Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:










California Alliance for Retired Americans

600 Grand Ave, Rm 410

Oakland CA 94610

510-663-4086,  californiaalliance.org


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

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

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

Rally and Two-Block March to Federal Building

More program details to be announced.

Please contact 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Jun 8, 2017

Department of Justice:

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Cuban Documentary "Between Changes"

May 19, 2017 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Solidarity Statement from the California Coalition for Women Prisoners


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

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

For live updates, visit: 

California Coalition for Women Prisoners Statement

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

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

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

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

    Northwest Detention Center Press Release May 4, 2017

Despite threats and retaliation, hunger strikers continue protest 

ICE ignores demands for improved conditions 

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

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

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

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

Maru Mora Villalpando

For live updates, visit: 

News mailing list: News@womenprisoners.org

Activist Goes on Hunger Strike Outside the Northwest Detention Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Contact: Maru Mora Villalpando, (206) 251 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.

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

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Protect Kevin "Rashid" Johnson from Prison Repression!


WHEN: Anytime
WHAT: Protect imprisoned activist-journalist Kevin "Rashid" Johnson
FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1794902884117144/

On December 21, 2016, Kevin "Rashid" Johnson was the victim of an
assault by guards at the Clements Unit where he is currently being held,
just outside Amarillo, Texas. Rashid was sprayed with OC pepper gas
while handcuffed in his cell, and then left in the contaminated cell for
hours with no possibility to shower and no access to fresh air. It was
in fact days before he was supplied with new sheets or clothes (his bed
was covered with the toxic OC residue), and to this day his cell has not
been properly decontaminated.

This assault came on the heels of another serious move against Rashid,
as guards followed up on threats to confiscate all of his property – not
only files required for legal matters, but also art supplies, cups to
drink water out of, and food he had recently purchased from the
commissary. The guards in question were working under the direction of
Captain Patricia Flowers, who had previously told Rashid that she
intended to seize all of his personal belongings as retaliation for his
writings about mistreatment of prisoners, up to and including assaults
and purposeful medical negligence that have led to numerous deaths in
custody. Specifically, Rashid's writings have called attention to the
deaths of Christopher Woolverton, Joseph Comeaux, and Alton Rodgers, and
he has been contacted by lawyers litigating on behalf of the families of
at least two of these men.

As a journalist and activist literally embedded within the bowels of the
world's largest prison system, Rashid relies on his files and notes for
correspondence, legal matters, and his various news reports.
Furthermore, Rashid is a self-taught artist of considerable talent (his
work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and books);
needless to say, the guards were also instructed to seize his art
materials and the drawings he was working on.

(For a more complete description of Rashid's ordeal on and following
December 21, see his recent article "Bound and Gassed: My Reward for
Exposing Abuses and Killings of Texas Prisoners" at

Particularly worrisome, is the fact that the abuse currently directed
against Rashid is almost a carbon-copy of what was directed against
Joseph Comeaux in 2013, who was eventually even denied urgently needed
medical care. Comeaux died shortly thereafter.

This is the time to step up and take action to protect Rashid; and the
only protection we can provide, from the outside, is to make sure prison
authorities know that we are watching. Whether you have read his
articles about prison conditions, his political or philosophical
polemics (and whether you agreed with him or not!), or just appreciate
his artwork – even if this is the first you are hearing about Rashid –
we need you to step up and make a few phone calls and send some emails.
When doing so, let officials know you are contacting them about Kevin
Johnson, ID #1859887, and the incident in which he was gassed and his
property confiscated on December 21, 2016. The officials to contact are:

Warden Kevin Foley
Clements Unit
telephone: (806) 381-7080 (you will reach the general switchboard; ask
to speak to the warden's office)

Tell Warden Foley that you have heard of the gas attack on Rashid.
Specific demands you can make:

* That Kevin Johnson's property be returned to him

* That Kevin Johnson's cell be thoroughly decontaminated

* That Captain Patricia Flowers, Lieutenant Crystal Turner, Lieutenant
Arleen Waak, and Corrections Officer Andrew Leonard be sanctioned for
targeting Kevin Johnson for retaliation for his writings

* That measures be taken to ensure that whistleblowers amongst staff and
the prisoner population not be targeted for any reprisals from guards or
other authorities. (This is important because at least one guard and
several prisoners have signed statements asserting that Rashid was left
in his gassed cell for hours, and that his property should not have been

Try to be polite, while expressing how concerned you are for Kevin
Johnson's safety. You will almost certainly be told that because other
people have already called and there is an ongoing investigation – or
else, because you are not a member of his family -- that you cannot be
given any information. Say that you understand, but that you still wish
to have your concerns noted, and that you want the prison to know that
you will be keeping track of what happens to Mr Johnson.

The following other authorities should also be contacted. These bodies
may claim they are unable to directly intervene, however we know that by
creating a situation where they are receiving complaints, they will
eventually contact other authorities who can intervene to see what the
fuss is all about. So it's important to get on their cases too:

TDCJ Ombudsman: ombudsman@tdcj.texas.gov

The Inspector General:  512-671-2480

Let these "watchdogs" know you are concerned that Kevin Johnson #1859887
was the victim of a gas attack in Clements Unit on December 21, 2016.
Numerous witnesses have signed statements confirming that he was
handcuffed, in his cell, and not threatening anyone at the time he was
gassed. Furthermore, he was not allowed to shower for hours, and his
cell was never properly decontaminated, so that he was still suffering
the effects of the gas days later. It is also essential to mention that
his property was improperly confiscated, and that he had previously been
threatened with having this happen as retaliation for his writing about
prison conditions. Kevin Johnson's property must be returned!

Finally, complaints should also be directed to the director of the VA
DOC Harold Clarke and the VA DOC's Interstate Compact Supervisor, Terry
Glenn. This is because Rashid is in fact a Virginia prisoner, who has
been exiled from Virginia under something called the Interstate Compact,
which is used by some states as a way to be rid of activist prisoners,
while at the same time separating them from their families and
supporters. Please contact:

VADOC Director, Harold Clarke

Interstate Compact director, Terry Glenn

Let them know that you are phoning about Kevin Johnson, a Virginia
prisoner who has been sent to Texas under the Interstate Compact. His
Texas ID # is 1859887 however his Virginia ID # is 1007485. Inform them
that Mr Johnson has been gassed by guards and has had his property
seized as retaliation for his writing about prison conditions. These are
serious legal and human rights violations, and even though they occurred
in Texas, the Virginia Department of Corrections is responsible as Mr
Johnson is a Virginia prisoner. Despite the fact that they may ask you
who you are, and how you know about this, and for your contact
information, they will likely simply conclude by saying that they will
not be getting back to you. Nonetheless, it is worth urging them to
contact Texas officials about this matter.

It is good to call whenever you are able. However, in order to maximize
our impact, for those who can, we are suggesting that people make their
phone calls on Thursday, January 5.

And at the same time, please take a moment to sign the online petition
to support Rashid, up at the Roots Action website:

Rashid has taken considerable risks in reporting on the abuse he
witnesses at the Clements Unit, just as he has at other prisons. Indeed,
he has continued to report on the violence and medical neglect to which
prisoners are subjected, despite threats from prison staff. If we, as a
movement, are serious about working to resist and eventually abolish the
U.S. prison system, we must do all we can to assist and protect those
like Rashid who take it upon themselves to stand up and speak out. As
Ojore Lutalo once put it, "Any movement that does not support their
political internees ... is a sham movement."


To learn more about Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, the abuses in the Texas
prison system, as well as his work in founding and leading the New
Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter, see his website











Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring exchanges with an Outlaw Kindle Edition

by Kevin Rashid Johnson (Author), Tom Big Warrior (Introduction), Russell Maroon Shoatz(Introduction)



Major Battles On

For over 31 years, Major Tillery has been a prisoner of the State.

Despite that extraordinary fact, he continues his battles, both in the prison for his health, and in the courts for his freedom.

Several weeks ago, Tillery filed a direct challenge to his criminal conviction, by arguing that a so-called "secret witness" was, in fact, a paid police informant who was given a get-out-of-jail-free card if he testified against Tillery.

Remember I mentioned, "paid?"

Well, yes--the witness was 'paid'--but not in dollars. He was paid in sex!

In the spring of 1984, Robert Mickens was facing decades in prison on rape and robbery charges. After he testified against Tillery, however, his 25-year sentence became 5 years: probation!

And before he testified he was given an hour and a ½ private visit with his girlfriend--at the Homicide Squad room at the Police Roundhouse. (Another such witness was given another sweetheart deal--lie on Major, and get off!)

To a prisoner, some things are more important than money. Like sex!

In a verified document written in April, 2016, Mickens declares that he lied at trial, after being coached by the DAs and detectives on the case.

He lied to get out of jail--and because he could get with his girl.

Other men have done more for less.

Major's 58-page Petition is a time machine back into a practice that was once common in Philadelphia.

In the 1980s and '90s, the Police Roundhouse had become a whorehouse.

Major, now facing serious health challenges from his hepatitis C infection, stubborn skin rashes, and dangerous intestinal disorders, is still battling.

And the fight ain't over.

[©'16 MAJ  6/29/16]

Major Tillery Needs Your Help and Support

Major Tillery is an innocent man. There was no evidence against Major Tillery for the 1976 poolroom shootings that left one man dead and another wounded. The surviving victim gave a statement to homicide detectives naming others—not Tillery or his co-defendant—as the shooters. Major wasn't charged until 1980, he was tried in 1985.

The only evidence at trial came from these jailhouse informants who were given sexual favors and plea deals for dozens of pending felonies for lying against Major Tillery. Both witnesses now declare their testimony was manufactured by the police and prosecution. Neither witness had personal knowledge of the shooting.

This is a case of prosecutorial misconduct and police corruption that goes to the deepest levels of rot in the Philadelphia criminal injustice system. Major Tillery deserves not just a new trial, but dismissal of the charges against him and his freedom from prison.

It cost a lot of money for Major Tillery to be able to file his new pro se PCRA petition and continue investigation to get more evidence of the state misconduct. He needs help to get lawyers to make sure this case is not ignored. Please contribute, now.


    Financial Support: Tillery's investigation is ongoing, to get this case filed has been costly and he needs funds for a legal team to fight this to his freedom!

    Go to JPay.com;

    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney

    Seth Williams:

    Free Major Tillery! He is an innocent man, framed by police and and prosecution.

    Call: 215-686-8711 or

    Write to:

    Major Tillery AM9786

    SCI Frackville

    1111 Altamont Blvd.

    Frackville, PA 17931

      For More Information, Go To: Justice4MajorTillery/blogspot


      Rachel Wolkenstein, Esq. (917) 689-4009RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com



      Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence

      Sign the Petition:


      Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.

      "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case

      Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.

      In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.

      Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.

      Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.

      Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."

      Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.

      Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.

      In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.

      In solidarity,

      James Clark
      Senior Death Penalty Campaigner
      Amnesty International USA

        Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org

        Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.

        Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin.  He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence.  In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.

        There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:

          The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?

          The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."

          Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.

          These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.

          The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.

        Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.

        The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.

        The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited…         (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)

             This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015




        Sign the Petition:


        Dear President Obama, Senators, and Members of Congress:

        Americans now owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. Eighty-six percent of that money is owed to the United States government. This is a crushing burden for more than 40 million Americans and their families.

        I urge you to take immediate action to forgive all student debt, public and private.

        American Federation of Teachers

        Campaign for America's Future

        Courage Campaign

        Daily Kos

        Democracy for America


        Project Springboard

        RH Reality Check


        Student Debt Crisis

        The Nation

        Working Families



        Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson

        Dear Supporters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Free the Innocent,

        "The Pain Within"

        Lorenzo "Cat" Johnson

        Lorenzo is continuing to fight for his freedom with the support of his lead counsel, Michael Wiseman, The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, and the Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson.

        Thank you all for reading this message and please take the time to visit our websiteand contribute to Lorenzo's campaign for freedom!

        Write: Lorenzo Johnson

                    DF 1036

                    SCI Mahanoy

                    301 Morea Rd.

                    Frackville, PA 17932


                      directly on ConnectNetwork -- instructions here

        - Team Free Lorenzo Johnson











        1)  After Grenfell Tower Fire, U.K. Asks: Has Deregulation Gone Too Far?

