Please make 3 phone calls to demand

health care for Mumia

If you're sick, you can go to a doctor or an emergency room to be examined and treated, in a hospital if necessary. If you're being held behind bars, getting sick can be a death sentence. Profits come before prisoner care for the Dept. of Correction's medical contractors.

SCI Mahanoy political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal needs your help in getting treatment for a severe skin disease so bad he told his wife Wadiya he "can't take it any more." For more than 2 years, he 

has suffered from intense itching all over his body.

The treatment for hepatitis C which we fought for and won has not cleared up his skin conditions.He is also concerned about his cirrhosis of the liver and neuropathy. People suspect tainted water may be causing problems for many prisoners.

Mumia and recent visitors report he can't sleep because the itching is so overpowering and relentless. His condition is worsening: his back, chest and arms have become rough and leathery, alligator-like. There appear to be hairline cracks in his skin that show bleeding.

Instead of a hands-on exam by an expert dermatologist, the DOC's doctor had a teleconference with Mumia, after which Ultra Violet (UVB) treatment and Dupixent were recommended.

Mumia stopped unsupervised, self-administered UVB treatment last year because his skin got burned.  Mumia's UVB treatment should be safely administered at a hospital with a Narrow Band UVB, reducing the risk of burns and is more effective than Broad Band UVB.

Mumia needs a full diagnostic work-up before he receives a new medicine like Dupixent, which can have serious side effects if administered incorrectly outside of a hospital setting.

Mumia has been unjustly imprisoned for 36 years. The DOC's continuing failure to effectively diagnose and treat this severe skin disease is nothing less than torture and is one more reason Mumia should be released from prison, now.

1.  Please call:

  •  SCI Mahanoy Superintendent Theresa DelBalso: 570-773-2158
  •  PA Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel:
  • PA Dept of Health Acting Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine: 717-787-9857

Demand that Mumia be taken to an independent medical facility such as Geisinger Hospital, as in 2015, which has the expertise to provide thorough hands-on diagnostic evaluation and offer supervised patient care.

2. Pack the court on Jan 17 in Philadelphia to support his legal case eventually lead to Mumia's freedom. 

International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal  International Action Center,
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (NYC),
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
Educators for Mumia

__________________________This message was sent to info@socialistviewpoint.org


International Letter in Support of Mumia Abu-Jamal


December 9, 2017
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner From:
Concerned Members of International Community


We, the undersigned individual and organizational members of the international community concerned with issues of human rights, call your attention to an egregious example of human rights violations in your respective jurisdictions: the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Specifically, we call on you both, key officials with the power to determine Abu-Jamal's fate, to:

  1. Assure that all the District Attorney and police files relevant to Abu-Jamal's case, be released publicly as the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is reviewing the potential involvement of retired Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille in a conflict of interest when he reviewed Abu Jamal's case as a PA Supreme Court Justice.
  2. Release Abu-Jamal now from his incarceration. That given the mounds of evidence of Abu-Jamal's innocence and even more evidence of police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct, his unjust incarceration, including almost 30 years on death row, his twice near-executions, his prison-induced illness which brought him to the brink of death, and the lack of timely treatment for his hepatitis-C which has left him with a condition, cirrhosis of the liver, which poses a potential threat to his life ... we call for the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal now.

Now, Abu-Jamal has a new legal challenge in the Pennsylvania courts on the grounds that PA Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille had a conflict of interest when he denied Abu-Jamal's appeals from 1998-2014. The new action is based on a precedent setting U.S. Supreme Court decision, Williams v. Pennsylvania, that a judge who had been personally involved in a critical prosecutorial decision violates the defendant's right to an impartial judicial review if he then gets to rule on the case as a State Supreme Court Justice. Castille was the Philadelphia elected District Attorney during Abu-Jamal's first appeal process, after his conviction and death sentence, from 1986-1991. He was a PA Supreme Court Justice from 1994 to 2014, during which time Abu-Jamal's case came before him multiple times.

We demand: Public disclosure of the police and DA files! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Now!!

To sign onto this letter please email infomumia@gmail.com with the subject line "International Letter for Mumia." Submit your full name as you want it listed and your organizational or professional identification.This identification is critical in a letter of this sort, as names alone carry little leverage.

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frantzfanonfoundation@amail.com - 58. rue Daquerre, 75014 Paris. +336 86 78 39 20. frantzfanonfoundation-fondationfrantzfanon.com 




From Clifford Conner

Dear friends and relatives

Every day the scoundrels who have latched onto Trump to push through their rightwing soak-the-poor agenda inflict a new indignity on the human race.  Today they are conspiring to steal the tips we give servers in restaurants.  The New York Times editorial appended below explains what they're trying to get away with now.

People like you and me cannot compete with the Koch brothers' donors network when it comes to money power.  But at least we can try to avoid putting our pittance directly into their hands.  Here is a modest proposal:  Whenever you are in a restaurant where servers depend on tips for their livelihoods, let's try to make sure they get what we give them.

Instead of doing the easy thing and adding the tip into your credit card payment, GIVE CASH TIPS and HAND THEM DIRECTLY TO YOUR SERVER. If you want to add a creative flourish such as including a preprinted note that explains why you are doing this, by all means do so.  You could reproduce the editorial below for their edification.

If you want to do this, be sure to check your wallet before entering a restaurant to make sure you have cash in appropriate denominations.

This is a small act of solidarity with some of the most exploited members of the workforce in America.  Perhaps its symbolic value could outweigh its material impact.  But to paraphrase the familiar song: What the world needs now is solidarity, sweet solidarity.

If this idea should catch on, be prepared for news stories about restaurant owners demanding that servers empty their pockets before leaving the premises at the end of their shifts.  The fight never ends!

Yours in struggle and solidarity,


The Trump Administration to Restaurants: Take the Tips!

The New York Times editorial board, December 21, 2017

Most Americans assume that when they leave a tip for waiters and bartenders, those workers pocket the money. That could become wishful thinking under a Trump administration proposal that would give restaurants and other businesses complete control over the tips earned by their employees.

The Department of Labor recently proposed allowing employers to pool tips and use them as they see fit as long as all of their workers are paid at least the minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour nationally and higher in some states and cities. Officials argue that this will free restaurants to use some of the tip money to reward lowly dishwashers, line cooks and other workers who toil in the less glamorous quarters and presumably make less than servers who get tips. Using tips to compensate all employees sounds like a worthy cause, but a simple reading of the government's proposal makes clear that business owners would have no obligation to use the money in this way. They would be free to pocket some or all of that cash, spend it to spiff up the dining room or use it to underwrite $2 margaritas at happy hour. And that's what makes this proposal so disturbing.

The 3.2 million Americans who work as waiters, waitresses and bartenders include some of the lowest-compensated working people in the country. The median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses was $9.61 an hour last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Further, there is a sordid history of restaurant owners who steal tips, and of settlements in which they have agreed to repay workers millions of dollars.

Not to worry, says the Labor Department, which argues, oddly and unconvincingly, that workers will be better off no matter how owners spend the money. Enlarging dining rooms, reducing menu prices or offering paid time off should be seen as "potential benefits to employees and the economy over all." The department also assures us that owners will funnel tip money to employees because workers would quit otherwise.

t is hard to know how much time President Trump's appointees have spent with single mothers raising two children on a salary from a workaday restaurant in suburban America, seeing how hard it is to make ends meet without tips. What we do know is that the administration has produced no empirical cost-benefit analysis to support its proposal, which is customary when the government seeks to make an important change to federal regulations.

