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

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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
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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!




    By Rebecca Nathanson, November 17, 2018

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

    IT WAS MID-AFTERNOON on November 5 by the time Benjamin Smoke took the witness stand in a courthouse in Chelmsford, a small city about 30 miles northeast of London that voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in 2016. Smoke is 27 — a freelance journalist and activist with short, black hair, a selection of silver rings in his ears and nose, and no previous convictions. He wore a gray suit, although most of it was hidden behind the stand where he stood that afternoon, answering questions from his lawyer that aimed to explain, and justify, the actions that had led him to being charged with a terrorism-related offense.
    On the night of March 28, 2017, Smoke and 14 other activists, now known as the Stansted 15, entered Stansted Airport, an international airport northeast of London, accompanied by two journalists. After cutting a hole in the airport's perimeter fence, they made their way toward a Titan Airways Boeing 767. CCTV footage shows them approaching in two well-organized groups: Smoke's group headed to the front of the aircraft, intending to lock themselves around it with double-layered pipes, and the other aimed for the plane's left wing, constructing a two-meter pyramid structure out of scaffolding poles and then locking themselves to it. One person perched atop the structure, making it dangerous for security personnel to remove it.
    They remained there, them and the plane immobile on the tarmac, until 8 a.m. the next morning, rain intermittently dampening them for 10 hours. According to some reports, the airport runway was shut down for about an hour and 20 minutes, and incoming flights were rerouted. Police officers arrived quickly, but it took a while for them to cut everyone out, sawing through the pipes securing the protesters' arms to one another. By that point, it was obvious that the plane was not going anywhere. They had achieved their goal.
    Smoke is a founding member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, a group created in 2015 to stand in solidarity with migrant communities in the U.K., and also part of End Deportations, a group campaigning to end deportations that originally formed around the Stansted action. They chose to focus on one particular aspect of the U.K.'s deportation system: charter flights. While some migrants and asylum-seekers are deported on commercial flights alongside passengers traveling for business or pleasure, others are deported via private flights chartered by the Home Office, the government department responsible for immigration, security, and law and order. The Titan plane around which the Stansted 15 locked themselves in March 2017 was one of the latter.
    The activists believed that at least three people scheduled to be on that particular charter flight, bound for Nigeria and Ghana, were at risk of serious harm or even death upon return to their countries of origin. Smoke had heard of one woman, an out lesbian, who had fled an abusive marriage in Nigeria and whose ex-husband had said he would kill her upon her return. The British government had rejected her asylum application. Standing in the witness box, his voice occasionally growing quiet until his lawyer would remind him to speak loudly and slowly, Smoke explained that he had acted with an intent not to do harm but to protect people from the harm that he thought would result from deportation on the charter flight.
    MYSTERY SURROUNDS DEPORTATION charter flights. They have been known to leave in the early hours before sunrise, sometimes from military bases instead of airports, and deportees, security escorts, and a few health care personnel are often the only people onboard. According to a report by Corporate Watch, a nonprofit research cooperative, the U.K. government began using charter flights for deportations in 2001.
    The Home Office does not routinely publish data about its use of charter flights. However, Freedom of Information requests have revealed that the Home Office chartered 93 deportation flights from January 2016 through May 2018, including the flight grounded by the Stansted 15. Most of these flights went to Pakistan, Albania, Nigeria, and Ghana, although a few also flew to Germany, France, and Bulgaria. Some carried over 50 deportees; most had less than 20 passengers being deported because of a criminal conviction. These destinations have shifted over time as the population of asylum-seekers has changed: Charter deportation flights in 2014 also frequented Afghanistan and Kosovo.
    The Stansted 15, along with many others who research or campaign around deportation, take issue with numerous aspects of deportation charter flights, starting with the way in which migrants and asylum-seekers are notified of them.
    "It's a weird numbers game where the government needs to fill seats on this plane to make it economically viable," says Morten Thaysen, one of the co-founders of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. There will often be "raids in the weeks leading up to the flight," according to Thaysen. "People [are] being taken from marketplaces, workplaces, their home, and put in detention centers — these kind of immigration prisons — and then taken in the middle of the night on these secret flights where there are no witnesses. So it's the brutality of how they function."
    Some people, activists also argue, are not notified of their impending deportation with enough time to appeal the decision. "We see so many people on these flights whose cases haven't been properly finished, haven't had their cases heard properly," says Thaysen. The government is meant to provide those being deported on charter flights with notice of either 72 hours or five working days, depending on if the person is seeking a court injunction to defer their removal.
    According to Matthew J. Gibney, director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, the problem goes beyond short notice. Some groups of asylum-seekers, including men from Ghana and Nigeria, are not allowed to appeal their removal orders until they have been deported back to their country of origin. "There's no appeal right for people from these various countries," Gibney explains. Plus, he adds, "the Home Office is in charge of fulfilling the government's demand that the number of people immigrating to the country is reduced, and it's also in charge of granting asylum. So that looks a bit like a kind of conflict of interest, in some respects."
    Lacking the right to appeal can be a major disadvantage. Between April 2017 and March 2018, more than one-third of appeals that went to court resulted in the Home Office's initial decision being overturned, according to The Guardian. It is, Gibney says, "a very, very large number that are successful on appeal to an independent body, and it does make you wonder about the quality of decision-making within the Home Office. I would certainly be pretty scared if I had to apply to the Home Office, and I was actually facing persecution because I don't necessarily think their judgments are always sound."