         JUNE 28, 2017




        LONDON — The terrifying fire at the Grenfell Tower apartment block, with its final toll of victims still hidden in the ashes, has intensified a political debate, with many Britons believing that privatization has gone too far and that the state has shrunk too much.

        It is a partisan debate, wrapping in the bitterly fought election this month, the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, the anger about rising inequality, and years of budget cutting that is generally known as austerity.

        With cladding on each of the 120 high rises tested so far having failed combustibility tests, and hundreds of fire doors missing from buildings, the language of politics has now itself become incendiary. A Labour lawmaker, David Lammy, who grew up poor and had friends who died in the fire, said: "This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way, and we should call it what it is. It is corporate manslaughter."

        The Conservatives have been fond of promoting what they called a "bonfire of regulations" in every aspect of government, to bolster private and individual responsibility and promote economic growth and productivity. It was an argument made with particular force in the debate over Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, or Brexit, which advocates said would free the country from annoying European "red tape." But as Jonathan Freedland, a Guardian columnist, said acidly: "They got their bonfire."

        What the Conservatives call red tape, argued George Monbiot, "often consists of essential public protections that defend our lives." And the freedom promoted by deregulators, he said, often "means the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor, of corporations to exploit their workers, landlords to exploit their tenants and industry of all kinds to use the planet as its dustbin."

        Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative member of Parliament first elected in 2015, described Britain as, without question, "definitely more divided on the issue."

        "It's the state as provider and the state as guarantor," he said. "And while stepping away from the state as provider, we've moved too far away from state as guarantor."

        Simon Tilford, an economist and deputy director of the Center for European Reform in London, said: "We're seeing the biggest challenge to this 40-year drive to marginalize or discredit the state and its role in the economy and society. Grenfell Tower had such impact because it symbolizes for many in Britain the retreat of the state, visible in badly maintained social housing and the failure to build more social housing."

        Britain is having another chapter in the central debate of the capitalist era: What are the proper roles of the state, the market and the individual? A generation ago, neoliberalism had seemingly won, and the theorist Francis Fukuyama declared "The End of History." But a British backlash against the small state, free trade and globalization, seemingly a remote possibility as late as last year, now seems to have arrived.

        The debate is an important one. Britain has been a laboratory of sorts for deregulation and the shrinking of the state since Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979. The concepts were embraced by the Conservatives and then by New Labour, and helped rescue the country from the gloom and strikes of the 1970s and early 1980s. The "big bang" of deregulation of the financial industry gave rise to the London boom, turning it into a global city.

        But Grenfell Tower has come to symbolize the growing pushback against seven years of moderate budget restraint brought on by the 2008 financial crisis. As services have been reduced, wages have stagnated for many in the public sector, and inequality has risen. Voters "are finally growing weary of austerity, of the rationing, outsourcing and penny-pinching," wrote James Ely in The Financial Times. "Seven years of spending restraint is starting to manifest itself in the quality of some public services."

        The issues encapsulate the renewed ideological battle between the wounded but governing Conservative Party and the revived opposition Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. A man of the harder left, Mr. Corbyn has brought back the arguments used against Mrs. Thatcher in the 1980s, calling for a reversal of the policies she championed — privatization, deregulation, corporate tax cuts, and a shrinking of the Labour-built, semi-socialist state.

        During the campaign, Mr. Corbyn and Labour called for renationalizing the railways, the water supply and some utilities, spending much more on social services like the National Health Service and social benefits and ending tuition fees at universities. After the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, Mr. Corbyn, long an opponent of surveillance and enhanced police powers, called for more beat police officers, complaining about austerity and arguing that "you can't protect the public on the cheap."

        His left-wing populism (marked by a longstanding contempt for American foreign policy) was a sharp break with the neoliberal consensus of the past 30 years or so, which included Labour's last prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But the Grenfell Tower fire, Mr. Freedland said, "appeared to make the Corbyn argument for him."

        In an indication of the shift, Britain's annual Social Attitudes Survey, published on Wednesday, showed a broader rejection of austerity, with more people saying that taxes should rise to finance higher public spending. Only 29 percent of Britons favored further cuts in public spending, down from 35 percent 10 years ago, and 48 percent said taxes should rise, compared with 32 percent a decade ago. People were not asked if they were personally prepared to pay higher taxes, however.

        While preparing a platform for the June election, Prime Minister Theresa May sensed the mood turning against austerity, loosening debt targets, trying to reach out to disaffected working-class voters and penalizing, though mildly, the better-off. But her campaign ended in tears, and "Mayism" has had a shorter life than the Edsel.

        Mrs. Thatcher is often held up as the icon of the Conservative Party's move to shrink what she called "the nanny state," which she felt promoted dependency instead of initiative.

        The welfare state built by the postwar Labour Party, had huge accomplishments, like the National Health Service and the spread throughout the country of public housing, known as council housing here. The ideal championed by the postwar Labour health minister, Aneurin Bevan, was of a place "where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and farm laborer all lived on the same street," and according to Pilgrim Tucker, a housing campaigner, in 1979, 20 percent of the richest 10 percent of Britain's population lived in social housing.

        Mrs. Thatcher introduced the "right to buy" social housing to its tenants in 1980, in an effort to promote homeownership and responsibility. Over time, the nature of social housing changed, as some apartments simply became private rental properties — including an unknown number in Grenfell Tower itself — though their maintenance was controlled by the local council through a nonprofit management agency. And local councils did not build housing fast enough to keep up with demand, especially in big cities.

        Under Conservative efforts since 2010 to reduce the national budget and the national debt, state funding was reduced or frozen for many parts of the government, including local councils. Deregulation also meant outsourcing responsibility for fire inspections to owners and builders, instead of civil servants. Private companies were required to use "authorized inspectors" for fire safety, but, as Mr. Freedland pointed out, they worked for builders and developers, and "there was a classic conflict of interest."

        Here the two trends of saving money and deregulation come together: The council had recently spent some $11 million on Grenfell Tower to insulate apartments and cut energy costs, using cladding that was approved under existing building regulations. And those regulations, however inadequate they have proved, are the same for all buildings, not just those of the poor.

        The cladding aside, there were other fire-safety issues that were not dealt with by anyone, including the questionable installation of new gas pipes, inadequate fire proofing, and the lack of a central fire alarm or a sprinkler system, though neither was required for a structure built in 1974.

        Still, as Mr. Lammy, the Labour lawmaker, said: "You can't contract out everything to the private sector. The private sector can do some wonderful things, but they have for-profit motives, they cut corners. We've all been up to those tower blocks — they exist right across the country. Where are the fire extinguishers on every corridor? Where are the hoses? Are the fire doors really working? Where are the sprinklers?"

        The questions are the right ones. But the fight over who is responsible, and over the causes and solutions, will continue, and will continue to mark British politics, divided more now than at any time since the election of Mrs. Thatcher.



        2)  Philippines May Get New Law: Sing National Anthem With Spirit or Face Prison Time

         JUNE 27, 2017




        Filipinos would be required to sing the national anthem when it is played in public — and to do so with enthusiasm — under a bill that the House of Representatives of the Philippines approved on Monday.

        If the bill, which will be considered by the Senate, is approved and signed into law, a failure to sing the anthem, "Lupang Hinirang," with sufficient energy would be punishable by up to year in prison and a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 pesos, or about $1,000 to $2,000. A second offense would include both a fine and prison time, and violators would be penalized by "public censure" in a newspaper.

        "The singing shall be mandatory and must be done with fervor," the bill states.

        The law would also mandate the tempo of any public performance of the anthem — it must fall between 100 and 120 beats per minute. Schools would be required to ensure all students have memorized the song.

        It's not unusual for a nation to value its national anthem — see the uproar over Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand during the anthem before N.F.L. games — but it is rare for respect to be legally required.

        The Supreme Court in India ruled in November that movie theaters would be required to play the national anthem before screenings, and that moviegoers would be required to stand. Nineteen people were arrested in December after failing to stand in two separate incidents, according to The Los Angeles Times.

        The court specified in February it was unnecessary to stand if the anthem was played as part of a film, an issue that arose after reports that people were assaulted for not rising, according to The Times of India.

        In Thailand, the anthem is played at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day on loudspeakers in places like schools, offices buildings, parks and train stations. People are expected to stand still and be silent.

        Though prosecutions are rare, a Thai man and woman were charged with lèse-majesté — offending the dignity of the monarch — after not standing as the anthem was played in a movie theater in September 2007, according to the United States State Department. The charges, which are punishable by up to 15 years in prison, were dropped in 2012.

        Another moviegoer was sentenced to three years in prison under the same law for not standing during the anthem in 2008, according to Prachatai English. Her jail term was cut in half and suspended for two years after she pleaded guilty.

        In 2007, Thai lawmakers considered a bill that would require motorists to stop their cars when the anthem was played, but it was not passed.

        Last week, Chinese lawmakers drafted laws to restrict where the national anthem can be played and crack down on malicious revisions or derogatory performances, according to The South China Morning Post. Violations would be punishable by up to 15 days in detention.

        While there are no binding laws in the United States related to the national anthem, the flag code says people should "stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart" during the national anthem. If a flag is not present, people "should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there."

        But in 1942, a man and a woman in Chicago were charged with disorderly conduct and fined $200 each for failing to stand during the anthem at a theater. They said a picture shown just before the anthem related to war efforts "did not put them in the right mood," The New York Times reported.



        3)  Three Chicago Officers Charged With Conspiracy in Laquan McDonald Case

         JUNE 27, 2017




        CHICAGO — Three longtime police officers were charged on Tuesday in connection with the death of Laquan McDonald, the black teenager whose fatal shooting in 2014 at the hands of a white Chicago officer ignited intense scrutiny over police conduct and transparency.

        Unlike the officers accused in a series of police shooting trials that have unfolded around the country in recent weeks, those charged here did not fire their weapons. Their crimes, prosecutors said, stemmed from their actions after the shooting. The three officers, two of whom have since left the force, are accused of covering up for Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who fired the lethal shots that night, in an effort to protect him from being investigated and charged, court documents show.

        The officers were indicted on state felony counts of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice. Among the claims were that they provided false reports about how Mr. McDonald, 17, behaved when he encountered Officer Van Dyke on a Southwest Side street one evening in October 2014; and that the officers went so far as to work together to sidestep interviewing at least three witnesses whose accounts of events would have conflicted with the official police version.

        "These defendants lied about what occurred during a police-involved shooting in order to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth," said Patricia Brown Holmes, a special prosecutor who announced the new charges. "The indictment makes clear that it is unacceptable to obey an unofficial code of silence."

        The officers, who are scheduled for arraignments next month, were not taken into custody, and representatives for them could not be reached. Leaders of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing rank-and-file officers, declined to comment, saying they had not reviewed the indictment. Eddie Johnson, who was named police superintendent in the aftermath of the McDonald case, and has said the department had cooperated with prosecutors, said he remained committed to setting new policies "to prevent an incident like this from happening again."

        In late 2015, Officer Van Dyke was charged with murder in the shooting on the same day that city officials released long-awaited dashboard camera video of the episode to comply with a court order. No trial date has been set for Officer Van Dyke, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and said he feared for his life when he fired the shots. He is on unpaid suspension while awaiting trial.

        The video set off night after night of demonstrations across Chicago and led to the removal of the city's police superintendent. It also prompted a broad investigation by the Justice Department into the Chicago Police Department, its treatment of black residents and what some in Chicagohave long described as a "code of silence" between officers.

        On the evening of the shooting, numerous police officers had responded to a 911 call of a man with a knife trying to break into vehicles. Among half a dozen officers who were following Mr. McDonald, either on foot or in squad cars, Officer Van Dyke was the only one to fire his gun.

        But other officers — including the three charged on Tuesday — backed up Officer Van Dyke's account that Mr. McDonald had moved menacingly toward him with a knife and swung the weapon. The dashboard video contradicted those accounts, and showed Mr. McDonald, who was clutching a knife, seeming to veer away from the police when Officer Van Dyke began firing his weapon. The shooting continued as Mr. McDonald lay crumpled on the street.

        Charged are Detective David March, a police veteran of more than 30 years, who was assigned to investigate the shooting immediately after it occurred and ultimately deemed it justified; Patrol Officer Joseph Walsh, who had spent about 20 years as an officer and was Officer Van Dyke's partner on the night of the shooting; and Thomas Gaffney, also a patrol officer with approximately two decades of experience on the force, who was also at the scene of the shooting.

