Six Boxes of Mumia Abu-Jamal's Files Found Hidden in DA Storage Room

Mumia Abu-Jamal


On January 3, 2019 the office of District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a letter memorandum to Judge Leon Tucker.  "DA [Larry Krasner], and members of his staff went to a remote and largely inaccessible of the DA's office marked "Storage" looking for office furniture." And found six boxes of files on Mumia Abu-Jamal's case that were not produced duringthe recent court proceedings.

The District Attorney Krasner's remarkable and suspicious discovery of six boxes of files marked Mumia or Mumia Abu-Jamal hidden in a storage room on December 28 was one day after Judge Tucker's historic decision granting Mumia Abu-Jamal new rights of appeal.

This is confirmation of what we've known for decades--the prosecution has hidden exculpatory evidence in Mumia's case.  Evidence that is likely proof that Mumia's guilt was intentionally manufactured by the police and prosecution and the truth of his innocence suppressed.

These files should be released to the public. DA Krasner should take this as evidence of the total corruptness of this prosecution against an innocent man. The remedy for this is nothing less than dismissal of the charges against Mumia and his freedom from prison!

It took DA Krasner six days to report this find to Judge Tucker. Why? And who has gone through those six boxes of files on Mumia's case? What assurance can DA Krasner give that there hasn't been further tampering with and covering up of the evidence, which led to an innocent man being framed for murder and sentenced to death?

The DA's letter was not publicly available, nor was the January 3 docket filing shown on the court's public access web pages of docket filing, until January 9.

Rachel Wolkenstein, January 10, 2019
WHYY (an affiliate of NPR)
Philly prosecutors discover mysterious 'six boxes' connected to Mumia Abu-Jamal in storage room
By Bobby AllynJanuary 9, 2019
A group of two dozen activists briefly block traffic during a rally outside the Philadelphia District Attorney's office on Friday. The group called on DA Larry Krasner to not challenge a Common Pleas court ruling that allows Mumia Abu-Jamal to file an appeal. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Days after Christmas, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and some of his assistants went rummaging around an out-of-the-way storage room in the office looking for some pieces of furniture. What they stumbled upon was a surprising find: six boxes stuffed of files connected to the case of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Five of the six boxes were marked "McCann," a reference to the former head of the office's homicide unit, Ed McCann. Some of the boxes were also marked "Mumia," or the former Black Panther's full name, "Mumia Abu-Jamal."

It is unknown what exactly the files say and whether or not the box's contents will shed new light on a case that for decades has garnered worldwide attention.

But in a letter to the judge presiding over Abu-Jamal's case, Assistant District Attorney Tracey Kavanagh wrote "nothing in the Commonwealth's database showed the existence of these six boxes," she said. "We are in the process of reviewing these boxes."

The surprise discovery comes just weeks after a Philadelphia judge reinstated appeals rightsto Abu-Jamal, saying the former radio journalist and activist should get another chance to reargue his case in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court due to a conflict-of-interest one of the justices had at the time Abu-Jamal's petition was denied.

Abu-Jamal's supportersare seizing on the mysterious six boxes as proof that his innocence has been systematically suppressed by authorities.

"There's no question in my mind that the only reason they could've been hidden like this is that this is the evidence of the frame-up of Mumia," said Rachel Wolkenstein, who has been a legal advocate and activist for Abu-Jamal for more than 30 years.

"What these missing boxes represent is confirmation of what we've known for decades: there's hidden, exculpatory evidence in Mumia's case, and that is evidence that Mumia's guilt was intentionally manufactured by the police and prosecution and the truth of his innocence was suppressed," Wolkenstein said.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office did not say anything at all about what is in the boxes, or whether there is evidence that the files are exculpatory, or capable of demonstrating that Abu-Jamal did not commit a crime. During his original trial three separate eyewitnesses testified Mumia did commit the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Wolkenstein's assessment is wild speculation, according to Ed McCann, the former homicide unit chief whose name was scrawled across the six boxes. McCann left the office in 2015 after 26 years there as a prosecutor. He was never directly involved in Abu-Jamal's case.

"I can't tell you 100% what is in these boxes," McCann said Wednesday night. "But I doubt there is anything in them that is not already in the public eye."

How and why did six boxes tied to one of the most legendary and racially-charged cases the office has ever handled get relegated to a dusty storage room?

McCann is not sure. But he said when the office moved locations in 2006, hundreds of boxes with his name written them were moved into the current headquarters on South Penn Square, just across the street from Philadelphia City Hall.

"I don't remember these six boxes. But nobody over there discussed this with me before filing this letter," McCann said. "I would think if they were really interested in what happened, they would have reached out to me."

In the two-page letter to the court, assistant district attorney Kavanagh wrote that if Judge Leon Tucker would like to review the boxes, prosecutors will turn them over.

Tucker, who is the same judge who ordered that Abu-Jamal should be given a new appeals argument, has not weighed in on the newly-discovered boxes.

But in his opinion last month, Tucker said former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille should have recused himself from hearing Abu-Jamal's petitions, since Castille himself was Philadelphia's District Attorney when the case was actively on appeal. "True justice must be completely just without even a hint of partiality, lack of integrity or impropriety," wrote Tucker, saying a new hearing in front of the state's high court is warranted.

Prosecutors have not taken a position yet on Tucker's opinion. The files unearthed in the six boxes could influence whether Krasner's office supports or opposes a new hearing for Abu-Jamal.

Wolkenstein said the thousands of people who have joined the "Free Mumia" movement around the globe should be able to review the documents themselves.

"These files should be released publicly," Wolkenstein said. "The remedy for this is nothing less than dismissal of Mumia's charges and his release from prison."

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.
Erin Moriarty is revisiting the case, interviewing Kevin Cooper, his lawyer Norm Hile, and others including (I believe), the actual killer.



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.

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



To: Indiana Department of Corrections

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson Should Have Access to His Personal Property

Petition Text

1. IDOC regulation 02-01-101-VIII must be respected! Kevin Johnson (IDOC# 264847) must be allowed to select from his property the items that he most immediately needs. He has been left without any of the material he requires for contacting his loved ones, his writing (this includes books), his pending litigation, and for his artwork. 
2. Kevin Johnson (IDOC# 264847) should be released into General Population. Prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture. Moreover, he has not committed any infractions.

Why is this important?

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson (IDOC# 264847) – a Virginia prisoner – was transferred to Indiana on November 4. His transfer was authorized under the Interstate Corrections Compact, commonly used to ship prisoners out of state. Virginia is one of several states that make use of this practice as a tool to repress and isolate prisoners who speak up for their rights.
These transfers are extremely disruptive, and serve as an opportunity for prison officials to violate prisoners' rights, especially regarding their property. This is exactly what has been done to Rashid.
Rashid has 24 boxes of personal property. These are all of his possessions in the world. Much of these 24 boxes consist of legal documents and research materials, including materials directly related to pending or anticipated court cases, and his list of addresses and phone numbers of media contacts, human rights advocates, outside supporters, and friends.
At Pendleton Correctional Facility, where Rashid is now being kept prisoner and in solitary confinement, only one guard is in charge of the property room. This is very unusual, as the property room is where all of the prisoners' belongings that are not in their cells are kept. The guard in charge, Dale Davis, has a dubious reputation. Prisoners complain that property goes missing, and their requests to access their belongings – that by law are supposed to be met within 7 days, or if there are court deadlines within 24 hours – are often ignored, answered improperly, or what they receive does not correspond to what they have asked for.
Despite having a need for legal and research documents for pending and anticipated court cases, his requests to receive his property have not been properly answered. The property officer, Dale Davis, is supposed to inventory the prisoners' property with them (and a witness) present, according to IDOC regulation 02-01-101-VIII; this was never done. When Rashid did receive some property, it was a random selection of items unrelated to what he asked for, brought to the segregation unit in a box and a footlocker and left in an insecure area where things could be stolen or tampered with.
On December 19th, Rashid received notice that Davis had confiscated various documents deemed to be "security threat group" or "gang" related from his property. Rashid has no idea what these might be, as (contrary to the prison regulations) he was not present when his property was gone through. Rashid does not know how much or how little was confiscated, or what the rationale was for its being described as "gang" related. None of Rashid's property should be confiscated or thrown out under any circumstances, but it is worth noting that the way in which this has been done contravenes the prison's own regulations and policies!
Dale Davis has been an IDOC property officer for 8 years. He has boasted about how he does not need any oversight or anyone else working with him, even though it is very unusual for just one person to have this responsibility. Prisoners' property goes "missing" or is tampered with, and prisoners' rights – as laid out by the Indiana Department of Corrections – are not being respected.
Rashid is not asking to have all of his property made available to him in his cell. He is willing to accept only having access to some of it at a time, for instance as he needs it to prepare court documents or for his research and writing. 
After two months in Indiana, he has still not been supplied with his documents containing the phone numbers and addresses of his loved ones and supporters, effectively sabotaging his relationships on the outside. Rashid is not asking for any kind of special treatment, he is only asking for the prison property room to follow the prison's own rules.
We ask that you look into this, and make sure that Mr. Johnson's right to access his property is being respected, and that something be done about the irregularities in the Pendleton property room. We ask that the rules of the Indiana Department of Corrections be respected.

Sign the petition here:

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

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

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

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

Major Tillery and family

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

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

    Write to:
    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)  Learning From Cuba's 'Medicare for All'
    By Nicholas Kristof, January 18, 2019
    Dr. Lisett Rodríguez talks with Odalys Navarro Carbonell, 31, at a consultorio, or clinic, in Havana. Ms. Navarro is four months pregnant.

    HAVANA — Claudia Fernández, 29, is an accountant whose stomach bulges with her first child, a girl, who is due in April.
    Fernández lives in a cramped apartment on a potholed street and can't afford a car. She also gets by without a meaningful vote or the right to speak freely about politics. Yet the paradox of Cuba is this: Her baby appears more likely to survive than if she were born in the United States.
    Cuba is poor and repressive with a dysfunctional economy, but in health care it does an impressive job that the United States could learn from. According to official statistics (about which, as we'll see, there is some debate), the infant mortality rate in Cuba is only 4.0 deaths per 1,000 live births. In the United States, it's 5.9.
    In other words, an American infant is, by official statistics, almost 50 percent more likely to die than a Cuban infant. By my calculations, that means that 7,500 American kids die each year because we don't have as good an infant mortality rate as Cuba reports.

    How is this possible? Well, remember that it may not be. The figures should be taken with a dose of skepticism. Still, there's no doubt that a major strength of the Cuban system is that it assures universal access. Cuba has the Medicare for All that many Americans dream about.