The Trump administration appears to be rushing this rule through — it has offered the public just 30 days to comment on it — in part to pre-empt the Supreme Court from ruling on a 2011 Obama-era tipping rule. The department's new proposal would do away with the 2011 rule. The restaurant industry has filed several legal challenges to that regulation, which prohibits businesses from pooling tips and sharing them with dishwashers and other back-of-the-house workers. Different federal circuit appeals courts have issued contradictory rulings on those cases, so the industry has asked the Supreme Court to resolve those differences; the top court has not decided whether to take that case.

Mr. Trump, of course, owns restaurants as part of his hospitality empire and stands to benefit from this rule change, as do many of his friends and campaign donors. But what the restaurant business might not fully appreciate is that their stealth attempt to gain control over tips could alienate and antagonize customers. Diners who are no longer certain that their tips will end up in the hands of the server they intended to reward might leave no tip whatsoever. Others might seek to covertly slip cash to their server. More high-minded restaurateurs would be tempted to follow the lead of the New York restaurateur Danny Meyer and get rid of tipping by raising prices and bumping up salaries.

By changing the fundamental underpinnings of tipping, the government might well end up destroying this practice. But in doing so it would hurt many working-class Americans, including people who believed that Mr. Trump would fight for them.



Working people are helping to feed the poor hungry corporations! 

Charity for the Wealthy!

GOP Tax Plan Would Give 15 of America's Largest Corporations a $236B Tax Cut: Report

By Jake Johnson, December 18, 2017


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…"


Kaepernick sports new T-shirt:

Love this guy!




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:











Save the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper

From: SF Bay View <editor@sfbayview.com>

Date: December 19, 2017 at 6:42:58 PM PST

To: SF Bay View <sfbayview@lists.riseup.net>

Subject: [sfbayview] Bay View faces loss and challenge

Reply-To: SF Bay View <editor@sfbayview.com>

Bay View faces loss and challenge

With profound sadness, we bid farewell to Troy Williams, who we'd hoped would lead the Bay View's regeneration and build it into the New York Times of the Prison Abolition Movement he envisioned. Our challenge today is survival; we must face the fact that the fate of the Bay View is in your hands. To grow the number of hands willing to help, please share this message far and wide.

Please keep reading. There may not be a January paper without your help.

The problem: Advertising revenue is down for all newspapers still in print including the Bay View. Each monthly Bay View paper used to carry its own weight, with ads sufficient to pay the basic expenses of printing, distribution and mailing – and then some. Not any more. In 2017, total income from all sources – ads, subscriptions and donations – averaged only $8,000 per month. Those three basic expenses total almost $7,000 a month, and the Ratcliffs' social security barely covers the rent and a bit of the utilities.

People always ask, "Why not go web-only, like Black Agenda Report," an excellent and very influential source of news and analysis. The Bay View's role is different. The Bay View is the only publication in the country widely distributed both inside prison and out. Of the 20,000 papers we print every month, 3,000 are mailed to subscribers in prisons around the country (who pass them around to thousands more) and the other 17,000 are distributed in hoods around the Bay. 

Therein lies the solution:  The millions of people in prison and the hoods are our FREEDOM FIGHTERS. From the most intense oppression, like diamonds from coal, comes an unquenchable thirst for liberation – and the Bay View gives that force a voice and an organizing network. As a result, the Prison Abolition Movement is burgeoning everywhere and, to its leaders, the Bay View is essential. Similar energy in the hoods is making the Bay View fly off the stands faster than ever. 

Subscription revenue is way up, but at just $24 for a year, that income is a big help but it's not sufficient to pay the big bills. For that, we need more advertising and donations. 

Advertising – Are you or your friends or colleagues organizing an event for Martin Luther King Day in January or Black History Month in February? Email your flier or postcard and we'll quote you an affordable price for running it in the Bay View. Same for agencies and nonprofits with goods or services our readers should know about. Special low prices apply to Religious Directory ads and Black Pockets Directory ads for professionals and entrepreneurs. Call 415-671-0789 today to discuss an advertising campaign to support your project and your newspaper.

Donations – Hit the DONATE button near the top left side of the Bay View homepage to make a big donation if you're able or a smaller recurring donation. More and more readers are doing that, keeping the Bay View alive. The Bay View also has a nonprofit arm, so your donation can be tax deductible; read all about it HERE. I repeat: There may not be a January paper without your help. At the moment, we are flat broke.

The Ratcliffs are "older than dirt" and need to pass the torch to new leadership and a real newspaper staff. For that, we need a major fund drive. We hear about successful social media drives. Are you an expert on that or want to learn? Email editor@sfbayview.com to volunteer for a fundraising or development committee, and let's make it happen!

Good news: new website coming soon – An expert website designer is volunteering to build the Bay View a new website that can easily be read on your mobile device. A beautiful new website should convince potential donors, advertisers and subscribers that the Bay View will outlive the Ratcliffs!

Indulge in some recent stories and discover new ones every day at sfbayview.com ... 

Find a friend among the Bay View Pen Pals, who write, "I would love to hear my name at mail call."

Looking for a job, a contract, affordable housing or a scholarship or other opportunity? Check theBayView Classifieds today.

Finally, follow the Bay View on Facebook and Twitter – and lead everyone you know to do the same. 

To reach the Bay View, email editor@sfbayview.com

To subscribe to this list, email sfbayview-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.

Mary Ratcliff

SF Bay View

(415) 671-0789










1) Online Courses Are Harming the Students Who Need the Most Help

By    JAN. 19, 2018




A single teacher can reach thousands of students in an online course, opening up a world of knowledge to anyone with an internet connection. This limitless reach also offers substantial benefits for school districts that need to save money, by reducing the number of teachers.

But in high schools and colleges, there is mounting evidence that the growth of online education is hurting a critical group: the less proficient students who are precisely those most in need of skilled classroom teachers.

Online courses can be broken down into several categories, and some are more effective than others.

In "blended" courses, for example, students don't do their work only online: They also spend time in a classroom with a flesh-and-blood teacher. Research suggests that students — at nearly all levels of achievement — do just as well in these blended classes as they do in traditional classrooms. In this model, online resources supplement traditional instruction but don't replace it.

In the fully online model, on the other hand, a student may never be in the same room with an instructor. This category is the main problem. It is where less proficient students tend to run into trouble. After all, taking a class without a teacher requires high levels of self-motivation, self-regulation and organization. Yet in high schools across the country, students who are struggling in traditional classrooms are increasingly steered into online courses.

For example, in so-called credit recovery programs, many students who have flunked a course in an old-fashioned classroom retake the class online. The negative consequences may not be obvious at first, because the pass rates in these courses are very high and students who take them tend to graduate from high school instead of flunking out. What could be wrong with that?

But there is something wrong with it. In reality, students who complete these courses tend to do quite poorly on subsequent tests of academic knowledge. This suggests that these online recovery courses often give students an easy passing grade without teaching them very much.

Consider a study conducted in the Chicago high schools. Students who had failed algebra were randomly assigned either to online or to face-to-face recovery courses. The results were clear: Students in the online algebra courses learned much less than those who worked with a teacher in a classroom.

Online courses have many real benefits, of course. They can help high achievers in need of more advanced coursework than their districts provide through other means. This is especially true in small, rural districts that offer few specialized, traditional courses for students working ahead of their grades.

A study in Maine and Vermont examined the effect of online courses on eighth graders with strong math skills in schools that didn't offer face-to-face algebra classes. Students were randomly assigned either to online algebra or to the less challenging, standard math offered in traditional classes.

