Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:











Support the troops who refuse to fight!




Protest and Demand: 

The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!

2:00 pm U.N. Plaza in San Francisco, Rally and March

From Refuse Fascism: The Trump/Pence Regime daily escalates its fascist attacks on immigrants and Muslims, on healthcare and the poor, on Black and Brown people, on women and LGBTQ folks, on the media, on the environment, on the right to protest, on the truth. We must say NO! Not just for ourselves, but in the name of humanity. Never underestimate the power of the people rising up together with right on our side.



PT Campaign Organizer - Whistleblower Support

The organizer will lead a grassroots international public education effort in support of an alleged whistleblower facing prison for releasing a document that should not have been classified in the first place.  The campaign organizer will be the "human glue" that ties together the leadership team, campaign staff, advisory committee members, and volunteer organizers and activists from around the world. This "people person" position will require aspects of public relations, marketing, supporter engagement, and fundraising.



484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610

Your support allows us to do this work!





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!




The Mission Statement of our Brothers and Sisters of the Millions for Prisoners March, with whom Amend The 13th cooperates: 

We seek to unite Activists, Advocates, Prisoners, Ex-Prisoners, their Family and Friends, as well as all others committed to the fight to drastically reduce or eliminate prisons and the prison system, and replace them with more humane and effective systems. Our aim is to expose the Prison Industrial Complex for the Human Rights Violation that it truly is. We want to challenge the idea that caging and controlling people keeps communities safe. We believe that for too long our nation has relied upon incarceration as a way to solve broader social problems to its detriment.

On August 19th, 2017 we will March On Washington to bring world attention to the continued slavery and involuntary servitude in America, enabled by the 13th Amendment and to highlight the ever increasing Movement against the Prison Industrial Complex.

The New Abolitionist Movement!

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:

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

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. 



100,000 protest in San Francisco, CA

Pictures From Women's
Marches on Every Continent



My Heartfelt "Thank You!"

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Prison Nation,

This is Mumia Abu-Jamal

Prison Radio, May 27, 2017


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

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


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

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

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

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

This is a critical and essential step forward!


Dear Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noelle Hanrahan, P.I.

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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



        'I had to end their pain:' Lorenzo Johnson says he took plea deal for his family

        In the end, Lorenzo Johnson said he did it for his family because, "I had to end their pain."

        That pain had throbbed for nearly 22 years, ever since Johnson received a life prison sentence for a 1995 Harrisburg murder he insists he didn't commit.

        That deal did come with a catch, however, in that it still saddles him with a murder conviction.

        The New York man's freedom came when Senior Judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr. accepted his no contest pleas to third-degree murder and conspiracy charges for the December 1995 slaying of Tarajay Williams.

        Clark promptly sentenced the 47-year-old Johnson to 10 to 20 years in prison, then ordered his immediate parole. Clark also ordered Johnson to serve 5 years of probation, and allowed him to do so at his home in Westchester County, New York.

        Moments later, a visibly emotional Johnson left the Dauphin County Courthouse surrounded by dozens of his relieved and joyful family, friends and attorneys.

        Even as he headed for the exit, Johnson paused for a moment and once again insisted he had nothing to do with Williams' murder in an alley off the 1400 block of Market Street.

        "This decision was for my family. It wasn't for me," he said when asked why he took the plea deal. "I've been innocent from Day One. I still stand on that."

        "I should have been walking out fully exonerated," he added.

        Johnson has argued that he wasn't even near the scene when Williams was killed. He has insisted that prosecution witnesses lied and that he was prepared to keep pressing an appeal in which he claimed the prosecution wrongly withheld evidence from the defense that would have resulted in an acquittal during his three-day trial in 1996.

        His decades-long legal battle was brought to Tuesday's finish line by his lawyer, Michael Wiseman, working in tandem with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

        Yet Senior Deputy Attorney General William Stoycos did not concede that Johnson is innocent of Williams' murder. That much was clear in the statement he read into the court record as part of Johnson's plea agreement.

        Stoycos said prosecutors were prepared to present evidence that Johnson was an accomplice to Williams' murder and that witnesses placed him at the scene.

        Stoycos said Johnson was present when Corey Walker killed Williams with a shotgun blast to the chest because Williams was refusing to pay money he owed. The three men had argued and Williams had previously beaten Walker with a broomstick, the prosecutor said.

        He said witnesses placed Williams, Walker and Johnson together in the 4-foot-wide alley when Williams was killed and that Walker and Johnson were seen nearby right after the slaying. A defense witness lied in exchange for bail money to try to give Johnson an alibi, Stoycos said.

        None of that is true, Johnson insisted as he gave an impromptu statement on his way to the courthouse exit. He said Walker, who is serving a life prison sentence for the slaying, is innocent as well.

        "Obviously we challenge these facts," Wiseman said after Stoycos read his statement during the sentencing hearing. Johnson only admits that Stoycos outlined what the prosecution would present had a new trial been ordered, Wiseman said.

        Johnson said nothing when Clark gave him the chance right before imposing the new liberating sentence. "It is the court's understanding that you have discussed this agreement up, down, sideways, every way possible with your counsel," the judge observed.

        Wiseman told Clark that Johnson "is a gentle person of the highest order. He has shown strength and integrity...He is an inspiration to me. This is the happiest day of my professional career."

        Johnson displayed persistence through years of appeals and kept fighting even after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered him back to prison in 2012 after a federal appeals court ruling briefly freed him, Wiseman said.

        "Mr. Johnson, you have been a very fortunate man in that you have been blessed by having extraordinary counsel represent you," Clark said.

        The judge then announced, "You are a free man," prompting applause from the dozens of people in the gallery.

        Johnson was just steps from the courthouse exit when he was asked how it felt to finally taste freedom after so many years.

        "You get numb after a while. I've been fighting this for 22 years," he replied. "I'm moving on from here."

        Johnson was on his way home when Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a statement on the outcome of the case.

        "Mr. Johnson was not the principal actor in the murder. He served 22 years in prison without any significant misconduct. During his brief release from prison in 2012 he conducted himself responsibly, and voluntarily returned to prison when directed to do so by the court," the AG wrote.

        "I believe the agreement approved today serves the cause of justice and the best interests of the people of our Commonwealth," Shapiro said. 

        Williams family declined to comment on Johnson's release.












        1)  'Everybody Went Totally Mad': 2nd Night of Violence in Hamburg

         JULY 8, 2017



        HAMBURG, Germany — Tens of thousands of people swarmed into the streets of Hamburg on Saturday for demonstrations against the Group of 20 summit meeting after two consecutive nights of clashes between the police and protesters.

        Organizers of the main march said that about 76,000 people were taking part, and tens of thousands of police officers were mobilized to keep watch over the demonstrations. Holding signs that said "No G20," the marchers hoped to show that a peaceful protest was possible after violence erupted on Thursday and Friday, when some protesters burned cars and smashed shop windows.

        Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces an election in two months, had hoped the demonstrations would show leaders of other G-20 nations where protests are routinely quashed that a thriving democracy can withstand public criticism and dissent.

        Instead, Ms. Merkel had to condemn the violence and explain why the streets of Hamburg, a wealthy port city, at times looked like a war zone.

        "I have full understanding for peaceful protest, but violent demonstrations are a threat to human life," she said on Friday, after the first night of violence. "It is not acceptable."

        Hours later, 1,500 black-clad anarchists rampaged through the streets of the city's Schanzen district, plundering shops and setting fire to cars and trash cans for several hours, the police said. An elite unit of special forces was called in to quell the violence, but only after extensive damage had been done.

        The police said on Saturday that they had arrested 43 people in connection with the violence on Friday night. Ninety-six others remained in detention, pending an investigation. The police also said that 213 officers had been injured. Activists reported multiple injuries among the protesters, at least two of whom were hospitalized.

        Hamburg has a long history of leftist politics, with occasional clashes between anarchists and the police. But the violence on Friday night rose to a level that shocked some longtime residents.

        "What happened last night has nothing to do with legitimate criticism," said Massimo Gugliotta, who was surveying a charred pile of rubble in the Schanzen district early Saturday. "Whoever did this was just using the idea of protest as an excuse for violence."

        Major streets in the city were blocked off to allow delegations of leaders to go to and from meetings. But many Hamburg residents, whose lives had been disrupted by the events, said they hoped to show that legitimate protests could be peaceful, and effective.

        One contingent of about 12,000 people, galvanized by the theme "Solidarity Instead of G20," began gathering early Saturday, the police said. Jan van Aken, a lawmaker with the Left Party, organized the demonstration with several other groups, including the Hamburg Refugee Council, local environmentalists and the Communist Party.

        "Join the masses to send a signal against the G20, against the escalation and against meaningless violence," Mr. van Aken said in a Twitter message. "Come out, now more than ever!"

        In another part of the city, church and community leaders joined local politicians from Hamburg's centrist parties to organize a demonstration that proclaimed "Hamburg Shows Attitude." Several hundred people marched with blue, pink and yellow balloons, while others held signs with messages like "Make Global Trade Fair" and "Stop the Violence."

        Among the protesters was Michael Schmidt, 80, a writer, who had traveled to Hamburg from Munich with his son.

        "We are fed up with the system" perpetuated by the Group of 20, Mr. Schmidt said. He denounced "the unquestioning of the capitalist system, the social irresponsibility and ecological irresponsibility" of the member nations. The Group of 20 comprises 19 industrial and emerging-market countries, plus the European Union.

        Residents of the Schanzen district awoke Saturday to the smell of fire and the sight of shattered storefronts. The police said that about 500 protesters had looted a supermarket and then set it on fire as they retreated.

        Videos posted on social media sites showed the smashed glass of a looted electronics store that sold Apple iPhones and other devices. Another showed masked demonstrators in black clothes plundering a grocery store; in yet another, masked protesters could be seen being chased by masked and heavily armed police officers against a backdrop of flames and smoke.

        The authorities said the protesters were armed with homemade incendiary devices and iron bars. Activists said the authorities had turned water cannons against them more than 20 times on Friday.

        As the evening began in the city's St. Pauli section, about 30 protesters blocked roadways near the main train station with cinder blocks and pieces of a fence.

        Dozens of police vans had to turn around because of the blockade, until about 200 riot police and two trucks arrived. The trucks used water cannons to disperse the protesters, who threw rocks at the vehicles.

        Vanessa Lamm, a Schanzen resident who observed the protests in the district until about 2 a.m., said the police had waited to act until demonstrators began throwing stones and destroying property.

        "Everybody went totally mad after that — the police and the people," Ms. Lamm said. "When they started to destroy the shops, the police went in along with the special forces, who were stronger."

