Addicted to War:

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


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

Kaepernick sports new T-shirt:

Love this guy!




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:










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

Check out our video of our September mobilization and community fair

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



(español abajo)

Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Hondurans are protesting in the streets across the country calling out 'Fuera JOH,demanding that President Juan Orlando Hernandez give up his iron grip on power and stop stealing the elections.  In cities and towns big and small, people have blocked roads, marched, and protested to demand an end to fraud and a transparent vote count that reflects how people actually voted last Sunday.  The response has been horrific repression by the US-financed military and state security forces.  

The so-called 'security' forces have murdered numerous protesters and dozens more have been injured by live bullets that the military and other state forces fire at those who are demanding the popular vote be respected.  The government declared a curfew and the suspension of constitutional guarantees between 6pm and 6am in an attempt to silence the protests as neither tear gas nor violent repression has been able to stop the massive mobilizations.  The curfew has failed at silencing the protests as well, with people across the entire country banging pots and pans and chanting 'Fuera JOH' all night long.  

The Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship has demanded 11 basic actions to address the lack of transparency, inflation of votes in favor of Juan Orlando Hernandez, and technical 'crashes' during the vote counting process.  The electoral authorities have refused to meet several of these demands.  Instead, early this morning, a full eight days after the elections, they 'finished' counting the vote tally sheets with the results favoring Juan Orlando Hernandez.  People across the country refuse to recognize the results until the basic demands for transparency and review of inflated vote tallies are met.  As people continue taking to the streets to demand the votes will be respected, the government continues deploying the security forces.  

Take action in solidarity with the people of Honduras TODAY.  The United States has financed and propped up the Juan Orlando Hernandez regime for far too long and bears responsibility for the murders of those who are simply demanding that the official election results reflect how people actually voted.  Here are several ways to take action:  

1. Call the State Department Honduras Desk at 202-647-3505 TODAY and demand the State Department publicly denounce fraud and repression in Honduras and request that the US not recognize the outcome of the elections until there is a transparent process that meets the demands of the Opposition Alliance.  Sample message: 'My name is ______, and I am calling to urge the State Department to speak out against election fraud and violent repression in Honduras. I am extremely upset that people protesting against fraud have been murdered by the US financed security forces and urge the State Department to suspend US aid to Honduras as well as condemn the violence by state security forces and the massive irregularities in the election results.  The US should not recognize the outcome of the elections unless there is a transparent process that satisfies the demands of the Opposition Alliance with regards to transparency and review of votes, especially in areas where there appears to be inflated vote turnout.'  

2. Tweet at the State Department or post on their facebook page: Call on the US to denounce fraud and violent repression following the elections in Honduras, demand the immediate suspension of aid to Honduras, and demand accountability for the US financing of repression and murder in Honduras.  Twitter: @StateDept, @WHAAsstSecty@ WHASpeaks, @USAmbHonduras.  Facebook: @usdos

3. Organize or attend a protest, action, or vigil in solidarity with the people of Honduras.  There is an action in Chicago planned for today!  Contact us for more ideas or to connect with others in your area.  

4. Finally, keep on e-mailing and calling your Representative and Senators urging them to support the suspension of US security aid to Honduras and to speak out against election fraud and repression by the US-financed security forces in Honduras.  If your Representative hasn't already done so, ask him/her to co-sponsor HR 1299, the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.  

For more information about the situation in Honduras and the US role, we share the following: 

The President of Honduras is Deploying U.S.-Trained Forces Against Election Protesters.  The Intercept by Lee Fang and Danielle Marie Mackey.  

Honduras troops shoot dead teenage girl amid election crisis protests.   The Guardian by Nina Lakhani and Sarah Kinosian.  

Thousands protest in Honduras in chaos over contested presidential election.  The Guardian by Nina Lakhani and Sarah Kinosian.    

Honduras Solidarity Network Twitter Updates.  @hondurassol 

In solidarity,  

SOA Watch 

Wednesday 2-5 pm: HONDURAS Demonstration 24th and Mission

From Porfirio Quintano of Hondurans in Resistance of No. CA:

Tomorrow we will be from 2:00 - 5:00 PM at same place, 24th and Mision.

We just have decided because in Honduras there will be big demonstration. Therefore we invite all you again.


It looks like the Electoral Tribunal will announce the fraudulent results soon naming Orlando Hernandez (JOH) president.

Bring Pots and Pans to make noise.



stand with reality winner

Reality Winner's 26th Birthday,

Jailed without Bail

Send Reality a birthday card

Reality L Winner, Lincoln County Jail, PO Box 970, Lincolnton GA 30817 

Donate $26 today to her defense effortstandwithreality.org/donate

Yesterday, December 4th, was Reality Winner's 26th birthday. Against all evidence and common sense, Reality was denied bail a third time, declared "too dangerous" to be released, while literal traitors and murderers are allowed to walk free while they await trial.

Friends of Reality Winner co-founder Trevor Timm explained today in the Intercept how "the Government is Trying to Make it Impossible for Reality Winner to Defend Herself in Court".

Reality is the only one of the growing number of people arrested in connection with Russiagate to actually see the inside of a jail cell. And it's no coincidence that her alleged "crime" is telling America the truth.

The FBI alleges Reality leaked the document revealing Russian hacking of election infrastructure the day after Trump fired James Comey, before Robert Mueller took over the investigation, as Trump bragged to Russian visitors in the White House that the investigation was over.

So it's a small consolation that on the weekend before Reality's birthday, yet another Russiagate actor was taken down when Michael Flynn announced his guilty plea, and his willingness to testify against his co-conspirators.

The document Reality is charged with leaking made it undeniable that Trump and company were lying about Russian interference in the election, and that there was much more to the story than we knew. And it's a vindication for Reality, after months of being ignored and forgotten by the media, for these arrests and guilty pleas to start rolling in.

But Reality is still in jail, and she's now been denied bail three times. Neither the prosecution or judges are showing any leniency. She remains a prized target of Trump and Session's war on whistleblowers and the press. And she needs our help.

For Reality's 26th birthday, we're asking supporters to make a one-time donation of $26 to her legal defense fund, along with a birthday note. We need to make sure Reality has the resources for the long fight ahead, and that her legal team can swing for the fences, aiming for no less than demolishing the government's abuse of the Espionage Act.

Send a one-time donation of $26 today. Help make sure Reality is found innocent, and that every whistleblower who comes after her knows that Americans will have their back.

Top photo: Supporters leafleting at the Oakland Federal Building on Reality's birthday, 12/4/17. Bottom: Veterans for Peace activists standing with Reality in Cambridge.

FRIENDS OF REALITY WINNER ~ WHISTLEBLOWER, RESISTERc/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559

standwithreality.org ~ facebook.com/standwithreality



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. 








1) 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."



2)  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.



3)  '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.



4)  '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."



5) 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.



