Judge grants latest appeal for Mumia Abu-Jamal, in part

By Kristen Johanson, December 27, 2018

Mumia Abu-Jamal Granted New Rights to Appeal
By Rachel Wolkenstein

On December 27, 2018, Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker granted Mumia's petition for new appeal rights, over the opposition of "progressive DA" Larry Krasner. 

This is the first Pennsylvania state court decision in Mumia's favor since he was arrested on December 9, 1981.  

In his decision Judge Tucker ruled former PA Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille, who was the District Attorney during Mumia's first appeal of his frame-up conviction and death sentence, "created the appearance of bias and impropriety" in the appeal process when he didn't recuse himself from participating in Mumia's appeals. Judge Tucker relied heavily on Ronald Castille's public statements bragging that he would be a "law and order" judge, that he was responsible for 45 men on death row, that he had the political and financial support of the Fraternal Order of Police, and new evidence of Castille's campaign for death warrants for convicted "police killers." The appearance of bias and  lack of "judicial neutrality" exhibited by Castille warranted his recusal.

Judge Tucker's order throws out the PA Supreme Court decisions from 1998-2012 that rubber-stamped Mumia's racially-biased, politically-motivated murder conviction on frame-up charges of the shooting death of police officer Daniel Faulkner . 

Judge Tucker's decision means that Mumia Abu-Jamal's post-conviction appeals of his 1982 conviction must be reheard in the PA appeals court. In those appeals Mumia's lawyers proved that Mumia was framed by police and prosecution who manufactured evidence of guilt and suppressed the proof of his innocence. And, he was tried by a racist, pro-prosecution trial judge, Albert Sabo, who declared, "I'm gonna help them fry the nigger" and denied Mumia other due process trial rights.

The new appeals ordered by Judge Tucker open the door to Mumia Abu-Jamal 's freedom. Abu-Jamal's legal claims and supporting evidence warrant a dismissal of the frame-up charges that have kept him imprisoned for 37 years, or, at the very least, a new trial. 

The international campaign for Mumia Abu-Jamal's freedom has launched a new offensive. At the top of its actions is a call for letters and phone calls to DA Larry Krasner demanding he not appeal Judge Tucker's order granting new appeal rights to Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Tell DA Larry Krasner: Do NOT Appeal Judge Tucker's Decision Granting Mumia Abu-Jamal New Appeal Rights!

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner
Three South Penn Square
Corner of Juniper and South Penn Square
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3499



Here's an online petition to sign and share widely.
Mumia Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence in the 1981 fatal shooting of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His prosecution was politically-motivated because of his Black Panther Party membership, his support of the MOVE organization and as a radical journalist. His 1982 trial and subsequent 1995 PCRA appeals were racially biased: the prosecution excluded African Americans from the jury; and PCRA trial Judge Albert Sabo, the same judge in Abu-Jamal's initial trial, declared, "I'm gonna help them fry the n----r." On Dec. 27, Mumia Abu-Jamal won a significant case before Judge Leon Tucker in a decision granting him new rights of appeal. Tell Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:  We call on you to do the right thing.  Do not stand in the way of justice.  Do not appeal Judge Tucker's decision. As a progressive attorney you ran for Philadelphia District Attorney on a platform that included standing "for justice, not just for convictions."  You promoted reviewing past con



Artwork by Kevin "Rashid" Johnson

Save the date: 
January 26, 2019, 9:00 P.M. broadcast of 48 Hours on CBS
for a two-hour television interview with Kevin Cooper and others about his case.



Statement: Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech

The International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity issued the following statement on 23 December, signed by 155 distinguished academics and human rights advocates.

Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech
Cartoon by Carlos Latuff (a signatory of this statement)

Petition Text

Statement issued by the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity:
We, the undersigned, oppose the coordinated campaign to deny academics their free speech rights due to their defense of Palestinian rights and criticism of the policies and practices of the state of Israel. Temple University in Philadelphia, USA and the University of Sydney, Australia have been under great pressure to fire, respectively, Marc Lamont Hill and Tim Anderson, both senior academics at their institutions, for these reasons. Steven Salaita and Norman Finkelstein have already had their careers destroyed by such attacks. Hatem Bazian, Ahlam Muhtaseb, William Robinson, Rabab Abdulhadi and others have also been threatened.
The ostensible justification for such action is commonly known as the "Palestinian exception" to the principle of free speech. One may freely criticize and disrespect governments – including one's own – religions, political beliefs, personal appearance and nearly everything else except the actions and policies of the state of Israel. Those who dare to do so will become the focus of well-financed and professionally run campaigns to silence and/or destroy them and their careers.
We recognize that much of the free speech that occurs in academic and other environments will offend some individuals and groups. However, as has been said many times before, the answer to free speech that some may find objectionable is more free speech, not less. We therefore call upon all academic institutions, their faculty and students, as well as the public at large, to resist such bullying tactics and defend the free speech principles upon which they and all free societies and their institutions are founded.


























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.

Courage to Resist -- Support the Troops who Refuse to Fight!
484 Lake Park Ave. #41, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-488-3559
couragetoresis.org -- facebook.com/couragetoresist







Abu-Jamal Wins New Right to Appeal

By Rachel Wolkenstein

 On December 27, Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker granted Mumia's petition for new appeal rights, over the opposition of "progressive DA" Larry Krasner. 

This is the first Pennsylvania state court decision in Mumia's favor since he was arrested on December 9, 1981.  

 In his decision Judge Tucker ruled former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille, who was the District Attorney during Mumia's first appeal of his frame-up conviction and death sentence, "created the appearance of bias and impropriety" in the appeal process when he didn't recuse himself from participating in Mumia's appeals. Judge Tucker relied heavily on Ronald Castille's public statements bragging that he would be a "law and order" judge, that he was responsible for 45 men on death row, that he had the political and financial support of the Fraternal Order of Police, and new evidence of Castille's campaign for death warrants for convicted "police killers." The appearance of bias and lack of "judicial neutrality" exhibited by Castille warranted his recusal.

Judge Tucker's order throws out the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions from 1998-2012 that rubber-stamped Mumia's racially-biased, politically-motivated murder conviction on frame-up charges of the shooting death of police officer Daniel Faulkner. 

Judge Tucker's decision means that Mumia Abu-Jamal's post-conviction appeals of his 1982 conviction, that he was framed by police and prosecution who manufactured evidence of guilt, suppressed the proof of his innocence and tried by racist, pro-prosecution trial Judge Albert Sabo who declared, "I'm gonna help them fry the nigger."   and denied him other due process trial rights must be reheard in the Pennsylvania appeals court. 

The new appeals ordered by Judge Tucker opens the door to Mumia Abu-Jamal's freedom. Abu-Jamal's legal claims and supporting evidence warrant an appeal decision of a new trial or dismissal of the frame-up charges that have kept him imprisoned for 37 years. 

The international campaign for Mumia Abu-Jamal's freedom has launched a new offensive. At the top of its actions is a call for letters and phone calls to DA Larry Krasner demanding he not appeal Judge Tucker's order granting new appeal rights to Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Tell DA Larry Krasner: Do NOT Appeal Judge Tucker's Decision Granting Mumia Abu-Jamal New Appeal Rights!

Email: DA_Central@phila.gov, Tweet: @philaDAO, Phone: 215-686-8000
Mail: Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner
3 S. Penn Square, Corner of Juniper and S. Penn Square
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3499

Write to Mumia at:
Smart Communications/PA DOC
SCI Mahanoy
Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Listen to a radio report at Black Agenda Report:



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).

Kevin Johnson D.O.C. No. 264847
G-20-2C Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Rd.
Pendleton, IN 46064-9001



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

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



Major George Tillery
April 25, 2018-- The arrest of two young men in Starbucks for the crime of "sitting while black," and the four years prison sentence to rapper Meek Mill for a minor parole violation are racist outrages in Philadelphia, PA that made national news in the past weeks. Yesterday Meek Mills was released on bail after a high profile defense campaign and a Pa Supreme Court decision citing evidence his conviction was based solely on a cop's false testimony.
These events underscore the racism, frame-up, corruption and brutality at the core of the criminal injustice system. Pennsylvania "lifer" Major Tillery's fight for freedom puts a spotlight on the conviction of innocent men with no evidence except the lying testimony of jailhouse snitches who have been coerced and given favors by cops and prosecutors.

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

Homicide detectives and prosecutors threatened Claitt with a false unrelated murder charge, and induced him to lie with promises of little or no jail time on over twenty pending felonies, and being released from jail despite a parole violation. In addition, homicide detectives arranged for Claitt, while in custody, to have private sexual liaisons with his girlfriends in police interview rooms.
In May and June 2016, Emanuel Claitt gave sworn statements that his testimony was a total lie, and that the homicide cops and the prosecutors told him what to say and coached him before trial. Not only was he coerced to lie that Major Tillery was a shooter, but to lie and claim there were no plea deals made in exchange for his testimony. He provided the information about the specific homicide detectives and prosecutors involved in manufacturing his testimony and details about being allowed "sex for lies". In August 2016, Claitt reaffirmed his sworn statements in a videotape, posted on YouTube and on JusticeforMajorTillery.org.
Without the coerced and false testimony of Claitt there was no evidence against Major Tillery. There were no ballistics or any other physical evidence linking him to the shootings. The surviving victim's statement naming others as the shooters was not allowed into evidence.
The trial took place in May 1985 during the last days of the siege and firebombing of the MOVE family Osage Avenue home in Philadelphia that killed 13 Black people, including 5 children. The prosecution claimed that Major Tillery was part of an organized crime group, and falsely described it as run by the Nation of Islam. This prejudiced and inflamed the majority white jury against Tillery, to make up for the absence of any evidence that Tillery was involved in the shootings.
This was a frame-up conviction from top to bottom. Claitt was the sole or primary witness in five other murder cases in the early 1980s. Coercing and inducing jailhouse informants to falsely testify is a standard routine in criminal prosecutions. It goes hand in hand with prosecutors suppressing favorable evidence from the defense.
Major Tillery has filed a petition based on his actual innocence to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Larry Krasner's Conviction Review Unit. A full review and investigation should lead to reversal of Major Tillery's conviction. He also asks that the DA's office to release the full police and prosecution files on his case under the new  "open files" policy. In the meantime, Major Tillery continues his own investigation. He needs your support.
Major Tillery has Fought his Conviction and Advocated for Other Prisoners for over 30 Years
The Pennsylvania courts have rejected three rounds of appeals challenging Major Tillery's conviction based on his innocence, the prosecution's intentional presentation of false evidence against him and his trial attorney's conflict of interest. On June 15, 2016 Major Tillery filed a new post-conviction petition based on the same evidence now in the petition to the District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit. Despite the written and video-taped statements from Emanuel Claitt that that his testimony against Major Tillery was a lie and the result of police and prosecutorial misconduct, Judge Leon Tucker dismissed Major Tillery's petition as "untimely" without even holding a hearing. Major Tillery appealed that dismissal and the appeal is pending in the Superior Court.
During the decades of imprisonment Tillery has advocated for other prisoners challenging solitary confinement, lack of medical and mental health care and the inhumane conditions of imprisonment. In 1990, he won the lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens, that forced the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) to end double celling (4 men to a small cell) at SCI Pittsburgh, which later resulted in the closing and then "renovation" of that prison.
Three years ago Major Tillery stood up for political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and demanded prison Superintendent John Kerestes get Mumia to a hospital because "Mumia is dying."  For defending Mumia and advocating for medical treatment for himself and others, prison officials retaliated. Tillery was shipped out of SCI Mahanoy, where Mumia was also held, to maximum security SCI Frackville and then set-up for a prison violation and a disciplinary penalty of months in solitary confinement. See, Messing with Major by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Major Tillery's federal lawsuit against the DOC for that retaliation is being litigated. Major Tillery continues as an advocate for all prisoners. He is fighting to get the DOC to establish a program for elderly prisoners.
Major Tillery Needs Your Help:
Well-known criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio represents Major pro bonoin challenging his conviction. More investigation is underway. We can't count on the district attorney's office to make the findings of misconduct against the police detectives and prosecutors who framed Major without continuing to dig up the evidence.
Major Tillery is now 67 years old. He's done hard time, imprisoned for almost 35 years, some 20 years in solitary confinement in max prisons for a crime he did not commit. He recently won hepatitis C treatment, denied to him for a decade by the DOC. He has severe liver problems as well as arthritis and rheumatism, back problems, and a continuing itchy skin rash. Within the past couple of weeks he was diagnosed with an extremely high heartbeat and is getting treatment.
Major Tillery does not want to die in prison. He and his family, daughters, sons and grandchildren are fighting to get him home. The newly filed petition for Conviction Review to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office lays out the evidence Major Tillery has uncovered, evidence suppressed by the prosecution through all these years he has been imprisoned and brought legal challenges into court. It is time for the District Attorney's to act on the fact that Major Tillery is innocent and was framed by police detectives and prosecutors who manufactured the evidence to convict him. Major Tillery's conviction should be vacated and he should be freed.

