Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:










Cuban Union Leader 

Victor Manuel Lemagne Sanchez 

to Speak in Berkeley, California

Thursday, June 29 at 7 pm 

Communication Workers of America 

Local 9119 Union Hall (UPTE) 

2855 Telegraph, Ste 310



For the first time since 2001, representatives from Cuba's nationwide central labor organization Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) were granted U.S. visas to visit our cities.

Victor Manuel Lemagne, is the 55 year old Secretary-General of Cuba's Health and Tourism union where he has served since 2011. As the leader of that nation-wide union he is also a member of the CTC Secretariat (executive committee). Lemagne is also a delegate to Cuba's National Assembly (Parliament). He is Vice President of the International hotel and tourism union for the Americas and Caribbean affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions. 

Mr. Lamagne will be in both Northern and Southern California. This community-labor event in Berkeley, on the 29th of June, will be a unique and special opportunity to hear directly from a Cuban union leader. 

Join us and help to spread the word


Initiated by the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity

Endorsers: Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local 10 Treasurer- Retired, Task Force on the Americas, Global Exchange, SOL Economics, Richmond Regla Friendship Committee, Workers World Party, Socialist Workers Party, International Action Center, Freedom Archieves, College of Ethnic Studies, Latina/o Studies Dept, SFSU-Cuba Educational Project, Clinica Martin Boro, Marcha Patriotica Colombia - California Chapter

International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity



This is from the People's Assembly Against Austerity, via the Morning Star:

1st July 2017 (March to Parliament)

MEET: BBC HQ (Portland Place, London)

TIME: 12pm

A MAJOR national demonstration will take place in London on July 1 to get rid of "Theresa and the terrorists,".

The People's Assembly called the demo, saying: "Street mobilisations are more important than ever" and can "create a crisis the Tories can't recover from."

It comes a day after shadow chancellor John McDonnell called on Brits to "get out on the streets" to force another general election "as early as possible."

In his first major speech since Labour's election surge last Thursday, Mr McDonnell also revealed Labour will seek to exploit the DUP's manifesto call for the removal of the bedroom tax to axe the hated policy.

He confirmed that Labour would "keep its winning team together" and not replace shadow cabinet loyalists with former critics of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn from the party's right.

"When there are vacancies, yes, we will ask people to serve… in a spirit of comradeship," he told delegates at food union BFAWU's conference in Southport yesterday.

"Jeremy's character is one of consensus-building. He said: our campaign is positive, it cannot be negative."

But he rebuked MPs for not being "generous" to Mr Corbyn, saying: "I've never seen such behaviour in the [Parliamentary Labour Party], you wouldn't tolerate it in your [union] branches, I can tell you."

The shadow chancellor urged trade unionists to "keep the momentum going" and attempt to topple PM Theresa May's minority government.

"We need people doing everything they can to ensure the election comes as early as possible," he said. "I don't think an alliance of Tories and the DUP can ever be strong and stable."

Protests took place across the country last weekend in response to Prime Minister Theresa May's attempts to forge an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and form a minority government.

Now, the People's Assembly has called a mass demonstration, with national secretary Sam Fairbairn vowing to "do all we can to get rid of Theresa and the terrorists."

He told the Star: "The election result was absolutely devastating for Theresa May. Her arrogance led us into this as she thought she'd gain a huge majority.

"This shows how out of touch her, her party and mainstream political commentators are. They had no idea of the levels of anger and distrust in a government who plan further austerity measures that has done nothing to solve the NHS crisis and that wants to bring back grammar schools and selective education, taking us back to Victorian times as living standards continue to fall."

He pointed out that the Tories had gone all-out to smear Mr Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, "yet at the first sign of losing power they are jumping into bed with the DUP."

Mr Fairbairn added: "Now the street mobilisations have never been more important and we say to the millions of people who engaged in politics for the first time that they can be part of a mass movement for change, deepening the crisis for Theresa May.

"Her days are numbered."

Mr McDonnell also backed BFAWU's call, overwhelmingly endorsed in a conference resolution yesterday, for the TUC to call a "national demonstration" in support of Labour's policies.

"What we need now is the TUC mobilised, every union mobilised … get out on the streets," he said.

"Just think, if the TUC put out that call that we want a million on the streets of London in two weeks' time."

He said voters had been turned off by the Tories' repetitive slogans.

"Strong and stable, strong and stable — it was a Dalek campaign," he quipped.

But he stressed that voters turned to Labour because of the appeal of Mr Corbyn and the manifesto as well as turning away from May.

"[The manifesto] struck a chord because of what people are experiencing at the moment," he said. "It's all right for the few but for the many it's wage cuts and wage freezes."

And Mr McDonnell savaged the Tories for attacking his and Mr Corbyn's position of negotiating with republican leaders in Northern Ireland before entering their own DUP alliance.

"Don't ever again come at us on that basis," he warned.

On the bedroom tax, which penalises council tenants with spare rooms, he said: "One of the proposals we'll be putting down in Parliament will be to remove the bedroom tax, we'll see how [the DUP] vote."

Delegates at BFAWU's conference said a national demo in support of Labour policies could mobilise young people newly inspired by politics to get involved in trade unions.

"We want [a] £10 an hour [minimum wage] not because it's pie in the sky, but because we deserve it," executive member Lorna McKinnon said.

"Young people are most likely to support strike action and the least likely to join a union. We have to fight to change that."

The People's Assembly demonstration will meet at the BBC headquarters in Portland Place from 12pm before marching to Parliament.



California Alliance for Retired Americans

600 Grand Ave, Rm 410

Oakland CA 94610

510-663-4086,  californiaalliance.org


Please join CARA on August 14 to celebrate Social Security's 82nd birthday, and to re-dedicate ourselves to defend Social Security and preserve, improve, and expand it.  Our confirmed speakers so far are Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works and Norman Solomon, author, columnist and activist. 

Monday, August 14, Noon, in Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza

Broadway and 14th St, 12th St BART Station.

Rally and Two-Block March to Federal Building

More program details to be announced.

Please contact 

Michael Lyon, 415-215-7575, mlyon01@comcast.net, or

Jodi Reid, 415-550-0828,  jreid.cara@gmail.com

CARA is sponsoring events across California in July and August to defend and expand Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, in the face of attacks from Washington.  Our Oakland event will draw people from all around the San Francisco Bay Area.  We are hoping you can publicize this event among your members, and bring them on August 14.   We are attaching a copy of our leaflet and a petition your members can sign and return.  Anyone can sign the petition, it is not official, but will be used to show support for these programs.

Over its 82 years, Social Security has provided income and dignity to hundreds of millions of retirees and people with disabilities, their spouses and children, and to deceased workers' spouses and children.  For two thirds of seniors, it's been over half their income.  Half of women and people with disabilities would be in poverty without Social Security. Almost 10% of children get it.  We will NOT go back to the days of workhouses!

Social Security is the nation's most effective anti-poverty program, yet it is entirely funded by us, we who work for a living, through FICA deductions from our paychecks, and by our employers.  Not a cent comes from the government; in fact our $2.4 Trillion Social Security Trust Fund is invested in loans to help the government run. Those loans must, and will, be repaid to Social Security.  It's our program, our money!  Our past, our future!

Forces for austerity want to destroy or undermine Social Security by increasing the retirement age, decreasing the benefits and cost-of-living increases, and converting Social Security from a unified government program of collectively-guaranteed economic security for everyone, to a hodge-podge of private individual accounts for each recipient, invested in the stock market, and managed by expensive Wall Street money managers.  

Now, the Trump administration wants to eliminate the payroll tax that is the financial foundation of Social Security and cut $64 Billion over ten years from Social Security Disability Insurance, an integral part of Social Security, by reducing future enrollment with work requirements.

Given this adversity, it's important we remember that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents won Social Security in the mid-1930s, the depths of the Great Depression, when everything looked stacked against us.  Social Security must be preserved, improved, and expanded.  In the 1930s, Roosevelt said "Make me do it!"  We did. We can do it again!





Jun 8, 2017

Department of Justice:

Drop the changes against Ms. Reality L. Winner, the defense contractor who allegedly shared with the media evidence of attacks against US election systems by foreign agents. This information should not have been classified. Ms. Winner's prosecution appears politically motivated.

Courage to Resist will attempt to keep signers of the Reality Winners petition up-to-date with periodic news and alerts from her family and attorney. You will be able to opt out at any time.



Reality Winner is a 25-year-old Air Force veteran who was arrested in Augusta, Georgia on June 3rd. She allegedly released classified NSA documents to The Intercept, which were the basis for a story about Russian hacking efforts against US election systems leading up to last year's presidential election. Reality is currently in the Lincoln County Jail in Georgia, and faces up to ten years in prison.

Reality Winner—yes, that is her given legal name—did the right thing, and she should be defended.

Reality allegedly leaked information regarding attempted interference in an election, tampering that many believe assisted in Donald Trump's presidential win—despite earning nearly four million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. The documents published by The Interceptonly confirm earlier accounts of US election hacking attempts and, given the current administration's extreme antagonisms against facts, the release of these documents was clearly in the public interest. Like the vast majority of government documents that are hidden from public view, these reports should have been declassified by now anyway.

Now Trump's own Department of Justice has targeted Reality. It's a sinister move, but on the other hand, simply a continuation Obama's unprecedented zeal in prosecuting whistle-blowers. Trump inherited an atrocious War on Leaks, and Reality is the latest victim of that war. Her arrest is a signal to the world, and the four million other Americans with access to classified information: Only sanctioned leaks benefiting the government will be tolerated.

There's a striking hypocrisy to Trump's crackdown. Less than a month ago the President was criticized for carelessly leaking classified information to Russian officials during a White House meeting. We now know this information concerned a bomb that is being developed by ISIS. This is standard operating procedure: lawmakers have no issue leaking classified information if it somehow furthers their interest, but they aggressively prosecute citizens who expose actual wrongdoing.

I believe that Reality Winner's possible actions should be understood within the context of recent heroic whistleblowing. Shortly before leaving office, Barack Obama commuted the remaining sentence of US Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was facing 27 more years in prison for exposing war crimes and corruption. Edward Snowden, who leaked information about our government's massive spying program, was granted asylum in Russia but faces espionage charges back home. Just like Manning, it seems that Reality was able to see the inner workings of the United States' war machine.

