bauaw2003 BAUAW NEWSLETTER, SUNDAY, MAY 21, 2017


What was Done

The Film They Tried to Suppress!

By Mike Small, May 13, 2017

The film treads the line between dark satire, social vision and playful dystopia.The Canary compared it to Armando Iannucci's Time Trumpet..

This is fake news with a purpose. These are bad dudes.

The film's now had over 200,000 views across all mediums despite being ignored by most of the Scottish media and blogosphere and kicked-off You Tube (it's back now).

"Brilliant futuristic reminiscence of the Corbyn story by @nonideefixe"- The Agitator

"The finest political art to come out of Scotland ever." – Kevin Williamson

"Best political satire Ive ever watched. Brilliant 33 mins" – Rob Gray

"What an amazing piece and makes me so grateful to be able to call Scotland my home. #Resistance at its best. I'm posting on FB and sharing as much as possible." – Rachel Du Bois

"It is absolutely brilliant, hopefully it will be available on June 9th for the world to see."  – Josephine Williams

"Absolutely stunning work and infinitely superior to anything our state-broadcaster could produce. Under the horror and scalpel-sharp humour this is a love letter to what remains of Labour's soul. Scotland is leaving but there's still time for England. Let's hope they're watching. Share it and back this major talent's future projects." – Phantom Power

"So **Loved** this .. brilliantly done .. but FB censor ship has begun .. must have terrified some at the top ..more power to ya elbow..!" – Eileen Murtha Brown

If you haven't seen it already, go watch and share…

For the mobile-friendly link go to the Daily Motion site  here: http://dai.ly/x5khzvv 

For the desktop desktop/laptop-friendly link go to You Tube  here:


Donate below to support this great film-making here. Thanks.



Cuban Documentary "Between Changes"

May 19, 2017 

HAVANA TIMES — "Entre cambios" (Between changes) is a documentary dedicated to a specific generation of Cubans: the one who had to live through the fragile limbo when the Soviet Union collapsed. We concentrated particularly on speaking to those who experienced these changes there, in the places where the events took place.

One of the most recurring testimonies that this documentary provides – and the research we did to carry it out – is that of people who went to COMECON (The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) countries under the sugarcoated notion that there they had a more advanced version of socialism that the Cuban version, and instead it turned out that they would be the witnesses of its downfall.

This is where the irony lies: surely, a lot of things used to be better off there than they were in Cuba, even under the centralized State system that the Kremlin imposed on the majority of the territories under its control, but everything "went downhill" between 1988 and 1991.

In the documentary, we can hear accounts from those who were in countries such as Hungary, and in several Republics of what used to be the USSR. We tried our best for these opinions to be diverse and critical.

There wasn't always enough space for all of the material we had collected for the documentary – and we have faith that the extensive research we did will have the opportunity to be covered in other media platforms, or maybe there will even be sequels to this documentary.

However, we tried to maintain a respectful, friendly and proactive dialogue that prevails throughout the film, in order to anchor the diversity of social coexistence today.

Cuba's "post-Soviet" generation – the one which lived in situ with the geopolitical collapse that led to the Special Period disaster here, to the capitalist reforms in Europe and the "excessive '90s" in Russia and its surroundings, with quite a few localized conflicts where a lot of today's jihadist terrorism was born and awful government administrations who justified well-established authoritarian run countries today – is a very active generation nowadays.

Both inside and outside of our archipelago, it has given rise to artists, intellectuals, engineers, bloggers, doctors, scientists and social activists from all kinds of political movements.

It's no coincidence that it was a generation that experienced a great shock (whether in Eurasia, or here in Cuba, where we also experienced a great time of change – but in a different way). We believe that their experiences – which haven't been published widely in explicit terms, which are what we have tried to collect – can contribute to preventing a lot of the negativity that is taking place in Cuba today.

We have to learn our lessons from history, something which clearly wasn't done in the post-1959 period, when existing critique of the then "USSR" was dismissed in Cuba.

This documentary is the result of a co-production between the independent production company "CreActivo" and the research team "Post Soviet Cuba" which is a member of one of the teams from the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLASCO).






Solidarity Statement from the California Coalition for Women Prisoners


CCWP sent the solidarity statement below expressing support with the hunger strikers at the Northwest County Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma Washington, one of the largest immigration prisons in the country.  People at NWDC, including many women, undertook the hunger strike starting at the beginning of April 2017 to protest the horrendous conditions they are facing.  Although the peak of the hunger strike was a few weeks ago, the strikers set a courageous example of resistance for people in detention centers and prisons around the country. 

Here is a link to a Democracy Now! interview with Maru Villalpando of Northwest Detention Center Resistance (http://www.nwdcresistance.org/) and Alexis Erickson, partner of one of the hunger strikers, Cristian Lopez.

For live updates, visit: 

California Coalition for Women Prisoners Statement

California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) stands in solidarity with the hunger strikers, many of them women, detained by ICE at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), a private prison operated by the GEO group contracted by ICE in Washington state.  We applaud the detainees at NORCOR, a county jail in rural Oregon, who recently won their demands after sustaining six days without meals. 

Since April 10th, those detained in NWDC have refused meals to demand changes to the abhorrent conditions of their detention, including poor quality food, insufficient medical care, little to no access to family visits, legal counsel or legal documents, and lack of timely court proceedings. Hunger strikes are a powerful method of resistance within prisons that require commitment and courage from prisoners and their families. We have seen this historically in California when tens-of-thousands of prisoners refused meals to protest solitary confinement in 2011 and 2013, and also currently in Palestine where over 1,500 prisoners are on hunger strike against the brutal conditions of Israeli prisons. 

As the Trump administration continues to escalate its attacks on Latinx/Chicanx and Arab/Muslim communities, deportations and detentions serve as strategies to control, remove, and erase people—a violence made possible in a context of inflamed xenophobia and increasingly visible and virulent racism. We stand with the families of those detained as well as organizations and collectives on the ground in Washington State struggling to expose the situation inside these facilities as well as confront the escalating strategies of the Trump administration.

CCWP recognizes the common struggle for basic human dignity and against unconstitutional cruel and inhumane treatment that people of color and immigrants face in detention centers, jails, and prisons across the United States. We also sadly recognize from our work with people in women's prisons the retaliatory tactics such as prison transfers and solitary confinement that those who fight oppression face. Similar abuses continue to occur across California at all of its prisons and  detention centers, including the GEO-run women's prison in McFarland, California.. CCWP sends love and solidarity to the hunger strikers in the Northwest. Together we can break down the walls that tear our families and communities apart. ¡ya basta! #Ni1Más #Not1More

    Northwest Detention Center Press Release May 4, 2017

Despite threats and retaliation, hunger strikers continue protest 

ICE ignores demands for improved conditions 

Tacoma, Washington/The Dalles, Oregon—Immigrants held at ICE facilities in two states—the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), run by GEO Group, and NORCOR, a rural public jail—continued their hunger strike today, despite growing weakness from lack of food. The exponential growth of immigration detention has led ICE to contract the function of detaining immigrants out to both private prison companies and to county governments, with both treating immigrants as a source of profit. ICE has been using NORCOR as "overflow" detention space for immigrants held at NWDC, and is regularly transferring people back and forth from the NWDC to NORCOR. People held at NORCOR have limited access to lawyers and to the legal documents they need to fight and win their deportation cases. They are often transferred back to NWDC only for their hearings, then shipped back to NORCOR, where they face terrible conditions. Jessica Campbell of the Rural Organizing Project affirmed, "No one deserves to endure the conditions at NORCOR—neither the immigrants ICE is paying to house there, nor the people of Oregon who end up there as part of criminal processes. It's unsafe for everyone."

The strike began on April 10th, when 750 people at the NWDC began refusing meals. The protest spread to NORCOR this past weekend. Maru Mora Villalpando of NWDC Resistance confirmed, "It's very clear from our contact with people inside the facilities and with family members of those detained that the hunger strike continues in both Oregon and Washington State." She continued, "The question for us is, how will ICE assure that the abuses that these whistle-blowing hunger strikers have brought to light are addressed?"

From the beginning of the protest, instead of using the strike as an opportunity to look into the serious concerns raised by the hunger strikers, ICE and GEO have both denied the strike is occurring and retaliated against strikers. Hunger strikers have been transferred to NORCOR in retaliation for their participation. One person who refused transfer to NORCOR was put in solitary confinement. Just this week, hunger striking women have been threatened with forced feeding—a practice that is recognized under international law to be torture. In an attempt to break their spirit, hunger strikers have been told the strike has been ineffective and that the public is ignoring it.

Hunger striker demands terrible conditions inside detention center be addressed—including the poor quality of the food, the dollar-a-day pay, and the lack of medical care. They also call for more expedited court proceedings and the end of transfers between detention facilities.   Hunger strikers consistently communicate, "We are doing this for our families." Despite their incredibly oppressive conditions, locked away and facing deportation in an immigration prison in the middle of an industrial zone and in a rural county jail, hunger strikers have acted collectively and brought national attention to the terrible conditions they face and to the ongoing crisis of deportations, conditions the U.S. government must address.Latino Advocacy

Maru Mora Villalpando

For live updates, visit: 

News mailing list: News@womenprisoners.org



Labor Studies and Radical History

4444 Geary Blvd., Suite 207, San Francisco, CA 94118




(call 415.387.5700 to be sure the library is open for the hours you are interested in. We close the library sometimes to go on errands or have close early) suggested)

7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on all major holidays and May Day 

We can arrange, by request, to keep the library open longer during the day or open it on weekends. Just ask.


  • Reference Librarian On-site
  • Email and Telephone Reference
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Online Public Access Catalog 
  • Microfilm Reader/Printer
  • DVD and VCR players
  • Photocopier
  • Quiet well-lighted place for study and research 

For an appointment or further information, please email: david [at] holtlaborlibrary.org 





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





MEDIA ADVISORYMedia contact: Morgan McLeod, (202) 628-0871




Washington, D.C.— Despite recent political support for criminal justice reform in most states, the number of people serving life sentences has nearly quintupled since 1984. 

A new report by The Sentencing Project finds a record number of people serving life with parole, life without parole, and virtual life sentences of 50 years or more, equaling one of every seven people behind bars. 

Eight states  Alabama, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Utah  have at least one of every five prisoners serving a life or de facto life sentence in prison. 

The Sentencing Project will host an online press conference to discuss its report Still Life: America's Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences, on Wednesday, May 3rd at 11:00 a.m. EDT.   

Press Conference Details

WHAT: Online press conference hosted by The Sentencing Project regarding the release of its new report examining life and long-term sentences in the United States. REGISTER HERE to participate. The call-in information and conference link will be sent via email.  


Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. EDT 


  • Ashley Nellis, The Sentencing Project's senior research analyst and author of Still Life: America's Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences
  • Evans Ray, whose life without parole sentence was commuted in 2016 by President Obama
  • Steve Zeidman, City University of New York law professor and counsel for Judith Clark—a New York prisoner who received a 75 year to life sentence in 1983

The full report will be available to press on Wednesday morning via email.

Founded in 1986, The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.




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





100,000 protest in San Francisco, CA

Pictures From Women's
Marches on Every Continent



Good News for Mumia Abu-Jamal

May 1, 2017: News sent today from Rachel Wolkenstein:

Judge Tucker granted discovery to Mumia Abu-Jamal pursuant to his claims brought under Williams v Pennsylvania that he was denied due process because his PA Supreme Court appeals from 1998-2008 were decided by Ronald Castille, who had previously been the District Attorney during Mumia's 1988 appeal from his conviction and death sentence, as well as having been a senior assistant district attorney during Mumia's trial.

The DA is given 30 days—until May 30, 2017—to produce all records and memos regarding Mumia's case, pre-trial, trial, post-trial and direct appeal proceedings between Castille and his staff and any public statement he made about it. Then Mumia has 15 days after receiving this discovery to file amendments to his PCRA petition.

This date of this order is April 28, but it was docketed today, May 1, 2017.

This is a critical and essential step forward!