Major Tillery and family

    Financial Support—Tillery's investigation is ongoing. He badly needs funds to fight for his freedom.
    Go to JPay.com;
    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:
    The Conviction Review Unit should investigate Major Tillery's case. He is innocent. The only evidence at trial was from lying jail house informants who now admit it was false.
    Call: 215-686-8000 or

    Write to:
    Security Processing Center
    Major Tillery AM 9786
    268 Bricker Road
    Bellefonte, PA 16823
    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!

    Art by Leonard Peltier
    Write to:
    Leonard Peltier 89637-132
    USP Coleman 1,  P.O. Box 1033
    Coleman, FL 33521



    Working people are helping to feed the poor hungry corporations! 
    Charity for the Wealthy!







    December 29, 2018

    Dear Comrades and Friends Across the Globe:

     On December 27, 2018, in a historic action, Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker granted Mumia's petition for new appeal rights, over the opposition of "progressive DA" Larry Krasner. 
    This is the first Pennsylvania state court decision in Mumia's favor since he was arrested on December 9, 1981.  The new appeals ordered by Judge Tucker open the door to Mumia Abu-Jamal's freedom. The legal claims and supporting evidence, previously denied in the PA Supreme Court with Justice Ronald Castille's participation, warrant a dismissal of the frame-up charges that have kept Mumia imprisoned for 37 years, or, at the very least, a new trial. 

     It is critical that Mumia can go forward immediately with these appeals. However, DA Larry Krasner has the authority to appeal Judge Tucker's decision. Krasner's position, to the surprise of many who had described him as the "new kind" of district attorney, more bent toward justice than mere conviction, with a history of defending dissident activists, been adamant in his opposition to Mumia' petition.  His legal filings, court arguments, and his statements on public radio have all argued that there is no evidence of Justice Castille's bias or the appearance of impropriety when he refused to recuse himself in Mumia's PA Supreme Court appeals from 1998-2012 (!).

     If the prosecution appeals, there will follow years of legal proceedings on the validity of Judge Tucker's order before Mumia can begin the new appeal process challenging his conviction. .Mumia is now 64 years old. He has cirrhosis of the liver from the years of untreated hepatitis C. He still suffers from continuing itching from the skin ailment which is a secondary symptom of the hep-C. Mumia now has glaucoma and is receiving treatment. He has been imprisoned for almost four decades.  An extended appeals process coming at the age of 64 to a person whose health had already been seriously compromised is the equivalent of a death sentence by continued incarceration.    

    We are asking you to join us in demanding that Larry Krasner stop acting in league with the Fraternal Order of Police. Mumia should be freed from prison, now!  We are asking you to call, email or tweet DA Larry Krasner TODAY and tell him: DO NOT Appeal Judge Tucker's Decision Granting New Rights of Appeal to Mumia Abu-Jamal.

    In his decision, Judge Tucker ruled that former PA Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille, who was the District Attorney during Mumia's first appeal of his frame-up conviction and death sentence, had "created the appearance of bias and impropriety" in the appeal process when he didn't recuse himself from participating in Mumia's appeals. Judge Tucker relied heavily on Ronald Castille's public statements bragging that he would be a "law and order" judge, that he was responsible for putting 45 men on death row, that he had the political and financial support of the Fraternal Order of Police, and in recently discovered new evidence that Castille had particularly campaigned for immediate death warrants of convicted "police killers".  Judge Tucker states unequivocally that the appearance of bias and lack of "judicial neutrality" exhibited by Castille warranted his recusal. 

    Judge Tucker's order throws out the PA Supreme Court decisions from 1998-2012 that rubber-stamped Mumia's racially-biased, politically-motivated murder conviction on frame-up charges of the shooting death of police officer Daniel Faulkner. 

     Judge Tucker's decision means that Mumia Abu-Jamal's post-conviction appeals of his 1982 conviction must be reheard in the PA appeals court. In those appeals Mumia's lawyers proved that Mumia was framed by police and prosecution who manufactured evidence of guilt and suppressed the proof of his innocence. And, he was tried by a racist, pro-prosecution trial judge, Albert Sabo, who declared to another judge, "I'm gonna help them fry the n----r" and denied Mumia his due process trial rights.

    We can win Mumia's freedom! We have a legal opening. It is our opportunity to push forward to see Mumia walk out of prison! The international campaign for Mumia Abu-Jamal's freedom has launched a new offensive. At the top of its actions is this call for letters and phone calls to DA Larry Krasner demanding he not appeal Judge Tucker's order granting new appeal rights to Mumia Abu-Jamal.  Please take this action today.  Please send us back your name so we can compile a list of international signers.  Also, no matter how many letters for Mumia you have signed in the past year or two, please sign this one as well.  The moment is different, and the demand of Krasner is different.  We want all possible supporters included.

    CONTACT:    Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. 
                            Phone: (215) 686-8000; Email: DA_Central@phila.gov; Tweet: @philaDAO
                            Mail: Phila. DA Larry Krasner, Three South Penn Square, Phila, PA 19107

    Tell DA Krasner:     Do Not Appeal Judge Tucker's Decision Reinstating Appeal Rights 
                                     for Mumia Abu-Jamal!

    In solidarity and toward Mumia's freedom,

    (Initiated by all the US based Mumia support organizations)
    International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; The MOVE Organization; Educators for Mumia; International Action Center; Mobilization for Mumia; Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC); Campaign to Bring Mumia Home; Committee to Save Mumia; Prison Radio, Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Oakland; Oakland Teachers for Mumia; Workers World/Mundo Obrero


    1) The Army, in Need of Recruits, Turns Focus to Liberal-Leaning Cities
    By Dave Phillips, January 2, 2019
    Army recruiters Sgt. Dira An, left, and Sgt. Julio Diaz, manned a table at a job fair in Seattle. Enlistment rates in liberal-leaning cities have tended to be low, especially when jobs are plentiful.

    SEATTLE — Army recruiters in Seattle can earn a Friday off for each new soldier they enlist. But in a city with a thriving tech industry and a long history of antiwar protests, the recruiters haven't gotten many long weekends.
    "It's no secret we're a little behind," Sgt. First Class Jeremiah Vargas, who heads the city's recruiting station, told four recruiters at a recent morning pep talk. With a week left in the month, he wrote the station's goal — five recruits — on a white board, and then the current tally: two.
    "What do we need to make mission?" he asked.
    One recruiter responded with a shrug, "A miracle."
    The Army is not quite counting on miracles, but after falling 6,500 soldiers short of its goal nationwide in 2018, it is trying a new strategy that might seem almost as unlikely.
    Rather than focus on more conservative regions of the country that traditionally fill the ranks, the Army plans a big push in 22 left-leaning cities, like Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, where relatively few recruits have signed up.

    "We want to go into Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City," Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, the head of Army Recruiting Command, said. "These are places with a large number of youth who just don't know what the military is about."
    The approach may seem like hunting for snow in Miami. But Army leaders say that all they need to attract enlistees in those cities are a surge of recruiters and the right sales pitch.
    The pitch they have used for years, playing down combat and emphasizing job training and education benefits, can work well when civilian opportunities are scarce. But it is a tough sell these days in a place like Seattle, where jobs are plentiful and the local minimum wage of $15 an hour beats the base pay for privates, corporals or specialists.

    Instead, General Muth said, the Army wants to frame enlistment as a patriotic detour for motivated young adults who might otherwise be bound for a corporate cubicle — a detour that promises a chance for public service, travel and adventure.
    "You want to do a gap year?" the general said. "Come do your gap year in the Army." (Figuratively speaking, of course: Enlistees commit to serve for two to six years.)

    For decades, Army recruiting has relied disproportionately on a crescent-shaped swath of the country stretching from Virginia through the South to Texas, where many military bases are found and many families have traditions of service. Young people there enlist at two to three times the rate of other regions.
    By contrast, in the big metropolitan areas of the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast, young people are less likely to have a parent, teacher or coach who served in the military, which can be a major factor in deciding to enlist. And in those regions, many high schools openly discourage recruiters from interacting with students.
    When the Seattle recruiters visit schools, they are sometimes met by antiwar "counter-recruiting action teams" who call attention to civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and the high rate of sexual assault in the military.
    "Legally, the high schools have to let us in, but a lot of times, they'll just ignore our calls," Sergeant Vargas said. "A lot of schools don't want us to talk to their kids. They want them to go to college, and see the military as a last resort."
    Parents can be just as leery. "They say 'Thank you for your service, but stay away from my kid,'" said Capt. Carlos Semidey, the Seattle recruiters' company commander.

    Those cold shoulders were easy to ignore when the jobless rate was above 6 percent and the Army's most dependable recruiter, Sgt. Hard Times, was driving high school graduates to enlist. But now, unemployment has fallen to 50-year lows.
    "Whenever that happens, the Army faces recruiting challenges," said David R. Segal, a sociologist who advises the military on recruiting. "But they have always doubled down on areas where they know they can get results. This is a 180-degree turn."

    The Army has begun redirecting its marketing toward digital-native urbanites and suburbanites who are eager for excitement. Out went the Army's sponsorship of a drag-racing team; in are teams of soldiers who compete in mixed martial arts, CrossFit, and competitive video gaming, or e-sports.
    Ads on network sports broadcasts are being scaled back in favor of targeted ads on Facebook and Twitch, Amazon's live-streaming gaming platform. Recruiters will soon be required, not just encouraged, to post on Instagram.
    "Kids aren't watching network TV any more," General Muth said. "They are not at the mall. And they don't answer calls from numbers they don't know. But we know they want to serve their community, so we have to start that conversation with them."
    Unlike the Army, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy were able to meet 2018 recruiting goals — in part because each requires less than half the Army's numbers.
    But squeezed by the same forces, all military branches must sweeten their enlistment deals, adding sign-up and retention bonuses and loosening medical standards on childhood conditions like asthma and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The Navy is even offering a "golden ticket" that allows some enlisted personnel to take a year off and return with the same job and rank.

    The Army has had to change tactics before to fill its ranks, and it has sometimes stumbled. Toward the end of the draft in the early 1970s, the Army updated its slogan to say "The Army wants to join you," and dispatched recruiters on motorcycles to hold "rap sessions" with prospects, talking about how the Army was loosening up on haircuts and early-morning formations, putting beer machines in barracks and teaching sergeants to not to be so square. The Marine Corps quickly made fun of the attempt at cool, and the campaign came to be reviled in the Army as well.
    This time, the Army plans to focus on blue cities with traveling interactive exhibits that showcase Army careers in health care, engineering and computing. Its sky-diving team and its touring rock band will work to draw crowds, and top brass will speak at events promoting leadership and patriotism. The Army is also putting hundreds of additional recruiters in the field and increasing enlistment bonuses.

