Shut Down Creech! Apr 23-29, 2017

Empire War Status

Support War Resister Pvt. Ryan Johnson

Imprisoned a decade after refusing crimes of his country









USLAW supports the April 29th DC People's Climate March ... but ...

The organizers of the multi-issue People's Climate March tell us they're discussing whether and how to include peace in the agenda. 

Please encourage them by adding your name to the petition below, by re-tweeting it, by sharing it on facebook, and by forwarding this email.Thanks!!

Will you stand for peace?

A petition to the organizers of the
April 29 People's Climate March

PeoplesClimate.org website calls for a march on Washington on April 29, 2017, to "unite all our movements" for "communities," "climate," "safety," "health," "the rights of people of color, workers, indigenous people, immigrants, women, LGBTQIA, young people," and a much longer list . . . but not peace

Approximately half of federal discretionary spending is going into wars and war preparation. This institution constitutes our single biggest destroyer of the environment. [One reason peace is an environmental issue - see others below.] 

Will you please add "peace" to the list of things you are marching for?


    1. War is an environmental nightmare that continues to poison people and the planet long after the fighting ends.

    2. The Pentagon is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world.

    3. The Pentagon is the largest emitter of CO2 gases in the world.

    4. Wars are fought for oil and other energy resources. The U.S. drive for global hegemony is intimately bound up with its aim to control energy resources.

    5. The military consumes 54% of all discretionary spending. War and preparation for war divert financial and human resources needed to meet social needs (including investment in renewable energy and a sustainable energy system).

    6. The manufacture of arms and other military gear adds considerably to the carbon burden of the world.

    7. The military-industrial complex is fully integrated with and dependent upon the fossil fuel energy complex, serving as its enforcer as well as its client.

    8. To successfully address the climate crisis requires creating a sustainable new economy, but that is impossible so long as our economy remains dominated by the military-industrial-security-energy complex.

    9. To achieve a just transition to a new sustainable economy will require the environmental movement see its connection to movements for social justice, economic justice and peace.  The quest for peace is also a social justice struggle.

    The environmental movement must stop avoiding the connection between our militarized foreign policy and the challenge of climate change. 

Your contribution will be greatly appreciated. 

This is a low-volume email list operated by US Labor Against the War

1718 M St, NW #153 | Washington DC 20036 | 202-521-5265 | Contact USLAW



Protest groups to unite as "The Majority" for massive actions across the country on May 1


Activist groups are uniting as a broader coalition they've dubbed "The Majority," an idea inspired by the Movement for Black Lives — a collective of organizations in the Black Lives Matter movement — organizers first shared with Mic on Thursday.

More than 50 partners representing black, Latino, the indigenous, LGBTQ, refugees, immigrants, laborers and the poor will collaborate from April 4 through May 1, International Worker's Day, when they'll launch massive protests across the country.

The action will "go beyond moments of outrage, beyond narrow concepts of sanctuary, and beyond barriers between communities that have much at stake and so much in common," The Majority states on its BeyondtheMoment.orgwebsite, which officially launches Monday.

"We will strike, rally and resist," the coalition, which includes the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Black Youth Project 100, Color of Change and Mi Gente, among others, wrote on its website.

Leading up to Donald Trump's inauguration, many U.S. activist groups worked in silos on strategies to resist the conservative political agenda that they agree is an existential threat to women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigrants and the environment. Trump's first 100 days in office had been chocked full of executive orders, budgets and legislative proposals that go directly against what these activists have long been fighting for. 

"Even though the election results showed one thing, the reality is that the majority of us are under attack and this is a moment for us to step into something together," Navina Khanna, director of the Health, Environment, Agriculture, and Labor Food Alliance in Oakland, California, said in a phone interview. HEAL is a part of The Majority. "This is about really learning to see our issues as one, and our struggles as one."

The "Beyond the Moment" initiative kicks off April 4 with "serious political education with our bases," according to the website. In the weeks leading up to the mass mobilizations on May 1, they will hold public teach-ins and workshops nationwide. The desired outcome is a "broad intersectional, cross-sectoral" and influential unity on the left, activists said.

The idea for Beyond the Moment was derived from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech, in which he spoke out against racism, materialism and militarism — all broader and more-inclusive themes than his earlier anti-Jim Crow campaigns. The coalition said it chose April 4 as the kickoff for political education because that is date that King delivered the speech in 1967 and the date on which he was assassinated a year later.

Although anti-Trumpism has been a unifying cause — protests in major U.S. cities have occurred almost weekly around the Trump administration's Muslim travel banStanding Rock policies and transgender rights rollback — The Majority said it wants supporters to think beyond this president.

"In the context of a new president using grandiose promises of job creation to mask the fundamentally anti-worker and pro-corporation nature of his policies, it is as important as ever that we put forth a true vision of economic justice, and worker justice, for all people," the coalition website states.



Please forward widely…  Honoring Our Heroes & Martyrs: Lynne Stewart & Mumia Abu-Jamal May 6-7

Honoring our Heroes and Martyrs...

Celebrating the Life of People's Attorney  Lynne Stewart

Renewing the Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal*


so Ralph Poynter, lifelong companion of Lynne Stewart; co-founder New Abolitionist Movement; Black community activist 

so Mumia Abu-Jamal via Skype

so Judy Ritter, Professor of law; Co-counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal with NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund 

o Boots Riley of The Coup

so Cat Brooks, SF Bay Area National Lawyers Guild Interim Director; founder, Anti-police Terror Project and Bay Area Black Lives Matter

Special remarks from...

so Steve Bingham, Former President, SF Bay Area National Lawyers Guild,  recipient of the NLG's Champion of Justice Award 

 s Cindy Sheehan, Activist/Author/Host of Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox

so Jeff Mackler, Director, Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal; founder, West Coast Lynne Stewart Defense Committee

so Ralph Schoenman, Former Secretary to Bertrand Russel; Executive Director, Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal; Lynne Stewart defense organizer

s Dennis Bernstein, Host, KPFA's Flashpoints

Greetings from local social justice and prison rights activists  o Kim Serrano/Speak Out Now!;  o Judy Greenspan/Workers World Party and so Carol Seligman/Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

In San Francisco: Saturday, May 6, 7 pm, Eric Quesada Political and Cultural Center, 518 Valencia Street,  (near 16th Street BART)

In Oakland: Sunday, May 7, 7 pm, Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (between Broadway &  Telegraph)

Sponsors: Lynne Stewart Organization & Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal 

Initial Co-sponsors/endorsers: Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox • Lynne Stewart Defense Committee • Socialist Action • Speak Out Now! • Workers World Party • Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal • United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)  

Donation $20 - $10 sliding scale No one turned away for lack of funds. Benefit for Lynne Stewart Organization

For information about tables at $25 each contact: jmackler@lmi.net  510-268-9429

If you can't make these meetings, to help cover Lynne's family expenses, please send your contribution payable to Lynne Stewart Organization to POB 10328, Oakland, CA 94610

*Based of the 2016 Williams v. Pennsylvania U.S. Supreme Court decision Mumia's legal team is filing in Philadelphia on April 24 a petition for a new trial. The Williams decision held that in death penalty cases a state prosecutor, who is later appointed to a state court cannot rule on a decision that she/he was previously a party to. In Mumia's case, state prosecutor Ron Castille, who later became a PA Supreme Court judge, refused to recuse himself on Mumia's appeal.

s = SF meeting only

o = Oakland meeting only

so = both meetings


Be in Philadelphia on Monday, April 24th, Mumia's birthday, when a major legal issue will be addressed in the Court of Common Pleas (Pennsylvania State Court) challenging the entire process of conviction that took place during the State Appeals process from 1995 to 1998.  We are simultaneously addressing Mumia's Hep C Condition, the water crisis in Pennsylvania prisons, including Mahanoy where Mumia is housed, and the current major challenge to Mumia's conviction.  These issues affect thousands of other inmates in Pennsylvania.  Collective travel information is being planned and will be disseminated within the next few days.



Mumia's Hep C Treatment Has Begun!

Joe Piette: 610-931-2615

Join us in Philadelphia on Monday, April 24, 2017 at 8:30AM, at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to assert Mumia's innocence and call for his immediate release.

Center for Criminal Justice

Courtroom 1101

1303 Filbert Street

Philadephia, PA

Signers in solidarity,

International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal


Campaign to Bring Mumia Home

Abolitionist Law Center

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)

Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Committee to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mundo Obrero/Workers World

Philly REAL Justice

Prison Radio

Sankofa Community Empowerment

Millions for Mumia/International Action Center

Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal/Northern California

Le Collectif Français "Libérons Mumia"

German Network Against the Death Penalty and to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

Amig@s de Mumia de México

Saint-Denis Free Mumia Committee





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



Former Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera who recently received a commutation of his sentence  from President Obama will be coming to the Bay Area on Wednesday, May 31st.  This will be a memorable event, not to be missed!

Welcome Oscar Lopez Rivera 

  Oscar is Free and Coming to the Bay Area May 31st

           Oscar Lopez Rivera is coming to the Bay Area after 36 years in prison for his struggle in support for independence and sovereignty for Puerto Rican Independence. Help us support Oscar as he continues his work by making a financial commitment as he begins his new life.

            He will be visiting the Bay Area for a unique one time only public appearance on May 31st. For many of us, this is a welcome opportunity to celebrate his release and our shared victory. Let us show our support for Oscar in his new endeavors.

Please make a generous donation now: https://www.gofundme.com/welcomeoscar

Let us show Oscar that the SF Bay Area community supports him as he continues to advocate for sovereignty and independence for Puerto Rico. We look forward to seeing you in May.

Save the date: Wed. May 31, 2017  
                                 Recepcion 5pm
                                 Program 7pm - Place still to be determined 

For more information: freeoscarnow@gmail.com www.facebook.com/WelcomeOscartotheBayArea





Solidarity with the Jacksonville Five! Donate for bail and defense

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Committee to Stop FBI Repression (stopfbi.net)

Solidarity with the Jacksonville Five!
Donate for bail and defense!

Please donate to the Jacksonville Five bail and defense fund!

Call State Attorney Melissa Nelson at
904-255-2500 and say, "Drop the charges against the Jacksonville Five!"

April 13, 2017 - The Jacksonville Five are a group of anti-war protesters in Florida beaten and arrested by police at a "No War in Syria" rally held on Friday April 7, 2017. A right-wing provocateur appeared with a Trump flag, and then harassed and shoved anti-war activists, while police did nothing to him. Then the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office (JSO) physically attacked the anti-war protesters who did nothing wrong.

The police descended upon Connell Crooms, a deaf African American man, who had been leading chants. The police savagely beat, kicked and tased Crooms until he was unconscious and had to be taken to the hospital. Crooms is a well-known Teamster and a Black Lives Matter leader.

