Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:











Innocent on Death Row: 

A Conversation With Kevin Cooper

Wednesday, October 26, 5:00 P.M. - 6:30 P.M.

USF School of Law

 Room KN 102, 2130 Fulton St., San Francisco, CA 94117

Presented by the University of San Francisco School of Law Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Criminal Justice Society, and Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project

When: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 (5:00-6:30 pm) (Food will be Served)

Where: USF School of Law, Room KN 102, 2130 Fulton St., San Francisco, CA 94117

* The event will be recorded and streamed/broadcast by KUSF at a later date so please be on time!

In 1985, Mr. Cooper was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of a family of four in Chino Hills, San Bernardino County, California. He has maintained his innocence ever since while litigating his case in state and federal court. In 2004, Mr. Cooper was granted a stay of execution, but hisfederal habeas corpus petition was denied in 2009.

Today, Mr. Cooper awaits a ruling on his pending petition for executive clemency from the Honorable Governor for the State of California, Jerry Brown. Mr. Cooper does so while the People of California consider competing initiatives, Propositions 62 and 66, to terminate or expedite the death penalty, respectively, and the State of California works on creating and implementing a functional lethal injection protocol. Mr. Cooper will provide insight into these and other issues while fielding questions from
attendees following a panel discussion about his case. It is Mr. Cooper's hope that the program will help all attendees better understand what he means when he says: "If anyone honestly opens their eyes, hearts, minds and ears and truly sees, feels, learns and hears exactly what's going on in this country today, they will get involved to make this country a much better place for everyone!"

KEVIN COOPER. Mr. Cooper will participate from San Quentin via a telephone call to his attorney, Mr. Hile. NORMAN C. HILE, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. Mr. Hile is Senior Counsel at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. He has represented Mr. Cooper since 2004.

THOMAS PARKER, The Sentinel Group. Mr. Parker spent 45 years with the FBI as an agent, national investigator of violent crimes, and Deputy Chief of the Los Angeles Regional Office. In 2011, Mr. Parker led the latest investigation of Mr. Cooper's case. Mr. Parker is "absolutely convinced Kevin Cooper is innocent."

CAROLE SELIGMAN, Kevin Cooper Defense Committee. Ms. Seligman is a retired elementary school teacher, member of the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the former office manager at Prison Radio.



Labor for Palestine endorses Labor for Standing Rock mobilization!



"We at Oceti Sakowin Camp welcome any and all support from our Union brothers and sisters. This camp stands to protect our sacred water and support a new energy paradigm, jobs and work in green energy fields. We welcome your support in any ways you feel appropriate, join us in paving a new road to a sustainable future for many future generations." --Message from Standing Rock Council to Labor for Standing Rock, 10/13/26.

In response to calls from Standing Rock, please join a coordinated labor mobilization on the weekend of October 29-30!

Further information is below.


The First Nation's courageous fight taking place against the Dakota Access Pipeline has ignited a world's attention. This struggle has become most focused at the water protector's camp located within the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. It contrasts an inherently dangerous project of the fossil fuel industry with the protection of the local and global environment, Native American sovereignty, and the necessity of a sustainable world.

For our sisters and brothers within the unions and the entire working class, the conflict becomes one of dangerous, fleeting employment that will inevitably destroy our planet, and the possibility of full employment to build safe energy and prosperity for all.

With this is mind we recognize that the recent resolution of the AFL-CIO leadership in support of the Dakota Access pipeline is inherently 
misguided, and in conflict with First Nations, our common environment, and the interests of people worldwide. In addition, the use of force against the people at Standing Rock mirrors the very attacks we have endured through our own history of building our unions. 

At the same time, solidarity with Standing Rock has been voiced by growing number of labor bodies, including:

Amalgamated Transit Union

American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 -- City College of San Francisco Faculty Union

Border Agricultural Workers

California Faculty Association

Communications Workers of America

Industrial Workers of the World

IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus

Labor Coalition for Community Action (A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work)

Labor for Palestine

National Nurses United

New York State Nurses Association

National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981

Service Employ
International Union

United Electrical Workers


To escalate this growing solidarity, we call on workers everywhere join us for actions on the weekend of October 29-30, 2016, including the following activities:

At Standing Rock:

• Assemble at Standing Rock camp for a labor procession and entrance Saturday, October 22, 10am

• Mid-day lunch gathering to share information on the status and location of pipeline work

• Afternoon actions (picket lines, flyering of pipeline workers etc.)

• Rally back to Standing Rock camp Saturday night for music, discussion, and cultural exchange

• Sunday, October 23 – Possible morning actions, people depart during the day to make it home for Monday work


• Post individual or group solidarity selfies of picket signs with labor affiliation, location, and common tagline: #LaborForStandingRock

• Hold local labor solidarity events

With the future of the environment, the rights of First Nations, and the health of the working class at stake, these subsequent actions will help regenerate a labor movement based on the vision of a just, sustainable, and prosperous world for all.

Please join us.



Chelsea Manning Support Network

Chelsea faces charges related to suicice attempt

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Chelsea Manning ends 5 day hunger strike after Army agrees to medical treatment

Chelsea Manning ended her hunger strike today (Sept 13) after the Army finally agreed to treatment for her gender dysphoria.

"This is all that I wanted – for them to let me be me," said Chelsea Manning.

"But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long and why such drastic measures were needed in order to get this help that was recommended."

Chelsea was shown a memo today stating she will receive gender-reassignment surgery under the DoD's new policy affecting transgender service members.

If this occurs, Manning will be the first trans prisoner in the US to receive this treatment, setting a precedent that could benefit thousands of transgender inmates.

"This medical care is absolutely vital for Chelsea. It was the government's refusal to provide her with necessary care that led her to attempt suicide earlier this year," said Chase Strangio, Chelsea's attorney at the ACLU, "and it was all the more troubling when she became subject to an investigation and possible punishment in connection with the suicide attempt.

We hope that the government recognizes that charging Chelsea with the crime of being denied essential health care is outrageous and drops those charges." Read more here

Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Stipe protest
inhumane charges against Chelsea

After years of inhumane treatment from the Army, Chelsea Manning attempted to take her life on July 5th, 2016. 

If convicted of these absurd "administrative offenses", Chelsea could face indefinite solitary confinement for the rest of her prison term (30 years).

Daniel Ellsberg: "I stand with Chelsea Manning. I hope you will too."

Michael Stipe: "I support human rights for all people. As an American patriot it is my duty to stand with Chelsea Manning... This is unjustifiable. It is unfair, and it needs to be stopped." Read more and watch the videos

Chelsea will face a disciplinary board later this month, and could very likely be charged for her own suicide attempt. 

Chelsea can continue to be a powerful voice for reform, but we need your help to make that happen. Help us support Chelsea in prison, maximize her voice in the media, continue public education, fund her legal appeals team, and build a powerful movement for presidential pardon.

Please donate today!




Letter from a prisoner involved in the current prison strike:

Texas Prison Officials retaliate against me

for protesting prison slavery

By Keith "Malik" Washington

        On October 5, 2016, I was transferred to the Telford Unit from the Coffield Unit. At Coffield, I had become the target of a coordinated effort by the State of Texas to retaliate against me for organizing a campaign that seeks to end prison slavery.
        There are elements and individuals within the Texas Criminal Justice System that don't want to acknowledge the humanity of prisoners. The Slave Plantation mentality is deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of the oppressor and the oppressed.
        Telford, where I am now housed, is the home of a horrible Solitary Confinement control unit. I was sent to this control unit in order to be neutralized.
        Prison officials are also using their new Social Media Ban to punish me when my friends or supporters post any kind of information about me. It is crucially important that you continue to share with the world what is happening to me and to so many other imprisoned Freedom Fighters who are trapped inside Amerikan prisons. This attempt to silence prisoner voices and the voices of our free-world supporters is a gross violation of the U.S. Constitution.
        Journalist Raven Rakia, who resides in New York City, actually traveled to Texas to interview me for an upcoming exposé she is working on. Texas prison officials denied her access to me!! I just cannot describe to you how dangerous this situation is becoming.
        I attempted to place Raven Rakia and other media correspondents and friends on my visiting list. Prison officials denied receiving any updated visitation forms from me!
        Sisters and brothers, I cannot fight these people without your help. I am asking you to call the Telford Unit in New Boston, Texas -- 903-628-3171 -- and demand that I be granted visits from media correspondents, friends, and lawyers. I am requesting that media correspondents and lawyers attempt to visit me and make contact with me so that I can relay to the public how Texas has framed me and isolated me.
        Our struggle begins with amending the 13th amendment: we must abolish Prison Slavery in Amerika!
        Furthermore, we must confront and question law enforcement agencies who attempt to demonize and criminalize #Black Lives Matter! The murdering of Black people by the police must be addressed.
        Prisoner Rights activist Laura Whitehorn said, "Rather than slaughtering black people outright, the prison system carries out genocide through political repression."
        Sisters and brothers, I am taking a risk by communicating these words to you. I am asking you to do something to help me shed light on the nature of the Texas Criminal Justice System.
        Dare to struggle, dare to win! All power to the people!

Keith H. Washington #1487958
Telford Unit
3899 State Hwy 98
New Boston, TX 75570-5669









Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring exchanges with an Outlaw Kindle Edition

by Kevin Rashid Johnson (Author), Tom Big Warrior (Introduction), Russell Maroon Shoatz(Introduction)




Join the Fight to Free Rev. Pinkney!

