bauaw2003 NEWSLETTER, WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 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 





Thursday May 25, 2017, 4:30-6PM

May 25th is an International call to action: Day of global one-day hunger strikes for Palestinian prisoners. We invite you to join us for a protest and press conference at the Israeli Consulate in support of the Day of global one-day hunger strikes for Palestinian prisoners.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/event s/289463528131951/?active_tab= about

WHERE: Israeli Consulate 456 Montgomery St, San Francisco

WHEN: 4:30PM-6PM

WHAT: Join a coalition of Palestinian groups and solidarity activists, including JVP and Norcal Sabeel to demand that Israel meet the just demands of the strikers to be treated according to internationally recognized human rights standards.

In April of 2017, over 1000 Palestinian prisoners launched the largest collective hunger strike in years, on the occasion of marking 50 years of military occupation & nearly 70 years of Israel's displacement & imprisonment of Palestinians.

Their demands are simple including: reinstating visitation rights, installing phones, improving medical care, and ending solitary confinement and administrative detention (the practice of holding prisoners for indefinite periods without charge or trial).


Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863.9977www.freedomarchives.org

Questions and comments may be sent to claude@freedomarchives.org



Lesson from the past:

A Strategy to Fight Racist and Fascist Attacks

By Farrell Dobbs 

Political Report to the June 1961 Socialist Workers Party Convention (excerpt)

The current outbreak of rightist movements—Youth for Goldwater, John Birch Society, the extremist American Nazis, etc.—requires close attention and it also poses some tactical questions that need clarification. Implicit in this trend is the ultimate danger of repressive fascist attacks on labor and its allies, against which the labor movement will have to wage a showdown struggle in the streets. But it would be a serious mistake to raise a hue and cry against incipient fascism, as though the ultimate danger were already upon us, and attempt to substitute ourselves for the masses in taking the issue to the streets here and now. National politics still remains class collaborationist in mass character, despite the growing restiveness of labor and its allies. While this class political equilibrium remains operative, fascism can't make significant headway. When the present equilibrium does become upset through a labor breakaway from capitalist politics, it does not necessarily follow that capitalism will resort forthwith to fascist measures. An attempt might be made, as class political antagonism sharpen, to establish Bonapartist rule, perhaps through a military dictatorship based on the present vast interlocking alliance between the officer corps and the monopoly capitalists. Fascist trends would receive strong new impulses at such a conjuncture, but the ultimate showdown with fascism would still not be at hand. Therefore our propaganda, in addition to explaining the meaning of fascism and educating the masses in the need to be on guard against it, must also analyze the complex interim questions of the power struggles which could be next on the agenda.

At the present time, given the class collaborationist character of national politics, the existing rightist formations simply represent vanguard polarizations on the right, which play the counterpart of our vanguard role on the left. They can do little more than conduct propaganda, resorting only to isolated, small-scale acts of hooliganism, which often backfire against them. Since the incipient fascists are not strong enough to carry through antidemocratic actions at present, a call for mobilization against them would give the general impression of an attempt on our part to suppress freedom of speech and assembly for others. We would not only be inviting comparable attacks, both legal and extra-legal, against our own democratic rights, but we would appear to have given them justification. The truth is that we stand for freedom of speech and assembly in principle—not just for us, but for everybody. Therefore, we do not demand that the rightist movements be denied these freedoms.

Concerning the question of civil liberties, we should keep in mind that our growing reputation as a serious revolutionary tendency with a meaningful program is drawing attention not only from people becoming radicalized. The witch hunters are taking notice as well. We are beginning to draw their fire to a new degree in connection with the Cuban defense movement and there could be other new attacks. More than ever we must be on guard against any undermining of civil liberties for all, if we hope to defend our own democratic rights. To act otherwise would be to repeat the costly mistake of the Stalinists in refusing to recognize the democratic rights of their political opponents.

Let me call to your attention an article Trotsky wrote on this subject in December 1939 in the Socialist Appeal under the title, "Why I Consented to Appear Before The Dies Committee." I don't have the time to give you the background but it's worth your while to go back and do a little research on the circumstances surrounding the question of Trotsky possibly testifying before the Dies Committee, intending to use the occasion for propaganda purposes.

The questions of Stalinist dictatorship, of democratic rights under capitalism and the policy of revolutionists on civil liberties in a capitalist country like ours came up in this discussion. Trotsky wrote in the article cited, "Being an irreconcilable opponent not only of fascism but also of the present-day Comintern, I am at the same time decidedly against the suppression of either of them." He pointed out that the suppression of fascists by the capitalist government always proves fictitious. He also took note of the fact that to defend the rights of the Stalinists could help to refurbish the Comintern. "However," he said, "the question is not exhausted by this consideration. Under the conditions of the bourgeois regime, all suppression of political rights and freedom, no matter whom they are directed against in the beginning, in the end inevitably bear down upon the working class, particularly its most advanced elements. That is a law of history." 

In the article Trotsky was speaking of a specific stage, the one we're in now, where we're struggling under adverse conditions against a repressive ruling class in a capitalist country. He pointed out that when the struggle intensifies into a class showdown a new factor arises, the rules of civil war, which are something else again. But concerning a situation such as ours, he stated unambiguously "the working class in the capitalist countries, threatened with their own enslavement must stand in defense of freedom for all political tendencies including their own irreconcilable enemies."

Under circumstances where the foregoing policy will be maintained, we may at times find it useful propagandistically to organize counter-demonstrations against incipient fascists. In any situation where they resort to rightist hooliganism we will take the initiative in organizing defense guards to oppose them. But our central task at this stage concerning the rightist formations is to explain the true nature of fascism in our propaganda, seeking to educate and alert the masses against it. In doing so we must keep a sense of proportion as to the immediate nature of the fascist issue, being careful to direct major attention to the primary questions of the day.

Reprinted from Socialist Workers Party Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 22, No. 19, September 1961

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line






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





Juneteenth 2017 (Monday, June 19, 2017)

Land is Power. Land is Liberation. Land is the Commons

On Juneteenth 2017 (Monday, June 19th) Black people across the country will take back land and reclaim space, from vacant lots to empty school buildings. We are taking back land that should be used for the good of the people; land that has historically been denied to Black people. Through these actions we will confront the institutions and individuals that have been built off the extracted wealth of Black people and Black land.



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) 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"



        2) 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.



        3)  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



        4)  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




        5)  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.



        6)  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?"



        7)  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.



        8)  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)



        9)  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.



        10)  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.



        11) The Mystery of the Wasting House-Cats

        Forty years ago, feline hyperthyroidism was virtually nonexistent. Now it's an epidemic — and some scientists think a class of everyday chemicals might be to blame.

         MAY 16, 2017


        Most days, the back room of the Animal Endocrine Clinic in Manhattan is home to half a dozen cats convalescing in feline luxury. They lounge in their own individual "condos," each equipped with a plush bed, a raised perch and a cozy box for hiding. Classical music plinks softly from speakers overhead. A television plays cat-friendly videos — birds chirping, squirrels scampering. Patients can also tune in to the live version: A seed-stuffed bird feeder hangs directly outside each window.

        One afternoon in April, a jet-black cat named Nubi assumed a predatory crouch in his condo as a brawny pigeon landed on a feeder. Dr. Mark Peterson, the soft-spoken veterinarian who runs the clinic, opened the door to Nubi's condo and greeted the 12-year-old tom in a lilting, high-pitched voice. "How are you?" Peterson asked, reaching in to scratch his patient's soft chin. Nubi, who typically is so temperamental that his owner jokes about needing a priest to perform an exorcism, gently acquiesced, then turned back to the bird. Peterson seemed eager to linger with each of Nubi's four feline neighbors — Maggie, Biggie, Fiji and Napoleon — but, he warned, "these cats back here are radioactive."

        He meant that literally. The previous day, all five animals received carefully titrated doses of radioactive iodine, designed to destroy the overactive cells that had proliferated in their thyroid glands and flooded their bodies with hormones. These cats are among the millions suffering from hyperthyroidism, one of the most mysterious diseases in veterinary medicine. When Peterson entered veterinary school in 1972, feline hyperthyroidism seemingly didn't exist; today, he treats nothing else. In the intervening decades, hyperthyroidism somehow became an epidemic in cats, and no one knows why. "I've devoted most of my time in the last 35 years to this," said Peterson, who noted that he has treated more than 10,000 hyperthyroid cats, "and I still have more questions than I have answers."

        Although definitive answers remain elusive, scientists are narrowing in on one possible explanation: A steady drumbeat of research links the strange feline disease to a common class of flame retardants that have blanketed the insides of our homes for decades. But even as the findings may answer one epidemiological question, they raise another in its place. If household chemicals are wreaking havoc on the hormones of cats, what are they doing to us?

        By the time Peterson met Sasha in the fall of 1978, the scrawny tuxedo cat was a regular at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. The 15-year-old had lost a profound amount of weight, despite a seemingly insatiable appetite. Her case stumped veterinarians, who had already ruled out many of the obvious culprits, including parasites, irritable-bowel disease and diabetes.

        Peterson, who had become restless with his veterinary residency, was spending his time off attending endocrine rounds at New York Hospital. When he heard about Sasha's symptoms, he thought of the thyroid, a gland that sits at the base of the neck and secretes hormones that regulate metabolism. In humans, weight loss and increased appetite are among the hallmark symptoms of hyperthyroidism, in which the gland churns out huge quantities of hormones, sending the body's internal systems into overdrive.

        Although cats weren't known to develop the condition, Peterson thought the possibility was worth at least investigating. And so, one afternoon, he ferried Sasha to the hospital, where a sympathetic doctor had agreed to give the cat a thyroid scan. The image was unambiguous: There was a large mass on Sasha's thyroid. The tumor was benign, but its inexhaustible cells were dumping thyroid hormones into her bloodstream. "We got all excited, and we didn't know exactly what we were doing, but we removed the tumor," Peterson says. "And the cat got better and gained like five pounds in six months."

        It was a happy ending for Sasha, but for Peterson and Gerald Johnson, the gastroenterologist at the Animal Medical Center, it was just the beginning. "Dr. Johnson said, 'You know, I have these other cases that I haven't been able to figure out,' " Peterson recalls. "So we thought: We'll get them back. Let's test them." They quickly found four more cats with benign thyroid tumors and elevated levels of thyroid hormones. And the more they looked, the more hyperthyroid cats they found. "It didn't take very long to get a dozen cases, and then 30 cases, and then 100 cases," Peterson says. It was an astonishing discovery — dozens of pets wasting away from a disease that nobody knew existed.

        In the summer of 1979, Peterson presented the first five cases of feline hyperthyroidism to a standing-room-only crowd at a veterinary conference in Seattle. There, he learned that hyperthyroid cats had recently begun turning up in Boston; the vets at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital would soon publish a paper on their first 10 patients. The reports set the veterinary world abuzz and raised some unsettling questions. "The first, among specialists, was, 'How did we miss this?' " recalls Duncan Ferguson, a veterinarian and pharmacologist who was a co-author of a 1982 paper on the first cluster of cases to appear in Philadelphia. "We can't believe it just sort of appeared. Is this a new disease?"

