrived, they had a moral obligation to go in."
James Preston, president of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police, said the Orlando attack underscored the need for militarized equipment.
"When the shooting stopped and hostages gathered in the bathroom, they needed to go in with the right amount of resources to do that, and sometimes it takes a few minutes to get to that point," he said. "They went in as quickly as they could with the knowledge they had."
2) Detainees Describe C.I.A. Torture in Declassified Transcripts
JUNE 15, 2016
WASHINGTON — After the Central Intelligence Agency transferred Abu Zubaydah to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and he was brought before a panel of officers for a hearing in March 2007, he described in broken English how he had been tortured in the agency's black-site prisons.
He said his body had shaken when he stood for hours, naked and shackled in a cold room and unable to shift his weight to an injured leg. He spoke of his humiliation at having to relieve himself in a bucket in front of other people, "like an animal." And he described being waterboarded until he stopped breathing and required resuscitation.
"They shackle me completely, even my head; I can't do anything," Mr. Zubaydah said. "Like this, and they put one cloth in my mouth and they put water, water, water." At the "last point before I die," he said, interrogators stood the board back up and "make like this" — he made breathing noises — "again and again they make it with me, and I tell him, 'If you want to kill me, kill me.' "
Mr. Zubaydah's testimony was contained in newly declassified transcripts of military hearings for the C.I.A.'s former prisoners. The government disclosed the accounts this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which provided the documents to The New York Times.
Many details about the C.I.A.'s torture program, including the treatment of Mr. Zubaydah, had already been made public, including in the Senate Intelligence Committee's 500-page report released in December 2014. But those details were largely based on government memos. The newly available transcripts add first-person testimony to the growing historical record.
"At a time when some politicians are proposing that the torture program be resurrected, it's crucial that the American public have access to these firsthand statements, and not only to the self-serving accounts offered by those who authorized the torture," said Dror Ladin, an A.C.L.U. staff attorney.
Defenders of the C.I.A.'s "enhanced interrogation" program say it produced information that saved lives. The Senate report, however, concluded that the program's defenders had exaggerated the value of the information gleaned from it and understated its brutality. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, has proposed reviving and expanding such techniques.
The C.I.A. started its black-site rendition, detention and interrogation program with the 2002 capture of Mr. Zubaydah, whom it mistakenly thought was a top leader in Al Qaeda. It started to shut down the program in 2006, after the Supreme Court issued a ruling about the Geneva Conventions that put agency interrogators in jeopardy of being prosecuted for war crimes.
That September, the Bush administration transferred detainees from prisons run by the C.I.A. to Guantánamo Bay. After several months, each man received a hearing before a so-called combatant status review tribunal to establish whether they had been properly classified as "enemy combatants" subject to indefinite wartime detention.
The government released versions of some of the transcripts in 2009, but redacted the detainees' descriptions of their treatment by the C.I.A.
In a previously censored passage, Mr. Zubaydah, who described making up fake terrorist plots to stop the abuse, claimed that an agency interrogator had apologized to him after the government realized it had misunderstood his role.
"After that, all they said to me was, 'Sorry, we made a big mistake,' " he said.
On Wednesday, the C.I.A. also posted dozens of documents that were subject to separate, overlapping Freedom of Information Act lawsuits by the A.C.L.U. and Vice News for memos listed in the footnotes of the Senate report. Most of the documents were heavily redacted beyond the portions quoted in the report, but there were a few new details.
For example, an unredacted passage in a memofrom the C.I.A.'s chief medical official included a line quoted in the Senate report, which said that Mr. Zubaydah had already started cooperating before being waterboarded and that the technique had produced no "time-perishable information which otherwise would have been unavailable." But it also contained a sentence before that line that the Senate report had not quoted: "A psychologist/interrogator later said that waterboard use had established that AZ had no further information on imminent threats — a creative but circular justification," the official wrote, using initials for Abu Zubaydah.
Several of the transcripts provided to The Times were from the hearings of detainees who are now facing war-crimes trials before a military commission at Guantánamo. In those cases, defense lawyers' strategy has been to argue that their clients should not face the death penalty as mitigation for the fact that the government tortured them, so the transcripts may offer a preview of their eventual testimony.
One of those detainees is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of helping to plot the 2000 bombing of the Cole, an American destroyer, which killed 17 sailors. Mr. Nashiri was subjected to some of the most extreme abuse, according to the C.I.A.'s inspector general, including waterboarding and having a gun racked and a power drill revved next to his head.
Asked at his hearing to describe the methods used on him, Mr. Nashiri listed many: being hung upside down for almost a month, nearly drowned, hit into a wall and forced to stand in a small box for a week so that his feet swelled. He repeatedly asked himself, "What else did they did?"
There is also a transcript of a statement by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the accused architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In the midst of a lengthy discourse on the victims of war and the rule of law, which was previously disclosed, the transcript includes the following, previously censored passage.
"This is, you see, I have been tortured by C.I.A.," Mr. Mohammed said, holding out his wrists. "Nobody will believe me."
3) Not Just a U.S. Problem: Black Lives Matter Here, Too, Canadians Say
By DAN LEVIN
JUNE 15, 2016
TORONTO — Police shootings and abuses are all-too-familiar flashpoints in the United States' tense national conversation about race, privilege and power, but until recently, many Canadians believed that those problems stopped on the American side of the border.
That belief has been eroded by a growing protest movement in Toronto, fueled by several police shootings of black Canadians. The protests have laid bare the frustrations of black residents who say their complaints about discrimination and abuse, including being singled out for a police practice called carding, have been ignored for too long by the Canadian establishment.
Amadeus Marquez, 29, who is black, said that ever since he was in elementary school, the police had regularly stopped him to ask what he was doing. As he grew older, he said, they also demanded identification. Asking why, he quickly discovered, was not an option.
"I've had a cop throw me onto the hood of a car or tell me he's going to break my jaw, just to see my ID," said Mr. Marquez, a chef and a dancer who grew up in Toronto, Canada's most populous city. Many of his friends have experienced similar treatment from the police, he said.
The street checks, called carding, were supposed to be colorblind, but Canadian studies have found that blacks are far more likely to be cardedthan whites. And Mr. Marquez said his mother had taught him early on that it could be dangerous to refuse. "Black parents' biggest fear is their kid getting shot by a police officer," he said.
Accusations of racism and police brutality have been fanned by a number of police killings of black men in and around Toronto in recent years, and charges have generally not been brought against the officers involved.
Black Lives Matter Toronto, led by a small group of young activists, began in 2014 as an expression of solidarity for Michael Brown, an African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. But the movement has grown in size and anger with the recognition, activists and residents say, that black people in Toronto and across Canada face the same types of prejudices as their American counterparts, while a similar pattern of impunity protects the police.
"People in the U.S. might be surprised, or not, to learn that racism doesn't respect the imagined line of the 49th parallel," said Sandy Hudson, 30, a graduate student at the University of Toronto and a founder of the chapter.
On social media and through street protests, Black Lives Matter activists in Toronto are pushing for changes in how the city and the province of Ontario treat black residents. They want greater police accountability and the abolition of a provincial policy that permits the government to keep secret the identities of officers involved in shootings.
Yet some Canadians have criticized the group, saying that racism toward blacks "is an American problem," Ms. Hudson said.
As in the United States, the Canadian protest movement erupted after police shootings of black men.
