The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

invites you to attend a showing of:

Manufacturing Guilt

A short film about Mumia's innocence

12:15 PM, Sunday, 19th of November

in the Emma Goldman Room

at the Howard Zinn Book Fair

CCSF Mission Campus, 1125 Valencia St, San Francisco

This film lays out the undeniable evidence of a frame-up against

Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981.

Mumia is still doing a life sentence in Pennsylvania

for a crime he did not commit!



Addicted to War:

And this does not include "…spending $1.25 trillion dollars to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and $566 billion to build the Navy a 308-ship fleet…"    


Dear Comrades, attached is some new art, where Xinachtli really outdid himself some.

Kaepernick sports new T-shirt:

Love this guy!




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:










Standing Rock raised the stakes for the global environmental and indigenous rights movements. Now, another victory. A North Dakota judge has ruled that my legal team is entitled to substantially more evidence from the North Dakota State Prosecutor's office than has been forthcoming in other water protector cases. We will be able to take sworn testimony and demand documents from Energy Transfer Partners and their private, militarized security firm, TigerSwan.

The timing on this ruling is important for all environmental protectors. 84 members of Congress—nearly all Republicans—recently sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions encouraging him to invoke the domestic terrorism statute to prosecute fossil fuel protesters. These attacks on our fundamental constitutional rights, spearheaded by Donald Trump and parroted by congressional shills of Big Oil, should deeply concern all citizens who value our right to speak freely and demonstrate.

Our team has produced a new video that explains how I was singled out and targeted—and the justification for our bold legal strategy to expose the illegal and immoral wedding of the fossil fuel industry, law enforcement, and militarized private security forces. You'll see why I took action on behalf of my people, millions of others downstream, and Unci Maka—Grandmother Earth. Please watch it, and share it widely.

Share on Facebook

Don't lose sight of what Standing Rock means. My tribe—one of the poorest communities in the nation—won't stop leading the struggles to protect the earth and freedom of expression. Continue to stand with me, my courageous fellow defendant HolyElk Lafferty, and hundreds of others being represented by our ally organization, the Water Protector Legal Collective. Our fight is your fight—and it is nothing less than the movement to protect freedom and the earth for future generations.

Wopila—I thank you.

Chase Iron Eyes

Lakota People's Law Project Lead Counsel

Lakota People's Law Project

547 South 7th Street #149

Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

United States









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 



Prison Radio UPDATE:

Please sign this petition:

Release all the records and files regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal case!


A ruling to implement Judge Leon Tucker's recent order to release Mumia's court documents could be made as soon as May 30, 2017. Please call or e-mail the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office now to pressure them to follow the court's order to release all the records and files regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal case.

Phone: 215-686-8000

Judge Orders DA to Produce Complete File for Mumia's Case

Dear Friend,

This just in! Judge Leon Tucker of the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia has ordered the District Attorney of Philadelphia to produce the entire case file for Cook v. the Commonwealth- the case file in Mumia Abu-Jamal's criminal conviction, by September 21st.

The DA's office has to produce the entire file for "in camera" review in Judge Tucker's chambers. This mean Judge Tucker thinks that a thorough review of all the relevant files is in order! Or in other words, what has been produced under court order from the DA'a office has been woefully deficient.

Judge Tucker worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the late 90's, so he knows what is in -and not in- files. Cook v. the Commonwealth comprises at least 31 boxes of material held by the DA. Will they turn over "all information and the complete file" for Mumia's case, as Judge Tucker has ordered?

This in camera review by Judge Tucker himself means that an independent jurist will personally inspect the documents the DA produces. See the order here.  Stay tuned for more information following September 21. This is just one step in a long walk to freedom. It is a step that has never been taken before.

OPEN the files. Justice Now!



Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?

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

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

A Book Review by Robert Fantina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Journal of Books, July 2017





Campaign to Stop Modern Day Slavery in Colorado, Demanding Equal Rights to the Under Represented


Petitioning Denver FBI & US Department of Justice

Stop Slavery in Colorado

On May 29, 2008 at approximately 10:00 p.m. Omar Gent was driving in his car headed to the gas station; however was pulled over by local police for what was stated to be a "traffic violation". Omar was then arrested on scene and taken to be identified as the suspect of a local robbery. The victim was shown a photo of Omar Gent (which is illegal) and then was taken to the traffic stop where Omar was already handcuffed in the back of the police car and a one-on-one show up was held at a distance of approximately 20-30 feet; the victim  was unable to identify Omar as the suspect during the first show up.  After given a second show up the victim believed he was 90% sure Omar was the suspect.

Coworkers #1 and #2  were not present at the time of the robbery but were used as witnesses to help identify the suspect. Coworker #1 was also taken to the one-on-one show up and was asked to identify Omar as the suspect and he could not as he stated "I have astigmatism" and was not 100% sure Omar was the man.  Coworker #2 positively identified Omar Gent as the suspect because he stated, "there aren't that many black men in Parker Colorado." At the pretrial suppression of ID/photo line up the victim picked three other black men all with different builds and heights; although prior the victim was "90% sure" he had identified the right man. In addition, Coworker #1 stated during the trial that he was angry when he made the ID because he was ready to go home and coworker #2  told him that it was Omar.

Omar's car was illegally searched without consent or warrant. After his arrest and enduring many hours of integration, Omar asked for an attorney, yet all he received were more questions and did not receive the legal representation requested.  During interrogation, the police tried to coerce Omar to confess to the robbery or else they would throw his family out of their home.  Omar maintained his innocence and did not confess to the crime and as a result the police kept their word. Four Colorado Police Officers forcefully entered Omar's home  and began to search his home without a warrant or consent; Omar's family was present and told police that they were not given permission to enter. The police forced Omar's family out of their home into the Colorado winter night. The police took what they wanted during the illegal search of Omar's home. Omar's family filed a complaint against the city because of the illegal search of their home.  In efforts to conceal the police officers' wrongdoing, the presiding Judge sealed the legit complaint. In addition, the video interrogation showing Omar requesting to have legal representation and police threats to throw his family out of their home unless he confessed was deemed inadmissible in court.

Omar has written proof that he requested a preliminary hearing to challenge the charges of probable cause but he was illegally denied the right--without Omar's knowledge and approval the public defender waived his rights to a preliminary hearing.  Omar was then charged with an infamous felony yet never received a grand jury indictment (which is required by Colorado Bill of Rights for felony charges). Due to the fact that Omar was never indicted, he was subsequently denied his sixth Amendment right (to confront and cross examine witnesses). Omar has been fighting his case by seeking justice for the violation of his civil rights. Help us stop illegal imprisonment in Colorado.

  • This petition will be delivered to:
    • Denver FBI & US Department of Justice 

"Please help us by stopping the mass incarceration in Colorado! Basic civil rights are being violated and we need your help to shed light on this issue." 

Sign then share this petition at: 






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.




stand with reality winner


Since our last legal update, there have been two important developments in Reality's case, giving us some insight into the arguments both sides intend to use in the trial.

The defense continues to build a case against the government's abuse of the Espionage Act, a strategy Reality's lawyers started laying out in their recent bail appeal. Taking that strategy further in a court brief on October 26th, they laid out a strong First Amendment challenge to the government's interpretation of the Espionage Act in cases involving whistleblowers.

If the defense's challenge succeeds, it would strengthen whistleblower protections significantly, and deny the government one of the main tools it uses to silence dissent.

Meanwhile, the government is doubling down on its strategy to put Reality's personality and politics on trial. A court filing, also on October 26th, repeated the same handful of sentence fragments obtained from eavesdropping on Reality's private conversations which the government claims is proof that she "hates America."They go on to make absurd claims about Reality's ability to flee the country while under total surveillance and without a passport, in their ongoing attempt to force her to serve time before she's been convicted of any crime.

Read the rest of the article at Stand With Reality.

STAND WITH REALITY WINNER ~ PATRIOT & ALLEGED WHISTLEBLOWERc/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559

standwithreality.org ~ facebook.com/standwithreality

STAND WITH REALITY WINNER ~ PATRIOT & ALLEGED WHISTLEBLOWERc/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559

standwithreality.org ~ facebook.com/standwithreality



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. 













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 TILLERY: Still Rumbling!

October 22—Major Tillery's challenge to his 1985 conviction for a 1976 murder and assault goes to a Pennsylvania Superior Court appeals panel on October 31. Tillery's case is about actual innocence. It highlights Philadelphia's infamous culture of police and prosecutorial misconduct. The only so-called evidence against him was from lying jailhouse informants who were threatened with false murder prosecutions, and plea and bail deals on pending cases. A favorite inducement for jailhouse informants in the early 1980's was "sex for lies." Homicide detectives brought the informants and their girlfriends to police headquarters for private time in interview rooms for sex.

This is Major Tillery's 34th year in prison on a sentence of life without parole. Over twenty of those years were spent in solitary confinement in some of the harshest federal and state "control units."

"Major Tillery, for many years known as the jailhouse lawyer who led the 1990 Tillery v. Owens prisoners' rights civil case, spawned from unconstitutional conditions at the state prison in Pittsburg, is still rumbling these days, this time for his life as well as his freedom."    —Mumia Abu-Jamal, Major: Battling On 2 Fronts, 9/17/17

This past year the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) acknowledged that Major Tillery has hepatitis C, which has progressed to cirrhosis of the liver. The DOC nonetheless refused to provide treatment, ignoring the federal court ruling in Abu-Jamal v. Wetzel that the DOC's hep-C protocols violate the constitutional requirement to provide prisoners adequate medical care. With the help of the Abolitionist Law Center, Major Tillery is now receiving the anti-viral treatment.

Tillery has been doubly punished in prison for his activism in support of fellow prisoners. His 1990 lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens resulted in federal court orders to the PA Department of Corrections to provide medical and mental health treatment and end double-celling. He challenged the extreme conditions of solitary confinement in the NJ State prison in Trenton, Tillery v. Hayman (2007). His advocacy for Mumia Abu-Jamal in February 2015 helped save Mumia's life. Major Tillery filed grievances for himself and other prisoners suffering from painful and debilitating skin rashes. For these acts of solitary with other prisoners, just months after he re-entered general population from a decade in solitary confinement, Tillery was set up with false prison misconduct charges and given four months back in "the hole." Major Tillery filed a federal retaliation lawsuit against the DOC. Recently, Major succeeded in getting a program for elderly prisoners established at SCI Frackville.

For his appeals and continuing investigation, Major Tillery now has the pro bono representation of Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio:

"I took on Major Tillery's defense, which exposes prosecutorial misconduct in convicting Major Tillery of a nine-year old murder based solely on the testimony of jailhouse informants. This testimony was recanted in the informants' sworn statements that detail the coercion and favors by homicide detectives and prosecutors to manufacture false trial testimony.

"Now the DA's office wants to uphold the unconstitutional application of 'timeliness' restrictions applied to post-conviction petitions to dismiss Major Tillery's petition, arguing he is too late in uncovering that the DA's office knowingly put a lying witness on the stand."

Major Tillery's appeal is to win his "day in court" on his petition based on his innocence and misconduct by the police and prosecution. At the same time, the investigation continues to further uncover the evidence of this misconduct.

Although Major Tillery has pro bono legal representation there are still substantial costs to appeal and to conduct additional investigation..  Please help with a donation.

