Rally and March to Free Mumia

Saturday, April 28, 2018, 12:00 Noon

Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland, CA

Other Regional and International Actions to Free Mumia

Detroit, Michigan: National Conference to Defeat Austerity, Saturday, March 24. 10:00 A.M.—5:00 P.M.  St. Matthew's—St. Joseph's Church, 8850 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202. For more information: www.moratorium-mi.org

Houston, Texas: Banner Drop for Mumia, Monday, March 26, 5:30 P.M.—6:30 P.M.  Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement will do a banner drop over Houston's busiest freeway for Mumia, on Dunlavy Bridge, over Highway 59.

New York City: Break Down Walls and Prison Plantation: Mumia, Migrants and Movements for Liberation, Friday, March 23. 6:00 P.M. Community Supper 7:30 PM, Holyrood Episcopal Church, 715 179th Street, New York, NY 10033

Jericho Amnesty Movement 20th Anniversary, Saturday, March 24. Holyrood Episcopal Church, 715 W. 179th St, New York, NY, Dinner from 5:00 P.M.—6:00 P.M. Downstairs Program from 6:30 P.M.—9:00 P.M. in Sanctuary.

Sunday, March 25: March and Rally, Gather 12:00 P.M., U.S. Mission (799 UN Plaza: 1st Ave. and 45th St.), March 1:00 P.M., to Times Square for 2:00 P.M. Rally, Buses to Philadelphia: Leaving NYC March 27, 5:30 A.M. from 147 West 24 St. For information email info@freemumia.com or call 212-330-8029.

Vallejo, CA, Saturday, March 24: 1:00 P.M.—4:00 P.M., Vallejo JFK Library, 505 Santa Clara Street, Vallejo, CA 94590, Contact Info: New Jim Crow Movement (Vallejo), 707-652-8367, withjusticepeace@gmail.com

Toronto, Canada, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!, Saturday, March 24, 1:00 P.M., Across the street from the U.S. Consulate
360 University Avenue, march24freemumia@gmail.com 

Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday, March 25, Freedom Park RDD, Poetry. Hip Hop. Kwaito. Drama. Local Organizer: Pastor Rev, Contact Info: +27 649 240514











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!



October 20-21, 2018

Cindy Sheehan and the Women's March on the Pentagon

A movement not just a protest

By Whitney Webb

WASHINGTON—In the last few years, arguably the most visible and well-publicized march on the U.S. capital has been the "Women's March," a movement aimed at advocating for legislation and policies promoting women's rights as well as a protest against the misogynistic actions and statements of high-profile U.S. politicians. The second Women's March, which took place this past year, attracted over a million protesters nationwide, with 500,000 estimated to have participated in Los Angeles alone.

However, absent from this women's movement has been a public antiwar voice, as its stated goal of "ending violence" does not include violence produced by the state. The absence of this voice seemed both odd and troubling to legendary peace activist Cindy Sheehan, whose iconic protest against the invasion and occupation of Iraq made her a household name for many.

Sheehan was taken aback by how some prominent organizers of this year's Women's March were unwilling to express antiwar positions and argued for excluding the issue of peace entirely from the event and movement as a whole. In an interview with MintPress, Sheehan recounted how a prominent leader of the march had told her, "I appreciate that war is your issue Cindy, but the Women's March will never address the war issue as long as women aren't free."

War is indeed Sheehan's issue and she has been fighting against the U.S.' penchant for war for nearly 13 years. After her son Casey was killed in action while serving in Iraq in 2004, Sheehan drew international media attention for her extended protest in front of the Bush residence in Crawford, Texas, which later served as the launching point for many protests against U.S. military action in Iraq.

Sheehan rejected the notion that women could be "free" without addressing war and empire. She countered the dismissive comment of the march organizer by stating that divorcing peace activism from women's issues "ignored the voices of the women of the world who are being bombed and oppressed by U.S. military occupation."

Indeed, women are directly impacted by war—whether through displacement, the destruction of their homes, kidnapping, or torture. Women also suffer uniquely and differently from men in war as armed conflicts often result in an increase in sexual violence against women.

For example, of the estimated half-a-million civilians killed in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many of them were women and children. In the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, the number of female casualties has been rising on average over 20 percent every year since 2015. In 2014 alone when Israel attacked Gaza in "Operation Protective Edge," Israeli forces, which receives $10 million in U.S. military aid every day, killed over two thousand Palestinians—half of them were women and children. Many of the casualties were pregnant women, who had been deliberately targeted.

Given the Women's March's apparent rejection of peace activism in its official platform, Sheehan was inspired to organize another Women's March that would address what many women's rights advocates, including Sheehan, believe to be an issue central to promoting women's rights.

Dubbed the "Women's March on the Pentagon," the event is scheduled to take place on October 21—the same date as an iconic antiwar march of the Vietnam era—with a mission aimed at countering the "bipartisan war machine." Though men, women and children are encouraged to attend, the march seeks to highlight women's issues as they relate to the disastrous consequences of war.

The effort of women in confronting the "war machine" will be highlighted at the event, as Sheehan remarked that "women have always tried to confront the war-makers," as the mothers, daughters, sisters and wives of the men and women in the military, as well as those innocent civilians killed in the U.S.' foreign wars. As a result, the push for change needs to come from women, according to Sheehan, because "we [women] are the only ones that can affect [the situation] in a positive way." All that's missing is an organized, antiwar women's movement.

Sheehan noted the march will seek to highlight the direct relationship between peace activism and women's rights, since "no woman is free until all women are free" and such "freedom also includes the freedom from U.S. imperial plunder, murder and aggression"that is part of the daily lives of women living both within and beyond the United States. Raising awareness of how the military-industrial complex negatively affects women everywhere is key, says Sheehan, as "unless there is a sense of international solidarity and a broader base for feminism, then there aren't going to be any solutions to any problems, [certainly not] if we don't stop giving trillions of dollars to the Pentagon."

Sheehan also urged that, even though U.S. military adventurism has long been an issue and the subject of protests, a march to confront the military-industrial complex is more important now than ever: "I'm not alarmist by nature but I feel like the threat of nuclear annihilation is much closer than it has been for a long time," adding that, despite the assertion of some in the current administration and U.S. military, "there is no such thing as 'limited' nuclear war." This makes "the need to get out in massive numbers" and march against this more imperative than ever.

Sheehan also noted that Trump's presidency has helped to make the Pentagon's influence on U.S. politics more obvious by bringing it to the forefront: "Even though militarism had been under wraps [under previous presidents], Trump has made very obvious the fact that he has given control of foreign policy to the 'generals.'"

Indeed, as MintPress has reported on several occasions, the Pentagon—beginning in March of last year—has been given the freedom to "engage the enemy" at will, without the oversight of the executive branch or Congress. As a result, the deaths of innocent civilians abroad as a consequence of U.S. military action has spiked. While opposing Trump is not the focus of the march, Sheehan opined that Trump's war-powers giveaway to the Pentagon, as well as his unpopularity, have helped to spark widespread interest in the event.

Different wings of the same warbird

Sheehan has rejected accusations that the march is partisan, as it is, by nature, focused on confronting the bipartisan nature of the military-industrial complex. She told MintPress that she has recently come under pressure owing to the march's proximity to the 2018 midterm elections—as some have ironically accused the march's bipartisan focus as "trying to harm the chances of the Democrats" in the ensuing electoral contest.

In response, Sheehan stated that: 

"Democrats and Republicans are different wings of the same warbird. We are protesting militarism and imperialism. The march is nonpartisan in nature because both parties are equally complicit. We have to end wars for the planet and for the future. I could really care less who wins in November."

She also noted that even when the Democrats were in power under Obama, nothing was done to change the government's militarism nor to address the host of issues that events like the Women's March have claimed to champion.

"We just got finished with eight years of a Democratic regime," Sheehan told MintPress. "For two of those years, they had complete control of Congress and the presidency and a [filibuster-proof] majority in the Senate and they did nothing" productive except to help "expand the war machine." She also emphasized that this march is in no way a "get out the vote" march for any political party.

Even though planning began less than a month ago, support has been pouring in for the march since it was first announced on Sheehan's website, Cindy Sheehan Soapbox. Encouraged by the amount of interest already received, Sheehan is busy working with activists to organize the events and will be taking her first organizing trip to the east coast in April of this year. 

In addition, those who are unable to travel to Washington are encouraged to participate in any number of solidarity protests that will be planned to take place around the world or to plan and attend rallies in front of U.S. embassies, military installations, and the corporate headquarters of war profiteers.

Early endorsers of the event include journalists Abby Martin, Mnar Muhawesh and Margaret Kimberley; Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly; FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley; and U.S. politicians like former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Activist groups that have pledged their support include CodePink, United National Antiwar Coalition, Answer Coalition, Women's EcoPeace and World Beyond War.

Though October is eight months away, Sheehan has high hopes for the march. More than anything else, though, she hopes that the event will give birth to a "real revolutionary women's movement that recognizes the emancipation and liberation of all peoples—and that means [freeing] all people from war and empire, which is the biggest crime against humanity and against this planet." By building "a movement and not just a protest," the event's impact will not only be long-lasting, but grow into a force that could meaningfully challenge the U.S. military-industrial complex that threatens us all. God knows the world needs it.

For those eager to help the march, you can help spread the word through social media by joining the march's Facebook page or following the march'sTwitter account, as well as by word of mouth. In addition, supporting independent media outlets—such as MintPress, which will be reporting on the march—can help keep you and others informed as October approaches.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer forMintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, theAnti-Media, and21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.

MPN News, February 20, 2018






Support Herman Bell

Last week the New York State Board of Parole granted Herman Bell release. Since the Board's decision, there has been significant backlash from the Police Benevolent Association, other unions, Mayor De Blasio and Governor Cuomo. They are demanding that Herman be held indefinitely, the Parole Commissioners who voted for his release be fired, and that people convicted of killing police be left to die in prison.

We want the Governor, policymakers, and public to know that we strongly support the Parole Board's lawful, just and merciful decision. We also want to show support for the recent changes to the Board, including the appointment of new Commissioners and the direction of the new parole regulations, which base release decisions more on who a person is today and their accomplishments while in prison than on the nature of their crime.

Herman has a community of friends, family and loved ones eagerly awaiting his return. At 70 years old and after 45 years inside, it is time for Herman to come home.

Here are four things you can do RIGHT NOW to support Herman Bell:

1- CALL New York State Governor Cuomo's Office NOW

2-EMAIL New York State Governor Cuomo's Office

3- TWEET at Governor Cuomo: use the following sample tweet:

"@NYGovCuomo: stand by the Parole Board's lawful & just decision to release Herman Bell. At 70 years old and after more than 40 years of incarceration, his release is overdue. #BringHermanHome."

4- Participate in a CBS poll and vote YES on the Parole Board's decision
The poll ends on March 21st. Please do this ASAP!

Script for phone calls and emails:
"Governor Cuomo, my name is __________and I am a resident of . I support the Parole Board's decision to release Herman Bell and urge you and the Board to stand by the decision. I also support the recent appointment of new Parole Board Commissioners, and the direction of the new parole regulations, which base release decisions more on who a person is today than on the nature of their crime committed years ago. Returning Herman to his friends and family will help the heal the many harms caused by crime and decades of incarceration. The Board's decision was just, merciful and lawful, and it will benefit our communities and New York State as a whole."

Thank you for your support and contributions.

With gratitude,
Supporters of Herman Bell and Parole Justice New York



After almost 14 years of tireless work, we are changing our name to About Face: Veterans Against the War! This has been a long time coming, and we want to celebrate this member-led decision to grow our identity and our work with you.