    "Cuba's example is important since for decades 'health care for all' has been more than a slogan there," said Dr. Paul Farmer, the legendary globe-trotting founder of Partners in Health. "Cuban families aren't ruined financially by catastrophic illness or injury, as happens so often elsewhere in the neighborhood."
    In Havana, I shadowed a grass-roots doctor, Lisett Rodríguez, as she paid a house call on Fernández — and it was the 20th time Dr. Rodríguez had dropped in on Fernández's apartment to examine her over the six months of her pregnancy. That's on top of 14 visits that Fernández made to the doctor's office, in addition to pregnancy consultations Fernández held with a dentist, a psychologist and a nutritionist.
    This was all free, like the rest of the medical and dental system. It's also notable that Cuba achieves excellent health outcomes even though the American trade and financial embargo badly damages the economyand restricts access to medical equipment.
    Fernández has received more attention than normal because she has hypothyroidism, making her pregnancy higher risk than average. Over the course of a more typical Cuban pregnancy, a woman might make 10 office visits and receive eight home visits.

    Thirty-four visits, or even 18, may be overkill, but this certainly is preferable to the care common in, say, Texas, where one-third of pregnant women don't get a single prenatal checkup in the first trimester.
    Missing a prenatal checkup is much less likely in Cuba because of a system of front-line clinics called consultorios. These clinics, staffed by a single doctor and nurse, are often run down and poorly equipped, but they make health care readily available: Doctors live upstairs and are on hand after hours in emergencies.

    They are also part of the neighborhood. Dr. Rodríguez and her nurse know the 907 people they are responsible for from their consultorio: As I walked with Dr. Rodríguez on the street, neighbors stopped her and asked her about their complaints. This proximity and convenience, and not just the lack of fees, make Cuba's medical system accessible.
    "It helps that the doctor is close, because transportation would be a problem," Fernández told me.
    Home visits are also a chance to reach elderly and disabled people and to coach dysfunctional families, such as those wracked by alcoholism (a common problem), and to work on prevention. During Dr. Rodríguez's visits to Fernández, for example, they discuss breast-feeding and how to make the home safe for the baby.
    "It's no secret that most health problems can be resolved at the primary-care level by the doctor, nurse or health worker nearest you," said Gail Reed, the American executive editor of the health journal Medicc Review, which focuses on Cuban health care. "So, there is something to be said for Cuba's building of a national primary-care network that posts health professionals in neighborhoods nationwide."
    Each consultorio doctor is supposed to see every person in the area at least once a year, if not for a formal physical then at least to take blood pressure.
    All this is possible because Cuba overflows with doctors — it has three times as many per capita as the United States — and pays them very little. A new doctor earns $45 a month, and a very experienced one $80.

    The opening of Cuba to tourism has created some tensions. A taxi driver who gets tips from foreigners may earn several times as much as a distinguished surgeon. Unless, of course, that surgeon also moonlights as a taxi driver.
    Critics inside and outside the country raise various objections to the Cuban system. Corruption and shortages of supplies and medicine are significant problems, and the health system could do more to address smoking and alcoholism.
    There are also allegations that Cuba fiddles with its numbers. The country has an unusually high rate of late fetal deaths, and skeptics contend that when a baby is born in distress and dies after a few hours, this is sometimes categorized as a stillbirth to avoid recording an infant death. 
    Dr. Roberto Álvarez, a Cuban pediatrician, insisted to me that this does not happen and countered with explanations for why the fetal death rate is high. I'm not in a position to judge who's right, but any manipulation seems unlikely to make a huge difference to the reported figures.

    Outsiders mostly say they admire the Cuban health system. The World Health Organization has praised it, and Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations secretary general, described it as "a model for many countries."
    In many ways, the Cuban and United States health care systems are mirror opposites. Cuban health care is dilapidated, low-tech and free, and it is very good at ensuring that no one slips through the cracks. American medicine is high-tech and expensive, achieving some extraordinary results while stumbling at the basics: A lower percentage of children are vaccinated in the United States than in Cuba.
    The difference can also be seen in treatment of cancer. Cuba regularly screens all women for breast and cervical cancer, so it is excellent at finding cancers — but then it lacks enough machines for radiation treatment. In the United States, on the other hand, many women don't get regular screenings so cancers may be discovered late — but then there are advanced treatment options.

    As Cuba's population becomes older and heavier (as in the United States, the nutrition problem here is people who are overweight, not underweight), heart disease and cancer are becoming more of a burden. And the lack of resources is a major constraint in treating those ailments.
    There's a Cuban saying: "We live like poor people, but we die like rich people."

    Cuba invests heavily in health care partly because it's a moneymaker. Cuba exports doctors to other countries, and this has become an important source of hard currency (the doctors earn a premium while abroad, but much of the surplus goes to the government).
    With its doctors, Cuba creates a global public good: I've encountered Cuban physicians in impoverished countries around the world, and Cuba also trains many doctors from Haiti and other countries. Hundreds of Cuban physicians also risked their lives to travel to West Africa during the Ebola crisis.
    Cuba has developed its own pharmaceutical industry, partly to get around the American embargo, and this also creates financial opportunities. A lung cancer medication from Cuba is now undergoing a clinical trial in the United States, and a similar U.S.-Cuba partnershipis pursuing a Cuban treatment for diabetic foot ulcers. To me, those partnerships represent a path toward cooperation that both sides should build on.
    While we should call on Cuba to grant people like Fernández meaningful political rights, we should likewise push for American babies born in low-income families to have the same opportunity for attentive health care as her daughter will have.
    My NYT comment:
    After reading the first two paragraphs I was wondering why Kristof was writing this, since, at the outset, he puts doubt on the statistics he's writing about. With no explanation he claims that the Cuban people can't speak freely about politics. Then he describes the closeness between the people and their doctors—frequent home visits, advice on home safety for infants, etc., and free dental! Free Dental!!! Nobody in the U.S gets free dental! He makes no mention of how, in the U.S., Child Protective Services routinely involves the police, court fees and punishments such as jail and ending parental rights altogether for people addicted to drugs or who commit petty crimes—crimes of poverty. He also fails to mention that education in Cuba is free to everyone from cradle to grave; that there is free food and housing subsidies; that Cuban's vote locally on issues affecting their communities and for their representatives in those communities, or that the U.S. Embargo economically oppresses the Cuban people by prohibiting other countries from trading with Cuba. The U.S. is the richest nation in the world yet we still have communities with no running water or flush toilets. And, as for "democracy?" Well, we get to vote for one wealthy liar or another. —Bonnie Weinstein


    2) Family Separation May Have Hit Thousands More Migrant Children Than Reported
    By Miriam Jordan, January 17, 2019

    Brenda Garcia reunited with her 7-year-old son, K.G.G., at Dulles Airport outside Washington in June, 34 days after they were separated by officials after crossing the border into the United States illegally.CreditCreditRyan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

    HOUSTON — The Trump administration most likely separated thousands more children from their parents at the Southern border than was previously believed, according to a report by government inspectors released on Thursday.
    The federal government has reported that nearly 3,000 children were forcibly separated from their parents under last year's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, under which nearly all adults entering the country illegally were prosecuted, and any children accompanying them were put into shelters or foster care.
    But even before the administration officially unveiled the zero-tolerance policy in the spring of 2018, staff of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that oversees the care of children in federal custody, had noted a "sharp increase" in the number of children separated from a parent or guardian, according to the report from the agency's Office of Inspector General.

    As of December, the department had identified 2,737 children who were separated from their parents under the policy and required to be reunified by a federal court order issued in June 2018.

    But that number does not represent the full scope of family separations. Thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court, the report said.
    Thus, the total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is "unknown," because of the lack of a coordinated formal tracking system between the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the arm of Health and Human Services that takes in the children, and the Department of Homeland Security, which separated them from their parents.
    "This report confirms what we suspected: This cruel family separation practice was way bigger than the administration let on," said Lee Gelernt, who challenged the policy in court on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We will be back in court and ask the judge to order the government to explain these numbers," he said.
    The family separations were a key part of the Trump administration's effort to deter migrant families from trying to enter the country at the Southwest border, where they have been arriving in large numbers, most of them fleeing violence and deep poverty in Central America.
    While the policy was framed as a decision to prosecute those who entered the United States illegally, it resulted in thousands of migrant parents spending months in agonized uncertainty, unable to communicate with their children and in many cases not knowing even where the children were.

    Infants and toddlers were among the children who were put into foster homes or migrant children shelters, often hundreds or thousands of miles away from where their parents were detained. Under separate policies, the administration also made it difficult for relatives other than the children's parents to take the children into their own homes.
    After a review of internal government tallies, The New York Times found last year that more than 700 migrant children had been separated from their families in the months before the government officially announced the zero-tolerance policy.
    On June 26, 2018, a federal judge in San Diego, in response to the A.C.L.U. lawsuit, directed the federal government to halt the separations at the border and to reunite children with their parents. President Trump rescinded the policy that same month.
    However, the federal inspectors found that separations have continued to occur: As of November, the report found, Health and Human Services had received at least 118 children who had been separated from their families since the court order.
    Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversaw the family separations at the border, have said they have separated families only when necessary, such as when a parent is facing a serious criminal prosecution, or when authorities have reason to believe that the adult accompanying the child is not an appropriate guardian.
    "The report vindicates what D.H.S. has long been saying," said Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the department. "For more than a decade it was, and continues to be, standard for apprehended minors to be separated when the adult is not the parent or legal guardian, the child's safety is at risk, or serious criminal activity by the adult. We are required under the law that Congress passed to send all unaccompanied alien children to H.H.S."
    Ann Maxwell, the Health and Human Services Department's assistant inspector general for evaluation and inspections, said the separations appeared to have been occurring for a full year before the court issued its order.

    "Thousands of children were separated from parents and guardians, referred to H.H.S. and released from H.H.S. care before the court order," Ms. Maxwell said in a conference call with reporters.
    "The total number is unknown," she said. "It is certainly more than 2,737, but how many more, precisely, is unknown." Moreover, that number may never be known: Department officials, she said, had told her office that there were "no efforts underway to identify that. It would take away resources from children already in care."
    In an email after the call, Ms. Maxwell's spokesman confirmed that inspectors believed the number of separated children may be "thousands" more than the 2,737 reported to the court.
    The inspectors provided no precise data to support that estimate, though Ms. Maxwell said that Health and Human Services had noted a "spike" in the frequency of children being separated from their families, from 0.3 percent of all apprehended families in 2016 to 3.8 percent in 2017.
    Family separations have occurred for years, but they had previously been "fairly rare," Ms. Maxwell said, occurring only in cases where there were concerns about child welfare. That changed in 2017, she said.
    Ms. Maxwell said that most of the families on the list of separated families had been reunited, pursuant to the court order. But she said the figures continued to evolve, for several reasons. The absence of an integrated data system to track separated families through the two federal agencies that oversee them was one problem, she said.
    Also complicating the issue, she said, was the complex problem of determining which children should be considered officially "separated" from their families. That meant that the list of families entitled to reunification was still being revised as late as December 2018, more than five months after the court order took effect.

