Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? (City Lights Open Media)

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

A Book Review by Robert Fantina

With the recent acquittal of two more police officers in the deaths of unarmed Black men, the question posed by the title of this book is as relevant as it ever was. Through a series of concise, clear essays, Mumia Abu-Jamal details the racism against Blacks, comparing today's behaviors with the lynchings that were common in the south prior to the decade of the sixties. He points out the obvious: The passage of Civil Rights legislation hasn't changed much; it simply changed the way racism operates.

The ways in which the white establishment has worked to oppress Blacks is astounding. After the Civil War, when slavery was no longer legal, "whites realized that the combination of trumped-up legal charges and forced labor as punishment created both a desirable business proposition and an incredibly effective tool for intimidating rank-and-file emancipated African Americans and doing away with their most effective leaders."

Abu-Jamal states that, today, "where once whites killed and terrorized from beneath a KKK hood, now they now did so openly from behind a little badge." He details the killing of Black men and women in the U.S. with almost complete impunity.

There are two related issues Abu-Jamal discusses. The first is the rampant racism that enables the police to kill unarmed Blacks, as young as 12 years old, for no reason, and the second is the "justice" system that allows them to get away with it.

One shocking crime, amid countless others, occurred in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2012; a police officer was acquitted in the deaths of two, unarmed Blacks, after leaping onto the hood of their car and firing 15 rounds from his semi-automatic rifle into the car's occupants. That is 137 shots, at point blank range, into the bodies of two unarmed people.

If this were an anomaly, it would be barbaric, but it is not: it is common practice for the police to kill unarmed Blacks, and, on the rare occasions that they are charged with a crime, for the judges and juries to acquit them.

In the U.S., Black citizens are disproportionally imprisoned. With for-profit prisons on the rise, this injustice will only increase.

Abu-Jamal relates story after story with the same plot, and only the names are different. An unarmed Black man is stopped by the police for any of a variety of reasons ranging from trivial (broken tail light), to more significant (suspect in a robbery). But too often, the outcome is the same: the Black man is dead and the police officer who killed him, more often than not white, is either not charged, or acquitted after being charged.

The Black Lives Matter movement formed to combat this blatant injustice, but it will be an uphill battle. As Abu-Jamal says, "Police serve the ownership and wealth classes of their societies, not the middling or impoverished people. For the latter, it is quite the reverse." As a result, people of color suffer disproportionately, too often winding up on the wrong side of a gun.

What is to be done? Abu-Jamal refers to the writings of Dr. Huey P. Newton, who calls not for community policing, but for community control of the police. Abu-Jamal argues forcefully for a new movement, "driven by commitment, ethics, intelligence, solidarity, and passions; for without passion, the embers may dim and die."

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? is powerful, disturbing, well-written, and an important book for our day.

Robert Fantina is the author of Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy. His articles on foreign policy, most frequently concerning Israel and Palestine, have appeared in such venues as Counterpunch and WarIsaCrime.org.

New York Journal of Books, July 2017






Haiti: Stop the Repression. 

No impunity. NO NEW ARMY

 The people of Haiti need our solidarity in the face of the increasing violence of the fraudulently imposed government of Jovenel Moise

Thursday July 14, 2017, in Petionville, Haiti, near Port-au-Prince, a young book vendor was shot to death by a police officer in front of horrified witnesses. The police used tear gas and batons against a crowd outraged by the murder and the quick, forcible removal of the body in a perceived attempt at a cover up. This is the latest of recent extra-judicial killings by the Haitian police and paramilitary forces.

The brutal killing occurred as the occupation government of Jovenel Moise, installed in the fraudulent elections of November 2016, is pushing to restore the brutal and corrupt Haitian military, which was disbanded by then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995. Moise has stated that he wants the Army back within two years. Haitians remember the US-supported bloody rampage by former members of this army that claimed thousands of lives during the period of the 2004 coup d'etat against the elected government. The US/UN forces and occupation governments subsequently integrated many of these killers into the Haitian police and government paramilitary units.  

This announcement takes place at a volatile moment in Haitian society. The Haitian police and other government paramilitary forces, accompanied by UN occupation forces, have carried out criminal attacks against protesting teachers, students, factory workers, market women, street vendors and others who are victims of government extortion, theft of land, money and merchandise.

On July 10 - 12, 2017, during three days of peaceful protest for an increase in the minimum wage, Haitian police attacked the workers from the industrial park in Port-au-Prince with tear gas, batons and cannons shooting a liquid skin irritant. One of the beaten workers is a woman who had recently returned to work from giving birth.

·      On June 12, the government-appointed rector of the Haitian State University used his car to hit and run over a protesting university student. The government prosecutor has ignored the complaint filed by the students against the rector and is instead pursuing the victim's colleagues in a blatant attempt to harass and intimidate them. 

·      In May 2017, units of the Haitian police and paramilitary forces again attacked the people of Arcahaie protesting the government's plan to remove the main revenue-generating district from the community, located about 30 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince.

·      In May 2017, a food vendor in Petionville was killed after he was deliberately hit and run over by a car of the municipal paramilitary forces according to outraged witnesses.

 ·      On March 20th, 2017, police officers were videotaped shooting at the car carrying President Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Dr. Maryse Narcisse as they returned from court. The police officers were reportedly observed returning to the national palace; there was no condemnation of this blatant assassination attempt by the government.

Adding a newly organized Haitian Army to this mix is a sign that the Haitian government is planning on more repression. The Haitian military's purpose was to protect Haitian dictatorships and to attack any challenges by the Haitian people.  Whether under the Duvalier dictatorships from 1957-1986 or when the military overthrew the democratically elected Aristide government in 1991, leading to the killing of over 5000 people, the military has been a central anti-democratic institution in Haitian society. When then-President Aristide disbanded the narco-trafficking Haitian military in 1995, the Army was eating up 40% of the national budget in a country with fewer than two doctors per 10,000 people.

Now this infamous military is being restored just as the United Nations is said to begin a staged withdrawal of its troops. This is similar to what happened following the U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, a period in which 20,000 Haitians were killed. As the U.S. forces withdrew, they left in place a neo-colonial army with Haitian faces to do their bidding and continue the repression of popular discontent.

Haitians are saying NO to the restoration of an additional repressive military force.  They are demanding an end to police terror and an end to impunity.  We join their call.

E-mail and phone-in campaign to:

·       Say No to the Restoration of the brutal Haitian military

·       Hold the US and UN occupation accountable for the terror campaign by the Haitian police and security forces they train and supervise.

·       Say No to impunity for police terror in Haiti


-  US State Department: HaitiSpecialCoordinator@state.gov

-  Your Member of Congress: 202-224 3121

- UN Mission in Haiti: minustah-info@un.org

Sent by Haiti Action Committee

@HaitiAction1 and on FACEBOOK




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:












Stand with Rasmea at her sentencing 

August 17

All out for Detroit!
Thursday, August 17, at 1:30 EDT

(rally at 1:30 PM, hearing starts at 3 PM)

U.S. District Court, 231 W. Lafayette Blvd., downtown Detroit, Michigan

The Rasmea Defense Committee, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and U.S. Palestinian Community Network are urging everyone to join us in Detroit, August 17, to show our love and support for Rasmea at her sentencing in federal court. The will be her last court appearance and Rasmea is planning to make a statement.
The plea agreement that has already been reached states that Rasmea will not get additional jail time – but she will have to leave the U.S.
Given the near daily attacks on Rasmea in the right-wing and pro-Israeli media, we expect that a fair amount of attention will be focused on the sentencing. It is critical that the courtroom be filled with her supporters.

A Farewell to Rasmea Odeh Aug. 12

with Angela Davis

Saturday, August 12
7:00 pm

at the International Union of Operating Engineers hall
2260 S. Grove Street, Chicago, IL  60616

Join us for an evening of music, culture, and struggle to honor Palestinian icon Rasmea Odeh. Keynote address by former political prisoner Angela Davis.



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!




Millions For Prisoners Human Rights march and rally, Washington, DC, August 19, 2017

March participants are asked to meet at Freedom Plaza, located at the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 11:00 am, but may arrive as early as 9 am. The March will begin promptly at 11:30 am from Freedom Plaza to Lafayette Park where the Rally will begin at 12 noon and will continue until 5. Individuals who are unable to participate in the Marching demonstration can go straight to Lafayette Square, directly north of the White House on H Street, Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 16th Street NW. 

Millions for Prisoners Human Rights core demands for Action:

A) We DEMAND the 13th amendment ENSLAVEMENT CLAUSE of the United States Constitution be amended to abolish LEGALIZED slavery in America.

B) We DEMAND a Congressional hearing on the 13th Amendment ENSLAVEMENT CLAUSE being recognized as in violation of international law, the general principles of human rights and its direct links to:

  1. Private entities exploiting prison labor
  2. Companies overcharging prisoners for goods and services
  3. Private entities contracted by states/federal government to build and operate prisons. This would also include immigration detentions
  4. Racial disparities in America's prison population and sentencing
  5. Policing: the disproportionate (unaccountable) killings by police in the black and brown communities
  6. Felony Disenfranchisement laws
  7. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 34,000 detention quotas
  8. Producing the world largest prison population

There are multiple ways to get from Union Station to Freedom Plaza and Lafayette Park. The easiest way might be to walk or take a metrobus or train. Please visit WMATA to find the best option. Cars and other vehicles can utilize Union Station Parking Garage, 30 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002. Buses can utilize Union Station – Bus & RV, 1st St NE, Washington, DC 20002. For specific parking fee information and to make reservations please visit https://www.ecolonial.com/

Supporters across the nation are planning solidarity events to coincide with the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on August 19th in Washington. Thus far events are being held in Riverside CA, San Jose CA, Asheville NC, Montgomery AL, Carrabelle FL, Kansas City MO, St Louis MO, Albuquerque NM, Duluth MN and Omaha NE. 