How You Can Help

Financial Support—Major Tillery needs funds for a lawyer in his appeal to overturn his conviction.

Go to PayPal

Go to JPay.com;

code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

Or send a check/money order to: Major Tillery or Kamilah Iddeen, U.S. Post Office,

2347 N. 7th St., PO Box 13205, Harrisburg, PA 17110-6501

Have a fund-raising event! Thanks to Dr. Suzanne Ross, International Spokesperson for the International Concerned Family and Friends for Mumia Abu-Jamal for $1000 gifted during her 80th Birthday celebration.

Tell Philadelphia District Attorney:

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

Call: 215-686-8711 or  Email: DA_Central@phila.gov

Write to:

Major Tillery AM 9786, SCI Frackville, 1111 Altamont Blvd., Frackville, PA 17931

For More Information, To read the new appeal, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery

Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com

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




Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence

Sign the Petition:


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

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

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

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

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

Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.

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

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

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

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

In solidarity,

James Clark

Senior Death Penalty Campaigner

Amnesty International USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










    1) 30 Vaquita Porpoises Are Left. One Died in a Rescue Mission.

     NOV. 11, 2017




    On a windy afternoon last weekend, Cynthia Smith was on a boat in the Gulf of California, searching for one of the rarest marine mammals in the world.

    Never before had a vaquita porpoise been successfully captured and cared for by humans. But Dr. Smith, a veterinarian with a group known as Vaquita CPR, knew that the porpoises — whose black-rimmed eyes and dark noses have earned them the moniker "panda of the sea" — were likely to disappear without human intervention. Scientists estimate there are fewer than 30 vaquitas left in the wild. It was a last resort.

    When Dr. Smith and her team spotted a pair of porpoises, and managed to haul in the female, they were hopeful: the vaquita was calm, her vital signs promising. But soon after they moved her into a sea pen she began swimming too rapidly, then abruptly slowed down. By the time the veterinarians released the vaquita back into the wild, it was too late. "She was no longer breathing," Dr. Smith said. "We just couldn't bring her back."

    In the past five years, the vaquita population — which lives in only a sliver of water between Mexico's mainland and Baja California — has plummeted by 90 percent. Humans are to blame, but they are not even hunting for the vaquitas themselves.

    The animals, the world's smallest porpoises, get tangled and drown in nets set illegally to catch another endangered species, a fish called the totoaba. The poachers' bounty is an organ from the totoaba called the swim bladder, which is considered a delicacy and status symbol in China and can sell for up to $50,000 on the black market. It has been dubbed "aquatic cocaine."

    Mexico banned totoaba fishing in 1993, but it was only in 2015 — when vaquita numbers dwindled to about 100 — that the government also banned most gill nets, including those used for catching shrimp and other kinds of fish. The gill nets catch the totoaba, and also trap the vaquitas.

    Fishermen are still allowed to use a different type of net, intended for catching corvina fish, that is not supposed to pose a threat to the vaquitas. But because the corvina and totoaba fishing seasons overlap, fishermen can hide the totoaba nets beneath the corvina nets on their boats, said Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, the director of Vaquita CPR. "You can use a corvina as a cover-up, and that's what happened," he said.

    Most of the region's fishermen, who have been out of work since the ban, poach totoaba swim bladders, which fetch $3,000 to $10,000 per kilogram, said Andrea Crosta, the director of a group that investigates the totoaba trade. An equivalent catch of shrimp might earn a fisherman $200 at best.

    "If you're out here on the water, you're not risking jail time to catch shrimp," said Dave Bader, a spokesman for Vaquita CPR.

    After the death of the captured vaquita, the scientists agreed to shut down the program. "The evidence today is vaquita are not good candidates for being protected in this way," Dr. Smith said. "It's heartbreaking."

    The scientists had hoped to keep the animals in captivity temporarily, and possibly even breed them, until gill nets were eliminated from their habitat. While any wild animal is expected to experience some stress when captured, the group had hoped the vaquita could cope with being handled. (Last month, the scientists released a vaquita calf they had pulled from the waters when they determined it was too young to be separated from its mother.)

    Other conservationists had been critical of the plan. "I was telling them that this was going to happen, you're going to stress out the animals," said Paul Watson, the founder of the Sea Shepherd conservation group, which also works to protect vaquitas. "They are very elusive, they are very shy; you're going to kill one of them."

    Mr. Crosta said that while he admired the work of the biologists, they couldn't possibly solve a problem "that starts in San Felipe and ends in a shop in China." The fate of the vaquita, he said, was "entirely in the hands of law enforcement."

    In the past two years, Sea Shepherd and local groups have recovered more than 25,000 yards of gill nets from the gulf, weighing about 50 tons. Now that efforts to capture the vaquitas have failed, conservationists say hauling in the poachers' nets is the best bet to save the species from extinction.

    The Mexican government, conservationists say, also needs to crack down on illegal fishing, while providing sustainable alternatives for the community. Financial compensation from the government often never makes it into the hands of the fishermen, diverted by corruption, Mr. Crosta said.

    Local economies are an important consideration in conservation biology, Dr. Rojas-Bracho said. "You cannot save vaquita, and drive fishers to extinction."



    2)  Did Airstrikes in Afghanistan Last Week Kill Civilians? U.S. and U.N. Disagree

     NOV. 10, 2017




    Afghans held a protest on Wednesday in the city of Kunduz in response to reports that recent American airstrikes in Kunduz Province caused civilian casualties. The American military insisted that only Taliban fighters were killed or wounded. CreditNajim Raheem/European Pressphoto Agency 

    KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — Mohammad Anas, a college student, sheltered with friends and relatives in a mosque as they listened, terrified, to the boom of American airstrikes pummeling Taliban positions near their village in northern Afghanistan on Nov. 3.

    When the bombing subsided the next morning, the villagers came out and tried to return home, but Taliban insurgents ordered them to begin recovering the bodies of slain fighters.

    Before they finished, Mr. Anas said, warplanes returned and bombed the group. When it was over, village elders say, 19 civilians were left dead and at least six others were wounded — including Mr. Anas, whose wounds were minor.

    "Three of my friends were dead," he said.

    The United Nations confirmed the broad outlines of Mr. Anas's account, saying at least 10 civilians were killed in airstrikes on Nov. 4 in Kunduz Province. But the American military in Afghanistan insists that the only dead or wounded were Taliban insurgents.

    It was at least the fourth time in the past two years that airstrikes in the hotly contested area have led to controversy over whether civilians were killed.

    For the residents of the village, Qatl-e Aam in the Chardara District, the episode has bitter irony.

    In 1985, Soviet troops killed 650 residents, leaving only a handful alive. Residents renamed the village Qatl-e Aam, which means "massacre" in Dari.

    "There were so many bodies we turned the whole village into a cemetery," one survivor of the 1985 violence, Ghulam Nabi, 80, recalled.

    Another survivor of that massacre was Faiz Mohammad, 53, who said he lost his 13-year-old son in last week's airstrikes. "He had just finished learning the Holy Quran by heart," Mr. Mohammad said.

    The American military moved unusually quickly to release the results of its own internal investigation into the airstrikes, declaring on Tuesdaythat an "investigation was conducted independently and concluded that there were no civilian casualties."

    But the next day, Wednesday, the United Nations mission in Afghanistan took the unusual step of issuing a series of four posts on Twitter saying that its own investigation found that at least 10 civilians had been killed.

    "Accounts indicate victims were civilians forced by AGE's to retrieve bodies from earlier fighting," the mission said on Twitter, referring to antigovernment elements, which in Kunduz usually means Taliban insurgents.

    The United Nations' account was similar to what a New York Times reporter in the area was told during interviews this week with local villagers from the vicinity around Qatl-e Aam. "The Taliban forced everyone in the morning to retrieve their bodies," said one villager, Hajji Mahmoud, 69, who said he was wounded in the head and arm.

    In a statement, the United States military said that "numerous enemy combatants were killed," adding that its account was supported by the governor of Kunduz, Asadullah Omarkhel, and a Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri.

    But less senior officials in the area gave divergent accounts. Nimatullah Timory, head of public awareness in Governor Omarkhel's office, said that one civilian was killed and five civilians were wounded, although he added that the death occurred when the civilian tried to remove the body of a wounded Uzbek insurgent to hide evidence of foreign fighters' working with the Taliban.

    The American military claimed that particularly telling was its finding that "no hospitals or clinics in the local area indicated treatment of people with wounds from armed conflict." But a Times reporter saw six wounded patients in the Kunduz Regional Hospital on Nov. 4 who said they were victims of the airstrikes.

    Mr. Anas, the student, was among a group of 70 villagers who came to the city of Kunduz, the capital of the province, to protest outside the governor's house on Wednesday. He displayed photographs on his cellphone that he said showed children who were victims. "The governor is sitting in his office and doesn't know what is the real story," he said. Elders from the village presented the governor with a list of 19 civilians they claimed had been killed, all men except for two children.

    Asked about the divergent accounts, Liam McDowall, director of strategic communications for the United Nations mission, said, "The U.N. has over the past decade proved itself to be the most credible and reliable source for information about the devastating impact of the conflict on civilians in Afghanistan."

    "The U.N. in Afghanistan is, given its unsparing focus on safeguarding the lives of Afghan civilians, subject to regular criticism from all parties to the conflict," Mr. McDowall added. "There is rarely an incident or a day when our work to protect lives through our impartial reporting is not challenged."

    He declined to elaborate.

    An American military spokesman, Capt. Thomas R. Gresback of the Navy, said, "If there is additional credible evidence out there, we're open to hearing about it, but to date no one has come forward with anything."

    The United States has stepped up airstrikes as part of President Trump's new strategy in Afghanistan, with the Air Force reporting that it dropped 900 munitions in August and September this year, compared with only 260 in a similar period in 2016.

    Airstrikes in Kunduz have been particularly numerous, with three earlier serious claims that they resulted in civilian casualties just in the past two years.

    Those three earlier claims of civilian casualties came from airstrikes during the Obama administration.

    The most serious was an attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in the city of Kunduz on Oct. 3, 2015, which killed 42 civilians, most of them patients and staff members in the hospital. After a lengthy investigation, the American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., apologized, blaming human error, and 16 soldiers, one of them a special operations general, were disciplined.

    In June 2016, also in the Chardara District where the airstrikes last Saturday occurred, Afghan officials and local residents claimed that American airstrikes on a Taliban prison killed 7 to 16 prisoners.

    Last November, 33 civilians and two American soldiers were killed on the outskirts of the city of Kunduz, including many women and children. After a lengthy investigation, the American military admitted in January that 33 civilians had been killed but said that the Taliban had used civilian homes as cover.



    3) Emergency Manager Resigns in Puerto Rico; Army Ends Its Mission

     NOV. 10, 2017




    Restoring power in Puerto Rico has been slow, and on Friday, Abner Gómez stepped down as the head of the island's emergency management agency. CreditDennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The New York Times

    SAN JUAN — The head of Puerto Rico's emergency management agency resigned Friday, the same day that the Army general in charge of the military's response to the hurricane announced that his mission on the island had ended.

    The moves came as Puerto Rico tries to shift away from the emergency phase of its hurricane response, and just a day after a widespread power failure underscored the enormous challenges that remain. More than 2,000 people are still in shelters, and the power grid is operating at 41 percent capacity, 52 days after the storm.

    Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan arrived in Puerto Rico about a week after Hurricane Maria pummeled the island, in the midst of fierce criticism of the federal response. He quickly acknowledged that not enough federal troops were on the island and vowed to do more to help Puerto Rico.

    On Friday, he said the federal government had distributed 51 million gallons of water and 20 million meals and had tended to 5,000 sick residents.

    He said that the military's missions, primarily clearing roads, attending to medical emergencies and helping restore communications, were complete. Other agencies, like the National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency, would continue the work. Some military officials would remain on the island to wind down operations.

    "FEMA is going to be here, very much for the long term and the rebuilding," General Buchanan said. "We in the military generally don't do that."

    Shortly afterward, the government announced that Abner Gómez, the commissioner of the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, had resigned.

    It was unclear whether Mr. Gómez's resignation was an indication that the government had recognized a failure in its response to Hurricane Maria, or that he had simply lost influence at the agency. Mr. Gómez's profile had diminished this year when the governor created a cabinet position over him. He had not been a visible figure since the storm and rarely appeared at news conferences.

    In his resignation letter, Mr. Gómez acknowledged that the recovery had largely been assigned to someone else, so he was stepping down to let his new supervisor, the secretary of public safety, name his own team.

    Mr. Gómez did not respond to requests for comment.

    On Thursday, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló asked his cabinet to sign undated letters of resignation. Mr. Rosselló has vowed to eliminate 100 agencies and many members of the cabinet are going to find themselves without jobs, he said.

    "We had an emergency phase where practically all of us were sustaining lives," he said. "We are now entering a recovery phase," and for that, he said, he needs a more nimble government.

    Oscar Ramiro, the head chef of a popular bakery in San Juan, said that Mr. Gómez was not the only official who had shown himself unable to address the destruction of Hurricane Maria. Others should also resign or be replaced, starting at the top, said Mr. Ramiro, who still has no power at his house in Rio Piedras, a San Juan neighborhood.

    "He's been pretty incompetent," he said of Mr. Gómez. "The governor entrusted him with this responsibility, which means that ultimately, the problem is the governor."



    4) After a Nominator Is Denied Access, '1984' Is Ineligible for Tonys

     NOV. 10, 2017




    A scene from the play "1984," which ran on Broadway but won't be eligible for Tony Awards.CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times

    This year's Broadway production of "1984" will be ineligible for Tony Awards because the production refused to allow the journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is a member of the nominating committee, to see the play.

    The play's lead producer, Scott Rudin, did not explain why Mr. Vargas was denied access, and neither Mr. Rudin nor Mr. Vargas immediately offered any comment. Another lead producer, Sonia Friedman, said, "I don't have a comment on the matter other than I am disappointed with the outcome."

    The Tony Awards administration committee made the unusual decision to disqualify "1984" during a meeting on Thursday. The awards rules require that producers invite all members of the Tony nominating committee — there are currently 49 — to a performance.

    "It was determined that not all elements of the required eligibility were fulfilled," the awards administrators said in a statement Friday. "Both the production and the committee have discussed the matter in private. While all parties involved do not necessarily agree on the outcome, all parties agree that the issue was handled properly."

    A Tonys spokeswoman would not confirm that Mr. Vargas was denied access to the play, but several theater industry leaders confirmed that he was the excluded nominator. Last season, his first as a Tony nominator, he recused himself from voting.

    Mr. Vargas is a prominent immigration-rights advocate who in 2011, writing for The New York Times Magazine, acknowledged that he is an undocumented immigrant.

    In 2010, he wrote criticallyabout "The Social Network," a movie about the founding of Facebook co-produced by Mr. Rudin.

    A spokesman for Mr. Rudin denied that the article — which described the movie as "a simplistic take on a complex character masquerading as an important film" — had anything to do with Mr. Vargas being denied access to see "1984," but declined to offer further explanation.

    The play, adapted and directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan from the novel by George Orwell, ran from May 18 to Oct. 8. Its cast included Tom Sturridge, Olivia Wilde and Reed Birney, a Tony winner for "The Humans."

    The show cost $4 million to mount, according to documents on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It opened to mixed reviews, and grossed $6.9 million over 21 weeks, playing to audiences that ranged from 57 percent to 90 percent full. In total, it was seen by 112,232 people, according to the Broadway League.



    5)  Trump Nominee for Federal Judgeship Has Never Tried a Case

     NOV. 11, 2017




    Brett Talley, a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, has been approved for a lifetime federal district judgeship by the Senate Judiciary Committee. CreditLiberty Day Institute, via YouTube

    A 36-year-old lawyer who has never tried a case and who was unanimously deemed "not qualified" by the American Bar Association has been approved for a lifetime federal district judgeship by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    The lawyer, Brett Talley, is the fourth judicial nominee under President Trump to receive a "not qualified" rating from the bar association and the second to receive the rating unanimously. Since 1989, the association has unanimously rated only two other judicial nominees as not qualified.

    The Senate committee's vote on Thursday to approve Mr. Talley, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007 and is a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, fell along party lines; Republican members outnumber Democrats on the committee 11 to nine. Mr. Talley will now face a full vote in the Senate. If confirmed, he would serve as a trial judge in his home state of Alabama.

    Mr. Talley's nomination is just one of the latest examples of Mr. Trump's efforts to reshape the nation's courts, packing them with young, deeply conservative judges.

    Mr. Talley's lack of experience drew searing questions from Democratic members of the committee. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the minority whip, asked Mr. Talley in a written questionnaire, "Do you think it is advisable to put people with literally no trial experience on the federal district court bench?"

    Mr. Talley demurred. "It would be inappropriate for me as a nominee to comment on the advisability of any nomination," he wrote.

    Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member of the committee, asked if Mr. Talley had ever argued a motion in Federal District Court, given that he had never tried a case. He had not.

    Ms. Feinstein also pointed to Mr. Talley's prolific social media presence before his nomination. He once referred to Hillary Clinton as "Hillary Rotten Clinton" on his public Twitter account, which is now private.

    In 2013, he wrote on his blog that armed revolution was an important defense against tyrannical government. Ms. Feinstein asked in her written questions when Mr. Talley believed it would become appropriate for American citizens to participate in an armed uprising against the government.

    He replied that he did not believe any situation in American history — with the "possible exception" of slavery — had called for armed rebellion.

    At the committee vote on Thursday, Ms. Feinstein took greatest issue with Mr. Talley's professed views on gun control. In 2013, about a month after a gunman killed 20 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Talley on his blog pledged his total support to the National Rifle Association, "financially, politically and intellectually."

    Ms. Feinstein said she had asked Mr. Talley whether, if confirmed, he would commit to recusing himself in cases involving weapons. He refused.

    "I find this unacceptable," she said.

    Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the chairman of the committee, defended Mr. Talley's qualifications. "Mr. Talley has a wide breadth of various legal experience that has helped to expose him to different aspects of federal law and the issues that would come before him," he said in a statement.

    Mr. Grassley also cast doubt on the importance of the bar association's rating. "Senators can decide for themselves if the A.B.A.'s metric of what makes a nominee qualified is proper in these cases," he said.

    Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, in 2012 had praised the bar association's practice of evaluating judicial nominees as an important way to distinguish between people who merely had political connections and people who belonged on the bench.

    Mr. Grassley also noted that other judicial nominees rated "not qualified" had been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, at times unanimously.

    Other judicial nominees have faced scrutiny for their lack of trial experience. In 2010, Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, asked Nancy Freudenthal, who had been nominated to Wyoming District Court by President Barack Obama, about her having never tried a case before a jury. Ms. Freudenthal was eventually approved by the Senate, 96 to 1.

    Additionally, the comparative rarity of "not qualified" ratings for judicial nominees under previous administrations may have been due, at least in part, to a difference in procedure. Every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, with the exception of George W. Bush, screened potential nominees with the American Bar Association before publicly announcing them — a tradition the Trump administration has decided to shun.

    But that change alone does not account for the number of unqualified nominees under Mr. Trump, said Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of civil rights and labor groups.

    "It is unprecedented to have this many, this quickly, in this short a time," she said. Of Mr. Talley, she added, "When you think of how much power a district court nominee has over life and death decisions every day, it's really irresponsible to put someone on with that little experience."

    The Senate committee on Thursday also approved four other nominees for federal judgeships, including Holly Lou Teeter, who also received a "not qualified" rating.



    6)  Vast Indigenous Land Claims in Canada Encompass Parliament Hill

     NOV. 12, 2017




    Parliament Hill in Ottawa. For decades, a vast swath of eastern Ontario, including parts of Canada's capital city, has been claimed by various groups of Algonquin. CreditCole Burston for The New York Times

    PIKWAKANAGAN FIRST NATION, Ontario — Whenever Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his cabinet ministers speak in certain parts of Ontario or Quebec, they begin by acknowledging they are on "unceded Algonquin territory."

    That recognition is just one of the ways Mr. Trudeau's government has been trying to signal a top priority: righting the wrongs Canada has done to indigenous people, especially over land that aboriginals say was taken from them unjustly.

    But finding common ground on this issue has proved to be one of Mr. Trudeau's most difficult policy initiatives, and critics say efforts to resolve the land disputes have bogged down. But both sides agree on the importance of sorting out the claims.

    "The process of negotiating land claims should be an absolute pillar of reconciliation," said Ken Coates, a historian at the University of Saskatchewan who studies treaties and is a consultant to indigenous groups. "This is our chance to get it right and if we don't — boy, when will we get the chance again?"

    Of the many issues dividing Canada's federal and provincial governments from its indigenous people, land claims are among the most symbolically important and economically consequential, often involving vast amounts of land.

    Some claims involve hundreds of millions of dollars, and tribes are often interested in controlling the land at issue, by, for example, having a say over logging, oil exploration and mining.

    One claim by various Algonquin groups involves the 8.9 million acres of the Ottawa watershed — which includes Canada's Parliament buildings and Supreme Court. The government thought it had settled that claim in principle a year ago, but it has ended up in litigation anyway.

    The claims are legally thorny, often requiring historians, archaeologists, geographers and geologists to give evidence sometimes stretching back before recorded history to support, or challenge, them.

    In some regions, land may have been occupied by different indigenous groups at different times, even changing hands after battles that were unrecorded. These groups may all assert rights, and claims can overlap.

    Then there is the problem of treaties. Some indigenous groups, like the Algonquins, never signed treaties giving up their land. The government says it is talking with about 140 indigenous groups in that situation.

    Others did sign treaties, and a government tribunal that deals with treaty disputes has 72 cases and is so overwhelmed that it cannot estimate how long it will take to resolve them.

    The result is that settlement negotiations occur at a frustratingly slow pace.

    "Because there's so many cases that haven't been dealt with over the years, there's been such a big backlog, it's going to take years," said Regional Chief Craig Makinaw of the Assembly of First Nations, the country's largest indigenous organization. "Nothing's really moved."

    But a few claims have been resolved.

    After 20 years of talks, Parliament in 2014 approved a deal with the Tla'amin First Nation, involving land along the coast north of Vancouver. It gave the members of this indigenous group ownership of about 21,000 acres, upfront payments of 42 million Canadian dollars and then annual compensation of more than 700,000 Canadian dollars for resources, like lumber, harvested from the land.