Dear Friend,

For the first time- a court has ordered the Philadelphia DA to turn over evidence and open their files in Mumia's appeal.   In a complacency shattering blow, the District Attorney's office is finally being held to account.  Judge Leon Tucker of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court ordered the DA to produce all of the documents relevant to former PA Supreme Court Justice's role in the case. Castille was first a supervisory ADA during Mumia's trial, then District Attorney, and finally as a judge he sat on Mumia's appeals to the PA Supreme Court. 

This broad discovery order follows just days after the arguments in court by Christina Swarns, Esq. of the NAACP LDF, and Judith Ritter, Esq. of Widner Univ.

During that hearing, Swarns made it clear that the District Attorney's practice of lying to the appellate courts would not be tolerated and had been specifically exposed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the Terrence Williams case, which highlights Ronald Castile's conflict, the Supreme Court in no uncertain terms excoriated the office for failing to disclose crucial evidence.  Evidence the office hid for years.  This is an opportunity to begin to unravel the decades long police and prosecutorial corruption that has plagued Mumia's quest for justice.  

In prison for over thirty six years Mumia Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence in the death of Philadelphia Police officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9th 1981.  

"The Commonwealth  must  produce  any  and  all  documents  or  records  in  the  possession  or  control  of  the Philadelphia  District  Attorney's  Office   showing   former   District   Attorney   Ronald   Castille's   personal   involvement   in the  above-captioned  case  ... and public statements during and after his tenure as District Attorney of Philadelphia."

It is important to note that the history of the District Attorney's office in delaying and appealing to prevent exposure of prosecutorial misconduct and the resulting justice.  At every turn, there will be attempts to limit Mumia's access to the courts and release.   it is past time for justice in this case.  

Noelle Hanrahan, P.I.

Prison Radio is a 501c3 project of the Redwood Justice Fund. We record and broadcast the voices of prisoners, centering their analyses and experiences in the movements against mass incarceration and state repression. If you support our work, please join us.

www.prisonradio.org   |   info@prisonradio.org   |   415-706-5222

Thank you for being a part of this work!



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)




May 20, 2017

Progress in Rev. Pinkney's Appeal!

At last, there is some forward motion in Rev. Pinkney's appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. Last September, Rev. Pinkney's legal team filed an application for leave to appeal his case to the staet supreme court. On Wednesday, the court issued an order granting oral arguments to be made in support of that application.

The court also requested additional briefings on two of the major topics in Rev. Pinkney's appeal. These issues are known as the 404(b) issue and the 168.937 issue. The first issue relates to the misuse of Rev. Pinkney's constitutionally protected political and community activities to influence the verdict, and the second issues relates to the question of whether he was prosecuted under a statute that is actually only a penalty provision, that is, it can't be used to prosecute anyone.

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but this is at least a step in the right direction. Rev. Pinkney's attorney said that most applications for leave to appeal to the supreme court are simply denied. This order indicates that they are interested in hearing more about some of the important issues at stake.

It may be months before the oral arguments are heard, but as soon as they are scheduled, word will go out to pack the courtroom that day!

You can read the order here: http://publicdocs.courts.mi.gov/sct/public/orders/154374_147_01.pdf


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.



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)  Workers Say Wal-Mart Discriminated Against Thousands of Pregnant Women

         MAY 15, 2017, 12:42 P.M. E.D.T


        (Reuters) - - Two former Wal-Mart Stores Inc employees have filed a lawsuit accusing the retailer of treating thousands of pregnant workers as "second-class citizens" by rejecting their requests to limit heavy lifting, climbing on ladders and other potentially dangerous tasks.

        The proposed class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in Illinois on Friday by Talisa Borders and Otisha Woolbright, who say that until 2014, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart had a company-wide policy that denied pregnant women the same accommodations as workers with other disabilities.

        The class could include at least 20,000 women and possibly up to 50,000 who worked at Wal-Mart while pregnant before the policy change, according to the lawsuit. A Wal-Mart spokesman on Monday said the company had not seen the lawsuit and did not have any comment.

        Borders and Woolbright say that Wal-Mart's old policy violated a federal law requiring employers to treat pregnancy as a temporary disability and provide work accommodations to pregnant women. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2015 case involving United Parcel Service, said employers cannot treat pregnant workers differently from those with other disabilities or medical conditions.

        Wal-Mart, the largest private U.S. employer, changed its policy in 2014 to treat pregnancy as a disability. But lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit say the changes did not go far enough, and they were planning a separate lawsuit involving the new policy.

        Woolbright says her manager at a Florida Wal-Mart told her pregnancy was "no excuse" for not doing heavy lifting. She says she was fired from her job in the deli department after injuring herself lifting trays that weighed up to 50 pounds and inquiring further about the company's pregnancy policies.

        Borders, who worked at an Illinois Wal-Mart, says she was reprimanded for asking coworkers to climb ladders and lift heavy boxes while she was pregnant, and forced to go on unpaid leave. When she returned, she says, she was paid $2.00 less per hour.

        The case is Borders v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, No. 3:17-cv-00506.

        (Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Dan Grebler)



        2)  Charlie Company and the Small-Unit War

        By Andrew Wiest, May 16, 2017


        Operation Cedar Falls. Operation Junction City. Operation Scotland. With nearly 500,000 American troops in country by the close of the year, 1967 is often remembered as the period when Gen. William Westmoreland took the war to the enemy in major operations across the length and breadth of South Vietnam. From War Zone C to Dak To to Con Thien, the result was heavy fighting in major battles that dominated the headlines back home. That year American forces had 9,377 dead and 12,716 wounded, almost double the numbers of the previous year.

        But the reality of the Vietnam War for most American soldiers was quite different. For them, Vietnam was a war of humping the boonies on a constant search for an enemy that didn't want to be found, sloshing through rice paddies, hacking through jungles or rummaging through hooches. More often than not, patrols proved only a "long walk in the hot sun," leading to the detention of a few Vietcong suspects, but no contact. Perhaps men would set off booby traps, with a leg lost here, a foot maimed there. Or maybe there would be some incoming sniper fire.

        Battles, though, were a comparative rarity, and when they did happen they tended to be small affairs, not the stuff of news reports. It all made up the daily grind of the Vietnam War infantryman. For most soldiers, Vietnam was a vicious, small-unit war that is best understood at the human level — the level that books and movies all too often fail adequately to portray. It was a war of individual intimacy in which the luck of the draft draw resulted in young lives lost, futures shattered and dreams vanished.

        That's the story of Don Peterson. Born in Salinas, Calif., in 1947, Don was the epitome of the male baby boomer. His father, Pete, worked in construction and drank a bit too much, but the family was solidly middle class. Popular in high school and a star center for the football team, Don dreamed of growing up to become a painter like his dad and starting a family of his own.

        During his junior year Don was asked to the Sadie Hawkins dance by Jacque McMullen, a girl he hardly knew. Jacque was a blond beauty and very popular, and Don accepted the invitation with enthusiasm. Soon they were dating and enjoying walks along the beach, surfing, cruising while listening to the Beatles, drinking beer they were not yet old enough to buy. After graduation, when Don was 19 and Jacque was 17, they married in his grandparents' house. They found a tiny apartment, and in the spring of 1966 Jacque came home from the doctor's office with the surprise news that she was pregnant, only to find Don standing at the mailbox looking in disbelief at his draft notice.

        Jacque followed Don to Fort Riley, Kan., where they shared a small house with two other couples from the newly reactivated Ninth Infantry Division. Even though the house was so small that a large closet had to be converted into living quarters, it was all great fun. Jacque got to experiment at being a homemaker and learned cooking tips from her new housemates while basic training got Don into the best shape of his life.

        Vietnam, though, became all too real when Don took Jacque to Montgomery, Ala., to live with her mother and stepfather as he prepared to ship out. Their child, James, was born during the last days of Don's Christmas leave. Weighing in at 9 pounds, Jimmy was a big kid, and Don immediately began to dream aloud about his child's future gridiron prowess. He was able to hold little Jimmy for just an hour before he had to catch the train to return to Fort Riley. As Don turned to leave, Jacque tearfully said: "Don't run out and be any kind of hero. Keep your head down. We need you!"

        On May 15, 1967, Don's unit — Charlie Company, Fourth Battalion of the 47th Infantry Regiment — was running just another operation on just another day, hunting for the Vietcong. Maybe Don had a premonition. Usually his letters home to Jacque were nothing but positive, asking questions about little Jimmy and filling her in on the doings of his circle of friends. But on May 10, Don had written something different, something ominous. I'm going to die, he wrote. Please get me out of here.

        It was the turn of Don's group, the Second Squad of First Platoon, to walk point on May 15 as Charlie Company made ready to cross another open rice paddy in the Mekong Delta. A sniper round buzzed past. Charlie Nelson turned to Don, saying, "I wonder if this could be a trap?" There was nothing for it, though. The Second Squad had to go out there and reconnoiter the line of Charlie Company's advance. As the squad reached the center of the paddy, and the men were furthest from cover, all hell broke loose.

        Concentrated small-arms fire burst out from a Vietcong unit of company size dug into bunkers that formed an L-shaped ambush position. Badly outmanned, Second Squad hit the dirt, but almost immediately the casualties started. Charlie Nelson was shot through the chin and had his kneecap blown off. Dave Jarczewski rushed to his side to dress his wounds, only to be shot himself, with the bullet entering his shoulder, cutting through his midsection, puncturing a lung and breaking five ribs before exiting through his back. Carl Cortright was shot through the spine and paralyzed.

        The rest of the squad returned fire as best they could, but they were trapped. And Don knew it. Maybe Jacque's parting words rang in his ears; maybe it was sheer instinct. But Don acted to save his friends. Shouting, "You guys run like hell, and I'll cover you," Don waited an instant before springing to his feet and opening up on the enemy bunkers with his M-16 on full automatic. The men of the Second Squad who could still move started their dash to safety, but only a few seconds later bullets hit Don's midsection. He yelled, "My chest! My chest!" and toppled back into the rice.

        For the rest of the day, the Vietcong and the remainder of Charlie Company fought over, around and through the battered remnants of the Second Squad. Charlie Company had a total of 14 wounded and one dead that day, while dead Vietcong littered the landscape, perhaps 100 in all — the fearsome cost of standing against American firepower. By any measure it was a clear victory for the Americans.

        The battle was too small to be graced with a name, or to receive any press coverage back home. But as Charlie Company gathered around the body of Don Peterson that night, war had become all too real. Don had been a larger-than-life presence in the unit. He was the smiling face that brought the company together, the soldier constantly clapping guys on the back and showing off his latest picture of little Jimmy. He was the man in Charlie Company who had the most to live for, and now he was gone. Just put on a helicopter and gone. Never to be seen again.

        As the chopper lifted off, the wondering began. Some in Charlie Company felt guilt. Could they have saved him? Should they have braved the fire to try and reach their fallen friend? Others felt an uneasy sense of relief. Don had died, but they had survived. As badly as his loss stung, at least they were still alive. But there was precious little time for reflection. The next morning it was time to shoulder gear and move out. With or without Don Peterson, the war would grind on.

        May 15, 1967. In the United States, it was just another day. In the history of the Vietnam War, it was just another day. But for one unit in the Mekong Delta it was unforgettable. It was the day that everyone lost a best friend. It was a day that sent many to the hospital, and some to a lifetime of recovery. It was the day that led some to wrestle with the fact that they had become killers. It was an unremarkable day strategically, but a day on the human level that proved transformative, upending forgotten lives in a forlorn, small-unit war.



        3)  U.S. Hate Crime Law Punishes Transgender Woman's Killer, in a First

         MAY 16, 2017




        A Mississippi man was sentenced to 49 years in prison on Monday for killing his transgender former girlfriend, a case the Justice Department said was the first involving violence against a transgender person to be prosecuted under the federal Hate Crimes Act.

        The man, Joshua Vallum, 29, killed Mercedes Williamson in May 2015, after the end of their relationship, because a friend learned that she was transgender, a fact Mr. Vallum kept hidden from friends and family while they dated. Local news reports said that Ms. Williamson was 17 at the time of her death.

