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:










Ready to ramp up the fight to end Urban Shield for good? The Stop Urban Shield Coalition has been plugging away to advance the powerful work of this campaign. Be sure to save the date for a Community Teach-In in San Francisco on Demember 13th, and come out this Thursday for a rally on the steps of SF City Hall.

Check out our video of our September mobilization and community fair

Thursday, November 30th in San Francisco
Community Rally and Press Conference + SF Board of Supervisors Committee Hearing

San Francisco will be deciding on whether or not to sign onto another agreement that would lock it into four more years of accepting federal funds to allow Urban Shield to take place. The Stop Urban Shield Coalition will be holding a press conference on the steps of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors an hour before the meeting to demand that decision makers reject this agreement. Come out and tell the San Francisco Board of Supervisors NO to Urban Shield. Please also sign our SF petition here.

When: Thursday, November 30th

9am - Press Conference and Rally

10am - SF Budget and Finance Meeting
Where: SF City Hall Steps

Facebook page


Wednesday, December 13th - Save the Date!
Community Teach-In about Urban Shield

Interested in learning about what Urban Shield is, the work of the coalition, and how to get involved? On Wednesday, December 13, SURJ San Francisco will be hosting a public Community Meeting on Policing and Urban Shield. There will be time to hear about what organizing against Urban Shield has looked like, next steps, and how you can support us in achieving a people's victory over Urban Shield. We encourage organizations and community members in SF to attend this gathering so that we can all be well informed and best positioned to organize and win.

When: Wednesday, December 13th, 7-9pm

Where: ACLU Northern California Office

39 Drumm St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Facebook page

Copyright © 2017 Stop Urban Shield Coalition, All rights reserved.

You are receiving this email because you signed a petition to help stop Urban Shield.

Our mailing address is:

Stop Urban Shield Coalition

Alameda CountyCA  94606

Add us to your address book



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 and; 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 and; 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 and; 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 and; 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 and; tell the people the truth about police terror and; 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 and; 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. 



Major Tillery – An Innocent Man Imprisoned Through Gross State Misconduct!

Major Tillery's case exposes police and prosecutorial misconduct used to obtain false convictions. Tillery is actually innocent and he's been imprisoned for 33 years, 20 of them in solidarity confinement. Police detectives, with the assistance of prosecutors, used the stick and the carrot to get jailhouse informants to lie and inculpate Tillery.      These prosecution witnesses were threatened with false murder charges, promised plea deals and no state prison time, and were provided with private time in the Roundhouse homicide interview rooms for sexual relations with their girlfriends as inducement to lying against Major Tillery.     Major Tillery was convicted of homicide, assault, weapons and conspiracy charges in May 1985 for poolroom shootings that left one man dead and another wounded on October 22, 1976, purportedly over disputes between drug dealers.         There was no physical evidence. The surviving victim of the shooting named two other men as the shooters. No charges were brought against Tillery and his co-defendant for four years, and then only after police coercion combined with favors to a career informant.

Without the testimony of these jailhouse informants, there was absolutely no case against Major Tillery.

Major Tillery – An Innocent Man Imprisoned Through Gross State Misconduct!

Major Tillery's case exposes police and prosecutorial misconduct used to obtain false convictions. Tillery is actually innocent and he's been imprisoned for 33 years, 20 of them in solidarity confinement. Police detectives, with the assistance of prosecutors, used the stick and the carrot to get jailhouse informants to lie and inculpate Tillery.      These prosecution witnesses were threatened with false murder charges, promised plea deals and no state prison time, and were provided with private time in the Roundhouse homicide interview rooms for sexual relations with their girlfriends as inducement to lying against Major Tillery.     Major Tillery was convicted of homicide, assault, weapons and conspiracy charges in May 1985 for poolroom shootings that left one man dead and another wounded on October 22, 1976, purportedly over disputes between drug dealers.         There was no physical evidence. The surviving victim of the shooting named two other men as the shooters. No charges were brought against Tillery and his co-defendant for four years, and then only after police coercion combined with favors to a career informant.

Without the testimony of these jailhouse informants, there was absolutely no case against Major Tillery.


Major Tillery Still Fighting for freedom!

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:


    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:


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












    1)  F.C.C. Plans Net Neutrality Repeal in a Victory for Telecoms

     NOV. 21, 2017




    Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission chairman. CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times

    The Federal Communications Commission released a plan on Tuesday to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for internet service companies to charge users more to see certain content and to curb access to some websites.

    The proposal, made by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibit high-speed internet service providers, or I.S.P.s, from stopping or slowing down the delivery of websites. They also prevent the companies from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services.

    The announcement set off a fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom titans like AT&T and Verizon against internet giants like Google and Amazon. The internet companies warned that rolling back the rules could make the telecom companies powerful gatekeepers to information and entertainment. The telecom companies say that the existing rules prevent them from offering customers a wider selection of services at higher and lower price points.

    "Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet," Mr. Pai said in a statement. "Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them."

    Mr. Pai, a Republican who has pursued an aggressive deregulation agenda, was widely expected to have his plan approved during a meeting on Dec. 14. The two other Republicans on the commission generally vote with Mr. Pai, giving them a majority over the two Democrats.

    Telecom and internet companies are expected to lobby hard in Washington — and directly to the public — as they did when the current rules were adopted.

    Some internet companies were expected to put up a fight to prevent the proposal from taking hold. The Internet Association, an industry group, joined a legal effort in 2015 to protect the existing rules. The agency has already received 20 million public comments, many of them in opposition of changing the rules, since Mr. Pai announced the broad outlines of his thinking early this year.

    The big companies that provide internet access to phones and computers have fought for years against broadband regulations. Under the new plan, broadband providers will be able to block access, slow down or speed up service for its business partners in some cases — as long as they notify customers.

    "This action will return broadband in the U.S. to a regulatory regime that emphasizes private investment and innovation over lumbering government intervention," said Joan Marsh, a vice president at AT&T.

    Big online companies like Google and Facebook say the repeal proposal would allow telecom companies to play favorites by charging customers for accessing some sites or by slowing speeds to others. The existing rules were written to prevent such arrangements, adopting a policy often called net neutrality.

    "We are disappointed that the proposal announced today by the F.C.C. fails to maintain the strong net neutrality protections that will ensure the internet remains open for everyone," Erin Egan, a vice president at Facebook, said in a statement. "We will work with all stakeholders committed to this principle."

    Small online companies believe the proposal would hurt innovation, because telecom companies could force them to pay more for the faster connections. Only the largest companies, they say, would be able to afford the expense of making sure their sites received preferred treatment. Companies like Etsy and Pinterest, for example, credit their start to the promise of free and open access on the internet.

    And consumers, the online companies say, may see their costs go up if, for example, they want high-quality access to popular websites like Netflix, a company that depends on fast connections for its streaming videos. Netflix said on Tuesday that it opposed Mr. Pai's proposal.

    The action "represents the end of net neutrality as we know it and defies the will of millions of Americans," said Michael Beckerman, chief executive of the Internet Association, a lobbying group that represents Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech companies.

    Mr. Pai said the current rules had been adopted to stop only theoretical harm. He said the rules limit consumer choice because telecom companies cannot offer different tiers of service, for example. As a result, he said, internet service companies cannot experiment with new business models that could help them compete with online businesses like Netflix, Google and Facebook.

    "It's depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation," Mr. Pai said Tuesday.

    Comcast, one of the country's biggest broadband companies, said it would not slow websites that contain legally permitted material.

    "We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content — and we will be transparent with our customers about these policies," the company said.

    In a call with reporters, F.C.C. officials said the blocking and slowing of some content could be seen as anticompetitive. Those practices, they said, would be policed by the Federal Trade Commission or the Justice Department.

    The plan to repeal the existing rules, passed in 2015, would reverse a hallmark decision by the agency to consider broadband a public utility, as essential as phones and electricity. The earlier decision created the legal foundation for the current rules and underscored the importance of high-speed internet service. It was put in place by Tom Wheeler, an F.C.C. chairman under President Obama.

    Mr. Pai, who was appointed chairman by President Trump in January, has eliminated numerous regulations during his first year.

    The agency has stripped down rules governing television broadcasters, newspapers and telecom companies that were meant to protect the public interest. On Tuesday, in addition to the net neutrality rollback, Mr. Pai announced a plan to eliminate a rule limiting any corporation from controlling broadcasts that can reach more than 39 percent of American homes.

    The fight over net neutrality could end up being one of his biggest and most fraught decisions. For more than a decade, the agency has struggled with how to regulate internet service, leading to extended legal battles. The rules adopted under Mr. Wheeler were upheld in 2016 by a federal appeals court in Washington.