The police also punched Vietnam veteran Willie Wilder in the face and arrested the 74-year-old peace activist. Christina Kittle, the leader of the Jacksonville Coalition for Consent was thrown to the ground and arrested. Transgender activist Toma Beckwith was also tackled and arrested.

As protesters were leaving the park to do jail support, the police arrested union activist and anti-war speaker Dave Schneider, charging him with "felony inciting a riot" for organizing the anti-war protest. Police never arrested the right-wing provocateur. In fact, there are many photos on social media of him posing with JSO police, including Sheriff Mike Williams.

Jacksonville quickly rallied to the defense of the Jacksonville Five. The next day, April 8, over 200 people rallied to demand all charges be dropped. Leaders of the labor, African American, and progressive movements chanted, "Drop the charges!" The mother of Connell Crooms gave a tearful testament to her son's good character and denounced the police attack on her son, "JSO should not be allowed to get away with this type of behavior."

The rally demanded a full independent investigation into the police misconduct of April 7. Protesters are also demanding an independent investigation into a police spying program. Just weeks earlier the Florida Times Union newspaper reported the Sheriff's Office was spying on activists, including the Jacksonville Five, with photos of Dave Schneider, Connell Crooms and Christina Kittle appearing.

Jacksonville Sheriffs are lying and denying, claiming the protesters "incited a riot." Fortunately, dozens of people took video of the police brutality. The social media pages of the provocateur contain ties to white supremacist groups and to Sheriff Mike Williams who denies he knows him, despite their photo together at a Trump rally.

To add insult to injury, the total bail amount issued by the court for all five arrestees came out to over $157,000. They are outrageously charging the people who were beaten and arrested by the police with serious felony charges. We need to mobilize national support and raise enough money to cover this and pay for the defense.

There is a continuing campaign to drop the trumped-up charges and investigate the abuses by the JSO.

Please call the State Attorney for the Florida 4th Circuit, Melissa Nelson at 904-255-2500, and demand she drop the charges against the Jax5.

Please share this link to donate to the Jacksonville Five legal defense fund:


Copyright © 2017 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



Please call to support Siddique Abdullah Hasan on hunger strike!

Call Director Gary Mohr at 614-387-0588 or email him at drc.publicinfo@odrc.state.oh.us as well as Northeast Regional Director Todd Ishee, 330-797-6398. 

Demand that the punishments being imposed on Jason Robb and Siddique Abdullah Hasan be reversed and that OSP authorities be severely reprimanded for violating their rights to due process and displaying bias toward them. 

Details and backstory (share this with media contacts, please):

Contact for interviews:

Staughton and Alice Lynd: salynd@aol.com, 330-652-9635

Prison Strike Leader Moved to Infirmary after Twenty Four Days Refusing Food.

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, a national prisoner leader has been on hunger strike since Monday, February 27th. On Friday, March 24th he was moved to the infirmary, presumably due to failing health. His appeal to the Rules Infraction Board (RIB) was also denied by Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) Director Gary Mohr.

The administration at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) has been targeting and restricting Hasan's communication access on any pretense they can find or invent since his outspoken support for the nation-wide prisoner strike on September 9th of 2016.

Hasan and another prisoner, Jason Robb began refusing food when the OSP administration put them on a 90 day communication restriction for being interviewed by the Netflix documentary series Captives. Hasan appealed the RIB's decision, arguing that they violated policies regarding timelines, access to witnesses, and prisoners' due process rights. Director Mohr's response to the appeal was a form letter that did not address any of the issues Hasan raised.

Hasan and Robb are on death row and have been held in solitary confinement since the 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville. They believe that the ODRC and the Ohio State prosecutors targeted them after the uprising because of their role in negotiating a peaceful surrender. State officials, in both the Captives documentary and a 2013 documentary called The Shadow of Lucasville, have admitted that some prisoners were given deals to testify against Hasan, Robb and others, and that no one really knows who committed the most serious crimes during the uprising. In court, they argued the opposite to secure death penalty convictions.

The Lucasville Uprising prisoners have been fighting to tell their story for decades, and are currently suing the ODRC over an unconstitutional media blockade, which the Captives documentary crew circumvented by unofficially recording video visits with Hasan and Robb. The current hunger strike is part of an ongoing struggle for equal protection, basic human rights and survival after decades of living under the most restrictive and torturous conditions of confinement at OSP, Ohio's supermax prison.

Supporters are asking people to please call Director Gary Mohr at 614-387-0588 or email him at drc.publicinfo@odrc.state.oh.us as well as Northeast Regional Director Todd Ishee, 330-797-6398. Demand that the punishments being imposed on Jason Robb and Siddique Abdullah Hasan be reversed and that OSP authorities be severely reprimanded for violating their rights to due process and displaying bias toward them.

For more information on the Lucasville Uprising, the struggles of these prisoners, and the media blockade against them, please visit LucasvilleAmnesty.org.

Hasan's Conduct Report and appeal: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxez-nYn2VrpVTVESENUZENnaVU/view?usp=sharing

Gary Mohr's form letter response: https://drive.google.com/a/lucasvilleamnesty.org/file/d/0B9q-BEqATW6TeHVUUHM1ZVF5bnc/view?usp=sharing

Feb 28th announcement of hunger strike: http://www.lucasvilleamnesty.org/2017/02/uprising-prisoners-censored-respond.html

Info about the lawsuit against media blockade: http://www.lucasvilleamnesty.org/2014/04/aclu-articles-on-lucasville.html

Articles about Hasan's involvement with the September 9th prison strike: http://www.lucasvilleamnesty.org/search/label/strike%20september%209th






100,000 protest in San Francisco, CA

Pictures From Women's
Marches on Every Continent



Dear Friend,

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) is now in Contempt of Court

On January 3, 2017, Federal District Court Judge Robert Mariani ordered the DOC to treat Mumia with the hepatitis C cure within 21 days.

But on January 7, prison officials formally denied Mumia's grievances asking for the cure. This is after being informed twice by the court that denying treatment is unconstitutional.

John Wetzel, Secretary of the PA DOC, is refusing to implement the January 3rd Federal Court Order requiring the DOC to treat Mumia within 21 days. Their time has run out to provide Mumia with hepatitis C cure!

Mumia is just one of over 6,000 incarcerated people in the PA DOC at risk with active and chronic Hepatitis C. Left untreated, 7-9% of people infected with chronic hep C get liver cancer every year.  

We need your help to force the DOC to stop its cruel and unusual punishment of over 6,000 people in prison with chronic hepatitis C. Click here for a listing of numbers to call today!

Water Crisis in the Prison

Drinking water remains severely contaminated at the prison in which Mumia and 2,500 others are held, SCI Mahanoy in Frackville, PA. Mumia filed a grievance regarding the undrinkable water: read it here.

We are asking you to call the prison now to demand clean drinking water and hepatitis C treatment now! 

Protest Drinking Water Contamination Rally
From 4-6pm on Thursday, Feb 9
Where: Governor's Office- 200 South Broad St, Philadelphia

We're sending our mailing to you, including this brilliant poster by incarcerated artist Kevin Rashid Johnson. Keep an eye out it next week!

Cuando luchamos ganamos! When we fight, we win!

Noelle Hanrahan, Director

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. 


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




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:


















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.



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)  Never Mind the Students; Homework Divides Parents

         APRIL 25, 2017




        Last spring, when Public School 11, a prekindergarten through fifth-grade school in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, banned mandatory traditional homework assignments for children up to fourth grade, you might have expected universal acclaim. Rather than filling out worksheets, students were encouraged to read nightly, and a websiteoffered tips for parents looking for engaging after-school activities.

        Instead, war broke out among the parents. Those who wanted to keep homework accused the anti-worksheet group of trying to force through a policy supported by a select few. Some privately called the plan "economically and racially insensitive," favoring families with time and money to provide their own enrichment. There was a series of contentious PTA meetings and jockeying to get on the school's leadership team, a board that some schools have had trouble getting parents to join. At least three families left the school.

        Robin Broshi, a former education technology consultant, parent of a third grader and one of the architects of the plan, said the changes gave students time to discover the things they were "really passionate about." Homework time with her son used to be a "huge battle," she added, but she said he now spends hours after school with innovative software programs that enthrall him.

        But Ashley Sierra, an executive assistant and single mother with three children at the school, said the policy had created an unwelcome burden on her and other less affluent families who can't afford extra workbooks, or software programs to supplement the new policy. "I hate it," Ms. Sierra said.

        Researchers who study academic history said they were not surprised that debate over young children and homework had resurfaced now. Education and parenting trends are cyclical, and the nation is coming off a stress-inducing, federally mandated accountability push that has put standardized testing at the center of the national education debate. Further, many parents say that homework has become particularly stressful since the arrival of Common Core, a set of rigorous and often confusing learning goals adopted by many states.

        Tom Hatch, a professor of education at Columbia University's Teachers College and co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching, said homework wars were really a proxy fight about what constitutes learning. He added that they were intrinsically linked to the debates over standardized testing that have fueled the national "opt-out" movement.

        "It's a small part of a larger conversation about how kids should spend their time," Professor Hatch said.

        Similar battles have been playing out around New York City: After P.S. 118, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, eliminated mandatory homework this school year, some parents insisted that the school provide worksheets for their children anyway. At P.S. 116 in Manhattan's Kips Bay neighborhood, some parents threatened to leave after the principal, Jane Hsu, replaced "traditional homework" with voluntary recreational activities and family engagement — a program she calls "PDF" — or "playtime, downtime and family time."

        And P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, has had schoolwide conversations on homework, so far deciding to preserve it, but focusing on keeping it "feasible," "meaningful" and "reasonable," said Rebecca Fagin, the school's principal.

        There is no official tally on the number of the city public elementary schools that are altering their approach to homework. The Department of Education does not mandate amounts of homework, and most plans are cobbled together as part of a shared vision between a school's principal, parents and teachers.

        Conversations about the value of elementary school homework have spread nationally. Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in northeastern Texas, calls herself "the No Homework Teacher" and has a website that proclaims: "Let's make education GREAT Again." In August, a letter she sent to parents announcing her decision to eliminate homework was shared more than 70,000 times on Facebook and received national media attention. In states from Florida to California, elementary schools are experimenting with no homework, or what some call "reform homework" policies, often with considerable resistance from parents — and sometimes teachers.

        Alfie Kohn, the author of 14 education-related books, including "The Homework Myth," is a leader in the anti-homework camp. In a recent interview Mr. Kohn described homework as "educational malpractice," and "an extremely effective way to extinguish children's curiosity." He noted that nations like Denmark and Japan, which routinely outperform the United States on international math and science assessments, often give their students far less homework.

        "They're not trying to turn kids into calculators on legs," he said.

        On the other side of the argument is Harris M. Cooper, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Duke University and the author of "The Battle Over Homework." He says he believes elementary school students should get small doses of engaging homework.

