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January 3, 2017

Contact: Kari Ann Boushee, Family Contact and Co-Director, International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, (505) 217-3612 or contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Top Prosecutor: Clemency for Leonard Peltier "in best interest of justice"

Last month, a letter in support of clemency for federal prisoner Leonard Peltier was sent to President Obama by former United States Attorney James H. Reynolds.

Supporters believe that Native American activist Leonard Peltier was wrongfully convicted in 1977 for the deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Imprisoned for over 41 years, Peltier has the support of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. Over 50 Members of Congress and others—including Judge Gerald Heaney (8th Circuit Court of Appeals) who sat as a member of the court in two of Peltier's appeals—have all called for his immediate release.

As noted in his letter to President Obama, Mr. Reynolds was appointed to the position of U.S. Attorney for the District of Iowa by former President Jimmy Carter. He held the position in 1977, the year that Mr. Peltier's case went to trial, and supervised the prosecutors through trial and appeals, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Hultman. He was later appointed as U.S. Attorney for South Dakota.

Appellate courts have repeatedly acknowledged evidence of government misconduct in the Peltier case—including knowingly presenting false statements to a Canadian court to extradite Mr. Peltier to the U.S., and forcing witnesses to lie at trial. A federal prosecutor has twice admitted that the government "can't prove who shot those agents." Per the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals "the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier's extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case." The court concluded that the government withheld evidence from the defense favorable to Peltier "which cast a strong doubt on the government's case," and that had this other evidence been brought forth "there is a possibility that a jury would have acquitted Leonard Peltier." In 2003, the judges of the 10th Circuit stated: "Much of the government's behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed."

Per the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), from the time of Peltier's conviction in 1977 until the mid-1990s, the average length of imprisonment served for homicide in the U.S. prior to being released on parole ranged from 94 to 99.8 months (about 8 years). Per the existing standards at the time of his sentencing, Peltier is long overdue for discretionary parole. Per 1977 standards, he has served the equivalent of over five life sentences. But, in violation of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (and its amendments), the government has illegally extended Peltier's prison term. Effective on October 12, 1984, the law ordered that parole dates be issued to all "old system" prisoners within the following five-year period, at the end of which time (on October 11, 1989) the U.S. Parole Commission would cease to exist. After it had technically ceased to exist, the Commission claimed it needed more time to complete its work. Congress inexplicably granted several after-the-fact extensions. These extensions were legally invalid and therefore inapplicable because, at the time they were made, the Parole Commission had already been abolished.

Further, in determining his release date, the government has failed to apply its 30 -year rule. After 30 years served, all sentences are to be aggregated and the prisoner released. In addition, the government has not considered the good-time credit earned by Peltier (20 years, to date). Peltier has long been eligible for mandatory release.

Clemency, Reynolds said in his letter to President Obama, is "…in the best interest of justice in considering the totality of all matters involved."

Age 71 and in poor health, Peltier formally applied for clemency on February 17, 2016, and awaits President Obama's decision.


Download attachment: December 21, 2016, Letter from James H. Reynolds to President Barack Obama @ goo.gl/Xv1Iqo.


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Protect Kevin "Rashid" Johnson from Prison Repression!


WHEN: Anytime, but esp. on January 5th
WHAT: Protect imprisoned activist-journalist Kevin "Rashid" Johnson
FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1794902884117144/

On December 21, 2016, Kevin "Rashid" Johnson was the victim of an
assault by guards at the Clements Unit where he is currently being held,
just outside Amarillo, Texas. Rashid was sprayed with OC pepper gas
while handcuffed in his cell, and then left in the contaminated cell for
hours with no possibility to shower and no access to fresh air. It was
in fact days before he was supplied with new sheets or clothes (his bed
was covered with the toxic OC residue), and to this day his cell has not
been properly decontaminated.

This assault came on the heels of another serious move against Rashid,
as guards followed up on threats to confiscate all of his property – not
only files required for legal matters, but also art supplies, cups to
drink water out of, and food he had recently purchased from the
commissary. The guards in question were working under the direction of
Captain Patricia Flowers, who had previously told Rashid that she
intended to seize all of his personal belongings as retaliation for his
writings about mistreatment of prisoners, up to and including assaults
and purposeful medical negligence that have led to numerous deaths in
custody. Specifically, Rashid's writings have called attention to the
deaths of Christopher Woolverton, Joseph Comeaux, and Alton Rodgers, and
he has been contacted by lawyers litigating on behalf of the families of
at least two of these men.

As a journalist and activist literally embedded within the bowels of the
world's largest prison system, Rashid relies on his files and notes for
correspondence, legal matters, and his various news reports.
Furthermore, Rashid is a self-taught artist of considerable talent (his
work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and books);
needless to say, the guards were also instructed to seize his art
materials and the drawings he was working on.

(For a more complete description of Rashid's ordeal on and following
December 21, see his recent article "Bound and Gassed: My Reward for
Exposing Abuses and Killings of Texas Prisoners" at

Particularly worrisome, is the fact that the abuse currently directed
against Rashid is almost a carbon-copy of what was directed against
Joseph Comeaux in 2013, who was eventually even denied urgently needed
medical care. Comeaux died shortly thereafter.

This is the time to step up and take action to protect Rashid; and the
only protection we can provide, from the outside, is to make sure prison
authorities know that we are watching. Whether you have read his
articles about prison conditions, his political or philosophical
polemics (and whether you agreed with him or not!), or just appreciate
his artwork – even if this is the first you are hearing about Rashid –
we need you to step up and make a few phone calls and send some emails.
When doing so, let officials know you are contacting them about Kevin
Johnson, ID #1859887, and the incident in which he was gassed and his
property confiscated on December 21, 2016. The officials to contact are:

Warden Kevin Foley
Clements Unit
telephone: (806) 381-7080 (you will reach the general switchboard; ask
to speak to the warden's office)

Tell Warden Foley that you have heard of the gas attack on Rashid.
Specific demands you can make:

* That Kevin Johnson's property be returned to him

* That Kevin Johnson's cell be thoroughly decontaminated

* That Captain Patricia Flowers, Lieutenant Crystal Turner, Lieutenant
Arleen Waak, and Corrections Officer Andrew Leonard be sanctioned for
targeting Kevin Johnson for retaliation for his writings

* That measures be taken to ensure that whistleblowers amongst staff and
the prisoner population not be targeted for any reprisals from guards or
other authorities. (This is important because at least one guard and
several prisoners have signed statements asserting that Rashid was left
in his gassed cell for hours, and that his property should not have been

Try to be polite, while expressing how concerned you are for Kevin
Johnson's safety. You will almost certainly be told that because other
people have already called and there is an ongoing investigation – or
else, because you are not a member of his family -- that you cannot be
given any information. Say that you understand, but that you still wish
to have your concerns noted, and that you want the prison to know that
you will be keeping track of what happens to Mr Johnson.

The following other authorities should also be contacted. These bodies
may claim they are unable to directly intervene, however we know that by
creating a situation where they are receiving complaints, they will
eventually contact other authorities who can intervene to see what the
fuss is all about. So it's important to get on their cases too:

TDCJ Ombudsman: ombudsman@tdcj.texas.gov

The Inspector General:  512-671-2480

Let these "watchdogs" know you are concerned that Kevin Johnson #1859887
was the victim of a gas attack in Clements Unit on December 21, 2016.
Numerous witnesses have signed statements confirming that he was
handcuffed, in his cell, and not threatening anyone at the time he was
gassed. Furthermore, he was not allowed to shower for hours, and his
cell was never properly decontaminated, so that he was still suffering
the effects of the gas days later. It is also essential to mention that
his property was improperly confiscated, and that he had previously been
threatened with having this happen as retaliation for his writing about
prison conditions. Kevin Johnson's property must be returned!

Finally, complaints should also be directed to the director of the VA
DOC Harold Clarke and the VA DOC's Interstate Compact Supervisor, Terry
Glenn. This is because Rashid is in fact a Virginia prisoner, who has
been exiled from Virginia under something called the Interstate Compact,
which is used by some states as a way to be rid of activist prisoners,
while at the same time separating them from their families and
supporters. Please contact:

VADOC Director, Harold Clarke

Interstate Compact director, Terry Glenn

Let them know that you are phoning about Kevin Johnson, a Virginia
prisoner who has been sent to Texas under the Interstate Compact. His
Texas ID # is 1859887 however his Virginia ID # is 1007485. Inform them
that Mr Johnson has been gassed by guards and has had his property
seized as retaliation for his writing about prison conditions. These are
serious legal and human rights violations, and even though they occurred
in Texas, the Virginia Department of Corrections is responsible as Mr
Johnson is a Virginia prisoner. Despite the fact that they may ask you
who you are, and how you know about this, and for your contact
information, they will likely simply conclude by saying that they will
not be getting back to you. Nonetheless, it is worth urging them to
contact Texas officials about this matter.

It is good to call whenever you are able. However, in order to maximize
our impact, for those who can, we are suggesting that people make their
phone calls on Thursday, January 5.

And at the same time, please take a moment to sign the online petition
to support Rashid, up at the Roots Action website:

Rashid has taken considerable risks in reporting on the abuse he
witnesses at the Clements Unit, just as he has at other prisons. Indeed,
he has continued to report on the violence and medical neglect to which
prisoners are subjected, despite threats from prison staff. If we, as a
movement, are serious about working to resist and eventually abolish the
U.S. prison system, we must do all we can to assist and protect those
like Rashid who take it upon themselves to stand up and speak out. As
Ojore Lutalo once put it, "Any movement that does not support their
political internees ... is a sham movement."


To learn more about Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, the abuses in the Texas
prison system, as well as his work in founding and leading the New
Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter, see his website



Dear John- this is the moment we have been waiting for.

Late this afternoon, Federal Judge Robert Mariani ordered the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to immediately give Mumia Abu-Jamal the life-saving latest direct-acting antiviral medications that have a 95% cure rate!

After a year and a half of constant legal battling, near death hospitalization, and agonizing chronic sickness, Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and attorney Robert Boyle, and thousands of activists, on behalf of Mumia, have prevailed. It took two lawsuits hundreds of hours of motions and your calls, letters and demands.

Winning a preliminary injunction is a tall order and requires proving there will be irreversible harm in delaying the order. This is a tremendous victory. It will pave the way for all incarcerated people who seek hepatitis C treatment.

"This is the first case in the country in which a federal court has ordered prison officials to provide an incarcerated patient with the new medications that came on the market in 2013" -Bret Grote Esq., Abolitionist Law Center

This victory is yours. I want to take a moment to let this sink in: nearly two years ago when Mumia fell into diabetic shock and was near death, you fought with us through the many phone calls, action alerts, fundraising campaigns, and the continuous struggle to keep Mumia alive, stabilize his health, and get him treatment. When Judge Mariani denied our preliminary injunction in August on a technicality, you stuck with us again to raise funds, re-file, and persist onwards. In 2015 and 2016, we raised over $130,000 for Mumia's Medical and Legal Defense because of your support. 

Now we need to turn up the pressure more than ever. We expect that the DOC will quickly appeal Mariani's ruling in the coming days. 

As Robert Boyle, Esq. said, "The struggle is far from over: the DOC will no doubt appeal this ruling. But a victory! Thanks Pam Africa and all the Mumia supporters and all of you."

"Everyone has to get on board to keep the pressure on. We have an opportunity here that we have never had before. We are going to do it as a unified community, everyone together." - Pam Africa  

Let me be honest. We fundraise like we breathe. We have to. We are going to win-- with your key help. We've got until midnight tomorrow to raise just $2,021! We're 97% there. Please pitch in today to help us reach $60K!

Tomorrow your phone will ring with a special message from Mumia. In it, he says, "This is indeed a serious time for me, and for us all. It is not easy to take on the state and prevail; however, it is right to do so. With your help, we may be able to prevail. This is Mumia Abu-Jamal, thanking you for supporting Prison Radio."

John, the clock's running out- but it's not too late to chip in and help us reach our goal! You can open the airwaves for prisoners to speak out in this urgent time of massive incarceration.

Will you pitch in with a gift of $103, $35 or even $250 to bring us to our goal by midnight and amplify the voices of prisoners?


Thank you for being a part of this struggle.

Cuando luchamos ganamos! When we fight we win!

Noelle Hanrahan, Director




To give by check: 

PO Box 411074

San Francisco, CA


Stock or legacy gifts:

Noelle Hanrahan

(415) 706 - 5222


Mumia Wins Federal Court Victory On Hep-C Treatment!

On January 3rd, a federal court granted Mumia Abu-Jamal's petition for immediate and effective treatment for his Hepatitis-C infection, which has hitherto been denied him. The judge struck down Pennsylvania's protocols as "deliberate indifference to serious medical need," said Rachel Wolkenstein, lawyer for Mumia.

 Bret Grote, of the Abolitionist Law Center, and associate attorney Bob Boyle led the case in court. "This is the first case in the country in which a federal court has ordered prison officials to provide an incarcerated patient with the new [Hep-C] medications that came on the market in 2013," said Grote.

This is a rare and important win for innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal in a court system that has routinely subjected him to the "Mumia exception," i.e., a refusal of justice despite court precedents in his favor. Thousands of Hep-C-infected prisoners throughout Pennsylvania and the US stand to benefit from this decision, provided it is upheld. 

But, it is up to us to make sure that this decision is not over-turned on appeal--something the State of Pennsylvania will most likely seek.

Hundreds demonstrated in both Philadelphia and Oakland on December 9th to demand both this Hep-C treatment for prisoners, and "Free Mumia Now!" In Oakland, the December 9th Free Mumia Coalition rallied in downtown and then marched on the OPD headquarters. The Coalition brought over two dozen groups together to reignite the movement to free Mumia; and now we need your support to expand and build for more actions in this new, and likely very dangerous year for political prisoners. 

The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (LAC) urges you to get involved and support the December 9th Coalition.

Contact: Tova, 510-600-5800; Jack, 510-501-7080; or Gerald, 510-417-1252.

