March For Science - San Francisco

APRIL 22, 2017

Start: Justin Herman Plaza, 11:00AM
End: Civic Center Plaza

The March for Science - San Francisco celebrates public discovery, understanding, and distribution of scientific knowledge as crucial to the freedom, success, health, and safety of life on this planet. We are a nonpartisan group, marching in support of the following goals: Communication, Funding, Policy, Literacy, and Diversity.


Please register ahead of time to provide us with an estimated headcount for organizating the event.


11:00 AM

Speeches From Bay Area Members

Adam Savage: Inventor & Host of MythBusters

Dr. DJ Patil: Former U.S. Chief Data Scientist

Dr. Jennifer R. Cohen: SMASH Academy Site Director at Level Playing Field Institute

Eric Valor: Founder of SciOpen Research Group

Kathy Setian: Retired Project Manager at EPA

Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña: Biologist, Diversity Advocate, and SACNISTA

Dr. Pamela Ronald: Plant Geneticist

MC | Kishore Hari: Director of Bay Area Science Festival

12:30 PM

March Down Market Street

After the rally, we will March down Market Street towards Civic Center Plaza. This will take approximately 60-90 minutes.

3:00-6:00 PM

Science Fair

The Science Fair will be an opportunity for all ages to engage, create, discover, and connect. We'll have keynote speakers, panel discussions, food trucks, bands, an open mic stage, letter-writing zones, and a science-themed photo booth. Activities will be hosted by an inspiring array of partners from across our community, including the 49ers STEAM team, CalAcademy, Planetary Society, and SACNAS.



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.



Note to Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Lynne Stewart.. Please forward widely...

Saturday, May 6,  6:30 - 9:30 pm, Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, 518 Valencia Street, SF (near 16th Street BART), $20 - $10 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds. Food, music/spoken word, unity and solidarity. 

Sunday, May 7, 6:30 - 10: pm, Humanist Hall, 390  27th Street, Oakland (between Telegraph and Broadway), $20 - $10 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds. Food, music/spoken word and solidarity. 

Both events are benefits for the Lynne Stewart Organization to pay for vast family expenses.

Lynne's Stewart's lifelong companion, Ralph Poynter, will be joining us on Saturday, May 6 (518 Valencia Street, SF) and Sunday, May 7 (Humanist Hall, Oakland) in a Northern California event, "Honoring our Heroes and Martyrs" to celebrate Lynne's life and to deepen the fight for the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Kevin Cooper and other frame-up victims of  racist America's criminal injustice system. For more information, to co-sponsor and help, call 510-268-9428 or email jmackler@lmi.net.

In solidarity,  Jeff Mackler, former West Coast Organizer, Lynne Stewart Defense Committee; Director, Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal


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)  Syria Airstrikes Instantly Added Nearly $5 Billion to Missile-Makers' Stock Value

        Jen Wieczner, Apr 07, 2017


        Raytheon stock surged Friday morning, after 59 of the company's Tomahawk missiles were used to strike Syria in Donald Trump's first major military operation as President.

          Trump ordered the airstrike on the Syrian government Thursday night in retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier this week that killed as many as 100 people. The U.S. blamed the attack on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

          The Tomahawk missile used in the strike is made by Raytheon (RTN, +0.02%), whose stock opened 2.5% higher Friday, adding more than $1 billion to the defense contractor's market capitalization.

          The shares of other missile and weapons manufacturers, including Boeing (BA, +0.08%), Lockheed Martin (LMT, -0.08%), Northrop Grumman(NOC, -0.12%) and General Dynamics (GD, -0.06%), each rose as much as 1%, collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value as soon as they began trading, even as the broader market fell.

          (All major U.S. stock market indexes dropped slightly in morning trading after the release of the weakest monthly jobs report in almost a year, which increased doubts about the strength of the American economy.)

          The technology and equipment of the defense companies, which all have lucrative contracts with the U.S. government, was likely also used in Trump's airstrikes on Syria. Lockheed Martin, for example, makes the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System, one part of a three-pronged system needed to launch the missile; the product calculates the trajectory from a ship to the target. General Dynamics also makes technology used to fire Tomahawk missiles.

          Boeing, meanwhile, makes other types of cruise missiles.

          Defense contractor stocks have risen in the months since Trump was elected, spurred by his promises of a "historic" increase in U.S. military spending. The budget Trump proposed last month includes an additional $52 billion for the Department of Defense. Boeing stock has gained nearly 21% since the election, while General Dynamics stock is up 14% over the same period. (The S&P 500 has risen roughly 11% since election day.)



        2)  Trump's Company Settles Lawsuit With a Second Celebrity Chef

         APRIL 10, 2017





        The Trump Organization announced on Monday, for the second time in four days, that it had settled a lawsuit with a celebrity chef who had backed out of plans to build a restaurant in its luxury hotel in Washington.

        The chefs — Geoffrey Zakarian, whose settlement was announced Monday, and José Andrés, whose announcement came Friday — had both abandoned plans to set up shop in the Trump International Hotel, in Washington's Old Post Office building, shortly after President Trump began his campaign in 2015. In response, Mr. Trump sued both.

        In backing off his plans to open a restaurant in the hotel, Mr. Zakarian, who noted that more than half his team was Hispanic, said in a written statement that Mr. Trump's comments about some Mexican immigrants' being rapists and drug dealers "do not in any way align with my personal core values." Mr. Andrés had said earlier that Mr. Trump's comments made "it impossible for my company and I to move forward."

        Mr. Andrés, who was born in Spain, became an American citizen in 2013. Mr. Zakarian, who was born in the United States, has Armenian and Polish ancestry.

        The two settlement announcements were made in joint statements among the parties and included no details of the conditions.

        "After an intense, two-year legal battle, we are pleased we were able to amicably resolve our differences and wish Geoffrey continued success," Donald Trump Jr., one of two trustees with broad legal authority over President Trump's assets, said in the Monday statement.

        Mr. Zakarian "also acknowledged his satisfaction with the resolution," according to the statement. Both he and Donald Trump Jr. plugged their own projects.

        The New York real estate developer Louis Ceruzzi, who had backed Mr. Zakarian's restaurant, said he was glad "to put this matter behind us."

        In the Friday statement, Mr. Andrés said he was "excited" about the prospect of working with the Trump Organization on programs to benefit the community.

        "I am pleased that we were able to resolve our differences and move forward cooperatively, as friends," he said.



        3)  A Woman's Death Sorting Grapes Exposes Italy's 'Slavery'

         APRIL 11, 2017




        SAN GIORGIO IONICO, Italy — Her husband can still recall how Paola Clemente used to set two alarms to make sure she woke in the middle of the night — 1:50 a.m. — to catch the private bus that would take her and dozens of other women to the vineyards.

        There, she would pick and sort table grapes up to 12 hours, taking home as little as 27 euros a day, about $29, after middlemen skimmed her pay. Sometimes she was so exhausted, she fell asleep in the midst of conversation.

        Her death of a heart attack at 49 in the fields has set off nearly two years of soul-searching in Italy over what the authorities, labor experts and union organizers described as an elaborate system of modern-day slavery — involving more than 40,000 Italian women, as well as migrant and seasonal laborers — that remains at the core of Italy's agricultural economy, especially here at the country's jagged heel.

        After months of investigation, this year the authorities arrested six people, accusing them of using their recruiting and transportation agencies to extort wages from women so poor and desperate they dared not speak up and worked under extreme conditions.

        Ms. Clemente's death in July 2015 moved Italian legislators to pass a law last year aimed at combating exploitation of agricultural workers. But, experts say, their virtual enslavement remains disturbingly widespread for a country renowned for its products worldwide. By some measures, Italy is the second-worst state in the European Union for the enslavement of people, behind Poland.

        "We are back to the situation we were in in the 1950s — the rights acquired by workers through the land reform have been crippled, if not nixed," said Leonardo Palmisano, author of various books on agricultural workers and a native of Apulia. "This is a phenomenon that is pervasive everywhere, not only in Apulia, and it affects Italians as well as foreign workers."

        In Ms. Clemente's case, farm owners regularly paid middlemen to pick up and transport her and the other women. Sometimes, the middlemen pocketed two-thirds of the women's pay and deducted transportation costs. Five-hour trips were not counted on the clock.

        If the women complained, the recruiter would threaten not to call them anymore. "Another woman can take your place," one recalled being told, according to a court document.

        Even now, no woman who worked through a recruiter would speak for attribution for fear of losing her job. Investigators faced the same challenge.

        "When we started interviewing Ms. Clemente's colleagues, we faced a wall of silence," said Nicola Altiero, provincial commander in Bari for Italy's financial police. "We see this system as exploitation, but workers see it as a chance, an opportunity that they dread losing."

        Indeed, in court records, several women declared that their recruiters were benefactors and that they considered themselves "fortunate" to have the work, as difficult as it was.

        Today, Stefano Arcuri, 62, Ms. Clemente's husband of 27 years, with whom she had three children, sometimes still sets the alarm for the same time she used to wake, or calls her cellphone, when he misses her. "I want to feel that she is still alive," he said.

        Two months after Ms. Clemente died, the financial police searched her fellow workers' homes and found calendars on which many of them marked the days they had worked over past years. The number of days far exceeded what was listed on company contracts.

        It is a measure of Italy's lingering economic crisis and scarcity of work that the women accepted almost any working conditions and would not go to the authorities even as middlemen siphoned off their hard-earned pay.

        Moreover, mafia organizations take part in the workers' exploitation, feeding what Mr. Palmisano, the author, defined as a "system of slaves that impoverishes small farmers, enriches the large retailers and favors money laundering."

        Italy's new law has raised jail sentences for exploiting workers to up to six years, and it imposes harsh sanctions against employers who use underpaid labor. Goods and even companies can be seized by the authorities, with the proceeds going to a fund used to benefit the victims.

        But many farmers say the law's strict new requirements in terms of health checks and equipment are a serious burden for small companies, favoring large producers.

        "I am very glad we have a law against the exploitation of workers in the fields, because these practices damage healthy companies, creating unfair competition," said Donato Fanelli, sales manager at a small agricultural co-op in Rutigliano, near Bari.

        But "larger producers with seasonal workers can offer better prices," Mr. Fanelli said. "The new law should also help the hundreds of small and medium producers."

        The authorities praised the legislation as a first step. But a scarcity of work is driving a race to the bottom, union organizers warn.

        "The problem is that enslaved workers don't take advantage of the gains," said Assunta Urselli, general secretary at the Flai Cgil union in Taranto. "The only thing that increases is competition among workers."

        The constant threat of being replaced compelled Ms. Clemente and her co-workers to push themselves mercilessly. Women later told the police that, despite the summer heat, they even tried to drink water only if strictly necessary, to avoid asking permission to relieve themselves.

        Women were preferred because their thin fingers and skill made them perfect for picking and cleaning table grapes. They would do it for hours and hours.

        One day, buyers from Northern Europe came to visit the fields and were impressed with Ms. Clemente's ability to remove the tiniest grapes from the rest of the cluster, without leaving marks, Ms. Clemente once told her family.

        "It's my job," she told them with pride, Mr. Arcuri recalled.

        Before she died in mid-July 2015, Ms. Clemente was showing signs of malaise on the bus, her fellow workers told the police. She worked anyway — if anyone missed a day, the bosses would no longer call them.

