It is so beautiful to see young people in this country rising up to demand an end to gun violence. But what is Donald Trump's response? Instead of banning assault weapons, he wants to give guns to teachers and militarize our schools. But one of the reasons for mass school shootings is precisely because our schools are already militarized. Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was trained by U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program while he was in high school.

Yesterday, Divest from the War Machine coalition member, Pat Elder, was featured on Democracy Now discussing his recent article about the JROTC in our schools. The JROTC teaches children how to shoot weapons. It is often taught by retired soldiers who have no background in teaching. They are allowed to teach classes that are given at least equal weight as classes taught by certified and trained teachers. We are pulling our children away from classes that expand their minds and putting them in classes that teach them how to be killing machines. The JROTC program costs our schools money. It sends equipment. But, the instructors and facilities must be constructed and paid for by the school.

The JROTC puts our children's futures at risk. Children who participate in JROTC shooting programs are exposed to lead bullets from guns. They are at an increased risk when the shooting ranges are inside. The JROTC program is designed to "put a jump start on your military career." Children are funneled into JROTC to make them compliant and to feed the military with young bodies which are prepared to be assimilated into the war machine. Instead of funneling children into the military, we should be channeling them into jobs that support peace and sustainable development. 

Tell Senator McCain and Representative Thornberry to take the war machine out of our schools! The JROTC program must end immediately. The money should be directed back into classrooms that educate our children.

The Divest from the War Machine campaign is working to remove our money from the hands of companies that make a killing on killing. We must take on the systems that keep fueling war, death, and destruction around the globe. AND, we must take on the systems that are creating an endless cycle of children who are being indoctrinated at vulnerable ages to become the next killing machine.  Don't forget to post this message on Facebook and Twitter.

Onward in divestment,

Ann, Ariel, Brienne, Jodie, Kelly, Kirsten, Mark, Medea, Nancy, Natasha, Paki, Sarah, Sophia and Tighe

P.S. Do you want to do more? Start a campaign to get the JROTC out of your school district or state. Email divest@codepink.org and we'll get you started!



by Rachel Wolkenstein




Please join Women for Genuine Security to 

celebrate International Women's Day 

with a Ceremony at the Comfort Women 

Memorial in San Francisco. 

Saturday March 10, 2-3.30pm

at St. Mary's Square Park

651 California St, between Kearny and Grant St, Chinatown, San Francisco.
There is a playground and parking lot (entrance on Kearny).
Children and families are invited.

This event will make connections between WWII Comfort Women
and current forms of systemic violence impacting women.
- Women victims of war
- Missing and murdered indigenous women
- Migrant women at the US-Mexico Border
- Women impacted by US military bases in Asia and the Pacific

Bay Area organizations will make small altars to honor and lift up courageous women who are refusing to remain invisible, speaking truth, and resisting injustice.  

Please spread the word about this. https://www.facebook.com/events/182380505707156

Women for Genuine Security with CODEPINK San Francisco, Comfort Women Justice Coalition, Indian People Organizing for Change, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, Nikkei Resisters, One Heart for Justice, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom EAST BAY and SF.

to unsubscribe from this list http://lists.riseup.net/www/sigrequest/bayareacodepinkaction





Saturday March 24


5:00 PM - 8:00 PM

iCal Import this event into your personal calendar.

Location Details

Red Bay Coffee Roastery, Bar & Garden, 3098 E 10th St, Oakland (Near Fruitvale Bart)

Event Type



California Coalition for Women Prisoners


info [at] womenprisoners.org


415-255-7036 x 4

Drop LWOP Town Hall will feature a panel of formerly incarcerated women describing the injustice of the Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) sentence which condemns over 5,000 people in California prisons to a living death sentence. With food from Mamacitas Cafe, a raffle, and items for sale made by people living inside women's prisons. Donations Requested: $5-20. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Added to the calendar on Sunday Feb 25th, 2018 8:27 PM



A Call for a National Conference to
Organize a Fightback to Defeat Austerity

Stop the war by the banks, corporations
and government on the workers and poor

Saturday March 24, 2018

Historic St. Matthews-St. Joseph's Church

8850 Woodward Avenue

(between Holbrook and King)

Detroit, MI 48202


Special Conference Guest:
Ricardo Santos Ramos, former President,
Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER),
Puerto Rico.

To endorse, email defeatausterity@gmail.com

All progressive activists and organizations are invited to participate in the National Conference to Defeat Austerity taking place in Detroit on Saturday, March 24. The purpose of this gathering is to map out a strategy for defeating the war being waged by the banks, corporations and government against the workers and oppressed. Capitalism cannot continue unchallenged while our very lives are being jeopardized by the ruling elites who are determined to grow richer and more powerful at our expense while whipping up white supremacy, an anti-immigrant offensive, attacks on women and anti-LGBTQ bigotry to keep our class divided.

Detroit along with colonized Puerto Rico has been at the epicenter of bank-imposed austerity against the workers and oppressed in this hemisphere. But every U.S. city, from Chicago to Baltimore to Cleveland to Milwaukee, from New York City to Oakland and Seattle, has felt the brunt of this attack in the form of cutbacks, school closings, mass transit cuts, water shutoffs, gentrification and destruction of public service unions.

The Trump tax plan and Pentagon war build-up continue the massive transfer of wealth to the rich at the expense of the poor. This war by the banks and on the workers and poor is an international phenomenon spanning every continent. On March 24, we will hammer out a program on how to fight back against the corporations, the banks and their lackeys in government at all levels.

The Conference will discuss these issues in depth from the perspective of how they all are products of a capitalist system where profits are everything and people mean nothing. We will mobilize support for making May Day 2018 an anti-Austerity Day, as well as lending solidarity to the Poor Peoples Campaign. We will outline a program of action in solidarity with all movements working for social change and transformation.

For information on housing, please email Sharon at sfsharonfeldman@live.com 

If you need child care, please email your request to defeatausterity@gmail.com 

Please indicate your intent to participate in the conference by registering at CONFERENCE REGISTRATION.

Finally, donations are needed to cover the cost of the conference. Click here to donate online or write a check to Moratorium NOW, add #DefeatAusterity in the memo line, and mail the check to:

Moratorium NOW! Coalition

5920 Second Ave.

Detroit, MI 48202



Tell the Feds: End Draft Registration

This morning, in a small community college classroom in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a newly formed federal commission  scheduled its first public hearing on the future of draft registration in the United States. "The bipartisan, 11-member Commission was created by Congress to review the military selective service process," notes their press release. In addition to eight more (yet to be scheduled) public hearings across the United States over the next two years, the commission has invited feedback via a webform here.

Courage to Resist Podcast: The Future of Draft Registration in the United States

We had draft registration resister Edward Hasbrouck on the Courage to Resistpodcast this week to explain what's going on. Edward talks about his own history of going to prison for refusing to register for the draft in 1983, the background on this new federal commission, and he addresses liberal arguments in favor of involuntary service. Edward explains: 

When you say, "I'm not willing to be drafted", you're saying, "I'm going to make my own choices about which wars we should be fighting", and when you say, "You should submit to the draft", you're saying, "You should let the politicians decide for you."

What's happening right now is that a National Commission … has been appointed to study the question of whether draft registration should be continued, whether it should be expanded to make women, as well as men register for the draft, whether a draft itself should be started, whether there should be some other kind of Compulsory National Service enacted.

The Pentagon would say, and it's true, they don't want a draft. It's not plan A, but it's always been plan B, and it's always been the assumption that if we can't get enough volunteers, if we get in over our head, if we pick a larger fight than we can pursue, we always have that option in our back pocket that, "If not enough people volunteer, we're just going to go go to the draft, go to the benches, and dragoon enough people to fight these wars."

[This] is the first real meaningful opportunity for a national debate about the draft in decades.


484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559

















Tuesday, March 27, 8:00 A.M.

Court Hearing

Room 1108, Criminal Justice Center

1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia

In a court case that could eventually lead to Mumia Abu-Jamal's freedom, Judge Leon Tucker has ordered the District Attorney's office to present new testimony in reference to Ronald Castille. A Status Hearing will take place Feb.26 followed by a court hearing on March 27.

Castille is a former PA Supreme Court

judge who refused to disqualify

Himself when Mumia's case came before the court despite having been the Philadelphia District Attorney during Mumia's prior appeals. The US Supreme Court has ruled such conduct unconstitutional.

The people's movement forced the courts to take Abu-Jamal off death row in 2011 but his freedom was not won. Despite his innocence he was re-sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

As an innocent man, Mumia must be freed! It is even more urgent that he gain his freedom because he is suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, severe itching and other ailments.

International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, International Action Center, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (NYC), Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, Educators for Mumia; Food Not Bombs Solidarity

What you can do:

 Call DA Larry Krasner at (215)686-8000.

Tell him to release all DA and police files on Mumia to the public.

Tell the DA to release Mumia because he's factually innocent.

 Pack the court on 2/26 and 3/27.


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 



Major George Tillery

A Case of Gross Prosecutorial Misconduct and Police Corruption

Sexual Favors and Hotel Rooms Provided by Police to Prosecution Fact Witness for Fabricated Testimony During Trial

By Nancy Lockhart, M.J.

August 24, 2016

Corruption in The State of Pennsylvania is being exposed with a multitude of public officials indicted by the US Attorney's office in 2015 and 2016.  A lengthy list of extortion, theft, and corruption in public service includes a former Solicitor, Treasurer and Veteran Police Officer  U.S. Department of Justice Corruption Prosecutions.  On Monday August 15, 2016 Pennsylvania State Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane was found guilty of all nine counts in a perjury and obstruction case related to a grand jury leak.  Pennsylvania's Attorney General Convicted On All Counts - New York Times

Although this is a small sampling of decades long corruption throughout the state of Pennsylvania, Major George Tillery has languished in prison over 31 years because of prosecutorial misconduct and police corruption. Tillery was tried and convicted in 1985 in a trial where prosecutors and police created a textbook criminal story for bogus convictions. William Franklin was charged as a co-conspirator in the shootings, he was tried and convicted in December of 1980, because he refused to lie on Tillery.  Franklin is 69 years old according to the PADOC website and has been in prison 36 years. 

Major Tillery Is Not Represented by an Attorney and Needs Your Assistance to Retain One. Donate to Major Tillery's Legal Defense FundMajor Tillery, PA DOC# AM9786, will turn 66-years-old on September 9, 2016 and has spent over three decades in prison for crimes he did not commit. Twenty of those 31 plus years were spent in solitary confinement. Tillery has endured many very serious medical issues and medical neglect.  Currently, he is plagued with serious illnesses that include hepatitis C, stubborn skin rashes, dangerous intestinal disorders and a degenerative hip. His orthopedic shoes were taken by prison administrators and never returned.

Tillery, was convicted of homicide, assault, weapons and conspiracy charges in 1985, for the poolroom shootings which left one man dead and another wounded. William Franklin was the pool room operator at the time. The shooting occurred on October 22, 1976.  

Falsified testimony was the only evidence presented during trial. No other evidence linked Tillery to the 1976 shootings, except for the testimony of two jailhouse informants. Both men swore that they had received no promises, agreements, or deals in exchange for their testimony. Barbra Christie, the trial prosecutor, insisted to the Court and Jury that these witnesses were not given any plea agreements or sentencing promises. That was untrue.

Newly discovered evidence is the sole basis for Tillery's latest Pro Se filing. According to the  Post Conviction Relief Petition Filed June 15, 2016, evidence proves that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania committed fraud on the Court and Jury which undermined the fundamentals of due process. The newly discovered evidence in sworn declarations is from two prosecution fact witnesses. Those two witnesses provided the entirety of trial evidence against Major Tillery. The declarations explain false testimonies manufactured by the prosecution with the assistance of police detectives/investigators. On August 19, 2016 Judge Leon Tucker filed a Notice of Intent to Dismiss Major's PCRA petition.  Notice to Dismiss

Emanuel Claitt Has Come Forth to Declare His Testimony as Manufactured and Fabricated by Police and Prosecutors. Claitt states that his testimony during trial was fabricated and coerced by Assistant District Attorney Barbara Christie, Detectives John Cimino and James McNeshy.  Claitt swore that he was promised a very favorable plea agreement and treatment in his pending criminal cases.  Claitt was granted sexual favors in exchange for his false testimony. Claitt states that he was allowed to have sex with four different women in the homicide interview rooms and in hotel rooms in exchange for his cooperation. 

