For an excellent background analysis of what is currently going on in Oaxaca, check out this 2-part interview with Laura Carlsen of the Center for International Policy:
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
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.
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
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
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
When Drone Whistleblowers are Under Attack,
What Do We Do?
STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!
We honor Stephan, Michael, Brandon and Cian!
These four former ex-drone pilots have courageously spoken out publicly against the U.S. drone assassination program. They have not been charged with any crime, yet the U.S. government is retaliating against these truth-tellers by freezing all of their bank and credit card accounts. WE MUST BACK THEM UP!
Listen to them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43z6EMy8T28
PLEASE HELP THEM:
1. Sign up on this support network:
2. Sign this petition NOW:
3. Call and email officials TODAY, listed below and on FB site.
4. Ask your organization if they would join our network.
Statement of Support for Drone Whistleblowers
(Code Pink Women for Peace: East Bay, Golden Gate, and S.F. Chapters 11.28.15)
Code Pink Women for Peace support the very courageous actions of four former US drone operators, Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, and Stephan Lewis, who have come under increasing attack for disclosing information about "widespread corruption and institutionalized indifference to civilian casualties that characterize the drone program." As truth tellers, they stated in a public letter to President Obama that the killing of innocent civilians has been one of the most "devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world."* These public disclosures come only after repeated attempts to work privately within official channels failed.
Despite the fact that none of the four has been charged with criminal activity, all had their bank accounts and credit cards frozen. This retaliatory response by our government is consistent with the extrajudicial nature of US drone strikes.
We must support these former drone operators who have taken great risks to stop the drone killing. Write or call your US Senators, your US Representatives, President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and CIA Director John Brennan demanding that Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, and Stephan Lewis be applauded, not punished, for revealing the criminal and extrajudicial nature of drone strikes that has led to so many civilian deaths.
URGENT: Sign and Share NOW! Drone Whistleblower Protection Petition
Contacting your Government
- White House comment line: 202-456-1111
- Email President Obama: email@example.com and cc firstname.lastname@example.org
- White House switchboard: 202-456-1414 for telephone numbers of your Senators and Representatives.
- Email your Senators and Representatives:
-Contact Ashton Carter Secretary of Defense: Go to http://www.defense.gov/About-DoD/Biographies/BiographyView/Article/602689 and select appropriate icon.
- Contact John Brennan, CIA Director: Go to
https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/leadership/john-o-brennan.html and select appropriate icon.
For more information on the 4 Drone Whistleblowers:
(Must see Democracy Now interview with the 4 drone operators)
Code Pink Women for Peace: email@example.com
Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence
Sign the Petition:
Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.
"The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case
Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.
In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.
Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.
Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.
Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."
Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.
Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.
In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.
Senior Death Penalty Campaigner
Amnesty International USA
Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org
Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.
Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin. He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence. In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.
There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:
The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?
The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."
Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.
These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.
The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.
Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.
The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.
The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited… (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)
This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015
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) Record 65 Million Displaced by Global Conflicts, U.N. Says
By SOMINI SENGUPTA JUNE 20, 2016
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.
2) Venezuelans Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips the Nation
By NICHOLAS CASEY 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."
3) Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age
4) Even Without Detonation, 4 Hydrogen Bombs From '66 Scar Spanish Village
By RAPHAEL MINDER JUNE 20, 2016
PALOMARES, Spain — José Manuel González Navarro, a mechanic, headed out of this seaside village on his motorbike one morning 50 years ago when he heard explosions overhead and looked up to see a ball of fire in the sky. Debris started to shower down, some "falling very slowly, like if a giant tree was shedding shiny metal leaves," he recalled in an interview.
Mr. González Navarro turned around and sped home to check that his house was not hit. He later drove back to where he had seen debris land and found an undetonated bomb attached to a parachute. He cut off the straps of the parachute and took them home, along with some work tools and bolts that he found scattered on the ground.
"I was just thinking about what objects might prove useful," he said. "I liked fishing, and those parachute straps, thin but very solid, were clearly perfect to be turned into a weight belt for diving."
Like many in Palomares, Mr. González Navarro, now 71, figured he had witnessed a military air crash. But he was unaware that a United States Air Force bomber and a refueling jet collided, accidentally sending four hydrogen bombs hurtling toward Palomares. Although no warheads detonated, two of the bombs shattered, spreading plutonium over the village.
Whereas American service members are complaining that the hurried cleanup effort carried out by the military jeopardized their health, many in Palomares lament the damage the accident has done to their community.
"Living in a radioactive site that nobody really has wanted to clean has brought us a lot of bad publicity and has been something hanging over our head like a sword of Damocles," said Juan José Pérez Celdrán, a former mayor of Palomares. For years after the crash, local tomatoes, lettuce and watermelons did not carry any Palomares label because of the stigma associated with the place.
And the cleanup effort continues half a century later.
In 1966, American troops removed about 5,000 barrels of contaminated soil after the accident and called the cleanup complete. But about a decade ago, the Spanish authorities found elevated levels of plutonium over 99 acres. Some of the areas of elevated radioactivity almost touched private homes, as well as fields and greenhouses. Scientists from Ciemat, the Spanish nuclear agency, fenced off the most hazardous sections and began pressuring the United States to remove about 65,000 cubic yards of radioactive soil — far more than was removed right after the accident.
In 2009, Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos of Spain sent a confidential note to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that Spanish public opinion could turn anti-American if Spain disclosed a Palomares contamination study, according to a note contained in the WikiLeaks documents and published at the time by the newspaper El País. In early 2011, Spain's foreign minister at the time, Trinidad Jiménez, told the Spanish Senate that cleaning up Palomares was a priority.
In October, Secretary of State John Kerry signed a memorandum of understanding in Madrid promising to finally return Palomares to its pre-1966 state.
Spain and the United States agree that about half a kilogram, or about 1.1 pounds, of plutonium remains in the area — a significant amount since less than a microgram can cause cancer — and the Department of Energy has agreed to remove the soil and bring it back to a nuclear storage facility in the United States. A formal agreement on the size of the cleanup, when it will start and who will pay is still in the works.
