The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has filed the (predicted) appeal of Mumia's recent court victory, which granted his right to the curative drug for his Hepatitis-C infection. 

See Mumia"s comment below

Join the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal 

for MLK Day in Oakland:

_  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _


[col. writ. 1/14/17] ©'17 Mumia Abu-Jamal

Several days ago, the Pa. DOC appealed the Jan. 3rd US District Court ruling that granted an injunction against the DOC's so-called 'protocol' covering hepatitis treatment (or should I say lack of treatment?).

The state waited almost 10 days to file an appeal saying they didn't have the time needed to obey a court order that gave them 2 weeks (14 days) to begin the process.

They also ignored the court's order that the DOC was enjoined from using its 'protocol'--they continue to use it, as if no court order was ever issued.

If that ain't contempt of court, what can it be called?

The State violates constitutional rights daily--because it can. What's another court order?

To them, it ain't worth the paper it's printed on.

From the very beginning the DOC has spit in the eye of the judge. They've filed false documents. They've made misleading claims. They tried to intimidate him.

Why should they now be any different?

And yet, the battle goes on, to save the lives of thousands of prisoners in Pa. dungeons.


_  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _

After last month's successful Mumia Action Coalition rally and march in Oakland, the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal is calling all activists to join the labor contingent for the MLK march on Monday January 16. We will be gathering in front of the State Building at 16th St. & Clay in downtown Oakland at 10:45 AM and then moving to Oscar Grant Plaza around the corner to join the main march. We'll have a large Free Mumia banner and posters, but if you have your own bring that.  Let's make Mumia's recent courtroom victories a reality by organizing a spirited contingent demanding his immediate release from prison after 35 years on slow death row! 

For more info: call Gerald at 510-417-1252

About the recently appealed Court victory:

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."

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. 


"Labor Rising Against Trump"

Dear Friends,


Monday, January 16, 2017 was a success in the fight to reclaim Martin Luther King's legacy as we were joined by several thousand in the street in Oakland for the "Reclaim King's Radical Legacy March." To continue to build momentum in raising awareness about King's legacy, we invite you to join "Labor Rising Against Trump" to learn more about King's support for the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike during the final days of his life in the Spring of 1968. This film explores King's historic links with labor as he believed that economic justice and organized workplaces were central to the liberation of African Americans and all working people during the Civil Rights movement.


The film will be shown on Wednesday (1/18/17) at the Omni Commons Disco Room (4799 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland) at 7pm. Requested Donation of $5 (no one turned away for lack of funds). Snacks and light refreshments will be provided.


The link to the Film Screening Event on IndyBay.org is found below:


https://www.indybay.org/ newsitems/2017/01/16/18795388. php



Like  Tweet  Pin  +1  in 



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
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



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



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:










Dear supporters,

We have been busy mobilizing for thousands to join us at the mass resistance to Trump,  #J20Resist –  j20resist.org.

So far we have

  • Initiated buses and carpools from over 15 cities to march at #J20Resist in DC, along with actions across the U.S.
  • Launched a call for global actions across the world against Trump on January 20th
  • We worked with local groups in DisruptJ20 to secure permits to rally and planned  a march on the White House during Trump's parade.
  • Plans are in place for legal observers, jail solidarity teams, if there are any arrests during J20, medical teams, mass housing at local churches and working with the press as best we can to get our revolutionary message out.

Our D.C. Plans are to rally at Union Station, at "Anti" Columbus Circle starting at 6 am and march at 10 am to the White House. We will have an ending rally McPhearson Square, a block from the White House.

Now more than ever, we urgently need your support to make this mobilization possiblegofundme.com/protest-trumps-inauguration. A donation of $25 will get another person a seat from our buses from New York and Philadelphia. A $60 donation can help us to mobilize people from North Carolina and Detroit.

Please, if you cannot make it to DC, consider making a donation to this important movement. We need it now more than ever.

While the Democrats want divert the rage against Trump into a stronger, pro-war stance against Russia, the people of the U.S. must continue to fight independently of both parties for what we desperately need. We need jobs, health care, education, justice for migrants and people of color, an end to militarism and war and more. We don't buy the fake news and the outright lies meant to distract us from our real task, creating a revolution to end the rule of the two parties of capitalism.

Let the Anti-Trump struggle blossom into a struggle against the entire system of capitalism, white supremacy, LGBTQ bigotry, oppression of women, attacks on migrants, police terror, union-busting, and more!

This massive mobilization in D.C. and all around the country is a step in building the unity we need to fight Trump and the whole capitalist system. J20Resist is working in participation with the following groups, and many more:

BAYAN Philippine Coalition,

Committee to Stop FBI Repression,


Freedom Road Socialist Organization,

International Action Center,

Michigan Emergency Coalition Against War & Injustice,

Moratorium Now,

Pakistan USA Freedom Forum,

Peoples Power Assembly,

Philly Real Justice,

Samidoun Palestine Prisoners Network,

Solidarity Center,

Solidarity Iran,

Students for a Democratic Society,

Team Solidarity,

United American Indians of New England,

United National Antiwar Coalition,

USW Local 8751 Boston School Bus Drivers Union,

Why Accountability,

Women's Fightback Network,

Workers World Party

Your support wil make this mobilization possible 


See plans around the country and internationally and send additional info at J20Resist.org

You are subscribed to IAC Solidarity Center action alerts.

Our mailing address is:

IAC Solidarity Center

147 W 24th St

2nd FL

New York, NY 10011

Add us to your address book @solidarityweb.com

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

Share on Twitter

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!




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)  A Strike Empties London's Underground. Aboveground Is a Different Story. JAN. 9, 2017


        2)  Prisons Run by C.E.O.s? Privatization Under Trump Could Carry a Heavy Price

        By Eduardo Porter,  January 10, 2017


        3)  Wintry Blast in Greece Imperils Refugees in Crowded Camps

         JAN. 11, 2017


        4)  E.P.A. Accuses Fiat Chrysler of Secretly Exceeding Emissions Standards

         JAN. 12, 2017


        5)  Chelsea Manning Describes Bleak Life in a Men's Prison

         JAN. 13, 2017




        6)  Chicago Police Routinely Trampled on Civil Rights, Justice Dept. Says

         JAN. 13, 2017



        7)  Obama Ends Exemption for Cubans Who Arrive Without Visas

         JAN. 12, 2017




        8)  With Electricity in Short Supply, 10,000 Protest in Gaza, Defying Hamas

         JAN. 12, 2017


        9)  Kunduz Attack in November Killed 33 Civilians, U.S. Military Says

         JAN. 12, 2017


        10)  Scott Pruitt, Trump's E.P.A. Pick, Backed Industry Donors Over Regulators

         JAN. 14, 2017



        11)  Women's March Gives Boost to Start-Up for Bus Sharing

         JAN. 15, 2017


        12)  What Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali Had in Common

        JAN. 17, 2017





        13)  As the Earth Shook, They Stood Firm

        14)  World's 8 Richest Have as Much Wealth as Bottom Half, Oxfam Says

        "How concentrated has wealth become in the globalized modern world? Here's one answer: Just eight of the richest people on earth own as much combined wealth as half the human race. ...Oxfam said, new data gathered by Credit Suisse about the global poor led it to lower its estimates of their assets, and revise its findings about how few rich men — the eight are all men — were needed to equal the wealth of 3.6 billion people."

        JAN. 16, 2017


        15)  Two Years, 31 Dead Construction Workers. New York Can Do Better.

        JAN. 16, 2017






        1)  A Strike Empties London's Underground. Aboveground Is a Different Story. JAN. 9, 2017


        LONDON — Londoners struggled to maintain their poise on Monday after a 24-hour strike on the Underground forced the evacuations of subway stations, left buses dangerously crammed and made thousands of commuters walk for hours to get to and from work.

        "The buses are now Mad Max-style death trucks," said Aaron Gillies, an author and comedy writer. "People try to ride pigeons to work. No gaps are minded. Chaos."

        More than two million commuters were thought to be affected by the walkout, which came amid cold, rainy weather, a falling pound and new fears over Britain's plans to exit the European Union. Two separate industrial actions at British Airways and Southern Railway are also expected this week.

        "Hard Brexit, pound plummet, Tube strike," Alex Caldwell, a Londoner, wrote on Twitter, adding the hashtag #blueMonday.

        As a consequence of the strike, Uber fares more than quadrupled, further raising the ire of Londoners and making Leicester Square, a major tourist hot spot, seem like a "Toyota Prius convention," according to Chris Parsons, another commuter.

        Transport for London, the Underground's operator, provided river services — that is, boat rides across the Thames. The company was also forced to wheel out its heritage buses — vintage double-deckers — to help ferry thousands of bus passengers, offering some a brief moment of delight.

        The staff walkout on the Underground came after a long-running dispute over the closing of ticket offices.

        Sadiq KhanLondon's mayor, described the subway strike as "completely unnecessary," saying the dispute should have been resolved amicably around the negotiating table. "You going on strike means millions of Londoners have had a miserable journey today," he told the BBC.

        But Mick Cash, the general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, or R.M.T., one of two unions that organized the strike, said that Transport for London had failed to offer a "serious set of proposals" to deal with stations that had insufficient staff to be run safely.

        John Leach, an R.M.T. regional organizer, also told the BBC: "You can't run London Underground with millions and millions of pounds of less money," 834 fewer station staff, "but at the same time carry a million people more every day and keep it safe and efficient for the passengers."

        The strike is expected to end Tuesday morning — just in time for two other strikes to begin, one by drivers of Southern, a troubled rail service that serves southern England, and another by British Airways cabin staff.

        At British Airways, crew members who work on both short- and long-haul flights are taking action after negotiations over what they call "poverty pay" broke down. As a result of the strike, major disruptions are expected at Heathrow Airport, with up to 48 flights grounded.

        The disruptions prompted worries over London's image as an open, global city.

        "This is the wrong time to send out a message across the world that London isn't open for business, as it is being closed by ongoing strikes," Colin Stanbridge, the chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

        "It will put tourists off visiting and discourage business from moving their headquarters to the U.K.," he said. "Strikes like this go to the very heart of undermining companies' efforts to make a real success of Brexit."