Prosecution fact witness Emanuel Claitt states in his  Declaration of Emanuel Claitt, and Emanuel Claitt Supplemental Declaration that testimony against Major Tillery was fabricated, coerced and coached by Assistant District Attorney's Leonard Ross, Barbara Christie, and Roger King with the assistance of Detectives Larry Gerrad, Ernest Gilbert, and Lt. Bill Shelton.  Claitt was threatened with false murder charges as well as, given promises and agreements of favorable plea deals and sentencing. In exchange for his false testimony, many of Claitt's cases were not prosecuted. He received probation. Additionally, he was sentenced to a mere 18 months for fire bombing and was protected after his arrest between the time of Franklin's and Tillery's trials.  

Trial Lawyer Operated Under Actual Conflict of Interest. Tillery discovered that his trial lawyer, Joseph Santaguida, also represented the victim. In other words, the victim in this case was represented by trial lawyer Santaguida and Santaguida also represented Major Tillery.  The Commonwealth has concealed newly discovered evidence as well as, evidence which would have been favorable to Major Tillery in the criminal trial. That evidence would have exonerated him. In light of the new Declarations which prove manufactured testimony by prosecutors and police, Major Tillery needs legal representation. He is not currently represented by an attorney. 

Donate: Major Tillery's Legal Defense FundClick Here & Donate



Art by Leonard Peltier

Free Leonard Peltier!

On my 43rd year in prison I yearn to hug my grandchildren.

By Leonard Peltier

I am overwhelmed that today, February 6, is the start of my 43rd year in prison. I have had such high hopes over the years that I might be getting out and returning to my family in North Dakota. And yet here I am in 2018 still struggling for my FREEDOM at 73.

I don't want to sound ungrateful to all my supporters who have stood by me through all these years. I dearly love and respect you and thank you for the love and respect you have given me.

But the truth is I am tired, and often my ailments cause me pain with little relief for days at a time. I just had heart surgery and I have other medical issues that need to be addressed: my aortic aneurysm that could burst at any time, my prostate, and arthritis in my hip and knees.

I do not think I have another ten years, and what I do have I would like to spend with my family. Nothing would bring me more happiness than being able to hug my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I did not come to prison to become a political prisoner. I've been part of Native resistance since I was nine years of age. My sister, cousin and I were kidnapped and taken to boarding school. This incident and how it affected my cousin Pauline, had an enormous effect on me.

This same feeling haunts me as I reflect upon my past 42 years of false imprisonment. This false imprisonment has the same feeling as when I heard the false affidavit the FBI manufactured about Myrtle Poor Bear being at Oglala on the day of the fire-fight—a fabricated document used to extradite me illegally from Canada in 1976.

I know you know that the FBI files are full of information that proves my innocence. Yet many of those files are still withheld from my legal team. During my appeal before the 8th Circuit, former Prosecuting Attorney Lynn Crooks said to Judge Heaney: "Your honor, we do not know who killed those agents. Further, we don't know what participation, if any, Mr. Peltier had in it."

That statement exonerates me, and I should have been released. But here I sit, 43 years later still struggling for my freedom. I have pleaded my innocence for so long now, in so many courts of law, in so many public statements issued through the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, that I will not argue it here. But I will say again, I DID NOT KILL THOSE AGENTS!

Right now, I need my supporters here in the U.S. and throughout the world helping me. We need donations large or small to help pay my legal team to do the research that will get me back into court or get me moved closer to home or a compassionate release based on my poor health and age. Please help me to go home, help me win my freedom!

There is a new petition my Canadian brothers and sisters are circulating internationally that will be attached to my letter. Please sign it and download it so you can take it to your work, school or place of worship. Get as many signatures as you can, a MILLION would be great!

I have been a warrior since age nine. At 73, I remain a warrior. I have been here too long. The beginning of my 43rd year plus over 20 years of good time credit, that makes 60-plus years behind bars.

I need your help. I need your help today! A day in prison for me is a lifetime for those outside because I am isolated from the world.

I remain strong only because of your support, prayers, activism and your donations that keep my legal hope alive.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse


Leonard Peltier

If you would like a paper petition, please email contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info.

—San Francisco Bay View, February 6, 2018

Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132 

USP Coleman I 

P.O. Box 1033 

Coleman, FL 33521

Donations can be made on Leonard's behalf to the ILPD national office, 116 W. Osborne Ave, Tampa, FL 33603



More Artwork by Kevin Cooper




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:










We are extremely disappointed to share yesterday's ruling of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which has upheld the indefinite imprisonment of Reality Leigh Winner. Ms. Winner has been jailed without bail since June 6, 2017 for helping expose Russian hacking that targeted US election systems.

"I am beyond heartbroken" shared Winner's mother, Billie Davis-Winner. "The trial, originally scheduled in October 2017 and then reset to March 2018, will once again be reset to a much later date, but as of now we do not have a new setting. There is so much going on with the evidence and discovery and there are a few active appeals not yet ruled on. It's gonna be a long journey."

Winner, a decorated Air Force veteran with no criminal record, who has already served eight months in jail despite being convicted of no crime, and displaying every intention to face the single charge against her in court, will now be jailed for another year, regardless of the jury's eventual verdict.


Government transparency advocate Rainey Reitman adds that "Reality Winner is facing an unjust and unconstitutional prosecution under the Espionage Act. This 100 year old law, created to prosecute spies during World War I, isn't designed to be used on whistleblowers. Under this law, the judge won't consider her motives or the public benefits of her actions as a whistleblower. It makes it impossible for her to receive a fair trial."

Jeff Paterson, who managed the successful campaign to free Chelsea Manning, notes that, "By the time Reality's trial starts, she'll have spent a full year and half behind bars. Meanwhile the actual Russiagate indicted criminals, including Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, haven't spent a day in jail."

"Winner's case has precedent setting implications for whistleblowers trying to do the right thing, press freedom, election suppression, and the government's escalating war on dissent. Reality took a risk to share something that Americans had a right to know," Paterson added.


January 2017 - After serving six years in the Air Force, Winner takes a job as an NSA intelligence contractor.

May 9, 2017 - President Trump fires FBI Director James Comey. Winner allegedly finds and prints a classified report entitled, "Russia/Cybersecurity: Main Intelligence Directorate Cyber Actors."

May 10, 2017 - Trump celebrates with Russian officials in the White House, bragging that he had fired "nut job" Comey in order to end any "Russiagate" investigation.

May 11, 2017 - Winner allegedly sends NSA report to the media outlet "The Intercept."

May 17, 2017 - Special counsel Robert Mueller appointed to investigate "Russiagate."

June 5, 2017 - Winner arrested. During interrogation, she allegedly states, "Why do I have this job if I'm just going to sit back and be helpless … I just thought that was the final straw … I felt really hopeless seeing that information contested … Why isn't this out there? Why can't this be public?"


Contrary to a focus on citizens' right to know of attacks against election infrastructure, Winner's Espionage Act charge actually requires the government to prove that the leak itself caused harm rather than exposed it. Joe Whitley, attorney for Reality Winner, recently explained.

     "This is not a simple case. 18 U.S.C. § 793(e) -- the charged offense here -- is a notoriously complicated statute that has numerous elements the Government must prove, including ... that the classified intelligence reporting referenced ... constitutes "national defense information" (meaning the Document could actually threaten the national security of the US if disclosed, and that the information in the classified intelligence reporting was "closely held") and that the Defendant knew the Document contained this type of information." (Case document #203)

Winner has a top notch defense team determined to prove her innocence in court, despite the prosecution's ongoing campaign to deny her the right to a fair and open trial.

And we are the primary source of fundraising for Winner's legal defense team as well as leading public education efforts regarding this precedent setting First Amendment vs. Espionage Act case.

SOLIDARITY STEP: Make a donation today in honor of Reality's courage to do the right thing and to support her legal defense.

And tell others. BOOST THE SIGNAL!

Can you donate a few hours this month to help? We have a small list of a few well-defined volunteer tasks which we can send you to consider if they match with your interest and skills. Please email us at connect@standwithreality.org


For complete campaign information and case documents:








1)  3½ Years After Eric Garner's Death, Family Still Waits for Closure

 FEB. 25, 2018




"We've been waiting for almost four years. Waiting time is over," Gwen Carr, 68, said of the investigations into the death of her son, Eric Garner, on Staten Island, N.Y.CreditGareth Smit for The New York Times


The family of Anthony Baez was angered in 1996 when a New York State judge acquitted Officer Francis X. Livoti of criminally negligent homicide. Mr. Baez died after Officer Livoti placed him in a chokehold following a confrontation over a game of pickup football about two years earlier.

While federal prosecutors were investigating whether to charge the officer with civil rights violations, the city held an administrative trial in which he was fired from the New York Police Department in February 1997.

The officer's dismissal brought some closure to Mr. Baez's mother, Iris Baez, who found comfort in knowing that Mr. Livoti "wouldn't be out there ever again wearing a uniform."

Like Ms. Baez, the mother of Eric Garner, Gwen Carr, is looking for closure. It has been three and a half years since a New York police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, wrapped his arms around Mr. Garner's neck in a chokehold that helped cause his death in July 2014. The Police Department banned chokeholds in 1993.

"We've been waiting for almost four years. Waiting time is over," Ms. Carr said one frigid afternoon as she stood on the steps of City Hall demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio fire Officer Pantaleo.

After Mr. Garner's death, a Staten Island grand jury in 2014 declined to indict Officer Pantaleo. That same year, the Department of Justice began a civil rights investigation, but the case has been delayed by a dispute between federal officials in New York and Washington, and a change in presidential administrations. The city has put off an administrative trial for Officer Pantaleo until federal prosecutors decide whether to file civil rights charges. In the meantime, Officer Pantaleo remains on desk duty.

"This investigation has dragged on for so long it's getting to the point of outrage," said William R. Yeomans, a fellow at the Alliance for Justice, a liberal judicial advocacy group, who once served as the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Getting answers in some of the city's most notorious police-involved killings can often take years. With competing legal interests, family members of the victims can wait up to a five years to learn the fate of officers involved. From state criminal trials to federal civil rights investigations and the decision about whether an officer will remain on the force, the lengthy and complicated process conspires to frustrate families who say they are only seeking justice.

Mr. Yeomans said the initial request from federal prosecutors to hold off on an administrative trial was not unusual, but that the Justice Department has had enough time to act.

"The Garner case is an open, festering sore that the federal government has not taken steps to heal." Mr. Yeomans said. "At some point, the city has got to move on."

Last year the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates claims of excessive force against the New York Police Department, substantiated charges of misconduct against Officer Pantaleo for using a chokehold and recommended severe penalties that could lead to his dismissal. 

The next step would be an administrative trial prosecuted by lawyers with the review board. A final recommendation would be sent to the police commissioner who can "accept, reject or modify" any suggestion.

Austin Finan, a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, said in a statement that the city had never gone ahead with a disciplinary hearing if the Justice Department had requested it to wait.

The city's top lawyer, Zachary W. Carter, said the Department of Justice asked the city not to proceed with an administrative trial to avoid interfering with the federal investigation by questioning witnesses and gathering statements and testimony that could be duplicative or create prejudice.

"I have no doubt that the length of time that has passed during which the Department of Justice has had this under investigation adds to the family's anguish," Mr. Carter said. While he acknowledged that the city is under no obligation to wait on federal prosecutors, he said it would be the "highest level of irresponsibility" to move forward against their wishes.