Click HERE to view in browser



Today is the 406th day that Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan

languishes in prison doing felony time for a misdemeanor crime he did not

commit. Today is also the day that Robert McKay, a spokesperson for the

Free Rev. Pinkney campaign, gave testimony before United Nations

representatives about the plight of Rev. Pinkney at a hearing held in

Chicago. The hearing was called in order to shed light upon the

mistreatment of African-Americans in the United States and put it on an

international stage. And yet as the UN representatives and audience heard

of the injustices in the Pinkney case many gasped in disbelief and asked

with frowns on their faces, "how is this possible?" But disbelief quickly

disappeared when everyone realized these were the same feelings they had

when they first heard of Flint and we all know what happened in Flint. FREE


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


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. 

New medical records documenting Mumia's deteriorated condition from February and March, will be presented June 6th. Judge Mariani has also instructed the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to provide any updates and changes in DOC hep C treatment and policies which affect the plaintiff's treatment.

Calling into Prison Radio, Mumia noted: 

"My friends, my brothers, it ain't over 'til it's over, but there is some motion. It means that we're moving closer to hopefully some real treatment not of my symptoms, but of my disease. I thank you all for being there. And freedom is a constant struggle. I love you all. From what used to be death row, this is Mumia, your brother."

Mumia remains quite ill. While stable, his curable hepatitis C is still active and progressive. The only treatment Mumia has received over the last 14 months to this day is skin ointment and photo therapy. He has not received the medically indicated treatment for hep C, the very condition that put him in the Intensive Care Unit in March 2015. 

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.

Before the court is the preliminary injunction motion, which demands immediate medical care.

The exhaustion of administrative remedy and the procedural hurdles make it extremely difficult for people in prison to actually get their grievances heard through the review process. The Prison Litigation Reform Act was passed specifically to create these very almost insurmountable barriers to access to the courts.

Please read the New Yorker article, Why it is Nearly Impossible for Prisoners to Sue Prisons.

In Abu-Jamal vs. Kerestes, one very telling point was when the DOC's Director of Medical Care, Dr. Paul Noel, took the stand. He said that he had never testified before in court! He has worked for the DOC for over a decade.   

That meant that no prisoner had access to adversarial cross examination. Before Mumia's day in court in late December 2015, no prisoner ever had the opportunity to expose the PA DOC's blatant lies. Lies so bold that Dr. Noel disavowed his own signed affidavit, and in court he stated that he "did not sign it and it was false and misleading". The knowingly false and fabricated document was put in the record by Laura Neal, Senior DOC attorney.

Take Action for Mumia

Call prison officials to demand immediate treatment!

Dr. Paul Noel-Director of Medical Care, DOC
717-728-5309 x 5312

John Wetzel- Secretary of DOC
717+728-2573 x 4109

Dr. Carl Keldie-Chief Medical Officer, Correct Care Solutions
800-592-2974 x 5783

Theresa DelBalso-Superintendent, SCI Mahanoy
570-773-2158 x 8101

    Tom Wolf, PA Governor 

    Phone  717-787-2500

    Fax 717-772-8284                                             

    Email governor@pa.gov

    Sign the Petition now to demand Mumia's right to life-saving hepatitis C care.

    Help Mumia's lawyers prepare to demand access to Mumia's medical records from court!

    Thank you for keeping Mumia in your heart and mind,

    Noelle Hanrahan

    Director, Prison Radio


    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:







    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

    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




    Major Battles On

    For over 31 years, Major Tillery has been a prisoner of the State.

    Despite that extraordinary fact, he continues his battles, both in the prison for his health, and in the courts for his freedom.

    Several weeks ago, Tillery filed a direct challenge to his criminal conviction, by arguing that a so-called "secret witness" was, in fact, a paid police informant who was given a get-out-of-jail-free card if he testified against Tillery.

    Remember I mentioned, "paid?"

    Well, yes--the witness was 'paid'--but not in dollars. He was paid in sex!

    In the spring of 1984, Robert Mickens was facing decades in prison on rape and robbery charges. After he testified against Tillery, however, his 25-year sentence became 5 years: probation!

    And before he testified he was given an hour and a ½ private visit with his girlfriend--at the Homicide Squad room at the Police Roundhouse. (Another such witness was given another sweetheart deal--lie on Major, and get off!)

    To a prisoner, some things are more important than money. Like sex!

    In a verified document written in April, 2016, Mickens declares that he lied at trial, after being coached by the DAs and detectives on the case.

    He lied to get out of jail--and because he could get with his girl.

    Other men have done more for less.

    Major's 58-page Petition is a time machine back into a practice that was once common in Philadelphia.

    In the 1980s and '90s, the Police Roundhouse had become a whorehouse.

    Major, now facing serious health challenges from his hepatitis C infection, stubborn skin rashes, and dangerous intestinal disorders, is still battling.

    And the fight ain't over.

    [©'16 MAJ  6/29/16]

    Major Tillery Needs Your Help and Support

    Major Tillery is an innocent man. There was no evidence against Major Tillery for the 1976 poolroom shootings that left one man dead and another wounded. The surviving victim gave a statement to homicide detectives naming others—not Tillery or his co-defendant—as the shooters. Major wasn't charged until 1980, he was tried in 1985.

    The only evidence at trial came from these jailhouse informants who were given sexual favors and plea deals for dozens of pending felonies for lying against Major Tillery. Both witnesses now declare their testimony was manufactured by the police and prosecution. Neither witness had personal knowledge of the shooting.

    This is a case of prosecutorial misconduct and police corruption that goes to the deepest levels of rot in the Philadelphia criminal injustice system. Major Tillery deserves not just a new trial, but dismissal of the charges against him and his freedom from prison.

    It cost a lot of money for Major Tillery to be able to file his new pro se PCRA petition and continue investigation to get more evidence of the state misconduct. He needs help to get lawyers to make sure this case is not ignored. Please contribute, now.


      Financial Support: Tillery's investigation is ongoing, to get this case filed has been costly and he needs funds for a legal team to fight this to his freedom!

      Go to JPay.com;

      code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

      Tell Philadelphia District Attorney

      Seth Williams:

      Free Major Tillery! He is an innocent man, framed by police and and prosecution.

      Call: 215-686-8711 or

      Write to:

      Major Tillery AM9786

      SCI Frackville

      1111 Altamont Blvd.

      Frackville, PA 17931

        For More Information, Go To: Justice4MajorTillery/blogspot


        Rachel Wolkenstein, Esq. (917) 689-4009RachelWolkenstein@gmail.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.

        In solidarity,

        James Clark
        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




          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

          Courage Campaign

          Daily Kos

          Democracy for America


          Project Springboard

          RH Reality Check


          Student Debt Crisis

          The Nation

          Working Families



          Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson

          Updates from Team Lorenzo Johnson

          Dear Supporters and Friends,

          Show your support for Lorenzo by wearing one of our beautiful new campaign t-shirts! If you donate $20 (or more!) to the Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson, we will send you a t-shirt, while supplies last. Make sure to note your size and shipping address in the comment section on PayPal, or to include this information with a check.

          Here is a message from Lorenzo's wife, Tazza Salvatto:

          My husband is innocent, FREE HIM NOW!

          Lorenzo Johnson is a son, husband, father and brother. His injustice has been a continued nightmare for our family. Words cant explain our constant pain, I wish it on no one. Not even the people responsible for his injustice. 

          This is about an innocent man who has spent 20 years and counting in prison. The sad thing is Lorenzo's prosecution knew he was innocent from day one. These are the same people society relies on to protect us.

          Not only have these prosecutors withheld evidence of my husbands innocence by NEVER turning over crucial evidence to his defense prior to trial. Now that Lorenzo's innocence has been revealed, the prosecution refuses to do the right thing. Instead they are "slow walking" his appeal and continuing their malicious prosecution.

          When my husband or our family speak out about his injustice, he's labeled by his prosecutor as defaming a career cop and prosecutor. If they are responsible for Lorenzo's wrongful conviction, why keep it a secret??? This type of corruption and bullying of families of innocent prisoners to remain silent will not be tolerated.

          Our family is not looking for any form of leniency. Lorenzo is innocent, we want what is owed to him. JUSTICE AND HIS IMMEDIATE FREEDOM!!! 

                                    Lorenzo's wife,

                                     Tazza Salvatto

          Lorenzo is continuing to fight for his freedom with the support of his lead counsel, Michael Wiseman, The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, and the Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson.

          Thank you all for reading this message and please take the time to visit our website and contribute to Lorenzo's campaign for freedom!

          Write: Lorenzo Johnson

                      DF 1036

                      SCI Mahanoy

                      301 Morea Rd.

                      Frackville, PA 17932

           Email: Through JPay using the code:

                        Lorenzo Johnson DF 1036 PA DOC


                        Directly at LorenzoJohnson17932@gmail.com


                        Directly on ConnectNetwork -- instructions here

          Have a wonderful day!

          - The Team to Free Lorenzo Johnson

          Write: Lorenzo Johnson

                      DF 1036

                      SCI Mahanoy

                      301 Morea Rd.

                      Frackville, PA 17932

           Email: Through JPay using the code:

                        Lorenzo Johnson DF 1036 PA DOC


                        Directly at LorenzoJohnson17932@gmail.com













          1)  Seeing 'Nothing to Live For' as Haiti Seeks a Body Count After Hurricane Matthew

          OCT. 8, 2016


          PORT-SALUT, Haiti — The loss in this coastal town is all but entire. Dead animals float in tidal pools. Cinder-block heaps mark where homes once stood. Trees, stripped of leaves, branches and tops, impale the earth like ragged posts.