Jermaine Carby, 33, was fatally shot by the police in September 2014 after he was pulled over in a city outside Toronto and, the police said, he refused to drop a knife. Investigators from the provincial Special Investigations Unit, an independent civilian agency that examines serious injuries, sexual assaults and deaths involving the police, did not find a knife at the scene. A police sergeant turned one in several hours later, in what the unit's director later described as evidence tampering. None of the officers involved in the episode were charged, disciplined or even identified publicly.
Andrew Loku, 45, a mentally ill black man who had immigrated from South Sudan, was shot dead outside his apartment in July after he refused to put down a hammer. A few days after his death, protesters blocked a local highway and demanded that the officers be identified and charged.
When officials decided in March not to charge the officers, activists camped outside Toronto Police Headquarters for 15 days, going home only after the provincial premier, Kathleen Wynne, met with them and agreed to hold a public consultation, and the City Council voted unanimously to have the provincial government review the investigations unit through an "anti-black racism" lens.
Facing intense pressure, the coroner announced an inquest into Mr. Loku's death, and Mayor John Tory of Toronto agreed to meet publicly with activists in April after months of refusing to do so.
"There have been a couple of bumps along the way," Mr. Tory said in a telephone interview, during which he promised to change policies that marginalized blacks. "Nobody should feel targeted or left out or unfairly treated."
Grass-roots organizers say they have no intention of laying down their banners until deeper systemic problems are addressed, including high rates of poverty and unemployment among black Canadians; a lack of educational opportunities; and police harassment, particularly against gay or transgender black people.
"There's so much more to do," said Pascale Diverlus, 21, a journalism student and a founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter. "We know we're in for a long battle to see an end to anti-black racism in this city and country."
While Canada is often lauded for its past role as a haven for black slaves fleeing the United States, the Canadian government historically tried to prevent black immigration, out of fear that it might prompt a backlash from whites. An order issued in 1911 barred "any immigrants belonging to the Negro race, which is deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada," according to an archived government document.
"From a Canadian standpoint, race is an American phenomenon," said Grace-Edward Galabuzi, a political science professor at Ryerson University in Toronto who studies race and poverty. As for the activists' accusations of racism, he said, "We're supposed to be a colorblind society, so when a small minority of the population makes this claim, they're met with denial."
Government statistics illustrate the challenges black Canadians face. They make up less than 3 percent of the national population but 10 percent of the inmates in federal prisons, and represent the fastest-growing group in such prisons. Just 8 percent of Toronto's youth population is black, but 41 percent of the children who are removed from their families and placed in the care of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto are black.
The issues raised by Black Lives Matter Toronto are not new. Nor is black activism.
A wave of police shootings of black men more than 15 years ago prompted residents to form the Black Action Defense Committee, and the government to form the Special Investigations Unit to look into the shootings. But according to reports from the Ontario Ombudsman, the unit's work has been hampered, first by pro-police bias, and then by interference from the provincial Ministry of the Attorney General when the unit has tried to introduce changes.High on the list of grievances among black Toronto residents is carding, which police officers have used to collect personal information for a vast secret database. The Toronto Police Service says it does not compile or release race-based data on carding stops.
The practice was suspended by the Toronto police last year, and the provincial government issued regulations meant to end arbitrary police stops, particularly those based on race. But black residents say the police in Toronto and elsewhere continue to question them arbitrarily or claim they "fit the description" of a suspect.
"I feel that I'm obliged to do what the police want," said Michael Upfold, 21, who is studying for a real estate brokerage license. "If you don't, something could happen. They're holding their guns."
The stops are not unique to Toronto. Mr. Upfold said that in Quebec, where he lived until recently, the police would stop him every other day and ask for identification.
Meaghan Gray, a spokeswoman for the Toronto Police Service, wrote in an email that carding was initially intended to help solve crimes, but the agency recognized that it had "evolved into a random collection of information," which has strained relations between the police and black residents.
Ms. Gray said the police had met with black residents and with the provincial human rights commission to develop procedures that addressed police discrimination. She said the police force urged officers to explain to the people they stopped why they had done so, and to tell them the reason for collecting any personal information. "A mutually respectful engagement between the public and the police officer is always the goal," she said.
Still, many black Toronto residents say that more needs to be done.
Shirley Bowens, a black real estate agent who lives next to the apartment building where Mr. Loku was fatally shot last year, said she was appalled that officers had not tried to talk him into dropping the hammer, or failing that, to use a Taser rather than lethal force.
"They just love the gun," Ms. Bowens said.
4) F.D.A. Warns Whole Foods on Failure to Address Food Safety Problems
JUNE 15, 2016
Prepared foods are an increasingly important part of the grocery business, delivering fat margins at a time when sales of traditional packaged foods are lackluster. But the strategy also comes with serious risks.
In the clearest example yet, the Food and Drug Administration this month sent a stern warning letter to Whole Foods Market, a longtime champion of fresh and healthy foods, saying that the company had failed to address a long list of food safety issues at its food processing plant outside of Boston.
Among the problems cited: condensation dripping from the ceiling near food; an ammonium-based sanitizer used on a work surface near the preparation of a salad; and a failure to separate dirty dishes from ready-to-eat-salads.
The letter from the F.D.A. is just the latest headache to afflict Whole Foods. Over the last couple of years, the company has struggled with slower growth as competitors have gotten better at copying what it did to distinguish itself in the grocery market. Other wounds have been self-inflicted, like last year, when the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs called it out for mispricing some merchandise based on weight.
Prepared foods, which have almost double the profit margins of packaged foods sold on grocery shelves, have remained a bright spot at the company — at least for now. Such foods accounted for almost 20 percent of its sales in 2014, ringing up $2.7 billion in revenue.
But the letter from the F.D.A. is the second black eye for health issues at the plant outside of Boston, known as its North Atlantic Kitchen, and could put some of those sales in peril.
Phil Lempert, an expert on grocery store operations and marketing, said that the food safety crisis at Chipotle Mexican Grill late last year should have been a wake-up call for Whole Foods and anyone else in the business of preparing fresh foods for sale.
"For Whole Foods to be in this predicament, frankly, there really is no excuse," Mr. Lempert said. "Because Wall Street has put it under such pressure to expand growth, I think Whole Foods has gotten sloppy — there's no reason anyone should have water dripping into foods."
Last fall, Whole Foods voluntarily recalled batches of Curry Chicken Salad and Classic Deli Pasta Salad after a sample prepared at the North Atlantic Kitchen tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogenic strain of the bacterium. The plant is one of three preparation kitchens that help stock its stores in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and South. (Most of the company's foods are prepared at the stores themselves.)
In February, the inspectors spent five days at the plant and then shared their findings with Whole Foods, which responded within 15 business days. The company told the F.D.A. that it had retrained employees to address most of the issues the agency raised.
That response, however, failed to satisfy the F.D.A. "We do not consider your response acceptable because you failed to provide documentation for our review, which demonstrates that all your noted corrective actions have been effectively implemented," the agency wrote in its June 8 warning letter.
Whole Foods said the letter came as a surprise. The company said it had taken steps to correct the problems and would meet on Thursday with the F.D.A. to discuss what the issues are and how to address them.
"What's confusing to us is the fact that the letter identifies issues we've already corrected," said Ken Meyer, the company's executive vice president for operations.