    But some experts question whether the plans will make much of an impression on the target audience.
    "They need to see that the Army is made up of people like them," said Emma Moore, who studies Army recruiting at the Center for a New American Security, a research institute in Washington. She added, "Coders, engineers, women — there are a lot of people out there that the Army could use that don't see themselves as having a place."
    The Seattle recruiters often feel as if they are getting nowhere. Two of them stood for hours at a recent job fair in the shadow of the Space Needle without getting a single prospect. An ultimate Frisbee coach with an engineering degree stopped to talk, but he said later that he did it mostly because they "looked a little lonely."
    At a high school event later in the day, students were happy to sign up to for a skateboard raffle, but none made an appointment to meet with a recruiter.
    Even those who walk in to the recruiting station are not a sure bet. Myles Pankey, 19, fit the profile of a blue-city adventure seeker, showing up in jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. A year after graduating from one of the city's top high schools, he was working construction, which paid well but bored him. Following in his accountant father's footsteps held no appeal, he said; he wanted a challenge.
    "If I were you, I'd go infantry," Sergeant Vargas told him. "There's an $11,000 bonus right now if you can ship in a few weeks."
    They talked for more than an hour about opportunities in the Army, but Mr. Pankey said he felt pulled in many directions. His mother and father weren't crazy about him enlisting, he said. His boss, a former Special Forces soldier, had talked up the experience, but another friend who had served in Vietnam called it a terrible idea. None of his high school friends had joined, so he'd be going on his own. He finally told the sergeant he would wait a week before making up his mind.
    "I can get a good job here, but I want to serve my country," Mr. Pankey said on his way out. "I guess I have some thinking to do."


    2)  Historic Moment for Equality in India as Millions Link Arms to Form 400-Mile "Women's Wall"

    By Andrea Germanos, January 2, 2019

    Some of the women taking part in the "Women's Wall" New Year's Day event in the state of Kerala in southern India. (Photo: Twitter/@ShubhaShamim )

    A day after millions of women stood together in the Indian state to form a nearly 400-mile-long human chain to call for equality, two women made history—and sparked protests and a call for a state-wide shutdown—when they entered the Sabarimala temple in the state of Kerala in the early hours Wednesday.

    They were the first women to enter the holy Hindu site since a ban on women of menstrual age was lifted just over three months ago, as protests have blocked others from entering previously.

    The women were identified as 42-year-old Kanaka Durga and 44-year-old Bindu Ammini, who told India Today TV that the two represented "the society fighting for gender justice." Durga added, "We are not scared at all. We followed our legal right as women. We are 100 percent sure that we didn't hurt people."

    Their 3:30am, police-accompanied entrance to the temple follows the New Year's Day action called the "Women's Wall"—a 385-mile (620-kilometer ) human chain. Reuters reports that thousands took part, while other local news outlets put the number at hundreds of thousands, and other local outlets estimated the figure was in the millions.

    Organizers had expected as many as five million to take part in the government-sponsored event, which was motivated by ongoing protests carried out by the two opposition parties in the state, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress Party, who are opposed to the high court's ruling from September striking down the ban on 10- to 50-year-old girls and women from entering the temple.

    According to India's News Minute, "In what is being seen as a defining moment for feminist politics in Kerala, leaders and members from political parties, socio-political organizations, and progressive Hindu organizations, too, joined the event. There were men, too, who stood up in support and solidarity, affirming their commitment to gender equality."

    Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, for his part, called the Women's Wall a "movement for equality, gender sensitivity, and social awakening," while The Times of India framed the event as a "historic moment for gender equality."


    3) US Border Patrol Unleashes Tear Gas Against Children in Mexico

    By Jake Johnson, January 2, 2019

    An activist helps a couple of Central American migrants who were affected by the tear gas that the border police threw into Mexican territory to prevent them from crossing into the United States on January 1, 2019, in Tijuana, Mexico.

    In what human rights groups condemned as a "cruel and inhumane" act that must be independently investigated, agents with President Donald Trump's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Tuesday reportedly hit women, children, and journalists near the U.S.-Mexico border with tear gas, smoke, and pepper spray.
    According to an Associated Press photographer present at the scene, CBP agents fired "at least three volleys of gas" into Mexico at around 150 asylum-seekers who approached the border in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
    Contradicting CBP's claim that the tear gas was used to deter migrants who were throwing rocks over the border fence, the AP photographer said rocks were thrown "only after U.S. agents fired the tear gas."
    In a statement Tuesday night, Justin Mazzola, deputy director of research at Amnesty International, said CBP's actions should be viewed as part of the Trump administration's sweeping anti-immigrant agenda.
    "Using tear gas against men, women, and children seeking protection is cruel and inhumane," Mazzola declared. "There needs to be a thorough and independent investigation into the reported use of tear gas and other agents in this incident. However, this incident needs to be examined within the broader context of US policies at the border."
    "The Trump administration is defying international law and orchestrating a crisis by deliberately turning asylum-seekers away from ports of entry, endangering families who see no choice but to take desperate measures in their search for protection," he continued. "These dangerous policies must end immediately. The U.S. must welcome people safely into the country while their asylum claims are reviewed."
    CBP's use of tear gas against asylum-seekers on Tuesday marked the second time the agency has fired the chemical into Mexico over the past several weeks alone. As Common Dreams reported, CBP agents fired tear gas across the U.S.-Mexico border in late November, forcing women and children to flee "screaming and coughing."
    The Trump administration's use of chemical agents against asylum-seekers comes amid a government shutdown over the president's demand for $5 billion in border wall funding.
    While Democratic leaders have thus far rejected Trump's demand for wall money, progressive advocacy groups raised alarm in a letter last weekthat the Democrats' plan to reopen the government would still provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—which oversees CBP—with substantial funding to carry out the president's anti-immigrant agenda.
    "As much as we all desire an end to the shutdown," the groups wrote, "rewarding Trump's DHS with border barrier money is the wrong course of action, especially at a time when its personnel are tear gassing toddlers, separating and detaining families, and presiding over custodial deaths, including those of a seven-year-old girl named Jakelin and an eight-year-old boy named Felipe in Border Patrol custody just this month."
    Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep.


    4)  14-Year-Old Is Charged With Murder After Egg Prank and Fatal Crash

    By Matt Stevens, January 2, 2019

    A 14-year-old boy driving a sport utility vehicle crashed into a truck and killed a woman in Houston on Tuesday, the authorities said.

    A 14-year-old Texas boy who was said to have been throwing eggs at cars was charged with murder after he crashed into a pickup truck and killed a woman while being chased by another driver, the authorities said on Wednesday.
    Around 2:20 p.m. Tuesday, the boy was driving a tan GMC Acadia westbound with two juvenile passengers "at a high rate of speed," the Harris County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. They were being chased by a man driving a tan Lincoln after the teenagers were reportedly seen throwing eggs at other cars, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. The driver of the Lincoln displayed a semiautomatic handgun while giving chase, the statement said.
    When the teenagers in the Acadia reached the intersection of Aldine Mail Route and Aldine Westfield Road in Houston, the 14-year-older driver, whose name was not released, ran the red light and struck a Ford F-150 as the Ford was traveling southbound through the intersection, the authorities said. In video of the crash obtained by The Houston Chronicle, two vehicles come spinning into the frame; one becomes momentarily airborne before both come to rest in a crumpled, smoky heap.

    The driver of the F-150, Silvia Zavala, 45, was declared dead at the scene by paramedics, the sheriff's office said. Ms. Zavala, a single mother of two, had been visiting family for the holiday and had been out running an errand when her vehicle was struck, ABC13 Houston reported in a tweet shared by the sheriff.

    The 14-year-old driver was subsequently charged with murder and booked in the county juvenile detention center, Sheriff Gonzalez said, adding that the boy's ankle was broken as a result of the crash.
    In the meantime, the driver of the Lincoln was located by investigators and was cooperating with the authorities, the statement from the sheriff's office said.
    It was not immediately clear whether the driver of the Lincoln or anyone else connected to the episode would be charged with a crime, and it was also not known if the 14-year-old would be tried as a juvenile or as an adult. A spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to phone and email messages. The authorities said the case remained under investigation.
    Asked whether the 14-year-old had been charged as a minor or an adult, a woman who picked up the phone at the Harris County Juvenile Justice Center said she could not release that information.


    5) American Jews and Israeli Jews Are Headed for a Messy Breakup
    By Jonathan Weisman, January 4, 2019

    The events of past year brought American and Israeli Jews ever closer to a breaking point. President Trump, beloved in Israel and decidedly unloved by a majority of American Jews, moved the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, with the fiery evangelical pastors John Hagee and Robert Jeffress consecrating the ceremony. 
    In October, after the murder of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, President Trump went to that city to pay his respects. Members of the Jewish community there, in near silent mourning, came out to protest Mr. Trump's arrival, declaring that he was not welcome until he gave a national address to renounce the rise of white nationalism and its attendant bigotry.
    The only public official to greet the president at the Tree of Life was Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
    At a Hanukkah celebration at the White House last month, the president raised eyebrows and age-old insinuations of dual loyalties when he told American Jews at the gathering that his vice president had great affection for "your country," Israel.

    Yossi Klein Halevi, the American-born Israeli author, has framed this moment starkly: Israeli Jews believe deeply that President Trump recognizes their existential threats. In scuttling the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, which many Israelis saw as imperiling their security, in moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in basically doing whatever the government of Benjamin Netanyahu asks, they see a president of the United States acting to save their lives.
    American Jews, in contrast, see President Trump as their existential threat, a leader who they believe has stoked nationalist bigotry, stirred anti-Semitism and, time again, failed to renounce the violent hatred swirling around his political movement. The F.B.I. reports that hate crimes in the United States jumped 17 percent in 2017, with a 37 percent spike in crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions. 
    When neither side sees the other as caring for its basic well-being, "that is a gulf that cannot be bridged," Michael Siegel, the head rabbi at Chicago's conservative Anshe Emet Synagogue, told me recently. He is an ardent Zionist.
    To be sure, a vocal minority of Jews in Israel remain queasy about the American president, just as a vocal minority of Jews in the United States strongly support him. But more than 75 percent of American Jews voted for the Democrats in the midterm elections; 69 percent of Israelis have a positive view of the United States under Mr. Trump, up from 49 percent in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. Israel is one of the few developed countries where opinion about the United States has improved since Mr. Trump took office.
    Part of the distance between Jews in the United States and Israeli Jews may come from the stance that Israel's leader is taking on the world stage. Mr. Netanyahu has embraced the increasingly authoritarian Hungarian leader Victor Orban, who ran a blatantly anti-Semitic re-election campaign. He has aligned himself with ultranationalists like Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and a Polish government that passed a law making it a crime to suggest the Poles had any responsibility for the Holocaust.

    The Israeli prime minister was one of the very few world leaders who reportedly ran interference for the Trump administration after the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and urged President Trump to maintain his alliance with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Mr. Netanyahu's son Yair was temporarily kicked off Facebook for writing that he would "prefer" that "all the Muslims leave the land of Israel."
    Last month, with multiple corruption investigations closing in on him and his conservative coalition fracturing, Mr. Netanyahu called for a snap election in April, hoping to fortify his political standing. 
    If past is prologue, his election campaign will again challenge American Jewry's values. As his 2015 campaign came to a close, Mr. Netanyahu darkly warned his supporters that "the right-wing government is in danger — Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves," adding with a Trumpian flourish that left-wing organizations "are bringing them in buses."
    Israeli politicians — and citizens — are increasingly dismissive of the views of American Jews anyway. Evangelical Christians, ardently pro-Israel, give Jerusalem a power base in Washington that is larger and stronger than the American Jewish population. And with Orthodox American Jews aligned with evangelicals, that coalition has at least an interfaith veneer — even without Conservative and Reform Jews, the bulk of American Jewry.
    The divide between American Jews and Israeli Jews goes beyond politics. A recent law tried to reinstate the Chief Rabbinate as the only authority that can legally convert non-Orthodox Jews in Israel. Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, after the slaughter in Pittsburgh, refused to refer to the Conservative Tree of Life as a synagogue at all, calling it "a place with a profound Jewish flavor."
    Already only Orthodox Jewish weddings are legal in Israel. Reform Jews have been roughed up when praying at the Western Wall. Promises to Jewish women that the Israeli rabbinate would become more inclusive have largely led to disappointment. Last summer, the group Women of the Wall was warned that if it did not remain confined to the small, barricaded area within the "women's section," its members would be barred from praying there altogether.
    And the stalemate over Palestinian rights and autonomy has become nearly impossible to dismiss as some temporary roadblock, awaiting perhaps a new government in Jerusalem or a new leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

    The two-state solution is increasingly feeling like a cruel joke. American Jews' rabbis and lay leaders counsel them to be vigilant against any other solution, such as granting Palestinians full rights in a greater Israel, because those solutions would dilute or destroy Israel's identity as a Jewish state. Be patient, American Jews are told. Peace talks are coming. The Palestinians will have their state.
    In the meantime, the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel grows stronger on American campuses, and new voices are emerging in the Democratic Party, such as Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who are willing to speak openly about Palestinian rights and autonomy where other lawmakers have declined to do so.
    Of course, American Jews, like Israeli Jews, are not a monolith. Within the American Jewish population, there is a significant generational split on Israel that goes beyond ideology. Older American Jews, more viscerally aware of the Holocaust and connected to the living history of the Jewish state, are generally willing to look past Israeli government actions that challenge their values. Or they embrace those actions. Younger American Jews do not typically remember Israel as the David against regional Goliaths. They see a bully, armed and indifferent, 45 years past the Yom Kippur War, the last conflict that threatened Israel's existence.
    American Jewry has been going its own way for 150 years, a drift that has created something of a new religion, or at least a new branch of one of the world's most ancient faiths.
    In a historical stroke with resonance today, American Jewish leaders gathered in Pittsburgh in 1885 to produce what is known as the Pittsburgh Platform, a new theology for an American Judaism, less focused on a Messianic return to the land of Israel and more on fixing a broken world, the concept of Tikkun Olam. Jews, the rabbi behind the platform urged, must achieve God's purpose by "living and working in and with the world."
    For a faith that for thousands of years was insular and self-contained, its people often in mandated ghettos, praying for the Messiah to return them to the Promised Land, this was a radical notion. But for most American Jews, it is now accepted as a tenet of their religion: building a better, more equal, more tolerant world now, where they live.
    Last summer, when a Conservative rabbi in Haifa was hauled in for questioning by the Israeli police after he officiated at a non-Orthodox wedding, it was too much for Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the umbrella organization of the Conservative movement in North America.