        By morning, residents were cleaning up trash and assessing the situation. Piles of charred bicycles and a refrigerator lay on the sidewalk. Dozens of shop windows — even those that had been taped with "No G20" and other slogans — had been reduced to shards.

        Kristin Litzbarski, an employee at the Oma's Apotheke pub, found that her workplace had been spared.

        "We were lucky, but so many other stores, owned by people I know right next to us, were not," she said. "It looks like a war zone. I'm really angry at people for destroying our home. It's O.K. when people demonstrate, but where does all this aggression come from?"



        2)  The Private Equity Firm That Quietly Profits on Top-Selling Drugs

         JULY 8, 2017


        Cashing in on rising drug prices often unleashes an outcry from consumers and politicians.

        But a little-known private equity investor, Royalty Pharma, has built an unusual investment portfolio valued at $15 billion — it buys up the rights to royalties on future drug sales — while largely avoiding public controversy. By its own count, Royalty Pharma owns partial rights to seven of the 30 top-selling drugs in the United States, including giants like Humira, the arthritis treatment that is the single biggest-selling medication in America. And its deals have been getting larger.

        Outrage over outsize drug-price increases has dogged some pharmaceutical companies. Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price on one anti-infection drug by more than 5,000 percent in 2015, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International adopted a strategy of buying up drug companies and increasing prices. Both companies' chief executives have since resigned. Mylan executives have come under fire after Mylan raised prices on its lifesaving EpiPen injector by 400 percent over seven years.

        While Royalty Pharma has benefited by riding the rising tide of drug prices, the drug companies play the largest role in setting prices. George Lloyd, Royalty Pharma's executive vice president and general counsel, said: "Royalty Pharma has no influence over how drugs in which it invests are priced. These prices are set by the marketer of the product, and we play no role in that process."

        To make big money on promising drugs, investors like venture capital firms and biotechnology funds typically place long-shot bets on drugs that are still in the development stage. Royalty Pharma, based in New York, steps in later in the game: It generally buys rights to the royalties on drugs that have already been approved for sale by regulators. It buys them from patent holders, often hospitals or universities, that want to convert their future royalties into cash right now.

        In addition to Humira, Royalty Pharma has partial rights to sales of Remicade, which is No. 4 in overall drug sales in the United States. Other drugs in its portfolio include Lyrica, which treats pain associated with diabetes, shingles and fibromyalgia, and Januvia, which treats diabetes. In all, the firm owns royalty rights to more than 30 drugs, which typically yield 3 percent to 5 percent of the drugs' total sales revenues.

        Royalty Pharma has successfully created "a new segment of the investment management industry," which has helped offset a decline in other types of funds for drug investments, said Andrew Lo, a finance professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, in a 2014 study written with Sourya Naraharisetti of M.I.T. and Duke University.

        The firm as currently structured is largely the creation of its co-founder Pablo Legorreta, 53, a former Wall Street investment banker from a prominent Mexican family who keeps a low profile. Mr. Legorreta declined to be quoted for this article. The firm is run by a small cadre of staff members in Midtown Manhattan, deploying money from outside investors, including university endowments and wealthy individuals. Royalty Pharma's revenues have risen an average of 30 percent annually, from $161 million in 2005 to $2.47 billion in 2016, according to company material.

        Royalty Pharma has also made big payments to a number of scientists at major universities who helped discover the drugs in question, as well as to their institutions, which share in the royalty rights.

        Among the beneficiaries were three researchers at Emory University, who together in 2005 reaped 40 percent of a $525 million sale of the rights to the anti-H.I.V. drug Emtriva.

        Richard Silverman's work at Northwestern University on the nerve-pain drug Lyrica earned him an amount estimated at more than $100 million when he and Northwestern sold some of the rights in 2007 for $700 million. Dr. Silverman shared the proceeds with colleagues and helped finance a $100 million laboratory center on the campus.

        In recent years, Royalty Pharma's deals have grown larger. In 2014, it agreed to pay $3.3 billion to an affiliate of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for rights to the drug Kalydeco and other treatments for cystic fibrosis marketed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Last year, Royalty Pharma paid $1.14 billion to the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-owners of the rights to Xtandi, which treats advanced prostate cancer. This year, it agreed to pay up to $2.85 billion to Perrigo for rights to the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri.

        Royalty Pharma had tried in 2013 to acquire rights to Tysabri with an audacious but unsuccessful $8 billion hostile takeover bid for Elan Corporation. Elan, an Irish company whose stock had fallen after an Alzheimer's treatment failed in trials, sold itself to Perrigo a few months after Royalty Pharma dropped its bid.

        While Mr. Legorreta was still a mergers banker at Lazard Frères in the early 1990s, he spotted a 1987 investment by wealthy clients of PaineWebber in rights to a chemotherapy drug. It opened his eyes to the amount of royalties held by potential sellers. He left Lazard in 1996 and, with the former PaineWebber banker Rory Riggs, raised $60 million to start what became Royalty Pharma.

        After assembling a diversified royalty portfolio — including the popular anticancer drug Rituxan, which helped triple the value of early investments — Mr. Legorreta raised $190 million in debt in 2003. As Royalty Pharma's investment fund has grown, the annual revenue growth rate has slowed to a still-heady 17 percent for the past five years.

        Royalty Pharma's use of low-cost debt financing helped the fund outbid competitors, said Neil Kumar, chief executive of BridgeBio Pharma, a start-up with backing from the private-equity giant K.K.R. that aims to discover and develop drugs for genetic diseases. "Pablo won the arms race for a lower cost of capital," Mr. Kumar said.

        While it is pharmaceutical companies that generally set drug prices, some of the drugs in which Royalty Pharma owns royalty rights have been criticized for their high prices.

        Last year, Democratic lawmakers, led by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, called on the National Institutes of Health to override the patent on Xtandi because the drug was being sold wholesale for $129,000 a year in the United States, triple the price in Japan, Sweden and Canada. Mr. Sanders also criticized the high prices for Humira. The cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco costs $311,000 a year.

        A March report by Moody's Investors Service noted that Royalty Pharma's portfolio "has benefited from high price increases in the U.S. pharmaceutical market" and could be "adversely affected if the environment for U.S. pricing dramatically changes or if new legislation is passed that targets U.S. drug pricing."

        Royalty Pharma's top three drugs have had average annual price increases of 15.7 percent over the past three years, according to Elsevier's Gold Standard Drug Database. That number is slightly above the average of 14.4 percent for branded drugs tracked by the Truveris drug index.

        Royalty holders who sell to Royalty Pharma are like lottery winners who choose the upfront cash option over future annual payouts. The sellers accept a discount to the cash expected to roll in over the 20-year patent life, in part reflecting the built-in uncertainty of future drug sales, but can use the upfront dollars to diversify their investments or for capital projects.

        Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, for example, used part of its $400 million proceeds from sales in 2004 and 2005 of rights to two drugs used in cancer chemotherapy to build a $500 million research center.

        Eugene Sunshine, former senior vice president for business and finance at Northwestern, said the university took a discount of roughly 10 percent to estimated future sales of Lyrica and hedged its bets by selling only a little over half of its rights initially. Proceeds were used for undergraduate financial aid, graduate fellowships and research.

        In the case of Humira, the top-selling drug that was released in 2003, Royalty Pharma paid $700 million for a royalty interest of less than 3 percent, which helped the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca finance a $1.3 billion purchase in 2006 of the drug developer Cambridge Antibody Technology.

        One reason Mr. Legorreta won the financing arms race was that he kept all his investments in one "evergreen" fund, unlike most private equity firms, which raise new funds every few years, according to bankers and investors.

        "They just kept putting everything in one ever-increasing pool whose growing size and diversification helped lower its borrowing costs," said Lionel Leventhal, who ran similar funds at Paul Capital for 15 years starting in 1999. Mr. Leventhal estimates there are more than 15 competing drug royalty funds that together manage about as much as Royalty Pharma alone.

        Royalty Pharma has financed the growth of its assets by raising more money from investors and from debt. It raised $1.1 billion in equity in 2015, and recently increased its debt level to fund the Perrigo deal by refinancing $3.4 billion in debt with a new $4.5 billion loan, the report by Moody's said. Investors, however, may sometimes face waiting periods of several years to cash in and exit the fund.

        As the deal sizes have grown, so have the risks. While Moody's lauded Royalty Pharma's "strong product portfolio" and "excellent track record," it also warned of its "moderately high" debt level and an approaching revenue "cliff" in the scheduled expiration in 2018 of royalties on "several major products," including Humira, Remicade and the multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera.

        In recent years, Royalty Pharma has diversified its sources of financing. In addition to the recent $4.5 billion loan led by Bank of America, a Royalty Pharma affiliate, BioPharma Credit, raised $762 million in an initial public offering in March on the London Stock Exchange.

        Royalty Pharma has also taken greater risk by occasionally funding late-stage drug trials before they win regulatory approval. It has invested $1 billion for trials for drugs including Soliqua, a new Sanofi diabetes drug approved for sale last year, and possible new uses for Ibrance, a Pfizer drug for advanced breast cancer. And it has invested in Avillion, a company that helps drug companies with testing and regulatory approval.



        3)  Tw0 Asian-American Actors Leave 'Hawaii Five-0' Amid Reports of Unequal Pay

         JULY 6, 2017


        CBS has been on the defensive this week as it deals with a simmering controversy surrounding the departures of two Asian-American actors from its police procedural show "Hawaii Five-0."

        The two stars, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, decided to leave the show after they were unable to agree to terms on new contracts — prompting speculation that they left because they would not be earning as much as their white co-stars.

        On Thursday, for the second time in less than 24 hours, CBS and producers of the show were saying that they did everything they could to keep them. Peter M. Lenkov, an executive producer of "Hawaii Five-0," said that CBS "was extremely generous and proactive in their renegotiation talks."

        "So much so, the actors were getting unprecedented raises, but in the end they chose to move on," he said in a statement.

        A swell of criticism of CBS grew on Wednesday after Mr. Kim wrote in a Facebook post that he had made a "difficult decision" to walk out of negotiations and leave the show after seven seasons.

        Mr. Kim stopped short of saying that unequal pay had been the reason for his departure, but he suggested as much in the post, writing, "The path to equality is rarely easy."

        In a statement shortly afterward, CBS said that both cast members "have been important and valued members" of the show and said that they had been offered hefty raises.

        "We did not want to lose them and tried very hard to keep them with offers for large and significant salary increases," the network said. "While we could not reach an agreement, we part ways with tremendous respect for their talents on screen, as well as their roles as ambassadors for the show off screen, and with hopes to work with them again in the near future."

        A representative for Mr. Kim and Ms. Park declined to comment.