"We worked with a third-party consultant and our own global food safety team," he said, "to address their concerns and assumed we were in good standing with them until this letter arrived on Friday."
Whole Foods now has about two weeks to provide evidence to the F.D.A. that steps it has taken bring the company into compliance. Otherwise, the company might have to pay the agency to reinspect the facility.
Groceries have long offered prepared foods like rotisserie chickens and broccoli salad. But as business has declined in the center store, companies have upped their game, adding sophisticated meals that consumers can take home or eat in the store.
Research this year from the Food Marketing Institute and Technomic found that sales of prepared foods in groceries increased 10.4 percent from 2006 to 2014, making the prepared foods department one of the highest performers in the food business.
While only 8 percent of the supermarkets responding to that survey reported sales growth of more than 5 percent, more than two-thirds of them said they had growth at that level or higher in their prepared food businesses.
The risk for grocery companies is that preparing food receives a higher level of scrutiny from regulators than selling food made and packaged by others. A bad inspection in one location, or reports of food illnesses, can damage an entire brand. Shares in Whole Foods fell nearly 5 percent on Wednesday.
Last year, Costco recalled celery sticks and turkey dinners, King Sooper recalled curried chicken salad and Raley's recalled its Asian Blue Cheese, Potato and Bacon salad after E. coli was found in celery supplied to all by a single supplier.
Still, perhaps no company has been more aggressive about integrating prepared foods than Whole Foods. The company has long put bars and restaurants into its stores — a new store in Hawaii will have about 200 seats for shoppers to sit and enjoy a meal and a drink.
"Whole Foods is one of the pioneers in providing restaurant quality meals to consumers," said Joe Pawlak, managing principal at Technomic.
Now, stores like ShopRite and Safeway are opening so-called groceraunts, too. The oyster bar at one of the Mariano's groceries in Chicago has become a place for a Friday night date, and a ShopRite in Morris Plains, N.J., added a 4,000-square-foot atrium where people can enjoy a meal.
Supermarkets tried moving into the food preparation business in the 1990s, Mr. Pawlak said, but offered too broad a menu and ended up throwing a lot of food away.
"Now what's happened over the last five or six years, they've hired food service professionals who understand restaurants and how items move on a menu," he said. "That's taken the quality up to where I can get just as good a meal at the grocery store as I can in many sit-down restaurants — and for a lot better value."
An F.D.A. spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on whether its inspection of grocery food preparation operations was increasing. A Yahoo News analysis of the F.D.A.'s food safety recalls in 2015 found that prepared foods accounted for more recalls than any other food category.
5) No Welcome Mat for Monsanto: Vietnam Must Draw the Line
Monday, 13 June 2016 00:00 By Dien Luong, Truthout | Op-Edhttp://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/36396-no-welcome-mat-for-monsanto-vietnam-must-draw-the-line
Monsanto -- the US biotech company that manufactured the devastating Agent Orange chemical used against civilians during the Vietnam War -- has been quietly welcomed back into Vietnam to cultivate genetically modified animal feed, even as it has continued to refuse to compensate its Vietnamese victims.
This grotesque irony is just one of a series of ironies associated with the recent rapprochement between the US and Vietnam.
During President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam last month, the US announced that it would lift the lethal arms sales embargo on Vietnam in a largely symbolic move that has been touted as a watershed in burgeoning ties between the two countries. In other words, peace and reconciliation between the two former foes are being exhibited by Washington agreeing to sell weapons to Hanoi.
Meanwhile, it has also come to public knowledge that Bob Kerrey, accused of committing "war atrocities" for his leading role in a grisly massacre in the Vietnam War, has been appointed as chairman of the board of Fulbright University Vietnam. To put things in perspective, Kerrey, who was behind the brutal slaughter of 20 women, children and elderly men during that operation, is now at the helm of an educational institution that is named after Sen. J. William Fulbright, a vociferous opponent of the Vietnam War.
Amid these ironies, it should perhaps be no surprise that the Vietnamese government is also welcoming Monsanto back with open arms.
Since 2014, Monsanto has been licensed to cultivate three genetically modified cornvarieties for animal feed in Vietnam, and aims to have more approved in the near future in the very country where the toxic defoliant has continued to take its toll.
Even if Vietnam has apparently made some behind-closed-door trade-offs for the lifting of the arms sales ban, or has condoned the appointment of Kerrey, its rapprochement to the US must not involve unfettered pandering to Monsanto. Doing so would not only rub salt into an already festering wound of millions of Vietnamese victims, but could also portend a dangerous march away from food sovereignty for the country.
The Threat of GMOs Under the TPP
GMOs are likely to become more widespread in Vietnam if the US Congress passes the American-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has been repeatedly billed as a harbinger of rapprochement between the two former foes. There is a precedent: Following the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s, the US flooded Mexico with cheap American corn, including Monsanto's GMOs strains.
The Vietnamese authorities have been more than eager to endorse the TPP, but at the same time, have not been transparent enough about the risks of growing GMOs per se, as well as the ramifications of the ambitious trade deal in this regard.
Aside from the health and environmental concerns some activists have about GMOs, introducing that kind of crop could be detrimental to small-scale farmers that still dominate Vietnam's agriculture. The TPP is the first trade deal to create specific protections for biotechnology, which was designed to strengthen the hand of the biotech seed industry in pressing TPP nations to accelerate field trials and approve commercial cultivation of biotech crop varieties.
On patents and intellectual property, it requires all TPP countries to adopt the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants as revised in 1991, known as UPOV91. Patrick Woodall, research director of the Washington, DC-based advocacy group Food & Water Watch, portends a grim picture. "UPOV91 restricts or bans seed sharing, allows companies to patent traditional crop varieties, limits or bans seed saving and seed selling, and it provides for strict sanctions against farmers that violate plant variety intellectual property rules," he told Truthout.
This gives the seed companies considerable leverage over farmers and strengthens their ability to enforce their seed patents. With the country looking to have GMOs crops on 30 percent of its farmlands by 2020, in the long run Vietnam's dependency on GMO seeds could end up handing over the national food sovereignty to Monsanto.
Monsanto's Refusal to Compensate Agent Orange Victims
Let's also not forget that Monsanto made Agent Orange and has continued to refuseto compensate its victims for the damage. But in a country where much of the population was born after the war and is either unaware of the details of its horrors or is willing to bury the hatchet with the US, Monsanto has been able to get away with the backlash it is facing in other parts of the world.
The Vietnamese officials who signed off on Monsanto's return appear to be glossing over the country's ugly history with the company too, capitalizing on its forward-looking young population to unhelpfully give credence to Monsanto. To these officials, it makes no more sense to restrict Monsanto than to limit Boeing, which made the B-52s that dropped tons of bombs on the country.
That is a false equivalence, however. Several courts have ordered Monsanto, but not Boeing, to pay compensation for its wartime products. What's more, those Monsanto-leaning Vietnamese officials are defending a company that in 2005 admitted to having bribed an Indonesian official to block an environmental impact study of its genetically engineered cotton. It is also this company that has often sued farmers whose fields are inadvertently contaminated by its products. Last September, a French court upheld a 2012 ruling that held Monsanto accountable for the chemical poisoning of a French farmer.
But now that Monsanto has already been back in Vietnam, the Vietnamese government must first do right by its people. Vietnamese consumers deserve the right to know what is in the food they are eating. The government enacted last January a law requiring companies to label all food made with ingredients derived from genetically modified processes; it must be strictly enforced in a country that has a poor record of implementing its own laws.
