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.



Statement: Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech

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

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

Petition Text

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


























Open letter to active duty soldiers on the border
Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern U.S. border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the U.S. are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country's elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.
Courage to Resist has been running a strategic outreach campaign to challenge troops to refuse illegal orders while on the border, such as their Commander-in-Chief's suggestion that they murder migrants who might be throwing rocks, or that they build and help run concentration camps. In addition to social media ads, About Face, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist, are also printing tens of thousands of these leaflets for distribution near the border. Please consider donating towards these expenses.

Don't turn them away

The migrants in the Central American caravan are not our enemies

Open letter to active duty soldiers
Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern U.S. border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the U.S. are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country's elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.
"There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone."
These extremely poor and vulnerable people are desperate for peace. Who among us would walk a thousand miles with only the clothes on our back without great cause? The odds are good that your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. lived similar experiences to these migrants. Your family members came to the U.S. to seek a better life—some fled violence. Consider this as you are asked to confront these unarmed men, women and children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. To do so would be the ultimate hypocrisy.
The U.S. is the richest country in the world, in part because it has exploited countries in Latin America for decades. If you treat people from these countries like criminals, as Trump hopes you will, you only contribute to the legacy of pillage and plunder beneath our southern border. We need to confront this history together, we need to confront the reality of America's wealth and both share and give it back with these people. Above all else, we cannot turn them away at our door. They will die if we do.
By every moral or ethical standard it is your duty to refuse orders to "defend" the U.S. from these migrants. History will look kindly upon you if you do. There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone. It is much harder to punish the many than the few.
In solidarity,
Rory Fanning
Former U.S. Army Ranger, War-Resister
Spenser Rapone
Former U.S. Army Ranger and Infantry Officer, War-Resister
Leaflet distributed by:
  • About Face: Veterans Against the War
  • Courage to Resist
  • Veterans For Peace
Courage to Resist has been running a strategic outreach campaign to challenge troops to refuse illegal orders while on the border, such as their Commander-in-Chief's suggestion that they murder migrants who might be throwing rocks, or that they build and help run concentration camps. In addition to social media ads, About Face, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist, are also printing tens of thousands of these leaflets for distribution near the border. Please consider donating towards these expenses.
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist*---------*---------*---------*---------*---------*---------*




New "Refuse War" Shirts

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

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

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

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

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







Abu-Jamal Wins New Right to Appeal

By Rachel Wolkenstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to a radio report at Black Agenda Report:



A Call for a Mass Mobilization to Oppose NATO, War and Racism
Protest NATO, Washington, DC, Lafayette Park (across from the White House)

1 PM Saturday, March 30, 2019.
Additional actions will take place on Thursday April 4 at the opening of the NATO meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No to NATO!
End All U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad!
Bring the Troops Home Now! 
No to Racism! 
The Administrative Committee of UNAC,

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    4) 6 Days, 6 Deaths: More Murder of Social Leaders in Colombia
    By teleSUR, January 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

    5) Angela Davis Says She's 'Stunned' After Award Is Revoked Over Her Views on Israel
    By Niraj Chokshi, January 8, 2019

    The civil rights activist and scholar Angela Davis speaking at the University of Michigan-Flint in 2015. She is a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which seeks to apply economic pressure to Israel in protest of its treatment of Palestinians.

    Angela Davis, the activist and scholar, said this week that she was "stunned" after a civil rights group in her native Birmingham, Ala., reversed its decision to honor her with an award amid protests over her support for a boycott of Israel.
    Professor Davis, once a global hero of the left who has since earned renown for her scholarship, had been selected for the human rights award months ago by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, but the group's board rescinded the honor on Friday.
    In announcing the move, the institute did not offer an explanation, saying only that "she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based." But Professor Davis said in a statement on Facebook on Monday that she had learned it was because of her "long-term support of justice for Palestine." The revocation of the award, she added, was "not primarily an attack against me but rather against the very spirit of the indivisibility of justice."
    In a statement expressing dismay at the controversy, Mayor Randall Woodfin of Birmingham said the decision had come amid "protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies."

    The institute did say in its statement announcing the revocation that it had begun hearing from "concerned individuals and organizations" in late December, around the time the magazine Southern Jewish Life published a piece about the award by its editor, Larry Brook.
    In it, he wrote that "for some in the community, there might be some indigestion" at the now-canceled February gala where Professor Davis, who retired from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2008, was slated to be honored.
    Mr. Brook noted that Professor Davis has supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as B.D.S., which seeks to apply economic pressure to Israel until it ends the occupation of the West Bank, treats Palestinians equally under the law and allows the return of Palestinian refugees.
    Many Israelis and their allies oppose the movement, viewing it as anti-Semitic and an existential threat to the country. Supporters, including Professor Davis, describe it as a necessary response to what amounts to modern-day apartheid.
    [A boycott drive put Israel on a blacklist. Now Israel has one of its own.]
    Professor Davis, who has delivered that message on college campuses and elsewhere, has also joined prominent black celebrities and thinkers in comparing the struggles of Palestinians to those of African-Americans. Among those celebrities is the actor Danny Glover, who received the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's human rights award in 2003.