Visit iamweubuntu.com to stay connected or get involved.

LOC's (Local Organizing Committees) are being established in cities all throughout the country to bring awareness and promote the March on Washington!

Additional Support is need in the following areas:

– Lawyers – Legal Observer – Lobbyist – Public Relations – Event Planners – Fundraisers

Please contact us if you want to support us in these or other areas:

Email: millionsforprisonersmarch@gmail.com

Tel.: 803-220-4553

Website: www.iamweubuntu.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/groups/MillionsforPrisonersMarch/

Twitter: Twitter.com/milli4prisoners



P.O Box 58201

Raleigh NC 27658​

Update 6-24-2017:

More details here.



CODEPINK Fall Action at Creech:  

Oct. 5 to Oct. 12    (All welcome!)

(Oct. 7 is the 16th Anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan)

SHUT DOWN CREECH: Spring 2018: Apr. 8-14.  (National Mass Mobilization to Resist Killer Drones)

(Thanks to Sandy Turner, from Ukiah, CA, for sharing this link!)

The Pentagon and CIA now have Brett Velicovich, their own drone veteran and CEO of an "online drone retail store" (Dronepire, Inc. and Expert Drones) , to glorify drone killing. Shameful that NPR couldn't ask the very difficult and important questions.  Lots of public education is needed to help people separate fact from fiction!

Would love for someone to do research on this guy!

Please listen to this interview (filled with misinformation), and consider joining us at Creech in the fall and/or spring to be a voice against the slaughter.  

(Dates below).

Life As A 'Drone Warrior'

NPR interview "with Brett Velicovich about his memoir, Drone Warrior, which details his time hunting and killing alleged terrorists using drones in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places."


PS:  We should have a massive letter writing and phone calling to NPR for this totally biased and dangerous misrepresentation!





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.





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 6658, maru@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. 





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!



Kevin "Rashid" Johnson Packed Off to Florida!

Rashid: I'm off to Florida and a new phase of reprisals for publicizing abuses in US prisons

July 14, 2017

Readers are urged to share this story widely and write to Rashid right away; mail equals support, and the more he gets, the safer he'll be: Kevin Johnson, O-158039, RMC, P.O. Box 628, Lake Butler FL 32054

by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson


Packed off to Florida

Following Texas prison officials planting a weapon in my cell on March 26, 2017, then stealing most of my personal property on April 6, 2017, in an ongoing pattern of retaliation for and attempts to repress my writing and involvement in litigation exposing and challenging abuses in Texas prisons, including their killing prisoners, I was unceremoniously packed off to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) on June 22, 2017.

This transfer came as outside protests mounted against the abuses, and Texas officials became more and more entangled in a growing web of their own lies invented in their efforts to cover up and deny their reprisals against me, and also while a contempt investigation was imminent upon a motion I filed in a federal lawsuit brought by relatives of one of the prisoners they'd killed – a killing I'd witnessed and publicized.

Florida, notorious for its own extremely abusive prisons, readily signed on to take up Texas's slack. And being an openly corrupt system unaccustomed to concealing its dirt, FDC officials shot straight from the hip in expressing and carrying on efforts to repress and act out reprisals for my exposing and challenging prison abuses.

The Welcoming Committee

Following a four-hour flight from Texas to Florida, I was driven in a sweltering prison van from an airport just outside Jacksonville, Florida, to the FDC's Reception and Medical Center (RMC) in Lake Butler, Florida. I was forced to leave most all my personal property behind in Texas.

Upon reaching RMC, I was brought from the van, manacled hand and foot into an enclosed vehicle port, where I was met by a mob of white guards of all ranks. I was ordered to stand in a pair of painted yellow footprints on a concrete platform as the guards crowded around me.

I was ordered to stand in a pair of painted yellow footprints on a concrete platform as the guards crowded around me. "This is Florida, and we'll beat your ass! We'll kill you!" said the spokesman.

Their "chosen" spokesman, a tall goofy guard, R. Knight, stepped forward and launched into a speech consisting of threats and insults. He emphasized that I was "not in Virginia or wherever else" I'd been. That "this is Florida, and we'll beat your ass! We'll kill you!" He assured my "Black ass" that my tendency to protest "won't be tolerated here."

He went on and on, like an overseer explaining the plantation's code of decorum and the "place" to a newly arrived Black slave. The analogy is apt. "You will answer us only as 'no sir' and 'yes sir,' 'no ma'am' and 'yes ma'am.' You forget this and we'll kick your fucking teeth out," he barked.

I was then taken through the various stages of being "processed" in: fingerprinted, examined and questioned by medical staff etc. Knight took possession of my property and stole a number of documents and all my writing supplies (five writing tablets, four ink pens, 19 envelopes, stamps), all my hygiene supplies (deodorant, shampoo, two bars of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers) and so on.

All these items that I brought with me from Texas were inventoried and logged by Texas officials. Knight logged and inventoried me as receiving from him only my watch, some legal papers, 15 envelopes and my eyeglasses.

Next, I was taken into an office and sat before a Sgt. L. Colon, RMC's "gang (or STG, Security Threat Group) investigator." He proceeded in the same hostile terms. He explained that he knew all about me and his displeasure with my published articles about prison abuses, and he assured that FDC would put an end to it. He admitted his purpose was to put an STG profile on me, refer it to FDC's central office in Tallahassee to be upheld, and I would then be put on STG file, which in turn would be used to stop my writings.

He proceeded to ask about me being a "Black Panther leader" and, using a thoroughly amateur interrogation method, attempted to have me characterize myself and my party as a gang. When his efforts failed, he charged me with being a "bullshitter." I told him only that I am a member of a constitutionally protected, non-violent communist party and whatever false stigma he wanted to try and invent against me and us was typical of fascist governments and we'd address it publicly and in court. Our "interview" was terminated.

Another nurse did my medical history check, remarking that my blood pressure reading was extremely high, 145/103. Although she had all my medications sitting there in front of her, and I told her I had not received my dose that day, she refused to provide them and did nothing.

Upon arriving in Florida, I had not received my hypertension medications since the prior morning. The sweltering heat was aggravating my condition. During the intake process a routine blood pressure check was done and my reading was around 145/103. The nurse who did the reading passed me on to another nurse who did my medical history check, remarking that my reading was extremely high. Although she had all my medications sitting there in front of her, and I told her I had not received my dose that day, she refused to provide them and did nothing.

Barbaric housing

Following completing the intake process, I was walked a substantial distance across the prison yard carrying my bag of property in handcuffs and the sweltering midday heat, dizzy from my elevated blood pressure.

I was led to K-building, the solitary confinement unit, where I was put into a cell, K-3-102, which had no bunk in it and had a commode that had to be flushed by guards from outside the cell – often they would not flush it when it needed to be and I asked them to. The commode had otherwise been obviously left unflushed for long periods, because inside the bowl was and is a thick, yellowed layer of calcium and waste residue and it reeked of fermented urine and feces.

Just before I entered the cell, it was wet-mopped, not to sanitize it, but to cover the entire floor with water that would not, and did not, dry for over a day afterward due to the extreme humidity and lack of air circulation in the cells. There is no air conditioning in the cell blocks and, unlike in Texas, FDC prisoners may not have in-cell fans.

My cell was infested with ants which would find their way into my bed as I slept on the floor. I received numerous bites from them and I believe also roaches that frequently crawled into the cell. At night, in the pitch black cells – and even when the lights were on – mice and huge, two-inch-long cockroaches, along with the "regular" smaller breed of roaches, ran into and explored the cell.

My cell was infested with ants which would find their way into my bed as I slept on the floor. I received numerous bites from them. At night, even when the lights were on, mice and huge, two-inch-long cockroaches, along with the "regular" smaller breed of roaches, ran into and explored the cell.

The K-building lieutenant, Jason Livingston, posted a special note outside my cell door stating I was on a heightened security status, that I and the cell were to be specially searched any time I exited or entered the cell, that I was to be specially restrained and the ranking guards had to accompany me to and from any destination outside the cell. The pretense was that I was an extreme physical threat.

I was denied my hypertension medications until I briefly fell unconscious on the evening of June 24, 2017.

Following sending word out to an attorney and others about my conditions and experiences, who apparently raised complaints on my behalf, I was moved to a "regular" cell, K-1-204, on June 30, 2017, with a bunk and a commode I can flush. I was repeatedly confronted by various guards who've commented that I'm no dangerous person and they don't understand why I've been profiled or treated as though I am.

A week later FDC officials would come clean, exposing on the record their actual motives for my mistreatment, and "special" security status.