    The Department of Health and Human Services, in its official response, said it had accounted publicly for all children separated from relatives at the border and then delivered to the agency for care.
    "H.H.S. faced challenges in identifying separated children," the agency said. "The effort undertaken by H.H.S. was complex, fast-moving and resource-intensive."
    The inspector general's report, the department said, "provides a window into the herculean work of the H.H.S. career staff to rapidly identify children in O.R.R. care who had been separated from their parents and reunify them." O.R.R. refers to the resettlement office.
    The department emphasized that the inspector general found "no evidence whatsoever" that it had lost track of children in its care. Though there were delays in linking children to parents, partly as a result of the Department of Homeland Security's tracking system.When immigration agents separated families at the border, records that could have been used to connect parents and children were automatically deleted because the computer system had not been modified to account for separated families.
    In its response on Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services said that the inspector general's report "corroborates what H.H.S. has said all along: H.H.S. can determine the location and status of any child in O.R.R. care at any time by accessing the case management records for the child, or the O.R.R. online portal."

    Glenn Thrush contributed reporting from Washington.


    3) Three Officers Acquitted of Covering Up for Colleague in Laquan McDonald Killing
    By Julie Bosman and Monica Davey, January 17, 2019

    CHICAGO — Three Chicago police officers were acquitted on Thursday of charges that they had conspired and lied to protect a white police officer who fired 16 deadly shots into a black teenager, a contentious verdict in a case over what many viewed as a "code of silence" in the Police Department.
    The judgment, rendered in a tense, cramped courtroom overflowing with spectators, was delivered by a judge and not a jury. Speaking from the bench for close to an hour, Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson rejected the prosecutors' arguments that the officers had shooed away witnesses and then created a narrative to justify the 2014 shooting, which prompted citywide protests, the firing of the police chief and a wide-ranging federal investigation into the police force.
    The ruling came more than three months after Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted in October of the second-degree murder of Laquan McDonald, and on the afternoon before he was scheduled to be sentenced for a killing that was captured on an infamous police dashboard camera video.
    The three police officers — David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney — contradicted what the video showed. In it, Mr. Van Dyke fires repeatedly at Laquan, who is wielding a knife, as he moves slightly away from the officers and even as he lies crumpled on the ground. Prosecutors cited that footage repeatedly as they built a case against the officers, who are white, on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

    Judge Stephenson said that even though the officers' accounts of the shooting differed from the video, that did not amount to proof that they were lying. "Two people with two different vantage points can witness the same event," she said, and still describe it differently.
    The judge suggested that key witnesses for the prosecution had offered conflicting testimony, and said there was nothing presented at trial that showed that the officers had failed to preserve evidence, as the prosecutors had argued. Challenging the point that officers had shooed away a witness as part of a cover-up, the judge said it was not obvious that the police had known the witness had seen the shooting.
    The officers, who were brought to trial in November, were accused of writing in official reports that Laquan had tried to stab three other officers, saying they saw him trying to get up from the ground even after a barrage of shots.
    Mr. March, Mr. Walsh and Mr. Gaffney each denied that they had conspired to come up with a narrative that might justify Mr. Van Dyke's decision to shoot Laquan. None of them fired any shots that night. Other officers, too, had witnessed the shooting and had given questionable accounts, but were not on trial; grand jurors indicted the three officers but declined to indict any others.
    [Read More: Was the Laquan McDonald case a turning point or an aberration?]
    It was "undisputed and undeniable," Judge Stephenson said, that Laquan had ignored officers' commands to drop his knife. While she spoke, the three officers sat silently, sometimes staring down at the carpet or nervously jiggling a leg. After she read the verdict, several people broke into applause.

    Todd Pugh, a lawyer for Mr. Walsh, said afterward that the judge had acted with courage in rendering her verdict, despite what he called public pressure to find the officers guilty. "There never ever was a case," he told reporters, adding that the grand jury had proved the axiom that it would indict a ham sandwich if given the opportunity.
    Mr. Walsh, who was Mr. Van Dyke's partner on the night of the shooting and who has resigned from the department, said little. The experience has been "heartbreaking for my family," he said. "A year and a half."
    But many others were outraged.
    "The verdict says to police officers that you can lie, cheat, steal, rape, rob and pillage, and it's O.K.," said the Rev. Marvin Hunter, who is Laquan's great-uncle.
    A group of ministers who gathered at the courthouse denounced the outcome. The Rev. Leon Finney, a pastor on Chicago's South Side, called it a "travesty."
    "There was clearly evidence from the video that Laquan McDonald was not attacking or seeking to attack any of the law enforcement officers," Mr. Finney said. "How could they all three make up a story indicating that Laquan was threatening their lives?"
    Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president who is a candidate for mayor, called the decision "a devastating step backward."
    "Laquan's murder has become a part of the fabric of our city," she said. "The verdict today does not serve justice in the wake of the senseless loss of a young life."

    Speaking to reporters at the courthouse, Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor, said that while she disagreed with the judge's ruling, she hoped that the trial had sent a message.
    Ms. Holmes said she hoped that "others will think twice before engaging in conduct that might land them in an investigation such as this."
    "Hopefully one day there won't be a code of silence," she said.
    Along with the officers, the broad concept of a police code of silence was on trial in Chicago, where officers have been accused for decades of covering up their colleagues' misconduct.
    As in other cities, residents have long complained that police officers stuck together when it came to accounting for their actions, and the issue has come up in cases involving drunken driving, the beating of a bartender and a lawsuit by two officers who said they faced retaliation after breaking the code. Even the city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has acknowledged it.
    In a speech in 2015, Mr. Emanuel condemned what he said was a tendency of some officers to ignore, deny and in "some cases cover up the bad actions of a colleague or colleagues."
    Mr. March, who also resigned, had been assigned to investigate the shooting. He merely wrote down what the witnesses told him had happened, a lawyer for Mr. March told the court during trial. Mr. Gaffney was one of the officers who first confronted Laquan on the evening of the shooting, after the police got a report of a man breaking into trucks on the city's Southwest Side. He and other officers had followed the teenager, who was carrying a knife and ignoring orders to stop, for several blocks.
    In a statement, Mr. Emanuel and Eddie Johnson, the superintendent of the Chicago Police, vowed that their work to improve the department would not stop.

    "We will continue to take concrete steps to restore trust with communities across Chicago," the statement said, "because trust is the best public safety tool we have."
    There were no protests after the verdicts were read, and William Calloway, a prominent Chicago activist who is running for City Council, urged Chicagoans to refrain. "To the black community, I know this hurts," he said on Twitter. "We know this was a cover-up. I'm not saying take to the streets anymore. It's time for us to take to the polls."
    "That blue code of silence is just not with the Chicago Police Department: It expands to the judicial system," Mr. Calloway said at a news conference.
    On Friday morning, the courts are scheduled for the final chapter in the Laquan case — a killing that came amid national protests and a spate of police shootings of black people. A Facebook group implored a "call to action": "In room 500 at 9 a.m., show up to stand in solidarity with organizers and the family of Laquan McDonald as we demand, again, #Justice4Laquan."

    Mitch Smith contributed reporting.


    4) The Insulin Wars
    By Danielle Ofri, January 18, 2019

    "Doctor, could you please redo my insulin prescription? The one you gave me is wrong." My patient's frustration was obvious over the phone. She was standing at the pharmacy, unable to get her diabetes medication. 
    We had gone through this just the week before. I'd prescribed her the insulin she'd been on, at the correct dosage, but when she showed up at her pharmacy she learned that her insurance company no longer covered that brand. After a series of phone messages back and forth, I'd redone the prescription with what I'd thought was the correct insulin, but I was apparently wrong. Again.
    Between 2002 and 2013, prices tripled for some insulins. Many cost around $300 a vial, without any viable generic alternative. Most patients use two or three vials a month, but others need the equivalent of four. Self-rationing has become common as patients struggle to keep up. In the short term, fluctuating blood sugar levels can lead to confusion, dehydration, coma, even death. In the long term, poorly controlled diabetes is associated with heart attacks, strokes, blindness, amputation and the need for dialysis.
    The exorbitant prices confound patients and doctors alike since insulin is nearly a century old now. The pricing is all the more infuriating when one considers that the discoverers of insulin sold the patent for $1 eachto ensure that the medication would be affordable. Today the three main manufacturers of insulin are facing a lawsuit accusing them of deceptive pricing schemes, but it could be years before this yields any changes.

    There are several reasons that insulin is so expensive. It is a biologic drug, meaning that it's produced in living cells, which is a difficult manufacturing process. The bigger issue, however, is that companies tweak their formulations so they can get new patents, instead of working to create cheaper generic versions. This keeps insulin firmly in brand-name territory, with prices to match.
    But the real ignominy (and the meat of the lawsuit) is the dealings between the drug manufacturers and the insurance companies. Insurers use pharmacy benefit managers, called P.B.M.s, to negotiate prices with manufacturers. Insurance programs represent huge markets, so manufacturers compete to offer good deals. How to offer a good deal? Jack up the list price, and then offer the P.B.M.s a "discount."
    This pricing is, of course, hidden from most patients, except those without insurance, who have to pay full freight. Patients with insurance live with the repercussions of constantly changing coverage as P.B.M.s chase better discounts from different manufacturers.
    All insurance companies periodically change which medications they cover, but insulin is in a whirlwind class by itself because of the staggering sums of money involved. "Short-acting" is supposed to be a category of insulin, but now it appears to be its category of insurance coverage. My patient's "preferred insulin" changed three times in a year, so each time she went to the pharmacy, her prescription was rejected.
    On the doctor's end, it's an endless game of catch-up. Lantus was covered, but now it's Basaglar: rewrite all the prescriptions for all your patients. Oops, now it's Levemir: rewrite them all again. NovoLog was covered, then it was Humalog, but now it's Admelog. If it's Tuesday, it must be Tresiba.

    It's a colossal time-waster, as patients, pharmacists and doctors log hours upon hours calling, faxing, texting and emailing to keep up with whichever insulin is trending. It's also dangerous, as patients can end up without a critical medication for days, sometimes weeks, waiting for these bureaucratic kinks to get ironed out.
    Lost in this communal migraine is that this whole process is corrosive to the doctor-patient relationship. I knew that my patient wasn't angry at me personally, but her ire came readily through the phone. No doubt this reflected desperation — she'd run out of insulin before and didn't want to end in the emergency room on IV fluids, as she had the last time. Frankly, I was pretty peeved myself. By this point I'd already written enough insulin prescriptions on her account to fill a sixth Book of Moses. I'd already called her insurance company and gotten tangled in phone trees of biblical proportions.
    This time I called her pharmacy. A sympathetic pharmacist was willing to work with me, and I stayed on the phone with her as we painstakingly submitted one insulin prescription after another. The first wasn't covered. The second wasn't covered. The third was. But before we could sing the requisite hosannas, the pharmacist informed me that while the insulin was indeed covered, it was not a "preferred" medication. That meant there was a $72-per-month co-payment, something that my patient would struggle to afford on her fixed income.
    "So just tell me which is the preferred insulin," I told the pharmacist briskly.
    There was a pause before she replied. "There isn't one."
    This was a new low — an insurance company now had no insulins on its top tier. Breaking the news to my patient was devastating. We had a painful conversation about how she would have to reconfigure her life in order to afford this critical medication.
    It suddenly struck me that insurance companies and drug manufacturers had come upon an ingenious business plan: They could farm out their dirty work to the doctors and the patients. Let the doctors be the ones to navigate the bureaucratic hoops and then deliver the disappointing news to our patients. Let patients be the ones to figure out how to ration their medications or do without.
    Congress and the Food and Drug Administration need to tame the Wild West of drug pricing. When there's an E. coli outbreak that causes illness and death, we rightly expect our regulatory bodies to step in. The outbreak of insulin greed is no different.