    The proposal released on Tuesday will probably make its way to court as well. And companies like Google and Facebook are expected to push the public to speak out against the plan. They coordinated a huge online protest against the possible changes in July.

    Some of the lobbying could take place in Congress, even though it may change little because Republicans control both houses. Nevertheless, Democrats have vowed to try to reconstruct the strict rules adopted by the F.C.C. in 2015.

    The next three weeks promise to hold intense lobbying from both sides, but that might not be the end of it. The regulation of internet providers has already swung once on a change in the Oval Office.

    "As good as the F.C.C.'s action is for I.S.P.s, it only assures nonregulation of broadband through 2020," said Paul Gallant, an analyst at the research firm Cowen.



    2)  Colin Kaepernick and the Legacy of the Negro National Anthem

    By   NOV. 21, 2017




    The lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key embraced the pop cultural tastes of his day when he wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner" to commemorate an American victory over the British at Baltimore during the War of 1812. He gave his composition broad appeal with a melody derived from a popular British music club anthem that celebrated the virtues of love and wine.

    Satirists pounced, lampooning the song with lyrics that depicted a man who staggers home drunk and sleeps well past "the dawn's early light" — that light through which Key had seen an American flag still flying above the fort that had repulsed the British invasion.

    Abolitionists during Key's lifetime viewed "The Star-Spangled Banner" as they viewed the nation as a whole — through the lens of the injustice perpetuated by slavery. They argued that Key should have described America as the "land of the free and home of the oppressed."

    The professional football player Colin Kaepernick appealed to that same sense of injustice last year when he knelt during "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest police violence against African-Americans. By doing so, he tapped into a feeling of alienation from the anthem in the black community that dates back to the days of racial terrorism and lynching in the South.

    Congress declared "The Star-Spangled Banner" the national anthem in 1931. Well before then, however, black communities across the Jim Crow South were instead embracing the soaring, aspirational lyrics of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" — otherwise known as the Negro National Anthem — which was sung in churches, at civic events and even in schools, where substituting the song for "The Star-Spangled Banner" was a quiet act of rebellion against the racist status quo.

    By the late 1960s, many of us who had grown up black in an era when African-Americans were locked into Northern ghettos and murdered in the South for seeking the right to vote registered our grievances by refusing to stand for the anthem at sporting events.

    "Lift Every Voice and Sing" became what the Princeton University scholar Imani Perry describes as a tale "of endurance, lament and supplication" that acknowledges the cruelties of racism while also pointing toward transcendence: "Lift every voice and sing/Till earth and heaven ring/Ring with the harmonies of Liberty/Let our rejoicing rise/High as the listening skies." As Ms. Perry writes in "May We Forever Stand" — her forthcoming history of the song — it spread rapidly through black America in the early 1900s, reflecting a growing sense that the promise of full citizenship in the nation's canonical texts simply did not apply to African-Americans.

    The provenance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is itself deeply suspect. Key, who owned human beings, penned his celebration of freedom during a war in which the British had promised that very thing to enslaved African-Americans who agreed to fight on their side. The third stanza of the song — which ceased to be sung once warm relations were re-established with England — can be read as a reflection of Key's anger at Britain's overtures to the people he himself owned.

    The passage reads in part: "No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave/And The Star-Spangled Banner in triumph doth wave/O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave." Contemporary thinkers disagree on whether the word "slave" was used as a generic insult that could be applied to people of any race or as a direct reference to African-Americans who joined the British side in the War of 1812. But imagine yourself an enslaved person serving refreshments to your masters and their guests as they all retire to the piano room to sing Key's song as he had written it. There can be little doubt about what the passage referring to a "slave" would mean to you.

    The histories of the white and black anthems are strikingly different. James Weldon Johnson and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in 1900 to celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday at a time when the government seemed to have abandoned altogether the promise of Reconstruction. Four years earlier, the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, had validated the doctrine of "separate but equal." As the historian Cecilia Elizabeth O'Leary writes in "To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotism," the door had been opened for racists and nativist groups like the Ku Klux Klan to appoint themselves custodians of what it meant to be an American.

    "The Star-Spangled Banner" began as an ordinary song that competed with other songs for space in the American imagination. It was not until the early 20th century that it acquired the stature of a sacred writ and became, in effect, a loyalty test and an excuse for people who called themselves patriots to harass and beat people who dissented from the song's message.

    The truth is that the maxims about freedom implied in the song describe a condition the country has yet to achieve. People who confront that reality by kneeling prayerfully on the football field are often more determinedly patriotic than those who reflexively stand.



    3) Why Won't Israel Let Me Mourn My Father?

     NOV. 23, 2017




    My father, Azzam Jarrar, died last month. He was a proud Palestinian, a refugee, a civil engineer, a farmer and an entrepreneur. He was also my friend and mentor. He taught me the multiplication tables on our way to school in Saudi Arabia. He taught me how to question authority when we lived in Iraq. He helped me finish my master's degree when I lived in Jordan. Above all, though, he was the gateway to my Palestinian roots and identity.

    My dad fled his home with his family in 1967, when Israeli soldiers invaded and occupied the West Bank. He went first to Jordan and then to Iraq, where I was born. I was the first Jarrar to be born east of the Jordan River since our family was established on Palestinian land centuries ago.

    I didn't have the chance to visit my relatives on the West Bank until 2015, when I traveled there for a short work trip while working for a Quaker nongovernmental organization. Being in the diaspora meant that I wasn't given the opportunity to connect with the land and people. My only connection to my family history was through old stories and a few blurry pictures that my father took with him when he left as a teenager.

    That's why, after my father died in Jordan in October, it was so important for me to visit my extended family in the city of Jenin, to mourn his death with them. Unfortunately, I was prevented from doing so by the Israeli government.

    I had visited Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip two more times since that first trip in 2015. Like most Palestinian-Americans, I was questioned at the border about my family and personal life for hours before being admitted.

    My latest visit was different. This time, Israeli officials were mostly interested in my work, even though I made it clear that my partner, Alli McCracken, and I were traveling in our personal capacity to mourn my father and visit my family.

    I'm the Middle East and North Africa advocacy director for the human rights organization Amnesty International U.S.A. In that capacity, I have played a leading role in a new campaign that seemed to get the Israeli border guards' attention, a campaign calling on governments to ban goods from Israeli settlements.

    The officials who questioned me asked why Amnesty has a problem with Israel. I kept trying to steer the conversation back to my dad's memorial service, but they insisted on discussing the organization's work. Alli, who also works for Amnesty International, was questioned for a long time, too. They took her phone and went through her text messages.

    After hours of back and forth, I was informed that I was being denied entry for reasons of "public order" and — believe it or not — "the prevention of illegal immigration." I called the American Consulate General in Jerusalem and was told that there was nothing the officials there could do to help.

    Based on the questions I was asked, I had no doubt that this denial of entry was retaliation for my work. Amnesty International believesIsrael's settlement enterprise amounts to a war crime. Under international law, governments have an obligation not to recognize or assist "illegal situations." That's why Amnesty is calling on governments across the world, including the United States, to uphold that law and not allow Israeli businesses to profit from an illegal occupation.

    Israel seems to have denied me entry under legislation passed in Marchthat bans entry to Israel for noncitizens who knowingly issue "a public call for boycotting Israel." This law pertains not only to the boycott of goods produced in Israel proper but also to goods produced in settlements. Although Amnesty International calls for a government ban on importing those goods — not a consumer boycott — the Israeli government seems to treat it the same way.

    Could my teenage dad fleeing his hometown half a century ago have imagined this happening to his son? I wanted to visit his old school and my grandparents' old house. I wanted to touch the olive trees he climbed as little boy, and eat hareeseh, my favorite Palestinian dessert made of semolina and coconut, from the shop in central Jenin. Does it even exist anymore?

    I wasn't just upset about missing my dad's memorial service. Before I left the United States, I told my 4-year-old son that I was going on a trip because his grandpa had died. He cried a lot. Then he asked me if we could plant his grandfather back in earth like a plant and wait until he grows back. I told him we couldn't. He said he would just use his imagination. I tried to use my imagination while I was being sent back from the border crossing — I tried to imagine my family's land that I couldn't plant my father back into.

    When I returned home, my son asked me about the trip, and I had to tell him that I wasn't able to go. He looked confused. I couldn't explain the details — my work, Israel's settlements and the occupation, its unjust laws that stifle civil society. I know I'll have to tell him about all that someday.