        Every workday, she woke in the middle of the night to wash up and prepare a backpack with crackers and a thermos bottle of coffee.

        "She was afraid of being late," Mr. Arcuri said in an interview on a recent afternoon, looking out over a vineyard, covered with nets to protect against hail, near their home in San Giorgio Ionico, a town east of Taranto in western Apulia. "If you are late, they don't let you get on the bus."

        Ms. Clemente worried so much about not working that if she did not get a call, she arose anyway and had her husband drive her to pickup points to see whether the group really did not have work that day, he said.

        The private bus usually came around 3 a.m. More than two hours later, as the sun rose, she and the other workers were ready to start sorting or picking table grapes. After the day was over, the bus drove them home again, over miles of poor roads.

        Sometimes, Ms. Clemente's co-workers would tease her because she fell asleep while they were talking to her.

        Ms. Clemente collapsed and her heart stopped beating about 8 a.m., as she was sorting grapes under a plastic tent in a field.

        Mr. Arcuri went to Rome last month to attend a ceremony dedicating a hall to his wife inside Italy's Agriculture Ministry. Conditions are even worse for foreign migrants, he noted. He recalled a Bible passage saying that no one should exploit anyone else's work, regardless of their origin.

        "The difference between how my wife worked and how migrants work is that Italians make more money, and the fact that we have a house to sleep in," Mr. Arcuri said.

        "I trust justice. The truth will come out," he said. "And I do hope that the law that her death triggered will help migrants and Italians alike."



        4)  Special Ed School Vouchers May Come With Hidden Costs

        "Legal experts say parents who use the vouchers are largely unaware that by participating in programs like McKay, they are waiving most of their children's rights under IDEA, the landmark 1975 federal civil rights law. Depending on the voucher program, the rights being waived can include the right to a free education; the right to the same level of special-education services that a child would be eligible for in a public school; the right to a state-certified or college-educated teacher; and the right to a hearing to dispute disciplinary action against a child."

         APRIL 11, 2017




        For many parents with disabled children in public school systems, the lure of the private school voucher is strong.

        Vouchers for special needs students have been endorsed by the Trump administration, and they are often heavily promoted by state education departments and by private schools, which rely on them for tuition dollars. So for families that feel as if they are sinking amid academic struggles and behavioral meltdowns, they may seem like a life raft. And often they are.

        But there's a catch. By accepting the vouchers, families may be unknowingly giving up their rights to the very help they were hoping to gain. The government is still footing the bill, but when students use vouchers to get into private school, they lose most of the protections of the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

        Many parents, among them Tamiko Walker, learn this the hard way. Only after her son, who has a speech and language disability, got a scholarship from the John M. McKay voucher program in Florida did she learn that he had forfeited most of his rights.

        "Once you take those McKay funds and you go to a private school, you're no longer covered under IDEA — and I don't understand why," Ms. Walker said.

        In the meantime, public schools and states are able to transfer out children who put a big drain on their budgets, while some private schools end up with students they are not equipped to handle, sometimes asking them to leave. And none of this is against the rules.

        "The private schools are not breaking the law," said Julie Weatherly, a special-education lawyer who consults for school districts in Florida and other states. "The law provides no accountability measures."

        McKay is the largest of 10 such disability scholarship programs across the country. It serves over 30,000 children who have special needs. At the Senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President Trump's education secretary, she cited research from the conservative Manhattan Institute, saying that "93 percent of the parents utilizing that voucher are very, very pleased with it."

        Legal experts say parents who use the vouchers are largely unaware that by participating in programs like McKay, they are waiving most of their children's rights under IDEA, the landmark 1975 federal civil rights law. Depending on the voucher program, the rights being waived can include the right to a free education; the right to the same level of special-education services that a child would be eligible for in a public school; the right to a state-certified or college-educated teacher; and the right to a hearing to dispute disciplinary action against a child.

        It's not just Florida. Private school choice programs in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin also require parents to waive all or most IDEA rights. In several other states, the law is silent on the disability rights of voucher students.

        The Walkers obtained a McKay voucher midway through their son's second-grade year, when the Port St. Lucie school district told them it planned to remove the boy from general education classes and place him in a "cluster" classroom for students with emotional difficulties. (Ms. Walker, and another parent quoted in this article, asked that their children's names not be published to protect their privacy.)

        "He has more potential than that," Ms. Walker said. The family, which is black, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the district of racial discrimination and other wrongdoing, for disciplining their son harshly and refusing to place him in a general-education classroom.

        The McKay program has not provided a simple alternative for the Walkers. They used an $11,000 voucher to enroll their son in the Achievers Institute of Science, Art and Technology. But they were caught unaware, they said, when the private school charged them an additional $2,400 in fees. (Achievers Institute has since gone out of business.)

        The boy now uses his McKay voucher to attend the Virtual Schools of Excellence. He visits a local "learning center" two to three days a week, and the Port St. Lucie school district sends contractors there to provide him with speech and occupational therapy. He completes the rest of his instruction online, at home. "We're happy to the point where he's safe," Ms. Walker said, but she regrets that her son no longer receives the same intensive instruction in social cues that he benefited from in public school, before he became a voucher student.

        Federal law requires public school districts to assess the needs of special-education students enrolled in private schools. But districts are not obligated to provide those children with the same services they would receive in a public setting — even if a child's private school tuition is taxpayer funded through a voucher.

        Private schools that participate in McKay are not required to demonstrate that they use any type of specialized curriculum to meet disabled children's needs. Still, many private schools say they go beyond the letter of the law in an effort to serve McKay students.

        Trina Angelone, chief executive of the Virtual Schools of Excellence, said the school employed state-certified special-education teachers in both its online program and its in-person learning center, even though this is not required by law. A disabled child "going to a typical public school classroom is going to be with maybe 20 or 25 students, using textbooks, following along at the pace of the class," she said. "In the virtual space," she said, "the child is really getting one-on-one attention, moving at their own pace."

        But ultimately, there is no guarantee that students will receive the same level of disability services in private schools that they were entitled to in public school, a limitation that parents may not fully understand.

        The state affidavit that parents sign in order to receive a McKay scholarship, for example, says nothing about forfeiting IDEA rights and services. It also does not explain that parents are responsible for any additional fees a private school may charge on top of a voucher, which can range from $5,000 to $23,000. The Florida Department of Education website provides other materials with more detail on the legal implications of participating in McKay, but the documents are difficult to find and decipher. District-level documents are often similarly opaque.

        In a statement provided to The New York Times, the Port St. Lucie school district said, "Every effort is made to fully inform parents of the difference between public school services and private school services when a child utilizes a McKay Scholarship." The Florida Department of Education declined requests for a phone interview. In an email, a department spokeswoman said there had been "very few complaints on this issue."

        Robyn Rennick, a board member of the Coalition of McKay Scholarship Schools, said that private schools should be transparent with families about the services they provide but that the onus was on parents to ask detailed questions. "This is a buyer's market," she said. "You go and say, 'I love your big building, but what is the expertise of your teachers?'"

        Many McKay recipients, it appears, do eventually end up back in the public school system. The average length of time in the program is 3.6 years, according to data provided to The Times by the Florida Department of Education, and 85 percent of McKay recipients are in elementary or middle school.

        Families who leave the program sometimes do so after moving residences. Other times they conclude that their child's needs would be better met in a public school.

        Carla Donaldson of West Palm Beach used a McKay voucher to send her son Zachary, who has autism spectrum disorder, to a private school that specializes in serving special-needs students. "I needed a break from the fight" for adequate services in a public setting, she said.

        Zachary blossomed there socially, his mother said. "Unfortunately, he did pay the price academically," she said. When Zachary returned to public school in eighth grade, he had to work to catch up. "There is no perfect school," Ms. Donaldson said.

        Some families find they do not have a choice about whether to continue at a private school. Last year, Lisa Siegel was surprised to learn that she had few legal options after her seventh grader, who received a McKay scholarship, was suspended and then asked not to return to a religious school in Davie, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale, after a series of behavioral incidents.

        Ms. Siegel's son is on the autism spectrum. In public schools, IDEA guarantees parents the right to a hearing in which they can seek to overturn a disciplinary action if the child's misbehavior was a manifestation of a disability. That is not the case in a private school.

        "You don't have much recourse," said Ms. Siegel, whose son is now at a public school magnet program for marine sciences. "I never in a million years thought that in this private educational setting that my child would not be protected by state and federal law."



        5)  18 Syrian Fighters Allied With U.S. Are Killed in Coalition Airstrike

         APRIL 13, 2017




        WASHINGTON — An airstrike by the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State killed 18 Syrian fighters allied with the United States, the military said on Thursday.

        The strike, on Tuesday in Tabqah, Syria, was the third time in a month that American-led airstrikes may have killed civilians or allies, and it comes even as the Pentagon is investigating two previous airstrikes that killed or wounded scores of civilians in a mosque complex in Syria and in a building in the west of Mosul, Iraq.

        Tuesday's strike was requested by coalition allies who were on the ground near Tabqah, the United States Central Command, which oversees combat operations in the Middle East, said in a statement. The fighters had called in the airstrikes and "identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position," it said, using another name for the Islamic State.

        The Central Command statement said that the target location turned out to be a "fighting position" for the Syrian Democratic Forces, who have been fighting the Islamic State alongside the United States.

        It was unclear whether the strike came from an American warplane or one from the other coalition partners.

        "The coalition's deepest condolences go out to the members of the S.D.F. and their families," Central Command said in the statement, calling the episode "tragic." Military officials said the cause is being investigated.

        As the American-led military campaigns against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have intensified in recent months, so, too, have reports of civilian casualties and, now, friendly fire.

        Military officials say that is to be expected as Iraqi forces try to retake Mosulin what is seen as the last big urban hurdle to defeating the extremist Sunni militant group in Iraq, and while forces allied with the United States are moving in on the group's de facto capital of Raqqa, in Syria.

        President Trump has indicated that unlike President Barack Obama, who had his White House scrutinize many military operations, he will leave more operational decision-making to the Pentagon and to American commanders in the field.

        That move has been welcomed by many in the military, who often expressed frustration at what they saw as a cumbersome decision-making process in Mr. Obama's White House. But it has raised questions about whether Mr. Trump is exercising sufficient oversight.



        6)  Detained Immigrants May Face Harsher Conditions Under Trump

         APRIL 13, 2017




        For more than 15 years, jails that hold immigrants facing deportation have had to follow a growing list of requirements:

        Notify immigration officials if a detainee spends two weeks or longer in solitary confinement. Check on suicidal inmates every 15 minutes, and evaluate their mental health every day. Inform detainees, in languages they can understand, how to obtain medical care. In disciplinary hearings, provide a staff member who can advocate in English on the detainee's behalf.

        But as the Trump administration seeks to quickly find jail space for its crackdown on illegal immigration, it is moving to curtail these rules as a way to entice more sheriffs and local officials to make their correctional facilities available.

        According to two Homeland Security officials who had knowledge of the plans but declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly, new jail contracts will contain a far less detailed set of regulations.

        They will make no mention of the need for translation services, for example. A current rule that detainees' requests for medical care be evaluated by a professional within 24 hours will be replaced by a requirement that the jails merely have procedures on providing medical care.