        Mr. Vallum is a member of the Latin Kings gang and decided to kill Ms. Williamson because he "believed he would be in danger" if other gang members learned that he had once dated a woman he knew to be transgender, the Justice Department said in a statement. He pleaded guilty to a state-level murder charge and was sentenced to life in prisonlast July.

        In December, Mr. Vallum pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal hate crime statute signed into law in 2009.

        "Today's sentencing reflects the importance of holding individuals accountable when they commit violent acts against transgender individuals," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the statement. "The Justice Department will continue its efforts to vindicate the rights of those individuals who are affected by bias motivated crimes."

        But Rob Hill, the Mississippi state director for the Human Rights Campaign, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, said the case showed how much more work needed to be done at the state level.

        Mississippi is one of 20 states that do not have a hate crime law covering crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

        "There is an epidemic of violence against transgender people, and particularly women of color, across the country," Mr. Hill said. "And yet today is the first time a perpetrator will be sentenced under federal hate crimes charges for killing a transgender person because that crime crossed a state line."

        In an interview with The Sun Herald, a newspaper in Biloxi, Miss., Jenny Wilkins, Ms. Williamson's mother, said the relationship between Mr. Vallum and her daughter, to whom she referred using male pronouns, lasted eight and a half months. "To me, I didn't think that anything was wrong with him," she said of Mr. Vallum. "He was so nice."

        "He bought him stuff; he took him out to eat. The whole nine yards," Ms. Wilkins said. "Like something me and my husband do is what him and Josh do."

        At some point their relationship ended — the Justice Department on Monday did not say when — and Mr. Vallum and Ms. Williamson fell out of touch. There had been no contact between them until the night of the murder. When Mr. Vallum found out that a friend had learned Ms. Williamson's gender identity, he went to her home in Alabama and persuaded her to get in his car and ride with him to Mississippi, the Justice Department said.

        He then drove her to his father's home in Lucedale, Miss., where he attacked her with a stun gun, repeatedly stabbed her and beat her to death with a hammer. After he killed Ms. Williamson he tried to dispose of the murder weapons and destroy other evidence linking him to the crime, the Justice Department said.

        Mr. Vallum also lied to law enforcement about the murder, telling the police at first that he had killed Ms. Williamson in a state of panic and rage after learning for the first time that she was transgender, according to the Justice Department. As part of his guilty plea, Mr. Vallum admitted that he had known her gender identity during their relationship and that he would not have decided to murder her had she not been transgender.

        In a jailhouse interview with The Sun Herald, Mr. Vallum said he felt remorse for the killing.

        "If there was one thing that I could take back I wish that would be it," he said. "I would even trade places with Mercedes so that I wouldn't have to go through all this that I'm having to go through now. It's just not worth it."



        4)  Women Imprisoned Under the Drug War Speak Out Against Sessions' New Policy

        Tuesday, May 16, 2017 By Victoria LawTruthouthttp://www.truth-out.org/news/item/40594-women-imprisoned-under-the-drug-war-speak-out-against-sessions-new-policy

        In the federal prison in California, Michelle West described people standing in front of the television in shock this past Friday as they learned about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' memo, which promises to intensify the war on drugs.

        "They knew it was going to be bad because of his past comments regarding the criminal justice system, but not this bad," West said.

        In federal prisons across the country, a similar scenario played out as people, many of whom were sentenced under the drug war policies of the 1980s and 1990s, learned about Sessions' two-page memo entitled Department Charging and Sentencing Policy. The directive instructs federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious, readily provable offense. It thus resurrects the emphasis on mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, which have required judges to impose draconian sentences for drug crimes, even when they don't believe these sentences are warranted. Sessions' memo rescinds and reverses the reforms implemented by former Attorney General Eric Holder, which urged prosecutors to charge people with low-level drug cases to avoid triggering mandatory minimum sentences. Nearly half (or 92,000) of the people in federal prison are serving sentences for drug convictions.

        Michelle West is one of thousands of women who was charged and incarcerated under the policies that Sessions is now resurrecting. She was sentenced to life in prison and has spent the past 24 years behind bars.

        Ramona Brant, who spent years in the federal system with West, was also a victim of mandatory minimums. In 1995, Brant, a mother of two young children, was sentenced to life in prison for drug conspiracy. It didn't matter that she had not actually sold any drugs. Nor did it matter that she had endured six years of abuse from her boyfriend and had police records to prove it.

        What mattered to the prosecutor, said Brant, was that she refused to accept an "open plea" agreement, which would have meant testifying against her boyfriend in exchange for a plea bargain that didn't come with a specified sentence. In other words, she might testify and still end up serving time.

        Brant refused the plea and was charged with conspiracy. At trial, her public defender failed to present police reports that evidenced the abuse she'd suffered, or call on family members to testify about her boyfriend's violence. If he had, the jury might have heard about Brant's attempt to end the relationship -- and her boyfriend's retaliation. Her brother was beaten up in front of his wife and children; her boyfriend told Brant that her mother would be next if she didn't come back. She returned and, she recalls, from that point on, was forced to travel with him, always surrounded by his men. In other words, she was present during drug-related transactions, but she didn't have much choice.

        In court, however, that amounted to conspiracy. "Someone said I was always present. And I was," she told Truthout. "My children's father was very abusive, so I wasn't there willingly."

        Brant was convicted. At sentencing, the judge told her, "It appears to me that it would be counterproductive for society to keep you in prison for the rest of your life. I think that after you learned your lesson, that you will come out and have the capability of being a useful citizen." Nevertheless, sentencing guidelines required him to hand down a mandatory life sentence. The chances that Brant would emerge from prison at all were virtually nonexistent.

        However, Brant was one of the lucky ones. In December 2015, she was granted clemency by President Obama, as one of his 1,715 sentence commutations. She walked out of prison three months later, having served 21 years. Few incarcerated people are hopeful about a sentence commutation under Sessions or Trump -- and Brant noted that Sessions' recent memo makes their situation appear even bleaker.

        Brant isn't the only clemency recipient horrified at the return to failed drug-war policies. Amy Povah, who was incarcerated for a drug offense, was granted clemency by President Clinton in 2000. She is now the founder and president of CAN-DO Foundation, a national organization that advocates for clemency for people in federal prison for drug convictions. During Obama's presidency, Povah pushed tirelessly for sentence commutations. She organized with family members to bring attention to their loved ones' draconian sentences. She spoke with media, communicated with over 200 people in prison and held vigils outside the White House. Of the 105 women eventually granted clemency, 44 (including Brant) were CAN-DO members. Many had played peripheral, and sometimes unwilling, roles in drug sales, and, faced with plea bargains that included prison time, chose to take their chances at trial.

        "It's frightening to me that they're going to return to these tactics," Povah told Truthout.

        As reported earlier on Truthout, Povah was initially sentenced to 24 years and four months for conspiracy related to her husband's ecstasy dealing. In contrast, her husband -- who fully cooperated with the authorities and named his wife as part of the conspiracy -- was sentenced to six years in a German prison. He served four years and three months, and left prison in 1993. That year, Povah was still looking at 20 more years behind bars. By the time she was granted clemency, her husband, who was responsible for her arrest and incarceration, had been out for seven years.

        Under Sessions' directive, others in Povah's position will be facing similar scenarios. Though Sessions has said that the directive "advances public safety," Povah notes that her own story, as well as numerous others, have shown otherwise.

        Even under the flawed logic of the criminal legal system, it's difficult to see how these women's long sentences could have anything to do with ensuring "safety."

        Povah points to the trial of Michelle West, who was convicted of drug conspiracy and abetting a drug-related murder in 1993. The murder charge against West and her then-boyfriend hinged on the testimony of the man who had actually committed the murder. That man was granted full immunity in exchange for testifying, and did not serve any prison time.

        West pointed out that the policy that Sessions is returning to encourages people accused of crimes to place others in danger; it rewards "informing" on friends and relatives, and often, the people punished most severely are not the ones who committed the offense in question. She noted that, had she accepted a plea bargain and cooperated, she would be home by now. But cooperating would have meant informing on others -- placing others who were only tangentially associated, in the same position as herself. Cooperating also could have jeopardized her own and her daughter's lives, a risk that West wasn't willing to take. West received two life sentences plus 50 years.

        When she learned about Sessions' memo, she was devastated.

        "Sessions' new directive will worsen racial disparities, increase the number of women serving draconian sentences, like my own, and do nothing to improve public safety," West wrote.

        Under Sessions' directive, even in the rare instance that a prosecutor wishes to make an exception to pursuing the highest possible charge, they must obtain approval from a US Attorney or an Assistant Attorney General.

        Nkechi Taifa is the advocacy director for criminal justice at the Open Society Foundations, and works on issues related to sentencing reform and clemency. "We're going to be seeing people like Ramona Brant and Amy Povah get either life in prison or lengthy sentences," she told Truthout.

        Taifa also noted that when Sessions specifies that an offense should be "readily provable," that can simply mean that someone who wants a lighter sentence has provided testimony about it. That means that people with the least amount of information to trade -- often girlfriends and wives -- face the brunt of the system. "That's why we saw such an explosion of women in the system," Taifa said.

        As of 2015, nearly 60 percent of women were in federal prisons for drug convictions. And, as with any facet of the criminal legal system, race also plays a major role in who is arrested, charged and incarcerated, and Sessions' memo will no doubt exacerbate the long-term incarceration of many Black and Brown people.

        "This is where we get into the institutionalization of racism," reflected Taifa. "The system is saying it has to be this way." Though white people are actually more likely to sell drugs, Black people are more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for doing so. Inside federal prisons, 51 percent of Black people and nearly 58 percent of Latinx people are serving sentences for drug crimes.

        Sessions' memo directly impacts the federal system only, but it could also cause reverberations on the state level.

        "The feds set a norm, a standard," Taifa explained. "Who knows what incentives will be held out for states to adopt similar policies?" She points to the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act as a prime example. While the Crime Bill was a federal piece of legislation, it provided financial incentives for states to adopt "truth-in-sentencing" laws that restricted parole, mandating that people with violent offenses serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Oklahoma, for instance, not only has the nation's highest rate of female incarceration, but the number of people who are 50 years and older in the state's prisons grew from 85 in 1980 to over 5,455 in 2015. According to the Council of State Governments, much of this growth has been caused by Oklahoma's adoption of truth-in-sentencing laws.

        The resurrection of these policies doesn't only affect individuals, but also families. Ramona Brant's children were ages three and four when she was arrested. They were in their mid-twenties by the time she was released. Both of Brant's parents, as well as her brother died while she was incarcerated. With each loss, Brant was denied permission to attend the funeral because of her life sentence.

        While Brant was able to secure a clemency under Obama, Alice Johnson, who was sentenced to life in prison for passing phone messages about drugs, is still experiencing the devastation of being torn away from her family. "This is my 21st year of being in prison and separated from my children on Mother's Day," she wrote. "The failed War on Drugs created a culture which caused the over criminalization of women who, in too many cases, received much harsher sentences than men. The families who have been destroyed and the children who have been left motherless are the unseen casualties. Even the suggestion of re-energizing the War on Drugs should be cause for great alarm for Americans."

        Povah concurs. Sessions' new directive, she said, "is just more kerosene on the fire that's been raging for way too long in this country."

        Inside the federal women's prison in Alabama, Johnson wrote that she and others were filled with "shock and unbelief that he has given those directives after all the studies which have shown the aftermath of what the War on Drugs has NOT accomplished. We are living the reality of the past harsh sentencing and mandatory minimums. The women are very down in spirits because, for sure, there does not appear to be any relief in sight for a long time; in fact it looks like things are about to get a lot worse."

        Across the country, at the federal prison in California, there is a similarly somber tone. "The mood has been doom and gloom since Obama left office and it shows on a lot of the faces of the ones who have extremely long sentences," wrote West. Povah, who is in contact personally with 150 people in federal prisons, has heard similar sentiments repeatedly.  

        But while the mood in federal prisons is grim, advocates on the outside are determined to keep fighting.