    The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that the Métis, people of indigenous and European ancestry, could also assert land claims in areas where they have traditionally lived. About a month later, Carolyn Bennett, the minister in charge of negotiations with indigenous groups, formally committed the government to settle with the Métis of Manitoba, who were promised about 2,150 square miles of land 147 years ago.

    That claim includes the city of Winnipeg, although the Manitoba Métis leadership has said that it does not intend to take land now owned by others. Ultimately, government land outside of the city will likely be transferred.

    Sabrina Williams, the spokeswoman for Ms. Bennett, said the government is trying its best to find a way to sort out the claims. "We believe that we need to do more to be able to construct a relationship that has never before been achieved with success," she said.

    But Chief Makinaw, a Cree from Alberta, says the government's figures for outstanding claims are understated and its processes fossilized. And other indigenous leaders are critical that the government has not set aside money indigenous groups say they need to assume control over their land after claims are settled.

    "This government is good at talking a lot but not very strong on action," said Chief Jean Guy Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi, an Algonquin reserve in Quebec about 70 miles north of Ottawa.

    Of all the outstanding land issues, the Algonquin claims involving the Ottawa watershed, a huge swath of territory in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, are perhaps the most complex in the country.

    The land conflict there started for the Algonquins in 1800, when a group of settlers established a town near the Chaudière Falls, just upstream from where Canada's Parliament now sits. Over the years, the land the Algonquins controlled shrank to just a few reserves. Some groups of Algonquins were left with no land at all.

    About 25 years ago, Algonquin groups started formal talks with the federal government, and later the province of Ontario, about resolving their claims. Last October, the Algonquins of Ontario, and the provincial and federal governments, reached a land agreement in principle.

    About 4,000 Algonquins would get 117,000 acres of government-owned land and about 300 million Canadian dollars. They would also have a say over the management and planning of even larger area of government owned land. .

    But the Algonquins in Quebec declined to take part in the talks and rejected the deal. They are now in court in Ontario to try to rip up the agreement, and to get more money and an increased role in any future use of the land.

    "We want to be partners in Canada and not just stay on the reserve," said Mr. Whiteduck, a former bush plane pilot.

    An Algonquin leader on the Ottawa side said he regrets the rift and wants to bring Quebec into the agreement. But Kirby Whiteduck (many unrelated Algonquins in the area share surnames), chief of the Pikwakanagan First Nation, west of Ottawa, said he was not prepared to spend years trying to heal the divide.

    "We don't want to be sitting here 50, 100 years later when there's five million people in the territory and just 50 acres of crown land left," he said.

    Jean Guy Whiteduck said that even as the Quebec Algonquin push for a different deal, they recognize the reality of European settlement and are not interested in seizing or taxing homes on private property — or displacing politicians on Parliament Hill. But they still appreciate the symbolic importance of the claims in Ottawa.

    "Our action also includes Parliament and the Supreme Court land because we want to stir it up good to try and get some action from them," he said.

    Some of the disputed land ended up in the hands of an Ottawa company, the Windmill Development Group, which is now, along with a financial partner, spending 1.4 billion Canadian dollars on a development project, known as Zibi, that includes condos, offices, restaurants and stores. The property encompasses parts of the banks of the Ottawa River in both Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec.

    As a private company building on privately owned land, Windmill has no legal obligation to compensate indigenous groups or negotiate with them. But Jeff Westeinde, a principal at Windmill, believes that even as a private property owner, he has an obligation to reconcile with indigenous communities for past wrongs.

    "As private citizens I think we should do something," Mr. Westeinde said. "We committed apartheid, there's no if ands or buts about it. Success for us will be a community where my Algonquin friends can come down here and say: 'Yes, that's my community too.'"



    7)  After Hurricane, Signs of a Mental Health Crisis Haunt Puerto Rico

     NOV. 13, 2017




    Milagros Serrano Ortiz at her home in Toa Baja, P.R., where at least nine people died and water levels peaked over 12 feet during Hurricane Maria. CreditErika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

    SAN JUAN, P.R. — Her memories of the storm came in flashes: neighbors' screams, gushing water, swimming against the current with her son.

    For Milagros Serrano Ortiz, a 37-year-old grandmother with long, curly hair, the nightmare did not end there. After two days of sheltering upstairs in a house across the street, she returned home to find the walls caked with mud and a vile stench emanating from her cherished possessions, which were rotting in the heat.

    Anguished and overwhelmed, she confessed recently to a psychologist at an emergency clinic that she had begun to have disturbing thoughts and worries that she might act on them.

    "Like what?" the doctor asked.

    Like swallowing a bottle of pills, she said, "never waking up, and not feeling pain anymore."

    The violent winds and screeching rains of Hurricane Maria were a 72-hour assault on the Puerto Rican psyche. There are warning signs of a full-fledged mental health crisis on the island, public health officials say, with much of the population showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

    Puerto Rico was already struggling with an increase in mental illness amid a 10-year recession that brought soaring unemployment, poverty and family separation caused by emigration. Public health officials and caregivers say that Maria has exacerbated the problem.

    Many Puerto Ricans are reporting intense feelings of anxiety and depression for the first time in their lives. Some are paranoid that a disaster will strike again. And people who had mental illnesses before the storm, and who have been cut off from therapy and medication, have seen their conditions deteriorate.

    "When it starts raining, they have episodes of anxiety because they think their house is going to flood again," said Dr. Carlos del Toro Ortiz, the clinical psychologist who treated Ms. Serrano Ortiz. "They have heart palpitations, sweating, catastrophic thoughts. They think 'I'm going to drown,' 'I'm going to die,' 'I'm going to lose everything.' "

    With hurricane nearly two months in the past, the island is still in shock. Its residents are haunted by dozens of deaths caused by the storm, and many more life-threatening near misses. The reminders are inescapable. They lie in piles of rotting debris as tall as homes that still line many streets and in cellphones that are useless for checking on family members.

    Returning to a routine is the most important step toward overcoming trauma, according to physicians and public health officials. But for most Puerto Ricans, logistical barriers like scarce water and electricity, as well as closed schools and businesses, make that impossible.

    Since Sept. 20, when the storm came ashore at 6:15 a.m., more than 2,000 calls have overwhelmed an emergency hotline for psychiatric crises maintained by the Puerto Rican health department — double the normal number for that period of time, even though most residents still do not have working phones. Puerto Rican officials said that suicides had increased — 32 have been reported since the storm — and many more people than normal have been hospitalized after being deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

    At the emergency health clinic in Toa Baja, where Ms. Serrano Ortiz lives, Dr. Toro said that he had been frantically calling for help from colleagues in other cities because the facility was overrun with people in need of mental health care.

    Because it is in a flood zone, Toa Baja was one of the worst affected areas in Puerto Rico. At least four people died there and water levels peaked at more than 12 feet. The city of 80,000 west of San Juan flooded multiple times, each time that it rained after Maria passed.

    In his nearly 20 years of practicing psychology, Dr. Toro said he had never before hospitalized as many people with suicidal or homicidal thoughts in such a short time period. Of about 2,500 people who had been to the clinic since it opened two weeks earlier, more than 90 percent were referred for mental health screenings, Dr. Toro said. He and other practitioners at the clinic had already referred at least 20 people to psychiatric wards elsewhere on the island.

    "This is an emergency situation," he said. "It's still affecting us. There are people that we haven't seen."

    Health workers are bracing for effects similar to those seen in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, where cases of both moderate and severe psychiatric illnesses spiked. In New Orleans, many people experienced insomnia, cognitive impairment and short-term memory loss, which became knowncolloquially and among researchers as "Katrina Brain."

    Prolonged losses of electricity, water communications or infrastructure have been linked to the onset of mental health crises, said Dr. Domingo Marqués, the director of clinical psychology at Albizu University, a prominent graduate school of psychology on the island with clinics in two major cities. All of those elements have been relentlessly present in Puerto Rico.

    "And this is all happening at once," he said. "What we have lost is the foundation that holds a society together."

    He said that Puerto Ricans would have to adjust their definition of normalcy in order to function: "It's 'I survived. My family didn't die.' That's the new definition of O.K."

    This hurricane season has caused mental distress, and strained resources for treating it, throughout the Caribbean, according to reports from the United States Virgin IslandsDominica and Antigua.

    The mental health division of the Puerto Rican health department received $3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate a response to Maria, said Suzanne Roig, the administrator of the Puerto Rican agency.

    Its doctors have been knocking on doors in the worst-hit parts of the island and visiting emergency shelters where people who lost their homes have been living.

    "We are trying to reach people to tell them that this crisis will pass," she said, "and that they should not make permanent decisions."

    The agency also started an initiative to monitor social media, and staged interventions in a handful of homes of people who posted what appeared to be suicide notes.

    During high-volume hours, its staff members have been taking on extra shifts and working overtime to respond to the increase in phone calls to the 24-hour emergency crisis hotline.

    In addition to struggling with their own emotions, Ms. Roig said that distressed callers had reported children who had not spoken since the storm or cried inconsolably when it rained. And people with serious mental illnesses who had experienced psychotic episodes had been locked inside rooms by family members who did not know what else to do.

    "People who have a prescription can't get to a pharmacy," Ms. Roig said. "If they can get to the pharmacy it might not be open. If it's open, they might not have the medicine."

    Before the storm, Laura Rodriguez, 39, managed her borderline personality disorder without medication by relying on a strict routine: Early morning CrossFit workouts, long hours at work as an interior designer, going to bed early and never having guests at her home in Río Piedras.

    But since Maria hit, her gym had been closed and her therapist had not been working. Neither had she.

    "I'm constantly anxious," she said. "I get these urges to be violent and I can't control it."

    Memories of the storm were also tormenting her. She had been trapped inside her apartment for two days with her boyfriend, her mother and her mother's cat. They used plastic tarps, towels, bedsheets and pieces of wood to try to plug the windows where rain water was surging through.

    Without access to any of the balms that she typically relied on to stabilize her mood, she was worried about resorting to self-harm, an impulse that she had struggled to control since she was 8 years old. "What if it's like three months, four months?" she said. "I cannot do this for so long."

    For Ms. Serrano Ortiz, another threat to her mental and physical health loomed.

    Before the storm, a scan of her throat had indicated that she may have cancer for the second time. But she has not been able to get any more information about her prognosis because her doctor's offices have been closed.

    At the emergency clinic, she told Dr. Toro that she might not have the energy to fight the disease again. When she looked in the mirror, she said, she saw in herself a reflection of her home — something dirty, smelly and tainted.

    "I don't feel like myself anymore," she said.



    8)  Puerto Rico's Actual Death Toll

     NOV. 13, 2017




    The funeral for a 58-year-old man in Utuado, P.R., who took his own life three weeks after Hurricane Maria. His family says he was mentally ill and unable to get needed medical attention in the storm's aftermath. CreditMario Tama/Getty Images

    Early last month, President Trump visited Puerto Rico on a trip designed to signal the federal government's recognition of the unfolding catastrophe from Hurricane Maria. When the hurricane crashed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, it cut off electricity to nearly all of the island's 3.4 million residents, destroyed 80 percent of the agricultural supply, knocked out cellular phone service, blocked roads, decimated homes and left at least 1.7 million people without potable water.

