America has spent $5.9 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001, a new study says

  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
  • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
  • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.
  • https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/14/us-has-spent-5point9-trillion-on-middle-east-asia-wars-since-2001-study.html







Open letter to active duty soldiers on the border


Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern U.S. border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the U.S. are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country's elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.

Courage to Resist has been running a strategic outreach campaign to challenge troops to refuse illegal orders while on the border, such as their Commander-in-Chief's suggestion that they murder migrants who might be throwing rocks, or that they build and help run concentration camps. In addition to social media ads, About Face, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist, are also printing tens of thousands of these leaflets for distribution near the border. Please consider donating towards these expenses.

November 15, 2018

Don't turn them away

The migrants in the Central American caravan are not our enemies

Open letter to active duty soldiers

Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern U.S. border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the U.S. are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country's elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.

"There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone."

These extremely poor and vulnerable people are desperate for peace. Who among us would walk a thousand miles with only the clothes on our back without great cause? The odds are good that your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. lived similar experiences to these migrants. Your family members came to the U.S. to seek a better life—some fled violence. Consider this as you are asked to confront these unarmed men, women and children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. To do so would be the ultimate hypocrisy.

The U.S. is the richest country in the world, in part because it has exploited countries in Latin America for decades. If you treat people from these countries like criminals, as Trump hopes you will, you only contribute to the legacy of pillage and plunder beneath our southern border. We need to confront this history together, we need to confront the reality of America's wealth and both share and give it back with these people. Above all else, we cannot turn them away at our door. They will die if we do.

By every moral or ethical standard it is your duty to refuse orders to "defend" the U.S. from these migrants. History will look kindly upon you if you do. There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone. It is much harder to punish the many than the few.

In solidarity,

Rory Fanning

Former U.S. Army Ranger, War-Resister

Spenser Rapone

Former U.S. Army Ranger and Infantry Officer, War-Resister

Leaflet distributed by:

  • About Face: Veterans Against the War

  • Courage to Resist

  • Veterans For Peace

Courage to Resist has been running a strategic outreach campaign to challenge troops to refuse illegal orders while on the border, such as their Commander-in-Chief's suggestion that they murder migrants who might be throwing rocks, or that they build and help run concentration camps. In addition to social media ads, About Face, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist, are also printing tens of thousands of these leaflets for distribution near the border. Please consider donating towards these expenses.


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

www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist




New "Refuse War" Shirts

We've launched a new shirt store to raise funds to support war resisters. 

In addition to the Courage to Resist logo shirts we've offered in the past, we now  have a few fun designs, including a grim reaper, a "Refuse War, Go AWOL" travel theme, and a sporty "AWOL: Support Military War Resisters" shirt.

Shirts are $25 each for small through XL, and bit more for larger sizes. Please allow 9-12 days for delivery within the United States.

50% of each shirt may qualify as a tax-deductible contribution.


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

www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist



Transform the Justice System







Court: Evidence To Free Mumia, To Be Continued...

District Attorney Larry Krasner Opposes Mumia Abu-Jamal's Petition for New Rights of Appeal – Despite Clear Evidence of Ronald Castille's Bias and Conflict of Interest When He Participated As a PA Supreme Court Justice Denying Abu-Jamal's Post-Conviction Appeals from 1998-2012

October 29, 2018: A victory—the judge granted a 30-day extension to defense attorneys seeking to have Mumia's previous appeals vacated so they can file a new appeal!

Free Mumia Now!

Mumia's freedom is at stake in a court hearing on August 30th. 

With your help, we just might free him!

Check out this video:

This video includes photo of 1996 news report refuting Judge Castille's present assertion that he had not been requested at that time to recuse himself from this case, on which he had previously worked as a Prosecutor:

A Philadelphia court now has before it the evidence which could lead to Mumia's freedom. The evidence shows that Ronald Castille, of the District Attorney's office in 1982, intervened in the prosecution of Mumia for a crime he did not commit. Years later, Castille was a judge on the PA Supreme Court, where he sat in judgement over Mumia's case, and ruled against Mumia in every appeal! 

According to the US Supreme Court in the Williams ruling, this corrupt behavior was illegal!

But will the court rule to overturn all of Mumia's negative appeals rulings by the PA Supreme Court? If it does, Mumia would be free to appeal once again against his unfair conviction. If it does not, Mumia could remain imprisoned for life, without the possibility for parole, for a crime he did not commit.

• Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent and framed!

• Mumia Abu-Jamal is a journalist censored off the airwaves!

• Mumia Abu-Jamal is victimized by cops, courts and politicians!

• Mumia Abu-Jamal stands for all prisoners treated unjustly!

• Courts have never treated Mumia fairly!

Will You Help Free Mumia?

Call DA Larry Krasner at (215) 686-8000

Tell him former DA Ron Castille violated Mumia's constitutional rights and 

Krasner should cease opposing Mumia's legal petition.

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



A Call for a Mass Mobilization to Oppose NATO, War and Racism

Protest NATO, Washington, DC, Lafayette Park (across from the White House)

1 PM Saturday, March 30, 2019.

Additional actions will take place on Thursday April 4 at the opening of the NATO meeting

April 4, 2019, will mark the 51st anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the internationally revered leader in struggles against racism, poverty and war.

And yet, in a grotesque desecration of Rev. King's lifelong dedication to peace, this is the date that the military leaders of the North American Treaty Organization have chosen to celebrate NATO's 70th anniversary by holding its annual summit meeting in Washington, D.C. This is a deliberate insult to Rev. King and a clear message that Black lives and the lives of non-European humanity really do not matter.   

It was exactly one year before he was murdered that Rev. King gave his famous speech opposing the U.S. war in Vietnam, calling the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" and declaring that he could not be silent.

We cannot be silent either. Since its founding, the U.S.-led NATO has been the world's deadliest military alliance, causing untold suffering and devastation throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Hundreds of thousands have died in U.S./NATO wars in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yugoslavia. Millions of refugees are now risking their lives trying to escape the carnage that these wars have brought to their homelands, while workers in the 29 NATO member-countries are told they must abandon hard-won social programs in order to meet U.S. demands for even more military spending.

Every year when NATO holds its summits, there have been massive protests: in Chicago, Wales, Warsaw, Brussels. 2019 will be no exception.

The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is calling for a mass mobilization in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 30.  Additional actions will take place on April 4 at the opening of the NATO meeting. 

We invite you to join with us in this effort. As Rev. King taught us, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

No to NATO!

End All U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad!

Bring the Troops Home Now! 

No to Racism! 

The Administrative Committee of UNAC,

To add your endorsement to this call, please go here: http://www.no2nato2019.org/endorse-the-action.html

Please donate to keep UNAC strong: https://www.unacpeace.org/donate.html 

If your organization would like to join the UNAC coalition, please click here: https://www.unacpeace.org/join.html



In Defense of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson

Update on Rashid in Indiana

By Dustin McDaniel

November 9, 2018—Had a call with Rashid yesterday. He's been seen by medical, psych, and

dental. He's getting his meds and his blood pressure is being monitored,

though it is uncontrolled. The RN made recommendations for treatment

that included medication changes and further monitoring, but there's

been no follow up.

He's at the diagnostic center and he (along with everyone else I've

talked to about it) expect that he'll be sent to the solitary

confinement unit at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, though it could

be 30 days from now.

He's in a cell with no property. He has no extra underwear to change

into. The cell is, of course, dirty. He's in solitary confinement. He

didn't say they were denying him yard time. He didn't say there were any

problems with his meals.

They are refusing him his stationary and stamps, so he can't write out.

He gets a very limited number of phone calls per month (1 or 2), and

otherwise can only talk on the phone if a legal call is set up.

They are refusing to give him his property, or to allow him to look

through it to find records relevant to ongoing or planned litigation.

He's already past the statute of limitations on a law suit he planned to

file re abuses in Texas and other deadlines are about to pass over the

next month.

He has 35 banker boxes of property, or 2 pallets, that arrived in IDOC.

He needs to be allowed to look through these records in order to find

relevant legal documents. Moving forward, I think we need to find a

place/person for him to send these records to or they are going to be

destroyed. It would be good if we could find someone who would also take

on the task of organizing the records, getting rid of duplicates or

unnecessary paperwork, digitizing records, and making things easier to

search and access.

Although he does not appear in the inmate locator for IDOC, he does

appears in the JPay system as an Indiana prisoner (#264847). At his

request, I sent him some of his money so hopefully he can get stamps and


Hold off on sending him more money via JPay - I've been told that some

of the IDOC facilities are phasing out JPay and moving to GTL and

wouldn't want to have a bunch of money stuck and inaccessible due to

those changes. If you want to send him more money immediately, send it

to Abolitionist Law Center. You can send it via Paypal to

info@abolitionistlawcenter.org, or mail it to PO Box 8654, Pittsburgh,

PA 15221. We will hold on to it and distribute it according to Rashid's


Please write to him, if you haven't already. He's got nothing to do in

solitary with nothing to read and nothing to write with.


you can also hear a recent interview with Rashid on Final Straw podcast here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/post/tag/kevin-rashid-johnson/

Write to Rashid:

Kevin Rashid Johnson's writings and artwork have been widely circulated. He is the author of a book,Panther Vision: Essential Party Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party, (Kersplebedeb, 2010).

Write or email:

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson #264847

Indiana Dept. of Corrections Reception Diagnostic Center 

737 Moon Road

Plainfield, IN 46168




Defend Prisoners at Lieber Correctional in South Carolina!

Prisoners at Lieber Correctional Institution in South Carolina are demanding recognition of their human rights by the South Carolina Department of Corrections and warden Randall Williams.  Prisoners are also demanding an end to the horrific conditions they are forced to exist under at Lieber, which are exascerbating already rising tensions to a tipping point and people are dying. 

Since the tragedy that occured at Lee Correctional earlier this year, prisoners at all level 3 security prisons in SC have been on complete lockdown, forced to stay in their two-man 9x11 cells 24 hours a day (supposed to be 23 hrs/day but guards rarely let prisoners go to their one hour of rec in a slightly larger cage because it requires too much work, especially when you keep an entire prison on lockdown) without any programming whatsoever and filthy air rushing in all day, no chairs, tables, no radios, no television, no access to legal work, no access to showers, and no light!  Administration decided to cover all the tiny windows in the cells with metal plates on the outside so that no light can come in.  Thousands of people are existing in this manner, enclosed in a tiny space with another person and no materials or communication or anything to pass the time.  

Because of these horific conditions tensions are rising and people are dying. Another violent death took place at Lieber Correctional; Derrick Furtick, 31, died at approximately 9pm Monday, according to state Department of Corrections officials:

Prisoners assert that this death is a result of the kind of conditions that are being imposed and inflicted upon the incarcerated population there and the undue trauma, anxiety, and tensions these conditions create.  

We demand:

- to be let off solitary confinement

- to have our windows uncovered

- access to books, magazines, phone calls, showers and recreation

- access to the law library and our legal cases

- single person cells for any person serving over 20 years

Lieber is known for its horrendous treatment of the people it cages including its failure to evacuate prisoners during Hurricane Florence earlier this year:

Please flood the phone lines of both the governor's and warden's offices to help amplify these demands from behind bars at Lieber Correctional.

Warden Randall Williams:  (843) 875-3332   or   (803) 896-3700

Governor Henry McMaster's office:  (803) 734-2100


Read in browser »

Recent Articles:

Status Update from Comrade Malik! 11-08-18

Comrade Malik speaks on the Pittsburgh massacre and anti-fascism

Get Malik Out of Ad-Seg: PHONE ZAP on 11/13! ⚡

PHONEZAP MONDAY: Ohio strikers attacked with mace

The Anatomy of Abusive Prison Guards

Get Involved

Support IWOC by connecting with the closest localsubscribing to the newsletter or making a donation.



