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:










Free Whistleblower Reality Winner

Monday, December 4 at 11:30 AM

Oakland Federal Building, 1411 Clay Street, Oakland CA





Not Interested

Noon Time Leafleting & Banner at Oakland Federal Building Monday, December 4th, 11:30am to 1:00pm Oakland Federal Building 1411 Clay Street, Oakland Please join us Monday to support jailed whistlebl...




Monday, December 4th

11:30am to 1:00pm

Oakland Federal Building

1411 Clay Street, Oakland

Hi Friend. Can you join us Monday to support jailed whistleblower Reality Leigh Winner on her 26th birthday? Reality is being held without bail for helping expose Russian hacking efforts leading up to the 2016 US election. Having been charged under the Espionage Act for sending a classified NSA document to the media, she faces 10 years in prison. Reality is the first victim of the Trump Administration's "war on leakers." 

We will pass out informational flyers, take a photo with our banner,  & provide an update on her case.

Reality Winner has been an outspoken critic of Trump and a staunch advocate of social justice causes, including Standing Rock, animal rights, climate science, Black Lives Matter, whistleblowers and free speech.  And now the views she's shared on social media are being used as evidence against her in a truly Orwellian trial.

Reality is charged with printing the secret document the day Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. The day after Trump told Russian officials that he fired "nut job" Comey to ease pressure from a Russiagate investigation, Reality allegedly sent the document to the media. 

Please help us get the word out about Reality Winner's case and its precedent setting implications for free speech, press freedom, election suppression, and the government's increasingly aggressive war on dissent. The outcome of her case will impact us all.

Courage to Resist


Stand with Reality


For more information:





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
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



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



Major Tillery — Still Rumbling

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

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

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

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

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

Major Tillery filed a pro se Pennsylvania state post-conviction petition in June 2016 to overturn his 1985 conviction. Just three months later Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker dismissed the petition without even allowing a hearing, stating that it was "untimely."

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.

Financial help is needed to cover the expenses of the appeal process and continuing investigation.



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. 

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 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) 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."



    2)  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.



    3)  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."



    4)  Trump Once Said the 'Access Hollywood' Tape Was Real. Now He's Not Sure.

     NOV. 28, 2017



    Shortly after his victory last year, Donald J. Trump began revisiting one of his deepest public humiliations: the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape of him making vulgar comments about women.

    Despite his public acknowledgment of the recording's authenticity in the final days of the presidential campaign — and his hasty videotaped apology under pressure from his advisers — Mr. Trump as president-elect began raising the prospect with allies that it may not have been him on the tape after all.

    Most of Mr. Trump's aides ignored his changing story. But in January, shortly before his inauguration, Mr. Trump told a Republican senator that he wanted to investigate the recording that had him boasting about grabbing women's genitals.

    "We don't think that was my voice," Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to three people close to the president.

    As the issue of sexual harassment has swept through the news media, politics and entertainment industries, Mr. Trump has persisted in denying allegations that he, too, made unwanted advances on multiple women in past years. In recent days, he has continued to seed doubt about his appearance on the "Access Hollywood" tape, stunning his advisers.

    More generally, Mr. Trump's views on the issue have changed depending upon the political party involved. He has praised women for coming forward after accusations were made against a Democrat, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. But in the case of Roy S. Moore, a Republican candidate for Senate from Alabama, Mr. Trump has said he believes Mr. Moore's denials that he behaved inappropriately with teenage girls, and he has effectively endorsed Mr. Moore's candidacy.

    Mr. Trump's falsehoods about the "Access Hollywood" tape are part of his lifelong habit of attempting to create and sell his own version of reality. Advisers say he continues to privately harbor a handful of conspiracy theories that have no grounding in fact.

    In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama's birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers.

    One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama's birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as he recalled the conversation. The president, he said, has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States. The senator asked not to be named to discuss private conversations.

    Mr. Trump's journeys into the realm of manufactured facts have been frequent enough that his own staff has sought to nudge friendly lawmakers to ask questions of Mr. Trump in meetings that will steer him toward safer terrain.

    To the president's critics, his conspiracy-mongering goes to the heart of why he poses a threat to the country.

    "It's dangerous to democracy; you've got to have shared facts," Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said in an interview on Tuesday. "And on so many of these, there's empirical evidence that says no: You didn't win the popular vote, there weren't more people at your inauguration than ever, that was your voice on that tape, you admitted it before."

    Mr. Flake, who is not running for re-election, said in the interview that he was about to begin a series of speeches on the Senate floor outlining his concerns about Mr. Trump. The first, he said, will be dedicated to what Mr. Flake called the president's disregard for the truth.

    Many Republican lawmakers — not wanting to undermine the party's fragile negotiations over a much-sought tax overhaul — declined to talk on the record about Mr. Trump's pattern of plunging into what one senator called "his rabbit holes." But the president's success last year has also left some in his party in awe of his achievement and uneasy about angering his base of supporters.

    "This guy got $2 billion of earned media in the primary, and he won an election that nobody thought he was going to win," said Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, alluding to the monetary equivalent of what Mr. Trump garnered in news media coverage. "This is a guy who is doing things that are totally unprecedented."

    Mr. Perdue, who like the president is a former business executive, did not defend Mr. Trump's untruths but said that other historical figures had their flaws, too.

    "He's nobody's choir boy, but neither were people like Winston Churchill, for example," said the senator. "This guy, I think, is a historic person of destiny at a time and place in America when we've got to make a right-hand turn here." Asked if the truth still matters, Mr. Perdue said: "Oh, absolutely. Facts are what you base decisions on."

    But Mr. Trump seems to not want to fully accept those facts that are embarrassing or inconvenient.

    In October 2016, when The Washington Post first emailed Mr. Trump's aides about the dialogue from the "Access Hollywood" tape, Mr. Trump said the words described by the newspaper did not sound like things he would say, according to two people familiar with the discussions. However, when an aide played the audio after the newspaper posted it online, Mr. Trump, who had been preparing for his second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, did not deny it.

    "It's me," he told people in the room as he listened. Yet after The New York Times published an article last weekend revealing that the president had questioned the authenticity of the recording, White House aides refused to answer questions about whether Mr. Trump still believes it was him on the tape.

    The White House declined to comment for this article, pointing instead to comments that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, made on Monday.

    "He's made his position on that clear at that time, as have the American people in his support of him," Ms. Sanders said at the White House daily news briefing. She did not offer any direct answers when pressed further about the matter.

    Mr. Trump's friends did not bother denying that the president was creating an alternative version of events. One Republican lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. Trump's false statements had become familiar to people over time. The president continues to boast of winning districts that he did not in fact win, the lawmaker said, and of receiving 52 percent of the women's vote, even though exit polls show that 42 percent of women supported him.

    Mr. Trump has a long history of stretching facts, predating his presidency. He has claimed his signature building, Trump Tower in Manhattan, was several stories taller than it actually is. In his first book, "The Art of the Deal," he conceded to employing what he called "truthful hyperbole."

    "I'm not a presidential historian, but I think many other presidents have written and shaped their own myths," said Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media, who spent part of Thanksgiving weekend with Mr. Trump at the president's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

    "Look at what happened with John Kennedy," Mr. Ruddy added. "If you read Theodore White's books on it, he was given a story line about Camelot. I don't think President Trump has gone that far — he's not describing this as Camelot."



    5) Canada Offers $85 Million to Victims of Its 'Gay Purge,' as Trudeau Apologizes

     NOV. 28, 2017




    Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau making a formal apology to individuals harmed by the so-called "gay purge" in Canada. CreditAdrian Wyld/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press 

    The Canadian government will pay up to 110 million Canadian dollars, or $85 million, to compensate victims of the so-called "gay purge," decades of government-authorized discrimination against gay Canadians.

    The announcement on Tuesday followed a speech in the House of Commons in Ottawa by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who apologized to the victims. The government program, which lasted for more than 30 years and ended only in the 1990s, caused thousands to lose their jobs and sometimes face prosecution because of their sexual orientation. The policy affected Canadians in the military, the public service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

    The government also introduced legislation to expunge "unjust convictions" from the judicial records of people charged under laws that criminalized homosexuality.