Both groups of students were tested at the end of the school year. The online algebra students did substantially better than their counterparts in standard classrooms. They were also twice as likely to complete advanced math later in high school.

In colleges, especially in nonselective and for-profit schools, online education has expanded rapidly, too, with similar effects. These schools disproportionately enroll low-income students who are often the first in their families to attend college. Such students tend to drop out of college at very high rates. Students with weak preparation don't fare well in online college classes, as recent research by professors at Harvard and Stanford shows.

These scholars examined the performance of hundreds of thousands of students at DeVry University, a large for-profit college with sites across the country. DeVry offers online and face-to-face versions of all its courses, using the same textbooks, assessments, assignments and lecture materials in each format. Even though the courses are seemingly identical, the students who enroll online do substantially worse.

The effects are lasting, with online students more likely to drop out of college altogether. Hardest hit are those who entered the online class with low grades. Work by researchers in many other colleges concurs with the DeVry findings: The weakest students are hurt most by the online format.

For those with strong academic skills, by contrast, online learning can open up amazing opportunities.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a set of free, online courses in the economics of developing countries. Students who perform well in these classes can apply for a face-to-face master's program in economics at M.I.T. In fact, the online courses are the sole route into this special degree program. With online credit, students need to spend only one semester in Cambridge to graduate.

The M.I.T. approach reverses the high school model in which students who fail in a face-to-face class are shifted into a more challenging online format. In M.I.T.'s program, students must first demonstrate that they can tough it out in an online class. Only then are they admitted to a rigorous, face-to-face master's program.

Online education is still in its youth. Many approaches are possible, and some may ultimately benefit students with deep and diverse needs. As of now, however, the evidence is clear. For advanced learners, online classes are a terrific option, but academically challenged students need a classroom with a teacher's support.



2)  Why Are American Prisons So Afraid of This Book?

 JAN. 18, 2018


Michelle Alexander in 2012. Her book on mass incarceration, "The New Jim Crow," has been banned by prisons in North Carolina and Florida. CreditBen Garvin for The New York Times

In the eight years since its publication, "The New Jim Crow," a book by Michelle Alexander that explores the phenomenon of mass incarceration, has sold well over a million copies, been compared to the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, been cited in the legal decisions to end stop-and-frisk and sentencing laws, and been quoted passionately on stage at the Academy Awards.

But for the more than 130,000 adults in prison in North Carolina and Florida, the book is strictly off-limits.

And prisoners around the country often have trouble obtaining copies of the book, which points to the vast racial disparities in sentencing policy, and the way that mass incarceration has ravaged the African-American population.

This month, after protests, New Jersey revoked a ban some of its prisons had placed on the book, while New York quickly scrapped a program that would have limited its inmates' ability to receive books at all.

Ms. Alexander, a civil rights lawyer and former clerk on the Supreme Court, said the barriers to reading the book are no accident.

"Some prison officials are determined to keep the people they lock in cages as ignorant as possible about the racial, social and political forces that have made the United States the most punitive nation on earth," she said. "Perhaps they worry the truth might actually set the captives free."

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed that the book had been banned but would not elaborate. A form from the prison system's literature review committee obtained by The New York Times indicates that the book was rejected because it presented a security threat and was filled with what the document called "racial overtures."

In North Carolina prisons, "The New Jim Crow" has been banned multiple times, most recently on Feb. 24, 2017, when it was deemed "likely to provoke confrontation between racial groups." State policy dictates that such bans can last for only a year, so the book will be permitted in the state's prisons late next month — unless it is banned again.

"All you need is one prison to challenge it, and then the book goes back on the list," said Katya Roytburd, a volunteer with Prison Books Collective, a nonprofit that sends free books to prisoners in North Carolina and Alabama.

The central thesis of "The New Jim Crow" is that the mass incarceration of black people is an extension of the American tradition of racial discrimination.

It zeroes in on how the "law and order" rhetoric of the 1950s and 1960s led to the war on drugs and harsh law enforcement and sentencing policies, which disproportionately affect black people.

"It is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt," she writes in the introduction. "So we don't. Rather than rely on race we use our criminal justice system to label people of color 'criminals' and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind."

Black people are still imprisoned at over five times the rate of white people, according to a 2016 report by The Sentencing Project, a prison reform advocacy group. And while a bipartisan push for sentencing reform took place during President Barack Obama's second term, those efforts have stalled under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump.

The choices prisons make when banning books can seem arbitrary, even capricious. In Texas, 10,000 titles are banned, including such head-scratchers as "The Color Purple" and a compilation by the humor writer Dave Barry.

"Mein Kampf," on the other hand, is permitted, along with several books by white nationalists, despite the existence of prison gangs like the murderous Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

"When you look at the banned book lists and specifically the stuff that's being allowed, there's a definite bias toward violent armed white supremacy and the censorship of anything that questions the existing religious or political status quo," said Paul Wright, the executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center.

Activists see bans as an indictment of how prisoners are limited more broadly. Amy Peterson, a member of NYC Books Through Bars, which sends books to inmates in 40 states, said books were often sent back with little explanation.

"It does seem very much up to the person in the shipping room who's making these arbitrary decisions," she said. "I see it as one of the many ways that people are deprived of basic rights in prison."

But for many incarcerated people, the ban on "The New Jim Crow" does not seem arbitrary. In 2014, Dominic Passmore, a prisoner in Michigan, ordered the book after checking to make sure that it had not been banned in the state. When it arrived, according to state documents, the prison's mailroom staff refused to give it to him, citing its racial content.

Months later, after a series of appeals, the state decided that Mr. Passmore could read the book but informed him that he would have to buy a new copy, as it had misplaced his.

Mr. Passmore, who spent nine years behind bars after pleading no contest to armed robbery charges when he was 14, eventually read the book. He said that it opened his eyes to the wrongs done to black people.

"I feel like the reason why they tried to reject it is because they didn't want me to have that kind of knowledge," said Mr. Passmore, who was recently released.

Prison officials almost universally agree that certain books should be prohibited. Roger Werholtz, who served as secretary of corrections in Kansas and as interim executive director of corrections in Colorado, said that books that could interfere with safety, like instructions on how to pick locks or make weapons, or those that could incite disturbances, such as racist or white supremacist literature, were banned under his watch.

He said that he did not think banning Ms. Alexander's book for its arguments about race made sense.

"I would be pretty skeptical of that," he said. "That's not anything that you don't see in the newspaper. Frankly, most prison officials talk very openly about the overrepresentation of minorities."

Jason Hernandez, 40, was a 21-year-old first-time, nonviolent drug offender when he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Mr. Hernandez studied law in prison and filed his own appeals, only to see them denied. In 2010, he borrowed "The New Jim Crow" from the prison's library lending program.

It inspired him to start a grass-roots organization to help himself and other nonviolent drug offenders with life sentences. In September 2011, he appealed directly to Mr. Obama for clemency. His request was granted and he was released in 2015.

"They prevent books from going in there that could maybe help people escape," he said. "This is what this book did for me, and what it's done for hundreds of others."



3) Why New York Hires 200 People to Pretend They're Homeless

 JAN. 19, 2018




To gauge the accuracy of the annual count of homeless people on the streets, New York City commissions a "shadow count" of decoys, shown here in a training session.CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

One night a year, Javon Egyptt and Darryn Lubonski stage a performance on a New York City sidewalk. Dressed in layers, hats and extra socks, the couple pretends to be homeless.

