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..
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) 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."
2) Africa's Charcoal Economy Is Cooking. The Trees Are Paying.
By NORIMITSU ONISHI 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."
3) U.S. Investigates Whether Airstrikes Killed Taliban Hostages
By NAJIM RAHIM and ROD NORDLAND JUNE 27, 2016
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — American airstrikes in northern Afghanistan killed at least seven hostages being held in a Taliban prison on Saturday, according to accounts from the families of victims and local officials from the immediate area. Some accounts put the death toll as high as 16.
But senior Afghan officials in Kunduz Province, including the governor, denied that the airstrikes had killed the prisoners, accusing the Taliban of staging the deaths to make it appear that an airstrike was responsible.
The victims were among more than 200 people who have been abducted by Taliban insurgents on highways in Kunduz Province, mostly taken from buses traveling to neighboring provinces, in four episodes since May 28.
The American military's spokesman in Kabul, Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland, said the airstrike report was under investigation. "We've recently learned of the allegation and are working with our Afghan counterparts to look into it," he said on Monday.
While Afghan officials all agreed that the American military conducted drone strikes in the Aaq-Masjid area of Chardara District, a remote area dominated by Taliban insurgents, they gave widely divergent accounts of what happened.
Mohammadullah, the police commander in the village of Nahr-i Sofi in the area of the airstrike, said that local residents reported that the drone strikes had killed 14 people, many of them people who had been abducted. He was uncertain how many of the 14 were hostages and how many were Taliban insurgents. Like many Afghans, the police commander has only one name.
Amruddin Wali, a senior member of the Kunduz Provincial Council, said he learned from locals that 14 to 16 hostages out of 20 in Taliban custody were killed in the strikes.
The Kunduz provincial police chief, Gen. Qaseem Jangalbagh, said that the dead in the airstrikes included five Taliban jailers and their local warden, Mullah Janat Gul.
Both Gen. Sher Aziz Kamawal, commander of the 808th Police Zone, which includes northeastern Afghanistan, and the Kunduz governor, Asadullah Omarkhel, said the Taliban responded to the airstrikes on their positions by putting abducted passengers into a truck container and then detonating explosives there. "The Taliban first decided to behead the passengers but then they killed them with an I.E.D. and tried to show it was an airstrike to create problems between the government and its international allies," Governor Omarkhel said.
Last year, American airstrikes destroyed the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, killing 42 patients and staff members. While the American military apologized, blaming a series of errors and punishing 16 American soldiers and officers, many senior Afghan officials insisted that the insurgents had provoked the attack, repeating unsubstantiated accounts that they had been firing from the hospital.
At the provincial hospital in Kunduz on Monday, six bodies, some of them burned and mangled beyond recognition, were brought in from Chardara District. One of them was identified as Ansarullah, an Afghan National Army soldier who had been on leave when his bus was stopped by the Taliban in Kunduz and he was taken away by the insurgents. His body was identified by a cousin, Abdul Khair.
Mr. Khair said people from the district had told them his cousin was killed by a rocket fired into the prison building by a drone on Saturday night. Family members had been trying to win his release from the insurgents, who told them they wanted to swap government prisoners for Taliban prisoners.
An elder from Badakhshan Province, Wakil Alim, also visited the hospital on Monday and identified three other bodies as those of passengers who had been held by the Taliban.
The chief of the Kunduz provincial hospital, Nayim Mangal, said the damage done to the bodies brought there appeared to have been caused by rockets fired from an aircraft.
In Kabul, officials in the capital were unclear about what had happened. The spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, Dawlat Waziri, said: "All we can say now is that the airstrikes targeted the enemy bases there, which inflicted heavy casualties to the enemy. We are not sure if the prison or place where our soldiers were kept was hit in the airstrikes."
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, reached by telephone, denied that the insurgents had staged the bus passengers' deaths. He said three insurgents were killed in the airstrikes along with six of the abducted passengers. He said all of the passengers being held by the insurgents were government employees or soldiers; passengers with no such affiliation were all released earlier, he said, and only a small number of passengers remained in custody.
President Obama recently expanded the authority for American forces to use airstrikes against Taliban targets. Under the new rules, airstrikes no longer need to be justified as necessary to defend American troops. The first such strikes were carried out earlier this month, the Pentagon said.
4) For Detroit's Children, More School Choice but Not Better Schools
By KATE ZERNIKE JUNE 28, 2016
DETROIT — On the face of it, Ana Rivera could have had almost any choice when it came to educating her two sons. For all the abandoned buildings and burned-down houses in her neighborhood in the southwest part of this city, national charter school companies had seen a market and were setting up shop within blocks of each other, making it easier to find a charter school than to buy a carton of milk.
But hers became the story of public education in a city grasping for its comeback: lots of choice, with no good choice.
She enrolled her older son, Damian, at the charter school across from her house, where she could watch him walk into the building. He got all A's and said he wanted to be an engineer. But the summer before seventh grade, he found himself in the back of a classroom at a science program at the University of Michigan, struggling to keep up with students from Detroit Public Schools, known as the worst urban district in the nation. They knew the human body is made up of many cells; he had never learned that.
When his school stopped assigning homework, Ms. Rivera tried enrolling Damian at other charters, but the deadlines were past, the applications onerous. Finally, she found him a scholarship at a Catholic school, where he struggled to rise above Ds all year. "He doesn't want to hear the word engineering," she said.
Michigan leapt at the promise of charter schools 23 years ago, betting big that choice and competition would improve public schools. It got competition, and chaos.
Detroit schools have long been in decline academically and financially. But over the past five years, divisive politics and educational ideology and a scramble for money have combined to produced a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.
While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation's poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.
Detroit now has a bigger share of students in charters than any American city except New Orleans, which turned almost all its schools into charters after Hurricane Katrina. But half the charters perform only as well, or worse, than Detroit's traditional public schools.
"The point was to raise all schools," said Scott Romney, a lawyer and board member of New Detroit, a civic group formed after the 1967 race riots here. "Instead, we've had a total and complete collapse of education in this city."
The city has emerged almost miraculously fast from the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Downtown Detroit hums with development — a maze of detours around construction sites with luxury apartments, a new Nike store along a stretch of prime but empty storefronts. Even where blight resumes a few blocks out, farm-to-table restaurants and modern design stores sprout hopefully. Last year, the city had its smallest population decline since the 1950s.