    In a speech to victims and their supporters who had gathered in the gallery of the House of Commons, Mr. Trudeau apologized for "Canada's role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence" against sexual minorities.

    "It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong," he said.

    He added, "It is my hope that in talking about these injustices, vowing to never repeat them, and acting to right these wrongs, we can begin to heal."

    In the 1950s, a special unit of the Mounties began a broad campaign aimed at removing gay and lesbian members of the military and other government institutions who were seen as vulnerable to blackmail by the Soviet Union. There are no known cases of gay public employees passing information with any foreign power.

    To identify targets, the authorities conducted surveillance, made threats and even developed a so-called "fruit machine" built in order to detect homosexuality. At one point, 9,000 people were under investigation by the unit, according to some estimates.

    Although Canada partially decriminalized homosexual acts in 1969, the program continued until 1992, ruining tens of thousands of lives, as gay people endured shame and punishments ranging from the loss of security clearance and jobs to imprisonment for "gross indecency and physical abuse."

    In some cases, lawyers for the plaintiffs said, some gay women were raped by men who told them it would correct their sexual orientation.

    Some of the victims are believed to have committed suicide after their careers were destroyed.

    Mr. Trudeau's apology and his government's historic settlement, which gay-rights advocates hailed as unprecedented anywhere in the world, are the latest steps in a review begun last year by his Liberal government to address the devastating impact of the discriminatory program.

    "It's something we can be extremely proud of in Canada," said R. Douglas Elliott, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "At a time when America is going backward and trying to reintroduce discrimination, we are moving forward and facing this historic injustice, making reparations to the victims and an unshakable commitment that this discrimination will never be repeated."

    The settlement, which totals 145 million Canadian dollars, will allow surviving victims who faced government retaliation between 1962 and 1996 to claim compensation, Mr. Elliott said. They will also be eligible for financial compensation ranging up to 150,000 Canadian dollars for those who experienced severe psychological and physical harm.

    Because many victims have died, 15 million Canadian dollars has been allocated for an array of reconciliatory and memorial measures in their honor. These will include the construction of a national monument in Ottawa and educational programs on the history of discrimination against gay and transgender people.

    Simon Thwaites, 55, lost his house and livelihood after he was forced out of the Canadian military in 1989 because he was gay. He said his excitement over the settlement was tempered by the trauma he has endured for decades.

    "It's a great step, but you can't take away the hurt and damage in one day," Mr. Thwaites said.



    6)  The Internet Is Dying. Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens That Death.

    By Farhad Manjoo, November 29, 2017


    The internet is dying.

    Sure, technically, the internet still works. Pull up Facebook on your phone and you will still see your second cousin's baby pictures. But that isn't really the internet. It's not the open, anyone-can-build-it network of the 1990s and early 2000s, the product of technologies created over decades through government funding and academic research, the network that helped undo Microsoft's stranglehold on the tech business and gave us upstarts like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix.

    Nope, that freewheeling internet has been dying a slow death — and a vote next month by the Federal Communications Commission to undo net neutrality would be the final pillow in its face.

    Net neutrality is intended to prevent companies that provide internet service from offering preferential treatment to certain content over their lines. The rules prevent, for instance, AT&T from charging a fee to companies that want to stream high-definition videos to people.

    Because net neutrality shelters start-ups — which can't easily pay for fast-line access — from internet giants that can pay, the rules are just about the last bulwark against the complete corporate takeover of much of online life. When the rules go, the internet will still work, but it will look like and feel like something else altogether — a network in which business development deals, rather than innovation, determine what you experience, a network that feels much more like cable TV than the technological Wild West that gave you Napster and Netflix.

    If this sounds alarmist, consider that the state of digital competition is already pretty sorry. As I've argued regularly, much of the tech industry is at risk of getting swallowed by giants. Today's internet is lousy with gatekeepers, tollbooths and monopolists.

    The five most valuable American companies — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — control much of the online infrastructure, from app stores to operating systems to cloud storage to nearly all of the online ad business. A handful of broadband companies — AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon, many of which are also aiming to become content companies, because why not — provide virtually all the internet connections to American homes and smartphones.

    Together these giants have carved the internet into a historically profitable system of fiefs. They have turned a network whose very promise was endless innovation into one stuck in mud, where every start-up is at the tender mercy of some of the largest corporations on the planet.

    Many companies feel this shift. In a letter to Ajit Pai, the F.C.C. chairman, who drafted the net neutrality repeal order, more than 200 start-ups argued this week that the order "would put small and medium-sized businesses at a disadvantage and prevent innovative new ones from even getting off the ground." This, they said, was "the opposite of the open market, with a few powerful cable and phone companies picking winners and losers instead of consumers."

    This was not the way the internet was supposed to go. At its deepest technical level, the internet was designed to avoid the central points of control that now command it. The technical scheme arose from an even deeper philosophy. The designers of the internet understood that communications networks gain new powers through their end nodes — that is, through the new devices and services that plug into the network, rather than the computers that manage traffic on the network. This is known as the "end-to-end" principle of network design, and it basically explains why the internet led to so many more innovations than the centralized networks that came before it, such as the old telephone network.

    The internet's singular power, in its early gold-rush days, was its flexibility. People could imagine a dazzling array of new uses for the network, and as quick as that, they could build and deploy them — a site that sold you books, a site that cataloged the world's information, an application that let you "borrow" other people's music, a social network that could connect you to anyone.

    You didn't need permission for any of this stuff; some of these innovations ruined traditional industries, some fundamentally altered society, and many were legally dubious. But the internet meant you could just put it up, and if it worked, the rest of the world would quickly adopt it.

    But if flexibility was the early internet's promise, it was soon imperiled. In 2003, Tim Wu, a law professor now at Columbia Law School (he's also a contributor to The New York Times), saw signs of impending corporate control over the growing internet. Broadband companies that were investing great sums to roll out faster and faster internet service to Americans were becoming wary of running an anything-goes network.

    Some of the new uses of the internet threatened their bottom line. People were using online services as an alternative to paying for cable TV or long-distance phone service. They were connecting devices like Wi-Fi routers, which allowed them to share their connections with multiple devices. At the time, there were persistent reports of broadband companies seeking to block or otherwise frustrate these new services; in a few years, some broadband providers would begin blocking new services outright.

    To Mr. Wu, the broadband monopolies looked like a threat to the end-to-end idea that had powered the internet. In a legal journal, he outlined an idea for regulation to preserve the internet's equal-opportunity design — and hence was born "net neutrality."

    Though it has been through a barrage of legal challenges and resurrections, some form of net neutrality has been the governing regime on the internet since 2005. The new F.C.C. order would undo the idea completely; companies would be allowed to block or demand payment for certain traffic as they liked, as long as they disclosed the arrangements.

    At the moment, broadband companies are promising not to act unfairly, and they argue that undoing the rules would give them further incentive to invest in their broadband capacity, ultimately improving the internet.

    Brian Hart, an F.C.C. spokesman, said broadband companies would still be covered by antitrust laws and other rules meant to prevent anticompetitive behavior. He noted that Mr. Pai's proposals would simply return the network to an earlier, pre-network-neutrality regulatory era.

    "The internet flourished under this framework before, and it will again," he said.

    Broadband companies are taking a similar line. When I pointed out to a Comcast spokeswoman that the company's promises were only voluntary — that nothing will prevent Comcast from one day creating special tiers of internet service with bundled content, much like the way it now sells cable TV — she suggested I was jumping the gun.

    After all, people have been predicting the end of the internet for years. In 2003, Michael Copps, a Democratically appointed commissioner on the F.C.C. who was alarmed by the central choke points then taking command of the internet, argued that "we could be witnessing the beginning of the end of the internet as we know it."

    It's been a recurrent theme among worriers ever since. In 2014, the last time it looked like net neutrality would get gutted, Nilay Patel, editor of the Verge, declared the internet dead (he used another word for "dead"). And he did it again this year, anticipating Mr. Pai's proposal.

    But look, you might say: Despite the hand-wringing, the internet has kept on trucking. Start-ups are still getting funded and going public. Crazy new things still sometimes get invented and defy all expectations; Bitcoin, which is as Wild West as they come, just hit $10,000 on some exchanges.