        The departures have some advocacy groups crying foul, citing longstanding difficulties for Asian-American actors, who say they often have trouble finding steady work or commanding salaries equal to those of their white counterparts.

        "Unfortunately, the racial hierarchy established in the original 1968-1980 series remained intact in the 2010 reboot: Two white stars on top, two Asian/Pacific Islander stars on bottom," said Guy Aoki, the founding president of the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans, who also criticized the network for not including more actors of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the show's cast.

        George Takei, an actor of Japanese descent who has made appearances on both the revived "Hawaii Five-0" and the original series, noted that Hawaii is home to a large Asian-American population and called CBS's inability to get a deal done with the two actors "sad."

        "It's very unfortunate that CBS couldn't recognize their value to the show that's set in Hawaii," he said in a telephone interview.

        Other Asian-American performers said that Mr. Kim and Ms. Park's departures would give visibility to diversity and equal pay issues in Hollywood.

        The "Fresh Off the Boat" actress Constance Wu wrote on Twitter, "Know ur worth, ur value... & don't be afraid to stand up for it." Ally Maki, an actress who stars on TBS's "Wrecked," tweeted, "It's time to stop being silent. This is a great start."

        CBS has faced criticism over a lack of racial diversity in its shows in recent years. In 2016, the network came under fire for promoting a slate of new shows starring white men, including Kevin James in "Kevin Can Wait" and Matt LeBlanc in "Man With a Plan." In October, CBS announced that it was creating a program to increase diversity in its casting.



        4)  23 Arrested and Tear Gas Deployed After a K.K.K. Rally in Virginia

         JULY 8, 2017




        CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied here on Saturday afternoon in a protest meant to assail the city's decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.

        For about a half-hour, around 50 members of the Klan — some wearing hooded white robes — shouted "white power" at Justice Park as more than 1,000 people protested their presence by hurling insults, water bottles and apple cores.

        By about 4:25 p.m., the Klan members, who said they came from North Carolina, began to leave and return to their cars. It was then when the trouble intensified.

        City officials said a large group of counterprotesters followed the Klan members back to their vehicles and stopped them from leaving. Asked to step aside, the counterprotesters refused, a city spokeswoman said. The police declared an unlawful assembly, and officers began moving the protesters back so the Klan members could leave.

        As the police returned to Justice Park, though, the crowd followed, and "there were a number of incidents, including the use of pepper spray by the crowd," Miriam Dickler, a city spokeswoman, said in a statement.

        At one point, the police again ordered the crowd to disperse, but the protesters remained entrenched. Ms. Dickler said the Virginia State Police then released three canisters of tear gas.

        "The crowd immediately dispersed," she said.

        Over the course of the day, Ms. Dickler said that at least 23 people had been arrested, and that at least three people had been taken to a hospital — two for "heat-related issues" and one for an "alcohol-related issue."

        In an email, Ms. Dickler said she could not "speak to the affiliations" of those who were arrested.

        The rally, and the response to it, put the city on edge, and upset some residents who had hoped the event would end without any problems.

        "We were just standing there, peaceful, on the sidewalk," said Candice Maupin, a city resident and one of the counterprotesters. "We heard this boom, and then this green smoke, and our eyes started burning."

        City officials and church leaders had asked residents to stay away from the rally. Concerts and other events were planned to encourage residents to spend the day elsewhere.

        "It's become a game," said Bob Fenwick, a city councilman.

        Indeed, Charlottesville has become a flash point in a debate about how cities across the South should reconcile themselves with their past and, specifically, with the Civil War.

        The Charlottesville City Council voted narrowly in April to sell the statue of Lee. But in May, a circuit court judge in the city issued a six-month injunction to halt the removal of the statue after a collection of individuals and groups — including the Virginia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — filed a lawsuit against the city.

        Demonstrators led by Richard B. Spencer, a noted white supremacist, marched here in May to protest the city's plan to remove the statue. Mr. Spencer posted pictures and videos from the gathering that showed demonstrators holding Confederate battle flags and a banner proclaiming, "We will not be replaced."

        "People should be able to respect our heritage," said Amanda Barker, who identified herself on Saturday as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. She added that she was underwhelmed by the number of people who had turned out to oppose the rally.

        Counterprotesters, who chanted "go home," "black lives matter" and a variety of profanity-laced insults, said it was important for them to confront the Klan because simply ignoring white-supremacist viewpoints could allow such views to proliferate.

        Ms. Dickler, the city spokeswoman, said another rally by white nationalists has been planned for Aug. 12.



        5)  Ladders Came Up Short, and Cost Lives, in London Blaze, Firefighters Say

         JULY 8, 2017




        LONDON — More lives could have been saved in the Grenfell Tower blaze in London that killed at least 80 people, firefighters say, but a lack of equipment, particularly fire engines with ladders high enough to reach the top floors of the 24-story building, impeded the rescue effort.

        "We just think it's almost criminal that an international city like London, the 13th-richest in the world, and our highest ladder only goes up 30 meters, where some third world countries have 90-meter ladders," said Lucy Masoud, a London firefighter and an official with the Fire Brigades Union.

        The London Fire Brigade's 30-meter ladder (about 100 feet) reached only to the building's 10th floor, and was not called to the scene until nearly half an hour after other units when the blaze broke out in June, Ms. Masoud said on Saturday.

        The delay in sending a high-ladder truck to the Grenfell fire meant that firefighters could not get above the flames racing up the building in order to pour water down on them. Firefighters rescued 65 people from the blaze, but at least 80 more people died. The delay was reported by the BBC program "Newsnight" late Friday night.

        Not sending a high ladder was standard procedure for the first response to a fire in a tower block, according to a spokeswoman for the London Fire Brigade. She said that firefighters responding to a high-rise blaze usually focused on rescues from within the building, and that the initial firefighting plan was an internal attack on the flames.

        The delay in calling a fire engine with a high ladder, known as an aerial or aerial appliance in Britain, occurred because the blaze had been reported as having originated from a refrigerator on the fourth floor of the building, and firefighters who responded to that apartment thought they had the fire under control. They were unaware that flames were climbing the exterior cladding of the building, which many experts have said was not fireproof.

        The "Newsnight" program said it had obtained an "incident mobilization list," apparently an internal London Fire Brigade document, showing that a 100-foot aerial unit was not called out until 1:19 a.m. on June 14 — 25 minutes after the first fire trucks were dispatched at 12:54 a.m. — and the ladder truck did not arrive until 1:32 a.m.

        London's firefighters do not have the tallest aerial fire engines in Britain, and had to get one from suburban Surrey County. At a reported 217 feet high, that firetruck's ladders reached just below the top of Grenfell Tower. But it did not arrive until several hours after the fire had started. (In other countries, high-ladder trucks reach more than 300 feet.)

        Firefighters were angry about that and other failings, which they believed contributed to the Grenfell disaster, said Ms. Masoud, the treasurer of the firefighters' union. She also blamed firefighting budget cutbacks of 130 million pounds in recent years for the lack of adequate equipment.

        "We have absolutely always said that the resources we have in London are not as serious as they could be," she said. Firefighters have long been asking for more and higher ladder trucks, which she said could have been a "game changer" at Grenfell.

        "Undoubtedly, we'd have been able to save more lives," Ms. Masoud said. "We've been arguing this for years."

        The firefighters' union said that since 2010, 11,000 front-line firefighters' jobs had been eliminated — almost a fifth of the entire work force — and in a recent letter to Parliament, it asked that the union be included in the investigation of what went wrong at Grenfell.

        "Cuts have stripped the fire-and-rescue service of vital assets including fire stations, pumps and the high rise aerial appliances that are essential for resilience at large scale, protracted incidents," the Fire Brigades Union said in the letter.

        Matt Wrack, the union's general secretary, called the Grenfell fire "a really big turning point" in fire-safety awareness.

        "The best tribute we can make to the people who have lost their lives is to make sure it doesn't happen again," Mr. Wrack said, speaking in a video posted on the union's website. "We've had years of deregulation, local authority building control deregulation, cutting back fire-safety departments, allowing developers to almost do whatever they want."

        He added that in the West London area, home to Grenfell Tower, "we've seen a 50 percent reduction in fire cover."

        Mr. Wrack, in a telephone interview, said he welcomed the fire brigade's plans to have high ladder trucks standing by routinely at future high rise fires, even if they were not always needed.

        "If they can be there in 10 minutes rather than half an hour, that is worth doing," he said. The bigger problem, though, was cost cutting across the board in fire protection services, he said. "A firefighter who was heavily involved in management levels of the incident told me that a quicker response from fire stations now closed, and fire engines now eliminated, would have enabled them to get people out at earlier stages."

        Dany Cotton, the London Fire Brigade commissioner, has said that London previously had fewer high-ladder trucks because of the difficulty in maneuvering large vehicles on the city's often-narrow streets, but that newer models were more maneuverable and the city had been in the process of upgrading its fleet.

        The spokeswoman confirmed that the London Fire Brigade had changed its procedures on June 22 so that a high-ladder truck would be among the first vehicles sent to a high-rise fire. In the future, instead of four fire engines being sent immediately, six will be sent, including one aerial appliance.

        The interim change, she said, "was in direct response to the government's action to address concerns of cladding on buildings." Prime Minister Theresa May's government on June 27 ordered a national inquiry after 100 percent of cladding on 95 buildings tested across Britain failed fire-safety tests.

        Many survivors of the Grenfell blaze have been critical that the fire brigade did not deploy more high-tech equipment at the site of its worst blaze since World War II.

        "Why didn't they use a helicopter to spray water at the flame?" asked Yassin Adam, 44, who escaped from the fourth floor with his wife, daughter and pregnant sister.

        "They tried to focus on the lower floors, but what about the higher floors?" said Abu Bakr, whose relative Hassan Ibrahim lost his wife and two daughters from the 23rd floor. "Why didn't they call the fire plane?"



        6) Where Women's Empowerment Means Deadlifting 300 Pounds

        "The playlist was more Beyoncé than Black Sabbath at the Lift for Planned Parenthood, the first female and nonbinary powerlifting competition organized by the Women's Strength Coalition, a new weight lifting group that combines feats of strength and political activism."

        There is nothing quite like watching a five-foot-tall woman in rhinestones deadlift more than twice her body weight and then celebrate with a high kick. While spectators cheered her on, an announcer shouted, "She smashed the patriarchy with that lift!"

        The playlist was more Beyoncé than Black Sabbath at the Lift for Planned Parenthood, the first female and nonbinary powerlifting competition organized by the Women's Strength Coalition, a new weight lifting group that combines feats of strength and political activism. The event, which took place on April 23 at the Brooklyn Athletic Club in Williamsburg, had 35 participants and about 150 spectators.