Even though Monsanto is adamant that it is not to blame for the Agent Orange tragedy, the Vietnamese government must set a prerequisite for what the company must do to do business in Vietnam: Monsanto must foot the bill of the cleanup of major hotspots where Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides were mixed, stored, loaded onto planes and used by US military personnel during the war.
The US government began a cleanup at a former American military base in the central city of Da Nang in 2012, but that was only one of several contaminated sites in dire need of serious cleanup across Vietnam. During his visit, Obama only said briefly that his government "committed to partnering with Vietnam to make a significant contribution to the cleanup of dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa Airbase," another major hotspot.
Before any further concrete action is taken, each Vietnamese government agency must stop acquiescing to Monsanto's charm offensive in the country. By honoring Monsanto as a "sustainable agriculture company," Vietnam's agriculture ministry is coddling a company that is routinely voted as one of the most hated corporationson earth. By accepting a paltry amount of nearly $70,000 worth of scholarships over a five-year period, the Vietnam University of Agriculture -- the country's leading agricultural institution -- has enabled Monsanto to buy its way into the media. By receiving donations from the main manufacturer of Agent Orange, the Vietnam Red Cross, which keeps count of the number of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, is adding insult to the injury of up to 3 million victims of the toxic defoliant.
At a time when the world has started to shun genetically engineered crops, it would be a harsh irony if Vietnam became a success story for Monsanto. Clearly, the question of Agent Orange is now buried under the broader contemporary issues facing Vietnam and the US, chief among them the rise of China. But at the end of the day, the Chinese threats must not be an excuse for the US government and Monsanto to walk away with a tacit nod from Vietnam.
6) Officer's Murder Trial in Freddie Gray Death Turns on 'Rough Ride'
By JESS BIDGOOD
JUNE 17, 2016
BALTIMORE — In opening the state's case against Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the police van in which Freddie Gray suffered the spinal cord injury that killed him, the prosecutor uttered two crucial words: "Rough ride."
Officer Goodson, the prosecutor said, intended to "bounce" Mr. Gray, a black man, around in the van that morning.
Officer Goodson, who is also black, is facing the toughest charge — second-degree "depraved heart" murder — of the six officers accused in Mr. Gray's death. And legal experts say the prosecution's chances of a conviction on that count hinge in large part on being able to prove that Officer Goodson intentionally, and with disregard for his life, drove him in a way that caused his fatal injuries. The defense rested its case Friday, and closing arguments are set for Monday.
But just before the state rested its case earlier this week, a crucial prosecution witness said he could not say whether a rough ride had occurred — another indication of just how difficult the prosecution's case may be.
What is a 'rough ride'?
It has different names around the country, including "screen test" and "nickel ride." Since it is a colloquial term, not a legal one, the precise definition can vary. But, legal and policing experts say, there is an element of intent.
"A rough ride is basically the police driving in such a manner to inflict injury or pain on the person being transported," said A. Dwight Pettit, a lawyer in Baltimore, who has represented dozens of plaintiffs in police brutality cases, "because they have knowledge that the person is not secure in the vehicle and is usually handcuffed or possibly leg chained and therefore has no way to protect themselves."
Geoffrey P. Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, said the tactic was known anecdotally as a form of punishment for unruly prisoners. "Normally," he said, "it's just kind of, they end up with a few bruises or, worst case, it's a broken arm."
On Wednesday, Stanford Franklin, a retired Baltimore police officer who was the prosecution's key policing witness, listed some possible elements of a rough ride during cross-examination: "Sudden acceleration, sudden stops, quick turns."
What is the history of the rough ride?
It is difficult to assess the frequency of the practice, but cities including Chicago, Philadelphia and Aurora, Ill., have settled lawsuits related to accusations of rough rides.
In Baltimore, Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the local branch of the N.A.A.C.P., and Mr. Pettit said they had both received complaints about rough rides, although they were not always substantiated in court. Those complaints have dropped off somewhat since Mr. Gray's story took over the headlines, increasing scrutiny of the police and raising calls for working cameras inside police wagons.
Charles J. Key, a retired Baltimore police lieutenant, said that he "never saw a single instance" of a rough ride in 26 years of his career there, beginning in 1970.
But in 1997, a black man named Jeffery Alston was paralyzed during a ride in a Baltimore police van. In 2004, he received a $6 million settlement from the city. In 2005, another black man, Dondi Johnson Sr., died after suffering a spinal fracture during a police ride. A jury awarded his family more than $7 million, but the award was later reduced to $219,000. Mr. Key testified as an expert witness in both cases.
What are the allegations against Officer Goodson?
Officer Goodson faces seven charges, including second-degree "depraved heart" murder — meaning murder born of willful disregard for human life — and three counts of manslaughter.
Prosecutors allege that Officer Goodson failed to buckle Mr. Gray's seatbelt or call for medical attention, which they say could have saved his life; to them, those omissions were tantamount to a crime. And they allege Officer Goodson rolled through a stop sign and took a sharp right turn so fast that the van could not stay in its lane.
"He was injured because he got a rough ride," Michael Schatzow, a prosecutor, said during opening statements, adding, "There was no good reason for the officer to repeatedly fail to seatbelt Mr. Gray except to bounce him around."
Legal experts said it could be difficult for the prosecution to secure a murder conviction against Officer Goodson without proving that a rough ride had occurred. "The rough ride is important," said David Jaros, an associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore, "because it tells us something about the driver's mental state and his willingness to risk human life."
What has the evidence been of a rough ride?
The state has presented evidence of Mr. Gray's devastating injuries. And with a detective, Michael Boyd, on the stand, prosecutors presented a series of surveillance videos showing the van making its way through Baltimore.
But on Tuesday, during cross-examination, Matthew Fraling, one of Officer Goodson's lawyers, asked Detective Boyd if he had observed the van at any point "make an abrupt start, an abrupt stop, or an abrupt turn."
"No, sir," Detective Boyd answered.
On Wednesday, Mr. Franklin, the prosecution witness, testified that leg shackles made it hard for passengers to brace themselves in a van, and that, without a seatbelt, "your ability to limit yourself from being a projectile in that van is very limited."
"It's extremely important," Mr. Franklin added, "that that ride be as smooth as possible to prevent the person in the back from being tossed to and fro."
Mr. Gray's legs were shackled during most of the ride and he was not wearing a seatbelt, but prosecutors did not draw direct connections between those facts and Mr. Franklin's testimony — a point that Officer Goodson's lawyers sought to emphasize.
"Is it not your contention today that Officer Goodson in any way engaged in a rough ride?" Mr. Fraling said.
Mr. Franklin paused.
"I can't say."
Where does the case stand?
On Wednesday, Officer Goodson's lawyers moved to have the charges dismissed. While it is a common move by defendants, the lawyers focused on the rough ride during their oral arguments on Thursday.
"There was no evidence introduced by the state to support a theory that Officer Goodson gave Mr. Gray a rough ride," said Andrew Graham, another lawyer for the officer, calling it a "centerpiece" of the state's argument.
When the judge, Barry G. Williams, asked Mr. Schatzow to elaborate on how the prosecution had supported its case, including the murder charge, the prosecutor turned not to the rough ride, but to what they said was Officer Goodson's failure to buckle Mr. Gray's seatbelt on five different occasions, suggesting a possible pivot in the state's strategy.