    Well, O.K. But a vibrant network doesn't die all at once. It takes time and neglect; it grows weaker by the day, but imperceptibly, so that one day we are living in a digital world controlled by giants and we come to regard the whole thing as normal.

    It's not normal. It wasn't always this way. The internet doesn't have to be a corporate playground. That's just the path we've chosen.



    7)  It Started as a Tax Cut. Now It Could Change American Life.

     NOV. 29, 2017

    "...recent history suggests that when corporations get tax relief, they find abundant uses for money that do not involve paying higher wages. They give dividends to shareholders and stock options to executives. They stash earnings in tax havens."




    A job fair in Atlanta in last year. While Republicans promote their tax plan as a way to encourage job growth and economic expansion, its constraints on state and local taxation could restrict spending on health care, education, transportation and social services.CreditBob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press 

    The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

    Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements.

    Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

    With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

    The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.

    All of this is taking shape at such extraordinary velocity, absent the usual analyses and hearings, that even the most savvy Washington lobbyist cannot be fully certain of the implications.

    Mr. Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress — stymied in their efforts to repeal Obamacare, and short of legislative achievements — have signaled absolute resolve to get a tax bill passed by the end of the year. As the sense has taken hold that Washington is now a trading floor where any deal is worth entertaining so long as it brings votes, interest groups have fixed on the tax bill as a unique opportunity to further their agendas.

    "There's a Christmas-tree aspect to the bill," said C. Eugene Steuerle, a Treasury official during the Reagan administration and now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. As an example, he cited the provisions in the House bill designed to appeal to the religious right.

    "People want to add certain things, and if they don't cost a lot, it's a way to buy in agreement," Mr. Steuerle said.

    Economists and tax experts are overwhelmingly skeptical that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. Many view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals — both generous purveyors of campaign contributions. By 2027, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.

    "When you put all these pieces together, what you're left with is we are squandering a giant sum of money," said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who teaches law at the University of Southern California. "It's not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class."

    In a recent University of Chicago survey of 38 prominent economistsacross the ideological spectrum, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth. Unanimously, the economists said the tax cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden, now estimated at more than $20 trillion.

    If the package does have a guiding philosophy, it is a return to trickle-down economics, an enduring story line in which the wealthy are supposed to spend and invest their tax breaks, creating jobs and commercial opportunities for everyone else.

    As President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes in the 1980s, he argued that citizens, not bureaucrats, should decide how to spend their money. President George W. Bush bestowed enormous tax cuts on the affluent.

    But the trickle-down story has yet to achieve its promised happy ending. Only the beginning reliably transpires, the part where wealthy people get relief. The spoils of resulting economic growth have largely been monopolized by those with the highest incomes. Pay for most American workers has been stagnant since the mid-1970s, after the rising costs of housing, health care and other basics are factored in.

    Nonetheless, Republicans are staging a trickle-down revival.

    "Either it's a religious belief, a belief where no amount of evidence would change that, or they are using the argument cynically and they just want more money for themselves," the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, said.

    Mr. Stiglitz has long warned of the perils of growing inequality while deriding tax-cutting inclinations. Yet even those who have favored lighter tax burdens are critical of the current proposals.

    In the late 1970s, Bruce Bartlett developed what would become the locus of the Reagan tax cuts while working for Representative Jack Kemp, a conservative Republican from New York. Those cuts helped cushion the pain from sharp increases in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, Mr. Bartlett maintains. But Reagan was lowering the highest tax rate on individuals from 70 percent down to 28 percent by 1986.

    "What they have here is a big tax cut for the rich paid for with random increases in taxes for various constituencies," Mr. Bartlett said. "It's ridiculous. And it's telling that they are ramming this through without any debate. All of the empirical evidence goes against the tax cut."

    The meat of the package is a permanent lowering of the corporate tax rate, to 20 percent from 35 percent, which business leaders have long wanted. Proponents assert that this would prompt multinational companies to expand operations in the United States.

    "We've been bleeding corporate headquarters and production for a long time," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and now president of the American Action Forum, a nonprofit that promotes smaller government.

    But recent history suggests that when corporations get tax relief, they find abundant uses for money that do not involve paying higher wages. They give dividends to shareholders and stock options to executives. They stash earnings in tax havens.

    In 2004, Congress invited American corporations to bring home overseas earnings at a sharply reduced rate, pitching it as a means of bolstering investment. But the corporations spent as much as 90 percent of their windfall buying back their shares, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis research.

    If Congress bestows fresh relief on major businesses, signs suggest a similar result. Many companies are enjoying record profits. Those in the Fortune 500 had $2.6 trillion salted away overseas as of last year.

    "In our boardroom, the number-one thing we're talking about is not taxes," said Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive of Yelp, the online review platform. "Having a strong middle class out there spending money is what's most important for our business."

    If the tax bill widens inequality, local communities will likely find themselves with fewer resources to aim at helping struggling people.

    A key feature of the Senate bill is the elimination of a federal deduction for state and local taxes. Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and American Legislative Exchange Council have sought to end the deduction as a means of reining in government spending.

    In high-tax states like California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — where electorates have historically shown a willingness to finance ample safety-net programs — the measure could change the political calculus. It would magnify the costs to taxpayers, pressuring states to stay lean or risk the wrath of voters.

    Some see in this tilt a reworking of basic principles that have prevailed in American life for generations.

    Since the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security, unemployment benefits and other pillars of the safety net to combat the Great Depression, crises have been tempered by some measure of government support. Recent decades have brought cuts to social services, but the impact of the current bill could be especially consequential.

    "This is a repudiation of the social contract that Franklin Roosevelt announced at the New Deal," Joseph J. Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, said of trimming benefits for lower- and middle-income families to finance bigger rewards for the wealthy. Health coverage would shrink under the Republican plan while multimillion-dollar estates would not have to pay a penny in taxes.

    The tax cut package, for instance, could trigger rules mandating cuts to Medicare, the government health care program for seniors, the Congressional Budget Office warned. Some 13 million people could lose health care via the elimination of a key plank of Obamacare. Insurance premiums are also expected to rise by 10 percent.

    "This tax bill is a grand deception," said Arnold Hiatt, the former chief executive of Stride Rite, which makes children's shoes. "It hurts the most vulnerable, and hurts health care and education, which are essential for a healthy economy."

    The proposals break from seven decades' worth of federal efforts to broaden access to higher education.

    Since World War II, the guiding sense has been that "it is government's responsibility to provide higher education for all those who can benefit from it," said David Nasaw, a historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. That idea was behind the G.I. Bill, which helped generations of veterans pay for college and training.

    The House or Senate bill includes provisions ending the deductibility of tuition waivers for graduate students, repealing the deduction for interest paid on student loans and taxing university endowments.

    The endowment tax, in particular, threatens the ability of low-income students to pursue college and graduate studies, said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Proceeds from endowments subsidize students from lower-income families, while allowing students across the board to graduate with less debt.

    "When the time of reckoning comes to fix huge deficits, social safety-net programs will be first on the chopping block," Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said.

    "It's very far-reaching," he added, "but there hasn't been much of a debate."



    8) Police Failed on Many Fronts at Charlottesville Rally, Review Finds

    DEC. 1, 2017




    A car drove into a crowd of people in Charlottesville, Va., in August, as white nationalists and counterprotesters clashed. One woman, Heather D, Heyer, was killed.CreditRyan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress, via Associated Press

    The police badly mishandled white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va., in August, by failing to coordinate among agencies, give officers the gear they needed or keep protesters and counterprotesters separate, a former federal prosecutor reported on Friday.

    In a report more than 200 pages long, Timothy J. Heaphy, a former United States attorney hired by the city to investigate the episode, found fault with elected city leaders and University of Virginia officials, but directed the sharpest criticism at the Charlottesville Police Department, or C.P.D., and the Virginia State Police, or V.S.P. He said the police remained passive even as bloody clashes raged around them.

    "V.S.P. directed its officers to remain behind barricades rather than risk injury responding to conflicts" on Aug. 12, he wrote. "C.P.D. commanders similarly instructed their officers not to intervene in all but the most serious physical confrontations."