"The more statements there are, the worse it is," said Mr. Carter, a former United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. In the long run, "people remember the result but nobody remembers how long it took."

Devin M. O'Malley, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, declined to comment on the status of the Garner investigation.

The city has moved swiftly recently to bring administrative charges against other officers accused of misconduct.

Two officers, Edward Martins and Richard Hall, quit the Police Department in November, three days before they were scheduled to face an administrative trial. The officers' trial on charges of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman in Coney Island, Brooklyn, after a drug stop had just begun. A crucial difference between the case of the two officers and Officer Pantaleo is that Mr. Martins and Mr. Hall have been charged.

Rather than hurt the federal case, Susan M. Karten, a lawyer who represented the Baez family in their civil suit against the city, said testimony gathered for Mr. Livoti's administrative trial helped reveal discrepancies among the statements of officers at Mr. Baez's arrest. While Mr. Livoti claimed that Mr. Baez's struggling set off an asthma attack, another officer said that Mr. Baez was not struggling and was handcuffed on the ground when she arrived.

The departmental trial was the first time Mr. Livoti had testified.

"I think the more prior testimony you have," Ms. Karten said, "the better in these cases where there are several people involved and they get together and get their story together."

Two officers were fired after an administrative trial in 2003 for perjuring themselves in testimony about Mr. Baez's death.

The actions of other officers as Mr. Garner was being subdued for reportedly selling illegal cigarettes, and the reports they filed, could be under scrutiny in any investigation, Ms. Karten added.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, tracks Police Department disciplinary practices and the actions of the review board. He said the reluctance to move forward with an administrative trial in the Garner case made it appear as if the city was protecting its officers.

"This is unquestionably a call being made by City Hall," Mr. Dunn said. "It fairly raises questions about credibility. Whatever might have been the justification for waiting for the Department of Justice, that has lapsed."

Officer Pantaleo's lawyer, Stuart London, said his client also wanted a resolution.

"Transparency is what he wanted from the beginning, but he can't do anything with the federal civil rights case hanging over his head," Mr. London said.

Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, who was shot and killed by a police officer after being chased into his Bronx apartment in February 2012, said she hoped it did not take as long for Officer Pantaleo to face administrative charges as it did the officer who shot her son.

The officer, Richard Haste, resigned from the department in Marchafter being found guilty in an administrative trial of using poor tactical judgment, more than five years after Mr. Graham's death.

Officer Haste was initially indicted on manslaughter charges before the indictment was dismissed. A second grand jury, before which Officer Haste testified, declined to indict him. Federal prosecutors declined to press charges.

The city also held off on an administrative trial for Mr. Haste until federal prosecutors made a decision, citing a request from the Department of Justice.

"It shouldn't take years for the N.Y.P.D. to be held accountable after they kill civilians," Ms. Malcolm said.

She said Mr. Haste's punishment gave her a small measure of relief — something Ms. Carr wants.

"Even if it wasn't a full victory, she received some closure," Ms. Carr said. "That's what I'm looking for."



2)  Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors

 FEB. 25, 2018




Pro-labor demonstrators outside the Supreme Court in 2016 before the justices heard arguments in a case challenging mandatory union fees. The court split evenly on the case after Justice Antonin Scalia's death. CreditMark Wilson/Getty Images


In the summer of 2016, government workers in Illinois received a mailing that offered them tips on how to leave their union. By paying a so-called fair-share fee instead of standard union dues, the mailing said, they would no longer be bound by union rules and could not be punished for refusing to strike.

"To put it simply," the document concluded, "becoming a fair-share payer means you will have more freedom."

The mailing, sent by a group called the Illinois Policy Institute, may have seemed like disinterested advice. In fact, it was one prong of a broader campaign against public-sector unions, backed by some of the biggest donors on the right. It is an effort that will reach its apex on Monday, when the Supreme Court hears a case that could cripple public-sector unions by allowing the workers they represent to avoid paying fees.

One of the institute's largest donors is a foundation bankrolled by Richard Uihlein, an Illinois industrialist who has spent millions backing Republican candidates in recent years, including Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois.

Tax filings show that Mr. Uihlein has also been the chief financial backer in recent years of the Liberty Justice Center, which represents Mark Janus, the Illinois child support specialist who is the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case.

And Mr. Uihlein has donated well over $1 million over the years to groups like the Federalist Society that work to orient the judiciary in a more conservative direction. They have helped produce a Supreme Court that most experts expect to rule in Mr. Janus's favor.

The case illustrates the cohesiveness with which conservative philanthropists have taken on unions in recent decades. "It's a mistake to look at the Janus case and earlier litigation as isolated episodes," said Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a Columbia University political scientist who studies conservative groups. "It's part of a multipronged, multitiered strategy."

In doing so, these donors have not just brought labor to the brink of crisis but threatened the Democratic Party as well.

Amid changes in the campaign finance landscape and the decline of private-sector unions, the party and its candidates have increasingly relied on major public unions for funding, including hundreds of millions of dollars in direct and indirect spending during the 2016 presidential cycle. Those unions include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, whose Council 31 is the defendant in the Janus case.

A recent paper by Mr. Hertel-Fernandez and two colleagues may foretell what Democrats can expect if Mr. Uihlein and his fellow philanthropists succeed. It found that the Democratic share of the presidential vote dropped by an average of 3.5 percentage points after the passage of so-called right-to-work laws allowing employees to avoid paying union fees. That is larger than Democrats' margin of defeat in several states that could have reversed their last three presidential losses.

And that is clearly on the mind of Republicans. In a recent interview, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, acknowledged the potential of the Janus case to hurt Democratic fund-raising for the coming midterm elections. "In states where they got rid of the automatic deduction and employees figured they could keep their own money, they did," he said. "So it could have an impact."

Conservative groups aren't alone in locking arms to advance an ideological agenda. For decades, liberal donors and foundations, sometimes working together through coalitions like the Democracy Alliance, have promoted liberal goals in a variety of ways. Some backed groups, like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, that used litigation to move American society leftward.

But the extent of the coordination on the right often dwarfs liberal efforts. Especially on the state level, conservative groups are "doing different things, mobilizing different constituencies," Mr. Hertel-Fernandez said. "But they're all working with one another. You don't see the same thing on the left."

As the percentage of unionized private-sector workers has collapsed in recent decades, public-sector unions, which have held steady in the mid-30s since the early 1980s, have increasingly become a target.

Conservatives chafe at the unions' political influence, which they believe not only props up the Democratic Party but also drives up government spending and skews public policy on issues like education.

In 2011, Wisconsin rolled back the right of most public unions to bargain over anything other than wages and eliminated the requirement that nonmembers pay fees. The portion of unionized public-sector workers in the state plummeted from half to just over one-quarter within five years.

In seeking to produce similar results nationally, conservative donors have created a symbiosis between groups aiming to overturn Supreme Court precedent favorable to unions and groups that take advantage of those rulings to drain unions of members.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Wisconsin, which had over $800 million in assets in 2016, has funded both kinds of organizations.

In a 2014 case brought by a group that had received more than $1 million in contributions from the Bradley Foundation, the Supreme Court ruled that home-care aides and other "partial-public employees" paid through Medicaid could not be forced to pay fair-share fees if they left their unions. Unions say these fees, typically about 80 percent of standard dues, are necessary to compensate them for representing nonmembers in bargaining and grievance proceedings.

Then in 2016, the court heard a case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, that could have struck down fair-share fee requirements for all public employees represented by unions in more than 20 states, including California, Illinois and New York. The case was brought by a group that has received millions of dollars from the Bradley Foundation.

During 2015 and 2016, the foundation also substantially increased its contributions, totaling well over $1 million, to groups like the Independence Institute of Colorado and the Freedom Foundation of Washington State. Those groups have used such tools as direct mail, phone calls and door knocking to persuade public-sector workers to give up union membership.

Richard Graber, the chief executive of the Bradley Foundation, said the foundation avoided short-term tactical considerations in its giving. But he acknowledged that the increase was driven partly by the recent Supreme Court developments, which promised to make such opt-out campaigns more compelling for union members. (Some conservative groups are currently raising money for even more ambitious opt-out campaigns to take advantage of a favorable ruling this year.)

In February 2016, the month after the Supreme Court heard the Friedrichs case, Justice Antonin Scalia died, depriving conservatives of a decisive fifth vote to strike down mandatory union fees. That gave the Liberty Justice Center, backed by Mr. Uihlein, a chance to try again.

Few philanthropists have funded a more sweeping assault on labor than Mr. Uihlein, who with his wife, Elizabeth, founded a Wisconsin-based shipping supply company called Uline.

Mr. Uihlein is an ardent conservative who considers many Republican office holders too moderate on fiscal and social issues, according to those who know him.

"It's not just politics for him," said his friend Leonard A. Leo, the Federalist Society executive vice president, who declined to offer specifics on Mr. Uihlein's views. "I think he is philosophically attuned to conservative ideas," added Mr. Leo, whom the Trump White House enlisted to shepherd the Supreme Court nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch, Justice Scalia's successor.

The Uihleins have spent tens of millions of dollars over the past decade supporting Republican candidates and committees. That includes contributions to super PACs backing the 2016 presidential campaigns of Mr. Walker and Mr. Cruz, and at least $250,000 to help Mr. Walker survive a 2012 recall election. (Mr. Uihlein did not respond to a request for comment.)

The Uihleins appear to be preoccupied with state employee pensionsand the unions that negotiate them.

"Bruce is the only one in the race who isn't beholden to public-sector unions," Mr. Uihlein said of Mr. Rauner, the year before his 2014 election as Illinois governor, in an interview with Crain's Business Chicago. The Uihleins gave more than $2.5 million to his campaign.

Mr. Rauner has been a major ally in the fight against public-sector unions. Shortly after taking office in 2015, he challenged the constitutionality of mandatory union fees in federal court.

By the time a judge ruled that Mr. Rauner lacked standing for his lawsuit, the Illinois Policy Institute, which drew more than one-third of its $5.8 million in revenue that year from Mr. Uihlein's foundation, had found a viable plaintiff to replace him: Mark Janus. The Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which Mr. Uihlein also contributes to, represented Mr. Janus in court.

Since then, the policy institute has sought to persuade state employees to leave their union through its mailing campaign. It said it had obtained employees' names through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Mr. Rauner's administration has amplified the institute's message, and vice versa. In an August 2016 email to state workers, the administration highlighted a benefit of giving up union membership and urged workers to visit a website that would help them do so. The policy institute soon promoted the same website and provided similar guidance in its mailings to state workers.

Mr. Uihlein's foundation has supplemented these efforts by supporting a nonprofit called Think Freely Media, which uses storytelling techniques to champion free-market ideas, including right-to-work laws. The Uihlein foundation contributed more than $1.5 million to Think Freely from 2014 to 2016, the last year for which tax records are available.

At the center of this network is a longtime conservative activist named John Tillman, who serves as the chief executive of the Illinois Policy Institute as well as the chairman of the Liberty Justice Center and Think Freely Media.

In an interview, Mr. Tillman, who managed a call center earlier in his career and talked up his "marketing-centric approach" to promoting free enterprise, said the institute is fighting the enormous power of union leaders but is not anti-union per se.

"In the late 1800s, early 20th century, business owners had all the power, and workers had very little power," he said. "Unions and collective bargaining emerged as a way to level the playing field. I think it was an amazing story of success."

But in other contexts, Mr. Tillman has been less conciliatory.

In a fund-raising solicitation by the policy institute in December, Mr. Tillman claimed credit for helping more than 2,600 workers leave their union, resulting in a loss of $1.2 million in union revenue.

"It's time for Illinois to throw off the shackles of big labor and big government," he wrote.

"When you and I look around Illinois and see the devastation the union-dominated status quo has inflicted," he continued, "we simply have no choice."