        "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, it never will," reflected Taifa, quoting the well-known words of Frederick Douglass. "We need to remember that. We may feel our protests aren't changing anything, but we need to become a sustained justice movement. We need to be creative and be audacious."



        5)  The Best Replacement for Obamacare Is Medicaid

         MAY 18, 2017





        n defending their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republican leaders in Congress argue that the insurance marketplaces created by the law are failing. They aren't completely wrong.

        Trouble began with faulty websites during the rollout in 2013. Since then, enrollment continues to be below expectations. Obamacare plans often have higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses than expected. Some markets, mainly in rural areas, may not attract a single insurer in 2018. And insurers that stay are likely to impose double-digit premium increases.

        The Republican plan to replace Obamacare would do little to stabilize the exchanges. But there is a better way to provide insurance to the 11 million beneficiaries of Obamacare plans: Allow them to buy into the Medicaid system. For President Trump, "Medicaid for more" would be both good policy and good politics.

        Let's start with a political puzzle. Why has Medicaid become the nation's largest health insurance program, with over 70 million enrollees, even though both conservatives and liberals criticize it? First, it has surprisingly strong support from hospitals and nursing homes, insurers and states, which receive federal funds to help finance care. Second, since Medicaid is administered in different ways by different states, it cannot be labeled a monolithic national program. Third, its cost is shared among federal, state and local governments. Finally, Medicaid works: It provides access to good-quality care for low-wage Americans and more secure funding for the medical safety net.

        So why does Medicaid have a bad reputation in both parties? The answer is that both conservatives and liberals buy into a series of Medicaid myths.

        Many conservatives mistakenly believe Medicaid is an out-of-control entitlement and want to cap federal Medicaid spending. But Medicaid provides low-cost care to millions of the nation's oldest, sickest and most vulnerable populations. In 2013, a report by the Urban Institute demonstrated that if an average adult on Medicaid had traditional private insurance instead, the cost of care would be over 25 percent higher.

        Another myth is that states need more freedom to develop innovative Medicaid policies. But states already have flexibility to shape their programs, and the Trump administration could give them even more without changing the law. Indeed, nearly every state is experimenting with novel approaches to the delivery of care, benefits packages and provider payments. This means New York can pay immigrant-aid organizations to provide health screenings, while Indiana experiments with high-deductible plans and health savings accounts.

        The notion that Medicaid is a "big government" program is yet another myth. More than 60 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries are enrolled in private managed-care plans now. Medicaid is actually a successful public-private partnership.

        Some liberals have proposed using Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly and disabled, as the basis for providing universal health insurance. But Medicaid is the better fit. It has a more generous benefits package, is less costly and is developing more innovative care-management strategies. Moreover, the integration of the Obamacare exchanges into Medicaid would be relatively seamless: Many health plans are already in both markets.

        Of course Medicaid is not perfect. Doctors and hospitals complain about low reimbursements, beneficiaries often have trouble finding high-quality care, and the stigma of the program as being a form of welfare persists. In reality, however, the program is much more than that, providing care to children, seniors, the working poor and welfare recipients.

        President Trump has consistently argued that he will ensure decent coverage for all. He even praised the Australian system of universal coverage on the same day the House voted to replace the Affordable Care Act with a program that would cut Medicaid by $880 billion over a decade and end the law's extension of Medicaid coverage to more people.

        Moderates in both parties recognize that the chance of success for an insurance marketplace that serves only the self-employed, part-time workers and small businesses, as Obamacare does now, is small. So why not eliminate the insurance exchanges — enabling Mr. Trump to claim he "repealed" Obamacare — while allowing exchange beneficiaries to buy into Medicaid, using tax credits to pay the premiums. Recent surveys showing that Medicaid beneficiaries are generally satisfied with their coverage, more so than their exchange counterparts, makes the case even more persuasive.

        The conservative House Freedom Caucus would surely object if President Trump endorsed "Medicaid for more," but moderates on both sides of the aisle might join him. The result would be better health coverage for more Americans and a clear path toward an American version of affordable coverage for all.



        6) Constructing Workers' Power

        Capitalism is responsible for all the violence in the world—only workers have the power to bring peace.

        By Bonnie Weinstein


        "That is what I want to urge upon the working class; to become so organized on the economic field that they can take and hold the industries in which they are employed. 

        "Can you conceive of such a thing? Is it possible? What are the forces that prevent you from doing so? You have all the industries in your own hands at the present time. 

        "There is this justification for political action, and that is, to control the forces of the capitalists that they use against us; to be in a position to control the power of government so as to make the work of the army ineffective, so as to abolish totally the secret service and the force of detectives. That is the reason that you want the power of government…

        "…If I didn't think that the general strike was leading on to the great revolution which will emancipate the working class I wouldn't be here. I am with you because I believe that in this little meeting there is a nucleus here that will carry on the work and propagate the seed that will grow into the great revolution that will overthrow the capitalist class." —Big Bill Haywood.1

        The world capitalist system, commanded primarily by the U.S., is doing the only thing it can do to maintain its power a little longer—plunder the world back into barbarism. 

        They have no hope of establishing permanent power over the world's wealth because there is a limit to how much destruction they can carry out before the entire Earth is destroyed along with them. 

        They can't kill everyone. They still need workers to do their bidding in both industry and as cannon fodder for their military exploitations. The U.S. and its allies are on a military destabilization campaign in the hopes of paralyzing any and all opposition to their growing interventions across the globe. This is the only way they can hope to even temporarily maintain and increase their wealth, and the power it buys them. 

        Their power seems insurmountable. Their accumulated wealth is incomprehensible. In fact, according to a January 15, 2017 Fortune article by Reuters, eight men—Microsoft's Bill Gates; Inditex founder Amancio Ortega; investor Warren Buffett; Mexico's Carlos Slim, business magnet (America Movil, Latin America's biggest mobile telecom firm,) investor and philanthropist; Amazon boss Jeff Bezos; Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg; Oracle's Larry Ellison; and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg—are now as wealthy as half the world's population.2

        This obscene fact has a two-fold reality. One, the commanders of capital have more money than anyone could possibly spend in a lifetime—or even a hundred lifetimes; and two, they are a tiny, miniscule portion of humanity—an infinitesimal despotic regime that could not stand on its own without the enslavement, both physically and mentally, of the masses of the working class to do their bidding. 

        The statistics below illustrate that the terms, "capitalism" and "war," are synonymous. They show that the need for a fundamental change from capitalism to socialism is necessary if we are to save the world for future generations. 

        What the capitalists spend to maintain their power

        Besides the accumulated wealth held by the capitalists, they spend trillions of our tax dollars on a massive military budget to protect their financial interests. In fact, the military industrial complex is the most lucrative business in the U.S.—and the world. 

        They spare no expense on their weapons of mass destruction. Just last year, the U.S. dropped 26,171 bombs on the world.3

        In a April 7, 2017 article in Fortune by Jen Wieczner titled, "Syria Airstrikes Instantly Added Nearly $5 Billion to Missile-Makers' Stock Value:"

        "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…. The Tomahawk missile used in the strike is made by Raytheon…whose stock opened 2.5 percent higher Friday, adding more than $1 billion to the defense contractor's market capitalization. The shares of other missile and weapons manufacturers, including Boeing…Lockheed Martin…Northrop Grumman…and General Dynamics…each rose as much as one percent, collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value as soon as they began trading, even as the broader market fell." 

        The top five military revenue earning corporations in 2016 were:4

        1. Lockheed Martin, earning 46.132 billion representing 88 percent revenue from defense.
        2. Boeing, earning 96.114 billion representing 31.62 percent revenue from defense.
        3. BAE Systems, earning 27.357 billion representing 92.40 percent revenue from defense.
        4. Raytheon, earning 23.247 billion representing 93 percent revenue from defense.
        5. General Dynamics, earning 31.469 billion representing 60.85 percent revenue from defense.

        That's a total of 224.319 billion in revenue from defense spending—for just the top five! And that's not all:

        • "Industry experts highlighted that approximately 800,000 defense jobsintelligence jobs and other occupations are tied to the defense industry. In addition, more than ten percent of U.S. manufacturing demand in the U.S. is dependent on aerospace and defense spending with contractors including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics."5
        • "The U.S. outpaces all other nations in military expenditures. World military spending totaled more than $1.6 trillion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total. U.S. military expenditures are roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world, combined. U.S. military spending dwarfs the budget of the #2 country—China. For every dollar China spends on its military, the U.S. spends $2.77."6
        • "U.S. spending on Middle East wars and Homeland Security will reach $4.79 trillion in 2017."7

        Think of what we could do with this money instead of spending it on death and destruction!

        This doesn't even include the roughly $80 billion8 spent on the U.S. prison industrial complex, not counting the police. In down to earth terms, "...the cost of jailing someone in New York City has ballooned to nearly $250,000 a year, roughly the cost of a four-year Ivy League degree..."9 That's just at New York's Rikers Island. There were more than 2.3 million people confined in the U.S. in 2016. 

        The prison industrial complex is a vital extension of the military on a local scale. Our working class and poor communities live in armed camps patrolled by militarized police, while those same police guard and protect the property of wealthy communities.

        Under capitalism human beings are expendable—profits and property take precedence. Not a dime is stolen from the wealthy without the severest retaliation. Even selling loose cigarettes on the street without a license comes with a death sentence as the family of Eric Garner found out.

        Our tax dollars fund all of it so that the profits of the war and occupation industry can remain in the hands of the miniscule capitalist class so they can continue to rule.

        And therein lies our only hope for ending this capitalist, profit-driven insanity once and for all. Without our participation and labor, they cannot continue!

        Smoke and mirrors

        The power of the capitalist class depends upon how effective they are in convincing the working class that we have no power.

        They own the mass media that bombards us with lies and subterfuge. They convince us that we are powerless against them—not only to end their power over us—but to even dream that a another world beyond capitalist war and exploitation could exist. 

        Workers can change the world

        Not only is another world possible, it is the most logical way to end poverty and injustice, and it is attainable. All we need to do is realize that the power is in our hands, and our hands alone. Together we workers can end capitalism and build a world that can fulfill the needs and wants of all, instead of providing profits for the wealthy. 

        Workers together with our own revolutionary party, completely independent of the capitalist class, have the power to end the barbarity of capitalist enslavement and war once and for all. 

        Workers have been taught from kindergarten that we have no real political power except to exercise our "democratic right to vote" for one of the major capitalist political parties. The capitalist class knows full well that without the cooperation and collaboration of workers, the capitalist parties would be utterly powerless. 

        Capitalism is in a downward spiral and they can't stop it. War is irrational yet they can't stop it because they profit from war. They sell their weapons anywhere and everywhere to maximize their profits both in selling weapons and capturing the spoils of war—the oil, land, natural resources and cheap labor left among the crumbling debris. 

        The only way to stop this inevitable, deadly, descent into chaos is for us to massively organize, independently of the capitalists, to end capitalism, and build a socialist world.

        Organizing workers independent of the capitalist class

        Capitalism can't be reformed. It must continue on its profit-driven warpath. It cannot fulfill the needs of the majority of humanity—it never has. 

        The vast majority of the Earth's human population under capitalism has been impoverished for centuries. It is an economic system based upon the exploitation and oppression of the working class—the overwhelming majority. Capitalism has no other source of power other than the enslavement of the working class and the exploitation of our labor, which is how they maintain their power.

        Capitalists are not Gods; they are human. Without us, the working class, they are a tiny, untalented, helpless minority of despots posing as super-human deities. 

        Workers on the peace-path

        It is the working class that has the power to change the world for the better because it is the working class that knows how to do all the work. We can change the war industry into a human industry— building things we all need to live a fruitful and happy life with equality and justice for all—a world free of poverty, want and war.

        Only workers can build a new and better world. Donald Trump doesn't know how to work in an auto plant or pick fruit and vegetables on a farm. The capitalists can't build bridges or pave roads or respond to medical emergencies. Workers perform these and all the jobs necessary for civilization. The capitalist class, in fact, is a hindrance to all the necessary work needed to build a healthy and prosperous future for all of us. 