They will join about 200 other decoys who will be paid to act as if they live on the street during the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate, the city's annual census of unsheltered homeless people, as a way gauging the count's accuracy.

Like many of the decoys, Ms. Egyptt and Mr. Lubonski have experienced homelessness, living in subway stations or parks, abandoned homes or on the streets.

"When New York City had a blizzard up to here," Ms. Egyptt said, placing her hand at her stomach, "I was on the street."

The city enlists thousands of volunteers for the four-hour, overnight canvass, an undertaking that would cost far more without the unpaid search parties. The decoys shoulder the responsibility of testing the accuracy of a survey carried out by volunteers who are sometimes too timid to approach homeless people or are too inattentive to spot them.

The annual count, scheduled for Monday, is part of a nationwide estimate of homelessness, which helps to determine annual federal grants.

The city uses the percentage of decoys who are not found as a margin of error, one of several factors used to come up with the final estimate. "All of our efforts here are essentially checking our work," said Steven Banks, the city's commissioner of social services.

The decoy program is known as the "shadow count," and the people who brave the cold year after year say they do it not for the pay of $85, but as a civic duty.

The city estimated that 3,900 people lived unsheltered during last year's census, accounting for about 5 percent of the city's 77,000 homeless people. Still, there was a 40 percent jump in street homelessness over the previous year, which city officials attributed to unseasonably warm weather. But advocates for homeless people have long argued that the unsheltered population is likely higher, since people find temporary relief with friends and family during inclement weather.

For the rest of the year, thousands of people choose the street over a warm shelter bed. Ms. Egyptt and Mr. Lubonski, 53, pointed to the lax security and squalid conditions of shelters.

"My boots got stolen. I got stabbed," Mr. Lubonski said.

"Mold in the showers," Ms. Egyptt said, shaking her head.

Ruby Garner, 56, who helps supervise the decoys, said she once lived in an abandoned building where she cooked food on a makeshift stove fashioned from bricks and candles. She said she slept on a bed of old clothes. "I had that apartment looking like it was mine," she said, laughing at her ingenuity.

She said the annual survey does not capture squatters who may be off the street but aren't in a shelter or a home. "If those enumerators really want to know, I could take them," she said.

The HOPE count, established in 2005, sticks to more visible, public spaces.

Decoys underwent training last week at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, which administers the shadow count under a $133,000 contract with the city. At two sessions on a Monday night, people hugged and greeted each other. Many of them only see each other once a year to prepare for the overnight endeavor. They shared advice and swapped stories as Christine H. Kim, the project manager for the count, went over logistics and dos and don'ts.

Decoys must work in pairs, standing or sitting 10 to 15 feet apart on a street, train or subway platform. Volunteers cannot be faulted for failing to find decoys who are not where they were supposed to be. "It's kind of like you're not even there," Ms. Kim told decoys.

But decoys also must not draw attention with signs or signals. "You don't want to do the job of the enumerators," she said. "You're tired. You're hungry. You have to go to the bathroom. But you let that enumerator pass you by."

Arvernetta Henry, a retired teacher in her late 60s, admitted that she and a partner once waved down volunteers who overlooked them as they stood under a bridge. "We're over here! We're over here!" said Ms. Henry, who used to be homeless. "This young group, they were so excited to find us. You would have thought they found a gold mine."

On average, about 90 percent of decoys are found, and most are found within two hours, revealing themselves after volunteers ask whether they have somewhere to live.

A decoy recalled that he was found at 12:05 a.m., barely having enough time for him to lean on a garbage can and for his partner to post up on a fence. But Ms. Kim cautioned, "There are always some unlucky people who are left out there until 4 a.m."

Most of the homeless in New York City are black, and many of the volunteers are white. Decoys at the training said a few white volunteers seemed afraid to approach them, and they blamed racism. "Maybe there was some racial tension," Ms. Kim said.

There is also tension within the decoy ranks.

A decoy blamed her partner's sleek outfit for volunteers passing them by on a Far Rockaway street last year. "I had my hair kind of crazy. She had a bag strapped around her like she was running," the woman said.

Some fellow decoys winced at her words, feeling that she harbored a misperception.

Attitudes that all street homeless people are mentally ill and bedraggled lead to undercounts, said Mr. Lubonski, recalling how volunteers failed to recognize Ms. Egyptt and him as they stood in front of a Manhattan subway entrance.

"When I was homeless, I looked just like this," he said, opening his arms. He wore khaki pants and sneakers.

During an interview, Ms. Egyptt wore a shearling bomber and swayed as if she were modeling. "They'll bypass me," she said. "There are people who are not homeless who smell."



4) Roe v. Wade Was About More Than Abortion

 JAN. 21, 2018




A woman waiting in the recovery area after her abortion at a clinic in Alabama.CreditMelissa Golden for The New York Times

The events planned to mark the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade have one main thing in common: They focus on abortion. In protesting Roe this year, March for Life celebrated a record low abortion rate, proclaiming that "love saves lives." California lawmakers introduced a resolution last year describing Roe as "the cornerstone of women's ability to control their reproductive lives."

But as the nation again considers the legacy of the country's best-known Supreme Court decision, issued on Jan. 22, 1973, we have mostly forgotten part of the story of Roe v. Wade — one almost entirely disconnected from abortion. In the 1970s and beyond, Americans used Roe to answer much larger questions: What does the right to privacy mean, and who can claim that right?

Because we so often identify Roe with a woman's right to choose, we forget that the original decision attracted the ire of feminists who believed that the court had focused too little on women's interests in fertility control. The court held that the right to privacy was broad enough to encompass a woman's decision, with her doctor, to terminate her pregnancy. The justices also reasoned that the government's interest in protecting fetal life did not become compelling until the point of viability.

But why wield the court's decision as a weapon for social change? Most scholars agreed that Roe was a poorly reasoned opinion. What was the appeal for grass-roots activists?

The answer is that Roe's definition of privacy seemed different. More than other Supreme Court decisions, it connected privacy to ideas about individual identity and choice. Whatever the flaws of the original decision, many hoped to use it to redefine who was thought to have autonomy and why.

Civil libertarians, feminists and supporters of L.G.B.T. rights argued that the right to privacy stated in the abortion decision covered other decisions about sexual intimacy. The American Civil Liberties Unionused Roe in defending sex workers, gays and lesbians, porn stars and women cohabiting with their boyfriends.

Conservatives as well as liberals invoked this newly articulated right to privacy. With the spread of computers, politicians like Barry Goldwater and his son, the former Republican representative Barry Goldwater Jr., pointed to Roe in demanding privacy protections for personal information.

Champions of consumers' rights read the abortion decision as suggesting that patients could choose any course of treatment, including unproven alternative remedies. Those seeking a right to die used it in the fight for autonomy at the end of life.

For more than a decade, Roe appealed to different groups exploring the untapped potential of the right to privacy. People on both the right and the left saw possible connections between privacy and individual interests in conscientious objection, self-determination and equal treatment.

So how did one decision 45 years ago become synonymous with abortion and nothing else? In part, other privacy fights fizzled when the coalitions backing new rights collapsed. Feminists and libertarians clashed about the line between sexual coercion and sexual privacy. Those who hoped to expand data privacy disagreed about when the government had a good enough reason to collect personal data.

Abortion foes and Republican politicians consciously tried to redefine Roe, equating the decision with abortion and judicial activism. Ronald Reagan had to assure social conservatives that he would pick federal judges who opposed abortion, but he also consistently promised to select nominees based on their accomplishments and judicial philosophy. Labeling Roe an activist decision helped Reagan and other Republicans strike this balance.