More information: December 9th is the date in 1981 on which Mumia was shot by a cop, almost killed, and then framed for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner, which had already taken place before Mumia arrived on the scene. Mumia was an anti-racist activist and journalist, whose activities and radio reports on police brutality had made him a target of both federal and local cops and politicians. 

Mumia's trial before a racist judge was a crime scene in itself, with corrupted and lying "witnesses," honest witnesses not called to appear, faked "evidence" and Mumia himself removed from most of his own trial! His State appeal was held before the same racist judge, and another man who confessed to the Faulkner killing was never called before any court.

Mumia contracted Hepatitis-C from a blood transfusion in the hospital in 1981 after his arrest. Decades later, this long-incubating viral infection exploded into a raft of debilitating secondary symptoms, and into the present threat Mumia faces of cirrhosis of the liver and likely death, unless he receives the newly-available curative treatment. While treating him for the secondary symptoms, the PA prison DOC has up to now refused the essential cure, due to its cost (while masking this in a litany of excuses). 

In 1995, mass international demonstrations took place, which succeeded in stopping the threat of immediate execution which had been leveled against Mumia by the PA governor.  And in 1999, Oakland teachers held unauthorized teach-ins on Mumia and the death penalty, and  longshore workers in the ILWU shut down all West Coast ports to free Mumia. More recently, the LAC has organized demonstrations demanding treatment for prisoners like Mumia and against price-gouging by Gilead Sciences, the maker of the Hep-C drug Harvoni, which all Hep-C victims need.

Now, we must ramp up all this movement to demand: Treatment for all Hep-C infected prisoners, and Free Mumia Now!

This message from: Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. 04 January 2017 



Committee to Stop FBI Repression (stopfbi.net)

Rasmea Defense Committee statement - December 21, 2016

Rasmea retrial set for May 16, 2017

Support the defense now!

This morning, Rasmea Odeh and her defense attorney Michael Deutsch were called into Judge Gershwin Drain's courtroom in Detroit, where the judge and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel were in attendance. The parties all agreed on May 16, 2017, as the new starting date for Rasmea's retrial.

The defense committee will continue to send regular updates regarding any pre-trial hearings or other appearances that Rasmea must make between now and the retrial, as well as requests to participate in regular defense organizing and activities.

In addition, we urge supporters to continue to
call U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade
 at 313-226-9100,

or tweet @USAO_MIE

and demand that she stop wasting taxpayer money, that she stop persecuting a woman who has given so much to U.S. society, and that she #DropTheChargesNow against Rasmea.

Lastly, and in the spirit of the season, please help us win #Justice4Rasmea by making your end-of-year donation to the defense fund! We thank you all for your continued support!

Background info

Statement from Tuesday, December 13

U.S. Attorney extends political attack on Rasmea, brings new indictment against the Palestinian American

Today, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade announced that a grand jury she had empaneled returned a new, superseding indictment against Rasmea Odeh for unlawful procurement of naturalization. This new indictment, just four weeks before her retrial, is a vicious attack by prosecutors desperate after a series of setbacks in their case against the Chicago-based Palestinian American community leader. From the outset, the government has attempted to exclude and discredit evidence of Rasmea's torture at the hands of Israeli authorities, but the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the prosecution, which led to the retrial; and the government's own expert affirmed that Rasmea lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Knowing that it faces the real prospect of losing a retrial before a jury, the U.S. Attorney's office has reframed its case against Rasmea, putting allegations of terrorism front and center. In the first trial in 2014, prosecutors were barred from using the word "terrorism," because Judge Gershwin Drain agreed the word would bias the jury. The new indictment adds two allegations that preclude this protection: first, that the crimes she was forced by torture to confess to are "terrorist activity"; and second, that she failed to report an alleged association with a "Designated Terrorist Organization." Despite the government's claim that this is a simple case of immigration fraud, this new indictment is written to ensure that Rasmea stands before a jury as an accused terrorist.

The Rasmea Defense Committee is urging supporters to call U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade at 313-226-9100, or tweet @USAO_MIE, and demand that she stop wasting taxpayer money, that she stop persecuting a woman who has given so much to U.S. society, and that she #DropTheChargesNow against Rasmea. In addition, the committee is calling on supporters to help win #Justice4Rasmea by donating to the defense and organizing educational events about the case.

"They [the prosecutors] are switching course because they know that a jury will believe Rasmea," says Nesreen Hasan of the Rasmea Defense Committee and its lead organization, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network. "We have always said, from day one, that this is a political case, and that the government is prosecuting Rasmea as part of a broader attack, the criminalization of the Palestine liberation movement. This new indictment is literally the same charge, with the same evidence - immigration forms. Only now, they want to paint Rasmea, and all Palestinians, as terrorists. The real criminals in this case are the Israelis who brutally tortured Rasmea 45 years ago, as well as those in the U.S. government who are trying to put her on trial for surviving the brutality committed against her."

Prosecutors will be disappointed to find that these new allegations fail to erode Rasmea's support. People have mobilized by the hundreds for countless hearings, every day of her 2014 trial, and her appeal earlier this year. "We have people ready to come from across the Midwest to stand with Rasmea in Detroit on January 10, but we are also prepared to adjust those plans to be there whenever we are needed," says Jess Sundin of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, who lives in Minneapolis and has mobilized dozens of Minnesotans and others in support of the defense. "We will redouble our organizing and fundraising work, and make certain Rasmea has the best defense possible."

According to lead defense attorney Michael Deutsch, "We also intend to challenge this indictment as vindictive and politically-motivated."

Visit www.justice4rasmea.org for more information.

### End ###

Copyright © 2016 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.

Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!

Our mailing address is:

Committee to Stop FBI Repression

PO Box 14183

MinneapolisMN  55414

Add us to your address book




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:










Trump and the National Park Service are trying to shut down Inauguration protests – don't let them win! 

January 20, 2017, 7:00 A.M.

Freedom Plaza

1355 Pennsylvania Ave N.W.

(14th Street and Pennsylvania Ave.)

Washington, D.C.

Here in San Francisco:

Fri. Jan. 20, 5pm
SF Protest: Say NO to Trump and the Trump Program on Inauguration Day
Fight Racism, Sexism and Bigotry—Defend Immigrants!
UN Plaza, near Civic Center BART, San Francisco

Share on Facebook

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Sign up to volunteer! Become an organizer in the fightback movement against Trump!

n8 sf

Progressive people from all over the country will be descending on Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2017, to stage a massive demonstration along Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day along with corresponding actions in San Francisco and other West Coast cities.

Trump's appointees are a motley and dangerous crew of billionaires, white supremacists and other extreme rightwingers. They have nothing good in mind for anyone but the banks, oil companies and the military-industrial complex.

It is more important than ever that we keep building the grassroots movement against war, militarism, racism, anti-immigrant scapegoating and neoliberal capitalism's assault against workers' living standards and the environment.

Real social change comes from the bottom, the mobilized grassroots, and not from the centers of institutional power, the professional politicians or the capitalist elites.

This country needs a real political revolution. Millions of people feel entirely disenfranchised by a political system that delivered the least favorable and trusted candidates in U.S. history. Many hoped that the Bernie Sanders campaign would represent a new direction and opportunity to take on entrenched power and extreme inequality, for a higher minimum wage, to defend Social Security, rebuild the labor movement, provide universal health care and free tuition.

Donald Trump is a racist, sexist bigot. On Inauguration Day, thousands will be in the streets to give voice to the millions of people in this country who are demanding systemic change and who reject Trump's anti-people program.

Join us on January 20, 2017, for a massive mobilization of the people!

More info: www.ANSWERsf.org or 415-821-6545. 



Read more about this action at:





December 2016-January 2017 - Volume 37, No. 6

Sukey Wolf
December 2016

On Aug. 18, Manning defenders pose outside the Pentagon before delivering 100,000 signatures to the U.S. Army Liaison Office on Capitol Hill demanding an end to her solitary confinement. Photo: Mike Avender

Courageous whistleblower and transgender activist Chelsea Manning remains in military lockup. But she does not remain silent. She resists brutish prison conditions by the Army and defends the right and need for whistleblowers.

Manning was originally charged with espionage for leaking thousands of documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. These leaks exposed war crimes committed by the military, unjust incarceration of prisoners at Guantánamo, and the phenomenal waste and corruption involved in U.S. prosecution of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A biographer, Denver Nicks, wrote that the diplomatic cables leaked were widely seen as a catalyst for the stunning Arab Spring that erupted in Tunisia in December 2010.

No lives were directly lost due to Manning's disclosures. But in July 2013, having already served three grueling years in prison at Quantico, Va., Private Manning was tried and convicted of 20 offenses, including violating the Espionage Act. She was sentenced to 35 years, less than the 60 years the prosecutor wanted, but that was considered harsh and unwarranted, even by some government insiders. The international Reporters Without Borders denounced the sentence as proof of the vulnerability of whistleblowers.

Double persecution. The extreme persecution that Manning has suffered fits a pattern of harsh treatment of whistleblowers by the current administration. While there have only been ten people prosecuted for espionage in the entire history of the United States, seven have occurred under the Obama White House. This war on truth tellers is part of a larger effort to stifle dissent as Obama prosecutes the War on Terrorism with George W. Bush-like devotion. Human Rights Watch pointed out that the "aggressive prosecution and harsh sentencing" is a sharp contrast to the impunity of senior U.S. officials for torture and other human rights abuses.

Manning's jailers treated her brutally. Why? Because she is a pioneer in blowing the whistle on countless U.S. war crimes and ruthless diplomatic decisions. And because she is a pioneer in fighting and winning the battle for transgender existence in the U.S. military.

Manning has undergone the repeated torture of solitary confinement and vicious mockery of her identity as a transgender woman — such as being required to have her hair at standard military length for males — forced to spend long periods spent completely naked, etc. All of this before she was sentenced, violating the government's own rules against pre-trial punishment.

Manning explained that her attempts at suicide were prompted by the lack of care she has received for her gender dysphoria. "I needed help. Yet, instead I am now being punished for surviving my attempt." She has been subjected to "high-tech bullying" in the form of "constant, deliberate and overzealous administrative scrutiny by prison and military officials."

It takes a movement. After facing new charges and more solitary for her July suicide attempt, Manning finally won her demand to have gender reassignment surgery from male to female, under the new Department of Defense protocols. Her victory is precedent setting. She will probably be the first transgender soldier to receive the treatment.

Clearly, the decision to grant Manning her reassignment surgery and the fact that her latest spell in isolation was shortened was the successful result of mass pressure. It is also the result of Chelsea Manning's firm commitment to keep on fighting. She joined the national labor strike of prisoners begun on Sept. 9 (See "National prisoner labor strike spurs resistance to a new level") and she has recently written she was no longer going to be "bullied by the system."

It is vitally important to keep up the pressure on Eric Fanning, the secretary of the Army, to ultimately free Chelsea Manning. To help, visit chelseamanning.org.









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

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.



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)  Medicaid Funding to End for Planned Parenthood in Texas, State Says

         DEC. 20, 2016




        2)  Spiking Temperatures in the Arctic Startle Scientists

         DEC. 21, 2016


        3)  Charged a Fee for Getting Arrested, Whether Guilty or Not

        By   DEC. 26, 2016




        4)  The Quiet War on Medicaid

         DEC. 25, 2016





        5)  Seller-Financed Deals Are Putting Poor People in Lead-Tainted Homes

         DEC. 26, 2016


        6)  Where Secret Arrests Were Standard Procedure

         DEC. 28, 2016





        7)  Hospitals in Safety Net Brace for Health Care Law's Repeal

         DEC. 28, 2016




        8)  As U.K. Tightens Voting Rules, Critics Say Labour and the Poor Will Suffer

         DEC. 27, 2016


        9)  Houses of Worship Poised to Serve as Trump-Era Immigrant Sanctuaries

         DEC. 27, 2016




        10)  For the Trumps, 'Made in U.S.A.' May Be a Tricky Label to Stitch

         DEC. 28, 2016


        11)  Peabody Energy and Native Americans in Dispute Over Mining in Arizona

         DEC. 29, 2016




        12)  Cub Scouts Kick Out Transgender Boy in New Jersey

         DEC. 30, 2016





        13) Scientists Loved and Loathed by an Agrochemical Giant

        With corporate funding of research, "There's no scientist who comes

        out of this unscathed."

        By Danny Hakim

        December 31, 2016


        14)  Costly Drug for Fatal Muscular Disease Wins F.D.A. Approval

         DEC. 30, 2016


        15)  Gender Pay Gap Halves for Millennials, but Will Widen With Age: Study

         JAN. 4, 2017, 10:54 A.M. E.S.T


        16)  A Young Mother's Solitary, Uphill Struggle

        By    JAN. 4, 2017







        1)  Medicaid Funding to End for Planned Parenthood in Texas, State Says

         DEC. 20, 2016




        In a critical step in a longstanding fight, Texas formally said on Tuesday that it was ending Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood, a move the group said could affect 11,000 patients.

        The office of inspector general for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a final notice terminating Planned Parenthood's enrollment in the state-funded health care system for the poor. If it is not stopped, the termination will be effective in 30 days.

        Planned Parenthood officials said on Tuesday night that they would continue to provide birth control, cancer screenings, H.I.V. tests and other care to Medicaid patients and seek an injunction in federal court to stop the state. The group sued the state in 2015 after a preliminary notice was filed, but the court case has lingered pending further action by the state.

        At stake is about $4 million a year in Medicaid funding. The formal notice is the latest salvo in a legal and political fight that dates back years but intensified 15 months ago when the state issued a preliminary notice to end Medicaid funding for the group's 34 health care centers.

        "Texas is a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation," said Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "If the nation goes the way of Texas, it will be nothing less than a national health care disaster."

        In a statement on Tuesday night, the office of Gov. Greg Abbott said, "Texans expect that when taxpayer dollars are granted to health care providers, it is only to those who demonstrate that the health and safety of their patients come before a profit motive that puts women at greater risk."

        The termination notice, signed by the inspector general, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., cited violations that found Planned Parenthood was unqualified to provide medical services "in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner."