        It seemed to be. When Peterson later combed through old pathology reports for 7,000 feline necropsies, he found that the thyroid abnormalities he was seeing were rare until the late 1970s. But once the outbreak started, it spread fast. From 1979 to 1983, the vets at the Animal Medical Center saw three cases a month on average; by 1993, they were seeing more than 20. The disease hopscotched across the United States and then the world, striking cats in Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

        Today, senior cats are routinely screened for hyperthyroidism, and about 10 percent will be found to have the disease. Owners can choose from a variety of treatments, including drugs, surgery or radioactive iodine, which destroys the hyperactive thyroid cells while sparing the healthy tissue. At his two clinics — the one in Manhattan and another in Bedford Hills, N.Y. — Peterson administers radioiodine to more than 300 cats each year. But for all the progress veterinarians have made in diagnosing and treating the disorder, it has been far trickier to determine its origin.

        When hyperthyroidism first surfaced in cats, Peterson was confident that scientists would soon make sense of the curious condition. A number of researchers, including Peterson, became epidemiological detectives, searching for dietary, environmental and lifestyle factors that distinguished the hyperthyroid cats from healthy ones, and they turned up many leads. Among the many behaviors that appeared to put cats at risk: spending time indoors, using cat litter, eating canned food, eating fish-flavored canned food, eating liver-and-giblet-flavored canned food, drinking puddle water, sleeping on the floor, sleeping on bedding treated with flea-control products and living in a home with a gas fireplace.

        It was a long and eclectic list, and from the 1980s to the early 2000s, scientists proposed a wide range of potential culprits, including chemicals used in canning and a toxic mystery substance in cat litter. Eventually, researchers homed in on another possibility: a class of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Beginning in the 1970s, large quantities of the chemicals were routinely added to many household goods, including couch cushions, carpet padding and electronics. PBDEs can be itinerant compounds; they leach from our sofas and TVs and latch onto particles of house dust, coating our floors and furniture. They drift into soil, water and air and slip into the bodies of animals, collecting in everything from the eggs of peregrine falcons to the blubber of beluga whales.

        PBDEs also happen to have a chemical structure that resembles thyroid hormones and may mimic or compete with these hormones in the body, binding to their receptors and interfering with their transport and metabolism. By the mid-2000s, it was clear that they could alter thyroid function in rodents, birds and fish, and the United States and the European Union have now largely phased the chemicals out. (They remain ubiquitous, however; PBDEs take years to degrade, and many people still own products manufactured before they were taken off the market.)

        As the health risks of PBDEs became clear, two scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency — Linda Birnbaum, a toxicologist, and Janice Dye, a veterinarian — began to wonder whether the chemicals might also be responsible for the rise of hyperthyroidism in cats. "How do cats behave?" says Birnbaum, who now directs the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and its National Toxicology Program. "They crawl on the floor. They sit on the couch. They lick their paws all the time. So anything in the dust, they're going to end up ingesting." If PBDEs were to blame, it would explain why the disease didn't appear until the late 1970s, why it first emerged in the United States — where use of the chemicals was especially heavy — and why indoor cats seemed to be at particular risk.

        Birnbaum and Dye started a small pilot study to scour the blood of 23 cats, including 11 with hyperthyroidism, for traces of PBDEs. The volumes of blood they collected were so small that the graduate student conducting the lab work worried that she might not detect anything. Her fears were unfounded: The cats had PBDE levels 20 to 100 times as high as those typically observed in American adults. Birnbaum and Dye, who reported their results in a 2007 paper, also found relatively large quantities of PBDEs in several types of cat food, particularly seafood-flavored canned foods.

        Several years later, a group in Illinois discovered that pet cats had higher PBDE levels than feral ones and that hyperthyroid cats tended to live in homes that were particularly saturated with the flame retardants. In 2015, a Swedish team found that hyperthyroid cats had significantly higher levels of three types of PBDEs in their blood than healthy cats did. Last year, researchers in California reported a similar result: Total PBDE levels were higher in cats with hyperthyroidism than those without.

        The findings are tantalizing but not definitive. Cats' lengthening life spans may explain some of the increased incidence of the disease, and it's possible that high PBDE levels are a result of hyperthyroidism, rather than a cause; the compounds, which are stored in fat, may be released into the bloodstream when cats lose weight. Even if flame retardants do contribute to the disease, they may not be the sole cause. Researchers at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control recently identified more than 70 different compounds that seem to be present in especially high concentrations in hyperthyroid cats. "It's terribly complicated to nail," says Ake Bergman, who led the Swedish study and is the director of the Swedish Toxicology Sciences Research Center. "Because you are, and I am, and we are all, including the cats, exposed to such a mixture of chemicals."

        In the early 1950s, the cats of Minamata, Japan, seemed to go mad all at once. They began to stagger, stumble and convulse, limbs flailing in every direction. They salivated uncontrollably. They hurled themselves at stone walls and drowned themselves in the sea. This "dancing-cat disease," as it came to be known, was a warning — one that went unheeded.

        In the spring of 1956, a 5-year-old Minamata girl suddenly lost control of her body. She dropped her food, wobbled when she walked and shuddered with convulsions, biting her tongue until it bled. Other city residents, including the girl's 2-year-old sister, soon began to exhibit similar symptoms. Thousands of people eventually fell ill; many slipped into comas and died. In 1959, a physician identified the cause of the catastrophe: A local chemical plant had been dumping methylmercury into the bay, poisoning the fish and, ultimately, the humans and cats who ate them. "In retrospect, if we'd paid more attention to the dancing cats, we might have prevented some of the problems of mercury poisoning in the people," says Peter Rabinowitz, who directs the University of Washington's Center for One Health Research, which explores connections among human, animal and environmental health.

        Environmental toxicants are equal-opportunity hazards; mercury, asbestos, pesticides and other compounds can cause health problems in humans and animals alike. For at least a century — since coal miners began using caged canaries to alert them to the presence of toxic gases — we have known that we can put these shared vulnerabilities to practical use. Sick animals can be sentinels, warning of looming threats to human health. For household chemicals, cats and dogs, which tend to spend nearly all their time in the home and happily hoover up whatever detritus falls on the floor, may be particularly useful sentinels. "Our household pets are exposed to many of the same kinds of chemicals that we are," Birnbaum says. "I think if we see a health problem in our animals, especially one that has arisen very recently — genetics doesn't change that quickly — I think it's kind of raising the canary-in-the-coal-mine issue."

        Could hyperthyroid cats be modern-day canaries? We know that flame retardants accumulate in our own bodies; scientists find PBDEs in nearly every person they test, including newborns. "It's almost 100 percent detection," says Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemist and exposure scientist at Duke University. The compounds turn up in human blood, breast milk and tissue and can persist for years in fat.

        Over the course of decades, human PBDE levels skyrocketed, increasing 100-fold from the 1970s to the early 2000s. (These levels now appear to be declining, most likely as a result of the phasing out of the chemicals.) The rate of human thyroid cancer more than doubled over the same time period. These parallel trends may be more than coincidence: Multiple studies have shown that men and women with high concentrations of PBDEs in their bodies tend to have altered levels of thyroid hormones circulating in their bloodstreams. Last year, researchers reported that thyroid problems were more common among American women with elevated levels of PBDEs in their blood. And at a conference this spring, Stapleton and her colleagues presented findings suggesting that long-term exposure to PBDEs may be a risk factor for papillary thyroid cancer; according to the unpublished data, living in a home with high levels of one type of PBDE in the dust more than doubled the odds of having the disease.

        Thyroid hormones also play a crucial role in brain development; a deficiency of these hormones, known as hypothyroidism, may cause neurological abnormalities. If PBDEs cause unusual fluctuations in hormone levels in early life, they may do lasting damage. Scientists have found that those who are exposed to high concentrations of PBDEs in utero or during early childhood score lower on tests of motor skills and cognition. These findings are particularly worrisome given that young children — who are not uncatlike in their behavior, ingesting up to 200 milligrams of dust a day — tend to have higher body burdens of PBDEs than adults. The data are not conclusive, and the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. But further studies of cats could help scientists clarify what's happening. "I remain convinced that paying more attention to what the animals are trying to tell us is a really good idea," Rabinowitz says. "There are still many disease outbreaks in animals that remain sort of unexplored or unexplained."

        Rabinowitz, who created the online Canary Database to index papers on animal outbreaks that may be relevant to human health, thinks scientists and clinicians could be more strategic about connecting the dots between species. When he and his colleagues recently investigated the potential health risks of hydraulic fracturing, they discovered that skin problems were common in both the people and the dogs living near gas-extraction sites. "We're finding that there was really some utility in asking about both people and animals when looking at a new hazard," Rabinowitz says. He suggests that we consider linking the health records of pets and their owners.

        For his part, Peterson remains steadfastly focused on cats, which keep showing up with thyroid hot spots that need to be injected with radiation. He will keep them as comfortable as possible during their stay at the "Hypurrcat Spa," which is why he has converted the floor-to-ceiling pipe into a scratching post and keeps towel-lined baskets on the cold exam table. At his Bedford Hills clinic, which lacks windows for bird-watching, he has even installed a cage of gerbils in the cats' line of sight. ("People always say, 'Are the gerbils upset?' " he told me. "I think the gerbils like it, because they get to see new cats.") Sitting in his Manhattan clinic's waiting room, where the cats are encouraged to relax on the furniture, he said: "I love the animals. I love the animals more than people, I think."



        12)   Anarchists Fill Services Void Left by Faltering Greek Governance

         MAY 22, 2017





        ATHENS — It may seem paradoxical, but Greece's anarchists are organizing like never before.

        Seven years of austerity policies and a more recent refugee crisis have left the government with fewer and fewer resources, offering citizens less and less. Many have lost faith. Some who never had faith in the first place are taking matters into their own hands, to the chagrin of the authorities.

        Tasos Sagris, a 45-year-old member of the Greek anarchist group Void Network and of the "self-organized" Embros theater group, has been at the forefront of a resurgence of social activism that is effectively filling a void in governance.

        "People trust us because we don't use the people as customers or voters," Mr. Sagris said. "Every failure of the system proves the idea of the anarchists to be true."

        These days that idea is not only about chaos and tearing down the institutions of the state and society — the country's long, grinding economic crisis has taken care of much of that — but also about unfiltered self-help and citizen action.

        Yet the movement remains disparate, with some parts emphasizing the need for social activism and others prioritizing a struggle against authority with acts of vandalism and street battles with the police. Some are seeking to combine both.