    It is hard to know where to direct my rage. Should I be furious at the drug manufacturers that refuse to develop generics? Should I be angry at the P.B.M.s and insurance companies that juggle prices and formularies to maximize profits, passing along huge co-payments if they don't get a good enough deal? Should I be indignant at our elected officials who seem content to let our health care system be run by for-profit entities that will always put money before patients?
    The answer is all of the above. But what's most enraging is that drug manufacturers, P.B.M.s and insurance companies don't have to pick up the pieces from the real-world consequences of their policies. That falls to the patients.
    Danielle Ofri is a physician at Bellevue Hospital and the author of "What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear."

    5) The L.A. Teachers' Strike Is About So Much More Than Wages
    By Sonali Kolhatkar, January 18, 2019

    Strike on: Demonstrators shout slogans on Tuesday, the second day of the L.A. teachers' strike, during a rally in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

    Los Angeles public school teachers began a historic strike on Monday, for the first time in 30 years. Members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) walked out of contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that had dragged on for nearly two years. The specific battle is being fought over LAUSD's refusal to tap into its record $1.86 billion reserve in order to reduce class sizes, hire more support staff, including counselors and nurses, improve infrastructure and more. But more broadly speaking, the L.A. teachers' fight is symbolic of a bigger struggle to maintain and expand quality public education for all Americans and to secure the rights that the critical stakeholders—teachers, students, parents—have within that system.
    The L.A. teachers' strike comes after several high-profile fights last spring in states like West VirginiaOklahoma and Kentucky, where educators tired of poverty-level wages fought for raises and won. But the L.A. strike is broader than those others, not just in terms of the sheer size of the district and the union, but in the demands the union is making. Although LAUSD has offered a 6 percent raise over two years (not nearly enough of what teachers deserve), teachers want an overall better experience for their 600,000 overwhelmingly nonwhite students. They want more nurses and counselors, smaller class sizes and a halt to the expansion of charter schools.
    In usually sunny Southern California, the 2019 teachers strike was launched during a week dominated by cold, windy, rainy weather, 30 years after the last such strike. In spite of the wintry conditions, tens of thousands of teachers, counselors, nurses, union organizers, and even some parents and students, marched and rallied in downtown Los Angeles and picketed in front of their schools across the sprawling district. I spoke with several teachers who told me about their large class sizes, aging books, leaking roofs and, most of all, paucity of support staff.

    Students needing regular medical attention are attending schools where nurses are on staff for only one or two days a week. School counselors and psychologists are forced to work at numerous schools at once, handling emergencies whenever they can. Students who want to use the library have to wait for the brief weekly window during which the school librarian is on call. Meanwhile, charter schools are expanding across the district, drawing from the very pool of limited resources that the public school system relies on, but without being held to the same level of transparency and accountability. L.A.'s teachers are angry about how the district is treating their students—and they have good reason to be.
    As first-grade teacher Louise McLorn explained to me, "It's absolutely not about teacher salaries. That is the last thing that we are looking at." News reports have cited the fact that the strike may have already cost the district millions of dollars because a majority of students did not attend school on the first day or two of the strike (the district's funding depends on attendance rates). But what is missed in much of the coverage is the fact that each day educators are on the picket line, they lose pay. Union members turned down the modest pay raise they were offered, holding out instead for concessions centered on student welfare.
    McLorn rattled off a list of her concerns, saying, "There is a hole in the roof of my classroom, so that needs to get fixed. We have students that need much more counseling than they're getting, but psychologists have to go from school to school to school." She added, "It's less expensive to educate than incarcerate." Over and over, the teachers I spoke with repeated some version of McLorn's sentiments and echoed her struggles in the classroom.
    Some teachers were pointedly critical of Los Angeles School Superintendent Austin Beutner, a man media outlets describe as "A former investment banker with no history working as an educator." Andy Dowdell, from Fleming Middle School, said, "He's kind of like some of those people that Trump's hired to dismember, to take apart these bureaucracies, and he's trying to do that to our district." Dowdell suspects that Beutner's real agenda is to privatize the school district.
    In fact, LAUSD insists on keeping more than 25 percent of the budget as surplus instead of the required 1 percent, raising suspicions about its agenda (what would be enough of a reserve, one wonders?). Mike Fahy, a special education teacher at Le Conte Middle School, explained to me that the broken computers he needs to teach dyslexic students to read need to be replaced. But the district won't fund the needed upgrade. "There's simply no money for supplies for my school, so I end up buying the supplies myself, because I don't want to run a 'poverty program,' " he said.
    Fahy has a theory. "We're being set up to fail by the decisions of the district and the school board," he told me. Le Conte shares its campus with a charter elementary school. "In my school the students come in and they're 90 percent brown. At the charter school on our campus, the students are 90 percent white. So the white kids go over there and the brown kids come over to my school." According to Fahy, "The other school is being run like a private school on the public dime." In the long run, he fears that unregulated charter school growth will result in LAUSD becoming "a special-ed district for the 'problem kids.' " He has good reason to issue such a dire warning. Examples abound in places like New Orleans, where public school systems embraced charter schools only to end up an even more segregated system that fails students and teachers.

    But corporate-minded elites across the U.S. are hellbent on viewing education as a business, and they see teachers as ungrateful moochers who are looking for easy paychecks funded by taxpayers. The Wall Street Journal published a sneering editorial on the first day of the Los Angeles teachers strike, fixating on the increasing costs of teacher salaries and pensions as requiring new tax programs every few years. The paper's editors did not even acknowledge the third-world conditions that L.A. schools struggle with—schools situated in the world's fifth largest economy and within the world's richest nation. They defended charter school expansion and laughably described such schools as a "refuge for low-income and minority students." In contrast, New York Times contributing writer Erin Aubrey Kaplan explained last year that "[i]t's partly because diversity can be managed—or minimized—that charters have become the public schools that liberal whites here can get behind."
    Fahy's colleague, Helen Allen Jackson, who is also a special education teacher at La Conte Middle School, shared with me the daily trials and travails and she and other teachers struggle with. "Our students come with a lot of baggage, and they really need more help. We are counselors, we are nurses, we are everything [to our students], and it is overwhelming," she said. When I asked if her workday ended when she got home, she exclaimed, "Absolutely not!" Other teachers who had gathered around us nodded their heads vigorously in agreement. "It never ends," Jackson said, laughing slightly hysterically at the idea that her job was a "9-to-5" position.
    Los Angeles teachers are telling the district and the world that their public schools have been deeply damaged by years of austerity. They are offering clear solutions to fix the damage and pointing to the money that the district already has in hand. They have the power of collective action through a union to make their demands, and ultimately, the district needs them more than it cares to admit. Thirty years ago, it took nine days for the district to acquiesce to the legitimate concerns of union members. How long will it take this time?


    6) Time to Break the Silence on Palestine
    By Michelle Alexander, January 19, 2019
    "We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak," the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared at Riverside Church in Manhattan in 1967.CreditCreditJohn C. Goodwin

    On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to the lectern at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. The United States had been in active combat in Vietnam for two years and tens of thousands of people had been killed, including some 10,000 American troops. The political establishment — from left to right — backed the war, and more than 400,000 American service members were in Vietnam, their lives on the line. 
    Many of King's strongest allies urged him to remain silent about the war or at least to soft-pedal any criticism. They knew that if he told the whole truth about the unjust and disastrous war he would be falsely labeled a Communist, suffer retaliation and severe backlash, alienate supporters and threaten the fragile progress of the civil rights movement.
    King rejected all the well-meaning advice and said, "I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice." Quoting a statement by the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, he said, "A time comes when silence is betrayal" and added, "that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam."
    It was a lonely, moral stance. And it cost him. But it set an example of what is required of us if we are to honor our deepest values in times of crisis, even when silence would better serve our personal interests or the communities and causes we hold most dear. It's what I think about when I go over the excuses and rationalizations that have kept me largely silent on one of the great moral challenges of our time: the crisis in Israel-Palestine.

    I have not been alone. Until very recently, the entire Congress has remained mostly silent on the human rights nightmare that has unfolded in the occupied territories. Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel's political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel, even as it has grown more emboldened in its occupation of Palestinian territory and adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.
    Many civil rights activists and organizations have remained silent as well, not because they lack concern or sympathy for the Palestinian people, but because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism. They worry, as I once did, that their important social justice work will be compromised or discredited by smear campaigns. 
    Similarly, many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights because of the McCarthyite tactics of secret organizations like Canary Mission, which blacklists those who publicly dare to support boycotts against Israel, jeopardizing their employment prospects and future careers.
    Reading King's speech at Riverside more than 50 years later, I am left with little doubt that his teachings and message require us to speak out passionately against the human rights crisis in Israel-Palestine, despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues. King argued, when speaking of Vietnam, that even "when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict," we must not be mesmerized by uncertainty. "We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."
    And so, if we are to honor King's message and not merely the man, we must condemn Israel's actions: unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations. We must cry out at the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements, and the severely limited access to decent housing, schools, food, hospitals and water that many of them face.

    We must not tolerate Israel's refusal even to discuss the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as prescribed by United Nations resolutions, and we ought to question the U.S. government funds that have supported multiple hostilities and thousands of civilian casualties in Gaza, as well as the $38 billion the U.S. government has pledged in military support to Israel.
    And finally, we must, with as much courage and conviction as we can muster, speak out against the system of legal discrimination that exists inside Israel, a system complete with, according to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians — such as the new nation-state lawthat says explicitly that only Jewish Israelis have the right of self-determination in Israel, ignoring the rights of the Arab minority that makes up 21 percent of the population.
    Of course, there will be those who say that we can't know for sure what King would do or think regarding Israel-Palestine today. That is true. The evidence regarding King's views on Israel is complicated and contradictory
    Although the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee denouncedIsrael's actions against Palestinians, King found himself conflicted. Like many black leaders of the time, he recognized European Jewry as a persecuted, oppressed and homeless people striving to build a nation of their own, and he wanted to show solidarity with the Jewish community, which had been a critically important ally in the civil rights movement.
    Ultimately, King canceled a pilgrimage to Israel in 1967 after Israel captured the West Bank. During a phone call about the visit with his advisers, he said, "I just think that if I go, the Arab world, and of course Africa and Asia for that matter, would interpret this as endorsing everything that Israel has done, and I do have questions of doubt." 
    He continued to support Israel's right to exist but also said on national television that it would be necessary for Israel to return parts of its conquered territory to achieve true peace and security and to avoid exacerbating the conflict. There was no way King could publicly reconcile his commitment to nonviolence and justice for all people, everywhere, with what had transpired after the 1967 war.
    Today, we can only speculate about where King would stand. Yet I find myself in agreement with the historian Robin D.G. Kelley, whoconcluded that, if King had the opportunity to study the current situation in the same way he had studied Vietnam, "his unequivocal opposition to violence, colonialism, racism and militarism would have made him an incisive critic of Israel's current policies."