Get Malik Out of Ad-Seg

Keith "Malik" Washington is an incarcerated activist who has spoken out on conditions of confinement in Texas prison and beyond:  from issues of toxic water and extreme heat, to physical and sexual abuse of imprisoned people, to religious discrimination and more.  Malik has also been a tireless leader in the movement to #EndPrisonSlavery which gained visibility during nationwide prison strikes in 2016 and 2018.  View his work at comrademalik.com or write him at:

Keith H. Washington
TDC# 1487958
McConnell Unit
3001 S. Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102

Friends, it's time to get Malik out of solitary confinement.

Malik has experienced intense, targeted harassment ever since he dared to start speaking against brutal conditions faced by incarcerated people in Texas and nationwide--but over the past few months, prison officials have stepped up their retaliation even more.

In Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement) at McConnell Unit, Malik has experienced frequent humiliating strip searches, medical neglect, mail tampering and censorship, confinement 23 hours a day to a cell that often reached 100+ degrees in the summer, and other daily abuses too numerous to name.  It could not be more clear that they are trying to make an example of him because he is a committed freedom fighter.  So we have to step up.

Phone zap on Tuesday, November 13

**Mark your calendars for the 11/13 call in, be on the look out for a call script, and spread the word!!**


- Convene special review of Malik's placement in Ad-Seg and immediately release him back to general population

- Explain why the State Classification Committee's decision to release Malik from Ad-Seg back in June was overturned (specifically, demand to know the nature of the "information" supposedly collected by the Fusion Center, and demand to know how this information was investigated and verified).

- Immediately cease all harassment and retaliation against Malik, especially strip searches and mail censorship!

Who to contact:

TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier

Phone: (936)295-6371

Senior Warden Philip Sinfuentes (McConnell Unit)

Phone: (361) 362-2300


Background on Malik's Situation

Malik's continued assignment to Ad-Seg (solitary confinement) in is an overt example of political repression, plain and simple.  Prison officials placed Malik in Ad-Seg two years ago for writing about and endorsing the 2016 nationwide prison strike.  They were able to do this because Texas and U.S. law permits non-violent work refusal to be classified as incitement to riot.

It gets worse.  Malik was cleared for release from Ad-Seg by the State Classification Committee in June--and then, in an unprecedented reversal, immediately re-assigned him back to Ad-Seg.  The reason?  Prison Officials site "information" collected by a shadowy intelligence gathering operation called a Fusion Center, which are known for lack of transparency and accountability, and for being blatant tools of political repression.

Malik remains in horrible conditions, vulnerable to every possible abuse, on the basis of "information" that has NEVER been disclosed or verified.  No court or other independent entity has ever confirmed the existence, let alone authenticity, of this alleged information.  In fact, as recently as October 25, a representative of the State Classification Committee told Malik that he has no clue why Malik was re-assigned to Ad-Seg.  This "information" is pure fiction.   



Listen to 'The Daily': Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?

By Michael Barbaro, May 30, 2018


Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile deviceVia Apple Podcasts | Via RadioPublic | Via Stitcher

The sole survivor of an attack in which four people were murdered identified the perpetrators as three white men. The police ignored suspects who fit the description and arrested a young black man instead. He is now awaiting execution.

On today's episode:

• Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California for three decades.



Last week I met with fellow organizers and members of Mijente to take joint action at the Tornillo Port of Entry, where detention camps have been built and where children and adults are currently being imprisoned. 

I oppose the hyper-criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers. Migration is a human right and every person is worthy of dignity and respect irrespective of whether they have "papers" or not. You shouldn't have to prove "extreme and unusual hardship" to avoid being separated from your family. We, as a country, have a moral responsibility to support and uplift those adversely affected by the US's decades-long role in the economic and military destabilization of the home countries these migrants and asylum seekers have been forced to leave.

While we expected to face resistance and potential trouble from the multiple law enforcement agencies represented at the border, we didn't expect to have a local farm hand pull a pistol on us to demand we deflate our giant balloon banner. Its message to those in detention:

NO ESTÁN SOLOS (You are not alone).

Despite the slight disruption to our plan we were able to support Mijente and United We Dream in blocking the main entrance to the detention camp and letting those locked inside know that there are people here who care for them and want to see them free and reunited with their families. 

We are continuing to stand in solidarity with Mijente as they fight back against unjust immigration practices.Yesterday they took action in San Diego, continuing to lead and escalate resistance to unjust detention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and to ICE. 

While we were honored to offer on-the-ground support we see the potential to focus the energy of our Drop the MIC campaign into fighting against this injustice, to have an even greater impact. Here's how:

  1. Call out General Dynamics for profiteering of War, Militarization of the Border and Child and Family Detention (look for our social media toolkit this week);
  2. Create speaking forums and produce media that challenges the narrative of ICE and Jeff Sessions, encouraging troops who have served in the borderlands to speak out about that experience;
  3. Continue to show up and demand we demilitarize the border and abolish ICE.

Thank you for your vision and understanding of how militarism, racism, and capitalism are coming together in the most destructive ways. Help keep us in this fight by continuing to support our work.

In Solidarity,

Ramon Mejia

Field Organizer, About Face: Veterans Against the War

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.



Major George Tillery




April 25, 2018-- The arrest of two young men in Starbucks for the crime of "sitting while black," and the four years prison sentence to rapper Meek Mill for a minor parole violation are racist outrages in Philadelphia, PA that made national news in the past weeks. Yesterday Meek Mills was released on bail after a high profile defense campaign and a Pa Supreme Court decision citing evidence his conviction was based solely on a cop's false testimony.

These events underscore the racism, frame-up, corruption and brutality at the core of the criminal injustice system. Pennsylvania "lifer" Major Tillery's fight for freedom puts a spotlight on the conviction of innocent men with no evidence except the lying testimony of jailhouse snitches who have been coerced and given favors by cops and prosecutors.

Sex for Lies and Manufactured Testimony

For thirty-five years Major Tillery has fought against his 1983 arrest, then conviction and sentence of life imprisonment without parole for an unsolved 1976 pool hall murder and assault. Major Tillery's defense has always been his innocence. The police and prosecution knew Tillery did not commit these crimes. Jailhouse informant Emanuel Claitt gave lying testimony that Tillery was one of the shooters.

Homicide detectives and prosecutors threatened Claitt with a false unrelated murder charge, and induced him to lie with promises of little or no jail time on over twenty pending felonies, and being released from jail despite a parole violation. In addition, homicide detectives arranged for Claitt, while in custody, to have private sexual liaisons with his girlfriends in police interview rooms.

In May and June 2016, Emanuel Claitt gave sworn statements that his testimony was a total lie, and that the homicide cops and the prosecutors told him what to say and coached him before trial. Not only was he coerced to lie that Major Tillery was a shooter, but to lie and claim there were no plea deals made in exchange for his testimony. He provided the information about the specific homicide detectives and prosecutors involved in manufacturing his testimony and details about being allowed "sex for lies". In August 2016, Claitt reaffirmed his sworn statements in a videotape, posted on YouTube and on JusticeforMajorTillery.org.

Without the coerced and false testimony of Claitt there was no evidence against Major Tillery. There were no ballistics or any other physical evidence linking him to the shootings. The surviving victim's statement naming others as the shooters was not allowed into evidence.

The trial took place in May 1985 during the last days of the siege and firebombing of the MOVE family Osage Avenue home in Philadelphia that killed 13 Black people, including 5 children. The prosecution claimed that Major Tillery was part of an organized crime group, and falsely described it as run by the Nation of Islam. This prejudiced and inflamed the majority white jury against Tillery, to make up for the absence of any evidence that Tillery was involved in the shootings.

This was a frame-up conviction from top to bottom. Claitt was the sole or primary witness in five other murder cases in the early 1980s. Coercing and inducing jailhouse informants to falsely testify is a standard routine in criminal prosecutions. It goes hand in hand with prosecutors suppressing favorable evidence from the defense.

Major Tillery has filed a petition based on his actual innocence to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Larry Krasner's Conviction Review Unit. A full review and investigation should lead to reversal of Major Tillery's conviction. He also asks that the DA's office to release the full police and prosecution files on his case under the new  "open files" policy. In the meantime, Major Tillery continues his own investigation. He needs your support.

Major Tillery has Fought his Conviction and Advocated for Other Prisoners for over 30 Years

The Pennsylvania courts have rejected three rounds of appeals challenging Major Tillery's conviction based on his innocence, the prosecution's intentional presentation of false evidence against him and his trial attorney's conflict of interest. On June 15, 2016 Major Tillery filed a new post-conviction petition based on the same evidence now in the petition to the District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit. Despite the written and video-taped statements from Emanuel Claitt that that his testimony against Major Tillery was a lie and the result of police and prosecutorial misconduct, Judge Leon Tucker dismissed Major Tillery's petition as "untimely" without even holding a hearing. Major Tillery appealed that dismissal and the appeal is pending in the Superior Court.

During the decades of imprisonment Tillery has advocated for other prisoners challenging solitary confinement, lack of medical and mental health care and the inhumane conditions of imprisonment. In 1990, he won the lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens, that forced the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) to end double celling (4 men to a small cell) at SCI Pittsburgh, which later resulted in the closing and then "renovation" of that prison.

Three years ago Major Tillery stood up for political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and demanded prison Superintendent John Kerestes get Mumia to a hospital because "Mumia is dying."  For defending Mumia and advocating for medical treatment for himself and others, prison officials retaliated. Tillery was shipped out of SCI Mahanoy, where Mumia was also held, to maximum security SCI Frackville and then set-up for a prison violation and a disciplinary penalty of months in solitary confinement. See, Messing with Major by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Major Tillery's federal lawsuit against the DOC for that retaliation is being litigated. Major Tillery continues as an advocate for all prisoners. He is fighting to get the DOC to establish a program for elderly prisoners.

Major Tillery Needs Your Help:

Well-known criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio represents Major pro bonoin challenging his conviction. More investigation is underway. We can't count on the district attorney's office to make the findings of misconduct against the police detectives and prosecutors who framed Major without continuing to dig up the evidence.

Major Tillery is now 67 years old. He's done hard time, imprisoned for almost 35 years, some 20 years in solitary confinement in max prisons for a crime he did not commit. He recently won hepatitis C treatment, denied to him for a decade by the DOC. He has severe liver problems as well as arthritis and rheumatism, back problems, and a continuing itchy skin rash. Within the past couple of weeks he was diagnosed with an extremely high heartbeat and is getting treatment.

Major Tillery does not want to die in prison. He and his family, daughters, sons and grandchildren are fighting to get him home. The newly filed petition for Conviction Review to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office lays out the evidence Major Tillery has uncovered, evidence suppressed by the prosecution through all these years he has been imprisoned and brought legal challenges into court. It is time for the District Attorney's to act on the fact that Major Tillery is innocent and was framed by police detectives and prosecutors who manufactured the evidence to convict him. Major Tillery's conviction should be vacated and he should be freed.

Major Tillery and family


    Financial Support—Tillery's investigation is ongoing. He badly needs funds to fight for his freedom.

    Go to JPay.com;

    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:

    The Conviction Review Unit should investigate Major Tillery's case. He is innocent. The only evidence at trial was from lying jail house informants who now admit it was false.

    Call: 215-686-8000 or

    Write to:

    Major Tillery AM 9786

    SCI Frackville

    1111 Altamont Blvd.

    Frackville, PA 17931

    For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org


    Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com

    Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com



    Free Leonard Peltier!

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

    By Leonard Peltier

    Art by Leonard Peltier

    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



    Working people are helping to feed the poor hungry corporations! 

    Charity for the Wealthy!





    1) In Brazil, Animals Cross a Road of No Return

    By Rebecca Boyle, November 12. 2018


    Biologist Wagner Fischer and his colleagues photographed thousands of specimens, including the caimans, on BR-262. The highway rises from the wetlands like an island, tempting wildlife, Dr. Fischer said: "It's a trap for fauna, and they don't know the risk."

    Whenever Wagner Fischer drives, he notices the roadkill.