    Both agencies failed to deploy additional forces that were available to respond to the clashes, he added, and in fact, "when violence was most prevalent, C.P.D. commanders pulled officers back to a protected area of the park, where they remained for over an hour as people in the large crowd fought on Market Street."

    What the report calls "the most tragic manifestation of the failure to protect public safety" was the death of Heather D. Heyer, a counterprotester who the police say was killed by a white supremacist who drove past a barrier and into 4th Street, which was thick with pedestrians.

    A single Charlottesville officer, normally assigned to schools, had been posted at an intersection where 4th Street was blocked off to vehicles, but grew afraid for her safety. "The officer called for her assistance," but instead of receiving backup, "she was relieved of her post" and no one was sent to take her place.



    9)  Europe Wanted Migrants Stopped. Now Some Are Being Sold as Slaves.

    NOV. 30, 2017




    African migrants packed into the Tariq Al-Matar detention center on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya, on Monday. CreditTaha Jawashi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    LONDON — African migrants in Libya face "unimaginable horrors," the United Nations human rights commissioner declared. "Despicable," the chairman of the African Union called their treatment. Several African countries recalled ambassadors in protest. Rwanda offered the migrants assistance.

    The mid-November broadcast by CNN showing what was described as African migrants being auctioned off at a Libyan slave market — for as little as $100 each, at black-market exchange rates — has set off an international firestorm. The response from the European Union, however, has been notably muted.

    That may partly reflect the gratification among European Union officials over Italy's success at reducing the influx of migrants across the Mediterranean. Italy has been helping Libyans stop them at sea or keep them in Libya, despite the dangers they face there.

    Rights groups and other experts say the video of the slave market — although no surprise to many journalists or relief workers — is an uncomfortable reminder for Europe that its policies risk trapping the migrants in slave-like conditions.

    "The tragic and morally unjustifiable thing about this is that European Union policy is certainly a part of why this is happening," John Springford, who studies migration at the Center for European Reform, a research organization in London. "But whether that will lead to a change in direction, I am doubtful."

    Marco Minniti, the interior minister of Italy and the architect of its new Libya migrant policies, was asked about the slave market video in a parliamentary hearing, and argued that Italy had also done what it could to provide humanitarian aid.

    Migrants whose dinghy was sinking tried to board a Libyan coast guard ship during a rescue operation off the coast of Libya in November. CreditLisa Hoffmann/Sea-Watch, via Associated Press

    "Is that enough?" he said. "Of course not. But the alternative cannot be to just accept the impossibility to govern the migration flux and hand to the human smugglers the keys to the European democracies."

    The migrant crisis in Libya originated with the collapse of the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi six years ago. The near-total absence of policing since then has attracted hundreds of thousands of migrants from other African countries hoping to cross by boat to Italy, or at least be rescued by a European ship that would deposit them there.

    But the chaos and lawlessness across Libya has also exposed the migrants to pervasive and well-documented abuses, including forced labor, kidnapping, extortion, rape, torture and indefinite extralegal detention in overcrowded pens and other inhumane conditions.

    Traffickers who take money to transport the migrants from their countries of origin often hold them hostage and demand more money once they reach Libya. Then traffickers pack migrants into flimsy and overcrowded vessels that often sink.

    Many passengers die of drowning or dehydration, and survivors picked up by Libyan vessels or in Libyan waters are often packed into prisonlike detention centers.

    Both the traffickers and the militiamen running the detention centers may sell migrants into forced labor or sexual exploitation, and the traffickers often bribe detention centers to regain the captured migrants so that they can extort more money from friends and family in their country of origin.

    Migrants in an overcrowded boat before they were rescued on the Mediterranean Sea in January. Sima Diab/Associated Press

    "It is a kind of hell," said Vickie Hawkins, executive director of Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, which has been visiting migrant detention centers in the area around Tripoli for more than a year.

    Even with the travel risks, more than half a million migrants made it to Italy over a three-year period ending last December, and that has led to a populist backlash there and elsewhere in Europe. Responding to the pressure, Italy, with the support of the European Union, took new steps this year to halt the exodus.

    The Italian government struck deals with Libyan militias to hold back migrant departures. It provided patrol boats to the loosely controlled and often-untrained Libyan forces operating as a coast guard. And the Italian Navy dispatched a ship to conduct surveillance and locate migrant boats before they depart Libyan waters.

    The Italian government has also sought to apply public pressure to discourage aid groups from depositing rescued migrants in Sicily, while the increasingly assertive and sometimes dangerous Libyan coast guard has deterred humanitarian rescue ships from plying migrant boat routes.

    The monthly rate of migrant arrivals in Italy began falling sharply in July. By October, the number had fallen by more than two-thirds, to fewer than 6,000, down from more than 27,000 in the same month a year earlier, according to the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency. The total number of arrivals in the first eleven months of the year fell by more than 30 percent, to about 117,000 from about 173,000 in the same period last year.

    "We have a real chance of closing the central Mediterranean route," Donald Tusk, president of the European Union's governing council, said in late October at a summit meeting in Brussels.

    But the migrants are trapped in increasingly overcrowded conditions. Ms. Hawkins of Doctors Without Borders said her group had seen a tenfold increase in the number of detainees in the eight centers where it has worked, to 12,000 in recent weeks from as few as 1200 in July.

    "I visited a detention center in July that had 300 men in it and it already seemed crowded," she said. "Three weeks later there were 800, and I could not fathom how you could fit 500 more in there."

    The European policy "is looking an awful lot like complicity," said Judith Sunderland, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. The sale and exploitation of African migrants in Libya has been well known "for a very long time, frankly," she said.

    As early as the spring of 2015, journalists who visited migrant detention camps in Western Libya reported that the jailers routinely sold captives to local farmers or others for temporary use as laborers.

    "We are like slaves," Abu Bakr Dixon, 34, a Gambian held at a detention center in Zawiyah, said at the time.

    SOS Mediterranean, an organization that rescues migrants attempting to cross the sea, has published repeated testimony over the last 21 months from Africans who said they had been bought or sold by Libyans — typically by the militiamen running the detention centers.

    Women and children at the Tariq Al-Matar detention center.CreditTaha Jawashi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    Last April, the International Organization for Migration published a report documenting the existence of Libyan "slave markets" where dark-skinned migrants were auctioned, and it was widely covered at the time by international news organizations.

    The report said that traffickers who had taken payment to transport African migrants across the desert for passage to Europe instead sold their human cargo to Libyans, and that the Libyan buyers often resold them to others.

    "We get so used to hearing the words, 'I was sold,'" said Meron Estafanos, a human rights advocate based in Stockholm who works with migrants from her native country, Eritrea. "It makes you feel, where were all these people when we were reporting it before?"

    After the expressions of shock from around the world at CNN's slave-market video, many Libyans accused the Europeans of hypocrisy for having acted surprised.

    "The international community keeps turning a blind eye to facts when it comes to #Libya & #migration," Emad Badi, a Libyan activist in Tripoli, wrote on Twitter. "Newsflash: there is no 'coast guard', slavery is not new, interception at sea breeds internal problems, expecting the nationally contested #GNA to handle migration is foolish." He was referring to the Western-backed Government of National Accord, one of three rival governments vying for power in Libya.

    Taher el-Sonni, an adviser to the president of the Western-backed government, wrote on Twitter: "Trafficking = Slavery, to put the blame only on Libya is unacceptable!"

    Federica Mogherini, the top diplomat for the European Union, has been measured about the abuses, but has acknowledged that European policymakers have long known about the enslavement of migrants in Libyan detention centers. "We have to face the dramatic situation of our African brothers and sisters that are in slavery in those centers," she said recently at a meeting with African diplomats in Brussels.

    Without defending the migrant-return policies, Ms. Mogherini emphasized that this year the European Union has also started providing support for flights returning some migrants waylaid in Libya to their home countries — as many as 15,000 by the end of the year, she projected.

    "This is only a drop in the ocean, but it is the first time that we have done this," she said.