    "I do not believe we can talk about a 'gap' between Israel and the Diaspora," Rabbi Wernick wrote in a letter to the Israeli government. "It is now a 'canyon.'"
    My rabbi in Washington, Daniel Zemel, said in despair during Kol Nidre, the Yom Kippur evening service, this fall: "For the first time in my life, I feel a genuine threat to my life in Israel. This is not an external threat. It is an internal threat from nationalists and racists."
    He implored his congregation to act before it is too late, to save Israel from itself.
    But Israelis want nothing of the sort. American Jews don't serve in the Israeli military, don't pay Israeli taxes and don't live under the threat of Hamas rocket bombardments. And many American Jews would not heed Rabbi Zemel's call. 
    Zionism divided American Jewry for much of the latter 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Those divisions remained in the early decades of the Jewish state, fading only with the triumph of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and the peril of the Yom Kippur War.
    Now many American Jews, especially young American Jews, would say, Israel is Israel's problem. We have our own.
    There are roughly 6.5 million Jews in Israel. There are roughly 5.7 million Jews in America. Increasingly, they see the world in starkly different ways.
    The Great Schism is upon us.
    Jonathan Weisman is a veteran Washington journalist, deputy Washington editor at The Times and author of the novel "No. 4 Imperial Lane" and the nonfiction book "(((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump."


    6) Cuba's Next Transformation
    By Jon Lee Anderson, January 5, 2019

    A banner in Santiago de Cuba marking the 60th anniversary of the Cuban revolution and vowing to uphold its spirit.

    On the 60th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, which the ruling Communist Party celebrated on Tuesday, the island nation is stable, having overcome such existential threats as the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and a half-century of diplomatic isolation and withering economic sanctions imposed by the United States. 
    Cuba has also weathered the collapse of the Soviet Union, its main Cold War benefactor, and a slew of traumatic internal ructions including the Mariel boatlift in 1980 and the Cuban raft exodus in 1994. Last but not least, Cuba has managed its first major political transitions, following the death in 2016 of its defining leader, Fidel Castro; the presidential retirement, last year, of his younger brother, Raúl Castro; and Raúl's succession in office by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, a 58-year-old Communist Party loyalist.
    For the first time since 1959, in other words, Cuba is ruled by someone other than a Castro, and it has handled the transition without the drama or bloodshed that many other revolutionary states have experienced after the death of their patriarchs.

    Fidel Castro in 1964.

    The Cuban Communist system shows no sign of collapse. But the internal struggle over whether to have more democracy or continued dictatorship is well underway in Cuba, although it is not couched in those terms.

    How that struggle is resolved will determine the nation's future. Although most of the debate is conducted in a rhetoric that is almost liturgical in its strictures, there is a growing space for differing points of view. It is increasingly clear that Cuban society is no longer — if it ever was — a homogeneous bloc of revolutionary workers willing to simply applaud or fall silent at the decisions of their leaders.
    In a possible sign of change, Cubans will vote next month on a new Constitution to replace the country's Cold War-era charter. Several hundred changes were made to the draft to incorporate the views of Cubans who were consulted on proposed reforms. Not all of the changes are progressive: In response to apparent widespread public demand, a clause was dropped that would have explicitly allowed same-sex marriage; another alteration reinstated language that describes Cuba's ultimate political goal as "advancing toward communism."

    Souvenirs for sale to foreign tourists at Morro Castle, a fort built in 1589 to guard Havana's harbor against invasions.

    There was also public pushback against a draft law prohibiting the accumulation of private property. In response, the government agreed to a compromise in which state regulators will decide what property can be owned case by case. Another recent decree that has generated resistance seeks to impose a system of prior official approval for cultural performances and of censorship of art determined to have "immoral or vulgar" content or which "misuses patriotic symbols." The government has agreed to step back aspects of the law.
    This wrangling underscores the evolving struggle over the nature of the Cuban state. Some of the concerns raised about the draft Constitution clearly reflect the will of older Cubans, many of whom are socially conservative, have spent most of their lives living under Communism and constitute a growing percentage of the population. Other concerns point to the emerging self-confidence and clout of younger Cubans, increasing numbers of whom are involved in the country's new economy, known as cuentapropismo — or self-employed work, which was authorized and significantly expanded during Raúl Castro's presidency.

    A private storefront in Havana. "Cuentapropistas" and their employees represent nearly 600,000 of the country's work force.

    Nowadays, cuentapropismo accounts for the work of nearly 600,000 people (about 13 percent of Cuba's work force) and arguably constitutes the most vibrant, innovative and lucrative part of the nation's economy. The tendency of the government, though, has been to try to slow down its growth. Recently, private taxi drivers went on an informal strike, an almost unheard-of action, after the government announced nettlesome new regulations for such drivers as well as plans for more public transportation.

    A main concern of the government is how to sustain an economy that had a dismal 1.4 percent growth rate last year and how to maintain its free education and health systems as well as its food security and housing and job programs while balancing the budget. 
    But though most of the news coming out of Cuba nowadays is about economics, it is peppered with items that have an out-of-time quality. In December, for instance, there were headlines about how Cubans were going to get 3G on their mobile phones, an event prosaic in most Western countries but huge for Cubans, who were not allowed even to own cellphones until 2008, when Raúl Castro decreed that they could.

    The government allowed Cubans to own cellphones in 2008.

    Another notable bit of news at year's end was that Cuba reached a new high in tourist visitors: 4.75 million. That figure is nearly double that of just four years ago, when President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced their diplomatic breakthrough, which restored relations between the United States and Cuba after a half-century's rupture.
    In contrast to the Obama administration, the Trump administration has adopted a posture of hostility toward Cuba, imposing sanctionsintended to deny financial investment in or assistance to Cuban businesses and institutions, including some tourist hotels and resorts, in which the Cuban military or intelligence services have a stake. 
    Relations between Washington and Havana have also deteriorated as a result of mysterious "sonic attacks" that have affected several dozen American and Canadian diplomats on the island since late 2016, bringing about a virtual shutdown of the United States diplomatic presence in Cuba. The State Department has moved its consular services for Cubans to its embassy in Guyana, 2,000 miles away. In the fall, the national security adviser, John Bolton, castigated Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as a "troika of tyranny" and vowed to enact polices that would help bring down their governments.

    Fidel Castro being interviewed by a New York Times reporter in 1964.

    While Cuba's official relationship with the United States remains precarious, the contacts between ordinary Cubans and Americans have generally deepened and improved. That Cubans are now able to own their own businesses and to travel — something that required official permission just a decade ago — means that they are less isolated and freer than they used to be.

    All of this bodes well for the future of Cuba, although its rulers still need to be convinced that freedom of speech, assembly, art, literature and media is not to be feared. They will also need to continue to be shrewd in their dealings with the United States to avoid a repetition of the sort of containment polices that isolated them during the Cold War, and which are being used again today to isolate Nicolás Maduro's regime in Venezuela.

    Fidel Castro, arm raised, entering Havana in January 1959.

    At a time when the United States can no longer lay claim to being the democratic bastion it once was, Cuba has an opportunity to compete, albeit on a much smaller scale. In much of the world, and for all its faults, Cuba is respected for its pluck in standing up to the American behemoth over the last half-century. Cuba is also beloved and admired for its international medical assistance program, for its prowess in music and dance, in art and in athletics. But such achievements are not enough to keep the island going.
    To exist in a way that is not only about survival, Cuba needs to find a new role for itself. It can begin by seeking to avoid taking sides in a newly polarized world order. 
    Most immediately, that means rethinking its relationship with Venezuela and Nicaragua. Both are countries with which Cuba has longstanding ties and much shared history, but which have become increasingly repressive and are no longer friends to be proud of. Cuba need not betray its friends in order to do the right thing: It could deploy its considerable political and diplomatic resources to take a leadership role in ensuring that the political transitions necessary in Venezuela and Nicaragua be peaceful ones. 
    Cuba's rulers also need to continue to open up. Just as it did 60 years ago with a revolution that, for better or worse, helped reshape the modern world, Cuba can once again choose its own path, and once again be a leader among nations. It can choose to be more democratic. Now that would be truly revolutionary.

    Lee Anderson is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of "Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life."


    7) France: 'Yellow Vest' Protesters Storm Ministry in Paris
    By Al Jazeera, January 6, 2019

    Demonstrators turned up in Paris on Saturday. (photo: Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu)

    Protests involving 50,000 turn violent in French cities as demonstrators smash into ministry with a forklift in Paris.

    ellow vest" protesters clashed with police in several French cities, smashing their way into a government ministry in Paris with a forklift.
    Benjamin Griveaux - a government spokesman evacuated from his ministry in central Paris on Saturday when a handful of protesters in high-visibility vests smashed down the large wooden door to the ministry compound - denounced the break-in as an "unacceptable attack on the Republic".
    "Some yellow vest protesters and other people dressed in black ... got hold of a construction vehicle which was in the street nearby and smashed open the entrance gate to the ministry," he told the AFP news agency.
    They briefly entered the courtyard where they smashed up two cars, broke some windows and then escaped, Griveaux added, saying police were trying to identify them from security footage.
    The Interior Ministry put the number of protesters who took to the streets across France at 50,000, compared with 32,000 on December 29 when the movement appeared to be weakening after holding a series of weekly Saturday protests since mid-November.
    French President Emmanuel Macron did not specifically refer to the forklift incident, but tweeted his condemnation of the "extreme violence" against "the Republic, its guardians, its representatives and its symbols".
    Police said about 3,500 demonstrators turned up on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Saturday morning.
    Some then made their way south of the river to the wealthy area around Boulevard St Germain, where they set light to a car and several motorbikes and set up burning barricades, prompting police to fire tear gas to try and disperse them.
    Police said 35 people were arrested.
    Nationwide protests
    As many as 2,000 people were in Rouen, northwest of Paris, where some set up burning barricades. One protester was injured and at least two others were arrested, police said.
    About 4,600 protesters hit the streets of the southwestern city of Bordeaux, with some hurling stones at police who answered with tear gas and water cannon.
    Five police were hurt and 11 people arrested, local authorities said, adding several cars were torched and shop windows broken.
    Further south in Toulouse, 22 people were arrested following clashes that erupted after 2,000 people turned out to demonstrate.
    And in the central-eastern city of Lyon, several thousand took to the streets, blocking access to the A7 motorway and causing traffic jams for those returning from Christmas holidays in the mountains.


    8) There's a Toxic Weed Killer on the Menu in K-12 Schools Across the US
    By Caroline Cox, January 6, 2019
    Glyphosate has been found in over 70 percent of oat-based breakfast cereals served in US schools.
    Glyphosate has been found in over 70 percent of oat-based breakfast cereals served in US schools.