        But Wetherspoons, a British pub chain that supported leaving the European Union, begged to differ by cheerfully reminding Londoners: "Remember today during the Tube strike, most stations have a Wetherspoon pub in walking distance, so just come in and get mangled instead."



        2)  Prisons Run by C.E.O.s? Privatization Under Trump Could Carry a Heavy Price

        By Eduardo Porter,  January 10, 2017


        Last summer, the Justice Department decided to start winding down its use of private prisons.

        Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates noted in a memo that while private prisons were useful when public prisons were overflowing, they made little sense now that the prison population was falling. They didn't save much on costs. Nor did they provide the kind of rehabilitation programs proven to reduce recidivism.

        And they are particularly dangerous. A recent report by the department's inspector general found that prisoners in private facilities, which house some 12 percent of federal inmates, were much more likely to have weapons. Private prisons had many more assaults on inmates and prison workers than those run by the Bureau of Prisons. And they went into lockdown to respond to disturbances 10 times as often.

        But on Nov. 9, the day after Donald J. Trump was elected president, the stocks of correctional conglomerates were among the best performing on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares in Corrections Corporation of America gained an astonishing 43 percent on the day. The reason? Privatization is back at the top of the government's agenda.

        While this is being applauded in executive suites across corporate America, the cost for the rest of society is likely to be high.

        "With prisons I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons," Mr. Trump said on the campaign trail last year. "It seems to work a lot better." Mr. Trump's pick for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, is a staunch supporter of the approach, having invited private prisons into his state as its attorney general more than 20 years ago.

        But privatization is likely to sweep through not only prisons. The president-elect wants to privatize health services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. He wants to privatize public infrastructure — drawing private sector companies to fix, build and manage bridges and roads, water supplies and airports. He is selling privatization as a surefire winner that will deliver better services for less public money.

        "There's a magical thinking among business executives that something about the profit motive makes everything run better," noted Raymond Fisman, a professor of economics at Boston University. "What is government going to be like when it is run by billionaire C.E.O.s that see the private sector as a solution to all the world's problems?"

        A serious body of economics, not to mention reams of evidence from decades of privatizations around the world, suggests this belief is false.

        Consider, for instance, what the profit motive has done for higher education. For-profit colleges absorb a full quarter of federal aid for higher education. Not all are fraudulent diploma mills set up to milk federal aid dollars from low-income students. Still, on average they are much more expensive than public institutions, while their degrees are much less valuable.

        There are abundant similar examples in the health care industry. Hospices run for profit are less likely to admit patients with shorter, less-profitable expected lengths of stay. For-profit hospitals have been found to fib more to Medicare than nonprofits do — tweaking their diagnoses to get higher reimbursements. And they have been found to bolster profits at the expense of patient safety. A study at the RAND Corporation found that hospitals that switched from nonprofit to for-profit operation saw a sharp rise in profits but also a jump in mortality rates one to two years after their conversion.

        Then there is a study by Bonnie Svarstad and Chester Bond of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison more than three decades ago: They found that patients in for-profit nursing homes got heavier doses of sedatives than those in nonprofits got. Explaining the pattern, the economist Burton Weisbrod wrote that sedatives were "less expensive than, say, giving special attention to more active patients who need to be kept busy."

        Of course, the government can also do a horrible job of running things. And private corporations do many things well. They tend to be much faster to innovate. In competitive markets, the profit motive makes for a powerful incentive to deliver all kinds of goods and services, from widgets to telephone calls, efficiently and effectively. A study found that opening nursing homes in Sweden to private providers actually improved patients' mortality rates.

        But it is critical to understand how profit seeking can go awry, giving companies a motivation to skimp on quality to bolster margins. When a private provider faces little or no competition, or when quality of service is difficult to track properly — think of the well-being of patients in a nursing home, or the health of prison inmates — there will be nothing to stop it from pursuing higher profits at society's expense.

        "The private sector is good at cutting costs and finding ways to save money," Oliver Hart, a professor of economics at Harvard, told me. "Some are socially desirable; some are not." The critical issue is whether a contract can be written that reduces the space for socially undesirable tactics to a minimum.

        Negotiating the trade-offs is not always obvious. For instance, the privatization of the water supply of Buenos Aires led to a reduction in infant deaths from infectious and parasitic disease. But it also increased water bills, so the unpopular concession to a private company was ultimately canceled.

        Professor Hart, as it happens, won the Nobel in economic sciences last year for his work in studying precisely these sorts of contracts: When are they more likely to work? How should they be structured? Crucial tasks with many dimensions — waging war, policing the streets of a city — are often best left to the public sector, he points out. By contrast, a private provider could do a better job when the desired output is more straightforward and can be measured properly, like collecting trash.

        He is not at all opposed to privatization. Indeed, he argues that determining whether a service should be privately or publicly provided should not be an ideological issue. The decision should be based on "what mode of organization achieves the social goal in the best way."

        Unfortunately, he noted, it seems unlikely Mr. Trump's team will take the thoughtful path. Indeed, one of Professor Hart's seminal papers, produced together with Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishny nearly 20 years ago, suggested that while things like garbage collection or weapons production were quite suitable for private provision, the government would probably do a better job tackling tasks like foreign policy, the police and … prisons.



        3)  Wintry Blast in Greece Imperils Refugees in Crowded Camps

         JAN. 11, 2017


        First it was the icy snow. Now comes the freezing rain.

        An arctic blast that has reached as far south as the Mediterranean is generating perilous conditions for thousands of refugees in overcrowded migrant camps in Greece and prompting the European Union to declare the situation "untenable."

        On Wednesday, a Greek navy ship docked at Lesbos island to take on as many as 500 refugees. They have been struggling to survive the subzero temperatures in the severely overcrowded main camp in Moria, using pup tents that were supposed to be temporary when they were set up last year in warmer weather.

        Video and photos taken by migrants inside the camp and posted to social media showed flimsy shelters sagging under a blanket of snow, and people waiting in long lines in the falling snow for food and to use bathrooms.

        In one video, a man identifying himself as a migrant shows people lifting the flaps of snow-covered tents near a slushy pathway. "Look at how human beings are living," said the man, speaking French.

        Imploring officials of the European Union to look at the situation themselves, he said: "Why can't people leave here? How is it possible to live in these conditions, my God?"

        On Tuesday night, the snow turned to freezing rain, forming rivers of muck around the camp and drenching tents and clothing, aid organizations reported. On Samos, another island where the main migrant camp is overflowing, refugees reported freezing conditions with no heat.

        At refugee camps on the Greek mainland, and especially near the northern border, migrants continued to grapple with living outside under heavy snowfall.

        "This is unbearable," said Roland Schoenbauer, a spokesman for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, who said he was receiving reports from doctors in camps across Greece warning of rising health risks from the cold and humidity. "It shows what happens when you try to squeeze too many people into these camps. You can't stockpile human beings."

        A year after the European Union sealed its borders to large numbers of newcomers, Greece remains Europe's holding pen for nearly 60,000 men, women and children. Many have been living for months in a distressing limbo in sordid refugee camps on the mainland and on Greek islands near Turkey, unable to move to countries where they hoped to seek asylum, and with no means or motivation to return to Syria, Iraq or other countries from which they fled war or economic hardship.

        Eric Kempson, a British citizen who has been living on Lesbos for over a decade, has been documenting the deteriorating conditions in the Moria refugee camp, posting videos of tents collapsing under the weight of snow and migrants slogging through muddy walkways.

        "It is now heavy rain and melting snow, which is causing flooding in the camp," Mr. Kempson wrote to The New York Times, via Facebook, describing the conditions in the camp on Wednesday. "It's like we begin the vicious circle again and nothing gets better, only worse."

        On Monday, the European Commission issued a statement saying the Greek refugee situation was the responsibility of Greek authorities. "The situation has become untenable," a spokeswoman, Natasha Bertaud, said in Brussels.

        The United Nations refugee agency and other aid groups have been working to move migrants from camps into better shelters, including hotels. In some cases, however, they have met resistance: Hotel owners on Samos, for example, were generally refusing to house migrants, Mr. Schoenbauer said.

        But a bigger problem is the extremely slow processing of asylum applications for those in the Greek camps. While the numbers of people streaming across the Aegean Sea from Turkey have slowed to a trickle after Turkey and the European Union signed a deal to resolve the crisislast March, thousands of migrants have yet to be registered for asylum.

        That is partly because the European Union has sent just a fraction of the assistance it pledged to Greece last year to help clear the backlog.

        A separate European Union plan to ease Greece's burden by relocating tens of thousands of asylum seekers has also failed to take off, with European countries taking only a few thousand of the many stuck in Greece.

        The bottlenecks have overwhelmed many of the camps, especially on the Greek islands, where migrants arriving after the March deal are supposed to be held until being deported to Turkey.

        The camp at Moria, for instance, run by the Greek police and nongovernmental organizations and designed for about 3,000 people, was reinforced with small container shelters that can each house up to 30 people.

        But hundreds of makeshift tents have been set up outside for months to accommodate an overflow of asylum seekers — first under the beating Greek sun, and now under the pelting snow and rain.

        "The snow is only the tip of the iceberg," Mr. Schoenbauer said. "The bigger problem is the overcrowding of the islands, and one reason for the overcrowding is the fact that the asylum procedure remains far too slow."



        4)  E.P.A. Accuses Fiat Chrysler of Secretly Exceeding Emissions Standards

         JAN. 12, 2017


        The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler of using secret software that allowed illegal excess emissions from at least 104,000 diesel vehicles.

        Affected models include the light-duty model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3-liter diesel engines sold in the United States, the agency said.

        The software resulted in excess emissions of nitrogen oxides, which have harmful health effects, from the vehicles, the agency said.

        The excess in emissions "threatens public health by polluting the air we breathe," said Cynthia Giles, an assistant administrator at the E.P.A.

        While Ms. Giles stopped short of calling the software "defeat devices," which Volkswagen used to cheat on diesel emissions tests, she said, "There is no doubt that they are contributing to illegal pollution."

        Fiat Chrysler was not immediately available for comment.