        Instead of building homes, schools or hospitals, they invest in building bombs, guns, and jails. Instead of maintaining a pristine environment, they poison the land and water with pollutants and pesticides. Instead of focusing on clean and renewable energy, they spew oil and coal byproducts onto the land and into the oceans, rivers and streams. Their sole concern is to increase their profits. 

        That's why the capitalist class as a whole can never be an ally of the working class. Individuals, of course, can come over to our side—and they do from time to time. But to be on our side, they must oppose capitalism and embrace socialism as the only way to rid the world of this vicious system. 

        Independent political action

        A first step toward ending capitalism is to build an independent labor party—a nation-wide party of the working class with an international program building solidarity with workers everywhere. 

        This party must have the perspective of challenging the rule of capital at every step. This means organizing at our workplaces, communities, jails and schools. It must include the unique needs of Blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ, youth, Muslims, the homeless, all those who are doubly oppressed. All of our diverse communities must stand together in unity in defense of all because that is where our power lies. 

        And it must be in diametric opposition to the capitalist parties—including those parties that seek to reform capitalism into a "kinder and gentler" capitalism—because there is no such thing!

        Placing the blame of violence where it belongs

        Such an independent party of the working class must oppose violence against the working class in all its forms. The more united we are, the better chance we have to stop the violence against us. 

        This is why we want to rid the world of capitalism that uses violence—war, incarceration, police violence, and oppression—relentlessly to maintain their wealth and power. We oppose capitalism because we want to build a world of peace, democracy, economic and social equality—a world without violence, oppression, slavery and starvation. 

        It is the capitalist class that invented and uses weapons of mass destruction—nuclear weapons, MOABs (Massive Ordinance Air Blast or "Mother Of All Bombs,") Sarin gas, Agent Orange, tanks, bombers, rockets, drones, aircraft carriers, automatic weapons—and who profits from them!

        Capitalism promotes and festers violence among the working class over superficial differences in order to divide us—to convince us that we are each other's enemy—and to hide the fact that it is they who are the enemy of all human kind. 

        They are the purveyors of violence because it serves their purpose of maintaining power. 

        They unleash weapons of mass destruction and deploy militarized police in our communities to enforce their oppressive infrastructure—including their phony "elections" that have no relationship to democratically deciding what the masses of humanity actually want and need. 

        Instead we get to vote for one capitalist liar or another—all of whom are dedicated to defending capitalism by any means they deem fit—by violence or any other oppressive means.

        Our common interests as the working class

        We workers have much more in common with one another than our differences. We all want to live a happy and comfortable life. We want to see a bright future for our children. We want to enjoy the comfort of our homes. We want good food, housing, education, clean water, air, and a pristine environment that flourishes with life. We want to heal the sick and care for our elders and safeguard the planet for the future of all the life that shares it with us. 

        An independent party of the working class can establish the democratic mechanisms to bring us all together into a powerful force for peace and justice. 

        We must temporarily put aside our differences, and embrace our commonality, our love of life and of a better future. 

        We can begin by organizing meetings with open and democratic discussions on what our main objectives are and how we can best work together to win them. It doesn't have to be a difficult struggle to see beyond our differences if we always remind ourselves that our common interests overwhelm those differences. 

        Once we begin traveling down this road toward organizing ourselves into a massive and unified force for ending capitalism, we will be able to keep our eyes on the prize of justice and equality, and a thriving and healthy planet free of capitalist exploitation and war.

        1  Rebel Voices, Page 49, Google Books

        "Big Bill" Haywood, (February 4, 1869-May 18, 1928) was a founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World(IWW) and a member of the executive committee of the Socialist Party of America. During the first two decades of the 20th century, he was involved in several important labor battles, including the Colorado Labor Wars, the Lawrence Textile Strike, and other textile strikes in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

        2 "The World's 8 Richest Men Are Now as Wealthy as Half the World's Population," Fortune, January 15, 2017

        3 "Why Did the U.S. Drop 26,171 Bombs on the World Last Year?"

        The Nation, January 15, 2017

        4 "Top 100 for 2016," Defense News

        5 "Defense Jobs Make up 10 Percent of U.S. Manufacturing Demand"

        Cleared Connections

        6 "U.S. Military Spending vs. the World"

        7 "Costs of War," Brown University

        8 "Does the U.S. Spend $80 Billion a Year on Incarceration?"

        Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

        9 "Closing Rikers Island Is a Moral Imperative"



        7) The Numbers Don't Lie: Stop Wrongful Convictions Now

        What is being done in regard to our flawed criminal justice system?

        Lorenzo Johnson, ContributorServed 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence after being wrongfully convicted



        For the third straight year, a new record has been set for the number exonerations of innocent prisoners. We officially had 166 exonerations in 2016. Over seventy of them were the result of official misconduct.

        What is even more shocking, in the 2016 National Registry of Exonerations Report, is that seventy-four innocent people who were exonerated last year had originally pled guilty. This is how bad things are for us innocent prisoners. A lot of us are forced or pressured to plead guilty for a variety of different reasons. Even when we have good legal standing on our appeals and are granted new trials, we are still pressured to plead guilty to crimes our prosecutors know we didn't commit.

        Over the last three years, Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs) have begun helping exonerate innocent prisoners. They were involved in seventy of the Record 166 exonerations in 2016. Since 2003, CIUs have helped secured 225 exonerations. More than 80% have taken place since 2014. Still, CIUs can be of more assistance to us innocent prisoners then they are now. As of 2016, there were twenty-nine CIUs in the U.S., doubling the count from 2013, and five times as many as existed in 2011. We need to continue this growth.

        The National Registry of Exonerations reports on the limitations of CIUs as they currently exist:

        The performance of these CIUs has been highly variable.

        - More than half of all CIU exonerations since 2003 come from one unit (Harris County, Texas) (128/225), and almost a third (69/225) occurred in three other counties.

        - Half of all CIUs have never been involved in an exoneration—and four others have had only one—including several units that have existed for several years.

        - Several CIUs have no contact information publicly available on the web or by telephone, including some that have been in operation for years.

        San Diego, California was the location of the 2017 Innocence Network Annual Conference. Hundreds of people came together as one in the fight to end wrongful convictions. Innocence Projects, exonerees, media moguls, and many others shared their stories and gave their insight to help stop wrongful convictions. As an innocent prisoner, I commend all who attended and encouraged society to get involved in the fight to help free allinnocent prisoners.

        The million-dollar question constantly being asked is: what is being done in regard to our flawed criminal justice system? With exoneration records being broken the last three years consecutively, you would think that the cancer that is deeply rooted in our system is finally being treated. But this is not the case at all. Every week, three innocent prisoners are exonerated. But did I mention that the average time they spent in prison was between thirteen-and-a-half and fifteen years?

        Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence until 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for four months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered him back to prison to resume the sentence. With the support of The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, he is continuing to fight for his freedom. Though he does not have internet access himself, you can email his campaign, make a donation, or sign his petition and learn more at: http://www.freelorenzojohnson.org/sign-the-petition.html.



        8)  Hanford is Ripe for a Radioactive Explosion

        MAY 18, 2017


        Last week, an underground tunnel storing radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state collapsed, leaving a gaping 400 square foot hole. The tunnel, made up of dirt and wood, finally gave in.

        How surprising was the accident, which forced thousands of workers to find safety? Not very, according to a report uncovered by the Seattle-based advocacy group Hanford Challenge.

        In 1991, Westinghouse Hanford Company requested Los Alamos Technical Associates, Inc. (LATA) to evaluate the structural integrity of PUREX Storage Tunnel #1, where the collapse occurred. While the 1991 study of the tunnel indicated a low probability of any degradation of the pressure-treated timber in the tunnel, the report noted that the "only structural degradation that is occurring is due to the continued exposure of the timbers to the high gamma radiation field in the tunnel."

        While the report noted the effect of this exposure was minor at the time, the strength of the timber walls in a 1980 evaluation was only 65.4% of its original strength. The study recommended that another test be conducted in 2001 by the United States Forest Product Laboratory to check the integrity of the tunnel's wood beams.

        There's no evidence any further tests were carried out in 2001, or any other time since the 1991 recommendation. The United States Forest Product Laboratory and Department of Energy (DOE) did not respond to several requests for comment.

        "How can waste be left in a tunnel? Whose idea was that?" asks Rod Ewing, a Stanford University nuclear security researcher. "I've been to Hanford many, many times for conferences and things like that, and I don't recall anyone saying that there was waste in tunnels underground. I can't imagine why that would be the case."

        The Department of Energy said there were no signs of a radioactive release and opted to fill the hole with 50 truckloads of dirt and a plastic cover.

        While this seems like a short-term fix to a serious problem, the question remains, will this stop more collapses that could have far more dangerous impacts? According to Doug Shoop, manager of the Department of Energy Richland Operations Office, the answer is no.

        "There is potential for more collapse," says Shoop.

        "One of the main problems at Hanford is that DOE is understaffed and overtasked," Dr. Donald Alexander, a high-level DOE physical chemist working at Hanford, told me. "As such, we cannot conduct in-depth reviews of each of the individual systems in the facilities. Therefore there is a high likelihood that several systems will be found to be inoperable or not perform to expectations."

        Dr. Alexander says that Hanford could see an event comparable to the 1957 explosion, known as the Kyshtym disaster, at Russia's Mayak nuclear facility. Kyshtym is considered the world's third largest nuclear disaster after Chernobyl and Fukushima. Considered Hanford's"sister-facility," Mayak also produced plutonium for nuclear bombs. At least 22 villages and 10,000 people were forced to evacuate when Mayak blew. According to one estimate by the Soviet Health Ministry in Chelyabinsk, the ultimate death toll caused by the Mayak explosion was 8,015 people over a 32 year period.

        Hanford has total of 177 underground storage waste tanks, of which there are 149 that are single-shelled and considered leak-prone by the EPA.

        "In the extreme," says Dr. Alexander, "another Mayak-scale incident" could occur at Hanford.

        Poor oversight and a culture of cutting-corners could well lead to a deadly explosion like the one feared by Dr. Alexander.

        So, what's the big deal?

        Just another aging nuclear facility on the brink of disaster.

        JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank



        9)  Chelsea Manning is Free, and Her Impact is Worldwide

        By Aaron Mate

        The Real News Network, May 17, 2017


              U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning is free after serving seven years behind bars. Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof and Nathan Fuller of the Courage Campaign, have remained deeply involved in her case, discuss Manning's freedom and her global impact.

        Aaron Mate: It's the Real News. I'm Aaron Mate. Chelsea Manning is free. The Army whistleblower marked her release from a Kansas military prison with a tweet reading, "First steps of freedom." Manning was behind one of the most important leaks of government information in history. Her release of more than half a million files to Wikileaks exposed stunning revelations on U.S. foreign policy. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but President Obama commuted her sentence in January. She served seven years behind bars, the longest ever for a U.S. whistleblower. During her imprisonment, she announced her identity as a female and fought to receive hormone treatment from the military. 

        Her prison conditions led the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture to accuse the U.S. government of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. I'm joined now by two guests who closely followed Chelsea Manning's case and were among the small group of people who attended her 2013 trial. Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of shadowproof.com and co-host of the podcast Unauthorized Disclosure. We're also joined by Nathan Fuller. He is with the Courage Campaign, which is now raising funds for Chelsea Manning's legal appeal seeking to have her sentence not just commuted but overturned. Gentlemen, welcome. 

        Nathan Fuller: Thank you.

        Aaron Mate: Nathan, I'll start with you because you've been a big part of the grassroots effort to win Chelsea's freedom. A campaign that's been sustained for a very long time. What's your reaction to seeing her walk free today? 

        Nathan Fuller: I really, for a long time, thought this day would never come. I spent several years of my life advocating for Chelsea's freedom, and I'm just incredibly grateful and just overjoyed that it's actually here. I've been calling for the U.S. to free Chelsea Manning for a long time, and it's now an adjective, not a verb. 

        Aaron Mate: Kevin, you covered this trial. Were among the few journalists who actually did that, which was surprising given the amount of attention that the WikiLeaks disclosures that Chelsea's release got. Did you ever think that this day would come? 