        Whatever the means, since 2008 scores of "self-managing social centers" have mushroomed across Greece, financed by private donations and the proceeds from regularly scheduled concerts, exhibitions and on-site bars, most of which are open to the public. There are now around 250 nationwide.

        Some activists have focused on food and medicine handouts as poverty has deepened and public services have collapsed.

        In recent months, anarchists and leftist groups have trained special energy on housing refugees who flooded into Greece in 2015 and who have been bottled up in the country since the European Union and Balkan nations tightened their borders. Some 3,000 of these refugees now live in 15 abandoned buildings that have been taken over by anarchists in the capital.

        The burst of citizen action is just the latest chapter in a long history for the anarchist movement in Greece.

        Anarchists played an active role in the student uprisings that helped bring down Greece's dictatorship in the mid-1970s, including a rebellion at the Athens Polytechnic in November 1973, which authorities crushed with police officers and tanks, resulting in several deaths.

        Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, anarchists have joined leftist groups in occupying portions of Greek universities to promote their thinking and lifestyle; many of those occupied spaces exist today, and some are used as bases by anarchists to fashion the crude firebombs hurled at the police during street protests.

        Over the years, anarchists have also backed a spectrum of causes, such as opposing "neoliberal" education reform or campaigning against the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

        The movement continues to be largely tolerated by the public at large, reflecting a deep distrust of authority among Greeks that has been stoked in recent years by the austerity measures imposed on the debt-racked country by international creditors.

        In Athens, the anarchists' epicenter remains the bohemian neighborhood of Exarchia, where the killing of a teenager by a police officer in 2008 set off two weeks of rioting, helped reinvigorate the movement and produced several guerrilla groups that led to a revival of domestic terrorism in Greece.

        The police and the authorities tread lightly in the area.

        The police have recently raided some buildings illegally occupied by anarchists, called squats, in Athens, in the northern city of Thessaloniki and on the island of Lesbos, a gateway for hundreds of thousands of migrants over the past two years. But the authorities have stopped short of a blanket crackdown, which would be difficult for the leftist Syriza party of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to condone.

        In an interview, Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas said that the police sweeps were "systematic," and that the raids were being carried out "where they are needed."

        The mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis, condemned the squats, saying they have compromised "the quality of life of the refugees."

        "No one knows who they are controlled by and what conditions people being put up in occupied buildings live in," he said in a response to a reporter's questions.

        The anarchists say their squats are a humane alternative to the state-run camps now filled with more than 60,000 migrants and asylum seekers. Human rights groups have broadly condemned the camps as squalid and unsafe.

        In Exarchia, one of the squats includes a former state secondary school that was abandoned because of structural problems. Established last spring with the help of anarchists, the squat is now home to some 250 refugees, mostly from Syria, who have set up a chicken coop on the roof. Many more refugees are on a "waiting list" for other occupied buildings.

        The squats function as self-organized communities, independent from the state and nongovernmental organizations, said Lauren Lapidge, 28, a British social activist who came to Greece in 2015 at the peak of the refugee crisis and is actively involved with several occupied buildings.

        "They are living organisms: Kids go to school, some were born in the squat, we've had weddings inside," she said.

        Another initiative in Exarchia involves anarchists and local residents who have moved a cargo container into the neighborhood's central square, calling it a political kiosk, from which they distribute food and medicine and sell anarchist literature.

        Vassiliki Spathara, 49, a painter and anarchist living in Exarchia, said the initiative was necessary because the local authorities would not intervene "even to replace light bulbs" in the square, known as a haunt for drug dealers, though activity has abated recently.

        "The authorities want to downgrade the area because it's the only place in Athens that has an organized, anti-establishment identity," Ms. Spathara said.

        Mayor Kaminis said the local authorities were cooperating with residents "to rejuvenate the area," and insisted that Exarchia residents had the same rights as all Athenians.

        Yet in Greece's crumbling political landscape, anarchists appear to be styling themselves as a political alternative to the government.

        "We want people to fight back, in all ways, from taking care of refugees to burning banks and Parliament," said Mr. Sagris, the member of Void Network and the Embros theater group, which raises money to fund squats housing refugees. "Anarchists use all tactics, violent and nonviolent."

        He noted, however, that anarchists had a "moral obligation" to make sure that tragedies — like the deaths of three people in May 2010 when an Athens bank was firebombed during an anti-austerity rally — did not happen again. Though anarchists were blamed, none were convicted in a trial that ended with three bank executives convicted of manslaughter through neglect resulting from safety oversights. (They were released on bail, pending an appeal.)

        Another anarchist group, Rouvikonas, is looking beyond violence, though its members have made a cause of raiding and vandalizing state offices and businesses.

        Last week, members of the group, armed with large wooden sticks festooned with black anarchist flags, conducted a night patrol of a large park in central Athens, saying the police had not intervened to stop the drug trade and prostitution involving young migrants.

        Mr. Toskas, who oversees the Greek police force, said the authorities had made a major dent in the drug trade in Exarchia. "Some anarchist groups want to say that they got rid of drugs in the area so that they can control it," he said.

        Rouvikonas members recently applied to a local court to found a "cultural society"— to help organize fund-raising events — and on Saturday the group presented its "political identity" at a squat in Exarchia. (Anarchists insist they are not forming a political party.)

        "Anarchists obviously cannot form a political party," said Spiros Dapergolas, 45, a graphic designer who belongs to Rouvikonas. "But we have our own means to enter the political center," he said. "We want to get bigger."

        The group's long-term aim is "militant unionism," Mr. Dapergolas said. But, he conceded, it is not easy for people to organize themselves. In the meantime, he said, "what Rouvikonas is doing can be done by anyone."



        13)  Lack of Workers, Not Work, Weighs on the Nation's Economy

         MAY 21, 2017





        SALT LAKE CITY — Stephanie Pappas and her brothers built their roofing supply company in this fast-growing region by promising next-day delivery, but lately they've been forced to tell some customers that tomorrow is impossible.

        Their company, Roofers Supply, employs 28 drivers across Utah, and Ms. Pappas said she would need at least 15 more to meet the exploding demand for shingles and tiles. The company has raised its starting wage by 10 percent since the beginning of the year to $17.50 an hour, but it's not enough.

        "We never want to have to say, 'We can't do it,' but we need people," Ms. Pappas said.

        After eight years of steady growth, the main economic concern in Utah and a growing number of other states is no longer a lack of jobs, but a lack of workers. The unemployment rate here fell to 3.1 percent in March, among the lowest figures in the nation. Nearly a third of the 388 metropolitan areas tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have an unemployment rate below 4 percent, well below the level that economists consider "full employment," the normal churn of people quitting to find new jobs. The rate in some cities, like Ames, Iowa, and Boulder, Colo., is even lower, at 2 percent.

        That's good news for workers, who are reaping wage increases and moving to better jobs after years of stagnating pay that, for many, was stuck at a low level. Daniel Edlund, a 21-year-old call center worker in Provo, Utah, learned Monday that his hours were changing. On Wednesday, he had his first interview for a new job.

        "I'm trying to find a company that treats you well," he said.

        But labor shortages are weighing on overall economic growth, slowing the pace of expansion in northern Utah and other fast-growing regions even as unemployment remains stubbornly high in Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and in regions still recovering from the 2008 recession, like inland California.

        To Todd Bingham, the president of the Utah Manufacturers Association, "3.1 percent unemployment is fabulous unless you're looking to hire people."

        "Our companies are saying, 'We could grow faster, we could produce more product, if we had the workers,'" he said. "Is it holding the economy back? I think it definitely is."

        President Trump continues to promise that he will accelerate job growth by cutting taxes and regulations. But the accumulating evidence that workers are getting harder to find, and that wages are rising more quickly, has convinced many economists that significantly faster growth is unlikely. The Federal Reserve has cited the trend as its reason for moving to wind down its own economic stimulus campaign. The Fed may raise interest rates again at its next meeting in June.

        Qualtrics, which conducts online market research, is a prime example of the rapid growth of the Utah economy — and the sense that Utah is straining at the limits of its growth potential. Scott Smith started the company with his son, Ryan, and a college classmate in his Provo home in 2002. Qualtrics now employs 1,300 people, including about 800 in a new headquarters building opened in August at the mouth of Provo Canyon. And it is bringing workers to Utah as fast as it can.

        Each Monday, the company ties red balloons to the desks of that week's batch of new employees. Last week, there were several dozen of those balloons. The parking lot outside the new headquarters building is already overstuffed, including many cars that still have out-of-state plates.

        Ryan Smith, now the chief executive, said Qualtrics had hired about three dozen graduates from the University of Michigan alone last year. The company estimates that new arrivals bought 100 homes in Provo last year.

        Utah's tech scene is growing alongside the company. More local university students are studying engineering; more start-ups are popping up in the region, which boosters would very much like everyone to call "Silicon Slopes." But by the end of the year, Mr. Smith said, he expects the company will have more employees outside Utah than in its home state. It is growing where it finds workers.

        Companies in Utah, as in the rest of the country, were slow to raise wages in recent years. At first there were plenty of available workers. But by the end of 2015, a report by Utah's Department of Workforce Services concluded that inadequate wages had become a key reason companies were struggling to find employees.

        "It was as if employers hadn't adjusted their approach to the labor market" as the economy recovered, said Carrie Mayne, the department's chief economist.

        Now there are signs the logjam is breaking. Adam Himoff, the president of Xemplar Skilled Workforce Solutions, a recruiting firm hired by Roofers Supply to find drivers, said he had seen an increase this year in the willingness of clients to raise wages.

        "Labor has become the constraint on their growth goals, and they're recognizing that they're going to have to increase wages to achieve what they want to achieve," he said.

        Ms. Mayne said the state also saw signs of what she described as a broad-based acceleration in wages in the most recent data, through the end of last year.

        But the share of Utah adults who have withdrawn from the labor force remains higher than before the recession. Last year, 31.7 percent of adults in Utah were neither working nor looking for work, up from 28.2 percent in 2006. That is part of a broad national trend.

        And a 3.1 percent unemployment rate still means that about 50,000 people in Utah were trying to find jobs in March.

        Some, like Monica Von Strahl, expect to find work quickly. Ms. Von Strahl, 44, moved to Utah from Oregon in April for family reasons. She left a job as a caregiver for adults with disabilities that paid $16 an hour; so far, the most she has been offered in Utah is $10 an hour. She plans to keep looking a little longer. (Scholars at M.I.T. estimate that a living wage in Utah for a single person is $10.71 an hour.)

        But even in a red-hot market, some of the people who are looking for work struggle to find the right fit. Noel Nampijja, 42, left her job as a nurse's aide two months ago because the work of moving patients was hurting her back. She just completed training as a phlebotomist, a medical assistant who draws blood.

        "I'm hoping to find a job that won't hurt as much," she said.

        In less lucrative industries, labor shortages may remain an intractable problem.