The long-term health consequences of the accident for Palomares residents remain murky.
Many inhabitants consider the warnings of radiation overblown, but others take a cynical view of why the American and Spanish authorities have let them live in a contaminated area for decades. "They're just using us as guinea pigs, to see what happens to people who live in a contaminated area," Francisco Sabiote, a plumber, said. "They tell us all is fine, but also that more soil needs to be taken away. So if that is really needed, why all this waiting?"
The day of the crash, another bomb was found by Martín Moreno, 81, who headed toward the cemetery with a friend after seeing the collision overhead. They first spotted an American pilot apparently sitting on the ground. When they got closer, however, the pilot turned out to be dead.
Mr. Moreno then climbed on top of the bomb to figure out what it was. "It looked like a strange and yellowish casket, with a gash on the side," he said. Using a screwdriver, he tried to cut it open, to no avail. "We wanted to take out a chunk, but it was just too hard to break off," said Mr. Moreno, who added that he was in good health.
Of the 11 crew members on the two American planes, seven were killed. But for most villagers, what prevailed was not a sense of tragedy but a mix of bewilderment and relief at having been spared a direct hit. And once American service members took charge in Palomares, sharing their cigarettes and beers with the villagers, "this almost became a party atmosphere," Mr. González Navarro said.
American officials feared that evacuating the area would create what the lead Atomic Energy Commission scientist on the ground at the time called a "psychological monument" to the accident, so they let villagers stay, assuring them that no radiation had been released. They issued vague instructions and warnings to residents while offering words of reassurance and financial compensation to farmers for their lost harvests. The villagers, in any case, were just too poor to prioritize health concerns over economic issues.
"We were told that we should perhaps get rid of what we had been wearing that day, or at least wash it thoroughly, but of course nobody here could afford to throw away clothing," Mr. González Navarro said.
Since the crash, a sample of the 1,700 residents of Palomares has been checked each year for radioactivity in Madrid, under the supervision of the federal nuclear agency. Maribel Alarcón, a town hall official, said that the recommendation from Madrid was that each resident be tested every three years. She last got checked three years ago, testing negative.
Many residents, however, said they had stopped getting tested over a decade ago. Mr. Sabiote, 27, said he last traveled to Madrid for a medical examination when he was 12 and had no plans to return. "We all have to die one day of something," he said, shrugging his shoulders.
Antonio Fernández Liria, the mayor of Cuevas del Almanzora, a neighboring town under whose political jurisdiction Palomares falls, said the medical tests showed that "we're not the Martians that some people believe we should have become."
Spain's nuclear agency says that the results of the medical checks do not show high levels of plutonium contamination and that the frequency of cancer around Palomares is similar to that in other towns.
"If a test had shown positive, do you really think we would still be living here?" said Diego Simón, who runs the local stationery store.
Some Spanish scientists have carried out their own studies on the Palomares population, but also without finding evidence that should raise the alarm. After struggling to get access to the relevant data, Pedro Antonio Martínez Pinilla, an epidemiologist, published a study in 2005 that found higher incidences of cancer, but he concluded because of the small sample size that no correlation could be drawn between living in Palomares and incidences of cancer.
José Herrera Plaza, a Spanish journalist who recently published a book about Palomares, said the accident had a profound psychological "hibakusha impact," the term used to refer to survivors of the American nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.
"All the communities that deal with contamination, independent of whether we can prove actual health problems or not, suffer and live with a permanent paranoia," he said.
The 1966 cleanup of Palomares was not only incomplete but might also have spread the contamination further. For instance, local officials said, the decision to burn contaminated tomato crops might have helped spread dangerous particles in the air.
"I think that things were done with the technical knowledge available at the time and the political situation in Spain at the time," said Yolanda Benito, an official from Spain's nuclear agency. "Spain was a dictatorship, so it was not the most transparent government in the world."
5) Palestinian, 15, Killed as Israeli Forces Sought to Halt Stone Throwing
By ISABEL KERSHNER andIRIT PAZNER GARSHOWITZ JUNE 21, 2016
JERUSALEM — Israeli forces opened fire at a Palestinian car in the occupied West Bank early Tuesday, killing one Palestinian teenager and wounding four others, according to relatives and Palestinian officials. The teenagers appeared to be innocent bystanders who were hit while the military tried to halt Palestinians who were throwing stones and firebombs.
The military said its soldiers had been pursuing several Palestinians who were trying to hit Israeli cars on Route 443, a highway that cuts through the West Bank as it connects Jerusalem with Israel's densely populated coastal plain, injuring three civilians, including a pregnant woman.
Palestinian officials identified the dead teenager as Mahmoud Rafat Badran, 15, from the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, west of Ramallah, and said that two of his brothers, ages 16 and 17, were among those injured.
"Nearby forces acted in order to protect additional passing vehicles from immediate danger and fired toward suspects," the military said. "From the initial inquiry, it appears that uninvolved bystanders were mistakenly hit during the pursuit."
A military spokeswoman said later Tuesday that the military police investigation unit was examining all aspects of the episode, presumably including whether the soldiers involved had opened fire according to protocol. The shooting comes as an Israeli sergeant, Elor Azaria, is standing trial in a military court on a manslaughter charge after he fatally shot a wounded and disarmed Palestinian assailant in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, described the killing of the Palestinian youth as a "coldblooded assassination," adding in a statement, "The international community has the responsibility to stop allowing Israel's impunity for the crimes it commits against the occupied land and people of Palestine."
Muhammad Badran, the father of one of the injured Palestinian teenagers from Beit Ur al-Tahta, Majed, said that his son had decided to go swimming with his cousins and friends in the nearby village of Beit Sira after breaking the Ramadan fast on Monday night, and that they had left in a taxi.
As they were driving home, he said by telephone, shots were fired at their vehicle.
"I don't know if it was soldiers or settlers who opened fire and hurt our children," he said.
Mr. Badran, who works as a building contractor in Israel, said that after receiving a call from a resident of the village around 1:45 a.m., he rushed down to the road and saw the wounded teenagers on the ground, bleeding.