"Five times is enough to demonstrate depraved heart," Mr. Schatzow said.
Later, Judge Williams asked Mr. Schatzow if the state was acknowledging that it had not presented evidence of a rough ride.
"The No. 1 piece of evidence is the fact that the man suffered a broken neck, and it killed him," said Mr. Schatzow, adding that that injury, combined with the "limited" video evidence and that Mr. Gray was shackled, handcuffed and not wearing a seatbelt, made it possible to infer that a rough ride had occurred.
But, he added, a rough ride was not a necessary element of the charges. "There are lots of ways to cause people to move about the compartment" in the van, he said.
Judge Williams allowed the case to continue with all the charges intact, but said it was a "closer call" to let the murder charge move forward.
What do legal experts make of the case?
Mr. Jaros, the law professor, said that the rough ride theory had "flatlined," but "that doesn't mean that they don't have a case at least for manslaughter based on his failure to buckle and then his refusal to get medical attention."
"There's no question,'' Mr. Jaros said, that "you've got really a horrific level of callousness to the experience of the people who are being shuttled through the system."
"The problem is, that doesn't necessarily satisfy a criminal charge."
7) Old New York Police Surveillance Is Found, Forcing Big Brother Out of Hiding
JUNE 16, 2016
From the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, police surveillance of political organizations in New York was extensive enough to require more than half a million index cards, simply to catalog and cross-reference the many dossiers. But over the ensuing decades, the dossiers themselves were presumed missing or lost. Police Department lawyers said they had no idea where the files had gone.
Now, a significant portion of the missing files have been discovered during what the city said on Thursday was a routine inventory of a Queens warehouse, where archivists found 520 brown boxes of decades-old files, believed to be the largest trove of New York Police Department surveillance records from the era.
"It's the whole mother lode," said Gideon Oliver, a civil rights lawyer who two years ago filed a lawsuit on behalf of a historian seeking records about a group that was a target of surveillance.
The boxes, according to a written index, contain extensive files about the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam and the Young Lords, as well as public demonstrations and civil unrest. Files on individuals are also among the documents; at least 15 boxes primarily contain photographs, Mr. Oliver said.
The city's Records Department, in a statement, said it was working to develop rules regarding public access to the documents, though no timetable or process has been set.
The files are bound to resonate not only among those subjected to surveillance decades ago, but also among current activists and organizations that have faced police surveillance and infiltration in the years since Sept. 11, 2001.
After the terrorist attacks, the Police Department bolstered its spying capabilities; Muslim organizations and mosques in particular reported extensive surveillance. Others, including activists associated with causes ranging from the antiwar movement to cycling, have also found themselves watched.
The files discovered in Queens are from a secretive police unit that began as the anti-Communist "Red Squad." During the 1960s, it was called the Special Services Division. Today it is called the Intelligence Division.
Its activities are subject to rules intended to limit the circumstances under which the police can begin investigating political groups, or maintain surveillance files that capture political activity. The rules, put in place in the 1980s and modified after Sept. 11, emerged from a long-running lawsuit brought by political activists.
Pablo Guzman, an early member of the Young Lords, said he hoped to have a chance to inspect the Police Department's records on the group, which was the target of extensive surveillance and infiltration, he said.
"We would be most interested in discovering who they sent in to infiltrate us — who were the undercovers and who was subverting what we were doing?" Mr. Guzman, a longtime television reporter in New York, said. "But we're not going to find out who the turncoats were, who the agents were. They're going to redact all that."
For the past 30 years, the files were supposed to be open to the public, as part of the settlement of the lengthy lawsuit. The city had agreed to release portions to people who asked to see their own file, one of the lawyers, Jethro Eisenstein, recalled. But a significant number of those who sought access were rebuffed, he said. By the time the files were to be made public they were in disarray, rendering the indexing system useless.
Civil rights lawyers claimed it reflected a clear effort on the part of the Police Department to stymie public access. "They scrambled the entire system, so it was impossible to find anything," Mr. Eisenstein said.
But the index-card filing system, described in various old court documents, offers insight into the extent of surveillance.
A court filing from 1989 provides a sampling of the material in the dossiers. One card referred to signers of a Communist Party petition, while another mentioned a Catholic lay teacher who was involved in labor negotiations with the archdiocese. There are index cards for those who spoke at rallies against the Vietnam War. There is an index card for the person "seated at Table 8 in Albert Ballroom, Americana Hotel, paying $15 for dinner held by Emergency Civil Liberties Committee 12/15/62."
For years the files were believed to have been stored in two rooms at Police Headquarters. The rooms, A10 and 1206, became a topic of fascination and frustration for civil rights lawyers. Over time the files were said to become increasingly disorganized. Ultimately, they disappeared.
In affidavits from the past two years, the current occupants of those two rooms, or the detectives who searched them, reported finding none of the surveillance files.
"Throughout the '80s we were pressing for this stuff," Mr. Eisenstein recalled. "And then it fell from view."
Over time, he said, "the people who were concerned about what was written about them in the '60s were onto other stuff."
When the documents resurfaced this week, among the first to learn of the discovery was Johanna Fernandez, a professor at Baruch Collegewho is writing a book on the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican organization that began as a reformed street gang in Chicago before evolving into a radical social justice movement. She had requested surveillance files relating to the organization from the Police Department as well as from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which she said was far more responsive in providing records.
In 2014, she sued the city to gain access, after years of letter writing had yielded little.
In court affidavits, police officials said they found little, despite searches lasting more than 100 hours. The judge, Alice Schlesinger, dismissed the lawsuit in May, expressing frustration at the outcome.
In an interview, Professor Fernandez said she had been told by the Records Department that the documents would soon be made accessible not only to scholars but also to the public at large.
Taken together, she said, the files tell "the story of thousands of people and organizations in New York City who fought to make the city more just and democratic and were systematically obstructed by the police."
Her own book is largely written, but she said she hoped to incorporate the records into an epilogue.
8) At Okinawa Protest, Thousands Call for Removal of U.S. Bases
By JONATHAN SOBLE J
UNE 19, 2016
TOKYO — Tens of thousands of people on the Japanese island of Okinawa gathered on Sunday to demand the removal of American military bases in what organizers said was the largest demonstration against the United States presence there in two decades.
The protest, in Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, was billed as a memorial for a 20-year-old woman who was found dead last month. A United States Marine veteran who was working as a civilian contractor on the island has been arrested in connection with the killing, prompting a public outcry.
Organizers said that 65,000 people attended the Sunday protest. That would make it the largest demonstration since 1995, when two American Marines and a Navy sailor were arrested over the rape of a 12-year-old girl, an episode that shook the tight military alliance between the United States and Japan and is still bitterly remembered by many Okinawans.
Separate estimates of the crowd's size on Sunday from the police or the Japanese news media were not immediately available.
"Vicious crimes cannot be tolerated," the governor of Okinawa, Takeshi Onaga, was quoted by the Japanese news media as saying during a speech at the rally on Sunday. Mr. Onaga wants the United States military footprint reduced, a position that Japanese newspaper opinion surveys and recent election results indicate is shared by an increasing number of residents.
About 1.4 million people live on Okinawa. Among them are roughly 50,000 Americans, the majority connected to the military.