    As a graduate student in the 1990s, Dr. Fischer, now a biologist with the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, traveled through Brazil's Pantanal, a tropical wetland the size of Wisconsin, and the largest freshwater wetland in the world. From his motorcycle, he saw monkeys swinging from roadside trees; capybaras slept on the shoulder. He was looking for fishing bats, the subject of his graduate research. But he was fascinated and appalled by the roadside carnage: caimans, anacondas, giant black-necked storks called jabirus and, once, a dead giant anteater with her cub, still alive, clutching her back. 

    The region's main road, the BR-262, is a long thread of tarmac through the carpet of green, connecting the growing cities of Campo Grande and Corumbá, 430 miles apart. Dr. Fischer began taking photographs, thousands of them, and tallying the species along the road. He shared his unpublished results with other researchers and government officials. 

    "Everyone from the scientific community kept asking me, 'When are you going to publish that?'" Mr. Fischer recalled recently. 

    Two decades later, he finally has. His paper, published on Oct. 19 in the online biodiversity journal Check List, is a grim tally. From 1996 to 2000, Dr. Fischer counted dead 930 animals representing 29 reptile species and 47 bird species. A separate tally of mammals, to be published soon, includes more than 2,200 specimens. But even in its unpublished phase, his study inspired others like it, all of them confirming Dr. Fischer's initial conclusion: that for wildlife, BR-262 is the deadliest road in Brazil and one of the deadliest in the world.

    The highway rises from the surrounding wetlands like an island, tempting wildlife, Dr. Fischer said: "It's a trap for fauna, and they don't know the risk."

    The Pantanal wetlands, the size of Wisconsin, are the largest freshwater wetlands in the world, and are home to more than 4,000 species of plants and animals.

    The Pantanal is filigreed with rivers and streams that flood during the rainy season. Much of it is enclosed in the southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, which increasingly is quilted with cattle ranches and soybean farms. Over the years, Dr. Fischer's colleagues began noticing a steady rise in the roadkill figures.

    In 2014, a team led by Julio Cesar de Souza, of the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, took another look at roadkill on the BR-262. Over 15 months, they found 518 carcasses from 40 species, and noticed a roadkill site every four miles — a tenfold increase since 2002, when Dr. Fischer presented some of his findings at a transportation conference. That study, as well as a study in 2017 that counted more than 1,000 large mammals killed in one year on the BR-262, prompted Mr. Fischer to finally publish his data.

    By contrast, on California's Interstate 280 in the Bay Area, the state's deadliest road for animals, 386 creatures died in collisions between 2015 and 2016. In Britain, more than 1,200 animals died in road collisions across all major highways in 2017, according to a recent report.

    Throughout Brazil, roads are littered with carcasses representing the country's 1,775 bird species and 623 mammal species. Large mammals are at greater risk in southern Brazil, including the Pantanal and dry savanna, whereas birds are at higher risk in the Amazon, according to Manuela González-Suárez, a biologist at the University of Reading in England. 

    In a study published in August, Dr. González-Suárez and her colleagues built a computer model to predict where animals were most likely to be struck by vehicles. Using existing roads and roadkill counts, including Mr. Fischer's data, her team found that as many as 2 million mammals and 8 million birds may be dying on Brazilian highways each year.

    "When I got the total number, I was just completely blown away," Ms. González-Suárez said. "Out of these 8 million birds, maybe some of those are fairly common ones, where maybe this is not a problem. But we don't know, exactly. Are we going to lose all birds in Brazil? Probably no. But it would be nice to know, what should we be worried about?"

    Ecologists worry that the problem will soon worsen. Brazil is home to 20 percent of the world's biodiversity, but the newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, has promised to develop large tracts of the country's most ecologically sensitive areas.

    Now that Mr. Fischer's data are in the scientific literature, other researchers can more easily compare it with current data and identify trends, said Arnaud Desbiez, a conservation biologist with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and a co-author of the 2017 study. Dr. Desbiez also runs Brazil's Giant Armadillo Conservation Project and a related program called Anteaters and Highways. 

    Ideally, he said, the data would inform government efforts to lessen the carnage. Over the years, Dr. Fischer has shared his unpublished data with state officials and urged them, to little effect, to build a system of bridges and underpasses that would let animals cross roads safely.

    "Fischer's data were very complete, and it was a very well done study, so it's sad to see that it hasn't been used as much as it should have," Dr. Desbiez said. "A lot of things he suggested have not been implemented. This is not a new problem, but something he demonstrated existed a long time ago."

    Dr. Fischer said: "Ecologists are very worried. The authorities pretend to be worried."

    Brazilian officials have taken some basic measures. White metal signs, bearing silhouettes of armadillos and giant anteaters, appear on the roadside every few miles, advising motorists to "Respect Wild Life" and "Preserve the Pantanal." But signs are easily ignored, especially in the rush of freight-hauling and daily life, ecologists say. Dr. Desbiez favors fencing that keeps animals off the pavement and guides them toward safe passages under or over the road.

    In the United States, fences, underpasses and bridges have been built along interstate highways to reduce collisions, which are costly for drivers and animals alike. In Wyoming, wildlife conservationists tracked pronghorn antelope to determine their favorite crossing spots, and then built sagebrush-lined bridges for the animals. In Colorado, a network of underpasses and bridges over a mountain highway has reduced collisions by 90 percent

    Fraser Shilling, director of the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis, helped develop a real-time deer-collision map, which connects to a car or phone app that can warn drivers when to be on high alert. A recent seminar that taught other officials how to build their such maps drew representatives from 42 states, Dr. Shilling said.

    Dr. González-Suárez is now studying individual species to figure out the impact on local populations. For mammals, especially those who reproduce slowly and in small numbers, the loss of a few individuals could have devastating effects, Mr. Desbiez noted.

    Monitoring roadkill is important for more than accounting purposes, said Dr. Shilling. Roads are the primary way in which most people interact with wildlife, yet traffic collisions with animals are wildly underreported, he said. Measuring the scale of death is a way to remind people that our footprint is much larger than the carbon dioxide we emit or the waste we produce.

    "The first part is discovering that there is a problem," he said.

    Dr. Gonzalez-Suarez said that deforestation poses a greater threat to Amazonian biodiversity than a new road does, but the two are linked, she added; new roads are built to harvest wood, and to transport grain and livestock from expanding farmlands.

    "For me, the biggest concern as a conservation biologist is the loss of habitat," she said. "We see roads as necessary, but we need to acknowledge they come with a cost. These are animals that should not be killed. They are only dying because there is a road in there and we drive on it."

    Dr. Fischer so far has avoided hitting any large animals in his travels, but a couple of birds have not been so fortune. He once struck a seriema, a terrestrial bird that resembles a roadrunner on stilts, and he collided with a parakeet while riding his motorcycle. He hopes that his historical record can help other biologists, and other Brazilians, reckon with the destructive capability of the roads they're on.

    "Brazil is a big country with a lot of problems to solve," he said. "But we are trying to make a difference."



    2) Stan Lee's 1968 Column Denouncing Racism 'Plaguing The World' Goes Viral Again

    By Lee Moran, November 13, 2018


    Here's the full text:

    "Let's lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can't be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he's down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he's never seen — people he's never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.

    "Now, we're not trying to say it's unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it's totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God ― a God who calls us ALL ― His children.

    "Pax et Justitia, Stan."



    3)  Julian Assange has been charged, prosecutors reveal inadvertently in court filing

    By Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, November 15, 2018


    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange walks onto the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. 

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged under seal, prosecutors inadvertently revealed in a recently unsealed court filing — a development that could significantly advance the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and have major implications for those who publish government secrets.

    The disclosure came in a filing in a case unrelated to Assange. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer, urging a judge to keep the matter sealed, wrote that "due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged." Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would "need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested."

    Dwyer is also assigned to the WikiLeaks case. People familiar with the matter said what Dwyer was disclosing was true, but unintentional.

    Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of Virginia, said, "The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing."

    An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.

    Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have long been investigating Assange and, in the Trump administration, had begun taking a second look at whether to charge members of the WikiLeaks organization for the 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents that the anti-secrecy group published. Investigators also had explored whether WikiLeaks could face criminal liability for the more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cybertools.

    Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III also has explored WikiLeaks' publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton's then-campaign chairman, John D. Podesta. Officials have alleged that the emails were hacked by Russian spies and transferred to WikiLeaks.

    Mueller also has been exploring, among other things, communications between the group and associates of President Trump, including political operative Roger Stone and commentator and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.

    In July, Mueller's office charged 12 Russian military spies with conspiring to hack DNC computers, stealing the organization's data and publishing the files in an effort to disrupt the election, and referred in an indictment to WikiLeaks, described only as "Organization 1," as the platform the Russians used to release the stolen emails.

    A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment.

    It was not immediately clear what charges Assange would face. In the past, prosecutors had contemplated pursuing a case involving conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act. But whether to charge the WikiLeaks founder was hardly a foregone conclusion. In the Obama administration, the Justice Department had concluded that pursuing Assange would be akin to prosecuting a news organization. In the Trump administration, though, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had taken a more aggressive stance and vowed to crack down on all government leaks.

    Barry J. Pollack, one of Assange's attorneys, said, "The only thing more irresponsible than charging a person for publishing truthful information would be to put in a public filing information that clearly was not intended for the public and without any notice to Mr. Assange. Obviously, I have no idea if he has actually been charged or for what, but the notion that the federal criminal charges could be brought based on the publication of truthful information is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set."

    The filing in the Eastern District of Virginia came Aug. 22 in a case that combines national security and sex trafficking. Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, 29, was charged with enticing a 15-year-old girl to have sex with him and send him pornographic images of herself. But he was detained in part because he "has a substantial interest in terrorist acts," according to the court filing.

    His father-in-law, according to the filing, has been convicted of terrorist acts. The case involves previously classified information, according to government filings, and prosecutors plan to use information obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Kokayi was indicted last week and is set to be arraigned Friday morning.

    The case had been sealed until early September, though by itself it attracted little notice. On Thursday evening, Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, who is known for scrubbing court filings, joked about the apparent error on Twitter — which first brought it to the attention of reporters.

    Even if he is charged, Assange's coming to the United States to face trial is no sure thing. Since June 2012, Assange has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, afraid that if he steps outside he will be arrested.

    When he first sought asylum in the embassy, he was facing possible extradition to Sweden in a sex crimes case. He has argued that case was a pretext for what he predicted would be his arrest and extradition to the United States.

    In the years since, the Swedish case has been closed, but Assange has said he cannot risk leaving the embassy because the United States would attempt to have him arrested and extradited for disclosures of U.S. government secrets. Throughout that time, the United States has refused to say whether there are any sealed charges against Assange.

    If Assange were to leave the embassy and be arrested by British authorities, he would likely still fight extradition in the British courts.

    Rachel Weiner and Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.



    4) Male Insect Fertility Plummets After Heat Waves

    By Karen Weintraub, November 13.2018


    A simulated heat wave in a lab caused sperm production in a type of beetle to drop by half, and a second heat wave nearly sterilized them.

    For years, insect populations have been dropping worldwide without a clear explanation. A new paper suggests male infertility is at least one factor behind that decline, as warmer-than-usual temperatures take a disproportionate toll on males of some insect species.

    After a lab-simulated heat wave, researchers from England's University of East Anglia found that male flour beetles produced vastly less sperm. But they also found that the damage wasn't confined to the males. Sperm inside a female's reproductive tract became less viable and the sons of the males that endured the hotter temperature became less fertile, too.

    Matt Gage, an evolutionary ecologist who led the work published Tuesday in Nature Communications, said he was surprised by the findings, and by how quickly male fertility plummeted.

    It's long been known that heat can affect sperm quality in mammals. "There's a good reason the testes are outside the body," noted Dr. Gage, adding that this keeps the sperm 6 to 10 degrees cooler than body temperature.