    Many parents cheered about 10 years ago when Michelle Obama took on the important task of improving school meals. Of course, every child should have a healthy lunch and breakfast. Most of us have school cafeteria stories; I still remember the feeling of failure I had decades ago when I realized my daughters never had time to eat more than their dessert before joining the stampede for recess.
    Ms. Obama's work — and the work of many other concerned parents, teachers and staff — sparked significant improvements in school menus, some of which are now being undone by the current administration (allowing children to eat food with more salt and less whole grain). Schools must once again take another step forward.
    If you haven't met glyphosate (Roundup) yet, allow me to introduce you. Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the US. Its use has skyrocketed during the last 20 years because of the popularity of genetically-modified crops that are tolerant of this weed killer. Health concerns about glyphosate have also skyrocketed since 2015, when the World Health Organization evaluated its ability to cause cancer.
    Glyphosate's evaluation as a probable carcinogen is scary and was recently validated by a jury that awarded a school groundskeeper a multimillion-dollar judgment against Monsanto/Bayer because he had developed cancer after years of Roundup use. The decision has paved the way for thousands of other cancer patients and families to seek justice and compensation in court.
    Glyphosate is now in most of us: Recent biomonitoring studies have detected it in the urine samples of 70 to 93 percent of the US population.
    Even scarier, recent research has demonstrated that glyphosate can disrupt our body's hormones, those vital molecules that manage growth, development, behavior, sex and more.
    Exposing children, with their developing bodies, to a chemical that can cause cancer and hormone dysfunction is wrong. It's especially wrong for children simply eating breakfast at school, who often are from low-income families. This fact has spurred the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health (CEH), where I serve as the senior scientist, to measure glyphosate contamination in breakfast cereals and bars served at schools. Although our study was small, the results were striking.
    We found significant contamination in 70 percent of the products we tested, including big name brands like Quaker, whose glyphosate contamination was more than six times the safety threshold developed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Cheerios, whose glyphosate contamination was more than five times the EWG safety threshold.
    Our findings corroborate a growing list of recent studies demonstrating the presence of glyphosate in children's foods, including preliminary findings by CEH in August, as well as those by the EWGMoms Across AmericaFood Democracy Now and the Food and Drug Administration.
    Because our study was small, and there is not much government testing of glyphosate contamination in popular grocery items, there may be other contaminated products at your school or grocery store. We just don't know. We did recently find glyphosate contamination in King Arthur bread flour. King Arthur is the fourth-largest seller of flour in the country, consumed by approximately 16.61 million Americans this year. King Arthur bread flour is used for more than just baking bread, the company also claims "it strengthens whole-grain pastries, makes cookies crispier, and when combined with all-purpose flour, creates chewier pizza crusts and more tender muffins." If we found it in commonly sold wheat flour, where else might it be?
    Fortunately, there is a straightforward way to reduce the amount of glyphosate that our students consume. Certified organic foods are grown without glyphosate and the ones that we have tested are uncontaminated. Thus, we are asking schools to buy these organic cereals and bars. Some organic food is more expensive than conventionally grown food, but even a partial switch reduces the amount of this pesticide that students are eating and increases the market for organics, setting up the economies of scale that will lower prices.
    Further, switching to organic cereals in the short term and advocating for stronger chemical regulation in the long term is beneficial to all eaters, especially people who are exposed to the highest levels of pesticides because of their work, such as groundskeepers and farmworkers.
    What can parents do? Here are three steps to help protect you and your family:
    1. Buy organic cereals for your family whenever they are affordable and available for you.
    2. Ask your children's schools to add organic cereals to their menus. For advice about effective ways to do this, contact us at food@ceh.org.
    3. Tell the CEO of General Mills to get rid of glyphosate in Cheerios and other cereal products by switching to organic oats. Children aren't test subjects and parents deserve warning labels.
    Monsanto (now Bayer) made hundreds of millions of dollars in 2017 from herbicide sales. We need to demand a change. Cancer-causing chemicals do not belong in children's meals, whether served at home, at school or a child care center.
    This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
    Caroline Cox is the senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health. She has been writing about glyphosate hazards since the 1990s.


    9) "Prison Reform" Is Not Enough. In 2019, Let's Fight for Decarceration.
    By Dan Berger, January 2, 2019
    Radical critics of the prison system have a difficult but familiar task in the coming year.
    Radical critics of the prison system have a difficult but familiar task in the coming year.

    Prison reform is now in vogue, but police power remains as brutal as ever. Policing in the US continues to include the power to cage as well as the power to kill — a reality that is spectacularly evident at the southern US border. By all accounts, 2019 promises to be another brutal year in the arena of prisons and policing.
    President Trump signed the First Step Act in late December, while threatening a government shutdown to secure funding for a border wall. The act makes it easier for some federal prisoners to seek early release, widens federal judicial discretion in some low-level sentencing issues and limits some mandatory minimum sentences in federal cases.
    It is a limited reform program, less because federal prisoners account for just over 10 percent of the prison system and more because the crafters of the bill had such limited ambitions. The Koch-backed act defines reform through expanded "e-carceration," the use of surveillance technologies like ankle monitors that turn people's homes into their prisons.
    This move follows similar efforts at the state level. In eliminating cash bail, for instance, California implemented similar digital surveillance and algorithmic "risk assessment." The move led many activists who had campaigned against cash bail to withdraw their support for the bill before it passed.
    The growing significance of e-carceration is not the only warning sign about how politicians broker criminal legal reform. In Florida, the incoming Republican governor and some state legislators are threatening to block the will of nearly two-thirds of the state's electorate by refusing to honor a ballot initiative that called for the restoration of voting rights to 1.5 million formerly incarcerated people.
    Reaction is also on the march in St. Louis, where assistant prosecutors joined a police union in seeming protest of the election of reform-minded City Council member Wesley Bell to the district attorney position. Bell, the first Black person elected as St. Louis County prosecutor, defeated Bob McCulloch, the district attorney whose cavalier approach to the shooting of Michael Brown led officer Darren Wilson to escape accountability for the killing.
    The dangers of repression are, as always, most cruelly applied in prison, where new waves of crackdown preceded the midterm election. Around the country, many participants in the 2018 national prison strike were placed in solitary confinement or faced other repercussions for demandingbetter health care, wages and union representation for labor, the restoration of voting rights and other basic human rights. Bowing to the prison guard union, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections implemented harsh censorship restrictions over the summer, even if activists forced them to scale back the severity.
    To repression action must be added the cynical danger of opportunism. Several Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls routinely but vaguely call for "criminal justice reform." Among the most consistent voices in this vein is California Sen. Kamala Harris, who spent her time as a prosecutor and state attorney general upholding "tough on crime" laws when it came to the drug war and the struggles of incarcerated people. Her grim record pales next to that of another 2020 contender, former Vice President Joe Biden, who championed harsh sentencing laws as a senator throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Even without such baggage, other likely 2020 candidates, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, have pledged "reform" without substance.
    Radical critics of the prison system, including abolitionists and grassroots organizers in and out of prison, have a difficult—but familiar—task in 2019. It involves at least three simultaneous efforts. First, we need to advance our own policy platforms that can supplant the narrowness of the current prison reform agenda with an emphasis on mass decarceration, community reinvestment, full civil and human rights for currently and formerly incarcerated people, and non-punitive approaches to harm. Doing so means growing across movements as well as bringing new people into the fold.
    Second, we need to expose and exploit the fault lines within the extreme center in the hopes of channeling sincere efforts into transformative change and undermining the cynical and failed policies of right-wing prison reform. That requires monitoring and challenging the contemporary reform agenda.
    Finally, we need to both push for a seat at the table—especially for currently and formerly incarcerated people—while changing the table itself. Now is the time to hold people's feet to the fire, not genuflect at the halls of power.
    It is all easier said than done, of course, but it is also already in process. The Movement for Black Lives platform (as well as a recent robust critique of the First Step Act) and the demands from the 2018 national prison strike are both excellent models of crafting the kind of policy platforms we need. So too is the push for a Green New Deal, which remains the most promising example of federal criminal legal reform, even though it does not (yet) make any mention of criminal legal issues. The full employment and just transition vision of the Green New Deal offer far more promising avenues to reduce the country's reliance on policing and incarceration than much of what transpires under the mantle of prison reform.
    The federal government is likely to remain a lost cause for the foreseeable future. There's little chance of enacting progressive legislation regarding criminalization in a sphere governed by people so fully committed to the carceral state. More to the point, the most significant action remains at the state and local level, where almost 90 percent of those incarcerated are held, and where people are most likely to encounter police or other agents of the carceral state. That is why local, rural jail expansion—often funded by the federal government—threatens to grow the number of people incarcerated while many people fawn over the passage of a tepid federal reform package.
    As always, the path toward decarceration, reinvestment and transformation requires fighting on multiple fronts simultaneously: pushing back against the hardliners, pushing beyond what the extreme center will allow and pushing for the changes we really need. While this stance may seem familiar, it will require greater urgency and clarity as "prison reform" occupies center stage


    10)  Where 518 Inmates Sleep in Space for 170, and Gangs Hold It Together
    By Aurora Allmendral, January 7, 2019\

    Detainees in Manila City Jail, where most are still awaiting trial, and may stay for months or even years before that happens.CreditCreditHannah Reyes Morales for The New York Times

    MANILA — For some inmates of the Manila City Jail, making the bed means mopping up sludgy puddles, unfolding a square of cardboard on the tile floor and lying down to sleep in a small, windowless bathroom, wedged in among six men and a toilet.
    On one recent night at the jail, in Dorm 5, the air was thick and putrid with the sweat of 518 men crowded into a space meant for 170.
    The inmates were cupped into each other, limbs draped over a neighbor’s waist or knee, feet tucked against someone else’s head, too tightly packed to toss and turn in the sweltering heat.

    Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent antidrug campaign began in 2016, Philippine jails have become increasingly more packed, propelling the overall prison system to the top of the World Prison Brief’s list of the most overcrowded incarceration systems in the world.

    In the Manila City Jail, sleep is the most precious commodity.
    If an inmate has money, he can buy a spot in a “kubol,” a small, improvised cubicle shared by two or more men, separated from the crowds with plywood walls and a curtain.

    Otherwise, it’s the floor, or perhaps a bathroom, or on a stairway fashioned from two-by-fours; if an inmate falls off one of those steps, he takes everyone below with him.
    Few of these inmates have been convicted — most are pretrial detainees — but many will spend months or even years in the jail because the court system is so jammed.
    The overcrowding has gone on for so long, and the detainees outnumber the guards by so many, that a tacit agreement between officials and jailhouse gangs has become the rule.
    The gangs are technically illegal, but they help keep things from melting down into chaos and often help stretch scarce jail resources to keep inmates fed, officials and inmates said.

    Some officials are blunt about how bad things have gotten.
    “When you are detained in Philippine jails, you are being tortured,” said Leah Armamento, a member of the Philippine government’s Commission on Human Rights.

    She was referring to a 2015 finding by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, which called for urgent action to address overcrowding.
    The Philippine judicial system is riddled with inefficiencies, and there is a culture of bribery and structural incentives for judges and lawyers to move slowly, despite a constitutional right to a speedy trial, said Raymund Narag, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University who studies Philippine jails.
    One inmate, a boy who left home after his family disowned him for being gay, was arrested in April 2017 on accusations of shouting in public and carrying a concealed knife.
    He was 15 years old at the time, he said, but the arresting officers put down a date of birth suggesting he was over 18, and he was taken to Manila City Jail.
    Now 16, his case was resolved two months after his arrest, when the prosecutor requested his release after a dental exam proved he was a minor. But the jail has not received a final order for his release from the Social Welfare Department.

    Lost amid a culture of institutional indifference, he has been in jail for a year and nine months — far surpassing the sentence he would have received had he actually been convicted, which would have been as little as a $4 fine or 15 days in jail.