    Once deportees are detained and the night of their flight arrives, they are driven by bus to an airport or military base and put on the plane. Here, too, many take issue with the process. In January 2018, the chief inspector of prisons, an independent inspector who reports on the treatment of those in prison, observed a deportation charter flight to France, Austria, and Bulgaria. His report highlights the use of "excessive" restraint on the passengers and describes the presence of 80 security escorts to accompany 23 deportees — more than three escorts per person. All but one of the 23 were restrained for the duration of the flight by a waist belt that restricted arm movement. The deportees were calm and, wrote the inspector, "restraints in these cases were not necessary, reasonable or proportionate." (The Home Office declined to respond to any questions about its use of charter flights because the Stansted 15 trial is ongoing.)
    It was these conditions that, Smoke and the other 14 believed, awaited the migrants and asylum-seekers who were scheduled to be deported on March 28, 2017, when they locked themselves together to keep that plane in place.
    Supporters gather outside Chelmsford crown court on the first day of the trial on Oct. 1, 2018.
    THE CONSEQUENCES OF the Stansted 15's actions that night have been far greater than anyone anticipated. The activists are now coming to the end of a six-week trial in Chelmsford; soon the 12-person jury will reach a verdict. Originally charged with aggravated trespass — a charge they accept — the Stansted 15 have since additionally been charged with intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome. This charge falls under the "Endangering safety at aerodromes" section of the U.K.'s Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990, a law intended to fight terrorism. The potential lifetime sentence accompanying this charge, as well as the fact that the attorney general is required to approve its use on a case-by-case basis, makes clear its severity.
    There is little precedent for fighting a charge from the Aviation and Maritime Security Act — in 28 years, it has been used very rarely. Amnesty International has been observing the Stansted 15 trial, concerned that this charge "may have been brought to discourage other activists from taking non-violent direct action in defence of human rights." Kate Allen, Amnesty International's U.K. director, wrote, "We're concerned the authorities are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut with this case."
    That a charge intended as a counterterrorism measure is being used against nonviolent protesters has shocked many. There remains debate about what Parliament truly intended when it passed the act back in 1990 and if nonviolent action falls within its scope. The transcript of a January 1990 parliamentary discussion of the bill offers some hints. In it, Cecil Parkinson, then secretary of state for transport, explains, "The protocol commits us to making it an offence under our law to carry out armed attacks at international airports and to cause damage or disruption at such airports." He later says that the act is "to be an effective means of countering terrorism."
    John Prescott, then a member of Parliament for Hull East, described the bill as an attempt to "make it more difficult for cowardly acts of terrorism to occur or for bombs to be planted on aircraft and planes — devices like those which have already killed hundreds of innocent passengers."
    Here, then, it becomes clear why the activists' intent to prevent harm, rather do harm, matters. In court on November 5, the defense lawyer tried to establish that Smoke had acted because he thought people were in genuine peril and that he had taken into consideration the safety of everyone involved. Safety, Smoke emphasized, had been "integral to every single conversation that was going on at the time." Was he intending to put himself in danger? "Absolutely not." Anybody else in danger? "No, quite the opposite."
    When Tony Badenoch, speaking for the prosecution, began interrogating Smoke, the line of questioning shifted. Now, the focus was on establishing that he cares about fairness, does not wish for harm to come to his fellow human beings, and accepts that we all have to live in accordance with the rule of law. To do otherwise, Badenoch suggested, would be anarchy. A woman in the public gallery let out a chuckle; Smoke hesitated before affirming the lawyer's statement. What Badenoch was getting to was the idea that it would create risks if everyone made up their own rules. Smoke and the rest of the Stansted 15, he said, had self-selected their own rules.
    THAT MORNING, HOURS before Smoke began giving evidence in court, about 100 people had gathered in front of the Chelmsford courthouse with signs reading, "Deportation flights kill," and "The ONLY people in danger were on the plane." Ewa Jasiewicz, a member of End Deportations who had come from Manchester, was leading the rally. "What our friends have tried to do is shine a light on this brutal process, and they've tried to stop it at the point of the actual deportation," she explained. "They'd exhausted all other means to intervene in this process. They're trying to prevent greater crime from taking place, which is that of people being deported back to danger, back to death, back to violence."
    The long trial has led to both an outpouring of support for the defendants and outrage over the severity of their charges, bringing together people from anti-war, anti-racist, and climate justice movements. And despite what the city's pro-Brexit vote may imply, the activists have also been met with solidarity in Chelmsford, where locals have housed them for the duration of the trial. Sabina Nussey and her daughter, Helena, have been housing two defendants. At the rally, Sabina's coat bore a "We demand a people's vote" button, a reference to the campaign to hold another Brexit referendum. "They are both the same age as my children," explained Sabina of the activists staying with her family. "I think they stood up and did something and the least we can do is try and give them the support."
    She wasn't alone in that feeling: Later that day, the bishop of Chelmsford appeared in the courtroom to show his support. Last spring, about 50 prominent writers and activists, including feminist activist Gloria Steinem and Intercept columnist Naomi Klein, published a letter calling for the charges to be dropped and for the government to stop chartering deportation flights.
    Raising awareness of the government's use of deportation charter flights — a practice that was not widely known prior to the Stansted 15 — has been a welcome side effect of the trial and the charges facing the defendants. But that is just one of the ways in which the Stansted 15's action made an impact: It did, in fact, stop some of the people meant to be on the Titan Airways flight from being deported. According to a Freedom of Information request, as of July this year, 11 people scheduled for the March 28, 2017 flight remained in the U.K.
    Arising from this trial are two debates: that of criminalizing nonviolent protest and that of the legality, and ethics, of deportation charter flights. The jury will decide on the former in a matter of days; the latter may remain open after the case reaches its close. Activists, however, see that debate as having a clear winner. "Their action resulted in 11 people still being here in the U.K. with their friends and family," implored Jasiewicz, standing outside the courthouse that morning. "So it's an act of human solidarity and defense and resistance to an increasingly brutal border regime." She told me that previous organizing against deportations on commercial flights by pressuring airlines had seen some success — and, she believes, had resulted in an increase in charter flights. "We're trying to intervene in this. We think it's our human duty to do that and the state doesn't like it."