Solitary confinement for publicizing abuses

My readers and others will recall when, in January 2017, I was given a disciplinary infraction by Texas officials for a statement I wrote about suffering their abuses that was published online. When confronted about such retaliatory acts by a PBS reporter, Ms. Kamala Kelkar, TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark initially lied, denying that I received any such infractions, until Ms. Kelkar emailed him a copy of the charge I'd received. He then suddenly changed his story, lying yet again to claim the infraction had been overturned, then declined to answer any further questions.[i]

Clark knew enough to deny and try to cover up such acts of retaliation against a prisoner exercising his right to freedom of speech. Florida officials, however, have come right out admitting and exposing such actions.[ii]

On July 6, 2017, I was confronted by RMC classification officer Jeremy Brown, who notified me that I am to be formally reviewed for placement on Close Management I status, which is the FDC's name for solitary confinement. The reason he gave for this review was the exact STG pretext Sgt. L. Colon told me on my first day was going to be created to justify suppressing my writings about prison abuses.

Brown served me written notification stating my CMI review was based upon my alleged "documented leadership in a Security Threat Group that is certified by the Threat Assessment Review Committee in Central Office." Remember, this is the very same illegal basis upon which California prison officials were indefinitely throwing prisoners in solitary confinement which prompted three historic mass prisoner hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 and was abolished upon the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the practice in 2015.

My assignment to solitary confinement is for "documented leadership in a Security Threat Group" … This is the very same illegal basis upon which California prison officials were indefinitely throwing prisoners in solitary confinement which prompted three historic mass prisoner hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 and was abolished upon the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the practice in 2015.

But FDC officials went much further in supporting "comments" to state their true motives for devising to put me in solitary and for my mistreatment up to that point.

As Colon had threatened, an STG label was invented against the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, a party about which Colon admitted he and the FDC had no prior knowledge. The reason the party was designated an STG and gang was because (get this!) I'd written articles while in Oregon and Texas prison systems that were published online about abuses in the prisons which generated concern and perfectly legal protests from the public, which was characterized as my gang following that "caused disruption in the orderly operations" of the prisons.

The notice went on to admit, as I've long contended in my writings, that these writings are the actual reason I've been transferred from state to state – illegal retaliatory transfers – which was characterized as STG activities.

Passing mention was made that I'd received disciplinary infractions while in Oregon and Texas, but no attempt was made to show those infractions bore any connection to my party affiliation. In fact, those who have followed my writings and the series of official reprisals – which is now being admitted by FDC officials – know those infractions were fabricated retaliations, many of which I was prevented from contesting.

So, according to FDC officials, I am a confirmed gang leader because I publicize prison abuses through articles that are posted online and my gang members and followers are members of the public who read my articles and make complaints and inquiries of officials, which acts are characterized as presenting disruptions to prison operations – or in other words throwing a monkey wrench in their business-as-usual abuses.

According to FDC officials, I am a confirmed gang leader because I publicize prison abuses through articles that are posted online and my gang members and followers are members of the public who read my articles and make complaints and inquiries of officials, which acts are characterized as presenting disruptions to prison operations.

For this I am to be thrown into solitary, which means any future posting and publishing of writings by me about prison abuses will be characterized as my continuing to engage in STG or gang activities, and any legal public protests as my gang members threatening prison security.

I didn't make this up, it's all in writing; read it HERE (scroll down to "SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS"). This is where taxpayers' monies are going in financing these ubiquitous gang busting units. And should you protest, you will be labelled a gangster yourself. I won't belabor the point.

Dare to struggle, Dare to win!

All Power to the People!

[i] Kamala Kelkar, "Resistence Builds Against Social Media Ban in Texas Prisons," PBS NewsHour Weekend, Jan. 29, 2017, 5:23 p.m. EST

Send our brother some love and light – and share this urgent story widely. The more people who write to him now, the safer he'll be: Kevin Johnson, O-158039, RMC, 7765 S. Cr. 231, P.O. Box 628, Lake Butler FL 32054.











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












        1)  Let Black Kids Just Be Kids

        "It's time to create language that values justice over innocence. The most important question we can ask about children may not be whether they are inherently innocent. Instead: Are they are hungry? Do they have adequate health care? Are they free from police brutality? Are they threatened by a poisoned and volatile environment? Are they growing up in a securely democratic nation?"

        JULY 26, 2017




        George Zimmerman admitted at his 2012 bail hearing that he misjudged Trayvon Martin's age when he killed him. "I thought he was a little bit younger than I am," he said, meaning just under 28. But Trayvon was only 17.

        What may be most tragic about Mr. Zimmerman's miscalculation is that it's widespread. To many people, black boys seem older than they are: In one study, people overestimated their ages by 4.5 years. This contributes to a false perception that black boys are less childlike than white boys.

        Black girls are subject to similar beliefs, according to a recent study by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality. A group of 325 adults viewed black girls as needing less nurturing, support and protection than white girls, and as knowing more about sex and other adult topics.

        People of all races see black children as less innocent, more adultlike and more responsible for their actions than their white peers. In turn, normal childhood behavior, like disobedience, tantrums and back talk, is seen as a criminal threat when black kids do it. Social scientists have found that this misperception causes black children to be "pushed out, overpoliced and underprotected," according to a report by the legal scholar Kimberlé W. Crenshaw.

        That's why we must create a future in which children of color are not disproportionately caught up in the criminal justice system, a world in which a black 17-year-old can wear a hoodie without being assumed to be a criminal.

        Creating that social change, however, has proved difficult. And that's partly because the concept of childhood innocence itself has a deep and disturbing racial history.

        By understanding this history, we can learn why anti-racist strategies have hit some surprising limits, and devise tactics to confront or even avoid those roadblocks in the future.

        The association between childhood and innocence did not always exist. Before the Enlightenment, children in the West were widely regarded as immodest beings who needed to be taught to restrain themselves. "The devil has been with them already," the Puritan minister Cotton Mather wrote of babies in 1689. They "go astray as soon as they are born."

        In some religious traditions, children, as much as adults, were understood to bear original sin. Benjamin Wadsworth, a powerful Colonial-era minister, described children in 1720 as "sharers in the guilt of Adam" who have a "naturally sinful and guilty state."

        Enlightenment thinkers had different ideas: John Locke suggested that children were blank slates, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau portrayed them as connected to nature. The poet William Wordsworth imagined children as holy innocents who could lead adults to God. Rising forms of Christianity de-emphasized the idea of original sin.

        While earlier generations had viewed children as miniature adults, 19th-century sentimentalists increasingly identified innocence as the single most important quality that distinguished children from their elders. By the mid-19th century, the ideas of childhood and innocence had merged. From then on, innocence defined American childhood.

        But only white kids were allowed to be innocent. The more that popular writers, playwrights, actors and visual artists created images of innocent white children, the more they depicted children of color, especially black children, as unconstrained imps. Over time, this resulted in them being defined as nonchildren.

        "Uncle Tom's Cabin," one of the most influential books of the 19th century, was pivotal to this process. When Harriet Beecher Stowe published her novel in 1852, she created the angelic white Eva, who contrasted with Topsy, the mischievous black girl.

        Stowe carefully showed, however, that Topsy was at heart an innocent child who misbehaved because she had been traumatized, "hardened," by slavery's violence. Topsy's bad behavior implicated slavery, not her or black children in general.

        The novel's success prompted theatrical troupes across the country to adapt "Uncle Tom's Cabin" into what became one of the most popular stage shows of all time. But to attract the biggest audiences, these productions combined Stowe's story with the era's other hugely popular entertainment: minstrelsy.

        Topsys onstage, often played by white women in blackface, were adultlike, cartoonish characters who laughed as they were beaten, and who invited audiences to laugh, too. In these shows, Topsy's innocence and vulnerability vanished. The violence that Stowe condemned became a source of delight for white theater audiences.

        This minstrel version of Topsy turned into the pickaninny, one of the most damaging racist images ever created. This dehumanized black juvenile character was comically impervious to pain and never needed protection or tenderness.

        The racist caricature of the pickaninny often appeared alongside cherubic white children. For example, advertisements run in the early 1900s by the Fairbank Company, which sold cleaning and cooking products, featured the "Gold Dust Twins," who were seminude, ungendered, ink-black juveniles. The advertising copy read, "Let the Gold Dust Twins do your work."

        Fairbank ran that ad alongside one for Fairy Soap, whose mascot was a serene white child dressed in fancy clothes. Fairy Soap, the advertisement declared, "soothes and softens the tenderest skin." In these paired advertisements, which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal and many other magazines, black nonchildren toil while white darlings receive tender caresses.

        These images weaponized childhood innocence, transforming it into a tool of racial domination.

        But black activists did not acquiesce to this power play. From the first moments when Topsy devolved into the pickaninny, African-Americans worked to counter the libel that their kids were not vulnerable and not really children.

        In 1855, Frederick Douglass made exactly this point in "My Bondage and My Freedom" when he asserted, "Slave children are children."

        In the next century, key players in the civil rights movement made childhood innocence central to anti-racist causes. In 1939, the psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark introduced the "doll test," in which black children, when confronted with their own preference for white dolls, burst into tears.

        The Clarks' findings hit a nerve in part because they used symbols of innocence, dolls and sobbing children, to display the effects of racism. The Supreme Court leaned on these doll tests in its Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which outlawed segregation in public schools in 1954.