        The new contracts will require that the jails maintain policies for suicide prevention, solitary confinement and other concerns, but will not specify what those policies should contain.

        The changes, which will coincide with the closing of an office that develops regulations, will essentially hold these jails to the same standards they must follow for criminal inmates. That is a break from a long-held philosophy that people held on immigration violations, who are considered by law to be "civil" detainees, should be treated differently, and is in line with the president's belief that the government should be tougher on the unauthorized.

        The moves also underscore the challenges of rapidly expanding immigration enforcement, a centerpiece of President Trump's campaign platform. An internal memo, first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has procured an additional 1,100 detention beds, which are not yet being used, and has identified 27 potential facilities with space for 21,000 detainees.

        And though policy makers have long wanted to reduce the reliance on local jails, the Trump administration will use them more frequently, at least in the short term, because of the time it takes to build new detention centers designed for immigrants, the two officials said.

        The officials said the changes were being made to make the contracts more palatable to local officials who run the jails, who have sometimes bristled at the additional accommodations for immigrants.

        "Jail is jail," said Sheriff Richard K. Jones of Butler County, Ohio, who houses about 300 federal inmates facing a mix of criminal and immigration charges. "It's fair and it's humane, but we don't put chocolates on the pillows."

        Cmdr. Jon J. Briggs, who oversees two jails in Orange County, Calif., that house 838 ICE detainees, said that he believed some of the extra requirements were necessary, like free phone calls to immigration officials and to the detainees' national consulates, but that ICE detainees in his jails "get much more freedom and liberty."

        Immigrants in his jails are given seven hours of outdoor recreation a week, compared with two hours for everyone else. And every day, a jail worker has to walk through housing barracks to exchange the immigrants' clothing and sheets, which must be washed daily, rather than once a week for criminal inmates. "That one seems a little overkill," Commander Briggs said.

        The officials with knowledge of the new contract language said it had been approved by ICE and was awaiting a final signoff by its parent agency, the Homeland Security Department.

        Kevin Landy, who in the Obama administration directed ICE's Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which is closing, said the changes would depart from years of efforts to improve the health and safety of people held on immigration violations, especially those in jails built for serious criminals.

        "A decision to simultaneously abandon detention standards could have disastrous consequences for the health and safety of these individuals," he said.

        He added that he had hoped John F. Kelly, the homeland security secretary, "wouldn't want to dismantle the progress we had made."

        "It's disappointing that he seems to be doing just that," Mr. Landy said.

        Sarah Rodriguez, ICE's acting deputy press secretary, declined to comment on specific contracts, but she said the agency was "in the midst of examining a variety of detention models to determine which models would best meet anticipated detention needs."

        "ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care," she said. "As new options are explored, ICE's commitment to maintaining excellent facilities and providing first-class medical care to those in our custody remains unchanged."

        Only 10 percent of immigrant detainees are held in facilities operated by ICE, and private prison companies house more than half. The changes affect new contracts for "non-dedicated" facilities — those that house both criminal and immigration detainees, primarily county and municipal jails. Such facilities, which house about 25 percent of ICE inmates, are paid on average $127 daily per detainee by the federal government.

        It has not been determined whether existing jail contracts will be renegotiated to remove the detailed standards, the officials said.

        All jails are subject to local, state or federal health and safety rules for criminal detention. But the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations all added specific requirements for jails holding people on immigration violations because of their particular circumstances.

        Unlike people facing criminal charges, ICE detainees have no right to a lawyer to look out for their interests, and many do not speak English or have a criminal record. Amid reports, including several in The New York Times, about mistreatment of detainees and the use of solitary confinement for weeks at a time, federal officials greatly expanded the requirements in the last few years.

        According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the number of people who died in immigration detention fell to six in 2014, from 32 a decade earlier, even as the detainee population grew by about 55 percent. The study pointed to a decreased reliance on county jails and the more robust detention standards as potential causes.

        The rules, known collectively as ICE's national detention standards, were designed to prevent cases like that of Irene Bamenga, a Frenchwoman jailed in 2011 for overstaying her visa. She died of heart failure after her medicine was confiscated and requests for medical attention went unheeded. Her husband won a $1.1 million settlement from Albany County, N.Y., and undisclosed amounts from Allegany County, where she was also held, as well as from a prison health care company.

        "If the current administration intends to rely more heavily on existing local detention facilities to house people that they pick up on civil administrative immigration violations," said Michael D. Lurie, a lawyer who represented Ms. Bamenga's family, "they can be confident that there will be more disasters like Irene Bamenga's end result."

        The standards were introduced in 2000, and were expanded in 2008 and 2011. They now span 455 pages, going into granular detail on subjects including the minimum number of toilets — one for every 12 detainees in male facilities or eight detainees in female facilities — and trash bag thickness (at least 1.5 millimeters).

        Jails signing new contracts, by contrast, will instead be evaluated based on an 18-page checklist used by the United States Marshals Service for inspections of jails where federal criminal defendants are held, according to the officials with knowledge of the plans.

        The shorter marshals' standards are articulated as a series of open-ended questions, like, "Is the facility kept clean and in good repair?" with little guidance on what qualifies as sufficient.

        Ms. Rodriguez, the ICE spokeswoman, said that "comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay."

        She added that the agency would seek to ensure that jails "meet a certain threshold of care as outlined in our contracts with facilities as well as various detention standards."

        In 2009, the Obama administration established the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which was responsible for "designing a new civil detention system," officials announced. Since then, it has served as a center of activity within ICE, creating overhaul policies such as an online system to help detainees' lawyers and families keep track of their whereabouts and directives to prevent sexual assault and protect pregnant detainees.

        That office is to be closed, and while many of its policies remain in place, agency officials said they were being reviewed to ensure they do not conflict with the president's executive orders on immigration.

        Monitoring conditions at jails has been a challenge for years. A Homeland Security Department advisory committee noted last year that even the Obama administration did not always hold jails to the full list of standards. And Ms. Bamenga's lawyer, Mr. Lurie, said the two jails where she was held had passed ICE inspections "with flying colors."

        Just last month, a report by the Homeland Security Department inspector general raised "serious concerns" over "potentially unsafe conditions" at the Theo Lacy jail, where the majority of Orange County's ICE detainees are held.

        The report found that the jail had allowed violent and nonviolent inmates to intermingle, and did not allow immigrants in solitary confinement to make phone calls or have recreation time, despite ICE standards that require one hour daily.

        The inspectors also observed moldy showers and "slimy, foul-smelling lunch meat that appeared to be spoiled."

        In a statement, the Orange County Sheriff's Department disputed the allegations regarding the meat, saying it was safe to eat, and said that other "legitimate issues" had quickly been addressed. Ms. Rodriguez called the concerns raised in the report "minor," adding that ICE was working with the jail "to ensure all detainees are treated in a humane and professional manner."

        Commander Briggs of the Sheriff's Department said the Trump administration had already asked him to find space for 500 more ICE detainees in the coming months. For the moment, he can find room for only 120, whom he expects to have in his jails by July.



        7)  Turkey in Turmoil and Chaos Since Purge Aimed at Dissenters

         APRIL 12, 2017




        ISTANBUL — When Aynur Barkin became one of roughly 40,000 teachers purged from Turkey's education system after last year's attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, she was not immediately replaced. As a result, her second-grade students were forced to join the third grade, tripling their original class size.

        "I could pay attention to each of them one by one," said Ms. Barkin, 37, who was fired in February from a school west of Istanbul. "But their new teacher can't do that."

        That is one example of the administrative upheaval and chaos caused by the government's vast purge of Turkish institutions since the failed coup in July — the backdrop for a referendum on Sunday to expand the president's powers.

        Mr. Erdogan's government has sought to root out any remaining dissent by targeting nearly every segment of society. It has also used the purge as cover for a crackdown on dissidents of all stripes, including leftists like Ms. Barkin.

        The numbers are extraordinary. The government has fired or suspended about 130,000 people suspected of being dissidents from the public and private sectors. Most are accused of affiliations with the Gulen movement, the Islamic followers of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric accused of orchestrating the putsch.

        More than 8,000 army officers, 8,000 police officers, 5,000 academics and 4,000 judges and prosecutors have been forced out, according to estimates.

        The social cost has been significant. Watchdogs say that around 1,200 schools, 50 hospitals and 15 universities have been closed. Affected schoolchildren have usually been able to find places in local state schools — but their purged parents have mostly been frozen out of the job market.

        Turkey has become "like an open-air prison," said Sezgin Yurdakul, 40, who was fired from the Istanbul ferry system because his daughter attended a Gulen-run school on a scholarship. Mr. Yurdakul's name is blacklisted on a national database, so no employer has yet dared to give him a new job. He, like thousands of other purged employees of the state, is now living off his savings.

        The vacuum left by people like Mr. Yurdakul has prompted many Turks to question which individuals are permitted to fill the void — and which factions, if any, have benefited.

        Mr. Erdogan's allies argue that a wide range of groups has filled the void. But some claim that the gaps have been largely plugged by members of other Islamic orders, or loyalists from the president's Justice and Development Party, known as the A.K.P.

        "The A.K.P.'s own cadres are filling the void," said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the largest opposition party. "They want to establish a bureaucratic structure that accepts whatever the politicians say."

        Mustafa Karadag, the head of the judges' union, says that gaps in the judiciary have often been filled by novices who can provide letters of accreditation from a legal guild with links to the A.K.P.

        "This has allowed access to the judicial and prosecutorial professions to those who receive lower marks but who have a closer relationship to the government, or who are able to procure references from them," Mr. Karadag said.

        The government denies this. Ibrahim Kalin, the president's official spokesman, said in a recent briefing with reporters that those let go had been "replaced by ordinary people" who had "all gone through very transparent, open examinations."

        But even some of the president's critics say the situation is too chaotic, and the purges too widespread, for one faction alone to have benefited. To fill the holes in the bureaucracy and the political sphere, some say, Mr. Erdogan has had to rely on right-wing nationalists, hard-left nationalists, novices and recalled retirees, as well as party loyalists and Islamists.

        "The perception among Turks is that Erdogan rules everything, but that's not the case," said Orhan Gazi Ertekin, a judge who heads the Democratic Judicial Association, a liberal legal watchdog. "There are various groups, all different to each other, that previously plotted against each other, but are now in alliance" against the Gulenists.

        The most striking example may be that of Dogu Perincek, the leader of the tiny arch-secularist Patriotic Party. He was jailed for plotting to overthrow Mr. Erdogan before his conviction was quashed in 2014.

        Upon his release, Mr. Perincek pledged to "demolish" Mr. Erdogan's government, which he accuses of undermining Turkey's secular system. Yet, in a recent interview, Mr. Perincek offered qualified approval of some of Mr. Erdogan's recent policies.

        "There's no reason for us to fight. We became side by side. They are now following our program," he said, referring to Mr. Erdogan's government.

        Mr. Erdogan also has the unlikely support of the Nationalist Movement Party, also known as the M.H.P., a far-right nationalist group whose votes helped him secure parliamentary backing for the referendum.

        In return, senior officials with the nationalist group privately say, they expect cabinet seats after the referendum. If they get what they want, it would constitute an unlikely about-face for a party whose leader once called Mr. Erdogan a "political disaster."

