In a quiet forest in Finland, the wild Roomba roams.....



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.

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) California Today: Why Robots Are Replacing Humans in the Fields

    By Miriam Jordan and Jill Cowan, November 21, 2018


    An automated harvesting machine at Taylor Farms in Salinas, Calif., uses a high pressure water stream to cut romaine lettuce heads. It replaces a crew of many farmworkers.

    When Mark Borman, chief operating officer of Taylor Farms, surveys the expansive fields in the Salinas Valley he sees more graying workers harvesting lettuce than ever before.

    The same goes for workers at the packing plants of the company, one of the world's largest producers and sellers of bagged salads and fresh-cut vegetables.

    From New York to California, the nation's agricultural workers are aging. They are also in short supply, as fewer immigrants are arriving to replace those who retire, and younger generations are finding less physically taxing work.

    In a 2017 survey of farmers by the California Farm Bureau Federation, 55 percent reported labor shortages, and the figure was nearly 70 percent for those who depend on seasonal workers. Wage increases in recent years have not compensated for the shortfall, growers said.

    Meanwhile, demand keeps swelling for the likes of vegetable snack packs, bagged broccoli and fresh produce, which Taylor Farms provides to retailers and food-service companies.

    The answer, Mr. Borman says, is technology: automation in the fields and robots in packing plants, which serve the dual purpose of making operations more efficient and improving the quality of jobs farms can offer desperately needed workers.

    Reporting on this piece about the future of farming, I encountered almost only immigrants doing the hard work of harvesting and processing lettuce.

    Taylor Farms has invested in a harvester, called the "water knife," that uses water jets to lop off romaine heads as it moves through the field. The lettuce travels on a belt up to a platform, where men and women, who are standing, inspect and box it. The workers do not have to stoop over again and again, knife in hand, to harvest the lettuce.

    In a packing plant in Salinas, robots on some lines did the backbreaking work of lifting and stacking boxes that they had filled with lettuce bags. Workers who did that job are being trained for higher-paying positions operating and maintaining the robots.

    "Since they're adding robots, I wanted to learn about them," said Bulmaro Ochoa-Garcia, one of the workers attending a training course. "I can get a better job."



    2) Somali Workers in Minnesota Force Amazon to Negotiate

    Labor organizers and researchers said they had not heard of Amazon previously coming to the table after worker pressure, even for private discussions.

    By Karen Weise, November 20, 2018


    Abdirahman Muse, executive director of the Awood Center, led a meeting in Minneapolis last week of a group that has been discussing working conditions at local Amazon warehouses.

    Soon after Hibaq Mohamed immigrated to Minneapolis from Kenya, where she had been living as a refugee, in 2016 she got a job at a new Amazon warehouse near the city. At first, she enjoyed packing boxes for delivery to consumers. 

    But over time, she said, Amazon required her and her co-workers to pack at a faster rate, at least 230 items an hour, up from 160. Ms. Mohamed, who is Muslim, said that Amazon let her take paid breaks to pray, as required by state law, but that her managers had told her that she still needed to keep pace.

    "There is just pressure," Ms. Mohamed, 24, said. "The people they don't fire worry one day they will be fired."

    Ms. Mohamed and scores of East African colleagues, many of them, like her, born in Somalia, responded in an unusual way for Amazon workers: They organized to complain.

    Now, tied together by a close cultural connection and empowered by a tight labor market, they appear to be the first known group in the United States to get Amazon management to negotiate. 

    After modest protests over the summer, the workers have had two private meetings with management in recent months. Labor organizers and researchers said they were not aware of Amazon coming to the table previously in the United States amid pressure from workers, even for private discussions.

    Last week, Amazon offered some compromises at its facilities in the Minneapolis area. The company said it would require a general manager and a Somali-speaking manager to agree on any firings related to productivity rates, designate a manager to respond to individual complaints within five days and meet with workers quarterly. 

    By Saturday night, though, a group of about 40 workers had decided the compromises were insufficient, with a primary concern being the pace at which they are expected to work. They voted to stage a large protest and walkout on Dec. 14, in the thick of the holiday season.

    "Each community is a little different, and in each one, we work to ensure our employees have a great experience with the most important element being our direct connection to our employees," Amazon said in a statement.

    Ashley Robinson, a company spokeswoman, added that the company did not see its work with the East African workers as a negotiation but rather as a form of community engagement similar to its outreach efforts with veterans and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. 

    To workers, the formal meetings were the result of more than a year of organizing by the Awood Center, a nonprofit focused on helping East African workers.

    "Nobody would assume a Muslim worker, with limited language skills, in the middle of Minnesota can be a leader in a viable fight against one of the biggest employers in the world and bring them to the table," said Abdirahman Muse, Awood's executive director.

    Amazon has sought to squeeze more profit out of its operations as growth slows. Brian Olsavsky, the company's finance chief, told investors in October that "getting better efficiencies" from operations was a corporate priority. 

    The company now has more than 110 so-called fulfillment centers across the country, and other outposts that handle logistics. Each is like a mini-city, as another company spokeswoman once described them, with a unique culture and demographics.

    Amazon opened a warehouse the size of 20 football fields in the suburb of Shakopee in 2016. It needed more than 1,000 workers to operate it, and the local unemployment rate was around 3.5 percent. That left the company with a limited labor pool to hire from. Immigrants make up a growing share of Minnesota's work force, particularly in low-skilled jobs. 

    Somali refugees began resettling in the area in the 1990s, fleeing the country's growing violence and civil war. More than 46,000 Somali-born residents and their children live in the state. About four out of five live at or near the poverty level. 

    Amazon recruited East African immigrants heavily with local advertisements and billboards. Hundreds signed up through the Confederation of Somali Community, a nonprofit. For a while, Amazon ran buses to Shakopee from the Minneapolis neighborhood of Cedar-Riverside, known as Little Mogadishu, and the company has spaces at local warehouses dedicated to prayer and the ritual washing custom in Islam.

    Sixty percent of Amazon's 3,000 workers in the region are East African, Awood estimates, but the group has found only one manager who speaks Somali. Amazon said that the number of East Africans was notably lower, and that four of its managers in the area spoke Somali. For one of the meetings with workers, in September, Amazon flew in from Texas a Muslim manager who works on accommodating Islamic practices. He was originally from Libya.

    Safia Ahmed Ibrahim, 52, said that in Somalia, she worked for American and United Nations aid groups before fleeing to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. She was hired to work at an Amazon sorting facility in 2016. 

    "I worked hard, and I got employee of the month," she said. It was the first time she really loved a job, she said, and she remains impressed by the business built by Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder.

    But after Ms. Ibrahim returned from breast cancer treatment, a new manager scolded her for working slowly, she said. She felt the manager did not see her as a woman who had worked for aid groups, overcome breast cancer and raised a daughter who got into medical school just five years after arriving in the United States. Instead, she said, the new manager saw her as a worker who, on one particular day, was slow.

    A white co-worker stood up for Ms. Ibrahim, she said, and the manager apologized. 

    "The new managers are like military — they don't give you respect," Ms. Ibrahim said. "At the beginning, I was paying attention to Awood, but finally the pressure they were talking about became the reality that I see every day."

    Awood said it had connected with hundreds of workers at the Shakopee warehouse and nearby facilities, with support from local mosques and community leaders. It shares space with the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations at a Lutheran church and has political allies. Ilhan Omar, elected this month as one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, has attended an Awood event, as has her fellow Democrat Tim Walz, the incoming governor.

    Awood has four employees and is financed by grants and the Service Employees International Union, Mr. Muse said. A Somali immigrant himself, Mr. Muse worked for the union organizing home health aides and then as a senior policy aide for the former mayor of Minneapolis before joining Awood this year. 