        The notice cited "extensive undercover video" obtained from a Planned Parenthood center in April 2015. The secretly recorded videospurported to show officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of aborted fetal tissue and discussing the issue with abortion opponents who posed as representatives of a biomedical firm. Planned Parenthood has said that the videos were deceptively edited and that the group did nothing illegal or unethical.

        Representatives from the Health and Human Services Commission and the inspector general could not be immediately reached on Tuesday night about the timing of the notice.

        Planned Parenthood has 15 days to file an administrative appeal. A spokeswoman said the group was evaluating whether to pursue an appeal in addition to seeking relief in federal court.



        2)  Spiking Temperatures in the Arctic Startle Scientists

         DEC. 21, 2016


        A spate of extreme warmth in the Arctic over the past two months has startled scientists, who warn that the high temperatures may lead to record-low ice coverage next summer and even more warming in a region that is already among the hardest hit by climate change.

        In mid-November, parts of the Arctic were more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than observed averages, scientists said, and at the pole itself, mean temperatures for the month were 23 degrees above normal. Although conditions later cooled somewhat, the extreme warmth is expected to return, with temperatures forecast to be as much as 27 degrees above normal beginning Thursday.

        Jeremy Mathis, who directs the Arctic Research Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the warmth had led to a later than usual "freeze-up" of ice in the Arctic Ocean. That in turn may lead to record-low ice coverage in the spring and summer, which could lead to more warming because there will be less ice to reflect the sun's rays and more darker, exposed ocean to absorb them.

        "We're going to be watching the summer of 2017 very closely," Dr. Mathis said in an interview.

        On Wednesday, researchers released a study linking the abnormally high Arctic temperatures to human-caused climate change. Using simulations of the climate, both current and before widespread carbon emissions, they found that the likelihood of extreme temperatures like those that occurred this fall had increased to about once every 50 years from about once every 1,000 years.

        "A warm episode like the one we are currently observing is still a rare event in today's climate," said one of the researchers, Friederike E.L. Otto, a senior scientist at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford in Britain. "But it would have been an extremely unlikely event without anthropogenic climate change."

        What's more, Dr. Otto said, if climate change continues at its current pace, spates of extreme Arctic warmth may become common, on the order of once every two years.

        "It's quite impressive how much the risk of these kinds of events is changing," she said. "It's one region where we see the impacts of climate change very strongly."

        Walt Meier, a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said that the current warmth had been brought on by fluctuations in the jet stream, which have allowed frigid air to make its way south into North America and warm air into parts of the Arctic.

        While such outbreaks of extreme warmth are not new, he said, there are many signs that climate change is making them more frequent. "We're loading the dice to make this more likely," he said.

        While the earth over all has been warming — 2015 set a record for warmth, and 2016 is expected to exceed it — the Arctic has been warming at least twice as fast as the global average. In part, scientists say, that is because of declines in sea ice coverage. Ice typically reflects from about half to 70 percent of the solar energy that hits it, but water reflects only 6 percent, and so the water warms up. That melts more ice, which in turn leads to more exposed ocean and still more melting — what's known as a positive feedback loop.

        The recent high temperatures have had a severe impact on Arctic sea ice formation this fall. Ice coverage was the lowest for any November since satellite records began in 1979, NOAA said. Sea ice is also getting thinner on average, as thicker, multiyear ice melts and is replaced by ice that lasts only a year.

        Temperatures this fall were so far off the charts that NOAA took the unusual step of extending the time frame for its annual "Arctic report card" by a few days into early December. "Because we have seen such amazing trends in the last few months, we did an addendum," Dr. Mathis said.

        The report, which includes findings from NOAA-sponsored research projects involving more than 60 scientists, was released last week at a scientific meeting in San Francisco. At a news conference, Dr. Mathis said that in addition to the extreme warm periods, the overall year was the warmest on record.

        "We've seen a year in 2016 in the Arctic like we've never seen before," he said.

        While some of the warming is attributable to the effects of El Niño, which affected weather patterns worldwide last year, those effects are on top of what is already a clear warming trend.

        The NOAA review also showed that the Greenland ice sheet continued to lose mass from melting, as it has every year since 2002, when satellites began measurements. Melting began earlier this year than any previous year except 2012.

        At the news conference, Dr. Mathis noted that warming effects in the Arctic have had a cascading effect through the environment, "including down into Arctic ecosystems."

        He said that communities that rely on hunting and fishing for their food security "should be very concerned."

        "It's getting harder and harder for them to harvest resources as the ice pulls back further and further away from the coast," he said.

        But Dr. Mathis added that changing conditions in the far north should concern everyone. "We need people to know and understand that the Arctic is going to have an impact on their lives no matter where they live."



        3)  Charged a Fee for Getting Arrested, Whether Guilty or Not

        By   DEC. 26, 2016




        WASHINGTON — Corey Statham had $46 in his pockets when he was arrested in Ramsey County, Minn., and charged with disorderly conduct. He was released two days later, and the charges were dismissed.

        But the county kept $25 of Mr. Statham's money as a "booking fee." It returned the remaining $21 on a debit card subject to an array of fees. In the end, it cost Mr. Statham $7.25 to withdraw what was left of his money.

        The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear Mr. Statham's challenge to Ramsey County's fund-raising efforts, which are part of a national trend to extract fees and fines from people who find themselves enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

        Kentucky bills people held in its jails for the costs of incarcerating them, even if all charges are later dismissed. In Colorado, five towns raise more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets and fines. In Ferguson, Mo., "city officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson's law enforcement activity," a Justice Department report found last year.

        An unusual coalition of civil rights organizations, criminal defense lawyers and conservative and libertarian groups have challenged these sorts of policies, saying they confiscate private property without constitutional protections and lock poor people into a cycle of fines, debts and jail.

        The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate challenge to a Colorado law that makes it hard for criminal defendants whose convictions were overturned to obtain refunds of fines and restitution, often amounting to thousands of dollars. That case, Nelson v. Colorado, will be argued on Jan. 9.

        The Colorado law requires people who want their money back to file a separate lawsuit and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

        The sums at issue are smaller in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul. But they are taken from people who have merely been arrested. Some of them will never be charged with a crime. Others, like Mr. Statham, will have the charges against them dismissed. Still others will be tried but acquitted.

        It is all the same to the county, which does not return the $25 booking fee even if the arrest does not lead to a conviction. Instead, it requires people like Mr. Statham to submit evidence to prove they are entitled to get their money back.

        When the case was argued last year before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul, a lawyer for the county acknowledged that its process was in tension with the presumption of innocence.

        "There is some legwork involved," the lawyer, Jason M. Hiveley said, but noted that it is possible for blameless people to get their $25 back. "They can do it as soon as they have the evidence that they haven't been found guilty."

        The legwork proved too much for Mr. Statham. He never got his $25 back.

        He did get a debit card for the remaining $21. But there was no practical way to extract his cash without paying some kind of fee. Among them: $1.50 a week for "maintenance" of the unwanted card, starting after 36 hours; $2.75 for using an A.T.M. to withdraw money; $3 for transferring the balance to a bank account; and $1.50 for checking the balance.

        In its appeals court brief, the county said the debit cards were provided "for the convenience of the inmates," who might find it hard to cash a check.

        Mr. Statham is represented by Michael A. Carvin, a prominent conservative lawyer who has argued Supreme Court cases challengingthe Affordable Care Act and fees charged by public unions.

        Mr. Carvin said the county's motives were not rooted in solicitude for the people it had arrested. "Revenue-starved local governments are increasingly turning toward fees like Ramsey County's in order to bridge their budgetary gaps," he wrote in a Supreme Court brief. "But the unilateral decision of a single police officer cannot possibly justify summarily confiscating money."

        "Providing a profit motive to make arrests," he said, "gives officers an incentive to make improper arrests."

        Ramsey County did not bother to submit a response in the Supreme Court. "We have not filed a brief in opposition to the petition, nor do we plan to," Mr. Hiveley said in a Dec. 8 email. The county, he said, would take its chances before the justices without presenting its side of the story.

        Six days later, the Supreme Court ordered the county to file a brief in the case, Mickelson v. County of Ramsey. It is due Jan. 13.

        Through his lawyers, Mr. Statham declined a request for an interview. He lost in the lower courts, which said his right to due process had not been violated by the $25 booking charge or the debit card fees, which were both, the trial judge said, "relatively modest."

        It is true that $25 is not a lot of money — unless you are poor. It represents almost half a day's work at the federal minimum wage, a federal judge wrote in a dissent in another case on booking fees, and it is nearly the average amount the government allots to help feed an adult for a week under the federal food-stamp program

        In its appeals court brief, the county took a different view of the economic imperatives. "Municipal services," the brief said, "come at a cost."



        4)  The Quiet War on Medicaid

         DEC. 25, 2016





        Progressives have already homed in on Republican efforts to privatize Medicare as one of the major domestic political battles of 2017. If Donald J. Trump decides to gut the basic guarantee of Medicare and revamp its structure so that it hurts older and sicker people, Democrats must and will push back hard. But if Democrats focus too much of their attention on Medicare, they may inadvertently assist the quieter war on Medicaid — one that could deny health benefits to millions of children, seniors, working families and people with disabilities.

        Of the two battles, the Republican effort to dismantle Medicaid is more certain. Neither Mr. Trump nor Senate Republicans may have the stomach to fully own the political risks of Medicare privatization. But not only have Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Tom Price, Mr. Trump's choice for secretary of health and human services, made proposals to deeply cut Medicaid through arbitrary block grants or "per capita caps," during the campaign, Mr. Trump has also proposed block grants.

        If Mr. Trump chooses to oppose his party's Medicare proposals while pushing unprecedented cuts to older people and working families in other vital safety-net programs, it would play into what seems to be an emerging strategy of his: to publicly fight a few select or symbolic populist battles in order to mask an overall economic and fiscal strategy that showers benefits on the most well-off at the expense of tens of millions of Americans.

        Without an intense focus by progressives on the widespread benefits of Medicaid and its efficiency, it will be too easy for Mr. Trump to market the false notion that Medicaid is a bloated, wasteful program and that such financing caps are means simply to give states more flexibility while "slowing growth." Medicaid's actual spending per beneficiary has, on average, grown about 3 percentage points less each year than it has for those with private health insurance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — a long-term trend that is projected to continue. The arbitrary spending caps proposed by Mr. Price and Mr. Ryan would cut Medicaid to the bone, leaving no alternative for states but to impose harsh cuts in benefits and coverage.

        Mr. Price's own proposal, which he presented as the chairman of the House budget committee, would cut Medicaid by about $1 trillion over the next decade. This is on top of the reduction that would result from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which both Mr. Trump and Republican leaders have championed. Together, full repeal and block granting would cut Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program funding by about $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years — a 40 percent cut.

        Even without counting the repeal of the A.C.A. coverage expansion, the Price plan would cut remaining federal Medicaid spending by $169 billion — or one-third — by the 10th year of his proposal, with the reductions growing more severe thereafter. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that a similar Medicaid block grant proposed by Mr. Ryan in 2012 would lead to 14 million to 21 million Americans' losing their Medicaid coverage by the 10th year, and that is on top of the 13 million who would lose Medicaid or children's insurance program coverage under an A.C.A. repeal.

        The emerging Republican plan to "repeal, delay and replace" the A.C.A. seeks to further camouflage these harmful cuts. Current Republican plans to eliminate the marketplace subsidies and A.C.A. Medicaid expansion in 2019 would create a health care cliff where all of the Medicaid funds and subsidies for the A.C.A. expansion would simply disappear and 30 million people would lose their health care.

        In the face of such a manufactured crisis, the Trump administration could cynically claim to be increasing Medicaid funding by offering governors a small fraction of the existing A.C.A. expansion back as part of a block grant. No one should be deceived. Maintaining a small fraction of the current Medicaid expansion within a tightly constrained block grant is not an increase.

        Some might whisper that these cuts would be harder to beat back because their impact would fall on those with the least political power. Sweeping cuts to Medicaid would hurt tens of millions of low-income and middle-income families who had a family member with a disability or were in need of nursing home care. About 60 percent of the costs of traditional Medicaid come from providing nursing home care and other types of care for the elderly and those with disabilities.

        While Republicans resist characterizations of their block grant or cap proposals as tearing away health benefits from children, older people in nursing homes or middle-class families heroically coping with children with serious disabilities, the tyranny of the math does not allow for any other conclusion. If one tried to cut off all 30 million poor kids now enrolled in Medicaid, it would save 19 percent of the program's spending. Among the Medicaid programs at greatest risk would be those optional state programs that seek to help middle-income families who become "medically needy" because of the costs of having a child with a serious disability like autism or Down syndrome.

        Democrats at all levels of government must aggressively communicate the degree to which these anodyne-sounding proposals would lead to an assault on health care for those in nursing homes and for working families straining to deal with a serious disability, as well as for the poorest Americans. With many Republican governors and local hospitals also likely to be victimized by the proposals of Mr. Ryan and Mr. Price, this fight can be both morally right and politically powerful. Republicans hold a slight majority in the Senate. It would take only three Republican senators thinking twice about the wisdom of block grants and per capita caps to put a halt to the coming war on Medicaid.



        5)  Seller-Financed Deals Are Putting Poor People in Lead-Tainted Homes

         DEC. 26, 2016


        BALTIMORE — A year after Tiffany Bennett moved into a two-story red brick house at 524 Loudon Avenue here, she received alarming news.

        Two children, both younger than 6, for whom Ms. Bennett was guardian, were found to have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. Lead paint throughout the nearly 100-year-old home had poisoned them.

        Who was responsible for the dangerous conditions in the home?

        Baltimore health officials say it was an out-of-state investment company that entered into a rent-to-own lease with the unemployed Ms. Bennett to take the home in 2014 "as is" — chipping, peeling lead paint and all.

        Ms. Bennett, 46, and the children moved out, but they should never have been in the house at all. City officials had declared the house "unfit for human habitation" in 2013.

        Throughout the country, tens of thousands of rundown homes have been scooped up by investment companies that have offered high-interest financing or rent-to-own deals largely to poor people. Many of these homes were foreclosed on during the housing crisis.