        In the military, the firings of thousands of officers have led to no obvious ideological victor. Mr. Erdogan raised eyebrows with the appointment last August of Adnan Tanriverdi, a former one-star general, as his new military adviser.

        Mr. Tanriverdi was expelled from the army in 1996 because of concerns over his religiosity. He has since run a group for other soldiers fired for similar reasons in the late 1990s, known as the Association of Justice Defenders.

        His appointment as Mr. Erdogan's adviser prompted claims that the president had enlisted Mr. Tanriverdi to help install loyalists in the army. But Mr. Tanriverdi's allies said that no other members of his association had been appointed to positions of significance.

        Other observers have concluded that a mix of factions has benefited from the purge of the military. Anti-American ultranationalists — known as Eurasianists and sometimes associated with Mr. Perincek — have profited at the expense of pro-NATO officers, according to two military experts at Sabanci University in Istanbul.

        "It seems for now that the Eurasianists will hold on to their influence and ranks, but for how long remains a question," Megan Gisclon and Metin Gurcan, a former officer in the Turkish special forces, wrote in a briefing last year.

        One former military prosecutor says such was the scale of undercover Gulenists' infiltration over the last two decades that they are still the largest faction in the armed forces.

        "In the Turkish armed forces," said Ahmet Zeki Ucok, who once led investigations into Gulenists in the military, "if there is a group that currently is influential, it's still the Gulenists."

        In some parts of higher education, the vacuum has not been filled. At Ankara University, half of the 14 professors in the university's human rights law department have been let go, and it has had to scrap more than half its courses.

        It will not admit new students during the next academic year. The remaining professors have had to triple the number of students in their care, and they have no ability to supervise new arrivals.

        "How can we write our dissertations?" asked Emine Ay, a master's student who has been left without a supervisor.

        Her department head, Prof. Kerem Altiparmak, said: "If our professors are not reinstated, this program will end. These are the last students we will see in this program."

        Some wonder if this, in fact, is the goal: to dismantle one of the country's liberal strongholds.

        In the judiciary, the number purged is one-third of Turkey's 12,000 judges and prosecutors. "If you purge 30 to 40 percent of the judiciary, in a sense you purge it all," Judge Ertekin said. "There's no tradition left and no knowledge left."

        Mr. Karadag, the head of the judges' union, said the government was filling the vacancies with loyalists.

        Some say the situation is dangerous for Mr. Erdogan because it leaves him vulnerable to groups beyond his control, just as his relationship with the Gulenist network once did.

        "As long as he depends on these alliances," Judge Ertekin said, "a new betrayal may be on the horizon, too."

        Mr. Erdogan's newfound allies in Parliament, the M.H.P., offer a glimpse of this vulnerability. While the party's leadership supports expanding the president's powers, several of its lawmakers do not. Many in the party's ultranationalist rank and file also have yet to be convinced.

        In the case of Mr. Perincek, the leader of the arch-secularist party, his support for Mr. Erdogan goes only so far. While he applauds the president's recent pro-Russian, anti-Kurdish policies, he says the president has eroded the country's secular character.

        Significantly, he also vehemently opposes the expansion of Mr. Erdogan's powers, and therefore opposes the referendum. "Turkey," Mr. Perincek said, "is not going to carry Tayyip Erdogan on its shoulders."

        Correction: April 12, 2017 

        An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a professor at Ankara University. He is Kerem Altiparmak, not Altinparmak.



        8)  European Court Strikes Down Required Sterilization for Transgender People

         APRIL 12, 2017




        Changing the name or gender on a government-issued document like a driver's license has long included a frightening step for transgender people in almost two dozen European countries: mandatory sterilization.

        But those days may be coming to an end. Gay and transgender activists in Europe have argued for years that the sterilization requirement was an institutionalized violation of human rights, and last week the European Court of Human Rights agreed.

        On April 6, it issued a ruling in favor of three transgender people in France who had been barred from changing the names and genders on their birth certificates because they had not been sterilized. In so doing, activists said, the court set a new legal standard that calls for changes to laws in 22 countries under its jurisdiction.

        "This decision ends the dark chapter of state-induced sterilization in Europe," Julia Ehrt, the executive director of Transgender Europe, an advocacy group based in Berlin, said in a statement. "The 22 states in which a sterilization is still mandatory will have to swiftly end this practice."

        The European Court of Human Rights, in the French city of Strasbourg, ruled that the sterilization requirement was a violation of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."

        The case was filed by three French citizens, identified in the ruling as Émile Garçon, Stéphane Nicot and by the initials A.P., and the decision is legally binding only in France, where the issue has already been settled by legislative action: Last October it did away with the sterilization requirement and adopted revised procedures for legally changing a name and gender.

        But the ruling set a new legal standard for all 47 countries that have signed the European Convention, many of which did not require sterilization in the first place and some of which — like Russia and Turkey — are not members of the European Union.

        According to Transgender Europe, the countries that require sterilization are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.

        The ruling does not mean immediate legal change in any of the countries, and none of them have so far changed their laws. The court does not possess a strong enforcement mechanism that can make lawmakers pass new legislation, and activists cautioned that it may take several more court cases before legal change comes to individual countries.

        But nevertheless, many greeted the ruling as an important milestone.

        "The European Court of Human Rights is very much respected in Europe and we can expect that in the majority of countries where this issue comes up, this ruling will be respected as the new precedent," said Richard Köhler, the senior policy officer at Transgender Europe. He said the first impacts of the decision may be seen in upcoming court cases in Bulgaria and Macedonia.

        Sterilization procedures take many forms in the countries where it remains a requirement, said Kyle Knight, a researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights division at Human Rights Watch. He said some countries mandate the surgical removal of genitalia and reproductive organs while other requirements more vaguely call for procedures that produce "irreversible infertility."

        "All of these are coercive, humiliating, and unnecessary," he said.

        While activists celebrated the ruling, many also said it did not go far enough. Transgender people in many European countries are required to receive a mental health diagnosis or undergo medical examinations before they can legally change their gender, and the court did not find those requirements to be a violation of human rights.

        "The court followed its previous arguments that trans issues are medical issues and decided it was in line with European standard of human rights to request a medical exam and a mental health diagnosis," said Mr. Köhler. "We think the next frontier is to get trans people and trans issues outside the medical framework because no gender identity is pathological or can be determined by someone else except for the person concerned."

        Governments in Western Europe have begun moving away from requiring transgender people to undergo sterilization or gender reassignment surgery in recent years. Mandatory gender reassignment was found to be unlawful in Austria in 2009 and in Germany in 2011. Sterilization requirements were outlawed in Sweden in 2012 and in Norway in 2014.

        Only a handful of European countries allow transgender people to legally change their gender without the input of medical or mental health professionals, Mr. Köhler said: Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Malta, which also bans conversion therapy, a collection of pseudo-psychiatric methods that attempt to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

        In the United States, requirements for legally changing one's name and gender on official documents vary from state to state, said Arli Christian, a state policy counsel at the National Center for Transgender Equality. No proof of gender reassignment surgery is needed to change federally issued documents like a passport, but 23 states require proof of surgery before they allow someone to change state-issued documents like a birth certificate.



        9)  'Mother of All Bombs' Killed Dozens of Militants, Afghan Officials Say

        "The bombing was part of an intense air campaign against the Islamic State, with American airstrikes in Afghanistan averaging as many as 10 a day in the first two weeks of April."

         APRIL 14, 2017




        KABUL, Afghanistan — A day after the United States military dropped its most powerful conventional bomb on caves used by Islamic State affiliates in eastern Afghanistan, officials said on Friday that dozens of militants had been killed, but that they were still trying to assess the full extent of the damage. Residents said the blast had been felt tens of miles away.

        The strike on Thursday targeted a set of mountain tunnels in the Achin district, a stronghold of the Islamic State's regional affiliate, and it was the first use in combat of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, referred to as the "mother of all bombs." The bombing was part of an intense air campaign against the Islamic State, with American airstrikes in Afghanistan averaging as many as 10 a day in the first two weeks of April.

        Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said initial information indicated that 36 militants had been killed and three large caves destroyed in the bombing in Nangarhar Province. However, Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor's office, said 82 militants had been killed.

        Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said on Friday at a news conference in Kabul, the capital, that the Islamic State was using caves, tunnels and "an extensive belt of improvised explosive devices," or roadside bombs, to resist Afghan and coalition operations.

        The general said that he had been in constant touch with his chain of command, but that the decision to deploy such force was shaped by the battlefield realities and not by outside political factors. President Trump has given additional authority to military commanders since taking office, but he has not said whether he personally approved Thursday's bombing mission.

        "This is the first time we have encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress that was constituted by I.E.D.s, the presence of tunnels and caves, and therefore this was the appropriate weapon to use at this time," General Nicholson said. "It was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield, and it has enabled us to resume our offensive operations."

        Local officials in Achin said that Afghan commandos were advancing on the area and that smaller airstrikes had continued Friday morning.

        "U.S. forces are providing air support and also support on the ground — there are some U.S. advisers with Afghan forces," said Ismail Shinwari, the district governor of Achin.

        Ahmad Jawid Salim, a spokesman for the Afghan Army commandos, said that the operation in Achin had been underway for 45 days but that progress had stalled in the Tangi Assadkhel area of the district, where the bomb was dropped. On Sunday, an American special forces soldier, Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, 37, was killed near there.

        "Our foreign counterparts used all available weapons" to destroy the Islamic State havens in Tangi Assadkhel, Mr. Salim said. "But because the posts and havens of I.S. were very strong, it was decided to use this big bomb."

        Mr. Salim said that the Afghan commandos were given notice that the bomb would be used and that they pulled back about two miles before it was dropped. "We were getting reports minute by minute, and we were aware that the bomb would drop in 30 and then 20 seconds," he said.

        There were no initial reports of civilian casualties from the explosion, and Afghan and American military officials said that precautions had been taken to avoid harming noncombatants. Most civilians in Achin have been displaced since 2015, when the Islamic State turned the district into a stronghold.

        Mr. Salim said that there had been only one civilian family in Tangi Assadkhel, and that it had been evacuated before the strike.

        But Malik Kamin, a tribal elder from the nearby area of Shadal Bazaar, said some civilians had been in Tangi Assadkhel when the bomb fell. He said commandos who went in after the bomb was dropped had found two disabled women and an elderly man there and brought them to Shadal Bazaar.

        General Nicholson said there were no indications that civilians had been wounded or killed. There was "surveillance over the area before, during and after the operation, and now we have Afghan and U.S. forces on the site and see no evidence of civilian casualties," he said at the news conference.

        The bomb, which was dropped from a cargo plane, weighed about 10 tons, and its force was felt across Achin and even in neighboring districts.

        One tribal elder who lives less than two miles from Tangi Assadkhel said the blast was so strong that residents of his village thought that it had been the target. Shrapnel and rocks as heavy as five pounds fell on his house, he said. A resident of the nearby Pekhe area said four houses there, about three miles from the blast site, had been destroyed.

        Both residents spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation if the Islamic State found its way back to their area.

        Haji Ghalib, governor of Bati Kot, a district about 20 miles from Achin, said he had felt the blast there. "People in other districts also felt it," he said. "From check posts in Achin some guys called me, and they were asking, 'What was that?' It was very big — for a moment, big flames were rising from the mountain, the whole area was bright."