        Mr. March and Mr. Walsh are no longer Chicago police employees, according to a department spokesman, who did not specify how or when they left the force. Officer Gaffney was suspended after being charged with a felony. If convicted on all counts, the officers could each face more than 10 years in prison.



        4)  Venezuela: Right wing accelerates coup plans

        Friday, June 30, 2017


        The right-wing opposition has put its foot down on the accelerator, it is moving all of its pieces at once, and aims to shatter the balance of forces through a coup. It has made it clear: the opposition has June and July to achieve its objective.

        It has declared that, backed by article 350 of the constitution, it does not recognise the government. Nor does it recognise the call for a National Constituent Assembly and it is organising to impede the elections for the assembly going ahead on July 30.

        Translating these words into actions has meant a rise in clashes between state powers through its use of the attorney-general and National Assembly, largely unsuccessful attacks from the Organisation of American States, media pressure, ramping up attacks on the economy and a deepening of the violence, street terror and attacks on state security forces, particularly the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB)

        New elements

        Within this violent scenario, some new elements have emerged in the last few weeks. These include systematic attacks on the La Carlota military base in Caracas, with the aim of demoralising and fracturing the FANB; outbreaks of violence in areas surrounding the presidential palace Miraflores; and the return of scenes of destruction in cities, like those that occurred in Maracay and nearby localities on June 26, where more than 40 establishments, from private shops to public institutions, were destroyed.

        A similar plan was unleashed in more than 10 localities across the country during the past few weeks.

        A new turning point occurred on June 27: the use of a helicopter — stolen from the La Carlota airbase — to attack the Ministry of Interior Relations, Justice and Peace with gun fire. The Supreme Court of Justice was also hit with four grenades made in Israel that came from Colombia.

        All this took place only four streets away from Miraflores presidential palace, in the political centre of Venezuela.

        This action generated a symbolic impact within both the ranks of the right-wing opposition and the pro-government Chavista movement. Among the opposition, accompanied by waves of rumours on social media, it generated the sensation of being close to the final target, of power itself, that finally the FANB had come onboard the call for a coup.

        Among Chavismo, the impact was due both to the brazenness of the act, and the fact it provided definitive certainness — if anyone still had doubts — that a coup attempt is underway and has entered its decisive hours.

        The right wing has enough force to submit localities to a reign of terror for several days in a row, carry out assaults on military and police barracks, unleash political and class hatred that has converted the lynching of Chavistas into a recurring practice. It can maintain almost daily mobilisations with a relatively stable number of participants and generate situations that convert themselves into quasi-generalised destruction and looting.

        It is also able to make incursions into poorer neighbourhoods with the use of criminal groups to set up barricades, assassinate people and attack state institutions with grenades from a helicopter. It can make some government cadres crack — like the attorney-general — and win them to its side, and make a part of the population believe they were killed by the government.

        In the coming days, we will see what else they are capable of. However, they seem to lack two elements needed to complete a coup: poor neighbourhoods mobilising behind their cause and a fracture in the FANB. Their key wager, which they are working on intensely, is to achieve a fracture within the FANB and other government sectors.

        They need this to break the violent deadlock that has now gone on for months. That is why they are ratcheting up the level of violence, targeting attacks on security forces, and using terror as a method of social control.

        Support from the United States is already underway via international pressure, funding for the right — whether directly to opposition parties or indirectly via NGOs that funnel this money towards maintaining the street pressure — and the training of paramilitaries. Intervention already exists under the table. Could it soon take another form?

        The right is accelerating the pace and, at the same time, is displaying clear signs of desperation. It destroys and kills, but does not achieve its final objective.

        However, it obtains intermediary objectives, such as submitting entire localities to violence, breaking down social ties, legitimising persecution levels — which is part of its plan for government — against Chavismo.

        As the months go by, the country changes. It assimilates in an invisible manner the blows, hate, fear and distrust — elements that the right needs for its plan to violently reset the country.

        Lastly, it is important to turn to the other factor, omnipresent and invisible, that permeates the day-to-day debates and concerns, as well as the possibilities of resistance or rupture: the economy.


        In recent weeks, the situation has worsened with rising prices, the illegal exchange rate — which sets prices — and with ongoing shortages of vital products such as medicines. These attacks are not a coincidence, but part of the pressure that seeks to suffocate the population and not allow any point of escape.

        The reality is popular Venezuela has regressed in terms of various advances it has achieved through the Bolivarian revolution. This generates conditions that are conducive to the plans for looting and depolitisation that the right is promoting.

        Reversing this trend is a challenge that Chavista leaders have not been able to resolve. This is its most critical bottleneck, the unresolved debate

        These are defining days and weeks. What happened this week are steps in the escalation of opposition violence, of armed actions carried out by paramilitaries, criminal gangs linked to right-wing leaders, and shadowy sectors within the security forces.

        There will be more deaths, because this is the opposition's plan. Their now-or-never attitude is pushing the country to the brink. Their psychological and physical violence aims to increase the pressure to make the people cave in and open the doors of a historic revenge that the ruling classes of Venezuela, Latin America and US so desire.

        Venezuela is facing its critical hour. Each day is key.

        [Translated by Federico Fuentes.]



        5)  What Happened to America's Wealth? The Rich Hid It

        "Economic surveys estimate that roughly 85 percent of income and wealth gains in the last decade have gone to the wealthiest one-tenth of the top 1 percent."

        If you find yourself traveling this summer, take a closer look at America's deteriorating infrastructure — our crumbling roads, sidewalks, public parks, and train and bus stations.

        Government officials will tell us "there's no money" to repair or properly maintain our tired infrastructure. Nor do we want to raise taxes, they say.

        But what if billions of dollars in tax revenue have gone missing?

        New research suggests that the super-rich are hiding their money at alarming rates. A study by economists Annette Alstadsaeter, Niels Johannesen, and Gabriel Zucman reports that households with wealth over $40 million evade 25 to 30 percent of personal income and wealth taxes.

        These stunning numbers have two troubling implications.

        First, we're missing billions in taxes each year. That's partly why our roads and transit systems are falling apart.

        Second, wealth inequality may be even worse than we thought. Economic surveys estimate that roughly 85 percent of income and wealth gains in the last decade have gone to the wealthiest one-tenth of the top 1 percent.

        That's bad enough. But what if the concentration is even greater?

        Visualize the nation's wealth as an expansive and deep reservoir of fresh water. A small portion of this water provides sustenance to fields and villages downstream, in the form of tax dollars for public services.

        In recent years, the water level has declined to a trickle, and the villages below are suffering from water shortages. Everyone is told to tighten their belts and make sacrifices.

        Deep below the water surface, however, is a hidden pipe, siphoning vast amounts of water — as much as a third of the whole reservoir — off to a secret pool in the forest.

        The rich are swimming while the villagers go thirsty and the fields dry up.

        Yes, there are vast pools of privately owned wealth, mostly held by a small segment of super-rich Americans. The wealthiest 400 billionaires have at least as much wealth as 62 percent of the U.S. population — that's nearly 200 million of us.

        Don't taxpayers of all incomes under-report their incomes? Maybe here and there.

        But these aren't folks making a few dollars "under the table." These are billionaires stashing away trillions of the world's wealth. The latest study underscores that tax evasion by the super-rich is at least 10 times greater — and in some nations 250 times more likely — than by everyone else.

        How is that possible? After all, most of us have our taxes taken out of our paychecks and pay sales taxes at the register. Homeowners get their house assessed and pay a property tax.

        But the wealthy have the resources to hire the services of what's called the "wealth defense industry." These aren't your "mom and pop" financial advisers that sell life insurance or help folks plan for retirement.

        The wealth defenders of the super-rich — including tax lawyers, estate planners, accountants, and other financial professionals — are accomplices in the heist. They drive the getaway cars, by designing complex trusts, shell companies, and offshore accounts to hide money.

        These managers help the private jet set avoid paying their fair share of taxes, even as they disproportionately benefit from living in a country with the rule of law, property rights protections, and public infrastructure the rest of us pay for.

        Not all wealthy are tax dodgers. A group called the Patriotic Millionaires advocates for eliminating loopholes and building a fair and transparent tax system. They're pressing Congress to crack down on tax evasion by the superrich.

        Their message: Bring the wealth home! Stop hiding the wealth in offshore accounts and complicated trusts. Pay your fair share to the support the public services and protections that we all enjoy.

        Distributed by OtherWords.



        6)  Trump Competes With Hillary in U.S. War of Lies and Terror Against Syria

        "Most of the world knows full well that the U.S. and western Europe have grown dependent on Islamic jihadists to buttress imperial interests in the Muslim world. In 2015, a BBC-commissioned poll found that 81 percent of Syrians believe the U.S. created the Islamic State. An even higher percentage of Iraqis think so."

        by BAR executive editor Glen Ford


        "Trump joins the War Party with the fervor of a convert."

        Donald Trump is the very embodiment of why the undeserving rich must no longer be allowed to reproduce themselves, as a class. They are the fuse that, if not removed, will ignite a fiery doom for the species. Decisively kettled in the White House by a bipartisan War Party that feared he might weaken the momentum of the Obama-Clinton military offensive in Syria, Trump appears to have opted to outdo his tormentors in mad brinksmanship.

        On Monday, seemingly out of the blue, the White House announced that the U.S. had "identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children." Press secretary Sean Spicer provided no substantive details, only a warning that if "Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price."

        Amazingly, nobody seemed to have broken the potentially apocalyptic news to the Pentagon, and even the White House National Security Council behaved as if it were out of the loop. The New York Times, a ferocious proponent of regime change, ever ready to amplify and embellish the wildest fictions about Syrian government use of chemical weapons "against its own people" -- and they have all been fictions -- spent the whole day in fruitless search for authoritative voices to flesh out the story. Not until Tuesday did the Pentagon release a statement, weakly claiming that the U.S. had observed "what looked like active preparations for a chemical attack" at the Syrian air base that Trump bombed on April 6, in supposed retaliation for the non-existent Syrian sarin gas attack on an al-Qaida-controlled town in Idlib province. But even the warmongering Times could see that the Pentagon was ad-libbing, attempting to "shore up" the surprise White House statement of the day before. "That statement," wrote the Times, "appeared to take defense officials off guard. An official with the United States Central Command, which oversees combat operations in the Middle East, said Monday night that he had 'no idea' what the White House statement was referring to."

        "The 'play-crazy' gambit can only work when the leader is, in real life, a disciplined and intelligent actor."

        In his zeal to prove to his antagonists in the War Party that he is as bloodthirsty as their champion, Hillary Clinton, and more manly than Barack Obama, Trump seems to have gone "play-crazy" -- acting like an unpredictable maniac in order to terrorize the Russians into forcing some kind of dramatic concessions from their Syrian allies, or risk Armageddon.However, the "play-crazy" gambit can only work when the leader is, in real life, a disciplined and intelligent actor, who knows precisely what actual boundaries must not be crossed. That ain't Donald Trump -- a pitifully shallow and ill-disciplined man, emotionally handicapped by obscene privilege and cognitively crippled by white American chauvinism. By pushing Trump into a corner and demanding that he display his most bellicose self, or be ceaselessly mocked as a "puppet" and minion of Russia, a lesser power, the War Party and its media and clandestine services have created a perfect storm of mayhem that may consume us all.

        Psycho-babble masquerading as political analysis is usually useless, but Trump is a babbler who is acting psycho. Hillary Clinton gives the impression of being more disciplined than Trump, but is nevertheless criminally insane, a howling homicidal fiend who would have issued an unacceptable ultimatum to the leaders of Syria and Russia long before hitting the 100-day mark in her presidency. The world might have been a cold cinder by now, had Hillary been allowed to return to the White House. The planet's epitaph would read: Humans evolved, Clinton became president, everybody died.

        There is no good way out of terminal crisis for U.S. imperialism, other than to surrender to the verdict of history – which, for the imperialist, is an unthinkable horror that drives them to risk suicide while routinely murdering millions. "Better dead than Red" remains the imperialist maxim, even though their antagonists are mainly capitalists, these days. It is actually quite logical that the heads of both imperial parties are bonkers, and that the politician considered by millions to be the "progressive" alternative is also an imperialist pig -- the only kind of animal that is allowed on this farm.