          But the loss here runs deeper. The local hospital has registered 13 deaths since Hurricane Matthewflung 145-mile-per-hour winds and a wall of water at Port-Salut, but many more have died without so much as an official word.

          Emilien Clerveaux died trying to save his daughter, his head split open by flying debris. Elouse Maître's aunt and four cousins were swept out to sea when the water claimed her beachfront shack. Destine Rosevald's two children, 6 and 4, died in his arms as he tried to rush them to safety.

          "When I think about them, I cry," Mr. Rosevald said as he stood in a neighbor's yard on Saturday, water filling his eyes. "She was just in elementary school. My son, he was going to start kindergarten this year."

          As access and information to cut-off areas of Haiti increase after the hurricane, the news only gets worse. The death toll has climbed to nearly 900 people, while an outbreak of cholera in three southern towns has killed 13 people and infected 62 others, health officials said.

          For now, though, there is no way to know the precise toll of the storm. There are still 500,000 people stranded in the south alone, officials said, because of extensive damage to an already feeble infrastructure. More than 170 people have been reported dead in Les Anglais, which for now is accessible only by helicopter.

          Just as the impoverished island nation, bereft of resources and capacity, struggled to prepare for the storm, the recovery has been hampered by the same shortcomings. And communications have been scattered. Although news outlets are reporting nearly 900 dead, the government has for two days insisted on a figure less than half of that.

          That gap is partly the result of how the deaths are reported. The government is counting only those it can verify, a formal process that cannot be completed until access to areas cut off by the storm is restored. But in towns like Port-Salut, many have already buried their dead or stopped searching for loved ones carried away in the storm surge.

          "Honestly, we don't even know how many died," said Sanite Moïse, seated with a group of women washing clothes in a shallow flood pool. Small children bathed in the murky water.

          Mrs. Moïse said her 77-year-old father had died a few days earlier, drowned in the floods that engulfed his home near the beach. When she went to look for him, there was nothing left — just an embankment and washed-up debris. The house, she said, was gone.

          "God gives and God takes," she said with a shrug. "Mankind, for all the evil he does, could never do something like this."

          The devastation in Port-Salut was hard to overestimate. Hardly a home was left untouched, and many were reduced to splinters and rocks. Fields fallowed by salt water baked in the afternoon heat, while palm trees the width of telephone poles were snapped in half.

          Periodically, the stench of death wafted through the tropical air, filling nostrils with a choking, rotten smell.

          The areas of Port-Salut farther west are the worst hit, with entire stretches of the waterfront washed away. Residents spoke about homes that used to line the picturesque beaches along with restaurants and shops.

          Standing by the side of the road, Mr. Rosevald barely registered the activity around him. As men brushed debris from the road and collected wood to reconstruct homes, he leaned against a rusted Mack truck, looking lost.

          He could not bear to be near his home, he said.

          When the storm hit, Mr. Rosevald tried to remain with his children and mother. But by late Monday, as the wind and rain belted his home, finally tearing off his roof, he decided to flee.

          He rushed to the front door but heard a crash in the living room and went running back. He found his 4-year-old son, Kendy, and his mother buried in the wreckage.

          He pulled them out and clutched his unconscious son at his waist, determined to get them out of the house. He lifted his daughter, Naomie, onto his shoulders and ran outside, his mother close behind.

          Almost immediately, a stick whirred through the air and struck the little girl in the ribs. Frightened by the force of the impact, he looked down at her but kept moving until they reached a neighbor's house.

          By the next morning, both children were dead.

          His daughter, he said, was a playful and talkative girl in second grade. She loved math and jumping rope with friends. His son, he said, was a chatterbox and was excited to start kindergarten this year.

          Mr. Rosevald paused and apologized for not recalling everything clearly. "They tell me my daughter died a few hours later, at 6 a.m.," he said. The force of the blow caused extensive internal bleeding, he said.

          "My son, they said, was dead the entire time I was carrying him," he stuttered. The boy was dead the instant the wall fell on him.

          On Saturday, residents cleaned up wooden debris that littered the town, working with machetes and axes and stacking trees and branches felled in the storm. Fisherman repaired their nets on the beach.

          The water was postcard Caribbean.

          At the local hospital, the injured turned up by the dozens. An old man was carried from the bed of a truck into the waiting room, unconscious, as nurses and doctors trained in Cuba attended to him.

          A young girl issued bloodcurdling screams as nurses cleaned cuts running up her leg. A young man beside her gingerly touched deep gashes on the back of his neck.

          "I knew this place before," Orthela Genima, a doctor who has worked in the hospital for several years, said of the town. "Now I can't even recognize it."

          Among those who had lost loved ones, many struggled to recognize even themselves.

          "It's like we are slowly dying," said Micheline Clerveaux, 18, whose father, Emilien, died Tuesday afternoon. "We have nothing to live for."

          The family was gathered near where its house had been, an area reduced to a mound of stones and an odd assortment of furniture, a dismantled speaker and a wooden box spring. Mr. Clerveaux was buried in the family grave beside the home, a concrete slab sitting above ground, painted a dull blue.

          He had been searching for Micheline when the storm raged on Tuesday morning. The family had fled the home moments earlier, seeking refuge in an open field to the west.

          The parents split up, and Micheline and her sister, Francise, went with their father. The other four children went with their mother, Marie Rose Jacob.

          But when they met in the field and lay flat on the ground to avoid the flying objects, Micheline was missing. A strong gust had knocked her off course, placing her closer to a neighbor's house.

          "He told me he was going to look for her," Mrs. Jacob said.

          After an hour, the children and their mother left the field and, by good fortune, found shelter in the same home where Micheline was taking cover. But Mr. Clerveaux was not there.

          They waited until the worst of the storm had passed and went searching for him. Hours passed. Eventually, a few hundred yards away, they found him leaning against a tree, talking to himself.

          They hoisted him and looked for injuries. There was a huge wound on the back of his head. At home, lying in bed, he told his wife that he was going to die.

          A few hours later, he did.

          Mr. Clerveaux was a subsistence farmer, growing corn, potatoes and beans to feed his family. Those crops are now gone, unlikely to grow again in the salt water marsh that his land has been turned into. The family's livestock — a cow and three sheep — are also lost.

          Neighbors pitched in to bury Mr. Clerveaux, and they are housing and feeding his wife and children. They say they will continue for however long it takes the family to rebuild.

          "If we survive, they will survive," said Jean-Robert Nazaire, 56, the neighbor with whom the family took shelter during the storm. "If we have only one loaf of bread to eat, we will share it with them."



          2)  Why Care at Native American Hospitals Is Often Substandard

          OCT. 8, 2016





          SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The internal watchdog of the Health and Human Services Department says the often substandard quality of care at hospitals serving Native Americans is the result of outdated equipment and technology, lack of resources, and difficulty attracting and keeping skilled staff.

          The Office of Inspector General on Friday released two reports that looked into the longstanding challenges of the 28 hospitals directly operated by the federal Indian Health Service. The office, which acknowledged that reports of inadequate health care services for Native Americans had been of concern to the federal government for almost a century, criticized the agency's limited oversight regarding compliance with federal regulations and quality of care, detailing how the agency's regional administrators had few sources of information to assess the services provided at the hospitals.

          The Indian Health Service, commonly referred to as I.H.S., is responsible for providing health care services to enrolled tribal members as part of the government's treaty obligations to Native American tribes. But the agency has faced challenges for decades, and within the past year has been under increased scrutiny from Congress after inspections of hospitals in the Great Plains uncovered severe deficiencies.

          The inspector general's office said that the Indian Health Service's eight regional offices conducted activities to monitor the quality of the hospitals, but that those efforts were minimal in some areas.

          One of the reports stated that the primary source of information that the regional offices used to detect quality problems was a small number of complaints and patient-harm reports.

          "However, according to hospital administrators, most patient complaints relate to customer service and wait times, rather than medical care," according to the report. "Further, most hospitals (20 of 28) receive fewer than 100 complaints per year for inpatient and outpatient visits combined, averaging about one complaint per 1,000 patient visits."

          The report continued: "Considering the quantity and subject matter of complaints and patient harm reports, they are unlikely to provide hospital staff with the breadth of information needed to identify and diagnose systemic quality or compliance breakdowns."

          The inspector general's office, which gathered the information for the reports from April 2014 to October 2014, also said that only half of the regional offices conducted mock inspection surveys that provided insight to quality practices.

          The watchdog also faulted the health service for staggering findings of outdated hospitals and the process taking several weeks that job applicants had to follow, even when one in three physicians jobs was open at the time the information for the reports was gathered.

          According to the report, in 15 of the 28 hospitals, administrators reported that aging or inadequate physical environments affected their ability to give quality care. Corroded pipes in one hospital caused sewage to leak into the operating room.

          The Indian Health Service had been under scrutiny for more than a year after inspectors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found several quality-of-care deficiencies at hospitals in South Dakota and Nebraska. At one hospital, the alarming conditions of its emergency room led officials to close it for seven months.

          The, watchdog, the inspector general office, on Friday recommended that inspectors survey Native American health facilities more frequently.

          In a statement on Friday, the health service concurred with inspector general recommendations, including the need for more training for staff and new ways to monitor hospital quality.

          The agency also said it began a mock survey initiative at 26 hospitals in May to assess compliance with the standards that hospitals must meet to be able to participate in the Medicare program.