    It won't be an easy story to tell, not only because of the Israeli government's actions but also because of the United States government's lack of action. Although I've tried to follow up, my own government has not stepped in to protect my right to equal treatment, and yet continues to help sustain illegal settlements by allowing the flood of Israeli goods into American markets.

    Israel must respect my right, and the rights of others, to engage in peaceful human rights work without fear of reprisal. Whether or not the Israeli government agrees with my work — and, of course, I know it doesn't — I still should have been able to take part in those most human of activities: mourning my father and celebrating his life.



    4) Papua New Guinea's Police Storm Manus Island Refugee Camp

     NOV. 22, 2017




    In a photograph released by an Australian activist group, an asylum seeker appeared to have collapsed as Papua New Guinea police officers stormed a detention center on Manus Island on Thursday. CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

    SYDNEY, Australia — The authorities in Papua New Guinea confronted asylum seekers on Thursday inside a controversial detention center on Manus Island, ordering hundreds of detainees to leave and destroying their belongings in an attempt to end a standoff at the camp that has drawn international scrutiny to Australia's offshore detention policy.

    By early afternoon, dozens of the asylum seekers had been removed from the camp and placed on three minibuses, said refugee advocates who were at the scene.

    "They drove past with their heads out the windows, and they cried, 'Help us,'" said Tim Costello, chief advocate for World Vision Australia, a charity. "They looked sullen and disturbed and defeated."

    Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese asylum seeker in the camp, said the men taken away had been targeted because they were separated from a larger group and were easier to remove. "The problem was, those men split up from the rest of us," he said.

    The Papua New Guinea authorities' aggressive move, which Australia's immigration minister confirmed was taking place, represented an escalation of the conflict over the Manus center. It comes three weeks after Australia officially closed the camp on Oct. 31, cutting off electricity, food and water as hundreds of the detainees, all of whom are men, refused to leave.

    Since 2013, Australia has paid neighboring Papua New Guinea to shelter migrants who were intercepted at sea while trying to reach Australia. The country's policy, which the government says is meant to deter human trafficking, is that no such migrant will ever be allowed to settle in Australia.

    Security forces stormed the camp around 7 a.m. Wednesday and began tearing through the men's shelters and makeshift water tanks, before announcing on a loudspeaker that the men had to leave for alternative facilities on the island, detainees said.

    "They've destroyed everything: our belongings, our shelters, our rooms and beds," said Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish asylum seeker and journalist in the center. "They said, 'You must leave this prison camp.' "

    Mr. Boochani said the authorities were confiscating mobile phones after a number of refugees photographed and filmed the episode, making it available to international news media outlets.

    "At this moment that I'm talking with you, I'm in the toilet," said Mr. Boochani, who has regularly posted Twitter messages and written articles from the camp. "If I go outside, they'll take my phone. It's possible that if I go out, they'll arrest me. I'm only worried that I won't be able to write and tweet."

    The asylum seekers' defiance was partly an act of protest, but it was also motivated by complaints that alternative facilities were not ready. Many of the men have also said they feared they would be attacked or intimidated by local residents who have resisted Australia's attempt to move them closer to the island's largest city, Lorengau.

    On Thursday, Australia's immigration minister, Peter Dutton, accused the detainees of ruining the detention center and wasting Australian taxpayers' money.

    "I think it's outrageous that people are still there," he told 2GB radio. "They've trashed the facility, they're living in squalor."

    He compared the situation to building a new house for tenants who then refuse to move in. "The Australian taxpayers have paid about $10 million for a new facility and we want people to move," he said.

    Detainee advocates have questioned Mr. Dutton's assessment, pointing to photographic evidence that the alternate facilities are not ready.

    "I find it very hard to believe anything that the immigration minister is saying at this stage — that's based on the fact that I was at the camp on Manus Island last week," said Jana Favero, director of advocacy at the Asylum Seeker Resource Center. "The only thing that's making these men live in these conditions is the destruction that's been brought on them by authorities. I can understand why they're staying: because they're going to be moved from one prison to another."

    Mr. Boochani said that the men were tired, and he demanded that the Australian government find a solution to the stalemate.

    "We've been in this prison camp for more than four years," he said. "We are refugees, and we've been recognized as refugees by international law. Let us go to a third country. We don't want to go to Australia."

    Of the 843 asylum seekers still on Manus, nearly 200 have not had their claims for refugee status approved or have been rejected, including many of the camp's leaders.

    Just hours after Mr. Boochani said he feared arrest, asylum seekers on the island said he had been taken from the camp by the authorities. Mr. Boochani later said in a tweet that he had been released, and that the authorities had berated him over his reporting.

    "I've just been released. They hancuffed me for more than two hours in a place behind the prison camp. The police commander yelled at me 'you are reporting against us.' They pushed me several times and broke my belongings. Will write more about it later."



    5)  Thanksgiving for Native Americans: Four Voices on a Complicated Holiday

     NOV. 23, 2017




    Sherman Alexie in Seattle. "You take the holiday and make it yours," he said of Thanksgiving. "That doesn't strip it of its original meaning or its context." CreditIan C. Bates for The New York Times 

    "Do Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?"

    The Native American artist Sherman Alexie, who is Spokane-Coeur d'Alene, writes in his poem "Happy Holidays!" that he is asked that question a dozen times a year.

    The implicit assumption is that indigenous people would never celebrate a holiday tied up with the arrival of white settlers and the myths of American foundation. The truth is more complicated.

    Excerpted here are perspectives from four Native American writers.

    Sherman Alexie: A Story of Survival

    Q. Do you feel like you've been able to make Thanksgiving your own?

    A. You take the holiday and make it yours. That doesn't strip it of its original meaning or its context. There's still the really sad holiday as well. It is a holiday that commemorates the beginning of the end for us, the death of a culture. I guess you could say Thanksgiving is also about survival, look how strong we are.

    Q. How do you talk to your kids about the Thanksgiving story?

    A. You just tell them the truth, the long historical nature of it. They're quite aware of what happened to us, the genocide and the way in which we survive and the way in which my wife and I have survived our individual Indian autobiographies.

    I guess it's trash talking: "Look, you tried to kill us all, and you couldn't." We're still here, waving the turkey leg in the face of evil.

    — Interview in Bitch Media 

    Winona LaDuke: Tired of Being Invisible

    There is this magical made-up time between Columbus Day (or Indigenous People's Day for the enlightened) and Thanksgiving, where white Americans think about native people. That's sort of our window.

    November is Native American Heritage Month. Before that, of course, is Halloween. Until about three years ago, one of the most popular Halloween costumes was Pocahontas. People know nothing about us, but they like to dress up like us or have us as a mascot.

    We are invisible. Take it from me. I travel a lot, and often ask this question: Can you name 10 indigenous nations? Often, no one can name us. The most common nations named are Lakota, Cherokee, Navajo, Cheyenne and Blackfeet — mostly native people from western movies. This is the problem with history. If you make the victim disappear, there is no crime. And we just disappeared. When I travel, I get this feeling someone has seen a unicorn in the airport.

    — Essay in Inforum

    Jacqueline Keeler: A Hidden Heart

    I see, in the First Thanksgiving story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.

    Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused.

    Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving Day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.

    And the healing can begin.

    — Essay from the Pacific News Service 

    Simon Moya-Smith: When We Commemorate

    Native American Heritage Day falls on the one day each year when Americans ravenously indulge in material possessions — Black Friday. So is this an insult to Native Americans? Of course it is. How could it not be?

    If Native American Heritage Day fell on Nov. 5, for example, then students would be in the classroom and teachers could offer lessons about the Native American today. But no. Instead, streams of bundled-up shoppers are standing in line to make their purchases, with the class the last thing on any kids' minds as they sit watching TV.

    If we're going to choose a day for Native American Heritage Day when school is out, then how about Thanksgiving Day itself? Why not? That way we could learn about the real history of the holiday, and not the romanticized version we all hear about.

    — Essay on CNN



    6)  Telling the Truth About the Cost of War

     NOV. 23, 2017




    A half-century ago, the Pentagon's misleading claims about civilian deaths in Vietnam eroded public trust and, ultimately, support for the war. The United States military today claims to have learned the hard lessons of that and subsequent wars. It's put in place an elaborate system intended to minimize civilian casualties, including an Obama-era requirement that forces have "near certainty" that no civilian will be harmed before launching an attack. Intelligence analysts select targets, "targeteers" study models to calculate the most precise angles to strike, teams of lawyers evaluate plans and the Pentagon later discloses the few civilians who still, inevitably and tragically, wind up getting killed.