3)  Death Penalty Madness in Alabama

  FEB. 27, 2018



Doyle Lee Hamm this month in Alabama as he faced execution, left, and in an undated photo in Mississippi.CreditAlabama Department of Corrections, via Associated Press (left); Mississippi Department of Corrections (right)


A man suffering from cancer strapped to a gurney after spending 30 years on death row in Alabama. An intravenous team probing him, jabbing him, for hours in an attempt to find a usable vein to administer the lethal, secret drug cocktail. Going into his groin a half-dozen times, puncturing his bladder, penetrating his femoral artery. Until, a little before the midnight deadline, they abandon the botched execution with its puncture-mark traces tattooed across the man's legs and groin.

Doyle Lee Hamm, age 61, becomes one of the rare people to walk out of an execution chamber. "This was a bit of butchery that can only be described as torture," his attorney, Bernard Harcourt, tells me.

Not all is rosy in Alabama, a state long prominent in the United States death belt, where these events unfolded last Thursday. The state was the darling of the world in December when Le Monde, among other leading global newspapers, gave Alabama a front page headline for defeating the ultraconservative Republican bigot and accused sexual predator Roy Moore and electing a Democrat to the United States Senate. But Alabama is a place where old habits die hard.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn was unmoved by the grotesque unexecution. "I wouldn't necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem," he said. That might just qualify, against stiff competition from the highest office in the land, as the dumbest statement of 2018.

This was an abomination foretold. Harcourt, who has been representing Hamm since 1990, had been arguing for months that Hamm's case presented an unconstitutional risk of a "cruel and unnecessarily painful execution." Hamm, convicted of the 1987 murder of a motel clerk, Patrick Cunningham, has advanced lymphatic cancer and carcinoma. He's dying. An examination in September by a doctor from the Columbia University Medical Center found that Hamm had no usable veins and that "the state is not equipped to achieve venous access in Mr. Hamm's case."

So began a macabre dance characterized by an unseemly determination to execute Hamm. The Alabama Supreme Court set an execution date late last year. U.S. Chief District Judge Karon Bowdre of the Northern District of Alabama granted a stay on Jan. 31. After an emergency appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, that stay was vacated on Feb. 13 and a medical examination ordered.

The examination found that Hamm's arms and hands were unusable but his legs and feet, or "lower extremities," were workable. On Feb. 20, Bowdre ordered that the execution could proceed on Feb. 22. Then the 11th Circuit required that a doctor be present with ultrasound equipment. A final appeal to the Supreme Court was denied last Thursday evening, setting in motion the ghoulish proceedings.

The examination found that Hamm's arms and hands were unusable but his legs and feet, or "lower extremities," were workable. On Feb. 20, Bowdre ordered that the execution could proceed on Feb. 22. Then the 11th Circuit required that a doctor be present with ultrasound equipment. A final appeal to the Supreme Court was denied last Thursday evening, setting in motion the ghoulish proceedings.

Alabama has executed 61 people since the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976. United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions was long the grim reaper of Alabama, eagerly seeking executions when he was the state's attorney general. In President Trump, Sessions has a strong capital-punishment ally. Trump tweeted "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY" for a New York terrorist suspect in November, one of more than a dozen tweets calling for the death penalty since 2012. He has hinted strongly that he thinks the death penalty is the way to solve America's drug crisis. The president lusts for blood.

The country, however, is moving in another direction. The number of executions has fallen to 23 in 2017, from 98 in 1999. Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico and Maryland abolished the death penalty in recent years. Over 20 companies, including Pfizer, have prohibited their products from being used for lethal injections.

Harcourt was moved to help Hamm after learning of the abject quality of legal protection afforded indigent defendants in capital cases. After the Supreme Court denied his appeal on Thursday, and the execution looked inevitable, Harcourt told me he had said to Hamm that, "I did everything I possibly could have done but had let him down and I apologized."

Hamm, he said, tried to console his longtime attorney: "We did everything possible."

It is now time, after Thursday's lesson in the consequences of inhumanity, for Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama to grant Hamm clemency and allow him to serve the rest of his life in prison.



4) Trump's Tax Cuts in Hand, Companies Spend More on Themselves Than on Wages

"...the vast majority of the billions of dollars in planned share purchases will benefit the richest 10 percent of American households, who own 84 percent of all stocks. The top 1 percent of households own about 40 percent of all stocks."

 FEB. 26, 2018



Warren E. Buffett said that his company, Berkshire Hathaway, might consider buying back shares.CreditAndy Kropa/Invision, via Associated Press


President Trump promised that his tax cut would encourage companies to invest in factories, workers and wages, setting off a spending spree that would reinvigorate the American economy.

Companies have announced plans for some of those investments. But so far, companies are using much of the money for something with a more narrow benefit: buying their own shares.

Those so-called buybacks are good for shareholders, including the senior executives who tend to be big owners of their companies' stock. A company purchasing its own shares is a time-tested way to bolster its stock price.

But the purchases can come at the expense of investments in things like hiring, research and development and building new plants — the sort of investments that directly help the overall economy. The buybacks are also most likely to worsen economic inequality because the benefits of stocks purchases flow disproportionately to the richest Americans.

The tax overhaul is the cornerstone of Mr. Trump's economic plan. It has been a big win for companies, offering lower corporate rates and a permanent break on overseas profits. Warren E. Buffett said in his annual letter to investors on Saturday that his company, Berkshire Hathaway, enjoyed a $29 billion gain thanks to the new tax law.

What companies do with the trillions of dollars they're bringing back to the United States, and the money they will save each year on their tax bills, will in large part determine whether the plan is a success or a failure.

As the tax cuts kick in, companies have laid out a variety of uses for the money. Some are paying out one-time bonuses to employees. Others are raising salaries. Others plan to open new factories.

In the fourth quarter, American companies' investments in things like factories and business equipment grew by 6.8 percent. That was the fastest growth rate since 2014, but far from the giant surge in capital spending that was promised ahead of the tax overhaul.

But the buying back of shares is also at record levels.

Almost 100 American corporations have trumpeted such plans in the past month. American companies have announced more than $178 billion in planned buybacks — the largest amount unveiled in a single quarter, according to Birinyi Associates, a market research firm.

Such purchases reduce a company's total number of outstanding shares, giving each remaining share a slightly bigger piece of the profit pie.

Cisco said this month that in response to the tax package, it would bring back to the United States $67 billion of overseas cash, using $25 billionto finance additional share repurchases. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, authorized up to $8.6 billion in stock purchases. PepsiCo announced a fresh $15 billion in planned buybacks. Chip gear maker Applied Materials disclosed plans for a $6 billion program to buy shares. Late last month, home improvement retailer Lowe's unveiled plans for $5 billion in purchases.

On Monday, Mr. Buffett said on CNBC that Berkshire might be open to buy some of its shares. The remarks helped send Berkshire's stock — and the broader market — higher.

More buybacks are almost certainly on the way. UBS analysts covering Apple said the iPhone maker might authorize another $30 billion in share purchases when it reports its next quarterly earnings in April. That would be on top of the $30 billion it already spends each year to buy back its shares.

"I'm expecting buybacks to get to a record for 2018," said Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst with S.&P. Dow Jones Indices. "And if I'm disappointed, there's a lot of people with me."

The flurry of planned buybacks has been good for the stock market. Early this month, stocks were down more than 10 percent from their January peak. The prospect of companies flooding markets with "buy" orders helped the market recoup some of its losses.

The broader impact on the economy is less clear. Economists believe a rising stock market benefits the economy, helping support consumer and business confidence. But the vast majority of the billions of dollars in planned share purchases will benefit the richest 10 percent of American households, who own 84 percent of all stocks. The top 1 percent of households own about 40 percent of all stocks.

Ultimately, the effect of the rising stock market depends on how those wealthy investors use their windfall. It helps the economy more, for example, if they put the money toward productive new companies than if they invest in government bonds.

Companies typically decide to make long-term investments in things like new workers and factories based on whether they will make the company more profitable — not merely because the companies are sitting on a pile of money that they otherwise would have paid in taxes.

At a news conference Thursday, the head of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett, acknowledged that many companies were spending their money on buying their own shares.

"Right now we're going to have an adjustment where you see probably more dividends and share buybacks than wage increases," Mr. Hassett said. "But going forward we're going to see a lot of capital formation and wage growth."

That is not what happened in 2005, when a one-time tax holiday allowed companies to repatriate money on the cheap. That plan, championed by President George W. Bush, was sold as a way to get American companies to invest more in the domestic economy.

Some $300 billion came back to the United States that year. But economists estimated that as much as 92 percent of it may have been paid out to companies' shareholders — mostly in the form of buybacks.

Studies have shown that the tax change lifted companies' stock prices but did not expand their American work forces.

Until the early 1980s, the practice of buying shares with corporate money was considered borderline illegal because it was thought to potentially open the company up to charges of manipulating share prices.

But in 1982 the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a rule that gave the green light to most share repurchases, as long as they followed certain rules.

Historically, American companies had paid out profits with a quarterly check, known as a dividend. But after the S.E.C.'s rule change, companies started using more of their profits to buy their own shares, in the process giving their shareholders a bigger piece of the company.

Buybacks soon soared. By 2016, the most recent year for which there is complete data, companies spent $536 billion on purchasing their own shares, according to data from S. & P. Dow Jones Indices.

That was about 5 percent less than those companies spent on new plants, research and development and other investments. By contrast, 20 years ago, companies spent four times as much on such investments as they did on buybacks.

Some economists think the surge in share buybacks has something to do with the relative decline in capital investments, which recently have been lower than expected.

"We have some causal evidence that because of short-termism companies are doing some stock repurchases that maybe they shouldn't do," said Heitor Almeida, a professor of corporate finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "And maybe that's causing them to reduce investment."



5)  Contractors Are Leaving Puerto Rico, Where Many Still Lack Power

 FEB. 26, 2018



Workers installing a power pole in Coamo, P.R., last month. Nearly 1,000 workers have left the island in the last two weeks in what the Army Corps of Engineers calls a "responsible drawdown."CreditCarlos Giusti/Associated Press


SAN JUAN, P.R. — Though hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans remain in the dark five months after a devastating hurricane trampled the island's power grid, the federal government has begun to scale back the number of contractors it has working to get the lights back on.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the federal effort to repair the power grid on the island, where a Category 4 storm last fall knocked out electricity to every home and business. The corps gave major contracts to two companies, Fluor Corporation and PowerSecure, and coordinates their work with the efforts of the island's government-run power utility, which has also hired contractors and brought in crews from mainland utilities.

At one point, there were a total of 6,200 workers repairing transmission and distribution lines across the island, about half of them working for the corps. Now that power has been restored to more than 1.1 million people, by the utility's count — about 86 percent of the island's customers — the corps said it would begin a "responsible drawdown" of its work force.

Nearly 1,000 power workers have left the island in the past two weeks, according to Twitter messages posted by the corps. Fluor still had 1,600 people in Puerto Rico as of Sunday, but its contract period is "nearing the end," and PowerSecure is scheduled to wrap up work by April 7, the corps said.

The decision to scale back was met with "indignation" across the island, said Jorge L. González Otero, the mayor of Jayuya, a town in the central part of the island, where about half the residents still lack power.

Fluor has already billed the maximum amount allowed under its $750 million contract, and its subcontractors were told last week to pack up.

"Fluor was among the first companies to get here, about a month and a half ago," Mr. González Otero said, referring to Jayuya. "They said the contract was over, and they left everything half-done."

"Imagine, I have people here without power for five months who are 80 years old, disabled, bedridden," he added, "and they were just beginning to see people 50 meters away get their electricity back. They are growing desperate."

Fluor's crews would not be the first contractors to leave abruptly. After a scandal erupted over the Puerto Rico government's award of its first power restoration contract, worth $300 million, to a small Montana firm, Whitefish Energy, the government canceled the deal.