        The Islamic State's regional affiliate in Afghanistan, largely made of former members of the Pakistani Taliban, was rapidly expanding in eastern Afghanistan during much of 2015 and 2016. In March 2016, American military officials estimated that the group had 2,000 to 3,000 fighters across 11 districts.

        After multiple operations and extensive airstrikes, that number has been reduced to about 700 fighters across three districts, officials say. The efforts involved several ground operations by Afghan soldiers and commandos advised by American military special forces. But they were also accompanied by an intense air campaign that included B-52 bombers last year, staples of the early part of the war that had not been used for many years.

        The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings in urban centers, most recently at the gates of the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday, an attack that killed at least five people.

        In the past, urban attacks were often the work of the Haqqani network, a brutal arm of the Taliban. In a sign of the complexity of the war, Afghan and American officials have expressed concern that there might be an overlap in the enabling networks used by the Haqqani group and the Islamic State for bombings in cities.

        "One of the things we are concerned about, and the reason we think the entire world needs to be focused on Afghanistan, is the potential for convergence among the various terrorist groups in this area," General Nicholson said.

        Some of the tunnels and caves in the complex bombed on Thursday dated from the fight against the British Empire, said Mr. Ghalib, the Bati Kot district governor, who was Achin's governor for years. More tunnels were added during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and still more by the Islamic State.



        10)  Federal Judge Blocks Arkansas Executions

        APRIL 15, 2017




        ATLANTA — A federal judge on Saturday halted Arkansas' plans for an extraordinary series of executions set to begin on Monday, adding to the legal chaos surrounding what began as one state's effort to put eight convicted murderers to death over less than two weeks.

        Although the Arkansas attorney general's office appealed the ruling, Saturday's preliminary injunction by Judge Kristine G. Baker of Federal District Court in Little Rock, Ark., threatened to unravel the state's plan for its first executions since 2005.

        The state's execution schedule, which Gov. Asa Hutchinson set in February, was steeped in turmoil even before Judge Baker's order on Saturday morning. Rulings by other judges had already resulted in stays of execution for two prisoners, and on Friday, a Circuit Court judge in Pulaski County issued a restraining order that barred the state from using one of its three execution drugs.

        "I understand how difficult this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review," Mr. Hutchinson said in a statement. "However, the last minute court reviews are all part of the difficult process of death penalty cases."

        In a 101-page order on Saturday, Judge Baker embraced arguments by the eight prisoners whose executions had been scheduled, plus one other death row inmate, that Arkansas's reliance on midazolam, as an execution drug posed a risk to their constitutional rights. The drug is supposed to render a person unconscious and unable to feel pain during a lethal injection.

        "The threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs is significant: If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are 'botched,' they will suffer severe pain before they die," Judge Baker, an appointee of President Barack Obama, wrote. She added that the men had "shown a significant possibility that they will succeed on the merits of their method of execution claims based on midazolam."

        The drug is one of the world's most popular and versatile sedatives, and at least six states have used it for executions since 2013. Less than two years ago, the United States Supreme Court upheld its use as an execution drug.

        But the divided Supreme Court's opinion in that case, Glossip v. Gross, did little to settle the controversy around midazolam, which was developed in the 1970s as an alternative to Valium and emerged only in recent years as an execution drug. After the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 ruling, critics of the death penalty continued to argue that the drug lacked the power to render a prisoner sufficiently unconscious before executioners administered drugs that cause pain when stopping a person's breathing and heartbeat.

        The drug has been used for executions that mostly drew little outrage, but it was also part of a handful of executions that went awry. In 2014, for instance, midazolam was part of the drug protocol in Arizona when a man's execution lasted nearly two hours; the state has since agreed not to use midazolam to carry out death sentences.

        During a four-day hearing this month in her courtroom in Arkansas's capital, Judge Baker heard the arguments about the drug that have become familiar across the country as appeals courts have weighed the continued resistance to midazolam's use in places like Alabama and Ohio. Her ruling is being tested in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which sits in St. Louis and is among the nation's more conservative appellate benches.

        "It is unfortunate that a U.S. district judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice," said Judd Deere, a spokesman for the state attorney general, Leslie Rutledge.

        John C. Williams, a lawyer for some of the prisoners, welcomed the ruling, which he described as "legally sound and reasonable."

        "The unnecessarily compressed execution schedule using the risky drug midazolam denies prisoners their right to be free from the risk of torture," he said in a statement. "We are calling on state officials to accept the federal court's decision, cancel the frantic execution schedule, and propose a legal and humane method to carry out its executions."

        The crush of rulings and orders came as Arkansas prepared to carry out an execution on Monday in the state's death chamber in Grady, southeast of Little Rock. The prisoner whose execution had been scheduled until Judge Baker's ruling, Don Davis, was sentenced more than 25 years ago for the murder of Jane Daniel, whose husband found her dead, lying in a pool of blood, at their home in Benton County.

        "What I did was an act of cowardice," Mr. Davis said in an interview with an Arkansas television station in 2015. "It was coldblooded. It was evil. The day I was found guilty in Bentonville, if they would have took me out that next day and executed me, I feel as though it would have been a just execution."

        Judge Baker's decision offered him a reprieve, at least temporarily.

        Mr. Hutchinson, a Republican, previously acknowledged that the planned pace of executions was connected to the April expiration date of the state's midazolam stock, which Arkansas officials believe they would be unable to replenish easily.

        Although the case before Judge Baker was central to the efforts to stop the executions, state judges were also asked to consider an array of arguments, including one on Friday that Arkansas had relied on a false pretense when it bought one of its lethal injection drugs from the nation's largest pharmaceutical distributor.

        According to that company, McKesson Corporation, the state bought vials of vecuronium bromide in July, even though Arkansas officials knew that McKesson and the drug's manufacturer had taken steps to prevent its use in executions.

        A quiet clash simmered for months, and in a letter to state officials on Thursday, a lawyer for McKesson complained that the Arkansas prison system had "purchased the products on an account that was opened under the valid medical license of an Arkansas physician, implicitly representing that the products would only be used for a legitimate medical purpose."

        The company went to court on Friday, and a judge quickly blocked state officials from carrying out executions with the drug. After Judge Baker's ruling on Saturday, McKesson asked for the temporary restraining order to be abandoned because "the imminent danger that defendants would use McKesson's property and be unable to return it" had been addressed by the federal court's action.

        Mr. Deere said the company's move on Saturday would have the effect of "allowing the Arkansas Department of Correction to use the drug for executions." But McKesson said in a statement that it could return to court if Judge Baker's order were overturned and that the company would "continue our efforts to facilitate the return of our product and ensure that it is used in line with our supplier agreement."

        Two other drug manufacturers said they thought they had made the state's supplies of midazolam and potassium chloride, and they had asked Judge Baker to bar Arkansas from using their products in lethal injections.

        Judge Baker did not mention the manufacturers, which said they did not know how the state had bought their products, in her order. Instead, the judge focused on what critics have depicted as the perils of executions involving midazolam.

        Citing anecdotal evidence and witness testimony, the judge said there "appears at least a possibility" that "the inmate may regain some level of consciousness during the process before the second and third drugs are administered" if the midazolam did not work as anticipated by the state.

        "Arkansas does not intend to torture plaintiffs to death," Judge Baker, who rejected some of the claims brought by the prisoners, wrote. "However, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment is not limited to inherently barbaric punishments."

        Supporters of midazolam's continued use in executions often say that the drug is not one of choice — they would prefer to carry out death sentences with other drugs that have become especially difficult for states to buy — but they contend that the medicine does not leave prisoners vulnerable to unacceptable risks.

        Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the Supreme Court in the 2015 case that allowed for midazolam to remain the ranks of the nation's execution drugs, said the court had found that "the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain."

        Then he added: "After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether."



        11)  As Tax Day Approaches, Protesters Demand to See Trump's Returns

        APRIL 15, 2017




        PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a Tax Day groundswell of calls for President Trump to release his tax returns, hundreds of protesters marched to Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago getaway on Saturday in Florida, and thousands more gathered in Washington and other cities across the country.

        On a waterfront patch facing Mr. Trump's resort, where he is spending the weekend, demonstrators chanted "Pay! Your! Taxes!" and held signs calling him "Chicken in Chief" — the chicken being a symbol at the rallies of how Mr. Trump was "scared" to follow decades of presidential practice in releasing the returns.

        "This is the closest we have come to making sure he sees us and hears us," said Debbie Wehking, 66, a school principal from Miami. "He needs to show us his tax returns so that we can tell who's influencing his decisions, who he owes money to, who he's doing business with — really so we can figure out whether he needs to be impeached."

        Mr. Trump avoided the protest, taking a more circuitous route in his motorcade as he returned from a morning outing to his golf club in West Palm Beach. But while the president was spared the sight of chanting, sign-waving crowds, the demonstrations were heard around the country, in some cases snaking past properties bearing the Trump name.

        In Washington, several thousand people who had gathered at the foot of the Capitol — many holding replicas of chickens with golden pompadours — marched through the streets, passing the Trump International Hotel near the White House.

        "70% want to see your taxes — that's bigly!" one sign read. It was a reference to the lopsided majorities that polls show want the president to release his returns, as presidents have done for the past 40 years, though they are not required to.

        Another said, "My taxes pay for your golf."

        The White House has said Mr. Trump cannot release his tax returns because he is under audit by the Internal Revenue Service. But the tax returns of presidents and vice presidents are automatically audited every year, a circumstance that has not prevented every other president since Richard M. Nixon from making public at least a portion of his tax records.

        Government transparency groups and Democrats have said that Mr. Trump has a particular duty to make the returns public, given the potential conflicts presented by his vast business holdings and his push to rewrite the tax code. One government ethics group has sued the president, arguing that his hotel profits violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits federal officials from receiving "any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign state."

        "How can we determine his conflicts of interest or stop him from receiving payments from foreign governments if he won't show us the names of the people and corporations that he is in active partnership with all over the world?" said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, who appeared at the Washington rally.

        Kris Gillespie of New York, who traveled to Washington with his wife and two children to attend the march, said the family made the trip in part to help the couple's 12-year-old son, James, cope with the stress he has felt since Mr. Trump's election.

        "We thought maybe if we bring him to something like this, it could help him process what he's feeling," said Mr. Gillespie, whose wife, Julie Underwood, traveled to Washington for the Women's March the day after Mr. Trump was inaugurated. The tax rally had been billed as among the largest demonstrations since that march, though the crowds on Saturday were far smaller. Another protest, called the March for Science, will be held next weekend.

        The tax protests unfolded a day after the White House announced that it would end the practice of releasing White House visitor logs, reversing a move toward greater transparency begun under President Barack Obama.

        "Why does he want to hide his taxes, that's what I want to know," said Martha Marquez, 53, a graduate school professor who attended the Palm Beach march holding a sign that said "Show Me Yours and I'll Show You Mine." "He promised transparency; remember 'Drain the swamp?'"

        Ms. Wehking, the Miami principal, who traveled in January to Washington for the Women's March, held a sign that read "We Care! Show Us Your Taxes!" It was a reference to remarks by Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, who said in January that Mr. Trump would not release his tax returns because the public was not concerned with them.