    But no one had previously looked to see whether coldblooded males were also affected, even though most of life on Earth is coldblooded, he said. And the flour beetles that Dr. Gage studied are used to warm environments, living in places that regularly reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

    His team simulated a heat wave in their lab, raising temperatures by about 9 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit for five days — roughly equivalent to a temperature spike in England last summer, Dr. Gage said.

    After the heat exposure, sperm production in the flour beetles dropped by half, the study showed. A second heat wave nearly sterilized them.

    "We thought they might have hardened to temperature extremes," Dr. Gage said. "We found the opposite."

    Females appeared unaffected by the heat themselves. But if they had already been inseminated, their fertility fell by 30 percent after the heat exposure. This suggests that heat affects not just the manufacture of sperm, but also its later viability, Dr. Gage said.

    The sons of the males who endured the heat wave produced 20 percent fewer offspring than males that hadn't undergone that stress. Dr. Gage said he's not sure whether the sperm suffered DNA damage from the heat wave that could not be repaired, or if changes on top of the DNA — so-called epigenetic changes — affected their sons' fertility.

    "The transgenerational effects are exciting and scary," said Scott Pitnick, a professor of biology at Syracuse University in New York, who was not involved in the research. He added that sperm with DNA damage might still be able to fertilize females and yield offspring.

    Dr. Gage said he thinks that such heat response may account for at least some of the population decline seen in insects.

    A 2017 study found that the population of flying insects fell by 75 percent over 27 years in German nature preserves.

    Curt Stager, a professor at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, New York, said he's not ready to accept the idea that global climate change is the primary cause of this drop.

    "Global-scale insecticide usage is, to me, a more convincing cause for a widespread, across-the-board insect decline," Dr. Stager said. Heat waves, he said, have not occurred universally enough to cause widespread decline.

    Dr. Pitnick said that given how sensitive sperm is to temperature change, and that coldblooded insects are less able to protect their sperm, it was smart to "explore detrimental effects on sperm as a candidate cause of widespread decline of invertebrate populations in response to climate change."

    Next, Dr. Gage said he wants to see if the same trends will apply in a more natural setting than a research lab.

    "We think it probably does apply, but we haven't proven it yet," he said.

    He also said he doesn't know how insects in colder climates will respond to temperature spikes, but he intends to investigate. Additionally, he wants to study how long the effects of heat waves last. Quick reproducing insects may be able to rapidly adapt to such temperature spikes, he said.



    5) Police Report in Killing of Black Security Guard Is Criticized as Rushed

    By Matthew Haag, November 14. 2018


    Protesters rallied in Midlothian, Ill., after a local police officer fatally shot Jemel Roberson, a security guard, as he tried to detain a gunman outside a bar.

    The Illinois State Police took steps on Tuesday to defend the actions of a suburban Chicago police officer who killed an armed security guard on Sunday, claiming that the guard was not wearing a uniform and ignored verbal commands to drop his weapon. But witnesses have contradicted that account, and it was not clear how the State Police reached its conclusions.

    The findings by the state's Public Integrity Task Force, the lead agency in the case, were based on a preliminary investigation into the killing of the guard, Jemel Roberson, 26, who was responding to a shooting at a bar. But a lawyer for his family disputed the state's account and criticized the agency for rushing to judgment just days after the deadly encounter.

    "We are three days into this and they are saying preliminarily that it was a good shoot?" the lawyer, Greg Kulis, said in an interview on Wednesday. "They traditionally take nine months or longer."

    The killing of Mr. Roberson has ignited protests and demands for justice, just a month after a Chicago police officer was found guilty of second-degree murder in the high-profile killing of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot 16 times by an officer in 2014. Protesters have pointed out that Mr. Roberson, who was black, was killed even though he was a "good guy with a gun," the type of person put forth by the National Rifle Association and President Trump as a solution to mass shootings.

    Mr. Roberson was shot early Sunday morning at a Chicago-area bar where he worked as a security guard.

    The shooting on Sunday morning occurred while Mr. Roberson was chasing after a gunman who had opened fire inside the bar, Manny's Luxury Lounge in Robbins, Ill. The man had struck four people inside, and Mr. Roberson was trying to detain him when the police arrived.

    A white officer with the Midlothian Police Department encountered Mr. Roberson in a parking lot outside the bar, and according to the State Police, gave "multiple verbal commands" for Mr. Roberson to drop his weapon. The officer then opened fire on Mr. Roberson, the State Police said.

    On Tuesday, Chief Daniel Delaney of the Midlothian Police Department said he was "completely saddened by this tragic incident."

    "What we have learned is Jemel Roberson was a brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation," Chief Delaney wrote on Facebook. "There are no words that can be expressed as to the sorrow his family is dealing with."

    The man suspected of opening fire inside the bar was being treated on Wednesday in a hospital, the Cook County Sheriff's Office said. He has not yet been charged.

    Mr. Roberson, who lived in Chicago, had hoped to become a police officer, Mr. Kulis said. Other security guards at the bar encouraged him to stay home on Saturday night because he had an early engagement the next morning, playing the organ at his church. But Mr. Roberson kept his promise and showed up at work.

    His mother, Beatrice Roberson, has declined all news media requests for interviews, Mr. Kulis said.

    In the days after the shooting, Mr. Kulis filed a federal lawsuit against the Midlothian officer, whose name has not been made public, on Ms. Roberson's behalf. He also filed a request in court for the Midlothian Police Department, along with the other agencies that responded to the scene, to preserve all evidence in the case. And on Wednesday, Mr. Kulis said he planned to subpoena the State Police for the information it used to reach its preliminary conclusions.

    "It's really bizarre that their preliminary statement is that arguably the shooting was justified," Mr. Kulis said.

    Mr. Kulis said he located several witnesses whose accounts contradicted the State Police's findings. They told him that Mr. Roberson was wearing a black ski cap with the word "Security" across the front, Mr. Kulis said.

    One witness also said that he screamed at the officer not to shoot Mr. Roberson. "He was yelling, 'He's security, he's security, he's security,'" Mr. Kulis said.

    None of those witnesses have been interviewed by the State Police, Mr. Kulis said.

    "I don't know what they are relying on," Mr. Kulis said.



    6) California Utility Customers May Be on Hook for Billions in Wildfire Damage

    By Ivan Penn and Peter Eavis, November 14, 2018


    Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the Camp Fire, which has killed at least 56 people. Many fires in recent years have been caused by downed power lines serving California's utilities.

    As wildfires ravage large swaths of California for a second year, one of the state's biggest utilities has declared that it faces billions of dollars in potential liability — far more than its insurance would cover.

    The potential losses could leave the company's customers on the hook to pay the bill, exposing businesses and consumers to higher costs. The utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, could even face bankruptcy, putting pressure on the state for a bailout.

    With its financial liabilities mounting, the company's shares dropped by more than 20 percent on Wednesday. More than half of its market value has been wiped out since late last week as the fires have spread.

    Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the deadliest of the current blazes, known as the Camp Fire, which has killed at least 56 people and destroyed virtually the entire town of Paradise, about 90 miles north of Sacramento. PG&E disclosed in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that an outage and damage to a transmission tower were reported in the area shortly before the fire started last week.

    Many fires in recent years have been caused by downed power lines serving California's utilities. State officials have determined that electrical equipment owned by PG&E, including power lines and poles, was responsible for at least 17 of 21 major fires in Northern California last fall. In eight of those cases, they referred the findings to prosecutors over possible violations of state law.

    Citigroup estimates that PG&E's exposure to liability for those fires is $15 billion — and that it could face another $15 billion in claims if it is found responsible for the Camp Fire, a number that could rise because the fire is only a third contained.

    "The damages, if you add 2017 and 2018, obviously are going to be really significant," said Praful Mehta, a Citigroup analyst.

    The compounding costs of the year-after-year wildfires are making it increasingly difficult for any party to absorb the expenses, said Mark Cooper, senior research fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.

    If the utility is forced to increase rates sharply, the costs may take an economic toll. Manufacturing companies could choose to move their businesses out of the service area or even the state. Residential customers within the utility's territory then could be left to cover the costs.

    "This becomes a humongous challenge," Mr. Cooper said. "If they try and raise the prices, they may not be able to get them. Should they even be allowed to recover all the cost, if they were guilty of imprudent behavior?"

    PG&E said its liability insurance for the year that began Aug. 1 amounted to $1.4 billion.

    Lynsey Paulo, a spokeswoman for PG&E, said the utility was focused on helping fight the current wildfires rather than the company's economics. The company has set up a base camp with 800 employees in the area of the Camp Fire, she said, a figure that is expected to grow to 1,000 by the end of the week and could reach 3,000.

    "We're not going to speculate on what may or may not be impacting the stock market," Ms. Paulo said.

    Critics of the utilities say poor maintenance of power poles and failure to trim vegetation around power lines is a major cause of fires. On a walking tour last spring in San Jose, a former state regulator showed overloaded poles bending under the weight of wires and cables, as well as power lines running through tree foliage.

    PG&E's "safety culture" has been the subject of a three-year investigation by the state's Public Utilities Commission. The agency is expected to act on the inquiry's findings as early as this month.

    In addition to wildfires, PG&E was found at fault in one of California's biggest disasters in this decade — a natural-gas explosion in 2010 that devastated the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno and killed eight people. PG&E was fined a record $1.6 billion by the state for failing to maintain its pipeline system properly, and paid $900 million to resolve lawsuits related to the explosion.

    "We've got failure of systems to hold PG&E accountable for the destruction and devastation that's been caused," said Frank Pitre, a lawyer who has represented PG&E customers in the gas explosion and the wildfires, including 35 people who lost property in the Paradise fire. "And it's been ongoing. How many more lives have to be lost? How many more communities have to be destroyed? It's got to stop."

    As a pre-emptive measure to prevent wildfires, PG&E last month cut power to tens of thousands of customers as high winds prompted fire alerts in many areas, including parts of Napa and Sonoma Counties that were hit hard by fires a year ago.

    Shares of the parent companies of the state's other investor-owned utilities — Edison International, which operates Southern California Edison, and Sempra Energy, which owns San Diego Gas and Electric — also dropped earlier this week as wildfires spread in both Northern and Southern California.

    The state's power supply is not likely to be at risk, but PG&E could face bankruptcy if it cannot cover the liabilities it faces, wiping out shareholders' equity and eating into bondholder investments. It has already been through bankruptcy once, in 2001, during an energy crisis after a botched deregulation effort.

    Legislators intervened this year to shield PG&E and the state's other investor-owned utilities from overwhelming legal claims, allowing them to pass the expense on to ratepayers. But the law, Senate Bill 901, applies to fires beginning in 2019, and in some of last year's incidents — not to this year's fires.

    Paul Payne, a spokesman for Senator Bill Dodd, who sponsored the measure, said the bill was a response to the potential costs PG&E and its customers were already facing. "We were focused on 2017 and protecting the ratepayers from that fire," he said.

    Some analysts say California's regulators and lawmakers could take steps to extend similar protection in this year's blazes.

    "It is our expectation that regulators will utilize the tools or framework outlined in S.B. 901 to address any potential 2018 wildfire-related costs," Jeffrey Cassella, an analyst at Moody's Investors Service, wrote in an email.

    Under the bill, utilities could sell bonds to cover their liability costs and pay them off over time through higher rates. PG&E estimates that the cost to the average consumer could be $5 a year for every $1 billion in bonds issued.

    But Mr. Mehta of Citigroup said there were questions about a second intervention. "It is unclear whether the political will exists because it might be seen as a bailout," he said. "That is why the stock is reacting the way it is."

    Investors have been scrambling to assess the size of the financial hit that PG&E might suffer and whether the company had enough money to make it through the turbulence. The company said it had exhausted its revolving credit and raised concern about liquidity and cash flow.

    Some prominent investors may have been hit. Baupost Group, run by Seth A. Klarman, an investor with a reputation for spotting undervalued stocks, added more than 14 million PG&E shares to its holdings in the third quarter, according to securities filings, while Viking Global, the hedge fund of O. Andreas Halvorsen, bought 5.7 million shares. Baupost and Viking declined to comment.