        Ron Gibson, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, tends 1,500 cows on family land outside Ogden. Last month, he placed an ad in local papers seeking three workers at wages starting around $12 an hour. It did not draw any responses.

        Mr. Gibson cannot afford to chase workers by raising wages. The price of milk, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than in the 1980s. Instead, he is producing less milk. Each cow is milked three times a day; only 15 percent get a fourth milking.

        He also laughed at the idea that Americans might move from other states to milk cows in Utah. He relies primarily on immigrant labor, communicating with his two dozen workers in the Spanish he learned as a young Mormon missionary in Argentina. And since Mr. Trump's election, he said, workers are harder to find.

        "We are either going to import workers or we are going to import milk," Mr. Gibson said.

        The work "is dirty, stinky and hard," he added. "It's not what we teach our young people to do."

        But there is another solution on the horizon: automation. Last year, Mr. Gibson and his son visited a farm in upstate New York where robots milk cows. The cows learn to approach the machines when their udders are full.

        Mr. Gibson is not yet ready to make the jump. Each machine costs half a million dollars, and the New York farmer spends about as much on mechanics as he spent on farmhands. But Mr. Gibson said he expected his children would use robots to milk cows.



        14)  Don Blankenship, Fresh Out of Prison, Begs Trump to Have Mercy on Coal Execs

        By Ben Jervey • Friday, May 19, 2017


        Don Blankenship, who just wrapped up a year in federal prison for criminal conspiracy to violate mine safety and health rules — a coordinated and concealed series of violations that lasted for at least 15 months leading up to the tragic Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 coal workers — emerged from his incarceration unrepentant, and none the humbler.

        On Tuesday, the former CEO of Massey Energy released an open letter to President Trump urging the administration to ignore any legislation that would strengthen punishments for mining company executives and supervisors who knowingly flout safety rules.

        "Coal supervisors are not criminals, and the laws they work under today are already frightening enough for them. More onerous criminal laws will not improve mine safety," Blankenship wrote. He said that Congress "too often wants to punish coal companies, coal operators, and coal supervisors versus helping them to improve coal mine safety."

        Blankenship, who has never admitted to any wrongdoing and never apologized to the families of the workers killed in his mine, was convicted for "conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards." The explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine was the worst coal mining disaster in 40 years, and was labeled "entirely preventable" by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, which investigated the accident and found that the explosion was caused by "systematic, intentional, and aggressive efforts" to conceal, rather than fix, hazards.

        Dubbed the "dark lord of coal country" by Rolling Stone, Blankenship was found guilty of overseeing the conspiracy to cover up these safety violations that created the dangerous conditions that caused the explosion. Before Blankenship, four other Massey supervisors had already been convicted for their roles in the conspiracy, including, as DeSmog reported in 2014, "the Upper Big Branch mine superintendent who admitted he disabled a methane monitor and falsified mine records. And while lower-ranking supervisors received sentences measured in months, Blankenship's closest subordinate was sentenced to three and a half years for his role in the tragedy."

        Blankenship's conviction was punished with a one year sentence in federal prison, which is the maximum for this particular crime, as Ken Ward Jr. of the Charlestown Gazette-Mail explained:

        "Under federal law, violating or conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards is classified as a misdemeanor, or a minor crime, with a maximum jail sentence of one year. Mine safety advocates have been urging Congress for years to make such crimes felonies, but the legislation has made little progress."

        In his letter, Blankenship calls a proposal by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to increase criminal liability for coal mine supervisors to be "a prime example of bad legislation."

        He may also have been motivated by a recent statement by Virginia Representative Bobby Scott, a ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, who advocated for harsher criminal penalties for the violation of federal mine safety laws. Rep. Scott wants to make the willful violation of mine safety rules into a felony offense that could carry up to a maximum five year sentence, a far stiffer penalty than the one year maximum currently allowed as a misdemeanor.

        When reintroducing the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act in April, Rep. Scott wrote:

        The release of the former Massey CEO who served the maximum possible sentence of only one year for willfully violating mine safety standards that led to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster should serve as a reminder that the criminal provisions in the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 remain woefully inadequate … The maximum penalty for the willful violation of a mandatory health and safety standard is a mere misdemeanor — rather than a felony — regardless of the number of miners killed because of criminally reckless conduct."

        The Two Dons

        Blankenship clearly sees in President Trump a kindred spirit. In his letter, he wrote:

        "You and I also share something. We share relentless and false attacks on our reputation by the liberal media. The attacks on me have been relentless since 1985 when the miners at a group of mines I supervised chose to decertify their union membership. I am hopeful that in considering this request to improve coal miner safety, you will put aside the media's false claims about me and help me expose the truth of what happened at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) coal mine in West Virginia on April 5, 2010."

        Like the President, Blankenship refuses to acknowledge facts that don't agree with his personally crafted narrative, and dismisses investigations that betray his account of what caused the explosion.

        And like the President, Blankenship has taken to Twitter to not only defend himself (with 11 tweets on the day of his release and at least 43 tweets in less than a week since) but also to peddle conspiracy theories — blaming the regulators themselves for the fatal explosion, theories that have been disproven by four separate investigations. After he was convicted, Blankenship self-published a book called An American Political Prisoner.

        Again, like the President, Blankenship endears himself as a hero to the working class, though the communities where his mines operate have been left in ruin, their economies shattered, their drinking water poisoned, and their workers left sick and dead.

        "I shared most of my life with coal miners and I owe them a great debt," Blankenship wrote in his letter to Trump. However, the former coal CEO did not make mention of any plan to repay that debt with the $80 million golden parachute he received when he was forced to resign from Massey in disgrace.



        15)  Trump's Budget Cuts Deeply Into Medicaid and Anti-Poverty Efforts

         MAY 22, 201



        WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to unveil on Tuesday a $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 that would cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation's priorities.

        The document, grandly titled "A New Foundation for American Greatness," encapsulates much of the "America first" message that powered Mr. Trump's campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.

        The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump's budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security's retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation's debt.

        To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters who propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.

        The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.

        Mr. Trump's advisers portrayed the steep reductions as necessary to balance the nation's budget while sparing taxpayers from shouldering the burden of programs that do not work well.

        "This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes," said Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump's budget director.

        "We're not going to measure our success by how much money we spend, but by how many people we actually help," Mr. Mulvaney said as he outlined the proposal at the White House on Monday before its formal presentation on Tuesday to Congress.

        Among its innovations: Mr. Trump proposes saving $40 billion over a decade by barring undocumented immigrants from collecting the child and dependent care tax credit. He has also requested $19 billion over 10 years for a new program, spearheaded by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, to provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents. The budget also includes a broad prohibition against money for entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood, blocking them from receiving any federal health funding

        The release of the document, an annual ritual in Washington that usually constitutes a marquee event for a new president working to promote his vision, unfolded under unusual circumstances. Mr. Trump is out of the country for his first foreign trip, and his administration is enduring a near-daily drumbeat of revelations about the investigation into his campaign's possible links with Russia.

        The president's absence, which his aides dismissed as a mere coincidence of the calendar, seemed to highlight the haphazard way in which his White House has approached its dealings with Congress. It is just as much a sign of Mr. Trump's lack of enthusiasm for the policy detail and message discipline that is required to marshal support to enact politically challenging changes.

        "If the president is distancing himself from the budget, why on earth would Republicans rally around tough choices that would have to be made?" said Robert L. Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that promotes deficit reduction. "If you want to make the political case for the budget — and the budget is ultimately a political document — you really need the president to do it. So, it does seem bizarre that the president is out of the country."

        The president's annual budget — more a message document than a practical set of marching orders even in the best of times — routinely faces challenges on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers jealously guard their prerogative to control federal spending and shape government programs. But Mr. Trump's wish list, in particular, faces long odds, with Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans already showing themselves to be squeamish about some of the president's plans.

        "It probably is the most conservative budget that we've had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades," said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

        But in a signal that some proposed cuts to domestic programs are likely to face resistance even from conservatives, Mr. Meadows said he could not stomach the idea of doing away with food assistance for older Americans.

        "Meals on Wheels, even for some of us who are considered to be fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far," Mr. Meadows said.

        Republicans balked at Mr. Trump's demand for money for the border wall in negotiations over a spending package enacted last month. Many were deeply conflicted over voting for a health care overhaul measure that included the Medicaid cuts contained in the budget to be presented on Tuesday. Now the president is proposing still deeper reductions to the federal health program for the poor, as well as drastically scaling back a broad array of social safety net programs that are certain to be unpopular with lawmakers.

        "The politics of this make no sense to me whatsoever, in the sense that the population that brought them to the dance are the populists out there in the Midwest and South who rely on these programs that he's talking about reducing," said G. William Hoagland, a former senior Republican congressional budget aide. Referring to Representative Paul D. Ryan, he said: "I don't see how Speaker Ryan gets anywhere close to 218 votes in the House of Representatives if this is the model. It's an exercise in futility."

        Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said Monday that the Medicaid cuts would "carry a staggering human cost" and violate Mr. Trump's campaign promise to address the opioid epidemic.

        "Based on what we know about this budget, the good news — the only good news — is that it was likely to be roundly rejected by members of both parties here in the Senate, just as the last budget was," Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor.

        The budget itself avoids some of the tough choices that would be required to enact Mr. Trump's fiscal vision. The huge tax cut was presented but without any detail about its elements or cost. Mr. Mulvaney said the tax plan would not add to the deficit, implying that its cost would be made up with other changes, such as eliminating deductions.

        To balance the budget, Mr. Trump's budget relies on growth he argues will be generated from the as-yet-unformed tax cut.

        The blueprint also steers clear of changing Social Security's retirement program or Medicare, steps that Mr. Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman who has backed entitlement cuts, said he had tried to persuade Mr. Trump to consider.

        "He said, 'I promised people on the campaign trail I would not touch their retirement and I would not touch Medicare,' and we don't do it," Mr. Mulvaney said. "I honestly was surprised that we could balance the budget without changing those programs, but we managed to do that."

        But budget experts argued that was little more than fiction, and the plan could never deliver the results it claims to.

        "The central inconsistency is promoting a massive tax cut and spending increases in some areas and leaving the major entitlement programs alone," Mr. Bixby said. "You don't have to be an economist to know that that doesn't add up, and that's why there's a great deal of concern about the negative fiscal impact that this budget will have."

        While past presidents have often launched a road show with stops around the country to promote the components of their inaugural budgets, Mr. Trump is spending the rest of the week overseas, leaving his staff to explain his plan while Republicans prepare their own response.

        "This budget is dead before arrival, so he might as well be out of town," said David A. Stockman, a former budget director under President Ronald Reagan.

        Mr. Stockman said both political parties had grown comfortable with running large annual budget deficits. "There's not a snowball's chance that most of this deep deficit reduction will even be considered in a serious way."