But the city's residents — many of them stranded here after whites and middle-class blacks fled in waves — will not share in any renaissance as long as only 10 percent of rising high school seniors score "college ready" on reading tests.
"We'll either invest in our own children and prepare them to fill these jobs, or I suppose maybe people will migrate from other places in the country to fill them," said Thomas F. Stallworth III, a former state Representative who steered the passage of the 2014 legislation that paved Detroit's way out of bankruptcy. "If that's the case, we are still left with this underbelly of generational poverty with no clear path out."
Creating Competition, and 'Replicating Failure'
The 1993 state law permitting charter schools was not brought on by academic or financial crisis in Detroit — those would come later — but by a free-market-inclined governor, John Engler. An early warrior against public employee unions, he embraced the idea of creating schools that were publicly financed but independently run to force public schools to innovate.
To throw the competition wide open, Michigan allowed an unusually large number of institutions, more than any other state, to create charters: public school districts, community colleges and universities. It gave those institutions a financial incentive: a 3 percent share of the dollars that go to the charter schools. And only they — not the governor, not the state commissioner or board of education — could shut down failing schools.
For-profit companies seized on the opportunity; they now operate about 80 percent of charters in Michigan, far more than in any other state. The companies and those who grant the charters became major lobbying forces for unfettered growth of the schools, as did some of the state's biggest Republican donors.
Sometimes, they were one and the same, as with J. C. Huizenga, a Grand Rapids entrepreneur who founded Michigan's largest charter school operator, the for-profit National Heritage Academies. Two of the biggest players in Michigan politics, Betsy and Dick DeVos — she the former head of the state Republican Party, he the heir to the Amway fortune and a 2006 candidate for governor — established the Great Lakes Education Project, which became the state's most pugnacious protector of the charter school prerogative.
Even as Michigan and Detroit continued to hemorrhage residents, the number of schools grew. The state has nearly 220,000 fewer students than it did in 2003, but more than 100 new charter schools.
As elsewhere across the country, charters concentrated in urban areas, particularly Detroit, where the public schools had been put under state control in 1999. In 2009, it was found to be the lowest-performing urban school district on national tests.
Operators were lining up to get into the city, and in 2011, after a conservative wave returned the governor's office and the Legislature to Republican control for the first time in eight years, the Legislature abolished a cap that had limited the number of charter schools that universities could create to 150.
Some charter school backers pushed for a so-called smart cap that would allow only successful charters to expand. But they could not agree on what success should look like, and ultimately settled for assurances from lawmakers that they could add quality controls after the cap was lifted.
At the same time, the law included a provision that seemed to benefit Mr. Huizenga, whose company profits from buying buildings and renting them back to the charters it operates. Earlier that year he had lost a tax appeal in which he argued that a for-profit company should not have to pay taxes on properties leased to schools. The new lawgranted for-profit charter companies the exemption he had sought.
Just as universities were allowed to charter more schools, Gov. Rick Snyder created a state-run district, with new charters, to try to turn around the city's worst schools. Detroit was soon awash in choice, but not quality.
Twenty-four charter schools have opened in the city since the cap was lifted in 2011. Eighteen charters whose existing schools were at or below the district's dismal performance expanded or opened new schools.
The charter school where Ana Rivera sent her two sons, Cesar Chavez Academy, added a second elementary school, even though its existing one fell below 98 percent of schools on the most recent state rankings, in 2014. The Leona Group, the Arizona-based for-profit operator that runs it, also runs some of the worst-performing schools in Detroit. Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, considered the gold standard of measurement by charter school supporters across the country, found that students in the company's schools grew less academically than students in the neighboring traditional public schools.
Ms. Rivera, herself the product of a failing Detroit public high school, knew none of that when she chose the school for her sons. "I had no idea of the education system," she said. She presumed it was better because it was a charter; it did not get the bad press the public schools do about gangs and violence.
Saginaw Valley State University, which chartered Cesar Chavez Academy, defended its decision to allow the school to expand, arguing that many of the students come in without English as a first language, and do better as they move into high school. "They trend positively academically throughout that system," David Lewis, the director of the university's charter school office, said. The Stanford data is national and "is not reflective," he said, of Cesar Chavez.
With about $1.1 billion in state tax dollars going to charter schools, those that grant the charters get about $33 million. Those institutions are often far from the schools; one, Bay Mills Community College, is in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, nearly 350 miles away — as far from Detroit as Portland, Me., is from New York City.
Nationally, some charter school groups praise Michigan for allowing so many institutions to grant charters. But the practice has also allowed bad schools to languish: When universities have threatened to close them, other universities have granted another charter.
By 2015, a federal review of a grant application for Michigan charter schools found an "unreasonably high" number of charters among the worst-performing 5 percent of public schools statewide. The number of charters on the list had doubled from 2010 to 2014.
"People here had so much confidence in choice and choice alone to close the achievement gap," said Amber Arellano, the executive director of the Education Trust Midwest, which advocates higher academic standards. "Instead, we're replicating failure."
A Daunting Landscape
Dawn Wilson's four oldest children have attended between five and seven schools each — not uncommon in Detroit — moving among charter schools, traditional schools, private religious schools and suburban districts that take Detroit students, and the dollars that follow them.
She drives her children 130 miles a week to school — down from 200 last year, now that one daughter lives with another family in a suburb to attend private school. In between, she works as an entertainer for children's parties. ("Kuddles the Klown," she answers her cellphone.)
"Who else has time to take their kids to all these places to try to find quality education?" she asked.
Conflict with a teacher she found disrespectful prompted her to pull her children from one charter. One daughter spent six months at another, but returned to the Christian school she had attended earlier because there were so many fights.
Then, at a bus stop for the private school, her daughter was recruited for a charter that promised college seminars and dual enrollment at local colleges — and rewarded her for enrolling with a raffle ticket for a $50 gift card.
With all the new schools, Detroit has roughly 30,000 more seats, charter and traditional public, than it needs. The competition to get students to school on count day — the days in October and February when the head count determines how much money the state sends each school — can resemble a political campaign. Schools buy radio ads and billboards, sponsor count day pizza parties and carnivals. They plant rows of lawn signs along city streets to recruit students, only to have other schools pull those up and stake their own.