Member vote at Convention in favor of changing the name

Why change our name? It's a different world since our founding in 2004 by 8 veterans returning from the invasion of Iraq. The Bush Administration's decision to start two wars significantly altered the political landscape in the US, and even more so in the Middle East and Central Asia. For all of us, that decision changed our lives. Our membership has grown to reflect the diversity of experiences of service members and vets serving in the so-called "Global War on Terror," whether it be deploying to Afghanistan, special operations in Africa, or drone operations on US soil. We will continue to be a home for post-9/11 veterans, and we've seen more members join us since the name-change process began.

Over the past 15 years, our political understanding has also grown and changed. As a community, we have learned how militarism is not only the root cause of conflicts overseas, but how its technology, tactics, and values have landed directly on communities of color, indigenous people, and poor people here at home.

So why this name? About Face is a drill command all of us were taught in the military. It signifies an abrupt 180 degree turn. A turn away. That drill movement represents the transformation that has led us to where we find ourselves today: working to dismantle the militarism we took part in and building solidarity with people who bear the weight of militarism in its many forms.

We are keeping Veterans Against the War as our tag line because it describes our members, our continued cause, and because we are proud to be a part of the anti-war veteran legacy. Our name has changed and our work has deepened, but our vision -- building a world free of militarism -- is stronger than ever. 

As we make this shift, we deeply appreciate your commitment to us over the years and your ongoing support as we build this new phase together. We know that dismantling militarism is long haul work, and we are dedicated to being a part of it with you for as long as it takes.

Until we celebrate the last veteran,

Matt Howard
About Face: Veterans Against the War
(formerly IVAW)

P.O. Box 3565, New York, NY 10008. All Right Reserved. | Unsubscribe

To ensure delivery of About Face emails please add webmaster@ivaw.org to your address book.



Tell the Feds: End Draft Registration

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


















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



Free Leonard Peltier!

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

By Leonard Peltier

Art 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



Artwork by Kevin Cooper



301 Days in Jail,
as of today.

Reality's trial
is now postponed 

until October 15th.

That's 500 Days in Jail,
Without Bail!


Whistleblower Reality Winner's trial has (again) been postponed.
Her new trial date is October 15, 2018, based on the new official proceedings schedule (fifth version). She will have spent 500 days jailed without bail by then. Today is day #301.
And her trial may likely be pushed back even further into the Spring of 2019.

We urge you to remain informed and engaged with our campaign until she is free! 

One supporter's excellent report

on the details of Winner's imprisonment

~Check out these highlights & then go read the full article here~

"*Guilty Until Proven Innocent*

Winner is also not allowed to change from her orange jumpsuit for her court dates, even though she is "innocent until proven guilty."  Not only that, but during any court proceedings, only her wrists are unshackled, her ankles stay.  And a US Marshal sits in front of her, face to face, during the proceedings.  Winner is not allowed to turn around and look into the courtroom at all . . .

Upon checking the inmate registry, it starts to become clear how hush hush the government wants this case against Winner to be.  Whether pre-whistleblowing, or in her orange jumpsuit, photos of Winner have surfaced on the web.  That's why it was so interesting that there's no photo of her next to her name on the inmate registry . . .

For the past hundred years, the Espionage Act has been debated and amended, and used to charge whistleblowers that are seeking to help the country they love, not harm it.  Sometimes we have to learn when past amendments no longer do anything to justify the treatment of an American truth teller as a political prisoner. The act is outdated and amending it needs to be seriously looked at, or else we need to develop laws that protect our whistleblowers.

The Espionage Act is widely agreed by many experts to be unconstitutionally vague and a violation of the First Amendment of Free Speech.  Even though a Supreme Court had ruled that the Espionage Act does not infringe upon the 1st Amendment back in 1919, it's constitutionality has been back and forth in court ever sense.

Because of being charged under the Espionage Act, Winner's defense's hands are tied.  No one is allowed to mention the classified document, even though the public already knows that the information in it is true, that Russia hacked into our election support companies." 

 Want to take action in support of Reality?

Step up to defend our whistleblower of conscience ► DONATE NOW

c/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559


@standbyreality (Twitter)

 Friends of Reality Winner (Facebook)




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,


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











Puerto Rico Still Without Power

















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!












1) Starbucks C.E.O. Apologizes After Arrests of 2 Black Men

 APRIL 15, 2018




Two black men were arrested on suspicion of trespassing in a Philadelphia Starbucks on Thursday. The police commissioner defended the actions of his officers, but Starbucks apologized.CreditMelissa DePino, via twitter

Two black men walked into a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia on Thursday afternoon and sat down. Officials said they had asked to use the restroom but because they had not bought anything, an employee refused the request. They were eventually asked to leave, and when they declined, an employee called the police.

Some of what happened next was recorded in a video that has been viewed more than eight million times on Twitter and was described by the chief executive of Starbucks as "very hard to watch." Details of the episode, which the authorities provided on Saturday, ignited widespread criticism on social media, incited anger among public officials and prompted investigations.

The video shows the men surrounded by several police officers wearing bicycle helmets in the Center City Starbucks. When one officer asks another man whether he is "with these gentlemen," the man said he was and called the episode ridiculous.

"What did they get called for?" asked the man, Andrew Yaffe, who is white, referring to the police. "Because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?"

Moments later, officers escorted one of the black men out of the Starbucks in handcuffs. The other soon followed.

The men, who have not been identified, were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. But Starbucks did not want to press charges and the men were later released, Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a recorded statement on Saturday.

The prosecutor's office in Philadelphia also reviewed the case and declined to charge the men because of "a lack of evidence that a crime was committed," Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for the office, said.

The company apologized on Twitter Saturday afternoon. Later that day, while the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending on Twitter, Kevin R. Johnson, the chief executive of Starbucks, released a statement in which he called the situation a "reprehensible outcome."

Mr. Johnson said he hoped to meet them in person to offer a "face-to-face apology."

He also pledged to investigate, and to "make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again."

"Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling," he said. "Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia Police Department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did."

A company spokesman late on Saturday would not say whether any employees would face discipline.

longer video of the episode shows the police talking with the men for at least four minutes before Mr. Yaffe arrives. He informs the police that the men they are about to take into custody are "not trespassing" but instead are "meeting me here."

"That's absolutely discrimination," Mr. Yaffe said in the video. A lawyer for the men did not immediately respond to an email or phone message seeking comment late Saturday. Mr. Yaffe declined to comment.

In his statement, Commissioner Ross defended his officers, noting they had asked the men to leave three times because employees had said they were trespassing. The men refused, he said.

"These officers had legal standing to make this arrest," Commissioner Ross said. "These officers did absolutely nothing wrong. They followed policy, they did what they were supposed to do, they were professional in all their dealings with these gentlemen — and instead they got the opposite back.

"I will say that as an African-American male, I am very aware of implicit bias," he continued. "We are committed to fair and unbiased policing, and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department."

About 700 of the department's 6,300 officers are equipped with body cameras, he added, but the officers involved were not wearing them.

Jim Kenney, the mayor of Philadelphia, blamed Starbucks, saying that the episode "appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018."

"Starbucks has issued an apology, but that is not enough," he said in a statement. He said he has asked the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to examine the company's policies and procedures.

Starbucks said such a review was already underway.

"I know our store managers and partners work hard to exceed our customers' expectations every day — which makes this very poor reflection on our company all the more painful," Mr. Johnson said in his statement. He added: "You can and should expect more from us. We will learn from this and be better."



2) A Black Teenager Asked for Directions. A Man Responded With Gunfire.

 APRIL 14, 2018




Brennan Walker and his mother, Lisa Wright. Brennan, who was shot at this week, said he was trying to ask for directions to school when "the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the shotgun."CreditClickondetroit.com

Brennan Walker, 14, of Rochester Hills, Mich., woke up around 7:30 a.m. on Thursday — too late. He had slept through his alarm and was going to miss the school bus.

So he decided to walk to Rochester High School, where he is a freshman. That takes about an hour and a half, but he thought he would at least make it in time for his third-period class in world studies, his favorite subject.

Brennan did not have his smartphone that morning, and so, lacking assistance from GPS, he tried to follow the route his bus usually takes. He ended up in a quiet subdivision where the roads looped into each other, and when he noticed he had gone in a circle, he stopped to ask for help.

He tried one home, and then another. A woman answered the door, he said, and began yelling almost immediately, as if he were trying to break into her house.

"She didn't really give me a chance to speak a lot, and I was trying to tell her that I go to Rochester High and I was looking for directions," Brennan said on Friday. "A few moments later the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the shotgun."

Brennan ran. The man followed briefly, walking out of his house and stepping off his porch, according to home security camera footage reviewed by the authorities. He fired a single shot with a 12-gauge shotgun, but Brennan was not hit. The teenager kept running. A few minutes later he encountered deputies — the woman at the home had called the authorities — and told his story.

"It's disgusting, it's disturbing and it's unacceptable on every level," Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County said. On Friday, the man, Jeffery Zeigler, 53, was charged with assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, the authorities said.

The security footage suggested that Mr. Zeigler was "not terribly weapons-competent," Sheriff Bouchard added. "He was slower to discharge the weapon and as a result, allowed this young man, thankfully, to get farther away."

The episode involving Brennan, who is black, called to mind instances in which black people have been killed by armed civilians or the police in recent years, like Stephon Clark, 22, who was fatally shot last monthby Sacramento police officers, setting off widespread protests. Brennan's story is similar to that of Renisha McBride, 19, who approached a stranger's home in a Detroit suburb and was shot and killed in 2013.

Brennan's mother, Lisa Wright, said she considered Rochester Hills, a Detroit suburb, a safe community but was only half-surprised that her son was threatened. "As a black person, I know it's a possibility," she said.

Mrs. Wright was mindful of what has happened to other black teenagers, like Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old in Florida who was killed while wearing a hooded sweatshirt by a neighborhood watch volunteer. She said she had already had the talk with her son about all of the extra things he might have to do to keep himself safe: Don't wear hoodies. Be open and approachable. Take your hands out of your pockets. She added that in the security footage she had seen, her son appeared to be doing everything right on Thursday morning.

"I just remember a huge shotgun being pointed and aimed at my son," she said. "My son was running away."

Mr. Zeigler, a retired firefighter, told a District Court judge on Friday that he was in bed on Thursday morning when his wife began "screaming and crying," The Associated Press reported. "There's a lot more to the story than what's being told," he added, "and I believe that will come out in court."



3) The Cost of Keeping Children Poor

By Mark R. Rank, April 15, 2018


ST. LOUIS — This past week, President Trump and House Republicans took initial steps to cut back the social safety net. Both have argued that such spending is counterproductive and wasteful, and that eligibility must be tightened for programs including food stamps and Medicaid. Mr. Trump and House Republicans have also asserted that welfare benefits are far too generous, and work requirements much too lax.

Yet as is so often the case, the reality is much different from what the political rhetoric says. The United States has the weakest safety net among the Western industrialized nations, devoting far fewer resources as a percentage of gross domestic product to welfare programs than do other wealthy countries.

Partly as a result, a majority of Americans will experience poverty during their lives, and America's rate of poverty consistently ranks at or near the top in international comparisons. Rather than slashing anti-poverty programs, the fiscally prudent question to ask is: How much does this high rate of poverty cost our nation in dollars and cents?

Clearly, poverty extracts a heavy toll upon those who fall into its ranks, particularly children. Countless studies have demonstrated the physical and psychological health costs for children experiencing poverty.