Many people involved in power restoration said that officials overseeing the work were disappointed with the Army Corps of Engineers contractors. Fluor in particular was criticized for working sluggishly and using up the money available under its contract without accomplishing as much as expected.

Fluor is a Texas-based construction giant that has done more than $30 billion in government work over the past four decades, much of it for the Defense Department, federal records show.

"I understand that they were slow — super slow," Mr. González Otero said. "Now we don't have anyone, slow or at all. We have no one."

Justo González, the interim executive director of the island's government-owned utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, also was critical of Fluor's performance.

"We compared, and saw better work from other companies," Mr. González said in an interview.

Even so, he said, the corps's decision to let the Fluor workers leave was worrisome.

"It concerns me," he said. "It can affect our ability to energize. We wanted them to continue. What do I want? To energize as quickly as possible."

A spokesman for Fluor denied that there had been any questions about its work.

"To date, we have restored power to 250,000 customers by fixing 7,500 poles, installing 462 miles of wire, more than 20,000 conductors, and repaired 170 transmission lines," the company said. Under the limits set by the contract on the time and money to be expended, the company said, "we are reaching the end of both, and have been directed by the corps to begin transitioning people and equipment off of the island."

The corps said that restoring power to some of the hardest-hit areas of Puerto Rico, including Arecibo and Caguas, would take a few more months. The "right number of restoration workers" were "actively engaged" in completing the job, the corps said in a statement.

"We will not rest until we have the lights back on for all of our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico," Col. Jason Kirk said in the statement.

Ahsha Tribble, who oversees power efforts for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Puerto Rico, said it was unfair to single out Fluor for leaving before restoration was complete, because other private companies that came to the island from New York and other states under mutual assistance agreements were also considering scaling back soon.

"At 86 percent restoration, we are starting to shave off people," Ms. Tribble said. "In any normal course of restoration, you ramp up until you start getting your successes, and then you begin to start ramping down."

Many of the remaining areas without power are in mountainous regions where it is not possible to squeeze in thousands of workers at once, she said.

Island residents, many of them still struggling to get basic services, were surprised by the corps's announcement.

"We are so appreciative of everything these people have done — these workers risked their lives coming here, working in dangerous helicopters and all of that," said Nydia Guzmán, 72, who spent Friday at one of the utility's customer service offices, along with dozens of other customers who were disputing their bills.

"But they can't leave now," Ms. Guzmán said. "There's too much left to be done."



6) Judge Rejects Lawsuit Seeking to Legalize Marijuana Nationwide

 FEB. 26, 2018



Alexis Bortell, 12, who treated her epilepsy with medical marijuana, was a plaintiff on the lawsuit seeking to legalize the drug. CreditDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press


A federal judge in New York tossed out a sweeping lawsuit Monday thatsought to make marijuana legal under federal law, ruling that the plaintiffs had failed to take the necessary first step of asking the Drug Enforcement Administration to remove cannabis from its list of dangerous substances.

The ruling by the judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan, was a stinging defeat for the plaintiffs — among them a former professional football player who owns a company that sells pot-based pain relievers, a 12-year-old girl who treats her chronic epilepsy with medical marijuana and a nonprofit group that works on behalf of minorities in the marijuana industry.

Though several courts have ruled in the past against similar litigation, the suit dismissed on Monday was passing through the courts as the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era policy and, in January, encouraged federal prosecutors to go after marijuana sellers, even in states that have legalized the drug, imperiling the viability of the country's multibillion-dollar pot industry.

The suit, filed in July, employed some novel legal arguments, including a claim that the country's marijuana laws have traditionally discriminated against minorities and have long precluded people who use pot for their illnesses from boarding airplanes, which are regulated by the federal government.

In a 20-page opinion, Judge Hellerstein said that his decision did not address the plaintiff's central argument that marijuana has medical benefits and thus should not be classified under the 1970 Controlled Substances Acts as a so-called Schedule 1 drug, the category reserved for the most pernicious substances. Judge Hellerstein noted, for example, that the 12-year-old girl, Alexis Bortell, used to have several epileptic seizures a day, but after treating herself with medical marijuana "she has gone nearly three years without a single seizure."

Rather, the judge said, under federal rules, the plaintiffs were bound to ask the D.E.A. to declassify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — and they did not. The D.E.A. rejected a similar request in a separate case in 2011 and again in 2016.

In his opinion, Judge Hellerstein quoted a colleague, Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford of Federal District Court in Rochester, who ruled two years ago that while marijuana has a clear medical purpose, Congress and the D.E.A. still have a right to regulate it.

The 98-page lawsuit presented its case for legalization not only through a host of constitutional arguments, but also by way of history — from marijuana's first purported role 10,000 years ago in the production of Taiwanese pottery to the smoking habits of President Obama in his younger days. It pointed out that the ancient Egyptians used the drug to treat eye sores and hemorrhoids, and Thomas Jefferson puffed it for his migraines. James Madison credited "sweet hemp" for giving him "insight to create a new and democratic nation," the suit noted.

Judge Hellerstein, however, seemed to be leaning toward rejecting the plaintiffs' arguments when he held oral arguments earlier this month. In court, he appeared to agree with lawyers for the Justice Department, who maintained that if the plaintiffs wanted to legalize marijuana they should try to change the law.

Joseph A. Bondy, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he and his partners might appeal Judge Hellerstein's ruling or ask him to reconsider his decision.

"The bottom line is that we think the judge neglected parts of our argument that were of critical importance," Mr. Bondy said. "We believe in our claims and we're going to continue to push the ball forward."




7)  March For Our Lives

Can you give two days to stop the slaughter?

By David Swanson

CounterPunch, February 25, 2018

The power of mass demonstrations to mobilize activism and move those in positions of power is minimized, first and foremost, by those opposed to popular power. Do not listen to them. Make them listen to us!

Can you give two days to stop the slaughter of innocents and the shameless profiteering from their blood? If you can give more, so much the better. But by giving two days, you will guarantee that others will give more. You will be part of building the necessary momentum, the key ingredient in social change.

These are the two days to give: March 24 and November 11. If you can't give those, or want more, pick some others. But here's why I say those two, and why the top priority is to be in Washington, D.C., but just as important is to be visible everywhere else.

March 24

On March 24 in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the U.S. (and beyond?), students and teachers and everyone else who values lives over guns will march against gun violence. But the strategy will be weak unless millions of us uninvited marchers show up to augment the message with what it is not permissible to say. The culture of gun violence is fueled by the culture of militarism and by the military. A hugely disproportionate share of mass-shooters have been U.S. military veterans. Some have been JROTC students. The recent killer in Florida was trained to kill by the U.S. Army in the very school where he killed. The JROTC's "history" classes, the Army's video games, the military's role in producing Hollywood movies, the Pentagon's unloading of old weapons on police departments and the general public — this is all done with our tax dollars. The NRA understands the connections perfectly, and churns out advertisements promoting more wars. If we don't make the connections, we won't win. So, bring these signs. And help us keep military recruiters out of schools.

By the way, March 24 was the day in 1999 when the United States and NATO began 78 days of bombing Yugoslavia. Fittingly, March 24 is also International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. A great day around which to create a new holiday tradition!

So, go sign up here![1] And (this is important!) politely encourage the organizers to acknowledge the existence of the JROTC.

November 11

Since the United States destroyed North Korea almost 70 years ago, November 11 has been called, in the United States, "Veterans Day." This year, Donald Trump proposes to stage a giant parade of weaponry through the streets of Washington, D.C. But prior to the intense propaganda campaign around the brutal bombardment that leveled most North Korean cities, and to this day in much of the rest of the world, November 11 is known as Armistice Day, or in some places Remembrance Day.

At 11 o'clock on this 11th day of the 11th month, 100 years ago this year, World War I ended. It was a scheduled end to the war, with the killing and dying pointlessly continuing right up to that moment. The worldwide celebration after the armistice was euphoric. And those who had believed the propaganda about a "war to end all war" and those who had not were united in desiring to make it true. Armistice Day was for years promoted by the U.S. government among others as a day to work for global friendship and peace. Parading the instruments of death that suck down 60 percent of the budget Congress votes on each year is not a way to build friendship or peace.

But our "Armistice Day, Not Trump Day" will be weak if it includes only those who have learned to reject war propaganda and dedicated themselves to ending war and weapons dealing. We need, again, from the other direction, to make the connections. We need to include in our peace parade those who reject the militarization of schools, of police, or borders, and of entertainment. Those who care about the earth's climate must not sit by while the single greatest contributors to climate change are paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue. Those who care about investment in human needs will metaphorically shoot themselves in the foot if they fail to oppose the glorification of wasting trillions of dollars on weaponry. Those who want safety need to earn it by demonstrating to the world that people in the United States do not agree with the policy of bombing foreign countries.

So, go sign up at March for our Lives, and invite people and organizations to do so too. And if we help prevent the Trumparade from happening, our celebration will go forward even bigger and better!

Can madness be cured by marching?

"Madness in individuals is something rare; 
but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule." —Friedrich Nietzsche

The two marches planned for March and for November are the same march when seen from the perspective of a national psychiatrist. The racism, militarism, and extreme materialism they address are a single disease.

The U.S. has had mass shootings on military bases full of people with guns. The U.S. has filled its schools with armed guards, who have not prevented a single shooting but have criminalized children's behavior. Proposing to put more guns into schools is not a sane proposal.

Other nations have banned guns, or banned the worst guns, and seen dramatic decreases in mass shootings. Throwing up one's hands and exclaiming that nothing can be done is not the action of a population or sub-population that is thinking straight.

The U.S. puts almost as much money into war weaponry as the rest of the world combined, with much of the rest of the world buying U.S. weaponry pushed on it by a U.S. State Department turned into a weapons dealer. The result is anti-U.S. hostility at levels other nations can't imagine going to such expense and effort to generate. Celebrating the weapons that endanger and impoverish is a form of sickness.

Each war kills large numbers of innocent people, disproportionately the very old and the very young. Each day, the vast majority of the people killed with U.S. weapons are outside the United States. Each war leaves a new area of the world devastated, more violent, and a greater threat to others.

When you're in a hole, the first step is not to use explosives to dig faster.

There are some things, said Dr. King, to which we should insist on remaining maladjusted.

In a time of universal deceit, said George Orwell, telling the truth becomes an act of rebellion.

Can a large group of thoughtful, committed citizens change the world? Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

CounterPunch, February 25, 2018



8) Dick's Sporting Goods, Major Gun Retailer, Stops Selling Assault-Style Weapons

FEB. 28, 2018



The gun department in a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Paramus, N.J., in 2012. The retailer is taking a stance in the national debate on gun control by ending sales of all assault-style rifles in its stores.CreditVictor J. Blue/Bloomberg

One of the nation's largest sports retailers, Dick's Sporting Goods, said Wednesday morning it was immediately ending sales of all assault-style rifles in its stores.

The retailer also said that it would no longer sell high-capacity magazines and that it would not sell any gun to anyone under 21 years of age, regardless of local laws.

The announcement, made two weeks after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 students and staff members, is one of the strongest stances taken by corporate America in the national gun debate. It also carries symbolic weight, coming from a prominent national gun seller.

Late last week, after coming under attack on social media for their ties to the National Rifle Association, a number of major companies, including Hertz car rental, MetLife insurance and Delta Air Lines, publicly ended those relationships, issuing brief, carefully phrased statements.

But Edward Stack, the 63-year-old chief executive of Dick's whose father founded the store in 1948, is deliberately steering his company directly into the storm, making clear that the company's new policy was a direct response to the Florida shooting.

"When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset," Mr. Stack said in an interview Tuesday evening. "We love these kids and their rallying cry, 'enough is enough.' It got to us."

He added, "We're going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation."

Mr. Stack said he hoped that conversation would include politicians. As part of its stance, Dick's is calling on elected officials to enact what it called "common sense gun reform'' by passing laws to raise the minimum age to purchase guns to 21, to ban assault-type weapons and so-called bump stocks, and to conduct broader universal background checks that include mental-health information and previous interactions with law enforcement.