    By the time he arrived, many recent immigrants were already connecting with one another as Amazon workers because of the company's initial recruitment campaign and coordinated transportation. Workers talked about Awood during breaks and car pools. 

    They have a WhatsApp text message group and have held several smaller actions to build awareness of their organizing and concerns. After workers at one of the facilities near Minneapolis planned to wear light blue, the color of the Somali flag, on the same day, Amazon said it would build a dedicated prayer space there. When Amazon's annual Prime Day shopping event coincided with Ramadan, they held a protest seeking lighter workloads during the fast.

    "One thing to know about our community — we talk a lot on the phone and chat over coffee," Mr. Muse said. "That makes organizing easier."

    Awood has also found leverage in the number of East African workers and the time of year. 

    "Because there is such a density in that work force, at this stage in the game, Amazon would have a very difficult time replacing that many workers, particularly at this peak season," said Beth Gutelius, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a focus on warehouses.

    Mr. Muse said Awood's goal was not to unionize. No unions represent Amazon workers in the United States, although a group is trying to organize employees at Whole Foods, which Amazon owns. 

    Brishen Rogers, a labor law professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, said union-organizing drives were long and grueling, coming down to a yes-or-no vote. Oftentimes, Professor Rogers said, worker centers like Awood that organize along affinity lines of culture or religion can force change. 

    "It is a perfectly legitimate way for workers to exercise collective voice in the work force," he said.

    Khadra Kassim, 31, was three months pregnant when she went to work for Amazon in 2017. After lifting a heavy box in the summer heat, she grew faint and fell down. She was bleeding and, fearing a miscarriage, went to Amazon's in-house medical clinic. There, she said, staff members said they could not help her and did not offer to call an ambulance or her family. She had hoped for at least some compassionate treatment. 

    Amazon does not comment on individual cases, Ms. Robinson, the company spokeswoman, said. But she said the company worked to reduce safety risks, had climate-controlled warehouses and accommodated medical needs.

    Ms. Kassim spent several months of unpaid leave on bed rest, and gave birth to a healthy girl in December.

    When she returned to work, co-workers told her that something had changed while she was gone: Awood had begun organizing. 

    "I said, 'I'm in,'" she recalled. "'I want to get my rights.'"



    3) Border Patrol Agent Who Shot Mexican Teenager Is Acquitted of Involuntary Manslaughter

    By Julia Jacobs, November 21, 2018


    Humanitarian groups gathered at a vigil in 2015 for José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, who was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent.

    A Border Patrol agent who shot and killed a Mexican teenager from across the border in Arizona was acquitted Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter in a case that has drawn national attention amid heightened debate over immigration.

    In 2012, the border guard, Lonnie Swartz, opened fire into the Mexican city of Nogales, killing 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. A jury found Mr. Swartz not guilty of second-degree murder in April but deadlocked on manslaughter charges, prompting another trial.

    In court on Wednesday, the jury found Mr. Swartz not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but it did not make a decision on voluntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

    Next month, a judge from the United States District Court in Arizona will decide the status of the voluntary manslaughter charge, which the jury's verdict left in question. In a statement, Elizabeth A. Strange, the first assistant United States attorney, said the prosecutors "fully respect" the jury's verdict.

    Sean Chapman, Mr. Swartz's lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday evening about the jury's decision.

    The case has received scrutiny because Mr. Swartz was the first border agent to face federal murder charges for a cross-border shooting. The prosecution's defeat in the case comes amid a series of high-profile cases of violence by Border Patrol agents and a report documenting hundreds of charges for illegal activities.

    Six years ago, Mr. Swartz emptied his .40-caliber pistol with a spray of bullets into Mexico, according to court documents. José Antonio was struck 10 times and collapsed on the sidewalk across from the border fence.

    Mr. Swartz's defense has argued that he opened fire in response to people, including José Antonio, throwing rocks from the other side of the fence. Mr. Chapman told The Associated Press that José Antonio endangered the lives of the law enforcement officials near the fence.

    Prosecutors acknowledged in court that José Antonio was throwing rocks at the time, but said that behavior did not justify his death.

    After Mr. Swartz emptied his weapon, he reloaded and fired more rounds, presumably at José Antonio, who was already lying face down on the ground, Jaime Ernesto Calle, Mr. Swartz's lawyer, said in court this year, according to court documents.

    Mr. Swartz still faces a lawsuit filed by José Antonio's mother, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    A decision by a panel of judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, allowed the mother to sue for violating her son's constitutional rights. This decision clashed with one out of another federal appeals court involving the case of a border guard in Texas who shot and killed a 15-year-old boy who was on the other side of the border in Mexico.

    The appeals court deciding the Texas case determined that the family of the boy could not sue without congressional permission. The United States Supreme Court will soon decide whether to take up that case and bring clarity to whether a Border Patrol agent can be sued after a cross-border shooting.

    Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U. who is representing José Antonio's family, said he expected the Supreme Court to also decide soon whether to hear the challenge to their lawsuit. As for the jury's decision in the criminal case, Mr. Gelernt said it had no bearing on their pursuit for damages.

    "Regardless of the outcome on the remaining criminal charges," he said, "we will continue to press the civil rights suit to seek justice for the family."



    4) Paris protest: "People are in the red. They can't afford to eat"

    By Kim Willsher in Paris, November 24, 2018


     A protester wearing the gilet jaune stands on a traffic light on the Champs-Elysee in Paris. Photograph: Benoît Tessier/Reuters

    People from across France came to the capital to let the president know how they feel about the new tariffs

    Idir Ghanes, 42

    Unemployed computer technician from Paris

    We are here to protest against the government because of the rise in taxes [in general], not just petrol taxes, which is the straw that broke the camel's back. We've had enough. We have low salaries and pay too much tax and the combination is creating more and more poverty.

    On the other side, there are government ministers and the president with their fabulous salaries. I'm not against the rich, I just want a fairer distribution of wealth in France. This is the first time I've been on a protest. I'm unemployed; it's harder and harder to find a job and, even when you find this famous job and you think your life will improve, the salaries are so low you find you're in the same situation as before, if not worse.

    At the last election, I left the ballot paper blank. I don't have confidence in any of the political parties and I don't see that changing until a party emerges that is more interested in the people than in those with huge fortunes. It's unacceptable that people do not have decent salaries, that at the end of the month, they are in the red and can't afford to eat.

    Florence, 55

    Works for an air freight company outside Paris

    We tell them our concerns and we elect them, then when they get into power they seem astonished when we come out on the streets like today to protest. It's as if the protests have just fallen from the sky, when we've already told them how we feel.

    Above all, President Macron has not listened to the ordinary French and doesn't understand the concerns of their daily lives. When he appears on television we have the impression he is uncomfortable with normal people, that there is a certain contempt for us.

    I didn't vote for him. I haven't voted for a while. When I did, I would describe myself as moderate right, centre right.

    Bruno Binelli, 66

    Retired carpenter from Lyon

    We left just after midnight to come here today. There are so many things we are fed up with. We work, we pay taxes, but it's all too much. To give you an example; my aunt died recently and left €40,000. She worked all her life, she paid her taxes and charges, but the government took 60% of that. Does that seem fair?

    I'm not in any political party. I often vote Front National but I'm not Front National. It's not my mentality and, besides, I'm Italian by origin, but I do it out of protest to say things are not good and if you continue like this we will end up with electing someone from the extreme right. But they don't listen to us. Macron listens to nothing.

    He's suddenly concerned about ecology but it's a lie, it's a pretext to make us pay more tax. We no longer know what kind of car to buy, petrol, diesel, electric, who knows? I have a little diesel van and I don't have the money to buy a new one, especially as I'm about to retire. We have the feeling those from the countryside are forgotten.