    Israel and its allies have defended against the boycott movement around the world, including in the United States, where polls of young people show support growing for the Palestinian cause.
    In recent years, more than a dozen states have passed laws to restrict contractors from boycotting Israel. Some of the laws are being challenged as violations of First Amendment rights.
    [She wouldn't promise not to boycott Israel, so a Texas school district stopped paying her.]
    In his statement, Mayor Woodfin called on the institute and those who opposed its decision to engage in dialogue.
    The institute's reversal provided "an opportunity to engage in conversation about how we work together to resolve our differences constructively and continue to move our community forward," he said. "I would be pleased to facilitate and participate in any such conversation, now and in the future."
    In her statement, Professor Davis said her activism often involved the linking of movements around the world to those within the United States.
    "I support Palestinian political prisoners just as I support current political prisoners in the Basque Country, in Catalunya, in India, and in other parts of the world," she said. "I have indeed expressed opposition to policies and practices of the state of Israel, as I express similar opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to other discriminatory U.S. policies."
    Professor Davis became a global progressive leader nearly half a century ago. At the time, she was agitating on behalf of three California inmates accused of murdering a white prison guard when guns she had purchased were used in an attack that was aimed at freeing the inmates but left four people dead, including the assailant.

    She was not present during the attack and witnesses testified that the guns were purchased for defense, but Professor Davis nonetheless spent 16 months in jail before an all-white jury acquitted her of all charges. In the interim, "Free Angela" had become a rallying cry.
    Since then, she has been recognized for her scholarship and activism around feminism and against mass incarceration. Last year, a Harvard University library acquired her personal archive.
    In her statement, Professor Davis said she planned to be in Birmingham next month regardless of the institute's decision.
    "I look forward to being in Birmingham in February for an alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us," she said.


    6) Statement on the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
    By Angela Davis, January 7, 2019

    On Saturday January 5, I was stunned to learn that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Board of Directors had reversed their previous decision to award me the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. Although the BCRI refused my requests to reveal the substantive reasons for this action, I later learned that my long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue. This seemed particularly unfortunate, given that my own freedom was secured – and indeed my life was saved – by a vast international movement. And I have devoted much of my own activism to international solidarity and, specifically, to linking struggles in other parts of the world to U.S. grassroots campaigns against police violence, the prison industrial complex, and racism more broadly. The rescinding of this invitation and the cancellation of the event where I was scheduled to speak was thus not primarily an attack against me but rather against the very spirit of the indivisibility of justice.
    I support Palestinian political prisoners just as I support current political prisoners in the Basque Country, in Catalunya, in India, and in other parts of the world. I have indeed expressed opposition to policies and practices of the state of Israel, as I express similar opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to other discriminatory U.S. policies. Through my experiences at Elizabeth Irwin High School in New York City and at Brandeis University in the late fifties and early sixties, and my subsequent time in graduate school in Frankfurt, Germany, I learned to be as passionate about opposition to antisemitism as to racism. It was during this period that I was also introduced to the Palestinian cause. I am proud to have worked closely with Jewish organizations and individuals on issues of concern to all of our communities throughout my life. In many ways, this work has been integral to my growing consciousness regarding the importance of protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
    The trip to Birmingham, where I was born and raised, to receive the Fred Shuttlesworth Award, was certain to be the highlight of my year—especially since I knew Rev. Shuttlesworth personally and attended school with his daughter, Patricia, and because my mother, Sallye B. Davis, worked tirelessly for the BCRI during its early years. Moreover, my most inspirational Sunday School teacher Odessa Woolfolk was the driving force for the institute's creation. Despite the BCRI's regrettable decision, I look forward to being in Birmingham in February for an alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us.
    Angela Y. Davis, January 7, 2019

    7) Greek Militants Say They Bombed Media Offices to Protest 'Capitalist' Agenda
    By Niki Kitsantonia, January 9, 2019

    Greek forensic experts at the site of an explosion outside the offices of a major broadcaster and newspaper publisher in December.