She served in the Air Force from 2013 until early this year, working as a linguist. Like Snowden, she would have had a better view than most as to how our security state works. Up until last week, she was a military defense contractor with the Pluribus International Corporation in the suburbs outside of Augusta, Georgia, and had Top Secret security clearance.

The US government has spent tens of millions of dollars in better auditing capabilities since the disclosures by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Those that would rather keep the public in the dark as to what their government is doing with their tax dollars and in their name, have redoubled their efforts to identify whistle-blowers much more quickly. Winner's arrest was facilitated by the government's increased ability to more easily identify the relatively small number of people that recently accessed documents in question as well as the yellow-colored, nearly-invisible micro dots that most color printers today use to include a printer's serial number and time stamp on each printed page. This appears to have contributed to the focus on Reality Winner.

Reality is expected to plead not guilty to charges against her today. We don't know exactly why she allegedly released the NSA documents to the press, but we do have some insight into her views about the world. Her social media accounts show a woman who, like a clear majority of Americans, is critical of Donald Trump. She has also voiced support for Edward Snowden, and opposition to the US fabricating a reason to attack Iran.

According to The Intercept, [Winner's leak] "ratchets up the stakes of the ongoing investigations into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives . . . If collusion can ultimately be demonstrated – a big if at this point – then the assistance on Russia's part went beyond allegedly hacking email to serve a propaganda campaign, and bled into an attack on U.S. election infrastructure itself."

We are talking about a potentially monumental story that might require prosecutions, but Reality Winner shouldn't be the one who ends up in jail. While the details of the story continue to unfold, by all indications she deserves our support, and the release of these documents should be celebrated.



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

Activist Goes on Hunger Strike Outside the Northwest Detention Center

Maru Mora Villalpando Joins the Tacoma 12 and Adelanto 9 in Calling for an End to Human Rights Abuses in Immigrant Detention

Tacoma, WA - On Monday, June 19th, Maru Mora Villalpando, member of the NWDC Resistance, will begin  a hunger strike to call attention to the plight of up to 1,600 immigrants held in detention suffering human rights abuses at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC). On June 15, 2017, at least a dozen detainees went on hunger strike to call attention to inhumane detention conditions, refusing to eat for multiple days. By June 18, NWDC Resistance organizers received reports that more than 25 hunger strikers are calling on GEO Group to provide edible, nutritious food, on ICE to provide fair and timely hearings, and on civil society to step up and take action for the injustices in our communities. In response, Maru Mora Villalpando is going on hunger strike, and is joined by other members of civil society who are stepping up their solidarity.

As hunger strikers on the inside are discussing ceasing their strike on the inside, Maru will keep the hunger strike continuous by holding space on the outside. A female hunger striker in detention said: "I feel more deteriorated every day, more bad, more worse, because of what we are living through and what we are seeing inside. What we are suffering is horrible, horrible. Here they don't care what conditions we are living in… they don't care about anything." To listen to her story, go to: http://bit.ly/2sIyXzZ

GEO Group's human rights abuses are not a case of "bad apples." Just this week, GEO employees have refused to complete basic maintenance, such as repairing a broken air conditioner when projected temperatures are expected to reach 78 degrees. Likewise, people in detention have noted repeated problems with incorrect medications resulting in hospital visits, suicide attempts, and inadequate access to medical treatment -- even in diagnosed cases of malignant cancers.

There are also 9 asylum seekers on hunger strike at the GEO-owned Adelanto Detention Facility in Southern California. Rather than releasing asylum seekers pending their hearing, they were subjected to further trauma -- pepper spray, beating and solitary confinement. The #Adelanto9 continue on hunger strike to call attention to these blatant human rights abuses, meaning that people inside and outside detention centers are on hunger strike throughout the West Coast.

Call to Action: Hunger strikers and solidarity supporters are holding down a 24-7 encampment outside the Northwest Detention Center. Please join them to show people held in detention that they are not alone, and the state of Washington will no longer tolerate human rights abuses!

For live updates on the #Tacoma12 and solidarity hunger strikes, visithttps://www.facebook.com/ NWDCResistance/.


NWDC Resistance is a volunteer community group that emerged to fight deportations in 2014 at the now-infamous Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. NWDC Resistance is part of the #Not1More campaign and supported people detained who organized hunger strikes asking for a halt to all deportations and better treatment and conditions.

Contact: Maru Mora Villalpando, (206) 251 6658maru@latinoadvocacy.org

#Tacoma12     #Adelanto9     #Not1More      #NoEstánSolos



Labor Studies and Radical History

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




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

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

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


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

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





Thank you for being a part of this struggle.

Cuando luchamos ganamos! When we fight we win!

Noelle Hanrahan, Director




To give by check: 

PO Box 411074

San Francisco, CA


Stock or legacy gifts:

Noelle Hanrahan

(415) 706 - 5222



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.




When they knock on your front door: Preparing for Repression


When they knock on your front door: Preparing for Repression


Mothers Message to the NY/NJ Activist Community 

In order to effectively combat the existing opportunism, hidden agendas and to better provide ALL genuinely good willed social justice organizations and individuals who work inside of the New York and New Jersey metropolitan areas... with more concrete guidelines; 

The following "10 Point Platform and Justice Wish List" was adopted on Saturday, May 13, 2017    during the "Motherhood: Standing Strong 4 Justice" pre-mothers day gathering which was held     at Hostos Community College - Bronx, New York.......

"What We Want, What We Need" 

May, 2017 - NY/NJ Parents 10 Point Justice Platform and Wish List 

Point #1 - Lawyers and Legal Assistance:  Due to both the overwhelming case loads and impersonal nature of most public defenders, the Mothers believe that their families are receiving limited options, inadequate legal advise and therefore; WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in gaining access to experienced "pro-bono" and/or activist attorneys as well as the free resources provided by non-profit social justice and legal advocacy groups.


Point #2 - First Response Teams: The Mothers felt that when their loved ones were either killed or captured by the police that they were left in the hands of the enemy and without any support, information or direction on how to best move forward and therefore; WE WANT and NEED community activists to help us develop independently community controlled & trained first response teams in every borough or county that can confirm and be on the ground within 24 hours of any future incident.


Point #3 - Security and Support At Court Appearances: The Mothers all feel that because community activist support eventually becomes selective and minimal, that they are disrespected by both the courthouse authorities, mainstream media and therefore;   WE WANT and NEED community activists to collectively promote and make a strong presence felt at all court appearances and; To always provide trained security & legal observers... when the families are traveling to, inside and from the court house.


Point #4 - Emotional/Spiritual Healing and Grief and Loss Counseling: After the protest rallies, demonstrations, justice marches and television cameras are gone the Mothers all feel alone and abandoned and therefore;                                                                             WE WANT and NEED for community activists to refer/help provide the families with clergy, professional therapy & cultural outlets needed in order to gain strength to move forward. 


Point #5 -  Parents Internal Communication Network: The Mothers agreed as actual victims, that they are the very best qualified in regards to providing the needed empathy and trust for an independent hotline & contact resource for all of the parents and families who want to reach out to someone they can mutually trust that is able understand what they are going through and therefore;           WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in providing a Parents Internal Communication Network to reach that objective.


Point #6 -  Community Offices and Meeting Spaces: The Mothers agreed that there is an extreme need for safe office spaces where community members and family victims are able to go to for both confidential crisis intervention and holding organizing meetings and therefore;                                                                                                                                                                                                 WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in securing those safe spaces inside of our own neighborhoods.   


Point #7 - Political Education Classes and Workshop Training: The Mothers agreed in implementing the "each one, teach one"   strategy and therefore;                                                                                                                                                                                         WE WANT and NEEDfor community activists to help us in being trained as educators and organizers in Know Your Rights, Cop Watch, First Response, Emergency Preparedness & Community Control over all areas of public safety & the police in their respective neighborhoods.


Point #8 - Support From Politicians and Elected Officials: The Mothers believe that most political candidates and incumbent elected officials selectively & unfairly represent only those cases which they think to be politically advantageous to their own selfish personal success on election day and therefore;                                                                                                                                WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in either publicly exposing or endorsing these aforementioned political candidates and/or elected officials to their constituents solely based upon the uncompromising principles of serving the people.


Point #9 - Research and Documentation: The Mothers believe that research/case studies, surveys, petitions, historical archives, investigative news reporting and events should be documented and made readily available in order to counter the self-serving  police misinformation promoted by the system and therefore;                                                                                                                          WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us by securing college/university students, law firms, film makers, authors, journalists and professional research firms to find, document & tell the people the truth about police terror & the pipeline to prison.


Point #10 - Grassroots Community Outreach and Information: The Mothers believe that far too much attention is being geared towards TV camera sensationalism with the constant organizing of marches & rallies "downtown"  and therefore; WE WANT and NEED for community activists to provide a fair balance by helping us to build in the schools, projects, churches and inside of the subway trains and stations of our Black, brown and oppressed communities where the majority of the police terror is actually taking place. 



100,000 protest in San Francisco, CA

Pictures From Women's
Marches on Every Continent



My Heartfelt "Thank You!"

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Several days ago I received a message from both of our lawyers, Bob Boyle and Bret Grote, informing me that the latest lab tests came in from the Discovery Requests.  

And they told me that the Hepatitis C infection level is at zero and as of today I'm Hepatitis C free. 

This is in part due to some fine lawyering by Bret and Bob who—remember—filed the suit while I was in the throes of a diabetic coma, unconscious and thus unable to file for myself.  

But it's also due to you, the people.  Brothers and sisters who supported our efforts, who contributed to this fight with money, time, protests and cramming court rooms on our behalf, who sent cards, who prayed, who loved deeply.  

I can't thank you all individually but if you hear my voice or read my words know that I am thanking you, all of you. And I'm thanking you for showing once again the Power of the People. 

This battle ain't over, for the State's cruelest gift is my recent diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver. With your love we shall prevail again.  I thank you all. Our noble Dr.'s Corey Weinstein, who told us what to look for, and Joseph Harris who gave me my first diagnosis and who became the star of the courtroom by making the mysteries of Hep C understandable to all.  An internist working up in Harlem, Dr. Harris found few thrills better than telling his many Hep C patients that they're cured.  

This struggle ain't just for me y'all. 

Because of your efforts thousands of Pennsylvania prisoners now have hope of healing from the ravages of Hepatitis C. [singing] "Let us march on 'til victory is won." So goes the old Negro Spiritual, "The Black National Anthem." 