        Volkswagen has been engulfed in a scandal about cheating on emissions tests. Many of the company's 600,000 cars in the United States that are equipped with emissions-cheating software were imported from Germany or Mexico.



        5)  Chelsea Manning Describes Bleak Life in a Men's Prison

         JAN. 13, 2017




        Most mornings at 4:30 a.m., half an hour before the "first call" awakens inmates at the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas, an alarm rings within an 80-square-foot cell. Inmate 89289, slightly built with close-cropped hair, rises to apply makeup and don female undergarments and a brown uniform before the still-slumbering men in the adjacent cells stir.

        That is the routine for Chelsea Manning, America's most famous convicted leaker and the prison's most unusual inmate. She is serving the longest sentence ever imposed for disclosing government secrets — 35 years — and her status as a celebrity of sorts and an incarcerated transgender woman presents continuing difficulties for the military.

        During the day, Ms. Manning, who was an Army intelligence analyst known as Bradley Manning when she disclosed archives of secret military and diplomatic files to WikiLeaks in 2010, builds picture frames and furniture in the prison wood shop. In the evenings, before the 10:05 p.m. lockdown, she reads through streams of letters, including from antisecrecy enthusiasts who view her as a whistle-blower.

        "I am always busy. I have a backlog of things to do: legal, administrative, press inquiries, and writing — lots of writing," Ms. Manning wrote in response to questions submitted by The Times because the Army does not permit her to speak directly to journalists. "Being me is a full-time job."

        But Ms. Manning, who is struggling to transition to life as a woman while enduring a bleak existence at a male military prison, has asked President Obama to commute the remainder of her sentence before he leaves office next week. She poses particular challenges as a prisoner, with a volunteer support network that helps bring global attention to her treatment, fragile mental state — she twice tried to commit suicide in 2016 — and need for treatment that the military has no experience providing.

        Her request comes as the world is again focused on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, whom her leaks made famous. The organization last year published Clinton campaign emails, obtained in a hacking, as part of what American intelligence officials claim was a covert Russian operation aimed at tilting the election to President-elect Donald J. Trump. (Ms. Manning declined to discuss WikiLeaks, saying only that her decision to send documents to it "was neither an endorsement nor an affiliation.")

        It also comes at a time of flux in the military's policies on gender identity. Last June, the Obama administration rescinded a ban on transgender people serving in the military and began overhauling its practices, which eventually would include providing gender reassignment surgery. But Mr. Trump has derided the lifting of the ban as "politically correct," raising the possibility that his administration may roll back the changes.

        The White House declined to comment on Ms. Manning's commutation request. The Army declined to comment about her situation at Fort Leavenworth, citing privacy laws.

        A military prosecutor had called Ms. Manning a "traitor" at her 2013 court-martial, and officials have said the disclosures disrupted government operations and put people at risk, although prosecutors did not claim anyone was killed because of them.

        In a statement accompanying her petition asking Mr. Obama to reduce her sentence to the nearly seven years she already has served, Ms. Manning, now 29, said she never intended to hurt anyone and pleaded for a chance to start her life over.

        "I need help," she wrote. "I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life."

        Transformation in a Crucible

        On Aug. 22, 2013, the day after her sentencing for sending documents to WikiLeaks, Ms. Manning's lawyer read a statement on the "Today" show announcing that she was female, wanted to be called "Chelsea" rather than "Bradley" and would seek cross-sex hormone therapy.

        To observers of her court-martial, this was no surprise. Her motivation for leaking hundreds of thousands of files she had copied from a classified computer network while serving in Iraq, as she wrote at the time, was hope that they would spark "worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms." But at her trial, she apologized and noted that she was "dealing with a lot of issues" when she had made that decision.

        Testimony showed that she had been in a mental and emotional crisisas she came to grips, in the stress of a war zone, with the fact that she was not merely gay, as she had believed while growing up in Oklahoma, but had gender dysphoria — a disconnect between one's gender identity and sex assigned at birth. In the months before her leaks and May 2010 arrest, she had been behaving erratically and emailed a picture of herself wearing a woman's wig to her supervisor.

        The military sent Ms. Manning to serve out her sentence as a medium-security inmate at the Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks, its main prison for male inmates.

        Court documents show that Ms. Manning has had counseling sessions with a prison psychologist, Dr. Ellen Galloway, at least once a week, and military authorities have over time allowed her access to some treatments doctors prescribed for her gender dysphoria, in part because of pressure from a lawsuit filed by Chase Strangio, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, in September 2014.

        She can now wear female prison undergarments, including a sports bra, and "subdued cosmetics." In early 2015, she was permitted to get speech therapy to feminize the tone and pitch of her voice and began cross-sex hormone therapy prescribed, Mr. Strangio said, by an endocrinologist brought in from the military's Walter Reed hospital.

        Since then, Ms. Manning wrote, she has developed breasts and curvier hips. "There have been significant changes since I've been taking the hormones, and I am happy with them," she said.

        But, citing security risks, the military rejected the recommendation of an outside psychologist who said she should be permitted to further feminize her appearance by growing her hair longer than male military standards. Mr. Strangio is helping her challenge that restriction.

        "Plaintiff feels like a freak and a weirdo — not because having short hair makes a person less of a woman — but because for her, it undermines specifically recommended treatment and sends the message to everyone that she is not a 'real' woman," he wrote in a court filing.

        "She is getting hormones, but it sounds like the inability to socially transition, or to have surgery, could be contributing to suicidality — especially when she is looking at decades in prison and thus a certain hopelessness about whether that might ever be available for her," said Dan Karasic, a University of California, San Francisco psychiatrist and the chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's work group on gender dysphoria; he cautioned that he had not examined her.

        The military turned down a request by The New York Times to visit the facility. But an Army spokesman, Wayne Hall, provided written answers from the Army Corrections Command to questions posed by The Times, from which a sketch of her environment emerged.

        Ms. Manning's cell, like others at Fort Leavenworth, contains a bed, toilet, sink, locker, storage bin, chair and desk, according to the Army. She showers in a nearby communal bathroom with individual stalls. She has no access to the internet, but says she receives "at least a couple hundred pieces of mail every week."

        The Army does not permit her to see people who did not know her before her incarceration, so she is not allowed to meet with a handful of volunteers who have formed an informal network of supporters, but she calls one of them daily. A volunteer who relayed questions from The Times to her asked not to be named, citing security concerns.

        Ms. Manning said she recently finished reading "Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies," a book about artificial intelligence by the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, and "1Q84," a dystopian novel by Haruki Murakami. She is interested in efforts to develop stronger encryption and has been "going through" the "Princeton Companion to Mathematics." She also said she reads women's athletic, fashion and lifestyle magazines like Shape, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan.

        Her cell door has a window looking onto a central "day room" with tables, chairs, pay phones and televisions. For a time, Ms. Manning played Dungeons & Dragons with a few fellow inmates, but she said she had had no time in recent months. She eats meals with other inmates in a dining facility and works on a team at the wood shop.

        The roughly 424 inmates held at Fort Leavenworth with Ms. Manning include men accused of routine crimes as well as some who drew public attention, including Nidal Hasan, convicted in a 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood and held on the prison's death row wing, and Robert Bales, who murdered 16 Afghans in Kandahar and was sentenced to life without parole in August 2013.

        Ms. Manning declined to say much about the guards or fellow inmates, other than to say that they have never bullied or attacked her.

        "It's best to keep to yourself and try not to get involved in any drama," she wrote. "It's a little harder for me to keep to myself, since the staff is constantly watching me and those that interact with me. But I'm used to it by now. I don't feel threatened by the other prisoners. I have friends."

        Doing Hard Time

        Her special status at Fort Leavenworth is evident. Nancy Hollander, one of the lawyers working on the appeal of her conviction and sentence, said the Army built a special secure information facility in a windowless basement room so she could meet with them and discuss still-classified documents she leaked.

        While Ms. Manning said she could not say on her monitored phone calls "anything critical of the prison or the current administration or I can get charged for violation of a lawful general order," her supporters pay close attention to her treatment.

        Scrutiny of the military's struggles to deal with Ms. Manning go back to her confinement at the Quantico, Va., brig after her arrest, when she was held for months in isolation, shackled during exercise and sometimes stripped of clothing and glasses to prevent her from harming herself — even after a prison psychologist said such steps were unnecessary. A military judge ruled that the treatment had been illegal.

        At Leavenworth, after a minor disagreement with a guard in 2015, officials punished her, among other things, for "medical misuse" because they found a tube of toothpaste in her cell that was past its expiration date. Her supporters publicized the incident.

        In September, her supporters issued a news release saying she was on a hunger strike because of an "overzealous administrative scrutiny" and lack of progress in getting more treatment.

        She resumed eating after five days. Mr. Strangio said an official told her she would be eligible for the same medical treatment as non-incarcerated transgender soldiers, suggesting she would eventually be permitted to proceed with surgery. But months have passed, and Ms. Manning wrote that she has not seen a surgeon.

        Later in September, a prison board disciplined Ms. Manning for the disruption a June suicide attempt had caused. The punishment: solitary confinement. While in isolation in October, she tried again to kill herself — by choking herself on a piece of clothing, according to a support network member — before guards intervened.

        About a week further into that stint in solitary, she experienced a bizarre episode in which four people impersonating guards simulated breaking into the prison one night and pretended to kill her regular guards, filling her with fear, according to an account she filed with the army inspector general.

        A military official denied her account. Dr. Stuart Grassian, a specialist in the psychological effects of solitary confinement, said her description is consistent with hallucinations often experienced by unstable people placed in isolation.

        Now, with 28 years of her sentence to go and uncertainty over whether the Trump administration will deny her sex-reassignment surgery, Ms. Manning is hoping Mr. Obama will take mercy on her and free her from military prison, which goes by the acronym U.S.D.B.

        "I am not asking for a pardon of my conviction. I understand that the various collateral consequences of the court-martial conviction will stay on my record forever," she wrote in her commutation application. "I am merely asking for a first chance to live my life outside the U.S.D.B. as the person I was born to be."