6) Billy Bush: Yes, Donald Trump, You Said That

 DEC. 3, 2017




Donald Trump being interviewed by Billy Bush in 2015. CreditRob Kim/Getty Images 

He said it. "Grab 'em by the pussy."

Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America's highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.

We now know better.

Recently I sat down and read an article dating from October of 2016; it was published days after my departure from NBC, a time when I wasn't processing anything productively. In it, the author reviewed the various firsthand accounts about Mr. Trump that, at that point, had come from 20 women.

Some of what Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth alleged involved forceful kissing. Ms. Harth said he pushed her up against a wall, with his hands all over her, trying to kiss her.

"He was relentless," she said. "I didn't know how to handle it." Her story makes the whole "better use some Tic Tacs" and "just start kissing them" routine real. I believe her.

Kristin Anderson said that Mr. Trump reached under her skirt and "touched her vagina through her underwear" while they were at a New York nightclub in the 1990s. That makes the "grab 'em by the pussy" routine real. I believe her.

President Trump is currently indulging in some revisionist history, reportedly telling allies, including at least one United States senator, that the voice on the tape is not his. This has hit a raw nerve in me.

I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women who came forward with their stories about him, and did not receive enough attention. This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Its leader is wantonly poking the bear.

In 2005, I was in my first full year as a co-anchor of the show "Access Hollywood" on NBC. Mr. Trump, then on "The Apprentice," was the network's biggest star.

The key to succeeding in my line of work was establishing a strong rapport with celebrities. I did that, and was rewarded for it. My segments with Donald Trump when I was just a correspondent were part of the reason I got promoted.

NBC tripled my salary and paid for my moving van from New York to Los Angeles.

Was I acting out of self-interest? You bet I was. Was I alone? Far from it. With Mr. Trump's outsized viewership back in 2005, everybody from Billy Bush on up to the top brass on the 52nd floor had to stroke the ego of the big cash cow along the way to higher earnings.

None of us were guilty of knowingly enabling our future president. But all of us were guilty of sacrificing a bit of ourselves in the name of success.

Ten years later, I did speak up. Soon after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, I let it be known on "Access Hollywood Live" that I thought this was an absurd idea.

In the days, weeks and months to follow, I was highly critical of the idea of a Trump presidency. The man who once told me — ironically, in another off-camera conversation — after I called him out for inflating his ratings: "People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you," was, I thought, not a good choice to lead our country.

I tried to conduct a serious interview with him as a candidate; each time I requested one I was turned down.

This moment in American life is no doubt painful for many women. It is especially painful for the women who have come forward, at the risk of forever being linked to one event, this man, this president of the United States. (I still can't believe I just wrote that.)

To these women: I will never know the fear you felt or the frustration of being summarily dismissed and called a liar, but I do know a lot about the anguish of being inexorably linked to Donald Trump. You have my respect and admiration. You are culture warriors at the forefront of necessary change.

I have faith that when the hard work of exposing these injustices is over, the current media drama of who did what to whom will give way to a constructive dialogue between mature men and women in the workplace and beyond. The activist and gender-relations expert Jackson Katz has said that this is not a women's issue — it's a men's issue. That's a great place to start, and something I have real thoughts about — but it is a story for another day.

Today is about reckoning and reawakening, and I hope it reaches all the guys on the bus.

On a personal note, this last year has been an odyssey, the likes of which I hope to never face again: anger, anxiety, betrayal, humiliation, many selfish but, I hope, understandable emotions. But these have given way to light, both spiritual and intellectual. It's been fortifying.

I know that I don't need the accouterments of fame to know God and be happy. After everything over the last year, I think I'm a better man and father to my three teenage daughters — far from perfect, but better.



7) President Trump Expected to Shrink Bears Ears by as Much as 90 Percent

 DEC. 4, 2017




Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah. CreditAlex Goodlett for The New York Times 

SALT LAKE CITY — President Trump is expected to announce a historic reduction to Bears Ears National Monument on Monday, a sprawling region of red rock canyons in Utah that has been at the center of a national fight over how much land a president can legally set aside for protection.

The Trump administration plans to announce that he will shrink the monument by between 77 and 92 percent, according to statements from the office of Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah. It would be the largest reduction of a national monument to date, and it comes as the administration pushes for fewer restrictions and more development on public lands.

The move is particularly significant because it is expected to trigger a legal battle that could alter the course of American land conservation, possibly opening millions of protected public acres to oil and gas extraction, mining, logging and other commercial activities.

Sally Jewell, who was instrumental in creating the Bears Ears monument when she was Secretary of the Interior, said Mr. Trump's expected move would imperil "the places that are spectacular, that make people want to visit us, that are owned by all of us, that are not owned by kings and queens and nobility."

In April, the president ordered the current Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, to review 27 national monuments created since 1996, something he said would "end another egregious use of government power." In August, Mr. Zinke delivered a report to the president suggesting that Mr. Trump change the boundaries of six of those monuments.

Americans on both sides of the aisle have anxiously awaited the decision. On Saturday thousands of people gathered in cowboy hats and ski jackets on the steps of Utah's capitol to protest the president's expected reduction. "Defend the sacred," read one sign. "Keep your tiny hands off our public lands," read another.

Further south, at the edge of the monument, another group gathered to applaud Mr. Trump's decision, standing beneath a banner: "Thank you for listening to local voices."

Who stands to benefit?

Mr. Trump's decision to reduce Bears Ears would be viewed as a victory for Republican lawmakers, fossil fuel companies and rural Westerners who argue that monument designations are federal land grabs that limit revenue and stifle local control. And it would be considered a defeat for many environmentalists and recreation groups and for the five Indian nations who have fought for generations to protect the Bears Ears region.

The Navajo Nation has vowed to challenge the decision in court, along with other tribes and conservation and outdoor industry groups.

"We will stand and fight all the way," said Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, adding that the United States government had already taken "millions of acres of my people's land."

"We have suffered enough," he said.

In a statement before the announcement, Senator Hatch, an opponentof Bears Ears, said he believed President Trump's decision was a "win for everyone."

The federal government controls about two-thirds of the land in Utah, and the state's leading politicians have long pushed for more local control of public lands.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to make his announcement at the state capitol, accompanied by Gov. Gary Herbert and others. "This is really nothing more than a realignment, a reconfiguration of the boundaries," Mr. Herbert said.

What are national monuments?

The president is also expected to announce that he will cut another national monument in Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. And he could make changes to 25 other monuments under review, including Gold Butte in Nevada and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and California.

National monuments are lands that are protected from some kinds of development by law. They are roughly analogous to national parks, but while national parks are created by Congress, national monuments are created by presidents through the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that has been used by both Republicans and Democrats over the years to protect millions of acres of federal land.

Each monument has its own specific restrictions. At Bears Ears, for example, federal rules forbid new mining and drilling, but allow the interior department to continue to issue cattle grazing leases.