    Marie Lemoine, 62

    School teacher from Provins

    I came here in a car share to save money and to not pollute the planet even more. We gilets jaunes (yellow vests) represent the poor of France, those they call the sans-dents (toothless), those with modest or low incomes, who are being crushed.

    If you live in the countryside you have to have a car to get to work, so we are directly affected when fuel prices go up and up. And when the electricity bill goes up and up, and the gas bill, and the charges and taxes, it's hard to bear. We feel we are being targeted instead of the airlines, the shipping lines, those companies who pollute more but pay no tax.

    Personally, I have the means to get by, but I know many people who cannot and I'm here for them. I'm here for my children and grandchildren and all those people left crying by the 15th of the month because they've gone into the red.

    I'm not right or left, I'm a gilet jaune. We're not here to make a political party point. Most of us are pacifists and don't want to fight. We are just normal people who are fed up. I voted for Mr Macron last year, but I feel betrayed and I'm angry. I was wrong.

    Macron is our Louis XVI, and we know what happened to him. He ended up at the guillotine.

    Marc Mouilleseaux, 24

    History and geography teacher at the lycée in Creil

    I'm fortunate as I'm a public servant, so I'm not complaining about pay. I'm here for others in my family who are having difficulties, like my grandmother who has been hit hard by the new tax on pensions. I also know people who wanted to come to the demonstration in Paris today to protest about the tax on petrol but can't because they cannot afford the petrol.

    But it's not just that, it's an accumulation of things. The fuel tax was just the final straw. I don't hold out much hope that Macron will listen to us and I'm quite resigned to that. All we can do is show that people are angry, that they are not alone and that they can do something about it. I hope there is no violence, but people are angry. I can understand why, for years they have voted for things and nothing has changed for them. They don't see a way out. But things have to change.

    I am a member of Debout la France (a rightwing party) so I'm involved in politics. I voted for Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election, but only because, for me, she was the least bad option.



    5)  Tear Gas and Water Cannons in Paris as Grass-Roots Protest Takes Aim at Macron

    Adam Nossiter, November 24, 2018


    Protesters facing a police water cannon in Paris. The police battled hardened militants wielding paving stones who the protesters insisted were unconnected with their movementCredit

    PARIS — Shouts of "Macron resign!" and "Macron get lost!" punctuated the booms from tear gas and water cannons on the Champs-Élysées on Saturday, as the French police forced protesters from the "Yellow Jackets" movement away from the presidential offices in the Élysée Palace.

    French protest movements come and go, but this one, organized on the internet, is different. Welling up rapidly from rural and forgotten France, this broad-based, citizen-driven movement is among the most serious challenges yet to President Emmanuel Macron's pro-business government, say analysts, political opponents and even many of Mr. Macron's supporters.

    On Saturday, thousands of so-called Yellow Jackets, named for the fluorescent road-safety vests that all French drivers must carry in their vehicles, converged on Paris for a second weekend to protest a rise in fuel taxes and to express general discontent with the fiscal burden in one of the most highly taxed states in Europe, where taxes represent over 45 percent of G.D.P.

    The numbers had dropped sharply from the preceding week's several hundred thousand protesters; the police estimated there were about 8,000 in Paris and more than 80,000 across the country on Saturday. But this time, more were concentrated on the protesters' symbolic targets: the capital and Mr. Macron himself.

    Clouds of gas and smoke rolled up the Champs-Élysées all afternoon as the police battled militant members of the crowd wielding paving stones; the grass-roots protesters insisted they were unconnected with their movement.

    "We're just fed up. It seems like to us that the government is only working to maintain its own privileges," said Mathieu Styrna, one of the thousands marching down the Champs-Élysées. A contractor, he said he had been forced to drive hundreds of miles a week for work and could no longer afford his gas bills.

    For the protesters, it was all about making ends meet.

    "Why should we have to finance their projects?" Mr. Styrna said, referring to the government's plan to discourage car use through gas taxes. Many in the crowd said that they did not disdain the government's environmental goals, but that their own survival was more important.

    The movement appears to be without leaders, and the opposition parties in France have scrambled to keep up with it.

    "This amateurism, it's the sign of the crisis of the French political system," said Dominique Reynié, a political scientist at Sciences Poreferring to the protesters' loose organization.

    "It's really quite incredible. This is the most impressive event since Macron came to power," Mr. Reynié added. "It's a profound crisis."

    The movement has forced itself on the government's unwilling attention with a message analysts say is not going away soon: We are in trouble.

    Like many at the protest, Mr. Styrna, a father of three, said he had trouble paying his bills. "It's not even by the end of the month; it's by the middle," he said, referring to point when the funds run dry. "We don't even go out any more — no cinema."

    Julien Viguerard, 31, who works in a biscuit factory in Toulouse, said: "The end of the month? Ha! It's the 15th for me."

    He has seven children, earns 1,500 euros a month, about $1,700, and is "sick of being taxed on everything." The problem "is low salaries," he said. "I've got children to feed. We're not just imbeciles. They treat us like cattle. We can't accept it."

    Saturday's protesters came from all over France. Many said they had been recruited on the internet, followed no political movement and emphasized that they simply didn't have enough to live on.

    "I don't have the means to live or to die," read the sign held up by Jennifer Hurau, who works as an online saleswoman in the Paris suburbs on a temporary contract that is soon to end. For now, she makes €1600 a month and pays €550 in rent. "I don't know what I will do," she said.

    It is the movement's amorphousness that makes it new, powerful and potentially dangerous for Mr. Macron, analysts say.

    "The government parties didn't understand that their tax policies would wind up producing this," said Mr. Reynié, the political scientist. "This is a movement that thinks the political parties are incapable of producing a solution. It is part of the chemistry of populism," he added, pointing out that the tax burden had grown by about €25 billion every year between 2002 and 2017.

    "This is the first time we're seeing a mobilization that's coming from the social networks, and not led by the political parties or the unions," said Jean-Yves Camus, a political scientist who heads the Observatory on Political Radicalism.

    "This is really a populist-type movement, and it's an extremely strong protest against elite France," he added. "It's a protest against tax policy that's considered confiscatory. And there's been an undeniable drop in the buying power not just of the workers, but of the middle class."

    The government's response to the protest movement so far has been halting, "a sort of condescension," Mr. Camus said.

    No high-ranking official has met with any of the self-designated spokespeople for the movement who have been appearing on French television all week. There have been a few small fiscal gestures — promises of checks and rebates — but these were dismissed by Saturday's protesters as irrelevant to their daily struggle.

    Mr. Macron, in a speech to some of the country's thousands of mayors this past week, did not mention the Yellow Jacket protests directly, but instead spoke in his usual finely sculpted abstractions.

    "The challenge that is ours is to invent a new grammar," the president said.

    Later, in a question-and-answer session with the mayors, the president did address the protests, obliquely, and largely to complain about them.

    "It's a little bit unfair," he said. "They see my face when they fill up at the gas pump."

    Mr. Macron added: "There is a moral crisis in society. The risk is in the ambient demagogy. I'm hearing the anger. But I don't want to hear it in a demagogic fashion."

    Even some of the president's own supporters in Parliament have expressed concern that the anger of the protesters is not being heard. Their own insurgent political movement was partly born of this anger, they said.

    "They're expressing a seething anger, which we know about," said Thomas Mesnier, a parliamentary deputy in Mr. Macron's party. "People are waiting for results, and they are waiting for their daily lives to improve."

    "This is a movement without precedent, and we don't have a good diagnosis of it," said Nicolas Démoulin, another Macronist deputy in Parliament. "We've got to go to these citizens who feel they are completely shut out of politics."

    The government declined to make its spokesman available for a response to the Yellow Jackets protest. On Friday, the spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, told French television that "the crisis is deeper than just over the price of gas," but "one must never set the environmental fight up against social justice."

    There was disappointment and bewilderment at Mr. Macron's response to the protests at the giant annual French mayor's convention in Paris this past week.