    The boy, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, said that he wanted to be released, of course, but that he did not know how to make that happen.
    “Nobody is helping me,” he said.
    Mr. Narag, the professor, spent six years as a pretrial detainee in a Philippine jail himself, before finally being acquitted in 2002. He was a lawyer by training, and climbed the jail gang hierarchy to become a high-ranking “mayor de mayores,” or mayor of mayors.
    The slow justice system and the elaborate social world of the jail are related, Mr. Narag explained.
    “You stay so long inside the jail you need to develop a coping mechanism to survive,” he said.
    Accordingly, he said, compared with places like the United States, the Philippine jails have become “much more communal, so the cell becomes a family inside.”
    The gangs are those families, and officials concede that an informal agreement to share governance keeps them from losing control of the jail.
    On a recent shift at the Manila City Jail, there was one correctional officer for every 528 inmates. The Philippine government recommends a ratio of one for every seven inmates.

    “There’s an equilibrium of peace and order here,” said Capt. Jayrex Bustinera, the spokesman and chief of records for the jail. “Formally, we don’t allow inmates to police other inmates. Informally, we do because of a lack of resources.”

    One inmate, Buboy Mendiola, 37, heads up the Sigue Sigue Sputnik gang, and also oversees an informal prison economy, where earnings are pooled to fund the needs of his group — one of the five main gangs that functionally govern the jail from within.
    In a recent raid, jail administrators found that the Sputnik gang’s treasury held 720,000 pesos, or about $13,700. Mr. Mendiola bought pigs and hundreds of chickens for the Sputniks’ Christmas feast last month.
    And he keeps a fund for medical emergencies and basic needs for the dorm, like soap and toothpaste, he said.
    “Boredom lets the devil into your mind,” Mr. Mendiola said. He said he worried that if the men weren’t occupied, they could start causing trouble.
    There is fighting, which cannot be avoided living in such close quarters, but it can be somewhat policed, he said.
    In the Sputniks, getting into a fistfight will be punished with five lashes, and if someone draws blood, that number jumps to 15 or 20.
    Approach another inmate’s visitor without invitation and get 20 lashes. Wink at someone else’s visitor, and it’s 25.

    “It’s the kind of thing that starts rumbles,” Mr. Mendiola said.
    The beatings are conducted with a lacquered wooden bat, painted with “SPUTNIK No. 1” on one side and “CMDR. BUBOY MENDIOLA” on the other.
    After six years at Manila City Jail, Mr. Mendiola’s lawyer recently told him that his time would be ending in a few months and that he would be acquitted of his crime. He is working with a secret council of his deputies to find the next commander.
    “Someone godly,” Mr. Mendiola said, “who cares about people, wants to do the right thing and is judicious in his discipline.”


    11) ‘It’s Just Too Much’: A Florida Town Grapples With a Shutdown After a Hurricane
    By Patricia Mazzel, January 7, 2019

    Damage from Hurricane Michael lingers throughout Marianna, Fla. The government shutdown has made things worse for many residents.

    MARIANNA, Fla. — A federal prison here in Florida’s rural Panhandle lost much of its roof and fence during Hurricane Michael in October, forcing hundreds of inmates to relocate to a facility in Yazoo City, Miss., more than 400 miles away.
    Since then, corrections officers have had to commute there to work, a seven-hour drive, for two-week stints. As of this week, thanks to the partial federal government shutdown, they will be doing it without pay — no paychecks and no reimbursement for gas, meals and laundry, expenses that can run hundreds of dollars per trip.
    “You add a hurricane, and it’s just too much,” said Mike Vinzant, a 32-year-old guard and the president of the local prison officers’ union.
    If nature can be blamed for creating the first financial hardship, the second is the result of the even less predictable whims in Washington: President Trump warned last week that the shutdown might last “months or even years.”

    In Florida, where Republicans dominated the November midterms and the state’s only Democratic senator went down in defeat, conservative towns like Marianna — along with farm communities in the South and Midwest, and towns across the country that depend on tourism revenue from scaled-back national parks — will help measure the solidity of public support for Mr. Trump and his decision to wager some of the operations of the federal government on a border wall with Mexico.
    Jim Dean, Marianna’s city manager, said he had already been concerned, even before the shutdown, that the hurricane would prompt public agencies to consider reducing their footprint in the region. What if an extended shutdown contributed to keeping the prison closed indefinitely?
    “I worry about the government pulling out of rural America,” he said.
    This, after all, is one of many towns across the country where private industries are few and the federal government is intimately connected to livelihoods. Wedged near the border with Alabama and Georgia, Marianna’s 7,000 residents depend on the federal medium-security prison to employ nearly 300 people in good-paying jobs with attractive benefits. (The prison once housed Lynette Fromme — a Charles Manson disciple, known as Squeaky, who tried to assassinate former President Gerald Ford — as well as members of a spy ring known as the Cuban Five.)

    And the prison isn’t the only federal benefactor. The United States Department of Agriculture provides crucial assistance to farmers, many of whom plant cotton or peanuts or raise cattle.

    “The U.S. Department of Agriculture office is currently closed, due to the lapse in federal government funding,” read a printout taped to the door of a local U.S.D.A. office on Friday. “The office will reopen once funding is restored.”
    The phone rang occasionally in the office next door. A federal worker who was working without pay patiently explained to frustrated callers that no, she could not connect them to the person they needed to talk to, because that employee was furloughed for the shutdown.


    12)  California Today: How PG&E Lobbied for Wildfire Protection
    By Jill Cowan, January 8, 2019

    Smoke rises next to a power line tower after the Camp Fire moved through the area.

    After California’s deadliest wildfire all but wiped out the town of Paradise and killed 86 people in November, calls have risen for Pacific Gas & Electric to be held financially accountable for any role the company may have played in sparking the blaze.
    More fires have been traced to equipment owned by the utilities, but in 2017, legislators moved to protect the companies from bearing the cost, arguing that the companies otherwise risked bankruptcy. Utilities are seeking the same thing for 2018.
    My colleague Ivan Penn, who covers energy, wrote about how those moves by lawmakers followed extensive lobbying pushes by PG&E and other utilities. I asked him about what that means. 
    Jill Cowan: What are the stakes if PG&E goes bankrupt? Are we talking about a loss of power? Or would that come at a later point?

    Ivan Penn: A PG&E bankruptcy would create challenges for the utility, its shareholders and customers, but those problems would relate more to economics. The operator of the state’s electric grid has said that a PG&E bankruptcy would not affect the reliability of the system. Bankruptcy could increase customer rates as the utility faced higher costs to borrow money.
    You wrote that PG&E spent more lobbying in Sacramento in the first nine months of 2018 than the top spender in all of 2017. How did that stack up compared with the state’s other major utilities? 
    PG&E spent twice as much on lobbying as Southern California Edison and more than six times that of Sempra Energy.
    Is it realistic to move away from the investor-owned utility model? 
    It is possible to move away from the investor-owned utility model. We see that in the growth in government-run programs, known as community choice. Regulators are reviewing possible changes in how PG&E operates.
    Your story started with an anecdote about how, as wildfires ravaged the state, a dozen lawmakers were meeting with top power company officials at an annual retreat — on Maui. Californians might want to know whether their reps were there. Who were the legislators?

    Those attending the gathering included the assembly members Tom Daly, Frank Bigelow, Bill Brough, Jim Cooper, Heath Flora, Jim Frazier, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Freddie Rodriguez, Blanca Rubio and the majority leader Ian Calderon, as well as Senators Ben Hueso and Cathleen Galgiani, according to the Independent Voter Project, which organized the event.
    These lawmakers are members of the budget, appropriations, energy, public safety and insurance committees.


    13) How Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor
    By Matthew Sheer, January 8, 2019

    Brian Howell at the home of his girlfriend, Jessica Woods, in Corinth. Howell was incarcerated for $1,250 in fines and court costs for three unpaid traffic tickets.

    n a muggy afternoon in October 2017, Jamie Tillman walked into the public library in Corinth, Miss., and slumped down at one of the computers on the ground floor. In recent years, Tillman, who is slight and freckled, with reddish blond hair that she often wears piled atop her head, had been drifting from her hometown, Nashville — first to southern Tennessee, to be with a boyfriend and their infant son, and then, after she and the boyfriend split, across the state border to Corinth to look for work.The town, to Tillman, represented a chance for a turnaround. If she was able to get a part-time job at a big-box store, she could put a deposit on a rental apartment and see a psychiatrist for what she suspected was bipolar disorder. She could take steps toward regaining custody of her son from her boyfriend’s mother. “I needed to support myself,” she told me recently. But potential employers weren’t calling her back, and Tillman was exhausted. In the hushed calm of the library, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
    When she awoke, a pair of uniformed police officers were standing over her. “I was terrified,” she recalled. “I couldn’t figure out what was happening.” (Library patrons had complained about her behavior.) Ignoring Tillman’s protests that she wasn’t drunk — she was just scared and tired, she remembers saying — the officers handcuffed her wrists behind her back and took her to the jail in Corinth to await a hearing on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication. Five days later, clad in an orange jumpsuit, her wrists again cuffed, Tillman found herself sitting in the gallery of the local courthouse, staring up at the municipal judge, John C. Ross.
    Tillman did her best to stay calm. She had been arrested on misdemeanor charges before — most recently for drug possession — and in her experience, the court either provided defendants with a public defender or gave them the option to apply for a cash bond and return later for a second hearing. “But there was no lawyer in this courtroom,” Tillman says. “There was no one to help me.” Instead, one after another, the defendants were summoned to the bench to enter their pleas and exchange a few terse words with Ross, a white-haired, pink-cheeked Corinth native who dismissed most of them with the same four words: “Good luck to you.” Many of the defendants were being led back out the way they came, in the direction of the jail.
    Around 11 a.m., the judge read Tillman’s name. She stood. “Ms. Tillman, you’re here on a public drunk charge,” Ross said. “Do you admit that charge or deny it?”

    Tillman told me that she thought she had no choice but to plead guilty — it was unlikely, she believed, that the judge would take her word over that of the arresting officers. “I admit, your honor,” she said. “I just want to get me out of here as soon as possible.” Under Mississippi state law, public intoxication is punishable by a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail. Ross opted for the maximum fine. Tillman began to cry.
    The Federal Reserve Board has estimated that 40 percent of Americans don’t have enough money in their bank accounts to cover an emergency expense of $400. Tillman didn’t even have $10. She couldn’t call her family for help. She was estranged from her father and from her mother, who had custody of Tillman’s two young daughters from a previous relationship.

    “I can’t — ” Tillman stammered to Ross. “I can’t — ”
    Ross explained the system in his court: For every day a defendant stayed in the Alcorn County jail, $25 was knocked off his or her fine. Tillman had been locked up for five days as she awaited her hearing, meaning she had accumulated a credit of $125 toward the overall fine of $255. (The extra $155 was a processing fee.) Her balance on the fine was now $130. Was Tillman able to produce that or call someone who could?
    “I can’t,” Tillman responded, so softly that the court recorder entered her response as “inaudible.” She tried to summon something more coherent, but it was too late: The bailiff was tugging at her sleeve. She would be returned to the jail until Oct. 14, she was informed, at which point Ross would consider the fine paid and the matter settled.
    That night, Tillman says, she conducted an informal poll of the 20 or so women in her pod at the Alcorn County jail. A majority, she says, were incarcerated for the same reason she was: an inability to pay a fine. Some had been languishing in jail for weeks. The inmates even had a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” Tillman’s face crumpled. “I thought, Because we’re poor, because we’re of a lower class, we aren’t allowed real freedom,” she recalled. “And it was the worst feeling in the world.”