    Although jarring, the move to draw down its credit lines gives the company a pool of funds that it can use to pay expenses and make debt repayments due in the coming months. Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase were among the banks that set up the credit lines, according a PG&E securities filing from 2015.

    The company said it had about $3.5 billion of cash after drawing down the credit lines.

    Last December, in anticipation of possible damage claims from that year's wildfires, PG&E suspended dividend payments. Its stock has fallen sharply, but the company is still worth $13 billion.

    "Bankruptcy is not the worst thing customers have to fear from PG&E," said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for the Utility Reform Network, which represents consumers before the Public Utilities Commission. "The worst thing that customers have to fear is the wildfires. The legislature cannot make policy based on the fear of PG&E's bankruptcy."



    7) Julian Assange Is Secretly Charged in U.S., Prosecutors Mistakenly Reveal

    By Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, November 16, 2018


    Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in 2017 at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has secretly filed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, a person familiar with the case said, a drastic escalation of the government's yearslong battle with him and his anti-secrecy group.

    Top Justice Department officials told prosecutors over the summer that they could start drafting a complaint against Mr. Assange, current and former law enforcement officials said. The charges came to light late Thursday through an unrelated court filing in which prosecutors inadvertently mentioned them.

    "The court filing was made in error," said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the United States attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia. "That was not the intended name for this filing."

    Mr. Assange has lived for years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and would have to be arrested and extradited if he were to face charges in federal court, altogether a multistep diplomatic and legal process.

    The disclosure came as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is investigating links between President Trump's associates and Russia's 2016 election interference. WikiLeaks published thousands of emails that year from Democrats during the presidential race that were stolen by Russian intelligence officers. The hackings were a major part of Moscow's campaign of disruption.

    Though the legal move against Mr. Assange remained a mystery on Thursday, charges centering on the publication of information of public interest — even if it was obtained from Russian government hackers — would create a precedent with profound implications for press freedoms.

    [Mr. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for years. Here's how he got there.]

    Mr. Assange has been in prosecutors' sights for years because of WikiLeaks's publication of thousands of secret government documents. Mr. Assange and his upstart website rose to prominence when Chelsea Manning, a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst, handed over thousandsof classified Pentagon and State Department documents to WikiLeaks, which began publishing them in 2010.

    Barry Pollack, an American lawyer representing Mr. Assange, denounced the apparent development.

    "The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed," Mr. Pollack wrote in an email. "The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take."

    Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at George Washington University who closely tracks court cases, uncovered the filing and posted it on Twitter.

    A Justice Department spokesman declined to say on Thursday what led to the inadvertent disclosure. It was made in a recently unsealed filing in an apparently unrelated sex-crimes case charging a man named Seitu Sulayman Kokayi with coercing and enticing an underage person to engage in unlawful sexual activity. Mr. Kokayi was charged in early August, and on Aug. 22, prosecutors filed a three-page document laying out boilerplate arguments for why his case at that time needed to remain sealed.

    While the filing started out referencing Mr. Kokayi, federal prosecutors abruptly switched on its second page to discussing the fact that someone named "Assange" had been secretly charged, and went on to make clear that this person was the subject of significant publicity, lived abroad and would need to be extradited — suggesting that prosecutors had inadvertently pasted text from a similar court filing into the wrong document and then filed it.

    "Another procedure short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged," prosecutors wrote.

    They added, "The complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter."

    The Justice Department has been studying how to charge Mr. Assange or WikiLeaks with some kind of criminal offense since the site began publishing its trove of secret military and diplomatic documents. Prosecutors, for example, toyed with the idea of charging Mr. Assange as a conspirator in Ms. Manning's crime of unauthorized disclosure of secrets related to national defense. And it eventually became public that a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia was investigating people with links to WikiLeaks.

    But even as the Obama administration brought criminal charges in an unprecedented number of leak-related cases, it apparently held back from charging Mr. Assange. Members of the Obama legal policy team from that era have said that they did not want to establish a precedent that could chill investigative reporting about national security matters by treating it as a crime.

    Their dilemma came down to a question they found no clear answer to: Is there any legal difference between what WikiLeaks was doing, at least in that era, from what traditional news media organizations, like The New York Times, do in soliciting and publishing information they obtain that the government wants to keep secret?

    And such organizations, including The Times, have published many news articles based on documents that WikiLeaks published starting in 2010, including tranches of logs of significant combat events in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic cables leaked by Ms. Manning, and the Democratic emails in the 2016 election that were hacked by Russia.

    The debate over whether to charge Mr. Assange continued under the Trump administration and was being accelerated by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to former government officials involved in the discussions, about whether Mr. Assange qualified as a journalist.

    Charges against Mr. Assange raised the question of whether the Justice Department abandoned concerns about setting a precedent that would chill press freedoms after WikiLeaks's role in Russia's 2016 election interference and its publication that year of documents about C.I.A. hacking tools, or whether prosecutors decided that the new circumstances raised by the publication of the stolen emails opened a new legal avenue.

    While prosecutors in the Manning era were focused on WikiLeaks's publication of classified government documents — activity that they analyzed primarily through the lens of the Espionage Act — the Democratic emails were not government documents or national security secrets.

    In July — a month before the erroneous court filing — Mr. Mueller charged 12 Russians with several crimes related to hacking and disseminating the emails as part of a foreign conspiracy to interfere in the election, which that indictment styled in part as a conspiracy to defraud the United States. Part of that indictment referred to WikiLeaks, which it identified as "Organization 1."

    "In order to expand their interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the conspirators transferred many of the documents they stole from the D.N.C. and the chairman of the Clinton campaign to Organization 1," the July indictment said, referring to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. "The conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, discussed the release of the stolen documents and the timing of those releases with Organization 1 to heighten their impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

    Mr. Stueve's explanation about the inadvertent filing left open the possibility that the language in the unrelated court document was lifted from a draft document written in preparation for eventual charges, not necessarily one handed up by a grand jury and sealed by a court.

    Mr. Assange became something of a cult figure for those advocating greater transparency in government and in the corporate world. The prominence of WikiLeaks also generated a debate about the boundaries of journalism and the protections of free expression in the digital age.

    At the same time, Mr. Assange was pursued by Swedish prosecutors on charges of sexual abuse — ultimately forcing him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in the summer of 2012. He has remained there since.

    In October, Mr. Assange sued the Ecuadorean government for limiting his visitors and online activity.

    WikiLeaks has been attacked for its publication of the hacked Democratic emails. In April 2017, the C.I.A. director at the time, Mike Pompeo, called it a "hostile intelligence service" that was aided by Russia and accused Mr. Assange of making "common cause with dictators."

    Mr. Hughes, the terrorism expert, who is the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, posted a screenshot of the court filing on Twitter shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Mr. Assange.

    "You guys should read EDVA court filings more," Mr. Hughes wrote, "cheaper than a Journal subscription."

    Katie Benner and Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting.



    8) California Fires Only Add to Acute Housing Crisis

    By Thomas Fuller, Kirk Johnson and Conor Dougherty, November 15, 2018

    "More than 81,000 people across the state have been evacuated from their homes. And temporary shelters, state and local officials said, are only meant to last through the emergency."


    Evacuees of the Camp Fire camped in a field in Chico, Calif.

    CHICO, Calif. — Within hours of the flames igniting in Northern California last week, an instant new homeless crisis was born. In a state already suffering an acute housing shortage, the fire that swept through the town of Paradise and neighboring hamlets has once again laid bare one of California's biggest vulnerabilities: With each disaster — wildfire, mudslide or earthquake — there are thousands of people who cannot find homes in a market that for years has had very little vacancy.

    Over the past several days, the thousands of people who lost homes in fires at both ends of the state have scattered across California and beyond, to motels, government shelters and places like the East Avenue Church, where Patty Saunders, 89, ended up after barely escaping the mobile home community where for years she has subsisted on a $900 monthly Social Security check.

    Ms. Saunders said she had hoped to go to her daughter's house outside Los Angeles. But her daughter had been forced to evacuate her home as the Woolsey Fire, which still rages west of Los Angeles, approached. So Ms. Saunders ended up at the church.

    "What is happening with California, dear?" Ms. Saunders said, covered in blankets in the church gymnasium. "It's going to be tough."

    A small city's worth of housing has been incinerated in California over the last week — 9,700 homes destroyed in Butte County alone, north of Sacramento, and 432 more in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. The death toll statewide rose to at least 66 on Thursday, including 63 in the Camp Fire. More than 600 people were missing in Butte County, a number that had jumped from about 130 on Wednesday.

    Sheriff Kory Honea of Butte County said the number of missing people spiked as call takers went back and reviewed reports that had been taken days ago.

    "After they gave me the 130 number, which I reported to you, they didn't stop working – they continued to work into the night," he said at a news conference.

    More than 81,000 people across the state have been evacuated from their homes. And temporary shelters, state and local officials said, are only meant to last through the emergency.

    On Thursday, President Trump announced plans to travel to California Saturday, to tour the damage and meet with those affected by the wildfires that have ravaged the state.

    Most hotels within 40 miles of the so-called Camp Fire are full. Families evacuated from the fire are taking extreme measures; some have pitched tents in a field next to a Walmart parking lot in Chico. One man near the fire zone in Chico, about 100 miles north of Sacramento, opened his land to people who lost their homes and need a place to park a trailer or R.V.

    Michael Cannon, a 69-year-old caregiver and musician, created an impromptu shelter, with 11 or more people sleeping over in his four-bedroom house in Chico every night since the fire began, including an ex-wife, a son and three grandchildren — all displaced from their homes.

    "We're just taking it one day at a time," Mr. Cannon said when asked how long his homemade home shelter might go on. He added: "All we know is that we've got this big house and people in need."

    Housing experts said wildfires have transformed a housing problem that was already vast and deep into something sharp and local.

    "We've had a huge increase in population and a huge increase in jobs, and we do not have anywhere close to the supply of housing to put people," said Carol Galante, faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at University of California Berkeley. "There is no margin when there is a disaster; there is no cushion at all."

    Up and down the state, from the ports to Hollywood and Silicon Valley, California's economy has boomed since the Great Recession. But the state hasn't come close to keeping up with housing demand and population growth, consistently building thousands fewer homes than are needed each year.

    California added 544,000 households between the end of the Great Recession in 2009 and 2014, but built only 467,000 housing units over that period, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. States such as New York added about 80 percent more housing relative to population growth over the same period.

    For disaster-prone California, the housing shortage creates instant refugees.

    "There is no way that the current housing stock can accommodate the people displaced by the fire," Casey Hatcher, the spokeswoman for Butte County, where Paradise and surrounding towns ravaged by the fire are located. "We recognize that it's going to be some time before people rebuild, and there is an extremely large housing need."

    One possible solution, she said, would be for FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to provide trailers that people could live in while their homes were being rebuilt.

    For now, though, authorities are focused on providing immediate relief.

    "We are working right now to get people out of shelters and into more permanent sheltering options such as hotels, or even bed-and-breakfast inns — people have offered up rentals, people have been amazing," said Shawn Boyd, a spokesman for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. A joint care and shelter task force has been established between the state and FEMA, Mr. Boyd said, and task force workers have been deployed in Butte County. But with housing already tight, there are no easy answers.

    "This is a tremendous strain in an already difficult situation," Mr. Boyd said.

    Ron Zimmer, 50, the lead pastor at East Avenue Church, says congregants were in a Bible study when the fire broke out last Thursday and made the instant decision to open the church to those who fled the fire.

    "Paul when he's leaving Ephesus says give grace to people who need it, and give to those in need," Pastor Zimmer said. "The people who are here don't have options," he said of the 250 people who have sought shelter at the church. Some sleep in the gymnasium, others in tents pitched in the yard behind the church.

    At the East Avenue Church, volunteers and evacuees navigated waist-high stacks of water bottles in the church courtyard, piles of donated clothing and a visiting team from FEMA. An announcement crackled over the loudspeaker: "If anyone needs a free government phone, come talk to me."