Yet a more difficult question to answer is: What are the economic costs to society as a whole? Over the past 40 years, there have been two attempts to answer this question, with the most recent analysis conducted more than 10 years ago. My colleague Michael McLaughlin and I recently decided it was time to revisit this question.

We relied on the latest government data and social science research in making our cost estimates. In particular, we examined the effect that childhood poverty has upon future economic productivity, health care and criminal justice costs, and increased expenses as a result of child homelessness and maltreatment.

In a study published in Social Work Research, we determined that childhood poverty cost the nation $1.03 trillion in 2015. This number represented 5.4 percent of the G.D.P. Impoverished children grow up possessing fewer skills and are thus less able to contribute to the productivity of the economy. They are also more likely to experience frequent health care problems and to engage in crime. These costs are borne by the children themselves, but ultimately by the wider society as well.

An even clearer way of gauging the magnitude of these costs is to compare their total with the total amount of federal spending in 2015. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government spent $3.7 trillion that year, meaning that the annual cost of childhood poverty represented 28 percent of the entire federal budget.

Equally important, we calculated what the cost savings would be for poverty reduction. Our analysis indicated that for each dollar spent on reducing childhood poverty, the country would save at least $7 with respect to the economic costs of poverty.

The bottom line is that reducing poverty is justified not only from a social justice perspective, but from a cost-benefit perspective as well.

Investing in programs that reduce childhood poverty is both smart and efficient economic policy.

Most of us are familiar with the saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It turns out that this is particularly true in the case of poverty.

It is not a question of paying or not paying. Rather, it is a question of how we pay, which then affects the amount we end up spending. In making an investment up front to alleviate poverty, the evidence suggests, we will be repaid many times over by lowering the enormous costs associated with a host of interrelated problems.

Recognizing the sizable costs of childhood poverty is an important first step toward summoning the political will to address this economic and societal blight. Instead of slashing an already weakened safety net, we should be following the example of most leading countries, which have built effective support systems that prevent poverty. By doing so, we would give our children a much better chance of reaching their full potential, which benefits us all.

Mark R. Rank is a professor of social welfare at Washington University and studies poverty, social welfare, economic inequality and social policy.



4)  Catalan Protesters Demand Release of Jailed Separatist Leaders

 APRIL 15, 2018




The scene in Barcelona on Sunday. CreditLluis Gene/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


BARCELONA, Spain — Hundreds of thousands of Catalan independence backers rallied in downtown Barcelona Sunday to demand the release of secessionist leaders being held in pretrial detention.

Protesters waved Catalan flags behind a huge banner that read "for rights and liberties, for democracy and unity, we want them back home."

The demonstration was organized by two pro-independence groups, the National Catalan Assembly and Omnium Cultural. Their leaders are among nine separatists in prison awaiting trial for their roles in last year's failed breakaway bid by the northeastern Spanish region.

The regional chapters of Spain's two leading labor unions, along with other civil society groups, supported the protest, despite the complaints from some members who disagree with secession for Catalonia. The Barcelona police said some 300,000 people participated in the protest.

"The majority of Catalans, regardless of their political position, agree that pretrial jail is not justified," said a regional union leader, Camil Ros. "What we as labor unions are asking for now is dialogue."

The secession movement in the wealthy region has plunged Spain into its deepest institutional crisis in decades.

Separatist lawmakers defied court orders and held a referendum on independence in October. Their subsequent declaration of independence for the region led to a crackdown by the Spanish authorities, who said they were acting to defend the Spanish Constitution, which declares the nation "indivisible."

Pro-independence parties retained a slim majority in Catalonia's Parliament after an election in December, but courts have blocked their attempts to elect as regional chief any lawmaker who is either behind bars or has fled the country.

The latest opinion poll published by the Catalan government in February said that support for independence had decreased to 40 percent from near 49 percent in October.



5) Seven Inmates Killed in South Carolina Prison Riot

 APRIL 16, 2018




Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, S.C., is a maximum-security prison. Seven inmates were killed there after fights broke out Sunday night. CreditAndy McMillan for The New York Times

Seven inmates were killed and 17 others were injured in a large riot that broke out Sunday night at a maximum-security prison in South Carolina, the authorities said.

The fights started around 7:15 p.m. in three housing units at Lee Correctional Institution, which houses some of the state's most violent and longest-serving offenders. Officers were unable to stop the fighting and secure the prison until around 2:55 a.m. on Monday.

The state's Corrections Department described the fights as "multiple inmate-on-inmate altercations." No police officers or prison employees were injured, the department said.

Lee Correctional Institution, which opened in 1993, houses about 1,500 male inmates. It is in Bishopville, S.C., about 40 miles east of Columbia, the capital.

State officials have pledged for years to make South Carolina's prisons, particularly Lee Correctional Institution, safer after a series of deadly fights. In 2013, Michael McCall, then the warden at Lee, said it was the most dangerous prison in South Carolina.

Two officers were stabbed there in a 2015 fight. An inmate was killed during a fight in July 2017, another was stabbed to death in November, and a third was killed in February.

Last month, several prisoners at Lee overpowered a guard in a dormitory and took control of the building for more than an hour.



6)  A 10-Minute Trial, a Death Sentence: Iraqi Justice for ISIS Suspects

 APRIL 17, 2018




Detainees suspected of being Islamic State fighters in the courthouse in Qaraqosh, Iraq, last year. Detainees have often been sentenced to death after quick trials in special counterterrorism courts.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

BAGHDAD — The 42-year-old housewife had two minutes to defend herself against charges of supporting the Islamic State.

Amina Hassan, a Turkish woman in a flowing black abaya, told the Iraqi judge that she and her family had entered Syria and Iraq illegally and lived in the Islamic State's so-called caliphate for more than two years. But, she added: "I never took money from Islamic State. I brought my own money from Turkey."

The whole trial lasted 10 minutes before the judge sentenced her to death by hanging.

Another accused Turkish woman entered the courtroom. Then another, and another.

Within two hours, 14 women had been tried, convicted and sentenced to die.

Iraq's judicial assembly line has relentlessly churned out terrorism convictions since the battlefield victories over the Islamic State last year led to the capture of thousands of fighters, functionaries and family members. Authorities accuse them of helping to prop up the group's vicious three-year rule over nearly a third of the country.

As millions of Iraqis struggle to recover from the bloodshed and destruction of the period, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has found widespread public support for his push to step up the pace of prosecutions — and for punishments to the full extent of the law, which in Iraq means execution.

"These Islamic State criminals committed crimes against humanity and against our people in Iraq, in Mosul and Salahuddin and Anbar, everywhere," said Gen. Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the Iraqi joint operations command. "To be loyal to the blood of the victims and to be loyal to the Iraqi people, criminals must receive the death penalty, a punishment that would deter them and those who sympathize with them."

But critics say the perfunctory trials in special counterterrorism courts are sweeping up bystanders and relatives as well as fighters, and executing most of them in a process more concerned with retribution than justice.

The office for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that flaws in the judicial process would most likely lead to "irreversible miscarriages" of justice.

Human Rights Watch has criticized Iraq for relying on an overly broad law to quickly achieve the maximum punishment of the most people.

The nation's counterterrorism law allows the death penalty for anyone "who commits, incites, plans, finances or assists in acts of terrorism." So Iraqi courts are meting out one-size-fits-all punishment for the perpetrator of crimes against humanity as well for as the wife of an Islamic State fighter who may have had little say in her husband's career.

"Individual circumstances don't matter," said Belkis Wille, the senior researcher for Iraq for Human Rights Watch. "Cooks, medical workers, everyone is given the death penalty."

The low bar for conviction under the law, she said, also means that the courts are not bothering to investigate some of the worst crimes believed to have been committed by Islamic State members, such as slavery, rape or extrajudicial killings.

Iraq's Justice Ministry rejects such criticism and touts the integrity of its judges and its standards of due process. "If there is evidence then suspects are prosecuted, and if there is no evidence then they are released," said Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, a judge and Justice Ministry spokesman.

The government has not released statistics about its terrorism detainees, but two people familiar with the court who were not authorized to speak to journalists said that approximately 13,000 people had been detained on suspicion of ties to the Islamic State since 2017, when the vast majority of arrests were made.

Human Rights Watch estimated in December that at least 20,000 people accused of ties to the Islamic State were being held by the Iraqi authorities. Last month, The Associated Press reported that Iraq had detained or imprisoned at least 19,000 people since 2014 on accusations of connections to the Islamic State or other terrorism-related offenses.

Many of these detainees were arrested on the battlefield. Some were detained far from combat, based on information gleaned from informers and prison interrogations.

Iraqi intelligence officials say that high-value detainees, people accused of involvement in specific terrorist attacks, are held separately from the majority of prisoners, who are suspected of having been low-level cogs in the Islamic State bureaucracy.

Since the summer of 2017, more than 10,000 cases have been referred to the courts, the people familiar with the court said. To date, they said, approximately 2,900 trials have been completed, with a conviction rate of about 98 percent.

They did not say how many had received the death penalty, nor how many executions had been carried out.

The government said 11 people were executed on Monday for "terrorism crimes," fulfilling "the government's promise to kill those responsible for shedding Iraqi blood," the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

Among those held apart from the general prison population are approximately 1,350 foreign women and 580 children, the majority of whom surrendered to Iraqi security forces last August during military operations to liberate the town of Tal Afar. The vast majority of these detainees are Turkish, Russian and Central Asian.

Iraq says it is determined to try them if evidence links them to the Islamic State, but some of their home countries, including Saudi Arabia, have requested extradition for some of their citizens. Other countries, like Britain and France, have been reluctant to take their citizens back, officials from both countries said.

In rare cases, individuals have been returned to their home countries, such as a group of four Russian women and 27 children in February, after Iraqi authorities concluded they had been tricked into coming to Islamic State territory. Turkey has been working to repatriate minors whose parents took them to the caliphate, as well as those found innocent of wrongdoing.

For a nation that for more than 15 years has been an incubator for Islamist extremists and has been torn apart by terrorist bombings, Iraqis have little appetite for leniency or concern about mitigating circumstances that in other nations could be grounds for clemency. Foreigners in particular are widely assumed to have been the Islamic State's most fervent adherents since they moved here to join the caliphate.

"What concerns me the most in these trials is that the system is fundamentally prejudiced against foreign individuals," said Ms. Wille, who has observed dozens of terrorism trials. "The presumption is because you are foreign, and you were in ISIS territory, there is no need to provide more evidence."

The 14 women convicted in one afternoon this month, 12 Turks and two Azerbaijanis ranging from 20 to 44 years old, had lived in Raqqa, the former capital of the group's territory in Syria. When international airstrikes escalated there and several of their husbands were killed, they moved to Iraq and were among those who surrendered outside Tal Afar.

Gaunt, withdrawn and surrounded by plainclothes security guards, they waited in the florescent-lit hallways of Baghdad's counterterrorism court for their trials to start. Eleven toddlers who had spent the last eight months in detention with their mothers accompanied them to the court.

When Ms. Hassan was called, she handed her child to another detainee to look after. The other women cooed and hummed to try to placate her curly-haired toddler. Some appeared to whisper prayers.

Their state-appointed lawyer, Ali Sultan, said he had not prepared for the trials. He said he had no access to the evidence against his clients because information related to terrorism investigations is classified.

He added that his pay — $25 regardless of whether the case goes to appeal — hardly encourages much effort. The fee is paid only after the final appeal is exhausted or the client is executed which, despite the push to expedite trials, can take months if not years.