          The statement also said a team was formed in February "to ensure that dependable, quality care is delivered consistently across I.H.S. facilities."



          3)  Queens Prosecutor Releases 71-Page Report on a Fatal Police Shooting

          OCT. 7, 2016




          When a New York City police officer uses lethal force, prosecutors routinely examine the circumstances leading up to the death and whether the officer had operated lawfully. Often what they release to the public is limited to a brief statement saying whether they had decided to press charges. Or, if the matter is taken to a grand jury, the process is cloaked in secrecy.

          But on Friday, the Queens district attorney's office took the unusual step of making public a lengthy, detailed report of what investigators discovered in an officer-involved killing earlier this year.

          Richard A. Brown, the district attorney, announced that there was no basis for criminal charges against the officers who fatally shot a 32-year-old man, who the authorities said was armed, in South Ozone Park on April 17. With the announcement, Mr. Brown's office released a 71-page document outlining the investigation into the shooting of the man, George Tillman. It included accounts from police officers, emergency workers and witnesses at the scene, as well as details about the evidence recovered by investigators.

          The release of the report was apparently intended to address the mounting calls for more transparency in reviews of police-involved shootings. Some have praised the move as a step toward changing a process that has been criticized for its secrecy, which often leaves lingering doubts over how and whether police officers were held accountable.

          "These cases get a lot of public attention and interest," said Jonathan Moore, the lawyer who represented the family of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after he was wrestled to the ground by police officers on Staten Island, in a civil suit against the city. "If you're not going forward with the case, it's a good idea to explain why. More information is always better than less."

          The report comes as law enforcement in New York and around the country face heightened racial tensions over the deaths of black men at the hands of the police. It also follows a failed effort by activists to unseal the transcripts of the grand jury hearings at which the officer who placed Mr. Garner in a chokehold was not charged, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's executive order appointing the state attorney general as a special prosecutor in police-related civilian deaths.

          In the early morning hours of April 17, Mr. Tillman, an electrical lineman visiting from Maryland, was stopped by plainclothes officers who spotted him standing by his S.U.V. with an open bottle of vodka in his hand, according to the report. The officers told Mr. Tillman, who was black, that he could not have the open bottle out and that he was not in a condition to drive. Mr. Tillman handed the bottle to a friend, and the officers began to leave without arresting him.

          Then, the report said, one of the officers saw what looked like a gun in his waistband and tried to talk to him. Mr. Tillman took off running, holding his waist with his right hand. He ignored calls to stop, and other officers who were in the area joined the pursuit.

          He turned to his left and pointed the weapon at an officer. Four officers opened fire, hitting him several times; the medical examiner found that he was killed by a shot to his left temple. The weapon he carried, prosecutors said, was "a loaded and operable" .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

          The officers involved in the shooting were not named in the report, but they were identified by police officials as Michael Renna, Mateusz Krzeminski, Kenneth Stallone and Sgt. Thomas Sorrentino. (In a statement, the Police Department said the officers "performed appropriately under the circumstances and the findings of the Queens district attorney's office affirmed the justification of their actions.")

          In his own statement, Mr. Brown, the district attorney, said that "any fair and reasonable person would agree that to bring criminal proceedings against the officers would be totally unwarranted."

          "The officers had no choice," he added, "but to fire in order to stop Mr. Tillman from firing his weapon at them."

          Mr. Tillman's family, in a statement issued by their lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, disagreed with the prosecutor's findings and argued that the officers should face a trial.

          "Only a jury can help us understand why a father of five, a licensed electrician being investigated for an open container, can get shot 11 times — without getting a shot off — after allegedly pulling a gun on police officers," the family's statement said. "It made no sense when it happened and it still makes no sense today."

          Mr. Tillman's case is not the first in which officials have released detailed information about a police shooting.

          In 2014, the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, released a trove of documents that had been considered by the grand jury before it declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

          Twenty years earlier, the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, held a news conference at which he explained why he would not prosecute Officer Brian George for the fatal shooting of Nicholas Heyward Jr., a 13-year-old who was carrying a toy gun. Mr. Hynes carefully explained to reporters the evidence his office had collected: Officer George was patrolling a dimly lit stairwell when he saw the boy with what he thought was a real weapon; he said he had even heard two clicks.

          Such disclosures by officials, including the Queens district attorney's report on the Tillman case, are notably rare. (A spokesman for Mr. Brown declined on Friday to comment on why he had released the report.)

          "I've never heard of anything like that in New York in the past," said Scott Rynecki, a lawyer for the family of Akai Gurley, who was shot and killed two years ago by an officer in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. Often, Mr. Rynecki said, prosecutors "issue a decline-to-prosecute note and nothing more."

          "It sounds to me like the Queens D.A. is trying to justify its decision, maybe to quell issues that might arise with groups that may be upset with it," Mr. Rynecki added. "I have to tell you, though, it's something I wouldn't mind seeing in every case."



          4)  Selling Shampoo, Eye Cream and a Chemical Crackdown

          The last time Congress thoroughly overhauled the regulation of personal care products like cosmetics and shampoo, World War II had not yet begun.

          Nearly 80 years later, personal care is a multibillion-dollar business, and many of the ingredients used in soaps and face creams are complex — and potentially dangerous — chemical compounds. But the laws on the books have not kept up with the times: If a shampoo makes your hair fall out, no government agency can easily compel a recall.

          That could change soon. Legislation that would introduce a far more serious degree of regulatory oversight to the personal care products industry is proceeding in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Consumer safety groups are pushing for stricter laws. And the call for more stringent oversight of the industry is coming from a coalition of companies that includes Beautycounter, a plucky start-up that is pitching natural face creams as well as regulation.

          Beautycounter is the brainchild of Gregg Renfrew, a retail executive who has embraced the cause of cleaner cosmetics. In 2006, after a career working with women including Martha Stewart and Susie Hilfiger, Ms. Renfrew watched "An Inconvenient Truth," the Al Gore documentary on global warming. "It was an incredible wake-up call for me," she said.

          Her newfound environmental consciousness soon extended beyond the gas pump. Before long she was trying to rid her home of potentially harmful toxins wherever they might lurk. She tossed her nonstick frying pans and bought stainless steel replacements; threw out plastic containers, preferring glass; and started using natural cleaning products.

          But when she went to her bathroom vanity, she was flummoxed. "I couldn't find skin care or other beauty products that were safer but also performed well," she said.

          So Ms. Renfrew says she decided to create products that would satisfy her needs. In 2010, she raised money and hired a team that included makeup artists and public health specialists.

          But as they began developing products, they identified more than 1,500 chemicals and ingredients they thought might be harmful or linked to cancer, and they resolved not to use them in Beautycounter products, they said. The "never list," posted on the Beautycounter website, includes unsavory substances like the preservative formaldehyde, the synthetic antioxidants BHA and BHT, and the skin-lightening chemical hydroquinone.

          Ms. Renfrew says she was surprised that so many of these potentially harmful ingredients could legally be used in personal care products. The problem was that there had not been a major update to the federal laws overseeing the business since 1938.

          "Consumers are demanding cleaner and safer products, but we still have this law from almost 100 years ago," said Bryan McGannon, policy director of the American Sustainable Business Council, a trade group.

          In March 2013, Beautycounter began offering its first nine products, including face cleanser, eye cream and shampoo. Instead of trying to distribute through traditional retail channels, Beautycounter took a page from Avon and chose a direct sales model, relying on an army of mostly women who sold the products to their peers.

          Today, Beautycounter offers nearly 100 products and has more than 25,000 people known as consultants who sell its wares. The company also sells its cosmetics through Goop, J. Crew and Target. Beautycounter says its sales are increasing rapidly.

          As the company grew, Ms. Renfrew kept one eye on Washington. In 2014, she hired Lindsay Dahl, an environmental advocate, to lead the company's lobbying efforts, and she started strengthening alliances with nonprofit groups including the Breast Cancer Fund, Healthy Child Healthy World and the Environmental Working Group.

          Meanwhile, the cosmetics regulation attracted bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and last year Senators Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act. If passed, it would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to test ingredients and issue mandatory recalls for products deemed unsafe.

          "Our skin is our largest organ, and it quickly absorbs the chemicals in personal care products," Ms. Feinstein said in a statement. "With increasing evidence that certain ingredients in these products are linked to health concerns, ranging from reproductive disorders to cancer, there is an urgent need to update the 80-year-old law designed to ensure they are safe."

          In the House, a bipartisan pair of representatives from New Jersey has introduced draft legislation that could become a companion bill. Last month, the Senate held its first hearing on the issue.

          Beautycounter does not claim responsibility for getting the legislation on track. Ms. Feinstein has been studying the issue for at least eight years and working on the current bill for three years. Other companies, including Seventh Generation, the Honest Company and even big corporations like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, have also embraced the prospect of tighter regulation.

          But Beautycounter has been among the most persistent, and vocal, advocates of change. In May, Ms. Renfrew took 100 women to Washington for several days of meetings with senators and staff from both sides of the aisle.

          "Beautycounter has really invested in the process in a different way," Mr. McGannon said. "It isn't often when you have companies willing to stand up and say: We're O.K. with more regulation. We need it."

          Several recent fiascoes have added a sense of urgency to the issue. One of the most prominent examples was when users of Wen, a hair treatment promoted by the stylist Chaz Dean, reported hair loss.