        Jim Gnehm, 72, of Jupiter, Fla., said, "He works for us — he represents the country, and there's just no excuse for him breaking the precedent that presidents have followed for the last 40 some-odd years."

        Intermingled among the protesters were a handful of ardent supporters of the president, who came with their own signs praising him and wishing him well.

        "I think he's doing a great job, and I couldn't care less about his tax returns," said Valeria Bianco, 59, a business consultant from Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., who had a sign wishing the first family a happy Easter. "People should stop worrying about what he's hiding and focus on what he's doing now to keep us safe, the brave and valiant message he sent to Assad, the jobs that he's bringing back."

        In Berkeley, Calif., the police arrested at least 13 people at a pro-Trump "Free Speech" rally that devolved into violence as the president's supporters and counterprotesters clashed. The rally had been organized by a group called the Liberty Revival Alliance, and drew support from the Oath Keepers, a far-right group of former and current military members, as well as biker groups.

        Video of the protests, which circulated widely on social media, showed repeated skirmishes between Trump supporters and protesters.



        12)  Living by the Girl Scout Law, Even Without a Home

        APRIL 16, 2017





        The girls streamed into what once served as a dining room at a Sleep Inn in Queens, ready to begin their meeting with a roll call.

        One by one came the names: "Jessica. Luz," recited Karina, a fifth grader. "Carmen?"

        The room was small enough that Karina could easily see who was there and who was not. But this was a meeting of Girl Scout Troop 6000, where girls learn to be leaders, and protocol is to be followed.

        Troop 6000 is the first in New York City designated solely for homeless girls. All of the members live at the Sleep Inn, where the city has taken over all 10 floors to accommodate about 100 homeless families.

        In a way, the troop, created in February, is a reflection of the state of homelessness in the city. Within the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, troop numbers are determined by the city's five boroughs, with the 1000s in the Bronx, 2000s in Brooklyn and so on. But the members of Troop 6000 would not necessarily identify Queens as their home, so Girl Scout leaders extended the numerical sequence.

        "We're the O.G.!" one of the girls shouted. The slang, short for original gangster, can take on a nefarious connotation, but in this case simply means being the first of its type, one that commands respect.

        Hailey, Karina's sister and, at 14, the oldest girl present, used more conventional, Girl Scout-like language.

        "We're starting a chain reaction," she said. "Hopefully, in the next couple years, there will be more Girl Scout troops in shelters."

        Troops for homeless girls are rare, but not without precedent. Girl Scouts of the USA does not track such troops nationally, but in the past 30 years, troops have formed in shelters in Atlanta; Broward County, Fla.; and San Pedro, Calif. At one point during the 1990s, a number of untraditional troops were created to reach girls in shelters, migrant worker camps and public housing.

        As Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration grapple with a crisis of homelessness, the city has placed abut 7,500 people in commercial hotels. In February, Mr. de Blasio unveiled a five-year plan to open 90 new shelters and expand 30 current ones to replace hotel rooms and so-called cluster apartments that are both costly and inconvenient, often making it difficult for people to get the services they need to move into permanent housing.

        The city's Department of Homeless Services has been criticized for having a patchwork of shelters and making haphazard placements that frequently saddle children with long commutes to school. The plan is aimed at placing people in the neighborhoods where they lived before becoming homeless so they can remain near community anchors, like churches and schools.

        The new troop is among a number of programs begun by the city to meet the needs of children, who make up nearly 40 percent of the roughly 60,000 people in the city's primary shelter system. Of 287 people housed at the Sleep Inn, 155 are under 18, according to homeless services.

        The troop emerged from unfortunate circumstances, but also from a welcome coincidence and like-minded thinking among the Girl Scouts, the homeless services department and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents that area of Queens.

        "It's just about the most right thing I've ever been a part of," said Mr. Van Bramer, who gave the scouts pins for completing first aid training and discussed government with them last month.

        Mr. Van Bramer, 47, said his own family became homeless in 1970. For two months, it lived in a commercial hotel on the Upper East Side that was used as a shelter.

        He makes a point of visiting shelters, and so do many Girl Scouts troops. When one troop was serving Thanksgiving dinner at a women's shelter in Queens, Mr. Van Bramer mentioned to representatives of the Girl Scouts the idea of forming a troop for homeless girls.

        Soon, there was a meeting of recreation directors of 10 shelters. They thought about offering an opportunity for homeless girls to attend a summer scout camp and tried to work out funding. Then Giselle Burgess stepped in with the idea of a troop.

        Ms. Burgess works as a community engagement specialist for Girl Scouts of Greater New York. She is also homeless.

        A single mother of five children, including Hailey and Karina, Ms. Burgess became homeless in August after their rental home in Flushing was sold to make way for condominiums. Moving in with relatives was not an option — her mother, stepfather and two adult siblings were already squeezed into a two-bedroom apartment.

        Ms. Burgess, 32, earns a decent salary, she said, enough that she does not qualify for food stamps but not enough to easily afford an apartment that can accommodate six people.

        First, homeless services placed the family in Brooklyn. "It was way too far, and all of my resources are in Queens," she said.

        Then the family landed at the Sleep Inn, not ideal with just a room with double beds and no kitchen facilities, but four blocks from her children's school.

        Ms. Burgess immediately became active in the community, and pitched the idea of beginning a troop in the hotel to her bosses who had already been talking to Mr. Van Bramer and homeless services.

        "They said: 'Are you kidding me? Absolutely. Go for it,'" Ms. Burgess said.

        She was worried initially, she said, because the first meeting drew just eight girls, including three of her daughters. Through word of mouth, though, the troop had 20 scouts at the start of the recent meeting.

        By the end of the meeting, Phoenix, 10, became the 21st member of Troop 6000. "Is this the sign-up for Girl Scouts?" Takisha Wilson, 39, her mother, asked as they walked into the room.

        Ms. Wilson said she had seen a flier taped to a wall next to an ice machine. "My daughter always wanted to go. I just couldn't afford it," Ms. Wilson said.

        The Girl Scouts of Greater New York is covering the costs for Troop 6000: a $25 membership fee; a $75 starter kit of patches, pins, workbooks and vests; and the $20 monthly dues. Donations are being accepted.

        Angelo Vargas, 30, rushed into the room with his daughter, 7-year-old Alexa, her pink book bag slung over his back. "She was asking me all day, 'Are we going to make it on time?'" said Mr. Vargas, a single parent who works in maintenance, adding that he was a Boy Scout as a child.

        The meetings and outings, like a trip to the local Girl Scouts headquarters on Wall Street on Thursday, are something to look forward to in a place where a curfew and a restriction on visitors make it difficult to set up play dates and foster friendships.

        With children's needs a priority, Steven Banks, the city commissioner of social services, said he had met with representatives of the Girl Scouts recently to discuss an expansion into other shelters.

        In interviews, the girls of Troop 6000 talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Fashion designer, pediatrician, basketball player, engineer. (The New York Times is using only the girls' first names to protect their privacy.)

        "I'm going to help the homeless," said Silkia, 9, a third grader. "I'm going to get mad money, and I'm going to ask them if they want a shelter."

        Luz, 13, who is originally from the Bronx and attends seventh grade in Brooklyn, chimed in. "Or I could just switch up your idea," she added. "You're going to work and have mad money. Then you're going to build a shelter for the homeless people.

        "And then you're going to give food, give blankets, give pillows, and there you go," she added, opening her arms as in a ta-da moment. "A shelter."

        There was a pause. Then Silkia said, "But I need friends to help me."

        She has 20 and counting.



        13)  Tom Brady Skipping White House Visit Along With 6 Other Patriots

        The Patriots are to visit the White House and meet with President Trump on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. But at least seven members of the team have said they will not attend, and some of them have explicitly cited politics as their reason.

        The visit, scheduled to start at 1:20 p.m., with a press event at 2:30 p.m., comes the same day that a former Patriot, Aaron Hernandez, hanged himself in prison, where he was serving a life sentence for murder.

        Here's what we know about the ceremony:

        Will Not Attend

        Quarterback Tom Brady, running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Devin McCourty have all said they will not go to the ceremony.

        Brady made the announcement on Wednesday morning, in a statement published by ESPN, saying he had family matters to attend to. He also skipped his team's visit with President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015, citing family issues.

        Blount in a radio interview on "The Rich Eisen Show," said, "I just don't feel welcome in that house."

        Bennett told reporters after the Super Bowl: "It is what it is. "People know how I feel about it. Just follow me on Twitter." The outspoken Bennett had joked that he might move to outer space after Donald J. Trump was elected.

        McCourty, a team captain, told Time magazine: "Basic reason for me is I don't feel accepted in the White House. With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won't."

        Both Bennett and McCourty last fall raised their fists in protest during the national anthem for one game. At the time, athletes in various sports were protesting racial oppression in the country.

        Branch told Sirius XM Radio that he planned to spend time with family. Hightower told ESPN, "Been there, done that," having visited with a championship Alabama team.

        Ties to Trump

        Perhaps no other N.F.L. team has as close an association with Trump as the Patriots.

        Just before the election, Trump claimed that he had the support of Brady and Coach Bill Belichick. Brady, who displayed a "Make America Great Again" cap in his locker during the campaign, never explicitly endorsed Trump, but they have socialized. Trump also cited a supportive letter he had received from Belichick.

        At a rally in New Hampshire just before the election, Trump quoted Brady: "'Donald, I support you, you're my friend and I voted for you." But Brady's wife, Gisele Bündchen, denied they were Trump supporters.

        Disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday showed that the Patriots' owner, Robert K. Kraft, contributed $1 million to Trump's inauguration festivities. The two men are close friends and have appeared side-by-side frequently since Trump took office.

        The History

        Other athletes have skipped the trip over the years, many for personal reasons, but others with politics as the explicit motive.

        Kraft was dismissive of news media interest in the players' not attending this year's ceremony, telling the "Today" show:

        "It's interesting, this is our fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years, and every time we've had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don't go. This is the first time it's gotten any media attention.

        "This is America; we're all free to do whatever's best for us. We're just privileged to be in a position to be going."

        Bruins goalie Tim Thomas declined to visit the Obama White House in 2012, saying in a statement: "I believe the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties and property of the people." Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk cited his opposition to abortion as the reason for skipping a 2013 visit.

        Presidents for years have invited sports figures to the White House, but the tradition of honoring championships teams there solidified under Ronald Reagan.



        14)  Over 1,000 Palestinian Prisoners in Israel Stage Hunger Strike

        By IAN FISHERAPRIL 17, 2017




        15)  Roma Sickened in U.N. Camps Are Still Waiting for Redress

        APRIL 18, 2017




        A panel of United Nations human rights advisers urged the global organization more than a year ago to publicly apologize and compensate hundreds of ethnic Roma who were poisoned by lead waste in decrepit camps run by its peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. But it is increasingly unclear whether the Roma, also known as Gypsies, will get even an apology.

        A draft statement that would "sincerely apologize" for the poisoning and other problems that the panel attributed to negligence by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, known as Unmik, has been under revision since March, according to people in and outside the United Nations who are knowledgeable about the deliberations.

        Those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were talking about internal United Nations discussions, also said that the precise mechanism and amount of any financial remedy, should there be one, had not been determined.