After Ms. Hassan was sentenced by Judge Ahmed al-Ameri, he swiftly dispensed with the rest of the docket.

Negar Mohammed told him that she was innocent of all Islamic State crimes; he ruled otherwise.

Nazli Ismail told the judge that her husband pushed her family to go to Syria. Three of her children were killed in an airstrike, she said. The only one to survive was her youngest, a 2-year-old boy named Yahya, who was waiting outside in the hallway.

Judge Ameri asked, "Are you innocent or guilty?"

"I'm innocent," Ms. Ismail replied.

The judge sentenced her to death.

Ms. Ismail accepted her fate with a smile. "This means I will finally go to heaven," she said.

Mother and child left the courthouse under armed guard. It was unclear what would happen to the child.



7)  Is Your Body Appropriate to Wear to School?

By Hayley Krischer, April 17, 2018


Lizzy Martinez, 17, pictured outside of her home in Bradenton, Fla., was reprimanded by school officials at Braden River High School for not wearing a bra.CreditZack Wittman for The New York Times



8) Judge Orders Lead Inspections in Public Housing

 APRIL 17, 2018




Jim Walden, a lawyer for public-housing tenants, talked to reporters outside the courthouse in Manhattan as Danny Barber, a tenant leader, held a chart. CreditKholood Eid for The New York Times

A Manhattan judge hearing a lawsuit by public-housing tenants ordered the New York City Housing Authority on Tuesday to conduct lead inspections in thousands of apartments where young children live.

The preliminary injunction by the judge, Carol R. Edmead of State Supreme Court, marked the latest victory for tenant leaders who sued the authorityafter revelations last November that the agency had not conducted all of the lead paint inspections mandated by federal and local law.

After the lapses became public, in a report by the city's Department of Investigation, the housing authority admitted it had falsely certified lead paint paperwork with the federal government from 2013 to 2017.

Nycha, as the housing authority is known, has about 176,000 units, and in issuing the injunction, Justice Edmead said the agency must identify the thousands of apartments that required annual lead inspections from 2013 to 2017 and inspect them within 90 days.

Her order comes about a week after the resignation of the agency's embattled chairwoman, Shola Olatoye. Ms. Olatoye had come under scrutiny for her handling of lead paint inspections and for the failure of aged boilers that left thousands of residents without heat this winter.

During the hearing, Justice Edmead questioned Nycha's ability to carry out the inspections without a court order.

"There is a whole credibility issue if we should leave this to Nycha or a Nycha-selected contractor," she said.

Lead in paint can cause serious health and developmental problems, particularly in young children.



9) Israel Celebrates Its Independence, We Mourn Our Loss

By Ayman Odeh, April 18, 2018


Women sit next to the ruins of their dwellings, which were demolished by Israeli bulldozers, in the tiny village of Umm Al-Hiran, in January 2017. Its residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, have unsuccessfully fought the Israeli government for years to receive recognition for their home. Credit

Ammar Awad/Reuters

HAIFA, Israel — Seventy years ago, the world changed around my family. The establishment of the state of Israel represented self-determination for Jews, but a catastrophe — "nakba" in Arabic — for Palestinians. In the area around the Mediterranean city of Haifa, where my family has lived for six generations, only 2,000 Palestinians of a population of 70,000 remained. My grandparents, A'bdel-Hai and A'dla, were among them. Their neighbors were expelled and dispossessed, and never allowed to return.

More than 400 Palestinian communities were destroyed entirely — each one carried the memories and milestones of the families who called it home. My grandparents and all those Palestinian Arabs who remained and became citizens of the state of Israel were placed under military rule in Israel until 1966.

This is a sorrowful and important part of my family's story, and of Palestinian history. It should be recognized and mourned. But in 2011, Israel passed a law declaring that any institution that receives public funds can be financially penalized if it mourns the Nakba on the same day as Independence Day, which Israel celebrates on Thursday.

This law is intended to erase the painful truth of the Nakba, which is an inseparable part of the story of the founding of the state of Israel. It is also a point of proof that the Nakba — the erasure of Palestinians, along with our history, language and stories — is not a single historical event. It is a continuing phenomenon.

The Israeli educational system perpetuates the Nakba by refusing to teach about Palestinian society before 1948. Children in public schools throughout the country, Arab and Jewish, learn about European Zionists like Theodore Herzl, who died well before the establishment of Israel, but nothing about Palestinians before 1948. One would think there was not a Palestinian artist, poet or author before Israel's founding.

The residents of the small village of Umm al-Hiran, whose 1,000 residents are Palestinian citizens of Israel, tasted the continuing Nakba bitterly last week. They have been battling with the Israeli government for years to receive recognition for their village, which would allow it to finally be connected to the water and electrical grids, and to benefit from public infrastructure like paved roads. But the state dug in its heels in and refused, bulldozing the village over and over.

Finally, desperate to end the uncertainty and pain of living and raising families so precariously, the village residents signed an agreement with the government to move to a nearby town. Umm al-Hiran will be demolished, and a new town called Hiran will be built in its place. According to the planned town's bylaws, it will be home to religious Jews only; these racist requirements are legal under current Israeli law.

Palestinians living in the occupied territories feel the continuing Nakba constantly, at each checkpoint that makes travel unbearable and keeps them contained, at each funeral for an unarmed protester killed by Israeli snipers and each time a settlement is built on stolen land with the blessing of the Israeli government. And if the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows through on its desires to annex the West Bank without providing full equal rights to its Palestinian residents, it won't be a new Nakba. It will be the continuation of one that has never fully ended.

I don't believe that my grandparents could have imagined 70 years ago that I would become a member of Knesset, representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, a minority voice in the parliament of the country we did not ask for but that came to us on the land we have always called home. I can't know what place my children and grandchildren will have in their society in the future. But I am sure that to be able to create the kind of future I want for them — one in which they can live with equality and in peace — Israelis will have to do more than recognize the Nakba. They will have to end it.

To end the Nakba is to fully accept our humanity as Palestinians and to acknowledge that the only future for Israelis and Palestinians is a shared future. To end the Nakba, we must end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital. To end the Nakba, we must implement a just solution for Palestinian refugees. The Nakba will end when Israel recognizes the crimes of the Nakba and works to correct those mistakes. The Nakba will end when Jewish schoolchildren learn the culture of Arab Palestinians, just as Arab children learn Jewish history and culture, when they study the history of all the indigenous peoples of the land, when Palestinian children grow up with the freedom to move and live and determine their own destinies.

Then we can begin to commemorate the Nakba as a thing of the past, and to mourn it.

Ayman Odeh (@ayodeh) leads the Joint List, the third-largest bloc in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, and is chairman of the Hadash party.



10) 25-Year-Old Textbooks and Holes in the Ceiling: Inside America's Public Schools

By Josephine Sedgwick, April 16, 2018


Students at Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria, Ariz., learn from 25-year-old biology textbooks.CreditFrank Eager


Broken laptops, books held together with duct tape, an art teacher who makes watercolors by soaking old markers.

Teacher protests have spread rapidly from West Virginia to OklahomaKentucky and Arizona in recent months. We invited America's public school educators to show us the conditions that a decade of budget cuts has wrought in their schools. 

We heard from 4,200 teachers. Here is a selection of the submissions, condensed and edited for clarity.

Rio Rico, Ariz.

Michelle Gibbar, teacher at Rio Rico High School

Salary: $43,000 for 20 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $500+

I have 148 students this year. The district skipped textbook adoption for the high school English department, leaving us with 10-year-old class sets, and we do not have enough for students to take them home. Our students deserve better. Our nation deserves better.

As I near retirement age, I realize I will retire at the poverty level. The antiquated myth of the noble, yet poor, teacher must go. I am passionate about my subject and my students. I am not passionate about living paycheck to paycheck.

Tempe, Ariz.

Jose Coca, teacher at Kyrene Middle School

Salary: $46,000 with 12 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,000

The building smells old and dank. There are holes in the ceiling, skylights don't work, the walls need to be painted, I still use a chalk board, but — more important — my students need new desks and computers.

I can't speak for other school districts, but mine — in Tempe — can't get new social studies books for students. Young teachers spend more out of their own pockets because they don't have supplies stockpiled. 

My pay is not keeping up with inflation. I have co-workers leaving midyear, or not renewing their contracts, and I work with a lot of older teachers that have maybe five more years in them. I also work with some who retire and return as workers for a private staffing company.

North Las Vegas, Nev.

Kelsey Pavelka, teacher at Wilhelm Elementary

Salary: $33,000 with three years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,000

I have six laptops for 42 fifth-grade students (in one classroom) with many broken keys and chargers. My students are supposed to use these to prepare for their state test, which requires typing multiple paragraph responses. I crowdfunded to get 10 Chromebooks with all the keys on the keyboard, so they could learn to type on a machine that works.


Kathryn Vaughn, art teacher

Salary: $50,000 with 11 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,500

I am a public-school teacher in the rural South. I've had to become incredibly resourceful with the supplies. Teaching art to about 800 students on a $100-a-year budget is difficult. I do receive some donations from the families at my school, but my school is Title I and the families don't have a lot to give.

I personally have to work several additional jobs to survive and support my veteran husband. We live in a modest house, I drive a 15-year-old car, and despite all of that, even with my master's degree, some months we are not food secure.

Warren, Mich.

Elliot Glaser, media specialist at Warren Mott High School

Salary: $94,000 for 20 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,000

I work in a high school in a suburb north of Detroit. We have about 1,650 students, roughly 25 percent of whom are English Language Learners (students new to our country who don't speak English well or at all). 

After two years with no budget at all, this year I was given a little more than $500 for our library. I was able to purchase about 30 books. I am lucky, since our elementary and middle school libraries received no budget at all for the fourth straight year.

Guymon, Okla.

Kristina Johnson, teacher at Guymon Central Junior High School

Salary: $44,000 with 20 years of experience and three degrees

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,500 to $2,000

We have nearly 2,000 emergency, untrained teachers in Oklahoma. I have 15-year-old textbooks, wasps living in my ceiling (I killed 8 in one day in January DURING class), broken desks, leaky ceilings, and I had to purchase my own curriculum this year.

My students deserve quality educational experiences. I'd gladly give back my "raise" if only our government would reinstate our core funding.

Providence, R.I.

Rachel Cohen, high-school teacher

Salary: $47,000 with three years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $300

My public school is full of dedicated educators and students, but the building dates to 1938 and has barely been renovated. The level of dilapidation is something we've all become desensitized to. When I went out to take pictures, I realized how little I notice it on a day-to-day basis.

Aurora, Colo.

Abby Cillo, elementary-school teacher

Salary: $48,000

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,200

My third-grade students are in a mobile classroom that is basically a trailer. That's 25 students in a classroom the size of a hotel room. All of the bathrooms are still in the main building, so my 8- and 9-year-olds have to walk outside unattended unless we stop class to take group bathroom breaks.

Teachers are being made out to be lazy, incompetent and greedy, but school board members, district administrators and superintendents make the most money, while the rest of us are fighting for their crumbs.

I've been ready to strike for over a year.

Palacios, Tex.

Beth Etzler, teacher at East Side Intermediate Elementary

Salary: $51,000 for 25 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $2,000

Our classroom budgets have been cut to about $200 per classroom. In our supply closet, it's rare to find tape and you'll never find construction paper. 

Seeing my classroom would lead people to think things are great because my room is well supplied. It is. By MY paycheck.


David Russell, teacher at McKinley South End Academy

Salary: $110,000 after 30 years at McKinley

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,000+

We are not in as bad condition as in the striking states. We just have old leaky windows, insufficient space and broken-down furniture. I've built bookshelves, and every year I paint my classroom.