        These investors, however, often put no money toward renovation, or for fixing lead paint problems. The low-income buyers and renters are forced to make all repairs. When there are serious problems with the homes, victims can be required to sign confidentiality agreements to keep them quiet in a settlement after they have been compensated, as happened in Ms. Bennett's case.

        As a result, seller-financed housing contracts have aggravated a persistent problem of lead poisoning among young children in this country.

        About 535,000 children a year nationwide test positive for lead in their blood, which can cause brain damage and other developmental delays. Problems with lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich., put the issue on the map. Yet exposure to lead paint in aging and poorly maintained homes remains the biggest source of poisoning.

        It is not known how many homes nationwide are in seller-financed contracts, and not every state requires that such contracts be recorded. Still, health officials say they are increasingly seeing a connection between homes that are in seller-financed contracts and lead-poisoning cases.

        "Unfortunately they have this contract which removes the actual owner of the home from the liabilities of fixing the home and requires these people who have no money to fix their own home," said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, chief of toxicology in the pediatrics unit of Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

        Dr. Lowry said she had seen an increase in patients with lead poisoning who live in homes bought through a seller-financed contract on both the Missouri and Kansas sides of the city.

        "What I care about is this kid who has elevated blood levels and yet I can't get anybody to fix the home," she said.

        Ms. Bennett entered into a rent-to-own contract with Vision Property Management of Columbia, S.C., one of the biggest players in this fast-growing market.

        Vision failed to register the property with Baltimore housing officials after buying it in 2014 from Fannie Mae, the government-controlled mortgage finance firm. It then ignored the city's previous building code violation, according to public records reviewed by The New York Times.

        The details of Ms. Bennett's situation were pieced together through interviews with public officials, court records and documents provided through public records requests to various city and state agencies. Some of the documents were redacted to protect the privacy of the children.

        In many cases, families who had been affected by lead poisoning declined to comment when reached, citing concerns about reprisals.

        Baltimore has fined Vision more than $11,300 for failing to register 43 homes in the city, a requirement that applies to all landlords. State lead investigators visited at least two other Vision homes earlier this year but could not physically enter and inspect them.

        A representative for Vision said that the company "does not comment on the specific details of matters pertaining to tenants or properties" and that noted the matter with Ms. Bennett had been resolved.

        Vision, which was featured in a front-page article in The Times, manages more than 6,000 homes across the country through nearly two dozen limited liability companies.

        When it came to fixing the lead issues in Ms. Bennett's home, Vision did not respond to the city's request in late 2015. The company has argued its contracts put all responsibility for repairs on its tenants.

        In most cities and states, landlords are required to keep the properties they rent in habitable condition. Some legal experts say seller-financed contracts like those used by Vision may violate that requirement and could be unenforceable in housing court.

        Baltimore, as a matter of law, requires landlords to ensure that a home is fit for human habitation, and building officials said that includes rent-to-own landlords. But homes that are leased in rent-to-own deals can fall through the cracks because the city has so many abandoned and rundown homes.

        Jason Hessler, deputy assistant commissioner for Baltimore Housing, said, "The house was in violation at the time it was sold by Fannie Mae to Vision and was supposed to be unoccupied until approved by the building department." But he added that unless it was obvious that someone had moved into a house without the department's permission, building inspectors might not know.

        For many poor families who want to own a house and cannot get a mortgage, nontraditional housing transactions like Ms. Bennett's have become their only option. Some do not understand what they are signing.

        Dr. Lowry says that many of the families she works with do not speak English and thought they were buying a house outright. She was one of several housing officials and doctors who discussed the problems caused by seller-financed deals at a recent conference on childhood lead poisoning in Washington.

        Seller-financed deals, which include contracts for deed and rent-to-own leases, are loaded with risk. They lack basic consumer protections, and residents can be easily evicted since the title to a home is not transferred until the final payment is made.

        The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has begun to investigatewhether some companies are taking advantage of consumers. State regulators in Wisconsin, New Mexico and New York have begun their own inquiries, while officials in Minnesota and Missouri have issued consumer alerts.

        Poor families that buy or rent one of these rundown homes often find themselves with another problem: Because they do not technically own their house, they are ineligible for any state or local grants to help defray the cost of removing lead paint.

        Kendra Harrell, 23, moved into a Vision home in Baltimore with her mother in 2014 on a rent-to-own contract. Ms. Harrell, who has two young children, estimated that she had paid more than $1,000 to repair the home, which still has a leaking roof.

        "Pretty much everything is on me," said Ms. Harrell, who works as a cashier at a local Home Depot.

        Now she worries about the chipping paint on the banister in the home, which was built in 1915, adding that her son had tested positive for lead while living in another house. "I figured maybe I could try to get someone out to break off the paint and paint over it," she added.

        In New York State, some grants provided to residents in rural communities to eliminate "critical health and safety threats" from homes, including lead paint, specifically exclude anyone buying a home with a contract for deed.

        A lead-safe program in Columbus, Ohio, is open only to property owners — again shutting out people buying homes through a contract for deed or a signing a rent-to-own lease.

        Katarina Karac, an assistant city attorney for Columbus, recently helped one woman who bought a home with a contract for deed get the seller to apply for a lead paint removal grant. Ms. Karac said the woman, who has three young children, had applied at least twice to the lead-safe program and was rejected because she did not legally own the home.

        "She was lucky enough the property owner was willing to work with her," she said. "I can't imagine someone in her position ordering a lead test, and if lead is found, asserting a claim against the owner."

        In Michigan last month, a special lead-poisoning task force set up by the governor after the water crisis in Flint recommended a one-time lead inspection, the results of which property owners must disclose to buyers and renters. The proposal stipulated that the requirement could not be "waived in the event of a sale through land contract."

        In Ms. Bennett's case, Baltimore's health department sued a limited liability company tied to Vision in December 2015 for failing to promptly comply with an order to eliminate the lead paint condition in the home.

        Many of Vision's homes were bought cheaply from Fannie Mae and had been empty for years. Vision bought the house at 524 Loudon Avenue from Fannie for about $5,000.

        Ms. Bennett, who paid a monthly rent of $440, sued Vision after learning the children were poisoned by lead. She declined to talk about her situation, citing a confidentiality provision in the settlement of her lawsuit. She left the house in November 2015 as part of a settlement with Vision.

        Lead poisoning has been particularly acute in Baltimore because of its aging housing stock. The city has about 40,000 abandoned homes; on some streets the vacant, rundown homes outnumber the occupied ones.

        Maryland's environmental agency says some 1,100 children age 6 or younger tested positive for elevated lead levels in the city of Baltimore in 2015.

        "This is something that everyone has an obligation to fix — certainly the landlord has an obligation as well," said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore's health commissioner.

        And the company has violated rules in other cities.

        In 2012, legal aid lawyers in Minnesota sued Vision on behalf of a couple with four children and two grandchildren, contending the company knowingly sold them, through a contract for deed, a home in Minneapolis that the city determined had a "severe" lead paint problem. Conditions in the home, which Vision bought from Fannie Mae, were so bad that the city posted a "do not occupy" warning notice on the house.

        But the couple, Charles and Leona Rush, claimed they did not see any warning sign when they bought the house. In court papers, Vision disputed the Rushes' claim. The company's lawyers argued that "unless plaintiffs closed their eyes as they entered the property, they saw the bright green lead hazard sign."

        The lawsuit ended with a confidential settlement.

        Ruth Ann Norton, who heads the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that promotes national policies to combat childhood lead poisoning, says the federal government can do more to make sure homes with lead paint problems are not dumped onto the market. Fannie Mae sold some 900,000 foreclosed homes after the crisis.

        Peter Bakel, a Fannie spokesman, said, "Fannie Mae has policies in place designed to ensure compliance with applicable laws regarding lead paint disclosures and remediation."

        Ms. Norton's group is proposing that government housing agencies be required to eliminate dangerous lead conditions in vacant and foreclosed homes before putting them on the market.

        "We should not allow houses to go on the market that will poison children," said Ms. Norton, whose organization provided assistance to Ms. Bennett.

        Vision has since washed its hands of the Loudon Avenue home. The company settled with Baltimore health officials by paying a $10,000 fine in October and sold the house last summer.

        The house is being renovated, but a sign posted in the dirt yard advertised the house as "FOR RENT!!!"



        6)  Where Secret Arrests Were Standard Procedure

         DEC. 28, 2016





        For a shocking glimpse of what's been happening in the name of criminal justice in America, look no further than a Justice Department report last week on police behavior in Louisiana. Officers there have routinely arrested hundreds of citizens annually without probable cause, strip-searching them and denying them contact with their family and lawyers for days — all in an unconstitutional attempt to force cooperation with detectives who finally admitted they were operating on a mere "hunch" or "feeling."

        This wholesale violation of the Constitution's protection against unlawful search and seizure by the police in Evangeline Parish, including in its largest city, Ville Platte, was standard procedure for putting pressure on citizens who the police thought might have information about crimes, according to the findings of a 20-month federal investigation. The report described as "staggering" the number of people who were "commonly detained for 72 hours or more" with no opportunity to contest their arrest, in what the police euphemistically termed "investigative holds."

        The sheriff's office in Evangeline, with a population of 33,578, initiated over 200 such arrest-and-grilling sessions between 2012 and 2014. In Ville Platte, which has 7,303 residents, the local police department used the practice more than 700 times during the same years. The residents faced demands for information, the report said, "under threat of continued wrongful incarceration," resulting in what may have been false confessions and improper convictions.

        "Literally anyone in Evangeline Parish or Ville Platte could be arrested and placed 'on hold' at any time," the report found, noting the large African-American populations in Ville Platte (64 percent) and Evangeline (29 percent over all). The police ordered one woman to bring her young children with her to headquarters. They questioned her 5-year-old about the mother before releasing the children. The mother slept on the floor of a holding cell for three days before charges, later dropped, were even brought.

        While the nation has been exposed in recent years to police abuses involving the fatal shooting of citizens, particularly black Americans, the new report presents something no less insidious: dragnet interrogations routinely conducted below the radar as a supposed tool of criminal justice. The practice, which finally prompted local complaints to the federal government, was found to be habitual in the parish for as long as anyone could remember.

        Reforms have since begun, a tribute to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Section, which carried out the investigation and demanded wholesale changes. This bureau has done notable work during the Obama administration, investigating 25 law enforcement agencies and requiring and overseeing major reforms. To fully secure national justice, its work must continue. One big question in Washington now is whether President-elect Donald Trump and his choice for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, might ever commit themselves to this cause.



        7)  Hospitals in Safety Net Brace for Health Care Law's Repeal

         DEC. 28, 2016




        PHILADELPHIA — Jason Colston Sr. went to the emergency room at Temple University Hospital last month with his calf swollen to twice its normal size. A bacterial infection had entered his bloodstream, requiring him to spend nine days at Temple, where patients are overwhelmingly poor.

        Mr. Colston, 36, had no insurance through his job at a 7-Eleven, but it turned out he was eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Temple helped him enroll as soon as he was admitted, and Medicaid paid for his stay and continuing treatment.

        Before the health law, the hospital had to absorb the cost of caring for many uninsured patients like Mr. Colston. Now, with President-elect Donald J. Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress vowing to dismantle the law, Temple and other hospitals serving the poor are bracing for harsh financial consequences that could have a serious effect on the care they provide.

        Since the election, hospitals have been among the loudest voices against wholesale repeal of the health law. In a letter to Mr. Trump and congressional leaders this month, the two biggest hospital trade groups warned of "an unprecedented public health crisis" and said hospitals stood to lose $165 billion through 2026 if more than 20 million people lose the insurance they gained under the law. They predicted widespread layoffs, cuts in outpatient care and services for the mentally ill, and even hospital closings.

        Here in Pennsylvania, where the health law has brightened the financial outlook of hospitals statewide, many are scrambling to assess how repeal would affect their bottom line and the patients they serve. The stakes are particularly high for safety-net hospitals like Temple, but even more prosperous hospitals face uncertainty after investing in new ways to deliver care under the law.

        Temple executives estimate their system could lose as much as $45 million a year if the law were entirely repealed, which would return it to the losses it posted for years before the health law took effect.

        "We are the de facto community hospital in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country," said Robert Lux, the senior vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer of Temple University Health System, which includes two general hospitals and a cancercenter. "Any kind of change like this would not only push Temple University Hospital into financial extremis, it would do the same thing for our entire system."

        Not far from Temple, Main Line Health, a nonprofit hospital system in the affluent Philadelphia suburbs, is far better positioned to weather the financial impact of repeal. While Temple has one of the poorest patient populations in the state — about half of its patients are on Medicaid — Main Line, which has an outpatient clinic in an upscale mall and another with a fitness center outfitted with filtered saltwater pools, has few Medicaid patients.

        Still, even hospitals serving affluent populations have reason to be nervous about a future without the health law. Main Line has invested substantially in response to the law's push to base hospital pay on patient outcomes instead of the amount of medical services provided. Repealing the law would create uncertainty about the future of this new paradigm, which has forced hospitals to rethink how they deliver care.

        "I'm dreading the unpredictability," said John J. Lynch III, Main Line's president and chief executive.

        Over all, the health law has improved the financial outlook of Pennsylvania hospitals significantly, even though the state was a year late in expanding Medicaid. The former governor, Tom Corbett, a Republican, initially balked, and the program did not expand here until 2015. Still, hospital operating margins statewide increased to about 5.5 percent on average in 2015, from 4.25 percent in 2014, according to the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. The amount of care provided to patients who cannot pay dropped by 8.6 percent on average.

        North Philadelphia, where Temple is based, is among the poorest neighborhoods in the nation. Many of its residents live in deep poverty, a census designation that means their income is less than half the federal poverty level of $24,300 for a family of four. That helps explain why Temple is so dependent on Medicaid revenue, and the high stakes of repeal here.

        Under the health law, hospitals that served a large number of poor and uninsured patients agreed to a series of funding cuts in exchange for getting far more patients with insurance coverage. Temple has lost about $11 million so far in these federal funds, known as disproportionate share payments, Mr. Lux said.