        Many lifters replaced the traditional singlet with whatever outfit made them feel most comfortable. Children zipped through the crowd on scooters. One woman triumphantly hoisted her giggling son into the air after a nearly 300-pound dead lift.

        Shannon Wagner, 31, the founder of the coalition, describes her relationship with powerlifting, a sport where competitors deadlift, squat and bench-press as much weight as possible, as a "revelatory experience." After years of battling eating disorders, she stumbled across the sport in 2014 and taught herself to lift. "Once I realized what it was like to focus on getting strong versus getting thin," she said, "it really helped heal me."

        Ms. Wagner, who became a strength and conditioning specialist, said she decided to share this knowledge with others on a larger scale while participating in the Women's March on Washington in January. As she walked, she brainstormed about what more she could do to work through her feelings of powerlessness after the presidential election. And then it dawned on her: It was finally time to start the organization she had been thinking about for a while, one that would embolden women and make them stronger, literally.

        "Protesting didn't feel like enough," Ms. Wagner said. "I wanted action rather than reaction. I wanted to create a powerlifting charity that could really help women."

        Two months after creating the coalition, Ms. Wagner organized its first official fund-raising event in Williamsburg: the Lift for Planned Parenthood. She was shocked at the response. Registration sold out in six days, and the event was flooded with first-time competitors vowing to raise a dollar for every pound lifted. Volunteers lined up to help. In the end, Ms. Wagner was able to donate nearly $15,000 to the national nonprofit.

        One of the first-time competitors, Sayeeda Chowdhury, 22, had only recently started to lift weights. "Being a Muslim woman," she said, "the election cycle was one of the worst things, and dealing with that while going through medical school at Mount Sinai was just another level of tension and trauma."

        Ms. Chowdhury said she had been in desperate need of a confidence boost when a friend offered to train her in powerlifting and mentioned the Women's Strength Coalition. Ms. Chowdhury signed up immediately. And she progressed rapidly.

        "I'm a 5-foot-1-inch woman who wears a hijab," she said. "It's not the easiest place to be in the gym. It's a testosterone-filled room with everyone benching really heavy weights."

        "After a while," she added, "I learned to take up my own space and I started lifting more than they were."

        While wearing a vibrant red hijab at the Lift for Planned Parenthood, Ms. Chowdhury skillfully completed all of her lifts. "Lifting gives you that confidence to take over a room," she said. "I have a narrative, I have a voice I have a unique story to tell and I'm not as afraid to tell it anymore."

        Last month, the coalition held an event called Pull for Pride at the Murder of Crows Barbell Club in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with sister events in Minneapolis, Washington and San Francisco. The four dead-lift-only competitions raised over $30,000 for vulnerable lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. "There were no judgments and plenty of high fives and rainbow flags," said Katie Zanin, 28, a participant in the Brooklyn competition.

        The next event, an Adult Field Day on Sept. 10 at McCarren Park in Brooklyn, will raise money for Rise Youth Athletics, a nonprofit that provides fitness instruction to children.

        Lifting, Ms. Wagner said, "takes a certain amount of tenacity and perseverance to add weight to the bar and to fight for each pound."

        "These women know what it's like to try and to try and they're not afraid of failure," she added. "That perseverance translates over into other areas of life."

        Lara Hogan, 31, an engineering director at Etsy, has spent her whole career "in rooms full of dudes." But when she started powerlifting a year and a half ago, it shifted how she felt at work. "There's something about feeling physically strong in an intimidating room or a room where you're unsure," she said.

        A few weeks before competing, Ms. Hogan was in a challenging executive meeting. "I felt out of my league," she recalled. At one point a heavy whiteboard needed lifting onto a stage. A man at the meeting who she said trained in CrossFit was singled out to help, but he couldn't lift the board on his own. He asked Ms. Hogan to assist him. The two of them moved it.

        "That changed the whole dynamic of the room," said Ms. Hogan, who added that it changed her experience of the meeting as well. "Because I felt physically strong, I was able to power through it. I was able to look and feel like a leader. I was actually able to act that way too."



        7)  Spyware Sold to Mexican Government Targeted International Officials

        Leer en español 

         JULY 10, 2017




        MEXICO CITY — A team of international investigators brought to Mexico to unravel one of the nation's gravest human rights atrocities was targeted with sophisticated surveillance technology sold to the Mexican government to spy on criminals and terrorists.

        The spying took place during what the investigators call a broad campaign of harassment and interference that prevented them from solving the haunting case of 43 students who disappeared after clashing with the police nearly three years ago.

        Appointed by an international commission that polices human rights in the Americas, the investigators say they were quickly met with stonewalling by the Mexican government, a refusal to turn over documents or grant vital interviews, and even a retaliatory criminal investigation.

        Now, forensic evidence shows that the international investigators were being targeted by advanced surveillance technology as well.

        The main contact person for the group of investigators received text messages laced with spyware known as Pegasus, a cyberweapon that the government of Mexico spent tens of millions of dollars to acquire, according to an independent analysis. The coordinator's phone was used by nearly all members of the group, often serving as a nexus of communication among the investigators, their sources, the international commission that appointed them and the Mexican government.

        Beyond that, the investigators say they received identical text messages on their own phones, too, luring them to click on links that secretly unlock a target's smartphone and turn it into a powerful surveillance device. Calls, emails, text messages, calendars and contacts can all be monitored that way. Encrypted messages become worthless. Even the microphone and camera on a smartphone can be used against its owner.

        The effort to spy on international officials adds to a sweeping espionage offensive in Mexico, where some of the country's most prominent journalists, human rights lawyers and anticorruption activists have been the targets of the same surveillance technology. But the new evidence shows that the spying campaign went beyond the nation's domestic critics.

        It also swept up international officials who had been granted a status akin to diplomatic immunity as well as unprecedented access to investigate a case that has come to define the nation's broken rule of law — and the legacy of its president, Enrique Peña Nieto.

        Surveillance under Mexican law can be conducted only with the authorization of a federal judge, and only if the government can show cause to do so. But the kind of diplomatic immunity the investigators received meant that it was extremely unlikely that a federal judge would have been allowed to sign off on such a warrant, the investigators said.

        "You are not just hacking anyone's phone, you are hacking the phone of someone who has been granted immunity," said Francisco Cox, one of the investigators and a prominent Chilean lawyer. "They couldn't even search my bags in the airport."

        "If this can happen to an independent body that has immunity and that is invited by the government, it is a bit scary to think of what could happen to a common citizen in Mexico," he said.

        Since 2011, Mexico has purchased at least $80 million worth of the spyware, which is sold exclusively to governments, and only on the condition that it be used against terrorists and criminals. But an investigation by The New York Times and forensic cyberanalysts in recent weeks determined that the software had been used against some of the country's most influential academics, lawyers, journalists and their family members, including a teenage boy.

        The government has denied responsibility for the espionage, adding that there is no ironclad proof because the spyware does not leave behind the hacker's individual fingerprints. It has promised a thorough investigation, vowing to call on specialists from the United Nations and the F.B.I. for help. One of the surveillance targets, the forensic analysis showed, was a United States lawyer representing victims of sexual assault by the Mexican police.

        But the United States ambassador to Mexico, Roberta S. Jacobson, said the United States was not involved in the investigation. Opposition lawmakers and international officials are now calling for an independent inquiry into the spying scandal, declaring Mexico unfit to investigate itself.

        "This case just on its face — and presuming the veracity of the allegations — is serious enough to warrant the creation of an international commission," said James L. Cavallaro, a commissioner on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which appointed the group of experts. "The commission shares the concerns of others: How can the government be trusted to investigate its own alleged violation of citizen rights given its track record in this matter?"

        Another commissioner, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, backed the idea of an independent inquiry. "This investigation should find both the material and intellectual authors of the alleged spying," she said.

        Top officials from the nation's main opposition party have come forward to say that they, too, have been targeted, raising the pressure on the government. The head of the National Action Party, Ricardo Anaya, says his party is pushing for a congressional committee to conduct its own inquiry and will also formally demand an international investigation into the spying.

        "The grand tragedy of Mexico is impunity. Horrible things occur, and nothing happens," he said. "This time, we will not let that happen."

        The disappearance of the students in September 2014 ignited an enormous outcry in Mexico. Hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to protest a case that, to many, represented all that afflicts Mexico, a nation where about 30,000 people have disappeared and more than 100,000 have been killed in the decade-long churn of the drug war.

        The anger also focused on Mr. Peña Nieto, whose determination to change the narrative of his country from one of desperate violence to economic promise was suddenly, and permanently, upended. The outrage has been matched only by the disbelief that, almost three years later, nearly all of the 43 students are still missing. The remains of one have been discovered. Fragments of another may also have been identified. The rest of the students, whether dead or alive, have not been found.

        Many Mexicans believed that their best chance of finding out what really happened to the students lay with the international investigators, who were appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a regional body based in Washington that monitors countries and can refer cases to court. But the investigators said the government essentially obstructed their inquiry and then cast them out by refusing to extend their mandate — evidence, they said, that the government simply did not want the case solved.

        Still, it is hard to prove who ordered the spying. Even the manufacturer of the spyware, an Israeli cyberarms manufacturer called the NSO Group, says it cannot determine who, precisely, is behind specific hacking attempts using its technology.

        But the company says that it sells its surveillance tools only to governments, and that stringent safeguards prevent them from being used by anyone outside of the government agencies that purchase the technology.

        Moreover, once a person's phone is targeted, researchers can verify that the spyware has been deployed by examining the text message to determine whether it points to a server running NSO's technology. They have confirmed at least 19 cases in Mexico involving human rights lawyers, anticorruption activists, journalists and, now, international officials.

        "Citizen Lab and our partners are finding people targeted with NSO spyware almost wherever we look in Mexico," said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, which has worked with the digital rights group R3D in Mexico to identify the spyware on the phones of targeted activists and officials.

        "I have never seen anything that matches the scale and scope of this case," he said of the surveillance campaign in Mexico.

        Hacking attempts disguised as text messages appeared on the cellphone of the executive secretary for the investigators, the point person for all contacts with the group, on March 1 and 4, 2016, the forensic analysis found. Around the same time, lawyers for Centro Prodh, a human rights group looking into the mass disappearance of the students, were also being targeted by the software.

        "The Mexican government implored the commission to create this expert group, and then when their investigation did not ratify the official version, things changed," said Mr. Cavallaro, who was the president of the Inter-American Commission at the time of the hacking attempts. "If it's true that the government spied or tried to spy on our experts, that would be an outrage of historic proportions."