        6)  Chicago Police Routinely Trampled on Civil Rights, Justice Dept. Says

         JAN. 13, 2017



        CHICAGO — The Chicago police have systemically violated the civil rights of residents by routinely using excessive force, a practice that particularly affects African-Americans and Latinos, the Justice Department said in a scathing report released on Friday, unveiling the findings of a 13-month investigation into the city's police department.

        Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch also announced at the federal courthouse in downtown Chicago detailed steps the city had committed to take to remedy the problems.

        "The systems and policies that fail ordinary citizens also fail the vast majority of Chicago Police Department officers who risk their lives every day to serve and protect the people of Chicago," said Ms. Lynch, who had raced to complete the investigation before the end of President Obama's term.

        "With this announcement, we are laying the groundwork for the difficult but necessary work of building a stronger, safer, and more united Chicago for all who call it home," Ms. Lynch said.

        Justice Department investigations can be powerful tools for overhauls of the police, and the Obama administration has made expansive use of them amid a wrenching national debate over race and policing. Chicago is among nearly two dozen cities — including Baltimore; Ferguson, Mo.; Seattle; and Cleveland — where the Justice Department has pushed for wholesale changes in policing.

        By negotiating an agreement with Chicago to fix the problems, the Justice Department has laid the groundwork for change regardless of what happens under President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump's attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has said he believes that many of the police department overhauls sought by the Obama administration went too far and unfairly maligned officers. He also has spoken against the court-enforced settlements, known as consent decrees, that usually result from investigations like the one in Chicago.

        With the statement announced on Friday, the Justice Department has put the city's problems on the record and set in motion a process — albeit one that may be less easy to enforce — for change, even if the Trump administration does not seek a consent decree with Chicago.

        Chicago's announcement came only a day after the Justice Department and city leaders in Baltimore announced an agreement that called for greater oversight of the police department there, as well as improved training and safety technology. The consent decree came in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who died of a spinal cord injury in 2015 while in the custody of the Baltimore police.

        Chicago officials have been bracing for the findings from the Justice Department after more than a year of tense public debate about the police and its long, troubled history of community relations, particularly with African-American and Latino residents. Announced in December 2015, the investigation came in a year of cascading violence for the city. Shootings and murders rose significantly. In 2016, there were 762 homicides in Chicago, more than New York City and Los Angeles combined and more than this city has experienced in 20 years.

        The inquiry was spurred by the city's reluctant release of a chilling video that showed a white police officer shooting a young black man, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. For months, the city had fought to keep the dashboard camera footage from being made public, but a judge ultimately ordered its released. Residents were outraged by the images, some marching in protest and demanding that Mr. Emanuel resign.

        Long before the Justice Department's findings, the critiques of the Chicago police were stark. Two years ago, the city announced reparations and an apology to black men who had for years said they were tortured and abused at the hands of a "Midnight Crew" of officers overseen by a notorious police commander in the 1970s and 1980s. Last year, a task force appointed by Mr. Emanuel issued a blistering reportthat concluded that racism had contributed to a long pattern of institutional failures by the police.

        "C.P.D.'s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color," the task force wrote. "Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again."

        As Chicago awaited the Justice Department's announcement, city officials said that they were already making substantive changes at the department — separate from whatever the Justice Department would announce. Mr. Emanuel's aides pointed to changes the mayor has called for in improved training and equipment. All Chicago patrol officers are to have body cameras by the end of 2017.

        "As you can see from our actions over the past year, we are committed to continuing to make significant and much-needed reforms, providing officers with the tools and certainty they need to do their tough jobs well," said Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mr. Emanuel.

        But controversial police shootings have persisted, and some say the mayor's changes have not come fast enough. Just weeks after the Justice Department began its investigation, an officer shot and killed two people: a teenager said to be wielding a bat, and an elderly neighbor hit by a stray bullet. That officer later sued the estate of the teenager he killed, claiming emotional trauma.

        Last summer, another officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager in the back as he was running away.



        7)  Obama Ends Exemption for Cubans Who Arrive Without Visas

         JAN. 12, 2017




        WASHINGTON — President Obama said Thursday that he was terminating the 22-year-old policy that has allowed Cubans who arrived on United States soil without visas to remain in the country and gain legal residency, an unexpected move long sought by the Cuban government.

        "Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities," Mr. Obama said in a statement. "By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries."

        The move places a finishing touch on Mr. Obama's efforts as president to end a half-century of hostility between the United States and Cubaand to establish normalized relations and diplomatic ties with a government American presidents have long sought to isolate and punish.

        The action came through a new Department of Homeland Securityregulation and a deal with the Cuban government, which Mr. Obama said had agreed to accept the return of its citizens.

        "What we've agreed to is that the past is past, and the future will be different," said Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary. "This is us repealing a policy unique to Cuba given the nature of the relationship 20 years ago, which is very different right now."

        The so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which dates to 1995, owes its name to its unusual rules, which require Cubans caught trying to reach the United States by sea to return home, yet allow those who make it onto American soil to stay and eventually apply for legal, permanent residency.

        It was one way in which the United States tried to weaken Fidel Castro's government, by welcoming tens of thousands of Cubans fleeing repression. In recent years, however, it has become a magnet for economic refugees, enticing many Cubans to make a perilous journey to the United States, where they enjoy a status unlike migrants from any other country.

        "The exceptionalism of the 'wet foot, dry foot' policy toward Cuba is a relic of the Cold War, and this decision by the administration is really its final effort to normalize an area of interaction between Cuba and the United States, migration, that is clearly in need of normalization," said Peter Kornbluh, a co-author of "Back Channel to Cuba," which recounts the secret negotiations between the United States and Cuban governments that forged the policy.

        But the change drew sharp criticism from opponents of Mr. Obama's move to thaw United States relations with Cuba, who argued it would reward dictators in Cuba, ignoring their human rights abuses.

        "Today's announcement will only serve to tighten the noose the Castro regime continues to have around the neck of its own people," Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said in a statement. He said Congress had not been consulted on the move, and he added, "The Obama administration seeks to pursue engagement with the Castro regime at the cost of ignoring the present state of torture and oppression, and its systematic curtailment of freedom."

        Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, who led clandestine negotiations that produced the 2014 opening, said most Cubans who came to the United States in the past "absolutely had to leave" Cuba "for political purposes." Now, he said, the flow is largely of people seeking greater economic opportunity. Ending the policy, he added, is a reflection of Mr. Obama's view that, ultimately, the rise of a new generation of Cubans pressing for change in their own country is vital to bringing about change there.

        "It's important that Cuba continue to have a young, dynamic population that are agents of change," Mr. Rhodes said.

        Jorge Mas, the chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, said the changes would force Cuba's leaders to be more responsive to their citizens. "People may be initially upset at not being able to have this way of getting out of Cuba, but ultimately, the solution for Cuba is people fighting for change in Cuba," Mr. Mas said.

        The change in policy essentially guts the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which assumed that Cubans were political refugees who needed protection and allowed those who remained in the United States for more than a year to become legal residents.

        Obama administration officials urged Congress on Thursday to repeal the measure, but in the interim, by eliminating the policy that automatically afforded parole to Cubans arriving in the United States, they have essentially denied Cuban migrants the opportunity to take advantage of its benefits.

        Cuba, likewise, still has a law in place that denies re-entry to migrants once they have been gone for four years or more; Mr. Rhodes said officials in Havana have pledged to repeal it once the United States Congress scraps the Cuban Adjustment Act.

        Cubans who believe they will be persecuted if they return home will still be permitted to apply for political asylum when they reach the United States.

        According to the agreement, which was signed on Thursday in Havana, the Cuban government said it would accept 2,746 people who fled in the Mariel boatlift of 1980 back into the country, and consider accepting back others on a case-by-case basis.

        The Obama administration also eliminated the Cuban Medical Parole program, in which Cuban medical professionals stationed in international missions could defect and get fast-tracked visas to the United States.

        Obama administration officials had initially said they were not planning to change the policy after efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. But the thaw prompted speculation that once diplomatic relations resumed — as they did in 2015 — the arrangement would end. On Thursday, the officials said they had deliberately played down talk of revising the policy for fear of setting off an even larger exodus from the island nation.

        The number of Cubans trying to arrive by sea surged after the United States and Cuba announced the decision to restore diplomatic relations in 2014. In the 2014 fiscal year, almost 4,000 Cubans either landed or were caught. Two years later, the number shot up to 7,411, according to the Coast Guard.

        The number of Cubans who have since begun to arrive in the United States by land has also soared in recent years. The number of Cubans who arrived at the Southwest border has increased more than fivefold since 2009. Last year, almost 55,000 Cubans arrived nationwide, the Department of Homeland Security said.

        Kevin Appleby of the Center for Migration Studies of New York praised the specific change, while questioning the broader rules covering asylum. "The good news is that it ensures equal treatment between Cubans and asylum-seekers from other nations," he said. "The bad news is that our asylum system is broken and does not afford adequate due process and protection to those who need it."

        Phil Peters, president of the Cuba Research Center, said that the number of Cubans entering the United States is actually much higher because tens of thousands more overstay their visitor visas and still others migrate legally.

        "This is a favor to Trump because it's a tough measure to take, but it's the right measure to take," Mr. Peters said. "These are economic migrants coming here that, unlike any other nationality, get a big package of government benefits without any justification."

        There was a mixed reaction among Cubans in Havana to news of the sudden change in policy. Some said they felt its repeal was long overdue. Others thought the impact would be widely felt among Cubans still hoping to leave their island.

        Michel, 33, who declined to give his last name for fear of running afoul of the government, said he tried to escape on a makeshift boat in the early 2000s, but the vessel broke down halfway to the Florida Keys.

        Since then, he has given up on his desire to move to the United States. But he knows many Cubans who still hope to leave and who would be devastated by the change in policy.

        "This is going to make a lot of people's lives very hard," he said.

        Alberto Herrero, 58, a high school biology teacher, applauded the move by the Obama administration, saying the previous regulation was "an unfair law. It's unfair to the rest of the world's people, especially those in Latin America."

        "It's exclusive to us, and that's not fair to the world," he said, adding that he hoped the removal of the policy was a signal of a re-evaluation of other outdated measures taken by the Americans against Cuba.

        "Maybe other restrictions will be lifted, like the embargo," he added.