A few weeks before the February count day two years ago, Detroit Public Schools sent a letter to families at a school in the state-run district, claiming, falsely, that their children had been reassigned to a public school. The state district cried foul — then copied the trick before the next count day.
It can be a forbidding landscape for families trying to enroll their children, particularly in a city where historically, federal statistics show that nearly half the adults are not literate enough to function effectively in everyday life.
There are high-performing elite public schools that require entrance exams. A step below are some that require applications. Then come the neighborhood schools.
Then there are charter schools, which are supposed to accept students by lottery. But the most selective often have lengthy applications, requiring students to submit test results and official documents or give their history of disciplinary problems or special education.
Some schedule enrollment periods in January, even though most parents do not think about where to send their children until May. In a report commissioned by Excellent Schools Detroit, a nonprofit that has pushed for all schools to join a universal enrollment system, the director of one charter management company explained that his school published the required advertisement for its enrollment period in newspapers it knew would not be read by most Detroit families.
The more successful schools are those — charter or public — that are more selective. Detroit Public Schools, meanwhile, educate most of the city's special education students, including Ms. Wilson's youngest son, the only one of her children who has not changed schools several times.
Charter schools are concentrated downtown, with its boom in renovation and wealthier residents. With only 1,894 high school age students, there are 11 high schools. Meanwhile, northwest Detroit — where it seems every other house is boarded up, burned, or abandoned — has nearly twice the number of high school age students, 3,742, and just three high schools. The northeastern part of the city is even more of an education desert: 6,018 high school age students and two high schools to serve them.
In a city of 140 square miles, transportation adds another layer to school selection. Few schools offer busing. And Detroit, long defined by the auto industry, never invested much in public transportation.
A mile and a half to school can become an hour-and-a-half journey, as it is for Deniqua Robinson and her three youngest children.
Morning is often still dark when they catch a 6:10 a.m. bus around the corner from their housing project near the MotorCity Casino Hotel. They wake by 5:30 a.m., because if they miss the 6:10, the next bus will not come for an hour, and the Catholic school her son attends fines him for being late. Some days her youngest daughter is lugging her cello. ("It's like another person," Ms. Robinson said.)
They change buses once, waiting at a weedy lot across the street from the old Kronk Gym once a training ground for boxers like Thomas Hearns — a Hall of Famer known as "the Hitman" — and now a cement shell covered in graffiti. In a safer neighborhood, they could walk the last distance. But two years ago, Ms. Robinson's two middle children watched a teacher get mauled by a dog that ran out of an abandoned house across from the charter they attended nearby.
"I can identify the engines of what's behind me, because I'm so on guard," Ms. Robinson said. "I have to know what's going on around me so nobody's behind me trying to hit me upside the head and rob us."
Two Mondays a month, her son's school requires him to participate in a work-study program after school — or pay $100 for every session he misses. He has been working at the city's tourism bureau and loves the experience, but getting him there has disrupted the family's bus routine. So Ms. Robinson has him on a waiting list for a charter school downtown that would not require him to work.
She estimates that her children miss 10 to 15 days a year because the buses do not come on time or it is too cold to wait. Some days she cannot afford the fare; a single mother, she supplements her child support payments by redeeming bottles for 10 cents each.
"I often describe this whole environment as 'The Hunger Games' for schools," said Tonya Allen, president of the Skillman Foundation, which invests $17 million a year to try to improve the lives of Detroit's poorest children. "You get these kids who are moving three or four times in the elementary school years. I did that, but it was because my mother couldn't keep her rent together. Here, it's being incentivized."
'A Caste System' of Schools
That transience can prevent schools that want to be good from getting there. When there is always another option, families are inclined to take it.
Many left a state-run school after New Paradigm, one of the city's most successful charter school companies, took it over and raised academic demands, imposing requirements that are standard in suburban districts, like a parent's signature on a nightly reading log.
"Parents have been victims for generations of failing schools," said Machion Jackson, the company's president and chief executive. "If you don't know what high expectations look like, you become frustrated."
After about 150 students left one of the charter schools Dawn Wilson's children attended, angry that the management company had changed, the school cut teacher salaries by 20 percent and combined grades in classrooms. Even then it did not meet its budget.
Renee Burgess, the president of the new management company, Equity Education, said that every year about 35 percent of students in the company's three schools do not come back.
"Imagine if G.M. had to hire 35 percent of its work force again every year," she said.
She employs a full-time recruiter and expects principals to spend most of their time from April to October raising enrollment. Every staff member must make at least one personal contact a week with students over the summer to encourage them to return.
"In a system that is more stable, you wouldn't need to invest in that," Ms. Burgess said. "You could invest those resources in another instructional coach, in more development and training for first-year teachers."
Like elsewhere, charter schools receive roughly the same per-pupil state dollars as public schools. But in Detroit, it's about $7,300 a year — roughly half what New York or Boston schools get, and about $3,500 less than charters in Denver or Milwaukee.
"We're spreading the money across more and more schools; it's no wonder that every school struggles," said Dan Varner, the chief executive of Excellent Schools Detroit. "They're all under-resourced."
The hardest places to improve are the large urban public high schools like Frank Cody High School.
Just off the retail-starved stretch of Joy Road that gangs call the "Skudd Zone," where the McDonald's is known as the Murder Mac, Cody defines big city high schools in the worst way. Its cement fortress occupies four square blocks, with metal detectors and security guards at the entrance and inside, employees wearing boots in hot weather to keep mice from their ankles.
For a time, it seemed competition might work as it was intended at Cody.
Administrators visited charters in New York and Chicago to learn best practices and broke down the school into three smaller academies, each with about 100 students per grade.
The Academy of Public Leadership, on the second floor, copied practices many charters use to create what they call a "college-going culture." College pennants line classroom walls; signs in hallways tally scholarship money students have won.
The academy's principal, Johnathon Matthews, eliminated security guards in the hallways in favor of "cultural facilitators," more like parents or older siblings. Every student, he pledged, would be able to identify three caring adults at the school and have a teacher's cellphone number to call if the bus did not come or the electricity was turned off.