        The main obstacle, they said, was the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs' objections to any language in the statement that could be construed as acknowledging liability. A copy of the draft statement was obtained by The New York Times.

        "There is a natural process on these issues, especially one as important as this," Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary General António Guterres, said on Tuesday. "The discussions are still very much ongoing, and the secretary-general expects to make a decision very soon."

        The issues surrounding the lead poisoning, which affected as many as 500 people in three camps that have long since closed, reflect an underlying tension within the United Nations over grievances from civilians victimized by the organization's operations around the world.

        As in the much larger cholera scourge that was traced to infected United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti, the organization's lawyers have tended to resist any acceptance of legal responsibility or mandatory compensation to victims.

        Even when the United Nations acknowledged a role in the Haiti cholera crisis in 2016, after years of denial and assertions of diplomatic immunity from lawsuits, rights advocates said its apology was carefully worded to avoid direct responsibility, and the compensation plan was structured as a voluntary act of good will, not as a requirement.

        Critics of the United Nations say its behavior in both the Haiti cholera and the Roma lead poisoning in Kosovo has undercut its moral authority.

        "The broader point is if you didn't do it for Haiti, and you don't do it for Kosovo, you don't have to do it for anyone," said Philip Alston, a New York University law professor and United Nations special rapporteur for extreme poverty and human rights.

        Mr. Alston wrote a scathing appraisal last year of the United Nations behavior during the cholera epidemic, which killed nearly 10,000 Haitians and sickened roughly 800,000. He also faulted its financial remedy, a $400 million voluntary trust fund that has attracted relatively small sums from a few of the organization's 192 member states. 

        A voluntary trust fund is among the possibilities for aiding the Roma, but the amount envisioned is in the $10 million range, people knowledgeable about the process said.

        The delay in redressing the Roma poisoning is the latest in a slowly moving process that began after the human rights panel delivered its opinion in February 2016, when Ban Ki-moon was the secretary general.

        In December, with just a few weeks before their terms ended, Mr. Ban's deputy secretary general, Jan Eliasson, convened a meeting about the panel's findings, according to people knowledgeable about it. Mr. Eliasson did not respond to a request for comment.

        The outcome was the draft apology statement made in the name of the top Unmik official, Zahir Tanin, the secretary general's special representative in Kosovo.

        The Office of Legal Affairs, which did not object to the idea of an apology at the December meeting, apparently changed its view when the draft was circulated a few months later.

        At a higher-level meeting convened in March by Mr. Guterres, the Office of Legal Affairs recommended against the apology language, people knowledgeable about it said.

        The United Nations deliberations over how to deal with the Roma poisoning have frustrated human rights advocates and the victims' lawyers, who have pressed the organization for years to take responsibility.

        "The victims of lead poisoning in Unmik camps in northern Kosovo have waited far too long for a public apology and compensation from the U.N., which was directly responsible for their suffering," Louis Charbonneau, the United Nations director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

        The advisory panel found that Unmik had failed to protect Roma families uprooted from their homes and moved into three camps in the northern part of Mitrovica, Kosovo, after war broke out in 1998 between Serbia and ethnic Albanian separatists. All the camps were within 200 yards of industrial waste from a lead-smelting factory.

        Although the United Nations realized the families were living on toxic land and health specialists urged their relocation, nothing was done to move the residents for years, even as many — especially older people, expectant mothers and children — were sickened by lead-contaminated soil and dust.

        "You could smell the toxicity in the air, smell it in the ground," said Paul Polansky, an American expert on the Roma who alerted United Nations officials in Kosovo to the problem in 1999.

        Mr. Polansky, an activist who helped produce a 2005 documentary about the lead poisoning, "Gypsy Blood," said in a telephone interview that he was not surprised at the United Nations' lack of actions. "I expect them to do absolutely nothing," he said.

        Naim Mehmeti, 50, a scrap-metal collector whose family had lived in one of the camps, Zitkovac, said one of his daughters had died from lead poisoning before she was 5. Another, now 13, has severely impaired vision from lead contamination.

        "Nobody even knew what lead was," Mr. Mehmeti said in a Skype interview from Kosovo. He was not optimistic about the possibility of compensation. "I'm not expecting much, not even an apology, because this is how the institutions work in Kosovo," he said.

        Dianne Post, a lawyer who represents some Roma victims, was also dismissive. Shown a copy of the draft apology statement, she observed that its reference to Kosovo's "unique circumstances" implied that the United Nations regarded the poisoning as an exceptional event.

        "Factually it may be, but legally it is not — witness Haiti," she said. "Of course they want to use 'unique' to avoid setting precedent for such violations."



        16)  U.S. Isn't Saying How Much Damage 'Mother of All Bombs' Did in Afghanistan

        APRIL 18, 2017




        KABUL, Afghanistan — Since the United States dropped the "mother of all bombs" on an Islamic State cave complex in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, American military officials have been circumspect about the bomb's damage, but one voice has been filling the information vacuum in the region: Islamic State radio.

        The reluctance of the United States to discuss casualties and other damage from the 22,000-pound bomb concerns local officials in Nangarhar Province who supported the massive bomb after military officials said ground operations had failed to penetrate the Islamic State stronghold in the mountains of the Achin district.

        "I and other people have this concern — that why American forces are not letting anyone visit the scene of the bombing?" said Zabihullah Zmarai, a member of the council in Nangarhar Province who held a post-bombing news conference to announce his support. "The U.S. authorities should provide an answer to this question."

        Afghan security officials say that clearance operations are taking place around the site, and that Islamic State fighters are engaging Afghan and American forces, who are calling in more airstrikes to target the militants' positions. There are also reports that the American military has kept even Afghan forces from the bombing site.

        One senior Afghan security official in Kabul said on Tuesday that Thursday's bombing killed 96 Islamic State militants, 13 of them major commanders. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media, provided the names and basic information about the commanders, most of whom were from the tribal areas across the border in Pakistan, but who also included some Indian citizens and Central Asians. However, the official provided no proof of the deaths or information on how officials reached the number of 96.

        The United States military, despite repeated attempts, did not provide comment.

        The Islamic State's local radio outlet, which was unaffected by the bombing, continues to broadcast into Jalalabad, the urban center in the east. It broadcasts half-hour programs during the day and an evening program that often lasts more than an hour.

        As early as the day after the bombing, it broadcast a call-in program in which voices of men who claimed to be fighters in the area who were not affected by the powerful bomb could be heard between rhyming Islamic chants.

        "The media was expecting that this bomb would have killed all the Islamic State fighters or forced them to flee, but that is not the case," the program's anchor said. "After the big bomb, our warrior, brave youth became a shield in front of them."

        Islamic State radio, known as Voice of the Caliphate, has been reconstituted after it was destroyed last year by a targeted American drone attack. Afghan officials said that the earlier operation was run by five militants from the back of a small truck that switched locations often to avoid being targeted.

        Islamic State affiliates in Afghanistan expanded rapidly in 2015, before repeated Afghan military operations and American airstrikes brought them to a halt. Islamic State fighters are now estimated at about 700, down from 2,000 to 3,000, and their activities are reduced to mainly three districts in Nangarhar.

        The tunnel complex in the Tangi Assadkhel area of Achin prevented military operations from eliminating the group entirely, American military officials have said in justifying the first use of the bomb, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast.

        Naser Kamawal, another Nangarhar provincial council member, said the bomb did not seem to have succeeded in its mission. Afghan forces had not advanced past the areas they had cleared repeatedly long before the bombing.

        "Why the bomb with such a big destruction had such few casualties?" Mr. Kamawal said. "If there was some 90 Islamic State militants, then why were our own Afghan forces not able to eliminate them in a military operation — what was the need for using such a big bomb?"

        It was unclear whether any Afghan or coalition forces have made it to the bombing site five days after the attack. The senior Afghan security official said the day after the bombing that Afghan commandos had done so and, after clearing the site, had handed it over to American military forensic teams.

        Mr. Zmarai, the provincial council member, said local officials in Achin told him that neither Afghan nor American forces had arrived at the site.

        A spokesman for the Afghan commandos, Jawid Salim, agreed. "It is not true that the members of U.S. forensic are at the scene of bombing — no one is there," he said. "We are in the area and we see everything."

        Afghan commando forces advancing the day after the bombing overcame resistance about a mile from the site but continued with operations in other parts of Achin instead of going to the scene, he said, adding that American airstrikes were helping them during follow-up operations.

        Mr. Salim expressed satisfaction that the bomb hit what he called an important target, and he seemed satisfied by the security official's report that more than 90 fighters were killed.

        "They say it destroys everything within two miles, but that could be in plain land — in mountainous areas, the bomb may not have such big destruction," Mr. Salim said, speculating, like so many other officials, in the absence of any concrete information.



        17)  Chemist's Misconduct Is Likely to Void 20,000 Massachusetts Drug Cases

        APRIL 18, 2017




        BOSTON — More than 20,000 drug cases tied to a disgraced former state chemist appear headed for dismissal, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and public defenders said Tuesday as they combed through legal filings from local prosecutors in Massachusetts.

        "We're all overjoyed today at having what is, we think, the largest dismissal of criminal cases as a result of one case in the history of the United States of America," said Carl Williams, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts, which has pressed for the dismissal of tainted cases.

        It was the latest development in the yearslong story of Annie Dookhan, a chemist whose co-workers called her Superwoman because she worked so fast. But she was found to have mishandled drug samples, forged signatures and returned positive results on drugs she never bothered to test, and in 2013, she pleaded guilty to 27 counts, including obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence.

        By then, the damage was done. Prosecutors and defenders around the state had already begun the imposing task of figuring out which convictions had been tainted by the failings. Early estimates rose above 40,000. Hundreds of people were released from prison.

        In January, the state's highest court ordered district attorneys to produce the lists of people they believe they could reprosecute, were a new trial permitted, and those whose cases they will dismiss. Those decisions were due on Tuesday.

        On Tuesday afternoon, lawyers combed through spreadsheets inside an ornate courthouse here, and counted 21,587 likely dismissals. They had estimated that prosecutors would not vacate the convictions of 500 to 700 people.

        "From numbers that we're initially getting, about 95 percent of these tainted drug convictions will be dismissed," Mr. Williams said. "And that is a victory for regular people, for people who've been tarnished by these drug convictions."

        On Tuesday, lawyers for the A.C.L.U. and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the agency that provides public defenders in Massachusetts, said the "Dookhan defendants," as they are called, would receive mailings informing them of the status of their cases.

        "In many respects, the damage has been done. Jobs have been lost, people have been unable to get jobs, housing has been lost, some people have been deported," said Anthony J. Benedetti, the organization's chief public counsel.

        In Suffolk County, which includes Boston, more than 7,800 cases were expected to be dismissed.

        "These are not wrongful convictions," said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the county's district attorney, Daniel F. Conley. "They are cases that could be appealed on procedural grounds."

        Ms. Dookhan was sentenced to serve three to five years in prison and was granted parole last year. A message left for Nicholas A. Gordon, the lawyer who represented Ms. Dookhan in her legal case, was not immediately answered.

        The scandal led drug labs around the country to re-examine their protocols, said Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., the director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, which has some clients who are affected by the scandal.