        8)  With Electricity in Short Supply, 10,000 Protest in Gaza, Defying Hamas

         JAN. 12, 2017


        JABALIYA, Gaza Strip — The nearly two million residents of Gaza have been suffering through a cold winter of crippling power cuts, receiving electricity for only three or four hours a day.

        The popular anger over the cuts erupted on Thursday in a large protest.

        In a rare display of defiance against the Hamas authorities who control the Palestinian territory, about 10,000 people took to the streets in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. They marched toward the offices of an electricity company, chanting slogans against Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, as well as against the rival Fatah party and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

        "Oh, Haniya and Abbas, we are being trampled!" people shouted.

        Outside the electricity company, protesters hurled stones and burned tires as the Hamas police fired their weapons into the air to disperse the crowd.

        The protest was one of the largest unauthorized demonstrations in the Gaza Strip in the decade since Hamas took full control of the enclave.

        The political schism between Gaza and the West Bank has compounded the misery for many residents of the Gaza Strip, who already face tough restrictions from Israel and Egypt on crossing the territory's borders.

        Divisions and arguments over taxation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have contributed to the cuts — a perennial problem in Gaza that has recently worsened, with rolling power interruptions that once lasted 12 to 16 hours a day now stretching to 20 or 21 hours.

        Most of the population is too poor to run private generators, given the scarcity and price of fuel, and those that have them use them sparingly.

        "I look at the sky but even the sky in Gaza has no stars," said Ahmed Mohareb, 19, a student who was demonstrating. "I cannot read or study in my home, and even when I go out into the street there is no light."

        Iyad al-Buzom, an Interior Ministry spokesman in Gaza, said in a statement that the police had acted on Thursday to protect the electricity company from "vandalism."

        Smaller protests had been building all week. Hamas security forces on Wednesday detained Adel Al-Mashoukhi, a comedian and singer, hours after he posted on Facebook a video of himself cursing the lack of electricity, as well as "no jobs, no border crossings, no food, no water," and shouting, "Enough, Hamas! Enough, Hamas!" By Thursday night the video had nearly 300,000 views.

        The Palestinian Center for Human Rights based in Gaza said Mr. Mashoukhi had been arrested by the military police at his home in Rafah, in southern Gaza. The rights group said he had been arrested twice before after making other videos critical of Hamas.

        A close friend and neighbor of Mr. Mashoukhi said by telephone that the comedian "loves art and songs more than Hamas and its military," and that Mr. Mashoukhi was "fed up of being without electricity and being treated like a sheep." The friend requested anonymity for fear of retribution by Hamas's security apparatus.

        An Interior Ministry official said that Mr. Mashoukhi, aside from being a comedian, received a salary from the ministry as a member of the security apparatus, and that he was arrested for disciplinary violations, as well as a lack of commitment to the performance of his duties.

        Gaza requires up to 470 megawatts of power per day — with demand increasing when people use heaters during the winter — but it is producing or receiving barely a third of that amount, according to officials.

        The Gaza power plant, bombed by Israel in 2006 during fighting between Israel and Hamas, has long been working at half capacity, in part because of funding shortages that limit fuel purchases. It has been producing only 60 megawatts since 2013, according to the United Nations office for humanitarian affairs in the region.

        In addition, Israel supplies 120 megawatts and Egypt up to 30 megawatts, but the flow from these lines is sometimes disrupted for technical reasons.

        Many Gaza residents do not pay their electricity bills, leaving the electricity companies in debt. The Palestinian Authority has also been reducing the tax exemptions it grants to Hamas to purchase fuel for the Gaza power plant, increasing the cost. Authority officials, for their part, have blamed Hamas for imposing its own taxes and tariffs.

        Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, blamed the Palestinian Authority for delays in upgrading the electricity supply lines to Gaza. Addressing Gaza residents at a news conference he said, "I suffer like you. I don't have electricity in my home."



        9)  Kunduz Attack in November Killed 33 Civilians, U.S. Military Says

         JAN. 12, 2017


        KABUL, Afghanistan — A United States military investigation into claims of civilian casualties during a joint operation by Afghan and American forces found that 33 civilians were killed and 27 others were wounded during a firefight and airstrikes in Kunduz Province last year, American military officials said on Thursday.

        In early November, Afghan Special Forces, accompanied by American military advisers, came under intense fire during an operation to arrest Taliban commanders in Boz Qandahari, a village in Kunduz, the United States military command in Afghanistan said in a statement. They called in American airstrikes, which resulted in some of the civilian casualties.

        Two American soldiers and three Afghan commandos were killed, and four American soldiers and 11 commandos were wounded, the statement said.

        "Regardless of the circumstances, I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives," said Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of United States forces in Afghanistan. "On this occasion, the Taliban chose to hide amongst civilians and then attacked Afghan and U.S. forces."

        "I wish to assure President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians," he added, referring to Ashraf Ghani.

        After the battle in Kunduz, a New York Times reporter counted 22 bodies being brought into the city on the way to the hospital there. Among them were 14 children, four women, two older men and two men of fighting age. They were accompanied by a large group of protesters from Boz Qandahari, the village that was hit.

        Residents of Boz Qandahari, however, said that the investigation had underestimated the number of civilians killed and that the claim of Taliban firing at the forces from their homes was not true.

        "My father was a shopkeeper — he had a grocery shop close to our house. My brother and I were farmers. We had never had a weapon. I and no one in my family knows how to use a weapon," said Mohammed Reza, 29, who lost seven family members in the bombing and was stuck in the rubble of their house for hours. "I lost my father, my brother, my brother's wife, my son and three of my nephews who were between 1 and 7 years old."

        Dad Mohammed, 45, said he was aware of at least 37 killed among his own relatives.

        "There were no Taliban among us, there was no Taliban in our house. Except for one former Talib, who was disabled and had lost a leg and he was our cousin," he said. "He was killed along with his father, his wife and five children. His brother was also killed."

        Mr. Mohammed said the Taliban stronghold in the area was obvious, but it was far from the areas that had been bombed.

        "This was an act of oppression," he said. "We are also humans. It should be investigated by an international court, and we need to be compensated for our loss."

        Kunduz is also where a United States military gunship mistakenly targeted a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in October 2015, killing at least 42 people and destroying much of the hospital.



        10)  Scott Pruitt, Trump's E.P.A. Pick, Backed Industry Donors Over Regulators

         JAN. 14, 2017



        WASHINGTON — A legal fight to clean up tons of chicken manure fouling the waters of Oklahoma's bucolic northeastern corner — much of it from neighboring Arkansas — was in full swing six years ago when the conservative lawyer Scott Pruitt took office as Oklahoma's attorney general.

        His response: Put on the brakes.

        Rather than push for a federal judge to punish the companies by extracting perhaps tens of millions of dollars in damages, Oklahoma's new chief law enforcement officer quietly negotiated a deal to simply study the problem further.

        The move came after he had taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from executives and lawyers for the poultry industry.

        It was one of a series of instances in which Mr. Pruitt put cooperation with industry before confrontation as he sought to blunt the impact of federal environmental policies in his state — against oil, gas, agriculture and other interests. His antipathy to federal regulation — he sued the Environmental Protection Agency 14 times — in many ways defined his tenure as Oklahoma's attorney general.

        Now, Mr. Pruitt, tapped to head Donald J. Trump's Environmental Protection Agency, will have the opportunity to engineer a radical shift in Washington. If confirmed by the Senate, he is expected to shelve the Obama administration's aggressive environmental enforcement and embrace a more collaborative approach with the industries that the agency is charged with policing, many of which have helped him advance his political career.

        The impact would stretch from the nation's waterways to the planet's climate, since the E.P.A. carries out and enforces rules to combat global warming.

        "He has advocated and stood up for the profits of business, be it the poultry companies or the energy industry and other polluters, at the expense of people who have to drink the water or breathe the air," said Mark Derichsweiler, who led the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality division responsible for overseeing the poultry-related cleanup. Mr. Derichsweiler retired in 2015 after 40 years with the state, frustrated with Mr. Pruitt's approach.

        Mr. Pruitt declined a request to comment. But his supporters contend that his record demonstrates a deeply held philosophy that states understand their needs best and should be allowed to regulate their own environment. On Thursday, a coalition of 23 powerful conservative advocacy groups endorsed Mr. Pruitt's nomination, in advance of his confirmation hearing, set for Wednesday.

        "Some claim Mr. Pruitt opposes clean air and water. This could not be further from the truth," wrote the groups, which include the political action committee Club for Growth; the American Energy Alliance, which has advised Mr. Trump on energy policy; and Americans for Tax Reform, the group founded by the anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist. Mr. Pruitt, the endorsement said, "understands that many of the nation's challenges regarding clean air and water are best met at the state and local level."

        Mr. Pruitt, if confirmed, will take over the agency in an odd position: He has spent the last seven years suing it to block regulations that he would be expected to put into effect and enforce. Some legal scholars say he should recuse himself from major pending environmental matters, while groups like the Environmental Defense Fund are urging Congress to reject his confirmation.

        "The president's choices deserve a lot of deference from Congress and even environmental groups," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. "But at some point when the nominee has spent his entire career attempting to dismantle environmental protections, it becomes unacceptable. That's why Mr. Pruitt is the first E.P.A. nominee from either party that the Environmental Defense Fund has opposed in our 50-year history."

        Some experts say that while returning more authority to states can be desirable in some cases, environmental protection is probably not one of them. Smog and toxic chemicals that foul the air and waterways of one state may originate from one or several others, necessitating federal oversight of pollution.

        "Pollution doesn't respect state boundaries," said Patrick A. Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School. "States have limited ability to regulate pollution from outside the state, and almost every state is downstream or downwind from other pollution."

        Case in point: the "Green Country" chicken battle that Mr. Pruitt inherited in eastern Oklahoma. The phosphorus and nitrates in chicken manure were causing algae blooms in the ponds, streams and lakes of the 1.1-million acre Illinois River watershed, which reaches from Arkansas into Oklahoma.

        In 2005, Attorney General Drew Edmondson of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt's predecessor, sued Tyson Food, Cargill Turkey and a dozen other major poultry producers for damages caused by the pollution and to force them to change the way they disposed of 300,000 tons a year of animal waste.