          Wen, Mary Kay and other independent cosmetics companies, as well as the Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors, a trade group, oppose the Personal Care Products Safety Act. They support legislation that critics say would not go nearly far enough to bring real oversight to an industry with lax consumer protections.

          It might seem as if the battle lines have already been drawn. But in a twist, Beautycounter has not endorsed the Personal Care Products Safety Act, saying that while it is a good start, it is insufficient.

          The proposed legislation would require the Food and Drug Administration to test only five ingredients each year. With the European Union having banned or restricted more than a thousand ingredients, Ms. Renfrew says that is woefully inadequate.

          And the bill does little to promote supply chain transparency. In its current incarnation, it would not require companies to reveal much about where they acquire raw materials or other ingredients.

          Strange as it might sound in a gridlocked Washington, it appears that some version of the Personal Care Products Safety Act could pass next year. But what shape a final bill might take is not clear.

          For now, Ms. Renfrew is still lobbying. "We're thrilled that the bill has been introduced," she said. "We'd like to see it strengthened."



          5)  South African Priest Injured in Student Protest

          OCT. 11, 2016



          Images of the South African priest, bloodied by a rubber bullet as he stood in front of his church during a student protest, spread quickly on social media, far beyond his country's borders.

          "I had presumed they would recognize that it was a bad mistake to shoot a robed clergyman at the church gates," the priest, the Rev. Graham Pugin, said on Tuesday, a day after he was struck in the face.

          The episode came after a peaceful student protest at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg turned violent on Monday. According to eyewitness accounts, students threw rocks and the police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

          Some students fled to the grounds of the nearby Holy Trinity Catholic Church as the police cleared the streets. The police gave chase and the students tried to hide behind a low wall. That was when Mr. Pugin, a Jesuit, seen on video, stepped between a police vehicle attempting to enter church property and the students. The vehicle retreated, but the police fired rubber bullets and he was hit.

          Pictures of blood streaming from his nose onto his beard and down the front of his white robes spread quickly on social media and brought international attention to the demonstrations.

          The protest was the latest in a nationwide movement, called Fees Must Fall, in which students are demanding an end to university tuition. Some say the rising costs for higher education disproportionately affect poor, black students, and they want the government to fully cover the cost.



          6)  Police Use Surveillance Tool to Scan Social Media, A.C.L.U. Says

          OCT. 11, 2016


          A Chicago company has marketed a tool using text, photos and videos gleaned from major social media companies to aid law enforcement surveillance of protesters, civil liberties activists say.

          The company, called Geofeedia, used data from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as nine other social media networks, to let users search for social media content in a specific location, as opposed to searching by words or hashtags that would be less likely to reveal an exact location.

          Geofeedia marketed its abilities to law enforcement agencies and has signed up more than 500 such clients, according to an email obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. In one document posted by the organization, as part of a report released on Tuesday, the company appears to point to how officials in Baltimore, with Geofeedia's help, were able to monitor and respond to the violent protests that broke out after Freddie Gray died in police custody in April 2015.

          Geofeedia appears to have used programs that Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies offered that allow app makers or advertising companies to create third-party tools, like ways for publishers to see where their stories are being shared on social media.

          Facebook, Twitter and Instagram say they have cut off Geofeedia's access to their information. But civil liberties advocates criticized the companies for lax oversight and challenged them to create better mechanisms to monitor how their data is being used.

          "These platforms should be doing more to protect the free speech rights of activists of color," Matt Cagle, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. in Northern California, said in an interview. "When they open their feeds to companies that market surveillance products, they risk putting their users in harm's way."

          Instagram and Facebook terminated Geofeedia's access to their data in September, while Twitter shut off access on Tuesday. The response from the companies suggested that Geofeedia was using data from the companies in a way that was not allowed under their developer agreements.

          Jodi Seth, director of policy communications at Facebook, said that Geofeedia had access to data that had been made public on the social network, and that access was subject to the limitations in its platform policy. That policy asks developers to "provide a publicly available and easily accessible privacy policy that explains what data you are collecting and how you will use that data."

          It also asks that they "obtain adequate consent from people before using any Facebook technology that allows us to collect and process data about them."

          Twitter said that based on the information found by the A.C.L.U., it was "immediately suspending Geofeedia's commercial access to Twitter data."

          Phil Harris, chief executive of Geofeedia, said in a statement that his company "provides some clients, including law enforcement officials across the country, with a critical tool in helping to ensure public safety while protecting civil rights and liberties." He said the firm has policies to prevent "inappropriate use of our software."

          Mr. Harris added that the company understands that given how quickly digital technology changes, Geofeedia "must continue to work to build on these critical protections of civil rights."

          In addition to law enforcement agencies, the company has marketed its services to journalists as a way to find people at breaking news events for interviews and social media content. The New York Times used Geofeedia on a trial basis, but has not had access since 2015.

          The A.C.L.U. said it first learned about the agreements with Geofeedia from responses to public records requests to 63 law enforcement agencies in California. Those records, the organization said, revealed a significant expansion of social media surveillance.

          "Posts on social media platforms can reveal information about our location, our religion, the people we associate with," Mr. Cagle said. "Users of social media websites do not expect or want the government to be monitoring this information. And users should not be at risk of being branded a risk to public safety simply for speaking their mind on social media."



          7)  Success Spoils a U.S. Program to Round Up Wild Horses

          OCT. 14, 2016





          OSAGE COUNTY, Okla. — As the sun set on the honey-colored prairie here, a herd of wild horses grazed belly deep in Indiangrass and big bluestem. On the next ridge, a dozen more horses nibbled in the pasture, and beyond them even more, dotting the hills almost as far as the eye could see.

          The head of the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse program, Dean Bolstad, tipped up his cowboy hat and looked out at the animals from a hilltop. "I love seeing this," he said, "but it's also an absolute anchor around our neck."

          The horses were grazing on a ranch the agency rents, one of 60 private ranches, corrals and feedlots where it stores the 46,000 wild horses it has removed from the West's public lands. The cost: $49 million a year.

          Trying to make that rent has pushed the wild horse program into crisis. The expense eats up 66 percent of the federal budget for managing wild horses, and it is expected to total more than $1 billion over the life of the herds. The program cannot afford to continue old management practices that created the problem in the first place, or afford to come up with solutions that might fix it.

          In short, the agency cannot break its cycle of storing horses because it is too busy storing horses.

          "We're in a real pickle," Mr. Bolstad said. "We have huge challenges ahead of us, and we don't have the resources to respond."

          Spending a billion dollars on pastures is a symptom of a broader problem. The agency says there are far too many wild horses roaming the West, and it must limit them to stave off damage to fragile ecosystems. But it never found a strategy that does not put more horses on storage ranches.

          Some critics say management must become broader and include other options, like fertility control drugs for horses in the wild. Others say policies that eliminated predators like wolves, which once helped keep the horse population in check, need to be reconsidered. Still others say it is time to kill horses to free up resources. Animal-rights groups, meanwhile, oppose any killing of horses.

          The bureau has struggled to limit wild horse populations since Congress passed a law in 1971 protecting the wild horses and burros that roam patches of public land in 10 Western states, and whose numbers increase naturally every year. The agency says the land can support only about 27,000 animals, but these days, there are about 77,000.

          Repeated government audits going back 26 years have warned the bureau to find alternatives to storing horses before the cost crippled the program, but it never has. For decades the bureau used helicopter roundups to thin herds, but it can now barely afford that because it spends so much on storing horses.

          In recent years, the bureau tried fertility control drugs — administered through an annual shot delivered by dart gun — that would reduce the need for roundups. Now money for that has been spent on storing horses, too.

          "The entire budget is tied up in feeding horses; we need to do something drastic, now," said Ben Masters, a filmmaker who adopted seven wild horses and made a movie about riding them to Canada from Mexico. He now sits on the program's nine-member advisory board.

          In a phone interview from a wild horse area near Eureka, Nev., Mr. Masters described seeing thousands of acres damaged by overgrazing. "It's totally degraded, and we need to save it, both for the horses and for the other wildlife."

          In September, the board voted 8 to 1 to kill the horses in storage. Mr. Masters said voting for the measure broke his heart. "It kills me. I'd love for there to be another way out, but I just don't see it."

          After the vote, though, the bureau was flooded with outraged calls and emails, and officials quickly assured the public they had no plans to kill any horses. They have just signed contracts with ranches that can store 6,000 more horses.

          Ginger Kathrens, a longtime wild horse advocate who sits on the bureau's advisory board, cast the lone vote against killing the horses in storage, saying she favored increasing adoptions and finding places to put horses back out on the range. "There are lots of things the B.L.M. could do besides selling horses to kill buyers," she said.

          Federal law allows the agency to kill excess horses to maintain what it calls "a thriving natural ecological balance." But regulators never took the step, in part fearing public reaction, and in part because Congress in recent years has added riders to various bills banning the killing of healthy wild horses.

          Instead, the agency has encouraged people to adopt wild horses. But the number of people offering homes has rarely equaled the number of horses gathered in roundups.

          The rest go to places like the Hughes Ranch, here in Oklahoma, where for about $2 per horse per day, Robert Hughes, a cattle rancher, maintains just over 4,000 horses on thousands of acres of prime grassland.

          "I basically run an old folks home for horses," he said with a chuckle as he looked out at the grazing herds. "They're in good groceries right here, I can tell you that."

          Asked whether the agency should continue to store horses or euthanize them, he shook his head: "Hey, look, man, I'm in the grass-farming business."

          He said he did not have anything to do with policy. "If this deal ended, we'd get back into livestock in a big way."