    2)  Instead of Giving Billions to Amazon, We Could Just Cancel Student Debt
    By Allie Conti, November 15, 2018

    Jeff Bezos                                                        Cancel student debt

    On Tuesday, Amazon confirmed it would build new offices in Long Island City, Queens, and a suburb of Washington, DC, called Crystal City, ending a massive bidding war that saw the leaders of almost 250 cities prostrate themselves at the feet of the world's richest man.
    Thirsty officials mailed Amazon a giant cactus and lit up local landmarks in "Amazon orange" in hopes of hosting what was billed as the retail giant's "second HQ," despite the fact that it is definitionally impossible for there to be more than one headquarters of anything. Somehow more humiliatingly, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he'd literally change his name to "Amazon" for the privilege of helping gift the mega company at least a billion in tax subsidies. All of this would have been sort-of hilarious if it didn't throw CEO Jeff Bezos's power over the country's ostensible leaders into such terrifying relief. What's more, it's depressing that so much effort went into making something happen that probably would have happened regardless, and will likely just cause rents to rise in a city that already struggles with housing costs.
    "This was a company that was going to grow and almost certainly going to expand to these regions," Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an economic think-tank that has researched the pernicious social and economic effects of Amazon's dangerous monopoly, told me. "They don't need a subsidy at all. And it's ridiculous and shocking that Bill de Blasio, who ran on a platform of fixing economic inequality, worked so hard to bring in a project that's going to cause a lot of hardship for working-class New Yorkers."
    But right after the announcement about the so-called HQ2 came down, New York State Assembly Member Ron Kim made an announcement of his own: he'd be introducing legislation to take the money Cuomo and other officials promised and use it to cancel some of the over $80 billion in debt bogging down the state's student borrowers. 
    "Giving Jeff Bezos hundreds of millions of dollars is an immoral waste of taxpayers money when it's more than clear that the money would create more jobs and more economic growth when it is used to relieve student debt," Kim said in an emailed press release. "Giving Amazon this type of corporate welfare is no different, if not worse, than Donald Trump giving trillions in corporate tax breaks at the federal level. There's no correlation between healthy, sustainable job creation and corporate giveaways. If we used this money to cancel distressed student debt instead, there would be immediate positive GDP growth, job creation, and impactful social-economic returns."
    Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance agreed there were a litany of ways in which that money could be put to better use, like providing property tax rebates to local businesses and addressing the shortage of capital available to would-be business owners. Kim, for his part, pointed to a recent study from Bard College that suggested canceling student debt might produce a significant increase in real GDP, could add between $86 billion and $108 billion per year to the economy on average, and would lead to the all-important holy grail of job creation.
    The idea that the government could help regular people and boost the economy by wiping out debt isn't a brand new one. After the 2008 financial crisis, a Cornell Law professor named Robert Hockett advocated for municipalities to help borrowers by using their powers of eminent domain to buy up and restructure underwater mortgages. A number of cities including Richmond, California, latched onto the idea, but the plan to implement it was paused after Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo, and other major financial players challenged it in court. By the time that suit was dismissed, the novel scheme had started to lose momentum.
    Still, Hockett told me the same general concept could be applied to student debt. Each state would have to pass laws to make sure debt was clearly considered property—that is, something the government can claim domain over—if it wasn't already. Then they would have to create an agency or state-backed entity to take care of buying up and canceling the debts. Foundations and other benevolent organizations would help foot the cost to the cities.
    "I think the case is fairly strong here," he said. "Not quite as strong in the case of the mortgage crisis, but it's pretty close. We have the data to show that when we have lots of young folk entering the workforce underwater, they tend to delay house-buying and family formation and starting their own business and seeking employment that will be more remunerative in the long run because they're just trying to say afloat. When the people who are affected are more concentrated in a specific area code, a strong argument can be made to purchase the debt and write it down, or lower the interest rate and lower the level of burden.
    Of course, the apparent economic benefits of the student-loan scheme will only matter if the powers that be are ready to be rational. This may not be the case. After all, there's a growing consensus that wooing big businesses is not the best way to bolster a local economy, and Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance said New York's Amazon pitch had less to do with the company's massive propaganda arm than the way politicians' psychology had evolved in recent decades to think their jobs were about encouraging development at all costs.
    But given the number of options available to New Yorkers who want to resist development, the Amazon deal is far from set in stone. Just hours after it was announced, a New York state senator and city council member began mobilizing a rally at the proposed site. And Hockett told me he was working with Kim, the local lawmaker, to hammer out the details on how New York State could take that Amazon money and use it to help normal people live their lives.
    "We've been planning this since well before the Amazon announcement, but now that that's been made, we're [going to] point to that, too, because it shows the state is able to help some people out," Hockett said. "So why not the people who are actually hurting because of debt burdens?"


    3) Trump's Border Stunt Is a Profound Betrayal of Our Military
    The president used America's military not against any real threat but as toy soldiers, with the intent of manipulating a domestic midterm election.
    By Gordon Adams, Lawrence B. Wilkerson and Isaiha Wilson III, November 19, 2018 
    American soldiers arriving at Base Camp Donna, one of multiple military bases being set up along the border with Mexico.

    A week before the midterm elections, the president of the United States announced he would deploy up to 15,000 active duty military troops to the United States-Mexico border to confront a menacing caravan of refugees and asylum seekers. The soldiers would use force, if necessary, to prevent such an "invasion" of the United States.
    Mr. Trump's announcement and the deployment that followed (of roughly 5,900) were probably perfectly legal. But we are a bipartisan threesome with decades of experience in and with the Pentagon, and to us, this act creates a dangerous precedent. We fear this was lost in the public hand-wringing over the decision, so let us be clear: The president used America's military forces not against any real threat but as toy soldiers, with the intent of manipulating a domestic midterm election outcome, an unprecedented use of the military by a sitting president. 
    The public debate focused on secondary issues. Is there truly a threat to American security from an unarmed group of tired refugees and asylum seekers on foot and a thousand miles from the border? Even the Army's internal assessment did not find this a very credible threat.
    Can the president deny in advance what could be legitimate claims for asylum, without scrutiny? Most likely, this violates treaty commitments the United States made as part of its agreement to refugee conventions in 1967, which it has followed for decades.

    The deployment is not, in the context of the defense budget, an albatross. We are already paying the troops, wherever they're deployed, and the actual incremental costs of sending them to the border might be $100 million to $200 million, a tiny fraction of the $716 billion defense budget.
    Still, we can think of many ways to put the funds to better use, like improving readiness.
    It's also not unusual for a president to ask the troops to deploy to the border in support of border security operations. Presidents of both parties have sent troops to the border, to provide support functions like engineering, logistics, transportation and surveillance. 
    But those deployments have been generally in smaller numbers, usually the National Guard, and never to stop a caravan of refugees and asylum seekers.
    So, generously, some aspects of the deployment are at least defensible. But one is not, and that aspect is the domestic political use — or rather, misuse — of the military.
    James Mattis, the secretary of defense, asserted that the Defense Department does not "do stunts." But this was a blatant political stunt. The president crossed a line — the military is supposed to stay out of domestic politics. As many senior military retirees have argued, the forces are not and should not be a political instrument. They are not toy soldiers to be moved around by political leaders but a neutral institution, politically speaking.