    Such extensive breakdowns in what engineers call "lifeline systems" would have been devastating in any American state or city. Puerto Rico, a bankrupt commonwealth where nearly half of all residents live below the poverty line and some 650,000 are age 65 or older, was especially vulnerable.

    But instead of pledging support for a large-scale emergency relief plan, Mr. Trump declared that Hurricane Maria was not a "real catastrophe" and complained that the storm had "thrown our budget a little out of whack." He announced that the official death toll from the hurricane, merely 16 at the time, was the true measure of the government's response. "We saved a lot of lives," he boasted, and then flew back home.

    The statements were stunningly tone deaf. Morgues and funeral homes were calling for help dealing with the bodies piling up around their facilities. Scores of people who lived and died alone were sure to be discovered when roads reopened. Nearly everyone, regardless of class or status, was stranded, suffering and afraid. But federal officials, following Mr. Trump's lead, continued to insist that the mortality level was minuscule.

    Now that narrative has collapsed. On Thursday, Puerto Rican officials announced that 472 more people died there in September 2017 than in September 2016. That figure, which epidemiologists call the excess death toll, is a more reliable measure of the disaster's human impact than the initial figure of 16 that Mr. Trump cited, because it includes cases that medical examiners could not process in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

    In theory, it's possible that the excess death toll will go down when October's mortality statistics come in; perhaps Hurricane Maria killed mostly people who would have lived only a few weeks or months anyway. But the record from similar disasters suggests that this is unlikely. It's far more likely that Puerto Rico experienced another spike in deaths during October, when, thanks to Mr. Trump's refusal to support a major federal relief effort, power, water and food remained in short supply.

    Counting the deaths from disasters is often politically contentious, and Mr. Trump is hardly the first public official who has been quick to underestimate the toll. In July 1995, Chicago endured a devastating heat wave. As in Puerto Rico, hundreds of bodies piled up at the morgue, and the medical examiner warned that the city would soon discover hundreds more in private homes. But rather than declare a heat emergency, Mayor Richard M. Daley questioned this scientific accounting. "Every day people die of natural causes," he insisted. "You cannot claim that everybody who has died in the last eight or nine days dies of heat."

    Mr. Daley's public relations strategy led to a failed public health response. Ultimately, epidemiologists confirmed that 739 people in excess of the norm died during the week of the disaster. How many lives might the city have saved had it immediately acknowledged the crisis and thrown all its resources into an urgent response? We'll never know.

    Unlike the 1995 Chicago heat wave, Hurricane Maria is a continuing disaster. At this point, it's clear that there is nothing natural about the mounting public health crisis and that the federal government is compounding the problem through malign neglect. Puerto Rico urgently needs a sweeping infrastructure rebuilding project — not only to restore its power, water and communications systems, but also to prepare it for the next set of extreme weather events that our ever-warming world will doubtless deliver.

    On his visit to Puerto Rico, Mr. Trump witnessed the physical devastation and human suffering in person. He extended his hand, not to help those in need, but rather to pat himself on the back. Every day since then, he and Congress have chosen to ignore the carnage in Puerto Rico. Some of that blood is on their hands.



    9) America's cruel way to punish poor debtors: take away their driver's license



    10)  An Open Door for Pesticide Lobbyists at the U.S.D.A.

     NOV. 13, 2017




    A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said Rebeckah Adcock had not violated her ethics agreement by meeting with former allies in the pesticide industry. CreditLighttrace Studio, via Alamy

    At a private meeting in September, congressional aides asked Rebeckah Adcock, a top official at the Department of Agriculture, to reveal the identities of the people serving on the deregulation team she leads at the agency.

    Teams like Ms. Adcock's, created under an executive order by President Trump, had been taking heat from Democratic lawmakers over their secrecy. What little was publicly known suggested that some of the groups' members had deep ties to the industries being regulated.

    Ms. Adcock, a former pesticide industry executive, brushed off the request, according to House aides familiar with the exchange, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. Making the names public, they recalled her saying, would trigger a deluge of lobbyists.

    In fact, interviews and visitor logs at the Agriculture Department showed that Ms. Adcock had already been meeting with lobbyists, including those from her former employer, the pesticide industry's main trade group, CropLife America, and its members. CropLife pushes the agenda of pesticide makers in Washington, including easing rules related to safety standards and clean water.

    Ms. Adcock, who left the trade group in April, maintained contact with her former industry allies despite a signed ethics agreement promising to avoid for one year issues involving CropLife as well as matters that she had lobbied about in the two years before joining the government.

    In one meeting, Ms. Adcock discussed issues banned by the ethics agreement with an executive who had been her lobbying partner weeks earlier at CropLife, according to the accounts of participants and the visitor logs, obtained through a public records request by The New York Times and ProPublica.

    Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the U.S.D.A. who also spoke on behalf of Ms. Adcock, said she had not violated her ethics agreement by meeting with her former industry allies. He also denied that Ms. Adcock had discussed issues related to her previous lobbying at the meeting, or that she had suggested that her deregulation team would be swamped by lobbyists if names of its members were released.

    "The career ethics officers at U.S.D.A. agree that this is not a violation of the ethics agreement that Rebeckah Adcock signed," said Mr. Murtaugh, citing a 2009 memo by the Office of Government Ethics.

    Others dispute that interpretation of the memo; the ethics office declined to say whether the memo applied to the meeting, citing its policy not to discuss individual cases.

    Ms. Adcock is scheduled to appear Tuesday before subcommittees of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is tracking Mr. Trump's deregulation effort. In announcing the hearing, the committee, led by Republicans, applauded the deregulation teams for making an "unprecedented reduction in the federal regulatory footprint."

    Republican members of the committee declined to comment about Ms. Adcock's activities. Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said that if Ms. Adcock had violated her ethics agreement, it contributed "to a troubling pattern of President Trump's failure to 'drain the swamp.'"

    In February, Mr. Trump ordered major federal agencies to set up the deregulation teams, to fulfill a campaign promise to cut red tape for businesses. Corporations and industry groups quickly hired lawyers, lobbyists and economists to help them influence the process with billions of dollars at stake. The regulations under review cover a range of subjects, including the cleanliness of drinking water and the safety of highways.

    The Trump administration has declined to make public the names of many members of the teams. It has also generally not provided records related to the teams' calendars and correspondence.

    A joint investigation published in July by The Times and ProPublica found that the teams included former employees of industry-financed organizations that oppose environmental regulations; lawyers who have represented companies in cases against federal regulators; and staff members of so-called political dark-money groups. Some are reviewing rules that their previous employers sought to weaken or kill, and at least two may be positioned to profit personally if certain regulations are undone. In all, the two news organizations have identified 112 current and former team members, including 41 with potential conflicts.

    Several federal agencies have not yet released the names of people serving on deregulation task forces. We need your help finding them and figuring out what they're doing. Got a tip? Email taskforce@nytimes.com or contact Danielle Ivory on the encrypted messaging app Signal at 917-280-2607.

    At the meeting on Capitol Hill in September, Ms. Adcock lamented the scrutiny that her team was under, a House aide familiar with the exchange said. Ms. Adcock cited, in particular, public records requests for calendars and emails.

    The Times and ProPublica asked for those records this year and have received only a few. Most other federal agencies have been similarly unresponsive. The visitor logs that have been obtained are often handwritten sign-in sheets. They appear to show only a fraction of meetings, and many are illegible. It is not known from the logs, for example, if Ms. Adcock or her team had met with environmental or science groups in addition to the industry representatives.

    In response to questions from reporters about possible conflicts of interest, agency officials across the government have said the deregulation teams are abiding by strict ethical standards, including rules that bar them from working on issues directly affecting recent employers.

    Records received through a Freedom of Information Act request show that Ms. Adcock entered such an agreement on April 26, pledging that she would "not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I know CropLife America is a party or represents a party" for a year.

    But in May, Kellie Bray, a lobbyist for CropLife, arrived for a meeting with Ms. Adcock, according to the visitor logs.

    The two knew each other well. From 2010 to early this year, Ms. Adcock and Ms. Bray lobbied together for CropLife, which represents Syngenta and Monsanto, among other pesticide makers.

    Disclosure records show that during those years the two advocated for the industry's agenda at agencies, including the U.S.D.A. and the Environmental Protection Agency, and in Congress. They pushed CropLife's interests on bills and regulations relating to the impact of pesticides on water and human health.

    Ms. Adcock's departure from CropLife left the trade association short a seasoned lobbyist, but gave it a valuable contact in the top ranks of the U.S.D.A.

    Ms. Bray said in an interview that in May, Ms. Adcock had met with her and the Southern Crop Production Association, a CropLife affiliate. Ms. Bray said she had sat in on the meeting but hadn't talked.

    "I facilitated the introduction," she said. "That is all."

    After the meeting, the Southern Crop Production Association, which represents pesticide manufacturers, formulators and distributors across the South, said on its website that "Rebeckah has an exceptional understanding regarding the many issues facing agriculture due, in large part, to her previous position with CLA," using the acronym for CropLife America.

    Among the topics discussed, according to the trade group's website, were the tests that pesticides must undergo to prove they are safe and rules governing their use near water sources. The trade group did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Bray confirmed that the group had discussed regulations about the use of pesticides near water.

    Discussing policy related to the impact of pesticides on water is deemed off limits under Ms. Adcock's ethics agreement. Mr. Murtaugh, the U.S.D.A. spokesman, said Ms. Adcock disputed that she had discussed any off-limits subject.

    "If any participant declared concern regarding any issue precluded by Ms. Adcock's agreement, she politely and firmly instructed them it was not a matter she could discuss or assist with," he said.

    He also said Ms. Adcock had instructed Ms. Bray not to participate in the meeting and did not recall her being in the room.

    Mr. Murtaugh said a provision in the memorandum from the Office of Government Ethics allowed an appointee like Ms. Adcock to attend meetings with a former employer or client so long as five or more other stakeholders participated. In the May meeting, he said, four of the Southern Crop Production Association representatives were affiliated with individual companies: Syngenta, Albaugh, Triangle Chemical and Crop Production Services.

    However, three of those companies are also members of the CropLife trade group, Ms. Adcock's former employer. And they were attending in their capacity as the executive committee of the Southern Crop Production Association, according to the association's website, not as individual company executives.

    Walter M. Shaub Jr., who headed the Office of Government Ethics under President Barack Obama and during the early months of the Trump administration, said the provision cited by the U.S.D.A. did not apply to the ethics regulation in Ms. Adcock's agreement. Even if it did apply, he said, the meeting lacked a necessary diversity because the participants were all affiliated with one trade group. He also said it was irrelevant that Ms. Bray hadn't spoken.

    "If she brought them there, signed into the sign-in log, attended the meeting that she may or may not have set up, it definitely counts as a meeting with her," said Mr. Shaub, who has been critical of the Trump administration.

    Before Ms. Adcock worked at CropLife, she served as a lobbyist for the farming industry at the American Farm Bureau Federation. Among its donors is Farm Credit, a lending institution. In July, Ms. Adcock met with a delegation from Farm Credit, according to a participant.

    One of the executives who attended — Jeremy Brown, president of Broadview Agriculture, a Texas cotton producer — said in an interview that he knew Ms. Adcock from the Farm Bureau. For those who did not know her, Ms. Adcock explained her past lobbying on behalf of the farming industry, and she asked for recommendations on regulatory changes, he said.