Abortion opponents initially did not take much interest in arguments about judicial activism, seeing them as a distraction from the fight for an amendment that would ban all abortions. But by the 1980s, it was obvious that a fetal rights amendment would not pass soon. Delegitimizing Roe suddenly seemed an important step toward the movement's new goal of overruling the 1973 decision.

On Roe's 45th anniversary, we should stop to think about where the right to privacy stands today. The picture does not seem very rosy. Since the new year, there have been fresh concerns about data breaches and the misuse of digital information by giants like Facebook and Google. Privacy and conscience have taken center stage as the Supreme Court considers whether a Christian baker can refuse to serve a same-sex couple. It is easy to believe that the right to privacy is ineffective, more likely to shore up a dissatisfying status quo.

But part of Roe's legacy is the many ways conservatives and liberals once reimagined the right to privacy. Social movements hardly felt constrained by what the Supreme Court had written.

Some pointed to privacy not just in asking for freedom from the government but also in demanding financial support from the state. Others asked not just to be left alone behind closed doors but also to get respect for relationships in public. People tried to use the right to privacy to transform attitudes about sexuality, death and the collection of digital data.

Americans have rethought the right to privacy before. There is no reason we couldn't do it again.



5) No Banking For You

Month after getting $3.5 billion tax break from Trump, Bank of America hikes fees on poorest customers

By Julia Conley

Common Dreams, January 23, 2018


Bank of America's anti-consumer practices have been the subject of numerous protests in recent years. Thousands demonstrated against the bank's foreclosures in 2011. (Photo: scad_lo/Flickr/cc)

Consumer advocates and banking customers are expressing outrage after an announcement by the Bank of America that it would begin charging fees to account-holders who maintain low balances.

The decision, announced Monday, January 22, 2018 comes a month after the Republican tax law gave the bank an expected $3.5 billion tax break, and less than a week after it posted $2.4 billion profits in the last quarter of 2017.

Critics argued that such news should garner at least as much attention as the bank's announcement last month that it would use some of the financial windfall to give its 145,000 employees a one-time bonus of $1,000 each—a relatively small portion of its tax savings.

Bank of America's free online checking accounts—popular with low-income customers—will now be subject to $12 monthly fees unless the customer has a direct deposit of at least $250 per-month or maintains a balance of at least $1,500.

Those impacted by the change will be the very people likely to overdraw their accounts due to their low wages, argue critics.

The fees could also drive customers away from banking altogether, adding to the 9.6 million Americans who don't use a bank account—forcing many to rely on check-cashing services, which can end up costing them hundreds of dollars annually.

Nearly 49,000 people had signed a Change.org petition by Tuesday demanding that the bank reconsider its decision.

"Many low income families do not meet these requirements," the creator of the petition wrote of the new fees. "There have been times where I've only had $10 to my name. That wouldn't even cover the maintenance fee."

A low-income account that charges only $4.95 per month will be available to customers, but those accounts come without paper checks, making them off-limits for people who use checks to pay bills and other necessities.

While tens-of-thousands have signed the petition, some customers announced they had had enough of the bank's unfair practices and would be closing their accounts in protest of the new policy.



6)  Death by Inequality

Poverty and racism are killing America's children

By Richard Eskow

Common Dreams, January 23, 2018


A child born in the U.S. is 76 percent more likely to die before reaching adulthood than a child born elsewhere in the developed world. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr/cc)

A new report concludes 600,000 children have died in the United States for no reason over a 50-year period. Thousands more will die this year, and next year, and the year after that. 600,000 is a lot of people. It's more than the population of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Or Oakland, California. Or Minneapolis, Minnesota. Or Omaha, Miami, Atlanta, and Milwaukee.

An entire city of children has been lost.

This is the real "death tax." It's a tax on poverty, a tax on race, a tax on political powerlessness. And it's paid with the lives of the innocent.

These deaths should have led every news broadcast and been a banner headline in every newspaper in the country. They would have been, if terrorists had killed these kids. After all, we changed our way of life after 3,000 people died on 9/11. But after the deaths of 600,000 children, nothing's changed at all.

Lost children

The report, published in the journal Health Affairs, compared child mortality in the United States with that of 19 other comparably developed nations. Here's what the authors found:

A child born in the U.S. is 76 percent more likely to die before reaching adulthood than a child born elsewhere in the developed world.

"From 2001 to 2010 the risk of death in the U.S. was 76 percent greater for infants and 57 percent greater for children ages one–19."

"During this decade, children ages 15–19 were eighty-two times more likely to die from gun homicide in the U.S. Over the fifty-year study period, the lagging U.S. performance amounted to over 600,000 excess deaths."

The leading cause of infant death was extreme immaturity, which was three times higher for American infants, followed by sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

For children aged 15 to 19, motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of death. Significantly, these accidents were twice as likely to result in death in the U.S. The second-leading cause of death was gunfire. American teens were 82 times more likely to die by gun than their peers in the comparison countries.

"There is not a single category for which the (comparison countries) had higher mortality rates than the U.S. over the last three decades of our analysis."

The United States spends more on healthcare than the other countries, but has worse outcomes.

Although it spent more on healthcare, the U.S. "spent significantly less of its gross domestic product per capita on child health and welfare programs, compared to other wealthy nations." These programs also affect child health.

A moral failure

The U.S., say the report's authors, is "the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into."

As the Los Angeles Times notes, "The study authors said their findings support the conclusions of the Institute of Medicine, which blamed a fragmented health system, poverty, a weak social safety net and other factors for 'poor health outcomes' in the U.S."

The authors reached the following conclusions:

"The care of children is a basic moral responsibility of our society. The U.S. outspends every other nation on healthcare per capita for children, yet outcomes remain poor."

"All U.S. policy makers, pediatric health professionals, child health advocates, and families should be troubled by these findings."

They also warn that Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts will make the situation even worse. And, as of this writing, Republicans in Congress have not renewed funding for the children's health insurance program known as CHIP. Parents are already being warned that their children's coverage could lapse as soon as next month if Congress doesn't act.

Medical apartheid

The Health Affairs report is new, but we've known about the systemic injustices in our healthcare system for a long time. African-American infant mortality rates are 2.2 times higher than those of non-Hispanic whites. They were 3.2 times more likely to die from complications due to low birth weight, and experienced more than twice the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Racial disparities are even more pronounced when they are combined with geographic differences. The infant mortality rate in Mississippi is the highest in the country. At 9.4 deaths-per-thousand, that state is closer to Costa Rica, Botswana, and Sri Lanka than it is to the overall United States.

2015 study found that infants born in Washington D.C.'s poorest neighborhood were ten-times more likely to die than its richest infants. That neighborhood, Ward 8, was 93.5 percent Black at the time. It also found that the nation's capital has a higher infant mortality rate than any other capital in the developed world.

Another recent infant mortality report found something else significant: The white, non-Hispanic infant mortality rate ranged from a low of 2.52 deaths per 1,000 in Washington, DC to a high of 7.04 in Arkansas. That difference is, of itself, an injustice.

The mortality rate for Black infants ranged from a low of 8.27 per 1,000 in Massachusetts to a high of 14.28 in Wisconsin. That means a Black infant born in Wisconsin faces the same likelihood of death as an infant born in the West Bank of Palestine. She or he is more likely to die than an infant born in Colombia, or Jamaica, or Venezuela, or Tunisia.

Something else is striking about these race-based statistics: The country's worst white infant mortality rate is better than its best Black rate. That is apartheid, and it is a moral crime.