        As Mr. Pruitt ran for election, at least $40,000 in contributions poured into his campaign from nearly 30 executives at poultry companies named in the lawsuit or attorneys at law firms representing them, including Mark Simmons, the founder of Simmons Foods; Donald J. Smith, then the chief executive of Tysons Foods; and Gary Weeks, a lawyer listed on the court papers as representing George's, another company targeted in the lawsuit, according to data assembled by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group and confirmed by The New York Times. That money represents about 4 percent of the total $1 million he raised in the 2010 campaign, records show.

        After Mr. Pruitt took over, instead of pushing the federal judge for a ruling that, seven years later, still hasn't been issued, he negotiated an agreement with Arkansas and the poultry companies to conduct a study of the appropriate level of phosphorus in the Illinois River.

        "Regulation through litigation is wrong in my view," Mr. Pruitt told The Oklahoman newspaper in 2015. "That was not a decision my office made. It was a case we inherited."

        J. D. Strong, director of Oklahoma's Wildlife Department and the state's former Secretary of Environment, praised Mr. Pruitt for negotiating the settlement.

        "You can't force a judge to rule," Mr. Strong said. "Pruitt didn't sit back and wait or badger the judge for a ruling. He worked to get the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas around the table."

        A spokesman from Tyson Food noted that the contributions to Mr. Pruitt's campaign were made by the company's executives and employees — including two former chief executives and members of the Tyson family — rather than by the company itself.

        "We'll point out that our employees are encouraged to participate in the election process of public officials at all levels, and are at liberty to make personal contributions to any campaign as they see fit," Worth Sparkman, the spokesman for Tyson, said.

        But Mr. Pruitt quietly allowed the expiration of a 2003 agreement that Mr. Edmondson helped negotiate with Arkansas to reduce poultry waste pollution — and to monitor the progress — without seeking another formal extension of the deal. And Mr. Pruitt shut down the specialized unit of four attorneys and a criminal investigator that had helped initiate the lawsuit against the 14 poultry companies.

        That environmental unit had broad jurisdiction, forcing pork-producing farmers to spend millions of dollars on their own cleanups and collecting tens of millions of dollars to clean up toxic sites in the state, including poisonous waste left at an abandoned lead and zinc mine known as Tar Creek.

        Mr. Pruitt, in response to questions, provided a list of environmental enforcement actions taken during his tenure, but the list includes cases that were largely initiated under Mr. Pruitt's predecessor, Mr. Edmondson.

        A spokesman for Mr. Pruitt said that while the environmental unit had been closed, environmental cases continued to be handled by the state solicitor general's unit. "Under the leadership of Attorney General Pruitt, this team has held bad actors accountable and protected stewardship of Oklahoma's natural resources."

        But Mr. Edmondson said that prosecution of such environmental crimes fell as a result of the shuttering of the unit. "Under his tenure as attorney general, I don't think environmental crimes have disappeared," Mr. Edmondson said of Mr. Pruitt, in an interview. "It is just the filing of cases alleging environmental crimes that has largely disappeared."

        Residents who live in eastern Oklahoma, where local ponds and streams are still often clogged with algae, said they, too, were frustrated.

        Phosphorus levels have declined considerably — a total of about 70 percent between 1998 and 2015 — but the largest reductions took place before Mr. Pruitt became attorney general, as wastewater treatment plants have been upgraded and more poultry farmers have shipped chicken waste for proper disposal. Still, the levels remain far above the state standard and the decline in pollution has been slower than some hoped.

        "I want an attorney general — and a head of our E.P.A. — who is not averse to protecting Oklahoma's most outstanding waterways," said Ed Brocksmith, who is a co-founder of a group called Save the Illinois River.

        At the same time that he was retreating from his predecessor's more aggressive approach, Mr. Pruitt sent a series of letters to federal regulators that in some cases were drafted by industry lobbyists and then put on his state government stationary, open records obtained by The New York Times in 2014 showed. The letters pressed the federal government to back down on proposals to tighten controls over energy production, such as oil and gas wells that can release planet-warming methane.

        Mr. Pruitt separately filed a series of lawsuits against the federal government, challenging regulations intended to reduce the discharge of poisonous mercury from coal-burning power plants, carbon dioxide blamed for climate change and other emissions that federal authorities argued were causing unsightly haze in Oklahoma's air.

        In total, Mr. Pruitt filed 14 lawsuits challenging federal environmental regulations. In 13 of those cases, the co-parties included companies that had contributed money to Mr. Pruitt or to Pruitt-affiliated political campaign committees.

        Mr. Pruitt separately has served as a leader of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which since 2013 has collected $4.2 million from fossil-fuel related companies, including Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Murray Energy and Southern Company, which in many cases have also supported the lawsuits he has filed.

        Given the scale of his regulatory challenges, Mr. Pruitt turned to major corporate law firms, which typically defend energy companies fighting these laws, for help. In some cases, that assistance was offered free.

        BakerHostetler, the Cleveland-based law firm whose clients have included dozens of energy industry players, assigned five of its lawyers to help Oklahoma overturn President Obama's Clean Power Plan, intended to combat climate change. The law firm did not charge Oklahoma anything for the work, Mr. Pruitt's office confirmed.

        David B. Rivkin Jr., the lead attorney from BakerHostetler who handled the matter, said that the work was considered charitable, similar to when major law firms give free legal advice to inmates at the Guantánamo Bay military prison.

        Environmentalists scoffed.

        "The industries and companies, through their corporate lawyers, are renting the state's seal in order to make it look like their self-interested arguments are being made by Scott Pruitt on behalf of a state," said David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Counsel. "It is a disgrace."

        Even federal judges are skeptical.

        Mr. Pruitt joined with Missouri and several other mostly rural states in one federal suit to beat back California's regulations requiring egg farms, including those in Oklahoma, that wanted to sell in the state to seek more humane treatment of hens. In rejecting the suit, the federal judge admonished the plaintiffs.

        "The court concludes plaintiffs have not brought this action on behalf of their interest in the physical or economic well-being of their residents in general," Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the United States District Court wrote in her 2014 opinion, "but rather on behalf of a discrete group of egg farmers whose businesses will allegedly be impacted."



        11)  Women's March Gives Boost to Start-Up for Bus Sharing

         JAN. 15, 2017


        A few days after Donald J. Trump won the presidential election, the founders of Skedaddle, a bus start-up, began seeing some unusual activity.

        Their tiny company, which makes an app that lets individuals collectively commission private bus rides, was suddenly hit by a surge in bookings. Some of the bookings originated from places where Skedaddle has done little business before, including Wichita, Kan.; Madison, Wis.; and Macon, Ga. All of the reservations were for travelers to arrive the same day, Jan. 21, at the same destination: Washington.

        There was another twist. Many of those booking the bus trips were women.

        The Skedaddle founders realized that the prospective riders were all going to Washington to be part of the Women's March on Washington. That is an event being held on Saturday, the day after Mr. Trump's inauguration, where people plan to gather to send a message about upholding their civil rights.

        "We're bringing people to D.C. from as far away as Kansas," said Adam Nestler, one of the founders of Skedaddle, which is based in Boston and New York City. The company said that on Friday and Saturday, it will transport more than 11,000 people to the Women's March, or about 5 percent of the 200,000 people expected to attend. That is the largest ever two-day period of business for the 19-person company.

        The spike in bookings makes Skedaddle one of the unlikely beneficiaries of the presidential inauguration. Across Washington, hotels and restaurants are set to be packed over the coming weekend, and other companies are also trumpeting what they expect to be a rise in their business. Airbnb, the online room rental service, said on Friday that it has more than 15,100 guests booked in Washington for inauguration weekend. And Uber said it has been working overtime to ensure that its ride-hailing services work smoothly in Washington during inauguration week.

        Other bus start-ups are also tapping into the inauguration demand. Skedaddle's main rival is Rally, which was started in 2010 to transport people to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, a political gathering hosted by the comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Rally, which provided bus transportation to specific events but now lets people make their own routes, said it is bringing 50,000 people to the Women's March, as well as buses of Trump supporters to Inauguration Day.

        "This is a once-in-a-generation event in terms of numbers and no single organization can move them all," said Numaan Akram, co-founder and chief executive of Rally.

        Unrecognized tech start-ups have been lifted by presidential inaugurations before. In 2009, for President Obama's first inauguration, Airbnb was largely unknown and the practice of paying to sleep in a stranger's home was relatively uncommon. But most Washington hotels were sold out and word of Airbnb spread quickly among people desperate for a place to stay. Airbnb now operates in more than 34,000 cities worldwide and is valued at $30 billion.

        Skedaddle may see some similar inauguration benefits. The company was founded in 2015 by Mr. Nestler, his brother Craig, Brad Werntz and Louis Harwood, who had met through a combination of school and previous work at start-ups. None of the founders are over the age of 29, and this is the first company any of them have started.

        The four founded Skedaddle to allow people to create bus routes to wherever they please, with a mission of letting users "ride to amazing destinations with inspiring people." Once a route has at least 10 people, Skedaddle works with a local transportation company to provide the appropriate van or bus. The company works with higher-end, luxury transportation companies.

        Skedaddle makes money by securing a discounted rate from the transportation providers for bringing in a higher volume of customers. The average price of a ride on Skedaddle is $45 to $50. As a route fills with more people, the company's margins grow. Skedaddle has raised more than $3 million from investors.

        Riders can book, track and rate their transportation providers on Skedaddle, just as they can with Uber or Lyft. But in contrast with Uber and Lyft, all of the vehicles and drivers that Skedaddle contracts with are licensed and insured for commercial operations.

        While Skedaddle aims to someday replace established bus services like Greyhound and Peter Pan, much of its early business has focused on getting people out of cities for trips like weekend getaways. It has partnerships with 17 ski resorts and with music festivals like Bonnaroo, and it has been moving an average of 50,000 riders a month.

        "Today Skedaddle appeals to self-selecting groups, like music lovers and skiers," said Paige Craig, an investor in Skedaddle who was also an early investor in Lyft. "That inherently social aspect of the company is a big advantage."