He said that soldiers had put his son and one of the other teenagers in a jeep and had driven off, and that he had not received any more information about his son's whereabouts.
The Israeli military said that three of the injured Palestinian youths were taken to a hospital in Ramallah and that the fourth, apparently Majed, was taken to the Hadassah Medical Center, an Israeli hospital in Ein Kerem, on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that the three teenagers in the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah had been shot in the head and chest, and had sustained serious injuries.
The three civilians who were believed to have been wounded by rocks were taken to Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for treatment.
A hospital spokeswoman said the wounded included two Israeli men who also hold other citizenships and a pregnant Belgian. All three had light injuries and were released from the hospital.
The roughly 10-mile stretch of Route 443 that runs through the West Bank, constructed on land that was expropriated from the Palestinian villages, has a military checkpoint at each end, and for many Palestinians it has become a symbol of the injustices of Israeli occupation.
6) Federal judge: State must provide water without arsenic to inmates
Judge demands arsenic-laden supply replaced at Navasota unit
By Gabrielle Banks, June 21, 2016 Updated: June 22, 2016 9:32am
In a ruling highly critical of how Texas prisons treat inmates, a federal judge in Houston ordered a Navasota facility to find an immediate alternative to arsenic-laden drinking water that "violates contemporary standards of decency."
U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday giving the state's Wallace Pack Unit, a low-security facility in Grimes County that holds 1,400 mostly elderly and sick inmates, 15 days to replace its water supply.
The emergency motion requesting safe drinking water was filed by a group of inmates as part of a 2014 class-action lawsuit that claims the state's refusal to provide air conditioning during hot summer months is unconstitutional.
"The prisoners in the Wallace Pack Unit are forced both to endure extremely high temperatures and to drink water with impermissibly high levels of arsenic," the judge wrote in the ruling. "Without proper mitigation measures in place, such prolonged exposure to high temperatures poses a substantial risk to the health of all the inmates, young and old."
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice knows that heat is a risk and is "deliberately indifferent to that risk," the judge wrote.
The state plans to appeal the ruling, according to a spokesman.
The inmates, whose suit recently was certified by the judge as a class action, say it is "cruel and unusual punishment" for a facility not to provide respite from extreme heat in dormitories for inmates who are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness.
Since 1998, 20 inmates have died of heat-related illnesses in Texas prisons, including 10 who died in 2011, the judge noted.
Heat still at issue
Ellison said that the prison does not monitor the temperatures or the heat index in the dormitories at the Pack Unit and "has taken no steps to lower the temperatures inside the housing areas."
The prison recommends inmates drink plenty of water and allows them to take cold showers or wear light clothing. The well water available at the Pack Unit, however, contains arsenic, and most inmates cannot afford to buy enough bottled water to remain properly hydrated, the suit says.
Ellison said the state probably could have fixed the problem already if it had used the money it spent defending itself in the lawsuit.
He has not yet heard the case on the constitutionality of the heat but may have tipped his hand by indicating the potentially cancer-causing water and unmitigated heat are unacceptable, said Jeff Edwards, one of the attorneys representing the Pack Unit inmates.
"The court in no uncertain terms made findings and drew conclusions that are going to have a huge impact on the prison system," Edwards said.
Prison officials "don't care about the welfare of their own population," Edwards said, and the judge provided "a carefully crafted order designed to teach the department what they should do."
Jason Clark, a TDCJ spokesman, said the agency believes the water at the Pack Unit does not need to be replaced in such a hurry.
"The water at the Pack Unit is safe to drink according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Department of State Health Services," Clark said. "The federal government's standards regarding arsenic have changed significantly over the last 10 years."
Levels not lethal
State prison officials said they have known since 2006 that the Pack Unit's aquifer has elevated levels of arsenic.
That year, the standard level of permissable contaminants dropped from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb and the prison installed a filtration system. However, the equipment didn't sufficiently lower the level of arsenic: the water currently registers between two and four-and-a-half times the amount of arsenic permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency.
An expert from TCEQ testified at an emergency injunction hearing last month that the current levels of arsenic in the well water aren't lethal or likely to cause harm. A prison engineer testified he expected an improved filtration system will be in place by 2017.
The judge's ruling requires a new supply to be on hand by July 6.
7) Baltimore Officer in Freddie Gray Case Is Cleared of All Charges
BALTIMORE — The Baltimore police officer who drove the van in which Freddie Gray sustained a fatal spinal injury was acquitted on Thursday of second-degree murder and six lesser charges, leaving prosecutors still without a conviction after three high-profile trials in a case that has shaken this city.
In his ruling, Judge Barry G. Williams rejected the prosecution's claim that the officer, Caesar R. Goodson Jr., had given Mr. Gray a "rough ride" in the van, intentionally putting him at risk for an injury by taking a wide turn while Mr. Gray was not secured with a seatbelt.
"The court finds there is insufficient evidence that the defendant gave or intended to give Mr. Gray a rough ride," Judge Williams, said, adding that there had not been "evidence presented at this trial that the defendant intended for any crime to happen."
Office Goodson sat very quietly watching the judge as the verdict was read. Afterward, he hugged his family and some of the other officers charged in the case.
The death of Mr. Gray, a 25-year-old black man, in April of last year spurred days of violent protests that prompted the governor to call in the National Guard and put the city at the center of a wrenching national debate over race and policing. The state's attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby, stood on the steps of the city's War Memorial and told residents that she would "deliver justice" on their behalf. Ms. Mosby then took the unusual step of charging six officers in Mr. Gray's fatal arrest and death, reserving the steepest charge — second-degree "depraved heart" murder — for Officer Goodson, who is also black.
Demonstrators and activists from the Black Lives Matter movement hailed the charges, but they were criticized by others as politically motivated or too ambitious. The two other trials have ended without convictions. The first trial, of Officer William G. Porter, who faced manslaughter and assault charges, ended with a hung jury in December. Last month, Officer Edward M. Nero was acquitted of four charges, including assault and reckless endangerment, for his role in Mr. Gray's initial arrest. Like Officer Nero, Officer Goodson elected to have the judge, rather than a jury, decide his fate.