Supporters of the Antiquities Act say the law is part of the bedrock of American conservation. But some Republican lawmakers, particularly those in Utah, argue that recent presidents have abused the act, using it to put aside far more land than its language permits. The law says that presidents should limit designations to the "the smallest area compatible" with the care of the natural features that the monument is meant to protect.

Why is the legal fight so important?

Mr. Trump would not be the first president to shrink a monument. Woodrow Wilson reduced Mount Olympus by half. Franklin Roosevelt cut the Grand Canyon monument at the behest of ranchers. (Both are now national parks.)

But the courts have never ruled on whether a president actually has the power to make these changes. The coming legal battle will probably have far-reaching implications.

If Mr. Trump's legal challengers win in court, the decision could affirm future presidents' rights to use the Antiquities Act to extend protection to large areas of public land. And it could cement the boundaries of Bears Ears laid out by President Barack Obama.

But if they lose, Mr. Trump and future presidents could drastically shrink any of the dozens of monuments created by their predecessors, opening the formerly protected terrain for all kinds of development.

One-hundred and twenty-one scholars recently signed a letter arguing that only Congress can legally shrink a monument. Todd Gaziano of the Pacific Legal Foundation and John Yoo of the University of California, Berkeley's law school, hold an opposing view, and argue that the power to create a monument "implicitly also includes the power of reversal."

Why did President Obama set aside the land in the first place?

President Obama created Bears Ears National Monument in December 2016, after years of lobbying by five tribes in the region: the Navajo, the Hopi, the Ute Mountain Ute, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Zuni. It is named for a pair of towering buttes — the Bears Ears — that dominate much of the landscape.

Mr. Obama set the boundaries to include 1.3 million acres. Monument supporters say it contains 100,000 sites of archaeological importance, including grave sites, ceremonial grounds and ancient cliff dwellings. In the 1800s, Navajo people used the area's remote canyons to avoid capture by the Army, and several tribal leaders were born in the shadows of the Bears Ears.

The monument's foundation document, written by the White House staff during the Obama administration, describes its sharp pinnacles, broad mesas, solitary hoodoos and verdant hanging gardens in poetic terms.

"From earth to sky, the region is unsurpassed in wonders," the document says. "As one of the most intact and least roaded areas in the contiguous United States, Bears Ears has that rare and arresting quality of deafening silence."

Why is the Trump administration considering changes?

For its supporters, the Bears Ears monument designation came to symbolize an indigenous victory after centuries of frustration.

For its opponents, it was an abuse of power by Mr. Obama, an infringement on the right of local people to decide what happens in their backyard.

"Our country places a high premium on consent," said Phil Lyman, a county commissioner who lives at the edge of the monument. The designation, he said, "felt very nonconsensual."

In September, a version of Mr. Zinke's report recommended changing the boundaries of six of the 27 monuments under review.

But he also recommended the creation of three new monuments. One was at Camp Nelson, Ky., a post where black soldiers trained during the Civil War. Another was the Mississippi home of the civil rights hero Medgar Evers.

The third was in an area called the Badger-Two Medicine, in Mr. Zinke's home state of Montana.



8) A.I. Will Transform the Economy. But How Much, and How Soon?

 NOV. 30, 2017



Artificial intelligence can be used for image recognition, like in this display at a recent technology conference. Researchers are scrambling to understand the potential implications of A.I.CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

There are basically three big questions about artificial intelligence and its impact on the economy: What can it do? Where is it headed? And how fast will it spread?

Three new reports combine to suggest these answers: It can probably do less right now than you think. But it will eventually do more than you probably think, in more places than you probably think, and will probably evolve faster than powerful technologies have in the past.

This bundle of research is itself a sign of the A.I. boom. Researchers across disciplines are scrambling to understand the likely trajectory, reach and influence of the technology — already finding its way into things like self-driving cars and image recognition online — in all its dimensions. Doing so raises a host of challenges of definition and measurement, because the field is moving quickly — and because companies are branding things A.I. for marketing purposes.

An "AI Index," created by researchers at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other organizations, released on Thursday, tracks developments in artificial intelligence by measuring aspects like technical progress, investment, research citations and university enrollments. The goal of the project is to collect, curate and continually update data to better inform scientists, businesspeople, policymakers and the public.

The McKinsey Global Institute published a report on Wednesday about automation and jobs, sketching out different paths the technology might take and its effect on workers, by job category in several countries. One finding: Up to one third of the American work force will have to switch to new occupations by 2030, in about a dozen years.

And in an article published in November by the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists from M.I.T. and the University of Chicago suggest an answer to the puzzle of why all the research and investment in A.I. technology have so far had little effect on productivity.

Each of the three research initiatives has a somewhat different focus. But two common themes emerge from the reports and interviews with their authors.

■ Technology itself is only one ingredient in determining the trajectory of A.I. and its influence. Economics, government policy and social attitudes will play major roles as well.

■ Historical patterns of adoption of major technologies, from electricity to computers, are likely to hold true for A.I. But if the pattern is similar, the pace may not be. And if it is much faster, as many researchers predict, the social consequences could be far more wrenching than in past transitions.

The AI Index grew out of the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, a Stanford-based project begun in 2014 by A.I. experts. The study group, mainly scientists, seeks to broaden understanding of artificial intelligence and thus increase the odds society will be benefit from the technology.

The group was initially going to publish major studies every five years. But given the speed of progress and investment, the five-year interval "seemed way too slow," said Yoav Shoham, a professor emeritus at Stanford and chair of the steering committee for the "AI Index."

The new index is not a single number, but a series of charts and graphs that track A.I.-related trends over time. They include measures like the rate of improvement in image identification and speech recognition, as well as start-up activity and job openings. There are also short essays by artificial intelligence experts.

Some of the charts showing the progress of technology are telling. Image and speech recognition programs, for example, have matched or surpassed human capabilities in just the past year or two.

But A.I. experts warn that gains in specific tasks or game-playing proficiency are still a far cry from general intelligence. A child, for example, knows that a water glass tipping on the edge of a table will most likely fall to the floor and spill the water. He or she understands the physics of everyday life in a way artificial intelligence programs do not yet.

"The public thinks we know how to do far more than we do now," said Raymond Perrault, a scientist at SRI International, who worked on the index.

The current "AI Index," Mr. Shoham said, is "very much a first step." The group is seeking contributions of data and comments from academic and corporate researchers around the world. The idea, he said, is to create "a living index" that details as many measurable dimensions of the field as possible, including social impact.

The McKinsey automation-and-jobs report captures the uncertainty surrounding A.I. and its coming effect on labor markets. Its projection of the number of Americans who will have to find new occupations by 2030 ranges from 16 million to 54 million — depending on the pace of technology adoption.

The faster A.I. advances, the greater the challenge. McKinsey's upper-range projection of 54 million suggests a more rapid transformation than in previous waves of change in the work force, when employment migrated from farms to factories and later from manufacturing to services.