        "Hillary Clinton is a howling homicidal fiend who would have issued an unacceptable ultimatum to the leaders of Syria and Russia long before hitting the 100-day mark in her presidency."

        Donald Trump was always pretty dumb, but there was a time less than a year ago when he was sufficiently in control of his meager faculties to understand, in a twisted "cracker" kind of way, that Barack Obama was "the founder of ISIS" and his co-founder is Hillary Clinton. That's an essentially correct statement, in that President Obama and his secretary of state unleashed such a torrent of weapons and money to favored jihadists that the emergence of ISIS, impatient to establish a caliphate on captured territory, was both inevitable and predicted. The Defense Intelligence Agency tried to set off the alarms in 2012, in cables that were declassified years later. The DIA analysts reported that the security situation in Iraq, in particular, was deteriorating:

        "This creates the ideal situation for AQI [al Qaida in Iraq, which became ISIS] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi, and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters [meaning, Shia Muslims]. ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory."

        "Thus," in an article titled "Yes, Obama and Clinton Created ISIS – Too Bad Trump Can't Explain How It Happened," we wrote: "a year after Obama and his European and Arab friends brought down Libya's Gaddafi and shifted their proxy war of regime change to Syria, U.S. military intelligence saw clearly the imminent rise of ISIS -- and that 'this is exactly' what 'the West, Gulf countries and Turkey...want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.'"

        Last summer, Trump perceived the basic outlines of the U.S.-sponsored jihadist wars in Libya and Syria. But, the not-so-tough-little-rich-boy finally recanted under the relentless assault of the War Party, and is now "all in" with every lie about Russia and the Syrian state. Trump joins the War Party with the fervor of a convert, guaranteeing an even bloodier mess than usual.

        "President Obama and his secretary of state unleashed such a torrent of weapons and money to favored jihadists that the emergence of ISIS, impatient to establish a caliphate on captured territory, was both inevitable and predicted."

        Trump hopes that his dramatic conversion will compel the Democrats and corporate media to release him from purgatory. At this point, he craves "normality" – which, under imperialist terms, requires that he wage endless warfare abroad. (Trump is far more comfortable waging domestic wars against Blacks, Mexican immigrants and Moslems.)

        Most of the world knows full well that the U.S. and western Europe have grown dependent on Islamic jihadists to buttress imperial interests in the Muslim world. In 2015, a BBC-commissioned poll found that 81 percent of Syrians believe the U.S. created the Islamic State. An even higher percentage of Iraqis think so.

        The people of Syria and Iraq are intimately familiar with the political-theological movements that have emerged from the madness imposed on their societies by the United States. The people of the United States have easy access to the truth of their country's criminal role in the world -- the evidence is everywhere, and not really hidden -- but choose to believe in U.S. "exceptionalism" because it infers that they, the citizens of empire, are also exceptional creatures.

        Black folks used to be largely immune to such essentially race-based delusions, but the Obama presidency altered many Black people's perceptions of their relationship to imperial power. Only three Black congresspersons (Barbara Lee-CA, John Conyers-MI, and Bobby Rush-IL) are among the five Democrats and eight Republicans that have co-sponsored Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's Stop Arming Terrorists Act (H.R. 608). The bill prohibits the use of federal funds to assist "Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or any individual or group that is affiliated with, associated with, cooperating with, or adherents to such groups," and would halt all U.S. assistance to governments that aid such groups.

        Gabbard's bill would outlaw Washington's policy in Syria and render U.S. arms sales and aid to the Sunni Gulf monarchies and Israel illegal.

        It is too fine and elegant a bill to ever become law in the belly of the beast – which is why the genuine Left should make support for Gabbard's legislation a litmus test for politicians, to weed out the beasties.



        7)    Venezuela: Helicopter attack as opposition steps up campaign to overthrow Maduro

          By Jorge Martín,  June 28, 2017


        Things in Venezuela are changing by the day, sometimes by the hour. Yesterday, June 27, a police officer commandeered a helicopter and attacked the buildings of the Ministry of Interior and Justice and the Supreme Court of Justice, at the same time broadcasting an appeal for others to join in and overthrow the government of Maduro.

        This attempted coup follows heavy rioting in Maracay on Monday, June 26. The opposition, which has declared itself in a state of "disobedience", has called for 4 hours of road blockades for today, June 28, using insurrectionary language.

        The helicopter attack was carried out by Oscar Alberto Perez, an officer of the CICPC (Venezuela's Penal, Criminal and Scientific Investigation Police Agency), who had served in the agency's Special Aerial Brigade. Acting with another person and using his police ID he managed to board a CICPC helicopter from the La Carlota Aerial Base in the east of Caracas which he then flew into central Caracas.

        At the same time he released a series of videos on his Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/oscarperezgv/) in which he explained that he was part of a network of officers in the security forces and the army with links to civilians which was demanding the removal of president Maduro. From the helicopter the would be golpistas draped a flag with the words "350 Libertad". This refers to article 350 of the Bolivarian constitution which allows for civil disobedience in the face of a regime or authority trampling on democratic or human rights, and which has been invoked by the opposition in the last few days in its attempts to overthrow the government.

        The occupants of the helicopter opened fire on the Ministry of Interior and Justice building, where a reception for journalists was taking place, celebrating Journalists Day. Then it flew to the Supreme Court of Justice building where they threw four grenades. No-one was injured in the attacks. Neither the helicopter nor its occupants have been captured so far.

        So far the call for a coup against Maduro has not been seconded by any other forces in the security agencies nor the military, or at least no such moves have been made public. However, after 90 days of constant and increasingly violent protests and repeated appeals on the part of the reactionary opposition for the army to intervene and overthrow the president, it would be surprising if there were not elements within the state apparatus considering their options.

        The helicopter attack and appeal for a coup created a very tense situation in Caracas and other cities. There were opposition protests and attempted rioting in a number of places, mainly in the middle and upper class neighbourhoods, but this time also in some working class and poor areas (including Manicomio and Caricuao).

        In the last few days the opposition seems to have gained momentum again. Their road blockades have had a better response from their own ranks. The rioting in Maracay, Aragua, was very severe, with over 64 establishments looted, a number of official buildings, including the PSUV offices, ransacked and one GNB police officer killed by gunfire. Last weekend we saw repeated attacks by violent rioters against the Military Airbase of La Carlota in Caracas, where the opposition terrorists removed the heavy perimeter fence and entered the premises. They were armed with homemade rocket launchers, molotov cocktails, home made grenades, etc. One of the rioters was killed by Air Force Police when attempting to lob a grenade into the air base.

        What we are seeing here are not peaceful pro-democracy protests, but a combination of terrorist attacks, appeals to the army to carry out a coup by opposition politicians, and now a helicopter attack against state institutions. None of this would be allowed in any other country in the world. Just imagine if violent rioters assaulted a military airbase in the centre of Madrid, London or Washington DC. Imagine a situation in which individuals opened fire on security forces from within the ranks of demonstrators in Paris or Berlin.

        In a speech before the attack, president Maduro warned of the possibility of a coup and said that if anything were to happen to him there should be a "military-civilian uprising like that of april 13 [2002], but a 1000 times more powerful". He added that "if the country was to be engulfed by chaos and violence and the Bolivarian revolution crushed, we would fight back, and what could not be achieved by votes we would achieve by arms".

        The problem is that the situation is not like that of April 2002 at the time of the coup against Hugo Chavez. For some years now there has been a profound process of disillusionment amongst the Bolivarian masses. This is the result of the behaviour of the bureaucrats and reformists within the Bolivarian movement, the corruption of state and party officials, the attacks on the revolutionary initiative of the masses, etc. All of this combined and aggravated by the severe economic crisis and the inability or unwillingness of the government to take the necessary measures to address it. That would imply dealing severe blows against the oligarchy - bankers, capitalists and landowners. Instead, the government has been following the opposite policy: of making concessions to them, providing them with dollars at preferential prices and making appeals for them to invest and be productive. This however is not enough for the capitalist class, which is continuing its campaign of sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government, with the full backing of US imperialism.

        In these conditions it is doubtful whether the revolutionary people, which has saved and defended the revolution, would now turn out once again in sufficient numbers to reverse a coup. In fact, it is doubtful even whether they will turn out in sufficient numbers to give legitimacy to the Constituent Assembly elections on July 30.

        The only way to combat the reactionary opposition would be through the revolutionary mobilisation of the people. That this is possible is shown in the isolated instances of armed self-defence in Guasdalito and Socopó (http://www.resumenlatinoamericano.org/2017/06/05/venezuela-nacen-brigadas-chavistas-para-defender-los-territorios/), for instance, and in the land occupations of estates belonging to landowners who have been financing the rioting in Pedraza, Barinas (http://www.latabla.com/campesinos-de-barinas-inician-el-rescate-de-finca-de-terrateniente-que-presto-retroexcavador-para-saqueos-en-socopo/) and Obispo Ramos de Lora, Mérida (http://www.latabla.com/campesinos-de-merida-rescatan-tierras-de-un-terrateniente-financista-de-la-violencia/). Also, on Monday, June 26, workers from the Guaraguao PDVSA refinery in Puerto la Cruz took the initiative to disband an opposition road blockade at a roundabout near their workplace, sick and tired of days and days of being blocked by a small number of opposition supporters (https://twitter.com/gaspatriota/status/879434316501090305/video/1).

        However, for this to happen on a generalised level two conditions would be required. One, that a clear lead was given from the top at a national level. This has not happened. No such lead for revolutionary activity of the masses, including land and factory occupations, armed self-defence, etc. has come from the government, nor the national leaders of the Bolivarian union CBST.

        The other condition is that the workers and peasants feel there is something worth fighting for. If what they see is constant price hikes while the government makes concessions to the capitalists and keeps paying the foreign debt, then it becomes much more difficult to organise and mobilise to defend it against reaction.

        The precise outcome of this conflict is difficult to predict. This is a struggle of living forces. The reactionary opposition could eventually succeed in overthrowing the government through a combination of chaos and violence on the streets with mass demonstrations, which would finally push a section of the armed forces to organise a coup against the president. Faced with a prolonged stalemate in which no side can decisively win, combined with large scale rioting and looting, the armed forces or a section of them, might decide to step in, remove the president and move towards a "transitional" government involving former "chavista" officials, as well as "moderate" oppositionists.

        The more intelligent sections of the ruling class (if such a thing exists in Venezuela) understand that the leaders of the opposition command no support amongst wide layers of the population and would not be adverse to some sort of "technocratic" government implementing the brutal austerity measures against the working class which they require, perhaps led by a businessman like Mendoza, the owner of Polar, who has been careful to keep quiet in recent months.

        Another factor to consider is that, despite the level of demoralisation of the revolutionary masses, there is still a sizeable core of people who are prepared to mobilise against the forces of reaction (though there is a growing feeling that repeated mass demonstrations do not serve that purpose). Any attempts of a reactionary government to roll back major gains of the revolution (privatise social housing, mass lay offs, attacks on revolutionary activists and their organisations, closing down of the Bolivarian University or UNEFA, eviction of peasant cooperatives from expropriated landed estates) would be met with fierce resistance by those affected. A section of the revolutionary masses is now armed and such clashes could, under certain circumstances, lead to armed confrontations, terrorist actions or perhaps even descend into civil war. While many top army officers would be looking after their own interests (in business, corruption, etc) and supporting whichever side seems more likely to guarantee them impunity, it is not ruled out that sections of the troops and lower ranking officers would be loyal to the revolutionary people.

        What can be said is that the situation is very serious. A victory of the reactionary opposition would be paid dearly by the masses of workers, peasants and the poor in the barrios. This week alone three people were set on fire by opposition protesters. One was stabbed and set on fire by masked thugs in La Castellana, Caracas, who thought he was a chavista (https://twitter.com/NestorReverol/status/879506185380139008). Two youths were threatened with guns and then set on fire at an opposition barricade in Barquisimeto, Lara, when they identified themselves as Chavistas (http://albaciudad.org/2017/06/estan-graves-dos-jovenes-quemados-en-barquisimeto-por-decir-que-eran-chavistas/). Just imagine if these people were to come to power! The ruling class in Venezuela has had a fright. They have lost control of the situation for a number of years. When they come back to power they will be hungry for revenge and they will unleash the howling packs of the frenzied middle class onto anyone who has supported the Bolivarian movement and against the working class and the poor in general.