        But Dr. Cooper's own research is often cited against him. A 2006 meta-analysis he conducted of more than 60 studies of homework's efficacy showed that doing homework does not necessarily increase an elementary school student's test scores or grades. Dr. Cooper updated the analysis in 2012, with similar results.

        But Dr. Cooper says these studies do not take into consideration homework's obvious, but less trackable, benefits: teaching organization, time management and discipline. Small amounts of enriching and age-appropriate homework in the early grades, he says, serves as a good way for parents to observe their children's progress and to teach young people that learning doesn't happen only inside a classroom. He calls parents who seek to abolish after-school work "homework deniers."

        Homework for young children has been a recurrent parenting issue since the beginning of the 20th century, according to Paula S. Fass, a professor emerita of history at the University of California, Berkeley and author of "The End of American Childhood." Worry about its excesses have ebbed and flowed; students got heavy loads in the 1950s, when Americans were particularly worried about our ability to compete with the Russians after the launch of Sputnik. Homework spiked again in the 1980s with the release of the now-famous "A Nation at Risk" report, which indicated that American students were falling behind their peers in other parts of the world.

        Today, though, worry about excessive homework is competing with anxieties about student achievement and global competition. The situation is compounded by an urge among parents "to have as much control over their children as possible," Dr. Fass said.

        "What you are looking at is the tension between that progressive view that children need to be protected from being adults, and still these parents want their kids to succeed," she said.

        The National Education Association and the National PTA have weighed in, suggesting that students get 10 minutes of homework per grade, starting in first grade — what educators sometimes refer to as the "10-minute rule." Dr. Harris also endorses this policy.

        But a small study, published in The American Journal of Family Therapy in 2015, suggested that early elementary students may be getting far more than the recommended amount. Researchers, who surveyed 1,100 parents of kindergarten through 12th-grade students in Providence, R.I., found that first graders averaged 28 minutes of homework per school night, and kindergartners, whom the N.E.A. does not recommend giving any homework to, averaged 25 minutes.

        Some homework supporters take issue with the accuracy of that study, saying it's too local to be representative and may be misrepresenting homework time for most students. They point to an oft-cited 2007 national study conducted for MetLife that indicates that 60 percent of parents with school-age children are actually satisfied with the amount of homework their children are getting.

        The focus for many anti-homework parents is what they see as the quality of work assigned. They object to worksheets, but embrace projects that they believe encourage higher-level thinking. At P.S. 11 in Manhattan, even parents who support the no-homework policy said they often use online resources like Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that provides free educational videos. The school's website also includes handwriting exercises, scientific articles and math and reading lessons. Sophie Mintz, whose son is in second grade at the school, said that the no-homework policy had afforded him more time to build elaborate Lego structures.

        On a recent morning, Elizabeth Garraway, the principal of P.S. 118 in Park Slope, showed off the results of the new homework policy that, last fall, replaced required worksheets with voluntary at-home projects.

        In one third-grade class, a boy recently wrote, directed and recorded a "fireside chat" with his father, who played President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A girl arrived at school ready to showcase a PowerPoint presentation on Greek mythology. And Mia Bornstein, 8, showed up one morning with a broom handle bearing an oversize scroll that outlined life in Ancient Egypt. Mia said she had worked on it with her mother, an artist.

        How much time had she spent on it? Hours.



        1)  Wells Fargo Shareholders Tepidly Re-elect Bank's Directors

         APRIL 25, 2017


        PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Despite the turmoil that has engulfed Wells Fargo in the past year, shareholders voted on Tuesday to re-elect all of the bank's 15 directors. But some edged in just barely, sending a message that many shareholders want further changes in the bank's leadership.

        Activist shareholders had hoped to remove some or all of the board's incumbents in the aftermath of the company's sales scandal, but every board member won support from at least 53 percent of the shareholders casting votes.

        Still, in corporate governance circles, that level of support is remarkably tepid. Last year, every member of Wells Fargo's board had at least 95 percent of votes cast in favor of election — including John G. Stumpf, the bank's former chairman and chief executive, who abruptly retired in October.

        Wells Fargo has been in turmoil since its admission in September that over the course of several years, employees trying to meet aggressive sales quotas had opened as many as two million fraudulent accounts. The company paid $185 million to settle cases brought by two federal regulators and the Los Angeles city attorney and refunded $3.2 million to customers who were charged fees on unauthorized accounts.

        Wells Fargo has made extensive changes since then, including the replacement of its chief executive and the leader of its retail bank, alterations to governance and risk-management structure, and the elimination of sales goals for its retail bank employees.

        "There is no doubt that the last seven months have been one of the most difficult periods in our company's 165-year history," Timothy J. Sloan, the bank's chief executive, said at the start of Tuesday's meeting. "I can assure you that we are facing these problems head-on and that Wells Fargo is emerging a much stronger company."

        But the tight margin by which some directors were elected is a sign that many shareholders are still dissatisfied with the company's reformation.

        Some giant pension funds — like Calpers, which manages the retirement funds of California's public employees, and its New York City counterpart — cast their votes against most of Wells's board members, saying they failed in their duties to oversee the company.

        "A low acceptance vote is a signal to the board that it needs to immediately begin to reconstitute itself," said Charles M. Elson, a professor of finance at the University of Delaware and an expert on corporate governance. "That ought to be the appropriate reaction."



        2)  River Piracy

        Rivers vanishing into thin air: this is what the climate crisis looks like

        By David Suzuki

        The Guardian, April 21, 2017


        The Slims river in northern Canada gained infamy, not for its fishing or pristine waters, but for vanishing in a matter of four days in May 2016. This week we learned that it fell victim to "river piracy"—and climate change was almost certainly to blame.

        The river—which stretched up to 150 meters at its widest points and averaged depths around three meters—lost its water source to another nearby river during a period of intense melting affecting one of Canada's largest glaciers. As a result, the Slims was reduced to a trickle in less than a week. 

        We can now add river piracy to the growing list of unexpected, dramatic and tragic consequences of human-caused climate change. Although this is the first observed case of river piracy, it likely won't be the last. 

        The melting of Yukon's massive Kaskawulsh glacier—known to the local Southern Tutchone First Nation as Tänshī—caused the drainage gradient to tip in favor of the second river, redirecting the meltwater to the Gulf of Alaska, thousands of miles from its original destination. 

        The science says there's a 99.5 percent chance that climate change caused this dramatic transformation of the landscape. The continuing warming trend that caused the glacier to thin so extremely means the change is likely irreversible.

        Such a rapid transformation of the river alters more than just the physical geography and ecosystems of one of Canada's most majestic and ecologically sensitive regions. It also affects local Indigenous communities. 

        Residents near Kluane Lake, which the Slims River used to feed, reported water level changes immediately after the river's disappearance. The lake is now about three meters lower than normal, and is in jeopardy of being cut off from its own outflows—making traditional food for the Kluane people, such as trout and whitefish, much harder to find.

        Climate change's extreme impacts are obvious to communities throughout the north, from documented hunting season changes and wildlife migrations to rising coastlines and drunken forests, where trees now lean into rivers as permafrost melts and land gives way.

        We've seen images of climate change shrinking the world's glaciers before, which is worrying, if you consider that these glaciers are like bank accounts: they store snow and ice during cool, wet weather and release water when an area needs it most, during hot, dry summers or droughts. 

        When nature's thresholds are passed, everything changes. Landscapes are radically transformed in the blink of an eye. In this case, river piracy is a dramatic reminder that the consequences of climate change are often unpredictable. 

        It's also proof that climate change isn't a problem of the future. It's happening now. We're seeing the increasing effects of climate change every day.

        So, what to do about this dismal assessment?

        We must transition our economies quickly and decisively away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and governments must play leadership roles to make this happen. 

        We must move forward with a common understanding that we are embedded in the natural world, and what we do to our surroundings, we do to ourselves.

        I was part of the wave of hope that ushered in Justin Trudeau as Canada's prime minister in 2015. I applauded Canada's commitments to the Paris agreement, especially our country's push to limit the average global temperature increase to 1.5C. 

        But since Paris, Prime Minister Trudeau has approved two oil pipelines and one of Canada's largest carbon dioxide-emitting liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, virtually ensuring that Canada will not meet its own climate targets. 

        As the new U.S. president works to dismantle hard-won climate initiatives south of our border, a clear and effective approach to climate change in Canada is more important than ever.

        Making deep reductions in carbon emissions can't wait until 2050. Humans are the dominant force on the planet, and we're causing unprecedented impacts. Human-caused climate change is making events like hurricanes, floods and droughts stronger and more frequent. 

        I believe there's still hope. Nature has the ability to continue to shock us. If we pull back and give nature room to recover, it may surprise us.

        So who are the pirates? In the case of the Slims, certainly not the second river, and certainly not nature. We are the pirates, and we're robbing ourselves. If we don't act on climate change now, we're stealing the prospect of a clean and healthy planet from ourselves, our children and generations to come.



        3)  Marking Earth Day

        Indigenous people worldwide to fight corporate forces

        By Deirdre Fulton

        Common Dreams, April 21, 2017


        Indigenous people and allies around the world are mobilizing this Earth Day to demand respect for community land rights in the name of the climate, biodiversity, and human rights.

        "Peoples and local communities are the best guardians of their lands and forests, yet governments are giving the go-ahead to hydroelectric dams, industrial mining, predatory logging, extensive cattle ranching, and palm oil plantations that rob the forests' customary owners of their homes and livelihoods, and threaten the climate and resources we all depend on," declares a statement from organizers, who are operating under the umbrella of the global Land Rights Now campaign.

        As Antonio Dace, a member of the Munduruku community along the Tapajós River in the Brazilian Amazon, put it: "If you want to take care of the forest, you need to invest in us—Indigenous peoples—because no one takes better care of the forest than we do."

        The Earth Day mobilization, involving Indigenous peoples, local communities, social movements, environmental activists, and women's groups from around the world, will see close to 40 actions taking place in 27 countries over the next week, some in conjunction with like-minded initiatives including the March for Science on Saturday, the 10-year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples beginning April 25, and the Peoples Climate March on April 29.

        The actions began Thursday, with communities in the Brazilian Amazon, Kenya, Guatemala, and Taiwan demanding respect for their rights in response to threats from business and government interests pushing projects like mega-dams, coal plants, palm oil plantations, and private development in ancestral community forests.

        "We're not anti-development, but no one in the world has ventured into coal mining and faced no long-term consequences," noted Ishaq Abubakar of the Lamu Youth Alliance in Kenya, where East Africa's first coal plant is proposed for the coastal community of Lamu. "Coal is dirty energy, and its effects are detrimental."

        Added Lamu activist Walik Ahmed, who is part of the Save Lamu Coalition calling for the project's cancellation: "The whole world is worried about global warming and climate change. It can't be these things do not matter for Lamu."

        The movement is particularly fired up in Brazil, where Indigenous people this week launched an online petition against what they describe as an "unprecedented attack" on their rights.