    Mr. Zimmer, who has been on many Christian missions overseas, says he has been reminded in recent days of being in Ukraine and meeting refugees from Crimea and Christians fleeing Syria.

    "It was a similar feeling of people who have lost everything," he said. "You are seeing people starting over."

    And building anew.

    Mr. Cannon, the improvising house-host in Chico, said he hopes within the next few weeks to have a new space in a previously unfinished outbuilding in the backyard ready for habitation by even more of those who need it. One of his daughters chipped in to help with the costs, he said, and a construction company was hired to do the work.

    Paul Levin, 54, who has been working on the shelter-in-progress since shortly after the fire began, knows already that his house in Paradise was burned to the ground. He lost everything he owned, he said. Building a new living space is therapeutic, he said, a distraction from the troubles of the moment.

    "I'm glad I can do something to keep my mind off it," Mr. Levin said, a hammer in one hand, prybar in the other.

    Matt Stevens and Andrew R. Chow contributed reporting.



    9) Kroger Shooting Suspect Is Charged With Hate Crimes in Killings of 2 Black People

    By Niraj Chokshi, November 15, 2018


    The Kentucky authorities say Gregory Bush, 51, tried to enter a predominantly black church before killing two black people at a Kroger supermarket last month

    A federal grand jury on Thursday handed down hate crime charges against a white man who the authorities say shot and killed two black grandparents at a Kroger supermarket in Kentucky last month.

    "There is no place, no place, for hate-fueled violence in this community and no place in this commonwealth," Russell M. Coleman, the United States attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

    The six-count indictment against the suspect, Gregory Bush, 51, of Louisville, Ky., included two counts of shooting or killing a victim based on race or color and one count of attempting to shoot or kill a victim based on race or color. The remaining charges were for firearm-related offenses. The grand jury in Louisville returned the indictment midafternoon.

    "Cutting through the legal jargon, we have three federal hate crimes, three what you would refer to as federal firearms offenses or 'gun crimes,'" Mr. Coleman said.

    If convicted, Mr. Bush faces life in prison without parole. The authorities have not decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

    Mr. Bush had already been charged by a state prosecutor with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment and could face the death penalty over those murder charges.

    The shooting occurred on Oct. 24 in Jeffersontown, a suburb of Louisville, where Mr. Bush initially tried to enter a predominantly black church, according to the police.

    Failing that, he proceeded to the Kroger, where witnesses said he fatally shot Maurice E. Stallard, 69. Mr. Bush then went outside to the parking lot, where he shot and killed Vickie Lee Jones, 67. A bystander told the police that during the attack, Mr. Bush had said, "Whites don't kill whites."

    Mr. Stallard was at the Kroger with his 12-year-old grandson to buy materials for a school project, according to the police. He served in the Air Force and had married his high school sweetheart, Charlotte, a longtime friend, Jesse Kinzer, told The New York Times last month.

    Ms. Jones had retired from a Veterans Administration hospital and was caring for her ailing mother, according to her nephew Kevin Gunn.

    Last month, the state prosecutor in the case, Thomas B. Wine, told The Times that a hate crime is not a separate offense under Kentucky law, but that a judge could apply the label during the sentencing process.

    As a result, many had called for Mr. Bush to face federal hate crime charges, including Greg Fischer, the mayor of Louisville.



    10)  California's farmworkers are still working despite deadly wildfires

    By E.A. Grunden, November 14, 2018


    Deadly wildfires raging across California are leaving some of the state's most vulnerable residents in harm's way. Farmworkers are still hard at work in the fields, despite danger from smoke inhalation and neighboring flames.

    Farmworkers experience direct exposure to smoke and heat in connection with wildfires, but many are unable, or unwilling, to seek help for reasons related to income, immigration status, and other factors. Advocates worry that as fire season grows longer and longer, the dangers these workers face are increasing.

    At least 50 people have died amid the deadliest wildfire onslaught in California's history. A number of fires are currently raging across the state, including the Camp Fire in northern California, which was only around 35 percent contained as of Tuesday, and which has destroyed almost 9,000 structures and killed 48 people.

    The Woolsey Fire, meanwhile, is burning west of Los Angeles, and is around 40 percent contained with two casualties confirmed, while the Hill Fire in nearby Ventura County is close to 90 percent contained.

    A handful of wealthy Californians — including Hollywood celebrities — have lost their homes in the blaze, but farmworkers are in a far more precarious position. In an email to ThinkProgress on Tuesday, Bruce Goldstein of Farmworker Justice noted that many workers are facing devastating choices as the fires rage.

    "The consequences for farmworkers of the fires and other natural disasters tend to be compounded by several factors, including the lack of immigration status for many farmworkers, which causes them to be fearful of coming forward and seeking disaster assistance even when they are eligible for it," he wrote, pointing to both the health and legal ramifications associated with working near flames.

    "Working in the fields is dangerous due to the smoke from fires. Another issue is that most farmworkers have no paid leave and many are not eligible for unemployment compensation, so when they cannot work, they suffer serious economic harm," he said. "If they are displaced from their homes, they often have very limited options.

    "California's wildfire season is naturally occurring, but climate scientists have increasingly connected global warming to the now almost year-round fire seasonhaunting the region. Natural disasters disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color, leaving farmworkers particularly vulnerable.

    In states like Florida, researchers have found that climate change is taking an outsized toll on farmworkers, exposing them to extreme heat. Moreover, disasters like hurricanes are becoming more frequent, hurting growing seasonand displacing farmworkers.

    In California, a similar scenario is playing out, as wildfire season becomes longer and more deadly, leaving farmworkers extremely vulnerable to their impacts, along with the incarcerated workers the state uses to battle the flames.

    A current advisory from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) shared with ThinkProgress advises that employers take "special precautions" during the wildfires, in addition to providing N95 masks, a disposable filtering respirator.

    "Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that can harm health," the advisory notes. "The greatest hazard comes from breathing fine particles in the air, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and other existing heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing."

    Whether or not employers will follow the advisory is unclear. During last year's Thomas Fire, farmworkers continued on in the strawberry fields of Oxnard, a coastal city not far from Los Angeles. At that time, the LA Times reported that many farmworkers lacked masks to protect them from the air until labor rights activists distributed around 2,000 respirators.

    Those activists faced pushback from growers, who argued they had offered masks to workers themselves and been denied. Some workers, however, said their employers never offered them masks, leaving them at the mercy of terrible air quality linked to extreme health ramifications.

    This year, activists have been working to make sure farmworkers know their rights and have access to specialized masks. But that's far from easy.

    Zuleth Lucero, the South Coast regional coordinator for the United Farm Workers Foundation, told ThinkProgress on Wednesday that while poor air quality has been a concern in the Ventura County area, she has seen farmworkers this week in the fields either without protection or with less-efficient hospital masks.

    "Some of the smoke is still there [but] people are still going to work," Lucero said, noting that air quality had improved throughout the week but that the risks remain very real. "They will not stop going to work. They [typically] don't know the consequences, the risks."

    Organizations like the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) have also been working to hand out N95 masks, in addition to raising funds for undocumented farmworkers forced to miss work in connection with the wildfires.

    Images shared by the organization on Twitter last week show farmworkers at work despite a looming avalanche of smoke in the background caused by the Hill Fire.

    While activists are working to set up information sessions and deliver masks to farmworkers, the threat to day laborers comes from all sides.

    Many farmworkers are undocumented and fear seeking medical attention when they become ill from the effects of things like smoke. Lucero noted that following recent movements by the Trump administration to label immigrants using public assistance a "public charge," more and more farmworkers have questions about how seeking aid could impact their jobs and status.

    They also fear losing income. Farmworkers are typically paid per piece as opposed to per hour, meaning that any time spent away from their jobs can result in a steep income loss. With families to feed, that alone can be a powerful incentive to stay in the fields, at great personal risk.

    Ultimately, Lucero said, all activists can do is offer information.

    "We let them know, we help them, we educate them, we inform them," she said. "We let them know if you get sick at work, it is your right to go."




    By Rebecca Nathanson, November 17, 2018


    Most of the Stansted 15, photographed outside Chelmsford court on the first day of their trial on Oct. 1, 2018 in Chelmsford, U.K.

    IT WAS MID-AFTERNOON on November 5 by the time Benjamin Smoke took the witness stand in a courthouse in Chelmsford, a small city about 30 miles northeast of London that voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in 2016. Smoke is 27 — a freelance journalist and activist with short, black hair, a selection of silver rings in his ears and nose, and no previous convictions. He wore a gray suit, although most of it was hidden behind the stand where he stood that afternoon, answering questions from his lawyer that aimed to explain, and justify, the actions that had led him to being charged with a terrorism-related offense.

    On the night of March 28, 2017, Smoke and 14 other activists, now known as the Stansted 15, entered Stansted Airport, an international airport northeast of London, accompanied by two journalists. After cutting a hole in the airport's perimeter fence, they made their way toward a Titan Airways Boeing 767. CCTV footage shows them approaching in two well-organized groups: Smoke's group headed to the front of the aircraft, intending to lock themselves around it with double-layered pipes, and the other aimed for the plane's left wing, constructing a two-meter pyramid structure out of scaffolding poles and then locking themselves to it. One person perched atop the structure, making it dangerous for security personnel to remove it.

    They remained there, them and the plane immobile on the tarmac, until 8 a.m. the next morning, rain intermittently dampening them for 10 hours. According to some reports, the airport runway was shut down for about an hour and 20 minutes, and incoming flights were rerouted. Police officers arrived quickly, but it took a while for them to cut everyone out, sawing through the pipes securing the protesters' arms to one another. By that point, it was obvious that the plane was not going anywhere. They had achieved their goal.

    Smoke is a founding member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, a group created in 2015 to stand in solidarity with migrant communities in the U.K., and also part of End Deportations, a group campaigning to end deportations that originally formed around the Stansted action. They chose to focus on one particular aspect of the U.K.'s deportation system: charter flights. While some migrants and asylum-seekers are deported on commercial flights alongside passengers traveling for business or pleasure, others are deported via private flights chartered by the Home Office, the government department responsible for immigration, security, and law and order. The Titan plane around which the Stansted 15 locked themselves in March 2017 was one of the latter.

    The activists believed that at least three people scheduled to be on that particular charter flight, bound for Nigeria and Ghana, were at risk of serious harm or even death upon return to their countries of origin. Smoke had heard of one woman, an out lesbian, who had fled an abusive marriage in Nigeria and whose ex-husband had said he would kill her upon her return. The British government had rejected her asylum application. Standing in the witness box, his voice occasionally growing quiet until his lawyer would remind him to speak loudly and slowly, Smoke explained that he had acted with an intent not to do harm but to protect people from the harm that he thought would result from deportation on the charter flight.

    MYSTERY SURROUNDS DEPORTATION charter flights. They have been known to leave in the early hours before sunrise, sometimes from military bases instead of airports, and deportees, security escorts, and a few health care personnel are often the only people onboard. According to a report by Corporate Watch, a nonprofit research cooperative, the U.K. government began using charter flights for deportations in 2001.

    The Home Office does not routinely publish data about its use of charter flights. However, Freedom of Information requests have revealed that the Home Office chartered 93 deportation flights from January 2016 through May 2018, including the flight grounded by the Stansted 15. Most of these flights went to Pakistan, Albania, Nigeria, and Ghana, although a few also flew to Germany, France, and Bulgaria. Some carried over 50 deportees; most had less than 20 passengers being deported because of a criminal conviction. These destinations have shifted over time as the population of asylum-seekers has changed: Charter deportation flights in 2014 also frequented Afghanistan and Kosovo.

    The Stansted 15, along with many others who research or campaign around deportation, take issue with numerous aspects of deportation charter flights, starting with the way in which migrants and asylum-seekers are notified of them.