This is not the first time Dick's has made changes in response to a school massacre. In 2012, after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people, Dick's removed assault-style rifles from its main retail stores. But a few months later, the company began carrying the firearms at its outdoor and hunting retail chain, Field & Stream.

This time, Mr. Stack said, the changes will be permanent.

Mr. Stack said the retailer began scouring its purchase records shortly after the identity of the suspected Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, became known. The company soon discovered it had legally sold a gun to Mr. Cruz in November, though it was not the gun or type of gun used in the school shooting.

"But it came to us that we could have been a part of this story,'' he said. "We said, 'We don't want to be a part of this any longer,'" said Mr. Stack.

That decision raised rounds of discussions with top executives inside the company as well as the directors, all of whom backed the decision to take a stance, said Mr. Stack.

As of Wednesday morning, the company said all AR-15s and other semiautomatic rifles would be removed from its stores and websites.

Mr. Stack said Dick's remained a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and will continue to sell a variety of sport and hunting firearms. Although he has never been a member of the N.R.A., Mr. Stack said he is, in fact, a gun owner and enjoys trapshooting clay targets.

But when it comes to selling guns to individuals under 21 years of age or stocking assault-style rifles, Mr. Stack said his company was done. "We don't want to be a part of a mass shooting," he said.

Dick's informed its employees of the new policy in an internal note Wednesday morning, shortly after Mr. Stack appeared on "Good Morning America" to discuss the decision.

Dick's is not the first retailer to stop selling the semiautomatic guns. In 2015, Walmart said that it would no longer sell high-powered rifles in its stores in the United States. But Walmart sidestepped any controversy involving gun politics, attributing its decision to lower customer demand for the military-style rifles.

It is unclear what financial impact the decision will have on Dick's business. Neither Dick's nor its competitor, Cabela's, now owned by Bass Pro Shops, have broken out firearm sales in their financial reports. But last August, Dick's shares plummeted after it said weak results from its hunting segment resulted in its missing Wall Street's second-quarter earnings estimates.

Over all, firearm sales for retailers and gun manufacturers have slumped since Donald J. Trump was elected president, as fears of stricter gun regulation receded. Firearm sales data for the United States is not readily available, but background checks tumbled more than 8 percent last year, the largest fall since the F.B.I. began keeping track in 1998.

Mr. Stack said he and his company expected there would be mixed response — including fallout — to its new policy.

"The whole hunting business is an important part of our business, and we know there is going to be backlash on this," said Mr. Stack. "But we're willing to accept that."

He added, "If the kids in Parkland are being brave enough to stand up and do this, we can be brave enough to stand up with them."



9) The West Virginia Teacher Strike Not Over Yet

Schools in West Virginia will remain closed Thursday, despite a deal between union leaders and the governor.

By Dave Jamieson, February 28, 2018


UPDATE: 11:30 p.m. ― All of West Virginia's schools will remain closed on Thursday, despite a tentative deal between union leaders and Gov. Jim Justice earlier in the week. Many teachers had taken to the halls of the state's Capitol during a "cooling off" period to voice their ongoing frustration with the negotiations.

It will be the sixth day all schools across the state have been shuttered. 

Earlier: The tentative deal struck Tuesday night to end a statewide teacher strike in West Virginia is on shaky ground just hours after being announced by Gov. Jim Justice (R), with employees in some counties pondering whether to extend a walkout that seemed to be over.

Striking teachers continued to fill the halls of the state capitol in Charleston on Wednesday despite the day being billed as a "cooling off" period before schools would reopen on Thursday. Many of them demanded that the unions and legislators get back to the bargaining table to improve a deal they deemed unsatisfactory.

The arrangement Justice rolled out would give teachers and other school personnel a five percent raise, and workers employed by the state a three percent raise. Although it marked progress from the meager wage increases earlier proposed by Justice, the deal did not placate strikers' bigger concerns over the state employee health care program.

Justice said the state would temporarily freeze employee costs under the program, known as the Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA), while a task force was set up to develop a long-term fix to rising premiums and co-pays. But many striking employees apparently don't trust the issue will be resolved, and fear increased health costs could wipe away their raises.

The director of the West Virginia Education Association, one of the two state unions leading the strike, told The Charleston Gazette Mail on Wednesday that "we'll wait and see" whether the strike continues.

Jenny Santilli, a Spanish teacher protesting at the Capitol on Wednesday, said many teachers would have rejected the deal had union leaders put it up for a vote. Santilli was upset that the health care issue remained in play, and that state workers would have to settle for smaller pay increases than educators. 

"We're furious," she said. "All hell is breaking loose."

Striking workers weren't the only ones to find out the details of the deal when it was announced at a press conference by Justice Tuesday night. A Republican source who asked to remain anonymous said many GOP legislators learned of the deal in a caucus meeting while watching Justice live on television. Shouting erupted from members upset with the offer.

Teachers and other school employees first walked off the job last Thursday, with the workers in all 55 counties onboard with the first such major strike in West Virginia since 1990. Teachers have not seen an across-the-board pay hike since 2014, and increasing health care costs mean take-home pay has gone down for some.

West Virginia ranks 48th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in teacher pay, according to the National Education Association.

Public-sector workers do not have collective bargaining rights in West Virginia. Unlike in most other states, unions do not negotiate contracts for their members spelling out pay and benefits, then have members vote on them; instead, the unions must pressure the state legislature to pass bills.

As of Wednesday afternoon, all employees had was the governor's word that legislators would take up and approve his proposal.

Santilli said many teachers in her area, Harrison County, were leaning toward continuing the strike on Thursday. While the strike so far has shut down schools across the state, it's possible dissatisfaction with the deal could lead to reopenings in some counties but not others, splintering what had been a unified strike under the banner of #55strong.

Greg Cruey, a teacher and union representative at his school in McDowell County, said he believed union leaders struck a good deal under the circumstances. He called the raise "more than we've gotten in a long, long time."

He said he was satisfied that unions would have a place on the task force formed to address the state employee health plan, and added that teachers could walk out again if legislators don't follow through on their end of the proposed deal.

But Cruey acknowledged that many of his colleagues think quite differently, and that the historic strike might not yet be over.

"There a lot of discord and confusion and unhappiness," he said. "It won't surprise me if there are a few more strike days. The question is whether the union will stick together in solidarity, and whether '55 united' means something or whether we'll eat our young instead."

Nick Visser contributed to this report.



10)   The Cruel Ploy of Taking Immigrant Kids From Their Parents

FEB. 28, 2018




A boy from Honduras watching a movie at a Border Patrol detention center in McAllen, Tex., in 2014.CreditJohn Moore/Getty Images


The Department of Homeland Security may soon formalize the abhorrent practice of detaining the children of asylum-seekers separately from their parents. Immigrant families apprehended at the southwest border already endure a deeply flawed system in which they can be detained indefinitely. In this immigration system, detainees too often lack adequate access to counsel. But to unnecessarily tear apart families who cross the border to start a better life is immoral.

Sadly, such separations are already happening. The Florence Project in Arizona documented 155 such cases by October and other immigrant advocacy organizations report that children are being taken away from their parents. If the secretary orders this practice to be made standard procedure, thousands of families could face unnecessary separation.

The Trump administration's goal is to strong-arm families into accepting deportation to get their children back. Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, admitted this when she told the Senate on Jan. 16 that separating families may "discourage parents" from seeking refuge in America.

But the increasing informal use of family separation has not proved to be a deterrent. Last year, the number of family apprehensions at the southwestern border skyrocketed from 1,118 families in April to 8,120 in December.

Parents will continue to flee violence to protect their children and themselves. It is reprehensible to punish them for that basic human impulse. It is also despicable that the government would use children as bargaining chips. This policy is tantamount to state-sponsored traumatization.

Those of us who have seen the sites where families are detained and work directly with children and families who have gone through the system know what's at stake.

The children we work with call the Border Patrol processing stations for migrants stopped at the border "iceboxes" (hieleras) and "dog kennels" (perreras). "I was wet from crossing the river and it was so cold I thought I would die," one child said.

Another told us: "The lights were kept on day and night. I became disoriented and didn't know how long I had been there." A third said: "I was separated from my older sister. She is the closest person in my life. I couldn't stop crying until I saw her again a few days later."

In our work we have heard countless stories about detention. But the shock of bearing witness to them is hard to put into words. In McAllen, Tex., you enter a nondescript warehouse, the color of the dry barren landscape that surrounds it. It could be storage for just about anything, but is in actuality a cavernous, cold space holding hundreds upon hundreds of mostly women and children.

Chain-link fencing divides the harshly illuminated space into pens, one for boys, a second for girls and a third for their mothers and infant siblings. The pens are unusually quiet except for the crinkling of silver Mylar blankets. This is where family separation begins, as does the nightmare for parents and children.

The parents whose sons and daughters have been taken from them are given two options: either agree to return home with their children — or endure having those children sent on to shelters run by the Health and Human Services Department while they themselves languish in detention centers scattered around the country.

This country's medical and mental health organizations have rightly recognized the trauma of this practice. The American Academy of Pediatrics has condemned immigrant family separation, and family detention overall, as "harsh and counterproductive." The American Medical Association has denounced family separation as causing "unnecessary distress, depression and anxiety."

Studies overwhelmingly demonstrate the irreparable harm to children caused by separation from their parents. A parent or caregiver's role is to mitigate stress. Family separation robs children of that buffer and can create toxic stress, which can damage brain development and lead to chronic conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and heart disease. For that reason, more than 200 child welfare, juvenile justice and child development organizations signed a letterdemanding that the Trump administration abandon this ill-conceived policy.

Family separation is also unjustifiable legally, as "family unity" is central to our immigration laws and our longstanding policy of reuniting citizens and permanent residents with their relatives.

More fundamentally, family separation is anathema to basic decency and human rights. For our government to essentially hold immigrant children as hostages in exchange for the "ransom" of their parents' deportation is simply despicable.

It is every parent's nightmare to have a child snatched away. To adopt this as standard procedure to facilitate deportations is inhumane and does nothing to make Americans safer. This country, and Secretary Nielsen, must reject family separation.



11)   Oil Was Central in Decision to Shrink Bears Ears Monument, Emails Show

MARCH 2, 2018




Comb Wash, a valley in Bears Ears National Monument near Blanding, Utah. CreditAndrew Cullen/Reuters

WASHINGTON — Even before President Trump officially opened his high-profile review last spring of federal lands protected as national monuments, the Department of Interior was focused on the potential for oil and gas exploration at a protected Utah site, internal agency documents show.

The debate started as early as March 2017, when an aide to Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, asked a senior Interior Department official to consider reduced boundaries for Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah to remove land that contained oil and natural gas deposits that had been set aside to help fund area public schools.

"Please see attached for a shapefile and pdf of a map depicting a boundary change for the southeast portion of the Bears Ears monument," said the March 15 email from Senator Hatch's office. Adopting this map would "resolve all known mineral conflicts," the email said, referring to oil and gas sites on the land that the state's public schools wanted to lease out to bolster state funds.

The map that Mr. Hatch's office provided, which was transmitted about a month before Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke publicly initiated his review of national monuments, was incorporated almost exactly into the much larger reductions President Trump announced in December, shrinking Bears Ears by 85 percent.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has been focused on expanding oil, gas and coal development and sweeping away Obama-era environmental initiatives that the administration contends hurt America's energy industry. The debate over shrinking national monuments sparked a fierce political battle over how much land needs federal protection that is now being fought in the courts.

Mr. Zinke has said that the agency review process made no presumptions about the outcomes. "We want to make sure that everyone's voice is heard," Mr. Zinke said at a news conference in May during a visit to Bear's Ears.