    Oh, some might say, presidents use troops politically all the time. And so they do, generally in the context of foreign policy decisions that have political implications. Think Lyndon Johnson sending more troops to Vietnam, fearing he would be attacked for "cutting and running" from that conflict. Or George W. Bush crowing about "mission accomplished" when Saddam Hussein was toppled. Those are not the same thing as using troops at home for electoral advantage.
    Electoral gain, not security, is this president's goal. Two of us served in the military for many years; while all troops must obey the legal and ethical orders of civilian leaders, they need to have faith that those civilian leaders are using them for legitimate national security purposes. But the border deployment put the military right in the middle of the midterm elections, creating a nonexistent crisis to stimulate votes for one party. 
    When partisan actions like this occur, they violate civil-military traditions and erode that faith, with potentially long-term damage to the morale of the force and our democratic practice — all for electoral gain.
    The deployment is a stunt, a dangerous one, and in our view, a misuse of the military that should have led Mr. Mattis to consider resigning, instead of acceding to this blatant politicization of America's military.
    Gordon Adams is professor emeritus at the School of International Service, American University, and was the senior White House budget official for national security from 1993 to 1997. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and a professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary, was chief of staff to the secretary of state from 2002 to 2005. Isaiah Wilson III, a senior lecturer with Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, is a military veteran who was an active-duty Army officer for 28 years of service that included multiple tours of combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    My NYT Comment:
    These troops could have, and should be, immediately deployed to fight the California fires and clean up after the hurricanes and floods across the country and in Puerto Rico, and to restore clean drinking water to the homes in Flint, Michigan. (Right now, in California, prisoners are being paid $1.00 and hour to fight the fires. The troops could be a great help.) The "tent jails" set up to incarcerate asylum seekers should be re-deployed as housing for those whose homes have been destroyed. The military could be deployed to help with the building of homes lost to natural disasters. Instead of spending billions of dollars on war, that money should be spent on homes for the homeless, healthcare for all and free, quality education from cradle to grave. Asylum seekers should be granted asylum—not put in jails. We need to build a better world with the wealth created by working people and held by the 0.001% in their private coffers. As Martin Luther King wrote to Coretta Scott in 1952, "Today Capitalism has outlived its usefulness."
    —Bonnie Weinstein


    4) As Inmates, They Fight California's Fires. As Ex-Convicts, Their Firefighting Prospects Wilt.
    By Mihir Zaveri, November 15, 2018

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

    As smoke from the Camp Fire drifted over the San Francisco Bay Area this week, clouding the air around Amika Mota's home in Oakland, she was reminded of her time in prison.
    While serving a sentence for vehicular manslaughter, Ms. Mota, 41, began putting out car, structure and wildfires in Central California in 2012, one of roughly 4,000 inmate firefighters in the state. Through firefighting, the state tries to rehabilitate prisoners while providing a critical — and cost-effective — line of defense against a growing threat of natural disaster.
    Ms. Mota found it to be a "transformative" experience that was a welcome and productive reprieve from prison's widespread drugs, violence and abuse. She said she would have "loved" to make firefighting her career.
    Yet she remembers one lesson that was drilled into her head: After you are released, do not expect to be a firefighter anymore — criminals will not get hired. So when she was released on parole several years ago, she did not apply.

    "It had been really ingrained in me by the folks that trained me that it was not possible," Ms. Mota said.
    She is one of many former inmates who volunteered to help defend the state from perennial fires for little pay, in some cases risking their lives, but who now find fire departments unwilling to hire them.
    As the Camp Fire rages in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in state history, and wildfires scorch western Los Angeles, about 1,500 inmates have been deployed to help fight active fires, out of a firefighter total of roughly 9,400, according to California state officials.
    Ms. Mota does believe she learned invaluable skills in the program that she has translated into a career helping other former prisoners at the Young Women's Freedom Center, a nonprofit group in San Francisco.
    But since she was released from prison, Ms. Mota said, she also thinks about how, year after year, the wildfires seem to grow stronger. She thinks about how, on average, inmate firefighters are paid $2 per day, and another $1 per hour when fighting active fires. She thinks about how six inmate firefighters have died since 1983, according to the state, and how, ultimately, she hears about so many who, like her, are discouraged from applying or are barred from being firefighters because of their criminal records.

    "I also begin to really look at the injustice of what it looks like to be this massive labor force for the state of California that's getting paid pennies on the dollar," she said. "We should be doing a lot more to make sure that folks are re-entering in a positive way."
    California relies on prisoners to fight wildfires more than any other state. In 1946, the state opened Camp Rainbow in Fallbrook, which housed inmates to fight fires. Over the decades, the program would grow.
    Today, 3,700 inmates work at 44 fire camps across the state, said Alexandra Powell, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which helps run the fire camp program.
    Prisoners volunteer to be part of the state's firefighting program, and some can receive time off their sentences.

    Men, women and youths can volunteer for the program, under certain restrictions. For example, they must have five years or less remaining on their sentences. Those convicted of rape or arson are disqualified, Ms. Powell said. Those who volunteer can receive time off their sentence, she added.
    "Through rehabilitation, and programs like the fire camp program, inmates learn useful skills that can help them on the outside," Ms. Powell said. "These firefighters are working hard to help the people of California in their time of need. They are repaying their debt to society in a productive way."
    Ms. Mota, despite her concerns, said she was a champion of the program and wanted it to be available for others.

    The program has increasingly drawn scrutiny from criminal justice reform advocates, who have called it one of the most striking examples of undercompensated prison labor.
    It also illustrates how convictions can have lasting impacts on people's lives, said Angela Hanks, the director of the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a Washington-based nonprofit group that promotes policies that help low-income Americans.
    Ms. Hanks said that incentives given to prisoners to join the fire camps, such as reduced sentences, might draw some who would otherwise not want to join the program.
    "It is such a dangerous job," she said. "At a minimum, people should be paid a fair wage."
    Once they are released from prison, inmates find it difficult to join the ranks of professional firefighters, said Katherine Katcher, the founder and executive director of Root and Rebound, a nonprofit group that helps people with criminal histories re-enter society. Some former inmates, like Ms. Mota, don't bother applying, Ms. Katcher said. Some fire departments also bar people with certain criminal backgrounds from becoming firefighters, she said.
    For example, the fire department in Bakersfield, a city of more than 380,000 people in Southern California, said it disqualified applicants who have been convicted of a felony. In the Los Angeles County Fire Department, felonies and some misdemeanors are grounds for disqualification, said Capt. Tony Imbrenda, a department spokesman.
    "I can tell you that someone who has been incarcerated and part of an inmate hand crew has no chance of employment with this agency," he said.
    Various counties also have restrictions on who can get a license to be an emergency medical technician, which is required by many fire departments in California, Ms. Katcher said. State law directs local E.M.S. agencies to deny an E.M.T. certification if the person has been convicted of two or more felonies, or has been convicted of any theft-related misdemeanor in the preceding five years, among other possible factors.

    This year, California legislators debated a bill that would have directed local agencies to, in some cases, not let criminal history be a reason to deny certification. Instead, legislators scaled it down, deciding instead to pass a bill that would collect data on people's being denied.
    California is looking for other ways to help inmate firefighters get jobs. Ms. Powell said the state was opening a training and certification program in Ventura County that is intended "to create a pathway for former offenders to compete for entry-level firefighting jobs with the state."
    For Ms. Katcher, the initiatives are not enough.
    "Our state has the opportunity to improve its laws to do better," she said. "It's not just about saying a program is rehabilitative. That's just a word. Do the right thing."