    "Any time you have people already familiar with the industry, it helps," Mr. Brown said. "They can hopefully get their feet on the ground and get the work in."

    He said he had pushed Ms. Adcock to get cottonseed reclassified as an oil seed crop so cotton producers could be eligible again for certain government subsidies if revenue dropped. He also discussed what he termed overreach on clean-water rules.

    "She was taking notes, being really receptive," Mr. Brown said.

    Another highlight, he said, was the access the group enjoyed. Never before had he attended a meeting in the private gathering room just outside the office of the secretary of agriculture.

    "I've been to the U.S.D.A. a couple other times," Mr. Brown said, "and this was the first time I've been able to go to what they call the Cage."



    11) Australia Votes for Gay Marriage, Clearing Path to Legalization

     NOV. 14, 2017




    People celebrated in Melbourne on Wednesday after Australians indicated in a survey that they would approve same-sex marriage. CreditScott Barbour/Getty Images

    MELBOURNE, Australia — A solid majority of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in a historic survey that, while not binding, paves the way for Parliament to legally recognize the unions of gay and lesbian couples.

    Of 12.7 million Australians who took part in the government survey, 61.6 percent voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no, officials announced on Wednesday morning. Participation was high, with 79.5 percent of voting-age Australians sending back their postal ballots.

    "The Australian people have spoken, and they have voted overwhelmingly 'yes' for marriage equality," said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who called the survey in a move described by advocates as a delay tactic devised to appease his party's far-right faction. "They voted 'yes' for fairness, they voted 'yes' for commitment, they voted 'yes' for love."

    The high turnout and unequivocal result amounted to a rebuke for Australia's most conservative politicians, many of whom saw a majority of their constituents vote to support same-sex marriage despite their arguments against it.

    Proponents of gay rights spent the day celebrating. They gathered in cities around the country to watch news broadcasts of the survey results. The largest crowd, at Prince Alfred Park in Sydney, broke into cheers, with hugs, dancing and tears, as soon as the news was announced.

    "This is our proudest moment as gay and lesbian Australians," said Chris Lewis, 60, an artist from Sydney, who waved a large rainbow flag he bought in San Francisco about 30 years ago. "Finally I can be proud of my country."

    But many Australians said it was also late in coming.

    Annika Lowry, 42, who brought her 4-year-old daughter to the celebration, said the vote revealed a widening gap between Australia's political class and voters who have been demanding same-sex marriage legislation for years.

    "It was not just about us," she said. "It's for our kids, so that they know equality is important."

    Alex Greenwich, a state lawmaker from New South Wales and the co-chairman of Australian Marriage Equality, an advocacy group, said the vote "shows that Australians have truly come together in support of their gay and lesbian mates and have said that everybody should be able to have the freedom to marry."

    In calling for the national survey, Mr. Turnbull sought public backing for a shift in social policy that was opposed by many members of his center-right Liberal Party.

    Mr. Turnbull voted yes, and he urged other Australians to do so as a matter of fairness, seeking to blunt opposition from far-right members of his party.

    "My commitment was to give every Australian their say," Mr. Turnbull said after the results were announced. "That has been done, they have spoken."

    He added: "Now it is up to us, here in the Parliament of Australia, to get on with it — to get on with the job the Australian people have tasked us to do, and get this done, this year, before Christmas."

    Dean Smith, a federal senator from the Liberal Party, who is gay, said that he would immediately introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. He said on Tuesday that he believed he had the votes to pass the legislation in the Senate and send it to Parliament's lower house for approval.

    Lyle Shelton, a Christian lobbyist who was the "no" campaign's most outspoken advocate, said he would begrudgingly "accept the democratic decision."

    "Millions of Australians will always believe the truth about marriage, that it's between one man and one woman," Mr. Shelton said. "It could take years, if not decades, to win that back."

    The record of subjecting same-sex marriage to a public vote remains mixed.

    In 2015, Ireland was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by referendum, but the same year, voters in Slovenia rejected a lawlegalizing such unions.

    In the United States, numerous states outlawed same-sex marriage in referendums; in 2012, Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to legalize such unions by referendum. The United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the nation in 2015.

    The survey in Australia was controversial, not only because it placed such a thorny issue at the whims of direct democracy but also because of its cost.

    As the deadline approached for citizens to mail in their ballots, passions were inflamed by heartfelt pleas and vitriolic attacks.

    Many supporters of same-sex marriage opposed the survey, saying that human rights should not be a matter for an up-or-down vote and urging Parliament to decide the matter.

    Estimates put the cost of the survey around 122 million Australian dollars, or $97 million. The poll was not a legally required step for changing the law.

    Activists in September challenged the survey's legality, arguing that it was an unconstitutional use of tax money, but Australia's High Court allowed the poll to proceed. In the end, the response rate was higher than supporters of same-sex marriage anticipated, showing both frustration with parliamentary inaction and the extent to which mainstream opinion has shifted in support of sexual minorities.

    Although legalization is not guaranteed, the results announced on Wednesday make the country's path to same-sex marriage much clearer.

    Mr. Greenwich said the outcome delivered "an unequivocal mandate for Parliament to legislate for this bill as soon as possible for a fair bill this year."

    Focus has already shifted to that bill, and what form it will take.

    "After a cost of 122 million, and over two months of campaigning and years of public discussion, it makes no sense to delay a parliamentary debate," Mr. Smith, the Liberal senator, said in an interview. "Australians upheld their end of the bargain by voting en masse. Now it's time for Parliament to uphold its end of the same deal."

    Mr. Smith's bill provides for some religious protections and allows members of the clergy to refuse to solemnize marriages that conflict with their beliefs.

    "That bill is obviously manifestly inadequate," said Mr. Shelton, the opponent of same-sex marriage, who added that it focused on wedding ceremonies. "The 'yes' side should make good on its promise that no one else's freedoms would be affected. They've maintained this all along. They've said that our concerns about freedom of speech and freedom of religion are red herrings."

    Mr. Shelton said Mr. Smith's bill would affect Muslim and Christian schools that wish to teach that marriage is between one man and one woman. "We're worried about bakers and florists being taken to court, as has occurred in the United States," he added.

    An alternative bill, proposed by another Liberal Party senator, James Paterson, has more robust religious protections. His bill would allow service providers like bakers and photographers to refuse service to same-sex couples, without facing legal action. His bill would provide additional anti-discrimination protections for religious people and businesses opposed to gay marriage. Reflecting the national debate that often centered on the well-being of children, Mr. Paterson's bill would allow parents the right to take their children out of classes that "conflict with their values."

    However, within hours of the survey's result being revealed, Mr. Paterson took to Facebook to announce that he would be working on Mr. Smith's bill.

    "It is clear the majority of senators believe my colleague Senator Dean Smith's bill is where we should start," Mr. Paterson wrote.

    In the dwindling days of the campaign — with "yes" looking more and more likely to prevail — many conservatives on the opposing side pushed for Mr. Paterson's bill, saying that it provided the best protections for free speech and religion. But Mr. Turnbull said he did not believe Mr. Paterson's bill could pass Parliament. "I don't believe Australians would welcome, and certainly the government would not countenance, making legal discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful, today."

    At least seven members of Australia's Parliament have publicly committed to voting against any bill to legalize same-sex marriage, according to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Most lawmakers, however, said they would support such a bill.

    "There's no denying that this has been tough for many people. This has been a campaign which has gone on for more than 10 years," said Mr. Greenwich, the same-sex marriage advocate. "This result is a reflection of the leadership that's been shown by everyday Australians during this campaign. It shows that Australians truly did have the opportunity to shape our nation as a fairer and more equal place."



    12)  A Nearby Earth-Size Planet May Have Conditions for Life

     NOV. 15, 2017


    An artist's impression of a newly discovered planet and its red dwarf star, Ross 128. The planet, 11 light-years away, is roughly the size of Earth but closer to Ross 128 than our planet, or even Mercury, is to our sun. CreditM. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory

    There's a new place to look for life in the universe.

    Astronomers announced on Wednesday the discovery of an Earth-size planet around a small red star in our corner of the galaxy. The planet could hold liquid water and conditions favorable for life.

    The star, Ross 128, is not the closest with a planet similar in size to ours. That would be the sun's next door neighbor, Proxima Centauri, just 4.2 light-years away.

    And there appears to be just one planet orbiting Ross 128 — not the bounty of seven Earth-size planets that circle Trappist-1, a red dwarf about 40 light-years from here.

    But unlike those stars, Ross 128, about 11 light-years from Earth, appears to be a quiet, well-behaved star, without the violent eruptions of radiation that might wipe out any beginnings of life before they had a chance to take hold on the planet.

    "Those flares can sterilize the atmosphere of the planet," said Xavier Bonfils of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble, France, the lead author of a paper describing the planet. "Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of the neighborhood."

    The findings appear in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    The astronomers did not directly see the planet but instead used a telescope in Chile to measure wobbles in the wavelengths of light coming from the star. The wobbles are caused by the gravitational pull of the unseen planet.

    The magnitude of the wobbles indicates that the planet is at least 1.35 times the mass of Earth but could easily be twice the mass of Earth.

    Astronomers' instruments are not yet sensitive enough to spot Earth-size planets in Earthlike orbits around stars similar to our sun. It is easier to detect Earth-size planets around dimmer and cooler stars known as red dwarfs, which are the most common type of star in the Milky Way.

    Astronomers have in the past couple of decades discovered an abundance of star-hugging planets, far different from anything in our solar system. The Ross 128 planet is only about 4.5 million miles from the star, much closer than the 93 million miles between Earth and the sun. Even Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system, is 36 million miles from the sun.

    If the newly discovered planet were the same distance from the red dwarf as Earth is from the sun, it would be frigid. But it is close enough to Ross 128 that it absorbs warmth sufficient for liquid water, one of the requisite ingredients for life, to potentially exist on the surface. (If anything, the planet may be too warm, more like the planet Venus.)

    Dr. Bonfils said Ross 128 appears to be at least 5 billion years old — older than our solar system — and perhaps as old as 10 billion years. The star may have been more turbulent in its youth. But even if solar flares billions of years ago stripped away the planet's atmosphere, it could have been replenished by gases emanating from the planet's interior, Dr. Bonfils said.

    Vladimir Airapetian, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., questioned whether Ross 128 would be such a benign star.

    "Even being quiet, its X-ray to extreme U.V. emission can be 10 times higher than that of the sun," said Dr. Airapetian. That amount of radiation might be enough to destroy the planet's atmosphere.

    In an Astrophysical Journal Letters article in February, he and his colleagues noted that radiation from red dwarf stars might strip oxygen from the atmospheres of nearby planets.

    William C. Danchi, also a Goddard astrophysicist and an author of that article, was more positive.

    "There is potential for an atmosphere and hence habitability, but it is highly uncertain," he said. "This is an important discovery and well worth many follow-up studies."

    The next generation of large terrestrial telescopes, with mirrors 100 feet or more in diameter, should be able to make out the planet circling Ross 128 and possibly identify specific molecules in its atmosphere.

    "It would be rather easy to search for oxygen in the atmosphere of such a planet," Dr. Bonfils said.