We are making it a reality. I love you all.

From Prison Nation,

This is Mumia Abu-Jamal

Prison Radio, May 27, 2017


Court order to disclose DA files in Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal case [video]

This 9-minute video gives background on new revelations about conflict of interest -- an appeals judge who had previously been part of the prosecution team -- in upholding the 1982 conviction of journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal on charges of killing a police officer:


A ruling to implement a judge's recent order for "discovery" could be made on May 30.

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











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)



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

        Dear Supporters:

        Today marks the 5th Anniversary of when the United States Supreme Court Reinstated my Wrongful Life Sentence. 

        The prosecution in my case turned over NEVER seen before Case Discovery to my legal team. This Case Discovery I speak on was withheld from me and ALL of my prior attorneys for 18½ years. Not only was the prosecution's only witness was labeled a SUSPECT in this same murder I've been wrongfully convicted of, I was also furnished with a written statement from this same witness, for almost two decades I was told this witness never made a written statement. So I had to honor a police summary of this witness. Well, this statement shows my innocence and contradicts what this witness testified to from my preliminary hearing to my trial. To make a long story short, the prosecution in my case let this false testimony go un-correct from the lower court all the way up to the United States Supreme Court who relied on this testimony to Reinstate my conviction when I was a free man. This was done knowingly.

        For the last 21 years, my family and I have been living this nightmare. Thanks to my legal team headed by Michael Wiseman and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, who have been working extremely hard to secure my freedom. The judge who is presiding over my case have seen enough evidence to award me an Evidentiary Hearing on my claims of Prosecution Misconduct (Brady Violations). 

        These hearings will be taking place on July 11, 12, 13 2017 starting at 9am in courtroom No. 8 at the Dauphin County Courthouse, 101 Market Street, 5th Floor, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101.

        Feel free to join me, my family and supporters in my pursuit of my future. For people in the New York Metropolitan area, The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice will be sponsoring a FREE roundtrip bus ride for my family, friends and supporters. 

        There are seats available on the first come basis. So please send an email asap and make your reservation.

        Within the next couple weeks I will be transferred to Dauphin County Prison to await my court dates. I will see you there. I pray that this is the beginning of the end of my 21year nightmare. Thanks for your support and I encourage you to continue. Please continue to support me in any way you can. For those who are in position to financially contribute please do so--It's needed. My freedom is on the horizon.

        Free the Innocent,

        "The Pain Within"

        Lorenzo "Cat" Johnson

        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 websiteand contribute to Lorenzo's campaign for freedom!

        Write: Lorenzo Johnson

                    DF 1036

                    SCI Mahanoy

                    301 Morea Rd.

                    Frackville, PA 17932


                      directly on ConnectNetwork -- instructions here

        - Team Free Lorenzo Johnson











          1)  Why Grenfell Tower Burned: Regulators Put Cost Before Safety

          "Mr. Adam, 44, had seen posters hung by the management company telling tenants to shut their doors and stay inside in the event of a fire. But Mr. Adam, his wife, his daughter and his pregnant sister ignored the instructions and ran. 'Anyone who listened to the fire brigade and stayed where they are,' Mr. Adam said in an interview the next day, 'they lost their lives.'"





        LONDON — The doorbell woke Yassin Adam just before 1 a.m. A neighbor was frantically alerting others on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower about a fire in his apartment. "My fridge blew up," the man shouted.

        Residents of Grenfell Tower had complained for years that the 24-story public housing block invited catastrophe. It lacked fire alarms, sprinklers and a fire escape. It had only a single staircase. And there were concerns about a new aluminum facade that was supposed to improve the building — but was now whisking the flames skyward.

        The facade, Mr. Adam said, "burned like a fire that you pour petrol on."

        The incineration of Grenfell Tower on June 14, the deadliest fire in Britain in more than a century, is now a national tragedy. The London police on Friday blamed flammable materials used in the facade for the spread of the blaze and said the investigation could bring charges of manslaughter. Hundreds of families were evacuated from five high-rises that posed similar risks.

        Flames consumed the tower so quickly that arriving firefighters wondered if they could even get inside. People trapped on the higher floors screamed for their lives through broken windows. At least 79 people died, a toll that is expected to rise as more bodies are recovered. Survivors have charged that the facade was installed to beautify their housing project for the benefit of wealthy neighbors.

        A formal government inquiry into the fire has just begun. But interviews with tenants, industry executives and fire safety engineers point to a gross failure of government oversight, a refusal to heed warnings from inside Britain and around the world and a drive by successive governments from both major political parties to free businesses from the burden of safety regulations.

        Promising to cut "red tape," business-friendly politicians evidently judged that cost concerns outweighed the risks of allowing flammable materials to be used in facades. Builders in Britain were allowed to wrap residential apartment towers — perhaps several hundred of them — from top to bottom in highly flammable materials, a practice forbidden in the United States and many European countries. And companies did not hesitate to supply the British market.

        The facade, installed last year at Grenfell Tower, in panels known as cladding and sold as Reynobond PE, consisted of two sheets of aluminum that sandwich a combustible core of polyethylene. It was produced by the American manufacturing giant Alcoa, which was renamed Arconic after a reorganization last year.

        Arconic has marketed the flammable facades in Britain for years, even as it has adjusted its pitch elsewhere. In other European countries, Arconic's sales materials explicitly instructed that "as soon as the building is higher than the firefighters' ladders, it has to be conceived with an incombustible material." An Arconic website for British customers said only that such use "depends on local building codes."

        For years, members of Parliament had written letters requesting new restrictions on cladding, especially as the same flammable facades were blamed for fires in Britain, France, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and elsewhere. Yet British authorities resisted new rules. A top building regulator explained to a coroner in 2013 that requiring only noncombustible exteriors in residential towers "limits your choice of materials quite significantly."

        Fire safety experts said the blaze at Grenfell Tower was a catastrophe that could have been avoided, if warnings had been heeded.

        "How could that happen in our country at this time?" asked Dennis Davis, a former firefighter who is vice chairman of the nonprofit Fire Sector Federation.

        Mr. Adam, 44, had seen posters hung by the management company telling tenants to shut their doors and stay inside in the event of a fire. But Mr. Adam, his wife, his daughter and his pregnant sister ignored the instructions and ran.

        "Anyone who listened to the fire brigade and stayed where they are," Mr. Adam said in an interview the next day, "they lost their lives."

        'How Is That Possible?'

        The first call to the London Fire Brigade came at 12:54 a.m., according to an official statement. Six minutes later, as the first firefighters reached the scene, brigade veterans struggled to fathom the speed of the blaze.

        "That is not a real block with people in it!" one firefighter exclaimed, his astonishment captured in a video that later was shown on the BBC and Sky News and was shot inside his vehicle as it sped toward the building.

        Other firefighters in the vehicle were heard gasping in horror.

        "There are kids in there," one said.

        "How is that possible?"

        "It has jumped all the way along the flats — look!"

        How "are we going to get into that?" another asked, using an expletive.

        Flames in an ordinary fire burst out of windows, moving from the inside out. Grenfell Tower burned in reverse, moving inward from the building's exterior. The flames quickly tore upward in streaks through the facade, filling apartments with toxic black smoke. Torrents of orange and red branched out of the first streaks and shot upward. The flames encased the building in a cylinder of fire.

        "I have never seen such a phenomenal fire, a building engulfed top to bottom in flames," Dany Cotton, the London fire commissioner, said later that day. More than 200 firefighters battled the blaze. They brought 40 fire engines and other vehicles.

        "Committing hundreds of my firefighters into a building that at points looked like it couldn't possibly stand up due to the level of fire — I actually felt physically sick with anxiety about what was happening," Ms. Cotton added. But the firefighters went in.

        The building they entered was built in 1974 in an architectural styleknown as Brutalism, and the original concrete structure, built without cladding, was designed to contain a fire in one apartment long enough for firefighters to prevent it from spreading very far. But the building's floor plan gives a picture of what happened. Refrigerators in most apartments appear to have been positioned against an exterior wall, next to a window and just a few inches from the cladding installed in the renovation.

        When the refrigerator on the fourth floor burst into flames, the fire ignited the flammable cladding and shot up the side of the building. The London police confirmed that on Friday and identified the refrigerator brand as Hotpoint. But experts who saw footage of the blaze had known the culprit at once. "You can tell immediately it's the cladding," said Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

        The first well-known use of aluminum cladding on a high-rise was on the Alcoa Building, in Pittsburgh, erected as the manufacturer's headquarters. Makers of cladding promoted it as both aesthetically striking and energy-efficient, because the aluminum surface reflects back heat and light. Demand for cladding surged with rising fuel costs and concerns about global warming, and over time, producers began selling it in a thin "sandwich" design: Two sheets of aluminum around a core made of flammable plastics like polyethylene.

        The cladding is typically paired with a much thicker layer of foam insulation against the building's exterior wall, as was the case at Grenfell Tower. Then the cladding may be affixed to the wall with metal studs, leaving a narrow gap between the cladding and the insulation.

        But by 1998, regulators in the United States — where deaths from fires are historically more common than in Britain or Western Europe — began requiring real-world simulations to test any materials to be used in buildings taller than a firefighter's two-story ladder. "The U.S. codes say you have to test your assembly exactly the way you install it in a building," said Robert Solomon, an engineer at the National Fire Protection Association, which is funded in part by insurance companies and drafts model codes followed in the United States and around the world.

        No aluminum cladding made with pure polyethylene — the type used at Grenfell Tower — has ever passed the test, experts in the United States say. The aluminum sandwiching always failed in the heat of a fire, exposing the flammable filling. And the air gap between the cladding and the insulation could act as a chimney, intensifying the fire and sucking flames up the side of a building. Attempts to install nonflammable barriers at vertical and horizontal intervals were ineffective in practice.

        As a result, American building codes have effectively banned flammable cladding in high-rises for nearly two decades. The codes also require many additional safeguards, especially in new buildings or major renovations: automatic sprinkler systems, fire alarms, loudspeakers to provide emergency instructions, pressurized stairways designed to keep smoke out and multiple stairways or fire escapes.

        And partly because of the influence of American architects, many territories around the world follow the American example. But not Britain.