        The Women's March on Washington is just the sort of grass-roots, viral event that Skedaddle was built for. The march began with a Facebook post by Teresa Shook, a retired lawyer in Hawaii who, the day after the election, urged women to make their presence known in Washington. With the march and other inauguration activities happening, transportation emerged as a key issue for the event's organizers.

        "When we were trying to hire charter buses, there were big questions about insurance and upfront payments," said Lauren North, an organizer of the march who is based in Louisville, Ky. "We were having a hard time moving all of these people to D.C."

        Ms. North had not heard of Skedaddle until someone mentioned the app during an organizing meeting. She said about 800 people from Kentucky are now going to the march and nearly half of those will use Skedaddle.

        "Skedaddle has been a huge help," Ms. North said. "It means something to us that they share our values and are proud to support the cause."

        Skedaddle is politically agnostic and would have transported Trump supporters to the inauguration, but none of the company's employees voted for Mr. Trump and Mr. Nestler said his company is proud to support the marchers.

        As more people booked seats to the march, Skedaddle employees scrambled to keep up with demand, working longer hours and on weekends. Everyone took on additional roles, with many pulled in to help with customer service. Women's March organizers and bus riders have been punctuating their emails to Skedaddle with expressions of relief and heart emojis.

        So huge was the bookings surge for Skedaddle — the company had interest from thousands more riders than are currently booked — that in early January, it cut off the number of new routes to Washington. The company said it did not want to run the risk of signing up so many people that it could not serve them all well.

        "The march has opened doors for us in new places," said Lindsay Dougherty, Skedaddle's marketing director.



        12)  What Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali Had in Common

        JAN. 17, 2017





        On an afternoon in 1958, near the shopping district at Walnut and Fourth Streets in Louisville, Ky., Thomas Merton was moving about inconspicuously gathering supplies for the Abbey at Gethsemani. The monastery, established in 1848 by the Order of Trappist Cistercians, is in Nelson County, south of Louisville near Bardstown. It is where Merton lived as a Trappist monk beginning in 1941.

        Merton's autobiography "The Seven Storey Mountain," published in 1948, and other works on interfaith dialogue, peace and nonviolence had made him an international best-selling author. The Washington Post would later call him the most significant Catholic writer of the 20th century. In an address to Congress, Pope Francis described Merton as a thinker "who opened new horizons for souls and for the church" and "a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions."

        That afternoon on Walnut Street Merton had a revelation that, according to his biographer, William H. Shannon, caused him to rethink the separateness of his life at the abbey. Merton experienced "the glorious destiny that simply comes from being a human person and from being united with, not separated from, the rest of the human race." It was as if, Merton himself said, "I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts." Merton would emerge from the confines of the abbey and become a significant figure in the 1960s social justice movement.

        Twenty years later, in 1978, Walnut Street was renamed Muhammad AliBoulevard, after my late husband. In 2008, the intersection at Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard was dedicated as "Thomas Merton Square." It would have been difficult to predict in 1958 that the divergent paths of the two men would someday be merged in the permanent markers of the same city street. At the time of Merton's revelation, 16-year-old Muhammad was across town delivering his own revelation to a series of opponents on his way to a gold medal and the World Heavyweight Championship.

        But by the 1960s, their voices in support of peace and justice began to merge. Both men had been shaken from their respective sanctuaries of literary and athletic attainment by the harsh realities of a nation deeply divided by war, race and social inequality. In 1968, during his last days, Merton set off for China and India to visit the Dalai Lama and other faith leaders concerned about the conditions of the world. By this time Muhammad was standing by the courage of his convictions in his refusal to go to Vietnam, a position ultimately vindicated in a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court.

        It is the convergence of their message of faith that bears noting as we mark what would have been Muhammad's 75th birthday on Jan. 17. Over time, Muhammad's deep, evolving devotion to God, whom as a Muslim he called Allah, came to be rooted in his love of all people. Boxing had taken him around the world and it opened his eyes to the beauty in diversity. Akin to Merton's revelation, Muhammad was fond of saying, "the key to a man's soul is in his heart."

        Like Merton, whom he never met, Muhammad was naturally drawn to the power in all faiths and at his direction his memorial service included an imam and an Islamic scholar, two Baptist ministers, two Jewish rabbis, a Roman Catholic priest, a Native American tribal chief and faith leader, and a Buddhist monk. Muhammad famously said, "Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams — they all have different namesbut they all contain water. Just as religions do — they all contain truths."

        As America stands divided once again in the aftermath of a polarizing election, we would do well to follow the example of Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali in their approach to diversity, pluralism and faith. Regardless of our differences, we share a common humanity, something that will always bind us to each other. We must find ways to reconnect to each other by developing empathy and by giving back. In truth, America has always faced division in varying degrees. The test for America has always been how she manages her division, how she finds and clings to a common purpose, and how she spins the tapestry of her diversity.

        Neither the monk nor the boxer relied on political leaders to set their course in matters of justice, equality and tolerance. Neither man was elected to high office, but their messages in print, in words and in deeds reverberated across the globe and in the highest chambers of power. Although one was a scholar and the other bore no papered credential, they each challenged convention or, as Pope Francis said of Merton, "the certitudes of the time."

        Muhammad was fond of the Buddhist expression, "The only constant in the universe is change." He drew on those words to embrace each day and each person he met. Merton said, "we do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone — we find it with another. Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony."



        13)  As the Earth Shook, They Stood Firm

        In January 1967, when the First and 25th Infantry Divisions of the United States Army began Operation Cedar Falls, their all-out offensive against the Communist strongholds of the "Iron Triangle" northwest of Saigon, Vo Thi Mo, 20, was ready.

        Born in Cu Chi, in the middle of the Cedar Falls battle zone, Ms. Mo had been in the fight against American troops and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam — the South Vietnamese force, known as ARVN — since the age of 13, when she helped to build the extensive tunnel system that southern Communist forces, known as the National Liberation Front (and to its enemies as the Vietcong), used as barracks, command center and communications network.

        By 1967 she was a "deputy of hamlet combat," and 50 years ago this month she led three commando squads against a battalion of the 25th Division.

        "I had never been at any military school," said Ms. Mo, now 70 and still living in a small house in Cu Chi. "As a girl, I was so scared when I cocked a gun for the first time. But, you know, I learned a lot on the battlefields."

        That poorly equipped, poorly supplied Communist forces were able to resist a sustained mechanized onslaught was a testament to the resilience, adaptability and tenacity of fighters like Ms. Mo. Their ability to survive, at a terrible cost, and learn from the experience helped shape their strategy for the rest of the war.

        To understand the experiences of Vietnamese on both sides of the war, I've studied hundreds of Vietcong reports and communications, soldiers' diaries and letters, captured by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam and archived at Texas Tech University. I've also conducted dozens of interviews in Vietnam in which former soldiers like Ms. Mo reflected on the war, and Cedar Falls in particular. Besides Ms. Mo, the other interviewees spoke on condition that their initials, but not their names, would be published.

        Even a half-century later, Col. Q.T.N., an 81-year-old former regiment commander and one of the few survivors of a division that was considered among the most hardened units of the Vietcong, shuddered as he recalled Cedar Falls in an interview at his home in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.

        After bomb and rocket attacks from B-52s, jet fighters, helicopters and heavy artillery secured the area, American tanks and troops came in "to search for and destroy us," Colonel Q.T.N. said. "The lands of Cu Chi, Ben Cat and Ben Suc" — villages at the perimeter of the Iron Triangle — "were razed as if they were some evils peeled off the skins of our body. Therefore, we called the operation Peeling the Shell of the Earth."

        He added: "Although they could not eliminate our leadership, they destroyed our bases, especially war supplies. To be honest, they created many difficulties for us and established a secure perimeter for themselves in the northwest of Saigon."

        Like the colonel, Mr. Q.H. has traumatic memories of the offensive. Born in Cu Chi in 1948 and educated at the University of Saigon, he went to the jungle to join the local Communists' department of propaganda and training.

        "The areas around Ben Cat and Ben Suc shook violently like there was an earthquake," Mr. Q.H. said. "Because all the food supplies were captured or destroyed, we had nothing to eat and drink. I don't know how and why I was able to survive the rain of bombs and the storm of fire pouring on us."

        Among the 350,000 documents that American and South Vietnamese forces captured during the operation are many showing that starvation was at the heart of the Communists' concerns. Because the offensive was so fierce, their comrades near the village of Phuoc Hiep "did not dare to visit to collect rice," Vietcong officials wrote in reports in mid-January 1967. Living under American surveillance after being relocated to a "New Life Hamlet," the people in Thanh Hoa did not sell rice anymore, the officials wrote, "so we found it very difficult to survive."

        Many Vietcong escaped the ruined tunnels and hid along rivers and canals. "The Vietcong usually sank themselves in the mud along the canal banks," a deserter told his interrogators, according to a report I found in the archives. "They had learned, from experience, that South Vietnamese soldiers would not check the canal banks very closely."

        But escape often proved impossible, and casualties rose. The Saigon River became a floating graveyard. In a memoir, Le Dinh An, a veteran of a South Vietnamese unit, wrote of "a river full of death."

        "Cadavers swelled, the men faced down in the water, while the women faced the sky," he wrote. "When we moved into the new areas, we continued to see new dead bodies floating on the rivers, the banks and paddies. The corpses showed up everywhere."

        By the end of Operation Cedar Falls, American officials said 750 Vietcong were killed, along with 72 Americans and 11 South Vietnamese.

        In their official writing, the Communists claimed that during the 19 days of the operation, their forces had resolutely fought the enemy advance of 30,000 United States and South Vietnamese troops. In reality, American and South Vietnamese troops faced only skirmishes against small units, not the main forces of the Vietcong.

        Colonel Q.T.N. admitted that his elite division — which he referred to as the "Vietnamese Big Red One," in homage to the American First Infantry Division — did not engage with the Americans during this operation.

        "Our policy was to avoid the enemy and protect our force," he said. "Only our local guerrilla units coped with the enemies, mainly by hit-and-run tactics. They also concealed their fighters during the day while moving and ambushing the American soldiers at night."