        According to the petition, the right-wing government led by President Michel Temer and Justice Minister Osmar Serraglio has "slashed the budget and staff of Brazil's Agency for Indigenous Affairs, dealing a huge blow to the agency's work to grant legal titles for indigenous community territories. They're pushing through a constitutional amendment to suppress additional legal titling of ancestral indigenous lands, fulfilling a long-term goal of their allies in the agribusiness lobby. And they have advanced legislation to open up already-titled indigenous territories to massive mining and dam projects."

        Failing to protect these lands puts Brazil at risk of failing to live up to its climate commitments, said Sônia Guajajara, national coordinator of Brazil's Association of Indigenous Peoples, who noted "the section of the Amazon forest under our protection stores 13 billion tons of carbon."

        But "[t]hose behind the anti-Indigenous offensive will find growing resistance both from Indians and from other sectors of society," Indigenous rights activist Marcio Santilli told Mongabay earlier this month.

        Indeed, the movement "plans a major show of strength with an event on 24-28 April," Mongabay reported. "The initiative, called the Acampamento Terra Livre (Free Land Camp), will bring together 1,500 Indigenous leaders from across the nation. They'll set up camp in Brasilia, host marches, debates, protests, and cultural events. The Indigenous leaders will also seek meetings with the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the government. The aim is 'to unify struggles in defense of the Indian people.'"

        And in turn, to defend the earth.

        "If it weren't for us, the cattle and the soy would have taken this whole forest," said Dace, of the Munduruku people. "I know we are only of the size of a grain of sand but we make a huge difference. The air you breathe comes from [the Amazon]. The water you drink comes from here. And so, by killing us, you are killing nature and therefore yourselves."



        4)  Vietnamese Villagers Release 19 Officials Held Hostage in Land Dispute

         APRIL 22, 2017


        HANOI, Vietnam — Villagers near Vietnam's capital on Saturday released 19 officials they had held hostage for about a week, ending a rare standoff that underscored tensions over land rights in this Communist country.

        Thirty-eight police and security officials were captured last weekend in Dong Tam village, 25 miles south of the capital, Hanoi, in the dispute, activists said. The state news media said that 16 of the hostages were later released and that three had escaped.

        The remaining 19 were released after a meeting between the villagers and Hanoi's top local official, Nguyen Duc Chung, the state-run newspaper Tuoi Tre said in an online report. Photos circulating on social media and the websites of state-run newspapers appeared to show hundreds of villagers at the scene.

        State media reports said the disputed 145 acres were originally earmarked for a military airport that was never built. The land was transferred in 2015 to Viettel, a military-backed telecommunications company, for a defense-related project, the reports said.

        But Tran Cuong, 40, a Dong Tam resident, said by telephone on Saturday that the authorities had allowed 14 local families to build houses on the land after the airport project was canceled, and that the exact ownership of the land was still unclear.

        "If it really is the military's land, they need to show us some kind of paperwork," Mr. Cuong said.

        On Saturday in Dong Tam, Mr. Chung, the Hanoi official, promised the villagers that the authorities would investigate the dispute and solve it within 45 days, according to Mr. Cuong.

        "We're happy that our voices were heard," Mr. Cuong said. "It's been a frustrating few days, but now the problem will be solved in a positive way."

        Experts and activists have said that villagers would almost certainly be punished for taking the officials hostage. But on Saturday, according to the Tuoi Tre report, Mr. Chung said they would not be prosecuted.

        Vietnam allows its citizens to own land on a quasi-private basis, but at the same time, all land is technically state property. Villagers are often evicted from farmland to make way for industrial or residential projects linked to state-affiliated companies.

        The government reformed its land law in 2013 in an attempt to reduce unrest over such evictions, but analysts say the changes were largely cosmetic and did not address many underlying problems.

        One central problem is that, as land values rise, the state has retained the power to confiscate land and give it to developers for so-called social-economic development, said Dang Hoang Giang, vice director of the Center for Community Support Development Studies, a Hanoi-based research institute that promotes good governing practices.

        "It's very tempting for people in charge to misuse their power for rent-seeking," Mr. Giang said.



        5)  Vietnam Land Protesters Free Final Hostages After City Official Visits

         APRIL 22, 2017, 4:57 A.M. E.D.T


        HANOI — Protesters involved in a land dispute near Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, released the final 20 officials they had been holding as hostages for almost a week after a visit by a senior city official, Reuters witnesses said on Saturday.

        Villagers in Dong Tam, 40 km (25 miles) from the center of Hanoi, seized 38 officials, including police officers, last weekend after four people were arrested in retaliation for protests staged during the escalating land dispute.

        Fifteen of the officials were released on Monday and another three escaped, while authorities also released the detained protesters.

        Dong Tam villagers say they have received insufficient compensation by authorities who took over residential land for a telecommunications project.

        The release of the final 20 officials came after a visit to the village earlier on Saturday by Hanoi's People's Committee Chairman Nguyen Duc Chung, who spoke with villagers and listened to their complaints.

        Chung said the city would begin a comprehensive investigation of the dispute and promised to respond within 45 days. He also said none of the protesters would be prosecuted for taking the officials hostage, who he also said had been treated well.

        The released hostages shook hands and hugged villagers, who applauded loudly after hearing Chung's commitment.

        "We are very happy. Dong Tam village is freed," Nguyen Thi Loan, a villager who was responsible for taking care of the hostages, told Reuters.

        "Finally I can come home with my husband tonight," she said.

        Another villager said: "We are really looking forward to the result of the inspection and that the authority will help bring justice to us."

        Land disputes are common in Vietnam but it is rare for residents to take officials hostage in the communist state, where there is little tolerance for dissent.

        (This version of the story has been refiled to add dropped word "after" to headline)

        (Reporting by Nguyen Huy Kham; Writing by My Pham; Editing by Paul Tait)



        6)  Report Compares Texas' Solitary Confinement Policies to Torture

         APRIL 26, 2017




        During the decade he spent behind bars at the Polunsky Unit, the prison that houses all of Texas' death row inmates, Alfred D. Brown would spend at least 22 hours a day alone in his cell.

        On some days, he might get to spend an hour alone in the common room or an outdoor courtyard. And every once in a while, he would secretly tap fingertips with other inmates, through the metal lattices on their cellblock doors.

        It was the only physical human contact he could find, Mr. Brown said in a phone interview.

        "I could talk to a guard, but I tried not to," he said. "They're out to get you."

        Mr. Brown was released from prison in 2015 after evidence problems surfaced in his case and his murder conviction was thrown out. His experience at the Polunsky Unit is among dozens included in a critical report released Monday by the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law. Its authors concluded that solitary confinement in Texas violates international human rights standards and amounts to a form of torture.

        Ariel E. Dulitzky, a law professor who runs the clinic and is an author of the report, said that solitary confinement practices in Texas, in particular, are hurting the United States when it comes to human rights.

        "We decided that it was important, as a university in Texas, to pay attention to what was happening here — why Texas was bringing this international criticism against the U.S.," Mr. Dulitzky said.

        The study was small and qualitative, analyzing questionnaire responses from 32 former Polunsky Unit inmates. It found that prisoners at the unit, in Livingston, Tex., suffered psychological problems as a result of confinement, compounded by a lack of access to health care and changes to execution schedules that forced some prisoners to prepare for death more than once.

        Mr. Brown, 35, remembers a never-ending cacophony there. "Everybody'd be talking over one another in there, so it's like one big, bad radio station that can't get a signal," he said. "I lived in that cell like I was — I don't know, I can't even explain it. I put myself in that cell and just, like, zoned out."

        The report refers to Texas' death row practices as "particularly draconian," pointing out, for example, that Polunsky Unit prisoners do not share meals or recreational time with other inmates; cannot have physical contact with their families, even on their way to execution; and are held in solitary confinement as a matter of policy, rather than for safety or disciplinary reasons.

        Mr. Dulitzky acknowledged that other states with capital punishment have similar policies. He maintained, however, that Texas is unusual in that it uses all of these practices.

        There are currently 233 men on death row at the Polunsky Unit, said Jason Clark, the public information director for the state's Department of Criminal Justice. (Six women with death sentences are being held at another prison.)

        "Offenders on death row are individuals who have been convicted of heinous crimes and given the harshest sentence possible under the law," Mr. Clark said in an emailed statement, adding that the department would "continue to ensure it fulfills its mission of public safety and house death row offenders appropriately."

        Mr. Dulitzky acknowledged that many people in Texas were not concerned about prison conditions at the Polunsky Unit because inmates there have been convicted of the most severe offenses, like murder and rape.

        "We agree that if somebody commits a crime, they should receive a punishment," he said. "But we say, at the same time, that once you impose a punishment on a person, you need to keep treating that person with humanity and with dignity."

        Critics of Texas' prison policies come from inside the system, as well.

        Lance Lowry, who is the president of the union chapter that represents correction workers in Huntsville, Tex., has been working in Texas prisons for decades. He said his objections to the state's solitary confinement practices have more to do with efficacy than civil rights.

        "We really need to focus a lot more on behavior modification and giving officers more tools to manage these prison populations," he said. "When you take everything away from prisoners, you have nothing to manage them with. And they can become very dangerous when they have nothing to lose."

        The question now, Mr. Dulitzky said, is whether Texas' Criminal Justice Department will listen to its critics.

        "Generally, the attitude has been a strong lack of transparency from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice," he said. The report recommends using solitary confinement only as "a measure of last resort," offering religious services and ensuring that inmates have access to natural light and fresh air.

        Mr. Lowry said that the system is not open to constructive criticism. "Retaliation is real," he said. "When people do speak out, these agencies don't like it, and a lot of people are scared to voice their concerns. I've definitely stepped out on a limb."



        7) Superman's Not Coming: Erin Brockovich on the future of water

        By Maryam Henein

        Truthout, April 27, 2017


        Come take a ride on America's toxic water slide: First stop: Flint, Michigan, where two years later, people are still contending with lead-laced water, which was finally detected by the EPA in February 2015 with the help of resident Lee Anne Walters. Next stop: California, where hundreds of wells have been contaminated with 1,2,3-TCP, a Big Oil-manufactured chemical present in pesticides. Travel to the East to see the significant amounts of 1,4-dioxane, an industry solvent stabilizer that continue to pollute the waters belonging to North Carolina's Cape Fear River Basin. In New York and Pennsylvania, residents are contending with outbreaks of waterborne Legionnaires' disease (the bacteria grow easily in water distribution systems and often hide in the biofilm of aging pipes.) Meanwhile, in June 2016, kids in Hoosick Falls, New York, protested in the streets with placards around their necks that featured PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid, a man-made chemical used in Teflon) levels to denote how much has infiltrated their blood through tainted water. Drop to Houston, Texas, where high levels of hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical made infamous by Erin Brockovich, are turning up in tap water while thousands of fracking poisons overrun imperiled communities and Indigenous reservations. And, to add to the cesspit, just four days after Trump was sworn in, he sanctioned the $3.8 billion, 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that will create underground contamination.