"That's where the conversation has to go — how to manage this transition," said Susan Lund, an economist at McKinsey. "We need a major change in how we provide midcareer retraining and how we help displaced workers find new employment."

Still, the rise of A.I. has not yet shown up in the economy as a whole, at least not in the numbers. In their recent paper, Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock of the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management and Chad Syverson of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business call it "a clash of expectations and statistics."

They offer a few possible explanations, including false hopes and poor measurements of the new technology. But the one they settle on is a lag in the adoption and effective use of A.I.

There are historical precedents. The electric motor, for example, was introduced in the early 1880s. But it was not until the 1920s that discernible productivity gains showed up, after the motors spread and factory work was reorganized into mass-production assembly lines to exploit the new technology of its day.

A.I. will follow a similar path, but faster, predicts Mr. Brynjolfsson, who also worked in the "AI Index." And the index, he said, should help accelerate adoption by giving people needed information to make better decisions.

There are A.I. skeptics, but Mr. Brynjolfsson is not one of them. "History shows it takes years, even with a powerful technology in place," he said. "But to me, it's dead certain it's going to happen."



9)  The German Amateurs Who Discovered 'Insect Armageddon'

 DEC. 4, 2017




Thomas Hörren, a member of the Entomological Society Krefeld, collecting beetles from a soil sample.CreditGordon Welters for The New York Times

KREFELD, Germany — In a nature preserve in western Germany, an elderly gentleman approached a tent-like structure that was in fact a large trap for flying insects. Peering through thick eyeglasses, the 75-year-old retired chemist checked the plastic bottle attached at the top, filled with alcohol and bugs.

Then, with a glance at the clear, late-autumn sky, the man, Heinz Schwan, recalled comparing a 2013 haul from a trap like this one to samples taken in the same place some 20 years earlier. The drop was huge: "75 percent," Mr. Schwan, a caterpillar lover, said.

Alarmed, the group of local insect enthusiasts Mr. Schwan is co-chairman of ran similar tests in different locations the next year. And the next year. And the next.

Now their findings have been made public. The news shot around the world, eliciting headlines about "insect Armageddon." The insect populations they tested had declined by more than 75 percent over the last three decades, explaining why, these days, car trippers no longer need to clean bugs from the windshield.

Lost in the flurry was the source of the news — the obscure, volunteer-run Entomological Society Krefeld, tucked away in western Germany near the Dutch border.

That a group composed not just of biology Ph.D.s but also chemists, electrical engineers, a schoolteacher and a physicist, among others, would be the ones to do such groundbreaking research did not surprise Dave Goulson, a bee expert at the University of Sussex, and co-author of a scientific article based on the group's research and published this fall.

"In this field, amateurs are often the experts," he said. "Most people don't really pay attention to insects. With the exception of butterflies, because they're pretty."

Bugs have long gotten short shrift, scientifically. Estimated to make up more than half of all animal life, only about 10 percent of insect species are thought to have even been named.

In addition, raw data about the creatures is hard to come by. "This kind of monitoring is unspectacular, so it usually doesn't get done," said Teja Tscharntke, a professor of agro-ecology at the University of Göttingen. "That's where the hobbyists from Krefeld come in."

Their study looks at 63 nature preserves mostly in the area around Krefeld. But experts say it is likely to reflect the insect situation in places like North America, where monoculture and pesticide use are widespread.

"People have been saying, 'There just doesn't seem to be as many 'X' as there used to be,'" said Steve Heydon, senior scientist at the University of California, Davis's Bohart Museum of Entomology, of the Krefeld study. "It's nice to have it documented. Figures change it from an opinion to a fact."

Mr. Tscharntke agreed. "I was a little surprised, but it fits with what we know about, say, insect-eating birds disappearing," he said.

Calling the Krefelders' data "a rich treasure trove," Mr. Tscharntke warned that entomology hobbyists are themselves a dying species. "These days, people who spend their free time looking at ladybugs and flies are about as common as stamp collectors."

In Germany and around the world, members of entomological societies tend to be elderly. And, in a field that has seen very little in the way of high-tech digitization, their expertise often dies with them.

In many ways, the Krefelders buck these trends. For one thing, the society, which is more than 100 years old, is keen on archiving.

"In a lot of places, everything gets thrown out — the papers, the insect collection," said Martin Sorg, a longstanding member of the Krefeld society whose expertise includes wasps.

Gesturing around the group's book-lined headquarters, Mr. Sorg said things were different, here. "When one of our members dies, we keep everything, even handwritten notes."

They also focus on the future. About a third of the society's 59 members are newbies, and children as young as 12 can join the society's adults in poring over unsorted trays of translucent wings and delicate thoraxes, or carefully rifle through the wooden cabinets that hold over a million pinned wasps, bees, ants, sawflies, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, crickets, true bugs, lacewings and caddis flies.

Experienced entomologists take beginners on expeditions, and train them in the complex art of identifying insects. "Knowledge is passed down, from one generation to the next," said Thomas Hörren, who is 28 and wears a large tattoo of his favorite insect, the beetle, on his neck. "Growing up, there was nobody to guide me."

Krefeld's youngest official member is 14. "He's an ant guy," said Mr. Schwan, himself a childhood bug lover. It was not until his late 20s that he discovered Krefeld's entomological society and started learning about caterpillars.

Back then, members, along with their bugs, met every two weeks at Krefeld pubs.

Gazing into a glass-covered box of ants, Mr. Schwan smiled and said he planned to take the teenager and the ants along to an coming entomological conference in Düsseldorf. There, an ant expert from Wuppertal promised to identify the boy's specimens.

Harald Ebner, a pesticide expert and politician with Germany's Green Party, said it was "typically German" for people to spend free time doing club-based volunteer work.

"Without the efforts of the Krefeld insect researchers, we would only have the observation that, these days, your car's windshield is almost totally free of insects," wrote Mr. Ebner, in an email. "On the other hand, the lack of interest on the part of the state is horrifying, especially in a country where just about everything else is so precisely tested, overseen and counted."

But Josef Tumbrinck, a society member who works as an environmental lobbyist, thinks the plight of insects is going to interest a wider audience soon.

"Right now, it's 'those nutty entomologists,'" Mr. Tumbrinck said. "But I think this is going to get more and more attention, not just from crazy people with long hair."

Setting a glass box down on the table, he pointed to a hand-size butterfly that his wife hatched from eggs for the school where she teaches. Mr. Tumbrinck's 10-year-old son tugged on his sleeve. "And I found this one in the lamp," he whispered, pointing to a little gray moth mounted next to it.

As the scent of 82 proof alcohol that preserves the bugs wafted, just a little, through the room, a reporter asked if, at this rate, all the insects were going to disappear.

"Oh, don't worry," said Mr. Sorg, the wasp expert. "All the vertebrates will die before that.