        Correction: May 23, 2017 

        An earlier version of this article, using information from Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, misstated a proposal to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving certain tax credits. The proposal would add this requirement for the Child and Dependent Care Credit. A Social Security number is already required to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit.



        16)  Running Free in Germany's Outdoor Preschools

        "THERE ARE SCATTERINGS of forest kindergartens in the U.S. as well as in the U.K. Even in Japan and South Korea, where education is famously strict, waldkitas are becoming increasingly popular. They have spread mostly through word-of-mouth among parents. And in Germany, it's not just the wealthy — or the eccentric — who send their children. Like all other preschools in Berlin, tuition at Robin Hood is covered by the government for kids aged 2 through 6 (apart from a 100 euro per month fee because it's a private school). New York City preschools can cost upward of $40,000 per year."

         MAY 18, 2017





        ONE EARLY MORNING this past February, before the frost melted or the sun fully rose, 20 small children gathered in a scabby municipal park in Pankow, the northernmost borough of Berlin. The sky was gray and the ground was gray, but the children's cheeks were bright and so were their moods. They ran in circles, shrieked with delight and spent a great deal of time rolling around atop frozen soil as traffic whizzed by just meters away. Their parents, shivering and anxious to get on with the day, paid them little mind. They smiled absent-mindedly and took sips of coffee from environmentally friendly stainless steel to-go cups.

        Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

        At the sound of the bird call, mimicked loudly and with eerie accuracy by a man in his early 40s named Picco Peters, the children gathered together and formed a tight circle. A spirited round of songs, sung in both English and German, began and was finished off by a chorus of wolf howls. The circle then dissolved and the group's 15 older children, ranging in age from 3 to 6, marched past a community garden and toward a busy intersection. (The remaining children, who were younger, stayed in the park.) A woman named Christa Baule led the way, carrying a backpack with a three-foot-long branch sticking dangerously out of it; Peters took up the back.

        The children continued to chatter until the public bus came, at which point they wordlessly formed a single-file line and climbed in. Ten minutes later, the bus stopped. Everyone was deposited at the entrance of an 84-acre public park and proceeded to run amok.

        Robin Hood Waldkindergarten, which opened in 2005, is one of more than 1,500 waldkitas, or "forest kindergartens," in Germany; Berlin alone has about 20. Most have opened in the last 15 years and are usually located in the city's parks, with a bare-bones structure serving as a sort of home base, but others, like Robin Hood, rely on public transportation to shuttle their charges daily out into the wilderness, where they spend most of the day, regardless of weather. Toys, typically disparaged at waldkitas, are replaced by the imaginative use of sticks, rocks and leaves. A 2003 Ph.D. dissertation by Peter Häfner at Heidelberg University showed that graduates of German forest kindergartens had a "clear advantage" over the graduates of regular kindergartens, performing better in cognitive and physical ability, as well as in creativity and social development.

        The American journalist Richard Louv, who coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" in his 2005 book, "Last Child in the Woods," is cited often by Robin Hood staff, as is "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature," by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown. ("Savage Park," by Amy Fusselman, is another book that chronicles uninhibited play and was inspired by a visit to an adventure playground in Tokyo.) The pedagogical philosophy of waldkitas, which privileges outdoor play and hands-on environmental learning, comes originally from Scandinavia, but, as one teacher put it to me, "they don't make a big fuss about it like they do here." The trend's non-Teutonic origins are somewhat surprising: There might be nothing "more German" than a state-funded preschool based primarily in a forest.

        Germany has nearly three times as much protected land as the U.S., proportionate to the countries' sizes, a nontrivial fact that highlights the way much of the country thinks about nature and its role in the emotional health of its citizens. "It's terrible that kids today know all about technology but nothing about the little bird outside their window," Peters said, gesturing out toward the woods and sounding like any number of quotable Germans, from Goethe to Beethoven to Bismarck, all of whom have rhapsodized on the psychic benefits of spending time in the forest. He continued: "In life, bad things happen — you lose your job or your partner or everyone just hates you — but you'll always have this."

        AT AROUND 9 A.M., one child discovered a gruesome scene and pulled Baule over. "Ah," she said, beckoning everyone else over. She pointed to the ground, where a pile of dark feathers lay lumped beneath a fir tree. She asked the children to guess who "killed" the blackbird. One small boy suggested that it was maybe the work of a fox. Baule, the school's director, pantomimed exaggerated thought. "Well, no," she said. "See how smooth the quill is?" The boy ran his fingers along the feather and nodded. "That means it was plucked. So the blackbird was killed by a bird of prey, not a fox." She gathered the dirty feathers from the ground and distributed them one by one to the children. A wild-eyed girl with snot dripping from her nose rocked back and forth with impatience and squealed when she finally received her feather.

        Within a few minutes, the children were spread out over an expanse of at least 10 acres. Some were jumping from boulders; others were dragging logs through marshland. Most were sucking on filthy icicles that had fallen from the eave of a greenhouse. At Robin Hood, the children are allowed to be out of eyesight of their minders, but not out of earshot. "Being secretive is good for child development," Peters said. But whenever an adult called out "cuckoo," the children all dutifully returned from whatever dangerous thing they were doing, which on the day I spent with them included climbing at least 10 feet up a tree and sliding unsupervised across a frozen pond.

        "We used to bring very simple things, lengths of rope for instance," Peters said. "But soon we realized even that wasn't necessary." The lack of toys, he explained, means less fighting and more inclusiveness. "They realize that they need friends if they're going to play." Just then, Peters bent down and picked a frosty leaf — an English plantain, I later learned. "We use this instead of Band-Aids," he said, "You just mash it up a bit and stick it on a cut. It has natural anti-inflammatory properties."

        By the time a secluded spot had been chosen for breakfast, the childrens' fingernails were black with dirt, and although it was exceptionally cold nobody was complaining. Instead they all arranged their backpacks into a circle and wandered off in various directions to pee semi-privately, each one undressing out of their snowsuits without help. They returned and took out small Tupperware containers full of fresh produce from their backpacks. Two girls, both under 5, began arranging the fruit into an elaborate mandala atop a wooden tray. They piled carrot coins in the middle and surrounded them with concentric circles of tangerines, bell pepper slices and cucumber sticks; dates went in one corner and apple chunks in another, with a scattering of walnuts on the opposite side of the plate. Baule had encouraged them to organize the food "neatly" but provided no further instructions. The girls did all this slowly and wordlessly, rearranging items when they didn't like a particular combination. The end result was as beautiful as anything you'd see in a restaurant.

        As it is on most mornings, breakfast was eaten in complete quiet. Children took turns silently presenting everyone else with the tray from which they each chose a single piece of fruit until it was all gone. For months, they had been reminded that by not making any noise at all while eating, it is more likely that a deer might approach them, and at the very least they'll better hear the bird calls. In over 45 minutes I didn't hear a single giggle. When they were done, Baule excused them. There were sudden laughs and yelps and everyone vanished into the forest.

        THERE ARE SCATTERINGS of forest kindergartens in the U.S. as well as in the U.K. Even in Japan and South Korea, where education is famously strict, waldkitas are becoming increasingly popular. They have spread mostly through word-of-mouth among parents. And in Germany, it's not just the wealthy — or the eccentric — who send their children. Like all other preschools in Berlin, tuition at Robin Hood is covered by the government for kids aged 2 through 6 (apart from a 100 euro per month fee because it's a private school). New York City preschools can cost upward of $40,000 per year.

        Though it was below freezing and we had been outside for five and a half hours by the time we made our way to the bus stop, nobody — besides me — wanted to go back inside. When we returned to Robin Hood's modest three-room building, which is filled with indoor plants and wooden forts, the children immediately kicked off their boots and stripped off their snow clothes. I suddenly saw them as they really were: tiny. In every case, their volume had decreased by at least 60 percent. They ran into the main play space where a long table had been set for them. Ceramic plates were heaped with salad and polenta, which they devoured with real flatware. One particularly squirmy boy was gently instructed to "please sit properly" five times. For dessert, every child was given a mug filled with elderberry juice, made from fruit that they had picked the summer before.

        After lunch, Baule showed me a photo album, filled mostly with pictures taken in the last couple of years. A few children got interested and came over to sit in her lap, excited to see themselves "as babies." One photograph captured the image of a towheaded boy of about 3, stripping bark off a stick with a jackknife. In another, a different boy was crushing walnuts with a log. A third picture depicted four children walking across a gravelly path, completely naked and covered with mud.

        The room, which was warm and lined with pillows and books, suddenly seemed stuffy. The children would be picked up in about an hour, but I left early. I hailed a cab, and within five minutes regretted it. I rolled the window all the way down, and stuck my head out.



        17)  59,000 Haitians Displaced by Earthquake Get Extra 6 Months in U.S.

         MAY 22, 2017




        MIAMI — More than seven years after an earthquake shattered Haiti's capital, the secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, announced Monday that he would grant 58,700 Haitians another six months to live and work in the United States.

        The Haitians, who were visiting the United States or living here illegallywhen the earthquake hit, are part of a program called Temporary Protected Status that was made available to them after the earthquake, when conditions in Haiti were deemed too dangerous for them to return. On Monday, Mr. Kelly extended the program for six months, concluding that while Haiti was still not ready to absorb the citizens, a longer extension was not needed, senior Homeland Security officials said.

        "Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake in 2010," Mr. Kelly said in a news release. "The Haitian economy continues to recover and grow, and 96 percent of people displaced by the earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left those camps."

        Mr. Kelly said he would re-evaluate conditions in six months to decide whether to allow the Haitians in the program to stay longer in the United States. But he injected a note of caution, saying they should begin preparing to return to Haiti in case their special designation ends on Jan. 22, 2018. On that day, Haitians would be vulnerable to deportation unless they had proper documentation.

        Congress created the Temporary Protected Status program in 1990 to be temporary, but some designations have stretched as long as two decades.

        A bipartisan group of lawmakers and many faith-based groups had hoped for a longer extension. Since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has been hit hard by cholera, drought, floods and Hurricane Matthew, which wiped out crops, livestock, homes and roads along Haiti's southwestern coast last year. The Haitian ambassador and foreign minister had also lobbied for more time. They met with Mr. Kelly last week.

        "While this news will give the tens of thousands of Haitians anxiously waiting to learn the program's fate some measure of relief, this is in fact a cup-half-full situation," said Representative Frederica S. Wilson, a Democrat whose district in South Florida is home to many Haitians. "The reality is that in six months, Haiti will still be in no position to absorb and aid 58,000 unemployed people."

        Congress created the Temporary Protected Status program in 1990 to be temporary, but some designations have stretched as long as two decades.

        A bipartisan group of lawmakers and many faith-based groups had hoped for a longer extension. Since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has been hit hard by cholera, drought, floods and Hurricane Matthew, which wiped out crops, livestock, homes and roads along Haiti's southwestern coast last year. The Haitian ambassador and foreign minister had also lobbied for more time. They met with Mr. Kelly last week.