    Indeed, King's views may have evolved alongside many other spiritually grounded thinkers, like Rabbi Brian Walt, who has spoken publicly about the reasons that he abandoned his faith in what he viewed as political Zionism. To him, he recently explained to me, liberal Zionism meant that he believed in the creation of a Jewish state that would be a desperately needed safe haven and cultural center for Jewish people around the world, "a state that would reflect as well as honor the highest ideals of the Jewish tradition." He said he grew up in South Africa in a family that shared those views and identified as a liberal Zionist, until his experiences in the occupied territories forever changed him.
    During more than 20 visits to the West Bank and Gaza, he saw horrific human rights abuses, including Palestinian homes being bulldozed while people cried — children's toys strewn over one demolished site — and saw Palestinian lands being confiscated to make way for new illegal settlements subsidized by the Israeli government. He was forced to reckon with the reality that these demolitions, settlements and acts of violent dispossession were not rogue moves, but fully supported and enabled by the Israeli military. For him, the turning point was witnessing legalized discrimination against Palestinians — including streets for Jews only — which, he said, was worse in some ways than what he had witnessed as a boy in South Africa.
    Not so long ago, it was fairly rare to hear this perspective. That is no longer the case.
    Jewish Voice for Peace, for example, aims to educate the American public about "the forced displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians that began with Israel's establishment and that continues to this day." Growing numbers of people of all faiths and backgrounds have spoken out with more boldness and courage. American organizations such as If Not Now support young American Jews as they struggle to break the deadly silence that still exists among too many people regarding the occupation, and hundreds of secular and faith-based groups have joined the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights
    In view of these developments, it seems the days when critiques of Zionism and the actions of the State of Israel can be written off as anti-Semitism are coming to an end. There seems to be increased understanding that criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic.
    This is not to say that anti-Semitism is not real. Neo-Nazism isresurging in Germany within a growing anti-immigrant movement. Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017, and many of us are still mourning what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history. We must be mindful in this climate that, while criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, it can slide there.
    Fortunately, people like the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II are leading by example, pledging allegiance to the fight against anti-Semitism while also demonstrating unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people struggling to survive under Israeli occupation. 
    He declared in a riveting speech last year that we cannot talk about justice without addressing the displacement of native peoples, the systemic racism of colonialism and the injustice of government repression. In the same breath he said: "I want to say, as clearly as I know how, that the humanity and the dignity of any person or people cannot in any way diminish the humanity and dignity of another person or another people. To hold fast to the image of God in every person is to insist that the Palestinian child is as precious as the Jewish child."

    Guided by this kind of moral clarity, faith groups are taking action. In 2016, the pension board of the United Methodist Church excluded fromits multibillion-dollar pension fund Israeli banks whose loans for settlement construction violate international law. Similarly, the United Church of Christ the year before passed a resolution calling for divestments and boycotts of companies that profit from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
    Even in Congress, change is on the horizon. For the first time, two sitting members, Representatives Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, publicly support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In 2017, Representative Betty McCollum, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced a resolution to ensure that no U.S. military aid went to support Israel's juvenile military detention system. Israel regularly prosecutes Palestinian children detainees in the occupied territories in military court.

    Relatives of a Palestinian nurse, Razan al-Najjar, 21, mourning in June after she was shot dead in Gaza by Israeli soldiers.CreditHosam Salem for The New York Times

    None of this is to say that the tide has turned entirely or that retaliation has ceased against those who express strong support for Palestinian rights. To the contrary, just as King received fierce, overwhelming criticism for his speech condemning the Vietnam War — 168 major newspapers, including The Times, denounced the address the following day — those who speak publicly in support of the liberation of the Palestinian people still risk condemnation and backlash. 
    Bahia Amawi, an American speech pathologist of Palestinian descent, was recently terminated for refusing to sign a contract that contains an anti-boycott pledge stating that she does not, and will not, participate in boycotting the State of Israel. In November, Marc Lamont Hill was fired from CNN for giving a speech in support of Palestinian rights that was grossly misinterpreted as expressing support for violenceCanary Mission continues to pose a serious threat to student activists. 
    And just over a week ago, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, apparently under pressure mainly from segments of the Jewish community and others, rescinded an honor it bestowed upon the civil rights icon Angela Davis, who has been a vocal critic of Israel's treatment of Palestinians and supports B.D.S.
    But that attack backfired. Within 48 hours, academics and activists had mobilized in response. The mayor of Birmingham, Randall Woodfin, as well as the Birmingham School Board and the City Council, expressed outrage at the institute's decision. The council unanimously passed aresolution in Davis' honor, and an alternative event is being organized to celebrate her decades-long commitment to liberation for all.
    I cannot say for certain that King would applaud Birmingham for its zealous defense of Angela Davis's solidarity with Palestinian people. But I do. In this new year, I aim to speak with greater courage and conviction about injustices beyond our borders, particularly those that are funded by our government, and stand in solidarity with struggles for democracy and freedom. My conscience leaves me no other choice.

    The Said al-Mis'hal cultural center in Gaza was hit by an Israeli airstrike in August.CreditKhalil Hamra/Associated Press

    Michelle Alexander became a New York Times columnist in 2018. She is a civil rights lawyer and advocate, legal scholar and author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." 

    My NYT Comment: 
    Thank you, Michelle Alexander, for this courageous Opinion/Editorial. There is, in my mind as a person of Jewish descent, no reason whatsoever that a Jewish state can't include, on equal and democratic terms, the people of Palestine, or anyone else who lives there. We must also delve into the role a non-secular Zionist Israel plays in support of U.S. interests in the Middle East. As former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, said in 1995, in an article entitled, "Jesse Helms: Setting the Record Straight," "I have long believed that if the United States is going to give money to Israel, it should be paid out of the Department of Defense budget. My question is this: If Israel did not exist, what would U.S. defense costs in the Middle East be? Israel is at least the equivalent of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Middle East." This is the role it was designed to play and it's the role it continues to play today on a much larger scale. U.S. out of the Middle East! No more war! Democracy, justice and equality for all, everywhere!

    Correction: I was not clear in this comment. I reject the idea of a Jewish State entirely. I support, unequivocally, a secular, democratic Palestine with equal rights for all. 
    —Bonnie Weinstein


    7) What King Said About Northern Liberalism
    By Jeanna Theoharis, January 20, 2019

    In this 1960 file photo, Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Atlanta.CreditCreditAssociated Press

    "There is a pressing need for a liberalism in the North which is truly liberal," the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told an interracial audience in New York City in 1960. He called for a liberalism that "rises up with righteous indignation when a Negro is lynched in Mississippi, but will be equally incensed when a Negro is denied the right to live in his neighborhood."
    On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it's tempting to focus on the glaring human rights abuses, racist fear-mongering and malfeasance happening at the federal level. But taking seriously Dr. King's critique of Northern liberalism means also calling out liberal public officials and residents who profess commitments to equality yet maintain a corrupt criminal justice system and a segregated school system. It means calling out Northern newspapers, along with Southern ones, to atone for their skewed civil rights coverage. And it means reckoning with the dangers of "polite" racism, as Dr. King warned, which still rings true today.
    Dr. King visited New York City throughout the 1960s and called attention to its racial problems. In Harlem in 1963, he spoke to an audience of some 15,000 white people as City College's commencement speaker. Fewer than 2 percent of the graduates that day were black, giving visual proof to his admonition that the "de facto segregation of the North was as injurious as the legal segregation of the South." 

    The next year, in a TV interview after the Harlem uprising, Dr. King called for "an honest, soul-searching analysis and evaluation of the environmental causes which have spawned the riots," which started after the police killed 15-year-old Jimmy Powell. Dr. King was nearly run out of town when he dared to suggest that New York would benefit from a Civilian Complaint Review Board to oversee the Police Department.

    In 1964, Dr. King refused to condemn the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality's plan to create a major disruption by stalling cars on highways that led to the World's Fair at Flushing Meadows. After all, the goal was to draw attention to rampant inequality in the city, which had long been unaddressed. "If our direct action programs alienate so-called friends," he wrote to in a letter to civil rights leaders, "they never were really our friends."
    Indeed, mainstream newspapers lauded his work in the South but took issue when he brought the same tactics north. In 1967, Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference announced the need for mass disruption in Northern cities to draw attention to longstanding inequalities. The New York Times criticized the idea as "certain to aggravate the angry division of whites and Negroes into warring camps," part of the paper's long history of deploring direct action on home turf. 
    Three years earlier, when 460,000 New York City students stayed out of school to demand a comprehensive school desegregation plan — making it the largest civil rights demonstration of the decade — The Times called the daylong boycott "unreasonable," "unjustified" and "violent."
    After the Watts uprising, Dr. King focused on the racial dishonesty of the North which "showered praise on the heroism of Southern Negroes." But concerning local conditions, "only the language was polite; the rejection was firm and unequivocal." The uneven attention was clear, he noted: "As the nation, Negro and white, trembled with outrage at police brutality in the South, police misconduct in the North was rationalized, tolerated and usually denied." 
    Dr. King also highlighted white people's illegal behavior that helped produced Northern ghettos: The white man "flagrantly violates building codes and regulations, his police make a mockery of law, and he violates laws on equal employment and education and the provisions for civic services," he said in an address to the American Psychological Association in 1967.

    In his 1967 book "Where Do We Go From Here," Dr. King noted the limits of Northern liberalism: "Negroes have proceeded from a premise that equality means what it says." "But most whites in America, including many of good will," he wrote "proceed from a premise that equality is a loose expression for improvement. White America is not even psychologically organized to close the gap."
    That still holds true. In 2014, the Civil Rights Project at U.C.L.A. found that New York State's schools were the most segregated in the nation. Low-income students of color languish in underfunded schools while wealthier students attend better-resourced ones. And white parents are still tremendously resistant to school rezoning, just as they were 50 years ago.
    And discriminatory policing persists. Despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's "Mission Accomplished" narrative, police officers continue to use stop-and-frisk in a way that's racially disparate. Now, many of the stops simply go unreported. The Police Department, despite court decisions, continues to disparately monitor Muslim communities, and it has reportedly surveilled Black Lives Matter activists.
    At the same time, many people have condemned the disruptive tactics of Black Lives Matter activists, claiming they should be more like Dr. King.
    In April 1963, Dr. King sat alone in the Birmingham jail. He knew the rabid side of white supremacy very intimately. And yet he wrote that "the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice," was more of an impediment than "the White Citizens Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner."
    For too long, order has been more important than justice. We can honor Dr. King's legacy by taking uncomfortable, disruptive, far-reaching action to remedy the problems to which he devoted his life.
    Jeanne Theoharis is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the author of, most recently, "A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History."