Most of the deliberations took place behind closed doors. The internal Interior Department emails — more than 25,000 pages in total — were obtained by The New York Times after it sued the agency in federal court with the assistance of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale University Law School. The lawsuit cited the agency's failure to respond to an open records request in August asking for internal records related to the deliberations.

The bulk of the documents made public by the Interior Department — about 20,000 pages of them — detail the yearslong effort during the Obama administration to create new monuments, including input from environmental groups, Indian tribes, state officials and members of Congress. President Barack Obama created or expanded 29 national monuments during his tenure, representing a total of about 553 million acres, more than any of his predecessors.

The remaining pages, a total of approximately 4,500 files, relate to the Trump administration's reconsideration of these actions by Mr. Obama and other presidents.

Heather Swift, the Interior Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that no uranium mine or milling operations were located within the boundaries of either the original or modified Bears Ears National Monument.

In reviewing monuments, Ms. Swift said, "The Secretary took into consideration the views of a variety of interested parties, such as members of congress, governors, state and tribal leaders, and the public, including the views of those parties as to possible revised monument boundaries. One such organization that weighed in was the State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) which is responsible for funding so the children of Utah receive a quality education."

Matthew Whitlock, a spokesman for Senator Hatch, said that the senator has been involved in discussions around Bears Ears for years. He emphasized that some of the land had long been designated to help fund local schools, and that Senator Hatch's interest was to protect the school funding.

The internal Interior Department emails and memos also show the central role that concerns over gaining access to coal reserves played in the decision by the Trump administration to shrink the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by about 47 percent, to just over 1 million acres.

Mr. Zinke's staff developed a series of estimates on the value of coal that could potentially be mined from a section of Grand Staircase called the Kaiparowits plateau. As a result of Mr. Trump's action, major parts the area are no longer a part of the national monument.

"The Kaiparowits plateau, located within the monument, contains one of the largest coal deposits in the United States," an Interior Department memo, issued in the spring of 2017, said. About 11.36 billion tons are "technologically recoverable," it projected.

From the start of the Interior Department review process, agency officials directed staff to figure out how much coal, oil and natural gas — as well as grass for cattle grazing, and timber — had been put essentially off limits, or made harder to access, by the decision to designate the areas as national monuments.

One memo, for example, asked Interior staff to prepare a report on each national monument, with a yellow highlighter on the documents emphasizing the need to examine in detail "annual production of coal, oil, gas and renewables (if any) on site; amount of energy transmission infrastructure on site (if any)." It was followed up by a reminder to staff in June to also look at how the decision to create new National Monuments in Utah might have hurt area mines.

"Sorry about this, but this came from DOI late yesterday," Timothy Fisher, the leader of the National Monuments and Conservation Areas program at Interior wrote to his colleagues, referring to the Department of Interior headquarters in Washington. "Are there mines or processing facilities near or adjacent to a National Monument?" he wrote. He also asked how the protection of the federal lands may have affected mining.

In another email exchange, in May, two Bureau of Land Management officials said that Mr. Zinke's chief of staff for policy, Downey Magallanes, had phoned to ask for information on a uranium mill in or near the Bears Ears monument. The request sought "economic data to the extent available," as well as grazing and hunting maps.

And on July 17, Ms. Magallanes and Mr. Zinke's counselor for energy policy, Vincent DeVito, met with representatives of a uranium mining company. The company, Energy Fuels Resources Inc., said its representatives hoped to discuss its White Mesa uranium mill as well as the Daneros uranium mine, both adjacent to the Bears Ears monument.

In addition to Paul Goranson, a top executive at Energy Fuels Resources, the meeting included Mary Bono, a former Republican congresswoman from California; and Andrew Wheeler, then a lobbyist at the firm Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting and now awaiting confirmation to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The debate over oil and gas reserves below the ground in Bears Ears had started during the Obama administration, the documents show, with officials from Utah State Board of Education writing to the Interior Department objecting to the plan to designate the property a national monument.

Before Utah became a state, in 1896, the federal government granted so-called trust lands to support state institutions, like the public schools, given that nearly 70 percent of the state is federally controlled land.

The state has generated more than $1.7 billion in revenue from the trust lands to support public schools, mostly by selling off mineral rights allowing private companies to extract oil or gas. The Bears Ears National Monument created by President Obama in 2016 included about 110,000 acres of these trust lands, eliminating the potential for resource sales, the state said.

John Andrews, associate director of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, which oversees the lands designated for school funding, acknowledged that the new Bears Ears boundaries approved by Mr. Trump, which reduced the land removed from the trust's management to about 22,000 acres, reflected his group's request to exclude its trust lands.

But he noted that Mr. Trump ultimately reduced the monument by a much larger amount than his organization had sought.

"Obviously they were looking at facts other than the ones we had raised, we assume," he said.

Mr. Whitlock, the spokesman for Mr. Hatch, said, "Senator Hatch is grateful these emails have been released because they make very clear that his priority in addressing the Bears Ears situation was looking out for the people of Utah."



12)  We Will Stay!' West Virginia Teachers Vote to Occupy State Capitol Until Demands Met

By Jake Johnson, March 2, 2018


As the demonstrations raged on in the state capitol, West Virginia lawmakers voted against bringing a teacher pay raise bill to the Senate floor for immediate consideration, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported on Friday. (Photo: Jacobin/Twitter)

Though you may not know it from the corporate media's coverage—or lack thereof—West Virginia teachers are still striking in an effort to win both a pay raise and a permanent fix to their soaring health insurance premiums, and on Friday they voted to occupy the state capitol until their demands are met.

Watch teachers chant "We will stay!" shortly following the vote:


Earlier this week, West Virginia's Republican Gov. Jim Justice and the state's education union leaders reached an agreement on a bill that would raise teacher pay by 5 percent—meeting, at least in word, one of the teachers' core demands.

However, the compromise did not offer a permanent fix to the state's Public Employee Insurance Agency amid rising premiums, so teachers decided to continue striking.

"This has been a huge issue, causing problems for years. They've been cutting our health insurance over and over, making it really expensive to survive," Jay O'Neal, a middle-school teacher and union activist in Charleston, said in an interview with Jacobin on Thursday.

On Friday, the mass walkout—which has left schools in all of West Virginia's 55 counties closed—entered its seventh day.

As the demonstrations raged on in the state capitol, West Virginia lawmakers voted against bringing a teacher pay raise bill to the Senate floor for immediate consideration, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported on Friday.

While some have called the West Virginia teachers' collective struggle for justice "the most important story in the country right now," many mainstream media outlets—including so-called liberal networks like MSNBC—have either neglected the strike or almost completely ignored it.

"Save for one two-minute throwaway report from daytime show 'Velshi and Ruhle,' MSNBC hasn't dedicated a single segment to the strike—despite the strike's unprecedented size and scope," media analyst Adam Johnson observed in a piece for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) on Friday. "The most glaring omission is from the three highly paid primetime hosts: Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, and former In These Times and Nation writer Chris Hayes. None of the three big hosts have tweeted about it, much less mentioned the subject on air."



13) Philando Castile Charity Pays Off Lunch Debt for Hundreds of Students

MARCH 5, 2018




A memorial for Philando Castile at the Minnesota governor's residence in July 2016. Mr. Castile was known to pay for needy students' lunches at the school where he worked. CreditJim Mone/Associated Press


Before Philando Castile became a household name in July 2016, when his deadly encounter with a Minnesota police officer was streamed live on Facebook, students at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School knew him simply as Mr. Phil. He was the school nutrition worker who often swooped in to pay for their lunches when they could not afford them.

Now, a year and a half after his death, a fund-raiser created in Mr. Castile's memory is continuing his legacy. Last week, the creator of the charity, Philando Feeds the Children, delivered a $35,000 check to St. Paul Public Schools — enough to finish paying off the debt owed by every student enrolled in the National School Lunch Program at the district's 56 schools, including Mr. Castile's former campus.

"We are merely trying to continue Mr. Phil's kind spirit," said Pamela Fergus, a psychology instructor at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul who started the fund-raiser. "He loved those kids."

Ms. Fergus created the charity last fall as a class project with her students in Psychology 212. It had a more modest goal then: to raise several thousand dollars to cover students' cafeteria debts at J.J. Hill. But the donations came rushing in, easily surpassing their expectations and raising tens of thousands of dollars in a few months.

In October, Ms. Fergus delivered the first check, a $10,000 payment to St. Paul Public Schools, the district said. Combined with the $35,000 donation last week, Philando Feeds the Children has covered the debts of at least 1,788 students, the district said on Sunday night.

"This fund-raiser demonstrates the kind and generous spirit our community members hold in their heart for the students of S.P.P.S.," Toya Stewart Downey, a school district spokeswoman, said in an email.

Mr. Castile knew firsthand the hardships many students face. In 2002, at 19, he joined the nutrition services department of St. Paul Public Schools. He became a supervisor in 2014 and had been working at J.J. Hill for several years at the time of his death. On Sunday, his mother, Valerie Castile, shared a news article about the charity's work on her Facebook page.

"GOD Gave US Your Spirit Of Love And Kindness," wrote Ms. Castile, who did not return a call seeking comment on Sunday. "Your Legacy Will Live Forever!!"

In the school district, about 70 percent of the roughly 37,000 students are enrolled in free or reduced-price lunch, a federal program that pays for a student's entire meal or a large part of it. Students whose families are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, automatically receive free lunches at school. Others are eligible based on income: A student in a family of three would qualify for free lunch if the household made less than $26,546 a year.

Every St. Paul student who goes through the cafeteria line receives a meal, and those who are charged a full or reduced price have the amount withdrawn from a personal account. If that account is insufficiently funded, a debt accrues. But the school district, not the families, is ultimately responsible for the bill. If an account balance is never paid, the district relies on donations or digs elsewhere into its budget to cover the cost.

Although the donations from Philando Feeds the Children have covered the debts of students enrolled in the federal program, the district still has $100,000 in lunch debt, said Stacy Koppen, its director of nutrition services. Additional students could qualify but have not turned in their applications, and others just miss the financial cutoff for eligibility.

"Our goal is to enroll them in the lunch program if we can," Ms. Koppen said in an email on Sunday. "Donations are used to cover unpaid meal charges, but that amount of money is finite."

Six months after the fund-raiser started, people have donated more than $148,000, according to its website. The organizer's ambitions have grown, too: Ms. Fergus wrote on the site that she now hoped to collect $999,999, raising enough to pay lunch debts in schools across Minnesota.



14)  Too Old to Be Executed? Supreme Court Considers an Aging Death Row

By   MARCH 5, 2018





Ohio tried to execute Alva Campbell, 69, in November but could not find a suitable vein into which to pump lethal chemicals.CreditOhio Department of Rehabilitation, via Associated Press


WASHINGTON — The nation's death rows are starting to look like geriatric wards. Condemned inmates in many states are more likely to die of natural causes than to be executed. The rare ones who are put to death often first spend decades behind bars, waiting.

It turns out that executing old men is not easy. In November, Ohio called off an attempt to executeAlva Campbell, 69, after the execution team could not find a suitable vein into which to pump lethal chemicals. The state announced that it would try again in June 2019, by which time he would have been 71.

But Mr. Campbell suffered from what one judge called an "extraordinary list of ailments." He used a walker, could barely breathe and relied on a colostomy bag. He was found lifeless in his cell on Saturday, having died in the usual way, without government assistance.

In Alabama last month, state officials called off the execution of Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, also because they could not find a suitable vein. Mr. Hamm has at least two kinds of cancer, cranial and lymphatic, and he may not have long to live with or without the state's efforts.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of another Alabama inmate, Vernon Madison, a 67-year-old man who suffers from dementia and cannot remember the crime that sent him to death row. The court, which has barred the execution of juvenile offenders and the intellectually disabled, is now turning its attention to old people.

In 1985, Mr. Madison killed a police officer, Julius Schulte, who had been trying to keep the peace between Mr. Madison and his ex-girlfriend, Cheryl Greene, as she sought to eject him from what had been their shared home. Mr. Madison shot Ms. Greene, too, wounding her.