        Mr. Sullivan, who described the wave of dismissals as "wholly unprecedented," said, "There will be literally tens of thousands of people whose lives will change."



        18)  Another Long Delay for Rape Custody Bill in Maryland

        APRIL 19, 2017




        To supporters of a Maryland bill to help rape victims, the idea seemed like a no-brainer: Women impregnated by their attackers should not have to fight custody battles to raise their children or, as often happens, put them up for adoption.

        The proposal had the support of lawmakers in both parties and people on both sides of the abortion debate. Bills had passed unanimously in both the State Senate and the House of Delegates. The governor was on board. But on the last day of the annual three-month session last week, the legislation died at the stroke of midnight.

        Now, unless Maryland lawmakers bring up the bill in a special session, which seems unlikely, the state will remain one of a handful without such a law.

        It came down to six legislators who handled last-minute negotiations on April 10. Critics were quick to note that all of the negotiators were men.

        "It's bad optics," said Kathleen Dumais, a Democratic member of the House of Delegates who sponsored the House bill. "I think it's insensitive. But I'm not sure that's the reason that it failed."

        What happened?

        Ms. Dumais said the failure was mainly a testament to the complications that can plague policy-making in the part-time legislature. But she wondered if some legislators were content to let the clock's hands deliver the fatal blow.

        Ms. Dumais said her bill was motivated by a few "horrible" custody fights and would have affected no more than 10 cases per year.

        "In general there's this sort of perception that it would be misused," she said, "that women would lie and say they'd been raped in order to avoid letting a father have access or custody."

        The proposal had support from state legislators on both sides of the aisle and, in a rare feat, was backed by both the Maryland Catholic Conference and Planned Parenthood of Maryland. Anti-abortion groups thought the legislation would make it easier for women to choose adoption, while other groups said it would protect rape victims.

        The goal was to give rape victims a way to deny custody to fathers in civil court, because the vast majority of rapes do not result in criminal convictions. The disagreements came down to how best to protect the rights of men not convicted of crimes.

        Senator Bobby A. Zirkin, a Democrat who is chairman of the Senate's judicial proceedings committee, noted that both bills proposed using private family courts — not criminal courts — to deny parental rights to those accused of rape. "This would be the first time I'd be aware of where we'd be proving a crime in a civil procedure," he said. "That should be walked into carefully."

        He said the Senate's version ensured that any statements made in civil court could not be used in a criminal trial, in order to prevent self-incrimination.

        Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which has spent years advocating for this law, said there was no reason the negotiations had to wait until hours before the deadline. "I don't buy it."

        She also said the objections were overblown, adding that the House bill had more protections than any such bill in the country. For example, it required "clear and convincing" evidence against a parent accused of rape, a higher standard than many other civil cases.

        But supporters eventually gave in on most issues in order to pass something — anything — before time was up, said David Moon, a House Democrat who co-sponsored Ms. Dumais's bill.

        That resulted in an informal agreement among negotiators, but no time to redraft the legislation — in print — so that it could be put to a final vote and sent to Gov. Larry Hogan.

        Mr. Moon said he ran down to the clerks' offices just minutes before midnight. "I went down to the amendment office at 11:55 and said, 'Hey guys, where is this paperwork?' They said, 'You've got to throw in the towel. It's not happening.'"

        What's next?

        Mr. Moon said he wished that the conference had convened earlier and that women had been involved in the negotiations. Now that the bill has failed, he added, "we're going to have an unacceptable situation where rapists can continue to have leverage over rape survivors in Maryland."

        One member of the six-man conference, Joseph F. Vallario Jr., a Democrat who is chairman of the House's judiciary committee, was too busy to attend the actual meeting. But he, along with Senator Zirkin, was responsible for appointing its participants, and he stood by his decision not to name Ms. Dumais.

        "We try to avoid putting a sponsor on a committee," he said. "They don't go with an open mind to settle the matter." (Ms. Dumais said that sponsors of bills, herself included, had participated in such conferences in the past.)

        Mr. Zirkin agreed, in hindsight, that more women should have been involved.

        The bill was one of scores to die on the last day. "There are a ton of bills, and it's still kind of archaic in terms of how it works," he said. "Things that should be able to be done electronically very quickly still are not."

        He added he considered the bill a priority and would bring it up again if the legislature convened for a special session this year.

        Ms. Dumais is skeptical such a session will be called, but she is optimistic about the prospects for 2018. "It's a strong bill, and there's no need for amendment."

        Continue reading the main story



        19)  Retired Miners Lament Trump's Silence on Imperiled Health Plan

        UNIONTOWN, Pa. — Donald J. Trump made coal miners a central metaphor of his presidential campaign, promising to "put our miners back to work" and look after their interests in a way that the Obama administration did not.

        Now, three months into his presidency, comes a test of that promise.

        Unless Congress intervenes by late April, government-funded health benefits will abruptly lapse for more than 20,000 retired miners, concentrated in Trump states that include Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Many of the miners have serious health problems arising from their years in the mines.

        In mining areas like Uniontown, Pa., and surrounding Fayette and Greene Counties, which Mr. Trump carried 2 to 1, it is an upsetting and potentially costly prospect. "It's just a terrible, terrible feeling," said one of the retirees, David VanSickle, who spent four decades at work in the mines. "I think about that 25 times a day."

        The president has offered no public comment on the issue, even as he has rolled back regulations on mine operators, an omission that has not escaped the notice of Mr. VanSickle and other retired miners.

        "To me, that was kind of a promise he did make to us," Mr. VanSickle said about Mr. Trump, whom he supported last fall. "He promised to help miners, not just mining companies."

        Responsibility for the retirees' health plans has increasingly shifted to the federal government in recent years, as struggling coal companies have shed their liabilities in bankruptcy court. Congress voted last fall to finance benefits for a large group of retirees for several months, but House and Senate Republican leaders have yet to agree on a longer-term solution.

        The benefits can easily mean the difference between a middle-class retirement and economic hardship, since many retired miners are too young to qualify for Medicare. Others have chronic or debilitating health problems that would require expensive supplemental coverage — currently provided by the retiree plan — even with the Medicare benefit.

        Norm Skinner worked for more than 20 years as a miner in eastern Ohio and had triple bypass surgery in 2010. Without the retiree health plan, he said, the surgery "would have broke me," even with Medicare picking up much of the bill.

        Uniontown, which lies about 30 miles east of two large mines that once employed well over 1,000 miners but are down to roughly 600 after one ceased production in 2015, hints at both middle-class affluence and postindustrial angst.

        Around the corner from Ptak's, a formidable-looking formal wear store on Main Street, are a handful of dilapidated storefronts and a vast, empty commercial space that advertises "mental health counseling" and "motivational speaking" for veterans. The space has the appearance of a renovation that was never completed and, to the naked eye, could pass for a sign of either revival or decline, like much of Uniontown itself.

        Mr. VanSickle, who lost parts of two fingers on the job, said his doctor advised him to retire two years ago, at 59, because he suffers from black lung, a condition associated with long-term exposure to coal dust.

        He manages the illness by attaching himself to a breathing machine that essentially props open the airway to his lungs while he sleeps. "My oxygen content would drop so low without it," he said, fitting tubes into his nose from the bedroom of his comfortable home in Uniontown.

        Last fall, Mr. VanSickle priced out a private insurance plan that would provide roughly comparable benefits for him and his wife, who takes about a dozen separate medications to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The estimates came in at $1,500 to $1,800 per month.

        "I always wanted to be a person who would leave a little legacy for my children," he said. "If I lose these benefits and my pension, there will not be enough for me, let alone for my children."

        (Mr. VanSickle and his wife could be eligible for thousands of dollars in subsidies if they purchased insurance under the Affordable Care Act, said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation. But such a plan would most likely be more limited, and Mr. Trump still maintains that he wants to undo the program.)

        The miners typically regard their health care with a sense of moral entitlement, having frequently passed up higher pay during contract talks in order to top off their benefits.

        John Leach, 67, worked in four different mines over 23 years as a miner in western Kentucky. As a result, he said, "I got four of those speeches: 'If you work here, you work your 20 years, you are guaranteed insurance for yourself and your family for the rest of your life.'"

        Since he retired in 2001, that insurance, along with Medicaid and Medicare, has kept him and his wife, Rhonda, 60, afloat. The couple care for two adult children with severe physical and mental disabilities. In 2015, the health plan paid out over $50,000 for Rhonda's hip-replacement surgery.

        "I don't know if you've ever gone through a serious test at the doctor's office," Ms. Leach said by phone. "You wait and wait and don't hear anything and the pressure starts building up: Am I going to live or am I going to die? That's exactly what this is like: living and dying."

        Many retired miners who supported Mr. Trump understood that his promise to revive employment in their industry was a long shot in the face of cheap natural gas — "a couple of jobs" might come of it, Mr. VanSickle said.

        But they believed their wish was a modest one. The price tag for their benefits averages a little under $200 million per year over the next 10 years, which can be partly offset through interest that accrues in a federal fund for reclaiming abandoned mines. Because no new miners would become eligible for the health benefits awarded to this group, the cost would eventually dwindle to zero.

        Last year, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, appeared reluctant to expedite a vote on a permanent fix despite bipartisan support, and despite representing a state where several thousand retirees are affected.

        One reason for his lack of enthusiasm may have been the hundreds of thousands of dollars the union spent opposing him in his most recent re-election campaign.

        Earlier this year, Mr. McConnell appeared to develop a sense of urgency, however, introducing legislation to pay for a once-and-for-all extension of the health benefits. (A McConnell spokesman noted that he had supported a one-year extension late last year.)

        Some time after that, the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, let it be known that he could abide no more than 20 months, after which the benefits would either lapse or have to be extended again.

        "It perfectly lined up with the 2018 election," said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, the Senate's leading proponent of a permanent resolution. Mr. Manchin speculated that Republicans favored another short-term reprieve so that his Republican opponent next year, who could be one of the House Republicans from his state, could claim credit for yet another extension.

        A spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee said all 2017 funding bills were still being negotiated.

        According to Mr. Manchin, Mr. Trump has told him privately that he supports his efforts, and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, even reshared on Twitter one of Mr. Manchin's social media pronouncements to that effect.

        A White House spokeswoman declined to comment.

        In the last few days, the House Republican leadership has suggested that it, too, might support a permanent fix, according to Phil Smith, the chief lobbyist for the miners union, but only if it can settle on a revenue source to offset the full cost. "It leaves the door wide open to 'Well, we couldn't find one,'" Mr. Smith said.

        Many miners in their early 60s are postponing retirement, unsure if their savings will suffice absent the health insurance they have long expected.

        Tony Brnusak, 62, who has worked for nearly 40 years in the Cumberland mine, said he would probably be retiring, if not for the uncertainty around his benefits.

        "My wife works and she'll be retiring next year, but she won't have the medical when she retires, she won't have a pension," he said. "We're counting on mine."

        He serves as president of the local mine workers union and estimates that at least 50 to 60 more workers at Cumberland, out of just under 600, are in a similar position.

        Although he agrees with Mr. Trump on some key issues, not least climate change, he can't conceal his disappointment that the health care issue has lingered for so long.

        "I thought he was really going to help people," Mr. Brnusak said, referring to Mr. Trump. "He's helped the rich man, the coal operators. But nothing for us so far."




























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