        Yes, indeed, the story of water in America is dirty and deep. The tale took a toxic turn in the 1930s, during the dawn of the chemical industry, when many horrifying toxins were first being introduced into our landscape. Quality reports on what flows out of American faucets today read like a description for liquid cancer.

        And the water we do have isn't enough. Since 2008, nearly every region of the U.S. has experienced a water shortage

        And since 2015, at least 40 states have been anticipating local, regional or statewide water shortages within the next ten years, even under non-drought conditions. 

        "Houston. We. Have. A. Problem," says environmental activist Erin Brockovich in reference to the nation's water supply. Brockovich should know. She's been at it for more than 25 years, ever since her investigation uncovered that Pacific Gas & Electric was poisoning the small town of Hinkley, California, by adding the cooling water biocide Chromium 6 Cr(VI) into the water supply for more than 30 years. The adverse health effects associated with Cr(VI) exposure include occupational asthma, eye irritation and damage, perforated eardrums, respiratory irritation, kidney damage, liver damage, pulmonary congestion and edema, upper abdominal pain, nose irritation and respiratory cancer.

        "It's not just one Flint. It's hundreds of Flints," Brockovich, who became a household name in 2000 when Julia Roberts portrayed her in an Oscar-winning film, tells me in an interview. "We've already slipped and we're on the cusp of Third World conditions when it comes to our water supply."

        According to an Environmental Working Group's analysis of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests, Chromium 6 alone, which remains unregulated to this day, contaminates the water supplies of more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states. That's roughly two-thirds of the population.

        The larger toxic soup

        Brockovich learns about water toxins via the thousands of emails she receives from around the country. Just consider her the Dear Abby of Dirty Water. For instance, in January 2015 Melissa Mays, a mother of three alerted Brockovich about Flint, long before mainstream media learned the news. A month later, Brockovich's partner in crime, environmental investigator Bob Bowcock visited the community. He then wrote a report to the mayor outlining exactly what they needed to do to fix the problem.

        These days, the correspondence never ceases. At the time of our interview, Brockovich was heading to Hannibal, Missouri, where people are grappling with high levels of lead and the dangerous byproduct chloramine. She has also begun an investigation in Waycross, Georgia, to understand why there's a high incidence of cancer among the town's children, and she'll eventually visit Tyler, Texas, to probe its connection with the cancer-causing disinfectant haloacetic acids (HAA5). 

        It's come to the point where Brockovich sees the country by chemical, not by state. Give her a poison, and she'll tell you which state you can find it in. She can easily cite 40 states coping with water contamination from lead and hexavalent chromium, among other substances.

        Distilling toxins for truth

        Despite the facts, politicians have failed to recognize that clean water should be a national security priority. How close do the dots have to be before they can be connected?

        "I think everyone is waking up," says Brockovich. "Whatever agency on the Hill they think is keeping tabs...that's not really what's happening."

        In other words, regardless of the administration, the EPA has protected industry-backed efforts at the expense of our health.

        "There are well-meaning, intelligent scientists and engineers...but it's such a cluster mess. They don't know where to go. They are held back," Brockovich says. "This is an agency that is overburdened, broke."

        It doesn't help that the country doesn't abide by the "precautionary principle," which would require us to prohibit products or processes with questionable effects from entering into existence without further investigation for sake of protecting the people and planet. According to a March 2005 publication from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the precautionary principle can be summed up in this way: "When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm."

        Long before Trump, the Overton window—the range of ideas that the public finds acceptable to consider within the sphere of public discourse—shifted and we decided toxic chemicals were actually safe unless proven harmful. This normalization of pathology is ever-present in our current world.

        With a climate denier as president and an EPA leadership that seems intent on dismantling the EPA, the Trump administration has arguably just made it more obvious and official that the almighty dollar rules. The administration is already rolling back Obama-era regulations on coal-burning power plants and climate change. The "Green Blob," aka the EPA, is now being run by Scott Pruitt, best known for suing the agency 14 times while he was attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt's suits against the agency even included motions to block regulations on clean water. While he was attorney general, Pruitt's official biography described him as a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda."

        Despite findings by the Government Accountability Office that as many as 15 percent of localities lack the resources to address environmental challenges, the current administration's budget proposal hopes to cut the EPA's funding by 31 percent by focusing on killing climate change programs, arguably dismantling the agency's ability to protect the health of people in the U.S.. 

        "The fundamental issue is lack of funds, particularly in areas where population is declining as America's demographics change," writes Deborah Seligsohn, who researches environmental governance at the University of California at San Diego. 

        On tap: the united corporation of America

        The extent to which companies control government has never been more blatantly obvious. For decades, toxic-waste sites and irresponsible industries have managed to discharge hundreds of toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, disinfection byproducts, plastics and heavy metals into the water supply either without repercussion or with penalties that are too slight to change business practices.

        Put simply, water today has become a repository for industrial waste, explains water quality specialist Dr. Roy M. Speiser of Clean Water Revival.

        "People are being misled to believe that drinking water is safe because it meets government standards," Speiser told Truthout. "The notion that the EPA's allowable concentration levels of toxic contaminants in your drinking water is 'safe' is a myth. If a certain chemical or heavy metal, such as arsenic, is present in trace amounts, and you drink this water over an extended period, it accumulates in your body, which contributes to a chronic health disorder."

        Unfortunately, it's insidiously difficult to track cumulative effects on health unless there is acute exposure, and Western medicine often fails to acknowledge the idea that toxic chemicals accumulate in our blood, fatty tissues and other parts of our bodies, and that this overload of toxins in our bodies can affect our risk for certain diseases. The corporations that create the pesticides, cosmetics, plastics and other products that expose us to these toxins know that they are unlikely to be prosecuted for their effects, since symptoms can take ten or 20 years to pronounce themselves.

        "The amount of chemicals in our air, water, waterways and soil is one of the most frustrating things about how EPA regulates chemicals in the environment," says Bowcock, whom Brockovich fondly calls "Bill, the Science Guy." "They don't take into account all the various pathways you are exposed to—drinking, cooking, swimming, showering, brushing teeth—from just one medium: water."

        According to a study in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, "non-genetic, environmental exposures are involved in causation, in some cases probably by interacting with genetically inherited predispositions. Strong evidence exists that industrial chemicals widely disseminated in the environment are important contributors to what we have called the global, silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity."

        Regulations speculations

        The Safe Drinking Water Act, which was originally enacted into law in 1974, was supposed to focus on ensuring that public drinking water meets appropriate safety standards; in contrast, the 1972 Clean Water Act theoretically regulates pollution in our nation's lakes, rivers and other bodies of water.

        But when it comes to water health, the EPA has operated at a glacial pace.

        The Environmental Working Group's tests and a petition from environmental groups pushed the EPA to add chromium-6 to the chemicals local utilities must test, under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to review each national primary drinking water regulation at least once every six years and revise them, if appropriate. The 1996 amendments, meanwhile, require the EPA to select up to 30 previously unregulated contaminants for testing every five years, according to the Environmental Working Group.

        Yet, in two decades, the EPA has ordered testing for only 81 contaminants out of thousands, and moved forward on setting a regulation for a mere one: the rocket fuel ingredient perchlorate. The implementation of that regulation is two years behind schedule.

        "For an agency to be unable to adopt a single standard (for water contaminants) in 20 years is inexcusable," Erik Olson, health and environment program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) told the Washington Post. "It's a combination of a bad law and very bad implementation." 

        According to Brockovich, a lack of regulations isn't the issue.

        "Any regulation without enforcement and oversight is moot.... We have a Clean Water Act implemented by none other than the Nixon administration that everyone wants to dodge and not follow, and that's why we're in the trouble we're in. We have some really good laws on the books. Let's just enforce them and we can begin to make headway," says Brockovich.

        Drops of hope

        Despite Pruitt's track record, the Flint crisis was so egregious and well-publicized (thanks largely to the work of local activists) that the EPA is taking steps to improve that situation. The agency awarded a $100-million grant to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, approved by Congress and former President Barack Obama late last year, to fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint. Pruitt has also expressed interest in allotting $20 million to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program (WIFIA).

        "EPA will especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint's water infrastructure as part of our larger goal of improving America's water infrastructure," Pruitt said in a press release issued by the EPA on March 17, 2017.

        According to the agency, The WIFIA funding supplements EPA's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which has reportedly provided more than $32.5 billion to states for infrastructure upgrades through the years.

        And yet, according to the New York Times, Pruitt also began the complicated legal process of rewriting the sweeping 2015 rule known as the Waters of the United States, which allows the federal government authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water. It falls under the Clean Water Act.

        Because the water protection rule was finalized under existing laws, the legality to alter the rule after this fact is under question. It cannot simply be rewritten, legal experts in both the Obama and Trump White House have stated.

        Frack this: The Halliburton Loophole

        Despite the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA does not regulate the injection of fracking fluids. Today, oil and gas companies can—and do—dump whatever they want into the nation's water supplies, carte blanche, due to the "Halliburton Loophole." 

        In 2005, a national energy bill included the exemption of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from the Safe Drinking Water Act. At the time, Dick Cheney was vice president and also the former CEO of Halliburton, the company that patented hydraulic fracturing in the '40s.

        "Of course, politics were involved and at play in exempting the oil and gas industry from the Drinking Water Act and Safe Water Act," says Kandi Mossett of North Dakota, a leading voice in the fight to bring visibility to the impacts that climate change and environmental injustice are having on Indigenous communities across North America.

        Even though common sense suggests fracking is linked to the environmental assault we're witnessing, companies are protected because of regulations that prevent them from having to detail and report their chemical dumps, because in a court of law you cannot directly connect corporations with any chemical, Mossett told Truthout.

        "[Companies] didn't need to tally the chemicals and toxins they were using in their processes and that's when everything really began raging around the country when it came to fracking," says the 37-year-old, who also serves as the Indigenous Environmental Network lead organizer on the Extreme Energy and Just Transition campaign. 

        "Every frack job they do on a single rig uses a minimum of six million tons of water. And it has to be pristine water because it has less contaminants that will interact with their water, which involves up to 2,000 chemicals," explains Mossett.

        A 2011 EPA report estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States each year. This is equivalent to approximately the annual water consumption of 40 to 80 cities, each with a population of 50,000, according to Earthworks.

        This extraction of so much water for fracking has raised many concerns about the ecological destruction of aquatic resources, as well as the dewatering of drinking water aquifers.

        "It has also been estimated that the transportation of a million gallons of water (fresh or waste water) requires hundreds of truck trips, increasing the greenhouse gas footprint of oil and gas and contributing to air pollution," reports Source Watch

        In 2015, Mossett's community, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, home of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes, experienced a one million gallon spill.