        The next year, Mamie Till juxtaposed the bloated, pulverized body of her murdered son Emmett with a photograph of him as a smiling schoolboy. The lynchers had defined Emmett as a sexual threat, but his mother made America see him as a kid.

        In these cases, black activists captured the political power of childhood innocence, which had previously supported white supremacy, and repurposed it for a civil rights agenda.

        But there's a catch. As the poet and feminist theorist Audre Lorde wrote: "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change." This is exactly the case with anti-racist uses of childhood innocence.

        The Clarks, Mamie Till and others used childhood innocence to make important political gains, but their use of the "master's tools" ultimately could not erase the racial connotations of childhood innocence itself. And so studies continue to show that black children are seen as less innocent and more adultlike than their white peers.

        As long as white children are constructed as innocent, we must continue to demand that children of color are as well. Because the idea of childhood innocence carries so much political force, we can't allow it to be a whites-only club.

        The problem, however, is that every time we insist that the gates of innocence open to children of color, we limit ourselves by language, a "frame," as the linguist George Lakoff would say, that is embedded in racism. When we argue that black and brown children are as innocent as white children, and we must, we assume that childhood innocence is purely positive. But the idea of childhood innocence itself is not innocent: It's part of a 200-year-old history of white supremacy.

        It's time to create language that values justice over innocence. The most important question we can ask about children may not be whether they are inherently innocent. Instead: Are they are hungry? Do they have adequate health care? Are they free from police brutality? Are they threatened by a poisoned and volatile environment? Are they growing up in a securely democratic nation?

        All children deserve equal protection under the law not because they're innocent, but because they're people. By understanding children's rights as human rights, we can begin to undermine the political power of childhood innocence, a cultural formation that has proved, over and over, to be one of white supremacy's most potent weapons.



        2)  Trump Says Transgender People Will Not Be Allowed in the Military

        JULY 26, 2017




        WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States will no longer "accept or allow" transgender people in the United States military, saying American forces "must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory" and could not afford to accommodate them.

        Mr. Trump made the surprise declaration in a series of posts on Twitter, saying he had come to the decision after talking to generals and military experts, whom he did not name.

        "After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military," Mr. Trump wrote.

        "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," he added.

        The sweeping policy decision was met with surprise at the Pentagon and outrage from advocacy groups. It reverses the gradual transformation of the military under President Barack Obama, whose administration announced last year that transgender people could serve openly in the military. Mr. Obama's defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, also opened all combat roles to women and appointed the first openly gay Army secretary.

        It was not clear what prompted Mr. Trump's decision. The Pentagon referred questions about the policy change to the White House, where several officials did not immediately respond to questions about the reasoning and timing behind Mr. Trump's decision.

        But the announcement came amid a debate on Capitol Hill over the Obama-era practice of requiring the Pentagon to pay for medical treatment related to gender transition. The dispute has unfolded as Congress considers a nearly $700 billion spending bill to fund the Pentagon. Representative Vicky Hartzler, Republican of Missouri, has proposed an amendment that would bar the Pentagon from spending money on transition surgery or related hormone therapy, and other Republicans have pressed for similar provisions.

        Ms. Hartzler's version narrowly failed this month in the House, with some Republicans joining Democrats to reject it. But some members of the conservative Freedom Caucus have indicated they would not support the military spending measure without the language banning money for gender transition.

        The policy would affect only a small portion of the approximately 1.3 million active-duty members of the military. About 2,450 are transgender, according to a study last year by the RAND Corporation, though the estimated number of transgender service members has varied.

        The study found that allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would "have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs" for the Pentagon. It estimated that health care costs would rise $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year, representing an infinitesimal 0.04- to 0.13 percent increase in spending for active-duty service members. Citing research into other countries that allow transgender people to serve, the study projected "little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness" in the United States.

        Officials at the Pentagon were caught off guard. They had been studying, per the orders of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, how transgender troops in the military affect other service members, but not with a view toward removing transgender people from the military, several defense officials said.

        In June, the administration delayed a decision on whether to allow transgender recruits to join the military. At the time, Mr. Mattis said an extra six months would give military leaders a chance to review its potential impact. Mr. Mattis's decision to delay accepting transgender recruits for six months had been seen as a pause to "finesse" the issue, one official said, not a prelude to an outright ban.

        What's more, Mr. Mattis loathes wading into politically divisive social policy, the official said, noting that the defense secretary, who is on vacation this week, has taken pains to steer clear of Mr. Trump's more partisan moves, and views the American military as a unifier of a divided country.

        Gay and transgender rights groups and research organizations that have worked to craft policies around the military service of transgender individuals expressed outrage at the move.

        "The president is creating a worse version of 'don't ask, don't tell,'" said Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, referring to the Clinton-era policy in which gay and lesbian people could not openly serve in the military.

        Mr. Belkin said that "discredited" policy had harmed readiness, and Mr. Trump's new one would have similar effects.

        "This is a shocking and ignorant attack on our military and on transgender troops who have been serving honorably and effectively for the past year," he added.

        Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT & HIV Project, called the move "an outrageous and desperate action," and asked transgender military service members to get in touch with the organization, saying it was "examining all our options on how to fight this."

        "The thousands of transgender service members serving on the front lines for this country deserve better than a commander in chief who rejects their basic humanity," Mr. Block said.

        Mr. Trump's abrupt decision will likely end up in court; a nonprofit group that represents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the military immediately vowed to sue.

        "We are committed to transgender service member," the group, OutServe-SLDN, said in a statement. "We are going to fight for them as hard as they are fighting for the country. And we're going to start by taking the fight to Donald Trump in the federal court."

        Matthew F. Thorn, executive director of OutServe, said Mr. Trump's decision was a slap in the face of transgender service members.

        "We have transgender individuals who serve in elite SEAL teams, who are working in a time of war to defend our country, and now you're going to kick them out?" Mr. Thorn said in an interview.

        Mr. Carter issued a statement objecting to the decision, both for its effect on the military and on those considering joining.

        "To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military," Mr. Carter said. "There are already transgender individuals who are serving capably and honorably. This action would also send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about military service."

        And Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, condemned Mr. Trump's sudden announcement, saying it muddied policy and that anyone who is fit to serve should be allowed to do so.

        "The president's tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter," said Mr. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

        Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, noted that Mr. Trump made his decision public on the anniversary of Harry Truman's order desegregating the United States military. "President Trump is choosing to retreat in the march toward equality," Mr. Reed said in a statement.

        "This was a divisive political move that exposes the president's lack of faith in the professionalism of our armed forces," Mr. Reed said, calling on Mr. Trump to review the facts and reverse his decision. "In the land of the free and the home of the brave, every American who is brave enough to serve their country should be free to do so."



        3) In Chicago and Beyond, Bail Reformers Win Big in Fight to End Money Bail

        Tuesday, July 25, 2017 By Sharlyn Grace, Truthout | Op-Edhttp://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/41381-in-chicago-and-beyond-bail-reformers-win-big-in-fight-to-end-money-bail

        As of July 17, 2017, Cook County, which includes Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, is poised to become the largest jurisdiction in the country to stop incarcerating people pretrial, solely because they cannot post money bail. Thanks in large part to a sustained push by activists over the past several years, the Cook County Circuit Court's Chief Judge has announced a new order that instructs judges making bail decisions to impose monetary bail only in amounts that people can pay. If judges follow the order, it could lead to the end of money bail in Cook County, setting a historic precedent on an issue that impacts hundreds of thousands of people around the country.

        Right now, more than 4,000 people are incarcerated in Chicago's Cook County Jail because they cannot post monetary bail. They have been granted release by a judge, but remain in cages because they cannot pay a certain amount of money to secure their freedom. This is the pretrial justice system wrought by money bail, and it is mirrored across the country: 443,000 people are incarcerated before trial in the US, 90 percent of them because they cannot afford to post a monetary bail. In fact, there are more people in US jails pretrial than there are total incarcerated people in most other countries.

        Like the number of people in prisons, the number of people in local jails has more than tripled since the 1980s. In the last 15 years, 99 percent of that jail population growth has come from locking up people who are awaiting trial.

        In theory, monetary bail is supposed to be used as an incentive to encourage people to return to court. If people show up to their court dates in Cook County, they will, in most cases, eventually get back almost all of the money that they paid for bail. Despite the idea that people are more likely to appear in court if they have money on the line, no study has ever found monetary bail to be more effective than other forms of bail. In fact, charitable bail funds in others places have shown that their clients come back to court at higher rates than people who posted their own bonds. Moreover, the idea that the likelihood a person will show up in court should be valued over their freedom should be challenged on its face. There are many reasons people do not show up for court, including lack of transportation or childcare, inability to take off work, fear, or instability resulting from other unmet needs like access to mental health care. Court systems seeking to increase court appearance rates should do so by addressing these needs rather than caging and punishing people pretrial.

        We must also consider who is being denied their freedom. Not everyone is impacted equally by pretrial incarceration: Black, Latino and Native American people are detained at higher rates than people of other ethnicities, and Black people are hit the hardest. Nationally, they are incarcerated pretrial at five times the rate of white people and three times the rate of Latino people. Black women and women of color are much more likely to be incarcerated than white women, making up two-thirds of all women in local jails. For example, in 2011, 81 percent of the women who entered Cook County Jail were women of color, and 68 percent were Black women. Today, roughly 73 percent of all people in Cook County Jail are Black, though Cook County is only 25 percent Black.