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

    • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
    • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
    • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.
    By Amanda Macias, November 14, 2018

    WASHINGTON  The U.S. wars and military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001, according to a new study.
    That total is almost $2 trillion more than all federal government spending during the recently completed 2017-18 fiscal year.
    The report, from Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, also finds that more than 480,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting. Over 244,000 civilians have been killed. Another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.
    The $5.9 trillion figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone, according to Neta Crawford, the study's author.
    In addition to the money spent by the Pentagon, Crawford says the report captures the "war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans' care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security."
    It breaks down like this, according to Crawford and the report:
    • Total U.S. war-related spending through fiscal year 2019 is $4.9 trillion.
    • The other $1 trillion reflects estimates for the cost of health care for post-9/11 veterans.
    • The Department of Veterans Affairs will be responsible for serving more than 4.3 million veterans by 2039.
    What's more, longer wars will also increase the number of service members who will ultimately claim veterans benefits and disability payments.
    The U.S. government spent $4.1 trillion during fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, according to the Treasury Department.
    The Defense Department accounted for 14.7 percent of that, and the Department of Veterans Affairs accounted for 4.4 percent.
    Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the cost has been $5.9 trillion, according to the study.
    See YouTube video: Costs of War the Human Toll of the Post-9/11 Wars


    6) He Died Giving a Voice to Chile's Poor. A Quest for Justice Took Decades.
    The activist folk singer Victor Jara was murdered in the days after a 1973 coup that brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power. A quest for his killers led to a Florida courtroom.
    By Clyde Haberman, November 18, 2018

    Victor Jara

    My guitar is not for the rich
    no, nothing like that. 
    My song is of the ladder
    we are building to reach the stars.
    Those were among the last words Víctor Jara ever wrote, for a song called "Manifiesto." Mr. Jara was a popular Chilean folk singer who dwelt on themes like poverty and injustice. He was, in no particular order, a poet, a teacher, a theater director and a Communist Party activist — and all that was enough to get him brutally killed at age 40.
    He was murdered by men under the command of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, leader of the 1973 military coup that, with America's assent, overthrew the leftist government of Chile's elected president, Salvador Allende, and imposed a ruthless dictatorship. During the Pinochet regime's 17 years, some 2,300 people were known to have been killed or "disappeared." About 1,000 others were unaccounted for and presumed to have died. At least 27,000 were tortured.
    Mr. Jara, sometimes described as the Bob Dylan of South America, was one of the earliest victims and the most famous. His life, death and political afterlife shape this video documentary from Retro Report, whose mission is to examine major news stories of the past and show how they inform the present.

    The Jara case remains very much alive in Chile. A judge there recently bore out the vibrancy of a quotation favored by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
    This arc stretched 45 years. But four months ago, the Chilean judge, Miguel Vázquez, sentenced each of eight retired military officers to prison terms of 15 years and a day for the murders of Mr. Jara and of a former prisons director, Littré Quiroga Carvajal. A ninth man received a five-year sentence for helping cover up the crimes.
    And in Florida another former officer, who found refuge in the United States, has been declared liable in a civil suit brought by Jara family members, and ordered to pay them $28 million in damages. A court in Chile has asked for the extradition of this man, Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez, but the request remains unfulfilled. Mr. Barrientos, 69, remains at liberty in Florida, where he insisted to Retro Report that he was innocent of wrongdoing and felt "like a victim of political persecution." Still, the arc may not be done bending.
    Víctor Jara grew up poor, and made his own way from age 15. At one point, he studied for the priesthood, but lost interest amid a political awakening that steered him decidedly leftward. He gravitated toward theater and music, becoming part of a movement known as nueva canción, or new song, which infused traditional Latin American folk music with politically and socially inspired lyrics. "Song has great power to create awareness in the face of today's challenges," he said.
    His activism, popularity and ardent support of the Allende government made him a marked man once the military seized power on Sept. 11, 1973. The next day, soldiers rounded up students and professors at State Technical University in Santiago, where Mr. Jara had taught theater. He and hundreds of others were led to the indoor Chile Stadium (renamed Víctor Jara Stadium in 2003).

    He was quickly recognized and taken to the bowels of the arena, there to be tortured. Soldiers crushed his fingers with their rifle butts, and told him mockingly that he would never play the guitar again.
    Testimony in the Florida civil case revealed that an officer identified by several witnesses as Lieutenant Barrientos was a commander at the stadium and was giving orders while Mr. Jara was held there. Several days later, the singer's corpse was found, along with those of several others, dumped outside a Santiago cemetery. He had been shot twice in the head and 44 more times elsewhere. His wife, Joan, a British-born dance instructor, managed to recover the body and bury it. Then she fled to Britain with her young daughters, Amanda and Manuela, and did not return to Chile for a dozen years.
    "I am one of the lucky ones" Joan Jara, 91, told Sean Mattison, director of the Retro Report video. "So many people here in Chile, so many families, they still don't know the destiny of their loved ones. That is the worst fate."
    In death even more than in life, Mr. Jara became an iconic figure for artists around the world who found him a source of political and cultural inspiration. Bruce Springsteen gave a concert in Santiago in 2013, on the 40th anniversary of the military coup, and sang "Manifiesto," a song that Mr. Jara himself did not live long enough to perform in public. "It's a gift to be here," Mr. Springsteen said to the audience, "and I take it with humbleness."
    The rock group U2 wrote a number, "One Tree Hill," that included this verse:
    Jara sang, his song a weapon
    In the hands of love 
    You know his blood still cries 
    From the ground
    Now, graying men have been ordered to prison for their role in the murder. A lingering question is whether Mr. Barrientos will someday join them. Court requests for his extradition have not yet translated into action. As for the civil verdict against him, reached by a federal jury in 2016, it has moral significance but scant practicability. Mr. Barrientos, who made ends meet in Florida as a cook in a fast-food restaurant, would seem in no position to pay a multimillion-dollar judgment.
    He left Chile in 1989 and became a United States citizen through marriage in 2010. He lives in a modest two-bedroom house in Deltona, about 30 miles north of Orlando. "I came here looking for the American dream," he told Mr. Mattison, "and I had it until this nightmare started."
    He might want to keep looking over his shoulder. His failure to disclose his military background when he applied for citizenship could end up as a strike against him. He also may want to keep the name Jakiw Palij in mind.