10)  Huge Protests in Honduras as Contested Vote Crisis Escalates

 DEC. 3, 2017




Supporters of Salvador Nasralla, the main presidential opposition candidate, protesting in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Sunday. CreditOrlando Sierra/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MEXICO CITY — Hondurans marched in protest Sunday, demanding an impartial count of the results of last week's presidential election and chanting their opposition to President Juan Orlando Hernández's bid for a second term.

Huge demonstrations in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and the country's industrial hub, San Pedro Sula, snaked through the streets with an almost festive air as marchers waved the red flags of the main opposition party, which has denounced what it calls fraud in the vote tally.

Despite the relative calm in big cities, a political crisis has engulfed the country over the contested vote tally by the Honduran electoral commission.

After partial results the night of the election gave the main opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla, a lead of five points, the commission suspended the count for a day and a half. When it resumed, Mr. Hernández was reported to have steadily gained on Mr. Nasralla and then took a small lead, with almost 95 percent of the polling places counted.

Pressure from international election monitors sent by the European Union and the Organization of American States persuaded the commission, which is controlled by allies of Mr. Hernández, not to announce him as the winner on Thursday.

As violence and looting overtook peaceful opposition protests at the end of last week, the government responded with a crackdown, declaring a 10-day curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and sending soldiers into the residential streets to enforce it.

Trapped in their homes, Hondurans protested Saturday by banging pots and pans from the balconies. Over the silence of an evening without traffic, the clanging of metal, the tooting of horns and the popping of firecrackers reverberated across the city.

In some areas where people ventured to their doors to bang pots, they were met with tear gas.

Negotiations between the electoral commission and the alliance supporting Mr. Nasralla broke down Sunday. The opposition said that the electoral board had refused to meet all of its demands to make the count more transparent.

"Nobody has any confidence" in the electoral commission, said Tirza Flores Lanza, a human rights lawyer and former judge in San Pedro Sula. "It has no legitimacy. How can they be counting under a curfew?"

Mr. Hernández promised to respect the result of the final count. "Let's wait for the final count, according to due process under Honduran law," he wrote on Twitter.

The opposition is questioning ballots from an additional 5,200 polling places, almost 30 percent of the total, and has asked for a recount from three rural departments where turnout was about 20 percent higher than the average in the rest of the country.

The monitoring group from the Organization of American States said Sunday that the complaints over those 5,200 polling places should be considered.

The electoral commission "should find a way to be transparent and make sure that the O.A.S. and the E.U. have as much access as possible," said Juan Gonzalez, a former United States State Department official who advised Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Central America. The final result should have "international validation," he said.

Some Hondurans argue that the only route out of the crisis is for the commission to do a recount at every polling place with international supervision and with the participation of all the political parties.

"That is the only thing that will give a minimum of credibility to the results," said the Rev. Ismael Moreno, a prominent Jesuit priest and human rights activist. "If not," he said, there could be a "convulsion that nobody will be able to control."

As the crackdown by security forces has escalated, Hondurans have been sharing videos of people hit by gunfire as they protested and of security forces beating people under arrest. On WhatsApp, they watched Kimberly Fonseca, a 19-year-old student from a poor neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, as she lay dying after the military police shot at protesters on Friday night.

"With social networks, it's really easy to know what's going on," said Gabriel Zúniga Véliz, 27, a student who went to the march in Tegucigalpa. "There's still the hope that this can be turned around. We need to show how many of us there really are."

Mr. Veliz said that he was not very involved in politics, but that he had been moved by corruption in the government to vote for Mr. Nasralla.

"The government has been corrupt," he said. "This has been our reality for centuries." But if politicians keep stealing, he added, "it gets past people's breaking point."



11)  Ministers Look to Revive Martin Luther King's 1968 Poverty Campaign

 DEC. 3, 2017

"'This is what we've been waiting for, this kind of mass mobilization,' Ms. Blakely said in a telephone interview. 'I don't have any faith in Democrats or Republicans.' The campaign, which falls in an especially charged midterm election year, includes plans to converge in a march in Washington in June. Drs. Barber and Theoharis say that the campaign is not a partisan undertaking, and that they will not allow candidates for office to piggyback on its events."




The minister Barbara Williams-Skinner was arrested last week in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building for protesting the tax reform bill as part of an evangelical social justice group.CreditTom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press 

When 12 religious leaders in collars and vestments were arrested last week in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, they were reading Bible verses about caring for the poor, and doing it so loudly that their voices could be heard at the doors of senators' office suites nine stories above.

It was to little avail: The Senate went ahead and passed a tax bill early on Saturday, promoted as relief for the middle class, that mainly benefits corporations and the rich — and that many economists say offers little or nothing for the poor.

The middle class and its discontents have occupied so much political and media attention lately that poverty has been crowded out. But some prominent religious leaders are gearing up for a campaign to try to put it back on the nation's agenda in a way that it hasn't been in decades.

On Monday, exactly 50 years after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began his Poor People's Campaign, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a black minister and civil rights leader from North Carolina, and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, a white theologian originally from Milwaukee, will announce a revival of Dr. King's campaign, which stalled when he was assassinated in 1968. Organizers now hope to mount large protests on 40 consecutive days next year, in at least 25 state capitals and other locations, with crowds in the tens of thousands courting arrest.

"Nothing is going to change until we put a face on it, until we drive the public discourse, until we restart the moral narrative," Dr. Barber said in an interview.

Dr. Barber has had some recent success using a sustained campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience at the state level. The Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina that began in 2013 challenged limitations on voting rights and helped to unseat a governor. The new campaign will test whether organizers can take that model nationwide, and whether a multi-faith, multiracial movement can break through the nation's polarized politics.

The two ministers have spent the last year visiting churches and union halls to mobilize thousands of activists, including homeless people, veterans, clergy members and students.

They are aiming to redefine what constitutes a "moral agenda" in politics. Many on the right frame it in narrow terms of opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. By contrast, the poor people's campaign's sprawling agenda includes issues like wages, health care, immigrant rights, gay and transgender rights, criminal justice reform, and clean water and air.

Valerie Jean Blakely, a mother of five in Detroit, became a local organizer after protesting shut-offs of water service in her neighborhood in 2014. Her husband lost a factory job after the 2008 crash, she said, and now the couple make less than $20,000 a year, she said.

"This is what we've been waiting for, this kind of mass mobilization," Ms. Blakely said in a telephone interview. "I don't have any faith in Democrats or Republicans."

The campaign, which falls in an especially charged midterm election year, includes plans to converge in a march in Washington in June. Drs. Barber and Theoharis say that the campaign is not a partisan undertaking, and that they will not allow candidates for office to piggyback on its events.

But in a broader sense, "politics is everything," Dr. Theoharis said. "We're making it impossible in the next election cycle for them to get away without talking about poverty."

The two ministers have not stayed entirely aloof from electoral politics. They joined last month with clergy members in Alabamato denounce Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate candidate there, and what Dr. Barber called "the unbearable hypocrisy of Roy Moore's Christian rhetoric."