Mr. Gray was arrested after fleeing, apparently unprompted, from officers in the downtrodden Sandtown neighborhood of West Baltimore, and loaded onto the floor of the van. His legs were shackled and his hands cuffed behind his back, and he was not wearing a seatbelt. The police wagon made six stops through West Baltimore before it arrived at the Western District police station, where Mr. Gray was found unresponsive and not breathing with a spinal cord injury.
In his ruling, the judge methodically turned aside the state's main contentions. The state, he said, had failed to prove that Officer Goodson knew or should have known that Mr. Gray needed medical attention during most of the van ride.
Prosecutors, he said, had also "failed to prove behind a reasonable doubt that the defendant drove in a criminally negligent manner."
Prosecutors had also claimed that Officer Goodson had a duty to place a seatbelt on Mr. Gray, and failed to do so. Judge Williams said there was a point, during the van's fourth stop, when Officer Goodson should have reassessed whether it was possible to put a seatbelt on Mr. Gray.
"Here, the failure to seatbelt may have been a mistake, or may have been bad judgment," Judge Williams said, but the state had not shown it was a crime.
Outside the courthouse, immediately after the verdict, a few dozen demonstrators gathered and chanted, "Freddie Gray should be with us today."
"This," said Warren Brown, a defense lawyer in Baltimore, "was the state's Waterloo."
8) Britain Votes to Leave E.U.; Cameron Plans to Step Down
By STEVEN ERLANGER JUNE 23, 2016
"I think this reflects the undeniable fact that working people across the globe of all races, religions and nationalities, are sick and tired of the status quo of austerity for the masses and the increased accumulation of wealth for the .01 percent of the ruling elite. This vote is a "rejection of what was" without a well-thought-out notion of what could be, i.e., a socialist world run democratically by the working class--all those who do the work that makes life livable. What we desperately need is a worker's party that has that as our goal. Capitalism--production for profit and not need and want for all--is the problem." --Bonnie Weinstein
LONDON — Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a historic decision sure to reshape the nation's place in the world, rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West.
Not long after the vote tally was completed, Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign to remain in the bloc, appeared in front of 10 Downing Street on Friday morning to announce that he planned to step down by October, saying the country deserved a leader committed to carrying out the will of the people.
The stunning turn of events was accompanied by a plunge in the financial markets, with the value of the British pound and stock pricesplummeting.
The margin of victory startled even proponents of a British exit. The "Leave" campaign won by 52 percent to 48 percent. More than 17.4 million people voted in the referendum on Thursday to sever ties with the European Union, and about 16.1 million to remain in the bloc.
"I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months," Mr. Cameron said. "But I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination."
Despite opinion polls before the referendum that showed either side in a position to win, the outcome stunned much of Britain, Europe and the trans-Atlantic alliance, highlighting the power of anti-elite, populist and nationalist sentiment at a time of economic and cultural dislocation.
"Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom," Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, one of the primary forces behind the push for a referendum on leaving the European Union, told cheering supporters just after 4 a.m.
But it was not clear that the United Kingdom could survive withdrawal from the European Union intact. There was immediate pressure for another referendum on independence from Britain for Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to stay with Europe.
"I think an independence referendum is now highly likely," said Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who said it would be "democratically unacceptable" for Scotland to be pushed out of the European Union when a majority of Scots want to stay in.
Keith Vaz, a Labour legislator, said: "This is a crushing decision; this is a terrible day for Britain and a terrible day for Europe. In 1,000 years, I would never have believed that the British people would vote for this."
European leaders acknowledged that the British vote would further limit their ability to move forward with economic and political integration, a process that had all but stalled anyway.
"Today marks a turning point for Europe," Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said. "It is a turning point for the European unification process."
In London, the maneuvering began almost immediately to succeed Mr. Cameron, who said he would stay on while his Conservative Party went through the process of settling on a new leader. Among the most prominent of the possible candidates is Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London who was a leader of the Leave campaign. He praised Mr. Cameron as an "extraordinary politician" while saying he was sad to see him go.
Britain will become the first country to leave the 28-member bloc, which has been increasingly weighed down by its failures to deal fully with a succession of crises, from the financial collapse of 2008 to a resurgent Russia and the huge influx of migrants last year.
It was a remarkable victory for the country's anti-Europe forces, which not long ago were considered to have little chance of prevailing.
Financial markets, which had been anticipating that Britain would vote to stay in, started plunging before the vote tally was complete, putting pressure on central banks and regulators to take steps to guard against a spread of the damage.
Economists had predicted that a vote to leave the bloc could do substantial damage to the British economy. Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England, sought to address those concerns on Friday, saying the bank had made extensive contingency plans and had taken "all the necessary steps" to prepare.
Mr. Cameron had vowed before the vote to move quickly to begin the divorce process if Britain opted to leave. But he said on Friday that he would leave the start of the formal process to his successor, while seeking in the interim to calm the atmosphere before taking any action.
In the meantime, nothing will change immediately on either side of the Channel, with existing trade and immigration rules remaining in place. The withdrawal process is expected to be complex and contentious, though under the bloc's governing treaty it is effectively limited to two years.
Mr. Johnson, like a number of other leaders of the push to leave the European Union, said there was no need to rush to set in motion the legal procedure — invoking a provision known as Article 50 — that would formally sever ties between Britain and the bloc. He and other advocates of leaving the European Union have been taking a go-slow posture on the mechanics of the divorce, saying Britain can get a better deal on trade if it can avoid arbitrary deadlines on the negotiations.
For the European Union, the result is a disaster, raising questions about the direction, cohesion and future of a bloc built on liberal values and shared sovereignty that represents, with NATO, a vital component of Europe's postwar structure.
Britain is the second-largest economy after Germany in the European Union, a nuclear power with a seat on the United Nations Security Council, an advocate of free-market economics and a close ally of the United States.
The loss of Britain is an enormous blow to the credibility of a bloc already under pressure from slow growth, high unemployment, the migrant crisis, Greece's debt woes and the conflict in Ukraine.