    CreSima Diab/Associated Pres



    10) Paid Parental Leave, Except for Most Who Need It

    By   DEC. 1, 2017





    Jessica Jean-Marie, a New York City teacher, has accumulated 17 sick days which she can take as paid parental leave. CreditAdrienne Grunwald for The New York Times 

    Two years ago this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio made an announcement from which he has mined political capital ever since: That employees of the City of New York would receive paid parental leave, an ostensibly progressive policy in line with those established in cities like Austin and Pittsburgh. Given that only 13 percent of employees in the private sector in this country get any kind of compensated leave to care for young children, this was considered a laudable investment in sanity. There was, however, a crucial fine-print dimension to the order. By "employees,'' the mayor was referring only to those 20,000 or so public workers belonging to the managerial class and not the hundreds of thousands of other individuals — educators, lunchroom attendants, police officers, librarians, park rangers, computer programmers, court reporters and so on — who are represented by unions and make up a vast majority of the municipal labor force.

    They must return to work right away unless they can afford to stay at home in the absence of remuneration (federal law provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave), but how many correction officers, more than 40 percent of whom are female, wind up married to bond traders? The city's structured inequality got, in effect, another load-bearing wall.

    Of the 20,000 people eligible to receive paid parental leave since the city's program became active at the end of 2015, only 436 have redeemed the benefit, making the ratio of self-congratulatory rhetoric to practical impact uncomfortably out of balance. Union members acquire paid leave through collective bargaining, which leaves them at the mercy of labor leaders who may or may not make the issue a priority during negotiations. The Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents 41,000 workers in the city's public transportation system and brokers its contracts with the state, is virtually alone in what it offers. Three years ago, it secured two weeks paid leave for its members after initially asking for twice that.

    "Why didn't we get the month? You have to start somewhere,'' Jim Gannon, a spokesman for the union, told me. "We were at zero; this was a big victory."

    At least from the vantage point of compatibility with family life, a woman is essentially better off working at Walmart than she is as a certain kind of public employee in the city that considers itself among the most enlightened on earth. Famously hostile to unions and other liberal touchstones, Walmart offers store associates who work for hourly wages six to eight weeks of paid maternity leave; at a particular e-fulfillment center in Bethlehem, Pa., mothers can receive 10 weeks.

    However much we'd like to believe that the patriarchy is toppling because Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer have been expunged from television, there is still a great distance to go before the many remnants hit the ground. There is a special resonance to the fact that New York City schoolteachers, most of them women, do not receive paid parental leave. They are forced to hoard sick days or rely on the good luck that they will give birth at the end of June. The low regard in which teachers are held has been an expression of collective misogyny for decades. Into the 1960s, teachers hid pregnancies as long as they could because the law mandated that they tell principals as soon as they discovered they were expecting and begin unpaid leave right away.

    Jessica Jean-Marie, who teaches at Harvest Collegiate High School, laid out the dilemma. Her second child is due at the end of January. The Department of Education gives teachers 10 sick days a year, and she has accumulated 17, giving her three weeks of hiatus. She can borrow 20 days from the future, but if she or her children get sick and she actually has to use them next year or the year after, she would be in debt to the system. If teachers leave or quit still owing days, their final pay is docked.

    "I've been to school with strep and the flu, but when my son is sick it's another story," Ali Phetteplace, a sixth-grade math teacher in Queens who is having a second child this spring, told me. "You have to choose between your kid and 30 others, and it's a terrible feeling." She waited six years between having her two children in part to accrue enough time off for an adequate leave, but health issues left her on the negative side of the ledger, and so she will have only eight days paid for when she delivers her baby.

    Many unionized city employees, among them the 125,000 members of DC 37, which is the largest municipal public employee union in the country, can, in certain instances, use disability insurance for maternity leave, which provides partial pay for several weeks. In the case of DC 37, the pay is $200 a week. Beyond that, the continued association of pregnancy with sickness perpetuates the benighted notion of childbearing as a threat to ordinary human experience when many would argue that it is the singular manifestation of it. "We are supposed to be at the forefront of progressive thinking," another pregnant teacher, Melody Anastasiou, remarked, "and I don't understand why more politicians, including our mayor, are just not embarrassed." Another white-collar union worker, I spoke with, not a teacher, said she had chosen the public sector over the private because she believed it would be easier on family life. She now regrets the decision.

    The city maintains that if it offered the parental-leave benefit to every city worker who needed it, the cost to taxpayers would amount to approximately $1 billion over four years. Union leaders have pointed to a report from the city's Independent Budget Office to show that the city did not lose money providing parental leave to managers; in fact, it saved money, because it financed the benefit by rescinding a pay raise and eliminating some vacation days. Not surprisingly, these leaders don't want to give something up to get something they consider essential. Among the unions, the United Federation of Teachers has been the most vocal in calling for parental leave; conversations between the city and unions are ongoing.

    Led by its first female mayor, Megan Barry, the city of Nashville earlier this year managed to adopt a paid-family-leave plan that covers all municipal workers employed directly by the city, indicating, once again, that there are lessons to be gleaned from a look at life outside the bubble.



    11) Trump Says G.O.P. Tax Bill Wouldn't Benefit Him. That's Not True.

    By   NOV. 30, 2017





    Trump Tower in New York. The tax legislation before Congress would not close loopholes that benefit President Trump and real estate developers like him. CreditHiroko Masuike/The New York Times 

    President Trump likes to argue that the tax-reform legislation hurtling through Congress this week will protect low- and middle-income households, "not the wealthy and well connected." He puts himself forward as Exhibit A.

    "This is going to cost me a fortune," he said on Wednesday in Missouri. "This is not good for me."

    So surely at least a few of the most egregious loopholes that benefit Mr. Trump and real estate developers like him will be closed.

    Not in the slightest.

    In fact, the proposals seem almost tailor-made to enrich the president and people like him.

    "Commercial real estate came out essentially unscathed," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a conservative advocacy group. Real estate developers "didn't lose anything they care about," and they got even more breaks, like a shorter depreciation schedule in the Senate tax bill, Mr. Holtz-Eakin pointed out.

    Mr. Trump still has not released his tax returns, so it's impossible to know to what extent he would personally benefit from the legislation. But there's little doubt that he would.

    "Lower pass-through rates and the repeal of the alternative minimum tax — those two alone are so hugely beneficial to Trump that I have trouble imagining any way that he wouldn't come out ahead," said Steve Wamhoff, senior fellow for federal tax policy at the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. (The pass-through reference involves income that typically comes from partnerships and limited liability companies.)

    Not only that, but rental income, royalty payments and licensing fees — some of the president's major sources of income — get especially favorable treatment under new rates for pass-through income. (Mr. Trump's assets include more than 500 pass-through partnerships and limited liability companies.)

    "Trump will make out like a bandit on all the big items," said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

    As many people have pointed out, the "wealthy and well connected," as Mr. Trump described them, will benefit disproportionately from the proposed legislation. That's in large part because the big tax cuts for corporations heavily favor shareholders, and the wealthy own a disproportionate amount of stocks and other assets.

    Many wealthy taxpayers will also benefit from the lower rates on pass-through income, since such income accrues overwhelmingly to the wealthiest taxpayers.

    And I have already pointed out that the modest changes proposed for the tax treatment of so-called carried interest — one of the most egregious loopholes — would have little or no impact on those who benefit from it, including wealthy real estate developers.

    Even among that affluent population, the additional breaks that would benefit Mr. Trump and a small cadre of real estate developers like him stand out.

    Consider one of the most criticized loopholes in the current tax code: the exemption from taxation of so-called like-kind exchanges. That has enabled owners of property to sell at a large capital gain but defer any tax as long as they use the proceeds to buy some other property.

    The House and Senate bills eliminate the favored treatment of like-kind exchanges — except for "real property." Owners of paintings, for example, would not be able to sell a Cezanne and buy a Van Gogh tax-free. But owners of commercial real estate could keep flipping the properties until they die without ever paying any capital gains tax. (And if the estate tax is abolished, the gains might go untaxed forever.)

    One of the biggest reforms in the tax legislation would limit the ability of businesses to deduct interest payments from their taxable income while giving them the ability to expense capital improvements (rather than depreciate them). Commercial real estate interests had howled over this provision, because they rely so heavily on debt to finance their operations.