    It turns out this is all, at least partly, an illusion. The Pentagon is killing far more civilians than it acknowledges, according to a recent report in The New York Times and other findings. A system intended to ensure transparency and accountability appears, instead, to be enabling the Pentagon to fool itself as well as the rest of us about the true cost of its strikes. It is often feeding bad intelligence into its intricate targeting system in the first place and then failing to thoroughly investigate civilians deaths after an attack.

    The American-led military coalition has claimed, for instance, that the ratio of civilian deaths to airstrikes in the operation against the Islamic State in Iraq is one for every 157 strikes. The New York Times Sunday Magazine's account found a ratio of one civilian death for every five airstrikes — more than 31 times the Pentagon's claim. The true number, wrote the authors, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal, "is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history."

    Ms. Khan's and Mr. Gopal's reporting provided the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since the operation began in 2014. They visited the sites of nearly 150 airstrikes in northern Iraq after ISIS was expelled, and they interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors and others. They photographed bomb fragments and mapped the destruction with satellite imagery, and they took the data to experts at the United States base in Qatar.

    The article's organizing narrative was the tragic story of Bassim Razzo, whose wife, daughter, nephew and brother were killed in 2015 in coalition airstrikes on their side-by-side homes in Mosul, the main ISIS stronghold in Iraq. Video and written records showed that the coalition misidentified the two compounds as an ISIS car-bomb factory or command center. Before the writers took up the case, coalition officials had not included the Razzo family in its accounting of civilian victims. When Mr. Razzo asked for compensation, the military eventually offered the insulting sum of $15,000.

    The Costs of War project at Brown University estimates over 200,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan since 2001. Most experts attribute a majority of the civilian deaths to extremists.

    Although international law obligates combatants to minimize harm to civilians, it is unrealistic to think that all civilian deaths can be prevented. Yet the reporting by Ms. Khan and Mr. Gopal suggests that America could be doing far more to protect civilians. They said they found a "consistent failure" by the American-led coalition to investigate claims carefully and to keep proper records. Some deaths occurred because civilians were close to ISIS targets. Many others, however, appear to have been recorded wrongly by "flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants." The article said the military seldom recognized its failures or made changes to prevent civilian deaths.

    To some extent, the American people may be blind to this carnage, having been lulled by their military and political leaders into believing that advanced technology and precision strikes kill the bad guys while sparing the innocent. This seductive concept took hold with video of seemingly pinpoint strikes during the first Persian Gulf war and was reinforced since by widespread use of drone strikes by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump against faraway targets.

    However precise the weapons, careful the planners and skilled the fighters, war inevitably includes mistakes that kill civilians. Leaders need to be honest that there is no such thing as antiseptic combat, while Americans need to understand the full cost and consequences of military actions undertaken in their names.

    These are not idle concerns. The pace of attacks and civilian casualties seems to be rising, and with them the potential for alienating the very people America hopes to save. The anti-ISIS fight has quickened and moved into crowded cities, but the president has also given field commanders more authority to make battlefield decisions in an ill-defined hunt for terrorists.

    Civilian deaths impose another penalty. They become a recruiting tool for terrorists and undermine counterterrorism operations. It's up to Congress to ensure true accountability and transparency, if the administration does not, by holding hearings and demanding answers.



    7)  The Horses on Standing Rock Get a Checkup

    Traveling veterinarians, their patients and tradition.

     NOV. 23, 2017




    Kallen Harrison with his mare, Oreo. Behind them are volunteers from the Rural Veterinary Experience Teaching and Service program, which provides free and low-cost care to horses in areas with few veterinarians. CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times

    FORT YATES, N.D. — Arlene Grey Bear took Lucky and Rue and Kennedy to the rodeo grounds in Fort Yates, N.D., on the Standing Rock Reservation — Lucky and Rue, her ponies, for a checkup, Kennedy, her 16-year-old granddaughter, to help. And to learn.

    Kennedy started riding a few years ago, Ms. Grey Bear said, and then her friends wanted to as well. So her grandmother made sure they had horses to ride. She said it keeps them out of trouble. They're not running around or doing things they shouldn't, she said, because "they're always on a horse."

    From left: Eric Davis, Arlene Grey Bear and her granddaughter Kennedy at the clinic.CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times

    Ms. Grey Bear is a Lakota teacher at an elementary school nearby, important work because, she said, if "a lot of our kids don't know our language, it gets lost." That concern about heritage, and what might get lost, extends to teaching the children about horses.

    "In our culture horses are well respected," Ms. Grey Bear said. "We're supposed to take care of our horses the right way. We teach our kids: You take care of your horse first. Take their saddles off, brush them off, give them water, give them feed. Then you can take care of yourself. The horse's needs before yours."

    But how do you take care of the horses if there isn't a vet nearby?

    There are no full-time veterinarians on the Standing Rock Reservation, let alone specialists in equine health.

    Enter Dr. Eric Davis, a veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, and the director of Rural Veterinary Experience Teaching and Service, a program that has since 2011 sent veterinary students to clinics at farms, rodeo grounds and homes to provide free or reduced-cost care for horses.

    "We seek out places where other people don't go," Dr. Davis said. "I think that you have the opportunity to do the most good if you go to a place that has the least resources."

    As Jamie Murphy, who keeps rescue ponies on her place in Porcupine, N.D., said, "We're kind of out here in the middle of nowhere."

    The care the volunteer vets provide is essential: treating wounds, fixing teeth and trimming hooves — key to keeping the horses healthy on the Plains. Dr. Davis and his students also geld stallions, which can become uncontrollable without the procedure. For the students, Dr. Davis said, it is " 'hands on, get blood on your gloves' training."

    The goal is bigger than just providing care, though. Dr. Davis wants young people in Standing Rock to get involved and perhaps even see veterinary medicine as a career. "I would love it if I can help get students, reservation youth, more interested in doing things with horses," he said. But he added that doing that when "you are the old white guy on the reservation," can be difficult: "I don't know what to say or what to do or how to act. And I'd be faking it if I tried to, and I can't fake stuff." He hopes that will change next year, as the first Lakota recruit will join the program from the Cheyenne River Reservation.

    He also wants his students, many of them from urban areas, to see what rural practice is like.

    On a Friday evening after a day of work earlier this year, the students headed to a powwow at Porcupine, on the Standing Rock Reservation. They bought fry bread and tacos and sat in the stands, taking in the traditional Lakota dances. "We have very few students that come from a background of farming, where people have to work and struggle," Dr. Davis said.

    One vet student asked a dancer for a photo of a "No DAPL" beaded outfit, a reference to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Another, also a musician, was mesmerized by the drumming.

    "I can give students the chance to look," Dr. Davis said. "Whether they see or not is kind of up to them."



    8) Does Race Matter in America's Most Diverse ZIP Codes?

     NOV. 24, 2017




    Darryl Johnson, center, and his wife, Marissa Johnson, with their daughter Sienna at their restaurant in Vallejo, Calif. The city is one of the most racially balanced in the United States.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

    VALLEJO, Calif. — Beyond the burgers and fries coming from the kitchen and the oldies blaring from the radio, the scene playing out daily at the Original Red Onion might appear unfamiliar to much of the country.

    The restaurant's married owners — Marissa Johnson, a Filipino-American, and Darryl Johnson, an African-American — work alongside Jahira Fragozo, who is of Miskito and Yaqui Indian descent. Ms. Johnson bonds with a customer, Hillory Robinson, who is black, over the challenges of motivating their children in the winter. "They need something to do," Ms. Robinson says.

    Ms. Johnson gushes a short time later when a regular, Dylan Habegger, who is white, decides to tackle the restaurant's new, spicy creation with a name that describes its effect. "Uh oh," Ms. Johnson tells him, "you're trying the Burner today."

    The Original Red Onion sits in one of the country's most racially diverse ZIP codes: 94591, in Vallejo, Calif. About 30 miles north of Oakland, it is the rare place in the United States where black, white, Asian and Hispanic people not only coexist in nearly equal numbers, but actually connect.

    At a time when race often still defines where people live and attend school, and the battles between alt-right and Antifa, nativist and immigrant, continue to rage, this Bay Area suburb of 120,000 can seem like a respite from the divided nation. Pick any two people out of this ZIP code, and there is a 76 percent chance they are a different race or ethnicity — and odds are they'll be comfortable talking to each other.

    "The gift about being in close proximity is that you're desensitized to seeing a different culture and judging it right away," said Lena Yee-Ross, a 17-year-old high school senior whose mother is Chinese-American and father is black.