Racial and economic barriers

2011 study compared World Health Organization data from the U.S. and 19 countries and found that the U.S. had the worst child mortality rates. Using a UNICEF standard of measurement, it concluded that "the USA healthcare system appears the least efficient and effective in 'meeting the needs of its children'."

Meeting the needs of our children: why can't we do it?

Many parents can't afford adequate healthcare for either expectant mothers or children. Many of the same parents also face barriers of entrenched racism. A news brief from the University of California, San Francisco offers the striking anecdote of "an ER physician who had lost a document and was searching frantically for it in the garbage bins behind…San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. What he found instead in the mountain of rubbish were crumpled prescription slips that patients had tossed in hospital trash cans throughout the week."

They had been tossed, not because parents didn't care, but because they couldn't afford to pay for the medications their children needed.

The brief goes on to describe physicians' efforts to provide care in the face of poverty, including "the nurse trying to help a mom living in a single-room-occupancy hotel find refrigeration for her son's antibiotic before an infection ruptures his second eardrum."

2017 survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that 22 percent of African Americans reported that they avoided needed medical care because of fear of discrimination, and more than half did not go to the doctor when they needed care because of cost.

A similar survey of Hispanic Americans found that 17 percent avoiding medical care out of fear of discrimination, while 58 percent reported that they did not seek medical care because of the cost.

Insurance matters, too. A 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine (U.S.) Committee on the Consequences of Uninsurance concluded that "Uninsured women receive fewer prenatal care services than their insured counterparts and report greater difficulty in obtaining the care that they believe they need."

That report also found, unsurprisingly, that "Health insurance status affects the care received by women giving birth and their newborns. Uninsured women and their newborns receive, on average, less prenatal care and fewer expensive perinatal services."

It concluded, "Uninsured newborns are more likely to have adverse outcomes, including low birth weight and death, than are insured newborns."

Poverty sickens

Poverty itself makes people sick.

Environmental problems plague lower-income communities and communities of color. Jasmine Bell listed five of the environmental injustices faced by communities of color, including higher exposure to air pollution; greater proximity to landfills, toxic waste sites, and industrial facilities; higher rates of lead poisoning; water contamination; and greater vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

Each of these factors can directly affect the health of children. An in-depth report in Scientific American, "Pollution, Poverty and People of Color: Children at Risk," detailed the harmful health effects of environmental pollution and chronic stress. The complex relationship between poverty and health was explored further in a journal article entitled "Epigenetics and Understanding the Impact of Social Determinants of Health."

Low-income housing can make you sick, too. A report for the Philadelphia Department of Health outlined the harmful impact of inadequate housing on children's health. Housing can cause or exacerbate asthma, lead poisoning, and physical injury, and can inflict emotional harm on both parents and children.

Childhood obesity is singled out in the Health Affairs study. It's worse among poor children, and its effects are more severe. Other factors affecting child health include nutrition for both mothers and children.

Inequality: economic, medical, and political

The 2018 World Inequality Report (by Alvarado, Chancel, Piketty, Saez, and Zucman) found that "the divergence in inequality levels has been particularly extreme between Western Europe and the United States, which had similar levels of inequality in 1980 but today are in radically different situations."

Today, according to a related paper, the top one percent earn more than 20 percent of the nation's income, up from ten percent in the 1970s. The share going to the bottom 50 percent of earners fell from 20 percent of national income to 12 percent.

Why do we spend more on healthcare than other countries, and get less in return? There are many answers to that question. One of them is inequality of care. Some people can afford all the medical treatment they need. Others, even those with health insurance, may struggle to get needed care. Others have no way of affording it. And our system permits financial exploitation by pharmaceutical companies and other for-profit players, leaving less money for actual care.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Phillip Alston, recently visited the United States. In an eloquent and comprehensive statement at the end of that visit, Alston noted the erosion of democracy in the U.S. and said:

"My visit coincides with a dramatic change of direction in U.S. policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty…The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by the President and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes."

GOP games

To be clear, the problems with U.S. child mortality began well before the 1980s, when inequality began to soar. But inequality makes the problem worse, and the growing political power of the wealthy makes it more difficult to find solutions. Healthcare remains inaccessible to millions of Americans, with that number about to increase dramatically. 40 million Americans are still impoverished, including more than one child in five.

Antipoverty programs reduced the national poverty rate from 26 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2015 but, as the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities has documented, that figure would return to its 1967 levels if those programs were eliminated.

That's why authors of the Health Affairs report are so concerned about Trump's budget and its impact on child mortality in this country. It's why we should all be concerned about the Republicans' refusal to renew the CHIP program, at least so far.

Sure, House Speaker Paul Ryan talks a good game about this critical program. But, as Dylan Matthews points out, he's had more than enough time to protect it. Worse, Ryan's lifelong ideology of stripping the poor of even minimal government support stands in opposition to programs like CHIP—and his ideology is shared by many members of his party.

The Republicans may pass some version of it eventually, if only out of fear of the political consequences. But for now, unfortunately, they're holding it—and the nine million American children who depend on it—hostage, as part of their budget gamesmanship.

White indifference

We're willing to keep tens-of-millions of Americans in perpetual poverty, and to sacrifice the children of poor and working Americans, to perpetuate a system that gives us growing inequality and the loss of political and economic power. Why are we so indifferent to these children?

In part, it's a problem of white indifference. Contrary to popular white assumptions, 31 percent of poor children are white, and 24 percent are Black. 36 percent are Hispanic, and one percent are indigenous. But most white people probably don't know that. Their racial stereotypes allow them to assume that the poor are "other." For some, that results in a lack of empathy.

Nevertheless, people of color are hardest hit by poverty. Although they are not the largest group of the poor, they are disproportionately affected because they are minorities. Overall, only 14 percent of white toddlers and infants in this country is poor. By contrast, 42 percent of all Black children in this group are poor. So are one-third of all Hispanic children, and 37 percent of Native American children.

But most white people don't know that, and many don't care.

Sexism and child health

Sexism is also a major source of the problem. Child health depends heavily on a mother's health, both during pregnancy and afterwards. Our culture, political and otherwise, has been notoriously indifferent—if not downright hostile—to the health needs of American women.

The needs of working women are also a subject of political neglect. Wage theft, unplanned shift changes, low wages, hostile work environments, lack of family leave: all these factors make life hard for working mothers to provide for their children, give them a healthy environment, and get them the medical care they need.

Even the subject of children's health itself is often treated as a "women's issue," as if men don't care about their kids. In our sick political life, it's not helpful when something is labeled a "women's issue."

Money talks

Then there's greed. In our oligarchical political system, neither child health nor income inequality can be addressed without mildly inconveniencing the very wealthy.

Democratic politicians aren't talking enough about this issue, either. That's partially because they need donors, too. And they, like others, follow the media's lead more than they guide it.

Perhaps they, and the well-intentioned voters who support them, could spend less time mocking the personal qualities of Republicans they don't like and more time talking about the deaths of American children.

Breaking the circle

The child mortality study begins in 1961. The youngest child to die needlessly that year would be 56 years old today, and the oldest would in her seventies. Many of them would have had children, and grandchildren, of their own. Theirs are the faces we don't see, the voices we don't hear. Their thoughts and ideas and deeds, which might have enriched our lives in so many ways, will never be expressed.

Poverty and inequality are not the only cause of child death, of course. But they are leading factors. The policies being pursued today will lead to more poor people, and fewer services to care for their children's health and well-being.