        Money bail exacerbates racial disparities at each step of the pretrial justice system. First, Black people accused of crimes are the least likely to be released without having to post any amount of money at all. If given a money bail, Black people received "significantly higher bail amounts than all other ethnic and racial groups." Finally, Black and Latino defendants are less likely to be able to post a money bail if required to. Thus, our system's reliance on money bail guarantees that white supremacy and unconstitutional disparate treatment remain central parts of our criminal legal system.

        It is in this context that bail reform has become a national demand of the Movement for Black Lives and various other advocates for racial justice and opponents of mass incarceration. In December 2015, a group of more than 30 Chicago organizations, many falling under the Black Lives Matter umbrella, declared "Ending Money Bail" one of their shared policy-change goals for 2016. At the time, the newly formed Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) -- the only entity in Illinois dedicated solely to the issues of monetary bail and pretrial incarceration -- had just posted bond for our first person as an organization. CCBF began to bail people out of Cook County Jailshare their stories and advocate for the end of money bond in its entirety.

        Subsequently, a coalition of community-based groups and policy organizations in Chicago began organizing around the goal of ending monetary bond. Together, they formed the Coalition to End Money Bond. In the last year, the Coalition has testified at a Cook County Board hearing on money bail, drafted Principles for Bail Reform in Cook County that have been endorsed by more than 30 organizations, and introduced the most progressive and comprehensive bail reform bill during the 2017 legislative session. 

        At the same time, in a number of other states, civil rights attorneys were using litigation to address money bond's role in rampant pretrial incarceration. Alec Karakatsanis of Civil Rights Corps was bringing dozens of lawsuits around the country challenging pretrial incarceration practices, including the use of money bail. The Obama Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division even filed a Statement of Interest in one of their cases, stating that it was unconstitutional to "Incarcerat[e] individuals solely because of their inability to pay for their release." Last month in Houston, Texas, Civil Rights Corps' lawsuit resulted in the release of more than 600 people accused of misdemeanors who were jailed solely because they couldn't afford bail.

        In October 2016, local law firms partnered with Civil Rights Corps to challenge Cook County's massive pretrial detention scheme, which effectively uses unpayable money bonds as a way to skirt both the limitations on pretrial incarceration in the Illinois constitution and the due process requirements of the US Constitution. The lawsuit also alleges that incarcerating people solely because they cannot pay bail is unconstitutional because of its disproportionate impact on African Americans accused of crimes. The Coalition to End Money Bond rallied around the lawsuit as a way to force policy change and is currently organizing a public presence at court dates.

        On July 10, 2017, two days before the court was to hear both sides' arguments about whether this lawsuit should be dismissed, lawyers representing Cook County asked the judge to delay the hearing in anticipation of a new Circuit Court Order that would change the procedures for setting bail in Cook County. A week later, Chief Judge Timothy Evans unveiled General Order 18.8A, a new rule that should drastically reduce the population of Cook County Jail by preventing pretrial incarceration based only on inability to afford bond.

        In essence, the order instructs judges making bail decisions to first determine whether someone is "bailable," meaning eligible for pretrial release. Luckily, under the Illinois Constitution, almost everyone is entitled to release before their trial. Then, judges must set the conditions of release, including whether to impose electronic monitoring (in effect, a form of house arrest in Cook County), curfews, pretrial services reporting or other special requirements beyond showing up for court dates. If a judge wants to require payment of money before release, they must first hold a hearing in which the accused person's ability to pay is explored on the record in open court. The judge is then required to make a finding that the person before them "has the present ability to pay" any monetary amount required for their release. Under a newly enacted state law, any conditions imposed must be the least restrictive possible to meet the court's objectives.

        The thrust of the court's order is that Cook County can no longer use unpayable money bail as a tool to incarcerate people pretrial. Though Cook County is the largest municipal jurisdiction yet to announce such a rule change, it is not unprecedented in the US. Limiting money bail to amounts that people can pay has been the law in Washington, DC, for decades, and recently became the policy in MarylandNew Mexico and Arizona through court rule changes. Likewise, it is a key part of New Jersey's complete overhaul of its bail system, which has resulted in a 36 percent decrease in jail population this year compared to 2015. In fact, between January 1 and May 31, 2017, judges in New Jersey imposed monetary bail only nine times.

        Moreover, though Cook County's specific process for determining that any money bails imposed must be affordable is new, the authority that it relies on has been the law in Illinois for decades. If followed, the new procedures will also increase protections for people accused of crimes by forcing judges to slow down and make more individualized decisions.

        The Chief Judge's order takes effect September 18, 2017, for people charged with felonies (more than 90 percent of people currently in Cook County Jail) and January 1, 2018, for people charged with misdemeanors. Under the new process, everyone who is currently in Cook County Jail because they cannot pay a money bail should have their bail decisions reevaluated. They should have three new options under General Order 18.8A: 1) Release without having to pay money at all; 2) Imposition of a new money bail set in a lower amount that they can pay and be released; and 3) Be given a full detention hearing with all the due process protections and immediate appeal rights that accompany an honest, transparent decision to incarcerate someone pretrial.

        If implemented well and followed by judges, the rule could dramatically decrease the number of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail, eventually forcing release of a majority of prisoners. Currently, 62 percent of people in Cook County Jail pretrial are there only because they cannot post a money bail. Advocates, however, are concerned about enforcement and adherence by judges. In order to monitor the Order's effect, the Coalition to End Money Bond is undertaking a community court-watching initiative that will gather data through volunteers and release reports as bond court outcomes change.

        Even if money bond is completely eliminated for those who cannot afford it, it will not end pretrial incarceration: More than 30 percent of people incarcerated pretrial in Cook County Jail right now are being held without bail. Going forward, vigilant oversight will be needed to ensure people who were previously incarcerated via money bail are not simply held without bail instead. Money bail became a target of Chicago Community Bond Fund and other activists because it is the primary cause of pretrial incarceration; for reform to eliminate money bail and keep the same astronomical rates of incarceration would be disastrous.

        A final concern relates to the conditions that will be imposed on people released pretrial. As fewer people are incarcerated while awaiting trial, there is a possibility that more pretrial supervision measures will be implemented, including onerous conditions of surveillance and control, such as house arrest, electronic monitoring, drug testing and pretrial curfews. We anticipate an increase in the use of these harmful conditions, which may lead to increased jail admissions based on alleged "violations." As public defenders in New York have pointed out, the use of mandatory programming and other conditions of pretrial release can mimic or even exceed the sentences that people would receive after trial, such as probation, and may constitute unconstitutional deprivations of liberty.

        While the fanfare over bail reform in Cook County is still fresh, the Coalition to End Money Bond is gearing up to train dozens of community court-watchers this week in preparation for monitoring implementation of General Order 18.8A and other new policies. The litigation team is reworking their briefs to argue that their case should continue -- after all, the next Chief Judge could revoke and replace General Order 18.8A with a different procedure regarding bail hearings. Securing lasting change and impacting the 101 other counties in Illinois still requires either state legislation or an Illinois Supreme Court Rule limiting the use of monetary bail and pretrial incarceration.

        The fight against money bail continues here and across the country. As new jurisdictions reject monetary bond in favor of more compassionate (and constitutional) treatment of people accused of crimes, reformers and policymakers alike are looking for successful models. For example, in New Jersey, successful bail reform required amendment of the state constitution and two years of planning for implementation. If Cook County can provide a model for a swift and effective reform through court rule changes, it will be a model for large urban jurisdictions around the country that want to act more quickly than their state legislatures.

        Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


        Sharlyn Grace is a co-founder of the Chicago Community Bond Fund. She is also the senior criminal justice policy analyst at Chicago Appleseed, where she works on bail reform, the right to counsel and decarceration.



        4)  Chelsea Manning: President Trump, Trans People in the Military Are Here to Stay

        JULY 27, 2017


        With three tweets, the leader of the largest employer in the country just tried to lay off all trans people in the military. Many service members who were just told "we want you" are suddenly being told "go away." The sudden reversal by the administration, from allowing trans people to serve openly in the military to outright banning us, is a devastating blow to our livelihoods, our basic humanity, our survival. It is also a devastating blow to the entire credibility of the United States military for years to come.

        This is all painfully familiar. Once upon a time, I was denied the ability to even exist as who I am. I had to hide. I had to be in the closet. I had to lie to people I stood next to. I had to virtually eradicate my own existence from myself. I served as a gay person under "don't ask, don't tell," and also as a trans person under the ban on open transgender service. I came out as trans only during my years working as an analyst in the Army.

        So, here we are again. After years of advocacy, research, experts' weighing-in, lives lost, we made progress. And now, again, we are hurtling backward. We are risking our credibility, our legitimacy as a nation and, again, risking the lives of so many people who are listening and watching, and who are already serving.

        There is a lot of hurt. There is a lot of fear. Trans people even outside the military are terrified about what this means for the rest of us. Terrible discriminatory laws targeting trans people are proposedall across the country, and now the commander in chief of the armed forces is propagating lies about us, dehumanizing us and taking away our health care and employment.