        Although the EPA was responsible for cleaning up the mess, that never really happened.

        "It was more like they poured water on it, and let it go down the hill and down the creek and into the Missouri River," says Mossett. "So again, you have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers messing with waterways and causing contaminants." 

        Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have described these various spills associated with the multibillion-dollar fracking industry as "brine," a simple euphemism that turns a toxic event into something that sounds commonplace and benign. 

        Standing Rock: "And the pipes build on"

        A Lakota prophecy describes a "black snake" that warns of the destruction of Mother Earth. Some Lakota and others believe the Dakota Access Pipeline, which encroaches on treaty rights and is headed straight for ancestral lands and waters, fits the bill.

        On February 23 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowed an easement, allowing pipeline construction to move forward despite environmental risks and protests. While a total of 700 Water Protectors were arrested, and legal aid for court cases is still needed, the movement served to mobilize people into solidarity, from Sweden to Venezuela.

        "We're not going to just let it go," says Mossett, who was at Standing Rock for the entire duration of the protests, from April 2016 to February 2017. "Pipelines are toxic and an illegal violation of human rights and Indigenous sovereignty."

        To add salt to the wound, the Trump administration also issued a permit allowing construction companies to move forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline, although the route is still being litigated in the states, and Indigenous tribes and landowners have joined environmental groups in opposing the pipeline, whose carbon-heavy tar sands contribute to global warming.

        Around the end of March, environmental groups filed two federal lawsuits to block construction despite Trump's recent approval, citing that "outdated and incomplete environmental impact statement[s]" were used, according to Reuters.

        court hearing wasn't expected until at least April, after operations are expected to begin.

        Water wars: Superman isn't coming

        We the people can no longer convince ourselves that federal agencies will protect us from threats to our health and our environment.

        In light of a broken system that allows industrial chemicals to be used with abandon, without any significant testing for safety, and with the imminent slashing of the federal agency's budget, we are headed toward more illnesses and deaths.

        "Superman is not coming," says Brockovich. "We have to stop thinking it's going to trickle down from the top. It's going to have to begin with you in your backyard, at your city council. The change is going to come from the people, just like it has in Flint and Hannibal."

        For instance, the first thing people can do is call their municipality and ask for a water quality report to figure out what filters may or may not work to purify drinking water and protect against toxicity.

        In 2016, President Barack Obama signed off on Trevor's Law. Part of a larger toxic substances reform bill, its goal is to protect children and communities from areas where disease clusters have been identified. Part of the vision included a federally run national registry but rather than wait for the government, Brockovich and her team created the Community Health Book. Banking on online user activity, this invaluable interactive map allows for self-reporting, helping us locate and identify disease cluster outbreaks and monitor migratory pathways for the first time.

        Since going live a few months ago, the site has generated about 150 new reports a week.

        "It's a scary scenario, but we always stay hopeful and positive," says Brockovich. "When the people get more informed, they get stronger, and then changes can start to happen. The very first step is getting people to wake up."

        Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, and founder and editor-in-chief of HoneyColony. She is also the director of the award-winning documentary film Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page.

        Truthout, April 27, 2017




        8)  Only Captivity Will Save the Vaquita, Experts Say

        Leer en español 

         APRIL 27, 2017





        TIJUANA, Mexico — It was not the first time Robert L. Brownell Jr. had seen a dead vaquita, the rare and endangered porpoise that was lying on the stainless-steel necropsy table inside the Tijuana Zoo on Monday. But it might well be one of the last.

        Mr. Brownell, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had in effect discovered the porpoise, finding the first full, dead specimen in 1966. The world's smallest member of the cetacean grouping, which includes whales and dolphins, the vaquita was the most recent cetacean to be recognized by modern science.

        Now it may well become the latest to go extinct.

        A high-level, bilateral panel of Mexican and American scientists met this week and is expected to announce that it believes efforts to save the animal have, essentially, failed. That announcement would mean that the only hope for the vaquita's recovery would be to capture the surviving animals, if any can be found. Some of the scientists involved think the surviving vaquitas now number as few as two or three, and the latest two vaquitas found dead could even be the last ones — though it could take years to confirm that.

        The vaquita has been described, by some of the few people who have seen one of the elusive porpoises alive, as the smiley-faced sea panda because of the dark outlines around its mouth and the black circles around its eyes. Its plight has drawn in celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Leonardo DiCaprio, and spurred cooperation among scientists and environmentalists, north and south of the border, in and out of government.

        But the push has been imperiled by traffickers in the body parts of endangered species, unscrupulous fishermen and uneven enforcement efforts.

        The problem can be traced to Chinese demand for a rare swim bladder from the endangered totoaba fish, which shares the vaquita's range, in the northern tip of the Gulf of California. According to Mexican scientists, that demand has grown so much that prices for the bladders, used for a homeopathic remedy, rival the wholesale price of cocaine — as much as $10,000 per kilogram. Mexican officials and those from the Mexican-American panel, the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita, say Mexican drug cartels have been attracted to the trade by the high profits, and by the assurance that no fisherman has ever gone to jail for trafficking in swim bladders.

        The nets used to catch the totoaba have trapped the much less numerous vaquita as well, to devastating effect. The Mexican government has banned the nets and even paid some fishermen not to fish in the vaquita's range, but those efforts have not helped.

        The results on the necropsy table at the Tijuana Zoo were only too evident. A 1-year-old female, a little over three feet long — full-grown vaquitas are nearly five feet — the porpoise had the imprint of the net in which she died stamped in six-inch squares on the grayish skin on her left side. On her right side, the skin was flayed off, probably as the porpoise struggled while drowning in the net.

        The specimen was labeled PS7, because it was the seventh vaquita (scientific name: Phocoena sinus) to be found dead since a survey last summer, which determined that only 30 vaquitas remained at the time. Then on Tuesday, PS8 was found by a NOAA scientist, washed up on a beach at the northern end of the gulf. Scientists say there are likely to be many more undiscovered dead ones.

        Budget cuts from the Trump administration may add to the vaquita's woes. Both Mr. Brownell and the scientist performing the autopsy, Dr. Frances Gulland, a veterinarian from Sausalito, Calif., who is also a commissioner on the federal Marine Mammal Commission, now work for offices facing major budget cuts for the coming year.

        Not since the Yangtze River dolphin went extinct in 2006 in China has a cetacean gone over the brink. "We always thought that what happened in China would not happen here," Dr. Gulland said. "We have the U.S. government's prize laboratory and it's on their doorstep. We have all these experts and scientists — we have everything. We thought, 'This won't happen, we can fix this problem.'"

        She was referring to NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, a San Diego community just a short day trip from the northern Gulf of California. "It has taken on a huge symbolic importance."

        Alarmed about the new vaquita deaths, her commission paid to put out acoustic listening devices on a limited scale in February, focusing on where vaquitas were last found in 2016. The devices pick up the animals' echolocating clicks, a form of sonar they use to navigate and communicate. By analyzing the number and frequency of the clicks, compared with previous years, scientists can calculate the number of animals in their fairly limited range.

        In February two or three animals were believed to still be active, Dr. Gulland said. Since then four more vaquitas have been found dead, two in March and the two this week, one of which was recovered by a monitoring vessel from the Sea Shepherdenvironmental group.

        Capt. Oona Layolle, who runs the group's vaquita campaign, said their ships had recovered 183 totoaba nets just since December. She disagrees, though, with the vaquita panel's proposals. "I don't think by putting an animal in a cage you are saving it," she said.

        "There was another dead vaquita found yesterday," said Barbara Taylor, a marine conservation biologist at the science center, and a member of the vaquita recovery committee, on Wednesday. "We're all very depressed about that. The committee meeting will be making very clear that any vaquita that's basically not taken out of its dangerous habitat is probably going to die."

        The extinction of the vaquita is a sensitive political issue in Mexico, where President Enrique Peña Nieto has made it an issue of pride that his country could save the animal. "The president has said that even if there is only one vaquita left, we will do everything we can," said Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a scientist who is in charge of the vaquita effort for the Mexican environment ministry.

        The porpoise's decline has been increasing exponentially, even as protection efforts have ramped up. In 1997, scientists counted 567 vaquitas; the number dropped by half in the next nine years, to 245. In just one year, the number halved again, to only 30 last year from 60 in 2015.

        The vaquita may go extinct without mankind ever having gotten to fully know it. No live specimen has ever been taken. Because vaquitas are small and travel singly or in pairs rather than in big pods, following and observing their behavior is difficult. Tragically for conservation efforts, a female takes two years to produce a single calf, and two years to reach sexual maturity, so replacing each lost animal takes years. Already, vaquitas are so inbred that genetically, as Ms. Taylor said, "they basically all have the same last name."

        If the vaquita becomes extinct, Dr. Gulland said, it will have the distinction of being wiped out entirely through human action, even while humans were trying desperately to save it. "This is direct, human-caused extinction," she said. "If there's one lesson learned, it's that we can't manage humans."

        Mr. Brownell said this might be one battle the fishermen had won. "The fishermen just think, 'Oh, good, if we can get rid of the last one, then we can get on and keep fishing.'" If that hasn't already happened, many scientists now believe, it may soon.



        9)  Chaos at Rikers, but City Jails Chief Was Gone for 90 Days

         APRIL 28, 2017





        Joseph Ponte, the correction commissioner brought to New York to overhaul the city's troubled jail system, has been reprimanded in a Department of Investigation report that found he had spent 90 days outside the city last year, even as violence at Rikers Island was spiraling out of control.

        Mr. Ponte repeatedly took his city-owned vehicle on trips to coastal Maine in violation of city guidelines, the report said.

        The inquiry found that many Correction Department employees routinely misused their agency vehicles for trips to outlet malls, casinos, weekend getaways in the Hamptons, and area airports to go on vacation. All told, 21 employees were referred for discipline.

        But the report singled out Mr. Ponte and his three highest-ranking aides for the "most serious misuse."

        The 17-page report detailing the city investigation agency's findings did not delve deeply into Mr. Ponte's extended absences. But his time away from the city raises questions about how engaged he was in managing the department during a crucial period, as hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent on a prominent overhaul effort.

        While he was away from New York, his subordinates had to respond to a series of crises, including the on-duty death of a correction officer, an inmate death and an escape, the inquiry found. In none of these cases did Mr. Ponte return to New York, according to the report.

        It was a troubling turn for Mr. Ponte, a widely respected corrections veteran of nearly five decades who led Maine's Department of Corrections and gained a national reputation for improving prisons before being lured to New York by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. The mayor has made overhauling the agency a high priority and has emphasized that its officers and front-line supervisors need to be held to a higher standard.

        Under Mr. Ponte, there have been some important successes: The agency did away with solitary confinement for inmates under 22 years old, education and therapeutic programs have been expanded, thousands of new security cameras have been installed, hundreds of new correction officers have been hired and training has been updated.