Graffiti stopped. Gang activity calmed down so much that the owner of the gas station next to the "Murder Mac" asked Mr. Matthews if the school had closed. ACT scores nudged up. And Mr. Matthews started thinking about adding counselors who would not just get students into college, but follow them through to completion.
Then came this year's senior class.
Students needed 23 credits to graduate in June, but many had just 13 or 14 by January. One had just one and a half credits.
At age 19, they join the ranks of "overage, undercredited" students and have to transfer to alternative schools. The graduating class started in September with 87 students, but just 52 received diplomas.
Theirs was the class of students that started high school in the years of heavy churn — after the Legislature lifted the charter cap, the state created its new district and the city closed other public high schools as students fled to charters. By the time they arrived as sophomores or juniors, many students had three or four high schools on their transcripts, and often, gaps in their education: With no central record system, it takes time for schools or parents to track down the forms they need to re-enroll.
In the six weeks between February count day and the end of March this year, the school had 34 new students, some pushed from charter schools, some from suburban choice districts.
Teachers at the Academy of Public Leadership argue with Mr. Matthews for taking all comers, complaining that the school is judged for the performance of students who show up just weeks before state exams.
"We have the savior of Detroit here as our principal," said Tracey Penick, the college counselor. "As admirable as it is, it's very stressful. When you get a child at this stage in the game, it's because they're a problem."
Lately, Mr. Matthews has been talking to a large bank about bringing a job training program to the school. The bank expressed concern about the low performance of students, and asked whether Cody might become an application school. It is hard for him not to be tempted.
"The hidden ways to control who you get, that's where I really frown upon competition," he said. "It's created a caste system, and Cody has the untouchables. It's separate and unequal."
A Bipartisan Solution
This winter, as Detroit Public Schools ran out of money, Mayor Mike Duggan, a pro-charter Democrat now in his third year, argued that the problems of the traditional schools demanded a solution to address the problems posed, and faced, by charter schools.
He proposed an appointed Detroit Education Commission to determine which neighborhoods most needed new schools and set standards to close failing schools and ensure that only high performing or promising ones could replicate.
Political conditions seemed promising.
Backed by a coalition of philanthropies and civic leaders, the teachers' union and some charter school operators, the mayor got a Republican senator from Western Michigan to sponsor legislation, including the commission. Governor Snyder, distracted and shamed by the scandal over the lead poisoning in the water supply of the mostly black and state-controlled city of Flint, was in no position to defend the state control of majority-black Detroit Public Schools, and supported the proposal.
In February, four prominent Detroit Republican business executives, including two sons of former governors, testified in support of the plan before the Legislature, arguing that 20 years had proved that the free market alone is not enough to improve schools. One of them, Mr. Romney, likened schools to a public utility. "This is a public service, this isn't just a business," he said in a recent interview. "I don't believe in the free market for police or fire."
But the Great Lakes Education Project and other charter school lobbying groups warned that the commission would favor public schools over charters and argued instead to kill off the Detroit Public Schools.
In the waning days of the legislative session, House Republicans offered a deal: $617 million to pay off the debt of the Detroit Public Schools, but no commission. Lawmakers were forced to take it to prevent the city school system from going bankrupt.
For parents, the search remains for good schools — charter or public.
After her experience with the failing charter school in southwest Detroit, Ms. Rivera moved her younger son, Omar, to another charter nearby. It has had three principals in the three years since it opened. Nearly 20 teachers have left, and in January, the Wisconsin-based company that operates the school announced it was leaving.
So she has enrolled him in a Detroit Public School for fifth grade, where instruction will be split between Spanish and English. "I'm a little fed up with the charters," she said.
If this doesn't work, she said, she will send him to a school outside the city. Sometimes, she thinks of moving the whole family to the suburbs, following her husband's landscaping business. But like many in this striving city, she is rooting for its comeback. "We can still be part of this new Detroit."
And Omar, though he made honor roll this year, fears a move. "The teachers teach good there," he said. "I'd be so far behind."
5) Ex-Indiana University Student Accused of Rape Avoids Prison in Plea Deal
By SAMANTHA SCHMIDT JUNE 27, 2016
A former Indiana University student who was charged with rape in two separate cases in September accepted a plea deal last week in which both felony charges were dismissed and he was sentenced to a year's probation with no prison time for a misdemeanor.
That the former student, John P. Enochs, 22, spent only a night in jail last fall before posting bail was met with outrage on social media. It also drew comparisons to a recent case in which a Stanford University student, Brock Turner, was sentenced to six months in jail by a judge after being convicted of sexual assault.
The case reflected the complexities that often arise in campus sexual assault cases, when alcohol blurs memories and evidence becomes too ambiguous to prove rape. Mr. Enochs pleaded guilty to one count of battery with moderate bodily injury. Prosecutors had sought a felony charge but, because of Mr. Enochs's age and lack of prior criminal convictions, a judge reduced the charge to a misdemeanor.
"The most frustrating aspect of this case is the fact that there were two unrelated complaints against the defendant, but neither was sufficient to prove rape," said Robert T. Miller, chief deputy prosecuting attorney for Monroe County, Ind.
The more recent episode took place on April 11, 2015, at a party hosted by Mr. Enochs's fraternity, Delta Tau Delta. A woman told the police that while she was drinking at the party, she went into the house to look for a bathroom. She said she had later found herself in a room with an unknown male having sex with her, despite her telling him "no" repeatedly and trying to push him away.
Video surveillance tapes showed her entering and exiting the room with Mr. Enochs, and DNA evidence showed that they had had sex, according to court records. A nurse said that she had observed a laceration in the woman's genital area, according to court documents.
After learning of the 2015 allegations against Mr. Enochs, a second woman pursued criminal charges against him. The woman said that she had blacked out while drinking with Mr. Enochs in her sorority house in October 2013, and was later told by friends that he had had sex with her. She had pain in her genital area for several days and was treated in a hospital soon after, she said, according to a police affidavit.
In a statement on Monday, Mr. Miller said the 2013 case was difficult to prove because the woman had no specific recollection of that night, because of her consumption of alcohol.
He said video and DNA evidence that emerged during the investigation of the 2015 case had made it difficult to prove that Mr. Enochs committed rape.