    "The response has been out of step, disconnected," said Sony Clinquart, the mayor of a small town near Dunkirk in the north.

    "There is a lack of intermediary between him and the population," said Isabelle Henniquau, the mayor of a town near the Swiss border. "He should explain what he is going to do."

    By Saturday afternoon, the Champs-Élysées was a battleground of overturned barricades, billowing smoke, bonfires and pushing between Yellow Jackets protesters and the police.

    "We're hungry and we're fed up," said Jessica Monnier, 28, who works in a watch factory in the French Alps. She earns €970 a month, and said: "Once I pay my bills, I don't have enough to eat. We're just hungry, that's all."



    6) Black Man Killed by Officer in Alabama Mall Shooting Was Not the Gunman, Police Now Say

    By Mihir Zaveri, November 24, 2018


    Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. was fatally shot by the police on Thursday at a mall in Alabama.

    An Alabama police officer fatally shot a 21-year-old black man on Thursday night who the police initially said shot at least one person at a mall near Birmingham, turning a Thanksgiving holiday shopping scene into chaos.

    But on Friday the police said evidence suggests that the man actually was not the gunman and that the true gunman remained at large.

    The Hoover Police Department said on Twitter that the man who was killed, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., "may have been involved in some aspect" of an altercation at the mall, the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Ala., that preceded the shooting.

    But, they said, he "likely did not fire the rounds" that struck an 18-year-old man as they had originally indicated. Another victim, a 12-year-old girl, was an "innocent bystander," the police said. Both were hospitalized but their conditions on Saturday were unavailable.

    "We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not," the police said, adding that the conclusion was based on interviews with witnesses and "critical evidentiary items."

    In their initial statement on Friday, the police said uniformed officers who were providing security at the mall "encountered a suspect brandishing a pistol and shot him." It was not clear whether the officers believed Mr. Bradford fired or intended to fire before he was killed.

    Mr. Bradford's mother, April Pipkins, said in an interview on Saturday that Mr. Bradford was living with her near Birmingham where he had been raised. Mr. Bradford, who was better known as E.J., would not have been involved in the shooting, and might have been trying to protect other people in the mall, she said.

    "That was not his character at all," she said. "He loved life, and he loved people."

    He was licensed to carry a firearm, she said. Alabama generally does not prohibit people from carrying firearms in public, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

    Anthony Thomas, Mr. Bradford's uncle, said he wanted the police to release all the videos from the mall that day.

    "He was an honorable young man who was assassinated," Mr. Thomas said.

    Ms. Pipkins is being represented by Benjamin L. Crump, a Tallahassee, Fla., lawyer, who has in the past represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice.

    Mr. Crump said the Hoover police had tarnished Mr. Bradford's character by "jumping to conclusions" that he was a criminal because he was a black man with a gun.

    "He was trying to be somebody who helped save people, yet he was killed," Mr. Crump said.

    Mr. Bradford received a general discharge from the United States Army in August. An Army spokesman said Mr. Bradford had not completed his training but would not elaborate.

    Capt. Gregg Rector, a spokesman for the Hoover Police Department, said on Saturday that it would be inappropriate to answer questions about the circumstances around Mr. Bradford's death because the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was leading the investigation.

    The Hoover Police Department is, however, conducting an internal investigation into Mr. Bradford's killing by the officer. That officer, who has not been identified, has been put on administrative leave until the investigation is complete. Captain Rector did not answer other questions about the officer on Saturday.

    The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency declined to comment on Saturday and said that it would issue a statement on Sunday.

    On Saturday, a group of protesters gathered at the mall, saying the police shot the wrong person. One carried a sign that said "Emantic's Life Matters." Others carried a large blue banner reading "No police gun violence."

    The episode on Thursday sent crowds of people running through the Riverchase Galleria, about 10 miles south of Birmingham, according to videos posted on Twitter.

    One shopper told the television station WBRC that she was buying jewelry at a kiosk when she heard three bangs and people started screaming and running for the exits as officers ran toward the gunfire.

    The police said they now believe that more than two people were involved in the altercation that preceded the shooting and that at least one gunman remains at large. The police did not release a description of the person they were seeking.

    The mall, whose website boasts that it is "the largest enclosed shopping center in Alabama," had advertised special hours for the night of Thanksgiving: 6 p.m. to midnight. The Brookfield Properties Retail Group, which owns the mall, did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.



    7) Students Who Made Apparent Nazi Salute in Photo Won't Be Punished

    By Christina Caron, November 24, 2018


    A school district in Wisconsin said the First Amendment prevented it from punishing students in this picture, in which many are making what appears to be a Nazi salute.

    The Wisconsin students who appeared to make a Nazi salute in a widely criticized photo will not be punished, the school's superintendent said this week in a letter to parents.

    The superintendent, Lori Mueller of the Baraboo School District, said in the letter that the district was "not in a position to punish the students for their actions" because of their First Amendment rights.

    "As previously stated, we cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved," Ms. Mueller wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Baraboo News Republic.

    The district investigated the episode for about 10 days with help from the police.

    "Despite our efforts, we are still unclear about some key details," the superintendent wrote on Wednesday.

    The photograph was taken by a parent in May before the Baraboo High School junior prom, and was not commissioned by the school, the letter said. The boys in the photograph, who were standing outside the Sauk County Courthouse in downtown Baraboo, were current and former students at the high school.

    In the photo, many of the students stand with one arm raised, palms down and elbows locked straight, in a gesture that looks identical to a Nazi salute. One student in the front row is making the O.K. sign with his right forefinger and thumb, a hand gesture that has been adopted by white nationalists and is often used to troll liberals.

    The image drew outrage after it was posted on Twitter on Nov. 11 by an anonymous Twitter account. The post said, "We even got the black kid to throw it up." (The photograph appears to show one black student, who is partly obscured.)

    "We have worked very, very hard over the last six years to make Baraboo very inviting and very inclusive," Mayor Mike Palm said the week the photo was shared on social media. "Obviously, some of that has failed, based on this picture, so we have a lot of work to do."

    The parent who took the photo, Peter Gust, posted the image on his website, Wheel Memories, where it was visible until Nov. 12, when it was deleted. It can still be seen via the Wayback Machine, an internet archive.

    A statement on Mr. Gust's website said the page with the prom photos had been modified because of "malevolent behavior on the part of some in society."

    "To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize," the statement said.

    Not all of the students in the photograph were gesturing. Jordan Blue, a student wearing a red bow tie, could be seen standing in the upper right corner with his hands at his sides.

    In a statement to Jules Suzdaltsev, a journalist, Mr. Blue said that the photographer had instructed the boys "to make the sign" and that Mr. Blue did not have time to leave because the picture "was taken within five seconds."

    He did not raise his arm because "I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I didn't firmly believe in," he said.

    Brock Turkington, who also appeared in the photograph, told the television station WISC that it was not supposed to be a hateful gesture.

    "As we were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a 'high-sign,'" Mr. Turkington said in a statement to the station. "The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one knew what a 'high-sign' was. I asked another student next to me 'What are we doing?' He responded, 'Stick your arm out.'"

    "Looking at the picture now, I understand why people believe it is related to anti-Semitism," the statement continued. "As an outsider, I would have the same impression. That was never the intent at that time."

    Mr. Gust, the parent who took the photograph, also insisted it was not meant to be a Nazi salute.

    "I'd said to them, 'O.K., boys, you're going to say goodbye to your parents, so wave,'" he told WISC, adding that interpreting it as a hateful gesture was "dead wrong."

    Baraboo is a town of 12,000 people about 40 miles northwest of Madison. The population is 94 percent white, according to the 2010 census.