    As is the case with properties owned by most developers, Mr. Trump's properties appear to be highly leveraged. While he has not disclosed his exact borrowings, he has called himself the "king of debt" and a New York Times investigation found that his companies had borrowed at least $650 million. Other estimates have gone above $1 billion. And, in another windfall for people like Mr. Trump, both the House and Senate bills exempt "any real property trade or business" from the limitation on deducting business interest.

    The list goes on. In both the House and Senate legislation, only certain kinds of income are eligible for the lower pass-through rates. Short-term capital gains, dividends, interest and annuity payments do not qualify.

    But rent, royalties and licensing fees — all similar in character to the disallowed income — weren't included in that list, Mr. Rosenthal pointed out. All remain eligible for the lower pass-through rate.

    "I call them the Donald J. Trump exceptions," since the president receives so much income from those sources, Mr. Rosenthal said. "Trump will get a huge windfall on his rental, license and royalty income," he predicted.

    A major way that losses are generated in real estate ventures is through depreciation, which is supposed to reflect the way that assets lose value over time. But a well-maintained building typically gains value (and maintenance costs are all deductible). So most depreciation charges lead to what the president might call "fake" losses, and they might never be recouped, because taxes on any sale can be deferred through like-kind exchanges.

    The House and Senate rejected proposals to curb the use of such noncash charges. Instead, the Senate, by shortening the depreciation schedule for commercial property to 25 from 39 years, would accelerate the rate at which real estate investors can take such deductions.

    From what little is known of Mr. Trump's tax returns, he used losses to offset virtually all of his taxable income for years by generating something called net operating loss carry-overs. Under both the House and Senate versions, such carry-overs can be used to offset only 90 percent of a person's taxable income (and, in the Senate version, 80 percent after 2022, which reverts to 90 percent after 2025 if revenue targets are met) in a given year. That is a modest improvement over the existing code, but it still allows for the full offset over time.

    One of the biggest benefits for the president, and for other wealthy taxpayers with high deductions, is the proposed repeal of the alternative minimum tax. Thanks to Mr. Trump's leaked 2005 tax return, we know that the only reason he paid federal tax of 24 percent of his taxable income that year was because of the alternative minimum tax. (Without it, he would have paid just 4 percent.)

    The rationale for eliminating the alternative minimum tax is that such a backup system should not be necessary if the tax code is fundamentally fair and eliminates all the loopholes that made it possible for high-income taxpayers to escape taxation in the first place. As should be obvious by now, this legislation expands such loopholes.

    "It's surprising to me that no real attempt was made to close any of these loopholes," said Mr. Wamhoff, given that "virtually every nonpartisan tax expert agrees that commercial real estate is already so favored by the tax code." Even Democrats, for the most part, have remained silent.

    Perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising, given that the president is the real-estate-investor-in-chief, and that his personal interests align with one of the country's most powerful lobbies.

    "Real estate interests are very powerful when it comes to the tax laws," Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. "They've got bipartisan support, and it's been that way forever."



    12)  Niger Approves Armed U.S. Drone Flights, Expanding Pentagon's Role in Africa

    NOV. 30, 2017


    A Reaper drone at a French military base in Niamey, Niger, in October. CreditBenoit Tessier/Reuters

    The government of Niger has given the Defense Department permission to fly armed drones out of the Nigerien capital, Niamey, Pentagon officials said Thursday, in a major expansion of the American military's footprint in Africa.

    Pentagon officials want to start the flights within days.

    A memorandum of understanding between the United States and Niger, which was finalized this week, calls for the remotely piloted aircraft to be armed initially, by the military's Africa Command, at the Nigerien air base in Niamey where they are currently deployed without arms.

    The drones, the memo says, will eventually be moved to a Nigerien air base in Agadez, where American troops will also be deployed. Pentagon officials said the new mission likely would significantly increase the number of American troops in Niger, from the 800 who are there now. About 500 of those troops now deployed in Niamey would move to the base in Agadez.

    "This operation supports the long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Niger, as well as the ongoing effort to counter violent extremism throughout the region," the Defense Department said in an emailed response to a query from The New York Times.

    "The government of Niger and the U.S. stand firm in working together to prevent terrorist organizations from using the region as a safe haven," said Maj. Audricia M. Harris, a Defense Department spokeswoman. She added that for "operational security reasons," she could not comment on "specific military authorities or permissions."

    The Pentagon has been trying for two years to get permission from the Nigerien government to put precision-guided bombs and missiles on a fleet of Reapers to be flown out of Niamey. Pentagon officials say that the drones would expand the military's ability to go after extremists in West Africa, in an area that could stretch from Mali to Chad, and Nigeria to southern Libya.

    Such an area of operations for the drones would allow the military to target fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram and the Islamic State, officials said.

    While the United States has been able to reach Yemeni, Somali and Libyan targets from bases in Djibouti and southern Italy, its reach in West Africa has been more limited.

    The Niger deployment would be only the second time that armed drones have been stationed and used in Africa. Drones now based in Djibouti are used in Yemen and Somalia, where there have been 30 strikes this year against Shabab and Islamic State targets, twice the number than in all of 2016. Drones used in Libya fly from Italy.

    "This is long overdue," said Donald C. Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who until last June was the top American Special Operations commander in Africa. "This will allow us to be more effective against the threat there."

    Mr. Bolduc, who said he had advocated armed American drones in Niger for the past four years, cautioned that drone strikes alone were not a "panacea" against militant groups, and that they needed to be combined in a broader "whole of society approach" to defeat terrorist organizations like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda.

    For two years, the Defense Department had been pushing both the Nigerien government and officials at the State Department to move forward on the Pentagon proposal to arm the drones.

    But officials at the State Department expressed concern about the big increase in personnel that would be required in Niger. Hundreds of additional service members would be needed to support and operate the weapons.

    In addition, government officials in Niger expressed initial hesitance because it is a major step for any government to allow armed drone flights over their country. The French defense minister, Florence Parly, said in September that France would seek to arm the Reaper surveillance drones it flies from Niamey to support 4,000 French troops operating in West Africa. But French officials said this week that process was still continuing.

    The American action follows a deadly ambush on Oct. 4 of an Army Special Forces team and 30 Nigerien troops, which resulted in a two-hour firefight outside the village of Tongo Tongo near the Malian border. Four Americans and four Nigeriens were killed, and two Americans and six Nigeriens were wounded.

    That ambush, and the aftermath, quickly altered the political calculation, both in Niger and in Washington.

    One State Department official said in an interview that in arming the drones out of Niger, the United States would run the risk of more accidental civilian casualties. Already this week, Africa Command has been pushing back against allegations from residents and government officials in Somalia that civilians were killed in a joint raid by American and Somali troops on the village of Bariire in August.

    In a statement on Wednesday, Africa Command said that the military had not killed any civilians when it accompanied Somali forces on the raid, and described all of the dead as "enemy combatants."

    Pentagon officials said that the people killed were members of the Shabab, an extremist Islamic group that is linked to Al Qaeda. The Shabab are the militants who carried out the deadly 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Dozens were killed in the siege on the upscale shopping center.

    "After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia, on Aug. 25, 2017 and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) has concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants," the Africa Command statement said.



    13)  'Intelligent' Policing and My Innocent Children

    DEC. 2, 2017




    Jonathan Djob Nkondo

    OAKLAND, Calif. — Last month I spoke at a gathering of African-American technology professionals. I'm a transactional lawyer at a tech company and my husband is an engineer, so the industry is at the center of our lives. We have careers that allow us to help create products and tools our grandparents would never have thought were possible and to provide the kind of life for our family that they couldn't have imagined. And it's important to us to ensure that other people of color have a chance to contribute to the field and reap its benefits. With all those things on my mind, I left the conference energized and inspired by the ways in which tech is changing the world and the possibilities it holds for our community.

    At the same time, I'm terrified for what these advances mean for my two young children. The same technology that's the source of so much excitement in my career is being used in law enforcement in ways that could mean that in the coming years, my son, who is 7 now, is more likely to be profiled or arrested — or worse — for no reason other than his race and where we live.

    Of course I'm not alone in feeling that technology is both a gift and a curse. This tension exists for anyone who enjoys the real-time conversations on Twitter but loathes the trolls, loves Facebook but abhors fake news, or depends on the convenience Alexa offers but frets about violations of privacy.