    "It's a weird numbers game where the government needs to fill seats on this plane to make it economically viable," says Morten Thaysen, one of the co-founders of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. There will often be "raids in the weeks leading up to the flight," according to Thaysen. "People [are] being taken from marketplaces, workplaces, their home, and put in detention centers — these kind of immigration prisons — and then taken in the middle of the night on these secret flights where there are no witnesses. So it's the brutality of how they function."

    Some people, activists also argue, are not notified of their impending deportation with enough time to appeal the decision. "We see so many people on these flights whose cases haven't been properly finished, haven't had their cases heard properly," says Thaysen. The government is meant to provide those being deported on charter flights with notice of either 72 hours or five working days, depending on if the person is seeking a court injunction to defer their removal.

    According to Matthew J. Gibney, director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, the problem goes beyond short notice. Some groups of asylum-seekers, including men from Ghana and Nigeria, are not allowed to appeal their removal orders until they have been deported back to their country of origin. "There's no appeal right for people from these various countries," Gibney explains. Plus, he adds, "the Home Office is in charge of fulfilling the government's demand that the number of people immigrating to the country is reduced, and it's also in charge of granting asylum. So that looks a bit like a kind of conflict of interest, in some respects."

    Lacking the right to appeal can be a major disadvantage. Between April 2017 and March 2018, more than one-third of appeals that went to court resulted in the Home Office's initial decision being overturned, according to The Guardian. It is, Gibney says, "a very, very large number that are successful on appeal to an independent body, and it does make you wonder about the quality of decision-making within the Home Office. I would certainly be pretty scared if I had to apply to the Home Office, and I was actually facing persecution because I don't necessarily think their judgments are always sound."

    Once deportees are detained and the night of their flight arrives, they are driven by bus to an airport or military base and put on the plane. Here, too, many take issue with the process. In January 2018, the chief inspector of prisons, an independent inspector who reports on the treatment of those in prison, observed a deportation charter flight to France, Austria, and Bulgaria. His report highlights the use of "excessive" restraint on the passengers and describes the presence of 80 security escorts to accompany 23 deportees — more than three escorts per person. All but one of the 23 were restrained for the duration of the flight by a waist belt that restricted arm movement. The deportees were calm and, wrote the inspector, "restraints in these cases were not necessary, reasonable or proportionate." (The Home Office declined to respond to any questions about its use of charter flights because the Stansted 15 trial is ongoing.)

    It was these conditions that, Smoke and the other 14 believed, awaited the migrants and asylum-seekers who were scheduled to be deported on March 28, 2017, when they locked themselves together to keep that plane in place.

    Supporters gather outside Chelmsford crown court on the first day of the trial on Oct. 1, 2018.

    THE CONSEQUENCES OF the Stansted 15's actions that night have been far greater than anyone anticipated. The activists are now coming to the end of a six-week trial in Chelmsford; soon the 12-person jury will reach a verdict. Originally charged with aggravated trespass — a charge they accept — the Stansted 15 have since additionally been charged with intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome. This charge falls under the "Endangering safety at aerodromes" section of the U.K.'s Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990, a law intended to fight terrorism. The potential lifetime sentence accompanying this charge, as well as the fact that the attorney general is required to approve its use on a case-by-case basis, makes clear its severity.

    There is little precedent for fighting a charge from the Aviation and Maritime Security Act — in 28 years, it has been used very rarely. Amnesty International has been observing the Stansted 15 trial, concerned that this charge "may have been brought to discourage other activists from taking non-violent direct action in defence of human rights." Kate Allen, Amnesty International's U.K. director, wrote, "We're concerned the authorities are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut with this case."

    That a charge intended as a counterterrorism measure is being used against nonviolent protesters has shocked many. There remains debate about what Parliament truly intended when it passed the act back in 1990 and if nonviolent action falls within its scope. The transcript of a January 1990 parliamentary discussion of the bill offers some hints. In it, Cecil Parkinson, then secretary of state for transport, explains, "The protocol commits us to making it an offence under our law to carry out armed attacks at international airports and to cause damage or disruption at such airports." He later says that the act is "to be an effective means of countering terrorism."

    John Prescott, then a member of Parliament for Hull East, described the bill as an attempt to "make it more difficult for cowardly acts of terrorism to occur or for bombs to be planted on aircraft and planes — devices like those which have already killed hundreds of innocent passengers."

    Here, then, it becomes clear why the activists' intent to prevent harm, rather do harm, matters. In court on November 5, the defense lawyer tried to establish that Smoke had acted because he thought people were in genuine peril and that he had taken into consideration the safety of everyone involved. Safety, Smoke emphasized, had been "integral to every single conversation that was going on at the time." Was he intending to put himself in danger? "Absolutely not." Anybody else in danger? "No, quite the opposite."

    When Tony Badenoch, speaking for the prosecution, began interrogating Smoke, the line of questioning shifted. Now, the focus was on establishing that he cares about fairness, does not wish for harm to come to his fellow human beings, and accepts that we all have to live in accordance with the rule of law. To do otherwise, Badenoch suggested, would be anarchy. A woman in the public gallery let out a chuckle; Smoke hesitated before affirming the lawyer's statement. What Badenoch was getting to was the idea that it would create risks if everyone made up their own rules. Smoke and the rest of the Stansted 15, he said, had self-selected their own rules.

    THAT MORNING, HOURS before Smoke began giving evidence in court, about 100 people had gathered in front of the Chelmsford courthouse with signs reading, "Deportation flights kill," and "The ONLY people in danger were on the plane." Ewa Jasiewicz, a member of End Deportations who had come from Manchester, was leading the rally. "What our friends have tried to do is shine a light on this brutal process, and they've tried to stop it at the point of the actual deportation," she explained. "They'd exhausted all other means to intervene in this process. They're trying to prevent greater crime from taking place, which is that of people being deported back to danger, back to death, back to violence."

    The long trial has led to both an outpouring of support for the defendants and outrage over the severity of their charges, bringing together people from anti-war, anti-racist, and climate justice movements. And despite what the city's pro-Brexit vote may imply, the activists have also been met with solidarity in Chelmsford, where locals have housed them for the duration of the trial. Sabina Nussey and her daughter, Helena, have been housing two defendants. At the rally, Sabina's coat bore a "We demand a people's vote" button, a reference to the campaign to hold another Brexit referendum. "They are both the same age as my children," explained Sabina of the activists staying with her family. "I think they stood up and did something and the least we can do is try and give them the support."

    She wasn't alone in that feeling: Later that day, the bishop of Chelmsford appeared in the courtroom to show his support. Last spring, about 50 prominent writers and activists, including feminist activist Gloria Steinem and Intercept columnist Naomi Klein, published a letter calling for the charges to be dropped and for the government to stop chartering deportation flights.

    Raising awareness of the government's use of deportation charter flights — a practice that was not widely known prior to the Stansted 15 — has been a welcome side effect of the trial and the charges facing the defendants. But that is just one of the ways in which the Stansted 15's action made an impact: It did, in fact, stop some of the people meant to be on the Titan Airways flight from being deported. According to a Freedom of Information request, as of July this year, 11 people scheduled for the March 28, 2017 flight remained in the U.K.

    Arising from this trial are two debates: that of criminalizing nonviolent protest and that of the legality, and ethics, of deportation charter flights. The jury will decide on the former in a matter of days; the latter may remain open after the case reaches its close. Activists, however, see that debate as having a clear winner. "Their action resulted in 11 people still being here in the U.K. with their friends and family," implored Jasiewicz, standing outside the courthouse that morning. "So it's an act of human solidarity and defense and resistance to an increasingly brutal border regime." She told me that previous organizing against deportations on commercial flights by pressuring airlines had seen some success — and, she believes, had resulted in an increase in charter flights. "We're trying to intervene in this. We think it's our human duty to do that and the state doesn't like it."



    12)  Instead of Giving Billions to Amazon, We Could Just Cancel Student Debt

    By Allie Conti, November 15, 2018


    Jeff Bezos                                                        Cancel student debt

    On Tuesday, Amazon confirmed it would build new offices in Long Island City, Queens, and a suburb of Washington, DC, called Crystal City, ending a massive bidding war that saw the leaders of almost 250 cities prostrate themselves at the feet of the world's richest man.

    Thirsty officials mailed Amazon a giant cactus and lit up local landmarks in "Amazon orange" in hopes of hosting what was billed as the retail giant's "second HQ," despite the fact that it is definitionally impossible for there to be more than one headquarters of anything. Somehow more humiliatingly, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he'd literally change his name to "Amazon" for the privilege of helping gift the mega company at least a billion in tax subsidies. All of this would have been sort-of hilarious if it didn't throw CEO Jeff Bezos's power over the country's ostensible leaders into such terrifying relief. What's more, it's depressing that so much effort went into making something happen that probably would have happened regardless, and will likely just cause rents to rise in a city that already struggles with housing costs.

    "This was a company that was going to grow and almost certainly going to expand to these regions," Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an economic think-tank that has researched the pernicious social and economic effects of Amazon's dangerous monopoly, told me. "They don't need a subsidy at all. And it's ridiculous and shocking that Bill de Blasio, who ran on a platform of fixing economic inequality, worked so hard to bring in a project that's going to cause a lot of hardship for working-class New Yorkers."

    But right after the announcement about the so-called HQ2 came down, New York State Assembly Member Ron Kim made an announcement of his own: he'd be introducing legislation to take the money Cuomo and other officials promised and use it to cancel some of the over $80 billion in debt bogging down the state's student borrowers. 

    "Giving Jeff Bezos hundreds of millions of dollars is an immoral waste of taxpayers money when it's more than clear that the money would create more jobs and more economic growth when it is used to relieve student debt," Kim said in an emailed press release. "Giving Amazon this type of corporate welfare is no different, if not worse, than Donald Trump giving trillions in corporate tax breaks at the federal level. There's no correlation between healthy, sustainable job creation and corporate giveaways. If we used this money to cancel distressed student debt instead, there would be immediate positive GDP growth, job creation, and impactful social-economic returns."

    Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance agreed there were a litany of ways in which that money could be put to better use, like providing property tax rebates to local businesses and addressing the shortage of capital available to would-be business owners. Kim, for his part, pointed to a recent study from Bard College that suggested canceling student debt might produce a significant increase in real GDP, could add between $86 billion and $108 billion per year to the economy on average, and would lead to the all-important holy grail of job creation.

    The idea that the government could help regular people and boost the economy by wiping out debt isn't a brand new one. After the 2008 financial crisis, a Cornell Law professor named Robert Hockett advocated for municipalities to help borrowers by using their powers of eminent domain to buy up and restructure underwater mortgages. A number of cities including Richmond, California, latched onto the idea, but the plan to implement it was paused after Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo, and other major financial players challenged it in court. By the time that suit was dismissed, the novel scheme had started to lose momentum.

    Still, Hockett told me the same general concept could be applied to student debt. Each state would have to pass laws to make sure debt was clearly considered property—that is, something the government can claim domain over—if it wasn't already. Then they would have to create an agency or state-backed entity to take care of buying up and canceling the debts. Foundations and other benevolent organizations would help foot the cost to the cities.

    "I think the case is fairly strong here," he said. "Not quite as strong in the case of the mortgage crisis, but it's pretty close. We have the data to show that when we have lots of young folk entering the workforce underwater, they tend to delay house-buying and family formation and starting their own business and seeking employment that will be more remunerative in the long run because they're just trying to say afloat. When the people who are affected are more concentrated in a specific area code, a strong argument can be made to purchase the debt and write it down, or lower the interest rate and lower the level of burden.

    Of course, the apparent economic benefits of the student-loan scheme will only matter if the powers that be are ready to be rational. This may not be the case. After all, there's a growing consensus that wooing big businesses is not the best way to bolster a local economy, and Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance said New York's Amazon pitch had less to do with the company's massive propaganda arm than the way politicians' psychology had evolved in recent decades to think their jobs were about encouraging development at all costs.