I did a survey a couple of years ago of the staff at my school about out-of-pocket expenses. With a few months still to go in the year, the survey documented $24,475 of spending, averaging almost $1,000 per person, on everything from books to field trips to class incentives to food.

Louisville, Ky.

Ivonne Rovira, teacher at Westport Teenage Parent Program

Salary: $53,000 with 13 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,400

In Kentucky, we tried everything — calling, emailing, visiting our own legislators, visiting other people's legislators with political ambitions for higher office, generating so many calls that the 1-800 line was constantly busy for the first time in my recollection. 

It was only when legislators faced 10,000 teachers and state workers inside and outside the State Capitol building that they had the fear of God instilled in them. Without our loud, angry presence, the Kentucky budget would have been a disaster for public schools.

I work at Westport Teenage Parent Program (TAPP), an alternative high school in Louisville for pregnant girls and teen moms, part of a network of programs that faced losing $477,000 with the latest cuts. 

We have so little money to begin with that the printer I use came through donations from DonorsChoose.org. I buy my students lined paper, pencils, colored paper, markers, crayons, construction paper, you name it. 

I'm no different than millions of teachers nationwide.



11)  A Rule Is Changed for Young Immigrants, and Green Card Hopes Fade

 APRIL 18, 2018




Romain, 23, from Burkina Faso, says he was abandoned by his uncle after coming to the United States. Immigration authorities have rejected his application for a green card.CreditMark Abramson for The New York Times

As a child, Y. says she was beaten by her father with ropes and cables in Honduras.

J. says he was forced into labor in Burkina Faso.

R., who was born in the Dominican Republic, says she was neglected by her mother and abandoned by her father.

All three applied for something known in immigration law as Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which lets children under the age of 21 who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents obtain a green card. But in the last several weeks, all three, living in New York, were denied because of an unannounced policy reversal by the Trump administration.

Under the new interpretation, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said that applicants in New York who were over 18, but not yet 21, when they began the application process no longer qualify.

For the last 10 years, cases like theirs have routinely been approved. But as the Trump administration focuses on limiting all forms of immigration and tries to stop the flow of unaccompanied minors at the Mexico-United States border, it appears to be targeting the special immigrant status; President Trump often invokes fear that these immigrants could belong to MS-13, the transnational gang, and that they are committing fraud in their applications.

"They are looking for what he calls 'loopholes,' and what we call protections, and trying to close them," said Wendy Young, the executive director of Kids In Need of Defense, a nonprofit organization that represents young immigrants who come to the country unaccompanied. "Under this administration, everybody is presenting a fraudulent claim, rather than, 'Why is this child here and do they need protection?'"

So far, at least 81 applicants from the New York City area have been denied or were told they would soon be denied by the immigration agency, according to The Legal Aid Society of New York. In total, more than 1,000 young people across the state, not all of them from Central America, could be affected.

Although there are other states that follow a process similar to New York's, including California, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington, lawyers believe that New York has seen the most denials.

In the last week, the Legal Aid Society said, the immigration agency has also sent a handful of notices to New York-area clients saying they were going to revoke applications that had previously been approved.

"When do immigrants get to rely on decisions from U.S.C.I.S.?" asked Eve Stotland, the legal director for The Door, an organization that works with disadvantaged youth in New York. "What if the client is naturalized? You spin into a place of arbitrariness and absurdity, and a failure to follow the rule of law."

Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for the agency, said: "U.S.C.I.S. has not issued any new guidance or policy directives regarding the adjudication of S.I.J. petitions. We remain committed to adjudicating each petition individually based on the merits of the case and safeguarding the integrity of our lawful immigration system."

The federal law establishing Special Immigrant Juvenile status was first enacted as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 and then expanded in 2008. To obtain it, applicants must first have a ruling from their state's juvenile court, finding that they have been abused, abandoned or neglected. A judge must also declare the young person dependent on the court, or appoint a caretaker. In the second part of the process, the applicant submits the judge's order to the immigration agency.

The Trump administration seems to be narrowly reinterpreting the law, saying that in cases where applicants are over 18, they no longer qualify, because the state court's authority ends at that age. According to its reasoning in one denial letter provided to The Times, "once a person attains the age of 18, the family courts lack jurisdiction over the person's custody."

Those over 18 can be appointed guardians, however, which the immigration agency now does not consider the same as custody. Lawyers say that's semantics, since in state law, guardianship and custody have equal rights and responsibilities.

"Nothing in the federal statutes has changed; only the interpretation has changed," Beth Krause, the supervising attorney for the Immigrant Youth Project at The Legal Aid Society of New York, said. "And now, U.S.C.I.S. is interpreting this in a way to cut out a very large portion of kids who, until the past couple of weeks, had gotten these grants under the same facts."

"It's a bad faith argument," said Rebecca McBride, a lawyer at Atlas: DIY, a nonprofit organization helping immigrant youth in Brooklyn, who represents several people with special immigrant status.

The immigration agency declined to explain the change, saying in an email response, "A petitioner must submit a court order issued by a juvenile court that contains specific determinations made under relevant state law." It referred to a policy manual rewritten in October 2016. The agency pointed to the dramatic increase in SIJ applications in recent years, with 11,335 approved applications in 2017 compared with 1,590 in 2010, with the greatest increase coming after the surge of Central American minors coming to the U.S. in 2014.

Consider the case of J., a shy young man, now 22, from Burkina Faso. He went to family court in New York in late 2016 when he was 20, and the court granted him an order that enabled him to apply to the immigration agency. He received two requests for more information before being denied because of his age several weeks ago."At the moment of application, if they had this issue about 18 years old, why would they allow me to continue this if that's what they thought?" J. said, in French, with his lawyer at The Door. "Why would they let this whole family court thing happen? Why would they allow this to advance to this point and now decide?"He and other young immigrants interviewed asked to be identified only by their first initial or first name because of fear of repercussions from the government.

J.'s lawyer at The Door is appealing the denial.

Y., another client of The Door, came to the United States in August 2016, and at the end of that year, when she was 20, obtained a special findings order from the New York family court. She said she had also been threatened with rape by a gang in Honduras because she was a lesbian. That would seem, her lawyer said, to make it "in the best interests of the child" not to send her back — another part of the law.

Y. was denied, but her younger brother, A., who had come to the United States in 2015 and also applied when he was over 18, was approved in January 2017.

"The government wants to pick and choose who is and isn't a child, but in fact it's a matter of law," Ms. Stotland said.

Legal organizations say they first started seeing signs that the government was holding up the special immigrant applications in the later years of the Obama administration, but the trend became more pronounced in the spring of 2017, when the agency started asking for more information about applications.

Romain, 23, was 4 years old when his parents were murdered in Congo, in the house where he was sleeping. His uncle took him to Burkina Faso, and 14 years later sent him to the United States to study. Then the uncle cut all ties with him, Romain says, leaving him in New York, alone, broke and homeless.

Romain came on a student visa, but without money to pay for college, it lapsed. He landed in a homeless shelter for boys.

In 2015, when Romain was 20, he applied for special immigrant status with the help of Ms. McBride at Atlas: DIY. A family court in Brooklyn found that he fit the criteria that year, but upon further review, the federal immigration agency caught a discrepancy they believed was fraud. Romain's uncle had filled out his student visa application incorrectly, saying the young man's parents were alive, so the application was initially denied.

That complicated the appeal process, but Ms. McBride and Romain persisted, finding sufficient evidence of his parents' death, which the government eventually believed. But in Spring 2017, Ms. McBride said, the agency said that death was not akin to abandonment. And, finally, this winter, the agency added the over-18 stipulation to its notice of intent to deny Romain's application. She submitted an appeal, and they are waiting.

"I am extremely frustrated, I'm confused," Romain said, "but I am always thinking that if the interpretation of those rules can be changed today, the same interpretation can be changed tomorrow — for the better."



12)  California Lawmakers Kill Housing Bill After Fierce Debate

 APRIL 17, 2018




A bill considered by a California State Senate committee aimed to create increased housing density near rail and ferry stops, overriding local zoning codes. CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

SACRAMENTO — Just before a committee of California state senators voted on a landmark bill to ramp up housing production by overriding local resistance, legislator after legislator talked about a dire affordable-housing crisis that demanded bold action and a marked increase in new building.

Then they killed the bill.

The vote here on Tuesday evening highlighted the emergence of California's housing and homeless problem — and the fraught question of how to address it — as a potent election-year issue that promises to dominate the state's politics for years.

The ferocity of that debate was on display throughout a meeting of the State Senate's Transportation and Housing Committee, which met to vote on a divisive bill that would force local governments to accept higher-density projects around transit centers like train stations.

The bill, called S.B. 827, was introduced by Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, and would have allowed developers to build five-story condominiums and apartment buildings near rail stops, even if local governments and zoning codes prohibited developments of that size.

During the public comment period, supporters told of how housing costs were chasing businesses and the middle class out of the state. They said the bill would help stop the bleeding.

Later, a long line of opponents portrayed the bill as a threat to neighborhoods and low-income residents and at one point began chanting: "827, what do we say? Kill the bill, kill the bill."

Despite the disagreement, there was a broad consensus — among senators on the raised dais, among the constituents and lobbyists in the room — that housing costs remain a central issue.

"This issue isn't going away," Mr. Wiener said.

The public reaction to the bill seemed to underscore that. Ever since Mr. Wiener introduced S.B. 827 on Jan. 3 — the first day of the legislative session — it has dominated the state's conversation about housing. The bill came up in political debates and candidate interviews, and cities across the state had votes on whether or not they supported it.

Mr. Wiener added amendments to reduce the bill's height limits and strengthen protections for lower-income residents who might be displaced by demolition of older, more affordable buildings. But that did little to move the most entrenched opponents, and introducing it in an election year made it tough for lawmakers to support something so polarizing.

Some of the fiercest opposition came from local governments arguing that the bill would strip them of land-use decisions. The bill was also opposed by groups concerned about gentrification in neighborhoods already pummeled by rising rents.

"This bill will exacerbate an already perilous situation for tenants throughout the state," said Damien Goodmon, director of Housing Is a Human Right, a division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. "We need to be talking about protective measures" like rent control.

More than anything else, the bill showed the political challenges of building housing in places where people already live — something California will almost certainly will have to do to make progress on this problem. In the 1950s and 1960s, California became the most populous stateby constructing vast freeway and water systems that allowed developers to pave over farmland to build suburbs and house the swelling population. Today the biggest housing pressures are in the urbanized parts of the San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas.

And yet, despite broad agreement that the state will probably need to house more of its population in places where infrastructure has already been developed, there seems to be little consensus on how to go about that. Mr. Wiener's bill split a number of constituencies, largely over just how far to go in prodding localities to build more housing.

Mr. Wiener pitched his bill as a way to combat climate change by fostering neighborhoods that allow more people to commute to work without car — a goal that almost every conservation group supports. But the California chapter of the Sierra Club opposed the bill, while other groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council, stood in favor of it.

Likewise, while a host of tenants' rights and anti-gentrification groups opposed the bill for fear it would displace lower-income residents, a number of scholars wrote a letter of support, saying it would help undo decades of racial segregation brought on by restrictive zoning.

Even with the committee action, the idea of state intervention in what has historically been a local problem is unlikely to go away. Mr. Wiener vowed to bring back the bill. So this may be remembered as the start of a long negotiation over how to make cities less hostile to new construction.