With just a sliver of Japan's total landmass, Okinawa is home to about half the American soldiers and sailors stationed in Japan. Of the acreage in Japan taken up by United States bases, about three-quarters is on the island, a share that Mr. Onaga and his supporters say is unfairly large.
American forces on Okinawa are under a 30-day curfew, billed by their commanders as a "mourning period," in response to the recent killing. They are prohibited from drinking in public and must be back on their bases or at home at night.
The Navy imposed a separate, stricter drinking ban on all its personnel in Japan this month, after a sailor who was thought to have been drinking was arrested on Okinawa over a car accident that left two Japanese civilians injured.
Resentment against the United States presence has been on the rise in Okinawa, driven by concerns over crime and by an unpopular plan to build a new Marine Corps airfield in the northern part of the island. In local elections this month, voters gave an expanded majority in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly to politicians who oppose the airfield and want to reduce the American military presence.
Defenders of the military point to statistics that show American soldiers and sailors in Okinawa are charged with crimes by the Japanese authorities at lower rates than locals. The numbers are difficult to weigh, however, because United States personnel spend only part of their time under Japanese legal jurisdiction. Their bases are, in effect, American territory.
Mr. Onaga has been seeking to forge a broad political coalition to reduce the United States presence. But he is opposed by the national government in Tokyo, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a conservative who has been working to strengthen ties with Washington. Mr. Abe argues that any perceived weakening of the alliance would only embolden Japan's regional rival, China.
Mr. Onaga hails from the same political party as Mr. Abe, the Liberal Democratic Party, but broke with it over the base issue. The party's Okinawan wing has been more sympathetic to the governor, but it declined to endorse the protest rally on Sunday, leaving organizers dependent on a more traditional anti-base coalition of communists and socialists.
9) Commitment to Class Conflict Drives Leader of French Labor Unrest
By ADAM NOSSITER JUNE 18, 2016
PARIS — All up and down the boulevard, store windows were smashed — at a Starbucks, a supermarket, a handbag store. Young men clambered on top of bus shelters. Even a children's hospital was attacked. The police brought out tear gas and a rarely used water cannon.
Even for a country used to unruly labor protests, the violence on the streets of Paris on Tuesday was a shock. But days later, the man behind the antigovernment protests that have rippled across France was barely apologetic. If anything, he promised more.
Philippe Martinez, the mustachioed boss of one of France's biggest labor unions, the General Confederation of Labor, known as C.G.T., has mobilized tens of thousands of workers and sent them coursing through the streets of French cities for weeks.
This past week, it was Paris's turn. Mr. Martinez — 55, stocky, pugnacious and combative — ordered over 600 buses to ferry union protesters from the provinces to a march here, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators on Tuesday.
The protests are aimed at stopping a government push for a new labor law that would make it slightly easier to hire and fire workers. But they are also part of a struggle between competing visions for France's future, experts on French unions say.
For unions, the government's proposed labor law is another step by President François Hollande to move France to the center in order to address the challenges of a global economy. Mr. Martinez, those familiar with him and his union say, has a different vision, shaped by decades of close ties between his union and the French Communist Party, of which he was a longtime member.
The Communist Party and Mr. Martinez share a view of class struggle and unending worker exploitation, according to several experts on French unions. Mr. Martinez, a Renault car factory worker, declined to be interviewed.
"He agrees that class struggle is the watchword of history, and that workers are necessarily in combat against bosses," said René Mouriaux, a leading historian of the French union movement. In Mr. Martinez's view, he added, between bosses and workers "there can be compromises, but no definitive agreements."
Three weeks ago, Mr. Martinez's workers went on strike to block the printing of France's national newspapers for a day after newspapers refused to publish a commentary he had written. The Communist newspaper L'Humanité was the only one to print it.
"Philippe Martinez, the man who wants to bring France to its knees," read a recent headline in the right-leaning newspaper Le Figaro. An article in the left-center newspaper Le Monde called him "the Lider Maximo of the protest movement."
On Friday, Mr. Martinez angrily denied that the protest had been connected to the violence at the march through Paris, which left the Boulevard du Montparnasse, a main artery of the city's Left Bank, looking like a war zone.
"The hooligans are there to discredit our movement," he told journalists in the courtyard of the Labor Ministry, vowing to continue the marches until the government gives up its labor law.
But despite Mr. Martinez's belated disavowals, violence, including serious injuries, has been a constant feature of his union's protests over the past few months.
Paris's police prefect has released photos of union members ripping up paving stones to be used as projectiles. Mr. Martinez said they had simply been defending themselves.
Shocked by the smashed windows at the children's hospital, Mr. Hollande said a ban on future demonstrations was possible, provoking outrage among some members his own Socialist Party.
"There's no reason for us now to back down from our days of mobilization," Mr. Martinez told reporters on Friday after a fruitless meeting with the labor minister to end the standoff. "For three months, the government has been counting on us to lose steam. It's been a bad bet."
Mr. Hollande's government is equally unlikely to back down. It is pinning its hopes of denting France's chronically high unemployment on a law that would only slightly relax negotiating conditions between workers and management.
The change is considered mild by most economists, but has been deemed hopelessly pro-capitalist by Mr. Martinez's union and even by members of Mr. Hollande's party.
Months of protests have weakened the proposed law, and it no longer includes a mechanism to cap payouts to fired workers. The law would also define more precisely how companies could lay off workers — currently an arduous process in a country where workers are highly protected.
But the part of the proposal that most infuriates C.G.T. and a few other unions would allow labor agreements negotiated by individual companies — over such issues as hours worked, paid holidays and bonuses — to take precedence over agreements negotiated at the occupational sector level.
That change would weaken the power of unions such as C.G.T., and it has made Mr. Martinez see red. "You've got to respect the hierarchy of norms," he told reporters on Friday, while leaving the door slightly open to possible exceptions.
Yet with each new burst of violence in the streets, the government is increasingly dismissive of Mr. Martinez and his motives. Some government officials say that the violence will backfire and put the French on the side of the labor law, and that Mr. Martinez is using the violence to shore up his base.
If so, the union leader is doing a good job. France has among the lowest rates of unionization in Europe, and C.G.T., which represents train workers, metalworkers, public sector workers, miners and others, has been losing members for years. Between 1975 and 1993, it lost nearly two-thirds of its members, and now stands at about 686,000.
Today it is made up of mainly hard-core militants, analysts say. The old-fashioned language of class struggle was much in evidence among the crowds at Tuesday's march, underscoring how many of France's contemporary struggles are rooted in both the language and facts of its history.
"I Am in the Class Struggle" was a sticker sported by many protesters. "Work Is a Crime Against Humanity," read another. "Victory in Chaos," someone had scrawled on a building. "The Struggle Is About Class Against Class," read one billboard.
Mr. Martinez moves easily among these views. His father fought in the Spanish Civil War in the International Brigades against the fascists, and his mother was a housekeeper.
C.G.T. was founded in 1895, and its "explicit aim was to bring down the state," said another historian of French labor, Nick Parsons of Cardiff University in Wales. "It still has that anticapitalist orientation."
"This is a guy who was brought up in that sort of atmosphere," Dr. Parsons added. "He's imbued with that history and culture."
Mr. Martinez has shown a willingness to compromise in negotiations as a metalworker representative in preceding decades, Dr. Parsons noted. But that side is not evident now, with polls showing that most French people are still opposed to the labor law.
The class struggle continues.