        Kevin Gosztola: I thought this day would come. I believed it would come five or even ten years from now. I knew that she would be eligible for parole at some point, but I never would have imagined that a president, and specifically I guess President Barack Obama, would commute her sentence. I believe that's a testament to the power of this movement, this grassroots movement, which Nathan was involved in and others were involved in. It's also probably a testament to some of the independent media out there that was giving attention to her case, and some of the human rights campaigners that were able to make this possible. She's eating hot, greasy pizza and she's happy. It's an incredible moment. 

        Aaron Mate: Yeah. You're referring to her second tweet upon her freedom, which was her showing the piece of pizza that she was eating. Kevin, you mentioned the media. Let's talk about that for a second, and the climate that Chelsea Manning faced during this time in prison. She was not treated as a hero by the U.S. political and media establishment. Can you break that down for us? 

        Kevin Gosztola: Yeah. Far from it. Usually there was this dichotomy of, is she a hero? Is she a traitor? Which really told people in this country nothing about what she did. The media largely ignored the substance of her releases and preferred to either talk about her problems with gender or mental health issues, preferred to look at character defects, or just ignore her entirely and just focus upon the character of Julian Assange, or the way in which WikiLeaks went about doing its journalism. Instead of recognizing that she provided a great deal of information that contributed to the public knowledge. It's very difficult I think for the duration of the trial to get any kind of a sympathetic or reasonable detailed look at what was unfolding beyond, is she guilty or is she not guilty? Is she going to be in jail for her life, or is she going to have a shorter sentence? 

        Aaron Mate: Let's talk for a moment about some of that information that she released. We can't go through it all because it was so extensive. Among the earliest disclosures that Chelsea Manning made, and the one that got among the most attention was this video Collateral Murder, showing a U.S. military helicopter. Footage from that helicopter firing on and killing Iraqi civilians, including two employees of the Reuters news agency. Let's go to a clip of that. 

        Speaker 4: Light them all up. 

        Speaker 5: 002 traffic 260. 

        Male: Come on. Fire. 

        Speaker 4: Roger. Keep shooting. Keep shooting. Keep shooting. 

        Male: Bushmaster 26 bushmaster 26. We need to move, time now. 

        Speaker 4: All right. We just engaged all eight. 

        Aaron Mate: That's just a brief clip from Collateral Murder released in April 2010, if I remember correctly. Nathan, can you give us the context for that video? Chelsea was serving in Iraq at the time when she came across this. 

        Nathan Fuller: Right. She was an intelligence analyst, so she was viewing videos and documents, archiving the daily reports of activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conflicts there. This is one of many things that she came across that disturbed her, that she felt revealed the inhumanity of some U.S. soldiers and U.S. policy, and something that she thought if the U.S. people saw what was being done in their name, they would object to, would at least want to have this information public. She felt like this was being kept from the American people, and the only way to change that was to make it public. 

        Aaron Mate: Kevin, as a journalist, can you briefly talk about just the impact that Chelsea Manning's disclosures, there's more than half-a-million files that she released, had on our understanding of how U.S. foreign policy works?

        Kevin Gosztola: I can address that from a person standpoint. I developed into the journalist that I am today because there was this information that was available, which I was able to dig into and produce stories that resonated with people who regularly read my work, and we benefited. My audience benefited, I benefited. I'm specifically referring to the U.S. diplomatic cables. There are dozens upon dozens of important revelations that came out of them. One that comes to mind that I think if often cited but remains critical is that these cables revealed the way in which some drone strikes were being carried out by our U.S. military, and the fact that specifically in Yemen, General David Petraeus had this informal agreement or formal agreement with Ali Abdullah Saleh where they would claim responsibility for the drone strikes and say those were Yemen bombs when in fact it was the U.S. that was carrying out drone strikes. 

        That's one example. We obviously don't have time to go through many of the other ones, but on climate change, on wages issues, issues of, you know, all kinds of human rights issues that had ramifications that rippled through Egypt and Tunisia, and influenced some of the uprisings in those countries. That was extremely beneficial to the entire world to learn what was going on behind closed doors with diplomats. We know that the State Department was selling natural gas fracking through its work in various countries. She has had a tremendous impact in bettering our understanding about how not only the U.S. carries out wars militarily, but how we pursue agendas in different regions of the world. 

        Aaron Mate: Nathan, we haven't heard Chelsea speak very much in her own words. She made a statement at her trial, but otherwise we've only been able to hear from her either through her attorneys or through her occasional statements on Twitter or in OpEd pieces. Based especially on what she said at the trial, what do we know about what motivated her to carry out this huge act of whistle-blowing with such serious consequences to her life?

        Nathan Fuller: We know that she took those consequences very seriously, and that this was a very deliberate meaningful action. Not some reckless, wanton act as the government tried to portray it. She really looked at these documents and videos and understood that they were going to bring a new context to the American people, and she knew that it was going to have ramifications for herself. She was willing to die or go to prison and understood that that would be worth it. She said that she wanted to spark a debate. She hoped that the American people would be interested. She was heartened when she was still able to view the news and saw the initial reaction to that Collateral Murder video, and she saw that it was sparking discussion and debate. People actually cared. She wanted that debate and she got it. It certainly was by all accounts a success. 

        Aaron Mate: Kevin, among the charges that she faced from the government was aiding the enemy. What was the significance of her facing that charge, and also of the fact that she was ultimately cleared of it? 

        Kevin Gosztola: The significance was the innovation behind it. The way that military prosecutors went about prosecuting her. It amounted to calling her a traitor essentially. Beyond that, there was the implication for media outlet, whether we're talking about the New York Times or we're talking about the Washington Post, or even an independent media outlet like my former firedoglake.com, which is where I was affiliated with when I covered the trial. This idea that if we are publishing information that was previously classified and somehow related to national security or the military on the internet, then we are aiding the enemy because people who are in the Islamic state or Al-Qaeda or any groups that are considered terrorist groups could access that information and use it to their own ends of however they would choose to. That's a very dangerous argument. It goes up against the freedom of the press. It was a fortunate outcome that the military judge, Denise Lind, determined that there was no evidence to substantiate convicting Chelsea Manning on this charge. I think it's very important to emphasize that legally speaking she's not a traitor. She was acquitted of aiding the enemy. 

        Aaron Mate: Let's talk a bit about her prison sentence and actually what led her to be imprisoned. Nathan, I'm wondering if you could tell us about Adrian Lamo, this hacker who Chelsea Manning communicated with and ultimately turned her in. 

        Nathan Fuller: Adrian Lamo was someone who she reached out to talk about her time in the Army and her feelings of insecurity and anxiety, her questioning things. Adrian posed as a...He said even, "Treat me as a priest." He posed as a journalist or a priest, someone that she could confide in privately, and he burned her like never before and turned her into the FBI and was the reason for her getting picked up as quickly as she did. 

        Aaron Mate: Then, that leads to her imprisonment. Tell us about what kind of conditions that she faced after she revealed her sexual identity. I remember she was confined then to, basically, cage-like conditions, denied access to her lawyer. Talk about what she faced. 

        Nathan Fuller: Before she even came out publicly in that way, she was mistreated badly in her pre-trial detention. She was arrested in Iraq, brought to Kuwait where she was held in a cage. Treated worse than an animal and wanted to kill herself there, and was just treated brutally. She actually didn't know where she was being taken from there. She thought she might go to Guantanamo but was brought to Quantico, the Marine brig, which is now closed. She endured solitary confinement for several months. She was abused and mocked by prison officials and a lot of that came out in the trial. 

        Despite all that, she survived. She endured and was a very strong poised voice in court. Unbelievably, she took an even bigger risk upon her conviction and she came out as a woman, knowing she was going to go to an all-male military prison, and knew that was going to be an incredibly uphill, arduous battle. She has become a voice for trans rights. She got the Army to allow her to begin hormone therapy, and she's become a hero not only to the people who appreciate her whistle-blowing but who appreciate her speaking out for prisoners rights, trans rights, and just for respectability for trans people. 

        Aaron Mate: Yeah. Kevin, if you could pick up here. I mean, this is what partly makes her story so extraordinary. After committing one of the most bold acts of whistle-blowing in history, she then goes and takes on this fight for her rights as a transgender woman against an institution like the U.S. military, not exactly known for its inclusiveness. 

        Kevin Gosztola: It almost transcends her whistle-blowing act. I exchanged letters with her while she was in Leavenworth Prison, and it came through. One of the things that I was stunned by is that she was so willing to make herself vulnerable and allowed people to see what was going on inside and how she was struggling. Invite people to join her in trying to make sure that the military didn't succeed finally in actually breaking her and actually pushing her to that moment where she could no longer move on with her life. In the letter she described how people who were being bullied from LGBTQ people, how they would write to her, young people, people who were going through experiences would write letters to her. She would read them and they would be awful, and she would feel so bad for them. She would occasionally have the time to write replies to these people. 

        I just thought, this is remarkable. This is someone who doesn't have to do this, but she's taking on this role as someone who people can look up to and see as a fighter, and from a place where she doesn't have any power. The U.S. military is one of the worst places you could possibly be and come out as a transgender person, and she still looked it head on and said, "This is who I am, and this is who I'm going to be during my sentence." 

        Aaron Mate: Nathan, what do we know about what Chelsea Manning's plans are now that she is free? Where does the grassroots campaign that supported her go? I know you have this effort seeking to overturn her initial sentence. 

        Nathan Fuller: Right. Personally, she's indicated she might want to go back to Maryland to live with some of her family there. She might want to go to college or write a book. She's become a really outspoken voice with her Guardian column and Medium blog, and I expect that voice only to grow. I'm really excited to see what she does with it. Yeah, I want to remind people that while she's out of prison, and I'm incredibly grateful for that, her case is not quite over. The appeal is ongoing, and it's really important for her personally to clear her record, to not be dishonorably discharged from the Army, which would act like a felony on her record. It matters more broadly.

        Her case set a precedent for leaking to the media, someone being sentenced that long for leaking to the media. Also, she wants to overturn and challenge the Espionage Act convictions because of the way the Espionage Act was used so broadly equating whistle-blowing with espionage. She wants to finally challenge that. What the Espionage Act needs if we're going to keep it at all is a public interest defense. People need to be able to defend themselves in court, which Chelsea Manning was not allowed to do by explaining that their actions were done in the public interest, and that should supersede the alleged potential harm caused by them. Chelsea clearly had the public interest in mind when she was leaking documents. 

        Aaron Mate: Kevin Gosztola, your final thoughts as we wrap this segment on the release of Chelsea Manning today. 

        Kevin Gosztola: I think it's profound, and everyone who was involved in making it possible, the grassroots movement, they have themselves to congratulate. I think everyone should just enjoy it. It's not a lot of times that we have these kinds of successes. I know that she's also being released the same day that another political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera is released. Not to get into his case, but just to say that these victories don't come often. When they do come, especially in this political moment with President Donald Trump, it's important to remind ourselves of the kind of power we have to influence and make sure that we stick up for people on our side and on our own, and take care of each other. 

        Aaron Mate: You know what, Nathan? Let me pick up on that point and ask you as someone who was so involved in this grassroots campaign to free Chelsea Manning. What kind of challenges you faced to bring this case to light and to get public attention around it, especially with a media that while it covered the WikiLeaks disclosures was not so sympathetic to her plight? 

        Nathan Fuller: Right. The mainstream media got hundreds of stories from all these documents and repaid her by basically ignoring her trial for way too long. Not showing up to any of the pre-trial hearings. Before that, the military made it very hard to cover this case. Kevin and I and Alexa O'Brien and just a couple others were those who were at every single hearing. For the first several days we were not allowed to use computers to type. Obviously we couldn't record, and people couldn't see video of the trial, so we had paper and pen and had to write down everything in a full day of court. 