          The agency now finds itself buffeted on all sides by lawsuits. Ranchers who share the range are demanding that horse numbers be brought down to prescribed levels. Animal rights groups are demanding an end to roundups and darting.

          By next year, the agency expects an increase of 15,000 horses.

          In September, the advisory board toured a wild horse herd area in Nevada that had not been grazed by cattle in eight years. Sue McDonnell, a board member who teaches equine behavior at the University of Pennsylvania, said she opposed euthanasia until she saw the battered grasses and invasive weeds.

          "It was awful," she said in an interview. "A lot of that land is under severe stress. If we don't act now, there will be parts that will be lost effectively forever. The horses will die, other wildlife will die, and that will be that."

          While few people disagree that regions of the West are overgrazed, critics of the agency say it is wrong to blame wild horses, which are outnumbered by cattle 10 to one on bureau lands.

          Killing horses in storage would only enable unsustainable practices that favor ranchers, they say.

          "The population problem is just a symptom of a failed public lands wildlife policy," said Michael Harris, a lawyer for Friends of Animals. To find a lasting solution, he said, the federal government must address decades of management policies that have eradicated wolves and mountain lions, which prey on horses, from public lands, creating a landscape where horses reproduce rapidly.

          "We're not going to solve this problem unless we have a policy that makes room for wildlife on the land — all wildlife, not just horses," he said.



          8)  Obama, Cementing New Ties With Cuba, Lifts Limits on Cigars and Rum

          OCT. 14, 2016


          WASHINGTON — President Obama on Friday moved to cement his administration's historic opening with Cuba by issuing a sweeping directive that will last beyond his presidency, setting forth a new United States policy to lift the Cold War trade embargo and end a half-century of clandestine plotting against Cuba's government.

          The action formalizes the shift toward normalization that the president unveiled nearly two years ago with the announcement that he and President Raúl Castro of Cuba had secretly agreed to repair their countries' relationship.

          Mr. Obama on Friday also made what aides said were likely his final major modifications to loosen United States sanctions on Cuba before leaving office, including lifting the $100 limit on bringing Cuban rum and cigars into the United States.

          It is Mr. Obama's latest use of executive power to press forward in the face of lingering opposition in Congress to repealing the embargo, this time through a 12-page document that essentially transforms what has been a presidential priority into a set of official mandates that will shape United States policy toward Cuba for decades.

          It would take another directive by a future president to reverse the move, but Mr. Obama's top advisers argued that it would be difficult for a successor to cancel a set of policy changes that are reshaping the way Americans travel to and do business with Cuba.


          Tourists buying cigars from a shop in Havana. President Obama on Friday lifted the $100 limit on bringing Cuban rum and cigars into the United States. CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times 

          WASHINGTON — President Obama on Friday moved to cement his administration's historic opening with Cuba by issuing a sweeping directive that will last beyond his presidency, setting forth a new United States policy to lift the Cold War trade embargo and end a half-century of clandestine plotting against Cuba's government.

          The action formalizes the shift toward normalization that the president unveiled nearly two years ago with the announcement that he and President Raúl Castro of Cuba had secretly agreed to repair their countries' relationship.

          Mr. Obama on Friday also made what aides said were likely his final major modifications to loosen United States sanctions on Cuba before leaving office, including lifting the $100 limit on bringing Cuban rum and cigars into the United States.

          It is Mr. Obama's latest use of executive power to press forward in the face of lingering opposition in Congress to repealing the embargo, this time through a 12-page document that essentially transforms what has been a presidential priority into a set of official mandates that will shape United States policy toward Cuba for decades.

          It would take another directive by a future president to reverse the move, but Mr. Obama's top advisers argued that it would be difficult for a successor to cancel a set of policy changes that are reshaping the way Americans travel to and do business with Cuba.


          Presidential Policy Directive on Cuba 

          President Obama on Friday signed a new directive regarding United States policy toward Cuba, enshrining his push to normalize relations in a legally binding document. 

           OPEN DOCUMENT 

          "This directive takes a comprehensive and whole-of-government approach to promote engagement with the Cuban government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible," Mr. Obama said in a statement. "Challenges remain — and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights — but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values."

          The policy directive was notable because it was public instead of classified.

          "We are not seeking to impose regime change on Cuba," Mr. Obama said, asserting that "the embargo is outdated and should be lifted."

          As if to underscore a stark shift from decades of United States policy toward Cuba, which were marked by spying and suspicion, the document specifically requires that American-led "democracy programs" — which the Castro government has denounced as secret efforts to destabilize the country — be "transparent."

          "The United States used to have secret plans for Cuba; now our policy is fully out in the open and online for everyone to see and read," Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, said at a speech in Washington on Friday. "What you see is what you get."

          The sanctions eased on Friday were the sixth round of regulatory changes announced by the Treasury and Commerce Departments aimed at easing travel to Cuba as well as trade and commerce between the United States and the island nation.

          The actions built on a series of milestones with Cuba as Mr. Obama's tenure draws to a close. Last month, he nominated the first United States ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years, following the reopening last year of embassies in Washington and Havana. The first direct commercial flight from the United States reached Cuba in August.



          9)  Activists, the police may be watching your Facebook page

          October 16, 2016 


          It felt like a confirmation.

          A report by the American Civil Liberties Union showing that police from Oakland to Baltimore had used a surveillance program to track activists and communities of color by accessing their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram data en masse confirmed for many Bay Area activists what they already suspected.

          "At every protest, we assume we're being spied on, because we know we are," said Malkia Cyril, the executive director of the Center for Media Justice activist group in Oakland.

          "We assume whatever surveillance tools are at the disposal of our local police department, they're being used," she said. "If it's possible, they're going to do it."

          According to the ACLU report, nearly 500 law enforcement agencies — including the Oakland Police Department — gained access to user data from eight social media sources through Geofeedia, a Chicago tech firm that gathers real-time, location-based information gleaned from public social media accounts.

          Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) have severed their relationship with Geofeedia since the report was released on Tuesday.

          Such data can allow law enforcement agencies to track protests as they happen and identify individuals involved. However, the ACLU report does not specify exactly which data different police departments accessed or how that data was used.

          And though the scope and method of data collection used by law enforcement in these cases disturbed some activists and lawyers, several said it's nothing new.

          As technology evolves, so, too, does governments' ability to monitor individuals, groups and entire cities. The extent to which such surveillance is ethical — or legal — remains in dispute as pressure mounts on social media companies to choose sides.

          "America is built on some core tenets, one of which is the right to speak your mind, and another is the right to be left alone if you haven't done anything wrong, that you're innocent until proven guilty," said Chris Calabrese, the vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

          "The antithesis of this idea is that we should be watching everyone, just in case," he said. "It's attractive and seductive and easy, but the reality is the government should not be spending any time paying attention to your movements or activities unless you are suspected of a crime."

          Black communities, civil rights leaders and subversive writers have been targets of sweeping surveillance measures since J. Edgar Hoover's extensive FBI espionage of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panthers in the 1960s.

          Of course, back then, spying methods were limited.

          "What's different today is the ubiquitous nature of mass surveillance changes the nature of what used to be quite targeted," Cyril said. "The danger now is you can say you're targeting individuals or activist groups, but everyone is going to get caught in that net. It's going to catch not just black activists but the black community, people who aren't organizing around anything."

          The advent and rapid evolution of technology has changed the extent to which people can be monitored. Using location data and predictive analytics, surveillance technologies can map out where protests or riots are headed — before they even happen.

          Civil rights activists worry that law enforcement groups are increasingly using technology monitoring tools to track cell phone communication and the movements of individuals without going through the legal channels required of police whenever they perform a search.

          "When I'm in the street, my body is in the public domain, but you still need a warrant to search me," Cyril said. "I can put my physical self or my words in the public domain, but paying someone to not only search but organize information for you to use for investigatory purposes without suspecting me or anyone next to me of committing a crime is a violation of the Fourth Amendment." That constitutional amendment protects against illegal search and seizure of property.

          Geofeedia's Chief Executive Officer Phil Harris released a statement Tuesday that said the company is "committed to the principles of personal privacy, transparency and both the letter and the spirit of the law when it comes to individual rights." The platform, he went on, is "a critical tool in helping ensure public safety while protecting civil rights and liberties."

          Harris cited Geofeedia's work in aiding government recovery efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters, like Hurricane Matthew, and terrorism attacks, such as the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.

          Facebook provided Geofeedia with access to data surrounding trending topics and events, such as protests often organized with the aid of social media. Twitter gave Geofeedia access to a database of public tweets, and Instagram allowed the firm access to its API, or application program interface, which would have allowed police to mine publicly posted photos for user and location information.

          "Geofeedia has in place clear policies and guidelines to prevent the inappropriate use of our software; these include protections related to free speech and ensuring that end-users do not seek to inappropriately identify individuals based on race, ethnicity, religious, sexual orientation or political beliefs, among other factors," Harris wrote. "That said, we understand, given the ever-changing nature of digital technology, that we must continue to work to build on these critical protections of civil rights."

          Geofeedia is hardly the only company that gathers and analyzes social media data as a means of tracking social trends and real-time conversations. It's also not the only such company that works with law enforcement — its self-proclaimed "biggest competitor" SnapTrends is another.

          But there are other ways police can tap into people's tech.

          Many agencies use Stingray technology, devices that trick a cell phone into believing them to be cell towers. When the phone transmits data to what it thinks is a tower, the Stingray device can identify, track and intercept real-time information from that phone.