    But given the number of options available to New Yorkers who want to resist development, the Amazon deal is far from set in stone. Just hours after it was announced, a New York state senator and city council member began mobilizing a rally at the proposed site. And Hockett told me he was working with Kim, the local lawmaker, to hammer out the details on how New York State could take that Amazon money and use it to help normal people live their lives.

    "We've been planning this since well before the Amazon announcement, but now that that's been made, we're [going to] point to that, too, because it shows the state is able to help some people out," Hockett said. "So why not the people who are actually hurting because of debt burdens?"



    13) Trump's Border Stunt Is a Profound Betrayal of Our Military

    The president used America's military not against any real threat but as toy soldiers, with the intent of manipulating a domestic midterm election.

    By Gordon Adams, Lawrence B. Wilkerson and Isaiha Wilson III, November 19, 2018 


    American soldiers arriving at Base Camp Donna, one of multiple military bases being set up along the border with Mexico.

    A week before the midterm elections, the president of the United States announced he would deploy up to 15,000 active duty military troops to the United States-Mexico border to confront a menacing caravan of refugees and asylum seekers. The soldiers would use force, if necessary, to prevent such an "invasion" of the United States.

    Mr. Trump's announcement and the deployment that followed (of roughly 5,900) were probably perfectly legal. But we are a bipartisan threesome with decades of experience in and with the Pentagon, and to us, this act creates a dangerous precedent. We fear this was lost in the public hand-wringing over the decision, so let us be clear: The president used America's military forces not against any real threat but as toy soldiers, with the intent of manipulating a domestic midterm election outcome, an unprecedented use of the military by a sitting president. 

    The public debate focused on secondary issues. Is there truly a threat to American security from an unarmed group of tired refugees and asylum seekers on foot and a thousand miles from the border? Even the Army's internal assessment did not find this a very credible threat.

    Can the president deny in advance what could be legitimate claims for asylum, without scrutiny? Most likely, this violates treaty commitments the United States made as part of its agreement to refugee conventions in 1967, which it has followed for decades.

    The deployment is not, in the context of the defense budget, an albatross. We are already paying the troops, wherever they're deployed, and the actual incremental costs of sending them to the border might be $100 million to $200 million, a tiny fraction of the $716 billion defense budget.

    Still, we can think of many ways to put the funds to better use, like improving readiness.

    It's also not unusual for a president to ask the troops to deploy to the border in support of border security operations. Presidents of both parties have sent troops to the border, to provide support functions like engineering, logistics, transportation and surveillance. 

    But those deployments have been generally in smaller numbers, usually the National Guard, and never to stop a caravan of refugees and asylum seekers.

    So, generously, some aspects of the deployment are at least defensible. But one is not, and that aspect is the domestic political use — or rather, misuse — of the military.

    James Mattis, the secretary of defense, asserted that the Defense Department does not "do stunts." But this was a blatant political stunt. The president crossed a line — the military is supposed to stay out of domestic politics. As many senior military retirees have argued, the forces are not and should not be a political instrument. They are not toy soldiers to be moved around by political leaders but a neutral institution, politically speaking.

    Oh, some might say, presidents use troops politically all the time. And so they do, generally in the context of foreign policy decisions that have political implications. Think Lyndon Johnson sending more troops to Vietnam, fearing he would be attacked for "cutting and running" from that conflict. Or George W. Bush crowing about "mission accomplished" when Saddam Hussein was toppled. Those are not the same thing as using troops at home for electoral advantage.

    Electoral gain, not security, is this president's goal. Two of us served in the military for many years; while all troops must obey the legal and ethical orders of civilian leaders, they need to have faith that those civilian leaders are using them for legitimate national security purposes. But the border deployment put the military right in the middle of the midterm elections, creating a nonexistent crisis to stimulate votes for one party. 

    When partisan actions like this occur, they violate civil-military traditions and erode that faith, with potentially long-term damage to the morale of the force and our democratic practice — all for electoral gain.

    The deployment is a stunt, a dangerous one, and in our view, a misuse of the military that should have led Mr. Mattis to consider resigning, instead of acceding to this blatant politicization of America's military.

    Gordon Adams is professor emeritus at the School of International Service, American University, and was the senior White House budget official for national security from 1993 to 1997. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and a professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary, was chief of staff to the secretary of state from 2002 to 2005. Isaiah Wilson III, a senior lecturer with Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, is a military veteran who was an active-duty Army officer for 28 years of service that included multiple tours of combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    My NYT Comment:

    These troops could have, and should be, immediately deployed to fight the California fires and clean up after the hurricanes and floods across the country and in Puerto Rico, and to restore clean drinking water to the homes in Flint, Michigan. (Right now, in California, prisoners are being paid $1.00 and hour to fight the fires. The troops could be a great help.) The "tent jails" set up to incarcerate asylum seekers should be re-deployed as housing for those whose homes have been destroyed. The military could be deployed to help with the building of homes lost to natural disasters. Instead of spending billions of dollars on war, that money should be spent on homes for the homeless, healthcare for all and free, quality education from cradle to grave. Asylum seekers should be granted asylum—not put in jails. We need to build a better world with the wealth created by working people and held by the 0.001% in their private coffers. As Martin Luther King wrote to Coretta Scott in 1952, "Today Capitalism has outlived its usefulness."

    —Bonnie Weinstein




    14) As Inmates, They Fight California's Fires. As Ex-Convicts, Their Firefighting Prospects Wilt.

    By Mihir Zaveri, November 15, 2018


    About 1,500 inmates in California prisons are helping the state fight wildfires, including the Camp Fire, for several dollars a day. Yet after inmates with firefighting experience are released, doors at fire departments are often closed.

    As smoke from the Camp Fire drifted over the San Francisco Bay Area this week, clouding the air around Amika Mota's home in Oakland, she was reminded of her time in prison.

    While serving a sentence for vehicular manslaughter, Ms. Mota, 41, began putting out car, structure and wildfires in Central California in 2012, one of roughly 4,000 inmate firefighters in the state. Through firefighting, the state tries to rehabilitate prisoners while providing a critical — and cost-effective — line of defense against a growing threat of natural disaster.

    Ms. Mota found it to be a "transformative" experience that was a welcome and productive reprieve from prison's widespread drugs, violence and abuse. She said she would have "loved" to make firefighting her career.

    Yet she remembers one lesson that was drilled into her head: After you are released, do not expect to be a firefighter anymore — criminals will not get hired. So when she was released on parole several years ago, she did not apply.

    "It had been really ingrained in me by the folks that trained me that it was not possible," Ms. Mota said.

    She is one of many former inmates who volunteered to help defend the state from perennial fires for little pay, in some cases risking their lives, but who now find fire departments unwilling to hire them.

    As the Camp Fire rages in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in state history, and wildfires scorch western Los Angeles, about 1,500 inmates have been deployed to help fight active fires, out of a firefighter total of roughly 9,400, according to California state officials.

    Ms. Mota does believe she learned invaluable skills in the program that she has translated into a career helping other former prisoners at the Young Women's Freedom Center, a nonprofit group in San Francisco.

    But since she was released from prison, Ms. Mota said, she also thinks about how, year after year, the wildfires seem to grow stronger. She thinks about how, on average, inmate firefighters are paid $2 per day, and another $1 per hour when fighting active fires. She thinks about how six inmate firefighters have died since 1983, according to the state, and how, ultimately, she hears about so many who, like her, are discouraged from applying or are barred from being firefighters because of their criminal records.

    "I also begin to really look at the injustice of what it looks like to be this massive labor force for the state of California that's getting paid pennies on the dollar," she said. "We should be doing a lot more to make sure that folks are re-entering in a positive way."

    California relies on prisoners to fight wildfires more than any other state. In 1946, the state opened Camp Rainbow in Fallbrook, which housed inmates to fight fires. Over the decades, the program would grow.

    Today, 3,700 inmates work at 44 fire camps across the state, said Alexandra Powell, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which helps run the fire camp program.

    Prisoners volunteer to be part of the state's firefighting program, and some can receive time off their sentences.

    Men, women and youths can volunteer for the program, under certain restrictions. For example, they must have five years or less remaining on their sentences. Those convicted of rape or arson are disqualified, Ms. Powell said. Those who volunteer can receive time off their sentence, she added.

    "Through rehabilitation, and programs like the fire camp program, inmates learn useful skills that can help them on the outside," Ms. Powell said. "These firefighters are working hard to help the people of California in their time of need. They are repaying their debt to society in a productive way."

    Ms. Mota, despite her concerns, said she was a champion of the program and wanted it to be available for others.

    The program has increasingly drawn scrutiny from criminal justice reform advocates, who have called it one of the most striking examples of undercompensated prison labor.

    It also illustrates how convictions can have lasting impacts on people's lives, said Angela Hanks, the director of the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a Washington-based nonprofit group that promotes policies that help low-income Americans.

    Ms. Hanks said that incentives given to prisoners to join the fire camps, such as reduced sentences, might draw some who would otherwise not want to join the program.

    "It is such a dangerous job," she said. "At a minimum, people should be paid a fair wage."

    Once they are released from prison, inmates find it difficult to join the ranks of professional firefighters, said Katherine Katcher, the founder and executive director of Root and Rebound, a nonprofit group that helps people with criminal histories re-enter society. Some former inmates, like Ms. Mota, don't bother applying, Ms. Katcher said. Some fire departments also bar people with certain criminal backgrounds from becoming firefighters, she said.

    For example, the fire department in Bakersfield, a city of more than 380,000 people in Southern California, said it disqualified applicants who have been convicted of a felony. In the Los Angeles County Fire Department, felonies and some misdemeanors are grounds for disqualification, said Capt. Tony Imbrenda, a department spokesman.

    "I can tell you that someone who has been incarcerated and part of an inmate hand crew has no chance of employment with this agency," he said.

    Various counties also have restrictions on who can get a license to be an emergency medical technician, which is required by many fire departments in California, Ms. Katcher said. State law directs local E.M.S. agencies to deny an E.M.T. certification if the person has been convicted of two or more felonies, or has been convicted of any theft-related misdemeanor in the preceding five years, among other possible factors.

    This year, California legislators debated a bill that would have directed local agencies to, in some cases, not let criminal history be a reason to deny certification. Instead, legislators scaled it down, deciding instead to pass a bill that would collect data on people's being denied.

    California is looking for other ways to help inmate firefighters get jobs. Ms. Powell said the state was opening a training and certification program in Ventura County that is intended "to create a pathway for former offenders to compete for entry-level firefighting jobs with the state."

    For Ms. Katcher, the initiatives are not enough.

    "Our state has the opportunity to improve its laws to do better," she said. "It's not just about saying a program is rehabilitative. That's just a word. Do the right thing."



    15)  America has spent $5.9 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001, a new study says

    • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
    • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
    • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

    By Amanda Macias, November 14, 2018


    WASHINGTON  The U.S. wars and military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001, according to a new study.

    That total is almost $2 trillion more than all federal government spending during the recently completed 2017-18 fiscal year.

    The report, from Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, also finds that more than 480,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting. Over 244,000 civilians have been killed. Another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

    The $5.9 trillion figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone, according to Neta Crawford, the study's author.

    In addition to the money spent by the Pentagon, Crawford says the report captures the "war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans' care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security."

    It breaks down like this, according to Crawford and the report:

    • Total U.S. war-related spending through fiscal year 2019 is $4.9 trillion.
    • The other $1 trillion reflects estimates for the cost of health care for post-9/11 veterans.
    • The Department of Veterans Affairs will be responsible for serving more than 4.3 million veterans by 2039.

    What's more, longer wars will also increase the number of service members who will ultimately claim veterans benefits and disability payments.

    The U.S. government spent $4.1 trillion during fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, according to the Treasury Department.

    The Defense Department accounted for 14.7 percent of that, and the Department of Veterans Affairs accounted for 4.4 percent.

    Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the cost has been $5.9 trillion, according to the study.

    See YouTube video: Costs of War the Human Toll of the Post-9/11 Wars






























































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