        What does this mean? Well, for now we don't exactly know, since it is clear that the president's tweets were not exactly well thought out. But it could mean that trans people will have to pack up and go home for pretty much no reason other than "you can't stay here." For no other reason than, we feel like using you as political pawns today, or we don't understand you, or you simply are not welcome here.

        Money is the excuse today. It was supposed to be expensive to provide trans people with adequate health care. The reality is that the costs are negligible. Military spending wastes billions of dollars on projects that are canceled or don't work, every day.

        Medicine was the old excuse. The old military regulations were laced with medical terms to justify discrimination. They psychopathologized us trans people as having "manifestations" of "paraphilias," and "psychosexual conditions, transsexual, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex," that would "render an individual administratively unfit" to serve.

        These old regulations could come back. The rhetoric about trans people having "mental disorders" could come back, too. It's the same thing we see in state houses across the country. Trans people are "mentally ill." We are "predators." We are the ethereal enemy of the moment. Even though there is a medical consensus, a legal consensus, a military consensus that none of this is true.

        This is about bias and prejudice. This is about systemic discrimination. Like the integration of people of color and women in the past, this was a sign of progress that threatens the social order, and the president is reacting against that progress.

        But we will move forward. We will make sure that all trans people in the military, and all people outside the military after serving, receive the medical care they need. We will not back down. Our progress will continue. Our organizing and activism will grow stronger.

        We are neither disruptive nor expensive. We are human beings, and we will not be erased or ignored.



        5)  The vicious cycle of CPS intervention

        July 29, 2017

        by Michelle Chan, Parents Against CPS Corruption


        The abuse and traumatization of children strikes a chord in our society, resonating with our innate parental sensibilities and perpetuating a vicious cycle that results in poor outcomes in adolescence, adulthood and beyond. Victims often end up in abusive situations again as adults and are more prone to substance abuse, incarceration and mental illness.

        For many children who have been abused, the trauma unfortunately does not end after Child Protective Services intervenes. Failure to Protect laws serve to remove these children from nonoffending parents, revictimizing the same children the system is supposed to safeguard by tearing them away from loving parents and effectively punishing domestic violence victims.

        What's worse is that these children frequently end up in foster care and group homes that are not properly monitored; and the children, once again, are abused by the very people who are supposed to be saving them. Flash forward a dozen or so years: These children who were abused, then abused again in foster care, are now considered "at-risk" for committing child abuse and their tragic histories can be used as ammunition against them in juvenile dependency proceedings that all too often lack merit.

        Tehlia is a domestic violence survivor. She also survived childhood physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her foster mother. And she has been incarcerated several times – for reasons that some may have difficulty fathoming.

        The most arduous of her struggles, though, was the removal of her children by CPS. Tehlia attributes the abuse and neglect and oppression that has defined her life since birth to CPS's constant presence in her life and the repeated indifference they demonstrated in shielding her, and later her children, from harm.

        Tehlia was born tox-positive for crack cocaine and promptly removed from her mother's custody. However, Tehlia reports that her foster mother, Marlene, was also on drugs. The only father Tehlia ever knew was a boyfriend whose addiction grew so severe that he ended up losing his job as a security guard and living in an encampment under the freeway.

        Foster care abuse

        "I always remember my foster mother as this two-sided woman: cool one minute, damn nasty the next," says Tehlia. "Your mom don't want you. Your mom don't give a fuck about you. They left you. You're ugly, you're Black." These words echoed throughout Tehlia's childhood, a constant reminder that she was a nobody, that she had nobody, that she would always be a nobody … or so her foster mother had hoped to instill in her.

        Tehlia survived childhood physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her foster mother.

        A standout example showing that San Francisco CPS never looked out for Tehlia's best interests occurred when she was 14. It was a brisk and bustling holiday season shopping day at Durant Square Mall in San Leandro. The whole family, including the foster mother, foster children and biological children were there. Marlene went into a changing room and left her 3-year-old biological son under Tehlia's supervision.

        A mixture of excitement, unrest and preexisting family turmoil caused the large group to bicker amongst themselves. When the biological 3-year-old became unmanageable, Marlene lost all control.

        The last thing Tehlia remembers before the attack was her foster mother storming out of the dressing room and saying, "You can't even control a fucking 3-year-old?"

        "I tried to explain myself, but the words were caught in my throat because I knew that no matter what I said, it wouldn't matter. I was going to get my ass beat down."

        Nothing ever really prepares a child for abuse. Tehlia says that even though she knew what was coming, knew all too well the thrashings for any and every trivial infraction, a heavy weight and dread set in just before the fact.

        When Marlene grabbed her by the collar and slammed her into the wall, the wind completely left her body. "It wasn't just that I couldn't breathe physically," she said. "I also felt like I was being suffocated every day of my life. No matter what I did, I was always in the wrong."

        The dozens of bystanders were in utter shock. Multiple 911 calls were placed as the foster mother proceeded to punch, pound and curse.

        "It wasn't just that I couldn't breathe physically," she said. "I also felt like I was being suffocated every day of my life. No matter what I did, I was always in the wrong."

        After the struggle, after Tehlia broke away, as she stumbled from the scene of the crime bruised and bloodied with a knot on her forehead, people stopped her out of genuine concern. In the background, she saw a crowd had formed around her foster mother. "What's wrong with you?" they asked. "How could you attack a child like that?"

        Marlene was arrested but bailed out the same day.

        Although the incident occurred in public in broad daylight, in a shopping mall on a busy, holiday shopping day, and there were numerous, infuriated eye witnesses happy to testify, Tehlia reports that she was coerced by Marlene to drop the charges. However, Tehlia should never have been allowed to drop those charges.

        At 14, she was below the age of consent. How could she really understand the implications or consequences? How could she know that failure to hold Marlene accountable would put herself and other children in future danger and harm?

        CPS returned the child to the same home. Marlene was never seriously reprimanded and continued to foster children whom she allegedly continued to abuse.

        The foster-care-to-prison pipeline

        Foster care has often been termed the pipeline to prison. According to a study by the University of Chicago's Chaplin Hall Center for Children, nearly half of the foster youth population is incarcerated within two years of exiting the system. Moreover, 77 percent of young women reported a pregnancy.

        Often, these young adults have chronic and complex trauma that has been exacerbated rather than alleviated by the child welfare and foster care systems. As they age out, they are left without families and strong support networks. Many fail to reach their full potential in life. Some of them turn to crime because they weren't given the proper tools to survive and to cope.

        Foster care has often been termed the pipeline to prison. According to a study by the University of Chicago's Chaplin Hall Center for Children, nearly half of the foster youth population is incarcerated within two years of exiting the system.

        "I was emancipated at 17. At first, I was so happy. I felt free for the first time in my life. I was finally out of the system and away from my foster mother," Tehlia says.

        Except, this is real life and not a fairytale. Tehlia was amongst the statistic of young women leaving the foster care system impregnated. After a series of unfortunate events, she found herself struggling to support her child. She began to steal and was arrested numerous times.

        But, the stealing wasn't what really got Tehlia in trouble with the law. It was her weakness with her foster mother, Marlene.

        "I kept going back to her, even though she has never been good to me. I just felt like I was all alone. I was caught in her web, brainwashed." Tehlia speaks of the emptiness she has always felt inside from never having known her own mother and father. "My foster mother was all I had, and so I kept trying to hang onto her. But she never loved me, always just wanted to hurt me."

        On one of the nights that Tehlia was visiting Marlene's home, she got in a physical altercation with Marlene's adult daughter. Tehlia reports that she was the victim and that Marlene stood by and watched the entire time. At the end, Tehlia was all beat up and suffering an asthma attack. When the police arrived on scene, Marlene reported that Tehlia was the perpetrator. Tehlia was convicted of a felony and was incarcerated for six and a half months.

        The fact that Marlene had a documented history of abusing Tehlia in public, was then allowed to continue fostering her, and later was considered credible enough to report that Tehlia perpetrated violence is evidence of serious systemic dysfunction.

        Domestic violence

        A few years ago, Tehlia made a poor choice, the consequences of which she has had to live with every day since. She became involved with a man she hardly knew, allowing him into her home where she lived with her three children.

        "I mean, I knew him as a kid growing up, and he knew all these other people that I knew, so I figured I did know him. Looking back, I can't believe I let him into my home."

        Once she allowed him in, it wasn't long before he was living there. After that, there was no getting him out. He quickly became abusive.

        The first time he beat her was after Tehlia demanded that he get out. He grabbed her by the head, slammed her into the floor and began punching her in the face. After that, it happened regularly, multiple times per week.

        Tehlia did not call the police. Her experiences with law enforcement had taught her that the police are not there to protect her. For the next six months, she tried desperately to get him to leave – with no success. During those six months, Tehlia had been held at gunpoint, knifepoint, hammerpoint, and she had been raped by him.

        Some people may question her judgment in not calling the police and have trouble understanding how a person may be unable to leave an abusive relationship. As a domestic violence survivor myself, I can attest to the obstacles victims face in breaking free and the scant support law enforcement is willing to provide.

        He quickly became abusive. Tehlia did not call the police. Her experiences with law enforcement had taught her that the police are not there to protect her.

        Calling the police often only serves to incite the abusers, and the victims not only sometimes get blamed and the abuse minimized, but they also put themselves at risk of losing their children by reporting the abuse.