    When the photo began circulating online, the Baraboo School District apologized, saying the image "has been rightly described as hateful, frightening and disappointing" and pledging to host community programs to address the actions of the students, which "deeply hurt people around the world."

    On Monday, more than 200 people attended the first of those forums, the superintendent's letter said. Another will be held on Thursday.

    Ms. Mueller wrote that the image had been posted on social media "to create harm."

    "Our focus is shifting to work with the students involved on restorative practices to repair broken relationships with peers, families and the community," she said.



    8) America's Relationship With Land Mines and Cluster Munitions

    By John Ismay, November 23, 3028

    "While an international humanitarian movement in the 1990s led most countries away from antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions, the United States has never formally banned them and is now investing in newer models of both weapons."


    American soldiers firing a howitzer in Afghanistan in 2011.

    At War is a newsletter about the experiences and costs of war with stories from Times reporters and outside voices.

    Part of my job at At War is to keep an eye on developments and trends in the arms industry that may influence how wars are fought not long from now. Some of the weapons I track are the ones I first encountered as an explosive-ordnance-disposal technician on active duty. While deployed to Iraq in 2007, I had to deal with the aftermath of cluster-munition strikes and improvised-explosive-device attacks. I have never forgotten the feeling of walking in places where both had been used, knowing what could lie beneath the surface of each step.

    I didn't know until a few years ago that "victim-operated" I.E.D.s, like the ones I worried about in Iraq, meet the definition of antipersonnel land mines under international law. What had seemed like a relatively new threat to me was in fact something that had killed scores of American troops in earlier wars. Since then, I've spent a lot of time researching the history of explosive booby traps and cluster weapons, because each poses a fatal threat to combatants and civilians alike long after the wars they were used in have ended.

    While an international humanitarian movement in the 1990s led most countries away from antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions, the United States has never formally banned them and is now investing in newer models of both weapons. In October, I reported on how the Army plans to buy two foreign-made cargo projectiles for its 155-millimeter howitzers, each carrying two explosively formed penetrator warhead submunitions — even though the service already built a very similar weapon in the 1980s that was ultimately canceled because it was unreliable. I also looked at a relatively quiet effort by the Army to develop a new generation of scatterable antivehicle land mines that the service says will cause less harm to civilians. The Army has spent $106 million on it since 2016, and it has yet to produce a prototype or even nail down the specifics of how it will operate and function.

    Some readers have most likely walked patrols in Southeast Asia and encountered Viet Cong booby traps made with dud American submunitions. Others may have driven through miles of Kuwaiti desert in 1991, swerving to avoid the duds left behind by weeks of intense American artillery fire and airstrikes. If so, I'd love to hear your story. Or if there's a weapon that you think At War should be paying closer attention to, let me know. You can email me at john.ismay@nytimes.com.


    John Ismay is a staff writer who covers armed conflict for The New York Times Magazine. He is based in Washington.



    9) Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in Face of Tear Gas

    By Maya Averbuch and Elisabeth Malkin, November 25, 2018


    A migrant family running away from tear gas near the border wall between the United States and Mexico in Tijuana on Sunday.

    TIJUANA, Mexico — A peaceful march by Central American migrants waiting at the southwestern United States border veered out of control on Sunday afternoon, as hundreds of people tried to evade a Mexican police blockade and run toward a giant border crossing that leads into San Diego.

    In response, the United States Customs and Border Protection agency shut down the border crossing in both directions and fired tear gas to push back migrants from the border fence. The border was reopened later Sunday evening.

    The episode comes at a time of growing tension on both sides of the border and promised to become the newest flash point in the story of a caravan that was the target of President Trump's anti-immigrant rallying cry during the midterm elections.

    Mr. Trump has made preventing caravan members from entering into the United States a signature stance of his administration over the past few weeks and has sent American soldiers to the border, although the United States military was not involved in Sunday's clash. The images of unrest Sunday will likely provide him with additional ammunition as he tries to keep out the caravan members and other immigrants and refugees fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands.

    The standoff at the border threatens to become the first crisis for Mexico's president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who takes office on Saturday. His government will be forced to navigate demands from Washington to deal with the migrants — at the same time that it faces deepening concern from Mexican border communities straining to house and feed thousands of impoverished and increasingly desperate guests.

    Soon after the migrants began their midmorning march to the border in Tijuana, they were met by Mexican federal police officers at a bridge that leads to the San Ysidro border crossing, through which millions of people and vehicles pass each year. At that point, many of the marchers bypassed the police by running across a dry riverbed.

    The police, carrying riot shields, formed a new line and appeared to contain the rush of migrants 100 yards or more from the crossing. They erected metal barriers on the roads and sidewalks leading to the main border crossing for cars and trucks.

    A smaller group of migrants then tried to make their way to a train border crossing a few hundred yards away, where they were stopped by tear gas fired by United States Customs and Border Protection officers.

    After the gas cleared, Mexican federal police officers pushed the protesters back from the area of the train crossing.

    Customs and Border Protection officers also used tear gas at a separate point a few hundred yards away from the train crossing to drive back the migrants.

    Some of the migrants told The New York Times they thought they could negotiate with United States officials to be allowed to pass. A few men tried to climb the wall but fell back in the face of the gas.

    At least two dozen tear gas canisters could be seen on the Mexican side of the border after the migrants eventually turned back.

    Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, writing on Twitter, said, "Tear gas across the border against unarmed families is a new low."

    Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary, said in a statement that some migrants who were trying to breach the fence had thrown projectiles at Customs and Border protection workers.

    "As I have continually stated," she said, "D.H.S. will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons."

    Customs and Border Protection officers are trained in the use of tear gas for crowd control and have used pepper spray at the border before.

    Mexico's interior ministry said that 500 people were involved in the march on Sunday, a fraction of the total number in the caravan that left Honduras and headed north last month, and that those who had attacked federal police would be deported. Municipal officials said that 39 people had been arrested.

    The unrest in Tijuana comes amid broader discussions about how to deal with the growing number of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America who are amassed at crossing points in Tijuana and elsewhere along the border.

    The backlog of people waiting to request asylum at a checkpoint has swelled, causing frustration among the migrants to boil over. Some of those rushing the border on Sunday had children in strollers and in their arms.

    "The longer the caravaners stay in Tijuana, the more likely they are to succumb to the temptation to cross illegally into the U.S." said Wayne Cornelius, professor emeritus of political science at the University of California, San Diego, who is an expert on the border.

    The president-elect's top cabinet officials had planned to meet on Sunday in Mexico City to discuss possible solutions for dealing with the migrant population.

    The Trump administration has demanded that Mexico agree to host migrants applying for asylum as they wait for a hearing before an immigration judge in the United States. The wait can last months or even years, during which time many migrants are released and allowed to work under rules that President Trump has vowed to change. Mr. Trump wants them to wait in Mexico instead.

    But the meeting of the incoming administration officials in Mexico City to discuss a response was derailed by the chaotic events along the San Ysidro border crossing. The focus of the meeting immediately shifted to the day's crisis, and the political implications it might have for the treatment of migrants and the anti-migrant sentiment it might incite in Mexico.

    Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday that it "Would be very SMART if Mexico would stop the Caravans long before they get to our Southern Border, or if originating countries would not let them form."

    Thousands of migrants began arriving in Tijuana about 10 days ago and have been housed since then in squalid conditions in a community sports center that has been converted into a makeshift shelter. Many have become increasingly desperate with the realization of the obstacles still before them in reaching the United States.

    Tijuana city officials say they have no money to improve conditions at the sports center, where more than 5,000 migrants are sheltering in a space with capacity for no more than 3,500.

    Fani Caballero, 32, a migrant from Honduras who arrived with the caravan, sat by the train tracks, within sight of United States agents on the other side of the steel columns of the border fence. Her daughter, Cristina, 7, cried as Customs and Border Protection helicopters circled overhead.