We can't address poverty or inadequate healthcare without addressing inequality. And we can't do that without paying more attention to the deaths of America's children.

If terrorists had taken their lives, we'd hear about it night and day. But these children were killed instead by bigotry, political cynicism, and greed. Politicians and the press will keep looking the other way, and the deaths will continue.

Unless the public demands that they stop.

Common Dreams, January 23, 2018




7)  I Was Tortured in Gay Conversion Therapy. And It's Still Legal in 41 States.

JAN. 24, 2018




A same-sex couple demonstrating in California in 2015. CreditDavid McNew/Getty Images

In the early 2000s, when I was a middle schooler in Florida, I was subjected to a trauma that was meant to erase my existence as a newly out bisexual. My parents were Southern Baptist missionaries who believed the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy could "cure" my sexuality.

I sat on a couch over two years and endured emotionally painful sessions with a counselor. I was told that my faith community rejected my sexuality; that I was the abomination we had heard about in Sunday school; that I was the only gay person in the world; that it was inevitable I would get H.I.V. and AIDS.

But we didn't stop with these hurtful talk-therapy sessions. The therapist ordered me bound to a table to have ice, heat and electricity applied to my body. I was forced to watch clips on a television of gay men holding hands, hugging and having sex. I was supposed to associate those images with the pain I was feeling to once and for all turn me into a straight boy. In the end it didn't work. But I would say that it did, just to make the pain go away.

I have begun to repair the damage that conversion therapy caused me and my family. But the failed promise of change has likely caused a permanent tear in our relationship.

Many think that conversion therapy — the snake oil idea that you can forcibly change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity — is an artifact of the past, a medieval torture practice. But in fact it is still legal in 41 states, including so-called progressive ones like New York and Massachusetts. New York City only fully banned the practice last month.

Today I am proudly bisexual and genderfluid and I serve as the head of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for L.G.B.T.Q. youth. We constantly hear from survivors of conversion therapy who have been so hurt that they are contemplating suicide. So we know the scope of the problem.

A new report tells us just how huge it is. Nearly 700,000 adults in the country have received conversion therapy at some point, including about 350,000 who received the treatment as adolescents, according to a study by the Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy at U.C.L.A.

It is heartbreaking that the study estimates that 20,000 L.G.B.T.Q. teens will receive conversion therapy from a health care professional before they turn 18. An even larger number of youth, an estimated 57,000 teens, will receive the treatment from a religious or spiritual adviser before adulthood.

Every prominent professional health association, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among many others, oppose the use of conversion therapy on youth, calling it harmful and ineffective.

The practice can be performed by a licensed therapist in an office, in a correctional-style campground, by a parent continuously punishing a child for acting too feminine, or by a pastor who wants to pray the gay away. The trauma of conversion therapy can cause depression, suicidal ideation, family rejection and a whole host of horrors that children must then face without the knowledge that mental health professionals are supposed to help rather than harm.

That's why we are leading a campaign to pass legislation to ban conversion therapy in every state. Working with partners across the country — in particular the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign — we've made significant progress. Nine states, the District of Columbia and 32 localities have laws protecting kids under the age of 18 from receiving conversion therapy from licensed health care professionals. The Williams Institute study shows that 6,000 teens would have undergone treatment before they reached 18 if their state had not banned the practice.

In the past couple of weeks, Virginia, Washington, Arizona and Missouri have introduced bills to ban conversion therapy.

But there are still challenges in stopping this barbaric practice. In fact, New Hampshire recently rejected an effort to protect L.G.B.T.Q. youth from conversion therapy with a close vote in the Legislature being swayed in favor of allowing conversion therapy to continue; many legislators falsely believe that no such practice could exist. The new data from the Williams Institute shows just how wrong they were.

I vividly remember calling The Trevor Project a decade ago as a young college student who was just realizing that the trauma of conversion therapy had devastated my ability to cope with the myriad challenges L.G.B.T.Q. youth must survive on a daily basis. I now hear similar stories of calls just like mine.

We must pass legislation to stop licensed therapists that seek to harm L.G.B.T.Q. youth with conversion therapy. Everyone should know that you can't change what you never chose.



8) School Shooting in Kentucky Was Nation's 11th of Year. It Was Jan. 23.

JAN. 23, 2018



Clockwise from top left: Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky.; Italy High School in Italy, Tex.; and the Net Charter School in New Orleans have all had campus shootings in recent days.CreditClockwise from top left: David Rolfe/The Winston-Salem Journal, via Associated Press; Ryan Hermens/The Paducah Sun, via Associated Press; KDFW Fox4, via Associated Press; Emily Kask

ATLANTA — On Tuesday, it was a high school in small-town Kentucky. On Monday, a school cafeteria outside Dallas and a charter school parking lot in New Orleans. And before that, a school bus in Iowa, a college campus in Southern California, a high school in Seattle.

Gunfire ringing out in American schools used to be rare, and shocking. Now it seems to happen all the time.

The scene in Benton, Ky., on Tuesday was the worst so far in 2018: Two 15-year-old students were killed and 18 more people were injured. But it was one of at least 11 shootings on school property recorded since Jan. 1, and roughly the 50th of the academic year.

Researchers and gun control advocates say that since 2013, they have logged school shootings at a rate of about one a week.

"We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings, and I think that will continue," said Katherine W. Schweit, a former senior F.B.I. official and the co-author of a study of 160 active shooting incidents in the United States.

Some of the shootings at schools this year were suicides that injured no one else; some did not result in any injuries at all. But in the years since the massacres at Columbine High School in Colorado, Virginia Techand Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., gun safety advocates say, all school shootings seem to have lost some of their capacity to shock.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun safety group, said that's because in 2012 in Newtown, "20 first graders and six educators were slaughtered in an elementary school."

"The news cycles are so short right now in America, and there's a lot going on," she said. "But you would think that shootings in American schools would be able to clear away some of that clutter."

Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky said the gunman who opened fire Tuesday morning at Marshall County High School in Benton, near the western tip of the state was a 15-year-old student. The authorities said the student entered the school just before 8 a.m., fired shots that struck 14 people, and set off a panicked flight in which five more were hurt.

One girl who was shot, Bailey Nicole Holt, died at the scene; a boy, Preston Ryan Cope, died of his injuries at a hospital.

Bryson Conkwright, a junior at the school, said he was talking with a friend on Tuesday morning when he spotted the gunman walking up near him. "It took me a second to process it," Mr. Conkwright, 17, said in an interview. "One of my best friends got shot in the face, and then another one of my best friends was shot in the shoulder."

He said he was part of a group of students who fled, kicked down a door to get outside and ran.

The suspect, who was not immediately identified, was taken into custody in "a nonviolent apprehension," Mr. Bevin said, and officials said he would be charged with two counts of murder and several counts of attempted murder. But the authorities had not yet decided whether to charge the suspect, who was armed with a pistol, as a juvenile or as an adult.

Of the 18 people injured, five remained in critical condition, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday night.

"This is something that has struck in the heart of Kentucky," Lt. Michael B. Webb of Kentucky State Police said at a news conference. "It's not far away, it's here."

Not for the first time. The region was scarred about two decades ago by deadly school shooting in West Paducah, about a 40-minute drive away. Three people were killed when a student opened fire into a prayer circle, and five more were injured.

Benton is a small town about 200 miles southwest of Louisville, and its high school serves students from all over Marshall County, which has a population of about 31,000.

John Parks, who owns the Fisherman's Headquarters store about a mile from the school, described the area as a "very close-knit community" where just about everyone would have known a student at the school. "It's personal when it's a small town like this," he said.