    Mr. Palij, born in a town that was then in Poland and is now in Ukraine, migrated to America after World War II and became a citizen in 1957, settling into a quiet life in Queens. Years later, it was discovered that he had lied in his immigration papers about having been a guard at a Nazi forced labor camp in occupied Poland. In 2003, he was stripped of his American citizenship. Deporting him took years, but in August, justice finally had its day. Mr. Palij, ailing and strapped to a stretcher, was put aboard a plane and packed off to Germany.
    He is 95 years old. He should serve as an object lesson for Mr. Barrientos: Old age is not a guarantee against the arc of the moral universe.
    My song is not for fleeting praise
    nor to gain foreign fame,
    it is for this narrow country
    to the very depth of the earth.


    7) Federal Judge Blocks Trump's Proclamation Targeting Some Asylum Seekers
    By Miriam Jordan, November 20, 2018

    Women and children in Tijuana, Mexico, on Saturday after getting a number to apply for asylum at the entrance of the border crossing to the United States.

    LOS ANGELES — A federal judge on Monday ordered the Trump administration to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants no matter where or how they entered the United States, dealing at least a temporary setback to the president's attempt to clamp down on a huge wave of Central Americans crossing the border.
    Judge Jon S. Tigar of the United States District Court in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the government from carrying out a new rule that denies protections to people who enter the country illegally. The order, which suspends the rule until the case is decided by the court, applies nationally.
    "Whatever the scope of the president's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden," Mr. Tigar wrote in his order.
    As a caravan of several thousand people journeyed toward the Southwest border, President Trump signed a proclamation on Nov. 9 that banned migrants from applying for asylum if they failed to make the request at a legal checkpoint. Only those who entered the country through a port of entry would be eligible, he said, invoking national security powers to protect the integrity of the United States borders.

    Within days, the administration submitted a rule to the federal register, letting it go into effect immediately and without the customary period for public comment.
    But the rule overhauled longstanding asylum laws that ensure people fleeing persecution can seek safety in the United States, regardless of how they entered the country. Advocacy groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, swiftly sued the administration for effectively introducing what they deemed an asylum ban.
    After the judge's ruling on Monday, Lee Gelernt, the A.C.L.U. attorney who argued the case, said, "The court made clear that the administration does not have the power to override Congress and that, absent judicial intervention, real harm will occur."
    "This is a critical step in fighting back against President Trump's war on asylum seekers," Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the other organizations that brought the case, said in a statement. "While the new rule purports to facilitate orderly processing of asylum seekers at ports of entry, Customs and Border Protection has a longstanding policy and practice of turning back individuals who do exactly what the rule prescribes. These practices are clearly unlawful and cannot stand."
    The Center for Constitutional Rights also joined in the suit.
    Trump administration officials signaled that they would continue to defend the policy as it moved through the courts.

    "Our asylum system is broken, and it is being abused by tens of thousands of meritless claims every year," Katie Waldman, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, and Steve Stafford, the Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement.
    They said the president has broad authority to stop the entry of migrants into the country. "It is absurd that a set of advocacy groups can be found to have standing to sue to stop the entire federal government from acting so that illegal aliens can receive a government benefit to which they are not entitled," they said. "We look forward to continuing to defend the executive branch's legitimate and well-reasoned exercise of its authority to address the crisis at our southern border."
    Presidents indeed have broad discretion on immigration matters. But the court's ruling shows that such discretion has limits, said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration scholar at Cornell Law School.
    "The ruling is a significant blow to the administration's efforts to unilaterally change asylum law. Ultimately this may have to go to the Supreme Court for a final ruling," said Mr. Yale-Loehr.
    The advocacy groups accused the government of "violating Congress's clear command that manner of entry cannot constitute a categorical asylum bar" in their complaint. They also said the administration had violated federal guidelines by not allowing public comment on the rule.
    But Trump administration officials defended the regulatory change, arguing that the president was responding to a surge in migrants seeking asylum based on frivolous claims, which ultimately lead their cases to be denied by an immigration judge. The migrants then ignore any orders to leave, and remain unlawfully in the country.
    "The president has sought to halt this dangerous and illegal practice and regain control of the border," government lawyers said in court filings.

    Mr. Trump, who had made stanching illegal immigration a top priority since his days on the campaign trail, has made no secret of his frustration over the swelling number of migrants heading to the United States. The president ordered more than 5,000 active-duty troops to the border to prevent the migrants from entering.
    The new rule was widely regarded as an effort to deter Central Americans, many of whom request asylum once they reach the United States, often without inspection, from making the journey over land from their countries to the border.
    United States immigration laws stipulate that foreigners who touch American soil are eligible to apply for asylum. They cannot be deported immediately. They are eligible to have a so-called credible fear interview with an asylum officer, a cursory screening that the overwhelming majority of applicants pass. As result, most of the migrants are released with a date to appear in court.
    In recent years, more and more migrants have availed themselves of the asylum process, often after entering the United States illegally. A record 23,121 migrants traveling as families were detained at the border in October. Many of the families turn themselves in to the Border Patrol rather than queue up to request asylum at a port of entry.
    The Trump administration believes the migrants are exploiting asylum laws to immigrate illegally to the United States. Soaring arrivals have exacerbated a huge backlog of pending cases in the immigration courts, which recently broke the one-million mark. Many migrants skip their court dates, only to remain illegally in the country, which Mr. Trump derides as "catch and release."
    But advocates argue that many migrants are victims of violence or persecution and are entitled to seek sanctuary. Gangs are ubiquitous across El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where lawlessness and corruption enable them to kill with impunity.

    Daniel Victor contributed reporting from Hong Kong.


    8) Italy Orders Seizure of Migrant Rescue Ship
    By Jason Horowitz, November 20, 2018

    The rescue ship Aquarius arriving in Spain in June with more than 600 migrants, after being refused permission to land in Italy.

    ROME — Italy has ordered the seizure of the Aquarius, the rescue ship at the center of international criticism over its government's hard line against migration, saying the vessel had illegally disposed of potentially infectious waste.
    Prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Catania announced on Tuesday that they had accused 24 people of having "systematically shared, planned and executed an illegal waste-disposal project of an enormous quantity" in southern Italian ports between January 2017 and May 2018. They said the waste included contaminated garments, leftover food, and medical supplies and syringes.
    Those accused included members of Doctors Without Borders, one of the aid groups operating the Aquarius, and officials of a Sicilian company that manages waste disposal. According to a statement by the prosecutors' office, the Aquarius and VOS Prudence, another rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders, illegally coordinated with the Sicilian company, which failed to declare the "presence of dangerous sanitary waste with an infectious risk."
    Doctors Without Borders denied the accusation in a statement on Tuesday, writing that it "strongly condemns" the Italian order to seize the Aquarius. It called the measure a disproportionate reaction designed to criminalize humanitarian and medical missions at sea. The group said it would appeal in Italian court.