    8) Coming Soon to a Police Station Near You: The DNA 'Magic Box'
    "Asked why so many people would consent to give DNA, he said: 'I have no idea. But criminals do stupid things.'"
    By Heather Murphy, January 21, 2019

    In just 90 minutes, a Rapid DNA machine can reveal whether an individual's DNA matches genetic evidence collected from a local crime.CreditCreditMark Makela for The New York Times

    BENSALEM, Pa. — They call it the "magic box." Its trick is speedy, nearly automated processing of DNA.
    "It's groundbreaking to have it in the police department," said Detective Glenn Vandegrift of the Bensalem Police Department. "If we can do it, any department in the country can do it."
    Bensalem, a suburb in Bucks County, near Philadelphia, is on the leading edge of a revolution in how crimes are solved. For years, when police wanted to learn whether a suspect's DNA matched previously collected crime-scene DNA, they sent a sample to an outside lab, then waited a month or more for results. 

    But in early 2017, the police booking station in Bensalem became the first in the country to install a Rapid DNA machine, which provides results in 90 minutes, and which police can operate themselves. Since then, a growing number of law enforcement agencies across the country — in Houston, Utah, Delaware — have begun operating similar machines and analyzing DNA on their own.

    The science-fiction future, in which police can swiftly identify robbers and murderers from discarded soda cans and cigarette butts, has arrived. In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Rapid DNA Act, which, starting this year, will enable approved police booking stations in several states to connect their Rapid DNA machines to Codis, the national DNA database. Genetic fingerprinting is set to become as routine as the old-fashioned kind.
    Law-enforcement officials said that the device had provided leads in hundreds of cases, helping to facilitate arrests and exonerate falsely accused individuals. Members of the Rapid DNA team in the Orange County, Calif., district attorney's office said that some robbers were identified so quickly that they were caught still holding stolen goods. Rapid DNA machines were used to help identify victims of the recent wildfires in Northern California.
    But already many legal experts and scientists are troubled by the way the technology is being used. As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases. 
    "It's a lot harder to resist the temptation just to run some people's DNA, just to see if there's anything useful that you get out of it," said Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University and author of "Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA." That approach challenges the "fundamental way we've structured liberty in our constitutional order."

    Moreover, there is little agreement on which types of genetic material should be run through the device. Valuable genetic evidence is likely to be rendered useless if handled by nonexperts, critics say, and police officers risk being misled by the results of Rapid DNA analysis.

    "There are not the same standards and rules and safeguards that are in place for the national database," said Michael Coble, the associate director of the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. "Who is going to change that? I don't know."
    If the Rapid DNA system has flaws, now is the moment to address them, many experts argue. Peter Stout, president of the Houston Forensic Science Center, was left with concerns after completing a Rapid DNA pilot program with the Houston Police Department last February.
    "We need fast and cheap," said Dr. Stout. "It also needs to be right."
    The Rapid DNA machine in Bensalem is about the size of a desktop computer. When it arrived, it was given its own office; a framed photo of the department's displaced star, the drone, hangs nearby. 
    So far, the machine has provided leads in a few dozen investigations.Detective Vandegrift is its main operator, when he is not busy running the department's social-media accounts, one of his many responsibilities. 
    "I barely need a pulse to use this instrument," he said. To illustrate the point, he selected a sample from a 52-year-old Bensalem resident who had been pulled over the previous day for running a red light. 
    Traditionally, forensic DNA analysis has been carried out in accredited labs, by forensic scientists. In contrast, Detective Vandegrift began operating the Rapid DNA machine after several hours of training by IntegenX (now Thermo Fisher Scientific), the manufacturer of the device. Unlike DNA labs, Rapid DNA machines do not have rigorous protocols governing the handling of samples.

    "There really are no actual rules written anywhere," Detective Vandegrift said. He has been working to devise some, by consulting with a lab. After donning a pair of latex gloves, he opened an envelope, removed a cotton swab bearing cheek cells from the Bensalem driver, and placed it in a cartridge the size of a smartphone.

    When the man was pulled over, the police found an outstanding warrant for retail theft. He was arrested and asked if he would consent to provide a DNA sample.
    To collect DNA, police in Pennsylvania must obtain consent from people under arrest. Ninety percent of those asked say yes, said FredHarran, director of public safety for the Bensalem police; it was Mr. Harran who encouraged the department to take the lead in DNA policing. Asked why so many people would consent to give DNA, he said: "I have no idea. But criminals do stupid things."
    Of the dozens of cheek swabs that officers in Bucks County collect each week, three to five are selected for Rapid DNA processing. The driver's sample was a good candidate because a string of vehicle break-ins and car thefts had been reported near his home. His police file suggested possible involvement, Detective Vandegrift said: "If he hits to a burglary, we'll charge him and lock him up."
    A DNA sample is most useful if an agency has a large database for comparison. Even before the "magic box" arrived in Bensalem, Bucks County had built up one of the biggest local DNA databases in the country. It contains around 12,000 individual profiles, as well as 13,000 still-unidentified profiles extracted from crime scenes.
    Few law-enforcement agencies have such a database, but a new incentive to invest in Rapid DNA is emerging. The F.B.I. is setting up the infrastructure to enable select police booking stations, initially in five states — Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas — to upload genetic profiles extracted from cheek swabs directly to the national DNA database. 
    A suspect's DNA then could be compared quickly against evidence from hundreds of thousands of unsolved crimes across the country. In under two hours, a person in custody for stealing a laptop could be identified as a long-sought serial killer.
    Detective Vandegrift took the cartridge containing the cotton swab and inserted it into the console of the Rapid DNA machine. Numbers began ticking down on the screen, signaling that a series of chemicals was transforming the driver's cheek cells to snippets of genetic code.

    "What happens in that magic box is the same exact science that's being used in big labs," said Detective Vandegrift. "It's just all miniaturized."
    Most scientists would agree, if the samples are cheek swabs collected from an individual. But increasingly, investigators are using the machine to analyze crime scene evidence. 
    Investigators with the Utah attorney general's office and police in New Castle County, Del., have reviewed DNA swabbed from weapons to see if they were linked to particular suspects. Detective Vandegrift and the 15 other detectives he has trained are using their device to process blood, chewing gum and cigarette butts from crime scenes.
    There are various models of Rapid DNA machines, by manufacturers such as Thermo Fisher Scientific and ANDE. But they were not designed to analyze crime-scene evidence, numerous scientists said. Dr. Coble, of the University of North Texas, said processing DNA from a cheek swab was like reading the children's book "Run Spot Run," whereas reading crime scene DNA was like "reading Shakespeare in Old English." (Among other complicating factors, crime-scene samples often contain more than one person's DNA.)

    In a statement last January, the National District Attorneys Associationsaid that it "does not support the use of Rapid DNA technology for crime-scene DNA samples unless the samples are analyzed by experienced DNA analysts." Other agencies countered that such warnings were excessive, and that manufacturers were fine-tuning the system. 
    "To say they haven't been validated in the same way doesn't mean it's an inappropriate use of the technology," said Melissa Schwandt, a senior application scientist at ANDE. Vince Figarelli, the superintendent of the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab, emphasized the benefit to police. 
    "You've solved the crime that day rather than waiting six months, eight months or years to get through lab backlogs," he said. He added that when Rapid DNA is used in Arizona to analyze crime-scene DNA, identical samples are sent to a lab for backup verification. In Orange County, forensic scientists operate the device.

    If a sample is too complex, the machine typically will not generate a file. Samples analyzed with Rapid DNA are mainly used to generate investigative leads, and are rarely used in court. 
    The use of Rapid DNA analysis has raised concerns in other parts of the world. In a 2017 report, the Swedish Forensic Center explained that it had begun and then prematurely halted a Rapid DNA trial, in part because nearly 25 percent of the blood samples failed to create usable profiles. The sample is consumed each time, so a failure effectively destroys the evidence.
    More troubling, one of the 155 blood samples produced a faulty profile. "The instrument did not warn or display any errors," the report stated. "Without a manual review, the incorrect DNA profile could in a real case have been accepted and used in casework or uploaded to the DNA database."

    At around the 90-minute mark, the "magic box" signaled that it was done: The Bensalem driver's DNA was now a digital file. With a few clicks, Detective Vandegrift uploaded it to the county database.
    Codis, the national DNA database, is so tightly regulated by the F.B.I. that police sometimes complain that it is useless. Under the bureau's new Rapid DNA initiative, police may upload to Codis only samples taken from individuals, and only for select crimes. The specifics are determined by state law and enforced by the F.B.I.
    In contrast, county DNA databases are unregulated. In Bucks County, the DNA database has begun to include genetic material from people whom police consider "even just a suspicious subject," Detective Vandegrift said. Mr. Harran called such cases "one of the greatest uses of this instrument." 
    He described a hypothetical scenario: "Three o'clock on a Tuesday morning, we get a 9-1-1 call. Somebody wakes up, their dog is barking, their motion lights came on. They see this guy in their driveway."

    Previously, even if the man was charged with loitering or trespassing, he would have been released within hours. Now, Detective Vandegrift said, "We'll say, 'Listen, we've had stuff in the area. Would you mind giving us consent to take your DNA, so we can rule you out for committing any crimes?'"
    He continued: "We swab their mouth and we put it into the magic box. Ninety minutes later, it hits to two burglary scenes. Now we got him for felonies, and he's going to jail."
    Erin Murphy, of New York University, expressed concern with this style of policing. An investigative approach that "starts with everybody's a suspect, and then let's go see if we can find a crime they've committed — I think that's a deeply problematic inversion of how we do things," she said.
    Ms. Murphy added that this new type of policing was likely to exacerbate racial biases in the criminal justice system. Already, African-Americans have been considered "suspicious" for napping in a college dorm, barbecuing in a public park and giving change to a homeless man.
    Mr. Harran called this criticism "total nonsense." His officers do not target particular groups for DNA collection, he said: "You have nothing to fear if you're not going to be a criminal."
    After Detective Vandegrift uploaded the Bensalem's driver's genetic file to the county database, he waited. Would it connect to a crime? "It's actually pretty exciting when you get a DNA hit," he said. Three minutes later a message appeared on his phone: "No matches found." 
    "It is what it is," he said, as the machine signaled it was ready for the next swab.

    Heather Murphy is a science reporter. She writes about the intersection of technology and our genes and how bio-tech innovations affect the way we live. @heathertal


    9) Supreme Court Revives Ban on Transgender Military Service
    "The Supreme Court on Tuesday revived the Trump administration’s policy of barring most transgender people from serving in the military. ...'The government has presented no evidence that their doing so harms military readiness, effectiveness or lethality,' the brief said."
    By Adam Liptak, January 22, 2019

    Army soldiers in Texas. President Trump announced a policy barring transgender people from serving in the military last year.CreditCreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday revived the Trump administration’s policy of barring most transgender people from serving in the military. In a brief, unsigned order, the justices lifted nationwide injunctions that had blocked the policy.
    The vote was 5 to 4. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.
    The policy, announced on Twitter by President Trump and refined by the defense secretary at the time, Jim Mattis, generally prohibits people identifying with a gender different from their biological sex from military service. It makes exceptions for several hundred transgender people already serving openly and for those willing to serve “in their biological sex.”