        But like other hospitals in the 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the law, it has made up that revenue in part through the Medicaid expansion. It recorded about 13,000 more visits from patients with Medicaid coverage in 2015, the first year Pennsylvania expanded Medicaid eligibility, and at least as many this year. Still, Temple is barely turning a profit: It had operating income of $3.6 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, despite revenue of $1.7 billion.

        "You still have a pretty fragile enterprise," Mr. Lux said, noting that Medicaid pays hospitals and doctors far less than Medicare and private insurance. "Our current state of stability could be broken pretty quickly."

        So, too, could Temple's efforts to connect its newly insured patients with preventive care instead of waiting until they show up in the emergency room with advanced, expensive illnesses. Dr. Robert McNamara, chairman of emergency medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, said he had seen more than a few uninsured people arrive in the emergency room with kidney failure, needing costly dialysis for the rest of their lives because they had lived with high blood pressure for so long.

        Main Line Health's financial picture is much stronger, and will most likely remain so even if the health law is repealed and replaced with a program that leaves far fewer people insured. Main Line ended the 2016 fiscal year with $106.8 million in operating income and a 6.5 percent operating margin, compared with Temple's margin of 0.2 percent.

        Still, Main Line has invested substantially in efforts to improve the care it provides its patients while lowering the cost, as the Affordable Care Act encourages. As with many hospitals across the country, these efforts — like preventing readmissions and focusing more heavily on primary care, especially for patients with chronic diseases — have caused the system's inpatient population to drop.

        "As we decrease our volume, looking at providing care differently, that's financially impacting us," Mr. Lynch said.

        He added that over time, the law's slowing of Medicare payment increases added up to "real money." The study commissioned by the hospital associations found that unless the annual increase in Medicare reimbursements is restored to what it was before the health law passed, hospitals will face additional losses of about $290 billion by 2026.

        In the end, though, Main Line's far more robust revenue, because of its large number of commercially insured patients, all but guarantee it will not have to worry — for now — about cutting programs or plans. It is installing a new electronic records system and has spent $700 million renovating its hospitals over the last few years.

        "If you don't have a strong payer mix or a healthy bottom line," Mr. Lynch said, "it's very difficult to do those things."

        One major question for Temple and other safety-net hospitals is whether states would restore supplemental funds or programs that defrayed the cost of caring for the uninsured before the health law took effect. Pennsylvania, for example, paid for emergency medical care for certain low-income people who did not qualify for Medicaid. This allowed Temple to be paid for their inpatient care, but often not for the care they needed after being discharged.

        "We don't know that that program would come back," Mr. Lux said, adding that the program used to pay for about $23 million a year worth of care provided at Temple University Hospital.

        Mr. Colston, who was still returning daily to Temple for intravenous antibiotics a month after his discharge, would have qualified to have most of his inpatient costs met under the old state-financed program. Paul Fabian, who received a double lung transplant at Temple last year after getting a subsidized private insurance policy from the Affordable Care Act marketplace, would not have qualified at all. Mr. Fabian, who suffered from emphysema and chronic lung failure, said he sold his truck to afford his $262 monthly premiums.

        "If you walk into the E.R. they have to help you," Mr. Fabian, 61, said. "But if you have a condition like I had, what's the hospital's obligation?"

        Temple officials said that without insurance, Mr. Fabian would have had to endure a two-year waiting period to qualify for Medicare coverage for his disability.

        "We were finally in a situation where for most of our patients there was a coverage option," said Anita Colon, Temple's director of patient financial services, already speaking about the health law in the past tense. "Now there's just a total unknown about what will be left."



        8)  As U.K. Tightens Voting Rules, Critics Say Labour and the Poor Will Suffer

         DEC. 27, 2016


        LONDON — The British government announced plans on Tuesday to crack down on voter fraud by requiring voters to show official identification at polling stations, tightening rules on absentee ballots and preventing political activists from handling absentee ballots.

        While some critics argued that fraud was not widespread and that the plans would hit hardest the opposition Labour Party and the poor, the government minister in charge, Chris Skidmore, said that the new measures would "protect anyone who is at risk of being bullied, undermined or tricked out of their vote, and their democratic right."

        The government had commissioned a report on fraud after a scandal in Tower Hamlets, a borough in East London, where the elected mayor was stripped of his office last year and found guilty of corrupt practices involving voting fraud.

        The report was compiled by a former cabinet minister, Eric Pickles, who called Tower Hamlets a "wake-up call" when introducing it. "There are sometimes challenging issues over divisive community politics and ethnic-religious polarization, but this is no excuse for failing to enforce British law and protect the integrity of our democratic process," he concluded in the report.

        In his report, he cited research suggesting that certain Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities could be more vulnerable to fraud. He suggested that "kinship" traditions emphasized collective over individual rights and made it more likely that people would "hand over" their vote to others.

        Ken Livingstone, a former London mayor and a hard-left member of the Labour Party before being suspended for anti-Semitic comments, said that the new checks would make life more difficult for many to vote.

        "The real problem is the people most likely not to have a passport or a driving license are going to be the poorest and that I suspect will basically hit the Labour Party," he told the BBC on Tuesday.

        Some suggested that the changes, to be used first for local elections in 18 areas in May 2018, would most affect Britain's Asian communities, which tend to vote Labour. Among those areas considered most susceptible to fraud are Birmingham and Bradford, which have large Muslim communities.

        Cat Smith, the Labour member in charge of voter engagement and youth affairs, said the party as a whole supported the changes. But she criticized what she called Conservative Party moves in general to reduce the electoral rolls.

        Altered regulations requiring students to vote where they are registered or by postal ballot, rather than at their schools, are thought to have cut voter turnout in the June referendum on leaving the European Union, also known as "Brexit," which young people generally opposed.

        Mr. Skidmore said that the trial in 2018 was partly intended to see what kinds of proof of identity were best in a country without a national identity card, unlike most of Europe.

        It is possible that other proof of address like utility bills or proof of voter registration may be used as well as documents with photographs, like driving licenses and passports.

        Mr. Skidmore also rejected the accusation that electoral fraud was associated with any one community, although he said racial and cultural sensitivities might have discouraged the police from earlier investigating the case of Tower Hamlets.

        After absentee ballots were made available to any registered voter in 2000 under the prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, there was evidence that some political activists were "harvesting" them from old addresses and filling them out, or collecting them in bulk from some voters.

        Voters in Northern Ireland, with a long history of electoral pressure in a divided community, have had identity checks at polling stations since 1985, and since 2002 have had to bring photographic IDs, since other forms of documentation were too easily forged.

        The Electoral Reform Society, a lobbying group, criticized the government's plan as a "sledgehammer to crack a nut," arguing that voting fraud was not widespread in Britain and that "the government should think very carefully before introducing barriers to voting," said its chief executive, Katie Ghose.

        "Raising barriers to democratic participation could just put people off voting — and evidence from the U.S. shows that it's generally those already most excluded from the political process that are worst affected by strict ID laws," she said. "The government should think again and look at all the evidence on voter ID before deciding to use this blunt instrument."

        The group had previously criticized the referendum to leave the European Union for "glaring democratic deficiencies," in particular because voters had been so ill-informed, since "misleading claims could be made with total impunity."

        Separately, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, reacted angrily to comments by President Obama — made in the same interview in which he said he would have defeated President-elect Donald J. Trump — that seemed to suggest that the Labour Party had lost its footing.

        Asked if, after Hillary Clinton's election defeat, the Democrats could undergo "Corbynization" and "disintegrate" like Labour, Mr. Obama said he was not concerned.

        "I don't worry about that, partly because I think that the Democratic Party has stayed pretty grounded in fact and reality," he said.

        A party spokesman said that Mr. Corbyn "stands for what most people want" and suggested that the American Democratic Party needed to "challenge power if they are going to speak for working people and change a broken system that isn't delivering for the majority."



        9)  Houses of Worship Poised to Serve as Trump-Era Immigrant Sanctuaries

         DEC. 27, 2016




        PHILADELPHIA — Tucked one floor below the majestic Gothic sanctuary of Arch Street United Methodist Church, Javier Flores Garcia sleeps on a cot in a basement Sunday-school classroom that church members have outfitted with a microwave, a compact refrigerator and a television.

        Mr. Flores, an arborist, longs for the open air, but does not dare set foot outside. He was supposed to report to the immigration authorities last month to be deported to his homeland, Mexico, but one day before his report date, he took refuge in the church.

        His family is why he is fighting to remain, and when they visited him in the church recently, his 5-year-old son, Javier Jr., parked on his lap. The boy often refuses to leave his father's side, and has ended up staying for days with him in the church. On Christmas Day, Mr. Flores had been there six weeks.

        This downtown church is one of 450 houses of worship in the United States that have offered to provide sanctuary or other assistance to undocumented immigrants, according to leaders of the Sanctuary Movement. (Few congregations have the space and fortitude to risk harboring immigrants indefinitely, so others are lining up to contribute money, legal aid, food, child care or transportation.) The congregations joining this network have more than doubled since the election of Donald J. Trump — a rapid rebuttal to Mr. Trump's postelection promise to deport two million to three million unauthorized immigrants who he said have been convicted of crimes.

        Protecting immigrants is shaping up to be a priority of the religious left, an amorphous collection of people and groups reflecting many faiths and ethnicities. It has been jolted into action by Mr. Trump's victory and his selection of an attorney general nominee who supports a crackdown on immigrants.

        "Jesus said we are to provide hospitality to the stranger," said the Rev. Robin Hynicka, Arch Street's pastor, citing Matthew 25, in which Jesus instructs his followers to feed, house and clothe "the least of these," the poor and vulnerable.

        "That's exactly what we were asked by Javier, to provide sanctuary. And of course, we said yes," he added.

        Mr. Hynicka spoke in his chilly upstairs office at the church, which has 375 members. The heat worked better in the basement fellowship hall, where up to 30 homeless people take shelter on winter nights. This church is accustomed to mobilizing for social causes, from gay marriage to fights against casino gambling and for an increase in the minimum wage. Five years ago, the church joined the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, but Mr. Flores is the first person the church has taken in.

        On this night, his children excitedly brought Mr. Flores stray pieces of candy that volunteers were stuffing into piñatas for a party later. Mr. Flores and his longtime partner, Alma Lopez, have two children: Javier Jr. and Yael, age 2. He has also been a father to Ms. Lopez's daughter, Adamaris, age 12, since she was abandoned as an infant by her birth father. All were born in the United States. The family's home is two bus rides away from the church.

        Ms. Lopez, sucking on a lollipop, said having the family return to Mexico is not a solution: "We want a better future for our children. The situation in Mexico is very bad. There's no work, no good school. Here, we have a future."

        The federal immigration authorities say Mr. Flores has a long history of violations: He was apprehended nine times between 1997 and 2002 trying to cross the border. He re-entered and was ordered removed by a judge in 2007. He re-entered twice in 2014 and served prison sentences for illegal re-entry, a criminal felony conviction.

        Last year his children saw him taken away by the authorities, and it took a toll. While Mr. Flores was in detention this year, Adamaris attempted suicide in April, drinking a bottle of rubbing alcohol. She was hospitalized for nine days. Immigration officials released Mr. Flores for 90 days to prepare his family for deportation.

        Sanctuary was his last hope.

        "My only crime is coming back," said Mr. Flores, who wears a government-issued ankle bracelet.

        The sanctuary movement in the United States is not new. American churches offered sanctuary to soldiers who refused to serve in the Vietnam War. And in the 1980s, congregations opened their doors to Central Americans fleeing wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

        The movement was revived in 2006 and grew during President Obama's two terms, said the Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. At least 2.5 million people were deported during Mr. Obama's time in office, earning him the nickname "deporter in chief."

        One big change from the 1980s, Pastor Salvatierra said, is that now, thousands of Latino churches and their clergies are also involved in protecting immigrants — frequently their own members and often quietly. In the '80s, mostly white, Protestant churches led the way.

        "We're in a different universe now. We don't need the white people to rescue us, thank you very much. We need to be in partnership," she said in an interview, before heading off to train sanctuary workers at a multiethnic church in downtown Los Angeles. She expected 25 people, but 150 signed up.

        But some see sanctuary as misguided, or naïve. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tighter controls on immigration, said she understood that churches had sympathy for people facing deportation. "But I find myself wishing that they had as much sympathy for other parishioners they have who are adversely affected by illegal immigration" because of jobs, higher taxes or crime.

        Churches, schools and hospitals are considered "sensitive locations," according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigration officers are supposed to avoid those locations, unless they have advance approval from a supervisor or face "exigent circumstances" that require immediate action, said Jennifer Elzea, an agency spokeswoman.

        Religious leaders are preparing for the possibility that this could change under President Trump. Auburn Seminary in New York City, which trains religious leaders on the left, convened a postelection "Long Game Faith Summit" this month, and invited the Rev. Alison Harrington from Tucson to give workshops on sanctuary.

        "We can't assume that churches and houses of worship will remain safe locations," said Ms. Harrington, senior pastor at Southside Presbyterian Church, long a hub for sanctuary work.

        Sanctuary workers in the '80s organized a sort of "underground railroad" to move immigrants from dangerous regions to safer ones, and that may have to be reactivated, she told her workshop.

        In considering whether to offer sanctuary, congregations look for immigrants with viable cases and sympathetic stories. Mr. Flores was the victim of a knife attack outside Philadelphia in 2004 and gave the police testimony that resulted in the attackers' arrests. He has applied for a U Visa, given to crime victims, said his lawyer.

        In Denver this month, the Mountain View Friends Meeting, a Quaker church, took in a woman from Peru who worked for years in a nursing home using fake papers, pleaded to a felony, paid $12,000 in back taxes and served four years on probation, said Jennifer Piper, interfaith organizer with the American Friends Service Committee and coordinator for the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition. The Peruvian woman has two children, ages 8 and 1, who are both American citizens.

        There are about 11 people in sanctuary in churches in New York now, said the Rev. Donna Schaper, senior minister of Judson Memorial Church, which is sheltering one of them. These immigrants did not commit violent crimes, she said, and many, like the woman in Denver, paid their penalties and now face double jeopardy. Ms. Schaper said that these are hardly the Mexican "rapists" whom Mr. Trump has said he will deport.