        Nonetheless, the Correction Department remains under intense scrutiny for its culture of corruption and violence. Its officers have routinely been arrested and charged with crimes, including excessive use of force, falsifying records, and smuggling drugs and weapons into the very jails they police.

        "The misuse of city vehicles was a top-down practice, evidenced by Commissioner Ponte and other high-ranking D.O.C. staff's frequent disregard of city rules and regulations," the report said.

        Mayor de Blasio defended Mr. Ponte on Friday in his weekly appearance with Brian Lehrer on the radio station WNYC, saying the commissioner had simply followed advice he had been given on the use of his city vehicle.

        "I have absolute faith in Commissioner Ponte," the mayor said. "He was advised. He followed that guidance. That guidance was wrong."

        But the investigations commissioner, Mark G. Peters, had a sharply different view, issuing two statements on Friday — one before and one after the mayor spoke.

        In his first statement, Mr. Peters emphasized that the findings should be taken seriously. "Integrity matters, and when it is compromised at the highest levels, it has a direct impact on how well an agency is run," he said.

        After the mayor spoke, Mr. Peters issued a more narrow and pointed response.

        "City Hall is misinformed," he said. "Our investigation conclusively demonstrated that Commissioner Ponte and others did not receive official 'advice' that they could use their cars for personal trips out of state. Indeed, one of the senior staff was previously fined by C.O.I.B. for related conduct," a reference to the city's Conflict of Interest Board.

        He continued: "There can be no defense of this behavior, and City Hall harms government integrity by even trying. Regardless of City Hall's response, our independent investigation will continue."

        It was unclear whether any of the conduct amounted to a crime. The Department of Investigation has not yet decided whether to refer it to a district attorney's office, a person briefed on the matter said. City investigators are also examining the misuse of vehicles at other agencies, one person briefed on the matter said.

        The report, which was released on Friday, focused almost exclusively on the abuse of department vehicles and did not examine Mr. Ponte's extended absences in detail. It found that he had put about 18,500 miles of out-of-state travel on the city vehicle he used for those trips. The cost of tolls and gas was less than $1,800.

        And while the report did not say whether the abuses directly affected jail operations, it suggested that the agency's management was far from living up to the standards it sought to set for the rank and file.

        The investigation grew out of an anonymous tip and was conducted by using GPS data to map the movements of each vehicle, as well as a review of E-ZPass data, city records reflecting gasoline purchases and department vehicle assignment records.

        It found that the commissioner had spent 90 days out of state, 35 of which were during the workweek.

        "Commissioner Ponte informed D.O.I. that he considers himself on 24-hour call and believed he could take his city vehicle with him wherever he went, including back to his home state of Maine," the report said.

        Mr. Ponte told investigators that of the 35 weekdays he had spent out of state, he had worked a full eight-hour day on 29. Investigators are looking into his statement that he worked on those days, two people briefed on the matter said.

        Typically, Mr. Ponte travels in a large sport utility vehicle with a security detail. On the trips out of state, he used the second vehicle assigned to him, a smaller S.U.V.

        Property records show that Mr. Ponte, 70, whose city salary in 2016 was nearly $220,000, and his wife sold their home in Wiscasset, Me., in March.

        Eric F. Phillips, a spokesman for the mayor, dismissed Mr. Ponte's absences from the city as insignificant. "Commissioner Ponte has presided over sweeping reforms that have made our city's jails safer, more secure and more rehabilitative," the statement said. "These reforms are the mayor's focus, not the number of times the commissioner visited his family on weekends."

        Peter Thorne, a spokesman for the Correction Department, said any violation of city rules was "an inadvertent misunderstanding and will not recur." He added that Mr. Ponte and his senior staff "are on call all day, all night, all year."

        "Despite the need for them to be away from the city periodically, thanks to cellphones and computers, the work of the department does not grind to a halt," Mr. Thorne said.

        The report found that the department's acting first deputy commissioner, Cynthia Brann; its chief of staff, Jeff Thamkittikasem; and a deputy commissioner, Gregory Kuczinski, had also used their official vehicles for private business.

        Ms. Brann admitted to using one of her two city vehicles primarily for shopping. From January to August 2016, she made 18 trips to malls in New York and New Jersey.

        Mr. Thamkittikasem drove his city vehicle to Washington in March 2016 to address a problem with a residence he owned there, the report said. In August, he drove to a friend's house on Virginia's Chesapeake coast.

        Mr. Kuczinski used his city vehicle to travel to La Guardia and Kennedy Airports a total of eight times, and once used it to go on a golf outing in Westchester County.

        Mr. Kuczinski, who is head of the division charged with investigating officer misconduct, has been disciplined in the past over the use of his car, the report said. He was fined $1,500 for having a subordinate take him and his family to the airport for a vacation in 2015.

        The report contained several recommendations intended to ensure compliance with the city's vehicle policy, which officials agreed to carry out.

        When Mr. Ponte took over the agency, he was faced with the enormous task of tackling the dysfunction and astounding brutality of Rikers Island. But despite three years of increased funding and efforts by outside consultants, the violence appears to be as rampant as ever.

        This month, a federal monitoring team overseeing changes at Rikers issued a report that painted a dire picture of conditions at city jails. Guards continued to use excessive force against inmates at an "alarming rate," the report found, and to falsify official records to cover up their actions.



        10)  Trump Tax Plan Would Shift Trillions From U.S. Coffers to the Richest

         APRIL 27, 2017


        WASHINGTON — President Trump's proposal to slash individual and business taxes and erase a surtax that funds the Affordable Care Act would amount to a multitrillion-dollar shift from federal coffers to America's richest families and their heirs, setting up a politically fraught battle over how best to use the government's already strained resources.

        The outline that Mr. Trump offered on Wednesday — less a tax overhaul plan than a list of costly cuts with no price tags attached, rushed out by a president staring down his 100-day mark in office — calls for tax reductions for individuals of every income level as well as businesses large and small.

        But the vast majority of benefits would accrue to the highest earners and largest holders of wealth, according to economists and analysts, accounting for a lopsided portion of the proposal's costs.

        "The only Americans who are very clear winners under the new system are the wealthiest," said Edward D. Kleinbard, a law professor at the University of Southern California and former chief of staff of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation, which estimates the revenue effects of tax proposals.

        Repealing the estate tax, for example, would affect just 5,300 or so fortunes a year. For 2017, couples can shield up to $11 million of their estates from any taxation, leaving only the largest inheritances subject to taxation. Repealing the estate tax alone would cost an estimated $174.2 billion over a decade, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said.

        Reducing the rate on capital gains, noncorporate business taxes and those in the highest bracket, as well as repealing the alternative minimum tax, would also ease the burden on wealthier Americans. So would the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's 3.8 percent surtax on the investment income of high earners, put in place to subsidize health coverage for low-income Americans.

        "These are all afflictions of the affluent," Mr. Kleinbard said.

        There is no way to know how the mathematics of the proposal would work, since the White House offered no cost estimates, no detail about which incomes would be taxed at what levels and no information about tax deductions or other breaks that might be eliminated to make up for the lost revenue.

        On Thursday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, suggested that tax benefits for retirement savings would be rolled back to mitigate the cost of the tax cuts, the kind of tough decision that makes a rewrite of the tax code so politically difficult. But within minutes, White House officials said Mr. Spicer had misspoken.

        Officials instead said specifics would come later, as negotiations unfolded with members of Congress to draft legislation.

        The administration's silence on many crucial details of the proposal was by design, to leave room for what promise to be intense negotiations with lawmakers in Congress, said Rohit Kumar, the leader of PwC's Washington National Tax Services and a former senior Republican Senate aide.

        Yet without specifics, he added, "you can't make anything but a wild guess on what the distributional effects of the proposal would be."

        "What the administration put out yesterday is all of the good news," Mr. Kumar said. "They've withheld on the bad news."

        But estimates of the impacts for some of the cuts that were outlined Wednesday, such as the estate tax and alternative minimum tax repeals, can be made, and they run directly counter to the populist themes that animated Mr. Trump's campaign. He has often stated his concern for ordinary working men and women who he contends were forgotten under previous administrations but have risen to the top of the priority list under his leadership.

        Many economists who analyzed a similar plan Mr. Trump proposed during his presidential campaign found that it would have disproportionately helped the richest. William G. Gale, an economist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, estimated that just over 50 percent of the benefits of that proposal would have gone to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.

        The new proposal "loses probably something in the neighborhood of $5 trillion in revenue over 10 years with regressive tax cuts that exacerbate the inequalities that already exist in our economy," said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who was a top economist in the Obama administration.

        Mr. Trump's economic team argues that there is no disconnect; the tax reductions they are seeking, they argue, will ultimately help all Americans, including the poorest, by spurring growth that will translate into more jobs and better wages.

        Still, it seems almost inevitable that the blueprint, should it eventually yield legislation, would violate the vow Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, made that the administration would provide "no absolute tax cut for the upper class."

        That axiom, uttered by Mr. Mnuchin in November and quickly named the "Mnuchin rule" by skeptical Democrats, was based on his insistence that any tax reductions at the top would be matched by the elimination of deductions and loopholes.

        "It is hard to know what the overall effects would be, but a plan that is intended to reduce taxes on business income and investment income is going to provide substantial benefits to wealthier individuals, and the bulk of the benefits in this plan would go to them," said Ed Lorenzen, a senior adviser for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscal policy education group. "It would probably work out to be a significant shift in the distribution of the tax code."

        One major reason is Mr. Trump's idea to allow the income of owner-operated companies, including his real estate concern, hedge funds and large partnerships, to be taxed at a 15 percent rate — the same rate corporations would pay under his plan — rather than at the individual income tax rate, which now tops out at 39.6 percent and would be set at 35 percent by Mr. Trump.

        That would potentially allow doctors, lawyers and others who are part of such firms to structure their compensation as business rather than personal income and effectively enjoy a substantial tax cut. The Tax Policy Center estimated last year that the proposal would cost $1.5 trillion over a decade.

        Higher earners also appear likely to reap the greatest benefit from repealing the alternative minimum tax, which is set at a marginal rate of 28 percent and falls most heavily on those who earn between $250,000 and $1 million. In 2013, President Barack Obama and Congress reached agreement on a "fix" that shielded middle-class families from the tax. So any repeal now would benefit wealthier taxpayers.

        Only a fifth of taxpayers who earn above $1 million were affected by the provision, a parallel tax system that limits the deductions and other tax breaks available to them, in part because interest and investment income are exempt.

        A glimpse of Mr. Trump's 2005 tax returns revealed that the alternative minimum tax cost him roughly $31 million by setting a floor that even a stack of individual loopholes could not reduce. Repealing it would cost $412.8 billion over a decade, the Tax Policy Center has estimated.

        At the same time, lower- and middle-income families could be in a worse position. The White House proposes to reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three: 10, 25 and 35 percent. But no one yet knows where the income cutoff lines are being drawn. People who end up being pushed into a lower bracket would be better off, but those kicked into a higher bracket would not be.