        Safety vs. Cost

        British schoolchildren study the Great Fire of London, in 1666, the way American pupils might learn about the Boston Tea Party or the first Thanksgiving. But the legacy of the fire is also still felt in Britain's building codes, experts say. London's original great fire leapt across wooden buildings. And since then, British building codes have focused primarily on the principle of stopping the spread of flames between buildings or, within larger structures, between units.

        With fire prevention in Britain, "you put all your eggs in one basket," said Edwin Galea, director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group at the University of Greenwich. And for decades, this was fairly effective. Britain has long reported far fewer deaths from fires relative to population than the United States, and typically, fewer than 350 residents die each year in fires (compared with more than 3,000 in the United States).

        But as early as 1999, after a fire in Irvine, Scotland, British fire safety engineers warned Parliament that the advent of flammable cladding had opened a dangerous loophole in the regulations. The Irvine fire saw flames leap up panels at Garnock Court, a 14-story public housing block. One resident died, four others were injured and a parliamentary committee investigated the causes.

        "To a certain extent, we are hoisted by the petard of what happened here in 1666, the Great Fire of London, and we look at fire as a horizontal problem, with a fire in one building affecting the exterior of another building," Glynton Evans, a fire safety adviser to the firefighters' union, said to Parliament. "The problem with cladding is that it will, if it is able, spread fire, and it will spread it vertically."

        The firefighters and engineers warned Parliament that British codes required only that the aluminum used in cladding resist ignition, even though the heat of a fire would breach the surface and expose the flammable material inside. Nor did the British rules require a test to evaluate risks in real-world conditions.

        "If the cladding cannot resist the spread of flame across the surface, then it will vertically envelop the building," Mr. Evans warned, in testimony that now seems prophetic. "In other words, the fire will spread to the outside of the building, and it will go vertically." Many other fire safety experts would repeat those concerns in the following years.

        But manufacturers argued against new tests or rules. Using fire-resistant materials was more expensive, a cost that industry advocates opposed.

        "Any changes to the facade to satisfy a single requirement such as fire performance will impinge on all other aspects of the wall's performance as well as its cost," Stephen Ledbetter, the director of the Center for Window and Cladding Technology, an industry group, wrote in testimony to Parliament.

        "Fire resistant walls," he added, "are not economically viable for the prevention of fire spread from floor to floor of a building," and "we run the risk of using a test method because it exists, not because it delivers real benefits to building owners or users." (In an interview last week, Mr. Ledbetter said his group had updated its position earlier this year to warn against the type of cladding used at Grenfell Tower.)

        Business-friendly governments in Britain — first under Labor and then under the Conservatives — campaigned to pare back regulations. A 2005 law known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order ended a requirement for government inspectors to certify that buildings had met fire codes, and shifted instead to a system of self-policing. Governments adopted slogans calling for the elimination of at least one regulation for each new one that was imposed, and the authorities in charge of fire safety took this to heart.

        "If you think more fire protection would be good for U.K. business, then you should be making the case to the business community, not the government," Brian Martin, the top civil servant in charge of drafting building-safety guidelines, told an industry conference in 2011, quoting the fire minister then, Bob Neill. ("Should we be looking to regulate further? 'No' would be my answer,'" Mr. Neill added.)

        Mr. Martin, a former surveyor for large-scale commercial projects like the Canary Wharf, told his audience to expect few new regulations because the prime minister at the time, David Cameron, wanted to greatly reduce the burden on industry, according to a report by the conference organizers.

        Two years later, in 2013, a coroner questioned Mr. Martin about the application of building regulations in the case of another London fire, which killed six people and injured 15 others at a public housing complex called Lakanal House. Mr. Martin defended the existing regulations, including the lack of a requirement for meaningful fire resistance in the paneling on the outside of an apartment tower.

        A questioner told him that the public might be "horrified" to learn that the rules permitted the use of paneling that could spread flames up the side of a building in as little as four-and-a-half minutes. "I can't predict what the public would think," Mr. Martin replied, "but that is the situation."

        Moving to a requirement that the exterior of a building be "noncombustible," Mr. Martin said, "limits your choice of materials quite significantly."

        After the coroner's report, a cross-party coalition of members of Parliament petitioned government ministers to reform the regulations, including adding automatic sprinklers and revisiting the standards for cladding. "Today's buildings have a much higher content of readily available combustible material," the group wrote in a letter sent in December 2015 that specifically cited the risk of chemicals in "cladding."

        "This fire hazard results in many fires because adequate recommendations to developers simply do not exist. There is little or no requirement to mitigate external fire spread," added the letter, which was first reported last week by the BBC.

        In 2014, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, an organization in the United States, counted 20 major high-rise fires involving cladding. In at least a half-dozen — in France, Dubai, South Korea, the United States and elsewhere — the same type of panels installed at Grenfell Tower caught fire. A 2014 fire in Melbourne, Australia, resulted in multiple investigations into the dangers of combustible cladding. Another fire broke out in Dubai, around a 60-story skyscraper, on New Year's Eve of 2015, and yet another, around a 70-story skyscraper there, this April.

        But in Britain, still no changes were made. "The construction industry appears to be stronger and more powerful than the safety lobby," said Ronnie King, a former fire chief who advises the parliamentary fire safety group. "Their voice is louder."

        'Pray for Us'

        As recently as March, a tenant blogger, writing on behalf of what he called the Grenfell Action Group, predicted a "serious and catastrophic incident," adding, "The phrase 'an accident waiting to happen' springs readily to mind."

        For many tenants, an object of scorn was Grenfell Tower's quasi-governmental owner, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization. It was created under legislation seeking to give public housing residents more say in running their buildings, and its board is made up of a mix of tenants, representatives of local government and independent directors. But Kensington and Chelsea is the largest tenant management organization in England, a sprawling anomaly supervising roughly 10,000 properties, more than 30 times the average for such entities. Tenants came to see it as just another landlord.

        The organization had promised residents of Grenfell Tower that the renovation last year would improve both insulation and fire safety. Board minutes indicate that it worked closely with the London Fire Brigade throughout the process, and local firefighters attended a briefing afterward "where the contractor demonstrated the fire safety features." During a board meeting last year, the organization even said it would "extend fire safety approach adopted at Grenfell Tower to all major works projects."

        But the principal contractor, the Rydon Group, based in East Sussex, England, assigned the facade work to a specialist firm that was struggling financially during the project. The firm, Harley Curtain Wall, went out of business in 2015 and transferred its assets to a successor, Harley Facades.

        Another subcontractor, Omnis Exteriors, said on Friday that it had not been told that the flammable Reynobond cladding was going to be combined with flammable interior insulation. That was a problem, the firm said in a statement, adding that the cladding "should only be used in conjunction with a noncombustible material."

        The cladding itself was produced by Arconic, an industry titan whose chief executive recently stepped down after an unusual public battle with an activist shareholder. Arconic sells a flammable polyethylene version of its Reynobond cladding and a more expensive, fire-resistant version.

        In a brochure aimed at customers in other European countries, the company cautions that the polyethylene Reynobond should not be used in buildings taller than 10 meters, or about 33 feet, consistent with regulations in the United States and elsewhere. "Fire is a key issue when it comes to buildings," the brochure explains. "Especially when it comes to facades and roofs, the fire can spread extremely rapidly."

        A diagram shows flames leaping up the side of a building. "As soon as the building is higher than the firefighters' ladders, it has to be conceived with an incombustible material," a caption says.

        But the marketing materials on Arconic's British website are opaque on the issue.

        "Q: When do I need Fire Retardant (FR) versus Polyethylene (PR) Reynobond? The answer to this, in part, depends on local building codes. Please contact your Area Sales Manager for more information," reads a question-and-answer section.

        For more than a week after the fire, Arconic declined repeated requests for comment. Then, on Thursday, the company confirmed that its flammable polyethylene panels had been used on the building. "The loss of lives, injuries and destruction following the Grenfell Tower fire are devastating, and we would like to express our deepest sympathies," the company said. Asked about its varying product guidelines, the company added, "While we publish general usage guidelines, regulations and codes vary by country and need to be determined by the local building code experts."

        Hassan Ibrahim, who lived in an apartment on the 23rd floor of Grenfell Tower, was traveling outside England the day of the fire. His wife, Rania, and their two small children were not so lucky. As the smoke and flames drifted upward, Ms. Ibrahim debated with a neighbor whether to risk opening her door.

        "Don't open the front door," her neighbor told her. "You are not going to be able to breathe — you are just going to bring the smoke in. You have your children. Standing near the door with all the smoke is not going to help you."

        "Maybe someone outside?" Ms. Ibrahim asked plaintively.

        For a moment, she threw the door open. "Hello! Hello! Come here," she shouted into the blackened hallway. Then she gave up and retreated. "O.K., O.K., I closed it," she said. "I am not going to go."

        Ms. Ibrahim recorded a video as she fretted over what to do — and then posted it online as the fire was still raging.

        The fire service said it received 600 calls from the building that night, some lasting an hour. Speaking in Arabic over a telephone, Ms. Ibrahim said: "We are on the last floor. The last floor is the one that has not caught fire yet."

        Then, a few moments later, she said: "It's over. It is here."

        "Pray for us," she added.

        Her husband arrived at the charred hulk of the building the next day. Today, his wife and children are still among the missing.



        2)  Tax evasion by the rich more prevalent than ever study finds – The fight for socialism is now! 

        Victor Murray, 

        June 23, 2017


        A recent study on tax evasion and inequality carried out by a group of Scandinavian economic researchers reveals just how big a part of the upper 0.01%'s fortunes is hidden in foreign bank accounts. On this basis, the study finds that inequality is probably far higher than originally assumed. This clearly shows how the capitalist system has reached a dead end. These contradictions can only be solved through socialist revolution.

        The 40-page paper (found here) provides a detailed account of how leaked information from HSBC Switzerland (Swiss leaks) and Mossack Fonseca (Panama Papers) correlate with individual tax data from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and comed to the conclusion that the vast majority of illegal tax evasion schemes are committed by the richest in society.

        This may not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the many injustices carried out by the capitalist class, but what the data does reveal is that our society may be suffering from an even higher level of inequality than previously suspected. An Oxfam report published in January revealed that the eight richest people on the planet are as wealthy as the poorest 50 percent of the world population. But this (as absurd as it may seem) may actually be an underestimation. If the hidden wealth of the rich is severely underestimated (or even entirely ignored) when calculating wealth inequality, the result of the calculations relating to inequality will be an underestimate as well. Inequality may therefore be growing far faster than previously believed to be the case.