        "We are talking mostly about white-collar crime. Faking credit cards. Faking IDs. Many of these people are quite middle class and well educated," she said, and they are not only Latinos, but also Chinese, Russians, Pakistanis and many others.

        For some churches, the immigrants at risk are their own parishioners. Robert W. McElroy, Roman Catholic bishop of San Diego, recently told a Catholic immigration conference, "It is unthinkable that we will stand by while more than 10 percent of our flock is ripped from our midst and deported."

        The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles recently declared itself a "sanctuary diocese" and called for "holy resistance" to Mr. Trump's immigration plans. The California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church also proclaimed support for sanctuary efforts.

        And when its rabbis convene in February, the Jewish group T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights will offer training on how to turn synagogues into sanctuary congregations.

        Before the piñata party at the Arch Street church, there was a ritual called Las Posadas, a re-enactment of the search for shelter by Mary and Joseph. Visitors collected outside the sanctuary doors and sang verses pleading to be let in. Church members responded from inside.

        Mr. Flores and his family were inside, of course.

        "What better work for the church to do," said the minister, Mr. Hynicka, his arm around them, "than to provide what we know God gives us, our heartfelt commitment to family, whether that family comes from Mexico, or from Philadelphia, or wherever.''



        10)  For the Trumps, 'Made in U.S.A.' May Be a Tricky Label to Stitch

         DEC. 28, 2016


        At Saks Off Fifth recently, an Ivanka Trump white polyester and spandex blouse made in Indonesia was marked down to $34.99, from $69. A few racks over, her black and white jacket came from Vietnam, while several blocks away, at Macy's, her leather bootee manufactured in China sold for more than $100.

        At the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, a $35 blue cotton cap embroidered with "Trump National Golf Club" was made in Bangladesh. A Trump Tower hoodie from Pakistan set tourists back $50.

        A majority of clothes these days are made anywhere but in America. And in this era of local pride and nationalistic fervor, that has become a political liability. The conflict is starkly evident in the apparel brands made and marketed by President-elect Donald J. Trump and his daughter Ivanka.

        Mr. Trump has cast companies that make goods in China and other foreign countries as economic pariahs, siphoning off jobs better left at home. He has blamed the system, a set of policies in the United States that Mr. Trump acknowledged using for his own gain. And since being elected, he has continued to rail against global forces, threatening to punish companies with high tariffs if they don't move production to the United States.

        Should Mr. Trump make good on such promises, he would take aim at not only his own brand, but his daughter's as well.

        Mr. Trump doesn't stand to lose much. While his goods are largely manufactured overseas, most of his retail ventures have gone the way of Trump vodka and steaks. And what products can be found — at his hotels and golf courses and on Amazon sold by independent sellers — are the vestiges of a mostly defunct clothing line or sporadic shipments of Trump sweatshirts and hats.

        Ivanka Trump's company, by contrast, is the type of operation that Mr. Trump is squarely aiming for. Her shoes and dresses largely retail for less than $150. Coats cost as much as $400.

        Factored into those prices is the cost of materials and production, as well as shipping, tariffs, marketing and advertising expenses. Cheap production overseas means more coin in the coffers of Ms. Trump and the shoe, accessory and clothing makers that are her partners, among them Marc Fisher footwear, the G-III Apparel Group and Mondani. (Ms. Trump's company, which is privately held, does not disclose its financials.)

        Almost all of her goods are made overseas, according to a New York Times review of shipments compiled separately by Panjiva and ImportGenius, two trade databases. ImportGenius tallied 193 shipments for imported goods associated with Ms. Trump for the year through Dec. 5, mostly Chinese-made shoes and handbags. Her dresses and blouses are made in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, according to a review of hundreds of clothing tags and financial documents filed by G-III.

        It is the harsh reality of the clothing business.

        Before Ms. Trump started her shoe and clothing lines in the early 2010s, she did what any well-connected New Yorker would, consulting corporate chieftains, fashion designers and department store executives. She ultimately decided to license her name.

        Since then, Ms. Trump, 35, has pondered making some items in-house. Investors were consulted, and a business plan was drawn up — but the project was scrapped, said one person briefed on the discussions. It was costly and impractical, so suppliers continued to make her clothes overseas.

        "When I started my business, I recognized where my strengths were and knew that I didn't have any experience in production and manufacturing," Ms. Trump said in a rare interview."I am not a designer. I am an entrepreneur."

        In retail, where margins are slim, overseas manufacturers are crucial to profits. Most of the clothing Americans buy at Walmart, Macy's and Target are made abroad, including 97 percent of apparel and 98 percent of shoes, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association.

        It is part of a long history of American garment manufacturers chasing cheap labor. They moved to China in the 1980s, then elsewhere in Asia. Now, Chinese shoemakers are building factories in Africa, where wages are about $40 a month, compared with $400 in China.

        Even then, an overseas strategy does not portend survival, as Mr. Trump's experience shows.

        At Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, the Trump Store is downstairs from the lobby, sandwiched between a restaurant and an ice cream parlor. While a $65 white polo golf shirt from Lesotho in southern Africa was available, there was no sign of many of Mr. Trump's other items, like the dress shirt made in Vietnam on display upstairs.

        Last year, Macy's dropped Mr. Trump's clothing line over inflammatory comments he made about Mexican immigrants. Now about the best place to find his ties, dress shirts and accessories is on Amazon.com — and even that stock is just a hodgepodge.

        The company that made Trump-branded comforters and sheets, Downlite, said it had ended its relationship with him last year. His beds, designed by Dorya, aren't in stores, either. They are made to order overseas, according to the company.

        Mr. Trump said in campaign interviews that he would like to make his apparel in the United States, but that it was hard to find companies that did. When George Stephanopoulos of ABC pressed him to explain, Mr. Trump said, "They don't even make the stuff here."

        That is not exactly true.

        B J Nickol, president of the All American Clothing Company, based in Arcanum, Ohio, said he employed 15 people, as well as subcontractors in about 20 states who cut, sew and ship shirts, jeans and sweaters. He estimated it cost All American $10 to $15 to manufacture a polo shirt, including fabric and labor. He sells them for about $28 to $38, or about half of what a polo shirt costs at Trump Tower.

        While the company mostly sells shirts to individuals, Mr. Nickol said he would welcome a big-time customer like Mr. Trump. Mr. Nickol said he had witnessed the impact on his community when apparel manufacturers moved away. "And the only way we could think of to fix that was to keep jobs here," he said.

        While large-scale clothing manufacturing is unlikely to return to the United States, specialty items or high-end apparel has promise. Todd Shelton, a fashion designer who makes sleek separates and sells them online, sews his clothes at a factory in East Rutherford, N.J.

        But there are trade-offs, namely price. A pair of women's jeans made by Todd Shelton costs $200; an Oxford shirt is $180.

        And cost is only one factor. Fashion is another.

        Recently, Ms. Trump tried to make a flip-flop in the United States. She and one of her main partners, Marc Fisher, shopped a design to retailers, according to a person with knowledge of the venture. Buyers, though, didn't like the design — and it never got made.

        With the Ivanka Trump brand, another variable now comes into play: politics.

        Ms. Trump served as a more polished emissary of her father's messages during the campaign, and she is under pressure to bring jobs home. And in a postelection era, her carefully crafted public persona, which is at the heart of the brand, is at risk.

        Ms. Trump has found a way to commercialize female empowerment, selling petal pink sheaths and trendy shoes to young professionals on the go. Her brand's hashtag #womenwhowork often accompanies pitches to buy her satchels and clothes.

        "She wants to make sure her reputation is unblemished," said Marshal Cohen, a consumer behavior and retail analyst at the NPD Group, a research firm.

        Ms. Trump is already facing some blowback.

        She was criticized for meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan while completing a licensing deal with a company whose largest shareholder is wholly owned by the Japanese government. Consumers offended by her father's inflammatory comments about minorities continue to boycott her line.

        Ms. Trump acknowledged the potential appearance of conflicts as her father prepared to move into the White House. She said she would step down as the head of her namesake brand if asked to become an adviserto her father and the Trump administration.

        "I would completely separate myself from my businesses," said Ms. Trump, who is also considering a leave of absence from the Trump Organization, where she serves as an executive vice president for development and acquisitions. Representatives for Mr. Trump declined to comment.

        But it will not drastically change her company's strategy. She and her team do not plan to move manufacturing back just to quell critics.

        "It's great to say we want to do all of this, but we want to make responsible business decisions, too," said Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand. "From a business perspective, we have to have longevity."



        11)  Peabody Energy and Native Americans in Dispute Over Mining in Arizona

         DEC. 29, 2016




        KAYENTA, Ariz. — The world's largest coal company, Peabody Energy, is seeking federal approval to expand its mine on Navajo and Hopi land in northern Arizona, a move supported by tribal leaders. But many other tribe members say the expansion would destroy burial grounds and pre-Columbian ruins and are opposing it in court.

        The dispute is the latest episode in a series of longstanding conflicts involving the treatment of Native American ancestral lands, mining companies and the federal government. Like the Dakota Access oil pipeline project, the Kayenta mine dispute pits the rights of tribes against powerful industry and federal interests.

        Peabody built its first mine on this coal-darkened plateau 50 years ago, and in the process dug up an adjacent American Indian village. The dig uncovered an "enormous body of knowledge" about ancient Indian tribes who flourished here three millenniums ago, according to Beth Sutton, a Peabody spokeswoman.

        But Leland Grass, a Navajo horse trainer, called the dig a "desecration." He and other tribe members complained that Peabody handed off 192 sets of human remains to an anthropology professor, destroyed ancient petroglyphs and archaeological ruins, and warehoused 1.2 million artifacts at Southern Illinois University, which helped conduct the dig.

        Unlike the pipeline project at Standing Rock, however, Peabody's mine plan has the backing of the official tribal governments because the original mine is one of the few sources of jobs and revenue on the impoverished reservations. Peabody has paid about $50 million per year to the Navajo and Hopi tribes since 1987, according to a federal report released in 2012, because the mine was built on tribal land.

        But several powerful Navajo nongovernmental organizations, at odds with their leaders, have joined with the Sierra Club to try to curb the mine expansion, arguing that the mine harms air and water quality and that Peabody's initial plan did not include enough protections for so-called cultural resources like graves. While they acknowledge that they cannot stop the mine project, they at least want Peabody and the government to protect ceremonial sites, ruins and graves in the expanding mine's path.

        To that end, these groups have brought a lawsuit that has forced the government to undertake a Preservation Act study to identify burial grounds and sites of archaeological importance. For projects on or near tribal land, the government must consult with tribes.

        The problem, however, say tribal activists and preservation law experts, is that the permitting system is set up in such a way that it usually favors the project proponents while giving short shrift to tribal concerns. Even when "tribal consultation does happen, it's often not in the spirit of the law," said Anne Mariah Tapp, a lawyer who works on similar cases for other tribes.

        In the Peabody case, the tribal plaintiffs who are demanding protection for Indian sites complain that they have not been included in decision making as the project moves forward and that they are not privy to the study that identified which sites might be protected.

        They also claim there is a conflict of interest.

        The mine fuels a power plant whose majority owner is the permitting agency, the United States Bureau of Reclamation.

        Sandra Eto, environmental protection specialist with the Bureau of Reclamation, denied any conflict of interest and said the plant's ownership would have no bearing on the integrity of the study. She also said that the study was being kept confidential because of "the sensitive and confidential nature of the material."

        For Peabody, at stake is a huge federal energy project that powers most of the Southwest. But the issue is especially fraught because of persistent questions about how Peabody has dealt with tribal property on its mine lease area over the past 50 years.

        Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that although Peabody's promotional materials say artifacts are "curated in a state-of-the-art facility," a 2002 government audit found that the collection "needed complete rehabilitation to comply with federal guidelines for archaeological curation." Looting was a problem among Peabody employees, according to government records.

        Even though Peabody's mine has the backing of tribal officials, government records show a long history of tribal leaders appealing to the mining company to better respect their land and cultural artifacts. For example, the federal government "loaned" 192 sets of human remains to Debra L. Martin — an anthropology professor at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., who is now with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas — without permission from the tribes, causing outrage. "I was shocked when I found out," said Alan Downer, a former historic preservation officer for the Navajo Nation.

        Peabody's permit requires workers to stop and notify regulators and the tribe at the first sight of bone or native pottery. But, only three findings of human remains have been recorded by mining crews since 1983.

        Asked about the lack of finds, Gregg Heaton, a Peabody spokesman, said in an email, "Peabody achieves full regulatory compliance."

        Peabody's current lease is set to expire in 2019, and the company is seeking federal permission for a permit that would allow it to continue mining until 2044. The government's environmental study is in draft form and was available for public comment until Dec. 29. Complicating matters is Peabody's entry into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which Ms. Sutton said would not have any bearing on the mine re-permitting or the company's commitment to protect native sacred sites and graves.

        For many here, the loss of ancestral remains and archaeological ruins is devastating.

        "What will I have to show my grandchildren once the evidence of our ancestors is gone?" said Harrison Crank, a Navajo miner and former 30-year Peabody employee. He agreed to participate in the Preservation Act study, and one late autumn day he led researchers into the scrub behind his home, pointing out material he thought should be saved from mining.

        "This is all I'm trying to tell them: These are the sites where we prayed, where we buried our dead, where we made pottery a long time ago," he said. "Please honor it. Please let it be known."



        12)  Cub Scouts Kick Out Transgender Boy in New Jersey

         DEC. 30, 2016





        In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on openly gay youthsparticipating in its activities.

        Two years later, the organization ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders.

        Now, after an 8-year-old in Secaucus, N.J., was kicked out of his Cub Scout pack about a month after joining, scouting leaders are confronted with the decision to extend the welcome to transgender boys.

        "It made me mad," the boy, Joe Maldonado, told The Record, a North Jersey newspaper. "I had a sad face, but I wasn't crying. I'm way more angry than sad. My identity is a boy. If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It's right to do."