Mr. Enochs had been scheduled to stand trial on July 5. Ultimately, Mr. Miller said, prosecutors determined that they did not have strong enough evidence in either case. That there were two cases had been an important consideration in charging Mr. Enochs, Mr. Miller said, but prosecutors were required by law to have the cases heard by separate juries.
The woman in the 2013 case is also pursuing a civil complaint against the Indiana University chapter of Delta Tau Delta. After the 2015 rape allegation, the university placed the fraternity chapter on social restrictions for six months.
Students and campus organizations at Indiana University voiced shock that the rape charges had been dropped, likening the plea deal to the light sentence in the Stanford case.
"To have it happen again in the town that I live in is extremely discouraging and frightening," said Emma Riedley, an incoming senior and member of the Independent Council for Women at Indiana University. "It makes me angry and afraid as a woman and a human being to see this crime not be punished as harshly as it needs to be."
Mr. Enochs's lawyer, Katharine C. Liell, dismissed the allegations against her client as false. "He's not Brock Turner," she said.
6) Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Britain's Labour Party, Loses No-Confidence Vote
By STEPHEN CASTLE JUNE 28, 2016
LONDON — Britain's opposition Labour Party, already reeling after voters defied its advice and chose to leave the European Union, was plunged further into crisis on Tuesday when its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, overwhelmingly lost a no-confidence motion among his fellow lawmakers.
The measure, which passed by a vote of 172 to 40, opens the way for a challenge to Mr. Corbyn's leadership. It technically changes nothing, as Mr. Corbyn has refused to step down, though it underscores his loss of authority among colleagues in Parliament.
"I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning," Mr. Corbyn said after the vote by Labour members of Parliament. "Today's vote by M.P.s has no constitutional legitimacy."
He added: "We are a democratic party with a clear constitution. Our people need Labour Party members, trade unionists and M.P.s to unite behind my leadership at a critical time for our country."
About three-quarters of Parliament members opposed leaving the union, including the overwhelming majority of Labour members and a smaller majority of members from the governing Conservative Party.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Friday, the day after the referendum, that he would resign, and a power struggle has begun within the Conservative Party over who will succeed him.
Given the disarray in British politics, many Labour lawmakers are worried that a general election may be held soon, and they fear that, with Mr. Corbyn at the party's helm, they will face even bigger losses than they did in the May 2015 election.
A left-winger, Mr. Corbyn was elected last year by an overwhelming majority of party members and supporters, but his support was very shallow among lawmakers.
Discontent at Mr. Corbyn's performance was crystallized by his campaign in the referendum on European Union membership, in which the party's policy was to remain within the bloc.
While Mr. Corbyn, a lifelong euroskeptic, did urge Labour supporters to vote to remain, critics regarded his campaign as lackluster, and his message as lukewarm.
Mr. Corbyn's staunch ally John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor of the Exchequer and the party's top spokesman on economic issues, has said that Mr. Corbyn is "not going anywhere," and even vowed to run Mr. Corbyn's campaign if there were a new election among Labour Party members.
Supporters of Mr. Corbyn have called on his critics to either shut up or challenge him in a formal leadership contest. Under the Labour Party system, the final choice lies with party members and supporters, and Mr. Corbyn's allies, who include influential labor-union activists, are confident that he would win re-election, despite some indications that support for him is weakening.
7) Gunfire and Panicked Calls on Police Log of Orlando Shooting
It took just 16 minutes.
Emergency calls from inside the Pulse nightclub poured into the Orlando police in the early morning of June 12 from panicked and wounded revelers reporting the bloody scene as it played out. Dispatchers noted that they, too, could hear gunshots in the background, according to a police log that was among hundreds of pages of documents about the massacre released by the city on Tuesday.
The incident log gives a staccato narration, based on entries made in real time and time-stamped down to the minute and the second — the most detailed account yet of what happened after Omar Mateen, 29, armed with an assault rifle and a handgun, walked into a bustling club with a mostly gay and Latino clientele and opened fire.
It shows the confusion as police officials tried to figure out what was happening, the horror of some victims reporting on their own gunshot wounds, and the abject fear of dozens of people trapped in pockets throughout the club, whispering into their phones, pleading for rescue, and hoping that the gunman would not come for them next.
Other documents released on Tuesday raised questions about whether one of Pulse's exits might have been blocked.
At the end of a three-hour standoff, for which some have criticized the police's delayed response, 49 people had been killed and 53 wounded. But nearly all the slaughter took place in just those first 16 minutes.
The first report of shots fired came just before 2:03 a.m., and that awful message was repeated no fewer than 30 times, as caller after caller described the massacre, sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes just by picking up the horror in the background on their cellphones. Often, the entries say simply, "Still shooting," or that people could be heard screaming. At one point, a dispatcher noted having "open line hearing 20-30 gunshots."
The gunfire paused for 30 seconds or so, until at 2:08 a.m., the first police officers on the scene attempted to enter the building and engaged in a shootout with Mr. Mateen, who then retreated to a bathroom where people were hiding. Just before 2:19 a.m., about the time the city's SWAT team was called out, the shooting stopped as suddenly as it had begun, and the killer hunkered down for almost three hours with his hostages.
But while the barrage was still underway, evidence of the grim toll began rolling in, noted by dispatchers in entries sprinkled with abbreviations like "c" for caller and "cadv" for "caller advises."
"Multiple down." "Someone is screaming Im shot." "My caller is no longer responding, just an open line with moaning." "C is shot in the stomach." "C is shot in the leg and knee." "Cadv his friend (redacted) has been shot in the chest." "Cadv sister has been shot twice." "Cadv vic is losing a lot of blood." "Cadv vic is no longer responding to him."
Hours after the shooting, the city's fire marshal, Tammy Hughes, sent a text message to the fire chief, Roderick Williams, saying that a code enforcement official "showed me a picture where the club owner had blocked the exit with a coke machine." Fire Department officials said Tuesday that the photo was taken on the day of the shooting, but that no exits had been blocked. A lawyer for the club, Gus R. Benitez, also insisted that all public exits had been clear.