        "While this news will give the tens of thousands of Haitians anxiously waiting to learn the program's fate some measure of relief, this is in fact a cup-half-full situation," said Representative Frederica S. Wilson, a Democrat whose district in South Florida is home to many Haitians. "The reality is that in six months, Haiti will still be in no position to absorb and aid 58,000 unemployed people."

        Paul G. Altidor, the Haitian ambassador, said the Haitian government would continue to lobby Mr. Kelly and the White House in the next six months to grant Haiti more time to prepare for the migrants' return. Mr. Altidor said he and Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue had made it clear, both in the meeting and in a letter, that they wanted an 18-month extension. The country is heavily dependent on money sent by Haitians in the United States, which is crucial to its recovery, he said.

        The Homeland Security news release on Monday said the Haitian government had expressed to Mr. Kelly a "desire to welcome the safe repatriation of Haitian T.P.S. recipients in the near future."

        Mr. Altidor said that statement was inaccurate.

        "The conversation that we had was not 'let's do this for six months' because we wanted them returned in six months," he said. "The worst thing that could have happened was for them to discontinue the program and shut it down. But we wanted 18 months. We put it on paper and discussed it with Secretary Kelly and others. Perhaps he misspoke."

        Haitians are the first of 10 groups in the program who are being re-evaluated before their special protections expire. The designations for South Sudan and Sudan expire in November. After that, it will be Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, the countries with the largest number of people registered for the program.

        Senior Homeland Security officials said the decision on whether to extend the protections for Haitians was rooted in conditions related to the earthquake, not to subsequent misfortunes. Traditionally, agency officials have routinely granted extensions, including to Haitians.

        But this may no longer be the case.

        "Secretary Kelly is taking a look at the T.P.S. program with a fresh set of eyes," one official said



        18)  Navy SEAL Team Kills 7 Militants in Yemen During Raid, U.S. Says

         MAY 23, 2017




        Members of the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6 killed seven militants in central Yemen during an early Tuesday raid on a compound associated with Al Qaeda, American military officials said.

        It was the first ground raid in Yemen that the military has acknowledged since Navy SEALs carried out a similar attack in late January — the first such operation authorized by President Trump. One Navy SEAL team member died and three others were injured in that mission, and as many as 25 civilians were killed.

        In a statement after the operation, the United States Central Command said the latest raid targeted a compound in the governorate of Marib that was linked to the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

        "During this operation, U.S. forces killed seven AQAP militants through a combination of small-arms fire and precision airstrikes," the statement said, referring to strikes by drones, helicopters or attack planes.

        Col. John Thomas, a Central Command spokesman, said in a telephone interview afterward that the raid was intended to seize potentially important information from the compound — typically electronic devices such as computers, hard drives and cellphones — and was not an attempt to kill or capture a particular individual.

        Since the ill-fated raid on Jan. 29, American commandos, sometimes working in concert with special operations forces from the United Arab Emirates and local Yemeni allies on the ground, have carried out several clandestine raids that the military calls "site exploitation" missions.

        These missions are designed to provide the American military with more information about the Qaeda leadership and operations, as well as insights into other extremist groups in the country. The Central Command statement said the raid was conducted with the support of the beleaguered Yemeni government, which has been fighting a two-front war: one with Arab allies against Houthi rebels in the western part of the country, and another against Qaeda militants in the country's central and eastern regions.

        Colonel Thomas said it was too early to tell if the early-morning raid on Tuesday was successful. He said there were no indications of American casualties.

        Even after the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, American counterterrorism officials have said that the Qaeda franchise in Yemen poses the most direct threat to the United States, largely because of its proven ability to develop plots to smuggle hard-to-detect bombs aboard passenger airliners bound for the United States. So far, three such plots have been thwarted.

        Seeking to intensify pressure on the militants, Mr. Trump authorized the earlier SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen just days after taking office. He also loosened restrictions on which targets the American military could attack in Yemen without prior White House approval.



        19)  Why Saudi Women Are Literally Living 'The Handmaid's Tale'

        MAY 24, 2017





        CAIRO — Just over a week after Dina Ali Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi Arabian, was dragged onto a plane from Manila to Riyadh with her mouth taped shut and her arms and legs bound, the United Nations voted to appoint Saudi Arabia to a four-year term on its Commission on the Status of Women. So much for the status of this Saudi woman.

        On April 10, the authorities at the Manila airport — her stopover in the Philippines between Kuwait, from where she'd escaped a forced marriage, and Australia, where she'd planned on applying for asylum — confiscated Ms. Lasloom's passport and boarding pass to Sydney and held her at an airport hotel until her uncles arrived. When they did, they beat her and forcibly repatriated her.

        Saudi feminists believe Ms. Lasloom is being held at a women's prison. She certainly was not present when Ivanka Trump told a group of Saudi women she met on Sunday that Saudi Arabia has made "encouraging" progress in empowering women. The round table discussion was led by Princess Reema Bint Bandar al-Saud, the vice president of Women's Affairs at the General Sports Authority, a largely moot title in a country where girls and women are not allowed to participate in sports.

        In response, a Saudi woman called Ghada tweeted: "Ivanka Trump only met and saw some of chosen puppets who are from the royal or high class, and they don't represent the majority of us!"

        Saudi women must be accustomed to seeing women who are protected by wealth and proximity to power exercise rights that the majority of them are denied. Such is the bargain: Ms. Trump's father, President Donald Trump, sealed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia during his visit to Riyadh. Meanwhile, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates pledged to donate $100 million to a women's fund proposed by Ms. Trump. During the election campaign, her father criticized the Clinton Foundation for accepting money from precisely those two countries, which he said "want women as slaves and to kill gays."

        Selling out Saudi women is an old-established tradition. The day Ms. Lasloom landed in Riyadh, the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, also arrived in the Saudi capital for an official visit. Was the calculation that simple to make? Apparently so, since the freedom from abuse of one Saudi woman was worth sacrificing to curry favor with a country where 760,000 Filipinos work. Indeed, Saudi Arabia — the second-largest foreign employer of Filipinos — told Mr. Duterte it needed more Filipino workers.

        "As Saudi women, we are unfortunate enough to have rich and well-connected abusers in this corrupt world," the lawyer and activist Moudi al-Johani told me. "The patriarchal and extreme Saudi mentality views women as property which belongs to the state and the family."

        Within days of Ms. Lasloom's coerced repatriation, another Saudi woman tried to escape an abusive family, this time within Saudi Arabia. Maryam Al-Otaibi managed to flee Qassim Province and hide in Riyadh, but the authorities arrested her and sent her back home, where she was then imprisoned. Ms. Al-Otaibi had tried to report her abusive brother to the police last year, but her family countered with a complaint of disobedience, an offense for women under Saudi law, for which she was briefly jailed and then returned to her family.

        Last week, Saudi activists circulated on social media a video of two young women, identified only as Ashwaq and Areej, apparently sisters, who said they were in Turkey and were in danger of being repatriated to Saudi Arabia, where they claimed they would face violence. Thanks to cases like theirs, a social media campaign by Saudi women with the hashtag #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen has gone viral.

        I recently met Ms. al-Johani, the lawyer, and another Saudi woman, Danah, in New York. They are the "lucky" ones who got away from abusive families. Ms. al-Johani said her family kept her locked up for eight months when she made a visit home during her studies in America. She has begun an application for asylum in the United States. Danah has decided to try to stay in the United States, too. One Saudi sociologist estimates that more than 1,000 women flee the kingdom every year, while more escape Riyadh for Jidda, the Red Sea city, which is considered more liberal than the capital.

        I was 15 when my family moved to Jidda from Britain in 1982. Living in Saudi Arabia was such a shock to my system that I like to say I was traumatized into feminism. The kingdom enforces a pervasive segregation of the sexes. It is the only country in the world that upholds a ban on women's driving. And the country's male guardianship system renders women perpetual minors, who need permission from a father, brother or even a son to travel, study, marry or gain access to government services. (A recent government order promises to relax such rules, but whether it is enforced effectively remains to be seen.)

        It is impossible to convey the lived reality of what is essentially gender apartheid. When I first read Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale," it was Saudi Arabia as I knew it that came to mind, not a dystopian future United States as in the new television adaptation. The Saudi-American poet Majda Gama told me she was unable to sleep after watching the main protagonist, Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss, in the opening episodes.

        "It raised thoughts I literally never tell my Caucasian friends because they wouldn't understand," she said, "because what Offred lived as some cautionary tale felt very much like my lived reality. One woman's dystopia is another woman's reality."

        Ms. Atwood has famously said all the horrors she included in her 1985 book have actually happened in one place and at one time or another. As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, many of them continue to happen. There is Offred being dragged back to the re-education center after she tried to escape with her friend, Moira. Here is Ms. Lasloom dragged onto a plane to Riyadh and into detention, where, activists say, only government officials and family members can contact her.

        "Most young Saudi women who are imprisoned there," explained Hala al-Dosari, a women's-rights campaigner, "are sentenced for morality-related charges such as being caught in the company of an unrelated male, being accused of running away from home by a male relative or being disobedient to parents." The latter, she said, is treated as "a crime calling for immediate detention in Saudi Arabia."

        Ms. al-Dosari published a petition, which more than 14,000 Saudi women signed last year, calling on King Salman to abolish the guardianship system completely.

        "Most horrific is that once a woman is locked in any state institution," she said, "she won't be released unless into the custody of a male relative or else she will stay in the prison or state shelter forever."

        The system has deep historical roots in the kingdom. "My grandmother's income was controlled, invested and portioned out to her by her sons," Ms. Gama, the poet, said. "All very creepy and disturbing when you see the Caucasian Offred experience laws that reduce her to the kept property of her sympathetic and kind husband.

        "Luckily, my father was a sympathetic and kind guardian as Offred's husband proves to be," she recalled, "but all the kindness and laughter in the world cannot erase the fact this system is routinely abused."

        Saudi Arabia isn't just a conservative country with different values we shouldn't judge. It is a modern Gilead.



        20)  The Price of 'Disability Denial'

        It was 1989 and I was immersed in my first teaching job, a one-year gig at Barnard College, with the possibility of something long-term. During that time, I had become friendly with a senior colleague named Bill. On our many walks along Broadway to grab deli sandwiches, we'd talked about our grad school days at Berkeley, the high rent of tiny apartments in New York and how to get the Barnard women to share our passion for European history in the small classes they'd asked me to teach.

        One morning outside his office something felt off. Bill, who would be part of the team deciding whether to hire me, seemed nervous. Then he came out with it: "I'm wondering if you'd be able to guest lecture in my 100-person western civ class." As I took this in, he added, "It's part of, um, your interview for getting a permanent job here."