        Last year, when he began second grade, Joe came out as a boy, according to The Record. His mother, Kristie Maldonado, allowed him to cut his hair short.

        He signed up for the Cub Scouts intending to join his friends in the activities the organization is known for, like science projects and camping. The other children were fine with his presence and he had been accepted at school, Ms. Maldonado told The Record.

        Other parents, however, felt differently and complained to Scout officials, she said.

        Joe appears to be the first transgender boy removed from the activity because of his gender identity, presenting a new question for Scout leaders, said Zach Wahls, a co-founder of Scouts for Equality, a group that has fought for gay rights in scouting.

        "The Boy Scouts just spent several years trying to make right a decades-old policy that discriminated against gay people," he said. "The last thing they should be doing in this moment is creating a new, discriminatory policy that is out of touch in the 21st century."

        Mr. Wahls said that the handling of Joe's case indicates there is no formal policy in place for transgender members, and that leaders "haven't given it the thought it really needs and deserves."

        Responding to questions about Joe and his family, Boy Scouts of America, which administers the Cub Scouts, said in a statement that the child did "not meet the eligibility requirements to participate." An official instead referred the family to coed programs, said Effie Delimarkos, a spokeswoman for the organization.

        "If needed, we defer to the information provided for an individual's birth certificate and their biological sex," she said, adding that scouting "teaches its youth members and adult leaders to be respectful of other people and individual beliefs."

        On its website, Girl Scouts of the USA directly answered questions about transgender members, saying that "placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority."

        "That said," the organization continued, "if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe."



        13) Scientists Loved and Loathed by an Agrochemical Giant

        With corporate funding of research, "There's no scientist who comes

        out of this unscathed."

        By Danny Hakim

        December 31, 2016


        EXETER, England — The bee findings were not what Syngenta expected to hear.

        The pesticide giant had commissioned James Cresswell, an expert in flowers and bees at the University of Exeter in England, to study why many of the world's bee colonies were dying. Companies like Syngenta have long blamed a tiny bug called a varroa mite, rather than their own pesticides, for the bee decline.

        Dr. Cresswell has also been skeptical of concerns raised about those pesticides, and even the extent of bee deaths. But his initial research in 2012 undercut concerns about varroa mites as well. So the company, based in Switzerland, began pressing him to consider new data and a different approach.

        Looking back at his interactions with the company, Dr. Cresswell said in a recent interview that "Syngenta clearly has got an agenda." In an email, he summed up that agenda: "It's the varroa, stupid."

        For Dr. Cresswell, a Birkenstock-wearing 54-year-old, the foray into corporate-backed research threw him into personal crisis. Some of his colleagues ostracized him. He found his principles tested. Even his wife and children had their doubts.

        "They couldn't believe I took the money," he said of his family. "They imagined there was going to be an awful lot of pressure and thought I sold out."

        The corporate use of academia has been documented in fields like soft drinks and pharmaceuticals. But it is rare for an academic to provide an insider's view of the relationships being forged with corporations, and the expectations that accompany them.

        A review of Syngenta's strategy shows that Dr. Cresswell's experience fits in with practices used by American competitors like Monsanto and across the agrochemical industry. Scientists deliver outcomes favorable to companies, while university research departments court corporate support. Universities and regulators sacrifice full autonomy by signing confidentiality agreements. And academics sometimes double as paid consultants.

        In Britain, Syngenta has built a network of academics and regulators, even recruiting the leading government scientist on the bee issue. In the United States, Syngenta pays academics like James W. Simpkins of West Virginia University, whose work has helped validate the safety of its products. Not only has Dr. Simpkins's research been funded by Syngenta, he is also a $250-an-hour consultant for the company. And he partnered with a Syngenta executive in a consulting venture, emails obtained by The New York Times show.

        Dr. Simpkins did not comment. A spokesman for West Virginia University said his consulting work "was based on his 42 years of experience with reproductive neuroendocrinology."

        Scientists who cross agrochemical companies can find themselves at odds with the industry for years. One such scientist is Angelika Hilbeck, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The industry has long since challenged her research, and she has been outspoken in challenging them back.

        Going back to the 1990s, her research has found that genetically modified corn — designed to kill bugs that eat the plant — could harm beneficial insects as well. Back then, Syngenta had not yet been formed, but she said one of its predecessor companies, Ciba-Geigy, tried to stifle her research by citing a confidentiality agreement signed by her then employer, a Swiss government research center called Agroscope.

        Confidentiality agreements have become routine. The United States Department of Agriculture turned over 43 confidentiality agreements reached with Syngenta, Bayer and Monsanto since the beginning of 2010 following a Freedom of Information Act request. Agroscope turned over an additional five with Swiss agrochemical companies.

        Many of the agreements highlight how regulators are often more like collaborators than watchdogs, exploring joint research and patent deals that they agree to keep secret.

        One agreement between the U.S.D.A. and Syngenta, which came with a five-year nondisclosure term, covered everything from "research and development activities" to "manufacturing processes" and "financial and marketing information related to crop protection and seed technologies." In another agreement, a government scientist was barred even from disclosing sensitive information she heard at a symposium run by Monsanto.

        The Agriculture Department, in a statement, said that without such agreements and partnerships, "many technological solutions would not make it to the public," adding that research findings were released "objectively without inappropriate influence from internal or external partners."

        Luke Gibbs, a spokesman for Syngenta, which is now being acquired by the China National Chemical Corporation, said in a statement, "We are proud of the collaborations and partnerships we have built."

        "All researchers we partner with are free to express their views publicly in regard to our products and approaches," he said. "Syngenta does not pressure academics to draw conclusions and allows unfettered and independent submission of any papers generated from commissioned research."

        A look at the experiences of the three scientists — Dr. Cresswell, Dr. Simpkins and Dr. Hilbeck — reveals the ways agrochemical companies shape scientific thought.

        A Reluctant Partner

        For James Cresswell, taking money from Syngenta was not an easy decision.

        Dr. Cresswell has been a researcher at the University of Exeter in England's southwest for a quarter-century, mostly exploring the esoterica of flower reproduction in papers with titles like "Conifer ovulate cones accumulate pollen principally by simple impaction." He was not used to making headlines.

        But about a half-decade ago, he became interested in the debate over neonicotinoids, a nicotine-derived class of pesticide, and their effects on bee health. Many studies linked the chemicals to a mysterious collapse of bee colonies that was in the news. Other studies, many backed by industry, pointed to the varroa mite, and some saw both factors at play.

        Dr. Cresswell's initial research led him to believe that concerns about the pesticides were overblown. In 2012, Syngenta offered to fund further research.

        While many academics resisted efforts by The Times to examine their communications with Syngenta, Dr. Cresswell did not challenge a records request submitted to his university. And he spoke with candor.

        "The last thing I wanted to do was get in bed with Syngenta," Dr. Cresswell said. "I'm no fan of intensive agriculture."

        But turning away research funding is difficult. The British government ranks universities on how useful their work is to industry and society, tying government grants to their assessments.

        "I was pressured enormously by my university to take that money," he said. "It's like being a traveling salesman and having the best possible sales market and telling your boss, 'I'm not going to sell there.' You can't really do that."

        The issue soon came up at Dr. Cresswell's dinner table.

        "Me and my mum were like, 'Oh, you're taking money,'" his daughter Fay, now a 21-year-old university student, recalled of the conversation that took place. "We didn't have an argument, but it did get quite heated. We just said, 'Don't.'"

        Duncan Sandes, a spokesman for Exeter, declined to discuss specific research grants. He said in a statement that up to 15 percent of university research in Britain was funded by industry. "Industry sponsors are fundamentally aware that they will receive independent analysis that has been critically evaluated in an honest and dispassionate manner," Mr. Sandes said.

        But the degree of independence is in question.

        Dr. Cresswell and Syngenta agreed on a list of eight potential causes of bee deaths to be studied. They discussed how to structure grant payments. They reviewed research assistant candidates. Dr. Cresswell sought permission from Syngenta to pursue new insights he gained, asking at one point, "Please can you confirm that you are happy with the direction our current work is taking?"

        But he also pushed back at times. An email from Syngenta to the university said that Dr. Cresswell "will have final editorial control," but Dr. Cresswell, in another email, expressed concern that a proposed confidentiality clause "grants Syngenta the right to suppress the results," adding, "I am not happy to work under a gagging clause." He says the term of the clause was reduced to only a few months.

        Neonicotinoids are now subject to a moratorium in the European Union. A recent study by Britain's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology attributed a population loss of at least 20 percent of many kinds of wild bees to the pesticides.

        Syngenta and its competitors argue that the real culprit is a disease called varroosis, which is spread by varroa mites. The Bayer Bee Care Center in Germany includes menacing sculptures of the little pest.

        But Dr. Cresswell's initial research for Syngenta did not support the varroosis claims. "We are finding it pretty unlikely that varoosis is responsible for honey bee declines," he wrote to Syngenta in 2012.

        An executive wrote back, suggesting that Dr. Cresswell look more narrowly at "loss data" of beehives rather than at broader bee stock trends, "As this may give a different answer!"

        For the next several weeks, the company repeatedly asked Dr. Cresswell to refocus his examination to look at varroa. In another email, the executive told Dr. Cresswell, "it would also be good to also look at varroa as a potential uptick factor" in specific countries where it could have exacerbated bee losses.

        In the same email, part of a chain with the subject line "Varoosis report," he also asked Dr. Cresswell to look at changes in Europe, rather than worldwide. Dr. Cresswell agreed and said, "I have some other angles to look at the varoosis issue further."

        By changing parameters, varroa mites did become a significant factor. "We're coming to the view that varoosis is potent regarding colony loss at widespread scale," Dr. Cresswell wrote in January 2013. A later email included scoring that bore that out.

        Mr. Gibbs of Syngenta said, "We discussed and defined the direction of the research in partnership with the researcher with the aim of ensuring that it was focused and relevant." He added, "We did not undermine Dr. Cresswell's independence, dictate his approach to assessing the eight factors agreed upon with him, or restrict any of the conclusions he subsequently drew."

        That said, Syngenta was a client and Dr. Cresswell was providing a service. Looking back, Dr. Cresswell said that while he still thought concerns about the pesticides were overblown, aspects of his project were inevitably influenced by the nature of the relationship.

        "You can write it up as, Syngenta had an effect on me," he said. "I can't actually deny that they didn't. It wasn't conniving on my part, but absolutely they influenced what I ended up doing on the project."

        For Dr. Cresswell, the affiliation with Syngenta became a burden. Environmentalists saw him as an adversary, and his industry connection came to define him in newspaper articles. When he was called to testify before Parliament, Dave Goulson, a biology professor at the University of Sussex, sat next to him. Dr. Goulson likened taking money from agrochemical companies to taking money from the tobacco industry, which long denied that cigarettes were addictive.

        Some people thrive on controversy. Dr. Cresswell does not.

        "It hurt me more than I was willing to admit at the time," he said. "Everything happened so fast."

        He had a breakdown. He said that he began to feel "I was virtually incompetent," adding that he would put his head on his desk and think his work was a mess. He ended up leaving his job for several months. While he presented his research publicly, it was never published.

        In an interview, Dr. Goulson said, "I've known James for a very long time and always thought he was a good guy.

        "You can't win," Dr. Goulson added. "If you are funded by industry, people are suspicious of your research. If you're not funded, you're accused of being a tree-hugging greenie activist. There's no scientist who comes out of this unscathed."

        Today, Dr. Cresswell has returned to less controversial areas of bee research. He said he respects scientists he met from Syngenta, but views collaboration with industry as a Faustian bargain.

        He called Syngenta "a kind of devil."

        "What I didn't realize is that supping with them would actually have a broader impact on how the world sees me as a scientist," he said. "That was my misjudgment."

        A Tangled Relationship

        If some scientists struggle to reconcile themselves with taking corporate money, others embrace complex business relationships.

        James W. Simpkins, a professor at West Virginia University and the director of its Center for Basic and Translational Stroke Research, is one of the many outside academics that Syngenta turns to for research.

        He has focused on the Syngenta product atrazine — the second most popular weed killer in America, widely used on lawns and crops — often co-authoring research with Syngenta scientists.

        Atrazine, banned in the European Union, has also been controversial in America. Most notably, Syngenta embarked on a campaign to discreditTyrone B. Hayes, a professor it once funded at the University of California, Berkeley, until Dr. Hayes found that atrazine changes the sex of frogs.

        Dr. Simpkins has had a different relationship with the company. In 2003, he appeared before American regulators on Syngenta's behalf, saying that "we can identify no biologically plausible mechanism by which atrazine leads to an increase in prostate cancer."

        Dr. Simpkins was also lead author of a 2011 study finding no support that atrazine causes breast cancer. And last year, he was part of a small team of Syngenta-backed scientists that fought California's move to require atrazine be sold with a warning label. He also recently edited a series of papers on atrazine for Syngenta, garnering praise from a senior researcher at the company, Charles Breckenridge, who wrote in an email that the "papers tell a simple, yet compelling story."

        The depth of the financial intertwining of Dr. Simpkins and Syngenta was laid out in nearly 2,000 pages of email traffic, obtained by The Times following a Freedom of Information Act request. Not only does Dr. Simpkins receive research grants, but the company also pays him $250-an-hour as a consultant for his work on expert panels, studies and manuscripts, records show. Syngenta even asked Dr. Simpkins to contribute to Dr. Breckenridge's annual performance review.

        Asking outsiders to contribute to corporate reviews is not unusual. However, Dr. Simpkins is also described in the emails as a partner in a venture set up by Dr. Breckenridge called Quality Scientific Solutions to consult on pesticides and other issues.

        West Virginia University's website says that "Research conducted at W.V.U. is data-driven, objective and independent" and "not influenced by any political agenda, business priority" or "funding source." And John A. Bolt, a spokesman for the university, said all of Dr. Simpkins's Syngenta-related research had been conducted before Dr. Simpkins arrived at West Virginia in 2012.

        But a review of Dr. Simpkins's published work shows that he co-authored favorable atrazine studies with Syngenta scientists in 2014and 2015, and listed his university affiliation. Mr. Bolt said Dr. Simpkins only "served as an expert adviser" in the studies.