    "People had thought that they were going to open the gates, but that was a lie," Ms. Caballero said. "We thought it would be easier."

    She had signed up for an interview with a United States asylum officer, the first step in the asylum application process — but the surge of migrants with the caravan meant she would be waiting for weeks.

    "Now, I guess I'll just wait my turn, because I can't go back to my country," she said.

    Andrés Medina, 22, was not ready to give up either, even after he had been tear gassed. "We've got to try one more time," said Mr. Medina, who said he had left Honduras to escape gang recruitment.

    "We don't even have weapons," he said. "We just wanted to cross."



    10) $3,700 Generators and $666 Sinks: FEMA Contractors Charged Steep Markups on Puerto Rico Repairs

    By Frances Robles, November 26, 2018


    Lisandra Oquendo and Alexis Morales Ortiz at their home in Punta Santiago, P.R.

    Their house had been approved for $18,000 in FEMA repair funds, but little was accomplished with the money.

    SAN JUAN, P.R. — Juan F. Rodríguez had substantial damage to his house in northeastern Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria slammed through in September 2017, but he felt better when he was told that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay for $5,000 in repairs.

    The contractor hired by Puerto Rico's FEMA-financed housing recovery program treated the roof with sealant, replaced four feet of cabinets and installed smoke detectors around his house with Velcro.

    "I looked around and said, 'Wait a minute, that treatment costs $100, and I can buy those cabinets for $500,'" Mr. Rodríguez said. "I know. I worked construction. Let's say they did $2,000 worth of work, because prices are high now and you have to pay for labor. But $5,000?"

    Mr. Rodríguez wasn't the only homeowner who complained after the devastating storm — the worst to hit Puerto Rico in 89 years — that federal taxpayers were being charged far more for emergency home repairs than residents ever saw in improvements to their homes.

    Extravagant markups, overhead and multiple levels of middlemen have helped lead to huge costs in the FEMA-financed repair program. Known as Tu Hogar Renace — Your Home Reborn — the program is spending $1.2 billion in Puerto Rico to repair up to 120,000 homes.

    More than 60 percent of what FEMA is spending in the program, the largest emergency housing program in the agency's history, is not paying for roofs, windows or doors, The New York Times found in a review of its expenditures. Instead, it is going toward overhead, profit and steep markups.

    Homeowners, who were approved for up to $20,000 each in aid, in nearly every case received less than half of what they were approved for, while layers of contractors and middlemen took the rest, a review of hundreds of invoices and contracts associated with the program shows.

    The significant costs of transportation, warehousing, insurance and other services that are built into the prices for repairs are not unusual for FEMA disaster relief programs, which reflect the substantial expense of operating in disaster zones. But in Puerto Rico those costs were often so much greater than what would have been possible if homeowners had done the work themselves that they caused a public uproar.

    A local opposition legislator, Luis Vega Ramos, called the housing program, which is operated by the Puerto Rico Department of Housing with FEMA funding, a mixture of "incompetence and corruption." He called for federal investigators to examine the contracts awarded to repair companies to make sure the government was getting what it paid for.

    "The government's responsibility is to watch out, to be custodians of the proper and effective use of those funds," he said. "I don't understand why they need to pay hundreds of millions of those dollars to middlemen who turn around and permit overpricing."

    The pricing issues and widespread complaints of long waits and shoddy work highlight the challenges of managing a billion-dollar disaster aid program in a region that is far from the mainland, with institutions that historically have had limited outside oversight or accountability.

    Puerto Rico housing officials said they were proud of the repair program, and that prices were in many cases less than those paid in other disasters, including repairs after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands, which have similar transport challenges.

    Michael Byrne, FEMA's federal coordinating officer for Puerto Rico, said the housing department had done an impressive job of getting homes repaired quickly for people who had nowhere else to turn.

    "By the end of November, I fully expect them to have repaired about 120,000 homes," Mr. Byrne said. "That's pretty impressive."

    Records show a large gap between the amounts FEMA contractors hired by the Department of Housing were paid and the actual cost of the work that was ultimately performed. Across the board, from removing debris and cleaning mold to repairing roofs and installing appliances, the amounts for labor and materials that were paid to the people who actually performed the work were only about 40 percent of what FEMA was assessed, meaning homeowners got less help than many of them expected.

    In case after case, a door worth about $50 would be billed to FEMA at perhaps $700, with a succession of intermediary contractors passing along costs and profits along the way, according to María Elena Villalobos, who worked as both an inspector and an administrator for several companies in the housing repair program. "A lot of the money went down the drain," Ms. Villalobos said.

    The Tu Hogar Renace program was intended for homes that were not damaged enough to be considered destroyed, and could be made habitable with relatively quick remedies like roof repairs, electrical work and the replacement of doors and windows, sinks, toilets and appliances.

    The housing department hired seven major contractors to do the repair work and two more firms to manage the program. The job was so expansive and the timeline so tight that the companies hired subcontractors, who in turn hired smaller companies to carry out the actual repairs.

    The private company that received a separate $202 million contract to manage the overall Tu Hogar Renace program, Adjusters International, was itself run by a former senior FEMA official, Daniel A. Craig, who worked at the agency during the Bush administration and was the Trump administration's nominee to be deputy director of FEMA last year. He was forced to withdraw after the Project on Government Oversight let some members of Congress know that the inspector general's office had investigated Mr. Craig for going on job interviews with companies that had received no-bid contracts after Hurricane Katrina.

    The investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing, but Mr. Vega, the Puerto Rican opposition legislator, questioned how Mr. Craig's company had come to be selected to run the program. Adjusters International was chosen by the housing department after a bidding process.

    Mr. Craig, in an interview, said his company won the contract as a result of its capabilities, not because of any past connections to FEMA. Contracts establishing prices for goods and services were not within the scope of his company's management oversight, but were handled directly by the housing department, he said.

    Mr. Craig's company was not the only one with connections. One of the seven major contractors doing the repairs for Tu Hogar Renace — Excel Construction, based in Baton Rouge, La. —  donated $100,000 in 2016 to Trump Victory, a joint fund-raising committee set up by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

    The bureaucracy around the housing repairs was so complex that the first repairs did not begin until more than five months after the hurricane. A full year after the September 2017 storm, a New York Times review found that thousands of Puerto Ricans were still living in ruined houses. For many of them, the FEMA money left over after trickling down through so many middlemen hardly made a dent in what they needed.

    Lisandra Oquendo, who lives in Punta Santiago on Puerto Rico's eastern coast, was told that her house had been approved for $18,000 in FEMA repair funds, and she was stunned at how little was accomplished with the money. The contractors patched up her roof, gave her a generator, replaced more than a dozen broken window crank operators, installed several appliances, two windows and a door, and cleaned mold off the walls. But because her roof is made of concrete, she said, they told her they could not repair it.

    "They said, 'We don't do paint, we don't do floors, we don't work with cement,'" she said. "So what do you do?"

    Contractors have said that the rates they collect cover a variety of expenses, including shipping fees, workers' compensation insurance, vehicle and warehouse rental, taxes and profit. But prices charged for equipment and appliances often bore little relation to what was charged on the retail market, even in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

    According to Department of Housing records, FEMA paid for about 12,400 people to receive generators at a cost of $3,700 each. The 5,500-watt portable devices and supplies they came with cost the contractors about $800 each, other documents show. FEMA paid $666 apiece for new bathroom sinks, but the contractors who actually bought and installed them paid $260 apiece. FEMA paid almost $4 a square foot to repair roofs; the work was done by subcontractors for $1.64 a foot.

    The deal the Department of Housing signed required smoke detectors in every sleeping area, so each of the 122,000 houses in the program was equipped with the devices, for which FEMA was billed $82 apiece. A receipt reviewed by The New York Times showed that one subcontractor ordered them in bulk from an Ace Hardware store in the city of Aguadilla for $6.99 each.