        I always knew my day at the podium would come. In fact, on one of our walks I'd asked Bill for advice about teaching larger classes. I told him about the details of my lifelong vision impairment and of my terror of public speaking, and asked about how I'd deal with calling on students when I couldn't see them. In smaller classes, I learned quickly where people sat, and the give-and-take of conversation told me who was engaged. But applying this to more than 30 people seemed overwhelming.

        I have nystagmus, a condition in which involuntary, jumpy movement of my eye muscles makes it difficult to focus, a chore that constantly challenges my brain as it frantically tries to keep up. As a child, my thick bifocal glasses and lack of confidence made me the brunt of cruel names and pranks, like being surrounded by kids who threw things on the ground and forced me to look for them. Later there were awkward, sometimes hostile encounters with potential landlords, dates and employers who I tried to brush off as a few gross kids who never grew up.

        It had been a huge step to "come out" to Bill about the lifelong vision impairment that I thought I could hide. Starting in a new place with my doctorate safely in hand seemed like the perfect time to try on a new identity, one where I could be more upfront with others — and with myself — about what I could and could not see.

        I remember the door frame with its chipped paint, Bill's messy desk, the scuffed linoleum, the fluorescent lights that made us both ghastly as we stood on the threshold. I imagine an old clock ticking in the background. A soft, cracking voice — mine but not mine — finally broke the silence: "Is this something all job candidates have to do?"

        "Um, well uh, no. It's just that there's, uh, concerns we don't have about other candidates, about how you'd handle a large class, you know, because of your … well, you know."

        Of course I knew. At the same time, I didn't want to know.

        I paused, sensing that whatever I said next could destroy my chances for this job, and even future ones.

        "I won't do something that nobody else is required to do," I said at last with a quiet force that surprised me. It was my first awareness of a visceral complicity between my body's memory and my soul's need to cry out — a feeling that one day I'd call conviction.

        "I'm disappointed," Bill said, "but of course it's up to you."

        All at once, my nystagmus was on a rampage, not just in my eyes but throughout my body, from the hair on the back of my neck to my toes digging into the front of my shoes. I'm frozen. I'm tangled. I'm powerful from the force of it, oblivious and achingly hyper-aware. I want to vomit. I want to lash out. I want to run screaming.

        Bracing against the door frame, I wondered how much of this was apparent to Bill. I said nothing, even as words formed: This is betrayal. This is wrong. This is discrimination.

        It's a painful revelation. The mind and the body fuse into one ugly knot of humiliation, anger, fear, doubt. You're at this crossroads: You can suck it up and carry on as before. Or you can fight back.

        All this happened the year before the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed. One of the little-recognized side effects of disability denial is that it inhibits the firing of the synapses that enables people to think of themselves as having rights. In other words, I was still many years away from believing that laws like the A.D.A., or any precursors that were in effect, applied to me.

        But Bill and I — like most people around us and too many Barnards then and now — had been brainwashed in the same well-meaning society that still fails disabled people. We sat through tear-jerking movies where helpless blind girls groped and stumbled. Our heartstrings were pulled by fund-raisers showing blindness at its worst to raise money for cures that could be many years away. Images like these isolate people with disabilities not just from society but also from one another.

        Though I am not fully blind, my vision impairment, and the challenges it presents, has made me particularly attuned to how others perceive blind people. Our words equate blindness with being out of control and clueless — phrases like "love is blind," "blind rage," "blind to the possibilities," to "blindly carry on." Such ideas slip quietly into our souls. They find their way onto playgrounds and into news stories, and before long they're floating inside and outside of doctor's offices, in sports competitions, film studios, policy debates. And in job interviews.

        For the decade after Barnard it would be three steps forward, two steps back: a therapist who helped me ask if I'd rather imagine myself as an incompetent sighted person or a competent blind one; finding an exciting research topic in the history of blind people; discovering I'm a real ham when it comes to lecturing — the bigger the crowd the better.

        But at my core I remained haunted and hurting. I couldn't find a healing way to tell the Barnard story: Either every little detail poured out in a frightening rant or I clammed up, wondering if I really wasn't qualified after all. Even as I researched and learned more about blind people's history, I did everything I could to avoid being seen as "one of them." Using a magnifier in public mortified me as much as the white cane I shoved into the back of my closet.

        Then one day I met Bryan, a dynamic blind guy on the other coast who was several steps ahead of me on the journey. Each intense phone conversation upended years of denial and self-loathing. A wall I'd unknowingly constructed between me and the world began to crumble as I found strength and beauty in places I'd assumed to be off-limits.

        He introduced me to the National Federation of the Blind's Kernel Books, matter-of-fact stories told by blind people explaining how they did things nobody thought they could do: babysit, barbecue, teach. Each concluded that blindness isn't the real problem; society's responses to it is. Reading the first few, I began to sob uncontrollably. I had spent my life avoiding blind people, and in these pages I met scores of them living life with dignity. Now I was open to anything or anyone who would actively challenge my self-imposed limitations by encouraging me to embark on exciting adventures.

        If Bill were still alive, I'd strut up to him with my white cane and proudly lead him to "Patient No More: People With Disabilities Securing Civil Rights," the disability history exhibition I spearheaded. I would take him to the yearly Superfest International Disability Film Festival that my organization co-hosts with Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco to experience real camaraderie among disabled people and our allies. At both he'd discover captions and audio descriptions that he'd appreciate as someone entering old age.

        Future Bills and Cathys need more fresh ideas like these about disabled people. Once freed from prejudice and shame, they can teach the largest class of all — society — to imagine people with disabilities as innovators, problem-solvers and true agents for change.



        21)  Inside the Air War Over Syria: A High Altitude 'Poker Game'

        "A reporter for The New York Times was given access to the command center, offering a rare glimpse into how the military plans and orchestrates the complex ballet of strike, surveillance and refueling aircraft that keeps the war going around the clock."

        MAY 23, 2017




        AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar — The salvo of American cruise missiles launched at a Syrian airfield last month was intended as a one-time message to dissuade President Bashar al-Assad from mounting another chemical weapons attack.

        But at the high-tech command center here, the challenges for Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who oversees air operations in the Middle East, were just beginning.

        General Harrigian had to protect American and allied troops from possible retaliation by Syrian warplanes as well as keep up airstrikes in and around the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. All the while, Syrian and Russian air defenses were on heightened alert, raising the risk to American and coalition aircrews in their campaign against the militants, also known as ISIS.

        "If the Syrians were going to make a run at our guys, we were going to be in a position to defend them ourselves," General Harrigian said in an interview. "The intent was to be in position to support our guys and get back into fighting ISIS."

        Some of the military's most important operations have taken place thousands of feet in the air over Syria, all but invisible to the American public. A reporter for The New York Times was given access to the command center, offering a rare glimpse into how the military plans and orchestrates the complex ballet of strike, surveillance and refueling aircraft that keeps the war going around the clock.

        A Base in the Desert

        An outsize illustration of the principle "if you build it, they will come," Al Udeid was constructed in a baking stretch of desert 20 miles south of Doha when Qatar had little air force of its own but was prepared to spend billions to build an airfield that a friendly superpower could use in a crisis. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration began basing American warplanes here to carry out airstrikes in Afghanistan, though their deployment was initially kept secret.

        Al Udeid continued to grow in importance thanks in part to Saudi Arabia, which became uneasy about hosting the American military, including its regional air operations center. It was moved here in 2003from Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh soon after the American-led invasion of Iraq.

        Today, the American-led command center at this heavily secured base oversees air operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other potential hot spots in the Middle East. The cavernous operations center is crammed with liaison officers from countries in the American-led coalition, the American military services, intelligence experts and officers who plan and direct the missions.

        The challenge in operating in Syria's crowded airspace is clear from a glance at a large video screen inside the center that tracks aircraft across the region. Russian and Syrian planes are marked with yellow and orange icons; American and allied planes are delineated in green while civilian aircraft are blue.

        Regular phone calls from Al Udeid to the Russian base at Latakia, Syria, are used to avoid conflicting operations. (An unclassified Gmail account is used as a backup.)

        But as American destroyers in the Mediterranean prepared to launch dozens of cruise missiles on April 7 at the Syrian airfield used to mount a nerve-gas attack, it was clear that General Harrigian's mission was about to become more complicated.

        Testing and Assessing

        One big concern was that the stack of American warplanes providing close air support for Syrian fighters clashing with Islamic State fighters near Raqqa, their self-proclaimed capital, and the Tabqa Dam about 30 miles away. The aircraft were vulnerable to Syrian surface-to-air missiles that the United States could no longer ignore.

        "In Raqqa, you are kind of right in the heart of the integrated air defense," said General Harrigian, who likes to climb into the cockpit of an F-22 to get a firsthand look at operations in Syria and at the American-supported Iraqi offensive in Mosul.

        Another danger was that the Syrian Air Force might try to retaliate by mounting an airstrike against American or allied forces — or the Syrian fighters they advise.

        To deal with the potential fallout, General Harrigian developed a step-by-step plan intended to "test and assess" the Syrian and Russian reactions. In a situation in which the small measure of trust between the rival forces was gone, American aircraft would pull back, then gradually start edging back into Syrian airspace.

        "What I told the guys was, 'I want a deliberate approach to regain our ability to operate in here. We've got to do it over time,'" General Harrigian recalled.

        To keep up the pressure on the Islamic State, armed drones were positioned in and around Raqqa.

        And, to give the United States a means of intercepting any Syrian aircraft that tried to strike American and allied forces, F-22s were ordered to fly around the clock in northeast Syria.

        Though the F-22 is primarily an air-to-air fighter, it can also carry 250-pound bombs, which gave it the capability to conduct airstrikes against ISIS as it ventured south. F-22s are also equipped with an advanced electronic system to detect emissions from enemy radars and surface-to-air missiles.

        Also adding to the American ability to monitor Syrian airspace, an American Awacs radar surveillance plane was positioned on the Iraqi-Syrian border, just outside the range of the SA-23 air defense system the Russians have deployed.

        Neither the Syrians nor the Russians challenged the F-22s. General Harrigian next sent F-15Es into Syria, though he noted that he was careful to position them "a little farther to the east." Though not stealthy, the F-15E's could carry larger bombs along with their air-to-air missiles and could quickly maneuver east if they were threatened by Syria's surface-to-air missiles.

        "I wanted to make sure I had airplanes that could defend themselves against an integrated air defense missile getting shot at them, a SAM," General Harrigian said, referring to the missiles.

        All the while, General Harrigian met daily with key aides to review intelligence and feedback from aircrews that had just conducted missions before deciding where to insert other aircraft.

        "It was a poker game," he recalled. "I put down a card; they put down a card. And I'm sitting at the head of the table deciding every day when I was going to put the next captain to go a little bit deeper in."

        An Hourslong Battle

        But few plans survive contact with the enemy — in this case, the Islamic State.