        The investigators sent a private letter to the Inter-American Commission late last month, detailing their suspicions after The Times published an article about the hacking campaign. They said some of their phones had also been subject to suspicious messages.

        One message, sent to one of the investigators in March, was from someone posing as a close friend whose father had died. A link was attached with the details of the funeral. When the link was opened, the website of a well-known funeral home in Mexico popped up. A similar message, with the same link, was also sent last year to an academic trying to impose a sugar tax in Mexico. In that case, the message was confirmed as Pegasus.

        During the hacking attempts on the investigators, the group was in the throes of a crisis. The investigators had just complained publicly of being harassed, and they were less than two months from publishing their final report, which rejected the government's version of what happened to the students.

        The mystery began on Sept. 26, 2014, when about 100 students from a teachers' college in the town of Ayotzinapa struck out to commandeer some buses. As they had in years past, the students planned to take the buses to Mexico City to attend a commemorative march and then return them, a tradition both the bus companies and the authorities typically tolerated.

        But that night soon turned into an ominous chapter in Mexico's modern history. The police fired mercilessly on the students and the buses transporting them, leaving six dead and scores wounded. The police emptied two buses of students, detained them and whisked them away in patrol cars.

        The government maintains that local police officers, along with the drug gang they worked for, kidnapped the students, killed them and incinerated their bodies in a nearby dump.

        The government version, however, never offered a clear motive for the attack on the students, and Mexicans pushed for an international inquiry. Eventually, the government agreed, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights appointed a five-member team of prominent prosecutors and rights activists from across the Spanish-speaking world.

        When the investigators arrived in Mexico, after months of local protests over the disappearances, it was an exceptional moment: a reclusive government opening itself up to external scrutiny.

        But within a few months, the relationship between the government and the investigators began to sour. In its first report, the investigators contradicted a central tenet of the government's version, saying it could find no evidence of a fire big enough to burn 43 bodies, nor any remnants or bone fragments that matched those of the missing.

        The acrimony came quickly. Pro-government newspapers began attacking the group, and the Mexican government opened a criminal investigation against the executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission, based on unsubstantiated claims about the misuse of funds.

        "We always worked in good faith, and we went with open eyes and an open mind, only going where the facts led us," said Mr. Cox, one of the investigators. "Our purpose was to contribute to the rule of law in Mexico."



        8)  Long After Protests, Students Shun the University of Missouri

         JULY 9, 2017




        COLUMBIA, Mo. — In the fall of 2015, a grassy quadrangle at the center of the University of Missouri became known nationwide as the command center of an escalating protest.

        Students complaining of official inaction in the face of racial bigotry joined forces with a graduate student on a hunger strike. Within weeks, with the aid of the football team, they had forced the university system president and the campus chancellor to resign.

        It was a moment of triumph for the protesting students. But it has been a disaster for the university.

        Freshman enrollment at the Columbia campus, the system's flagship, has fallen by more than 35 percent in the two years since.

        The university administration acknowledges that the main reason is a backlash from the events of 2015, as the campus has been shunned by students and families put off by, depending on their viewpoint, a culture of racism or one where protesters run amok.

        Before the protests, the university, fondly known as Mizzou, was experiencing steady growth and building new dormitories. Now, with budget cuts due to lost tuition and a decline in state funding, the university is temporarily closing seven dormitories and cutting more than 400 positions, including those of some nontenured faculty members, through layoffs and by leaving open jobs unfilled.

        Few areas have been spared: The library is even begging for books.

        "The general consensus was that it was because of the aftermath of what happened in November 2015," said Mun Choi, the new system president, referring to the climax of the demonstrations. "There were students from both in state and out of state that just did not apply, or those who did apply but decided not to attend."

        The protests inspired movements at other colleges. Since then fights over overt and subconscious racial slights, as well as battles over free speech, have broken out at Middlebury College in Vermont, the University of California, Berkeley, and The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. Missouri's experience shows how a conflict, if not deftly handled, can stain a college's reputation long after the conflict has died down.

        Students of all races have shunned Missouri, but the drop in freshman enrollment last fall was strikingly higher among blacks, at 42 percent, than among whites, at 21 percent. (A racial breakdown was not yet available for this fall's freshman class.)

        Black students were already a small minority. They made up 10 percent of the freshman class in 2012, a proportion that fell to just 6 percent last fall.

        Whitney Matewe, a black student from McKinney, Tex., who will be a senior in the fall, said that after the protests, her parents asked if she wanted to transfer, but she decided to stay because she is in Missouri's prestigious journalism school.

        But, she said, she understands why black students might not apply to a campus where they are all but invisible. A friend's boyfriend obliviously told her she looked like Aunt Jemima, and she was dismayed that her friend did not object.

        "Being 'the other' in every classroom and every situation is exhausting," she said.

        By sheer numbers, the drop in white students has caused the greatest damage, since they make up a majority of those on campus.

        Tyler Morris, a white student from St. Louis, said he was afraid of being stereotyped as a bigot if he went to Missouri. So he decided to go to Missouri Valley College, "just down the road" in Marshall.

        "The discrimination wasn't against white people, but I didn't want to be that person who I guess was stereotyped because I was white," he said.

        College counselors said that Missouri might have a hard time recovering from protests because its reputation was largely regional. "Why would a student from New Jersey go to the University of Missouri instead of Rutgers or Penn State?" said Steven Roy Goodman, an independent college admissions counselor in Washington.

        Even in-state students for whom Mizzou is a family tradition are choosing to go elsewhere, including public universities in neighboring states, like Illinois and Arkansas, which offer preferential tuition or scholarships to Missouri students.

        Aly Zuhler's mother and cousins went to Missouri, and her mother would have liked for her to go there as well, she said. But Ms. Zuhler, who is Jewish and grew up in suburban St. Louis, said she could not stomach going to a place where blacks and Jews might feel unwelcome.

        When she heard that a swastika had been smeared in feces on a dormitory bathroom at Missouri, she decided not to apply. She enrolled instead at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., where she will be a sophomore this coming year. "Looking for colleges is intimidating just by itself," she said. "Adding anti-Semitism on top of that was just too much."

        A plant sciences professor, Craig Roberts, said that Missouri was suffering not because it was more racist than other places, but because the rage that had been repressed on other campuses burst into the open.

        "It was sparked at Mizzou by Ferguson," Mr. Roberts said.

        Ferguson, Mo., of course, is where the killing of an unarmed young black man, Michael Brown, by a police officer in 2014 became a national symbol of tension between the police and minority communities. Ferguson, just a two-hour drive away, was still a fresh memory in September 2015, when Payton Head, the student association president, posted on Facebook that people riding in the back of a pickup truck had continuously screamed racial slurs at him.

        The post went viral and the outcry escalated through what has become known in the protest world as "intersectionality," grievances that gain potency by being bundled together. There were demonstrations against racism, and to support Planned Parenthood, which was under attack by state lawmakers.

        Days later a drunken white student jumped onstage during a rehearsal by an African-American group and used a racial slur.

        This was followed by the failure of the university president, Timothy M. Wolfe, to get out of his car to speak with demonstrators during the homecoming parade in October, drawing accusations of indifference. Then the swastika appeared.

        A movement, Concerned Student 1950, commemorating the year the first black student was admitted to the university, grew out of the protests and set up a tent city. On Nov. 2, a graduate student, Jonathan Butler, began a hunger strike, spurred by the complaints of racial animosity and official inaction, as well as a cut in graduate student health care funding.

        Over the weekend of Nov. 7, the football team, led by its black players, said it would not practice or play unless Mr. Wolfe resigned. It was the last straw. On Nov. 9, Mr. Wolfe resigned as system president, and the chancellor of the Columbia campus, R. Bowen Loftin, also announced he was stepping down. Mr. Butler ended his hunger strike.

        As the protests continued to boil, demonstrators tried to block the news media from the encampment, and Melissa Click, a communications professor, called for "some muscle" to oust a student taking a video of the confrontation.

        In the minds of many, her outburst and the resignations became symbols of a hair-trigger protest culture lacking any adult control.

        The university received a barrage of emails from alumni and families, some of which were published by National Review and Heat Street, a conservative news site.

        In one, the parents of a junior wrote that while they did not underestimate the extent of bigotry in the world, "the way to effect change is NOT by resorting to the type of mob rule that's become apparent over the past few days."

        The university, they added, had shown a "complete lack of leadership," and their two younger children had "all but eliminated Mizzou from their college list."

        The email was forwarded to Ellen de Graffenreid, vice chancellor for marketing and communications, with a brief note saying, "I'm sure you already know this but you have a P.R. nightmare on your hands." Ms. de Graffenreid, in turn, forwarded it to other administrators with a note saying, "This is pretty representative of the middle of the road people we are losing."

        While freshman enrollment has plummeted, students already at Missouri have not transferred out in large numbers — a sign, administrators said, that the protests looked worse from the outside. Christian Basi, a spokesman, said the university was formulating a marketing campaign to correct what he called "misperceptions" about the extent of the unrest.

        Missouri also has appointed a chief diversity officer; promised to double the percentage of minority faculty members by 2020 and recruit more minority postdoctoral fellows; and is requiring diversity training for faculty and staff members and incoming students.

        The tent city has been restored to a well-manicured emerald field of grass, but all around campus, signs of the university's suffering are evident.

        The library is asking for donations to buy 400 books that it wants, including a $5,250 copy of "Complete and Truly Outstanding Works by Homer."

        To soften the financial blow, some vacant dorm rooms — spartan suites of two rooms of two single beds, sharing a bathroom and with no TV, are being rented for $120 a night for events like homecoming, the fall family visit and the football game against Auburn University, a Southern rival.

        For the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, Columbia is lucky to be one of the prime viewing locations where the sun will be completely obscured by the moon. As of early July, 35 rooms were still available for the event.

        Some faculty members are still hoping that the situation can be turned around.

        "I think we squandered a rare opportunity that we had to be a local, regional, national, global leader in terms of showing how a university can deal with its problems, including related to race relations," Berkley Hudson, a journalism professor, said.

        The protests could have been turned into an asset — a chance to celebrate diversity. "We still can," he said.



        9)  As Republicans Hide From Voters, Sanders Rallies Trumpcare Resistance

        Sanders spoke in two deeply red states—Kentucky and West Virginia—on Sunday in an effort to emphasize the dangers posed by the GOP healthcare plan

        By Jake Johnson


        As the congressional recess—usually a time for lawmakers to interact with their constituents—is set to end on Monday, many Republicans are working extremely hard to avoid voters angry about the Senate GOP's historically unpopular and potentially deadly Trumpcare plan.