About a mile from the high school, a large American flag flew at half-staff over a Ponderosa Steakhouse on Tuesday night. Taylor McCuiston, 21, a manager at the restaurant who graduated from Marshall County High School two years ago, was working when the shooting occurred down the road.

"It was very scary because, like, 90 percent of the staff that works here goes to that school," she said. "So for the first hour we were just scrambling trying to make sure they were all O.K. and accounted for."

The town of Italy, Tex., is not any bigger than Benton. On Monday, a 15-year-old girl there was hospitalized after she was shot by a 16-year-old classmate, according to local news reports. That suspect, a boy, was taken into custody by the Ellis County Sheriff's Department. The authorities said on Tuesday that the victim was recovering.

The F.B.I. study that Ms. Schweit helped write examined active shooter episodes in the United States between 2000 and 2013. It found that nearly one-quarter of them occurred in educational environments, and they were on the rise.

In the first half of the study period, federal officials counted 16 active shooter incidents in educational settings, meaning instances of a person "actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area." In the second half, the number rose to 23. (Many, but not all, of the school shootings tallied by advocates so far this year meet that definition.)

"Any time there's a school shooting, it's more gut-wrenching, and I think we have a tendency to react in a more visceral way," Ms. Schweit said in an interview on Tuesday. "But I really don't think as a whole, in society, we're taking shootings more seriously than we were before — and that's wrong."

Even so, jarred and fearful school administrators across the country have been placing greater emphasis on preparing for the possibility of an active shooter. According to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office in March 2016, 19 states were requiring individual schools to have plans for how to deal with an active shooter. Only 12 states required schools to conduct drills, but two-thirds of school districts reported that they had staged active shooter exercises.

School safety experts say steps like the drills are crucial, if imperfect, safeguards.

"I think we've become somewhat desensitized to the fact that these things happened, and it takes a thing like Sandy Hook to bring us back to our senses," said William Modzeleski, a consultant who formerly led the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.

"My fear is that if you don't hear about a school shooting for a while, educators move on to other things," he said. "Principals are busy. Teachers are busy. Superintendents are busy."

In Kentucky, lawmakers have grappled with how to address the risk of school shootings. Last year, state legislators considered, but did not pass, a bill that would have allowed people with concealed-carry permits to bring weapons on to public school campuses, where proponents argue they could be used to respond to active shooters. A similar bill, limited to college campuses and certain other government buildings, has been introduced this year. It was not immediately clear how the shooting in Benton might affect the debate in Frankfort, the Kentucky capital.

But in Benton, "this is a wound that is going to take a long time to heal," said Mr. Bevin, the governor, " and for some in this community, will never fully heal."

Alan Blinder reported from Atlanta and Daniel Victor from New York. Steven Hale contributed reporting from Benton, Ky., and Timothy Williams and Matthew Haag from New York.



9)  Court Clears Man Who Waited 7 Years for Trial on Pot Charges

JAN. 23, 2018




Joseph Tigano, right, spent nine years in prison, seven of them while awaiting trial. A federal appeals court called it the most egregious trial delay it had ever seen and vacated his sentence.CreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

It was after his third mental competency test, all of which he passed, that Joseph Tigano started getting desperate. After all, by that point he had spent six years locked inside the Niagara County, N.Y., jail, awaiting trial on a charge of growing pot. It would be another year before the trial began.

The wheels of justice are known for turning slowly, but they moved so sluggishly in Mr. Tigano's case that on Tuesday, the United States Appeals Court for the Second Circuit issued a scathing opinion dismissing his indictment. In the opinion, the court said the case was the most egregious trial delay it had ever seen, implicating everyone whom Mr. Tigano had come in contact with: judges, lawyers, prosecutors, United States marshals, even a court reporter.

"No single, extraordinary factor caused the cumulative seven years of pretrial delay," the appellate judges wrote. "Instead, the outcome was the result of countless small choices and neglects."

The court released Mr. Tigano in November, two years into a 20-year sentence and nine years after his arrest. But the opinion issued Tuesday was the first detailed account of why he had been freed.

Mr. Tigano's listless prosecution began in July 2008 when agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration descended on his property in Cattaraugus, N.Y., an hour south of Buffalo, and discovered what the government described as a "hydroponic marijuana grow operation" of more than 1,000 plants. He and his father, Joseph Tigano Sr., were charged with marijuana distribution and were scheduled to appear in court in March 2009.

After the father asked for a brief delay, the parties met in Federal District Court in Buffalo that April. During the hearing, the opinion said, Mr. Tigano, 53, was eager to get things moving and reminded the court at least 10 times of his right to a speedy trial. The behavior struck his lawyer, Thomas Farley, as unusual. Mr. Farley requested that his client take a mental competency test.

Four months later, the results came back: Mr. Tigano was perfectly fit for trial. But he was also angry at Mr. Farley for having forced him to take the test and asked the court if he could represent himself. Another month went by as the court considered his request and assigned a "standby" lawyer to assist him. Then, in January 2010, the second lawyer asked for a competency test. Four months later, it produced the same result: Mr. Tigano was fine.

Over the next two years, the court said, Mr. Tigano's case became mired in "confusion among judges" and various other "small neglects." There were three different jurists handling different aspects of the case, and they often found themselves awaiting the others' decisions. The government was also slow in turning over discovery material, according to the opinion. At one point, as an important hearing neared, a court reporter filed a transcript nearly four months late.

By July 2012, Mr. Tigano had finally had enough and agreed to open plea negotiations with the government. (His father pleaded guilty one year later and was sentenced to time served.) But even Mr. Tigano's plea discussions were hindered by delays. The prosecutor on his case had been assigned another trial, and Mr. Tigano took a "back seat within the U.S. attorney's office," according to the opinion. Things were slowed down further when Mr. Tigano's lawyer tried to persuade him to take the guilty plea, which he had started to have doubts about, complaining it was taking too long.

In September 2013, all of the parties agreed to come to court to schedule a trial. But the government and Judge William M. Skretny had trouble picking a date because of what the opinion called "congested calendars." Though a trial was eventually set for that December, Judge Skretny decided to delay it, advising Mr. Tigano to reconsider his plea. "You spent some time in jail," he said. "I don't think waiting until January is going to really materially affect anything."

It was at this point that a strange case took an even stranger turn. In January 2014, Mr. Tigano's standby lawyer filed a motion asking the court to force her client to take a third competency test. She was concerned, the motion said, that "in refusing to plead guilty and insisting on his right to a trial," Mr. Tigano was acting "imprudently." Judge Skretny referred the matter to one of his magistrates, saying, "Whatever time it takes, it takes."

The magistrate ordered Mr. Tigano to undergo a 15-day examination at Manhattan's federal jail — and that, too, was delayed when the warden there reported that the jail had a "high volume of cases." When he finished the test on May 2, 2014, he was once again deemed fit to stand trial. But instead of returning him to Buffalo, the Marshal Service, which often transports prisoners, "seems to have lost track" of him, the order said. He missed two pretrial hearings, which led to more delays.

Finally, on May 4, 2015 — six years, nine months and 26 days after his arrest — Mr. Tigano's trial began.

A jury found him guilty four days later.

"It was shocking what happened here — how the system showed a flagrant disregard to his right to a speedy trial," said Gary Stein, a lawyer who handled Mr. Tigano's appeal. "There was no reason why he should have endured seven years of pretrial incarceration for a one-week trial. Things like this aren't supposed to happen."























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