        In the words of French revolutionary Saint Just, "those who make half a revolution, dig their own graves". The tragedy of the Bolivarian revolution is that it was never completed. Now we are paying the price.



        8)  U.K. to Fund Abortions in England for Women From Northern Ireland

         JUNE 29, 201




        LONDON — In a first demonstration of the new reality in Parliament after the recent election, Prime Minister Theresa May and her shaky new government buckled under pressure on Thursday and agreed to fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland.

        It was an abrupt rebuff to the Conservatives' new ally, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, a fierce opponent of abortion and gay marriage that had appeared to advance its socially conservative agenda this week by agreeing to keep Mrs. May in power.

        The issue is a delicate one because in Northern Ireland abortions are allowed only if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health. Pregnant women who travel to England, where the law is much less restrictive, currently have to pay for terminations.

        The about-face on the issue was bitterly denounced by abortion opponents. "This is a black day for unborn children, for mothers and for democracy," said John Smeaton, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. "It's a great day for the abortion industry, which cares nothing about unborn children and for the welfare of women."

        The government's announcement came before a vote on the issue in Parliament, on an amendment forced by Stella Creasy, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, and amid signs that some of Mrs. May's Conservative Party legislators might rebel, putting her parliamentary majority in doubt.

        The concession underlines the precariousness of the government's position, and its vulnerability to political ambush in Parliament, where it now runs the constant risk of losing votes after Mrs. May lost her majority in recent elections.

        On Thursday, the former chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who was fired last year by Mrs. May and is now a newspaper editor, posted on Twitter his front page headline "Abortion vote chaos hits May" and adding as a commentary:

        Conservative worries about the ability to win votes in Parliament were displayed on Wednesday when the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was summoned from Switzerland to vote on the Queen's Speech, which outlines the government's legislative program. On Thursday, Mrs. May left meetings in Berlin early to ensure that she could attend the final vote on the Queen's Speech, which the government won by a vote of 323 to 309 with the help of the largely Protestant Democratic Unionist Party, or D.U.P.

        But their support has come with a political — as well as financial — price. Critics have denounced the deal with the D.U.P. as "shoddy" or "grubby," because it was secured with a pledge of around $2 billion in additional spending for Northern Ireland. Scottish and Welsh politicians are particularly resentful, believing that their constituents should also have similar protection from budget cuts, but even some Conservative lawmakers are unhappy.

        "I can barely put into words my anger at the deal my party has done with the D.U.P.," Heidi Allen, a Conservative legislator, said in Parliament.

        Others have suggested that because of its reliance on the D.U.P., the British government will no longer be able to act as an honest broker in trying to secure a power-sharing agreement among the political parties in Northern Ireland. Negotiations on that issue were extended on Thursday, despite the lack of agreement when the latest deadline expired in midafternoon.

        Under the deal with the Conservatives at Westminster, the D.U.P. guaranteed its support for Mrs. May's party on crucial confidence and finance votes, and on the issue of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, effectively keeping the government from falling.

        Both the Conservative Party and the D.U.P. emphasize that they have not formed a coalition, and that their arrangement in Parliament falls short of a deal on a full policy program. As such, the decision to fund abortions does not breach any part of the accord.

        The government concession was announced by the chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who was asked by a Conservative lawmaker, Peter Bottomley, why, in the case of women from Northern Ireland, "only the poor should be denied lawful abortions."

        Mr. Hammond replied that Justine Greening, the minister for women and equalities, was in the process of announcing by letter "that she intends to intervene to fund abortions in England for women arriving here from Northern Ireland."

        The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, an organization that supports abortion rights, described the change as a "landmark moment," but, in a statement added, "Clearly this is not the solution to the gross injustice whereby women in Northern Ireland are denied access to abortion care at home, and we look forward to seeing progress on that front."

        Jo Swinson, a lawmaker from the centrist Liberal Democrats who supported the amendment on abortion, said the government's decision showed "the power of cross-party pressure." She added that it was "embarrassing that the health secretary had done nothing on this so far and only the threat of a defeat prompted change."



        9)  As Migration Surges, Italy Weighs Barring Some Rescue Boats

         JUNE 29, 2017




        ROME — More than 20,000 migrants have reached Italy in the last week, a sharp spike that has left the Italian government considering whether to deny landing rights to independent rescue ships not flying the Italian flag if it does not get more help from the European Union.

        The number of migrants risking the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean from Libya often increases in warmer months, but this week's surge is extraordinary even compared with the already high summer numbers of recent years.

        The spike in migration has inflamed one of the most divisive debates in Italian politics, and worsened tensions between Italy and the European Union. And the role of rescue ships operated by humanitarian groups and nongovernmental organizations has now moved to the center of that debate.

        Right-wing parties, which celebrated victories in Sunday's municipal elections, have latched onto the climbing number of asylum seekers as a vote-getter. Some have argued that the center-left government is incapable of stanching the flow of migrants, while others accuse the government of having a secret plan to swell the number of immigrants with the intention of one day granting them voting rights.

        Right-wing politicians and newspapers have spread a sense that the nongovernmental organizations are essentially profiteers who collude with human traffickers to aid and abet illegal immigration. "They are complicit in this mass exodus and earn from it," said Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League, an anti-immigrant party that campaigned vigorously for many of the center-right candidates who won in Sunday's election.

        There is no evidence of any such collusion.

        Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency in Southern Europe, said that rescue ships operated by nongovernmental organizations had rescued 12,600 people in the Mediterranean — about 35 percent of the overall number saved — in the first four months of 2017. But she said that she did not believe they drew more migrants into the water or that they played a role in the rising number of asylum seekers arriving in Italy.

        Ms. Sami said that while she was aware of reports about the Italian blockade proposal, there were no reports of ships being blocked. She said she believed the Italians were trying to get Europe to show "greater solidarity with Italy."

        But the center-left government, which has championed a more welcoming approach and saved thousands from the sea, is now showing signs that its patience is wearing thin. It is treating the recent landings as something close to a national — or at least political — emergency.

        On Wednesday, Interior Minister Marco Minniti was briefed about the high numbers of landings at Italian ports during a stop in Ireland on his way to the United States for a meeting with American officials. The numbers were so high that Mr. Minniti — often characterized by supporters as on the tougher, more realistic, side of the center-left government — decided to turn back to Rome.

        But government officials say there is little Mr. Minniti, or anyone in Italy, can do alone. The Italian news media reported this week that Italy has authorized its ambassador to the European Union, Maurizio Massari, to ask the European Commission to revise the bloc's asylum procedures and consider the possibility of blocking boats without Italian flags from docking in Italy.

        "It's a hypothesis we are considering," said one Italian government official with knowledge of the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment. "We would block the boats that don't fly an Italian flag from docking in our ports. It can't just be Italy that receives all the migrants. Europe must understand that our coasts are not just our frontier but Europe's frontier."

        Some experts doubt the legality of such a policy, and Mr. Massari did not return an email request for comment.

        Mr. Salvini, the leader of the Northern League, mocked the proposal as a publicity stunt allowing the government to feign a tougher, and now more popular, posture. "We've been asking to block these boats for three years," he said in an interview. "That the government is going to Brussels to ask is ridiculous because Brussels has already said they have no intention of doing it. Some things you do or you don't. You don't ask."

        Mr. Salvini approvingly named Hungary, Austria and France as countries that have demonstrated a willingness to turn migrants away. Other countries, such as Poland, have refused to host asylum seekers and lighten Italy's load.

        This is frustrating to the Italian government, but also to many migrants who feel stuck in Italy because European Union rules state that, while waiting for judgments on their asylum requests, they must stay in the country where they were first registered. Often that country is Italy.

        In recent conversations with asylum seekers on Italy's northern border, where migrants stood around sweltering reception centers and loitered around Lake Como, several said that they appreciated Italy for rescuing them from the sea but that they dreamed of moving to Germany or Northern Europe for work.

        Italian government officials have argued that Italy is taking on too much of the burden, and last week leaders of European Union member states agreed to free up more funds to help Italy and Greece, another front-line nation, with the rising number of migrants.

        Italy has also sought to stem the flow at the source of the migration.

        The Italian government, like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, has advocated that Europe concentrate on development in African countries to discourage people from leaving. The European Union has even sought to train the Libyan Coast Guard and provide it with faster boats to better patrol its own coast. Migrants who are intercepted before reaching international waters can be returned there.

        But it does not seem to be working.

        If the current pace holds, more migrants will arrive in Italy this year than the 180,000 that the Interior Ministry recorded last year. More than 60,000 arrived in the first five months of 2017.

        Ms. Sami, the United Nations spokeswoman, said the focus on nongovernmental ships was misplaced. She said more focus was needed on stopping traffickers in Africa and getting the thousands of people making the journey from Niger to Libya to stay.

        Once they are in the water, she said, "the first imperative — and we don't see any exception — is to save lives."



        10)  At 102, a 'Triple-Digit' Jazzman Plays On

        During the cocktail portion of a dinner for tax experts in Midtown Manhattan on Monday evening, the jazz saxophonist Fred Staton sat off to the side and played through a set of standards as the guests mingled and scouted their tables.

        "They don't know they're hearing the oldest working jazz musician in the world," said Phil Stern, a jazz fan who slipped in specifically to hear Mr. Staton, who still performs regularly. "I mean, how many triple-digit musician are still gigging?"

        Mr. Staton played in a relaxed, uncluttered style that recalled later Lester Young recordings, reeling off song after song.

        "I've been playing them all my life," said Mr. Staton, who before starting on Monday night, discarded five different saxophone reeds before selecting one that suited him.

        "I have to go through a half a box of reeds before I find one I like," he said.

        His pianist for the engagement was Bertha Hope, 80, the widow of the jazz pianist and composer Elmo Hope.

        "He's still very meticulous about his sound," she said. "He just amazes and inspires me. I learn something new every time I play with him. He just swings."

        Mr. Staton started into "Satin Doll," the staple Duke Ellington wrote with Billy Strayhorn, who attended high school with Mr. Staton in Pittsburgh.

        Mr. Staton is a walking history of jazz, having known and played with jazz greats who shared his Pittsburgh roots, such as Art Blakey, Roy Eldridge, Erroll Garner and Earl Hines.

        These days, he plays with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, a group of veteran sidemen assembled in 1973 by Al Vollmer, 88, a Westchester County orthodontist and jazz fan. The band includes Zeke Mullins, 91, on piano and Jackie Williams, 84, on drums.

        Last week, Mr. Staton sat in an easy chair in his apartment, his alto saxophone by his side and the radio tuned to the jazz station WBGO.

        A widower who has outlived his siblings and several of his five children, Mr. Staton said he was born on Valentine's Day in 1915, and grew up in a poor family with no money for music lessons and no radio in the house.

        Mr. Staton's younger sister, Dakota Staton, became a prominent jazz and blues singer. She died in 2007, at 76.

        Mr. Staton said he began singing in a church gospel group and initially took up the drums but found them frustrating to deal with while his bandmates dashed off to socialize.

        "I was 17 and I was girl-crazy — the other guys were out getting the girls while I'm still packing up the drums," he recalled, adding that one day, he picked up a silver Buescher tenor saxophone that had been left behind, and began fooling around with it. "I said, 'The heck with this,' and I took up the sax."

        Enamored of saxophonists such as Mr. Young, Coleman Hawkins and, especially, Ben Webster, he began leading jazz combos such as the Three Tempos. During World War II, he worked as a welder in a military shipyard.

        Mr. Staton always had a day job at various restaurants, even after moving to New York in 1952. The restaurant work helped support his family, but also kept him from flourishing as a jazz musician until later in life, when he retired.

        "I didn't wait — it just happened," said Mr. Staton who in recent decades has led groups such as the Jazz Gents, and a gospel-tinged combo called Sounds of Deliverance that played gospel brunches at Copeland's in Harlem.

        Mr. Staton never became a jazz headliner. When the music grew more modern, he adhered to a traditional swing style that remains respected by colleagues.

        "I love his playing," said the saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who at a comparatively youthful 90 is still playing a busy schedule. "He stuck with his same style, and he just keeps going."

        Mr. Staton said of Mr. Heath, "When I see Jimmy, he tells me, 'When I grow up, I want to be you.'"

        Unable to explain his longevity — he drank for much of his life and was a smoker until he was 60 — Mr. Staton said he just kept playing, even with arthritic hands and barely enough strength to practice.