"The main impact will be massive disorder in the E.U. system for the next two years," said Thierry de Montbrial, founder and executive chairman of the French Institute of International Relations. "There will be huge political transition costs, on how to solve the British exit, and the risk of a domino effect or bank run from other countries that think of leaving."
Europe will have to "reorganize itself in a system of different degrees of association," said Karl Kaiser, a Harvard professor and former director of the German Council on Foreign Relations. "Europe does have an interest in keeping Britain in the single market, if possible, and in an ad hoc security relationship."
While leaders of the Leave campaign spoke earnestly about sovereignty and the supremacy of Parliament or in honeyed tones about "the bright sunlit uplands" of Britain's future free of Brussels, it was anxiety about immigration — membership in the European Union means freedom of movement and labor throughout the bloc — that defined and probably swung the campaign.
With net migration to Britain of 330,000 people in 2015, more than half of them from the European Union, Mr. Cameron had no effective response to how he could limit the influx. And there was no question that while the immigrants contributed more to the economy and to tax receipts than they cost, parts of Britain felt that its national identity was under assault and that the influx was putting substantial pressure on schools, health care and housing.
The campaign run by one of the loudest proponents of leaving, the U.K. Independence Party, flirted with xenophobia, nativism and what some of its critics considered racism. But the official, more mainstream Leave campaign also invoked immigration as an issue, and its slogan, "Take control," resonated with voters who feel that the government is failing to regulate the inflow of people from Europe and beyond.
Other anti-establishment and far-right parties in Europe, like the National Front of Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders's party in the Netherlands and the Alternative for Germany party will celebrate the outcome. The depth of anti-Europe sentiment could be a key factor in national elections scheduled next year in the other two most important countries of the European Union, France and Germany.
The British campaign featured assertions and allegations tossed around with little regard to the facts. Both sides played to emotion, and the most common emotion played upon was fear.
The "Remain" side, citing scores of experts and elite opinion, warned that leaving the bloc, a so-called Brexit, would mean an economic catastrophe, a plunging pound, higher taxes, more austerity and the loss of jobs.
The Leave side warned that remaining would produce uncontrolled immigration, crime and terrorism, with hordes pouring into Britain from Turkey, a country of 77 million Muslims that borders Syria and Iraq and hopes to join the European Union.
Just a week before the vote, the country was jolted by the brutal murder of a young Labour member of Parliament, Jo Cox, 41, a strong supporter of Remain. A man who prosecutors said shouted "Britain first," "This is for Britain" and "Keep Britain independent" was charged with her murder.
In England especially, 85 percent of the population of Britain, many people fell back on national pride, cultural exceptionalism and nostalgia. Many English voters chose to believe the insistence of anti-Europe leaders like Mr. Johnson that as a great nation, Britain would be more powerful and successful outside the European Union than inside.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, by contrast, there was a strong pro-Europe feeling that has only increased tensions within the United Kingdom itself.
Northern Ireland, which has long had an open border with the Republic of Ireland, a member of the European Union, will face a new reality. That open border will become the border between the European Union and a nonmember, and for security and economic reasons it will have to be equipped with border posts to check goods and passports.
Mr. Cameron felt pushed into announcing the referendum in 2013 by the anti-Europe wing of his own party, amplified by concerns among other Tories that U.K. Independence Party and Mr. Farage were cutting too sharply into the Conservative vote.
9) Low-Priority Immigrants Still Swept Up in Net of Deportation
"Mr. Obama has carried out many more deportations than previous presidents, setting a record of more than 2.4 million formal removals."
By JULIA PRESTON JUNE 24, 2016
WASHINGTON — Three agents knocked on the door of a modest duplex in a Wisconsin town just after dawn. The Mexican immigrant living on the ground floor stuck his head out.
They asked his name and he gave it. Within minutes José Cervantes Amaral was in handcuffs as his wife, also from Mexico, silently watched. After 18 years working and living quietly in the United States, Mr. Cervantes, who did not have legal papers, rode away in the back seat, heading for deportation.
It is a routine that continues daily. The Supreme Court on Thursday effectively ended initiatives by President Obama that would have given protection from deportation to more than four million immigrants in the country illegally, most of them parents of American citizens. Mr. Obama showed his frustration with the decision, saying his goal was to help immigrants who had raised families here and helped the country with their work. The president said immigrants who might have qualified for the programs would still be safe from deportation.
Still, deportations continue, thousands every week.
In November 2014 when Mr. Obama first announced the protection programs, he also set new priorities for enforcement. Since then, immigration authorities say, their focus is on removing convicted criminals and foreigners who pose national security threats. But the administration's priorities also include deporting migrants from Central America, including children, who came in an influx since 2014. And immigrants who committed minor offenses — or none at all — are often swept up in the operations.
After Thursday's Supreme Court decision, the president's protections are gone, but the enforcement plan remains in effect. It is part of a particularly edgy moment for immigrants and their supporters framed by the Supreme Court ruling, Donald J. Trump's presidential campaign and Britain's surprise vote, influenced in part by anti-immigrant sentiments, to leave the European Union.
Last year, immigration authorities deported 235,413 people, according to official figures. Of those, 59 percent were convicted criminals, and 98 percent fit within the administration's priorities, Department of Homeland Security officials said. The top priority includes foreigners who pose a threat to national or border security or to public safety. Other priorities are for people with serious criminal records, but they also include any migrant caught entering the country illegally after Jan. 1, 2014.
Homeland Security officials said Friday that the Supreme Court decision would have no effect on the pace or strategy of enforcement.
"Our limited enforcement resources will not be focused on the removal of those who have committed no serious crimes, have been in this country for years and have families here," said Marsha Catron, a spokeswoman for the department. "Under this policy, these people are
not priorities for removal, nor should they be."