    ATHENS — A far-left militant group in Greece known for staging attacks on political and foreign diplomatic sites has claimed responsibility for a bombing near Athens last month outside the offices of a major broadcaster and newspaper publisher.
    In a post on the anti-establishment website Athens Indymedia on Tuesday night, the Group of Popular Fighters claimed responsibility for the Dec. 17 bombing, which caused serious damage to the facade of the building but no injuries. Greek news outlets reported at the time that 10 kilograms, or 22 pounds, of explosives had been used.
    In its statement, the militant group said it had targeted the broadcaster Skai and the newspaper Kathimerini, which are part of the same media group and are housed in the same building, because they were among outlets that "played a special role in preserving the rotten economic and political system" during the Greek debt crisis. For a decade, the country was required by international creditors to adopt austerity measures in return for bailouts.
    The group also accused news outlets of promoting a capitalist agenda in Greece and of "terrorizing society that beyond the E.U. there is nothing but chaos and hell." It appeared to be referring to the idea, widely supported in 2015, that a compromise with creditors in the European Union and the International Monetary Fund was required to allow Greece to remain in the eurozone.

    The Group of Popular Fighters, which had been suspected of staging the attack on the media group's headquarters from the start, said it had taken all necessary precautions to ensure that the bombing caused no injuries. Two warning calls before the attack in the early hours of Dec. 17 allowed the police to evacuate the building and cordon off the area.
    The explosion shattered windows up to the sixth floor of the building, leaving broken glass and debris on the ground around the entrance. Nearby apartment blocks and vehicles also suffered minor damage.
    The long-winded declaration described private media organizations in Greece as "hubs for the perpetuation of a dominant far-right, xenophobic and neoliberal rhetoric, and as such are rightly the recipients of social counterviolence."
    The Group of Popular Fighters, which emerged at the beginning of Greece's debt crisis, has carried out a number of attacks over the years, setting off bombs at the Athens appeals court just over a year ago and at the offices of the Federation of Greek Industries in 2015.
    It also claimed responsibility for two assault rifle attacks in 2013 — on the headquarters of the conservative party New Democracy, which was in power at the time, and on the residence of the German ambassador to Athens — and for a gun attack on the Israeli Embassy in 2015. There were no casualties in any of the assaults.


    8)  With 86% Drop, California's Monarch Butterfly Population Hits Record Low
    By Laura M. Hoison, January 9, 2019

    The population of western monarch butterflies in California dropped to a record low last year, according to a nonprofit conservation group.

    They arrive in California each winter, an undulating ribbon of orange and black. There, migrating western monarch butterflies nestle among the state's coastal forests, traveling from as far away as Idaho and Utah only to return home in the spring.
    This year, though, the monarchs' flight seems more perilous than ever. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit group that conducts a yearly census of the western monarch, said the population reached historic lows in 2018, an estimated 86 percent decline from the previous year.
    That in itself would be troubling news. But, combined with a 97 percent decline in the total population since the 1980s, this year's count is "potentially catastrophic," according to the biologist Emma Pelton.
    "We think this is a huge wake-up call," said Ms. Pelton, who oversees the survey and lives in Portland, Ore.

    The society has preliminary counts from 97 sites, most of them along California's coast, representing an area that traditionally accounts for nearly 77 percent of the state's winter monarch population. In 2017, the sites hosted about 148,000 monarchs. But in 2018, that dropped to an estimated 20,456 monarchs, with large numbers of them counted in Pismo Beach, Big Sur and Pacific Grove.
    In November volunteers fan out across California's coastal cities to find and count the monarch population. Ms. Pelton said the total count could be higher once final numbers from the census arrive next week.
    Monarchs in the western part of the United States migrate for the winter to California, where they gather mostly among fragrant eucalyptus trees, which provide hospitable living conditions.
    Monarchs from the eastern part of the United States, by contrast, winter in Mexico. Ms. Pelton said the count of eastern monarchs had not been released.
    Ms. Pelton warns that if nothing is done to preserve the western monarchs and their habitat, the butterflies could face extinction. In a 2017 study, scientists estimated that the monarch butterfly population in western North America had a 72 percent chance of becoming near extinct in 20 years if the monarch population trend was not reversed.

    One of the study's researchers, Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor at Washington State University Vancouver, said at the time that an estimated 10 million monarchs spent the winter in coastal California in the 1980s.
    Butterflies are important because they quickly respond to ecological changes and serve as a warning about an ecosystem's health, Ms. Pelton said. They pollinate flowers, too.
    Monarchs require milkweed, a herbaceous plant that grows throughout the United States and Mexico, for breeding and migration. Acreage of milkweed, though, has been declining in recent years because of pesticide use and urban development, Ms. Pelton said.
    "A lawn does not provide a home for a butterfly," she said. "It doesn't help to raise them in your house, either."
    Harsher than usual weather, too, has threatened the monarch's existence. From 2011 to 2017, California had one of its worst droughts on record, which led to ecological devastation among fishing communities and forested towns.
    In 2016, for example, the United States Forest Service estimated that 62 million trees died in the state. Last year the state experienced the deadliest wildfire season in its history, with residents affected from Redding to Los Angeles.
    Ms. Pelton said the trend could reverse if citizens and governments act now. Gardeners, for one, can plant milkweed to support the surviving monarchs. And towns could help local habitats thrive by planting new trees now so that in 20 years, generations of monarchs have new places to winter.
    "We don't think it is too late to act," she said. "But everyone needs to step up their effort."