        "I'm grateful and blessed that I can do it," said Mr. Staton, who is scheduled to play on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Central Library on Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn; and on July 10 at 7 p.m. at Local 802 of the Associated Musicians of New York on 322 West 48th Street for Mr. Mullins's 92nd birthday.

        At the Monday night gig, a dinner organized by Louis Feinstein, an accountant and jazz fan, for the New York Tax Study Group, Mr. Staton bent forward with emotion as he soloed on "Mood Indigo" and then played "Perdido" and "C Jam Blues."

        Afterward, his grandson Richard Staton eased him carefully into a yellow cab.



        11)  Cuba: From Machistas Leninistas to Educating Homophobes

        I'm a dialectic dope

        I'm all confused on carnal relations.

        Can a Bolsheviki wikki wakki wikki?

        What's the party line

        We need a party line

        Who's got the party line on love?

        From the American song: "What's The Party Line On Love" *

        * The American Communist song from the 1930s made fun of the politicization of sexual relations. The song, of course, defended the realm of what was to be a private matter. Granted, politicians and religious institutions, of all shades and colors, have tried to legislate what were [or are] proper "carnal relations."  Certainly for a brief time the Bolsheviks in 1922 decriminalized homosexuality. But, generally speaking, neither the communists, the socialists nor the capitalists ever elucidated a Policy on Sexual Matters that would be central to their partisan politics.

        But that has changed. On December 6, 2011 US foreign policy has moved into the realm of defender of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender "rights" for some countries in the world.[1] Then, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced the policy to the world noting, "I speak about this subject knowing that my own country's record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences. So we, like all nations, have more work to do to protect human rights at home." [2]

        The new internationalist policy promised to open US borders to LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, offer foreign aid to the same people and organizations where the US fosters regime change. The policy also promised to"help ensure the federal Government's swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons ABROAD."

        Thus, another instrument has been added to justify political and military meddling and intervention in the internal affairs of those nations abroad that challenge American power. But the US policy of fostering regime change on sexual matters does not pertain to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and numerous other countries. [3]

        Just a few days after Hillary's announcement the subject of the policies that the Cuban government carried out in the mid-1960s against homosexuality a number of anti-Cuban government publications and organizations began to stress the issue.

        Certainly the history of the Cuban government toward gays should not be a taboo subject. People in the left/right and center certainly have a right to analyze and discuss the issue today.

        Professor Samuel Farber on December 23rd, 2011 published in the Nicaraguan publication Havana Times an article on the "Roots of Homophobia in Cuba during the Revolution." [4] It is not the intent of this brief commentary to discuss the matter of the roots of homophobia in Cuba – something that Farber fails to do. His thesis is simple, "the thrust and dynamism of those policies came primarily from Fidel Castro and the new Cuban Communist leadership." That is to say, homophobia in Cuba lacks a social, economic or cultural history pre-1959. This is hardly the case. Instead we are told to accept that homophobia was the result of the personal attitudes of a handful of people in power. In other words, it was all mere ideology and political reasons of state.

        Assuming that such simple explanation were to be  true, Farber fails to tell his readers that Fidel Castro in an interview with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada in 2010 stated, that he assumed full responsibility for the wrongheaded policy of earlier years: "I did not judge the matter well then [No lo supimos valorar]. [5]

        Was it popular in 1963 or even 1971 in Cuba to defend an enlightened position on matters related to homosexuality? It was not. But, why not?

        Was the world enlightened about such matters then?  No, it was not. It should be remembered that  until 1973 homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. The professions elsewhere in the hemisphere shared similar attitudes. Homosexuality, at least in the US, it was considered "deviance" until not too far back in history and outlawed in most states. Cuba had inherited a male chauvinist culture due to longstanding attitudes in both Spanish and African cultures.

        Professor Helen Yaffe writes,

        "The first legal challenge to homophobia in Cuba was in 1975 with a Cuban Supreme Court ruling against discrimination at work. In 1979 same sex relationships were decriminalised. In 1988 the offence of committing 'homosexual acts in public places' was removed from the penal code. In the 1990s, they resources to combat homophobia both in institutions and from individuals. Discrimination was condemned in a UJC Congress in 1992 and in 1993 sex education workshops on homosexuality were run throughout Cuba to explain that homophobia is a prejudice." [6 Helen Yaffe. Socialism and Equality in Cuba: the Fight for LGBT Rights,"FRFI (London), August/September 2012, No. 227].

        Yaffee also notes that in 1995, "Cuban drag queens led the annual May Day parade, joined by two gay delegations from the US – where sodomy remains a criminal offence in many states" [7 yaffe, op cit, ]

        Yet, over the past 15 years the changes have been extraordinary on the subject of sexual identity and policy. The Cuban mass media has played a systematic and concerted role in educating the general population. The Cuban Film Institute has been at the vanguard of discussing such matters. For example, as early as 1993 Cuba produced Strawberry and Chocolate denouncing anti-gay ideology and behavior among Communist party members. That was followed by numerous other films such as: Kleines Tropicana (1997), Noches de Constantinopla (2001); Video de Familia (2002) where a young man leaves Cuba because his parents dont accept him;  Casa Vieja (2010); Perfecto amor equivocado (2004)  and el viajero inmóvil (2008).  The theme of transvestism began to be treated in Bailando Cha cha chá (2005), Los dioses rotos (2009) and Chamaco (2010).

        Cuban television, which enters every home on a nightly basis has been slower, but in the last 13 years it began to deal with such important issues as well. And more explicit alternative sexual behaviors have been explored as well, for example, the tv series "The next victim" which shows more explicit male homosexual behavior. A sensation that got Cubans in all walks of life to talk about the subject was "The Dark Side of the Moon" exploring bisexuality. Most recently, the TV series "Under the Same Sun" discloses and confronts sexual taboos.

        Openly gay behavior is not circumscribed to just Havana; indeed one of the most conservative towns in the island , Santa Clara, in central Cuba has become a trend setter with its unique El Mejunje cultural center.

        Homophobia is in clear retreat throughout the island. Openly gay men and women candidates are beginning to be elected to public office. [6] One foreign observer has noted, "It is quite more liberal here than in the United States or Europe."  [7]

        What remains to be addressed is how a male-centered and chauvinist position that Cuban culture, politicians and institutions held for centuries has changed in such relative short period of time (in about 50 years). Now, homophobia is the enemy.

        Granted, the mass media and  important political and social leaders are openly attempting to positively influence the population at large. Yet, the battle for sexual and gender equality is not an easy, nor top down process of change.  The older population still tried to hold on to the sexual and gender roles that they were taught before the Cuban revolution. But this is not government policy; guiding and changing social behavior and traditional cultural perspectives is a long drawn out struggle. And the metrosexual revolution with its ideology, behavior and institutions have made significant inroads as well.  Machismo, manhood and masculinity are no longer expression of a what constitutes a revolutionary person. Indeed, "seremos como el Che" – the sacred icon of revolutionary manhood – has been transformed into revolutionary personhood. [8]

        Is there a Party line on love in Cuba today? Yes. And the headline from the Cuban newspaper Trabajadores (May 8, 2013) simply states where Cuba's policy is on the matter: "Homosexuality is neither chosen nor learned, it is an orientation and a source of pleasure and happiness". [9]

        *The song is also named "I'm a Dialectic Dope" from The Socialist Songbook.

        [1] The White House, Office of the Press secretary, December 6, 2011. Presidential Memorandum – International initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, gay, Bisexual, and transgender Persons.

        [3] "Barack Obama's Surprising Lack of patience for Russia's Anti-Gay Laws," Forbes, August 9, 2013.

        [6] 11/16/12 – Fox News – Once imprisoned for her sexuality, Cuban transgender woman becomes 1st to hold office.

        [7] 06/09/13 – VOXXI – Cuba's gay and transgendered population in the open.

        [8] Vladia Rubio, "Masculinidades: Los problemas de Machi," Cubasi.cu, August 30, 2012.

        [9] Alina M. Lotti, "La homosexualidad no se elige, no se aprende," Trabajadores (Habana), May 8, 2013.

        Nelson P Valdés is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of New Mexico.

        This article was written in 2013. It is published here for the first time.

        More articles by:

        Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.



        12)  "I Saw Pieces of Bodies": Afghan Civilians Describe Terrorization by US Drones

        Saturday, July 01, 2017 By Alex Edney-Browne, Truthout | News Analysishttp://www.truth-out.org/news/item/41127-i-saw-pieces-of-bodies-afghan-civilians-describe-terrorization-by-us-drones
        The Trump administration's "drone policy," though early to characterize, is shaping up to be even more aggressive than the Obama administration's. There has been a significant increase in the number of drone attacks since Trump assumed office. In March 2017 parts of Yemen and Somalia -- where the United States is not formally at war -- were changed to "areas of active hostilities," making it easier for the US to launch drone attacks.

        Through the Obama years and continuing with Trump, opponents of drone warfare have tended to highlight civilian casualties from drone attacks. They rightly argue that many more civilians are dying than the US government publicly admits. Another frequently raised concern is the secrecy of (and dubious legal basis for) the CIA's drone operations in "non-traditional battlefields" like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. These are all pressing issues and will continue to serve an important role in ethical debates about drone warfare.

        What is often neglected in these debates, however, is the use of drones by the US Air Force (not the CIA) in countries that the US is known to be active in: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Trump administration is deepening its military engagement in these conflicts, and has committed to the deployment of nearly 4,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. This troop surge is going ahead even though a corresponding long-term strategy for the war in Afghanistan is not yet decided. It is important to consider how the use of drones is affecting civilians' lives and livelihoods in these countries, how those effects will manifest in the future, and the long-term implications of this for diplomacy and security.

        More Than Numbers: Afghan Civilians

        "Bongak" and "Bnngina" are the terms used to describe military drones in different regions of Afghanistan: Dari/Pashto onomatopoeias because of the "bnng" sound they make as they hover above. Afghanistan is the world's most drone-bombed country, yet is commonly forgotten about in drone criticism and monitoring efforts. Drone surveillance and attacks began in Afghanistan in 2001, yet the civilian casualty toll has only been monitored since 2015. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the organization conducting this monitoring, reports that accurate figures are almost impossible to obtain because of the insecurity and inaccessibility of attack locations.

        This means there are limitations to relying on civilian casualty figures when discussing the ethics of drone warfare in Afghanistan. More importantly, and this applies to all areas attacked and surveilled by drones, the effects of drones are much more profound and wide-ranging than a focus on casualty numbers invites the public to consider. Casualty figures can even work to dehumanize victims: Quantitative data is not the best tool to convey how it feels to hear drones, to think about being spied on in your home or to fear a possible attack. Despite the obvious challenges, it is important that researchers and journalists attempt to uncover and communicate the emotional and psycho-social harms of drone warfare. The recent documentary National Bird, which interviews Afghan drone victims, is one such example of the brave journalism needed.

        Afghan Victims Detail Psycho-Social Harms

        As a Ph.D. researcher based in Australia, going to Afghanistan to speak with drone victims seemed impossible for myriad reasons, including the rigorous ethics approval and "high-risk travel destination" application my university required. Persistence paid off, however, and I had the (difficult, heart-wrenching, yet moving) experience of meeting with more than 20 Afghans who live in provinces surveilled by drones, were injured in drone attacks or have lost loved ones to drone attacks. It is their stories that I share here, though I have changed their names to protect their privacy.

        Despite researching drone warfare for almost four years, it was still surprising to learn about the extent of the effect on Afghan people's lives and livelihoods. From the psychological distress of living under drone surveillance, to the economic impact of a disability, to the sadness and stress experienced by the family of an injured person, the Bongak/Bnngina has damaged so many aspects of Afghan lives.

        Saifullah, a 39-year-old, was injured in a co-joint helicopter and drone attack on February 21, 2010. The attack -- reported in the media as "Uruzgan helicopter attack," though victims say they also saw the drone launch missiles -- took place in Kijran District, Daikundi Province (not Uruzgan). According to these civilians, Daikundi was (and still is) a safe, government-controlled province of Afghanistan. The attack killed 21 civilians and injured 14. Saifullah's younger brother, a 23-year-old, was killed from metal shrapnel piercing his head. Saifullah needed a below-knee amputation on his left leg and now lives with a prosthetic. The "Uruzgan Attack" is unique for a US air attack in Afghanistan because it received Western media attention (many don't), and the transcript of the drone crew was successfully obtained by the LA Times through a Freedom of Information Act request. It is the only publicly available drone transcript. Media reporting of the event reveals the civilian casualty count. Saifullah's testimony is much more horrifying:

        I heard everybody shouting and crying…. I saw pieces of bodies, even pieces like the size of this cup [points]. I lost my brother. My leg was broken and it was very painful. It is very difficult to see that situation with your own eyes, even for me to say it now. I hope that God does not show that kind of scene to anyone.