    Lena Yee-Ross, center, with her classmates Arabella Compton, left, and Christian Bustos at Jesse Bethel High School in Vallejo. CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

    Living next to one another for generations, since a major naval yard drew large numbers to the town with the promise of jobs, has mitigated much of the tension found in more segregated communities. People of all stripes sing arm in arm during Thursday night karaoke at Gentleman Jim's bar, where on a recent evening a white man with a cowboy hat sat next to a Filipino man in a biker vest, and the songs ranged from Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" to the Fugees' "Killing Me Softly."

    Students of different races study side by side at one local high school, and their shades of skin color span such a spectrum that it is difficult to tell what races or ethnicities they are when they congregate for lunch.

    Still, Vallejo (pronounced va-LAY-oh) is no promised land.

    Stubborn racial divisions remain. The typical black family has a household income that is three-fourths of the city's median. Nearly three out of every four members of the Police Department are white, and all of the City Council members are either Filipino or white.

    Academic performance is improving in schools, but achievement gaps remain: Of the 11th graders at Jesse Bethel High School, which is in the 94591 ZIP code, 42 percent of black students and 51 percent of Hispanic ones tested proficient in English this year, compared with 63 percent of white students and 77 percent of Filipino ones.

    Spencer Lane, a 17-year-old white senior at a high school where whites are in the minority, said classmates had told him that he looked as if he could shoot up a school. Ms. Yee-Ross said her mother once heard a news account of a robbery and insisted that the perpetrator had to be black. And the Johnsons have battled racial tension in their family and their business.

    A white customer who had been a regular at the restaurant once asked the woman taking his order to make sure that a young black employee did not cook his food, Ms. Johnson said. When she heard commotion at the front of the restaurant, she said, she confronted the customer, who told her: "How can you have people like that working here? His pants are sagging."

    The Johnsons met in Vallejo in 2003, introduced by mutual friends. He liked her toothy smile, she liked his respect, but each harbored racial stereotypes.

    Mr. Johnson, 33, assumed that she would be a devoted homemaker who would cook and clean for him. Ms. Johnson, 31, said she was impressed that he did not wear baggy pants and that "he doesn't talk ghetto."

    As diverse as Vallejo is, Ms. Johnson said she grew up hanging out mostly with Filipinos, a clustering that many local residents of different races said is natural. Immigrants from Mexico or the Philippines may want the company of people who can help them navigate a new country.

    But within these groups, stereotypes can fester.

    When Mr. Johnson's mother, Tanja Mayo-Pittman, found out he was dating Ms. Johnson, she thought of the time she worked at Home Depot. She was the only non-Filipino on her team, and felt ostracized in part because her co-workers spoke Tagalog and joked with one another, leaving her to wonder if they were teasing her.

    "Until I met them, I couldn't imagine that they just had open arms toward my child," she said of her son's future in-laws.

    But those fears and barriers have dropped. "I stopped feeling judged or left out," she said. "I stopped seeing them as Filipino. I started just seeing them as people."

    Ms. Mayo-Pittman, 52, also had to contend with her own formative years in nearby Pinole, when, as a fair-skinned woman, she had trouble fitting in — not black enough for the black people, or white enough to be white.

    "To be honest with you, I never wanted my kids to be light-complected because I didn't want them to have an identity crisis," she said.

    The Johnsons have four daughters together, from age 3 to 11, each with tawny brown skin.

    As the girls lounged on the carpet of Ms. Johnson's grandparents' ranch-style home one evening, after a dinner of lumpia and white rice, Ms. Johnson joked about some of the questions that had come from her husband's side of the family: Do you work at a nail salon? How do you speak such good English?

    Ms. Johnson's father, Al Remorin, 51, grew up in nearby Richmond, where most of his friends were black. He moved to Vallejo in 1979, when he was 13. That's when he came to know a lot of other Filipinos. He was surprised, he said, to hear some of their racism. People asked him why he talked as if he were black.

    Mr. Remorin quickly bonded with Mr. Johnson, often discussing sports. So Ms. Johnson said she was caught off guard by her father's reaction when she became pregnant.

    "How can you?" Ms. Johnson said her father asked. As in: How could she think it was O.K. to have biracial children?

    Mr. Remorin said he did not recall saying that. He never had an issue with his daughter having biracial children, he said. Back in his day, he rarely saw "half-Filipinos and half-blacks, or half-this and half-that," he said. "It's hard enough as it is being nonwhite, and you imagine when they're half-this and half-that."

    Things are different today. In the Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan area, 22 percent of marriages from 2011 to 2015 were interracial, more than double the national rate in the same period, according to a Pew Research survey.

    Even in 2001, The New York Times was reporting that Vallejo was one of the most racially balanced cities in the country. Then, as now, racial and ethnic groups often stuck with their own.

    Back then, there were also concerns about the racial makeup of the police, with no African-Americans above the rank of sergeant. Today, the longest-serving member in the history of the department is black and currently a lieutenant, but there are no other African-Americans above the rank of sergeant.

    "There is not really the interaction in the way we would like," Liat Meitzenheimer, who is black and Japanese, said in 2001. "Kids in the neighborhoods play with each other, but by and large, people stay to themselves."

    A decade and a half later, Ms. Meitzenheimer still lives in Vallejo and she says those divisions still exist.

    "For somebody who has lived here for 32 years now, it really hasn't changed," she said in a recent interview. "There are people actively trying to find ways to bring people together so that we participate from different communities together on single issues, whether it be sports or some artistic endeavor."

    Vallejo is even more racially balanced now, with the white population dropping and other racial and ethnic groups growing. Hispanic and white residents each make up about 25 percent of the population. A little more than 23 percent of the city is Asian and nearly 21 percent black.

    The 94591 ZIP code — where the Johnsons live, own their business and send their children to school — is a sprawling swath of the city known as East Vallejo. Among ZIP codes with at least 50,000 residents, it is the third most diverse in the country, according to a Times analysis of census data.

    Vallejo's diversity stems from the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, which for nearly a century and a half attracted families with the promise of stable jobs. The yard closed in 1996, and with it went much of this town's fortunes; the city declared bankruptcy in 2008. It remains a largely working-class bedroom community, though some fear that the relatively affordable housing could lure more affluent Bay Area residents, displacing low-income residents.

    Past restrictions that kept people of color confined to certain neighborhoods have largely fallen, but glaring disparities endure. Black households rank lowest in median income, at $42,000. Residents have complained of brutality by the police force against black and brown people, and the seven-member City Council currently does not have a black or Hispanic member.

    "I think that's part of that racial divide, where Filipinos want to have Filipino leadership or African-Americans want to have an African-American leader or whites want to have a white leader, so they specifically target an individual for election," said Bob Sampayan, who was elected the city's first Filipino-American mayor last year.

    But Mr. Sampayan and other local residents see promising signs of integration, like the diverse neighborhood watch patrols that sprang up after cuts to the Police Department and the diverse group involved in the city's participatory budgeting process.

    The Vallejo Chamber of Commerce, once a mostly white organization, now has its first Latina chairwoman, and nearly half of its board members are people of color. Different ethnic chambers of commerce — Filipino, Hispanic and African-American — work more closely with the city chamber under a group called the Vallejo Business Alliance.

    Then there are the day-to-day interactions that blur conventions of race and culture.

    Christopher Morales, 17, said his black friends were not offended when he, a Mexican-American, used an anti-black slur because their relationships transcended race. It is an attitude, he conceded, that puts Vallejo in something of a diversity bubble.

    "It doesn't really offend us," he said, "until someone from, like, an outside town comes over here."



    9)  The Biggest Tax Scam in History

    By Paul Krugman, November 27, 2017


    A Senate Finance Committee meeting room. The group is working on tax legislation that could prove costly to the middle class and future generations. CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times

    Donald Trump likes to declare that every good thing that happens while he's in office — job growth, rising stock prices, whatever — is the biggest, greatest, best ever. Then the fact-checkers weigh in and quickly determine that the claim is false.

    But what's happening in the Senate right now really does deserve Trumpian superlatives. The bill Republican leaders are trying to ram through this week without hearings, without time for even a basic analysis of its likely economic impact, is the biggest tax scam in history. It's such a big scam that it's not even clear who's being scammed — middle-class taxpayers, people who care about budget deficits, or both.

    One thing is clear, however: One way or another, the bill would hurt most Americans. The only big winners would be the wealthy — especially those who mainly collect income from their assets rather than working for a living — plus tax lawyers and accountants who would have a field day exploiting the many loopholes the legislation creates.

    The core of the bill is a huge redistribution of income from lower- and middle-income families to corporations and business owners. Corporate tax rates go down sharply, while ordinary families are nickel-and-dimed by a series of tax changes, no one of which is that big a deal in itself, but which add up to significant tax increases on almost two-thirds of middle-class taxpayers.