        Families with after-tax income between roughly $19,000 and $76,000, for example, are now in the 15 percent marginal tax bracket, which is slated for elimination.

        "That's where the middle of America is," Mr. Kleinbard said. While some may drop into the new 10 percent bracket, others could be nudged up into the 25 percent range.

        Increasing the standard deduction to about $24,000 for couples might also appear to help most families, but that is not necessarily the case, Mr. Kleinbard pointed out. Larger families, which now benefit from being able to add a deduction for every additional member of their household, could lose out.

        "At the bottom end, the typical family will be worse off if personal exemptions go away," he said.



        11)  George Takei: Internment, America's Great Mistake

        APRIL 28, 2017





        Every year since the late 1960s, on the last Saturday in April, there has been a pilgrimage to a place called Manzanar in California, where one of 10 United States internment camps once stood. The annual journeys began as a way to remember those Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated during World War II and to mark a dark chapter in our history. The pilgrimage includes elderly original internees and their families, as well as neighbors of the site, schoolchildren and, since Sept. 11, American Muslims, who see parallels between what once happened and today.

        Manzanar is the best known of the camps, because it often made the news during the war owing to unrest, strikes and even shooting deaths. At its peak, the camp held over 10,000 Japanese-Americans inside its barbed wire. Most hailed from Los Angeles, some 230 miles to the south. A vast majority were also American citizens, held without charge or trial for years, for the crime of looking like the people who had bombed Pearl Harbor.

        Manzanar is now a National Historic Site thanks to the work of Sue Kunitomi Embrey and the Manzanar Committee, which lobbied for decades to obtain the designation. I have visited it often, but my personal pilgrimages have been to two other camps that once held my family and me. One is in Rohwer, Ark., in what was then fetid, uninhabitable swampland, and the other is in the cold, desolate wastes of Tule Lake, Calif. That was the harshest camp, with more than 18,500 inmates behind three layers of barbed-wire fence and with tanks patrolling the perimeter.

        I was 5 years old at the beginning of our internment in Arkansas. I remember every school morning reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, my eyes upon the stars and stripes of the flag, but at the same time I could see from the window the barbed wire and the sentry towers where guards kept guns trained on us.

        I was 7 years old when we were transferred to another camp for "disloyals." My mother and father's only crime was refusing, out of principle, to sign a loyalty pledge promulgated by the government. The authorities had already taken my parents' home on Garnet Street in Los Angeles, their once thriving dry cleaning business, and finally their liberty. Now they wanted them to grovel; this was an indignity too far.

        pilgrimage to Tule Lake also occurs every year, symbolically on July 4. I have gone three times. I remember a terrifying moment while I was held there when armed military police burst into the barracks and hauled away several young men.

        On the pilgrimages, I finally saw where they had been taken: a concrete cell block called the stockade. On the concrete walls, there was graffiti, now made illegible by the passage of time. Also fading were brown splotches I was told were blood stains. This was what could happen in an America that had become un-American.

        It has been the lifelong mission of many to ensure we remember the internment. Our oft-repeated plea is simple: We must understand and honor the past in order to learn from and not repeat it. But in the 75 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the internment of Japanese-Americans, never have we been more anxious that this mission might fail.

        It is imperative, in today's toxic political environment, to acknowledge a hard truth: The horror of the internment lay in the racial animus the government itself propagated. It whipped up hatred and fear toward an entire group of people based solely on our ancestry.

        Officials claimed they could not distinguish among us to determine who were "spies" and "saboteurs" and who were innocents. Yet not a single instance of espionage or sabotage was ever prosecuted or proved among the 120,000 internees. It was the ultimate in "fake news," encouraged by a vicious, jingoistic press and politicians seeking to capitalize on the national hysteria.

        If this seems a practice only of years long past, consider that today we need merely replace "Japanese-Americans" with "Muslims" for the parallels to emerge. Once again, we are told by our government that a blanket ban is needed. So brazen is this same troubling logic that a Trump surrogate even cited Japanese-American internment as a precedent for the Muslim ban. Both rely upon the presupposition of guilt, one by race, the other by religion. Most chilling of all, both arise out of government policy and action.

        When nations make historic mistakes, atonement may never truly come. It took almost 50 years for the United States to apologize to those it had interned. While modest reparations were eventually paid, it was far from enough to restore what had been so unjustly taken. My father, who bore our family's anguish at the imprisonment hardest, died nine years before President Ronald Reagan's 1988 apology, never to know of the government's belated acknowledgment of the pain it had caused. To this day, the Supreme Court has not overruled its infamous Korematsu opinion of 1944, which validated our mass incarceration in deference to national security.

        My way of remembering the cruelties of the past was to help found the Japanese American National Museum, as well as to turn my family's experience into a Broadway show, "Allegiance," in the hope that more will heed the warning. The pilgrimages to camps like Manzanar, Rohwer and Tule Lake are another way of honoring those who suffered, and lost, and had to rebuild shattered lives. They remind us all today of the threat to American values from cynically manufactured fear and the deliberate targeting of a vulnerable minority.



        12)  The Birth of 'Vietnamization'

        [Not a word here about how many Vietnamese were murdered?....BW]

        By Stephen B. Young, April 28, 2017


        On Oct. 14, 1966, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who had been principally responsible for waging war against the Communists in South Vietnam, threw in the towel. A little over a year before he officially resigned as secretary, he sent a long memorandum to President Lyndon Johnson, artfully admitting that he and his Pentagon had no strategy to end the war on favorable terms for the South Vietnamese.

        Johnson quickly turned to others for a new approach. A month after McNamara's memo, the president asked two aides — Walt Rostow, his national security adviser, and Robert Komer, a National Security Council staff member — to come up with something more effective than McNamara's tactics of attrition and bombing. Their recommendation, delivered on Dec. 13, 1966, was to "complement our anti-main force campaign and bombing offensive with greatly increased efforts to pacify the countryside and increase the attractive power" of the government of Vietnam. Long before the term became a household word, "Vietnamization" was born.

        To put the plan into effect, Johnson chose three men: Ellsworth Bunker to be ambassador in Saigon; Komer to lead a new counterinsurgency organization; and Gen. Creighton Abrams to build up South Vietnam's military capacity to defeat invading North Vietnamese regulars.

        Bunker was to work with the Vietnamese leadership and ensure coordination of all efforts — civil and military, American and Vietnamese nationalist. Komer and Abrams were to be deputies to Gen. William Westmoreland at his headquarters on the outskirts of Saigon.

        But it was Bunker whose role Johnson considered most pivotal. It was about more than being America's top diplomat in South Vietnam. It was about getting America out of the war. "I had gotten him out of the Dominican Republic and accomplished his political objective there," he told me in an interview. "He wanted me to do the same in South Vietnam."

        In a private meeting where no notes were taken, Johnson told Bunker that he wanted to begin withdrawing American troops from Vietnam. But before those forces could leave, a better, stronger South Vietnamese army had to take over more responsibility for search and destroy missions to keep Hanoi's battalions up in the mountains and close to the borders, far away from the civilian population.

        Simultaneously, Johnson wanted the South Vietnamese to accelerate democratic development, taking into their hands full responsibility for the political destiny of South Vietnam. In short, Johnson wanted the American role in Vietnam diminished at a speed corresponding to the emergence of South Vietnamese self-reliance.

        Johnson and his new Saigon leadership team organized a meeting in Guam on March 20, 1967, with South Vietnam's chief administrators, Generals Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky. They presented him with a new constitution for South Vietnam, one calling for checks and balances and decentralization of power to elected local councils in provinces and villages.

        President Johnson played down the meeting's importance; he stressed in public that the conference was not devoted to military aspects of the war effort, saying only that "I think we have a difficult, serious, long, drawn-out, agonizing problem that we do not yet have the answer for." But there was no mistaking the significance of the Guam conference. Johnson used it to establish a new set of metrics by which to measure success in the war effort: Nation building was in, warfighting was out.

        Two days before the Guam meeting, General Westmoreland had asked for an increase of 85,000 combat troops in order to intensify field operations to "avoid an unreasonable protracted war." At Guam, Westmoreland defended his request for more troops. Bunker watched Johnson react to Westmoreland's briefing. The president's mood and countenance revealed no pleasure in listening to Westmoreland's grim analysis, which largely confirmed McNamara's earlier judgment that the Pentagon strategy of high-intensity warfare could not force Hanoi to cease its aggression.

        Indeed, Johnson had already turned against adding troops. When Westmoreland traveled to Washington a month later to pitch the troop increase again, the president replied: "When we add divisions, can't the enemy add divisions? If so, where does it all end?" Several months later Johnson threw Westmoreland a bone, adding 45,000 combat troops, about half of what he requested.

        Bunker arrived in Saigon in late April 1967, where he made clear that Washington's approach had changed. It would no longer to be a "hard power" war fought primarily by American combat units in South Vietnam supplemented by American bombing of North Vietnam, with everything else waiting on the outcome of that armed struggle. Instead, he told Thieu on April 28, the "essence of success" would be found in bringing security to all the hamlets and villages across the countryside.

        Bunker set himself four main tasks: convincing South Vietnam's leadership of the need to build a legitimate government reflecting the country's various political forces; executing a pacification program to bring peace and order to rural villages; preparing South Vietnam's army to take over the burden of direct ground combat with Communist forces; and promoting economic development to improve living conditions and raise funds to finance the struggle against North Vietnam.

        In other words, Ellsworth's goal was to shift from the United States to the South Vietnamese the burden of sustaining South Vietnam as a viable independent republic.

        Sent to be Westmoreland's deputy for pacification, Komer immediately started building a new organization — Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development, or Cords — which brought together American military and civilian advisers to work with South Vietnamese in mobilizing civilians against the National Liberation Front, known to its enemies as the Vietcong.

        For the moment, things looked headed in the right direction. South Vietnam adopted its new constitution, and elections brought in a bicameral National Assembly and thousands of popularly chosen village and hamlet chiefs. And a relatively clean presidential campaign ended with Thieu as president and Ky as vice president. South Vietnam now had in place a political infrastructure to support villages, grow the economy and provide more manpower for the armed forces.

        Westmoreland likewise adjusted his military efforts to the new strategy. In a public address at the National Press Club in Washington on Nov. 21, 1967, he announced his plan for ending American combat in South Vietnam. He called this "Phase IV" or "the final phase," in which American forces became "progressively superfluous" to the defense of South Vietnam. "U.S. units can begin to phase down as the Vietnamese Army is modernized and develops its capacity to the fullest." In an appearance on "Meet the Press" after the speech, Westmoreland predicted that American forces would start to withdraw from South Vietnam in "two years or less."

        And he was right: American forces began their drawdown from combat in August 1969 — but not before another 21,000 American soldiers died in combat.














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