    13)  Keystone Pipeline Leaks 210,000 Gallons of Oil in South Dakota

     NOV. 16, 2017


    About 5,000 barrels of oil, or about 210,000 gallons, gushed out of the Keystone Pipeline on Thursday in South Dakota, blackening a grassy field in the remote northeast part of the state and sending cleanup crews and emergency workers scrambling to the site.

    "This is not a little spill from any perspective," said Kim McIntosh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. No livestock or drinking water sources appeared to be threatened, Ms. McIntosh said, and no farm buildings or houses are within a mile.

    The spill, near Amherst, S.D., comes just days before regulators in neighboring Nebraska decide whether to grant the final permit needed to begin construction on a different pipeline proposal, the Keystone XL, which would be operated by the same company. An announcement in Nebraska is expected on Monday.

    The pipeline company, TransCanada, said in a statement that the South Dakota leak was detected around 6 a.m. local time on Thursday. The pipeline was shut down, and the cause of the leak was under investigation.

    "TransCanada appreciates the collaborative support of local officials, emergency response personnel and commissioners in Marshall County, as well as the landowner who has given permission to access land for assessment, identification and cleanup activities," the company said in its statement.

    A photo of the spill, which was posted to the company's Twitter account, showed a large, darkened area in a field. The Keystone Pipeline is part of a 2,687-mile system that carries crude oil from Alberta to several points in the United States, including Illinois and Oklahoma.

    A reporter for The Aberdeen American News at the scene of the spill said on Twitter that the area was blocked off by emergency vehicles.

    Opponents of Keystone XL, which is proposed to run about 1,100 miles and would become part of the Keystone system, quickly cited Thursday's spill as evidence of the risks posed by such pipelines, and urged Nebraska regulators to take note.

    "We've always said it's not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us," Kelly Martin of the Sierra Club said in a statement. "This is not the first time TransCanada's pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won't be the last."

    Keystone XL has the strong support of President Trump and most Republican politicians, but it has faced years of vocal opposition in Nebraska from some farmers and ranchers who worry that a spill could spoil their groundwater and decimate agricultural land.

    "That's our fear — that pipelines do leak," said Jeanne Crumly, whose farm near Page, Neb., is along the proposed Keystone XL route, after being told about the South Dakota spill.

    Ms. Crumly and about 90 other Nebraska landowners have not signed easements with TransCanada and have urged against issuing a permit for the project. Nebraska's Public Service Commission plans to announce on Monday morning whether it will approve the permit, the last major regulatory hurdle before construction on Keystone XL could begin.

    Thursday's episode is one of several major pipeline spills in recent years. More than a million gallons leaked from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010, and 50,000 gallons of oil gushed into the Yellowstone River in Montana in 2015, contaminating drinking water there.

    Oil pipelines have faced greater scrutiny since thousands of protesters gathered near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota last year to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. The site of Thursday's spill was near the boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe.

    Dave Flute, the tribal chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, said he was contacted early in the afternoon by emergency management services and told that there was a "substantial leak" in the pipeline.

    "We are monitoring the situation as this leak is adjacent to our reservation," Mr. Flute said in a statement. "We do not know the impact this has on our environment at this time but we are aware of the leak."

    Ms. McIntosh, the South Dakota environmental official, said that TransCanada employees and contractors were at the spill site and that soil cleanup workers were on the way. The state was overseeing the response.

    Ms. McIntosh said that the leak was "a large release" of oil, but that "the location of this is not in a sensitive area."

    "They've got a response plan that they kicked in right away," Ms. McIntosh said. "The area's very rural, which is very positive. There's no one nearby that is drinking any of the groundwater that may be impacted, so that's less of an issue."



    14)  By Having the Washington R*dskins Host a Game on Thanksgiving, NFL Owners Show Their True Colors

    by Dave Zirin


    Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder speaks during a news conference in 2009.  (AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    This NFL season has blazed new political trails as players have used their platform to stand up to racism in the face of a ferocious backlash. It has truly been a season of firsts. But there is another "first" on the immediate horizon that speaks to the league's baldly reactionary history in regards to race.

    The NFL—for all their corporate rhetoric about being something that "brings the country together"—of course has a team named after a Native American racial slur in the nation's capital. That's not news. What is news is that on Thanksgiving, for the first time in league history, this team in Washington will be playing host. That means as we finish our food, slip into sweatpants, and to gather around the television to watch NFL football, a tradition only slightly less ubiquitous than pumpkin pie, the R*dskins slur— a name that exists only because of genocide and displacement—will have center stage.

    Not unlike Houston Texans owner Bob McNair saying that "the inmates are running the prison" as NFL players were speaking about criminal-justice reform, this raises irony to the level of obscenity, especially as owners, and their pizza-purveying sponsors, are trying to convince players and the public that they are enlightened about these issues. It's as if NFL owners, by having Washington host this game, are having their own private joke at the expense of the players, fans, and commentators who care about these issues. All the team would say to us at The Nation was, "The [R*dskins] are excited to host the first ever Thanksgiving game in Washington. We appreciate our fans spending their holiday with us, and we want to create new traditions and special experiences that [R*dskins] fans and families are sure to remember."

    To get an actual comment, I reached out to Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and spokesman for the Change the Mascot Campaign. He said, "Thanksgiving has long been a difficult day for many Native Americans, because the holiday story promoted in popular culture often omits the oppression, violence, and bloodshed that our people faced when Europeans migrated to this continent. Using the holiday to additionally promote the Washington team's derogatory name further marginalizes Native Americans—and tells people across the country that on this holiday it is perfectly acceptable to promote a painful racial slur. At a time when our political debate is so polarized and filled with invective, we should be able to agree that the NFL should not promoting a racial slur."

    The fact that this team is owned by Dan Snyder, who blocked with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in calls to crack down on players protesting racism during the anthem, and gave over a million dollars to the Trump inaugural committee, should not be lost in this discussion. Snyder has pledged to never change the team namewith a belligerence that mirrors his man in the White House. Snyder's refusal to meet with native leaders and his ignoring the laundry list of tribal governments and organizations who have called for it to change is also from the Trumpian textbook: creating a billionaire's echo chamber that permits only ideas that fluff the master. The same mendacious mentality that allows Snyder to deny that "redskin" is a racial slur is also the mindset that allowed him to say in an owners' meeting that "96 percent" of people oppose the player protests.

    I spoke to Suzan Shown Harjo, the Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee activist and president of the Morningstar Institute, who has led this fight to end racist mascotry for decades. She told me, "The owner of the Washington NFL franchise is such a hypocrite, pretending to take a knee with players regarding racism, while requiring his employees to commit acts of racism, stereotyping, and cultural appropriation against Native Peoples. The idea of him 'hosting' a Thanksgiving game is quite fitting, actually. It celebrates what the name, imagery, and behaviors associated with the team he owns also celebrate in history—a time when European and then American men skinned Native men, women, and children and produced them as 'proof of Indian kill' in order to collect bounties issued first by colonies and companies and then by states and territories. This grotesque practice still was in full swing when my grandmother was growing up, so I dispute anyone's argument that this was too long ago to be an ongoing injury or threat to my generation or the later ones. Slavery in the Americas spanned about the same time, yet few could honestly deny its present and lasting trauma. Hypocrisy, thy name is Snyder."

    In this season of racial dissent and dialogue over racism, the Washington team name has been erased from the discussion. Perhaps this Thanksgiving we can center it exactly where it belongs, and understand that a league that celebrates racial slurs can never be an engine for racial justice.



    15) In Mocking Franken Over Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Trump Joins a Debate He Started

    NOV. 17, 2017



    WASHINGTON — Last fall, Donald J. Trump inadvertently touched off a national conversation about sexual harassment when a recording of him boasting about groping women was made public at the same time a succession of women came forward to assert that groping was something he did more than talk about.

    A year later, after a wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media, the discussion has come full circle with President Trump criticizing the latest politician exposed for sexual misconduct even as he continues to deny any of the accusations against him.

    In this case, Mr. Trump focused his Twitter-fueled mockery on a Democratic senator while largely avoiding a similar condemnation of a Republican Senate candidate facing far more allegations. The turn in the political dialogue threatened to transform a moment of cleansing debate about sexual harassment into another weapon in the war between the political parties, led by the president himself.

    Indeed, Republicans on Friday were more than happy to talk about Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, who apologized this week after a radio newscaster said he forcibly kissed her and posed for a photograph a decade ago appearing to fondle her breasts while she was sleeping. Democrats, for their part, sought to keep the focus on Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate in Alabama who has been accused of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple women going back even further, including one who was 14 at the time.

    But the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump's history would stay far away from discussing someone else's behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight. But as Mr. Trump has shown repeatedly during his 10-month presidency, he is rarely deterred by conventional political wisdom even as he leaves it to his staff to fend off the cries of hypocrisy.

    "Like everything else Trump touches, he hijacks it with his chronic dishonesty and childishness," said Mark Salter, a longtime adviser to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. "The intense, angry and largely ignorant tribalism afflicting our politics predates Trump's arrival on the scene. But he has infused it with a psychopath's inability to accept that social norms apply to him."

    White House aides labored on Friday to distinguish Mr. Trump's case from those of others, arguing that the president's conduct was not at issue because he won the election last year after voters had a chance to evaluate both the claims against him and his denials.

    "This was covered pretty extensively during the campaign," said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. "We addressed that then. The American people, I think, spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president."

    She added that Mr. Trump still maintained that the more than a dozen women who have said that he kissed or groped them against their will were all lying. And she acknowledged no double standard in the president chastising others for sexual misconduct.

    "Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't," she said. "I think that's a very clear distinction."

    But Democrats saw the distinction differently. Hillary Clinton said Mr. Franken's apology and call for an ethics committee investigation "is the kind of accountability I'm talking about — I don't hear that from Roy Moore or Donald Trump." Speaking with Rita Cosby on WABC Radio, Mrs. Clinton added, "Look at the contrast between Al Franken, accepting responsibility, apologizing, and Roy Moore and Donald Trump, who have done neither."

    For her own part, the sexual harassment conversation has been uncomfortable for Mrs. Clinton as well. Conservatives defending Mr. Moore point to various allegations made against Bill Clinton when he was president, including sexual assault, and even some liberals said they should rethink their defense of the 42nd president.

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York who succeeded Mrs. Clinton in the Senate, told The New York Times on Thursday that in retrospect, Mr. Clinton should have resigned during the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal, which led to the president's impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate.

    That drew a sharp retort from Mrs. Clinton's longtime adviser, Philippe Reines. "Senate voted to keep POTUS WJC," he wrote on Twitter. "But not enough for you @SenGillibrand? Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons' endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite."

    Mr. Trump jumped into the sexual harassment debate about 10 p.m. on Thursday. "The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words," he wrote on Twitter, misspelling Frankenstein. "Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?"

    Mr. Trump has said nothing on Twitter about Mr. Moore, who has been abandoned by many national Republicans. When the allegations arose, Mr. Trump was in Asia and he had Ms. Sanders issue a statement saying he hoped that "if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside." Asked by reporters on Air Force One about the case, Mr. Trump said he did not know much about it and would comment once he returned to Washington.

    Since returning, however, he has said nothing, leaving it instead to Ms. Sanders. "The president certainly finds the allegations extremely troubling," she said on Friday, adding that it would be up to "the people in the state of Alabama" to decide "whether or not they support and vote for Roy Moore."