    "Fifty-eight percent is being taken off the top as overhead and profit from the two contractors above us," said Brandon Padgett, owner of BVP Construction in Houston, which conducted repairs on 52 houses under the program. "Is there 58 percent overhead and profit needed to implement this? No, because we are doing 90 percent of the work."

    Several smaller companies, including Mr. Padgett's, which were required to buy their materials from the middlemen, registered complaints with FEMA and with Puerto Rico's consumer affairs agency, saying that the markups amounted to illegal price gouging.

    James Little, who owns J & G Construction in Texas, a company hired as a subcontractor to carry out repairs, said that a lot of the markup was legitimate, because the principal contractors who split up the work had to rent vehicles, pay for warehouses and fly hundreds of people to the island. But some of it, he said, was just greed.

    Both Mr. Little and Mr. Padgett are involved in payment disputes with LionsGate Disaster Relief, the Louisiana subcontractor that hired them. 

    A LionsGate official said prices charged for repairs were reasonable, given the constraints under which companies were operating in the aftermath of the storm, which left large areas of the island facing fuel and supply shortages.

    "The prices in Puerto Rico are a little bit higher than what we are used to," said Kristopher Clark, the chief operations officer for LionsGate. "It's not a crazy high price. It's enough for us to make a little bit of money, and enough for the subs to make a little bit of money."

    He said he paid a markup on materials to the two larger companies that hired him. He also charged markups and service fees to the smaller companies that he brought on. But he denied that the prices were unreasonable. "I know our margin is stiff," he said. "It's a difficult margin to navigate if we are not doing volume."

    One of the prime contractors that hired Mr. Clark, J.W. Turner Construction, is a veteran disaster relief company that has worked on a number of previous disaster relief programs managed by FEMA. The owner, James W. Turner, said that in several of those cases, the prices charged were even higher. In Puerto Rico, he said, it was insurance and local taxes that brought up the rates.

    "The profit percentage is going to be lower in each house in Puerto Rico than any house we have ever done," Mr. Turner said.

    Francisco Díaz-Masso, the owner of a Puerto Rico construction firm that is another one of the prime contractors, said he had to fly in materials because of the urgency of the project, which drove up costs.

    "That rate doesn't show in that price all that's behind it, all the logistics, the amount of effort, the amount of people putting all this together, the pre-purchasing of most of this," Mr. Díaz-Masso said.

    The Department of Housing said Tu Hogar Renace guidelines for awarding contracts and setting prices were approved by FEMA. The prices charged for equipment and services were opened to bidding and then chosen by a process called "interquartile range," where the low and high outlier bids for each item are eliminated and all the companies agree to be paid the middle price. 

    A Department of Housing evaluation committee awarded contracts to all seven companies that submitted bids on time.

    When asked about the high prices, FEMA referred questions to the Department of Housing. 

    In an interview with the local Telemundo station, the housing secretary, Fernando Gil Enseñat, suggested that the high prices did not matter, because FEMA was paying them.

    "The people, the beneficiaries, don't have to pay a single cent — these are federal funds," Mr. Gil said. "If the person had to pay that, obviously that would worry me a lot."

    The housing department declined to make Mr. Gil available for an interview.

    Mr. Craig, the ex-FEMA official managing the program, emphasized that Tu Hogar Renace will be the largest undertaking ever attempted under FEMA's emergency shelter program. He said the program has delivered what it set out to do during a year when much of the island was without electricity and transportation connections were extraordinarily difficult.

    "It has been done very efficiently," he said. "Costwise, for the island of Puerto Rico to get that many people back in their homes that quickly is an incredible undertaking for the program itself, the government of Puerto Rico and the Department of Housing of Puerto Rico."

    Frances Robles is a national and foreign correspondent based in Miami. Before joining The Times in 2013, she worked at the Miami Herald, where she covered Cuba and was based in both Nicaragua and Colombia.



    11) Killing of Indigenous Man in Chile Spurs Criticism of Security Forces

    By Pascale Bonnefoy. November 25, 2018


    The funeral of Camilo Catrillanca in Temucuicui, Chile, this month. The killing of Mr. Catrillanca, 24, by the police has intensified complaints about security forces.

    SANTIAGO, Chile — The killing of a young indigenous man by an antiterrorism police squad has intensified longstanding criticism over the treatment of native communities in southern Chile by the government and security forces accused of systemic abuses.

    The killing of Camilo Catrillanca, 24, on Nov. 14 is the latest flash point in a fight over ancestral lands claimed by the Mapuche, which has led leaders in Chile to treat some indigenous land rights activists as terrorists — by for example, charging and trying them under antiterrorism laws.

    Mr. Catrillanca, a Mapuche, was riding a tractor home after working in the fields near the town of Ercilla, in the Araucanía region, about 370 miles south of Santiago, the capital, when an antiterrorism police team approached him, apparently suspecting that he had taken part in a car theft.

    According to a 15-year-old boy who was riding on the tractor, Mr. Catrillanca turned the tractor around and started driving away from the police when members of the squad, nicknamed the Jungle Commando, shot at them from an armored car.

    Mr. Catrillanca was killed by a shot to the back of the neck fired by one of the officers, the teenager said; the teenager was subsequently detained and beaten by the police. He also said that the officer who fired the fatal shot was wearing a helmet with a camera, from which he removed the memory card with video of the episode.

    Police officers initially claimed that they had not been wearing cameras at the time, but later acknowledged that they had, in fact, erased the video.

    In a message posted on his Twitter account, the Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, pledged to "exhaust all means" to determine what had occurred. But he said he supported the right of the police "to defend themselves when they are attacked."

    After investigators for the public prosecutor determined that the police had destroyed the memory card, two high-ranking officers in Araucanía resigned and four officers directly involved in the killing were expelled from the police force.

    Days later, the regional governor, Luis Mayol, also resigned.

    In addition to the prosecutor's investigation, the National Institute for Human Rights has filed a criminal lawsuit, seeking murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice charges against the Carabineros, as the national police force is called. Over the past seven years, the institute has filed more than 30 complaints over abusive police actions against the Mapuche. In May, it filed a criminal complaint against the national police force after four boys in Ercilla were stripped and interrogated.

    The death of Mr. Catrillanca spurred protests in several cities and rural areas, and on Nov. 18, hours after thousands of Mapuche attended his funeral, demonstrators banged pots and pans throughout Santiago and other cities, demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick and the dismantling of the Jungle Commando police unit.

    Since then, at least 20 protests, roadblocks and arson attacks have taken place in the Araucanía and Bío Bío regions in southern Chile, where most Mapuche live. Protests have continued almost daily in several cities, including the capital.

    Members of Congress, opposition leaders and rights groups are questioning the government strategy to address what is often referred to as the "Mapuche conflict."

    The Mapuche contend that over the past century they have lost a large portion of their ancestral territory, which straddles the border between Chile and Argentina, as the government pursued policies that divided indigenous communities, took control of lands for which the Mapuche did not have formal property titles, and encouraged the sale of such land to farmers, lumber and energy companies, and other private owners.

    Over the past couple of decades, Mapuche communities have occupied part of those lands, while others have sought to negotiate land transfers with the government.

    A small number of indigenous groups have resorted to violent actions, like arson attacks on corporate infrastructure, vehicles, private property and churches.

    Since 2001, some Mapuche have been tried and convicted under a dictatorship-era antiterrorism law. In 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned Chile for violating the due process rights of eight Mapuche activists convicted under that law.

    Mr. Piñera, who assumed the presidency in March, has adopted a tougher stance. In June, he sent the Jungle Commando force, outfitted with tanks, helicopters, armored cars, drones and thermal cameras, to the most restive indigenous areas in southern Chile.