Mr. Obama has carried out many more deportations than previous presidents, setting a record of more than 2.4 million formal removals. But Republican lawmakers point to a sharp decrease in deportations — down 43 percent in 2015 from 409,849 in 2012 — to say that Mr. Obama has all but stopped enforcing immigration law. "When will the Obama administration end its reckless policies that wreak havoc on our communities?" asked Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
But what is not enough enforcement for some is too much for others. This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is known as ICE, said it had arrested 331 immigrants in May and June in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri. The operations were its "latest effort to arrest and remove convicted criminal aliens," said Ricardo Wong, the director of the agency's office in Chicago.
"By focusing our resources on the most egregious offenders," Mr. Wong said, "we ensure the very best use of our resources while immediately improving public safety."
One of those arrested was Mr. Cervantes.
In 2006, Mr. Cervantes said in an interview by telephone on Friday, he was caught up in an immigration raid at a factory near his workplace. Local police who assisted in the raid arrested him, finding — mistakenly, he says — that he was working with documents under a false name.
Mr. Cervantes, a construction worker, pleaded guilty to a minor identity theft offense. A decade later, after he and his wife raised two daughters in Genoa City, Wis., immigration agents came to his door to deport him.
"The shock for my wife was very strong," Mr. Cervantes said. She has been in treatment at local hospitals for kidney cancer, he said. "If we have to go back to Mexico, I won't have her for long."
He has been released while he fights his immigration case.
"The administration is continuing to deport people who should not be a priority," said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an organization that assisted Mr. Cervantes. Mr. Obama, she said, "can do much more to prevent the unnecessary breakup of families."
Some clearly are in the priority group. On Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it had arrested 45 foreigners who had been listed by Interpol as wanted for serious crimes, including three men from El Salvador sought in connection with gang killings. Immigration agents have conducted many roundups of drug traffickers and human smugglers.
At the same time, a 19-year-old migrant from Honduras, Wildin Acosta, was still being held in an immigration detention center in Lumpkin, Ga., five months after he was arrested when he was heading to high school in Durham, N.C.
In 2014, Mr. Acosta crossed the border illegally and turned himself in to border agents, asking for asylum. Since he was 17 at the time and traveling without his parents, he was held under special protections for unaccompanied minors. He was sent to live with his parents, who had settled years before in Durham.
He started going to high school, made friends who helped him learn English and joined a local soccer league. He presented a formal request for asylum in the United States, saying in legal papers that he fled Honduras after two close relatives were murdered.
But he missed a date in immigration court and a judge ordered him deported. Mr. Acosta also turned 19, making him too old, immigration officials said, to be given deference as a minor.
Mr. Acosta was among dozens of teenagers as well as mothers and smaller children from Central America who were arrested in an operation by immigration agents over one weekend in late January. Homeland Security Department officials said that because of his recent border crossing, Mr. Acosta was among the highest priorities for deportation.
The arrests caused panic in immigrant communities in Durham. Teachers, lawmakers and community leaders mobilized to protest. Mr. Acosta's lawyer, Evelyn Smallwood, has forestalled his deportation but has not secured his release.
"He is a good kid, and he is doing everything he can to keep his sanity," she said. "The administration has said it is as important to remove Wildin as it is to remove a drug trafficker or a terrorist."
10) City Failed to Test for Lead in Water at Day Care Centers, Audit Says
By ELI ROSENBERG JUNE 24, 2016
The New York City department charged with overseeing day care centers routinely failed to test the centers' water for lead — and for years falsified reports that the tests had been completed, in order for the centers to receive operating permits — according to a sharply worded audit released on Friday by the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer.
The audit found that the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had not tested the water from faucets and fountains in 70 of 119 day care centers — even though the health code mandates that drinking water at day care centers be tested for lead and fixed if the levels are unsatisfactory.
Of the 49 day care centers that had been tested, five had "unacceptable" levels of lead, the audit found, though the levels were later brought to acceptable levels. The audit suggested that thousands of children were put at an increased risk of lead exposure.
The audit also found that records had been altered to indicate, incorrectly, that satisfactory water test results were logged for the 70 centers that had not been tested.
"The fact that the department of health directed its employees to enter false information in an official database is a blatant violation of public trust," Mr. Stringer said in a statement.
The comptroller's office presented an email from 2011, in which a manager at the Bureau of Child Care, a division of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, instructed a group of staff members to "enter Water Lead Test Negative" in a computerized database "in order to issue permits" on an interim basis.
"By falsely recording that lead tests were complete, the agency was able [to] bypass its own system requirements to issue permits for day care centers," a release from the comptroller's office said.
City Hall officials characterized the findings as misleading and said that no children had been harmed. "It is a blatant mischaracterization to claim the agency systematically falsified documents based on a single email from 2011," Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office, said.
Ms. Worthy-Davis also pointed to the audit's relatively small sample size; the department oversees about 2,300 day care facilities.
The specifications in the city's health code for testing water in day care centers do not require that the centers are tested before they open. However, the health department's database was changed in 2011, to prevent the issuing of permits to centers that had not been tested for lead, Mr. Stringer's release said.
Health department officials described a practice of entering incorrect testing information as a bureaucratic workaround that adhered to the city's health code. The intent was to give day care centers 60 days to submit lead test results, and not delay issuing permits for "programs that were in good standing."
The comptroller's office said it did not find evidence that anyone had followed up to test the centers where staff had falsely reported that testing occurred.
The report comes amid heightened concerns about lead and other pollutants in drinking water, after national outrage over lead contamination in Flint, Mich., and a public health emergency in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., after the disclosure that toxic chemicals were found in the water supply there.
The outlook was better in New York City, where water has not been a major cause of lead poisoning, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Out of the 840 children under the age of 6 found with elevated lead in their blood in 2014, none tested positive from lead in water, according to the most recent statistics from the department.
"We want to be clear: our kids are not at risk," a health department spokesman, Christopher Miller, said in a statement.
Mr. Miller said the city has amended the issues brought up in the audit. All of the day care centers under the city's purview, including the 70 identified in the audit, have now been tested for lead in the water, he said. The city also said it planned to start posting the results of each location's water tests online.
Ms. Worthy-Davis said that the lack of clarity in terms of lead-testing protocol for day care centers predated the de Blasio administration, and she noted that "a bureaucratic process made testing standards vague beginning in 2011."