    No government agency comprehensively tracks the extent of criminal-justice debt owed by poor defendants, but experts estimate that those fines and fees total tens of billions of dollars. That number is likely to grow in coming years, and significantly: National Public Radio, in a survey conducted with the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Center for State Courts, found that 48 states increased their civil and criminal court fees from 2010 to 2014. And because wealthy and middle-class Americans can typically afford either the initial fee or the services of an attorney, it will be the poor who shoulder the bulk of the burden.
    “You think about what we want to define us as Americans: equal opportunity, equal protection under the law,” Mitali Nagrecha, the director of Harvard’s National Criminal Justice Debt Initiative, told me. “But what we’re seeing in these situations is that not only are the poor in the United States treated differently than people with means, but that the courts are actually aggravating and perpetuating poverty.”
    Why they do so is in part a matter of economic reality: In areas hit by recession or falling tax revenue, fines and fees help pay the bills. (The costs of housing and feeding inmates can be subsidized by the state.) As the Fines and Fees Justice Center, an advocacy organization based in New York, has documented, financial penalties on the poor are now a leading source of revenue for municipalities around the country. In Alabama, for example, the Southern Poverty Law Center took up the case of a woman who was jailed for missing a court date related to an unpaid utility bill. In Oregon, courts have issued hefty fines to the parents of truant schoolchildren. Many counties around the country engage in civil forfeiture, the seizure of vehicles and cash from people suspected (but not necessarily proven in court) of having broken the law. In Louisiana, pretrial diversion laws empower the police to offer traffic offenders a choice: Pay up quickly, and the ticket won’t go on your record; fight the ticket in court, and you’ll face additional fees.
    “What we’ve seen in our research is that the mechanisms vary, depending on the region,” says Joanna Weiss, co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. “But they have one thing in common: They use the justice system to wring revenue out of the poorest Americans — the people who can afford it the least.” Aside from taxes, she says, “criminal-justice debt is now a de facto way of funding a lot of American cities.”
    The jailing of poor defendants who cannot pay fines — a particularly insidious version of this revenue machine — has been ruled unconstitutional since a trio of Supreme Court cases spanning the 1970s and early 1980s. The first, Williams v. Illinois, involved a petty thief who was forced to remain in prison to pay off a fine, even after he had served his term. The second, Tate v. Short, hinged on a man in Texas named Preston Tate, who was assessed $425 in fines for several traffic violations. Because Tate couldn’t make the payments, a judge sentenced him to 85 days in jail — the amount of time it would take him, at a rate of $5 a day, to pay his entire fine. Tate took his case to the Supreme Court, which found that the punishment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which requires that the government not discriminate on criteria like race or background. The court found that Tate was imprisoned “solely because of his indigency.”
    In a majority opinion for an analogous case from 1983, Bearden v. Georgia, in which a man received probation and a fine when he pleaded guilty to burglary and theft, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor called it “fundamentally unfair” to send him to prison for nonpayment without “considering whether adequate alternative methods of punish[ment]” — like community service or a payment plan — were available. To do otherwise was to deprive a person of his freedom simply because he happened to be poor.

    Still, decades after those cases were decided, the practice of jailing people who cannot pay persists, not least because Supreme Court decisions do not always make their way to local courts. “Precedent is one thing,” says Alec Karakatsanis, executive director of Civil Rights Corps, a Washington-based nonprofit. “The way a law is written is one thing. The way a law is actually experienced by poor people and people of color is another.”
    Moreover, Karakatsanis argues, jailing poor defendants has proved to be an effective way of raising money. By threatening a defendant with incarceration, a judge is often able to extract cash from a person’s family that might otherwise be difficult to touch. “A typical creditor,” he says, “can’t put you in a steel cage if you can’t come up with the money.”
    In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union detailed evidence of what it calls “modern-day ‘debtors’ prisons’ ” — essentially, courts operating in the same way as Judge Ross’s in Corinth — in Georgia, Michigan, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington State. “If you spent a few weeks driving from coast to coast, you might not find similar policies in place in every single county,” Sam Brooke, the deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s economic-justice program, told me. “But every other county? Probably. This is a massive problem, and it’s not confined to the South. It’s national.”
    In 2014, in the wake of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., President Barack Obama’s Justice Department opened two investigations into policing in the city. Among the findings, released the following spring, was evidence that the city had been routinely jailing residents for failure to pay criminal-justice-related debt and that “the court’s practices impose unnecessary harm, overwhelmingly on African-American individuals.” In 2016, the Justice Department issued what is known as a “dear colleague” letter, reminding courts that they are obligated to take into consideration a defendant’s financial standing before levying fines. Although not legally binding, the letter was met with approval from many civil rights activists, as was the willingness of states including New Hampshire and Illinois to proactively train judges and clerks on the pertinent legal precedents.

    The “dear colleague” letter, along with two dozen others, has since been rescinded by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that his predecessors overstepped their bounds and that it should be left to Congress to arrive at solutions through legislation. “Last month, I ended the longstanding abuse of issuing rules by simply publishing a letter or posting a web page,” Sessions said in a statement in December 2017. Any guidance, he went on, that “improperly goes beyond what is provided for in statutes or regulation should not be given effect.”
    But Congress has been slow to act — no current major bill addresses the jailing of poor defendants. “At this point, I’m convinced that sunlight — a lot of it — is going to have to be the solution,” Brooke told me.
    In recent years, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations, including the A.C.L.U. and Karakatsanis’s Civil Rights Corps, have been filing class-action lawsuits against dozens of courts across the South and Midwest and West, arguing that local courts, in jailing indigent defendants, are violating the Supreme Court rulings laid down in Williams, Tate and Bearden. The lawsuits work: As a settlement is negotiated, a judge typically agrees to stop jailing new inmates for unpaid fines or fees. “No one wants to admit they’ve knowingly acted in this manner,” says Brooke, who partnered with Karakatsanis on lawsuits in Alabama and filed several elsewhere in the South. “So they tend to settle quickly.” The trouble is locating the offending courts.

    In January 2017, two S.P.L.C. staff members, Micah West, a senior staff attorney, and Sara Wood, a senior paralegal, drove from the organization’s headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., to Southern Mississippi, to look into claims that the state was suspending — without due process — the licenses of thousands of residents for failure to pay overdue traffic tickets. For a couple of days, West and Wood made visits to various D.M.V.s and court offices. But even when they could get someone to talk to them, the clerk was sometimes unable or unwilling to share any details of individual suspensions. “Eventually, I was like, ‘All right, let’s save ourselves some time,’ ” West recalled. “So we got out a map, and we started calling every place on it.” One morning, his finger landed on the city of Corinth.
    A Municipal Court staff member picked up on the third ring. “Could you answer a question for me?” West asked the woman. “I’m wondering what would happen if I was unable to pay a speeding ticket. Would I lose my driving license?”
    “What do you mean?” she responded. And then: “You’d go to jail.”
    Corinth occupies an important place in Mississippi history. During the Civil War, the South lost two bloody battles trying to defend the rail lines that bisected the city, which Confederate leaders regarded as second only to Richmond, their capital, in terms of strategic importance. Today the rails remain, as do the battlefield and a handful of grand antebellum homes, but driving around the area, you get a sense that the place has been hollowed out. As of 2016, a quarter of the 14,600 residents, 70 percent of whom are white, lived at or below the federal poverty line (about $12,000 in annual income for an individual).
    Drug use is endemic — primarily opioids and methamphetamine. So, too, are the hallmarks of a specific kind of rural, Southern poverty: stray dogs in the streets, sun-blasted trailers that seem to be sinking back into the earth, yards occupied by rusting school buses and old sedans. “You grow up around here, and you have two options,” one resident told me. “You can either get the hell out, go on up to Tupelo or wherever. Or you stay and try to figure out a way to live without having the cops on you all the time. Which sure ain’t easy.”

    Corinth’s infrastructure runs so leanly as to be almost invisible: There are no public buses, and Alcorn County recently announced that it would stop funding the local railroad museum. Tax rates in Corinth have dropped slightly in recent years, while the percentage of revenue generated by criminal-justice-related debt has grown. According to the annual audit submitted by Corinth to the state, in fiscal year 2017, the year Jamie Tillman was arrested for public intoxication, general fund revenues for the city were just $10.8 million. Total revenue for the year was $20.3 million, half of which came from taxes; close to $7 million came from “intergovernmental revenue,” or grants and funds from the state and federal authorities. And approximately $623,000 came from what the city defines as “fines and forfeitures.”
    The Corinth city clerk declined to answer questions about the breakdown of the budget or how the revenue from fines compares with those of neighboring towns, referring questions to the city attorney, Wendell Trapp, who did not respond to emails seeking comment. But a report completed in 2017 by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights offers some answers. Combing Census Bureau data and city audit documents, the commission noted that of nearly 4,600 American municipalities with populations above 5,000, the median received less than 1 percent of their revenue from fines and fees. But a sizable number of cities, like Doraville, Ga., or Saint Ann, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, have reported fines-and-fees revenue amounting to 10 percent or more of total municipal income.
    Corinth’s revenue from fines in 2017 was 5.7 percent of its general fund revenues, putting it — if not quite at the Saint Ann level — at the high end when compared with the municipalities in the Commission on Civil Rights’s report. When I sent Joanna Weiss, of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, a copy of the 2017 Corinth audit, she noted that this would be dismaying enough in itself. “But you can also see,” she added, “that the biggest expenditure, by far, for the city of Corinth is public safety” — including court and police services, or the very people extracting the fines.

    In 2017, Micah West and Sara Wood of the S.P.L.C. drove to Corinth to open an investigation into the Municipal Court, with an eye toward later filing a lawsuit — the most effective way, they believed, to halt Judge John C. Ross’s jailing of low-income defendants. During court sessions, they would often walk down the hall to the clerk’s office, where defendants were permitted to use a landline phone to make a final plea for the cash that would set them free. The space amounted to an earthly purgatory: Secure the money, and you were saved. Fail, and you’d be sent to jail. “All around us, people would be crying or yelling, getting more and more desperate,” Wood recalled.
    That October, she watched a 59-year-old man named Kenneth Lindsey enter the office, his lean arms hanging lank by his side, his face gaunt and pale. Lindsey had been in court for driving with an expired registration, but he hadn’t been able to afford the fines: He was suffering from hepatitis C and liver cancer, and he had spent the very last of his savings on travel to Tupelo for a round of chemotherapy. Until his next state disability check arrived, he was broke. “Can you help?” Lindsey whispered into the phone.
    A few seconds of silence passed. “All right, then. Thanks anyway.”
    Finally, around 1:45 p.m., Lindsey managed to get through to his sister. She barely had $100 herself, but she promised to drive it over after her shift was through.
    Wood caught up with Lindsey in the parking lot later that day, and after identifying herself, asked if he would consider being interviewed by the S.P.L.C. “I don’t know,” Lindsey said, studying the ground. But soon enough, he called Wood to say he had changed his mind. “I’ve been paying these sons of bitches all my life,” he told her. “It’s time someone did something about it.”

    Kenneth Lindsey at home in Corinth. ‘‘Maybe they should investigate why they end up picking on the same damn people all the time,’’ he said.

    Traveling around Corinth, Wood found that nearly everyone she met had experience with the local courts or could refer her to someone who did. Soon her voice mail inbox filled with messages from people who wanted to share their stories. The callers were diverse in terms of age and race. They were black and white; they were young and old. But they shared with Kenneth Lindsey a precipitous relationship to rock-bottom poverty. If not completely destitute, they were close — a part-time job away from homelessness, a food-stamp card away from going hungry.
    There was the man who couldn’t read and hadn’t said a word until he was 5 years old. Not long after his 35th birthday, he was arrested for public drunkenness. When he got in touch with Wood, he had been in jail for three days, unable to decipher the charging documents filed against him or figure out a way to access his disability check — his lone source of income.
    There was the woman, Latonya James, with a daughter who had been intentionally scalded with boiling water by her stepmother as an infant; now a teenager ashamed of the scars that covered her chest and neck, the girl had stopped going to her high school. The city charged James, then living in a home without electricity or running water, with truancy, on her daughter’s behalf, and Judge Ross ordered her to pay $100 of the $163 fine or go to jail. (She managed to scrape together the money.)