    Meanwhile, the bill would partially repeal Obamacare, in a way that would sharply reduce aid to lower-income families and raise the cost of insurance for many in the middle class.

    You might wonder how such a thing could possibly pass the Senate. But that's where the scamming comes in.

    While the underlying structure of the bill involves raising taxes on the middle class, the bill also includes a number of temporary tax breaks that would, at first, offset these tax increases. As a result, in the first few years most middle-class families would see modest tax cuts.

    But the operative word here is "temporary." All of these tax breaks either dwindle over time or are scheduled to expire at some point; by 2027 the bill is, as I said, a tax increase on the middle class used to pay for tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy.

    Why would anyone write a bill full of provisions that evaporate over time? There's no economic or policy logic behind it. Instead, it's all about trying to have it both ways, making a safe space for political double talk.

    Here's how it works: If you point out that the bill hugely favors the wealthy at the expense of ordinary families, Republicans will point to the next few years, when the class-war nature of the plan is obscured by those temporary tax breaks — and claim that whatever the language of the law says, those tax breaks will actually be made permanent by later Congresses.

    But if you point out that the bill is fiscally irresponsible, they'll say that it "only" raises the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade and doesn't raise deficits at all after that — because, you see, those tax breaks will expire by 2027, so the tax hikes will raise a lot of revenue. By the way, the claim that middle-class taxes will rise is crucial to passing the bill: Only bills that don't raise deficits after 10 years can bypass the filibuster and be enacted by a simple Senate majority.

    The point, of course, is that these claims can't both be true. Either this bill is a big tax hike on the middle class, or it's a huge budget-buster. Which is it? Nobody really knows; probably even the people who wrote this monstrosity don't know. But someone is being scammed, bigly.

    Oh, and ignore claims that tax cuts for corporations would jump-start the economy and pay for themselves. Of the 42 ideologically diverse economists surveyed by the University of Chicago on the impact of Republican tax plans, only one agreed that they would lead to substantial economic growth, while none disagreed with the proposition that they would substantially increase U.S. debt.

    So it's a giant scam. And while the exact nature of the scam may be unclear, ordinary American families would end up being the victims either way.

    For suppose those temporary tax breaks did end up becoming permanent, so that the budget deficit soared on a long-term basis. Then what? You know the answer: Republicans would suddenly revert to the pretense that they're deficit hawks, and demand "entitlement reform" — that is, cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, programs that ordinary families depend on. In fact, they're already talking about those cuts — they've started the switch even before getting the suckers to take the bait.

    So will they manage to pull off this giant con job? The reason they're rushing this to the Senate floor without a single hearing, without a full assessment from Congress's own official scorekeepers, is their hope that they can pass the thing before people figure out what they're up to.

    And the question is whether there are enough Republican senators with principles, who believe that policies should not be sold with lies, to stop this bum's rush.



    10)  What Congressmen Are Hiding

    NOV. 27, 2017




    As charges of sexual harassment and assault swept from Hollywood to Washington, Congress has faced questions about how it addresses such claims. The answer: terribly.

    For two decades, taxpayers have been underwriting secret payments to people who accuse lawmakers of sexual misconduct under a 1995 law called, paradoxically, the Congressional Accountability Act. The legislation applied to Congress many laws on workplace safety, employment and civil rights from which it had been exempt. In the process, it established an account to pay settlements, which prevented lawmakers from being personally liable, and created an Office of Compliance that kept charges and payments secret.

    After public pressure, the Office of Compliance released a tally of the settlements this month: Between 1997 and the present, the office has paid more than $17 million on more than 260 claims. In keeping with Congress's maddening lack of transparency, the tally lumps harassment with discrimination and other claims, so the number of harassment claims isn't clear. It also doesn't name any of those accused.

    On Sunday, Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan stepped away from his post as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee as the House Ethics Committee investigates reports that Mr. Conyers, the longest-serving House member, in 2015 settled a wrongful dismissal complaint with a woman who said she was fired because she would not "succumb to [his] sexual advances." (Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, faces a likely Senate Ethics Committee investigation after a woman said he forcibly kissed and groped her in 2006, before he was in politics.)

    Congressional sexual misconduct is likely far more prevalent than the settlement figures suggest, because Congress lacks safeguards common in large institutions. Lawmakers get no mandatory training in appropriate behavior toward their staff. Employees, many young and female, say they get little to no guidance on where to report predatory behavior. Victims who do find their way to the Compliance Office are required to undergo counseling, mediation and a 30-day "cooling off period" before filing a formal complaint.

    Early this month the Senate adopted a bipartisan resolution requiring its members and staff to participate in anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training; in coming days the House is expected to follow suit. But the heavier lift is overhauling how harassment complaints are handled. In the House, Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, and Representative Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican, are leading a bipartisan push for legislation that prohibits nondisclosure agreements as a condition of initiating a complaint, makes mediation and counseling optional before a victim can file a complaint and requires lawmakers who settle discrimination cases to repay the Treasury. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, is championing similar legislation in the Senate. But lawmakers are divided on the question of whether to unmask lawmakers and settlements from before this year. Some legislators, including the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, have said that revealing details from those cases could jeopardize the anonymity of victims. If Congress is serious about change, it should pass legislation that grants victims, not legislators, the choice.

    It's sobering to recall that the 1995 law was passed three years after another congressional scandal, in which House members of both parties were censured and prosecuted for abusing accounts with the House bank, in some cases writing checks for tens of thousands of dollars they didn't have. The same environment of entitlement, secrecy and lax rules led to the current situation. Both parties have controlled the House and Senate in the years since the Congressional Accountability Act was passed, and neither has pushed to better protect the thousands of staffers who do the bulk of the work on Capitol Hill. Righting this wrong would seem obvious for Democrats, who led the condemnation of President Trump for his videotaped boasts of sexual assault. So it was not encouraging to hear Ms. Pelosi on Sunday, delivering a weak, he-said she-said defense of Mr. Conyers.

    Decades of hushed-up complaints show sexual misconduct is as terrible an open secret in Congress as in Hollywood. Legislators have a chance to correct their poor handling of a national problem. They should seize it.



    11) He Raised Drug Prices at Eli Lilly. Can He Lower Them for the U.S.?

    NOV. 26, 2017




    Alex M. Azar II in 2006, when he was deputy health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush. He will begin confirmation hearings this week to head the department under President Trump. CreditEvan Vucci/Associated Press

    WASHINGTON — Alex M. Azar II, President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, has expressed concern about the soaring cost of prescription drugs for many consumers. This week, Mr. Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, is expected to face tough questions at a Senate confirmation hearing over why his own company raised prices.

    Democratic senators say that, as a top manager at Eli Lilly and Company, he was responsible for steep increases on insulin and other drugs. How he would now tackle that problem as secretary, along with the future of the Affordable Care Act, promises to dominate the hearings.

    Even Democrats who are unlikely to vote for Mr. Azar say that he will probably be confirmed, and that he would be more pragmatic and less ideological than the man he would succeed, Tom Price, who resigned in September under criticism for his use of private jets and military flights.

    And Mr. Azar has struck a conciliatory tone as the public outcry over pharmaceutical prices has grown.

    "Let's start by saying, 'We have a problem,'" he said at a pharmaceutical industry conference in May.

    Mr. Azar, 50, would bring an unusual combination of experience in government and industry to the job of running a cabinet department that spends more than a trillion dollars a year providing health insurance to more than 130 million Americans.

    His résumé is studded with conservative credentials. He was active in the Federalist Society and was a Supreme Court law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he describes as "one of the 10 greatest figures in the history of Anglo-American law." He spent two years working for Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton. He worked on the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000 and provided legal support for vote recount efforts in Florida.

    Mr. Azar, who describes himself as a policy wonk, joined the administration of President George W. Bush as general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services in 2001 and became deputy secretary four years later.

    He helped devise the legal rationale for a complicated compromise on the emotional issue of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. And he helped carry out a 2003 law that added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, one of the most significant changes in the history of the program.

    Work on Medicare was a formative experience for Mr. Azar, and he cites the drug benefit — delivered entirely by private companies under contract with the government — as a model. The cost to Medicare beneficiaries and to taxpayers has been substantially less than originally projected.

    Mr. Azar (rhymes with "pay czar") joined Lilly in 2007 and worked there for nearly 10 years before he left the Indianapolis-based company in January of this year.

    Lilly's portfolio includes Cialis, for men with erectile dysfunction; Forteo, for osteoporosis; and Zyprexa, for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But its best sellers are insulin and other products for the treatment of diabetes.