Ms. Hughes and Mr. Williams also traded emails on the day of the shooting about a May 27 inspection showing that "an exit was blocked." But on Tuesday, officials refuted information contained in city records and said that there had been no blocked exit doors and that the only infractions were minor, nothing more serious than a nonworking light bulb in an exit sign.
Ms. Hughes wrote on June 12 that the Fire Department had planned another inspection to make sure the problem was corrected, but it had not yet taken place at the time of the shooting.
During the nightclub siege, officers went into Pulse several times to bring out stranded survivors, while callers reported that they were still hiding or trapped in various bathrooms, an attic, an office, a dressing room. The incident log shows that they called repeatedly to report casualties and gunfire, warn that their phone batteries were dying, and express their dread at sounds indicating that the gunman may have been approaching. Some even called from the bathroom where the gunman was holed up to tell police what he had said and what he looked like.
"Subj in restroom whispering please help," a dispatcher wrote. A few times, callers went silent or their calls went dead, leaving dispatchers no way of knowing if they were still alive.
At 2:35 a.m., Mr. Mateen called 911 himself to claim responsibility for the attack, and declared allegiance to the Islamic State, the F.B.I. has said.
The incident logs show the police trying to pin down the number and location of people still trapped inside Pulse, figure out which bathroom the gunman was in, and determine how serious a threat they were facing. Near the beginning, a caller reported (correctly) that the gunman had an assault rifle, while another reported (incorrectly) that there might be multiple shooters.
At 2:51 a.m., when Mr. Mateen was on the phone with a police negotiator, the F.B.I. has said, word came that took the potential danger to another level: "Shooter saying poss explosives in the parking lot," and a few minutes later in the same call, "Subj is saying that he is a terrorist and has several bombs strapped to him in the downstairs female restroom."
In addition to the gunman's own statements, several entries show the people trapped inside confirming that he appeared to have bombs, which turned out to be untrue.
At 4:21 a.m., the police rescued the people in a dressing room by pulling an air-conditioning unit out of an exterior wall, and some of those people warned that the gunman planned to strap explosive vests to four hostages. It was that information, officials said, that had persuaded them to make the final assault on the club, using explosives and an armored vehicle to punch through a wall.
"SWAT breached," the log says at 5:02 a.m. At 5:15, as the officers traded gunfire with Mr. Mateen, it notes, "Shots fired north bathroom," and less than a minute later, "Subj down."
An entry just before 5:18 a.m., using a police term for armed, states, "Bad guy down strapped."
8) The State of Race in America
9) To Remake Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn Might Kill It
By STEVEN ERLANGER JUNE 30, 2016
LONDON — In the chaos that has followed Britain's vote to leave the European Union, the political winner so far has been Nigel Farage, the provocateur who is the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP.
The winning campaign, which focused on the need to "take back control" over Britain's borders and sharply limit immigration, was effectively Mr. Farage's. It appealed to voters beyond his loyal followers, whom Prime Minister David Cameron once described as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly."
Mr. Farage has had his revenge, and Mr. Cameron has announced his resignation and will be replaced as the leader of the Conservative Party.
And many opposition Labour Party voters, who rebuffed their leadership and voted to leave the bloc, seem to be there for the taking by Mr. Farage and UKIP.
That prospect has terrified the Labour members of Parliament who survived the May 2015 general election, one of the party's worst showings in decades, which practically wiped the party out in Scotland. They are now trying to depose their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a man on the far-left fringes of his party since he was first elected to Parliament in 1983.
But Mr. Corbyn will not resign, instead arguing that he has a democratic mandate from party members and supporters, who he is convinced will re-elect him.
That is Labour's quandary. Its lawmakers seek to be an effective opposition and governing alternative to the Conservatives. To deliver policies for their constituents and the country, they must win power, and they see that goal fading fast under Mr. Corbyn.
After the so-called Brexit referendum, Labour leaders cited a poll that the party conducted suggesting that 29 percent of the voters who favored Labour in the last election 13 months ago would not do so again.
But Mr. Corbyn has a longer-term goal than simply achieving power: the transformation of the party into a revolutionary social movement of the working class and the dispossessed, the dream that brought him into politics.
If that ambition requires the sacrifice of many of Labour's seats in Parliament, they would be acceptable collateral damage to bring about a fundamental shift in the party toward the hard left.
In fact, Mr. Corbyn and his top aides — the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Seumas Milne, a former columnist for The Guardian — have threatened to remove legislators who oppose Mr. Corbyn. They would require all sitting legislators to be selected again by party members in their local constituencies before standing in another election. Mr. Corbyn and his allies have also discussed changing party rules to strip legislators of their party leadership powers and put members in full control.
Mr. Corbyn has never changed his views, which are essentially pacifist and Marxist. And the Labour Party he represented in 1983 was a trade-union-dominated Socialist party, committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament and "the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange."
Over the years, the party moved toward the center, most notably under the last Labour prime minister to win an election (let alone three), Tony Blair.
Mr. Corbyn has expressed contempt for Mr. Blair's centrist politics, which those on the hard left consider little different from the Conservatives, or "Tory-lite."
"I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters," Mr. Corbyn said this week, "and I will not betray them by resigning."
Mr. Corbyn won the leadership post in September because of the mistakes of his rivals, and because new rules allowed not just party members to vote in the election but anyone who paid $4 for the privilege.
That tripled the number of eligible voters to around 500,000. And since the last general election in May 2015, more than 187,000 people joined Labour, bringing total membership to about 390,000, a remarkable increase.
Passionate and committed, they may be enough to re-elect Mr. Corbyn as party leader despite the opposition of the party's members of Parliament. But as the internal party poll indicated, they are not nearly committed enough to win a general election in Britain. The retreat of Labour from the center ground of British politics is likely to cost the party dearly.
Even more troubling for Labour, many of the working-class voters in Britain are not attracted to theoretical or academic socialism. They are angry about immigration and competition for jobs from Europeans with skills and a willingness to work for less money.
Many traditional Labour voters are moving in droves toward the far right — to UKIP and Mr. Farage.
This is exactly what has happened to the Socialist Party in France, where workers who have been hurt by unemployment and globalization are voting for Marine Le Pen and the far-right National Front, not for the left.