        House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed what the New York Times has characterized as a common sentiment among his colleagues late last week, when he announced that he would not hold any open town halls because he doesn't want protesters to yell at him. Ryan has also repeatedly refused to take questions from reporters.

        Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced his decision to delay the vote on Trumpcare until after the July 4 recess, opposition to the bill has only grown more intense. As Common Dreams reported, a coalition of progressive groups last week organized sit-ins geared toward keeping healthcare in the public spotlight as reports indicate that the bill could hit the floor for a vote as early as mid-July.

        Even in states that voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump in November, the bill is strongly disliked. According to an analysis by MIT Assistant Professor Chris Warshaw, Trumpcare is "the most unpopular legislation in three decades."

        Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke in two deeply red states—Kentucky and West Virginia—on Sunday in an effort to emphasize the devastating consequences the Republicans' plan would have on the poor, the elderly, those with preexisting conditions, and those struggling with opioid addiction.

        Ahead of the planned "Care Not Cuts" rallies, Sanders released a statement singling out McConnell in particular, who he argued is attempting to ram through legislation that would severely harm his own state.

        "Unbelievably, at a time when Kentucky has made significant progress in healthcare, the Republican bill being proposed in the Senate by Kentucky's own Senator Mitch McConnell would throw over 230,000 people in Kentucky off of health insurance," Sanders said.

        He continued:

        [Trumpcare] would also decimate the Medicaid program in the state which provides insurance for more than 2 million people, including 40 percent of all children. 

        Further, at a time when Kentucky is struggling with an opioid addiction epidemic, there is no question that if McConnell's legislation were to be passed, thousands of Kentuckians would no longer be able to receive the treatment they desperately need.

        Since the Senate's plan was finally unveiled after weeks of secrecy, Sanders and Democratic lawmakers have denounced the legislation as a tax cut for the wealthy disguised as a healthcare plan.

        "Frankly," Sanders recently said, "this is what oligarchy is all about."

        In his speech in Morgantown, West Virginia, Sanders said:

        We are gathered here today to make one simple point. And what we are saying, as clearly as we can, is that we will not allow 22 million Americans to be thrown off of the health insurance they currently have in order to give over $500 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of this country, and to profitable drug companies and to other large health care corporations. Plain and simple, this so-called "health care" bill is nothing more than a massive transfer of wealth from working families to the very rich. While there are massive cuts to Medicaid, while seniors will pay far more in premiums, while Planned Parenthood will be defunded—the 400 highest—income taxpayers, most of whom are billionaires, will get about $33 billion in tax cuts.



        10)  Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!

        Report of the rally held in Oakland California July 7th

        By Chris Kinder

        Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, July 2017


        July 8, 2017—A rally in Oakland demanded freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal yesterday. A journalist, MOVE supporter, former Black Panther Party member and political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed in 1981 for a crime he did not commit. His supporters have fought for his release since then, and this rally was held in solidarity with their call for actions worldwide on July 7th to free Mumia now!  

        The rally was built partly on the strength of Mumia's important victory against the prison system's years-long refusal to properly treat Mumia for his Hepatitis-C infection, in which Mumia came very close to death. Hep-C is a chronic condition faced by many prisoners in the U.S. today.

        Support from South African workers for Mumia

        Strong international support, including labor support, has come in for Mumia over many years. The following letter was sent in support of Mumia's struggle for proper and effective treatment for his Hep-C from NUMSA, the South African Metalworkers Union last year. NUMSA compared the treatment of U.S. prisoners like Mumia today with that suffered by anti-apartheid fighters from the 1950s into the 1990s: 

        "The refusal of healthcare reminds us of the conditions we were put in (under) apartheid prisons where sick detainees were allowed to die in very deplorable lonely conditions in solitary as part of the punishment for their role in the struggle." —Letter to Pennsylvania Governor Wolf from South African Metalworkers Union, January 21, 2016

        Mumia has now been cured of his Hepatitis-C infection due to an international campaign and support from thousands of people like you, who refused to accept the official excuses, and demanded the full and effective anti-Hep-C treatment: "No Execution By Medical Neglect!" 

        Seven thousand other Pennsylvania prisoners with Hep-C, and thousands more across the U.S., stand to benefit from the precedent set by this important victory. Mumia's win against his Hep-C infection—which he contracted in a transfusion after being shot and almost killed by police in 1981—depended on this kind of mass support.  With a movement like this, we hope to go on to free Mumia! 

        Rally demands truth of Mumia's frame-up!

        The rally in Oakland was held to demand: Full Disclosure of Documents relating to Mumia's innocence and frame-up! and Free Mumia Now!  Flyers on this event, explaining the reasons for the rally and Mumia's case, were distributed to many receptive workers leaving work in downtown Oakland on Friday. 

        The rally was led by former Black Panther and ex-longshore worker Gerald Sanders, and Ras Ceylan, a member of Chairman Fred Hampton Jr's POCC "Panther Cubs" (Prisoners Of Conscience Committee.)

        The rally was called by the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, and participated in by Oakland Teachers For Mumia, The Oscar Grant Committee, Workers World Party, ANSWER Coalition, Party of Socialism and Liberation, Haiti Action, Bay Area United Against War, CODEPINK, Freedom Archives, Socialist Viewpoint, Socialist Action, the Mobilization To Free Mumia, the Freedom Socialist Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Partisan Defense Committee, Doro Chiba (the Japanese Railway Workers Union), and the Hoshino Defense Committee. 

        Speakers demand Mumia's freedom!

        Most of these supporters had speakers at the rally, covering Mumia's case and other related issues: Jack Heyman (ILWU Local 10 retired) spoke for the Labor Action Committee; Oakland teacher Bob Mandel for Oakland Teachers for Mumia; Tova Fry, Workers World Party; and Richard Becker of ANSWER.

         Marsha Feinland spoke for Peace and Freedom Party, and gave a clear denunciation of the capitalist two-party system. "I'm glad this demonstration is not just about Trump," she said. She went on: "Who was it who signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act?" "Clinton!" roared back the crowd. "And what is his party?" "Democrat" said the crowd. "And who was it who refused to pardon Mumia on his last day in office?" "Obama!" "And his party?" "Democrat!" 'Nuff said, and thanks to Marsha for this reminder. 

        Ricardo Ortiz-Perez of the Oscar López Rivera Defense Committee reported on the recent victory of the liberation of Oscar, a Puerto Rican nationalist militant; Seto-San of the Hoshino Defense Committee and Doro-Chiba reported on Hoshino Fumiaki, a wrongly imprisoned antiwar activist in Japan; Gerald Sanders and Ras Ceylan spoke of the MOVE 9, framed for a crime they had nothing to do with; Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee reported on the struggle against U.S. imperialism and its puppet government in Haiti; Carole Seligman of the Kevin Cooper Defense Committee spoke for freedom for Kevin Cooper, a falsely convicted prisoner now on death row in San Quentin; and several speakers called for freedom for Leonard Peltier, the native American leader falsely accused and still imprisoned for the deaths of two FBI agents, a crime he didn't commit. 

        Other supporters/speakers included: immigrant rights activist Cristina Gutierrez, who linked the struggle of Black and Brown workers to the struggle against U.S. imperialism, and activist Alia Sharrief, who recited a spoken word poem of her creation.

        Mumia should benefit from Williams v. Pennsylvania

        Mumia's case for freedom is many-fold: he is a journalist who exposed the corrupt and racist police regime of Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia for it's brutal crackdowns on the MOVE organization. As a result of that he was targeted by police and almost killed in 1981 at the scene of a shooting; and he was then framed by cops, prosecutors and politicians as the shooter. One of those prosecutors, Ronald Castille, later sat in judgment over Mumia's appeals against this frame-up as a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, despite defense demands that he should recuse himself!

        Now, a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Williams v. Pennsylvania, gives Mumia an opening: the Court says that a former prosecutor cannot later sit as a judge over the appeals of a case on which he was a prosecutor. Fairness, due procedure, unprejudiced judgessounds obvious, doesn't it?

        Not so fast. The courts have often twisted or dropped their precedents in order to uphold the framing of political prisoners and victims of racist frame-ups such as Leonard and Mumia; and in this case, the Philadelphia district Attorney's office is trying to deny Mumia's defense of the court-ordered discovery of notes, instructions and documents that will show exactly how former DA and prosecutor Ronald Castille involved himself in Mumia's case. We need to make this happen: that is why we need a mass movement to free Mumia. 

        Build a mass movement to free Mumia!

        At the rally Friday, we had about a hundred more or less, and that was what we could muster on short notice. But we need to work toward a mass turnout to free Mumia. In 1995, thousands turned out to stop a death warrant issued against Mumia just before his appeal hearing of that year; and in 1999 the longshore workers of the ILWU shut down all the ports on the West Coast to free Mumia, and many of them (ILWU Local 10) came out to lead the march in San Francisco to free Mumia on his birthday, April 24th. Also that same year, Oakland teachers mobilized to hold unauthorized teach-ins in the Oakland public schools on Mumia and the death penalty. 

        The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal calls for your help: let's build this important movement. Comply with the judge's order! Release all documents pertaining to Mumia's frame-up! Free Mumia and all victims of racist frame-ups! Build mass and workers' actions to free Mumia!



        11)  In Poland, a Battle for the Fate of Europe's Last Ancient Forest

         JULY 11, 2017




        POSTOLOWO, Poland — In June, some 30 protesters assembled at dawn in Postolowo, a tiny village in northeast Poland. At the edge of a woodland, they chained themselves to a red forest harvester that can cut up to 200 trees a day, making a statement against large-scale logging in the last primeval forest in Europe.

        "This is a sacred ground, and we need to protect it," said Klaudia Wojciechowicz, a 41-year-old artist who had driven half the night to get to Postolowo.

        The Bialowieza Forest, a United Nations World Heritage site, has been a battleground for more than a year between Poland's conservative government and dozens of scientists and environmental advocates. Polish officials argue that logging protects the forest from a violent infestation of bark beetles. Logging is also an important source of jobs for local residents.

        "They want to destroy the forest," said Mariusz Agiejczyk, a deputy forest district manager here, watching the protesters from afar in the early morning mist. He said the infestation had killed 10,000 acres of forest. "If it weren't for those so-called ecologists, we could have saved it."

        But the protesters, backed by environmentalists, say all invasive operations in the primeval forest endanger its ecosystem. They are supported by the European Union, whose executive branch has warned the government that if it does not stop the logging, it will be sued by the European Court of Justice on accusations of violating the bloc's rules on environmental protection.

        The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco, is on their side, too. Last week, during a meeting in Krakow, the delegates adopted a decision in which they urged Polish government to halt logging in the forest, especially in old-growth tree stands. Unesco is also considering adding the forest to the List of World Heritage in Danger, a move usually reserved for land and properties threatened by armed conflicts and natural disasters.