        One day, after Tehlia brought her oldest daughter to the hospital for H1N1, she found out for the first time that the boyfriend had been raping the children.

        "I fainted right there at the hospital," said Tehlia. "I had always told the kids to tell someone if anyone ever touched them. But he told them he was going to kill them. I should have known better."

        Tehlia immediately called the police. It would take a total of five attempts for the SFPD to take action.

        What happened afterwards was, unfortunately, what she had expected. After the investigation was opened and the boyfriend arrested, Tehlia began getting death threats from his friends. The police and district attorney made no serious efforts to protect her. It got to the point that Tehlia no longer wanted to pursue the criminal charges out of fear.

        So, the police arrested her as an accessory and Oakland CPS removed her children and placed them in foster care. She was convicted of another felony and spent three months in prison.

        CPS and the district attorney claimed she had to have known. However, medical professionals and many witnesses were present at the hospital when Tehlia fainted. Does this sound like the behavior of someone who knew?

        The police arrested her as an accessory and Oakland CPS removed her children and placed them in foster care. 

        Admittedly, there is a lot that is wrong with this story. These children were seriously abused. Their mother allowed a man into their lives who was obviously dangerous. Their mother had been incarcerated for periods of time, leaving the children in the care of others.

        But does criminalizing foster care and domestic violence victims really make any sense? How does this work to improve outcomes for Tehlia, for Tehlia's children, or for society in general?

        Tehlia is also a victim. She had been abused by the foster family that was supposed to protect her, repeatedly let down by the criminal justice system and then the victim of domestic violence. She had not been given the proper tools to deal with this violent man, did not know how to end the cycle of abuse because it is all she has ever known.

        Does criminalizing foster care and domestic violence victims really make any sense? How does this work to improve outcomes for Tehlia, for Tehlia's children, or for society in general?

        Now her children are in foster care – destined to repeat the multigenerational cycle of abuse and victimization, destined to perhaps join that 50 percent statistic of foster care to prison and the 77 percent statistic of early pregnancy.

        Breaking the cycle

        Steven R. Isham has 42 years' experience as a child advocate and educator and is the author of "Child and Family Advocacy: The Complete Guide to Child Advocacy and Education for Parents, Teachers, Advocates, and Social Workers." Mr. Isham shares his perspective:

        "The Lifting the Veil organization study estimates 'that over 28 percent of children in state custody are abused while in the system.' The ongoing 'Isham Study' estimates that it could be as high as 81.5 percent if all types of abuse are included. Using the conservative percentage for Arizona, it would mean that this very minute, 4,760 children out of the 17,000 in state custody are being abused; and no one is doing a single thing to protect these children."

        The child welfare system could have stepped in at many points to make a difference in Tehlia's life, rather than maintaining the cycle of abuse. San Francisco CPS failed Tehlia as a child by failing to properly monitor her foster home. Now Oakland CPS is failing her again.

        Rather than removing her children and placing them in foster care, couldn't CPS have opened an in-home case, provided trauma therapy for the family, and mandated parenting classes and a domestic violence prevention program?

        There are so many ways the system failed Tehlia. And then when she struggled as an adult, rather than help her and her children, the system criminalized and stigmatized her.

        Rather than removing her children and placing them in foster care, couldn't CPS have opened an in-home case, provided trauma therapy for the family, and mandated parenting classes and a domestic violence prevention program?

        At what point do we hold CPS accountable for destroying families and then leaving children to rot in foster care? At what point do we step in to break this vicious cycle and strive to improve outcomes for at-risk children?

        Call to action

        Tehlia is now a member of Parents Against CPS Corruption, or PACC, and is leading the grassroots promotions for the Alameda County class action lawsuit. She has demonstrated tremendous dedication to this cause and hopes that her struggles can now be used as the impetus to help others.

        "I always wanted to do something important, something that would make a difference in this world and that can help children and families so that they won't have to go through what I have," she says.

        Many CPS victims have learned the hard way that there are very few remedies and that oversight and accountability of the child welfare system is practically nonexistent. The civil courts are often the only tool that victim-parents have to fight back. Unfortunately, attorneys who are willing and able to sue CPS are scant. As such, PACC is organizing class action lawsuits on various issues in multiple counties in California.

        Social change can be enacted through the civil courts. In addition to the awareness that can be raised through class action suits, there is also the mass transfer of money from child welfare agencies and into the hands of victims and attorneys that are sympathetic to our cause. Hopefully, some of this money can be invested to help reform the system to more adequately protect the best interests of children.

        PACC is urging anyone who currently has or previously has had a CPS case, family members that have been denied kinship placement, and former or older foster youth to please get in contact.

        PACC is still fighting for greater oversight and accountability, fair hearings and trials, due process, and greater efforts towards timely reunification and kinship placement. For advocacy, court attendance, peer support, or to find out more about our cause and class action lawsuits, visit ParentsAgainstCPSCorruption.com, email Protest@ParentsAgainstCPSCorruption.com, follow us on Twitter @ProtestCPS, like our newly launched Facebook page at Facebook.com/ParentsAgainstCPSCorruption, or call 415-815-9415.

        Michelle Chan is co-founder of Parents Against CPS Corruption and can be reached at protest@parentsagainstcpscorruption.com.



        6)  If Americans Love Moms, Why Do We Let Them Die?

        "An American woman is about five times as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as a British woman — partly because Britain makes a determined effort to save mothers' lives, and we don't."

        By Nicholas Kristof, July 29, 2017


        HOUSTON — We love mothers, or at least we say we do, and we claim that motherhood is as American as apple pie.

        We're lying. In fact, we've structured health care so that motherhood is far more deadly in the United States than in other advanced countries. An American woman is about five times as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as a British woman — partly because Britain makes a determined effort to save mothers' lives, and we don't.

        Here in Texas, women die from pregnancy at a rate almost unrivaled in the industrialized world. A woman in Texas is about 10 times as likely to die from pregnancy as one in Spain or Sweden, and by all accounts, the health care plans proposed so far by Republicans would make maternal mortality even worse in Texas and across America.

        Women die unnecessarily in Texas for many reasons, but it doesn't help that some women's health clinics have closed and that access to Medicaid is difficult.

        I spent a day in Houston shadowing Dr. Lisa Hollier, the president-elect of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in her Center for Children and Women. Dr. Hollier is on a mission to make motherhood safer, because of an experience she had as a young medical resident many years ago.

        Amy, 23, had arrived at the hospital with a headache near the end of an uncomplicated pregnancy, her first. Her husband was there, and everything seemed normal — and then Amy collapsed and lost consciousness.

        Doctors performed an emergency C-section and saved the baby, a daughter, and Dr. Hollier struggled to keep Amy alive. She failed. Amy had suffered a preventable massive stroke, related to severe high blood pressure.

        "I remember her husband," Dr. Hollier said, and she wiped her eyes at the memory. "Here's this dad, and it's supposed to be the happiest day of his life, and there's this look on his face. He's just so lost."

        That happens somewhere in the United States on average twice a day.

        My day with Dr. Hollier underscored that there's one very simple and inexpensive starting point: Help women and girls avoid pregnancies they don't want. "You can't die from a pregnancy when you're not pregnant," Dr. Hollier noted.

        Almost half of pregnancies in America are unintended. And almost one-third of American girls will become pregnant as teenagers. (Meanwhile, President Trump slashed $213 million in funding for teenage pregnancy prevention programs.)

        One patient, Monica Leija, told Dr. Hollier that she had been on the pill but switched jobs, and her new position didn't offer insurance for the first three months. That meant she would have had to pay the $40-a-month cost herself, and she figured the odds were against her becoming pregnant during that window.

        "I just didn't think it would happen," she said. Now she's bulging with a pregnancy at almost full term.

        I heard a lot of comments like that. Derrion Harris, 21, has a year-old child who was not planned, and now Harris is sexually active again. Dr. Hollier asked if she uses birth control.

        "I use condoms," she said, then corrected herself: "I use condoms sometimes."

        Some of you readers are thinking this is outrageous irresponsibility. But we should also look at society's irresponsibility in failing to help all women and girls get access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs.

        The U.S. failure on maternal mortality is particularly striking because around the world, maternal mortality has plunged by almost half since 1990; the U.S. is a rare country in which maternal deaths have become more common in recent years.

        Granted, saving lives in childbirth is often complicated. Dr. Hollier examined one pregnant patient, Sarvia Alonzo, who had had three previous C-sections, increasing the risk of a condition called placenta accreta that can lead women to bleed to death very rapidly. Alonzo is due for a C-section again and will have two surgeons perform it so that if there is a crisis, it will be easier to manage.

        Saving lives also requires better prenatal care, yet more than a third of women in Texas don't have a single prenatal visit in the first trimester. One factor is that Texas politicians, on a rampage against Planned Parenthood, have in effect closed a number of women's health clinics.

        The result seems to be more pregnancies as well as more Medicaid births. And, after the number of abortions declined for several years, the loss of clinics also apparently led to a slight increase in abortions in 2015, the most recent year with reported figures. Texas also has high rates of deaths from cervical cancer.

        Within the U.S., California has done an outstanding job cutting maternal deaths and showing what is possible. A crucial step is careful counting of maternal deaths and investigation of each one to learn what could have been done differently.