Organizers of the poor people's campaign say they have already received support from several religious denominations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); the United Church of Christ; the Union for Reform Judaism; and Dr. Barber's denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Dr. Theoharis, a Presbyterian minister, is co-director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, based at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

It remains to be seen whether the campaign can catch fire as the organizers hope. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, a minister, longtime civil rights advocate and co-leader of the National African American Clergy Network, says most churches have remained on the sidelines in the Trump era, and too few have spoken out against the tax bills in Congress, which are expected to lead to significant cuts in the nation's social safety net.

Although more than 2,400 leaders of many faiths signed a letter to senators calling the tax bills "fundamentally unjust," and the nation's Catholic bishops requested multiple changes to benefit the working poor, their objections have barely registered.

"You don't see the outrage of the civil rights movement, or the antiwar movement," Dr. Williams-Skinner said. "You don't see that kind of outrageous indignation."

"We're at a very sad state in this country, of almost a shameless disregard for the poor," she continued. "We're taking money away from struggling people shamelessly."

Dr. Williams-Skinner was one of the religious leaders protesting in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building last week, as part of the evangelical social justice group Sojourners. She read from the Gospel of Matthew: "I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat."

After Capitol Police officers warned the protesters three times by bullhorn to stop, Dr. Williams-Skinner, who is 73, and the others were taken away in plastic handcuffs. She was booked on a charge of disturbing the peace — the first time, she said, that she had ever been arrested at a protest.

"I decided it's time to put up or shut up," she said afterward. "There are not enough people of faith angry about this as a violation of the word of God."



12) Stress Hormones Soar in Whales Trapped by Fishing Lines

By    DEC. 4, 2017




A North Atlantic right whale known as Bayla died after becoming entangled in fishing lines. The young female's stress hormone levels skyrocketed, a new study shows.CreditGeorgia Department of Natural Resources/NOAA

In one more sign that North Atlantic right whales are struggling, a new study finds sky-high levels of stress in animals that have been caught in fishing nets.

Researchers determined the stress hormone levels of more than 100 North Atlantic right whales over a 15-year period by examining their feces. Sometimes guided by sniffing dogs, researchers followed the animals, collecting waste samples that they then analyzed in their lab at the New England Aquarium.

Results from the feces of 113 seemingly healthy whales helped establish a baseline of stress hormone levels, which had never before been known for the species. "We have a good idea of what normal is now," said Rosalind Rolland, who developed the research technique and is the lead author of the study published in the journal Endangered Species Research.

She then compared these baselines to hormone levels in the feces of six whales that had become entangled in fishing lines, and one that had been stranded for several days, finding that those animals were off-the-charts anxious.

One whale, a young female named Bayla, showed stress levels eight times higher after she was found entangled in synthetic fishing ropes in January 2011. Several biologists trained in disentanglement couldn't get all the gear off her, so they sedated the emaciated animal and gave her antibiotics. Two weeks later, an aerial survey team found her corpse floating at sea, possibly after being attacked by sharks, which typically leave healthy animals alone. A necropsy conducted a few days later found rope embedded in the back of Bayla's throat, that possibly prevented her from eating.

"This highlights the extreme physical suffering these animals are going through when they're entangled in fishing lines," said Dr. Rolland, a senior scientist in the Ocean Health and Marine Stress Lab at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.

Because hormone levels take several hours to rise after a stressful event, Dr. Rolland said that tests on five animals that died quickly when hit by ships showed stress levels similar to those in healthy animals.

This has been a disastrous year for the North Atlantic right whale, whose population now hovers below 450. Sixteen or 17 animals have died since the beginning of the summer and only five have been born, according to Charles "Stormy" Mayo, director of the Right Whale Ecology Program at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass., who was not involved in the new study.

"It used to be if we heard about one or two whales dying in a year, it was an appalling tragedy," Dr. Mayo said.

Although once considered a species conservation success story, the population of North Atlantic right whales has been falling since about 2010, he said. "The arrow at the end of the curve is pointing at zero."

Although the reasons for the deaths are varied, and some remain mysterious, it seems like the animals are exploring new areas in search of food, putting them in direct conflict with ships and heavy fishing lines, Dr. Rolland said.

The Gulf of Maine, which has long been central to their habitat, is one of the fastest-warming bodies of water on earth, she said.

North Atlantic right whales, which can weigh as much as the space shuttle, exclusively eat nearly microscopic creatures called zooplankton. About 80 percent of the animals carry scars from past entanglements or ship strikes.

These "urban whales" are also stressed by noise from shipping and other sources, Dr. Rolland said.

Analyzing hormones in feces — in addition to newer efforts to study the vapor exhaled from the animals' blowholes — provides scientists an objective way to test what is stressing the whales and whether efforts to improve their habitats are working.

"If you can get a measure from the animal itself, it's far better than us trying to interpret an animal's behavior," she said.



13) Why are America's farmers killing themselves in record numbers?

The suicide rate for farmers is more than double that of veterans. Former farmer Debbie Weingarten gives an insider's perspective on farm life – and how to help

December 6, 2017


 Ginnie Peters returns to the farm workshop in Perry, Iowa, where she found her husband Matt's letter on the night he died. Photograph: Audra Mulkern

It is dark in the workshop, but what light there is streams in patches through the windows. Cobwebs coat the wrenches, the cans of spray paint and the rungs of an old wooden chair where Matt Peters used to sit. A stereo plays country music, left on by the renter who now uses the shop.

"It smells so good in here," I say. "Like …"

"Men, working," finishes Ginnie Peters.

We inhale. "Yes."

Ginnie pauses at the desk where she found her husband Matt's letter on the night he died.

"My dearest love," it began, and continued for pages. "I have torment in my head."

On the morning of his last day, 12 May 2011, Matt stood in the kitchen of their farmhouse.

"I can't think," he told Ginnie. "I feel paralyzed."

It was planting season, and stress was high. Matt worried about the weather and worked around the clock to get his crop in the ground on time. He hadn't slept in three nights and was struggling to make decisions.

"I remember thinking 'I wish I could pick you up and put you in the car like you do with a child,'" Ginnie says. "And then I remember thinking … and take you where? Who can help me with this? I felt so alone."

Ginnie felt an "oppressive sense of dread" that intensified as the day wore on. At dinnertime, his truck was gone and Matt wasn't answering his phone. It was dark when she found the letter. "I just knew," Ginnie says. She called 911 immediately, but by the time the authorities located his truck, Matt had taken his life.

Ginnie describes her husband as strong and determined, funny and loving. They raised two children together. He would burst through the door singing the Mighty Mouse song – "Here I come to save the day!" – and make everyone laugh. He embraced new ideas and was progressive in his farming practices, one of the first in his county to practice no-till, a farming method that does not disturb the soil. "In everything he did, he wanted to be a giver and not a taker," she says.