    The ship is already idled, sitting in a French port since September because no country has agreed to register it. The Italian order means that if it were to resume operation, it could not enter Italian waters without risk of being impounded.
    In Italy, the Aquarius has become the symbol of a confrontation between rescue ships, which have saved tens of thousands of shipwrecked migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, and government officials who have compared the ships to migrant water-taxis and say they are complicit in human smuggling.
    In June, Matteo Salvini, Italy's hard-line interior minister and leader of the anti-immigrant League party, refused to let the Aquarius land at a time when it had more than 629 migrants aboard, including 123 minors, 11 small children and seven pregnant women. The move set off a confrontation with the European Union that only increased Mr. Salvini's popularity at home. (Spain eventually took in the migrants.)
    On Tuesday, the minister celebrated the order against the Aquarius, and his own actions against nongovernmental organizations that rescue people at sea.
    "I did well to block the N.G.O. ships, I stopped not only the smuggling of illegal immigrants but, from that which emerges, also toxic waste," he wrote on Twitter. He concluded with the hashtag "closedports."

    Mr. Salvini, whose party rose to power this year on promises to crack down on immigration, has tapped into a deep reserve of frustration and anger on the issue, with many Italians feeling their country has been inundated with arrivals, and left to fend for itself by the European Union.
    His Security Decree, explicitly tying the safety of Italians to reducing migration, is working its way through the Italian Parliament. This month, he tore down a migrant camp near a Roman train station that opened at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015.

    He has kept up his hard line against what he has called an "army of fake refugees," even as he sought to soften his image last week by going to a military airport near Rome to welcome a group of 51 migrants, mostly women with children, evacuated from Libya via Niger by the United Nations refugee agency.
    "For women and children in difficulty, the only way to arrive is by plane, not by inflatable dinghy, because the dinghies are operated by criminals who in exchange for trafficking in human beings, buy weapons," Mr. Salvini said.
    The interior minister has in recent weeks begun to aim most of his rhetorical fire at the European Union, especially as the number of migrant arrivals has plummeted.
    Mr. Salvini has taken credit for that decline, but his critics have instead attributed it to deals that Marco Minniti, his predecessor in the previous, center-left government, reached with militias in Libya, where many migrants embark on their way to Italy. (Mr. Minniti also worked to restrict the operations of rescue ships, and was also criticized by humanitarian groups.)

    But Mr. Salvini has given even more authority to the Libyans. Humanitarian groups have decried the larger role for Libya, saying that its treatment of migrants falls far short of acceptable standards.
    The United Nations refugee agency has noted that while the number of arrivals is way down, people who set out to cross the Mediterranean to Europe have been twice as likely to die in the attempt this year than they were in 2017.
    The Aquarius had run into several problems since it became the focus of Italy's ire, including the revocation of its registration by Panama in September.
    But the announcement on Tuesday that Italy would seize the Aquarius the next time it entered Italian waters constituted a major escalation. The government also seized some Doctors Without Borders bank accounts, the group said.
    "After two years of judicial investigations, bureaucratic obstacles, disgraceful and never confirmed accusations of collusion with human traffickers, now we have been accused of belonging to a waste trafficking criminal organization," said Karline Kleijer, who is in charge of emergency services for Doctors Without Borders.
    "It is the extreme and troubling attempt to stop, at whatever cost, our search-and-rescue missions at sea."
    The group said that it had always followed standard procedures and that the relevant authorities had never raised any concerns about its practices since it began its missions in 2015. It said it would cooperate fully with Italian authorities.

    "The only crime we see in the Mediterranean today is the total dismantlement of the search-and-rescue system," said Gabriele Eminente, the general director of Doctors Without Borders in Italy.
    "Today," he said, political pressure had led the Aquarius to be "blocked in the port of Marseille."


    9) Why Are We Still So Fat?
    Only bariatric surgery reliably leads to long-term weight loss. Now scientists hope to duplicate the effects with a pill.

    Whenever I see a photo from the 1960s or 1970s, I am startled. 
    It's not the clothes. It's not the hair. It's the bodies. So many people were skinny.
    In 1976, 15 percent of American adults were obese. Now the it's nearly 40 percent. No one really knows why bodies have changed so much. 
    Scientists do a lot of hand-waving about our "obesogenic environment" and point to favorite culprits: the abundance of cheap fast foods and snacks; food companies making products so tasty they are addictive; larger serving sizes; the tendency to graze all day.
    Whatever the combination of factors at work, something about the environment is making many people as fat as their genetic makeup permits. Obesity has always been with us, but never has it been so common.

    Everyone — from doctors to drug companies, from public health officials to overweight people themselves — would love to see a cure, a treatment that brings weight to normal and keeps it there. Why hasn't anyone discovered one? 
    It's not for lack of trying.
    Yes, some individuals have managed to go from fat to thin with diets and exercise, and have kept off the weight. But they are the rare exceptions. Most spend years dieting and regaining, dieting and regaining, in a fruitless, frustrating cycle.
    There is just one almost uniformly effective treatment, and it is woefully underused: only about 1 percent of the 24 million American adults who are eligible get the procedure.
    That treatment is bariatric surgery, a drastic operation that turns the stomach into a tiny pouch and, in one version, also reroutes the intestines. Most who have it lose significant amounts of weight — but many of them remain overweight, or even obese.

    Their health usually improves anyway. Many with diabetes no longer need insulin. Cholesterol and blood pressure levels tend to fall. Sleep apnea disappears. Backs, hips and knees stop aching.
    There are not nearly enough surgeons or facilities to operate on all the obese people who might be helped by bariatric surgery, noted Randy Seeley, director of the nutrition research center at the University of Michigan. 
    And many patients and doctors persist in thinking — all evidence to the contrary — that if overweight people really set their minds to it, they could get thin and stay thin.
    Scientists got an unsparing look at what they were up against 50 years ago, when a clinical researcher at Rockefeller University, Dr. Jules Hirsch, did some old-fashioned experiments. He recruited obese people to stay at the hospital and subsist on a 600-calorie a day liquid diet until they reached a normal weight.
    The subjects lost 100 pounds on average, and they were thrilled. But as soon as they left the hospital, the pounds piled back on.
    Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Rudy Leibel, now at Columbia University, repeated the study again and again, with the same result. Eventually, they found that when a very fat person diets down to a normal weight, he or she physiologically comes to resemble a starving person, craving food with an avidity that is hard to imagine.
    The lesson never really penetrated the popular consciousness. Just a couple of years ago, Kevin Hall, a senior investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, made headlines with a study of contestants from the Biggest Loser television show. They lost enormous amounts of weight, he found, but rarely could keep it off.