        In 2014, Syngenta made a $30,000 donation to the university's foundation. Mr. Bolt said that donation was made "in general support of the research activities of Dr. James W. Simpkins." None of the money, Mr. Bolt said, was "used to support research related to Syngenta."

        Dr. Simpkins's collaborations with Dr. Breckenridge appear to be expansive. In an email to Dr. Simpkins last year, Dr. Breckenridge sent him a study on the Mediterranean Diet and suggested they use a multilevel marketing company to help them sell a product of their own.

        "If we could come up with a better Snake Oil," he wrote to Dr. Simpkins, "we would have access to a massive marketing force."

        A Critic and a Target

        Some scientists labor outside the industry. It can be a difficult path.

        Angelika Hilbeck worked for Agroscope, a Swiss agricultural research center, in the 1990s, when she began to examine genetically modified corn. The corn was designed to kill insect larvae that fed on it, but Dr. Hilbeck found it was also toxic to an insect called the lacewing, a useful bug that eats other pests.

        Ciba-Geigy, a predecessor of Syngenta, had a confidentiality agreement with Agroscope, and insisted she keep the research secret, she said. Confidentiality agreements are not unusual for Agroscope. In one such agreement obtained by The Times, the agency agreed to return or destroy corporate documents it received as part of a research project.

        Dr. Hilbeck said she refused to back down and eventually published her work. Her contract at Agroscope was not renewed. An Agroscope spokeswoman said the episode took place too long ago to comment on.

        Dr. Hilbeck continued as a university researcher and was succeeded at Agroscope by Jörg Romeis, a scientist who had worked at Bayer and has since co-authored research with employees from Syngenta, DuPont and other companies. He has spent much of his career attempting to debunk Dr. Hilbeck's work. He followed her lacewing studies by co-authoring his own, finding that genetically modified crops were not harmful to the lacewing.

        Next, after Dr. Hilbeck co-authored a paper outlining a model for assessing the unintended risks of such crops, Dr. Romeis was lead author of an alternative approach with a Syngenta scientist among his co-authors.

        Then, in 2009, Dr. Hilbeck co-authored a paper looking at risks to ladybug larvae from modified crops. Dr. Romeis followed by co-authoring a study that found "no adverse effects" to ladybird larvae. In subsequent publications, he referred to work by Dr. Hilbeck and others as "bad science" and a "myth."

        "They were my little stalkers," Dr. Hilbeck said. "Whatever I did, they did."

        In an interview, Dr. Romeis, who now leads Agroscope's biosafety research group, said, "Her work does not affect our mission in any way," adding that the idea of researching the effects of genetically modified crops was "not patented by her."

        Refereeing a scientific dispute is difficult. But Dr. Romeis and his collaborators do seem preoccupied with Dr. Hilbeck's work, judging from a review of email traffic between Agroscope and the U.S.D.A. obtained by The Times following a Freedom of Information Act request.

        In 2014, as Dr. Romeis was developing a paper assailing Dr. Hilbeck's work, one U.S.D.A. scientist, Steven E. Naranjo, joked in a message to Dr. Romeis: "Joerg, its generous of you to see that Hilbeck gets published once in a while :)"

        Dr. Hilbeck is used to looking over her shoulder. "We shouldn't be running into all kinds of obstacles and face all this comprehensive mobbing just doing what we're supposed to do," she said. "It's totally corrupted this field."



        14)  Costly Drug for Fatal Muscular Disease Wins F.D.A. Approval

         DEC. 30, 2016


        The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug to treat patients with spinal muscular atrophy, a savage disease that, in its most severe form, kills infants before they turn 2.

        "This is a miracle — seriously," Dr. Mary K. Schroth, a lung specialist in Madison, Wis., who treats children who have the disease, said of the approval, which was made last week. "This is a life-changing event, and this will change the course of this disease." Dr. Schroth has previously worked as a paid consultant to Biogen, which is selling the drug.

        The drug, called Spinraza, will not come cheap — and, by some estimates, will be among the most expensive drugs in the world.

        Biogen, which is licensing Spinraza from Ionis Pharmaceuticals, said this week that one dose will have a list price of $125,000. That means the drug will cost $625,000 to $750,000 to cover the five or six doses needed in the first year, and about $375,000 annually after that, to cover the necessary three doses a year. Patients will presumably take Spinraza for the rest of their lives.

        The pricing could put the drug in the cross hairs of lawmakers and other critics of high drug prices, and perhaps discourage insurers from covering it. High drug prices have attracted intense scrutiny in the last year, and President-elect Donald J. Trump has singled them out as an important issue.

        "We believe the Spinraza pricing decision is likely to invite a storm of criticism, up to and including presidential tweets," Geoffrey C. Porges, an analyst for Leerink Partners, said in a note to investors on Thursday.

        Mr. Porges said the price could lead some insurers to balk or to limit the drug to patients who are the most severely affected, such as infants, even though the F.D.A. has approved Spinraza for all patients with the condition.

        "What you will have is a standoff with payers," he said in an interview on Thursday. "How is this all going to play out?"

        The price of the drug would be comparable to some other drugs that treat rare diseases. A spokeswoman for Biogen said the company set the price after considering several factors, including the cost to the health care system and the clinical value it brought to patients. She said that the company has also consulted insurers about covering the drug, and that while the talks are in their early stages, insurers have responded positively to the drug's effectiveness.

        "We are working to help ensure no patient will forgo treatment because of financial limitations or insurance status," said the spokeswoman, Ligia Del Bianco.

        She said Biogen, like many companies that sell expensive drugs, had set up a program to help families navigate insurance approvals and other logistics, and will provide financial assistance.

        Kenneth Hobby, the president of Cure SMA, a patient advocacy group that invested $500,000 in early academic research that led to the development of Spinraza, said more important than the list price of the drug is whether patients who need it will get it.

        "Are our families going to get access to the drug in the end?" he said.

        About 1 in 10,000 babies are born with spinal muscular atrophy — or about 400 a year in the United States — and it is among the leading genetic causes of death in infants. People with the disease have a genetic flaw that makes them produce too little of a protein that supports motor neurons, leading muscles to atrophy. Spinraza addresses the underlying genetic cause of the disease and enables a backup gene to produce more of the necessary protein.

        Blake Farrell, 6, has the disease. As an infant, Blake reached developmental milestones, learning to roll over, sit up and crawl at all the right times. "She was doing everything on target," Kacey Farrell, Blake's mother, said recently from the family's home in Cincinnati.

        But as she approached her first birthday, Blake started regressing. She struggled to sit on her own and stopped crawling. At 14 months, tests revealed that Blake had a moderate form of spinal muscular atrophy. As she got older, the muscle loss caused her bones to weaken, and she suffered fractures. She could no longer sit up in the bathtub, and had trouble swallowing food.

        In May of 2015, when she was 4, Blake was accepted into a clinical trial for Spinraza, also known as nusinersen. A third of the patients in the study were given a placebo, so the Farrells were not sure if she was getting the real thing. But after receiving her first few doses, which were injected into her spinal fluid, Blake started to improve. She joined her two sisters in the bathtub, sitting up on her own. One day, she even scooted across the floor.

        "I was just in shock," Ms. Farrell said. "These were all things we hadn't seen her do since she was 8 months old."

        In an analysis of 82 infants in the clinical trial that led to the approval, 40 percent of babies on the drug reached milestones such as sitting, crawling and walking. None of the babies that received a placebo did. The F.D.A. approved the drug months ahead of time and, because the drug treats a rare pediatric disease, granted Biogen a special voucher that it can use to gain priority review of a future drug that would not otherwise qualify for the program.

        The F.D.A. said the most common side effects were respiratory infections and constipation, and there is a warning about possible low blood platelet counts and toxicity to the kidneys.

        Even though trial investigators did not know which patient was receiving Spinraza, "anecdotally, it just seemed quickly obvious to us that some patients were following a very different trajectory than what we were used to seeing," said Dr. John Brandsema of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the investigators.

        He said that while the patients who improved were the most remarkable, the drug also appears to stop the progression of the disease in other patients.

        "It's hard not to use very exaggerated terms when you are talking about this, because it really is a pretty major step forward," Dr. Brandsema said.

        For now, Blake receives Spinraza free because she is enrolled in an extension study of the drug. But her father, Nick Farrell, a lawyer, said cost is a concern.

        "That is a whole lot of money," he said, adding that among parents of children with the disease, access is already a major topic. "The conversation has already started about, O.K., what's the next step here?"



        15)  Gender Pay Gap Halves for Millennials, but Will Widen With Age: Study

         JAN. 4, 2017, 10:54 A.M. E.S.T


        LONDON — The pay gap between men and women in their 20s has halved in a generation to 5 percent but will widen as the same adults grow older, according to analysis by a British think-tank.

        The analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics by the Resolution Foundation found the gender pay gap has closed for every generation of women since those born between 1911 and 1925.

        "Young women today face relatively little disadvantage in terms of their pay packets compared to what their parents' and grandparents' generation faced," said Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the non-partisan foundation.

        According to the study, the gender pay gap has fallen from an average of 16 percent for baby-boomers born between 1946 and 1965, to 9 percent for Generation X, born between 1966 and 1980, and to 5 percent for millennials, or those born between 1981 and 2000.

        However, the pay gap begins to widen as women begin to enter their 30s and early 40s when they begin to have children and begin to take time off work, after which it continues for decades, the study said.

        "This pay penalty is big and long-lasting, and remains for younger generations despite the progress in their early careers," Gardiner said in a statement.

        The study said addressing the gender pay gap at all stages of women's careers, particularly post-childbirth, will remain a key challenge.

        Based in London, the Resolution Foundation was established in 2005 and conducts research on UK living standards.

        (Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; editin by StephenAddison)



        16)  A Young Mother's Solitary, Uphill Struggle

        By    JAN. 4, 2017





        Without warning, Tyrell Williams's mood shifts from gleeful to morose. Consumed by his action figures one moment, Tyrell, 4, will abruptly set them down, start sobbing and complain to his mother how much he needs his father.

        "Obviously I want to cry with him, but I don't," his mother, Myasia Williams, 23, said. "I stay strong and I just speak to him. I say, 'Daddy's away and he loves you. He misses you very much.'"

        She will not explain to him that his father, who is also named Tyrell Williams, is in prison. That conversation must be between father and son, reserved for a future date. Mr. Williams is serving time for attempted murder and is set to be released in 2041.

        Mrs. Williams said his crime has not changed her love for him, though it has caused her to lose relationships with other people in her life who question why she is loyal to a man behind bars. They don't understand the depth of the love she has for him, she said.

        They met while attending Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Manhattan. She noticed his kindness toward her friends. Once they began dating, she felt a sense of belonging she had never experienced.

        "At the time we met, I was at a rough place when it came to my family, and his family came to me with open arms," she said. "They really took care of me."

        Mr. Williams was arrested in 2011. He spent the next few years out on bail and the couple spent even more time together, and she gave birth to Tyrell Jr. Mr. Williams was convicted in July 2015. That October, the couple married at the Rikers Island jail complex. The ceremony was held in a small room, under the supervision of two corrections officers. Another inmate and his wife served as the witnesses.

        "After we said, 'I do,' we only got five minutes to sit there and talk to each other," Mrs. Williams said. "I was not happy at all. But I was happy I got married."

        Mrs. Williams, alone raising their son, had limited career options. When she became pregnant, she dropped out of high school and thought that Mr. Williams would provide for the family.

        "When he got taken away from us, I could have been more prepared," she said. "Instead, I have to start all over in my life."

        To improve her job prospects, Mrs. Williams enrolled in test preparation classes at the Next Generation Center for the high school equivalency diploma exam. The center is operated by the Children's Aid Society, one of the eight agencies supported by The New York Times's Neediest Cases Fund. A year ago, the organization used $400 from the Neediest Cases Fund to help Mrs. Williams buy winter clothing for herself and Tyrell.

        Mrs. Williams and Tyrell live in the Bronx in an overcrowded apartment shared with six other relatives.

        Finding work has not been as easy as Mrs. Williams had hoped. She has a temporary job at a postal office in Flushing, Queens. She said she needed a college degree to have more career options, so she is working toward a practical nursing certificate at Mildred Elley, a two-year career and technical college.

        She feels guilty whenever she has to leave Tyrell in the care of her sisters or godparents when heading off to school or work, especially at times where he pleads with her not to leave him like Daddy did.

        "I always talk to him and try to explain to him 'This is what I'm doing,'" she said. "'I'm doing this so you can have your own room, you can have this, you can have that.' I don't know if he's too young to understand, but I know he'll eventually understand."

        Mrs. Williams said she lived by her phone, and talked to her husband almost every day. The thought of not being able to answer is its own source of stress.

        "If I miss a call, I miss a chance to speak to him," she said. "And if I'm at work or at school, Tyrell can't talk to him."

        Once every few months, Mrs. Williams and Tyrell Jr. travel by bus, to the Clinton Correctional Facility to visit Mr. Williams. The journey takes six hours one way to nearby Plattsburgh, and then they must take a cab. Their son recognizes police officers, Mrs. Williams said, but doesn't grasp that they are visiting a prison.

        She hopes that her husband will be able to appeal and one day be granted an early release. Then they can make a life for themselves in Central New York. The family spent some time in Syracuse while Mr. Williams was awaiting trial. He has relatives there.

        "I loved it," Mrs. Williams said. "It's different. You come outside and everyone wants to say hi and give you a smile. When you come here, and have a smile on your face, it's 'What are you looking at?'"

        She has another dream as well, and this one might never be realized.

        "I want more kids, but I don't want to have them while he's in there," Mrs. Williams said. "That's not going to work. I'm not having a child in that situation. I feel guilty for even having my son, knowing that eventually something was going to happen."

        Motherhood, in addition to her long hours of work and school, is already a lot to juggle, and she admits, despite her best efforts, she doesn't always do so with aplomb. But she says she won't stop trying.

        "I'm trying to get it together," Mrs. Williams said. "It's not together at all."
















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