        Seven years after that dreadful day, Saifullah is still feeling the impact. He has nightmares that wake him in a sweat, he discontinued his university education because his memory and concentration have since weakened, and he sometimes avoids seeing his nephew because it is too upsetting to be reminded of his dead brother.

        Thankfully drones rarely fly over Daikundi province, so Saifullah only sees and/or hears them once or twice a year when he travels to other provinces. This is a relief, as he finds the sound "very disturbing," and fears there will be "another attack on me or some other innocent civilians."

        Meanwhile Abdul Qodus, a 45-year-old from Wardak Province, cannot escape being transported back to the day of the attack that killed his brother. The Bnngina (the name given to drones in Wardak) flies over regularly. "All day and all night it is there," he laments. "It is nonstop in our village." This did not seem to be an exaggeration: Abdul had even heard a drone the evening prior to our meeting. "All night I did not sleep more than two hours," he told me. Abdul's brother, a farmer, was killed in 2014. He was working alone -- taking goats up to the mountain -- when he was hit by a drone missile.

        "I heard the drone attack and I got out of the house, because I knew my brother had taken goats to the mountain and I thought maybe he has been attacked, and I ran to the mountain," he added. "The first thing I saw was the pieces of my brother's body."

        Abdul and his family's lives have changed drastically since the death of his brother. They are now scared of taking their animals to the mountain. "This affects our financial situation. Because we don't have much land, we need to use the grass at the mountain. Our lives are connected to our animals."

        Abdul described how the lives of the whole community had been disrupted by drone attacks on the mountain. Before Abdul's brother's death, four other civilians had also been killed on the mountain in a separate drone attack.

        "We are a mountain village," he told me. "We go to the mountain to collect wood for fuel, for fires. We need it for our cooking and to make bread. We collect mushrooms and mountain leeks. We get water from the mountain, too, because there is a spring there. We use it to irrigate our farms."

        Many other rural Afghans echoed that the ill effects of drones were felt not just at the individual and familial level, but also by the wider community. Villagers are worried that the drones' surveillance cameras will mistake their innocent behavior for something nefarious. "When there is a jirga [local meeting] in the village and a drone goes around, we are afraid because we think the meeting will be attacked," Shanaky Gul, a 25-year-old from Wardak Province, said.  Congregations of Afghan civilians have been targeted in the past. A study by Stanford Law School/NYU Legal Clinic, "Living Under Drones," likewise found that civilians in Waziristan, Pakistan, had stopped participating in communal and social activities because they feared gathering in groups.

        Long-Term Strategy?

        It is hard to fathom the long-term effects of drone-induced fear on the psycho-social health of Afghan people and their communities. It is clear, however, that the task of diplomacy and improving security is made more difficult as a result. An overwhelming majority of the Afghan drone victims interviewed voiced unfavorable views about the United States and its allies. How will Afghanistan's next generation of community leaders and politicians, who have grown up living under the buzz of drones, feel towards the nations responsible for operating them? A troop surge will not improve this diplomatic impasse. Ahmad, a 21-year-old elementary school teacher from Wardak Province, put it this way: "We don't want to have relations with the militaries of foreign countries. We don't want it and we don't like them. The ordinary people like you -- we like them and we want to have connections with them."   

        Meanwhile, President Trump has repeatedly declared that he will "destroy radical Islamic terrorism," but has consistently shown that he does not understand the conditions in which terrorism thrives, overlooking the fact that  the Taliban has capitalized on anger caused by drones in its propaganda material and the madrassas (schools) it funds in Eastern Afghanistan.

        The psycho-social toll of drone warfare and its knock-on effects for cross-cultural relations and security are missed by most drone warfare criticism. As I witnessed in Afghanistan, the wide-ranging and long-term negative impact of drone warfare go far beyond the civilian casualty statistics most often cited, affecting the lives of all who live in the areas patrolled by drones.

        "We cannot care as well for our farms as before," Abdul told me. "When we go, we go with fear, we go quickly." 



        13)  Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, E.P.A. Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start

        JULY 1, 2017




        WASHINGTON — In the four months since he took office as the Environmental Protection Agency's administrator, Scott Pruitt has moved to undo, delay or otherwise block more than 30 environmental rules, a regulatory rollback larger in scope than any other over so short a time in the agency's 47-year history, according to experts in environmental law.

        Mr. Pruitt's supporters, including President Trump, have hailed his moves as an uprooting of the administrative state and a clearing of onerous regulations that have stymied American business. Environmental advocates have watched in horror as Mr. Pruitt has worked to disable the authority of the agency charged with protecting the nation's air, water and public health.

        But both sides agree: While much of Mr. Trump's policy agenda is mired in legal and legislative delays, hampered by poor execution and overshadowed by the Russia investigations, the E.P.A. is acting. Mr. Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who built a career out of suing the agency he now leads, is moving effectively to dismantle the regulations and international agreements that stood as a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's legacy.

        "Just the number of environmental rollbacks in this time frame is astounding," said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. "Pruitt has come in with a real mission. He is much more organized, much more focused than the other cabinet-level officials, who have not really taken charge of their agencies. It's very striking how much they've done."

        Since February, Mr. Pruitt has filed a proposal of intent to undo or weaken Mr. Obama's climate change regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan. In late June, he filed a legal plan to repeal an Obama-era rule curbing pollution in the nation's waterways. He delayed a rule that would require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. He delayed the date by which companies must comply with a rule to prevent explosions and spills at chemical plants. And he reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the E.P.A.'s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children's nervous systems.

        In a sign of both Mr. Pruitt's influence in the White House and the high regard in which Mr. Trump holds him, he will take a leading role in devising the legal path to withdraw from the 194-nation Paris agreement on climate change, a job that would typically fall to lawyers at the State Department.

        And he is doing all this largely without the input of the 15,000 career employees at the agency he heads, according to interviews with over 20 current and former E.P.A. senior career staff members.

        "I have been consistently informed by multiple career people at E.P.A. that Administrator Pruitt is not meeting with them ahead of making decisions like rolling back these major regulations," said James J. Jones, who had worked at the agency since the Reagan administration before retiring in January. Mr. Jones, an expert in chemical and pesticide pollution, was appointed by Mr. Obama as the E.P.A.'s assistant administrator for chemical safety in his final years at the agency.

        Instead, Mr. Pruitt has outsourced crucial work to a network of lawyers, lobbyists and other allies, especially Republican state attorneys general, a network he worked with closely as the head of the Republican Attorneys General Association. Since 2013, the group has collected $4.2 million from fossil fuel-related companies like Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Murray Energy and Southern Company, businesses that also worked closely with Mr. Pruitt in many of the 14 lawsuits he filed against the E.P.A.

        Within the agency, Mr. Pruitt relies on the counsel of a small network of political appointees, including a number of former lobbyists and senior industry officials. For example, he tapped Nancy Beck, previously a policy director for the American Chemistry Council, which lobbies on behalf of companies such as Dow and DuPont, to oversee the E.P.A. office charged with enforcing regulations on hazardous chemicals.

        "It amounts to a corporate takeover of the agency, in its decision- and policy-making functions," said Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, a government watchdog group.

        Mr. Pruitt, 49, sees himself as a champion of states' rights, pressing to diminish the intrusive authority of an overbearing federal agency. Hanging near the fireplace on the wood-paneled walls of his office is a portrait of President James Monroe, who opposed ratifying the Constitution because he said it gave too much power to the federal government.

        Mr. Pruitt pushed that message in his first speech to the agency's staff. "Congress has been very prescriptive in providing, in many instances, a very robust role, an important role of the states," he said. He did not mention public health or climate change.

        Since then, Mr. Pruitt has begun what he calls his "back to basics" agenda for the E.P.A. — one that he has described to multiple people as an effort to rein in the regulatory efforts of the Obama era, which focused on invisible greenhouse gases from tailpipes and smokestacks. Instead, Mr. Pruitt has said, he wants to focus on "tangible" pollution — for example, the Superfund program, which cleans up hazardous waste at old industrial sites.

        "I am making it a priority to ensure contaminated sites get cleaned up," he said. "We will be more hands-on." (His proposed budget for 2018, however, would cut the Superfund program by about 25 percent.)

        Mr. Pruitt made his message explicit in a visit to the Harvey coal mine in Sycamore, Pa., to kick off a "back to basics" promotional tour in April.

        "It's sad that a regulatory body of the government of the United States would declare a war on any part of our economy," he told the miners. "The regulatory assault is over."

        Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, who worked closely with Mr. Pruitt when he was Oklahoma's attorney general to sue the E.P.A., said he was pleased that Mr. Pruitt's new job hadn't changed him. On March 1, Mr. Paxton met with Mr. Pruitt to request that the agency withdraw a rule requiring energy companies to collect data on emissions of methane from oil and gas wells. Mr. Paxton delivered the letter with the signatures of 11 attorneys general, laying out the case for walking back the rule.

        "I personally handed him the letter, and the next day the rule was personally withdrawn," Mr. Paxton said.

        Meanwhile, the agency's career scientists and legal experts say they have been largely cut out of the process. Senior staff members with decades of experience in environmental law and science said they had been consulted rarely on the agency's major decisions to undo environmental protections.

        It is not unusual for E.P.A. administrators to consult with lobbyists, state officials, and industry and advocacy groups as they develop major policy proposals. But veteran E.P.A. employees say Mr. Pruitt has gone much further in cutting out career staff members.

        "Going back to the Reagan administration, I was never aware of a substantive decision made without input from career staff," said Mr. Jones, the former head of the E.P.A.'s chemical regulation office. "It's hard to imagine that you have all the relevant facts if you're not meeting with the people who have a greater depth of knowledge on these issues than almost anyone in the country."

        Some career E.P.A. employees said they had been consulted, particularly in the writing of legal language to execute Mr. Pruitt's agenda. After Mr. Pruitt drafted his plan to repeal Mr. Obama's rule on pollution in the nation's waterways, he turned to the E.P.A.'s legal office to help ensure the language was bulletproof, said Kevin Minoli, the agency's acting general counsel.

        "As lawyers, it's not our job to choose the ultimate policy decision," said Mr. Minoli, who has served as an E.P.A. lawyer since the end of the Clinton administration. "As lawyers, our job is to help articulate the policy in the most legally defensible way possible."

        But Mr. Pruitt's main source of counsel on industry regulations appears to be the industries he regulates. An excerpt from his calendar for Feb. 21 to March 31, acquired through the Freedom of Information Act by the energy trade publication E & E News, details multiple meetings with chief executives and lobbyists from oil, gas, chemical, agribusiness and other industries regulated by the E.P.A., as well as with Mr. Pruitt's personally appointed political staff — but few meetings with career employees or environmental groups.

        Leaders of at least three major environmental and public health groups — the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and the American Lung Association — have had meetings with Mr. Pruitt, they said. E.P.A. officials said he had also met with advocacy groups such as the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, the National Medical Association, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American, and the National Environmental Health Association.

        But the influence of those groups, which have pushed to retain environmental rules, appears to be outweighed by the counsel of industry groups.

        Dow Chemical Company had pushed the E.P.A. to reconsider an Obama-era ban on the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that the E.P.A.'s scientists have concluded causes developmental damage in children. On March 30, Mr. Pruitt reversed the ban.

        On March 13, Mr. Pruitt met with agriculture lobbyists, including Dale Moore, executive director of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which has lobbied heavily for the repeal of an Obama-era regulation that could restrict the use of fertilizers near waterways. Last month, Mr. Pruitt filed a draft plan to repeal the Waters of the United States Rule.

        On March 22, he had dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington with 45 members of the board of directors of the American Petroleum Institute, a body composed largely of chief executive officers of the oil and gas industry. At the time, oil and gas companies were pushing the E.P.A. to roll back a set of rules on methane leaks from drilling wells, which the industry estimates could cost it over $170 million.