In an interview earlier this year, Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor now running for governor, said that California was in "code red" for housing affordability and that he liked the "spirit" of Mr. Wiener's bill, but he would not support it as written. "I told him point blank, 'I would not sign this bill, but I love what you are doing. How can I help?'"



13)  Student Loans and Debt Prison

By Alan Nasser, April 18, 2018


Holders of student loans—most of whom are no longer students—carry a combined debt burden that stands at a record high of $1.5 trillion, more than eight percent of GDP and more than the $1.3 trillion in direct costs of waging war against Iraq.

The desirability of cancelling student debts

The burden weighing like a nightmare, to coin a phrase, on 44 million indebted current and former students will haunt these people for a good portion of their lives. The average student debtor graduates owing close to $34,000 and is projected to spend 21 years paying it off. At present, the average monthly payment for those between 30 and 40 years old is $351.00. It is not uncommon for repayment obligations to be borne by underwriters of these loans, typically the primary borrower's parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Taking these co-signers into consideration, we have about 100 million people adversely affected, directly or indirectly, by the difficulty very many have repaying these loans.

Because it is hard to have loans dismissed or renegotiated on the grounds of undue hardship, cases like the following are numerous: a 2008 graduate entered the job market with $50,000 in student debt. After the September meltdown he was laid off from his $29,000 a year job and had no choice but to default. His mother, a laid-off factory worker, had underwritten his loan, and so $120.00 of her $300.00 unemployment check was garnished in order to service her son's federal loan. Her plea that this arrangement imposed undue hardship fell on deaf ears.

Renegotiating the terms of a subprime mortgage, no mean feat, is easier than having the terms of a student loan readjusted. After her home was foreclosed and she managed to have her mortgage renegotiated due to bankruptcy, Sallie Mae refused to rewrite a woman's student loan. She was allowed, however, to defer payment. Extensions and postponements went on for 14 years, the original loan of $28,000 had increased to more than $90,000 and monthly payments had jumped from $230.00 to $816.00.

Default charges, relentlessly compounding interest rates and collection-agency fees make up a hefty portion of current student-loan debts. A medical student graduated owing about $250,000. Residency and an unexpected serious illness forced her to defer payments after a number of inevitable default charges. When her loan was turned over to a collection agency a $53,870 fee was added. By this time her debt stood at $555,000.

In these times when the typical new job represents an "alternative work arrangement," i.e., part-time, low-pay work[1]and an increasing percentage of employed workers are stuck in this type of job, trying to keep up with loan repayments is taking a punishing toll on debtors. Reutersreports that at least one-in-four is either sacrificing healthcare, vacations, new home buying and other elements of a decent standard of living, or is in default. A good number of student debts are in fact debts that simply cannot be repaid.

Two recent studies throw light on what it would look like, in specific and workable terms, if steps were taken to cancel a student debt burden that for many is literally unbearable, and what it threatens to look like if nothing is done. The Levy Economics Institute has released "The Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation"[2]and the American Civil Liberties Union has produced the truly scary "A Pound of Flesh The Criminalization of Private Debt."[3]

The Levy study is more than mildly wonkish; the co-authors produce data series, tables and lay out balance sheet mechanics for a range of scenarios under which student debt can be actually cancelled within the framework of the existing financial system. In this article I will merely sketch their main claims and state their basic conclusions. I conclude with a description of what looks a lot like the rebirth of debtors' prisons as a response to the superfluity of Americans bearing unbearable debt burdens.

The mechanics of cancelling student debts

Most writing on student debt details the magnitude of the burden and the inhuman consequences visited upon debtors who struggle to make payments or who just can't pay. Until the Levy study we have seen nothing spelling out the mechanics of how to actually go about cancelling student debt,[4]or demonstrating the positive effects on the economy of making it possible for income currently shackled to debt repayment to be spent for other purposes.[5]

Student debt can be cancelled as a political project either by government or by the Federal Reserve. Government can finance the cancellation of student debt in a number of ways including: cancelling whole hog the Department of Education's (DE) loans, whereby all the loans disappear simultaneously; cancelling DE's loans serially, as payments come due; effectively cancelling loans issued by private lenders by assuming payment of these loans; effectively cancelling loans issued by private lenders by simultaneously purchasing and cancelling these loans, or by purchasing these private loans and then cancelling principal as payments come due.

For those whose ideological predilections favor private solutions to social problems, the Federal Reserve can carry out student debt cancellation by: purchasing DE's loans and cancelling them all at once; cancelling the payments for the DE loans; taking over debt service payments to private lenders; purchasing private loans and cancelling payments; simultaneously purchasing and cancelling loans owned by private lenders; purchasing loans issued by private lenders and cancelling principal as payments come due.

Any of these steps would free students, former students and co-signers from making any future payments on current outstanding student loan debt. Most importantly, the U.S. financial system as such, i.e., apart from political limitations of choice imposed by discretionary legislation, consists of no structural features entailing the impossibility or undesirability of legislating any of the above measures. Recall that the multi-trillion dollar bailout of the banks was effected without a dime of taxpayer money, as then-Fed-chairman Ben Bernanke averred on "60 Minutes." The Fed simply plucked what was "needed" out of thin air, the way all government money is created. And the redirection of interest payments to consumption spending would not trigger inflation, because (official false assertions of full employment aside) discouraged workers out of the labor force, and workers who want but cannot find full-time employment—and all these number very many—would use the money to put the 20-25 percent of America's now idle productive capacity to use. An economy with this much slack will not generate unmanageable inflation when idle capacity, human and non-human, is put to work.

With respect to the Fed—a private institution remember, whose seven Board members are bankers—it is perceived need that typically determines the strategies that the Fed is willing to pursue. Needs are class-relative. Bankers needed to be rescued from insolvency, hence the bailout. Working-class homeowners are not among the Fed's governors, nor are their needs the same as bankers'. Virtually nothing was done to benefit those with foreclosed homes. The owners of the Fed have no interest in addressing the needs of desperate debtors. On the contrary, the Fed's constituency loves the unending flow of interest payments. What is required to make the possible actual is a national movement, led perhaps by groups like Strike the Debt, marching, disrupting and striking in the name of debt cancellation.

The benefits of cancelling student debt

Such a movement would educate the population about the current state and social costs of student loan debt. The Levy study, essential for activists, provides the relevant details. It also reminds us that the interest payments on this debt represent not only a significant reduction of debtors' financial resources, but a substantial sum that has been diverted from alternative, productive uses. The interest payments currently extracted from households are unproductive, increase the insecurity of the working class and go straight to the very wealthy. The effect of wholesale debt cancellation would be to redirect funds now bound to debt service to productive, rather than extractive, uses. The immediate effect would be to boost consumption demand, which would in turn spill over into other forms of spending like increasing production and hiring workers. The study finds that, over a ten-year forecast, cancellation could raise GDP $86-108-billion-a-year, reduce the average unemployment rate by 0.22-0.36 percentage points, and add from 1.2 to 1.5 million new jobs per year. And by ending the debt-payment drain on household resources, working people's vulnerability during business cycle downturns would be reduced.

Cancellation of all student-loan debt, then, is both feasible and desirable. Let's get on with it.

The criminalization of private debt

Elites are well aware that what is in store for the majority of the working population is a future of declining living standards, contingent, low-paying work, debt peonage and declining social services—in a word, secular austerity. High levels of imprisonment, burgeoning surveillance, the suppression by Googleand Facebookof access to alternative, independent sources of critical social, political and economic commentary and the militarization of an increasingly brutal police force are repressive measures enacted in ruling-class anticipation of the widespread social dislocation that must attend long-term austerity.

Debtors have been targeted for severe punishment lest they try "to get something for nothing," i.e., fail to service debts they are unable to pay. The ACLU study provides a wealth of information for educators and organizers. The number of debtors in serious trouble is startling. One in three Americans has a debt that has been turned over to a private collection agency. One in five Americans has unpaid medical bills that have gone into collection.

Student-loan debtors have been in the court system's bull's-eye. A Texas man was arrested by seven or eight U.S. Marshals for failure to appear in court. The original $2,500 federal student loan he obtained in 1983 to pay for trucking school had ballooned to $12,000 with interest and fees. The man was not merely unwilling, he was unable to appear in court: he had just undergone open-heart surgery. Had he been able to appear, it would still have been unable to pay. He was retired and subsisting on Social Security and disability. In most cases like this, the court has not cared.

Failure to appear in court for the "judgment debtor exam" is grounds for creditors to have the judge issue a civil warrant for the debtor's arrest. Failure to appear in court is the major grounds for the issuance of a warrant and/or arrest. Among common reasons for failing to appear include work obligations, childcare responsibilities, lack of transportation, physical disability, illness or dementia. These legitimate excuses rarely carry weight with the courts. ACLU found cases in which warrants were issued to terminally ill debtors who died shortly after the warrants were issued. But most often debtors failed to appear because they were not notified of the court date, or, more scandalously, they were not even notified of the existence of the lawsuit. The ineptitude of the courts' procedures stands in sharp contrast to the relentlessness with which the courts, in collusion with debt collectors, hound the indebted. In Maryland a man, 83 and his wife, 78, were jailed because they did not appear at a show cause hearing in a district court. (Ineptitude and inattention abounds: the server described the man as 41-years-old and his wife as his 28-year-old roommate.) The issue was $2,342.76 owed to a homeowners' association, plus $450 in attorney's fees. Not atypically, the couple had never been served notice of the hearing; they were out of the country when the process server claimed to have performed service. Adding insult to injury, the show cause hearing had been scheduled for the couple's failure to appear at a post-judgment proceeding, for which they had also never been served.

In this case, like many others, the couple was arrested and a cash-only bond was set in the amount of $2,900, more than the default judgment against them. Of course if the default payment was unaffordable, so was the bond payment. An increasing percentage of locked-up debtors remain incarcerated simply because they cannot afford bail.

Turning state and local courts into collectors' courts

More than 6,000 debt collection firms collect billions of dollars a year for the creditors who hire them. Millions of collection lawsuits are filed each year in state and local courts. These are the majority of cases on many state court dockets, and in many state courts debt purchasers file more suits than any other type of plaintiff. Frequently the courts require no evidence that the alleged debt is actually owed. In theory, this should work in the defendant's favor, but the vast majority of these defendants are not represented by a lawyer. The sheer numbers of this type of case lead the courts to barrel through collection suits with great speed and virtually no scrutiny. The debtor is doomed from the outset. Over 95 percent of debt collection suits end in favor of the collector.

The implications of this entire setup are more far reaching than the harm described above done to debtors. The damage includes lost wages, lost jobs and psychological distress. And the debtor need not be jailed in order for these damages to take their toll. An arrest warrant by itself can wreak long-lasting havoc on the debtors' lives: warrants are entered into background check databases, which can jeopardize future employment, educational opportunities, housing applications and access to security clearances.

The ACLU study, from which much of the above has been drawn, documents the pervasiveness of this wholesale and mounting assault on the indebted and the poor. This is but one of the strategies employed in the elite attempt to re-make America into a society that has discarded the protections of the New Deal/Great Society heritage. And of the Constitution. Here we have yet another instance of the effort to return America to the settlement of the 1920s. The deliberate attempt to addict households to debt even as debtors are subject to unremitting prosecution-persecution is but one of the abominations of the march of neoliberalism.