          To use these interceptors, police officers need to be within a certain radius of the phones they're targeting. Often, the tracking technology is run out of police vans, from which officers can collect metadata such as a phone's location and the numbers of other phones with which it has been in contact. Some models also allow law enforcement to gather content, such as verbal communication and text messages.

          Some states, including California, require a court order to access personal communications content — others do not.

          Last year, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office was sued for refusing to release documents detailing its use of Stingray devices.

          Legal experts say the onus falls not only on police departments to refrain from performing improper searches or surveillance using available technology, but also on social media companies to better protect — and communicate with — their users.

          "Social media companies should adopt clear, public, and transparent policies to prohibit developers from exploiting user data for surveillance purposes," wrote the ACLU in its report. "The companies should publicly explain these policies, how they will be enforced, and the consequences of such violations."



          10)  In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War

          OCT. 16, 2016




          WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

          Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the "Black Hawk Down" battle in 1993.

          The Somalia campaign, as it is described by American and African officials and international monitors of the Somali conflict, is partly designed to avoid repeating that debacle, which led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. But it carries enormous risks — including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.

          The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president's stated aversion to American "boots on the ground" in the world's war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.

          American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president's authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda.

          In its public announcements, the Pentagon sometimes characterizes the operations as "self-defense strikes," though some analysts have said this rationale has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is only because American forces are now being deployed on the front lines in Somalia that they face imminent threats from the Shabab.

          America's role in Somalia has expanded as the Shabab have become bolder and more cunning. The group has attacked police headquarters, bombed seaside restaurants, killed Somali generals and stormed heavily fortified bases used by African Union troops. In January, Shabab fighters killed more than 100 Kenyan troops and drove off with their trucks and weapons.

          The group carried out the 2013 attack at the Westgate mall, which killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 175 in Nairobi, Kenya. More recently it has branched into more sophisticated forms of terrorism, including nearly downing a Somali airliner in February with a bomb hidden in a laptop computer.

          About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes.

          The Navy's classified SEAL Team 6 has been heavily involved in many of these operations.

          Once ground operations are complete, American troops working with Somali forces often interrogate prisoners at temporary screening facilities, including one in Puntland, a state in northern Somalia, before the detainees are transferred to more permanent Somali-run prisons, American military officials said.

          The Pentagon has acknowledged only a small fraction of these operations. But even the information released publicly shows a marked increase this year. The Pentagon has announced 13 ground raids and airstrikes thus far in 2016 — including three operations in September — up from five in 2015, according to data compiled by New America, a Washington think tank. The strikes have killed about 25 civilians and 200 people suspected of being militants, the group found.

          The strikes have had a mixed record. In March, an American airstrike killed more than 150 Shabab fighters at what military officials called a "graduation ceremony," one of the single deadliest American airstrikes in any country in recent years. But an airstrike last month killed more than a dozen Somali government soldiers, who were American allies against the Shabab.

          Outraged Somali officials said the Americans had been duped by clan rivals and fed bad intelligence, laying bare the complexities of waging a shadow war in Somalia. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the Pentagon was investigating the strike.

          Some experts point out that with the administration's expanded self-defense justification for airstrikes, a greater American presence in Somalia would inevitably lead to an escalation of the air campaign.

          "It is clear that U.S. on-the-ground support to Somali security forces and African Union peacekeepers has been stepped up this year," said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. "That increases the likelihood that U.S. advisers will periodically be in positions where Al Shabab is about to launch an attack."

          Peter Cook, the Department of Defense spokesman, wrote in an email, "The DoD has a strong partnership with the Somali National Army and AMISOM forces from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi operating in Somalia. They have made steady progress pressuring Al Shabab."

          The escalation of the war can be seen in the bureaucratic language of the semiannual notifications that Mr. Obama sends to Congress about American conflicts overseas.

          The Somalia passage in the June 2015 notification is terse, saying American troops "have worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa'ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab."

          In June, however, the president told Congress that the United States had become engaged in a more expansive mission.

          Besides hunting members of Al Qaeda and the Shabab, the notification said, American troops are in Somalia "to provide advice and assistance to regional counterterrorism forces, including the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces."

          American airstrikes, it said, were carried out in defense of the African troops and in one instance because Shabab fighters "posed an imminent threat to U.S. and AMISOM forces."

          At an old Russian fighter jet base in Baledogle, about 70 miles from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, American Marines and private contractors are working to build up a Somali military unit designed to combat the Shabab throughout the country.

          Soldiers for the military unit, called Danab, which means lightning in Somali, are recruited by employees of Bancroft Global Development, a Washington-based company that for years has worked with the State Department to train African Union troops and embed with them on military operations inside Somalia.

          Michael Stock, the company's founder, said the Danab recruits received initial training at a facility in Mogadishu before they were sent to Baledogle, where they go through months of training by the Marines. Bancroft advisers then accompany the Somali fighters on missions.

          Mr. Stock said the goal was to create a small Somali military unit capable of battling the Shabab without repeating the mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to build up large armies.

          Still, American commanders and their international partners are considering a significant expansion of the training effort to potentially include thousands of Somali troops who would protect the country when African Union forces eventually left the country.

          Maj. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag, the commander of the American military's task force in Djibouti, the only permanent American base in Africa, said the proposed training plan would increase and enhance the Somali national security forces, including the army, national guard and national police.

          "The specific numbers of forces required is currently being assessed," General Sonntag said. He added that it must be large enough to protect the Somali people but "affordable and sustainable over time, in terms of Somalia's national budget."

          Independent experts and aid organizations say the Somali Army is still largely untrained, poorly paid and poorly equipped, and years away from coalescing regional militias into a unified army.

          American policy makers tried to avoid direct involvement in Somalia for years after the Black Hawk Down episode. But in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Special Operations troops and the Central Intelligence Agency began paying Somali warlords to hunt down Qaeda operatives in the country.

          In 2006, the United States gave clandestine support to Ethiopian troops invading the country to overthrow an Islamist movement that had taken control of Mogadishu. But the brutal urban warfare tactics of the Ethiopian troops created support for an insurgent movement that called itself Al Shabab, which means "The Youth."

          American involvement in Somalia was intermittent for several years afterward, until the Westgate attack refocused Washington's attention on the threat the Shabab posed beyond Somalia.

          The Shabab still control thousands of square miles of territory across Somalia. A Somali university student who travels in and out of Shabab areas said the group's fighters were becoming increasingly suspicious, even paranoid, checking the phones, cameras, computers and documents of anyone passing through their territory, constantly on guard for another American attack. He said Shabab fighters were becoming younger, with a vast majority under 25 and many as young as 10.

          American law enforcement officials think that the bomb that nearly brought down the commercial jet in February was most likely made by a Yemeni who is believed to have constructed other laptop bombs in Somalia. Pictures from an airport X-ray machine show the explosive packed into the corner of the laptop, next to a nine-volt battery. Several aviation experts said that the bomb was obvious and that airport security officials in Mogadishu might have intentionally allowed it through.

          The bomb exploded about 15 minutes after takeoff, punching a hole through the fuselage and killing the man suspected of carrying the bomb on board, though the pilot was able to land safely. Aviation experts said that if the bomb had exploded a few minutes later, with the cabin fully pressurized, the fuselage would have most likely blown apart, killing all of the approximately 80 people on board.



          11) Police arrest more people for marijuana use than for all violent crimes — combined

           October 12, 2016




          On any given day in the United States, at least 137,000 people sit behind bars on simple drug-possession charges, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.

          Nearly two-thirds of them are in local jails. The report says that most of these jailed inmates have not been convicted of any crime: They're sitting in a cell, awaiting a day in court, an appearance that may be months or even years off, because they can't afford to post bail.

          "It's been 45 years since the war on drugs was declared, and it hasn't been a success," lead author Tess Borden of Human Rights Watch said in an interview. "Rates of drug use are not down. Drug dependency has not stopped. Every 25 seconds, we're arresting someone for drug use."

          Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tell the story. Drug-possession arrests skyrocketed, from fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979 to more than 500 in the mid-2000s. The drug-possession rate has since fallen slightly, according to the FBI, hovering near 400 arrests per 100,000 people.

          Defenders of harsh penalties for drug possession say they are necessary to deter people from using drugs and to protect public health. But despite the tough-on-crime push that led to the surge in arrests in recent decades, illicit drug use today is more common among Americans age 12 and older than it was in the early 1980s. Federal figures show no correlation between drug-possession arrests and rates of drug use during that time.

          But the ACLU and Human Rights Watch report shows that arrests for drug possession continue to make up a significant chunk of modern-day police work.

          "Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime," the report finds, citing FBI data. "More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year."

          In fact, police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined.

          The report finds that the laws are enforced unequally, too. Over their lifetimes, black and white Americans use illicit drugs at similar rates, according to federal data. But black adults were more than 2½ times as likely to be arrested for drug possession.

          "We can't talk about race and policing in this country without talking about the No. 1 arrest offense," Borden said.

          The report calls for decriminializing the personal use and possession of drugs, treating it as a public-health matter instead of a criminal one.

          "Rather than promoting health, criminalization can create new barriers to health for those who use drugs," the report says. "Criminalization drives drug use underground; it discourages access to emergency medicine, overdose prevention services, and risk-reducing practices such as syringe exchanges."

          The report reinforces its point by noting the lengthy sentences handed down in some states for possession of small amounts of drugs.