Yvette Cooper, who lost the leadership post to Mr. Corbyn last time, and who is likely to run against him again, said that the problem was not just Mr. Corbyn's administrative incompetence and lack of leadership. "He is losing us Labour support across the country — and particularly in the towns and coal fields that built the labor movement in the first place," Ms. Cooper said.
In Sunderland, in northeast England, which is Labour country, voters overwhelmingly decided to quit the European Union.
"This area is traditionally Labour, but we're disappointed by Corbyn," said Michael Wake, a forklift operator. "He doesn't look like a politician, he looks like some hitchhiker."
Glenn Crawford, a Labour voter, said that "Corbyn is a nice man, it's nice to have him on a college debate. But he's not a leader."
Alan Liddle, 44, now votes for UKIP. "I lost faith in Labour," he said. "It's supposed to represent the working class."
That sentiment was amplified by John Hall, who said: "We're fed up with Labour. They're out of touch with the working class."
Mr. Farage, however, with a message straight out of the National Front of Ms. Le Pen — anti-elitist, nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-Europe — is reaping the failure of mainstream parties to speak to the concerns and vulnerabilities of the poor and the shrinking working class.
9) A Remark on Israel by Jeremy Corbyn Incites Outrage in Britain and Abroad
"Mr. Corbyn had said at the event that assuming that 'a Jewish friend or fellow member is wealthy, part of some kind of financial or media conspiracy, or takes a particular position on politics in general or on Israel and on Palestine in particular, is just wrong. He added, 'Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations.'"
By STEPHEN CASTLE JUNE 30, 2016
LONDON — Trying to address accusations of anti-Semitism in Britain's opposition Labour Party, its embattled leader, Jeremy Corbyn, provoked more outrage on Thursday by comparing Israel to "self-styled Islamic states or organizations."
Mr. Corbyn's comment drew instant condemnation from colleagues and Israeli politicians, who initially believed that he had said "Islamic State" rather than Islamic states. But members of his staff insisted that he had been referring to countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — which are not self-styled and generally are called "Muslim nations" — or to organizations like Hamas. (Israelis would hardly be mollified by the clarification, given that Hamas is a Palestinian group classified as terrorist by Britain and the United States.)
The comment was made at the public introduction of a report on anti-Semitism within the Labour Party that had been ordered after two senior figures in the party — Naseem Shah, a lawmaker, and Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London — were suspended in April over what was deemed to be anti-Israel commentary.
After the report was introduced, Mr. Corbyn was also accused of failing to intervene when a Jewish Labour lawmaker, Ruth Smeeth, faced what she called "anti-Semitic smears" from an activist. Ms. Smeeth called on Mr. Corbyn to resign, saying that under his stewardship the party "cannot be a safe space for British Jews."
In the week since Britain's extraordinary vote to exit the European Union, most of Mr. Corbyn's shadow cabinet has resigned and he overwhelmingly lost a no-confidence motion among Labour lawmakers. He has refused to resign, and now faces a possible leadership challenge from his party colleagues.
The episode involving Ms. Smeeth arose when a journalist passed her a news release distributed by an activist from a left-wing group called Momentum. The activist then suggested that the lawmaker was colluding with the news media.
In a statement after Mr. Corbyn's event on Thursday, Ms. Smeeth said that she had been "verbally attacked by a Momentum activist and Jeremy Corbyn supporter who used traditional anti-Semitic slurs to attack me."
She said that "the leader of my own party stood by and did absolutely nothing."
Mr. Corbyn had said at the event that assuming that "a Jewish friend or fellow member is wealthy, part of some kind of financial or media conspiracy, or takes a particular position on politics in general or on Israel and on Palestine in particular, is just wrong."
He added, "Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations."
Sam Stopp, a Labour councilor in Brent, northwest London, soon said on Twitter: "@jeremycorbyn has compared Israel to ISIS today. For that alone, he should resign. I am red with fury #Corbyn."
Mr. Corbyn insisted that under his leadership the Labour Party "will not allow hateful language or debate in person, online or anywhere else."
The report concluded that the Labour Party was not overrun by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism but that there was an "occasionally toxic atmosphere."
It said that abusive references to any particular person or group should have no place in Labour Party discourse, and that party members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors.
Many Israelis were appalled by Mr. Corbyn's comments, which were reported in the Israeli news media — before his staff's clarification — as comparing Israel to the Islamic State.
The leader of Israel's Parliamentary opposition, Isaac Herzog of the Labor Party, wrote on Twitter, "Corbyn's suggestion of moral equivalence between Israel and ISIS is outrageous, unacceptable, and a betrayal of Labour global values." He added, "Corbyn's views represent a consistent hatred of Israel."
Tzipi Livni, a center-left Israeli lawmaker and former foreign minister, said in a Twitter message: "Corbyn's words imply a serious lack of moral judgment. Just as all Muslims are not to blame for ISIS, not all Brits are to blame for Corbyn."
10) U.S. Offers to Increase Military Aid to Israel
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS JULY 1, 2016
WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday told members of Congress that it had offered to substantially sweeten a decade-long military aid package for Israel, the latest turn in months of fitful negotiations that have proceeded despite deep divisions over the Iran nuclear deal.
Under the proposed terms, the United States would insist that the Israelis use the tens of billions of dollars they receive under the deal to buy United States-made goods and services, rather than spend a sizable portion in their own country as they are permitted to do now.
The administration laid out details of the package in a lengthy letter to senators who had written to the White House in April urging the completion of a new aid deal.
In the thick of the debate last year over the Iran deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel refused to negotiate with President Obama over a so-called memorandum of understanding for a military aid package to replace one that expires in 2018.
Once the Iran deal — which lifted sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Tehran's nuclear program — went into effect, negotiations on a new aid package commenced between United States and Israeli officials. But consensus has been elusive.
In the letter on Friday, Susan E. Rice, Mr. Obama's national security adviser, and Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that the administration was prepared to increase the existing military aid package for Israel, worth nearly $30 billion, and sign a new one "that would constitute the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in U.S. history."
That would include a new 10-year pledge to fund missile defense systems in Israel, an arrangement now paid for in yearly installments and subject to the often unpredictable annual appropriations process.
Such an aid agreement "would build on the unparalleled support that the United States has provided to Israel under President Obama," Ms. Rice and Mr. Donovan said. "Through word and deed, this administration has done more for Israel's security than any other in U.S. history."