        The military knew that that was going to make it more difficult for the press to pick up on this story, and the press failed to do so. It took a lot of work. It took a lot of organizing rallies and writing about this case to get people to pay attention and to finally pick it up. We actually go the New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, who was at the time the public editor, to embarrass her own reporters into showing up at the trial, and they finally did. I think that is part of the reason that so many people know about and care about her case today.

        The Real News Network, May 17, 2017




        10)  Julian Assange Rape Investigation Is Dropped in Sweden

         MAY 19, 2017



        STOCKHOLM — Prosecutors in Sweden said on Friday that they would drop their rape investigation into Julian Assange, the WikiLeaksfounder who sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London five years ago.

        The announcement represents a victory for Mr. Assange, 45, an Australian, who became a persistent problem for the Obama administration after he released classified and embarrassing documents from the United States and other countries. But the prosecutors' decision does not mean that Mr. Assange is in the clear.

        "While today was an important victory and important vidication, the road is far from over," Mr. Assange told reporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

        "The war, the proper war, is just commencing," he said of his ongoing legal battle.

        In Britain, he still faces a warrant for failing to appear in court, and the Metropolitan Police in London said on Friday that they would arrest Mr. Assange, who has maintained his innocence, if he were to try to leave the embassy.

        Moreover, the Justice Department in Washington was reconsidering last month whether to charge Mr. Assange for his role in the disclosure of highly classified information. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether it planned to take any action regarding Mr. Assange, and the British government declined to say whether it had received an extradition request from the United States.

        As reporters thronged outside the Ecuadorean Embassy on Friday morning, Fidel Narváez, an embassy spokesman, said the country's officials in London would have no comment because they were awaiting instructions from their Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

        Marianne Ny, the chief prosecutor in Sweden, made clear that the authorities were not pronouncing Mr. Assange innocent. "I can conclude, based on the evidence, that probable cause for this crime still exists," she said at a news conference on Friday, which was a court-ordered deadline for prosecutors to respond on the case.

        Ms. Ny said that proceeding with the case would require Mr. Assange to be served notice of the charges against him and for him to be present in a Swedish court, both of which were impossible.

        As a result, prosecutors said they felt that they had no choice but to abandon the investigation because they had concluded that Ecuadorwould not cooperate, and because all other possibilities had been exhausted. "My assessment is that the transfer cannot be executed in the foreseeable future," Ms. Ny said.

        The investigation could be reopened, she said, if Mr. Assange returned to Sweden before August 2020, the time limit for prosecution specified by the statute of limitations.

        Mr. Assange was accused of sexual misconduct by two women in 2010after a trip to Sweden, prompting prosecutors to open the preliminary investigation. Lesser charges were dropped in August 2015 because the time limit for prosecution had passed, but prosecutors had continued investigating an accusation of rape from one of the women.

        In a statement detailing his relationship with his accuser, Mr. Assange said that the woman had expressed a clear desire "to have sexual intercourse with me," and that the two had parted amicably after having sex several times.

        Elisabeth Massi Fritz, who represents the woman who accused Mr. Assange of rape, issued a scathing response after the prosecutors abandoned the case.

        "A legal examination is very important for someone who has been raped, as is the possibility for redress," she said. "In this case, there have been many turns and the wait has been very long. My client is shocked and no decision to shut the case down can get her to change her position that Assange raped her."

        Per E. Samuelson, Mr. Assange's lawyer, said that his client was "relieved", that the prosecutors had been trying to save face because they could not win the case, and that the decision was "a total victory for him and for me in Sweden."

        "He's a free man," Mr. Samuelson said, although his client was still holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy as he spoke. "He can shop at Harrods. He can take a coffee at a restaurant."

        Mr. Assange has said that he has been denied due process during his time at the embassy, and endured "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment." He has repeatedly cited a determination by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that the Swedish and British governments had "arbitrarily detained" him since 2010.

        In a recent letter to the Swedish government, Ecuador criticized the lack of progress in the investigation, expressing dismay over its sluggish pace despite the fact that Swedish officials had questioned Mr. Assange at the embassy at the end of 2016.

        The police in London said that if Mr. Assange were to leave the embassy, they would still be "obliged" to execute the warrant issued after Mr. Assange failed to surrender in June 2012.

        "Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr. Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offense," the police said in a statement.

        In October 2015, the London police announced that they were ending round-the-clock surveillance of Mr. Assange, citing the strain on resources. Until then, officers had kept a 24-hour watch outside the embassy in the upscale Knightsbridge area, ready to arrest him if he tried to leave.

        The case of Mr. Assange has frequently been a bizarre spectacle, and the events on Friday were no exception. Traffic around the Ecuadorean Embassy was jammed as hundreds of reporters, photographers and video journalists filled the sidewalk. Mr. Assange never made an appearance, but a cat that was believed to be his did, and photographers rushed to capture a glimpse of it when it peered out of the window.

        Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks, whose work he appears to have closely overseen from the Ecuadorean Embassy, pose a legal and a political dilemma for the Trump administration.

        During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly expressed glee and gratitude over WikiLeaks' release of confidential emails from the Democratic National Committee and from the Clinton campaign. Even after American officials said the emails had been given to the organization by hackers working for Russian intelligence, Mr. Trump read them aloud at rallies and declared, "I love WikiLeaks!"

        But the Justice Department has been considering the possibility of charging Mr. Assange. Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested last month that arresting him was "a priority" for a crackdown on leaks. In addition, Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, has said that WikiLeaks operates like "a hostile intelligence service" and that Mr. Assange is "a fraud."

        Asked in a recent interview with The Associated Press whether he still supported Mr. Assange, Mr. Trump was equivocal. "I don't support or unsupport. It was just information," he said, referring to hacked emails that WikiLeaks had published. Of the attorney general's plan to have Mr. Assange arrested, the president said, "I am not involved in that decision, but if Jeff Sessions wants to do it, it's O.K. with me."

        But, complicating matters, it may no longer be entirely up to Mr. Trump's political appointees whether to go after Mr. Assange. Responsibility for WikiLeaks could be among the matters transferred to Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director who was appointed this week by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

        Prosecutors have long been exploring the idea of charging Mr. Assange as a conspirator in the underlying offense of illegal theft of documents, an idea that dates back to the Obama administration's reaction to WikiLeaks' publication of archives of military and diplomatic files leaked by Chelsea Manning in 2010. (Coincidentally, Ms. Manning was released from military custody this week after seven years in prison, after former President Barack Obama's decision to commute most of her 35-year sentence.)

        Ms. Manning insisted that she had acted on her own and that no one at WikiLeaks had pressured her to send files, and the investigation appeared to have been dormant for several years. However, if prosecutors have revived the idea of charging Mr. Assange with conspiracy in the context of Russia's alleged theft of Democratic emails last year, that would now seem to fall within Mr. Mueller's mandate.

        Mr. Assange has stated that he would be willing to be extradited to the United States if Ms. Manning were released, but he offered a caveat in January. "I've always been willing to go to the United States," he said at an online news conference, "provided my rights are respected."

        The Obama-era Justice Department, which had gone as far as to present some evidence about WikiLeaks to a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., was deterred from pursuing the case further because it proved difficult to distinguish what WikiLeaks had done in publishing the classified information provided by Ms. Manning from what The New York Times and many other mainstream news organizations do.

        Most news organizations that cover national security and foreign affairs regularly publish information from sources that is considered classified by the United States government. By long-established tradition, however, only the government officials who provide such information have been prosecuted, not the journalists who publish it.



        11)  Grand Jury Won't Indict Officer in Killing of Boy, 13, Who Held BB Gun

         MAY 19, 2017




        A grand jury in Columbus, Ohio, declined on Friday to indict a white police officer who fatally shot a 13-year-old black boy who was brandishing a BB gun, finding that the officer's actions were justified, city officials and the police said.

        The officer, Bryan Mason, had chased Tyre King into an alley on Sept. 14 and when the teenager pulled the BB gun from his waistband, the officer opened fire, striking Tyre multiple times, the authorities said.

        Mr. Mason, a nine-year veteran of the Columbus Police Department at the time, had fatally shot a man in 2012; his superiors cleared him of any wrongdoing in that episode, but placed him on administrative leave after the September killing.

        The shooting quickly polarized the public, as people rallied behind either the officer or the boy. Officials in state's capital found themselves pleading for patience, acutely aware of the unrest that has sometimes followed police shootings that have claimed the lives of black men. Some had drawn parallels between the shooting of Tyre and the 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice, 12, who was playing with a pellet gun in a park in Cleveland.

        "I am grateful for the patience of the community in awaiting the results of the grand jury investigation into the police-involved shooting of Tyre King," Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said in a statement on Friday. "The death of a 13-year-old under any circumstances is tragic. I am committed to continuing to work with all residents and the police to break the cycle of violence, build trust and give hope."

        Sean Walton, a lawyer representing the King family, said they were not surprised by the grand jury's decision, calling the process flawed. He said the family had called for an independent investigation into the shooting and believes the Columbus Police Department and county prosecutor's office should have stepped aside.

        The Columbus Police Department did not release a statement Friday, but the department confirmed that the grand jury had decided not to file charges against the officer.

        In its own statement, the Columbus City Council called the decision "a sad and unfortunate reminder that a child has died in our community."

        "While we are grateful for the grand jury's service and for the community's patience awaiting these results," the statement said, "the council is also deeply reflective on how we must aggressively strive to end violence in our community and continue to improve the relationship between the people of Columbus and the criminal justice system."

        After the shooting, the authorities said officers had responded to a report of an armed robbery in the Olde Towne East neighborhood in central Columbus.

        They saw three males who matched descriptions they had been given. Two fled and officers chased them into an alley, where Tyre pulled what appeared to be a gun from his waistband, the police said. Mr. Mason shot him multiple times.

        At a news conference the next day, public officials bemoaned society's "obsession with guns" and the problems the culture creates.

        Kimberley Jacobs, the police chief, held up a photograph of a BB gun of the kind found in the alley near Tyre to show how similar it looked to the firearms used by the Columbus police.

        "Why is it," Mayor Ginther asked, "that a 13-year-old would have nearly an exact replica of a police firearm on him in our neighborhoods?"



        12)  AT&T Workers Start 3-Day Strike in Contract Impasse

         MAY 19, 2017




        More than 35,000 AT&T workers began a weekend-long strike on Friday after their union accused the company of failing to make a fair proposal during contract negotiations.

        Just over half of the employees work for the company's wireless business, primarily in call centers and retail stores, and have been without a long-term contract since February.

        The union, the Communications Workers of America, complains that AT&T is sending call-center jobs overseas and diverting retail jobs to so-called authorized retailers not owned by the company and not unionized, and where wages and benefits are lower.

        "At the end of the day, this is about good jobs," said Robert Master, a union official. "We are not engaged in a productive exchange here."

        The union estimates that AT&T has cut 12,000 call-center jobs in the United States since 2011 while creating many such jobs overseas, but Mr. Master said the company had rebuffed a request for data that would clarify the extent of the practice and other changes to its work force.

        Workers are also frustrated that they are being asked to pay more of their health-insurance costs, he added, and that changes in retail workers' commissions have limited or reduced their take-home pay. As part of its next contract, the union wants to bar AT&T from changing its commission structure unilaterally.

        Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman, said the company was offering the wireless workers wage and pension increases and called the willingness to strike "baffling." He said AT&T sales workers were well paid by industry standards, citing an average of over $68,000 in annual pay and benefits, roughly twice the figure for retail workers as a whole, according to PayScale, a company that tracks salary data.

        Mr. Richter said that AT&T had successfully negotiated contracts covering nearly 130,000 workers since 2015, and that fewer than five of the company's more than 25,000 retail workers lost jobs last year because of store closings. The union said that some company stores had been converted to noncompany stores and that much of the recent growth in the retail work force had occurred at noncompany stores.

        With over 200,000 employees in the United States, AT&T is the country's largest telecom company.

        In addition to the call center and retail workers, the strikers include more than 15,000 employees on the company's wireline side — which includes landlines and internet service — as well as about 2,000 employees of DirecTV, which the company acquired in 2015. The wireline and DirecTV workers have been without a new contract for over a year and held a one-day strike in March. The two groups' contract negotiations are separate from those of the wireless workers.