    Patients and members of Congress criticized increases in list prices for insulin while Mr. Azar was the president of Lilly USA, the company's largest affiliate, which is responsible for more than 40 percent of its global revenue.

    "The price of insulin has tripled in the last decade," said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. "If you want to bring down drug prices, you don't put a former pharmaceutical company executive in charge of health care policy for our country."

    Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to lower drug prices, but Democrats say his words have not been matched by action.

    The Senate health committee will investigate Mr. Azar's record at a hearing on Wednesday. The panel includes liberal critics of the drug industry like Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

    "We need an H.H.S. secretary who is willing to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and lower prescription drug prices, not one who has financially benefited from this greed," Mr. Sanders said.

    The Senate Finance Committee plans to hold a separate confirmation hearing soon.

    In a letter to the health committee, the Type 1 Diabetes Defense Foundation, a nonprofit group, said that Mr. Azar had condoned Lilly's "overpricing of insulin" and that some patients had suffered as a result. In filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission over the past seven months, Lilly said it had received demands for information about the pricing of its insulin products from offices of the attorneys general in California, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington State.

    Drug companies have long said high prices are not a concern because they provide big discounts and rebates on many products. But in the last year, as public outcry has grown, Mr. Azar has acknowledged a problem.

    "This is not something to put our head in the sand about," he told the industry conference in May. "Patients are having to pay too much for drugs." In particular, he said, "patients are paying out of pocket too much money."

    "What happened?" he asked. "Was there in the last three years a radical change in the pricing of drugs — either how launch prices occur or how drug price increases happen? No. In the last five to seven years, the pricing model really has not changed one bit."

    "So why did things erupt?" he asked. "They erupted because we have seen a complete and fundamental restructuring of health insurance in the United States over the last three to five years. More of us now have high-deductible plans. More of us now have high cost-sharing."

    As a result, he said, "when the patient goes into the pharmacy, they're getting the sticker, they're getting the list price."

    At a symposium at the Manhattan Institute last November, Mr. Azar said, "We're on the cusp of a golden age of pharmaceutical breakthroughs." But he added, "Our outdated system for paying for prescription drugs is threatening to squelch patient access to this recent and revolutionary burst of innovation by shifting a crushing burden directly onto individuals."

    Even as drug companies increase list prices, they have been giving larger discounts and rebates to health insurance companies and the middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers, who work for insurers and employers. But consumers who are uninsured or who have high-deductible health plans often must pay the full list price, or close to it.

    "No patient was ever supposed to pay those list prices, but in recent years a growing number have been forced to do exactly that," Mr. Azar said, adding, "That practice exposes patients to huge amounts of cost-sharing when they walk into the pharmacy."

    And that, he said, is bad for patients because they are much less likely to fill prescriptions if their out-of-pocket cost is more than $50 or $100.

    He said the current, convoluted system of paying for drugs had perverse incentives.

    "All players — wholesalers like McKesson and Cardinal, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, pharmacy benefit managers like Express Scripts and CVS Caremark, and drug companies — make more money when list prices increase," Mr. Azar said, adding, "The unfortunate victims of these trends are patients."

    Mr. Azar echoes Mr. Trump's criticism of the Affordable Care Act. He maintains that the expansion of Medicaid under the law has not been successful. He speaks favorably of proposals to give each state a lump sum of federal money in the form of a block grant to provide health care to low-income people.

    And he said he wanted to "get H.H.S. out of the business of being the nation's insurance commissioner."

    Asked on the Fox Business Network in May if the health law was dead, he said, "It's certainly circling the drain."



    12)  Vera Shlakman, Professor Fired During Red Scare, Dies at 108

    NOV. 27, 2017




    Vera Shlakman speaking with New York City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin, left, in April 1982 after she and others received restitution from the city for being fired from college teaching positions because they had refused to testify in the 1950s about whether they were members of the Communist Party. With her, from right, were fellow recipients Oscar Shaftel, Dudley Straus and Bernard F. Riess.CreditNeal Boenzi/The New York Times

    Vera Shlakman, an influential economics professor who was fired by Queens College after she refused to tell Senate investigators whether she had ever been a card-carrying Communist — a punishment that brought an apology three decades later — died on Nov. 5 at her home in Manhattan. She was 108.

    Her death, which was not widely reported at the time, was confirmed by her friend Ellen J. Holahan.

    Dr. Shlakman was the last survivor among more than a dozen teachers at New York City's public colleges who were ousted by the Board of Higher Education during the early stages of the Red Scare wrought by Senators Pat McCarran and Joseph R. McCarthy.

    A 42-year-old assistant professor when she was fired in 1952, Dr. Shlakman neither taught economics again nor wrote a sequel to her groundbreaking 1935 book on female factory workers.

    Thirty years later, 10 of the fired professors, including Dr. Shlakman, were indemnified with pension settlements after receiving an apology from college officials.

    "They were dismissed during and in the spirit of the shameful era of McCarthyism, during which the freedoms traditionally associated with academic institutions were quashed," the trustees of the City University of New York declared in a resolution adopted unanimously in 1980. The trustees had succeeded the Board of Higher Education.

    No one doubted Dr. Shlakman's political leanings.

    She had been named for the Russian revolutionary Vera Zasulich. Emma Goldman, the anarchist, was a regular guest in her family's home. Dr. Shlakman was vice president of the college division of a Teachers Union local that was rebuked for being dominated by Communists.

    But when she was summoned before a public hearing of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, led by Senator McCarran, a Nevada Democrat, Dr. Shlakman invoked her constitutional guarantees of free speech and privilege against self-incrimination when asked about her membership in the Communist Party.

    "Do you believe that a member of the Communist Party can be a college teacher?" Robert J. Morris, the subcommittee counsel, asked Dr. Shlakman at the hearing, held on Sept. 24, 1952, at the United States Court House in Foley Square in Manhattan.

    She replied, "I think that any teacher must be judged on the basis of his performance in the classrooms; that if a teacher follows professional standards in the classroom, and is a scholar, he is entitled to teach as any citizen."

    As an economist, Dr. Shlakman seemed to suggest that "communism" had become an overwrought term. She cited one example of what, by her reckoning, had once been branded radical but became an accepted staple of American life while leaving democratic institutions intact.

    "When the United States Post Office began to carry packages," she said, "this activity was viewed as a challenge to private enterprise'' and "a kind of socialistic or communistic activity."

    Pressed about whether being a Communist would close a teacher's mind to any deviation from the party line, she replied that similar speculations had been raised against devout Roman Catholics.

    "We don't condemn people now — at least I assume we don't — on the basis of guilt by association," she said.

    As far as the committee and college administrators were concerned, though, by refusing to respond to the question about party membership, Dr. Shlakman became a "Fifth Amendment Communist."

    She was fired from her professorship 12 days after the hearing under two New York regulations. One, authorized by the State Legislature in 1949, barred the school system from employing anyone who belonged to what was deemed a subversive organization.

    The other, a provision of the city charter enacted to thwart corruption, provided that a city employee's refusal to testify about his or her official conduct, because doing so might be self-incriminating, was grounds for dismissal.

    Both provisions would be declared unconstitutional in the late 1960s. But they were enforced in Dr. Shlakman's case, and as she told her fellow professors after she testified, her firing had left the academic community with a choice.

    "It must either grovel and accept the standards of orthodoxy prescribed by the McCarrans and the McCarthys, and those who have capitulated to them," she wrote, "or it must resist."

    She recalled that educators had resisted earlier congressional inquiries into reading requirements for college courses. "Is the dismissal of teachers," she asked, "easier to accept than the burning of books?"

    But profiles in courage were few and far between during the McCarthy era.

    The British economist Mark Blaug, a former student of Dr. Shlakman's, wrote in an essay in 2000 that she had been "scrupulously impartial and leaned over backward not to indoctrinate her students" — which was why, he added, as a college tutor he had endorsed a student petition demanding her reinstatement.

    Less than 24 hours later, he said, the Queens College president ordered him to resign or be dismissed.

    "For a day or two, I contemplated a magnificent protest," wrote Professor Blaug, who died in 2011, "a statement that would ring down the ages as a clarion bell to individual freedom, that would be read and cited for years to come by American high school students — and then I quietly sent in my letter of resignation."

    After leaving Queens, Dr. Shlakman was unemployed for a year.

    She then worked as a secretary and a bookkeeper and taught intermittently. She was placed on an F.B.I. watch list because she was, as an F.B.I. file put it, "reportedly" a member of the Communist Party from 1944 to 1946 and had invoked the Fifth Amendment before the subcommittee, according to Marjorie Heins's "Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge" (2013).