Mr. Obama has made it clear that completing the deal before he leaves office is a priority, and Mr. Netanyahu has said he was eager to seal it as well. But challenging political dynamics have complicated the talks.
Some analysts in the United States and Israel say that Mr. Netanyahu is calculating that he may reach a more advantageous deal with a future president, a charge that the Israelis strenuously deny. Others have suggested that Mr. Obama is pressing to finish the agreement in part to insulate himself against accusations that he has been too tough on Israel, especially if he decides later this year to pressure the country to accept a peace deal with the Palestinians that embraces a two-state solution.
The negotiations have unfolded in secret, with neither side willing to detail its position on an agreement that people close to the talks have said could top $40 billion. For months, United States and Israeli officials have haggled over the price tag, as Israel has insisted on a higher figure than the United States was willing to support.
But the decision by the White House to explicitly lay out its position on how much of the money would be spent inside Israel — an issue that had emerged as a sticking point — appeared to signal that a conclusion to the talks could be near.
"The chances seem to be better now than they were a couple months ago" that the two sides will reach a deal, said Ilan Goldenberg, the director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. "Clearly, they're getting to the end one way or the other."
Under the existing agreement, Israel is permitted to spend about a quarter of the military aid it receives outside the United States, and 13 percent of it on fuel — allowances that no other recipient of United States funding receives. Israel has spent about $1.2 billion a year — $7.9 billion since the current deal took effect — in this way, the White House said.
The provision originated in the 1980s as a way to spur the development of Israel's defense industry, which is now booming. Israel has become one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world, competing with the United States.
In their letter, Ms. Rice and Mr. Donovan said the aid package was being negotiated in "an especially challenging budgetary environment," with the possibility that automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration could return in 2018. They said it was time to move away from the special arrangements.
The White House also argued in the letter that the nuclear deal with Iran — regarded by Israel as empowering a dangerous adversary bent on its destruction — was in fact "crucial to the security interests of the United States, Israel and the entire international community."
"We remain cleareyed about the threat to Israel's security posed by Iran, as well as Iran's support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its destabilizing activity in the region," Ms. Rice and Mr. Donovan wrote. That is "precisely why" carrying out the Iran deal is important, they added.
11) New Cars Are Too Expensive for the Typical Family, Study Finds
AS prices for new vehicles continue to rise, the cost of an average new car may be a stretch for typical households.
A new analysis from Bankrate.com found that a median-income household could not afford the average price of a new vehicle in any of the 50 largest cities in the country, though cars are more affordable in some cities than others.
"The new reality is that cars are becoming more expensive," said Steve Pounds, a personal finance analyst for Bankrate. "People are having to make tough decisions about financing."
The average price of a new car or light truck in 2016 is about $34,000, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's in part because new cars are loaded with helpful but expensive safety features like collision-avoidance systems.
Bankrate calculated an "affordable" purchase price for major cities, using median incomes from United States census data, and factoring in costs for sales taxes and insurance. In San Jose, Calif. — the heart of Silicon Valley — the median income is about $84,000, and an "affordable" new car purchase price is about $33,000 — close to, but still below, the average new car price.
In lower-income cities, however, affordable purchase prices for a typical family are far below the average cost of a new car. In Hartford, Conn., where the median income is about $29,000, an affordable purchase price is about $8,000 — about a quarter of the average new-car price.
That sort of squeeze helps explain why many people are borrowing more, for longer periods of time, to finance a car purchase. Experian Automotive said that in the first quarter of this year, the proportion of new cars bought with the help of financing rose to more than 86 percent, and the average loan amount topped $30,000, which is the highest since Experian began tracking the data. The average term for a new-car loan is now 68 months — about five and a half years — and some loans stretch as long as seven years.
(Auto leases are also becoming more popular because they often offer lower payments than a traditional car loan. Leases accounted for more than 30 percent of new-car transactions in the first quarter, Experian reported. With a lease, the customer makes payments for a set period of time, then typically can choose either to return the car to the dealer or to buy it.)
Longer-term loans carry risks. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns that borrowers who take out long-term loans end up paying more for the car over all, and also run a greater risk of being "upside down" on the loans, meaning owing more than the car is worth.
Bankrate noted that a traditional rule of thumb is the "20/4/10" rule: Car buyers should aim to put down at least 20 percent in cash, take out a loan for no more than four years and keep the cost of principal, interest and insurance to no more than 10 percent of household income.
If you have to abandon those guidelines, the car you want may simply be too expensive. "To me, if you need to finance to five, six or seven years, you can't afford it," said Jeff Bartlett, deputy cars editor at Consumer Reports.
Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor with Edmunds.com, noted that interest rates were still low for new-car loans, but advised shoppers to keep the loan term at no more than five years. (Edmunds has an online calculator that you can use to estimate how much you can afford to pay. He also recommends checking the cost of insuring a specific model before buying it, so you won't be shocked when you get your insurance bill after you've made the purchase.
Here are some questions and answers about buying a new car:
When is the best time to shop for a new car?
While car sales may abound on holiday weekends like the Fourth of July, shopping on a run-of-the-mill weekday may actually be preferable. There is less traffic to deal with when taking test drives, and sales representatives have more time to answer your questions. "Buy when it's right for you," Mr. Bartlett said, not just because dealers are promoting incentives.
Mr. Pounds suggests shopping when car manufacturers are beginning to introduce new model years — typically in late summer or early fall. Prices may be more reasonable for the outgoing model year at that time. But be aware that you may have fewer vehicles to choose from.
How can I make sure I'm choosing the right financing option?
People are often diligent about researching the type of car they want to buy, but they're much less likely to do their homework when it comes to financing the purchase, according to a report this month from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
To help consumers comparison-shop, the bureau has created an auto loan "shopping sheet" that can help you calculate the total cost of a car loan and compare offers.
Should I buy a used car instead?
Used cars, particularly those that are just two or three years old, often offer the best value, Mr. Bartlett said. Not only is the initial price lower, but costs like collision insurance and taxes are also lower. If getting the latest safety features, like automatic braking, is a priority, however, make sure to look only at very recent model years. And be sure, he said, to have a used car inspected by a reputable mechanic before you buy it.
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