        "[Here] we assume that Scandinavian countries hide as much wealth offshore as other countries, relatively to the size of their economy (i.e. 3.7% of their wealth).  If that is true, then offshore tax evasion rises to close to 60% of taxes owed for the top 0.01%.  All of these figures understate true tax evasion at the top because they only include tax evasion on wealth and capital income (dividends, interest, capital gains); they do not take into account any tax evasion that might have occurred on the principal (e.g., unreported black market activity)."

        From this it is clear just how widespread tax evasion has become with the growing ease of moving financial assets across borders. This is yet another example of the hypocrisy of the capitalist class and its state, which viciously attacks and sanctions any poor or working class person who might break the law to get a bit of economic relief, while they themselves are involved in the most blatant tax evasion and economic fraud.

        But, it should come as no surprise that the capitalist class will use every available trick in the book to maximize its profits and maintain its privileges. The laws of capitalism dictate that in whichever way possible, the capitalists will attempt to increase their profits at the expense of the working class, be it by by extending the working day for the workers, increasing the tempo of work or by hiding profits created through the exploitation of the working class in foreign bank accounts.

        The study presents an opportunistic solution to the problem of tax evasion arguing that amnesty programs should be put into place allowing national tax agencies to understand the mechanisms of tax evasion more fully, providing the knowledge to enforce various laws and legislations against the phenomenon. This however, while probably providing a more detailed overview of how tax evasion functions on a technical level, cannot solve the problem itself. The inner contradictions of capitalism will continue to exist and the capitalists' need to maximize profits and defend their privileges will live on.

        The mistake here is to see the state and the capitalist class as two opposing forces, portraying one as a money hungry bandit and the other as a neutral entity fighting for justice and equality. From a Marxist perspective the state is a tool for the rule of one class over others. In a capitalist society, the state is tied by a million threads to the capitalist class. And while the myth that the states of Scandinavian and northern European countries govern in the interest of the working class and strive for greater equality, it has been shown many times over not to be the case.

        Take as an example the former Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. Promising economic transparency following the collapse of three Icelandic banks during the crisis of 2008 (which allowed him to win the 2009 election), it was later revealed (in the Panama Paper leaks) that his family held bonds worth millions of dollars in those exact same banks, through a shell company in the British Virgin Islands, completely undisclosed to any part of the public. And this is not a one off case, far from it. A Danish senior researcher from the Department of Applied Maths and Computer Science at the Technical University of Denmark revealed that the most referenced group of people in the Panama Paper leaks were politicians, not lawyers, CEOs or entrepreneurs, but representatives of all the world's capitalist states.

        The paper reveals the massive contradictions within capitalism, and gives a glimpse into just how extremely unequal today's society is. These problems cannot be addressed without adopting radical measures that need to be taken against a system that has gone far past its expiration date. As long as the capitalist class holds economic and state power in its hands, no reforms will reduce inequality and poverty. What is needed, is a revolutionary socialist transformation of society taking the immense wealth out of the hands of the 1% and placing it under a rational and democratic plan of production. The system is rotten to the core and needs to be replaced with a socialist system for the benefit of all and not for a tiny minority of parasites.



        3)  Survivors of UK's Grenfell Tower Block Fire Demand Accountability for the Victims -- TRANSCRIPT OF A VIDEO -- watch full video at the link at The Real News, below.

        One week after the disastrous fire that engulfed the whole of Grenfell Tower Block, survivors and their supporters demand justice and a reform of Britain's national housing policy

        Speaker 1: [inaudible 00:00:26] it's towering inferno here.

        Speaker 2: How's that possible.

        Speaker 3: It's jumped up all the way along the place.

        ISHMAHIL BLAGROVE: Well today we launched a campaign of Justice 4 Grenfell with our website, Justice4Grenfell.co.uk. We just had to sort of centralize, to create one central hub for the campaign because there are a whole lot of groups that have set up. People have hit the ground running, and wanted to sort of do things. And you have people providing food, some providing counseling, making sure that those victims were okay. It's just been absolutely amazing, what I've seen in terms of the Sikhs, the Hindus, the Muslims. ... People being in the street, people just didn't know how to ... knowing what they could do. People delivering food ... just the unity, I can't even just put it more than that. I think that the lasting legacy of this tower block is just the unity that it's sort of created in bringing people together.

        There's been a controversy because, and it's not just Grenfell, there are other states, there are other places around here. The entire community has been under siege, from Mornington, Lancaster Youth, Grenfell, Silchester. The whole community has been under siege. There's been a history of neglect with the councils not seeing poor working-class people in this community. This disaster was waiting to happen, they were warned. Ed had written a blog years ago outlining all of the issues of the health and safety risks, the fire risks. They weren't listened to, they weren't heard. No one cared. They had no faith in what they were doing. They put cladding on the outside, they spent 10 million on the outside, and yet the 10 million they spent, it wasn't in terms of improving the lives of the residents. It was about padding it up so the rich people in this area didn't see it as an eyesore.

        Imagine, we live in a society whereby we have footballers paid 250 thousand pounds a week. How much would it have cost to put a sprinkler system in there? A week's ... a footballer's weekly salary?

        It's about getting justice. It's about holding people accountable. It's about making people responsible. It's about making somebody pay for what they did. Imagine as we're talking now there's still bodies in there.

        It's an oven. It's an oven. It's a sinister monument, do you know what I mean? Of negligence on the part of the state and the government, do you know what I mean? And what this has sparked, it's become international. It's become symbolic of the culture of neglect, do you know what I mean? That's endemic, not just in here. It's institutional across this country. Working class communities, ordinary people. Hard working people struggling to get by, whereby you have state operators not caring for them, not listening to them. Not even seeing them, they don't see these people.

        So this campaign, what we'll be doing is getting justice for the people of Grenfell, and also expanding the argument right across the country. Because what we've shown here is you've seen the unity yourself. You've felt that spiritual energy. If we can create that here, why can't we create it across the country?

        All we want is justice! What do we want?

        Audience: Justice!

        I. BLAGROVE: What do we want?

        Audience: Justice!

        I. BLAGROVE: What do we want?

        Audience: Justice!

        I. BLAGROVE: What do we want?

        Audience: Justice!

        I. BLAGROVE: When do we want it?

        Audience: Now!

        I. BLAGROVE: When do we want it?

        Audience: Now!

        I. BLAGROVE: We want justice!



        4)  Victims of UPS's deadly drive for profit

        A UPS worker reflects on the sources of violence at a hub that left four workers dead.

        June 21, 2017


        ON JUNE 14, a 38-year-old United Parcel Service driver, Jimmy Lam, shot and killed three co-workers, wounded two others and then killed himself at the UPS hub in San Francisco in the Potrero Hill neighborhood.

        This tragedy is obviously upsetting for those of us who work at UPS, along with our family and friends. But it doesn't come as a real surprise given the undue stress of the job.

        The mass shooting took place as drivers were waiting to start delivering packages in the morning. Benson Louie, Wayne Chan and Mike Lefiti were killed, along with Lam. Xiao Chen and Edgar Perez were treated for gunshot wounds at San Francisco General Hospital and released.

        Members of the Teamsters union who work at UPS are reminded daily of management's antagonistic relationship with us. Yet the mainstream media made an issue that Lam had a "grievance with the company"--as if this is unusual.

        Lam had filed a grievance--a procedure used to address a violation of the Teamsters-UPS contract--over excessive overtime. In fact, many grievances are filed by workers every day at UPS. The problem is that many are blocked by management and take months, if not years, to resolve, if they ever are.

        This stalling by the company is specifically designed to discourage workers from filing grievances or otherwise challenging poor conditions or contract violations. Management also uses harassment to try to intimidate workers from filing.

        TO COUNTER bad publicity after the shooting, UPS issued a press statement in the name of CEO and Chairman of the Board David Abney: "The UPS family is deeply saddened by the tragic shooting in San Francisco on Wednesday, when four employees lost their lives. On behalf of all UPSers, I extend sincere condolences to the families of the deceased, and we pray for the speedy recovery of the injured employees."

        What is this "UPS family" and does it really exist? Does it include the part-time workers making only $10 an hour working in warehouses and loading trailers, where temperatures in the summer can reach 130 degrees? Management, on the other hand, gets air-conditioned offices.

        Does it include package car drivers like Jimmy Lam, who work 12-hour days or longer, with more stops per mile added on to increase work "efficiency"? The result of management piling on work is that some members of the "family" have to work late into the night, only to get up early the next morning and start the process all over again.

        Mandatory overtime has become the rule at UPS, and many workers are at the breaking point.

        Meanwhile, the company is automating more of its facilities, not to make workers' lives easier, but to increase the pace of the work. Workers load and unload thousands of packages a day. The body starts to break down from all of that lifting.

        Workers who have been on the job for years--or even for a short time--often suffer pain from repetitive motion, sickness from breathing in dirty and dusty air, and stress inflicted by management that operates acts in a crisis mode to get the work done so their numbers are acceptable to their superiors.

        This toxic work environment hurts not only union workers, but is visible on the faces of the low-level supervisors and managers who fear for their own jobs if they can't meet the targets devised by their bosses. That means they are constantly harassing workers and trying to force them to work faster than before.

        Part-time new hires usually quit because the working conditions are so bad and the pay is too low. Meanwhile, supervisors rush around downing energy drinks to do union work in violation of the contract in order to meet their down time--the time when work should be finished.

        The work pace is so fast and brutal that some workers learn to "suck it up" and get upset at other workers who don't do the same. Others slow down, realizing the faster they work, the more management will abuse them to work even faster.

        ON THE other hand, the world looks sunny for the top executives and major stockholders of UPS. The company is expanding its operations and buying up other corporations around the world.

        Meanwhile, UPS's President of U.S. Operations Myron Gray, speaking at the UPS Investor Conference last February, explained how change would drive the logistics network of the future.

        Phase One of the new program was ORION, computer software that cut 210 million miles out of the routes driven by UPS drivers in a year, while increasing the average stops per mile by 6 to 9 percent. ORION generated more than $400 million in annual cost savings by extracting more work out of drivers.

        But what comes with that is more stress and longer hours on the street for drivers, since they are making more stops per mile. This leads to a lack of any social life outside of UPS, since you can be at work for longer than you are at home, not even excluding sleep.