    Yet in my life, because of the way artificial intelligence and machine learning are being increasingly used by law enforcement — the technology is seemingly growing up alongside my kids — it's especially acute.

    Unjust racial profiling and resulting racial disparities in the criminal justice system certainly don't depend on artificial intelligence. But when you add it — as many law enforcement agencies across the country, including those in major cities like Miami, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta and New York, have over the past couple of years — things get even scarier for black families.

    This is especially frightening when combined with the fact that the current administration has already begun to reverse Obama-era criminal justice reform policies that were meant to make the system more just.

    A.I. works by taking large volumes of information and distilling it down to simple concepts, categories and rules and then predicting future responses and outcomes. This is a function of the beliefs, assumptions and capabilities of the people who do the coding. A.I. learns by repetition and association, and all of that is based on the information we — humans who hold all the racial and often, specifically, anti-black biases of our society — feed it.

    Just think of how Google's facial recognition programs labeled black people in photos "gorillas." Or how Microsoft's Tay, a bot designed to engage in Twitter conversations, devolved into a racial-epithet-tweeting machine within 24 hours.

    These downsides of A.I. are no secret. Despite this, state and local law enforcement agencies have begun to use predictive policing applications fueled by A.I. like HunchLab, which combines historical crime data, moon phases, location, census data and even professional sports team schedules to predict when and where crime will occur and even who's likely to commit or be a victim of certain crimes.

    The problem with historical crime data is that it's based upon policing practices that already disproportionately hone in on blacks, Latinos, and those who live in low-income areas.

    If the police have discriminated in the past, predictive technology reinforces and perpetuates the problem, sending more officers after people who we know are already targeted and unfairly treated, given recent evidence like the Justice Department's reports on Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, and the findings of the San Francisco Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency Accountability and Fairness in Law Enforcement.

    It's no wonder criminologists have raised red flags about the self-fulfilling nature of using historical crime data.

    This hits close to home. An October 2016 study by the Human Rights Data Analysis Group concluded that if the Oakland Police Department used its 2010 record of drug-crimes information as the basis of an algorithm to guide policing, the department "would have dispatched officers almost exclusively to lower-income, minority neighborhoods," despite the fact that public-health-based estimates suggest that drug use is much more widespread, taking place in many other parts of the city where my family and I live.

    Those "lower-income, minority neighborhoods" contain the barbershop where I take my son for his monthly haircut and our favorite hoagie shop. Would I let him run ahead of me if I knew that simply setting foot on those sidewalks would make him more likely to be seen as a criminal in the eyes of the law?

    The risks are even more acute (and unavoidable) for those who can afford to live only in the neighborhoods that A.I. would most likely lead officers to focus on.

    There's yet another opportunity for racial bias to infuse the process when risk-assessment algorithms created by A.I. and machine learning are used to help to sentence criminals, as they already are in courts around the country.

    Without a commitment to ensure that the data being used to fuel A.I. doesn't replicate historical racism, biases will be built into the foundation of many "intelligent" systems shaping how we live. It's not that I want this technology to be rejected. There are ways to make A.I. work. But before it is used in law enforcement, it must be thoroughly tested and proven not to disproportionately harm communities of color.

    Until then my excitement about advances in tech will always be cautious. Innovation is at the core of the careers that allow me and my husband to provide a good life for our family. The same innovation, if not used properly, could take it all away.



    14)  'No Such Thing as Rohingya': Myanmar Erases a History

    DEC. 2, 2017




    A Rohingya woman and her child returning to the Basara camp in Sittwe, Myanmar. Across central Rakhine, about 120,000 Rohingya have been interned in camps. Many more have fled the country.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

    SITTWE, Myanmar — He was a member of the Rohingya student union in college, taught at a public high school and even won a parliamentary seat in Myanmar's thwarted elections in 1990.

    But according to the government of Myanmar, U Kyaw Min's fellow Rohingya do not exist.

    A long-persecuted Muslim minority concentrated in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, the Rohingya have been deemed dangerous interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh. Today, they are mostly stateless, their very identity denied by the Buddhist-majority Myanmar state.

    "There is no such thing as Rohingya," said U Kyaw San Hla, an officer in Rakhine's state security ministry. "It is fake news."

    Such denials bewilder Mr. Kyaw Min. He has lived in Myanmar all of his 72 years, and the history of the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group in Myanmar stretches back for generations before.

    Now, human rights watchdogs warn that much of the evidence of the Rohingya's history in Myanmar is in danger of being eradicated by a military campaign the United States has declared to be ethnic cleansing.

    Since late August, more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims, about two-thirds of the population that lived in Myanmar in 2016, have fled to Bangladesh, driven out by the military's systematic campaign of massacre, rape and arson in Rakhine.

    In a report released in October, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Myanmar's security forces had worked to "effectively erase all signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain."

    "The Rohingya are finished in our country," said Mr. Kyaw Min, who lives in Yangon, the commercial capital of Myanmar. "Soon we will all be dead or gone."

    The United Nations report also said that the crackdown in Rakhine had "targeted teachers, the cultural and religious leadership, and other people of influence in the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge."

    "We are people with our own history and traditions," said U Kyaw Hla Aung, a Rohingya lawyer and former political prisoner, whose father served as a court clerk in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine.

    "How can they pretend we are nothing?" he asked.

    Speaking over the phone, Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, who has been jailed repeatedly for his activism and is now interned in a Sittwe camp, said his family did not have enough food because officials have prevented full distribution of international aid.

    Myanmar's sudden amnesia about the Rohingya is as bold as it is systematic. Five years ago, Sittwe, nestled in an estuary in the Bay of Bengal, was a mixed city, divided between an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist majority and the Rohingya Muslim minority.

    Walking Sittwe's crowded bazaar in 2009, I saw Rohingya fishermen selling seafood to Rakhine women. Rohingya professionals practiced law and medicine. The main street in town was dominated by the Jama mosque, an Arabesque confection built in the mid-19th century. The imam spoke proudly of Sittwe's multicultural heritage.

    But since sectarian riots in 2012, which resulted in a disproportionate number of Rohingya casualties, the city has been mostly cleared of Muslims. Across central Rakhine, about 120,000 Rohingya, even those who had citizenship, have been interned in camps, stripped of their livelihoods and prevented from accessing proper schools or health care.

    They cannot leave the ghettos without official authorization. In July, a Rohingya man who was allowed out for a court appearance in Sittwe was lynched by an ethnic Rakhine mob.

    The Jama mosque now stands disused and moldering, behind barbed wire. Its 89-year-old imam is interned.

    "We have no rights as human beings," he said, asking not to use his name because of safety concerns. "This is state-run ethnic cleansing and nothing else."

    Sittwe's psyche has adapted to the new circumstances. In the bazaar recently, every Rakhine resident I talked to claimed, falsely, that no Muslims had ever owned shops there.

    Sittwe University, which used to enroll hundreds of Muslim students, now only teaches around 30 Rohingya, all of whom are in a distance-learning program.

    "We don't have restrictions on any religion," said U Shwe Khaing Kyaw, the university's registrar, "but they just don't come."

    Mr. Kyaw Min used to teach in Sittwe, where most of his students were Rakhine Buddhists. Now, he said, even Buddhist acquaintances in Yangon are embarrassed to talk with him.

    "They want the conversation to end quickly because they don't want to think about who I am or where I came from," he said.

    In 1990, Mr. Kyaw Min won a seat in Parliament as part of a Rohingya party aligned with the National League for Democracy, Myanmar's current governing party. But the country's military junta ignored the electoral results nationwide. Mr. Kyaw Min ended up in prison.

    Rohingya Muslims have lived in Rakhine for generations, their Bengali dialect and South Asian features often distinguishing them from Rakhine Buddhists.

    During the colonial era, the British encouraged South Asian rice farmers, merchants and civil servants to migrate to what was then known as Burma.

    Some of these new arrivals mixed with the Rohingya, then known more commonly as Arakanese Indians or Arakanese Muslims. Others spread out across Burma. By the 1930s, South Asians, both Muslim and Hindu, comprised the largest population in Yangon.