        Obstetrics & Gynecology, a medical journal, says that the U.S. ranks below every member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development industrialized club in maternal mortality, except for Mexico.

        Obamacare helped tackle maternal mortality by expanding insurance coverage and by making contraception free. The Republican health care plans would instead follow the path of Texas, making motherhood more dangerous across America.

        And this is pro-life?



        7)  The Scars From 'Bell-Ringing' Football Tackles

        JULY 29, 2017




        As tens of thousands of football players, from professionals to peewee league children, head to summer training camps across the nation, there is new and compelling evidence linking the game's head-snapping tackles to the degenerative brain diseases suffered in the declining years of men who played the game.

        A study of the donated brains of 202 men who had played football across various age levels showed that 177 had the graphic scars confirming the diminished powers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a disease caused by repeated blows to the head. The study, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is the strongest yet tracking the relationship between gridiron concussions and such cognitive ailments as progressive dementia and suicidal depression that football fans have become familiar with in following the troubled lives of retired professional stars.

        The study found C.T.E. in all but one of 111 brains donated by National Football League retirees and their concerned families. It also suggested a relationship between the number of years played at the game and the symptoms of C.T.E., a disease that can be examined only posthumously. The brains of 53 college players were also included in the study; 48 showed C.T.E. Even among those who played only at the high school level, three of 14 players showed the telltale scars. "It's very concerning," Dr. Ann McKee, a principal author of the study as director of Boston University's CTE Center, said of the college findings. "That means they most likely retired before the age of 25, and we still are seeing in some of those individuals very severe repercussions."

        These are, of course, self-selected groups, and Dr. McKee said more and broader research is required. But the study, she emphasized, provides "overwhelming circumstantial evidence that C.T.E. is linked to football." (A 2015 Mayo Clinic study found the disease in the brains of 21 of 66 men who played contact sports — mostly football — but no traces in 198 others who did not play contact games.)

        The N.F.L.'s chief health officer finally conceded the brain damage linklast year, after years of denial by the league and litigation by former players. In a settlement, the league agreed to an estimated $1 billion plan in which a player with severe problems could receive up to $5 million.

        In protecting its multibillion-dollar product, the N.F.L. has made stronger concussion rules and equipment changes. So has the Pop Warner youth league, which banned body-crashing kickoffs for its 5- to-10-year-olds last year after facing lawsuits by alarmed parents. Youth league enrollment has been dropping in the face of parental concern over the "bell-ringing" tackles that have been part of football's attraction.

        Whether the entertainment value of the booming pro and college game is evolving into a guilty pleasure is a question for fans to ponder as the autumn kickoffs approach. But many more pro players are warily planning brain donations, and a few have decided that the wiser choice is to is to drop the game and pursue another career.

        "I'm not willing to say football is doomed," said Dr. McKee. But her research is going forward, involving the examination of 400 brains at the center, and more to come. The eventual goal, she said, is to "bring some hope and optimism to football players."



        8)  The Toll of Exercise on the Heart (and Why You May Not Need to Worry)

        Does spending years running marathons or cycling for long distances potentially strain someone's heart?

        Two major new studies of athletes and their coronary arteries suggest that the answer may be a qualified yes. Both studies find that endurance athletes, especially men, who spend years training and competing show a surprisingly high incidence of plaques in their arteries, which can be a hallmark of cardiovascular disease.

        But the studies also find that these plaques seem to differ somewhat in their makeup from the kinds of plaques found in less active people's hearts and so may not be a cause for much concern.

        Probably at least since Pheidippides ran the purported first marathon thousands of years ago in Greece and then promptly collapsed and died, people have wondered whether strenuous exercise is dangerous for the heart.

        There have been indications, both anecdotal and scientific, that it might be. One study from 2011 of long-time, elite, male endurance athletes found that a disproportionate number had scarring within their heart muscles.

        Other studies since have indicated that marathon runners, particularly men, seem to have a greater risk of developing plaques inside their coronary arteries than people who exercise less or not at all. Such plaques are worrisome, since if they break free from the artery walls, they can block blood flow, causing a heart attack.

        But most of these past studies have been small, often involving fewer than a dozen participants.

        So for the new studies, which were published simultaneously last week in Circulation, scientists set out to examine far more hearts than in earlier experiments. For one of the studies, researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands and elsewhere recruited 284 men who had exercised throughout their adult lives. For the other, cardiologists from St. George's University in London and other institutions gathered almost 300 men and women, about half of whom were masters runners and cyclists with long histories of training and competing, while the other volunteers were mostly sedentary. None had any history of heart disease.

        The volunteers in both studies completed extensive questionnaires about their lifelong exercise histories, detailing the time, if any, that they had spent training for and competing in endurance sports since adolescence.

        The researchers in each of the studies then scanned their volunteers' hearts, using a variety of techniques. While most earlier studies of athletes' hearts had relied primarily on basic CT scans of the heart and blood vessels that reveal how much plaque exists in someone's arteries, the new studies also deployed additional techniques that pinpoint the composition of those plaques.

        And the makeup of plaque tissue matters. Cardiologists know that if plaques are dense and heavily calcified, they tend also to be stable and unlikely to break free from artery walls. If, on the other hand, the plaques are fatty and somewhat loose, they can more easily rupture from the wall and initiate a heart attack.

        In both studies, a long history of heavy exercise was linked to having arterial plaques. In the Dutch study, the men who had exercised — mostly by running — for more than about four hours per week throughout their adult lives were far more likely to have plaques in their arteries than the men who had run for less than about an hour per week during that time. The correlation was strongest among the men who had run the most intensely, according to their training and race times.

        Similarly, in the British study, while a majority of the participants had clear arteries, those masters athletes whose scans did show plaques tended to have far more of them than the sedentary volunteers did.

        But in both studies, the more active someone was, the more likely that his (and in rare instances, her) plaques were calcified and dense. Less-active people had fattier, more-problematic plaques.

        Together, these studies suggest that "there may be an association between high volumes of exercise and coronary calcification," says Dr. Benjamin Levine, a professor of cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas. He was a co-author of an editorial in Circulation last week that accompanied the studies.

        "But if you dig into the morphology of the plaques," he continues, "they appear to be more benign" than in people who exercise less.

        Of course, these studies cannot tell us whether people's exercise habits directly cause plaques of any kind to develop in their hearts, only that the two are related. They also cannot explain why exercise might contribute to plaques, or whether, over time, the athletes with plaques are at any greater risk than other people of experiencing a heart attack.

        Dr. Levine and his colleagues have just begun a long-term study, he says, that will follow masters athletes for years, tracking changes within their arteries and medical outcomes.

        But for now, he says, the available data, including these new studies, suggest that prolonged, intense endurance exercise may alter your arteries, but does not seem likely to harm them.

        If, however, you are concerned about your cardiac health, obviously consult a doctor, he says, and do not hesitate to err on the side of caution. "If you want to run a marathon, fine, run a marathon," he says. "But if your goal from exercise is simply to be healthy, a half-hour of jogging will do."



        9) Venezuela's Chavistas register highest vote since 2012 in Constituent Assembly election

        By Richard Fidler, Monday, July 31, 2017


        The National Constituent Assembly elected in Venezuela yesterday with the sole support of the Chavistas registered more than 8 million votes, or 41.53% of the electorate. This was substantially more than the 7 million votes for Nicolás Maduro in the 2013 presidential elections and much more than the 5.5 million votes for the Chavista coalition in the 2015 legislative elections, when the opposition won 7.7 million votes largely thanks to the abstention of some two million former Chavista supporters. The country's opposition parties, currently in control of the National Assembly, boycotted the election.

        Among the 545 constituentes elected were First Lady Cilia Flores, the first Vice-President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Diosdado Cabello, and the former foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez. The results were announced by the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena around midnight last night. So many Venezuelans lined up to vote that the electoral process was extended to 10:30 p.m. 

        The newly elected Constituent Assembly is made up of 364 members elected by territorial constituency -- one per municipality, two per state capital and seven per Capital District (Caracas) -- and 181 according to social or class sector (24 students, 8 peasants and fishers, 5 business people, 5 disabled, 28 pensioners, 24 communal council representatives, 79 workers and 8 indigenous (the latter to be elected this Tuesday in assemblies to be held in three states).

        The National Constituent Assembly (ANC) will begin sitting 72 hours after the official declaration of those elected. Maduro has indicated that it will be tasked with reforms of the economic and justice systems, reaffirmation of the pluricultural character of the country, the "preservation of life on the planet," and the constitutional recognition of all the government social and cultural missions and the Communal Power. In popular assemblies held throughout the country during the three months prior to yesterday's vote some 22 sectors and social movements (communes, workers, cultural and environmental collectives, etc.) debated and adopted proposals for action by the ANC.

        Maduro, in his victory speech last night, said the ANC will, among other tasks, take action against the "parasitical bourgeoisie," largely held responsible for the country's current economic crisis. (La RazónCorreo del Orinoco.)

        For more on the election and the immediate tasks facing the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, see George Ciccariello-Maher, Which Way Out of the Venezuelan Crisis?

        Joe Emersberger, Trump Is Not the Venezuelan Supreme Court

        Boaventura de Sousa Santos, In Defence of Venezuela

        -- Richard Fidler






















































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