        UPS has also started to retrofit its largest ground facilities and claims automation will contribute to labor savings. Other older facilities will be expanded, but to really increase productivity savings, new facilities, with a higher degree of automation, are being planned--about 70 new package and hub projects around the world.

        Gray and the other UPS executives have many reasons to be happy, especially when counted in terms of the dollars in their bank accounts.

        According to the Wall Street Journal, top executives got a second pay raise and special stock awards in 2016. At $11.7 million in 2016, CEO David Abney's total compensation was 21 percent higher than the year before.

        As the Journal reported, "UPS says the higher salary and one-time grants were designed to keep the company's pay competitive with peers, and to tie more of the compensation to future performance." UPS spokesperson Steve Gaut underlined this last point: "The only way the pay is delivered is if the company performs to the target expectations."

        But for UPS workers, this will mean even more speedups, longer hours and cost-cutting on workers' needs, like building cleanliness and well-maintained vehicles and equipment--all so that top management can hit their numbers and get those million-dollar bonuses. We will pay with more work, more stress, less sleep, more injuries and even premature deaths.

        Drivers will bear the same pressure that Jimmy Lam did, because of the decisions made at corporate headquarters in Atlanta. That is the bigger tragedy behind this month's horrific shooting in San Francisco, and it will only lead to other workers breaking down, mentally and physically, with all the repercussions that entails.



        5)  Britain on the brink

        By Rob Sewell, June 26, 2017


        "In developments of such magnitude twenty years are more than a day - though later on days may come again in which twenty years are embedded." (Karl Marx, 9 April 1863)

        In Britain we have experienced a fundamental break in the situation. A sea-change has taken place politically, socially and economically. Britain is now one of the most unstable countries in Europe. Following the deep slump of 2008, working people have faced a new brutal reality of austerity and falling living standards. This has produced an anti-capitalist and anti-establishment backlash amongst wide layers of the population, especially the youth. This is forcing many to draw radical and even revolutionary conclusions.

        This is precisely what Trotsky meant when he referred to the molecular process of socialist revolution. A slow and gradual accumulation of discontent builds up beneath the surface, unnoticed by superficial observers, until it reaches a critical point where quantity becomes transformed into quality with explosive consequences. Now the movement in the direction of revolution is being reflected on the political plane.

        The British ruling class, who have ruled Britain for the last 200 years, are also gripped by a sense of despair and despondency, as things go from bad to worse. In the 1930s, Trotsky referred to the ruling class "tobogganing towards catastrophe," which is an apt expression. He went on to say: "The economy, the state, the politics of the bourgeoisie and its international relations are completely blighted by a social crisis, characteristic of a pre-revolutionary state of society." (The Transitional Programme)

        In many ways, we are faced with a similar situation unfolding today. In fact, the events in Britain have a striking resemblance to the situation that existed in 1931, which Trotsky described as a pre-revolutionary situation. Despite all the power in their hands, the capitalist establishment have seemingly lost control of the situation. They have certainly lost control over the Labour Party, which they regarded in the past as a useful prop to the capitalist system.

        The pendulum swings

        Aghast, the strategists of capital are forced to reappraise what is taking place. According to The Economist, a right-wing establishment mouthpiece: "For the past 40 years Britain has been dominated by neoliberalism, a creed that sought to adapt some of the tenets of classical 19th-century liberalism to a world in which the role of the state had grown much larger. It emphasised the virtues of rolling back that state through privatisation, deregulation and the reduction of taxes, particularly on the rich; of embracing globalisation, particularly the globalisation of finance; of controlling inflation and balancing budgets; and of allowing creative destruction full rein."

        So ingrained were these ideas that, in the words of Stewart Wood, a former adviser to Gordon Brown: "One of Margaret Thatcher's great achievements was to turn a fundamentalist faith in free markets into the hallmark of moderate centrism for the next generation of leaders."

        The Economist goes on to explain that the pendulum has now swung far in the other direction, "grounded in the failures of neoliberalism." It continues:

        "The biggest factor was the 2008 global financial crisis. It hit Britain particularly hard because financial services play an outsized role in the country's economy, generating 8% of its GDP, and because of its 'light touch' regulation. The crisis made Britons significantly poorer: British workers saw their wages (adjusted for inflation) fall by 10% in 2008-14, and are unlikely to see them reach pre-crisis levels until at least 2020. It played havoc with the public finances: faced with large deficits the coalition government chose to cut back on public spending….

        "The crisis also undermined the public's faith in their rulers… Many British politicians also did very well, and not just through their expenses. Politicians such as Mr Blair, Peter Mandelson and Mr Osborne have made millions by offering advice to banks, making speeches and otherwise transforming themselves from gamekeepers into poachers…

        "But the financial crisis did not just entrench distrust and anger. It also laid bare longer-term problems in the economy…

        "That division was made more poisonous by the fact that the elite did very well in the neoliberal years. In 1980 the average CEO of a company on the FTSE All Share index earned 25 times more than the average employee. In 2016 the bosses earned 130 times more. Between 2000 and 2008 the index fell by 30% but the pay for the CEOs running the firms on the index rose by 80%.

        "Privatisation has fed resentment too. Labour's promise to re-nationalise the railways, which would have been unthinkable ten years ago, is popular today: thank high fares and private profit. The bits of the public sector that stayed public did pretty well by their overseers, too. Mark Thompson, then the director-general of the BBC, saw his pay soar from £609,000 in 2005-06 to £788,000 the next year and £834,000 the year after that. The average pay of a university vice-chancellor is now more than a quarter of a million pounds…

        "And all the while Brexit will be hurting the economy. Even Brexiteers concede that Britain will suffer short-term shocks as it renegotiates its relationship with its single biggest market. Most independent experts predict long-term harm as well…

        "The result is likely to be a partial reprise of the 1970s. Politics will be paralysed—this time by negotiating Brexit rather than fights with unions. The economy will stagnate thanks to a mixture of uncertainty and business flight. Public services will be squeezed. The roiling discontent that produced Brexit will find new targets. In the 1970s, though, Britain edged its way towards solving the problems of its former dispensation. It is much harder to see it doing the same this time round." (The Economist, 17 June, 2017)

        Turning point

        But there is no solution to this on-going crisis. The capitalist system is in an organic crisis, meaning that it has reached its limits as a socio-economic system. It is a system in terminal decline. However, that does not mean it will simply collapse. It will need to be overthrown.

        This pessimism in the future of capitalism was also made by Wolfgang Munchau in the Financial Times, the organ of finance capital, who talks of a "historical turning point".

        "The victory of capitalism over communism was the single most formative event for many of today's commentators and analysts like myself. Our generation has fully bought into paradigms of global financial capitalism, even though we may have been sceptical about the end-of-history euphoria of the 1990s. We celebrated the advent of centre-left pragmatism and a new generation of centre-left leaders.

        "Our failure was to mistake the politically expedient for the universally true. The financial crisis turned what outwardly seemed a stable political and financial environment into what mathematicians and physicists would call a 'dynamical' system. The main characteristic of such systems is radical uncertainty. Such systems are not necessarily chaotic — though some may be — but they are certainly unpredictable…

        "Radical uncertainty is a massive challenge, because you can never be sure of much. In particular, you can no longer be certain that you can extrapolate the trends of the past into the future. Opinion polls are becoming less relevant (even if they were able to produce a correct snapshot of opinion at any one time). Even ultra-modern tools like social network analysis cannot break through into an unknown future. The usefulness of these tools is confined to explaining what went wrong in the past.

        "In a world of radical uncertainty, gambles become harder because the information on which they are based is less trustworthy. This is naturally true for investors but also for politicians. It is no surprise that the big political gambles of our time, like the recent referendums in the UK and Italy, have failed…

        "Once we accept that our globalised world has characteristics of a dynamical system, many of our assumptions will fall like dominoes, and so will the political parties that cling to them." (FT, 19/6/17)

        Their old model has clearly broken. Capitalism is without doubt a dynamic and chaotic system, where periodic crises of over-production are endemic. Marx explained this over 150 years ago. The strategists of capital, however, are blind to the fact that their system is in a complete impasse, which is causing this profound instability at all levels.

        This is the reason for the new convulsions in British society. The Scottish referendum, which had revolutionary overtones; the shock election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party; the 2015 general election, where Labour was wiped out in Scotland; the Brexit result; and now the unexpected results of the 2017 general election: all these are a reflection of this crisis-ridden system.

        The Grenfell tower murder

        On top of this has come the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower in west London, where possibly 100 people have lost their lives. This horrific event has produced shockwaves throughout society. Ordinary people have taken to the streets and confronted the powers that be, especially the Prime Minister, Theresa May, who was chased and booed by crowds of angry residents.

        The rich and their governments have contempt for the working class, who have been treated like dirt by the authorities, officials and councils alike. "We have no voice," repeats everyone. But people are saying enough is enough. They are challenging all authority and demanding action now. At the same time, they do not trust the establishment and their cronies.

        John Sweeney, a BBC Newsnight reporter, who followed the crowd, talked of a dark mood and possible riots. "Politics has left parliament and gone into the streets", said a visibly shaken Sweeney. "The BBC is not popular around here," a reference to the hostility towards the bourgeois media.

        There is talk of seizing empty flats and other radical measures. Symptomatically, youth on the streets have even talked of the need for a revolution. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has called for a million people to take action to kick out the government, which has added to the radicalised mood.

        Under pressure to be seen to be doing something, Theresa May met some residents in a local church, but when she left was chased by the crowd who shouted "shame!", "scum!" and "murderer!" Everyone knows that this tragedy was avoidable. It wouldn't happen to the millionaire estates in the borough, where life expectancy is 14 years more than the poorest estates. The tragedy has prompted questions about austerity and the inadequate quality of housing provision in our cities. But it also raises questions of rich and poor and the rotten system we live in.

        Scandal follows scandal! We now find out that May's new chief of staff is former housing minister Gavin Barwell was the Tory minister who "sat on" a report warning of fire safety risks in tower blocks! The culpability for Grenfell goes right up to the tops of government, further adding to its demise.

        According to the Tory Telegraph newspaper, the official response has been "woeful", while "the government seems to be drifting, rudderless, stunned by the election result and overwhelmed by the magnitude of all the other tasks it faces, not least the Brexit talks that begin on Monday."