          For example, it sketches the history of Corey J. Ladd, who was arrested for possessing half an ounce of marijuana during a 2011 traffic stop in New Orleans. Because he had convictions for two prior offenses involving the possession of small amounts of hydrocodone and LSD, he was sentenced in 2013 to 17 years in prison as a "habitual offender." He is currently appealing the sentence to Louisiana's Supreme Court.

          "Corey's story is about the real waste of human lives, let alone taxpayer money, of arrest and incarceration for personal drug use," Borden said. "He could be making money and providing for his family."

          But Ladd's treatment is far from the harshest drug-possession sentence uncovered by ACLU and Human Rights Watch researchers, who conducted analyses of arrest and incarceration data from Florida, New York and Texas.

          In Texas, for instance, 116 people are currently serving life sentences on charges of simple drug possession. Seven of those people earned their sentences for possessing quantities of drugs weighing between 1 gram and 4 grams, or less than a typical sugar packet. That's because Texas also has a habitual-offender law, allowing prosecutors to seek longer-than-normal sentences for people who have two prior felonies.

          "In 2015, more than 78 percent of people sentenced to incarceration for felony drug possession in Texas possessed under a gram," the report found.



          12)  Pennsylvania Faculty Members at 14 State Universities Go on Strike

          OCT. 19, 2016




          Thousands of university faculty members in Pennsylvania went on strike Wednesday morning after negotiations for a new contract between their union and state representatives broke down.

          It is the first time that the union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, has gone on strike in its 34 years. It represents more than 5,000 professors and coaches at 14 institutions across the state and has been without a contract since June 30, 2015.

          Kenneth M. Mash, the union president, said in an interview on Wednesday that representatives for the state system walked away from negotiations at around 8:30 Tuesday night. "I never heard of anything like it with such a major strike looming, but that's what they did," Dr. Mash said.

          In a statement on the union's website, he wrote, "At 11:35 p.m., we made a last attempt to negotiate through back channels. We waited until 5 a.m. We are headed to the picket lines."

          No new meetings were scheduled, he said on Wednesday.

          The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education said in its own statement that it had "concluded five days of negotiations Tuesday without reaching agreement on a new contract.

          "While the two sides made significant progress in the talks that began Oct. 14, including reaching tentative agreements on more than a dozen issues, including distance education, recruitment and retention of high-quality faculty, and professional responsibilities of faculty outside the classroom, they were not able to reach overall agreement."

          The union represents faculty members from state-run colleges with a combined enrollment of more than 100,000 students: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania.

          It does not represent the faculty at Penn State University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University.

          Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement that he was "extremely disappointed" at the failure by the two sides to reach an agreement. "The resulting strike is detrimental to the system and will have far-reaching effects for years to come," he said.

          A key issue for those on strike is health care: who pays for it and how much. The state system said that it had offered the faculty members the same health care package as other state employees.

          "We don't understand how A.P.S.C.U.F. can argue that faculty members should be entitled to a better health care plan than our other employees," a spokesman, Kenn Marshall, said in a statement.

          Dr. Mash said, however, that the union had accepted "dramatic" reductions in health care coverage and had offered to pay deductibles, accept an increase in premiums and pay more for prescriptions.

          "They've gone after the quality of education that we provide, going after our adjunct faculty," 60 percent of whom are women, Dr. Mash said.

          The state had urged students to attend classes despite the strike.

          Some students appeared to be joining the picket lines, organizing on Twitter under the hashtags #PassheStudentPower and #withAPSCUF.

          News of the strike briefly crashed the union's website. Email responses from Kathryn Morton, a spokeswoman for the union, warned that she would be walking the picket line and may be delayed in responding to messages.

          Ms. Morton's message said, "If you are emailing from a university email address, I will not be able to respond until the strike is resolved, as answering a university email address would be crossing the picket line."



          13)  Black Man Is Arrested While Walking, and Minnesota City Starts a 'Conversation'

          OCT. 19, 2016



          The mayor of Edina, Minn., said officials were taking steps to improve relations between the police and minority residents after a white officer's arrest of a black man who was walking in the street to avoid construction work on a sidewalk last week prompted an outcry.

          The measures were outlined in a five-page announcement, titled "Questions People Are Asking," that was posted on the city's website Tuesday. They include a review of police arrest procedures, more bias training for officers and a request for input from the N.A.A.C.P. in Minneapolis on how to collect demographic data on traffic stops.

          The mayor, James Hovland, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the steps would be taken despite the city's conclusion that the officer, Lt. Tim Olson, had followed proper procedures when arresting Larnie Thomas, 34, on Oct. 12 for walking in the street and, according to the Edina Police Department, blocking traffic.

          A bystander uploaded a seven-minute video to YouTube showing the officer confronting Mr. Thomas, who resisted and cursed at the officer before he was handcuffed. More than 620,000 people had watched the video as of Wednesday, and many shared it and remarked on social media about the way the police handled the encounter.

          The Minneapolis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People described the arrest as "humiliating" and "a vivid reminder that blacks are still too often seen as second-class citizens in the State of Minnesota and in this nation."

          An online backlash grouped Mr. Thomas's treatment by the police into categories in which African-Americans are singled out as being suspicious or are arrested during routine activities, like shopping and driving.

          Mr. Thomas was given a citation charging him with disorderly conduct and failure to obey a traffic signal, and he was dropped off by the police at a shopping mall at his request, the police said. Mr. Hovland said the citation was later dismissed "in the public's interest."

          The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension declined the city's request to investigate the episode because it did not involve a death or serious injury, Jill Oliveira, a spokeswoman, said in an email on Tuesday.

          Mr. Hovland said that Edina, just southwest of Minnesota, was trying to improve ties with the city's black residents to pre-empt the possibility of escalating tensions. Minorities make up about 10 percent of the city's population, and of that population, blacks compose 3 percent, according to census figures.

          "We are grateful to have this opportunity to have this conversation in the absence of a bad event," Mr. Hovland said. "We need conversation beyond the community from people of color to help us understand how to have this conversation."

          Nekima Levy-Pounds, the president of the N.A.A.C.P. chapter in Minneapolis, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the mayor and several City Council members had apologized in a three-hour community meeting late Tuesday over what had happened to Mr. Thomas.

          Ms. Levy-Pounds said the organization would work with the city on reforms and bias training, and as the city composed a citizens task force to address racial concerns.

          "In light of the egregious incident that happened, the city of Edina responded at the City Council meeting in a way that demonstrated a level of compassion, and they signaled that they heard what the people had to say," she said. "I have not seen that happen in any jurisdictions that I have covered."

          In the police report, Lieutenant Olson said he was driving an unmarked patrol vehicle at about 11:46 a.m. on Xerxes Avenue when he saw Mr. Thomas in the street and cars trying to avoid him. Lieutenant Olson wrote that Mr. Thomas did not respond to multiple requests to "get out of the road, stop and return to me," and kept walking.

          Lieutenant Olson got out of the car and "grasped his shoulder."

          The video recorded by the bystander, Janet Rowles, shows Lieutenant Olson gripping Mr. Thomas by the back of the jacket and pulling him to the squad car.

          "For what?" replied Mr. Thomas, who was wearing headphones.

          "You're walking down the middle of the street," the lieutenant said.

          Mr. Thomas said that he was on the "white line," referring to the shoulder of the road.

          When the officer told him to put his hands on the hood of the patrol car. Mr. Thomas resisted, asking what he had done and slamming his backpack on the hood of the vehicle.

          After another officer arrived, Mr. Thomas was handcuffed and put in the squad car.

          Mr. Hovland said the phone messages that flooded into his office afterward reflected the challenges his city faced: Some said Lieutenant Olson had escalated matters by disrespecting Mr. Thomas, and others said Mr. Thomas had made matters worse by being "belligerent."

          "How are we going to figure out what to do to make sure people feel respected every step along the process?" the mayor said.



          14)   Police Cite Self-Defense as Sergeant Fatally Shoots Bronx Woman, 66

          OCT. 18, 2016




          A police sergeant responding to a call about a 66-year-old woman acting irrationally in a Bronx apartment fatally shot her after she tried to hit him with a baseball bat on Tuesday, the police said.

          Officers went to a seventh-floor apartment at 630 Pugsley Avenue in the Castle Hill neighborhood a little after 6 p.m. in response to a neighbor's complaint, the police said.

          About 10 minutes later, the sergeant entered the apartment and found the woman, who was alone, in a bedroom holding a pair of scissors, Assistant Chief Larry W. Nikunen, commanding officer of patrol for the Bronx, said at a news conference.

          The sergeant persuaded the woman to drop the scissors, but she then grabbed a baseball bat. As she tried to hit him, the sergeant fired twice and struck her in the torso, Chief Nikunen said. She was pronounced dead at Jacobi Medical Center.

          The chief said there had been "several incidents involving this individual with similar types of calls" in the past, but he did not have details of the previous calls.

          The names of the sergeant, whom Chief Nikunen said was an eight-year veteran of the New York Police Department, and the woman were not released. The chief said the sergeant had a Taser, which was not used. Why it was not used will be part of an investigation.

          In a statement, the Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., called the shooting "an outrage," noting that the police were aware of the woman's history and that the sergeant had a stun gun. He called on Eric T. Schneiderman, the state attorney general, and Darcel D. Clark, the Bronx district attorney, to investigate.

          "While I certainly understand the hard work that our police officers undertake to keep the streets of our city safe every single day, I also know what excessive force looks like," Mr. Diaz said in the statement.




























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