"It shouldn't be called the 'law on work,' but the 'social dumping law,'" Mr. Martinez yelled during a recent speech at a factory in southern France. "We're not close to giving up. The stakes are high — for today's workers, for the young, for our country."
10) Bob Kerrey and the 'American Tragedy' of Vietnam
JUNE 20, 2016
Los Angeles — EVEN today, Americans argue over the Vietnam War: what was done, what mistakes were made, and what were the lasting effects on American power.
This sad history returns because of Bob Kerrey's appointment as chairman of the American-sponsored Fulbright University Vietnam, the country's first private university. That appointment has also prompted the Vietnamese to debate how former enemies can forgive and reconcile.
What is not in dispute is that in 1969 a team of Navy SEALs, under a young Lieutenant Kerrey's command, killed 20 unarmed Vietnamese civilians, including women and children, in the village of Thanh Phong. Mr. Kerrey, who later became a senator, a governor, a presidential candidate and a university president, acknowledged his role in the atrocity in his 2002 memoir, "When I Was a Young Man."
Those in the United States and Vietnam who favor Mr. Kerrey's appointment see it as an act of reconciliation: He has confessed, he deserves to be forgiven because of his efforts to aid Vietnam, and his unique and terrible history makes him a potent symbol for how both countries need to move on from their common war.
I disagree. He is the wrong man for the job and regarding him as a symbol of peace is a failure of moral imagination.
It is true that Americans have been more forthcoming about some of their crimes than anyone in the Vietnamese government and Communist Party. But it is equally true that Americans tend to remember the war as an American tragedy, as I saw distinctly while watching "Platoon," "Apocalypse Now" and other movies as a boy growing up in California.
I lived among many Vietnamese refugees for whom this war was a Vietnamese tragedy. President Obama's speech on the war's 50th anniversary in 2012 focused on the deaths of over 58,000 American soldiers; I wondered why more than 200,000 South Vietnamese and more than one million North Vietnamese and Vietcong fighters who died were not mentioned, nor the countless thousands of civilians who perished.
With Mr. Kerrey's new position, we are returning to the familiar story about an American soldier's redemption. Many Vietnamese are also focused on that story now, even as it comes at the expense of remembering Vietnamese suffering. Some opinion polls show a majority of Vietnamese endorsing Mr. Kerrey's appointment, and some North Vietnamese veterans, like the renowned novelist Bao Ninh, have voiced their support.
Some in the United States have said that Mr. Kerrey is also a victim — of an unjust war and disastrous leadership — but such a claim seems ironic, if not outright ludicrous, when one compares Mr. Kerrey's prominence to the obscurity in which the survivors of the attack he led and the relatives of those killed now live. His life and career have barely been impeded, except for any personal regrets.
Indeed, as Mr. Kerrey was once in Vietnam as an expression of United States power, he now arrives in a different guise but still as a symbol of Western influence, this time as a leader of a university.
Many Vietnamese hope the university will deliver free-market values to a nominally Communist country eager to continue its capitalist development. But such hope must be tempered with the understanding that Western-style universities are ambivalent places when it comes to encouraging greater equality.
At their best, they cultivate humane thinking. At their worst, they both practice and promote an economic inequality that supports the interests of the 1 percent: exploitation of underpaid adjunct teachers; tremendous increases in student debt; emphasizing the production of workers rather than learners.
Which role will Fulbright play? This question foreshadows how Vietnam's capitalist development, guided by institutions like this one, could leave behind the country's most vulnerable.
If Mr. Kerrey does continue as chairman, Americans and Vietnamese together should insist on symbolic and material measures to make amends to his victims and address his past.
First, he should visit Thanh Phong and apologize to the survivors and the families of the dead. Reconciliation between the two countries should be about more than the drama of one American veteran; it should also include the tragedy of 20 dead Vietnamese villagers.
Second, the Fulbright campus in Ho Chi Minh City should include a prominent memorial to Thanh Phong's dead. Already visible throughout Vietnam are "martyrs' cemeteries" commemorating more than one million soldiers who died for the Communist revolution. Memorials to the even greater number of civilian dead are rare, possibly because remembering their deaths might raise troublesome questions about who killed them.
Third, Fulbright should create educational programs to benefit Thanh Phong's youth and prepare them for a path that will lead to full scholarships at the school. The people of Thanh Phong, and the many people throughout Vietnam like them, should benefit from the university as much as Mr. Kerrey does from his chairmanship's prestige.
Fourth, the school's board should include spiritual leaders, peace activists and teachers who support a humane vision of education, not just a corporate one.
The dead of Thanh Phong, and all the civilian dead, demand an answer to the question of whether, and how, a wealthier Vietnam will remember them, and whether United States-style economic development will benefit all the citizens of Vietnam, or once again make victims of the weakest and the poorest.
11) Record 65 Million Displaced by Global Conflicts, U.N. Says
JUNE 20, 2016
More people are on the run than ever before in recorded history, the United Nations said in a report released Monday.
They include those fleeing marauders in South Sudan, drug gangs in Central America, and the Islamic State in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Falluja. While most are displaced within their own countries, an unprecedented number are seeking political asylum in the world's rich countries. Nearly 100,000 are children who have attempted the journey alone.
All told, the number of people displaced by conflict is estimated to exceed 65 million, more than the population of Britain.
The new figures, part of the United Nations refugee agency's Global Trends Report, come as hostility is surging toward migrants and refugees in the Western countries where they are seeking sanctuary and relief.
The European Union has shown signs of fracturing over how to handle the influx of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, expressed alarm on Sunday about what he described as a "climate of xenophobia that is very worrying in today's Europe."
On Saturday, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, denounced what he called "border closures, barriers and bigotry" during a visit to Lesbos, the Greek island where thousands of asylum seekers have arrived, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Ban implored European leaders to stop treating refugees as criminals.
"Detention is not the answer. It should end immediately," he said. "Let us work together to resettle more people, provide legal pathways and better integrate refugees."
The issue of how to handle the worldwide movement of people, whether they are fleeing war, persecution, poverty or environmental devastation, will be a major theme in September at the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.
In the United States, which historically has resettled more refugees than any other country, the Obama administration's promise to absorb 10,000 Syrians by October is off to a slow start. The administration also is facing criticism from rights advocates over a new round of deportations of Central Americans, including women and children.
Several American states have tried to block the resettlement of Syrians. The latest effort, in Texas, was thrown out by a federal judge last week.
The annual report by the United Nations refugee agency found that in 2015, 65.3 million people remained forcibly displaced from their homes by war and persecution. Some had been displaced for decades because of protracted conflicts in countries like Afghanistan and Colombia.
The bulk of these people — nearly 41 million — were still living within their own countries. Never before had the United Nations documented so many "internally displaced persons," as they are officially defined. The largest numbers were inside Syria and Iraq, but insurgencies in Nigeria and Somalia also scattered millions inside those countries.
That figure excluded people displaced by earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, which in 2015 uprooted at least 19 million, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, a leading source of information on internally displaced people worldwide.
Despite all the attention on Europe's struggle to absorb refugees, the report found that 86 percent of them were living in low- and middle-income countries close to the countries in conflict, like Ethiopia, Jordanand Turkey.
Half of all refugee children are out of school, the report said, often because schools in their host countries are stretched beyond capacity.