        "It's a unique biological laboratory, in which we can observe how natural processes worked 10,000 years ago," said Tomasz Wesolowski, a forest biologist at the University of Wroclaw. "To move anything within it is a barbarity."

        The protest staged in Postolowo was just one in a series of civil disobedience acts organized here recently by environmentalists to block the logging.

        "We already tried everything else — negotiating with the ministry, alerting international institutions," said Katarzyna Jagiello, an official from the Polish branch of Greenpeace. "The time has come for desperate measures."

        The Bialowieza Forest sits in the middle of the European lowlands at the border between Poland and Belarus. As a relic of ancient forests, it has some of the oldest and largest trees on the Continent, as well as species that are rare or extinct elsewhere. It is also home to the largest colony of bison in Europe.

        The biodiversity of the forest is immense and comparable to that of rain forests, said Mr. Wesolowski, who has been visiting Bialowieza to conduct fieldwork every spring for the past 43 years.

        Still, government officials say Bialowieza is not a so-called virgin forest, which is usually defined as having spontaneously generated itself with a variety of tree species, sizes and age classes and with minimal interference from humans.

        "There is not a single part of this forest that hasn't been touched by a human hand," Grzegorz Bielecki, one of the managers of the forest, said in an interview.

        That doesn't matter, environmentalists say. "Hardly any place on earth carries no signs of human activity," said Jerzy Szwagrzyk of the University of Agriculture in Krakow, an ecology and forestry expert. "But in no way does this change the significance of this forest. There is no other place like this on the Continent."

        Poland's environment minister, Jan Szyszko, an avid hunter and former forester, recently told Parliament that Unesco had "illegally" listed the Bialowieza Forest as a World Heritage site in 2014 and asked prosecutors to investigate the designation.

        Mr. Szyszko, who did not respond to an interview request, complained in a panel presented by a right-wing news organization that the Bialowieza Forest had become "some kind of a flagship for the left-wing-libertine movement of Western Europe."

        Officials with State Forests, a governmental organization that manages Polish forests, which are all state owned, say the infestation of a European spruce bark beetle broke out in 2012, after the previous center-right government significantly lowered how much logging could occur. As a result, they say, over 10 percent of all spruces have been attacked.

        The government tripled the logging limits in 2016. In February, it repealed the protection of tree stands that are over a century old.

        Since 2012, the foresters have logged almost 180,000 infected trees. Of those logged this year, 25 percent were at least 100 years old.

        Mr. Szwagrzyk of the University of Agriculture said that since the logging could take place only in certain areas in the forest — excluding the nature reserves and national park — the infestation may continue to spread from the areas that are off limits even if infected trees were removed.

        The woodland's complicated legal status has added to the difficulties in protecting it. Poland and Belarus have been managing their portions separately for decades.

        The Polish side has more than 20 nature reserves, a national park and a commercial forest. Borders of some of the reserves are unclear, leading to disputes over how deep into the forest harvesters can go.

        The best solution, experts agree, would be to turn the entire forest into a national park, but the regional government has torpedoed all the efforts to do so.

        The fate of trees already killed by the beetle is another disputed point. The foresters say dead wood must be clear-cut for safety reasons. But environmentalists say decaying wood is an indispensable ingredient of a primeval woodland. About 40 percent of all organisms living in it, including insects, fungi and birds, are critically dependent on dead or dying spruces.

        They say State Forests is cutting the dead trees because it needs the money. The institution is required to be financially self-sufficient, and nearly 90 percent of its revenue — 7 billion Polish zloty (close to $2 billion) in 2015 — comes from selling wood.

        The forest district office said it did not keep records of dead trees removed, but Mr. Bielecki, one of the district managers, called the accusations "deeply unfair."

        While the fate of the forest is being considered, Mr. Wesolowski, the biologist, warned that some things cannot be undone.

        "We can't restore a primeval forest," he said. "If we could, we would have done it already somewhere near Berlin or London. Our Bialowieza Forest is the only one, and we, like some idiots, are trying to destroy it."



        12)  U.K. Orders New Inquiry Into Contaminated-Blood Scandal

         JULY 11, 2017




        LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday ordered an inquiry into how contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in the deaths of at least 2,400 people and infected thousands more, an episode that members of Parliament have called "one of the worst peacetime disasters in Britain's history."

        Britain's health minister, Philip Dunne, told Parliament the government would set up an independent public inquiry aimed at getting to the truth of what happened when patients, many of them hemophiliacs, received blood products infected with H.I.V. or hepatitis C, supplied by the tax payer-funded National Health Service.

        It was not immediately clear what form the inquiry, which comes after decades of campaigning by victims and their families for justice, would take.

        Diana Johnson, a Labour member of Parliament who has led the cross-party call for an inquiry, told the House of Commons on Tuesday that the blood contamination scandal was a gross injustice, calling it a "cover-up" on an "industrial scale" that extended to the highest levels of the government.

        She said she had been deeply moved by how the infected blood had devastated victims' lives. She invoked Glenn Wilkinson, a father of two, who has hemophilia and was infected with hepatitis C when he was 19 after a routine operation in 1983 to remove two teeth.

        Mr. Wilkinson, one of dozens of people who have been campaigning for an inquiry and compensation, had described how the specter of illness had dominated his life and how for years he lived in fear of passing the virus on to family members.

        Hemophilia, an inherited disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly, is usually controlled with blood plasma products that encourage clotting. But in the 1970s and '80s, screening procedures were insufficient. Ms. Johnson noted that blood contamination scandals had been investigated in France and Japan, among other countries, and led to some convictions of government health officials. But in Britain, she said, officials had not been held to account.

        The inquiry comes after leaders of all the main political parties wrote a letter this month to Mrs. May demanding a full investigation amid longstanding concerns. Victims' advocates have contended for years that, among other things, the decisions that led to the deaths had been covered up, that the Department of Health had evaded responsibility, and that important evidence, including the medical records of those affected, had been tampered with.

        Mr. Wilkinson, one of dozens of people who have been campaigning for an inquiry and compensation, had described how the specter of illness had dominated his life and how for years he lived in fear of passing the virus on to family members.

        Hemophilia, an inherited disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly, is usually controlled with blood plasma products that encourage clotting. But in the 1970s and '80s, screening procedures were insufficient. Ms. Johnson noted that blood contamination scandals had been investigated in France and Japan, among other countries, and led to some convictions of government health officials. But in Britain, she said, officials had not been held to account.

        The inquiry comes after leaders of all the main political parties wrote a letter this month to Mrs. May demanding a full investigation amid longstanding concerns. Victims' advocates have contended for years that, among other things, the decisions that led to the deaths had been covered up, that the Department of Health had evaded responsibility, and that important evidence, including the medical records of those affected, had been tampered with.

        The letter alluded to accusations that Department of Health officials destroyed documents to hide what had happened, and also said that contaminated blood was "not removed from the blood supply, once the dangers became known."

        Also under scrutiny will be how the infected blood products entered Britain and who was responsible. In the 1970s and 1980s, the National Health Service imported commercial blood products from the United States, including from donors in the American prison system. Some, it later emerged, had H.I.V. and hepatitis C.

        There have been two previous inquiries, but members of Parliament said Tuesday that a new inquest was needed because the previous ones had not gone far enough nor delivered justice to the victims.

        In 2009, an independent inquiry report concluded that the tragedy may have been prevented if imports of blood from the United States had been halted, and it lamented that both the government and the scientific community had been too slow in recognizing the dangers. However, the report stopped short of blaming individual doctors or companies, and no one from the Department of Health was called to testify.

        A second inquiry in Scotland in 2015 revisited the blood safety issue. It called what happened "the stuff of nightmares" and prompted an apology from David Cameron, the prime minister at the time, to victims and their families. The report recommended that anyone in Scotland who had a blood transfusion before 1991 should be tested, if they had not been already. But it, too, was deemed unsatisfactory by victims, campaigners and their relatives on the grounds that it was unable to call witnesses outside of Scotland.

        At the time, Mr. Wilkinson was photographed burning the 2015 report in protest.



        13)  U.A.W. Says Nissan Workers Seek a Union Vote in Mississippi

         JULY 11, 201


        The United Auto Workers union has waged a long and mostly futile campaign to organize factories in the South, where much of the nation's auto production has shifted. Now the union sees a breakthrough in sight.

        On Tuesday, the U.A.W. said a petition for a union election had been filed by employees at a Nissan plant in Mississippi with more than 6,000 workers. They asked for a vote within a month.

        A victory at the plant, which the U.A.W. has been working hard to unionize since 2012, would be a major prize in a traditionally hostile region. The effort comes almost three and a half years after the union's last high-profile election at a so-called foreign transplant facility, a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., ended in a narrow defeat.

        Union officials announced the organizing milestone at a news conference near the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. In a statement, the U.A.W. cited "a pattern of labor abuses by Nissan against its predominantly African-American work force in Mississippi" and said the plant was "one of only three Nissan facilities in the world" that lack a union.

        Nissan said in a statement that it offered "stable, safe jobs with some of the best wages and benefits in Mississippi" and that it did not believe that U.A.W. representation "is in the best interest of Nissan Canton and its workers."

        The plant is a key component in Nissan's growth in the United States market. Stretching nearly a mile long, the factory is larger than most assembly plants, and it makes several models, including the Murano S.U.V. and the Titan pickup truck.

        Employees at the plant complain that the company relies too heavily on contract workers, whose hourly wages are lower but who some say get cushier assignments as a way to reduce turnover. Workers also cite safety concerns — the company has been fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in a few instances over the last five years, including once when a worker's hand was caught in a conveyor roller.

        To petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board, unions must show support from at least 30 percent of eligible rank-and-file workers, and they rarely do so with less than 50 percent. (The U.A.W. estimates that about 4,000 workers are eligible to vote in Canton.) But the challenge facing the union this time could be far greater than during the Tennessee campaign.

        "Nissan has been a hard nut to crack for the U.A.W.," said Kristin Dziczek, a labor expert at the Center for Automotive Research. "Mississippi is very challenging."

        The union lost its first Nissan unionization vote at an assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., in 1989. It tried again there in 2001 and lost by a big margin.

        Unlike Volkswagen, Nissan has actively opposed unionization; it has, for example, shown videos and held meetings with workers in which it makes its case.

        The union, for its part, has filed numerous charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Nissan of violating labor rights. The union asserted that a Nissan security guard had prevented workers from distributing union material outside a plant entrance and that the company had threatened to close the plant if workers unionized.