    Challenges to the policy have had mixed success in the lower courts. Trial judges around the nation issued injunctions blocking it, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, is expected to rule soon on whether to affirm one of them.

    On Jan. 4, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated a third injunction, that one issued by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a federal trial judge in Washington. The appeals court said its ruling was “not a final determination on the merits.” But it handed the administration at least a provisional victory.
    The Supreme Court granted stays of two other injunctions, issued by Federal District Court judges in California and Washington State, both in the Ninth Circuit.
    Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco, representing the administration, had argued that the stays were needed to address a troubling phenomenon.
    “It is with great reluctance that we seek such emergency relief in this court,” Mr. Francisco wrote. “Unfortunately, this case is part of a growing trend in which federal district courts, at the behest of particular plaintiffs, have issued nationwide injunctions, typically on a preliminary basis, against major policy initiatives.”
    “Such injunctions previously were rare, but in recent years they have become routine,” he wrote. “In less than two years, federal courts have issued 25 of them, blocking a wide range of significant policies involving national security, national defense, immigration and domestic issues.”

    The administration had also asked the justices to immediately hear appeals, an unusual request when an appeals court has not yet ruled. The court turned down those requests.
    The Supreme Court’s rules say it will review a federal trial court’s ruling before an appeals court has spoken “only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court.”
    In a separate brief, Mr. Francisco wrote, “This case satisfies that standard.”
    “It involves,” he wrote, “an issue of imperative public importance: the authority of the U.S. military to determine who may serve in the nation’s armed forces.”
    He told the justices that prompt action was required to ensure that the Supreme Court could rule before its term ends in June. The alternative, he said, was to defer Supreme Court arguments in the matter to the term that starts in October, with a decision probably not coming until 2020.
    But lawyers for current and prospective members of the military challenging the policy said there was no need to upend the status quo while the case proceeded.
    “Transgender people have been serving openly in all branches of the United States military since June 2016, including on active duty in combat zones,” their brief said. “Transgender individuals have been permitted to enlist in the military since January 2018.”
    “The government has presented no evidence that their doing so harms military readiness, effectiveness or lethality,” the brief said.
    The hundreds of people grandfathered in under the new policy, the brief added, “cannot be squared with the government’s claims of urgency to eliminate all other transgender personnel.”


    10) Roe v. Wade Is at Risk. Here’s How to Prepare.
    "A lawsuit filed last week in Pennsylvania seeks to overturn the state’s ban on using state Medicaid funds to pay for abortion. If successful, it could help thousands more women each year to afford an abortion. This case is evidence of the central inequity around abortion: It is easy for women with means to get an abortion, while poor women are at the mercy of statutes that restrict their rights. That’s because only 16 states allow women who rely on Medicaid — in other words, poor women — to use that coverage to pay for an abortion."
    By The Editorial Board, January 21, 2019

    Elianna Schiffrik, center, was among a small group of counter-protesters outside the Supreme Court during the March for Life on Friday.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

    Abortion opponents have spent decades planning for a Supreme Court with a majority hostile to reproductive rights. So it’s little surprise that, with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in the fall, the necessary fifth vote, they’ve been quick to seize the moment.
    The anti-abortion movement has also spent those decades building a vast fund-raising and organizing network, with the goals of securing an anti-abortion voting bloc and getting more like-minded judges, at every level, and lawmakers — and presidents — into power.
    Mere weeks after Justice Kavanaugh was sworn in, West Virginia and Alabama passed state constitutional amendments that could ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

    Those on the other side, then, need their own robust and creative playbook — not just to fight back against attacks on reproductive freedom but also to pre-emptively protect and expand those freedoms wherever possible.

    The Supreme Court will determine the fate of Roe, but its dismantling will start on the state level, requiring the effort to push back to be nationwide and expansive. Republican-controlled state legislatures are expected to put forth many pieces of anti-abortion legislation this year. Some are meant to directly challenge Roe v. Wade, like recent proposals in Kentucky and Florida that ban abortion around the sixth week of pregnancy. That can translate to about two weeks after a missed menstrual period — before many women even realize that they’re pregnant, let alone have time to consider an abortion. Ohio lawmakers have already voted for such a measure.
    Judges in lower courts — many appointed by President Trump — are expected to uphold more and more extreme anti-abortion laws. So even if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn Roe outright, the lower courts could quietly roll back Americans’ constitutional right to the procedure.
    Women in many parts of the country are already finding it nearly impossible to exercise their reproductive rights. At least 424 anti-abortion bills have been passed at the state level since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health. As a result, 43 percent of all reproductive-age women — 29 million people — now live in areas that are hostile to abortion rights, including seven states that each have just one abortion clinic left.

    Given this bleak state of affairs, it’s all the more important to showcase efforts to support rights on the state level that could serve as models as the fight moves into new legislatures. 
    For instance, New York legislators are expected to pass the Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday — the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The bill would wipe an anachronistic law from the books, decriminalize abortion in the state and ensure that women in New York have the full protections guaranteed under Roe. The bill would close a cruel loophole, one that requires women who need abortions later in pregnancy — often because doctors discovered fatal fetal anomalies — to travel out of state and pay $10,000 or more out of pocket to get the medical attention they need.

    Lawmakers in other states with outdated abortion laws are taking action, too. Bills in Rhode Island would codify the right to an abortion in the state, no matter what happens to Roe, and would repeal several existing laws that are now unenforceable — like one requiring that a woman receive consent from her husband before getting an abortion and another that defines life as beginning at conception. Similar legislation will be considered in New MexicoVermontMassachusettsand Nevada — which recently became the first state in the country with a female-majority legislature.
    While blue states are locking down reproductive rights, tougher fights are breaking out in red and purple states.

    A lawsuit filed last week in Pennsylvania seeks to overturn the state’s ban on using state Medicaid funds to pay for abortion. If successful, it could help thousands more women each year to afford an abortion. This case is evidence of the central inequity around abortion: It is easy for women with means to get an abortion, while poor women are at the mercy of statutes that restrict their rights. That’s because only 16 states allow women who rely on Medicaid — in other words, poor women — to use that coverage to pay for an abortion.

    Such lawsuits can be long shots, but they’re shots worth taking — as in Wisconsin, where Planned Parenthood is suing to repeal several anti-abortion laws enacted under the Republican former governor Scott Walker.
    Similarly, bills with little chance of passing can still have value. In the deep-red bastions of Missouri and Texas, lawmakers like State Representative Jessica Farrar, a Democrat from Houston, have introduced legislation to repeal abortion restrictions and expand access. Such bills may be unlikely to be signed into law, but they raise awareness of an issue that many Americans have long ago tuned out. “In these states, these bills can help change the conversation around abortion,” said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute. 
    (In 2017, Representative Farrar also introduced a stunt bill to make a point about the unnecessary restrictions that women face in the state; among other things, the legislation would have required men to read a booklet about the risks of vasectomies, colonoscopies and erectile-dysfunction drugs before receiving them.)
    There can be a fine line between gimmicks and strategy. But abortion rights supporters have spent too long on the defensive, while anti-abortion forces have put substantial pressure on all three branches of government. It isn’t too late to wipe outdated laws off the books and make the procedure more accessible to low-income women and more available to everyone. And it is certainly high time to make abortion rights a voting issue in elections.

    The anti-abortion movement understands the high stakes of this moment. Those who support reproductive rights must as well.


    11) Shutdown’s Pain Cuts Deep for the Homeless and Other Vulnerable Americans
    By Glen Thrush, January 21, 2019

    Susie Sinclair-Smith, left, of the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, with Samantha Whitt and her children in an apartment in Maryland that the group helps pay for.CreditCreditJustin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

    WASHINGTON — Ramona Wormley-Mitsis got welcome news in December: After years of waiting, the federal government had approved a subsidy that allowed her to rent a three-bedroom house, bracketed by a white picket fence to keep her two autistic sons from bolting into traffic.
    A few days later, the dream was deferred. The Department of Housing and Urban Development — one of the federal agencies hit hardest by the shutdown — would not be able to pay her new landlord until the government reopened.
    “It is my dream home. It’s like my last stop; it’s like my last chance — you know?” said Ms. Wormley-Mitsis, 39, who lives in Fall River, Mass., and is staying with relatives until the check clears. “We drive by that house all the time. It’s torture. Waiting, waiting, waiting.”

    One month after the government shutdown began, its effects have begun to hurt some of the most vulnerable Americans: not just homeless people, but also those who are one crisis away from the streets. And nonprofit groups dedicated to helping low-income renters are already scrambling to survive without the lifeblood payments from HUD that began being cut off on Jan. 1.

    That has left a small but growing number of tenants, like Ms. Wormley-Mitsis, in limbo. Landlords, especially smaller management companies operating on narrow margins, have begun pressuring poor, disabled and elderly tenants who cannot afford to make up the difference.
    On Friday afternoon, a TriState Management employee in Newton, Ark., taped notices on the doors of 43 federally subsidized tenants, demanding that they cover the gap between what they typically pay and the full rent.
    “As of Feb. 1, 2019, all tenants will be responsible for full basic rent,” the letter said. “We will extend the due date for the rent to the 20th of the month. This will remain in effect until the government opens up.”
    Amanda Neeley’s heart sank. The three-bedroom home she shares with her daughter and granddaughter goes for a monthly rate of $505, of which she is required to pay $110. The rest — which her landlord now wants her to pay — is supposed to be picked up by the federal government under a program intended to help out the rural poor.
    “This is putting a hurt on all of us. Everything was going along normal until they decided to shut down the government,” said Ms. Neeley, 48, who gets by on a small disability check. “I can’t pay that much; it is beyond my means. It is not fair.”

    A TriState Management employee hung up the phone when asked about the policy on Friday. But lawyers for the poor say that renters can fight evictions in court, and many organizations, including the Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland, have begun distributing fliers informing tenants of their rights under local law.
    A week earlier, a property manager at another subsidized low-income housing complex in rural Arkansas, run by the Agriculture Department, sent a similar notice to tenants. “Until the government opens again, you are responsible for ALL of your rental amount,” the letter said.

    The letter was rescinded when federal officials vowed to cover the payments.
    Most other social safety net programs are facing a similar, if less imminent, emergency. The Department of Agriculture has announced that funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps and other aid to almost 40 million poor and working-class Americans, will run out by March 1, and other nutrition programs are facing the same fate.
    The Department of Health and Human Services was largely exempt from the showdown and Medicaid and Medicare are not affected by the funding lapse. But Congress failed to reauthorize one of its main programs, the $16.5 billion Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides states with block grants for a range of services, cash welfare and child care. States are likely to pick up the tab for most programs, but a protracted shutdown lasting into the spring could result in cutbacks, according to analysts.
    While the housing crisis is just starting to hit individual tenants, it has already wreaked havoc on organizations responsible for housing homeless people and providing support services to veterans, people with disabilities and victims of domestic abuse.
    The funding lapse is being felt most acutely by providers who owe their survival to the month-to-month cash flow provided by the annual $2.8 billion federal Homeless Assistance Grant program.
    Susie Sinclair-Smith has helped build a network to help homeless people in Maryland’s high-rent Washington suburbs, an impressive but precarious Jenga tower of programs dependent on $3 million in annual federal funding.