Because the serving of warrants and jailing of debtors has begun picking up steam in recent years, and the financial situation of these potential prisoners has been gradually deteriorating, we have reason to expect that student-loan debtors could come to make up a significant portion of the growing ranks of those threatened with debt prison. Arrest warrants have been issued in California, Florida, Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas. Arrests have been heaviest in California, Texas and Minnesota. In many cases there was no announcement of court orders or that the debtor was being sued. U.S. marshals in Minnesota conducted "Operation Anaconda Squeeze" to arrest student-loan debtors who had failed to appear in court for a "debtor's examination." Whether they had received prior notice was often thought by the court to be beside the point. As with the cases described earlier, often defendants are ordered to pay much more than the amount of the original loan. A Texas man, who received no prior notice about the debt or the court case brought by a private collection agency on behalf of Uncle Sam, was arrested by seven armed U.S. marshals for an unpaid $1,500 student loan he had borrowed 29 years earlier. He was ordered to pay, after interest and court fees, more than twice the amount of the original loan. $1,258.60 was added to reimburse the marshals for his arrest.

Note that these actions, often conducted by armed marshals, display the ongoing militarization of society that we must expect as creeping austerity becomes the new normal.

Private and public debt in the history of American capitalism

The respective impacts on the economy of private and public debt are thoroughly misconstrued in official propaganda. Political and economic elites make no fuss over the accumulation of massive private debt. It is public debt that unsettles the plutocrats. Mounting public debt and deficits are held to portend State bankruptcy. Private and public debt have produced consistent respective results over the course of U.S. capitalist development, and they are the opposite of what the Party Line puts forward. It is private debt that generates crisis, and federal deficits that ward off depression. Here are the relevant facts.

Of all the developed capitalist countries since the end of the Second World War, America has offered its workers the most niggardly social democratic benefits. The so-called social safety net has been either non-existent or insufficient to provide working-class households with a modicum of material security. Low private-sector wages and a paltry welfare State have made debt—unsustainable debt at that—a necessary supplement to the reward for work. This is clearly illustrated in the only two periods in American history when there appeared to be a thriving middle class, namely the 1920s and the Golden Age of 1949-1973.

During the 1920s, when wages were stagnant, the proportion of total retail sales financed by credit increased from ten percent in 1910 to 15 percent in 1927 to 50 percent in 1929. Because 71 percent of households stood on or below the poverty line during that decade, the ratio of household debt to household income rose steadily through the 1920s. In 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927 and 1928, the ratios stood at, respectively, 13, 18, 22, 25 and 31 percent. That most working-class households were in penury during these years was disguised by the supplementing of poverty-level wages with mounting debt. When debt rises faster than income the debt must be unsustainable. When the limits of household debt were reached around 1926, the especially rapid rise in the production and consumption of durable goods that propelled the decade's growth rates could not be maintained. By 1929 there was a troubling decline in investment and in the demand for types of durable goods most responsible for the post-1921 growth surge. The stage was set for the Great Depression.

A similar scenario characterized the Golden Age. In 1946 the ratio of household debt to disposable income stood at about 24 percent. By 1950 it had risen to 38 percent, by 1955 to 53 percent, by 1960 to 62 percent, and by 1965 to 72 percent. The ratio fluctuated from 1966 to 1978, but the stagnation of real wages which began in 1974 pressured households further to increase their debt burden in order to maintain living standards, just as they had done during the 1920s, pushing the ratio of debt to disposable income to 77 percent by 1979. By the mid-1980s, with neoliberalism in full swing and wages continuing to stagnate, the ratio began a steady ascent, from 80 percent in 1985 to 88 percent in 1990 to 95 percent in 1995 to over 100 percent in 2000 to 138 percent in 2007. When the housing bubble first showed signs of leakage in 2006, the percentage of total household debt consisting of mortgage debt rose from 68 to 76 percent. As debt rose relative to workers' income, households' margin of security against insolvency began to erode. The ratio of personal saving to disposable income under neoliberalism began a steady decline, falling from 11 percent in 1983 to 2.3 percent in 1999. There followed the burst of the housing bubble and a dramatic decline in working-class living standards in the Great Recession.

While in America household debt accumulation has been necessary to provide the appearance of prosperity, it has never been sufficient. So deep-seated is American capitalism's tendency to stagnation that federal deficits have been necessary to avert economic crisis. For almost all of its history the U.S. has run deficits; they have been and remain the norm. There have been only seven historical U.S. attempts to balance the budget and reduce the national debt. Each has resulted in depression or Great Recession. The first six attempts (1817-21, 1823-36, 1852-57, 1867-73, 1880-93 and 1920-30) were quickly followed by depressions. The seventh, Clinton's 1998-99 surplus, was followed by a crash eight years later. The delay was effected by a historic boost to demand provided by the unprecedented household credit explosion of the late 1990s up to the crash of September 2008.

An exhaustive study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research analyzed 138 years of economic history in 14 advanced capitalist economies. It concludes that a major cause of severe economic downturns is high levels of private debt.[6]Michael Hudson has made a powerful case for the re-emergence of debt peonage as the chronic condition of the working class absent profound structural political-economic change. In my forthcoming (June) book Overripe Economy American Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy, I discuss the features of the historical evolution of U.S. capitalism that have led to the current settlement, the major transformations now under way, and what a genuinely democratic political economy must look like.

CounterPunch, April 18, 2018


[1]Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger (2016). "The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995—2015," Princeton University and NBER. March 29.

[2]Scott Fullwiler, Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin and Marshall Steinbaum, "The Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation," February 2018, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

[3]"A Pound of Flesh The Criminalization of Private Debt"  2018  American Civil Liberties Union

[4]) "The Macroeconomic Effects…," pp. 18-35

[5]"The Macroeconomic Effects…," pp. 46-49

[6]Alan Taylor, "The Great Leveraging," Working Paper 18290 National Bureau of Economic Research



14)  Who Is Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba's New President?

By Azam Ahmed and Frances Robles, April 19, 2018


Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez in line with his wife, Lis Cuesta, and local residents before voting in national and provincial elections in Santa Clara, Cuba, last month.CreditPool photo by Alejandro Ernesto

HAVANA — As soon as Cuba and the Obama administration decided to restore diplomatic relations, decades of bitter stagnation began to give way. Embassies were being reopened. Americans streamed to the island. The curtain was suddenly pulled back from Cuba, a nation frozen out by the Cold War.

But one mystery remained: While nearly everyone knew of Cuba's president, Raúl Castro, his handpicked successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, was virtually unknown.

So when members of the United States Congress visited Cuba in early 2015, they peppered Mr. Díaz-Canel with questions: What did he think of the revolution that defined the island's politics and its place on the world stage?

"I was born in 1960, after the revolution," he told the group, according to lawmakers in the meeting. "I'm not the best person to answer your questions on the subject."

Mr. Díaz-Canel, who became Cuba's new president on Thursday, has spent his entire life in the service of a revolution he did not fight.

Born one year after Fidel Castro's forces took control of the island, Mr. Díaz-Canel is the first person outside the Castro dynasty to lead Cuba in decades.

He took the helm of government on Thursday morning to a standing ovation from the National Assembly, which elected him in a nearly unanimous vote. Mr. Castro embraced him, lifting the younger man's arm in triumph.

Mr. Díaz-Canel's slow and steady climb up the ranks of the bureaucracy has come through unflagging loyalty to the socialist cause — he "is not an upstart nor improvised," Mr. Castro has said — but he largely stayed behind the scenes until recent years.

Now, as leader, Mr. Díaz-Canel is suddenly taking on a difficult balancing act. Most expect him to be a president of continuity, especially because he arrives in the shadow of Raúl Castro, who will remain the head of the armed forces and the Communist Party, arguably Cuba's most powerful institutions.

But Mr. Díaz-Canel also has to figure out how to resuscitate the economy at time when President Trump is stepping back from engaging with Cuba. On top of that, Mr. Díaz-Canel must find a way to manage the frustrations of a Cuban population impatient with the pace of change on the island — without the heft of his predecessor's revolutionary credentials.

Such credentials have been the bedrock of political power in Cuba ever since Fidel Castro seized control of the nation in 1959. In the ensuing years, the Castros ruled over Cuba with ironclad control, bolstered by a cadre of loyalists, nearly all of whom had fought alongside them in the revolution.

In the end, the most effective opposition to the Castro brothers was time.

Fidel Castro handed power to Raúl in 2006, then died 10 years later at the age of 90. Raúl then ushered in some of the most substantial reforms in decades, and is now orchestrating yet another one — the passing of the torch to a new generation.

After opening up the economy to private investment and entrepreneurialism, expanding travel in and out of the country and re-establishing ties with the great enemy, the United States, Raúl Castro has selected Mr. Díaz-Canel to fill his shoes.

Despite recent efforts to raise his profile, Mr. Díaz-Canel remains a somewhat unknown figure both domestically and abroad. In 2012, he led the Cuban delegation to the London Olympics and accompanied Raúl Castro to an international conference in Brazil.

Still, "he is someone who has very little exposure to U.S. political or cultural figures," said Daniel P. Erikson, a former State Department official. "He is simply not a known figure in the U.S., and frankly he isn't that well-known in the rest of Latin America, either."

Ever since Mr. Díaz-Canel was named first vice president in 2013, Cubans and Cuba watchers alike have scrambled to find out more about the enigmatic heir apparent, combing through his track record as party leader in the provinces of Villa Clara and Holguín, and later as minister of higher education, for clues on how he will lead.

In each position, according to those who knew him at the time, Mr. Díaz-Canel has been a quiet but effective leader, seemingly open to change. Many called him a good listener, while others described him as approachable, free of the rigidness and inaccessibility of typical party chiefs.

Through it all, he has also been a relentless defender of the revolution and the principles and politics it brought.

Stories of his Everyman qualities have spread widely in recent years: how he rode his bike to work instead of taking a government vehicle during gas shortages; how he defended the rights of a gay club in Santa Clara in the face of protests; how he patiently listened to academics grouse (sometimes about him) as minister of higher education.

More recently, he was a leading voice in the push for internet access in Cuba, arguing that the nation could not seal itself off from the outside world. Though his beliefs remain very much within the party line, those who know him say he does not adhere to the belief that Cuba can exempt itself from the modernization necessary to participate in the global economy.

But in Cuba, the continuum of political thinking is not black and white. Often, conventional definitions of progressives versus hard-liners do not apply. Leaders can be both, and Mr. Díaz-Canel is an example of that. While he is seen as open to the ideas of others, as a younger man he led a campaign to stifle students who read and discussed literature that was not approved by the Communist Party, according to those who knew him at the time.

Last year, a video was leaked of Mr. Díaz-Canel addressing a group of party officials. In it, he lambastes the United States, claiming that Cuba had no responsibility to meet its demands under the reconciliation brokered by President Barack Obama.

He then went on a diatribe against a website whose work he considered subversive. He told fellow officials that the government would shut it down — no matter whether people considered it censorship.

The video was seen as a way for Mr. Díaz-Canel to shore up his credentials with hard-line factions within the government, and yet a review of his career shows that he has not shied away from confronting activities deemed out of bounds by the government, either.

Mr. Díaz-Canel grew up in the central province of Villa Clara, about three hours from Havana, the son of a schoolteacher and a factory worker. He studied electrical engineering at the Central University of Las Villas, where he was active in political life.

While unknown abroad, from an early age he was viewed as a rising star within Cuba's Communist Party.

As a young man, he joined the Union of Young Communists, the party's youth league, where he stood out among his peers. He later worked as a bodyguard to Raúl Castro. According to a friend who knew him at the time, the assignment allowed him to show loyalty to the cause, and drew Mr. Díaz-Canel close to both Raúl and Fidel Castro.

He served three years in the army, another node of power in the country, after which he resumed his slow climb up the party ladder.