        Chip Wells, a longtime worker at the plant, said he had been repeatedly harassed by a supervisor for supporting the union — for example, the supervisor once sent him to the human resources office and cited him for tardiness when he was not back by the time his break ended. "She was pushing my buttons," he said. "Or trying to push my buttons to get me to go."

        A Nissan spokeswoman, Parul Bajaj, said that Mr. Wells's allegations were unsubstantiated and that the union's charges of intimidation were simply an organizing tactic. Ms. Bajaj added, "Nissan's Canton plant has a safety record that is significantly better than the national average for automotive plants."

        In Canton, the union has some advantages that it might have lacked in Tennessee, where the political class tended to be relentlessly opposed to the union at Volkswagen even as the company stood down.

        While Mississippi's political leadership is no more hospitable to unions — Gov. Phil Bryant signed legislation in 2014 that restricted union activity — the racial dynamic at the Canton plant, where well over half the workers are African-American, could make attacks by the state's largely white conservative leadership less effective.

        The union appears to have calibrated its strategy accordingly, missing few opportunities to highlight the issue of race.

        "Nissan spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year marketing itself as a socially responsible carmaker, even going so far as to brag about its appeal to African-American car buyers," Rahmeel Nash, a longtime worker at the plant, said in the union's statement. "But behind the scenes, the company is violating the labor rights of African-American workers who make those cars."

        During its Mississippi campaign, the union has forged strong alliances with civil rights groups and clergy, helping to organize a high-profile rally in the area in March featuring the actor Danny Glover, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Cornell William Brooks, then the president of the N.A.A.C.P.

        "Some of the issues I gather in the Nissan plant are similar to the issues in Chattanooga and elsewhere," said Daniel Cornfield, a labor expert at Vanderbilt University. "But in the case of Mississippi, they are being framed in terms of respect and disrespect for workers, and linking that to a civil rights orientation."

        Duane O'Neill, the president of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, a business group that opposes unionization, said, "Anytime you're discussing issues like this in the context of race, it becomes a little more sensitive." But he added that his group had worked closely with Nissan in Mississippi and that "I just don't see that as being an issue."

        Mr. O'Neill emphasized that a unionization decision was up to the workers. But he expressed concern that it could discourage future employers from relocating to central Mississippi and jeopardize economic growth.

        Since its setback at Volkswagen, the U.A.W. has not been bereft of momentum. Volkswagen soon allowed its Chattanooga workers to join voluntary unions that did not collect dues, and the union later succeeded in organizing a small group of skilled-trades workers in the plant. The union has also enjoyed some recent organizing successes at auto-parts suppliers across the South, including at least one since 2014.

        Nissan, for its part, is riding some momentum of its own. It has been growing in the United States market, even as sales in the overall industry have tapered off after two record years. In the first six months of this year, Nissan sales — including its Infiniti luxury division — have increased 2.7 percent, compared with a 2.1-percent decline for the industry as a whole.

        Sales of Nissan's Rogue compact S.U.V. are up more than 30 percent this year, and the Canton-made Titan has more than quadrupled its sales from a year ago.

        The company said that wages at the Canton plant were "significantly above the average central Mississippi production wage of $16.70 per hour" and that workers received consistent bonuses, health benefits and employer contributions to a 401(k) plan.

        The three Detroit automakers pay veteran union workers a top hourly wage approaching $30, and the hourly pay for new entry-level employees approaches $20. Foreign competitors like Nissan operating in the United States do not routinely disclose pay scales. But the Center for Automotive Research estimates that labor costs at nonunion plants in the South can be 15 to 25 percent lower than at those operated by General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler.

        The Nissan workers who filed for the election asked that it take place on July 31 and Aug. 1, a rapid but not unheard-of turnaround, said Wilma Liebman, a former N.L.R.B. chairwoman.

        In doing so, the workers and the union appear to have calculated that the window for their opportunity to organize the Nissan facility may be closing, with President Trump having recently made two Republican nominations to the labor board. A board more hostile to organizing could make it easier for the company to overturn a union victory, or be more likely to reject union appeals after the fact.

        "I think N.L.R.B. changes have to be playing a role here," Ms. Dziczek said.



        14)  Takata Expands Recall Again, Citing New Airbag Hazard

         JULY 11, 2017


        Takata has added an additional 2.7 million airbags to the nation's largest automobile industry recall after a new hazard was detected in testing.

        The company told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationon Monday that a subset of its airbag inflaters — ones that rely on calcium sulfate to keep them dry — can, like other versions, rupture while deploying the bags, hurling metal shards into vehicles.

        Ford, Mazda and Nissan installed these inflaters in vehicles manufactured for the United States market from 2005 through 2012, according to Takata, of Japan. All are on the driver's side of the vehicles.

        The recall adds to an effort that was previously expected to cover 70 million Takata airbag inflaters in 42 million vehicles. Takata's problems with defective devices began in 2008, when Honda initially recalled 4,000 vehicles that used Takata technology. So far, the safety agency says, about 17 million airbags have been replaced in the United States.

        The deaths of at least 17 people worldwide, including 12 in the United States, have been linked to Takata inflaters. On Monday, Honda said a person in Florida died last summer after a Takata inflater ruptured in a parked 2001 Accord during an attempt to make an unspecified repair with a hammer.

        Takata and the safety agency said they knew of no ruptures related to the hazard that prompted the latest recall.

        Exposure to moisture and temperature fluctuations can degrade the propellant, which contains ammonium nitrate, a volatile compound Takata's inflaters use to deploy airbags. The company used a variety of chemical agents to keep the propellant dry in its devices over the years, with some combinations showing a greater propensity to fail than others, federal regulators said.

        The latest recall is the first involving the inflaters that use calcium sulfate as a drying agent. The inflater can combust in an "over-aggressive" manner, potentially rupturing and causing harm, according to a filing Takata submitted to the highway safety administration.

        Takata's latest admission brought fresh criticism of the company in Washington.

        "This recall now raises serious questions about the threat posed by all of Takata's ammonium-nitrate-based airbags," Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, said in a statement. "If even more are found to be defective, it will take us from the biggest recall ever to something that could become mind-boggling."

        He called on regulators to quickly determine "whether all remaining Takata airbag inflaters are safe."

        In a statement, Takata said it had decided to recall inflaters that use calcium sulfate "out of an abundance of caution." The devices are Takata's earliest generation of ammonium-nitrate inflaters using calcium sulfate as a drying agent. The company is now testing later generations of those devices.

        Takata pleaded guilty to criminal charges in January and agreed to pay a $1 billion fine related to its faulty airbag inflater systems. After filing for bankruptcy protection last month, it is selling assets.

        The company has said that it expects to fund the airbag repairs through the asset sale and that it has secured financing to ensure it can continue operations, including dealing with the defective inflaters, while it restructures.



        15)  When Is Speech Violence?

        Imagine that a bully threatens to punch you in the face. A week later, he walks up to you and breaks your nose with his fist. Which is more harmful: the punch or the threat?

        The answer might seem obvious: Physical violence is physically damaging; verbal statements aren't. "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

        But scientifically speaking, it's not that simple. Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sickalter your brain— even kill neurons — and shorten your life.

        Your body's immune system includes little proteins called proinflammatory cytokines that cause inflammation when you're physically injured. Under certain conditions, however, these cytokines themselves can cause physical illness. What are those conditions? One of them is chronic stress.

        Your body also contains little packets of genetic material that sit on the ends of your chromosomes. They're called telomeres. Each time your cells divide, their telomeres get a little shorter, and when they become too short, you die. This is normal aging. But guess what else shrinks your telomeres? Chronic stress.

        If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech — at least certain types of speech — can be a form of violence. But which types?

        This question has taken on some urgency in the past few years, as professed defenders of social justice have clashed with professed defenders of free speech on college campuses. Student advocates have protested vigorously, even violently, against invited speakers whose views they consider not just offensive but harmful — hence the desire to silence, not debate, the speaker. "Trigger warnings" are based on a similar principle: that discussions of certain topics will trigger, or reproduce, past trauma — as opposed to merely challenging or discomfiting the student. The same goes for "microaggressions."

        This idea — that there is often no difference between speech and violence — has stuck many as a coddling or infantilizing of students, as well as a corrosive influence on the freedom of expression necessary for intellectual progress. It's a safe bet that the Pew survey data released on Monday, which showed that Republicans' views of colleges and universities have taken a sharp negative turn since 2015, results in part from exasperation with the "speech equals violence" equation.

        The scientific findings I described above provide empirical guidance for which kinds of controversial speech should and shouldn't be acceptable on campus and in civil society. In short, the answer depends on whether the speech is abusive or merely offensive.

        Offensiveness is not bad for your body and brain. Your nervous system evolved to withstand periodic bouts of stress, such as fleeing from a tiger, taking a punch or encountering an odious idea in a university lecture.

        Entertaining someone else's distasteful perspective can be educational. Early in my career, I taught a course that covered the eugenics movement, which advocated the selective breeding of humans. Eugenics, in its time, became a scientific justification for racism. To help my students understand this ugly part of scientific history, I assigned them to debate its pros and cons. The students refused. No one was willing to argue, even as part of a classroom exercise, that certain races were genetically superior to others.

        So I enlisted an African-American faculty member in my department to argue in favor of eugenics while I argued against; halfway through the debate, we switched sides. We were modeling for the students a fundamental principle of a university education, as well as civil society: When you're forced to engage a position you strongly disagree with, you learn something about the other perspective as well as your own. The process feels unpleasant, but it's a good kind of stress — temporary and not harmful to your body — and you reap the longer-term benefits of learning.

        What's bad for your nervous system, in contrast, are long stretches of simmering stress. If you spend a lot of time in a harsh environment worrying about your safety, that's the kind of stress that brings on illness and remodels your brain. That's also true of a political climate in which groups of people endlessly hurl hateful words at one another, and of rampant bullying in school or on social media. A culture of constant, casual brutality is toxic to the body, and we suffer for it.

        That's why it's reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at your school. He is part of something noxious, a campaign of abuse. There is nothing to be gained from debating him, for debate is not what he is offering.

        On the other hand, when the political scientist Charles Murray argues that genetic factors help account for racial disparities in I.Q. scores, you might find his view to be repugnant and misguided, but it's only offensive. It is offered as a scholarly hypothesis to be debated, not thrown like a grenade. There is a difference between permitting a culture of casual brutality and entertaining an opinion you strongly oppose. The former is a danger to a civil society (and to our health); the latter is the lifeblood of democracy.

        By all means, we should have open conversations and vigorous debate about controversial or offensive topics. But we must also halt speech that bullies and torments. From the perspective of our brain cells, the latter is literally a form of violence.














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