    In 1960, Dr. Shlakman finally started teaching again at Adelphi University, a private institution on Long Island, in its School of Social Work. In 1966 she was hired by the Columbia University School of Social Work, where she taught full time until she retired as professor emerita in 1978.

    Dr. Shlakman was born on July 15, 1909, in Montreal, to Louis Shlakman, a tailor and shirtwaist factory foreman, and the former Lena Hendler, both Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. (Her sister, Eleanora, was named for Karl Marx's youngest daughter; her brother, Victor, for Victor Hugo.)

    Dr. Shlakman never married and leaves no immediate survivors. In her last years, when she was homebound and blind, she was looked after by several friends, including Judith Podore Ward and her husband, Bernard Tuchman, and Ms. Holahan. They said they never asked, nor did Dr. Shlakman reveal, whether she had ever been a member of the Communist Party.

    Dr. Shlakman earned a bachelor's degree in 1930 from McGill University in Montreal, and went on to receive a master's in economics there. She earned her doctorate in economics at Columbia.

    Queens College hired her as an instructor in 1938, shortly after it was established. She taught courses there in labor, Social Security and the concentration of wealth.

    Dr. Shlakman's doctoral dissertation, an analysis of female factory workers in 19th-century Chicopee, Mass., was the basis for her book, "Economic History of a Factory Town" (1935).

    Joshua B. Freeman, a distinguished professor of labor history at Queens College and the City University Graduate Center, said by email that her book had "extended the boundaries of American working-class history" and influenced a generation of historians.

    Alice Kessler-Harris, a Columbia history professor emerita, wrote in the journal International Labor and Working-Class History in 2006, "Shlakman raised the question of how a transformation in the meaning of work for female workers could, and perhaps did, alter the workplace environment and the nature of family life."

    Professor Kessler-Harris said in an email that at a time when the field was dominated "by Jeffersonian myths about the harmonious interaction of labor and capital," Dr. Shlakman's study of Chicopee confirmed that capital and labor were at odds with each other in fundamental ways, and that labor protests were a check on the excesses of the marketplace.

    Dr. Shlakman's firing from Queens banished her to academic obscurity. Professor Kessler-Harris said that her copy of "Economic History," borrowed from Columbia's library in 1951, was not taken out again until 1966. (The book was, however, reissued in 1969.)

    After City University offered its apology in 1980, Dr. Shlakman and another fired colleague, Oscar Shaftel, appealed to City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin to resolve a dispute with the state over pensions or death benefits for former professors who had been dismissed during the Red Scare.

    In April 1982, the city announced a $935,098 settlement with seven living former professors and the estates of three who had died. Dr. Shlakman received $114,599 — the equivalent of almost $300,000 in 2017 money.

    "Do you feel you have gained your honor back with this?" Dr. Shaftel was asked at a ceremony where he was joined by Dr. Shlakman and two other former colleagues.

    "I never lost my honor," he replied.



    13)  Being Deported From Home for the Holidays

    By   NOV. 26, 2017




    Liany Guerrero, center, with her twin daughters, Liany Villacis, left, and Maria Villacis, on the porch of their home in Queens. CreditDavid Gonzalez/The New York Times

    Liany and Maria Villacis grew up in a family that did everything together. Each summer, even when money was tight, their parents made sure to take a week's vacation, no matter how modest. Last summer, when Liany, 22, was in a finance training program in Chicago, her parents and twin sister took their family vacation in the Windy City.

    Their closeness was a result of circumstance as much as blood: The twins were born in Pasto, Colombia, where their mother, Liany Guerrero, hailed from a politically active family. But when they started receiving death threats from rebel groups — along with unsettling snapshots of the girls at play — they sought political asylum in 2001 in New York with their father, Juan Villacis, whose mother lived in the Woodhaven section of Queens.

    They paid their taxes and stayed out of trouble. The twins prospered and did well in school and college. And every year, when the parents went to see the authorities at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to renew their stay of removal, they went as a family.

    After this year's meeting, they came home one short.

    On Nov. 15, Juan was detained and sent to the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey to await deportation to his native Ecuador in the coming weeks. His wife was allowed to go home, but under supervision and with orders to return this week to prove she has purchased a one-way ticket back to Colombia for mid-January. Their lawyer, Jillian Hopman, was stunned by what she saw as a heartless bureaucracy going after low-hanging fruit rather than the "bad hombres" of legend.

    "For a family that does everything together, this is heartbreaking," Ms. Hopman said. "Juan's mother's health has seriously deteriorated, and he is the one who cares for her. His wife has all kinds of medical problems, including complex cysts in her breasts. ICE did not care about any of this. Juan could have won the Nobel Prize and taken a bullet for Mike Pence. All he has become is a statistic."

    Adding to the sting, immigration officers refused to let the twins or his wife give him a final hug goodbye, Ms. Hopman said.

    "They told us they no longer provide that courtesy," she said, "because they don't like emotional scenes."

    Rachael Yong Yow, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, did not respond to questions submitted last week by email.

    Liany Guerrero and Juan Villacis met in Quito, Ecuador, Juan's hometown, where both were studying physical therapy. They have been married 29 years. In Pasto, Liany had served as a first lady of sorts when her older brother was mayor. The family had been politically active and had been targets of rebel groups. One relative had been kidnapped. It was an obvious — if difficult — decision to seek asylum in New York when the threats against the family stepped up in the late 1990s.

    Maria said her family arrived with valid visas in 2001 and immediately sought political asylum. However, she said, their lawyer at the time stressed the family's social class — rather than political affiliation — as the reason they were targeted by rebels. Although their application was denied, they obtained stays of removal every year. Ms. Hopman took their case in 2010.

    The twins did not expect things to go awry this year: Their father's mother, a United States citizen who is confined to bed and in poor health, has applied for him to become a legal resident, but there is nearly a five-year backlog of cases. Their mother's health makes the situation critical, too, they thought.

    Instead, their lawyer emerged with bad news.

    Adding to the sting, immigration officers refused to let the twins or his wife give him a final hug goodbye, Ms. Hopman said.

    "They told us they no longer provide that courtesy," she said, "because they don't like emotional scenes."

    Rachael Yong Yow, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, did not respond to questions submitted last week by email.

    Liany Guerrero and Juan Villacis met in Quito, Ecuador, Juan's hometown, where both were studying physical therapy. They have been married 29 years. In Pasto, Liany had served as a first lady of sorts when her older brother was mayor. The family had been politically active and had been targets of rebel groups. One relative had been kidnapped. It was an obvious — if difficult — decision to seek asylum in New York when the threats against the family stepped up in the late 1990s.

    Maria said her family arrived with valid visas in 2001 and immediately sought political asylum. However, she said, their lawyer at the time stressed the family's social class — rather than political affiliation — as the reason they were targeted by rebels. Although their application was denied, they obtained stays of removal every year. Ms. Hopman took their case in 2010.

    The twins did not expect things to go awry this year: Their father's mother, a United States citizen who is confined to bed and in poor health, has applied for him to become a legal resident, but there is nearly a five-year backlog of cases. Their mother's health makes the situation critical, too, they thought.

    Instead, their lawyer emerged with bad news.

    "My mom went completely pale and held onto her knees," said Liany, who with her sister has protection for now under DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. "She was just staring at the floor, saying there had to be a mistake."

    Friends of the family agree. Alberto Roig, a retired Manhattan prosecutor who also was assistant counsel to former Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly of the New York Police Department, was dumbstruck by the prospect that the family he has known for years would be broken up.

    "They're not some schmoes," he said. "The girls are incredible because the parents are incredible. They are contributing to our society. They follow the law. They're legit. And what do we do, kick them out and slam the door? This is a tremendous injustice."

    Now is the time of year when Juan would have hauled out the Christmas decorations and strung up the lights around the porch of the family's Dutch Colonial-style home just off the elevated train on Jamaica Avenue in Queens. Instead, it is dark. Inside, his electric drum kit and saxophone rest against a wall, silent. Just the sight of them moved his wife to tears the day she returned home without him.

    "Our family life was broken abruptly," she said. "It's like half of my heart was cut out. We always made the effort to keep our family united. We did everything to educate our daughters. Juan is his mother's only hope. We worked hard and paid taxes. What did we do wrong to deserve this?"

    She has prided herself on never missing appointments and doing whatever the authorities asked. One request she has yet to fulfill is buying her ticket to Colombia.

    "I know I have to get it," she said. "But I have the hope that someone will notice our case and say no, this can't happen. Hope is the last thing you lose."






































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