    Unlike her father, Ivanka Trump has not hesitated to condemn Mr. Moore. "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children," she said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. "I've yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts."

    Kellyanne Conway, the president's counselor, explained the president's decision to speak out about Mr. Franken and not Mr. Moore as a function of the news cycle. "Al Franken was a brand new news story yesterday and the president weighed in as he does on the news of the day, often enough," she said on Fox News. "The Roy Moore story is eight days old and the president put out a statement during his Asia trip on that."

    Other Republicans shook their heads. "It's surprising to me that he would draw attention to this given the conversation about him, even if it's all untrue," said Sara Fagen, a White House political director under President George W. Bush. "This is one you send your vice president on."

    The president's comment on Mr. Franken inevitably led television networks to replay his now infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, in which he was recorded saying that when he saw beautiful women, "I just start kissing them" and would try to "grab 'em" by their private parts. "And when you're a star, they let you do it," he said. "You can do anything."

    He apologized, saying those remarks did not reflect his real self, but later dismissed them as "locker room talk." A succession of women, however, accused him of grabbing their breasts, trying to put his hand up a skirt and other sexual misconduct. Mr. Trump called such claims "lies" but never followed up on his threat to sue them.

    And so the president's behavior has become wrapped up in the larger national conversation on women, power and sex that arguably started, in its current incarnation, with his campaign a year ago, a conversation that Ms. Sanders said "should be taken very seriously." But the nation's leader is a compromised figure when it comes to that discussion.

    "A president should be a step above in leading for the entire country," Ms. Fagen said. "When somebody is behaving in such a immoral way, a president should call them out. Trump's a unique case here. He's got his own issues with respect to this. He denies them all but he's got them."



    16) C.E.O. of Puerto Rico Power Authority Resigns

    NOV. 17, 2017




    Ricardo L. Ramos stepped down as chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority after weeks of outcry over a contract to restore service after Hurricane Maria. CreditAlvin Baez/Reuters

    SAN JUAN, P.R. — The chief executive of Puerto Rico's troubled public electric company stepped down on Friday amid a two-month island-wide blackout and weeks of bruising public outcry over a costly contract to restore service.

    The resignation of Ricardo L. Ramos, the chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as Prepa, was effective immediately.

    The governor, Ricardo A. Rosselló, told reporters that he accepted the resignation because Mr. Ramos had become a "distraction." A spokeswoman for Mr. Rosselló said the governor had not asked for Mr. Ramos to step down.

    "There is an investigation that we've called upon for the whole contracting situation," Mr. Rosselló said in an interview. "The truth of the matter is that this decision was taken with the best interests of the people of Puerto Rico."

    Mr. Ramos's resignation caps a yearslong saga of dysfunction and mismanagement at Prepa, which filed for bankruptcy in July. Mr. Ramos, an engineer, had been at the helm of the company for six months when Hurricane Maria destroyed the island's poorly maintained power grid on Sept. 20.

    He immediately came under withering criticism and congressional and federal review for awarding a $300 million contract to a small private company from Montana, Whitefish Energy Holdings, to help repair the grid. Prepa had agreed to pay $319 an hour for electrical linemen; the average salary in Puerto Rico for that work is $19 an hour. The authority later canceled the contract, even while defending it.

    Mr. Ramos faced a skeptical Senate hearing on Tuesday. Lawmakers were hesitant to approve the governor's request for $94 billion in aid while questions remained unanswered about the power grid contract. Mr. Ramos told lawmakers that there had been no kickbacks, but acknowledged that the company had long been rife with political patronage, and that up to half of the employees were the family members of politicians.

    Mr. Ramos has given various contradictory explanations for why he chose Whitefish over mutual aid agreements with other utility companies, which are customary after disasters.

    He told The New York Times last month that he preferred Whitefish because he expected the United States Army Corps of Engineers to pay the company, which meant the bankrupt utility would not have to front any of the money for repairs. Under mutual aid agreements, Prepa would have to pay for the work and then seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    "This is a cash flow problem for Prepa," he said.

    But Mr. Ramos told legislators on Tuesday that he went with the private company because he did not have the resources to find lodging for workers borrowed from other utilities. But emails released this week by the House Committee on Natural Resources show that Whitefish could not find housing, either.

    "There has to be some level of corruption. Otherwise, how can somebody be so incompetent?" said Ramon J. Cruz, a former member of Puerto Rico's energy commission who has been following the issue closely.

    It had been a rough week for Mr. Ramos.

    On Monday, The New York Times reported that some of the subcontractors Whitefish had hired to do the work — people Prepa could have hired itself — were earning just $42 an hour. At the Senate hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Ramos fended off accusations of price gouging.

    On Wednesday, Mr. Ramos and the governor proudly hailed an important milestone: The company had finally reached 50 percent of its power capacity. Minutes later, a key line failed, again plunging the northern half of the island into darkness. Another line failed on Thursday.

    Nearly two months after the storm, the grid is generating power at 45 percent of capacity. Most homes are without power and traffic lights remain out. Several hospitals are still running on generators and thousands of small businesses are closed.

    On Friday, a local newspaper reported that Mr. Ramos had hired a friend who was once implicated in a federal criminal case to help advise the company. Mr. Ramos posted a cheerful technical update in a video on Facebook defending the consultant, whom he described as an experienced electrical engineer. Twenty minutes later, the company announced that Mr. Ramos had quit.

    "It's shocking that it took so long," said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group that is investigating the contract. "And I also think it's critical that investigations continue, because it's not credible that Mr. Ramos was the only person involved in this."

    Prepa is the largest of Puerto Rico's many government enterprises, responsible for $9 billion of the government's $74 billion debt. It was also the first branch of the government to go broke, running out of cash in 2014. Since then, its lenders have kept it afloat with money to buy fuel and repay its older debts.

    The company provides free power to Puerto Rico's municipalities, in exchange for not having to pay local property taxes. For years it told investors the municipalities were paying cash for the power, creating the illusion that it had plenty of money to repay its bonds. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the disclosures as a possible securities fraud.



    17) 'Gene Drives' Are Too Risky for Field Trials, Scientists Say

    By Carl Zimmer, November 16, 2017


    The short-tailed weasel, or stoat, decimated native bird populations after it was introduced to New Zealand. Altering the genes of invasive animals might save threatened species, scientists said, but could also have devastating consequences. CreditDeAgostini, via Getty Images

    In 2013, scientists discovered a new way to precisely edit genes — technology called Crispr that raised all sorts of enticing possibilities. Scientists wondered if it might be used to fix hereditary diseases, for example, or to develop new crops.

    One of the more intriguing ideas came from Kevin M. Esvelt and his colleagues at Harvard University: Crispr, they suggested, could be used to save endangered wildlife from extinction by implanting a fertility-reducing gene in invasive animals — a so-called gene drive.

    When the genetically altered animals were released back into the wild, the fertility-reducing gene would spread through the population, eradicating the pests.

    The idea appealed to conservation biologists who had spent decades fighting a losing battle against exotic species. Some labs began running preliminary experiments. But now, three years later, Dr. Esvelt wishes he hadn't broached the idea.

    "I feel like I've blown it," Dr. Esvelt, now an assistant professor at M.I.T., said in an interview. Championing the notion was "an embarrassing mistake."

    His regret arises from a study that he and his colleagues published on Thursday on the preprint bioRxiv server.

    They created a detailed mathematical model describing what happens following the release of Crispr-altered organisms. And they discovered an unacceptable risk: Altered genes might spread to places where the species isn't invasive at all, but a well-established part of the ecosystem.

    Dr. Esvelt, who also is a co-author of a commentary on the study's implications in the journal PLOS Biology, and his colleagues still think it's worth investigating gene drives to save threatened species. But researchers will have to invent safer forms of the technology first.

    Dr. Esvelt and other researchers have also been investigating the possibility of using gene drives to eradicate diseases. The most advanced of these projects seeks to wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitoes. These projects are still viable but, Dr. Esvelt warned, scientists now must be mindful of just how powerful gene drives may become.

    "It's an important contribution," said John M. Marshall, a mathematical biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said of the new research. "A study like this is the beginning of a formal analysis we need."

    Crispr makes it possible to build molecules that can find a particular sequence of DNA inside a cell. The molecules then snip out the sequence, allowing it to be replaced by a different one.

    The technique might make it possible to introduce not just a gene engineered to reduce fertility in, say, an invasive weasel, but also the genes for the Crispr molecules themselves. Then the weasel would gene-edit itself.

    Weasels inheriting just one copy of the low-fertility gene would end up with two copies, which they'd pass down to offspring. Soon the whole population of invasive weasels would be producing fewer young, until eventually the population collapsed.

    Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, showed that the idea could really work by spreading a gene in fruit flies reared in the lab. Soon afterward, Dr. Esvelt's own team showed that the process could make certain genes more common in yeast.

    The National Academy of Sciences released a report on gene drives in 2016. While experts recognized a number of potential risks, they endorsed more research — possibly including "highly controlled field trials."

    So what exactly would happen if a gene drive were set loose in the wild? Dr. Esvelt collaborated with Charleston Noble, a graduate student at Harvard, and other colleagues to make an informed guess.

    The researchers created a detailed mathematical model that took into account how often Crispr fails to do its job and how often mutations arise that protect a target gene from editing, among many other factors.

    The model revealed that a gene drive would be remarkably aggressive. It would take relatively few engineered organisms to spread a new gene through much of a population. "It only takes a handful," said Dr. Esvelt.

    That aggressiveness might be good for eradicating an invasive weasel that couldn't be stopped by poison baits or hunting. But if a few engineered weasels managed to escape the local environment — or were intentionally taken somewhere else — they could easily spread the gene drive throughout the weasel's native habitat.

    That may well mean that experiments in the real world are just too risky right now.

    "The very idea of a field trial is that it's a trial that's confined to an area," Dr. Esvelt said. "Our model indicates that this is not the case."

    "The kind of gene drive that is invasive and self-propagating is in many ways the equivalent of an invasive species," he added.

    But safer forms of the technology might be able to attack species where they're invasive and not harm them elsewhere. In his own lab, Dr. Esvelt is investigating a gene drive that can self-destruct after several generations.

    Other researchers are trying to build gene drives that are tailored to invasive populations on islands but can't harm mainland relatives.

    "I would buy into that," said James P. Collins, an evolutionary ecologist at Arizona State University and co-chairman of the N.A.S. committee on gene drives. "Universal gene drives do have the downsides that these guys talk about."

    But when it comes to attempts to wipe out malaria, Dr. Esvelt draws a different conclusion from his data.

    While self-limiting gene drives might be easier to control, they may be too weak to affect vast mosquito populations. It might well be necessary to deploy a quickly spreading gene drive.

    Dr. Esvelt's study suggests that if one nation decided to release such genetically engineered mosquitoes, neighboring countries quickly would become part of the experiment — whether they liked it or not.

    International negotiations might be required before such genetically modified mosquitoes were set loose. "That's not a question for scientists to answer on their own," said Jason A. Delborne, a social scientist at North Carolina State University and a member of the N.A.S. gene drive committee.

    Yet Dr. Esvelt would be willing to take that leap. "I have two kids," he said. "If they lived in Africa, I would say do it."






































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