    The nickname comes from training that the units did in Colombia alongside the militarized special operations units of the Colombian National Police that fight organized crime in that country and are known as Jungle Commandos.

    Summoned before a congressional human rights commission last week to explain the events in the Araucanía region, Mr. Chadwick, the interior minister, said the situation was one of "extreme violence."

    Since 2013, he said, there have been 920 arson attacks, 924 armed confrontations, 509 attacks on the police and 542 roadblocks.

    "We are in a serious zone of conflict, different from the rest of the country," he said.

    Mr. Catrillanca lived in the Mapuche community of Temucuicui, which took over what the Mapuche claimed were ancestral lands and declared autonomous control over the territory over 15 years ago. The community comprises about 150 Mapuche families spread over a hilly rural area of around 5,000 acres.

    Jaime Huenchullan, a Temucuicui spokesman, said the government militarization of the area began around that same time, when some Mapuche started recovering their lands. Two years ago, he said, the number of special police forces deployed to the area rose significantly, reaching its peak with the arrival of the Jungle Commando force.

    "Over the past couple of months, the commandos have raided and harassed our communities almost on a daily basis," Mr. Huenchullan said in a phone interview. "They use weapons of war, fly helicopters low over the communities and stop and search people on rural roads. The 10 days before Camilo was killed, they entered Temucuicui four times; the last time they came in firing automatic weapons. On Sunday after the funeral, the entire area seemed to be under a state of siege."

    Opposition leaders and rights groups are calling for the dismantlement of the Jungle Commando units and a restructuring of the national police force, which has been widely criticized on several fronts.

    This year, the director of the police force, Gen. Bruno Villalobos, and the chief of intelligence, Gen. Gonzalo Blu, resigned after a public prosecutor revealed that officers had fabricated evidence against a group of Mapuche who were subsequently arrested.

    Hundreds of officers have been under investigation since last year over fraud and corruption that has resulted in losses of about $40 million of public money. At least 130 have been indicted.

    Mr. Catrillanca, the grandson of a traditional Mapuche leader, is the fourth Mapuche to be killed by the police since 2002. His community considered him a "weichafe," or warrior, of the Mapuche cause. He was the father of a 6-year-old girl, and his wife is expecting another child.

    He studied agriculture at the Pailahueque polytechnical high school, which is attended mainly by Mapuche from impoverished rural families. A few years ago, the school and its grounds were converted into a police station; it is now the Jungle Commando headquarters, leaving students in the area without a school.

    "The Mapuche's legitimate and historical demands for land and autonomy cannot be resolved through militarization," Mr. Huenchullan said. "What stands in the way, I believe, is racism, discrimination and hatred toward the Mapuche."



    12) Social Security Runs Short of Money and Ideas Fly on How to Repair It

    By Paula Span, November 26, 2018


    We've long heard warnings that the Social Security program that 52 million Americans rely on for their retirement benefits could one day run out of money.

    Analysts say that's not going to happen — if only because older people are such a powerful voting force — but this year the system has hit a worrisome milestone: the Social Security Administration reported that the retirement benefits paid out each month exceeded the tax revenues and interest that fund the program.

    That necessitated the first dip into the Social Security Trust Fund in 35 years. By 2034, the agency estimated, it will have depleted those reserves, and its revenues will cover only about four-fifths of its promised benefits.

    "There's a problem, but not a crisis," said Andrew Eschtruth, a researcher at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. "It's something policymakers have acted on before, and the program has always paid full benefits."

    Making adjustments to keep Social Security solvent, crucial as that is, represents only one of the issues confronting Congress. It could also correct outdated aspects of a program that serves nearly 90 percent of Americans over 65.

    "It's a good time to step back and try to make Social Security more effective," said Richard Johnson of the Urban Institute, author of a new report on raising the program's retirement age.

    The fixes will likely include changes designed to bring more money in and pay less out. Imposing a higher payroll tax or raising the level of earnings subject to Social Security taxes (as of January 1, they will apply to the first $132,900, already an increase) would bolster revenues.

    Money-saving measures could include reducing benefits for high earners and trimming the number of years that workers collect benefits by raising eligibility ages. Typically, such changes phase in for younger workers, not those already receiving Social Security or on the cusp of qualifying for benefits.

    The demographic imperatives underlying these options are evident. With baby boomers retiring, the system has more beneficiaries to support. Longer life expectancies — about five additional years over the past several decades — and improved health have meant that "people can certainly work longer than they could in 1960," Dr. Johnson said.

    Social Security now allows workers to claim benefits at age 62, though they'll receive bigger checks if they wait until their full retirement ages (66 to 67) or beyond. The average monthly payment this year: $1347.46.

    Working longer and claiming benefits later — trends already well underway — pay off in ways that extend beyond Social Security itself. "It's good for people, it's good for government tax revenues and it could fuel economic growth," Dr. Johnson said.

    But as his report points out, living longer doesn't always mean people can work longer. Higher-income professionals may opt to stay on the job, he said, but "health problems are increasingly concentrated among less educated workers and they're falling farther and farther behind" economically. Moreover, even those who could work often discover that "employers don't seem eager to hire 62 year olds."

    The Urban Institute report suggests raising the early entitlement age to 65 and the full retirement age to 70, but building in safeguards for those who can't work, perhaps through Social Security's other programs.

    The agency could provide a safety net by fattening benefits for the very low-income. It could expand its Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, restructure the way its disability insurance works or provide partial benefits for workers who aren't totally disabled.

    While some think tanks and congressional staffs are exploring ways to strengthen Social Security financially, others are looking into outmoded provisions that penalize beneficiaries, primarily women.

    Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, has introduced legislationintended to help widows, widowers and divorced spouses qualify for higher payments and receive benefits earlier if they're disabled.

    "This bill would boost the incomes of Social Security recipients who are most likely to be living in poverty, the majority of whom are women," Mr. Casey, ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said in a statement.

    Speaking of women and Social Security, another effort would award work credit for those who temporarily leave the labor force because of caregiving responsibilities.

    In the 1930s, when the Social Security Act was passed and then amended, policymakers assumed that women stayed home while men worked. Spousal and survivors benefits represented an attempt to provide for wives (and minor children) who had no work histories of their own.

    "Major demographic changes over 80 years have led to fewer women qualifying for spousal benefits," said Mr. Eschtruth, co-author of a recent international survey of caregiver credits.

    The researchers found that 23 percent of Social Security dollars went to spousal and widows' benefits in 1960, compared to only 11 percent in 2016. That's partly because a growing proportion of women no longer marry, or have marriages that don't last 10 years, the threshold to qualify for divorced spouse benefits.

    It also reflects the fact that as women have poured into the work force, they may qualify for Social Security retirement benefits based on their own work histories. But because women earn less and are more likely to have spent uncompensated years as caregivers, their retirement benefits can still suffer.

    "To what extent does society place a market value on caregiving?" Mr. Eschtruth asked. The answer, at the moment, is that it barely does, at least in the United States.

    Most other industrialized countries credit some years of caregiving when calculating retirement benefits, the Boston College survey found. In the United Kingdom and Germany, those credits cover care of older people, as well as children.

    Legislation introduced by Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, last year would incorporate caregiving when calculating a person's future Social Security benefits. To qualify, a person would have had to provide 80 hours of care a month to a "parent, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, aunt or uncle" who needed assistance with daily activities. The caregiver would be credited with a modest wage for up to five years.

    Alas, none of these changes seems imminent.

    The last time Congress made major adjustments to Social Security, in 1983, "we didn't get change until the trust fund was at high risk of being unable to pay benefits," Dr. Johnson said. This round, too, might involve brinkmanship and delay, at least until after the presidential election.

    "Any kind of change is going to be painful for someone," he said, "so there's a big incentive for Congress to kick the can down the road."

























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