    “The crisis has arrived,” said Ms. Sinclair-Smith, the executive director of the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless. The last payment the group received from HUD was a $250,000 reimbursement for its December expenses, which arrived at the start of the year.
    The coalition is now preparing to tap its modest reserve fund, of just over $200,000, that was intended to cover unintended emergencies, like floods or the loss benefits by individual clients. It will be used to bridge the loss of federal cash to cover rent, the salaries of case managers who provide support to disabled and elderly clients, maintenance costs, and other expenses for the 250 households of formerly homeless people.
    “We can get by for a while, but what happens if one of our buildings gets hit by a flood?” Ms. Sinclair-Smith said.
    In Boston, the Pine Street Inn, the region’s largest provider of homeless housing, is exploring its financial options to counter the loss of a major federal contract on Feb. 1. It bankrolls one of the provider’s most important units, a seven-member outreach team that is responsible for finding affordable housing for homeless people, said Lyndia Downie, the group’s president.
    In Kokomo, Ind., shelters that serve homeless veterans and victims of domestic violence are struggling to remain open without the monthly subsidies. Organizations in Kentucky, Texas, Arkansas, California and New Jersey face a mass funding halt at the end of the month.
    “If the shutdown continues, all these organizations will be left having to consider a spectrum of bad to terrible options, including staff layoffs and, in the worst-case scenario, evictions,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington-based advocacy organization.

    HUD, which funds most of these programs, has been hit not only by the furloughing of 95 percent of its work force, but also by a recent exodus of top staff members. Just days before the shutdown began, the department’s deputy secretary, Pam Patenaude, resigned in what one person with knowledge of the situation described as a forced exit after clashing with the housing secretary, Ben Carson.

    Critics said HUD officials inadequately planned for an extended shutdown, failing to recertify more than 1,000 contracts with landlords who provided subsidized housing.
    “I am thoroughly disgusted with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s failure to follow its own contingency plan” for the shutdown, Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, wrote in a letter to Mr. Carson on Friday.
    Ms. Waters was particularly critical of Mr. Carson for exposing homeless programs, including those providing housing for victims of domestic violence, to financial harm.
    A spokesman for Mr. Carson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The shutdown has stopped vital funding allocations for public housing repairs, new housing voucher applications and even the processing of post-disaster housing requests from Puerto Rico and several hurricane-ravaged states.
    HUD officials often play down concerns about the impact of funding decisions on poor people. But privately, they too are growing increasingly concerned that some tenants and local groups that rely on funding from the department could be stranded if the shutdown lasts even a few more weeks.
    Smaller organizations, especially those that serve rural areas, are particularly vulnerable because they often lack endowments, cash reserves or lines of credit that their big-city counterparts can tap.
    “We are providing services without getting paid for those services, and eventually that is going to catch up with us,” said Adrienne Bush, executive director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky, which relies on a $1 million federal grant that covers about half its expenses each year.

    Ms. Bush’s group has not received its January payments, and still has not gotten some of the money it was owed from providing services in 2018. To cover the gap, she has begun to tap a $75,000 cash reserve.
    Ms. Bush will soon have to stop paying some landlords, which could lead to evictions. To minimize the fallout, she has started to compile a list of owners willing to forgo payments for an extended period.
    She sent a letter pleading for help to Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. Ms. Bush said the shutdown was putting “people’s lives at risk.”
    She received an eight-word response, and no commitment to help.
    “I’ll be sure to pass on your concerns,” Tiffany Ge, Mr. McConnell’s legal counsel, replied in an email to Ms. Bush.
    A spokesman for Mr. McConnell said the senator would send a written response to Ms. Bush’s group and champion Mr. Trump’s latest offer to reopen the government — giving temporary protections to roughly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion for a border wall.
    House Democrats have already rejected the president’s proposal.


    12) $11 toothpaste: Immigrants pay big for basics at private ICE lock-ups
    By Michelle Conlin, Kristina Cooke, January 17, 2019

    He could content himself with a jailhouse diet that he said left him perpetually hungry. Or he could labor in the prison’s kitchen to earn money to buy extra food at the commissary. 
    Cruz went to work. But his $1-a-day salary at the privately run Adelanto Detention Facility did not stretch far. 
    A can of commissary tuna sold for $3.25. That is more than four times the price at a Target store near the small desert town of Adelanto, about two hours northeast of Los Angeles. Cruz stuck with ramen noodles at 58 cents a package, double the Target price. A miniature deodorant stick, at $3.35 and more than three days’ wages, was an impossible luxury, he said. 
    “If I bought that there wouldn’t be enough money for food,” Cruz said. 
    Tuna and deodorant would seem minor worries for detainees such as Cruz. Now 25, he sought asylum after fleeing gangs trying to recruit him in his native Honduras, a place where saying “no” can mean execution. 
    But immigration attorneys say the pricey commissary goods are part of a broader strategy by private prisons to harness cheap inmate labor to lower operating costs and boost profits.
    Immigrants and activists say facilities such as Adelanto, owned by Boca Raton, Fla.-based Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), the nation’s largest for-profit corrections company, deliberately skimp on essentials, even food, to coerce detainees to labor for pennies an hour to supplement meager rations. 
    Geo Group spokesperson Pablo Paez called those allegations “completely false.” He said detainees are given meals approved by dieticians, the labor program is strictly voluntary, and wage rates are federally mandated. 
    The company said Geo Group contracts with outside vendors to run its commissaries, whose prices “are in line with comparable local markets.” It also said Geo Group makes a “minimal commission” on commissary items, most of which goes into a “welfare fund” to purchase recreational equipment and other items for detainees. 
    Relatives can send money electronically to fund their loved ones’ commissary accounts, for fees that can reach as high as 10 percent of the amount deposited, some families report. But for many immigrant detainees, scrubbing toilets or mopping floors is the only way they say they can earn enough to stay clean and fed. 
    You “either work for a few cents an hour or live without basic things like soap, shampoo, deodorant and food,” detainee Wilhen Hill Barrientos, 67, said in a class-action lawsuit filed last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center against Nashville-based CoreCivic Inc (CXW.N), the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison operator. In the complaint, Barrientos said guards told him to “use his fingers” when he asked for toilet paper at the Stewart Detention Center, located in rural Lumpkin, Georgia. 
    Detainees are challenging what they say is an oppressive business model in which the companies deprive them of essentials to force them to work for sub-minimum wages, money that is soon recaptured in the firms’ own commissaries. 
    “These private prison companies are profiting off of what is essentially a company-store scenario,” said the SPLC’s Meredith Stewart, a lead attorney on the class action.
    mmigrant rights groups have filed similar lawsuits against CoreCivic and Geo Group in California, Colorado, Texas and Washington. 
    Government watchdogs and lawmakers are taking notice too. 
    In November, 11 U.S. senators, including 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, sent letters to Geo Group and CoreCivic lambasting the “perverse profit incentive at the core of the private prison business,” which has benefited from a crackdown on illegal immigrants under U.S. President Donald Trump. 
    The senators cited a December 2017 report from the U.S. Office of the Inspector General documenting problems at lockups contracted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The inspector general found spoiled, moldy and expired food, and cited detainees’ complaints that hygiene products were “not provided promptly or at all,” the report said. 
    The lawmakers have demanded Geo Group and CoreCivic respond to allegations of detainee mistreatment. 
    Geo Group said a comprehensive, detailed response is underway. The company told Reuters that Geo Group has “already taken steps to remedy areas where our processes fell short of our commitment to high-quality care.” 
    CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist said the company disagrees with the senators’ assertions, and that it provides “all daily needs” of detainees. 
    She said CoreCivic follows all federal standards for ICE-contracted facilities, including management of the outside vendors that run its commissaries, prices for commissary products, and fees charged to families for depositing funds into detainees’ commissary accounts.


    The U.S. for-profit prison industry has exploded over the past two decades. In 2016, 128,300 people - roughly 1 in 12 U.S. prisoners - were incarcerated in private lock-ups. That is an increase of 47 percent from 2000, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 
    Geo Group and CoreCivic together manage over half of U.S. private prison contracts, with combined revenues of nearly $4 billion in 2017. ICE is the No. 1 customer by revenue for both companies. 
    Trump’s immigration polices have been a boon for the industry, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his election and inauguration. In fiscal 2019, the number of people in ICE detention has averaged 45,200 daily, according to agency spokesman Vincent Picard. That is up nearly 19 percent from fiscal 2017. 
    Both Geo Group and CoreCivic have added hundreds of immigration detention beds over the past year. Stock prices for the two companies are up about 30 percent since Trump’s election. 
    The government pays private prison companies fees ranging from roughly $60 to $130 daily for the care and feeding of each detainee. 
    At CoreCivic’s Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, which houses about 1,700 undocumented immigrants, ICE pays a per diem of $62.03 for each detainee housed there. CoreCivic’s revenue from Stewart alone was $38 million last year, court records show. 
    Detainee Barrientos, the lead lawsuit plaintiff, said in court documents he worked 7 days a week at the facility in order to purchase hygiene products and phone cards to call family members in Guatemala.
    Those basics can add up. Reuters viewed a copy of the center’s commissary price list. It shows detainees are charged $11.02 for a 4 oz. tube of Sensodyne toothpaste, available on Amazon.com for $5.20. 
    Dove soap priced at $2.44 at the commissary is available for just over a dollar at Target. A 2.5 oz tube of Effergrip denture cream that sells for $4.99 at Walmart is $7.12 at the commissary. 
    Fees are pricey too. Vioney Gutierrez, a former detainee at Geo Group’s Adelanto facility in California, said 10 percent of the money her family spent to fund her commissary account was consumed by fees. 
    “When my daughter put in $40, I got $36,” said Gutierrez, 37. A native of Mexico, she said she spent six months at Adelanto in 2018 after asking for asylum at a port of entry. She is currently out on bond and staying with family in Oregon while she awaits the outcome of her deportation case. 
    Geo Group said its inmate commissary account services are provided by a third-party vendor, and that it does not profit from those transactions. 
    At Adelanto, Gutierrez said it cost $1 a minute to make calls to Mexico, and even more to places further afield, prices that keep many detainees from communicating with their families. 
    Geo Group said ICE contracts with a third-party telecom vendor and that the company plays “no role whatsoever in communications services.” 
    High commissary prices have long been a complaint of prison reformers. But for immigrant detainees, many of whom borrowed money or drained savings to reach the United States, the prices are particularly prohibitive.
    Cruz, the Honduran detainee, spent eight months at Adelanto last year before an immigrant rights organization paid the $10,000 bond for his release. He is now in Texas awaiting the outcome of his case. 
    In his final months at Adelanto, Cruz said he resorted to bartering, trading shoes he wove out of plastic bags for ramen and cookies.







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