    And there was Glenn Chastain, who owed $1,200 for expired vehicle tags — and, because he had missed one hearing, was denied the chance to pay a partial fine. Chastain spent 48 days at the Alcorn County Correctional Facility. He said he was in a unit occupied by accused rapists and murderers and was beaten by inmates until his ribs were bruised and his face was a mask of blood. He smiled to show me where one of his teeth had been knocked out. (Alcorn County authorities offered no comment on the fight.)
    Starting in October, with West in Corinth and his boss, Sam Brooke, in Montgomery, the S.P.L.C. set about drafting the lawsuit, which accused Ross of “wealth-based detention.” The Corinth court had done more than violate the Constitution, the attorneys wrote. It had broken state law, which says that “incarceration may be employed only after the court has conducted a hearing and examined the reasons for nonpayment and finds, on the record, that the defendant was not indigent or could have made payment but refused to do so.” Ross, they asserted, had never bothered to ask for that information.
    A few months ago, I found Kenneth Lindsey standing on the porch of his home in Corinth, dressed in faded jeans and a shirt that was mostly unbuttoned, exposing the thin gold chain around his neck. The house had belonged to his mother, he confessed, and he hadn’t messed around much with the decorating since she died — the place, a converted double-wide trailer, was full of old family photos. He plummeted into a reclining armchair with a sigh.
    Theoretically, he explained, his liver cancer was in remission, although he acknowledged he had no concrete proof. In the time since his first conversation with Wood, he had been back and forth to jail two more times, and he had been to the hospital in Tupelo just once. “I would estimate that I’ve spent a quarter of the last year behind bars,” he told me. Could he calculate exactly what he owed? “$10,000?” he responded. “$11,000?” The way he said it, it might as well have been a million dollars. “I ain’t never going to pay it down,” he said. “Never, ever. I’m going to be paying it down until I die.”

    Rummaging in his bedroom closet, he produced a cardboard box, which he upended onto his bed. A blizzard of documents spilled out: tickets and warnings and second warnings and court summons. I picked one up at random. It dated back to 2005. “Now you’re getting the idea,” Lindsey said.
    Nearly every one of Lindsey’s court fees related, in one way or another, to his vehicle: expired registration fees, expired driver’s licenses. He couldn’t pay for the right paperwork or pay down his fines, but he couldn’t stop driving either, because driving was how he got to the auto body shop where he picked up the odd shift. Hitchhiking scared him, and he didn’t want to bother his friends more than he had to. “My pride gets in my way a lot,” Lindsey told me. “They’re not embarrassed by you wanting their help, but you are.”
    We returned to the living room. Lindsey propped open the door. It wasn’t yet bug season; a fragrant breeze blew through the room. “Maybe they should investigate why they end up picking on the same damn people all the time,” he said. “Why is it us? Tell me that: Why is it us?”

    In early December 2017, the S.P.L.C. and the MacArthur Justice Center filed their lawsuit against Corinth. That same month, the city ordered the jail emptied of all inmates incarcerated for nonpayment of fines. “There was no explanation,” says Brian Howell, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, who was then incarcerated, sitting out $1,250 in fines and court costs for three unpaid traffic tickets. “It was just, ‘All right, get up and go.’ ”
    Howell is 29, with watery blue eyes and freckled cheeks. Years ago, he was struck by a drunken driver while riding his motorcycle; he lost one leg and suffered extensive nerve and spinal damage. It is hard for him to walk, let alone play with his three children, without the aid of crutches. But the guards at the jail wouldn’t lend him a pair. Nor would they give him a ride home. The best they would offer was a lift across the street, to the gas station. From there, Howell began scooting on his buttocks along the side of the road, using his hands to haul himself forward. Soon his forearms were sore, his fingertips bloody. A police cruiser pulled up alongside him. “The guy looks over, and he just busts out laughing,” Howell recalled last spring. Howell is extremely soft-spoken, and when he told me what the cop said to him, I was certain I’d misheard. He repeated it more loudly: “He said, ‘Hell, I thought you was a damn dog.’ ”
    Later that day, as a rare early-spring snowstorm settled over Alcorn County, I drove across town to the modest home that serves as the offices and personal residence of Judge John C. Ross. The roads were empty, with all local schools and most local businesses shut, and as I pulled into Ross’s driveway, my rental car noisily skidded; by the time I’d shifted into park, the judge was at the door, a hand raised in greeting.
    “Come in, come in,” he said, without asking what I wanted. When I told him I was a reporter, he smiled broadly. “Well, you’ll have to stay at least until you’re all warmed up.”

    He led me down a hallway, past a framed drawing of the first Battle of Corinth — he found it in an old edition of Harper’s Weekly, he explained — and into the sun-washed living room that doubles as his office. On the shelves around us were history books and leather-bound novels by Hemingway. “I was an English major in college,” Ross said. He guided me to a chair. “Sit, sit, sit. Let’s talk.”
    Ross was not the only target of the lawsuit — the city of Corinth was named, too — and he had received specific instructions from attorneys not to directly discuss it. Still, there were things the judge felt he could say: Both entities, he said, had consented to put a temporary hold on the policy of jailing indigent defendants, and incarceration in many cases would be replaced with payment plans or community-service opportunities. “I intend to abide by that settlement,” he said.
    He spoke of his time at Ole Miss, his matriculation into the university’s law school and his decades in private practice. He talked about those decades in a way that made clear he regarded his more recent stint as a Municipal Court judge as something other than the crowning achievement of his legal career. But he had accepted it out of a sense of duty to the place he grew up. “Outside of school and an early job, I’ve never lived anywhere else but Corinth,” he said. “I love the people, and I love the place. And I don’t think I’ll ever leave.” He sometimes worked as an administrator for the cemetery across the street, and in retirement, that’s where he planned to spend some of his days.

    Ross was sitting with his back to a large picture window, and behind him, through the glass, wet snow was falling on the oak tree in his backyard. As politely as he had shown me in, he showed me out again — he and his friends had plans to visit New Orleans that weekend, and there was packing to be done. As I shook Ross’s hand, I was reminded of the taxonomy of municipal judges that Sam Brooke of the S.P.L.C. had laid out for me. “I’d split them into camps,” Brooke said. “The first are the ones that respect the law. The second are the vindictive ones, who see every defendant as a bad person in need of punishment. But the biggest group are judges who are part of the retail industry of processing a whole lot of people. They’re just doing what the judges before them did.”
    In July, a U.S. district judge finalized the temporary policy Corinth and the S.P.L.C. had agreed to regarding indigent defendants. “Nothing in this says poor people don’t have to obey the law or pay their fines,” Cliff Johnson of the MacArthur Justice Center told The Associated Press at the time. “They just get additional time to pay their fines and don’t have to go to jail because they’re poor.”
    In June, Ross announced his retirement; this fall, he was replaced on the municipal bench by Rebecca Phipps, a judge who worked for 40 years as an attorney in Corinth, and who was briefed on the terms of the settlement before accepting the job. After lobbying by the S.P.L.C. and the A.C.L.U., both houses of the State Legislature unanimously passed a bill prohibiting any resident from being jailed for a failure to pay either court costs or fines. The bill went into effect in July of last year.
    But the modest progress in Mississippi has not necessarily been mirrored in other states — in recent months, attorneys in Arkansas and Pennsylvania have filed lawsuits accusing a judge and the Commonwealth of facilitating “debtors’ prisons,” and in Missouri, Ferguson officials are still fighting a class-action suit first filed in 2015. In the few places where one aspect of the fines-and-fees apparatus has been eliminated, that does not mean poor residents are suddenly free of towering amounts of criminal-justice debt. Nor does it mean they will not continue to come in regular contact with law enforcement, which remains robustly subsidized even as other city services go underfunded. Kenneth Lindsey, for example, was arrested last spring for missing a hearing related to unpaid fines. The judge at the Alcorn County Justice Court sent him to jail for 12 days when he couldn’t pay.

    “They come out of jail with absolutely nothing but more problems, and then it just keeps on going and going, and it’s like they’re bound, and they feel like they can’t escape,” Andrea Hurst, Glenn Chastain’s girlfriend, told me about her boyfriend and others who find themselves in similar circumstances. “Their license gets taken, and hey, you get pulled over one day, because the cop knows you got no license, and then back to jail again. You just lost that job again.”
    Not long ago, I met Jamie Tillman for lunch at the Corinth Cracker Barrel. After leaving jail, she explained, she started staying in a friend’s trailer, but she and the friend had a falling out, and now she was back to drifting from one place to the next. A shelter for battered women down in Tupelo, the bedroom of an acquaintance, the streets, the forest. She looked wan and tired. Her hands fluttered as she spoke.
    “I’ve been waiting to get together enough money for some mood stabilizers,” she told me. “Because if I can get stable, I can start showing people that I’m fit to have my kid back. That I’m the person I know I can be.”

    She had a part-time job cleaning a couple of houses in the next town over, and a plan: She could use her birth certificate, the only official document she still possessed, to obtain a Social Security card, and with her Social Security card, she would be able to get a driver’s license and then a bank account. “I’ll pay off the rest of what I owe to the courts” — a few thousand dollars — “and then I can start saving like a real person,” she said.
    We walked out to the parking lot, so she could show me the entirety of her belongings, stored for now in a plastic laundry hamper in the back of a friend’s car: three changes of clothes, a hair dryer and various envelopes, many bearing the seal of the Alcorn County Court.
    As she dug through the hamper in search of her birth certificate, which she was now worried she had misplaced, a sheet of paper fluttered out. It was inscribed, in cursive, with a poem titled “Money,” by the American writer Richard Armour. Tillman couldn’t remember who gave it to her — she thought it might have been a friend from jail. Clearing her throat, she started to read aloud: “Workers earn it, spendthrifts burn it, bankers lend it.”
    Then she sighed and skipped to the last line: “I could use it.”

    Matthew Shaer is a writer at large for the magazine. He last wrote about the lawyer Michael Avenatti.

    14) 6 Days, 6 Deaths: More Murder of Social Leaders in Colombia
    By teleSUR, January 7, 2019

    Colombians hold a demonstration in support of citizens displaced during the country's past armed conflicts, in Bogota Mar. 6, 2012. (photo: Reuters)

    Murdered Jan. 6 by hitmen for fighting for land rights in northern Colombia, Maritza Quiroz Leiva becomes the country's 6th murder within six days of the new year. 

    nother Colombian rights activist was gunned down in her home for helping Afro-Colombian victims in the country’s long civil conflict.
    Mother of four Maritza Quiroz Leiva was gunned down by armed hitmen in her rural home in San Isidro in Colombia’s Caribbean region.
    Quiroz was an Afro-Colombian representative on the Santa Marta Victim's Roundtable working on reparations for the torture, kidnapping, displacement, and sexual violence that vulnerable victims in the region experienced during the country’s 50 year conflict.
    In late December, Quiroz had taken part in a government land redistribution ceremony in the Santa Marta region, part of the 2016 peace accords between the government and the former Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC). Colombia has one of Latin America’s biggest land access disparities where “0.1 percent of farms are ... over 2,000 hectares in size and control 60 percent of land, while 81 percent of farms cover an area of only two hectares and occupy less than 5 percent of (arable) land” in Colombia, according to a 2014 Oxfam report.
    Her death was lamented by those who worked with her to achieve land justice:
    In the early morning today land rights leader of Santa Marta, Maritza Quiroz Leiva was murdered. We continue to count the deaths while the state and institutions ignore in the most cold way the massacre that the entire country is victim.
    Quiroz and some 7.7 million people in Colombia have been internally displaced because of the armed conflict that supposedly ended with the peace agreement. However, over 400 land and human rights activists in rural and Caribbean regions have been gunned down by paramilitary groups hired mainly by drug traffickers since the accord went into effect in November 2016.
    The hitmen broke into her rural home and shot her as her 22-year-old son hid. He later found his mom badly injured just outside their farm as Quiroz had tried to flee danger. She later died from the bullet wounds in a Santa Marta hospital, according to local media.
    "We regret and strongly reject the murder of Maritza Quiroz Leiva, leader of victims in Santa Marta. No reason justifies the actions of this violence. (Colombia) is veering from peace," said the mayor of Santa Marta, Rafael Alejandro Martinez, through his social networks.
    Quiroz’s life had been threatened several times and her husband had been assassinated under the same circumstances which led her to flee to San Isidro.
    She was the mother of four children and the sixth social leader to be killed so far in 2019, after 34-year-old Wilson Perez Ascanio was gunned down in the early morning of Jan. 5. He was a member of a Popular Constituent Assembly (MCP).
    So far, 90 Campesino social leaders have been killed since President Ivan Duque took office in August 2018. The right-wing head of state has been criticized by locals for his indifference to the slew of murders and for not structurally addressing the situation that has only worsened since his inauguration.

    Angela Davis is latest Black target of Israel lobby
    Angela Davis is latest Black target of Israel lobby*---------*---------*---------*---------*---------*---------* 



    Posted by: bonnieweinstein@yahoo.com

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