        Whatever the government does is wrong. Every step they take backfires. Every wrong word simply adds to inflame the situation even further. They are caught in a vicious spiral. But this is simply a reflection of the political malaise and how out of touch they are from the real situation on the ground.

        Tories in crisis

        Britain's political turmoil has become entrenched. Ever since the general election – only a couple of weeks ago – Theresa May has been desperately fighting for her political survival. With each passing day, her political authority is being relentlessly drained away.

        Not surprisingly, May's popularity has been falling like a stone. The Grenfell Tower disaster and her approach to it could be her final undoing. A recent YouGov poll showed that her net favourability rating fell to minus 34 after the election, down from plus 10 in April.

        The unprecedented situation has opened up divisions within the Tory party. Osborne's remark that May was a "dead woman walking" is not far off the mark. "It is almost overwhelming," said one Tory MP. "Things are changing so quickly. The assumption is Theresa May has weeks or months." A leadership challenge after the summer is entirely likely, with Boris Johnson and others lining themselves up for the top job.

        May was accused of taking decisions involving a tiny clique, to the exclusion of her ministers. Senior Tories are now demanding Cabinet government and are flexing their muscles in this power vacuum. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, who has repeatedly clashed with May and her coterie, is now presenting his own agenda, especially on Brexit. His views are more in line with the interests of big business as they seek to maintain access to Europe's markets.

        David Cameron has called publicly for a "softer" Brexit, again reflecting the fears of the banks and the City of London. He said May should talk to the Labour opposition to develop a more consensual approach. For obvious reasons, Downing Street is resisting such moves for fear of stirring up a hornets' nest within the Tory party over Europe. As differences arise in the Brexit negotiations May will be forced to make concessions. In response, the hard line Brexiteers within the Tory party will create huge problems for May's minority government, which will be blown in different directions. Civil war within the Tory party is very much on the cards.

        Corbyn government on the horizon

        It is clear that May's government of crisis is hanging by a thread. It has become a lightning rod for public anger.

        In a final throw of the dice, the Prime Minister has turned to the sectarian DUP to haggle for support and a parliamentary lifeline. But this has provoked alarm, even in Tory circles. Sir John Major, the former Tory prime minister, saw a deal as a serious danger to the Good Friday Agreement, which is already in a fragile state. The Stormont power-sharing executive and assembly have collapsed. And any DUP deal will place in jeopardy attempts to restore the government in the North of Ireland.

        Even if an agreement with the DUP is reached, which is already proving more difficult than May originally hoped, it will give the government only a two seat majority, hardly "strong and stable". In the rocky road ahead, the government will be faced with one backbench revolt after another, as well as harassment from an emboldened opposition. It will therefore by a very hot summer politically and the government could fall by the autumn.

        Such a scenario will open up the prospect of a new general election within months. Given the unpopularity of the Tories, this opens up the real prospect of a left Labour government under Corbyn. Such an eventuality will throw the British establishment into panic.

        A left government would be under pressure from the working class to carry out bold reforms. But it would also be faced with sabotage by big business. The capitalists and bankers will engage in a strike of capital in an attempt to bring it down or bring it to heel.

        A Corbyn government would be faced with a stark choice: either bend the knee to big business blackmail or introduce emergency measures to take control over the economy. In this epoch of capitalist crisis there is no room for compromise.

        The Labour leaders should do the same thing as they correctly propose in regard to the Grenfell disaster: take emergency measures to requisition empty properties to be used to house the homeless. "In emergency measures, as we saw in wartime periods, you can requisition properties," said McDonnell. "You will need powers to do it. We have got those powers.

        "I would have convened parliament immediately to push more legislation through within 24 hours, if that was necessary. We cannot be in a situation where we have people who have lost their homes struggling to find alternative accommodation and we have properties standing empty. Occupy it, compulsory purchase it, requisition it – there's a lot of things you can do," he said.

        Absolutely correct! But in the same way, we say if a Corbyn government is faced with sabotage and a strike of capital, they should take emergency measures to take over the banks, insurance companies and the giant monopolies that dominate the economy, and plan them in the interests of the majority. An appeal should then be made to working people to help carry this out by occupying their workplaces and setting up committees to defend the government.

        Any attempt to patch up or compromise with capitalism in crisis will end in disaster. That is the lesson of previous Labour governments.

        The situation in Britain is now opening up in a way that would have been difficult to predict not long ago. The whole pace of events is accelerating by the day. We have entered a new stormy chapter. It is more urgent than ever that we build the forces of Marxism in order to provide the necessary ideas and determination to ensure a victorious conclusion.



        6)  When Cutting Access to Health Care, There's a Price to Pay

        By Eduardo Porter, June 27, 2017


        Senators, the United States is a sick country.

        Four years ago, a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council set out to assess the nation's healthcompared with that of 16 other rich nations. Americans, they found, had the second-highest mortality from noncommunicable conditions — like diabetes, heart disease or violence — and the fourth highest from infectious disease. In terms of infant and maternal mortality, Americans are the worst off.

        From adolescence to adulthood to old age, the chances of dying an early death are higher in the United States than in any of the other 16 countries. A 15-year-old American girl has a 1 in 25 chance of dying before she turns 50, twice the risk found in the comparison group.

        And early death is hardly surprising, since Americans lead a pretty sickly life. Teenagers and young adults report higher rates of obesity, chronic illness, sexually transmitted infections, mental illness and injuries than in peer countries, according to the report. Americans in their 50s have higher rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

        The figures also reflect a toll in the workplace. The United States ranks in the bottom fourth among the 30 industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of days lost to disability: Women will lose 362 days between birth and their 60th birthday; men about 336. Mental health problems like depression will account for most.

        And the American deficit has been getting worse. "Each year, other high-income countries are improving their health at a much faster rate than the United States, and the United States currently ranks lowest on a variety of health measures," the report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council noted.

        I bring this up, senators, because you are considering whether to drive a stake through the Affordable Care Act, cutting access to care for millions of mostly poorer, sicker and older Americans.

        Of course, the dismal health situation is not all the fault of the health care system — which, until the passage of the Affordable Care Act, was the only one in the developed world that routinely barred access or limited care for millions of people of modest means.

        That is because violence accounts for a large share of Americans' excessive mortality, and accidents take a disproportionate toll. Nor is the health care system entirely to blame for the nation's elevated obesity rate — a leading cause of problems like diabetes.

        What's more, the United States' higher tolerance of povertyundoubtedly contributes to higher rates of sickness and death. Americans at all socioeconomic levels are less healthy than people in some other rich countries. But the disparity is greatest among low-income groups.

        Still, senators, you are not off the hook. Limited access to health care may not entirely account for the poor health and the early deaths of so many of your fellow Americans. But it accounts for a good chunk.

        A study about equity in access to health care for 21 countries in 2000 revealed that the United States had the highest degree of inequity in doctor use, even higher than Mexico — which is both poorer and generally more inequitable.

        And as noted in a 2003 study by the Institute of Medicine, insurance status, more than any other demographic or economic factor, determines the timeliness and quality of health care, if it is received at all.

        It doesn't require an advanced degree to figure out what limited access to a doctor can do to people's health. A review of studies published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine reported that health insurance substantially raises people's chances of survival. It improves the diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure, significantly cutting mortality rates. It reduces death rates from breast cancer and trauma. Over all, the review concluded that health insurance reduces the chance of dying among adults 18 to 64 years old by between 3 and 29 percent.

        Another assessment, published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that access to health insurance increases screenings for cholesterol and cancer, raises the number of patients taking needed diabetes medication, reduces depression, and raises the number of low-income Americans who get timely surgery for colon cancer.

        It said that expansions in three states of Medicaid, the federal health insurance for the poor whose rolls Republicans are prepared to trim by 15 million over a decade, were found to reduce mortality by 6 percent over five years, mostly by increasing low-income Americans' access to treatment for things like H.I.V., heart disease, cancer and infections.



        7)  In U.K., All 75 Buildings Tested So Far for Fire Safety Have Failed

        JUNE 26, 2017




        LONDON — All 75 high-rises in Britain that have been tested for fire safety since the Grenfell Tower tragedy have failed, a leading government official said on Monday, raising concerns that even more buildings may have to be evacuated while emergency repairs are undertaken.

        Addressing the House of Commons, Sajid Javid, the minister for communities and local government, said all 75 towers in Britain whose cladding had so far been tested for combustibility had failed. He said hospitals and schools would also be tested to ensure they had not been built with cladding that could easily catch fire.

        Hundreds of families were ordered to evacuate apartments in the five high-rise buildings of the Chalcots Estate in northwest London on Friday night in an urgent scramble after it emerged that, among other safety risks, the buildings had exterior cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower. At least 79 people died in Grenfell Tower on June 14, in London's deadliest fire in more than a century.

        An estimated 4,000 residents of the more than 800 apartments in the Chalcots Estate were advised to leave their homes, many of them resorting to sleeping on air mattresses in a nearby hospitality center. But at least 100 residents refused to budge, even as local officials were knocking on their doors and urging them to get out.

        One of the residents, Roger Evans, 51, who works in film production, has lived for three years at Taplow, one of the towers in the Chalcots Estate. He said on Monday that security staff members at the building had tried to block him from entering his apartment, that the council was threatening legal action if residents refused to leave and that an "occupied" sign had been put on the outside of his apartment.

        "The whole exercise has been a massive knee-jerk overreaction," he said, standing outside the tower block, as some residents rushed in and out to remove their belongings. "They could just do the work quietly around us. People have been displaced, they don't know how long for, and are angry. I am refusing to go, and I have no intention of going until necessary."

        Bibiche Kiala, 35, a resident of Dorney, another of the towers, said the sudden order to evacuate had left many residents shaken and upset, including those with children. She said she had been staying with a friend.

        "They came and knocked on the door and told us that the building had the same cladding as Grenfell," Ms. Kiala said. "People are scared. Most wanted to leave but some wanted to stay. They haven't yet told us when we can come back. They said it could take four weeks."

        Mr. Javid, the government minister, told Sky News over the weekend that the forced evacuation had been spurred not just by the cladding, but by many other "fire safety failures," including missing fire doors, insulation used on gas pipes and plywood used above doors.

        Safety checks were continuing on the cladding on high-rise buildings across the country. Sian Berry, a member of the Camden Council, said the decision to test buildings was voluntary and was being decided by local authorities based on individual risk assessments.