    The demographic shift left some Buddhists feeling besieged. During the xenophobic leadership of Gen. Ne Win, who ushered in nearly half a century of military rule, hundreds of thousands of South Asians fled Burma for India.

    Rakhine, on Burma's western fringe, was where Islam and Buddhism collided most violently, especially after World War II, during which the Rakhine supported the Axis and Rohingya the Allies.

    Later attempts by a Rohingya insurgent group to exit Burma and attach northern Rakhine to East Pakistan, as Bangladesh was then known, further strained relations.

    By the 1980s, the military junta had stripped most Rohingya of citizenship. Brutal security offensives drove waves of Rohingya to flee the country.

    Today, far more Rohingya live outside of Myanmar — mostly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia — than remain in what they consider their homeland.

    Yet in the early decades of Burma's independence, a Rohingya elite thrived. Rangoon University, the country's top institution, had enough Rohingya students to form their own union. One of the cabinets of U Nu, the country's first post-independence leader, included a health minister who identified himself as Arakanese Muslim.

    Even under Ne Win, the general, Burmese national radio aired broadcasts in the Rohingya language. Rohingya, women among them, were represented in Parliament.

    U Shwe Maung, a Rohingya from Buthidaung Township in northern Rakhine, served in Parliament between 2011 and 2015, as a member of the military's proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party. In the 2015 elections, however, he was barred from running.

    Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were disenfranchised in those polls.

    Mr. Shwe Maung's electoral district, which had been 90 percent Rohingya, is now represented by a Rakhine Buddhist.

    In September, a local police officer filed a counterterrorism suit accusing Mr. Shwe Maung of instigating violence through Facebook posts that called for an end to the security offensive in Rakhine. (The military operation began after Rohingya militants besieged government security posts in late August.)

    Mr. Shwe Maung, the son of a police officer himself, is in exile in the United States and denies the charges.

    "They want every Rohingya to be considered a terrorist or an illegal immigrant," he said. "We are much more than that."



    15) Tax Bill Offers Last-Minute Breaks for Developers, Banks and Oil Industry

    DEC. 2, 2017




    A drilling rig in Texas. A late amendment in the Senate tax bill would allow certain income from gas and oil ventures to qualify for lower rates. CreditErnest Scheyder/Reuters 

    The overhaul by Republican lawmakers of the nation's tax laws percolated for weeks with virtually no public input, and by the end it turned into a chaotic mad dash with many last-minute changes on Friday night and Saturday morning, some handwritten in the margins of the nearly 500-page bill.

    Even hours after the Senate vote, tax experts were scratching their heads over precisely what had made it into the final version of the bill and the impact of some significant provisions.

    Still, it was clear that many changes expanded tax benefits for the wealthiest taxpayers, while other attempts to close loopholes fell by the wayside. The bill would add $1 trillion to deficits over the coming decade.

    Far from simplifying taxes, the bill opened up a whole range of tactics to lower the amount owed to the Internal Revenue Service. "Business owners or managers that plan well and pay for good advice will be able to achieve much more favorable rates," said Adam Looney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Treasury Department official. "I'm not sure if that is a loophole or the intent of the legislation."

    Lower Taxes for Top 1 Percent

    One of the bill's biggest windfalls for the wealthy — cutting taxes on income received through so-called pass-through entities like partnerships, popular with real estate developers — got even more generous. The richest taxpayers will be taxed at a rate of about 29.6 percent on such income, a big cut from the current top federal income tax rate of 39.6.

    The ever-lengthening list of income that will be taxed at a cut-rate could be seen as "a Donald J. Trump loophole," said Steven M. Rosenthal of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. A large amount of that kind of income is on Mr. Trump's 2005 tax return, two pages of which became public in March, and on his 2017 financial disclosure forms, which show more than 500 pass-through entities, Mr. Rosenthal said.

    That expansion would cost the government $114 billion more than an earlier version of the proposal. The provision would lower rates for taxpayers simply if their businesses are organized as partnerships or other entities whose tax burdens flow to the individual. Half of that type of income goes to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, according to the Tax Policy Center. In total, that tax cut will cost the government about $476 billion over the coming decade.

    Not all types of income would be eligible for the newly reduced rate. Short-term capital gains, dividends, interest and annuity payments, for example, are excluded. But the list of earnings that do qualify was expanded from earlier Republican proposals in the Senate.

    Investments in mortgages held by real estate investment trusts would be able to take advantage of the lower pass-through rate instead of being taxed at ordinary income rates, which are higher.

    Thanks to an amendment offered by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, certain income from gas and oil operators could also qualify for the new, lower rate. Industry representatives said they would have been excluded from the intended benefits that the real estate investment trusts and other publicly traded industries were getting.

    "The Senate went out of its way to confirm that passive investors in these publicly traded investment vehicles get the benefit of the pass-through discount tax rate," said Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor of tax law at the University of Southern California and a former chief of staff for the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. "This is a working definition of a tax boondoggle."

    Offshore Tax Break

    A provision to give multinational companies like Pfizer, Google and Apple a tax break on the profits they have accumulated in offshore tax havens was made less generous than earlier versions of the proposal. But the companies would still bring those earnings home at rates of 7.5 to 14.5 percent — well below the existing corporate income tax rate of 35 percent and also lower than the new corporate income tax rate, which the bill would cut nearly in half to 20 percent. This break will still save the companies roughly half a trillion dollars compared with current law, according to an estimate by the Zion Research Group.

    Banks Avoid a Hit

    Banks and other financial institutions will still be able to avoid taxes by making payments to offshore subsidiaries. The lawmakers had initially intended to prevent the tax benefits from such actions, but the banks got a last-minute reprieve for some transactions. In calculating the companies' tax bills, the bill excludes payments related to derivatives, a big source of income for financial institutions.

    Benefit for Car Dealers

    Some last-minute changes were smaller and more peculiar: The federal tax code includes limits on how much interest companies can deduct from their taxes. But the bill now excludes from those restrictions interest paid by car dealerships.

    Alternative Minimum Tax Confusion

    The bill extends so-called bonus depreciation — the ability to take big deductions related to certain corporate investments — at a cost of $34 billion, but pays for it by reinstating the corporate alternative minimum tax. The last-minute decision to scrap the repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax left lawyers and accountants scratching their heads about the ultimate impact. Several experts said it appeared unintentional that the benefit of the tax credit for research and experimentation could effectively be lost. The provision is dear to many businesses.

    "Oops," said Mr. Looney of the Brookings Institution. "That's an easy mistake to make on a first pass, but which you'd catch if you had more time."

    Family Leave Credit, but Not for Everyone

    At least one Republican proposal floated for weeks made it into the final bill, but seemingly in a form designed to punish taxpayers in Democratic states. Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, introduced an employee credit for paid family and medical leave. But the final version doesn't apply to employers in states where such paid leave is either required — or will soon be required — by state law, as in New York, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island. It also doesn't apply to employees making more than $72,000 and will last only until the end of 2019.

    "So in sum, we've got a short-term fertility incentive for lower/middle-income employees, as long as you don't live in too blue a state," Daniel Hemel, a professor of tax law at the University of Chicago, wrote on Twitter.

    Hits for Low-Income Earners

    While wealthy investors and business would receive numerous tax cuts — including eliminating the estate tax for all but a tiny sliver of the country's wealthiest households — the Senate moved to tighten deductions for lower- and middle-income wage earners. The bill, for example, prohibits employers from rewarding employees with gift cards so that a reward of, say, $25 or $50 in the form of a gift card doesn't escape being taxed.

    At the same time, a provision to fund the I.R.S. so that it could offer advice to low-income filers was rejected in the final bill.

    Although the bill expands the child tax credit by a year to 17-year-olds, that change ends at the end of 2024, a year before other individual tax cuts are scheduled to expire — so families with children born in 2008 will see that credit end when their children are still 16.

    Subsidy for Private and Religious Schools

    In the early morning hours on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence cast a tiebreaking vote to pass an amendment to allow people to use up to $10,000 a year from tax-advantaged 529 savings accounts for private and religious schools and some home schooling. Under current law, 529 accounts can be used only for higher education.

    Clifford Krauss and Erica Green contributed reporting.














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