    Obesity's genetic connection was conclusively demonstrated in the 1980s in a series of papers showing that body weight is strongly inherited, almost as strongly as height. Children adopted as infants ended up with weights like those of their biological parents. Twins reared apart ended up with nearly identical body weights.
    It was beginning to look hopeless for obese people.

    Then, in 1995, Dr. Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University discovered what looked like the equivalent of insulin for diabetes — a molecule he called leptin that is secreted by fat cells and tells the brain how much fat the body has.
    Leptin signals some sort of master controller in the brain. If a person is too thin — according to what the brain perceives as an acceptable weight — the brain signals that person to eat.
    In fat people, that controller is set too high: their brains make sure they stay fat.
    The drug company Amgen paid Rockefeller and Dr. Friedman $20 million for rights to leptin, hoping to develop it as an obesity treatment. The idea was to give leptin to obese patients so their brains would think they had too much fat. 
    If it worked, they ought to lose their appetites and drop pounds. By tailoring leptin injections, doctors might even fine-tune a person's weight.
    To everyone's chagrin, leptin fizzled. Most people did not respond to leptin injections by losing weight. But leptin was a key to unlocking a complex network of hormones and brain signals that control body weight.

    The problem was that no single target seemed to make much difference in weight loss.
    "I think of eating as a survival mechanism," said Dr. John Amatruda, a consultant and former executive at Bayer and Merck while trying to develop weight-loss drugs. "You need to eat, so our bodies are wired to have complex systems that are redundant."
    The hope now is to figure out how to have the benefits of bariatric surgery without the surgery. The operation alters the body's orchestra of hormones and signals, among them leptin but also many others. 
    Afterward, tastes change. Many patients no longer crave the high-calorie foods that used to sate them. Many find they are no longer are ravenously hungry.
    Might those effects be mimicked with a drug? Many researchers are trying, although most drug companies have dropped out of the obesity market, seeing no truly effective treatments on the horizon. 
    Even when drugs have been approved, they are rarely used. That's not surprising, Dr. Amatruda said, because obesity medications on the market are either minimally effective for most people or have significant side effects — or both.
    Dr. Seeley remains optimistic that a drug will be found. He studies mice and rats, giving them bariatric surgery and trying to untangle the web of biochemical changes that follow. 
    "We think we have good clues," he said, "but nothing is far enough along."
    For now, researchers wish people — including fat people themselves — would stop blaming the obese for their problem.

    "This idea that people should eat less and exercise more — if only it were so simple," Dr. Hall said.


    10) The Price Tag of Migrant Family Separation: $80 Million and Rising
    By Caitlin Dickerson, November 20, 2018

    Casa Presidente, a shelter for migrant children in Brownsville, Tex. The government has spent $80 million on its now-abandoned practice of separating migrant families in detention.

    The federal government has spent $80 million to care for and reunite migrant children who were separated from their parents by immigration authorities, a figure that continues to grow months after the policy ended because more than 140 children are still in custody.
    The first official price tag on family separations — which ended abruptly in June in the face of widespread public opposition — comes to about $30,000 per child. That data, along with new details on the children who remain mired in the policy’s lingering effects, were handed over last week by the Health and Human Services Department to members of Congress, who shared the report with The New York Times.
    “That is outrageous,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that pays for the shelter program that houses the separated children. She said the government could have more productively used the money on other efforts.
    “It has been at least seven months since the Trump administration began traumatizing thousands of families and they still have not fully resolved this tragedy,” Ms. DeLauro said.

    Among the uncertainties that remain is what will become of the children who are still in federal detention, apart from their families because of various legal and logistical hurdles.
    The parents of 30 of the children have been declared “ineligible” for reunification based on their criminal histories, though immigrant advocates have argued that some parents were unfairly included based on old or minor convictions that would not affect their ability to safely care for their own children.
    The remaining 117 detained children all have parents who were deported without them, according to the report. A variety of volunteers and nongovernment organizations working with the federal government have been trolling through remote parts of Central America to try to find the parents — 11 of whom have not yet been located.
    Of those who have been found, seven parents asked that their children be returned home. Those deportations were still pending as of Nov. 6, when the report was drafted. A total of 99 parents had waived their rights to reunification and left their children in the United States alone, presumably fearing what the child could face if sent home. For most families, that means violence, severe poverty, or both.
    Evelyn Stauffer, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services, said that the agency “takes its duty to care for all children referred to its care and custody with the utmost seriousness.” She added that the agency was still working to reunify the children with their parents or place them with sponsors, and that 92 percent had been discharged thus far. Those children who could not be placed with sponsors will remain in the agency’s care “until their day in immigration court, or until they turn 18,” Ms. Stauffer said.

    Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented separated parents in court, said that he would continue to push for the government to provide resources to the families.
    “It’s now been five months since the court issued the injunction and still there are many children sitting by themselves in government facilities,” Mr. Gelernt said. “Unfortunately, there’s still a lot more work to do to reunify all the children, and then we will need to get these families medical help to deal with the trauma caused by the separation.”
    Family separations came as a result of a Trump administration plan — known as “zero tolerance” — to prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally. As a result, adults who were traveling with children had to be separated from them, because children cannot be held in criminal custody.
    The policy quickly drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, and Mr. Trump reversed it just two months after it was formally announced. In late June, a federal judge in San Diego, in the case brought by the A.C.L.U., ordered the government to reunify all of the families.
    The report was the latest of several reviews of the separations policy. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general issued a report stating that the agency had begun its enforcement effort when it was “not fully prepared to implement the administration’s zero tolerance policy or to deal with some of its aftereffects.”
    Among other problems, the report said, the agency failed to keep records of the locations of parents and children after they were separated, making reunifications more difficult, and violated rules that limit the amount of time that children can be held in processing centers along the border.
    second report, published in October by the Government Accountability Office, said that the Trump administration did not tell key government agencies about the zero tolerance policy before publicly announcing it in April, leaving the officials responsible for carrying it out unprepared to handle the consequences.

    Robert Pear contributed reporting.


    11) 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.”


    12) 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.’”



    Posted by: bonnieweinstein@yahoo.com

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