Mr. Madison remembers none of this. He has suffered at least two severe strokes, and he is blind and incontinent. His speech is slurred, and what he says does not always make sense.

He has asked that his mother be told of his strokes, but his mother is dead. He soils himself, saying "no one will let me out to use the bathroom," though there is a toilet in his cell. He says he plans to move to Florida. He can recite the alphabet, but only to the letter G.

Mr. Madison also insists that he "never went around killing folks."

A court-appointed psychologist found that Mr. Madison had "significant body and cognitive decline as a result of strokes." But the psychologist testified that Mr. Madison understood what he was accused of and how the state planned to punish him. According to Steve Marshall, Alabama's attorney general, that is enough.

The Supreme Court's precedents bar the execution of people who lack a "rational understanding" of the reason they are to be put to death.

Mr. Marshall told the justices that Mr. Madison satisfied that standard. "The ability to form a rational understanding of an event," he wrote in January in a brief urging the justices to stay out of the case, "has very limited relation to whether a person remembers that event."

Mr. Madison's case, which has been bouncing around the court system for more than 30 years, has taken some unusual turns.

His first conviction was reversed because prosecutors violated the Constitution by excluding all seven potential jurors who were black. His second conviction was thrown outafter prosecutors committed misconduct by using expert testimony to tell the jury about evidence never properly introduced.

At Mr. Madison's third trial, the jury voted to sentence him to life in prison. But Judge Ferrill D. McRae, of Mobile County Circuit Court, overrode that verdict and sentenced Mr. Madison to death.

I interviewed Judge McRae in 2011not long before he died. I had sought him out because he had achieved a rare distinction. He had overridden six jury verdicts calling for life sentences, a state record, while never rejecting a jury's recommendation of death.

Alabama juries are not notably squeamish about the death penalty, but Judge McRae said they needed to be corrected when they were seized by an impulse toward mercy. "If you didn't have something like that," he said of judicial overrides, "a jury with no experience in other cases would be making the ultimate decision, based on nothing."

Alabama abolished judicial overrides last year.

In 2016, Mr. Madison came very close to being put to death. A deadlocked eight-member Supreme Court refused to vacate a stay of execution issued by a federal appeals court, with the court's four conservative members saying they would have let the execution proceed. Justice Antonin Scalia had died a few months before, leaving the Supreme Court short-handed. Had Justice Scalia lived, Mr. Madison would almost certainly be dead by now.

The case took some additional procedural twists, and Mr. Madison returned to the Supreme Court in January after a state court again ruled against him. The Supreme Court stayed his execution, though the court's three most conservative members — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — said they would have let it go forward.

The case, Madison v. Alabama, No. 17-7505, will be argued in the fall, and it will give the court a chance to consider some profound questions.

"Mr. Madison is one among a growing number of aging prisoners who remain on death row in this country for ever longer periods of time," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a concurring opinion when the court considered an earlier appeal. "Given this trend, we may face ever more instances of state efforts to execute prisoners suffering the diseases and infirmities of old age."



15)  Frail, Old and Dying, but Their Only Way Out of Prison Is a Coffin

MARCH 7, 2018




Kevin Zeich died shortly after his request for compassionate release was granted by the federal Bureau of Prisons. Only his belongings — and his ashes — made it to the home of his daughter, Kimberly Heraldez, in Bakersfield, Calif. CreditJenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

Kevin Zeich had three and a half years to go on his prison sentence, but his doctors told him he had less than half that long to live. Nearly blind, battling cancer and virtually unable to eat, he requested "compassionate release," a special provision for inmates who are very sick or old.

His warden approved the request, but officials at the federal Bureau of Prisons turned him down, saying his "life expectancy is currently indeterminate."

Congress created compassionate release as a way to free certain inmates, such as the terminally ill, when it becomes "inequitable" to keep them in prison any longer. Supporters view the program as a humanitarian measure and a sensible way to reduce health care costs for ailing, elderly inmates who pose little risk to public safety. But despite urging from lawmakers of both parties, numerous advocacy groups and even the Bureau of Prisons' own watchdog, prison officials use it only sparingly.

Officials deny or delay the vast majority of requests, including that of one of the oldest federal prisoners, who was 94, according to new federal data analyzed by The Marshall Project and The New York Times. From 2013 to 2017, the Bureau of Prisons approved 6 percent of the 5,400 applications received, while 266 inmates who requested compassionate release died in custody. The bureau's denials, a review of dozens of cases shows, often override the opinions of those closest to the prisoners, like their doctors and wardens.

Advocates for the program say the bureau, which oversees 183,000 inmates, denies thousands of deserving applicants. Roughly half of those who died after applying were convicted of nonviolent fraud or drug crimes.

"It makes sense to release prisoners who present very little danger to society. It's the humane thing to do, and it's the fiscally responsible thing to do," said Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, a Democrat. "The Bureau of Prisons has the theoretical authority to do this, but they basically do none of it."

Case files show that prison officials reject many prisoners' applications on the grounds that they pose a risk to public safety or that their crime was too serious to justify early release. In 2013, an inspector general reported that nearly 60 percent of inmates were denied based on the severity of their offense or criminal history. The United States Sentencing Commission has said that such considerations are better left to judges — but judges can rule on compassionate release requests only if the Bureau of Prisons approves them first.

Late last month, Mr. Schatz introduced legislation — co-sponsored with Senators Mike Lee of Utah, a Republican, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat — that would let prisoners petition the courts directly if the bureau denies or delays their requests.

Many are turned down for not meeting medical requirements. Mr. Zeich, who was serving 27 years for dealing methamphetamine, requested compassionate release three times, but was repeatedly told he was not sick enough. On his fourth try, his daughter, Kimberly Heraldez, finally received a phone call in March 2016 saying her father would soon be on a plane, headed to her home in California.

Early the next morning, she was awakened by another call. Her father had died.

Mr. Zeich's ashes now sit in a container in her closet alongside the splitting cardboard box of the possessions he had in prison: an insulin pump, glasses, stacks of medical records, and an album filled with photos of Ms. Heraldez and her three children.

"We brought him home," Ms. Heraldez said, "but not the way we wanted to."

'I Begged Them'

When Anthony Bell applied for compassionate release in October 2014, he had served all but one of a 16-year sentence for selling cocaine.

Prison doctors treating his lupus and liver failure estimated that he had less than six months to live. It took about that long for the bureau to hand down its response: Denied.

After reading Mr. Bell's medical records, officials concluded that he had more than 18 months to live. Two days later, he died.

"I begged them to please get him home," said Mr. Bell's sister, Denise Littleford, of Gaithersburg, Md. "And while the blood was still warm in his body, instead of sending him home in a body bag."

Compassionate release dates back to an overhaul of federal sentencing laws in the 1980s. While abolishing federal parole, Congress supplied a safety valve, giving judges the power to retroactively cut sentences short in "extraordinary and compelling" circumstances. But a court could do so only if the Bureau of Prisons filed a motion on an inmate's behalf.

For years, the agency approved only prisoners who were near death or completely debilitated. While nonmedical releases were permitted, an inspector general report found in 2013, not a single one was approved over a six-year period.

The report said the program should be expanded beyond terminal illness cases and used more frequently as a low-risk way to reduce overcrowding and health care spending. The Bureau of Prisons widenedthe criteria to explicitly include inmates over 65 and those who are the sole possible caregiver for a family member. Then Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. promoted the changes as part of his "Smart on Crime" initiative to "use our limited resources to house those who pose the greatest threat."

But the bureau, which is part of the Justice Department, has yet to fully embrace those changes. Of those inmates who have applied for nonmedical reasons, 2 percent (50 cases) have been approved since 2013, according to an analysis of federal prison data. And although overall approval numbers increased slightly between 2013 and 2015, they have since fallen.

At a 2016 sentencing commission hearing, Bureau of Prisons officials said they believed the program should not be used to reduce overcrowding. And even the principal deputy assistant to Mr. Holder, Jonathan Wroblewski, said the program was not an "appropriate vehicle for a broad reduction" in the prison population. "Every administration has taken the position that part of our responsibility is to ensure that public safety is not undermined," he said.

After the hearing, the commission released new guidelines encouraging prison officials to determine only whether inmates fit the criteria for release — that is, if they are old enough, sick or disabled enough, or if they are the sole possible caregiver for someone on the outside. Whether the prisoner poses a risk to the public should be left to a judge to decide, the commission said.

Mark Inch, who was appointed director of the Bureau of Prisons by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last August, has made no public statements about the program. The bureau declined to make Mr. Inch available for an interview and did not respond to emailed questions.

Dying in Shackles

The inmates who meet the criteria for compassionate release tend to be among the oldest and frailest in the federal prison system, whose population is getting older and more expensive. The Bureau of Prisons spent $1.3 billion on health care in fiscal year 2016. Roughly 12 percent of prisoners are 55 or older, and of those, many will spend their final years behind bars. Some are dying in shackles.

When Andrew Schiff arrived at a medical facility for inmates to say his goodbyes, his dying 87-year-old father was unconscious and on a respirator. Yet he was cuffed to his hospital bed and under 24-hour watch by an armed guard, according to Mr. Schiff. "There's no humanity in there," he said.

His father, Irwin Schiff, had less than two years left on his sentence for tax fraud. He had tried and failed for two years to win compassionate release.

To win approval, an inmate must get the blessing of the prison warden, and must have an acceptable home waiting. Doctors at the facility assess whether the applicant meets the medical criteria, such as being completely disabled or having fewer than 18 months to live.

If the warden signs off, the application gets passed on to the Bureau of Prisons' central office, which has its own medical director review the records. Even after the central office approves, the deputy attorney general may object. If approved, the request is passed on to a judge, who makes the ultimate decision. An analysis of federal prison data shows that it takes over six months on average for an inmate to receive an answer from the bureau. Almost 400 of the applications the bureau received between 2013 and 2017 are still awaiting a decision.

Pushing for Change

Most state prison systems have some version of compassionate release, sometimes known as medical parole. Nationally, prisons are facing an explosion in elderly inmates, but officials can still be wary of the idea of letting them out early. Recently, a Senate committee in South Dakota turned down the prison system's request to establish a similar program, citing concern over releasing violent offenders.

In recent months, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called on the Bureau of Prisons to speed up the federal process and grant more requests. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, a Republican, pressed the bureau for details on how it was improving the process in a report he submitted with the 2018 appropriations bill. A bipartisan group of senators, led by Mr. Schatz of Hawaii, wrote a letter last August saying they were "deeply concerned" that the bureau was failing to carry out its duties under the program.

The Justice Department's Office of Legislative Affairs issued a responsein January, citing approval rates that were slightly higher than those reflected in the data provided by the Bureau of Prisons to The Marshall Project and The New York Times. The bureau did not explain this discrepancy.

The January letter stated that cases were most commonly denied because inmates did not meet the criteria or lacked a stable place to live if they were released. But in 2016, officials turned down one of the oldest federal prisoners, 94-year-old Carlos Tapia-Ponce, on the grounds that his crime, a role in a large-scale cocaine trafficking operation, was too serious. He died the following month.

Tommy Leftwich died in prison last September. He had been serving 12 years for making meth when he was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. The bureau said in October 2016 that his early release would "minimize the severity of his offense and pose a risk to the community," noting a history of drug offenses and impaired driving.

Wayne "Akbar" Pray, 69, who has served nearly 30 years of a life sentence for running a New Jersey cocaine operation in the 1980s, first applied for compassionate release under the elderly inmate provision in 2013. His supporters included his warden, the current and former mayors of Newark, the local N.A.A.C.P., and several former members of Newark law enforcement.

In January, the bureau denied his request, pointing to the severity of his crime and his conduct in prison.

According to his disciplinary history, Mr. Pray's last violation was 20 years ago, for "improperly storing property and failure to follow sanitation procedures."




































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