This month, the health department proposed a change to the health code that would require lead testing at new centers within 30 days of their opening. They would also be required to undergo testing every five years.
But a spokesman from Mr. Stringer's office said the changes only came about from the results of the auditing process, which were given to the city — and included a response from the health department in the written report — before they were released to the public.
"It should not take an audit to ensure that a city agency is doing its job to protect our kids," Mr. Stringer said in a statement.
11) Obama's Death Sentence for Young Refugees
By Nicholas Kristof
June 25, 2016
ON THE GUATEMALAN-MEXICAN BORDER — CRISTÓBAL, a 16-year-old Honduran refugee fleeing a drug gang that wants to kill him, has never heard of anyone named Barack Obama. Neither can he name the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto.
But Cristóbal, along with many others, could end up being murdered because of these two presidents he is unaware of. Obama and Peña Nieto have cooperated for two years to intercept desperate Central American refugees in southern Mexico, long before they can reach the U.S. border. These refugees are then typically deported to their home countries — which can be a death sentence.
"If I'm sent back, they will kill me," says Cristóbal, who is staying temporarily at a shelter for unaccompanied migrant kids in Mexico. He says he was forced to work for the gang as a cocaine courier beginning at age 14 — a gun was held to his head, and he was told he would be shot if he declined. He finally quit and fled after he witnessed gang members murder two of his friends. Now the gang is looking for him, he says, and it already sent a hit team to his home.
Yet he may well be sent back under a policy backed by Obama and Peña Nieto. I admire much about the Obama administration, including its fine words about refugees, but this policy is rank with deadly hypocrisy.
In effect, we have pressured and bribed Mexico to do our dirty work, detaining and deporting people fleeing gangs in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. This solved a political crisis that Obama faced with refugees in 2014, but it betrays some of the world's most vulnerable people.
The American-Mexican collusion began in 2014 after a surge of Central Americans crossed into the U.S., including 50,000 unaccompanied children. Obama spoke with Peña Nieto "to develop concrete proposals" to address the flow. This turned out to be a plan to intercept Central Americans near Mexico's southern border and send them home.
Washington committed $86 million to support the program. Although Obama portrayed his action as an effort to address a humanitarian crisis, he made the crisis worse. The old routes minors took across Mexico were perilous, but the new ones adopted to avoid checkpoints are even more dangerous.
The victims of this policy, deported in some cases to their deaths, are refugees like Carlos, a 13-year-old with a scar on his forehead from the time a gang member threw him to the ground in the course of executing his uncle. I met Carlos in Mexico after he had fled — on his own — from Honduras to save his life.
"In my hometown, I was asked to join a gang," Carlos told me. "They wanted me to be a lookout. They said if I didn't, they would kill me and my brother." His brother is just 6 years old.
Two of Carlos's classmates, both 14, were also asked to join the gang but refused. Their corpses were found with the number 13 carved in their chests, a reference to the gang's name. Another classmate, Alan, 13, was invited to join the gang and accepted. Carlos said Alan's first assignment was to murder three men.
Here on the Mexican-Guatemalan border I've heard many stories like Carlos's and Cristóbal's. The details are typically impossible to confirm, but I approached the youths rather than the other way around, and Carlos was initially reluctant to share the story; at one point he cried when he spoke of the murder threat against his brother.
It's unconscionable to put refugees like Carlos and Cristóbal back into mortal peril, yet that's what is happening. In the last five years, Mexico and the U.S. have deported 800,000 people to Central America, including 40,000 children, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Last year, Mexico deported more than five times as many unaccompanied children as it had five years earlier, and the Obama administration heralds this as a success.
"It's been a good thing, because it's discouraging people from making a very dangerous trip," said a senior State Department official who would speak only anonymously.
It's true that the old system, of refugees undertaking a dangerous journey across Mexico, was awful. But we took a deplorable situation and made it more appalling.
So what should the U.S. do? Most important, it must work at the highest levels with Honduras and El Salvador to address the chaos in those countries, particularly because the U.S. bears some responsibility for the problems: The Central American street gangs were born in the United States and traveled with deportees to countries like El Salvador.
Instead, as with Syria, Obama has been disengaged. The U.S. could also do more to encourage Mexico to screen refugees rigorously and provide asylum to those who deserve it; instead, according to Human Rights Watch, less than 1 percent of Central American children in Mexico receive refugee status or formal protection.
I asked Salva Lacruz, coordinator of a human rights center in Tapachula, about Obama's eloquent speeches on refugees and immigration. "It's just words," he scoffed. "A lot of hypocrisy."
Carlos has no doubt what will happen if Mexico, encouraged by the U.S., returns him to Honduras: "They will kill me for sure."
12) Africa's Charcoal Economy Is Cooking. The Trees Are Paying.
JUNE 25, 2016
TOLIARA, Madagascar — When Julien Andrianiana started selling charcoal 14 years ago, he was just one of a few dealers around. Most households in Toliara, a coastal city in southwestern Madagascar, still used firewood for cooking.
As the city's population doubled, business became so brisk that he managed to send two of his children to college, "thanks to charcoal." It quickly became the product of choice in kitchens not only in Toliara, but also in other fast-growing cities across Africa.
Charcoal — cleaner and easier to use than firewood, cheaper and more readily available than gas or electricity — has become one of the biggest engines of Africa's informal economy. But it has also become one of the greatest threats to its environment.
In Madagascar, an island nation off the eastern African coast and one of the world's richest nations in biodiversity, the booming charcoal business is contributing to deforestation. It is expected to exacerbate the effects of climate change, which has already disrupted farming, fueled a migration to cities, and pushed many rural residents into the one thriving business left: charcoal.
Sellers now appear on street corners throughout Toliara, hawking charcoal made from trees from the surrounding forests, an ecologically rich and fragile area with plants and animals found nowhere else. Throughout the day, their supplies are replenished by pickup trucks and convoys of ox-drawn carts.