        She said that because all the tower blocks tested so far had failed, questions were being raised that even cladding deemed to be safer than that which had been used at Grenfell may not meet fire safety standards.

        "Councils who can't tell if cladding is safe from the paper trail or just by looking at the building are sending them out for testing, and people are being cautious," she said. "The results so far are alarming."

        The United States, a world leader in fire safety standards, forbids the application of the sort of highly flammable materials used on Grenfell Tower. But under the regulatory system in force in Britain, builders and property owners faced less strict restrictions and may have wrapped hundreds of buildings in the potentially risky cladding.

        John McDonnell, the opposition Labour Party's spokesman on economic issues, said those killed in Grenfell Tower had been "murdered" by "political decisions" made over recent decades.

        As many across the political spectrum have criticized the regulatory shortcomings that may have led to the Grenfell fire, members of the insurance industry have said they warned the government about the risks of flammable cladding just a month before it happened.

        Malcolm Tarling, a spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, said the industry was closely watching the response to the fire. "We have been calling for the U.K. government to review fire regulations since 2009," he said. "As recently as May, we made a submission to the government which referenced the need to consider the fire risk posed by combustible cladding."

        In its submission to the government, the association warned that "external cladding made from combustible material can often cause significant fire spread upward and between buildings, which is a particular concern for areas of high building density."



        8)  For Men Cleared in Jogger Case, Belated Pomp and Circumstance

        JUNE 26, 2017




        The auditorium in the northwest Bronx was speckled with balloons. Balloons that said, "Congrats Grad!" and "You're so special!" Balloons arranged on stage in columns of white, blue and yellow. Balloons in the shape of champagne bottles. And a parade of shiny floating letters that spelled out "Graduate of 2017."

        Nearly 60 teenagers accepted diplomas from Bronx Preparatory High School there on Monday, amid all the usual trappings of a graduation ceremony. But for three men in their 40s who joined the teenagers onstage, wearing the same blue academic robes, the day was no less meaningful.

        They were Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana Jr., three members of the Central Park Five. Years ago, they missed the graduation ceremonies for their own high schools because they were in prison for a crime they did not commit.

        On Monday, they received honorary diplomas and the capped, gowned feting they had been denied.

        "Even though we were not able to go back and right the wrong of not getting our high school diplomas outside, here we are being honored in such a way in front of our family and friends," Mr. Salaam said from the stage, smiling broadly. "This is a blessing."

        The Central Park Five was a group of teenagers convicted of the brutal rape in 1989 of a woman who was jogging in Central Park. They refused plea bargains, insisting that incriminating statements they had made to the authorities had been coerced, and spent from seven to 13 years in prison.

        More than a decade after their conviction, the five men, all of whom are black or Hispanic, were exonerated. DNA evidence confirmed that the crime had been committed by another man, Matias Reyes, who confessed to acting alone. The five have since reached settlements with New York City and the state totaling nearly $45 million, according to their lawyer.

        The youngest was 14 at the time of their arrest. The oldest was 16.

        A documentary about their ordeal called "The Central Park Five" was released in 2012, and a government teacher at Bronx Prep, Marielle Colucci, has used the movie as a tool to teach students about the justice system. This year, after her students asked if they could meet the men, Mr. Richardson spoke to their class.

        "The most important thing for me as a teacher is that they leave here knowing their rights and what they actually mean, and there is no one better to speak to that than these guys," Ms. Colucci said of her students, who are all members of minorities. "Because they could find themselves in that same situation right now when they walk out across the street."

        Cassius Gil, the school's assistant principal, said he had a conversation with Emmanuel George, the school's executive director, after Mr. Richardson's visit. Mr. Gil said they wondered: "Did they ever get a high school diploma? We should give them a high school diploma."

        In fact, the three men did already have diplomas — each received a G.E.D., and then an associate degree, while still in prison. But they never had a ceremony, and a piece of paper in the mail is not the same.

        "It's kind of emotional," Mr. Santana said at the ceremony, which was at Lehman College in the Bronx.

        "When we went to prison, this was taken away from us," he added. "It was something we never got to experience. You felt like you were being robbed, and we've finally found redemption."

        The two men who were not present at Monday's ceremony, Antron McCray and Kharey Wise, will still receive honorary diplomas, Mr. Gil said, but theirs will come by mail.

        After the valedictorian had spoken and awards had been distributed for achievement in subjects like history, science and physical education, Mr. Gil stood at the lectern to introduce Mr. Richardson, Mr. Salaam and Mr. Santana.

        "In light of what is going on in our nation today," Mr. Gil said, "in our cities, in our prisons, on our roadways, in our courts and in our highest offices of administration, the Bronx Prep graduation class of 2017 want to promise you some important things. We promise not to take one moment of our free lives for granted. We will educate ourselves so that we stand for something larger rather than to fall for sensationalism, lies and injustice. We will stay woke."

        Mr. Salaam accepted his diploma and spoke, with his "brothers through fire," as he put it, standing at his side.

        "Thank you," he said. "We are honored. We are hopeful. We are blessed. And we accept."



        9)  Products at Center of London Fire Faced Tougher Rules in U.S.

        JUNE 26, 2017


        LONDON — Two products made by American manufacturers that played a major role in the deadly inferno in London had been assailed for their fire risks and faced tighter restrictions in the United States.

        Such regulatory gaps expose how multinational corporations can take advantage of the vulnerabilities in government oversight.

        The companies, Arconic and Whirlpool, are widely expected to be central players in litigation over the fire, which killed at least 79 people this month. The Metropolitan Police have also said they will consider manslaughter among other charges; in Britain, corporations can be charged with manslaughter.

        On Monday, Arconic, the American company once known as Alcoa that sold combustible material used at Grenfell Tower, the London housing project that was the site of the fire, said it would no longer sell that kind of paneling for use in high-rises. The product, only slightly cheaper than fire-resistant alternatives, has a polyethylene core that is combustible.

        The use of that material is banned in buildings above a certain height in the United States, and the company included a similar warning about height restrictions in its own brochure in other parts of Europe. Investigators have found 75 buildings across Britain that have similar cladding, and hundreds of apartments were evacuated on Friday amid fears they faced similar fire risks.

        Whirlpool made the refrigerator that started the fire, which was sold under its Hotpoint brand. The back of the model in the London fire is made out of plastic, whereas refrigerators sold in the United States typically use metal.

        The London Fire Brigade has long campaigned to ban such products, even posting videos of burning refrigerators on its website. The group posted a statement there in February that said it had been lobbying for five years for new appliances to have fully fire-resistant backing — to little avail.

        "The inquiry itself will be massive, because there are all sorts of interested parties involved," said Jill Paterson, a partner at Leigh Day, a law firm that has been involved in litigation in notable cases, including the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

        "In terms of the first port of call, as far as I'm concerned, it's what started the fire, and if it was something that was faulty, that's where you would start," she said. "But the cladding and all of the other issues are obviously major matters as well that need to be investigated and looked into."

        Arconic stock was down about 6 percent on Monday, a day after a lengthy examination of the fire and the company's role appeared in The New York Times. The stock has fallen roughly 13 percent since the fire. Whirlpool's connection has only recently become clear.

        In a statement, Arconic said it would stop selling the cladding panels, known as Reynobond PE, for use in high-rises. "We believe this is the right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes across the world and issues that have arisen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy regarding code compliance of cladding systems in the context of buildings' overall designs," the company said in the statement. "We will continue to fully support the authorities as they investigate this tragedy."

        Whirlpool said in a statement, "We are working with the authorities to obtain access to the appliance so that we can assist with the ongoing investigations."

        Multinational corporations are often able to capitalize on regulatory differences among countries. While Europe is seen as having more stringent regulation of food and drugs, American rules on many consumer products have been influenced by litigation and insurers. European agrochemical companies have sold genetically modified cropsin the United States that are banned in Europe, though America's tougher regulations on auto emissions contributed to the scandal at Volkswagen.

        On both sides of the Atlantic, governments are in a deregulatory mood. President Trump has promised to eliminate two regulations for every new one. In Britain, the decision to leave the European Union is often portrayed by Conservative Party leaders as a means to throw off the bloc's rules.

        But the London fire has highlighted some advantages of regulation. American standards could have reduced or even thwarted the spread of such a fire.

        A recent academic study sponsored by the Institute for Refrigeration, a British nonprofit, found that Britain and the United States had roughly proportional amounts of refrigerator fires. But Britain has more deaths, even though it has about a fifth of the population of the United States.

        "Whilst there are a number of other differences between the U.K. and U.S. fridges other than the metal backing, including how and where they are used, it is common sense when you see a fridge catch fire that a fire-retardant back would make an impact on fire safety," said Graeme Maidment, a professor of air conditioning and refrigeration at London South Bank University who was one of the authors of the study.

        "For these reasons, we think that it's time to look at this again."

        Even if the fire was started by the refrigerator, many fire safety experts point to the cladding, which was installed during a refurbishment finished last year, as a crucial factor in the rapid spread of the fire. Cladding has been blamed for numerous fires over the years, including several in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

        In London, experts have cited a number of other factors for the Grenfell tragedy, from the insulation under the paneling to the lack of fire alarms and sprinklers. The evacuation of Chalcots Estate on Friday was prompted by various failings, including missing fire doors, insulation used on gas pipes and plywood used above doors.

        As the investigation continues, building residents, industry executives and fire safety experts have blamed British officials for failing to heed warnings — from inside and outside the country.

        In February, the London Fire Brigade published side-by-side videos of refrigerators with plastic and metal backs to show how much more severely fire affected the plastic version.

        "The doors and side panels of most fridges and freezers are usually covered in metal," the brigade said in its statement then, "but many still use a flammable plastic backing, which offers very little protection against the foam inside catching alight if a fire starts."

        The brigade also said new proposals from a standard-setting body based in Switzerland — the International Electrotechnical Commission — would not solve the problem. Gabriela Ehrlich, a spokeswoman for the commission, said the group's standards had been updated to improve the fire resistance of refrigerators, though the group does not dictate what kind of material is used.

        Arconic and Whirlpool have said they met regulatory requirements.

        "The back panel is made of a type of plastic — used in refrigerators throughout the industry," Whirlpool said in its statement. "Our products meet all mandatory regulatory and safety standards."

        Arconic has said "regulations and codes vary by country and need to be determined by the local building code experts."

































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