        As at most telecommunications companies, AT&T's wireless business is growing faster and is more profitable than its wireline side. One of its rivals, T-Mobile, is strictly wireless, which some analysts say gives it an advantage in a rapidly approaching future in which many customers will receive both phone and video service over wireless networks alone.

        AT&T is also the only telecom company with a major union presence in its wireless business, a business that Mr. Richter said was "getting increasingly competitive as we battle with nonunion competitors." The company is awaiting Justice Department approval for its proposed acquisition of Time Warner.

        Mr. Richter said AT&T was well prepared for a potential strike. The company has "a substantial contingency work force of well-trained managers and vendors in place," he said in an email, as well as the ability to reroute calls to unaffected call centers.

        The union said workers planned to be back on their regular shifts Monday morning.



        13)  U.S., Saudi Firms Sign Tens of Billions of Dollars of Deals as Trump Visits

         MAY 20, 2017, 9:18 A.M. E.D.T.


        RIYADH — U.S. and Saudi Arabian companies signed business deals worth tens of billions of dollars on Saturday during a visit by President Donald Trump, as Riyadh seeks help to develop its economy beyond oil.

        National oil firm Saudi Aramco said it signed $50 billion (38.3 billion pounds) of agreements with U.S. firms. Energy minister Khalid al-Falih said deals involving all companies totalled over $200 billion, many of them designed to produce things in Saudi Arabia that had previously been imported.

        Business leaders on both sides were keen to demonstrate their talks had been a success, so there was an element of showmanship in the huge numbers. Some deals had been announced previously; others were memorandums of understanding that would require further negotiations to materialise.

        Nevertheless, the deals illustrated Saudi Arabia's hunger for foreign capital and technology as it tries to reduce its dependence on oil exports. Low oil prices in the past couple of years have slowed the economy to a crawl and saddled the government with a huge budget deficit.

        "We want foreign companies to look at Saudi Arabia as a platform for exports to other markets," Falih told the conference.

        In March, Saudi Arabia's King Salman toured Asia and his delegation signed similar agreements worth tens of billions of dollars there, including deals worth as much as $65 billion in China.

        Top Saudi economic policy makers, including the finance minister and head of the kingdom's main sovereign wealth fund, described investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia to a conference attended by dozens of U.S. executives on Saturday.

        Saudi officials said they aimed to prepare new, streamlined rules covering direct investment by foreign firms within 12 months.

        Among the deals signed on Saturday, GE said it reached $15 billion of agreements involving almost $7 billion of goods and services from GE itself. They ranged from the power and healthcare sectors to the oil and gas industry and mining.

        Jacobs Engineering will form a joint venture with Aramco to manage business projects in the kingdom, and McDermott International will transfer some of its ship fabrication facilities from Dubai to a new shipbuilding complex which Aramco will build within Saudi Arabia.

        Riyadh, one of the world's biggest military spenders, is keen to develop a domestic arms industry rather than importing weapons, so several deals were in military industries.

        Lockheed Martin said it would support the final assembly and completion of an estimated 150 S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopters in Saudi Arabia.

        (Additional reporting by Marwa Rashad and Celine Aswad; Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Andrew Roche)



        14)  Student Debt's Grip on the Economy

        MAY 20, 2017





        After decades of rising college costs and tepid income growth, student debt has become a drag on graduates' hopes and a threat to economic growth.

        The cost of a four-year college education, adjusted for inflation, is two and half times as much as it was in the 1978-79 school year, while median family income has increased only 20 percent.

        A new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York documents the hardship that has resulted from the soaring level of student debt taken on to cover those costs. About one in 10 student borrowers is behind on repayments, the highest delinquency level of any type of borrowing in the Fed's survey, including home mortgages, auto loans and credit cards.

        Loan payments are keeping young people from getting on with life, delaying marriage and homeownership, other data show. Research also suggests that student debt is crowding out other investment and spending that would otherwise occur. So the fallout from these burdens, afflicting those who are supposedly best prepared to face and shape the future, is not only a personal-financial issue but also a social and economic one.

        Total student debt — $1.3 trillion — is more than double what it was as recently as 2008 and is more than Americans have racked up for cars or credit cards.

        But wages for college-educated workers have only recently shown gains. They rose 6.6 percent from 2014 to 2016, as the labor market improved, but that still leaves them a mere 4.5 percent above where they were in 2002.

        Wage gains would have to be considerably more robust to handle rising debt burdens.

        The average wage of a worker with a bachelor's degree worked out to nearly $32 an hour, with those ages 21 to 24 making only about $19 an hour last year. Nearly 40 percent of households headed by someone younger than 40 had student debt, $29,800 on average, in 2013. (The median amount was nearly $17,000, but nearly 20 percent of those households owed more than $50,000.)

        The total amount of student debt pales in comparison to mortgage debt, so it does not pose the same threat to the economy that the housing bubble caused. But it does weaken economic growth and foster inequality, a further scourge that crimps spending and investing and impedes broader prosperity. Households headed by young college-educated adults without student debt have about seven times the median net worth of those households with student debt, the Pew Research Center found.

        Better administration of government repayment plans could help borrowers in the short run. But a more enduring solution is to increase wage growth by enabling white-collar and service-sector employees to bargain collectively, making more salaried workers eligible for overtime pay, ending discriminatory practices that result in pay disparities based on race and gender, and tightening up the visa system that lets companies in technology, finance and other white-collar fields use cheaper foreign labor to fill jobs or replace workers in the United States.

        The alternative is a society and an economy where even many college-educated workers cannot get ahead.



        15)  Life Behind Israel's Checkpoints

        MAY 20, 2017





        RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — Every conflict has its heroes. In Palestine they're the taxi drivers.

        After living for half a century under occupation, I can no longer endure the anxiety of what might appear on the road, whether it is angry drivers bottlenecked at the hundreds of barriers scattered through the West Bank or the pathetic boys who throw themselves at your car pretending to clean the windshield, asking for money. The plight of these boys invariably makes me hate myself, forcing me to confront the extent to which my society has failed. Then, of course, there is the indignity of having to wait on the whim of an Israeli teenage soldier to motion me to pass.

        But perhaps the main reason I stopped driving out of Ramallah is that the roads Israel built to link the Jewish settlements with Israel have replaced the familiar old roads, making the whole network so confusing that I often get lost. And this is the greatest indignity of all, getting lost in your own country.

        This is why I began asking Hani to drive me in his taxi. Patient, and well tempered, he also possesses the signal virtue of punctuality.

        Not long ago, he drove me to the airport. I was going to London for a week, and my flight was at 5 in the afternoon. Twenty years ago, the drive took 50 minutes. Now, with so many checkpoints on the way, I left the house at noon, five hours before the flight.

        I held my breath when we passed the first checkpoint. Hani does not lie, not even to soldiers. Though he lives in Jerusalem, is fluent in Hebrew and could easily pass for a Jew, he never says he lives in one of the settlements. Nor does he ever place a Hebrew newspaper on the dashboard or play Israeli music.

        We needed to get to the highway at Dolev, a Jewish settlement. It's less than six miles from Ramallah, but the road between them has long been closed to Palestinian traffic. Our detour took about 45 minutes, down a winding, single-lane road. When we reached the highway, we found that the Israeli Army had placed concrete barrier blocks there, preventing Palestinian access to this road as well.

        We stood there, wondering what to do, while the settlers' cars and buses zoomed by. Hani then picked up his mobile phone and called a colleague to find out how it was at the Qalandiya crossing leading to Jerusalem, at least an hour away.

        "It's very bad," he was told. His friend said he had been held up for two hours. Hani was also informed that the checkpoint we were heading to, near the village of Ni'lin, was also closed to most Palestinians.

        He turned to me with a look of desperation: "We have no choice but to try going through the Rantis checkpoint."

        The problem was that only Israeli citizens and Palestinians with entry permits were allowed through there. "If we're stopped, I could get in trouble for attempting to smuggle you through, and you might end up being detained," Hani said. "Or if they want to be kind, they might simply send us back. But then there would be no possibility that you'll make it in time for your flight. What do you say? Shall we risk it?"

        "Not much choice," I said with as much confidence as I could muster. "Let's risk it." I said this knowing that I was taking not only an individual risk but also one on behalf of Hani.

        Now we had to find a different access point to get on the main road. Another taxi drove by, saw that the road was closed and began turning around. Hani flashed his lights. The two drivers consulted, and Hani learned that the other driver knew another route. We proceeded to follow him for another 45 minutes, wandering from one Palestinian village to another, until we finally found an unpaved opening on the side of the road that had not been blocked by the Army.

        How I wish I were fatalistic, someone who tells himself I did all I could and now will leave my destiny to fate. But I'm not like that. I start eating myself up, even blaming myself for the occupation. I tried to assure myself that it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't get on the flight. I was only going to do a series of talks on human rights. Perhaps I should stay put in my house and give up traveling altogether. But so much had gone into the planning of this week, so many people were involved. Would they understand why I hadn't made it? Would they appreciate the complications of our life under occupation?

        The closer we got to the checkpoint, the more anxious I felt. Fretting, in turn, makes me look guilty, as though I were smuggling a bomb or going on a violent mission. Hani could see how tense I was. But he was too polite to tell me to take it easy. Instead, he tried to distract me by telling me one story after another. He was a good raconteur; still, most of the stories he told me were about checkpoints, a Palestinian vein of narrative that is almost inescapable.

        "Imagine this," he said. "Once, I was going to the Allenby Bridge. It was very hot and there was a long wait at a checkpoint. When my turn finally came, an Israeli soldier came over and asked whether I often came this way. I answered that I did.

        " 'Will you be coming back this way?' he asked.

        "I said I would.

        " 'Don't stand in line. Come straight through, because I want to speak to you.'

        "On the way back I didn't jump the long queue as he had told me to do. When I got to where he was standing he asked me, 'Why didn't you do as I told you?' I said I always wait in line. He then asked for my telephone number, saying he wanted to talk to me."

        Hani gave him a fake number, but he immediately called it and heard no ring. He demanded the right number, and Hani had no choice.

        Later, "he called and proposed that I meet with him," Hani said. "I knew what he wanted and told him I was not that sort of man. He said he could help me so I wouldn't have to wait in line anymore but would be able to go straight through. In return, he wanted me to tell him who the troublemakers were in the Jerusalem neighborhood where I live, and he'd reward me. I told him I didn't need his help and hung up."

        He sounded uncharacteristically bitter. "I'm so tired of Jerusalem. All its people are bad and don't deserve this great city. The whole lot should all be evacuated and the city handed over to an international power. Then whoever wants to visit to pray there could use the houses of the former inhabitants, now turned into hotels."

        As we neared the checkpoint, I saw that the land on both sides of the road was cultivated with silver-leaved old olive trees. In the field beyond were spiny broom shrubs that shone in the sun like lanterns. How the settlers could argue that there was no one living in these lands before their arrival is bewildering.

        Then Hani spoke again: "And yet some of these soldiers manning the checkpoints have a heart." I remembered something he'd told me in the past, about a soldier who had noticed him coming to a checkpoint, getting checked, leaving and returning again and again in the same day. "He finally asked me whether I ever get tired of all this. I could tell that he genuinely felt for me."

        "And what did you say to him?" I'd asked.

        "I didn't want him to pity me, so I turned it back on him, saying that if I didn't keep on going back and forth, he would be out of work."

        We were approaching the checkpoint. I put on my glasses to make sure I was reading the sign right. It said, "This crossing is reserved only for Israelis," including, in fine print, those entitled under the Law of Return of 1950.

        I looked at Hani. The sheen of perspiration was now visible on his brow, too. How had it come to this? What was the point of traveling all the way to London to tell others about injustice when I was so enmeshed in the logic of occupation that the possibility that I might be stopped at a checkpoint sent me into such panic? Was this what we had been reduced to?

        We drove through the checkpoint in companionable silence. He endured and will endure as he has for the past 20 years. I must do the same. We cannot afford to abandon the struggle and must do what we can to end this occupation, before it succeeds in destroying us all.

























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