        On June 13, Mr. Pruitt filed a proposal to delay those regulations by two years, and the agency is expected to rewrite them. In the filing, he noted that the E.P.A. had concluded that a delay of the pollution rules "may have a disproportionate effect on children." But he also said the rules would come at a significant cost to the oil and gas industry.

        "The nice thing is," Mr. Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, said, "now we feel like we're being heard."



        14)  For Millions, Life Without Medicaid Services Is No Option

        JULY 1, 2017




        TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Frances Isbell has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that has left her unable to walk or even roll over in bed. But Ms. Isbell has a personal care assistant through Medicaid, and the help allowed her to go to law school at the University of Alabama here. She will graduate next month.

        She hopes to become a disability rights lawyer — "I'd love to see her on the Supreme Court someday," her aide, Christy Robertson, said, tearing up with emotion as Ms. Isbell prepared to study for the bar exam in her apartment last week — but staying independent will be crucial to her professional future.

        "The point of these programs is to give people options and freedom," said Ms. Isbell, 24, whose family lives a few hours away in Gadsden.

        The care she gets is an optional benefit under federal Medicaid law, which means each state can decide whether to offer it and how much to spend. Optional services that she and millions of other Medicaid beneficiaries receive would be particularly at risk under Republican proposals to scale back Medicaid as part of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

        Those services include dental care for adults, long-term care for disabled and elderly people living at home, certain therapies that children with disabilities receive in school, prosthetic limbs and even prescription drugs.

        The battle over replacing the Affordable Care Act has focused intensely on the future of Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and vulnerable created more than 50 years ago as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. Much of the debate has centered on Republican proposals to roll back the recent expansion of the program to millions of low-income adults without disabilities.

        But the House and Senate bills would also make profound changes to the very nature of Medicaid, shifting it from an open-ended entitlement to a program with strict federal funding limits.

        Those changes would have far bigger consequences over time, affecting many more of the roughly 74 million Americans on Medicaid. The threat to optional services may be especially acute in states, like Alabama, that already spend far less than the national average on Medicaid and are averse to raising more revenue through taxes.

        "In a poor state like Alabama, you are starting off with a baseline that's already low," said James A. Tucker, director of the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, which provides legal services to people with disabilities here. "There's a fundamental antipathy to spending the public purse on health care services for poor people, and that would only get worse if the resources become capped and more limited."

        The drain on Medicaid funding would worsen over time under the bill that Senate Republicans are working to pass, with the new funding limits starting in 2021 and having the biggest impact more than a decade from now. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Medicaid spending would be 26 percent lower under the Senate plan than it would be under current law in 2026 — and 35 percent lower in 2036. The office predicted that states would be forced to "eliminate optional services, restrict eligibility for enrollment or adopt some combination of those approaches."

        Under the Senate plan, states would receive a fixed annual amount for each Medicaid beneficiary, with each category of beneficiaries, like children and the disabled, getting a different base amount based on recent costs. The amount would increase every year by a formula that is expected to grow more slowly than average medical costs after 2025. Disabled children would not be subject to the spending caps.

        Avalere Health, a consulting firm, estimated in a report that federal spending on individual state Medicaid programs could decline between 6 percent and 26 percent under the Republican plan by 2026. The biggest drops would be in states that expanded Medicaid, but the cuts would compound more sharply for every state in later years.

        Conservatives say Medicaid spending, which consumes a major and growing portion of the federal and states' budgets, needs to be reined in. The current system of unlimited federal matching funds, they say, has encouraged states to milk as much as they can, sometimes wastefully; capping funding, their argument goes, would make Medicaid more efficient and ensure it can continue to help the most vulnerable Americans, including people with disabilities.

        "The fiscal sustainability of Medicaid is essential to making sure that those who depend on the program can know it will be there for them in the future," Avik Roy, a conservative health care analyst, wrote last week in Forbes.

        Alabama's two Republican senators, Richard Shelby and Rodney Strange, have expressed quiet support for the Senate bill, although Mr. Strange has said he wants to make sure that "the most vulnerable in my state" are protected. Gov. Kay Ivey, also a Republican, has said she wants to see a final version of the bill before weighing in.

        For decades, the only type of long-term care that disabled Medicaid beneficiaries could receive was in nursing homes. But starting in the early 1980s, Medicaid began providing the option of "home and community-based services," allowing people with disabilities to stay in their homes with paid help. States now spend slightly more for these services than for nursing home care, which is a mandatory benefit under Medicaid.

        Nationally, almost three million people received Medicaid long-term care services at home or in their community in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. About 13,000 people were getting these services in Alabama in 2015, according to the state.

        Medicaid pays for only 25 hours a week of help for Ms. Isbell. It is not enough; she received an additional 25 hours of help through a Department of Education program during her three years in law school.

        "It's still significantly less than I would get in other states," she said this past week eating a lunch of leftover spaghetti in her apartment in Tuscaloosa with the help of her aide.

        She knows disabled people who choose to get catheters, she said, rather than do "pee math"— figuring out how soon they will need to use the bathroom and whether an aide will be there to help.

        "People are struggling so much to get by with the hours they have as it is," she said. "But the way this bill was written, you have to just make a general prediction that these services will be cut."

        Relief for Family

        Eric Harkins will never be able to have a job. With cerebral palsy, intellectual disability and a seizure disorder, he cannot speak or move other than scooting across the floor on his knees and elbows. But Medicaid has allowed his sister, Kimberlee, to pursue a career as a vocational rehabilitation counselor instead of caring for him full time. It pays for aides to care for Mr. Harkins for 125 hours a week, an amount that was increased after his mother had a debilitating heart attack and underwent surgery several times over the last few years.

        "He requires help with every aspect of daily living," Ms. Harkins said, stroking her brother's arm as he watched a cartoon in their living room one recent afternoon in Vestavia Hills, outside Birmingham. "If our caregivers went away tomorrow, I'd have to quit my job and take care of Eric."

        Mr. Harkins, 33, likes playing with toys meant for toddlers, watching shows on his iPad and going on outings to Target and restaurants, though it usually takes his sister and an aide to get him there. Because he can be physically aggressive, a day program is out of the question, Ms. Harkins said. But his mother, Judy Harkins, said that if he was placed in a nursing home, "he would die, and it would kill me, too."

        An Independent Life

        Every weekday, Medicaid allows Matthew Foster to spend a few hours pursuing one cherished activity after the next: working out at the gym, taking an art class, shopping for groceries, visiting his elderly aunt. The program pays for an aide to spend 20 hours a week with Mr. Foster, 34, who has Down syndrome and cannot read well or drive.

        Mr. Foster spent eight years on a Medicaid waiting list to get the coverage. Before he got it, help came from his mother, Susan Ellis, and his two younger siblings, who have since moved away. His father, Michael Foster, worked six days a week as a coal miner, though he retired recently. Both parents are 67 and have health problems of their own, although Ms. Ellis still works for a nonprofit disability rights group.

        Mr. Foster lives in what used to be their garage in a modest split-level home in Vestavia Hills. His living quarters has its own entrance. Since he was 17, he has worked on weekends at Chuck E. Cheese's, dressing in costume and entertaining children at birthday parties. His father drives him back and forth now, but in the future he may rely on Medicaid for help getting to work.

        "My hope is that when Mike and I aren't around anymore, he will be able to maintain his life the way he lives it now," Ms. Ellis said. "That means living in the community he's grown up in."

        As she spoke, Mr. Foster emerged in workout clothes, smiling toward his personal care assistant, Amancia Carrera, who was waiting to take him for their regular Monday sandwich at Subway — "It's the best time for us to really talk, with eye contact," Ms. Carrera said — and the gym.

        "She's an active person, and I'm real active, too," Mr. Foster said of Ms. Carrera, who also works with him on basic math and reading and helps him with housekeeping, meals and bills. "I like having Amancia in my life."



        15)   For Child Survivors of London Fire, a Belated Eid Celebration

        JULY 2, 2017




        LONDON — Few things are more quintessentially British than a funfair for children. And nothing conveys the British slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" like staging one for children rendered homeless after an epic inferno that killed at least 80 people.

        The local mosque near Grenfell Tower, the 24-story West London apartment building that was destroyed by fire on June 14, held a delayed Eid al-Fitr celebration on Saturday for survivors and their neighbors — and most of all, their children.

        It featured a bouncy castle, face-painting tables, a playpen full of colorful balls, helium balloons on long strings, all funfair staples. Copious free food included chicken biryani and samosas, but also cookies and chocolate cupcakes. There was an old-fashioned popcorn popper and a vat to spin pink cotton candy — candy floss, Brits call it. Even the sun made an unscheduled appearance.

        That befitted what was a determinedly upbeat occasion. "These kids need something normal, just a chance to relax and have fun," said Abdurahman Sayed, the executive director of the Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, which also houses the mosque.

        Still, officials thought long and hard about whether to hold the event so soon, Mr. Sayed said. He was a little worried that the parents would stay away, only two weeks after the tragedy, with local and national governments still being battered nearly daily by public furyrevelations about lapses that made the tower vulnerable to fire and serial resignations of public officials. But the decision proved popular, and fairgoers of all ages filled the center and the blocked-off street outside.

        With most of the Grenfell Tower survivors rehoused, for now, in hotel rooms, it was a welcome chance to take their children out somewhere and also see their friends and neighbors, Mr. Sayed said. "It'll be good for the parents too."

        Ahmed Palekar, who had many friends in the tower, came to watch. "This is our way of talking about something else other than the fire," he said. "But behind each smile is a troubled recent past."

        Amina al-Wahadi attended with her children and her sister — who escaped from a lower floor of the tower with her husband and two children. The sisters then watched as the flames engulfed the 21st floor, where their brother and his family lived; all five perished. The sisters were angry about how they had been treated by the authorities — "lie after lie after lie," as Ms. Wahadi put it.

        But this day was for the children, who dived into the Bouncy Castle, or inflatable bouncer; played at sword-fighting with modeling balloons (as twisting balloons are known here); or had their faces painstakingly painted by volunteers, mostly schoolteachers, with several children lined up before each of them waiting their turns patiently. Spider-Man, predictably, was a big hit.

        "We can't begin to understand what they've gone through," said Farita Latif, one of the face painters. "I just lost my friend in the tower and I was crying for a week. Imagine losing a family?"

        Another of the teachers was doing henna tattoos, popular with adult women in hijab, as well as schoolgirls in Western dress. "I met a girl today," the teacher said. "I did her henna. She lost five of her friends. She was in year 7." That is equivalent to American sixth grade.

        Most schools are still in session in England. At one local nursery, 11 Grenfell children are absent; at an elementary school, five are, parents said. They are probably among the missing, now presumed dead. In many cases, no parents have called to report absences, probably because they are missing or dead too.

        The Al Manaar Mosque caters to a variety of Muslims originally from many different countries. That was the case too with the mostly Muslim population of Grenfell Tower. Among the adults attending the Eid funfair, their appearance reflected their Islamic diversity, from full hijab and long chin beards, to modern Western dress, and everything between. The youngsters, though, could mostly have come from any public playground in the country.

        For many Muslims, Eid celebrations, held June 25 to 27 this year, include giving presents to children. That did not happen for the Grenfell Tower families; for their children, it was like a canceled Christmas. The center has since been inundated with gifts for children, and several rooms on its top floor look like part of a chaotically well-stocked toy store. There was enough for all of the children to get something, but the young survivors of the fire were ushered by volunteers in maroon vests into a "special room," where the nicest toys had been gathered.

        Counselors were on hand as well. On a table was a pile of "Easy Read" brochures from the National Health Service in West London, titled "Supporting Children After a Traumatic Event." Among the recommendations: "Keep to your normal daily activities as much as you can."

        Out in the street, two young boys took up positions on a circular mat for sumo wrestling. They had donned padded fat suits that rendered both of them harmless as they belly-knocked one another down, to great laughter all around.

        There was also a science exhibition on one sidewalk table. A girl who looked 11 or 12 was learning about non-Newtonian fluids. She squeezed a handful of cornstarch — cornflour, it is called here — mixed with water into a squishy ball in the palm of her hand.

        "It's like slime," she said, referring to another type of non-Newtonian fluid. She spoke with wonder, but softly. On her inner left wrist was a small henna tattoo that read "14.06.17," a silent reference to that day in June.






























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