In some ways the latest refugee numbers amount to a report card on the failure of the world's most powerful leaders to end wars. From Syria to Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, conflicts last longer, hospitals are bombed in brazen violation of humanitarian law, and aid workers complain bitterly that they are overwhelmed.
The report also highlighted the global dysfunction in accommodating refugees. Barely 200,000 people were able to go home last year or find a permanent home in a foreign country.
Jan Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council who serves as the humanitarian adviser to the diplomatic effort to end the Syrian conflict, said the growing ranks of the displaced demonstrated the "renouncement of responsibility" by countries that have the power to end wars.
12) Venezuelans Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips the Nation
JUNE 19, 2016
CUMANÁ, Venezuela — With delivery trucks under constant attack, the nation's food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.
Venezuela is convulsing from hunger.
Hundreds of people here in the city of Cumaná, home to one of the region's independence heroes, marched on a supermarket in recent days, screaming for food. They forced open a large metal gate and poured inside. They snatched water, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, potatoes, anything they could find, leaving behind only broken freezers and overturned shelves.
And they showed that even in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, it is possible for people to riot because there is not enough food.
In the last two weeks alone, more than 50 food riots, protests and mass looting have erupted around the country. Scores of businesses have been stripped bare or destroyed. At least five people have been killed.
This is precisely the Venezuela its leaders vowed to prevent.
In one of the nation's worst moments, riots spread from Caracas, the capital, in 1989, leaving hundreds dead at the hands of security forces. Known as the "Caracazo," or the "Caracas clash," they were set off by low oil prices, cuts in subsidies and a population that was suddenly impoverished.
The event seared the memory of a future president, Hugo Chávez, who said the country's inability to provide for its people, and the state's repression of the uprising, were the reasons Venezuela needed a socialist revolution.
Now his successors find themselves in a similar bind — or maybe even worse.
The nation is anxiously searching for ways to feed itself.
The economic collapse of recent years has left it unable to produce enough food on its own or import what it needs from abroad. Cities have been militarized under an emergency decree from President Nicolás Maduro, the man Mr. Chávez picked to carry on with his revolution before he died three years ago.
"If there is no food, there will be more riots," said Raibelis Henriquez, 19, who waited all day for bread in Cumaná, where at least 22 businesses were attacked in a single day last week.
But while the riots and clashes punctuate the country with alarm, it is the hunger that remains the constant source of unease.
A staggering 87 percent of Venezuelans say they do not have money to buy enough food, the most recent assessment of living standards by Simón Bolívar University found.
About 72 percent of monthly wages are being spent just to buy food, according to the Center for Documentation and Social Analysis, a research group associated with the Venezuelan Teachers Federation.
In April, it found that a family would need the equivalent of 16 minimum-wage salaries to properly feed itself.
Ask people in this city when they last ate a meal, and many will respond that it was not today.
Among them are Leidy Cordova, 37, and her five children — Abran, Deliannys, Eliannys, Milianny and Javier Luis — ages 1 to 11. On Thursday evening, the entire family had not eaten since lunchtime the day before, when Ms. Cordova made a soup by boiling chicken skin and fat that she had found for a cheap price at the butcher.
"My kids tell me they're hungry," Ms. Cordova said as her family looked on. "And all I can say to them is to grin and bear it."
Other families have to choose who eats. Lucila Fonseca, 69, has lymphatic cancer, and her 45-year-old daughter, Vanessa Furtado, has a brain tumor. Despite also being ill, Ms. Furtado gives up the little food she has on many days so her mother does not skip meals.
"I used to be very fat, but no longer," the daughter said. "We are dying as we live."
Her mother added, "We are now living on Maduro's diet: no food, no nothing."
Economists say years of economic mismanagement — worsened by low prices for oil, the nation's main source of revenue — have shattered the food supply.
Sugar fields in the country's agricultural center lie fallow for lack of fertilizers. Unused machinery rots in shuttered state-owned factories. Staples like corn and rice, once exported, now must be imported and arrive in amounts that do not meet the need.
In response, Mr. Maduro has tightened his grip over the food supply. Using emergency decrees he signed this year, the president put most food distribution in the hands of a group of citizen brigades loyal to leftists, a measure critics say is reminiscent of food rationing in Cuba.
"They're saying, in other words, you get food if you're my friend, if you're my sympathizer," said Roberto Briceño-León, the director of the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a human rights group.
It was all a new reality for Gabriel Márquez, 24, who grew up in the boom years when Venezuela was rich and empty shelves were unimaginable. He stood in front of the destroyed supermarket where the mob had arrived at Cumaná, an endless expanse of smashed bottles, boxes and scattered shelves. A few people, including a policeman, were searching the wreckage for leftovers to take.
"During Carnival, we used to throw eggs at each other just to have some fun," he said. "Now an egg is like gold."
Down the coastal road in a small fishing town called Boca de Uchire, hundreds gathered on a bridge this month to protest because the food deliveries were not arriving. Residents demanded to meet the mayor, but when he did not come they sacked a Chinese bodega.
Residents hacked open the door with pickaxes and pillaged the shop, venting their anger at a global power that has lent billions of dollars to prop up Venezuela in recent years.
"The Chinese won't sell to us," said a taxi driver who watched the crowd haul away all that was inside. "So we burn their stores instead."
Mr. Maduro, who is fighting a push for a referendum to recall him this year over the country's declines, said it was the political opposition that was behind the attacks on the stores.
"They paid a group of criminals, brought them in trucks," he said on Saturday on television, promising compensation to those who lost property.
At the same time, the government also blames an "economic war" for the shortages. It accuses wealthy business owners of hoarding food and charging exorbitant prices, creating artificial shortages to profit from the country's misery.
It has left shop owners feeling under siege, particularly those who do not have Spanish names.
"Look how we are working today," said Maria Basmagi, whose family immigrated from Syria a generation ago, pointing to the metal grate pulled over the window of her shoe store.
Her shop was on the commercial boulevard in Barcelona, another coastal town racked by unrest last week. At 11 a.m. the day before, someone screamed that there was an attack on a government-run kitchen nearby. Every shop on Ms. Basmagi's street closed down in fear.
Other shops stay open, like the bakery in Cumaná where a line of 100 people snaked around a corner. Each person was allowed to buy about a pound of bread.
Robert Astudillo, a 23-year-old father of two, was not sure there would be any left once his turn came. He said he still had corn flour to make arepas, a Venezuelan staple, for his children. They had not eaten meat in months.
"We make the arepas small," he said.
In the refrigerator of Araselis Rodriguez and Nestor Daniel Reina, the parents of four small children, there was not even corn flour — just a few limes and some bottles of water.
The family had eaten bread for breakfast and soup for lunch made from fish that Mr. Reina had managed to catch. The family had nothing for dinner.
It has not always been clear what provokes the riots. Is it hunger alone? Or is it some larger anger that has built up in a country that has crumbled?
Inés Rodríguez was not sure. She remembered calling out to the crowd of people who had come to sack her restaurant on Tuesday night, offering them all the chicken and rice the restaurant had if they would only leave the furniture and cash register behind. They balked at the offer and simply pushed her aside, Ms. Rodríguez said.
"It is the meeting of hunger and crime now," she said.
As she spoke, three trucks with armed patrols drove by, each emblazoned with photos of Mr. Chávez and Mr. Maduro.
The trucks were carrying food.
"Finally they come here," Ms. Rodríguez said. "And look what it took to get them. It took this riot to get us something to eat."
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