After his death, Ginnie began combing through Matt's things. "Every scrap of paper, everything I could find that would make sense of what had happened." His phone records showed a 20-minute phone call to an unfamiliar number on the afternoon he died.

When she dialed the number, Dr Mike Rosmann answered.

"My name is Virginia Peters," she said. "My husband died of suicide on May 12th."

There was a pause on the line.

"I have been so worried," said Rosmann. "Mrs Peters, I am so glad you called me."

Rosmann, an Iowa farmer, is a psychologist and one of the nation's leading farmer behavioral health experts. He often answers phone calls from those in crisis. And for 40 years, he has worked to understand why farmers take their lives at such alarming rates – currently, higher rates than any other occupation in the United States.

Once upon a time, I was a vegetable farmer in Arizona. And I, too, called Rosmann. I was depressed, unhappily married, a new mom, overwhelmed by the kind of large debt typical for a farm operation.

We were growing food, but couldn't afford to buy it. We worked 80 hours a week, but we couldn't afford to see a dentist, let alone a therapist. I remember panic when a late freeze threatened our crop, the constant fights about money, the way light swept across the walls on the days I could not force myself to get out of bed.

"Farming has always been a stressful occupation because many of the factors that affect agricultural production are largely beyond the control of the producers," wrote Rosmann in the journal Behavioral Healthcare. "The emotional wellbeing of family farmers and ranchers is intimately intertwined with these changes."

Last year, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people working in agriculture – including farmers, farm laborers, ranchers, fishers, and lumber harvesters – take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. The data suggested that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population.

After the study was released, Newsweek reported that the suicide death rate for farmers was more than double that of military veterans. This, however, could be an underestimate, as the data collected skipped several major agricultural states, including Iowa. Rosmann and other experts add that the farmer suicide rate might be higher, because an unknown number of farmers disguise their suicides as farm accidents.

The US farmer suicide crisis echoes a much larger farmer suicide crisis happening globally: an Australian farmer dies by suicide every four days; in the UK, one farmer a week takes his or her own life; in France, one farmer dies by suicide every two days; in India, more than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995.

In 2014, I left my marriage and my farm, and I began to write. I aimed to explore our country's fervent celebration of the agrarian, and yet how, despite the fact that we so desperately need farmers for our survival, we often forget about their wellbeing.

Four years after contacting Rosmann as a farmer, I am traveling across Iowa with a photographer in an attempt to understand the suicide crisis on America's farms. It's been raining all morning – big gray swaths – and we are standing in the entryway of the Rosmanns' house.

"Should we take off our shoes?" we ask. Mike's wife, Marilyn, waves us off. "It's a farmhouse," she says. On this overcast day, the farmhouse is warm and immaculately decorated. Marilyn is baking cranberry bars in the brightly lit kitchen. 

Mike appears a midwestern Santa Claus – glasses perched on a kind, round face; a head of white hair and a bushy white moustache. In 1979, Mike and Marilyn left their teaching positions at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and bought 190 acres in Harlan, Iowa – near Mike's boyhood farm. When he told his colleagues that he was trading academia for farm life, they were incredulous.

"I told them farmers are an endangered species, and we need them for our sustenance. I need to go take care of farmers, because nobody else does," says Rosmann. Once back in Iowa, the Rosmanns farmed corn, soybeans, oats, hay, purebred cattle, chickens and turkeys. Mike opened a psychology practice, Marilyn worked as a nurse, and they raised two children.

When the rain breaks, Mike pulls on muck boots over his pants, and we go outside. He has the slightest limp; in 1990, during the oat harvest, he lost four of his toes "in a moment of carelessness" with the grain combine, an event he describes as life-changing. We are walking through the wet grass toward the cornfield behind his house, when he cranes his head. "Hear the calves bellering?" he asks. "They've just been weaned." We stop and listen; the calves sound out in distressed notes, their off-key voices like prepubescent boys crying out across the field.

In the 1980s, America's continuing family farm crisis began. A wrecking ball for rural America, it was the worst agricultural economic crisis since the Great Depression. Market prices crashed. Loans were called in. Interest rates doubled overnight. Farmers were forced to liquidate their operations and evicted from their land. There were fights at grain elevators, shootings in local banks. The suicide rate soared. 

"What we went through in the 1980s farm crisis was hell," says Donn Teske, a farmer and president of the Kansas Farmers Union. "I mean, it was ungodly hell."

In the spring of 1985, farmers descended on Washington DC by the thousands, including David Senter, president of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM) and a historian for FarmAid. For weeks, the protesting farmers occupied a tent on the Mall, surrounded the White House, marched along Pennsylvania Avenue. Farmers marched hundreds of black crosses – each with the name of a foreclosure or suicide victim – to the USDA building and drove them into the ground. "It looked like a cemetery," recalls Senter.

Rosmann worked on providing free counseling, referrals for services, and community events to break down stigmas of mental health issues among farmers. "People just did not deal with revealing their tender feelings. They felt like failures," says Rosmann. 

During the height of the farm crisis, telephone hotlines were started in most agricultural states.

"And what was the impact?"

"We stopped the suicides here," he says of his community in Iowa. "And every state that had a telephone hotline reduced the number of farming related suicides."

In 1999, Rosmann joined an effort called Sowing Seeds of Hope (SSOH), which began in Wisconsin, and connected uninsured and underinsured farmers in seven midwestern states to affordable behavioral health services. In 2001, Rosmann became the executive director. For 14 years, the organization fielded approximately a half-million telephone calls from farmers, trained over 10,000 rural behavioral health professionals, and provided subsidized behavioral health resources to over 100,000 farm families.

Rosmann's program proved so successful that it became the model for a nationwide program called the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). Rosmann and his colleagues were hopeful that farmers would get the federal support they so desperately needed – but though the program was approved as part of the 2008 US Farm Bill, it was not funded.

While Senator Tom Harkin and other sympathetic legislators tried to earmark money for the FRSAN, they were outvoted. Rosmann says that several members of the House and Senate – most of them Republicans – "were disingenuous". In an email, Rosmann wrote, "They promised support to my face and to others who approached them to support the FRSAN, but when it came time to vote … they did not support appropriating money … Often they claimed it was an unnecessary expenditure which would increase the national debt, while also saying healthy farmers are the most important asset to agricultural production."

The program, which would have created regional and national helplines and provided counseling for farmers, was estimated to cost the government $18m annually. Rosmann argues that US farmers lost by suicide totals much more than this – in dollars, farmland, national security in the form of food, and the emotional and financial toll on families and entire communities. In 2014, the federal funding that supported Rosmann's Sowing Seeds of Hope came to an end, and the program was shuttered.

The September sky is chalk gray, and for a moment it rains. John Blaske's cows are lined up at the fence; cicadas trill from the trees. It's been a year since he flipped through Missouri Farmer Today and froze, startled by an article written by Rosmann.

"Suicide death rate of farmers higher than other groups, CDC reports," the headline read.