        As a precaution against Syrian or Russian retaliation, the United States and its allies had withdrawn their Special Operations Forces who were training and advising local Syrian fighters near al-Tanf, a Syrian town close to the intersection of the Syrian, Iraq and Jordanian borders.

        The day after the cruise missile attack, more than two dozen Islamic State militants, donning uniforms similar to those worn by the Syrian fighters, attacked the garrison, using suicide bombers to breach its defenses.

        With Islamic State fighters inside the perimeter, caution was put aside. F-18s, F-15Es and a B-52 bomber raced to the scene.

        "We were there in minutes over the top of them," General Harrigian said. "My intent was, 'Hey, we are going to be deliberate about this, but if we've got to go support troops in contact, we are going to get after it.'"

        After an hourslong firefight, the militants were routed. Several Syrian fighters were wounded, but there were no American or allied casualties.

        Quieting the Enemy

        In the weeks after, the Syrians, Russians and Americans have kept an uneasy watch on each other.

        "My assessment is that they were worried about another strike occurring," General Harrigian said of the Syrian military. "They used their radars basically to gain an understanding of where we were at."

        With neither the Syrians nor the Russians making obvious threatening moves, General Harrigian gave the go-ahead to insert other aircraft into Syria, including A-10s attack planes and B-52s. But the commander was still wary.

        "We're not back to normal," he said. "I still watch it every day."

        Those words turned out to be prophetic. On Thursday, Iranian-backed fighters that have supported Mr. Assad headed toward al-Tanf. Coalition planes fired warning shots at their convoy but failed to get it to turn around. Finally, the aircraft struck, destroying several tanks. That same day, a Syrian SU-22 aircraft that flew into the area was turned away by American F-22 pilots who did not fire a shot.

        The situation near al-Tanf has been quiet since then, but no one is sure for how long.



        22)  Alabama Inmate Hopes to Dodge Death for an Eighth Time

        MAY 24, 2017




        Tommy Arthur, who was first sentenced to death in 1983, has long imagined what could be his end: time in a so-called death cell, a choice of a last meal, the final telephone calls and then a lethal injection.

        That end could come Thursday, his eighth execution date in a case that has spanned the tenures of eight Alabama governors, starting with George Wallace. If it does, it will conclude a legal odyssey that quietly became, for death penalty supporters and critics alike, a symbol of the troubles of the capital punishment system in the United States.

        "It's one of those cases in which nobody is happy," said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a research group that has voiced concerns about the application of capital punishment.

        "People who simply want the execution are unhappy because of the passage of time," he said. "People who oppose the death penalty are unhappy because they don't want Tommy Arthur executed. People who want fairness are unhappy because, despite the length of time this case has been in the courts, the process has never been fair."

        In Alabama, where 58 people have been put to death since Mr. Arthur was sentenced for the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker, the most pressing issue these days seems to be how long it takes to carry out capital sentences. If Mr. Arthur, 75, is executed on Thursday, his death will come one week after the Legislature gave final approval to a plan to reduce the length of appeals in capital cases.

        "Men don't cry, but I have," Mr. Arthur, whose case was unaffected by the measure, said in a telephone interview from the prison that houses Alabama's execution chamber. "I'm scared to death right now."

        Mr. Arthur confessed to one murder but was given a death sentence for a second that he insists he did not commit. In regards to the latter, the state authorities contend that Mr. Wicker's wife, Judy, hired Mr. Arthur, her lover, to carry out the killing so she could collect an insurance payout. Ms. Wicker, who was found guilty and spent about a decade in prison before being released on parole, ultimately testified against Mr. Arthur, who was on work release from a life sentence for another killing when Mr. Wicker was murdered. (A woman who answered the phone at a number connected to Ms. Wicker hung up on a reporter.)

        Near the end of a trial in the early 1990s, Mr. Arthur proclaimed his innocence but asked for a death sentence that he said would allow him greater opportunities for appeal.

        "I will not be executed," Mr. Arthur said, according to a transcript of the proceedings. "I'm totally positive of that. I wouldn't dare ask you for it if I thought for a minute that I would be executed."

        He had already won two new trials by then. In the years that followed, Mr. Arthur's case began to stand out to some scholars and lawyers because he so frequently staved off scheduled executions.

        Mr. Arthur, whose lawyers have not raised intellectual disability or mental health claims, maintained his innocence and sought new forensic testing of evidence. He argued his sentence was unconstitutional and that his claims of ineffective counsel were never fully considered. He raised questions about Alabama's execution methods, including a challenge to a lethal injection drug, midazolam.

        Another prisoner once admitted to Mr. Wicker's murder, but a judge found that Mr. Arthur and the inmate had "engaged in an attempt to defraud" the court with a false confession.

        A defense lawyer for Mr. Arthur, Suhana S. Han, said that litigation had still not led to a full airing of the facts and rulings on the merits of Mr. Arthur's claims of innocence. Instead, Mr. Arthur's supporters see a government increasingly desperate to put a man to death.

        "I think we should all be very concerned that a state is willing to exact the ultimate punishment of death without affording an inmate every fair opportunity to prove his innocence," said Ms. Han, a partner with the New York firm Sullivan & Cromwell, which is representing Mr. Arthur pro bono. "They have fought us every which way while we've tried to get at the truth."

        State officials regard Mr. Arthur as someone who will do anything to avoid his death sentence.

        "I think there's just an attitude by the other side to basically file anything that they can whether it has any merit or not," said Clay Crenshaw, chief deputy attorney general and a former leader of his office's capital litigation division. "I think he and his lawyers have successfully manipulated the system."

        Mr. Crenshaw said Mr. Arthur had received more stays of execution than any other Alabama prisoner in memory.

        The matter of whether seemingly ceaseless capital cases are constitutionally problematic has never been settled by the United States Supreme Court, but justices have sometimes betrayed fears about the length of time that can pass between sentencing and execution. In a 2011 case from Florida involving a man who had been awaiting execution for 33 years, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that he had "little doubt about the cruelty of so long a period of incarceration under sentence of death."

        But Justice Breyer has sometimes been a solitary voice on matters of capital punishment.

        Alabama has moved to limit the risk of protracted cases in the future, and on Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey is scheduled to sign a measure requiring capital defendants to pursue their direct and post-conviction appeals simultaneously in the state's courts. Under existing law, defendants have been allowed to bring a new appeal after an earlier effort failed.

        The Alabama attorney general, Steven T. Marshall, said the proposed changes, similar to provisions already in force in at least four other states, would benefit people affected by capital crimes without trampling on constitutional rights.

        "This is victim-driven for us," Mr. Marshall said. "We've heard the stories. We've seen the anguish. Victims do not sense, in a capital setting, that their voices are heard fully. This is an opportunity for us as a state to be able to say that we're going to allow defendants to have their fair opportunity to be heard in court for their claims to be evaluated, but we're going to do it in a timely way."

        But Mr. Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, who noted that 60 percent of death row exonerations since 2012 involved cases at least 20 years old, suggested that quickening the pace to the death chamber would very likely lead to more executions of innocent people. In 2015, Alabama released an innocent man, Anthony Ray Hinton, after he spent almost 30 years on death row; the state had spent years resisting demands that investigators conduct new tests on an alleged murder weapon.

        "This is not about having more efficient judicial review," Mr. Dunham said. "This is about expediting executions at the expense of fairness and accuracy."

        The Arthur case only lurked in the background of the legislative debate, but Mr. Marshall, a local prosecutor until February, acknowledged that Mr. Arthur's history had long attracted attention.

        "It's the example of how the system has failed victims, and how he's manipulated, through various filings, the court system to delay what should have occurred long ago," Mr. Marshall said.

        Mr. Arthur is unbothered by his reputation. Yet days before his scheduled execution, he allowed that his case might be near its end.

        "Am I afraid?" Mr. Arthur said. "Well, I'm terrified, but there's nothing I can do about it. All I can do is just hope, and I think my attorneys have some things working, and I hope some of them get some traction."



        23)  Trump Praises Duterte for Philippine Drug Crackdown in Call Transcript

        MAY 23, 2017




        WASHINGTON — President Trump praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines in a phone call last month for doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem" in the island nation where the government has sanctioned gunning down suspects in the streets. Mr. Trump also boasted that the United States has "two nuclear submarines" off the coast of North Korea but said he does not want to use them.

        The comments were part of a Philippine transcript of the April 29 call that was circulated on Tuesday, under a "confidential" cover sheet, by the Americas division of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. In Washington, a senior administration official confirmed that the transcript was an accurate representation of the call between the two iconoclastic leaders. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the call and confirmed it on the condition of anonymity.

        The White House also keeps transcripts of such calls, but they are routinely kept secret. The Philippine rendering of the call offers a rare insight into how Mr. Trump talks to fellow leaders: He sounds much the way he sounds in public, casing issues in largely black-and-white terms, often praising authoritarian leaders, largely unconcerned about human rights violations and genuinely uncertain about the nature of his adversary in North Korea.

        Mr. Trump placed the call and began it by congratulating Mr. Duterte for the government-sanctioned attacks on drug suspects. The program has been widely condemned by human rights groups around the world because extrajudicial killings have taken thousands of lives without arrest or trial. In March, the program was criticized in the State Department's annual human rights report, which referred to "apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process."

        Mr. Trump had no such reservations. "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," he said. "Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that."

        Mr. Duterte responded that drugs were "the scourge of my nation now, and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation." Mr. Trump responded that "we had a previous president who did not understand that," an apparent reference to President Barack Obama, "but I understand that."

        But Mr. Duterte had another subject he wanted to discuss: North Korea. He told Mr. Trump that "as long as those rockets and warheads are in the hands of Kim Jong-un we will never be safe as there's not telling what will happen next."

        That led Mr. Trump to inquire whether Mr. Kim, the 33-year-old North Korean leader, is "someone who is stable or not stable." Mr. Duterte offered up the opinion that Mr. Kim was unstable, noting that he is always seen laughing in pictures of missile and nuclear tests.

        Mr. Trump seemed to try to reassure Mr. Duterte. Mr. Kim, he said, "has got the powder, but he doesn't have the delivery system — all his rockets are crashing." The president said nothing of the American-led program to sabotage the launches, though in some tests both before and after the call, the North has conducted several successful launches.

        "We have a lot of firepower over there," Mr. Trump noted. "We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all."

        The two men talked about China's potential influence and Mr. Duterte promised to call President Xi Jinping. Mr. Trump noted that the two men had met at his Florida resort, and he called Mr. Xi "a good guy."

        The transcript was widely circulated on Tuesday, and The Washington Post and The Intercept both published articles based on the same document.

        The end of the conversation centered on a first meeting between the two men, perhaps when Mr. Trump is in Manila later this year. But Mr. Trump twice invited Mr. Duterte to "come to the Oval Office."

        "I will love to have you in the Oval Office, anytime you want to come," Mr. Trump said.

        "Take care of yourself, Rodrigo," he concluded. "God bless you."





















































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