In his 20s, he was named the party's liaison to Nicaragua, the only other Communist government in the region at the time, a posting viewed as important to the Cuban government.

Rodolfo Stusser, 72, recalled meeting Mr. Díaz-Canel in the late 1980s, while working as a doctor during Nicaragua's civil war. Dr. Stusser felt the other doctors around him were lazy, not serious about their work. And just as he began liking his life in Nicaragua, he was being deployed elsewhere. He took his complaint to the Cuban Embassy, where he ran into a young Mr. Díaz-Canel, who offered him a ride.

Dr. Stusser unloaded, listing the various injustices he felt were being visited on him. It was almost therapeutic, he recalled. Mr. Díaz-Canel, an up-and-coming member in the party at the time, sat quietly and listened for the duration of the 40-minute drive, he recalled.

"He just heard me," Dr. Stusser said. "He did not say anything at all. It helped me."

Not long after, Dr. Stusser found his fortunes reversed in Nicaragua. He was allowed to stay. And an official who was giving him the runaround made time to see him.

Dr. Stusser, who defected in 2010 and now lives in South Florida, always suspected that the soft-spoken Communist Party official who listened but did not speak had quietly worked his connections in Havana and Managua to sort out his issues.

Juan Juan Almeida, 52, recalls hearing Mr. Díaz-Canel's name come up years later in conversations with his father, who was a prominent member of the Cuban Communist Party at the time. He remembers his father coming home one night in 1993 after a meeting in which officials discussed future leaders of the country.

José Ramón Machado Ventura, a member of the Cuban old guard, proposed a slate of young leaders and Mr. Díaz-Canel's name was among them.

"Raúl responded: He's trustworthy, but too young," Mr. Almeida remembers his father telling him after the meeting. "This was the first time I had ever heard the name Miguel Díaz-Canel."

From then on, he said, Mr. Díaz-Canel's name came up often. He moved from one prominent job to another — including provincial posts where he developed a reputation as an effective and loyal functionary.

As first secretary in Villa Clara Province, Mr. Díaz-Canel came to office during the so-called special period, when the generous aid flowing to Cuba from the Soviet Union was abruptly cut off after its collapse.

Back then, Mr. Díaz-Canel took his bicycle to work rather than ride in the air-conditioned car he was entitled to as a prominent leader. It was the sort of move people still talk about in Villa Clara and its capital, Santa Clara.

Mr. Almeida, who also defected to the United States, said he and Mr. Díaz-Canel had many mutual friends, in particular musicians and artists whom Mr. Díaz-Canel had taken the time to support in their careers. The new president also has a son who is a musician in Argentina, Mr. Almeida added.

"He mixes with the intellectual class, goes to concerts and is close to young people," Mr. Almeida said. "All of the people I know who we have in common speak very well of him. They don't speak of him in dictatorial fashion."

Academics and others in Havana declined to be interviewed about Mr. Díaz-Canel, because the government did not give them permission.

In Santa Clara, Mr. Díaz-Canel is remembered for his Bermuda shorts at a time when party officials wore more formal attire, and for wearing his hair long.

His beliefs also skewed liberal, residents say. He lent his support to one of the country's only gay clubs, El Mejunje. When it opened decades ago, the club was a point of contention. But Mr. Díaz-Canel, who took his children to the club when it hosted children's activities, consistently backed the club in the face of controversy.

"He supported us anytime there was a complaint made against us," said Ramón Silverio Gómez, the club's director. "He was an ally. And one day when I saw him he said, 'You can keep counting on my support and my understanding.'"

Yet some saw Mr. Díaz-Canel's persona as crafted and less genuine than is often supposed. Sure, he rode his bike to and from work. But he was always trailed by his personal security in vehicles, others said.

"It was a bit of demagoguery," said Guillermo Fariñas, a well-known dissident and Cuban psychologist who grew up with Mr. Díaz-Canel in Villa Clara. "In terms of the gasoline, he was on a bicycle, but there were cars with security going behind him. It was a bit a manipulation of the people."

Mr. Fariñas recalled how one night, while he was hospitalized, the power went out. This was during the time of greatest shortages in Cuba, in the 1990s.

At about 3 o'clock in the morning, Mr. Díaz-Canel, who was first secretary in the province, went to the hospital and began going from room to room, checking on patients and apologizing for the blackout.

Even back then, Mr. Fariñas was a known dissident. He was in the hospital recovering from a hunger strike.

"When they were outside my room, I could hear the state security agents telling him, 'No, don't go to that room. That's a counterrevolutionary's room,'" he recalled. "Díaz-Canel was like, 'What do you mean, don't go to that room? Of course I'll go to that room!'"

Mr. Díaz-Canel entered, shook Mr. Fariñas' hand and said, "Let's not talk about politics."

The men chatted briefly before Mr. Díaz-Canel rushed off to see the next patient.

"My impression was that he was doing politics," Mr. Fariñas said.

Mr. Fariñas also recalled how, after graduation, Mr. Díaz-Canel became a teacher and party functionary at his university, joining a nationwide campaign to fight "negative tendencies" in Cuba.

"They tried to convince people that if you were not a real communist, you had to be sanctioned," Mr. Fariñas said of Mr. Díaz-Canel. "He was the head of that at the university."

It was part of the duality of Mr. Díaz-Canel, he added. Mr. Díaz-Canel could be accessible, friendly and modern — mingling with locals, playing basketball with the youth and listening to rock music. But he could also be a staunch advocate of communism and the revolution, willing to silence critics.

"He was very active, very militant and very unconditional in his loyalty to the regime," Mr. Fariñas said.

Azam Ahmed reported from Havana, and Frances Robles from Miami. Ed Augustin contributed reporting from Havana.



15) Damage to Great Barrier Reef From Global Warming Is Irreversible, Scientists Say

By Jacqueline Williams, April 19, 2018




A diver surveying damaged coral in the Great Barrier Reef after a mass bleaching in 2016.CreditXL Catlin Seaview Survey, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SYDNEY, Australia — An underwater heat wave that damaged huge sections of Australia's Great Barrier Reef two years ago spurred a die-off of coral so severe that scientists say the natural wonder will never look the same again.

Scientists said nearly one-third of the reef's coral were killed when ocean temperatures spiked in 2016, a result of global warming, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The damage to the reef, one of the world's largest living structures, has also radically altered the mix of its coral species, scientists said.

"The reef is changing faster than anyone thought it would," said Terry P. Hughes, the lead author of the study and the director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Queensland.

"One thing we can be sure about is the reef isn't going to look the same again," Professor Hughes said.

The reef is home to thousands of species, including sharks, turtles and whales. Australia relies on it for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue, all now threatened by years of accumulated damage.

The study's authors estimated how much coral had died in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 heat wave, and then returned nine months later to discern how many corals had regained their color — a sign of restored health — and how many had died. Their report describes a catastrophic die-off on the northern part of the reef, impacting the mix of coral species.

Professor Hughes said scientists had predicted a mass die-off resulting from global warming, but "what the paper shows is that it's well underway." He added, "That transition is happening here and now."

Corals require warm water to thrive, but they are extremely sensitive to heat, and an increase of two or three degrees Fahrenheit above normal can kill them.

Scientists said that if nations honored global commitments in the Paris climate accord aimed at preventing temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, Australia would still have the Great Barrier Reef in 50 years. It would still look very different from today.

But if greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, the reef will be unrecognizable, they said.

"We're in unchartered territory," Professor Hughes said, adding, "Where we end up depends completely on how well or how badly we deal with climate change."

The Great Barrier Reef has bleached four times since 1998, according to scientists. Record high temperatures in 2016 were followed by another bleaching event last year.

"We're now at a point where we've lost close to half of the corals in shallow-water habitats across the northern two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef due to back-to-back bleaching over two consecutive years," said Sean Connolly, also with the center for coral reef studies at James Cook University.



16)  Trump Administration Seeks to Expand Sales of Armed Drones

By Gardiner Harris, April 19, 2018


Drones like the Reaper have been the workhorse and controversial symbol of the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan.

CreditLt. Col. Leslie Pratt/U.S. Air Force, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A day after President Trump promised to slash the red tape involved in weapons sales, the administration announced on Thursday a new policy that could vastly expand sales of armed drones, a contentious emblem of the shift toward remotely controlled warfare.

That change, in addition to a newly released update to the policy governing which nations are allowed to buy sophisticated American-made weapons, is intended to accelerate arms sales, a key priority of Mr. Trump.

The president seemed to foreshadow the new policies on Wednesday night, when he said at a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan that after allies order weapons from the United States, "we will get it taken care of, and they will get their equipment rapidly."

"It would be, in some cases, years before orders would take place because of bureaucracy with Department of Defense, State Department," Mr. Trump said. "We are short-circuiting that. It's now going to be a matter of days. If they're our allies, we are going to help them get this very important, great military equipment."

The new policies, though, will do little to change the often yearslong intervals between orders and deliveries of weapons, but the State Department announced that it intended over the next 90 days to re-evaluate the process that can sometimes lead to such gaps.

Delays in delivering weapons systems have long been an irritant to foreign governments and domestic manufacturers, and almost every administration in the modern era has tried to fix the process. Top aides in the Trump White House have frequently called officials at the State Department and the Pentagon to try to hurry things along.

But the deals can pose an array of challenges, involving not only national security issues, such as the transfer of sensitive technologies, but also economic ones. India, the world's largest weapons buyer, often requires defense firms to build weapons in India in partnership with Indian firms, the kind of requirements that the Trump administration finds objectionable in China with regard to cars and other products.

The biggest change announced on Thursday involves the sale of larger armed drones like the Predator and the Reaper, which have been the workhorses of the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan. President Barack Obama embraced the weapons but was also so troubled by such remote warfare tools that he placed unusual restrictions on their sale.

Those restrictions have allowed drone makers in Israel, China and Turkey to capture a large part of a market that American manufacturers had pioneered, something the Trump administration wants to reverse.

Under the old policy, only Britain, France and Italy were approved to purchase armed drones, according to Dan Gettinger, co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.

As more countries are approved, "the risk is that countries may be more willing to use military force when they can do so without risking their own people," Mr. Gettinger said.

Sales of smaller, unarmed drones have fewer restrictions, and American manufacturers dominate the market for those, Mr. Gettinger said.

The newly announced changes in the policy governing which countries can purchase sophisticated American-made weapons, known as the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, instruct the government to take domestic economic concerns into greater account than it has in the past.

The new policy also says that consideration should be given to minimizing civilian casualties. That could potentially justify sales of "smart" bombs, which are easier to direct to specific targets.

But experts said that the changes are not likely to have much effect on sales.

"I think it's political posturing," said Rachel Stohl, managing director of the Stimson Center, a think tank focusing on foreign policy. "We already sell to almost everybody in the world. Are we really going to open markets to places like Iran and North Korea now? I don't think so."

The Obama administration was also enthusiastic about foreign weapons sales, which soared during its tenure. Direct weapons sales declined in the first year of the Trump administration from the year before and are now roughly half the level seen in 2011, the first full year of the Arab Spring.

The policy changes were announced two days after a hearing on Capitol Hill during which senators from both parties expressed anguish at the vast humanitarian crisis in Yemen, caused in part by Saudi Arabia's use of American weapons.

A bipartisan group of senators has proposed legislation that would require the State Department to routinely certify that Saudi Arabia is taking steps to end the suffering there, the sort of review that slows weapons purchases. The Trump administration opposes the legislation.



17)  Puerto Rico is Once Again Hit by an Islandwide Blackout

By James Wagner and Frances Robles, April 18, 2018

























































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