        That was a matter of necessity, said Mr. U.V.M., a former guerrilla at Cu Chi, born in 1947. "How could we fight them while we did not have enough weapons?" he said in an interview. "We avoided them from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m. every day because during that time they carried out their search and destroy missions. We could have been killed anytime if they found us. Our commune was located on the soft ground, so we did not have tunnels. It was more difficult for us to face the bombings and rockets. We secretly sheltered in the bamboo hedges."

        Still, the guerrilla fighters were able to blunt the American attacks, especially in areas around Cu Chi.

        Young Ms. Mo's readiness to resist there came from more than just her years of training and experience. Communist officials had warned her what was ahead before the first American troops entered her hamlet.

        "We knew when, where and how many days they would carry out their operation," she said, smiling. "We had a lot of agents who worked at the Dong Du base of the 25th Division, and in Saigon, who collected information and sent it to us."

        Still, resistance was difficult. "How could our 30 gunners, including six or seven sisters" — fellow female soldiers — "fight a battalion of the Tropic Lightning Division with their helicopters, artillery and planes?" Ms. Mo asked, using a nickname for the 25th Infantry Division. "If we fought them as a regular team in a conventional war, we would be swallowed by their forces."

        Instead she established elaborate defenses, beginning with anti-tank mines. Her fighters used a locally improvised anti-tank mine that was more effective than Soviet mines that worked only when a tank ran right over them. The jury-rigged mines used a remotely activated bamboo lever to propel the mine against the tank. They were devised with explosives from dud American shells gathered on the American Army base or on battlefields. "We stuffed the gunpowder into a galvanized pail or a machine-gun can," she said. "Our lever mines were very sensitive, so they could easily blast any vehicles."

        But that wasn't all, she said. "Next, we had an anti-tank ditch, then a spike-trap system, and finally bamboo barriers before our tunnels. So, their tanks could not overcome our anti-tank trenches and mines, while their troops were scared to come in. When they fired at us with cannons and B-52s, we hid in the tunnels. When their troops attacked with tanks, we came out to snipe at them."

        One reason for her tenacity was that, unknown to her enemies, a regional military command and a local Communist Party cell was garrisoned in her hamlet. "We saved our leadership until the operation concluded," she said.

        Despite her lethal efficiency, Ms. Mo did not dehumanize her foe: "I was not scared of the enemy. I fought against them to the end. I felt hatred toward them but I also saw their young men were to be pitied."

        A year before Cedar Falls, she recalled, she saw four soldiers from the First Division sitting in a clearing because they feared booby traps set under the trees. "They did not know they sat on a mine we made from a 105 millimeter cannon shell," she recalled. "My messenger boy wanted to kill them, but I resisted because I saw they cried as they looked at letters and pictures that I guessed came from their families. I felt sorry for them. My messenger boy asked me why I fought against the Americans but didn't kill them. He wanted to kill them so we would be awarded the Military Victory Medal. I told him, 'If you kill them, I will kill you!' I thought they might be students in their homeland but they were drafted, so they came here to fight. I did not kill them although I knew I could be disciplined."

        Even Mr. Q.H., the Communist propagandist, provided a surprisingly sympathetic view of the American military. "Frankly, we exaggerated stories of the brutal activities of the Americans and the numbers of American killed," he said. "At that time, we needed that talk in order to encourage our comrades on the battlefields."

        Mr. U.V.M., the former guerrilla at Cu Chi, concurred. "I harbored hatred for the U.S. Army because my brother was killed by them," he said. "But I recognized that American soldiers valued humanitarianism. When they saw our villagers, even our comrades, wounded they cared for all on the spot or sent them to the hospital immediately."

        While Cedar Falls provided these soldiers with insight into their enemy, it also provided the Communists with insights into themselves.

        Colonel Q.T.N. said that after Cedar Falls, National Liberation Front officials changed their strategies in the southeast battlefields and reorganized their forces in ascending levels — hamlet, village, commune and district combat units.

        "These units linked together to establish a combat system that could support each other effectively in containing and fighting against the Americans on the battlefields, including the Tet offensive of 1968," he said. Also, he added, instead of storing weapons that were sent from the north, all were delivered to the local units.

        "Therefore, when the Americans carried out next operations, they could not destroy our military supplies, while we had enough weapons to encounter them."

        The colonel remembers Cedar Falls with pride as well as horror. The American and South Vietnamese forces had little to show for their efforts in Cedar Falls, despite their overwhelming firepower and heavy Communist casualties. The tunnels were damaged but mostly not destroyed.

        "It was horrible, fierce," he said of the brutal standoff, "but glorious."



        14)  World's 8 Richest Have as Much Wealth as Bottom Half, Oxfam Says

        "How concentrated has wealth become in the globalized modern world? Here's one answer: Just eight of the richest people on earth own as much combined wealth as half the human race. ...Oxfam said, new data gathered by Credit Suisse about the global poor led it to lower its estimates of their assets, and revise its findings about how few rich men — the eight are all men — were needed to equal the wealth of 3.6 billion people."

        JAN. 16, 2017


        How concentrated has wealth become in the globalized modern world? Here's one answer: Just eight of the richest people on earth own as much combined wealth as half the human race.

        That's a notable change from last year, when it was reckoned to take 62 of the superrich to match the assets of the 3.6 billion people in the poorer half of mankind.

        The charity Oxfam does the math each year and publishes its results just in time for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where many of the spectacularly wealthy are often among the attendees, along with diplomats, political figures, and business and cultural leaders. The Oxfam report on inequality is on the agenda for discussion at the forum.

        Oxfam bases its figures in part on Forbes's annual list of billionaires and the magazine's estimates of their wealth. This year, Oxfam said, new data gathered by Credit Suisse about the global poor led it to lower its estimates of their assets, and revise its findings about how few rich men — the eight are all men — were needed to equal the wealth of 3.6 billion people.

        Here are the eight, with their net worth as estimated by Forbes, whose annual survey depends on a range of sources:

        Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, led the list with a net worth of $75 billion. He is scheduled to speak at the forum in Davos this year.

        Amancio Ortega Gaona, the Spanish founder of the fashion company Inditex, best known for its oldest and biggest brand, Zara, has a net worth of $67 billion.

        Warren E. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, $60.8 billion.

        Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications magnate, $50 billion.

        Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, $45.2 billion.

        Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's creator, $44.6 billion.

        Lawrence J. Ellison, the founder of Oracle, $43.6 billion.

        Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and founder of the media and financial-data giant Bloomberg L.L.P., $40 billion.



        15)  Two Years, 31 Dead Construction Workers. New York Can Do Better.

        JAN. 16, 2017




        On Dec. 23, on the Upper East Side of New York City, yet another construction worker died. His name has not yet been released, but he was the 31st to die on the job in the city in the past two years. He was working on a nonunion work site, as were 28 of the 30 others. Fabian Para, who worked nearby, explained that "he was on the third floor, and he was wearing a harness but wasn't hooked to a cable, and when he fell, he just went down."

        Just three weeks earlier, Wilfredo Enriques fell to his death at the old Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. Deaths 27 and 28 occurred on Nov. 22, when a steel beam fell four stories at a Queens job site, crushing George Smith and Elizandro Enriquez Ramos. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the workers' deaths were a "tragedy" and that "we need to know, of course, right away whether it was mechanical, or was it human error? We don't know yet."

        Actually, we do know; it is abundantly clear: We are in the midst of a public health epidemic brought on by inadequate safety regulations and public inattention. Construction-safety lapses happen because it pays for companies to run the risk of letting them happen. When the dead are largely foreign born and, in many cases, undocumented, no one much cares.

        Spending in the construction industry is at a record high. And yet many contractors can't be bothered to pay for training programs and safety measures, even those required by law, such as installing "fall protection" systems like nets and railings. The federal agency tasked with enforcing such safety protocols, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is severely understaffed. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of building permits issued in New York City jumped by more than 18 percent, but the number of OSHA inspectors for all of New York State dropped by more than 13 percent (as of 2014, there were only 71 left in the state).

        Because there are so few inspectors, only a small fraction of construction sites are ever inspected. When sites are inspected, not surprisingly, OSHA finds a high level of violations. And even when sporadic inspections lead to fines for violations, the fines are too small to deter misconduct. According to records kept by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a nonprofit group that lobbies for worker safety, of the city contractors that were inspected from 2009 to 2014, 73 percent had at least one "serious" OSHA violation, mostly of "fall protection" standards — precisely the violation responsible for the most deaths.

        Predictably, the number of construction injuries and fatalities has soared. The Department of Buildings recorded a 250 percent increase in construction injuries from 2011 through 2015, with construction fatalities increasing each year as well.

        It is not a coincidence that a vast majority of preventable accidents occur at nonunion work sites. Nonunion contractors make up 90 percent of the construction companies listed in OSHA's "Severe Violator Enforcement Program" for New York, a list of recalcitrant employers that have endangered workers with "indifference to their occupational safety and health obligations through willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations."

        Union workers are safer because they are better trained and know they will be protected if they refuse to work under dangerous conditions. Building trade unions have apprenticeship programs that teach workers the required and recommended safety protocols. Further, every union work site has a shop steward who serves as an advocate for workers with questions or concerns about their safety. If a contractor or foreperson tries to cut corners, the workers can, and will, refuse to put themselves in jeopardy.

        New York City can do better. Real egalitarianism is not just about declaring your city to be a "sanctuary" and blandly committing to staying true to liberal values, as our mayor has done. It is about making the hard economic and political choices needed to create a society that acts on its claims of valuing all life — even if that means missing out on the generous political contributions of the real estate industry.

        As many New Yorkers brace themselves for the incoming administration of Donald J. Trump and bemoan the racism and indifference to facts that they blame as factors in his victory, we ought to spare time for some soul searching about what is happening right in front of us. Poor immigrant workers are falling off our buildings and being crushed to death in our streets. The mayor, public officials and New Yorkers at large must stop tolerating, indeed condoning, this epidemic of workers dying "accidentally."

        We need to be outraged. More, we need tough licensing requirements for contractors, frequent safety inspections, robust worker training and, yes, support for developers who sign union contracts. It may not be the cheapest way to build. But it is what a city government and an electorate true to their ideals should be doing.






































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