"I read it 12 or 15 times," Blaske says, sitting next to his wife Joyce at the kitchen table. "It hit home something drastically." 

In the house, every square inch of wall or shelf space is filled with memorabilia and photos of their six children and 13 grandchildren. Music croons softly from the kitchen radio.

Blaske is tall and stoic, with hands toughened by work and a somber voice that rarely changes in inflection. We've been speaking by phone since the winter, when Rosmann connected us. "How's the weather out there in Arizona?" he would ask at the outset of each phone call. I've followed Blaske through multiple health scares and hospital stays, as he has realized that the depression and suicidal thoughts he's endured alone for years are common among farmers. 

The first time we spoke, Blaske told me, "In the last 25 to 30 years, there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about suicide."

The CDC report suggested possible causes for the high suicide rate among US farmers, including "social isolation, potential for financial losses, barriers to and unwillingness to seek mental health services (which might be limited in rural areas), and access to lethal means".

For a farmer, loss of land often cuts deeper than a death, something Blaske understands firsthand. On Thanksgiving Day in 1982, a spark shot out from Blaske's woodstove to a box of newspaper. The fire climbed curtains, melted doors, burned most of the house. The Blaskes became homeless. 

Soon after the fire, the farm crisis intensified. The bank raised their interest rate from seven to 18%. Blaske raced between banks and private lenders, attempting to renegotiate loan terms. Agreements would be made and then fall through. "They did not care whether we had to live in a grader ditch," remembers Blaske. 

Desperate, the family filed for bankruptcy and lost 265 acres. For the first time, Blaske began to think of suicide.

Much of the acreage lost to the Blaskes sits across the road from the 35 acres they retain today. "I can't leave our property without seeing what we lost," Blaske frets. "You can't imagine how that cuts into me every day. It just eats me alive."

Rosmann has developed what he calls the agrarian imperative theory – though he is quick to say it sits on the shoulders of other psychologists. "People engaged in farming," he explains, "have a strong urge to supply essentials for human life, such as food and materials for clothing, shelter and fuel, and to hang on to their land and other resources needed to produce these goods at all costs."

When farmers can't fulfill this instinctual purpose, they feel despair. Thus, within the theory lies an important paradox: the drive that makes a farmer successful is the same that exacerbates failure, sometimes to the point of suicide. In an article, Rosmann wrote that the agrarian imperative theory "is a plausible explanation of the motivations of farmers to be agricultural producers and to sometimes end their lives".

Since 2013, net farm income for US farmers has declined 50%. Median farm income for 2017 is projected to be negative $1,325. And without parity in place (essentially a minimum price floor for farm products), most commodity prices remain below the cost of production.

In an email, Rosmann wrote, "The rate of self-imposed [farmer] death rises and falls in accordance with their economic well-being … Suicide is currently rising because of our current farm recession."

Inside the sunny lobby of the newly remodeled Onaga community hospital, where Joyce Blaske happens to work in the business department, Dr Nancy Zidek has just finished her rounds. As a family medicine doctor, she sees behavioral health issues frequently among her farmer patients, which she attributes to the stressors inherent in farming. 

"If your farm is struggling, you're certainly going to be depressed and going to be worried about how to put food on the table, how to get your kids to college," she says.

In August 2017, Tom Giessel, farmer and president of the Pawnee County Kansas Farmers Union produced a short video called "Ten Things a Bushel of Wheat Won't Buy". At $3.27 per bushel (60lb), Giessel says, "The grain I produce and harvest is my 'currency' and it is less than one-fifth of what it should be priced." 


He shows snapshots of consumer goods that cost more than a bushel of wheat: six English muffins, four rolls of toilet paper, a single loaf of bread – even though one bushel of wheat is enough to make 70 one-pound breadloaves.

Dr Zidek says the wellbeing of farmers is inextricably linked to the health of rural communities. "The grain prices are low. The gas prices are high. Farmers feel the strain of 'I've got to get this stuff in the field. But if I can't sell it, I can't pay for next year's crop. I can't pay my loans at the bank off.' And that impacts the rest of us in a small community, because if the farmers can't come into town to purchase from the grocery store, the hardware store, the pharmacy – then those people also struggle."

Indeed, it is Saturday afternoon, and downtown Onaga is practically deserted. There's a liquor store, a school, a few churches, a pizza place, a youth center and boarded-up storefronts. "You need to have a family farm structure to have rural communities – for school systems, churches, hospitals," says Donn Teske of the Kansas Farmers Union. "I'm watching with serious dismay the industrialization of the agriculture sector and the depopulation of rural Kansas … In rural America," he adds, "maybe the war is lost."

After finding the article in Missouri Farmer Today, John Blaske decided to contact Rosmann. But the article listed a website, and the Blaskes did not own a computer. So he drove to the library and asked a librarian to send an email to Rosmann on his behalf. A few days later, as Blaske was driving his tractor down the road, Rosmann called him back. 

"He wanted to hear what I had to say," Blaske says. "Someone needs to care about what's going on out here."

Since the 1980s farm crisis, Rosmann says experts have learned much more about how to support farmers. Confidential crisis communication systems – by telephone or online – are effective, but staff need to be versed in the reality and language of agriculture.

"If you go to a therapist who may know about therapy but doesn't understand farming, the therapist might say, 'Take a vacation – that's the best thing you can do.' And the farmer will say, 'But my cows aren't on a five-day-a-week schedule.'"

Affordable therapy is critical and inexpensive to fund – Rosmann says many issues can be resolved in fewer than five sessions, which he compares to an Employee Assistance Program. Medical providers need to be educated about physical and behavioral health vulnerabilities in agricultural populations, an effort Rosmann is working on with colleagues.

John Blaske says painting helps. When he's feeling up to it, he paints heavy saw blades with detailed farmscapes. Counseling and medication have also helped, but he craves conversation with farmers who know what he's experiencing. "I would really give about anything to go and talk to people," he says. "If any one person thinks they are the only one in this boat, they are badly mistaken. It's like Noah's Ark. It's running over."

Inside the farmhouse, Blaske places two journals in my hands. They're filled with memories of walking through town barefoot as a child, how his mother would pick sandburs out of his feet at night; about the years he worked full-time at the grain elevator, only to come home to farmwork in the dark and counting cows by flashlight.

The image of Blaske on the farm, illuminating the darkness, is a powerful one. "Sometimes the batteries were low and the light was not so bright," he wrote, "But when you found the cow that was missing, you also found a newborn calf, which made the dark of night much brighter."

In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.






























Posted by: bonnieweinstein@yahoo.com
Reply via web post Reply to sender Reply to group Start a New Topic Messages in this topic (1)

Have you tried the highest rated email app?
With 4.5 stars in iTunes, the Yahoo Mail app is the highest rated email app on the market. What are you waiting for? Now you can access all your inboxes (Gmail, Outlook, AOL and more) in one place. Never delete an email again with 1000GB of free cloud storage.