But acquiring high-quality charcoal made from hardwood trees has become increasingly difficult for dealers like Mr. Andrianiana, 44, as a third straight year of drought has pushed ever more people into the charcoal trade. He now wakes up at 3 a.m. and rides his bicycle an hour north to try to strike deals with charcoal producers before his competitors do.
"Most of the trees have been cut down," he said recently, hours after securing only 60 bags of charcoal, below his daily average of 80. "Within five years, all the trees will be gone."
Trees have been disappearing in a widening arc from Toliara in the past decade. As charcoal producers first culled trees in forests closest to Toliara, leaving villages surrounded only by thickets, the business has shifted to remote areas about 100 miles away, accessible by dirt roads and sometimes waterways.
About 100 miles southeast of Toliara, driving along National Road 10 — actually, just a narrow dirt road through the heart of the region that provides the city's charcoal — I encountered Tsitomore, a 35-year-old cassava farmer, selling bags of charcoal by the roadside.
Holding an ax, Mr. Tsitomore, who like some people in Madagascar uses one name, took me for a short walk into the forest to a spot where he had chopped off the branches of a large tamarind tree — a hardwood that is considered sacred in many communities in Madagascar, and cannot be legally used for charcoal.
Mr. Tsitomore said he had begun supplementing his income by selling charcoal in recent years. Early this year, he became a full-time charbonnier, as charcoal burners are called in this former French colony, after a disastrous harvest caused by El Niño, which brought the worst drought in decades to parts of Africa. Climate change is believed to have intensified the weather phenomenon.
"It rains less and less nowadays," he said as white smoke rose from the dirt kiln in which he was making charcoal by burning the tamarind wood without oxygen. "That's why I started making charcoal. No one's going to help me, and this is the quickest way to make money."
Africa's charcoal production has doubled in the past two decades and now accounts for more than 60 percent of the world's total, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. Rapid urbanization across the continent has increased demand for charcoal; it has become the preferred way to cook in cities. as people have left rural areas where firewood, typically dead wood collected from the forest floor, is a largely sustainable source of energy for cooking.
In a poor neighborhood in Toliara one recent evening, housewives sat on stools outside their homes, keeping watch over pots on charcoal stoves. Monira Ferdinand, a 32-year-old mother of four who was preparing lentil soup, said she had used firewood back in her village, but the smoke would sting her eyes and the fire required constant fanning.
In the city, she and her neighbors use charcoal, though she is careful to buy the high-quality kind made from hardwood trees, not the cheaper charcoal made from mangrove trees or softer wood.
"The good quality charcoal lasts twice as long," Ms. Ferdinand said. "And with the cheap stuff, it'll die out if there's even a little wind."
As Africa's population is expected to swell and urbanize at an even faster rate over the next decades, the continent's demand for charcoal is likely to double or triple by 2050, according to the United Nations Environment Program.
The charcoal business, along with the expanding use of land for farming, is expected to increase deforestation and worsen the effects of climate change on a continent poorly equipped to adapt to it.
"It's all interconnected, this long-term trajectory and the long-term effects on climate change," said Henry Neufeldt, an expert on charcoal and climate change at the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, Kenya. "Just imagine transforming all that land into smoke, and not reforesting. In the next 30 years, a lot of forests and landscapes are going to be degraded because of charcoal demand, and because of the lack of policies to counter that effect."
Though charcoal is one of the most widely used sources of energy in Africa, regulations regarding its production are rarely enforced, experts say. In the region surrounding Toliara, an estimated 75 percent of charcoal production is illegal, said officials at the World Wildlife Fund, which runs projects encouraging the sustainable production of charcoal.
Randria Zigzag, the government official responsible for overseeing zones of intensive charcoal production near Toliara, said 45 percent was illegal. He said police officers at checkpoints on the road to Toliara should confiscate contraband charcoal being transported by unlicensed producers.
"But that's not how things work in Madagascar," Mr. Zigzag said. "In Madagascar, if you have money, you give money and you do what you want. The charcoal producers give money to police officers, who then tell them, 'Go, go, go!'"
A dry region used to periodic droughts, southern Madagascar has become even drier in the past two decades. The so-called Spiny Forestin the region is blanketed with low-lying vegetation and dotted with several species of large trees.
People have gravitated to cities, like Toliara, where the population has risen by 50 percent in the past two decades to around 120,000, said Col. Jules Rabe, the chief administrator of the Toliara region. In a self-reinforcing movement, the migration to the cities has led to a greater demand for charcoal from rural areas.
In Antevamena, a village of cassava and corn farmers about 80 miles by road from Toliara, poor harvests have pushed more and more people into the charcoal economy as tree cutters, charcoal burners, transporters, middlemen, agents and financiers.
One farmer, Jackot Brula, 23, moonlights as a speculator, buying directly from the charbonniers in the surrounding forests and selling to agents based in Antevamena. He typically makes a 15-cent profit on each 110-pound bag of charcoal.
Hundreds of bags of charcoal in the village center were waiting to be collected by four agents working for the network's financier, a woman whom villagers identified as a Madame Bijoux.
Madame Bijoux, or Bijoux Ravaofotsy, says she ships her charcoal to a town near Toliara, where it is transported to the city.
She entered the business four years ago after losing customers at the refreshment stand she still runs along the main road. A competitor across the street had bought rooftop solar panels to power a refrigerator, bringing the novelty of cold drinks to her town, which is not connected to the national grid.
"People have become picky now," she said, adding that, unable to afford solar panels herself, she went into charcoal instead. "The demand for charcoal is big."
Things were far different in Befoly, a village not far from Toliara. Befoly supplied Toliara with charcoal until it ran out of trees.
"Everybody was involved in the charcoal business," said Reginike Faralahy, 26, a former charbonnier who, in the boom years, made so much money that he was able to invest in goats and chickens. More than 20 other former charbonniers had left the village, some to work as petty traders in Toliara, he said.
The village chief, Evomasy, 48, said he believed that the trees' disappearance had caused the recent severe droughts.
"We cut down everything," he said, looking at the shrub land now surrounding his village. "We used to have trees all around us."
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