    9)  Cyntoia Brown Will Go Free in August, But There Are More Survivors Behind Bars Who Still Need Help
    By Victoria Law, January 8, 2019

    Commuting Brown's sentence wasn't simply a good deed by an outgoing governor. It was the result of more than ten years of organizing and public pressure.

    After 14 years behind bars, Cyntoia Brown will soon be walking out of the prison gates.
    In 2004, when Brown was 16, she had run away from home and was living with a man named Kut Throat in a Nashville motel. At his insistence, she engaged in street-based sex work, leading to her fateful encounter with 43-year-old Johnny Allen. After haggling with her over the price, Allen brought Brown back to his house where, she later told a judge, his behavior frightened her. When he seemed to reach for something underneath the bed, Brown believed he was reaching for a gun. She shot him with the gun she kept in her purse. She then left, taking Allen's money and two of his guns; in court, prosecutors argued that Brown had gone to his house intending to rob him.
    Two years later, she was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. She became one of more than 100 people in Tennessee sentenced to life in prison as teenagers—and one of countless women throughout the United States who has survived violence only to be sentenced to decades, if not death, behind bars.
    Though the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that life without parole for those convicted as juveniles is unconstitutional, Tennessee did not revise its laws to allow people sentenced to life as juveniles to apply for resentencing. Instead, it allows for the possibility of parole for everyone sentenced to life in prison only after they have served 51 years. In December 2018, Tennessee's Supreme Court ruled that the same laws apply to Brown, meaning she would not have a second chance until at least age 67.
    But on Monday, January 7, outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam (R) commuted Brown's sentence to time served. Brown, now 30, will be eligible for release August 7. She will remain on parole for the next ten years.
    Brown isn't alone. Hundreds—if not thousands—of violence survivors remain behind bars. Grassroots groups across the country have been organizing for years to get them free.
    Clemency from governors can take two forms. The first, a pardon, is a total expungement of a person's conviction that is usually granted after they have served their sentence. The other is a commutation, or a shortening of an incarcerated person's prison sentence. That's what Haslam issued for Brown on Monday.
    Commuting Brown's sentence wasn't simply a good deed by an outgoing governor. It was the result of more than ten years of organizing and public pressure. In 2011, Brown's story caught the attention of filmmakers who produced a documentary called Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story. Celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian drew widespread attention to Brown's situation. Nearly 500,000 people signed a petition urging Haslam to commute her sentence. Thousands of people called and wrote to the governor and participated in call-ins to their elected officials demanding commutation.
    Tennessee advocates, including formerly incarcerated women, are celebrating Brown's commutation. But they also told Rewire.News that they must continue fighting for other incarcerated survivors, whose names and stories often remain unknown. No one has tracked how many total survivors are incarcerated for self-defense or for acts related to their abuse. What is known is that approximately 33 percent of women have experienced physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. That rate more than doubles to 77 percent among incarcerated women.
    "A lot of hard work and years of organizing helped win clemency for Cyntoia and that should be lifted up and celebrated," said Alex Chambers, an abuse survivor and an advocate with Free Hearts, a Nashville-based organization that works with incarcerated mothers. "But we still have a long way to go in Tennessee to make lasting change and win freedom for all criminalized survivors—there are countless incarcerated survivors whose names and stories are not publicly known and whose situations remain unchanged. We need to connect cases that have received attention to the larger issue of the criminalization of survivors, especially Black women and girls, and we need to actively counter narratives that exceptionalize some victims with the effect of blaming others and rendering them unworthy of care and support instead of punishment."
    In California, advocates say at least half of the 59 commutations of people in women's prisons went to abuse survivors, thanks to organizing by Survived and Punished and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. (Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown issued a total of 284 commutations before leaving office.)
    "It has been such a rare and unique political moment that we've arrived to thanks to the years of people inside [jails and prisons] organizing and the organizing across the walls—with Governor Brown actually acknowledging the violence that survivors endured in his press releases and using his power to commute their sentences," Adrienne Roberts of the California Coalition told Rewire.News via email.
    In New York, advocates launched #FreeThemNY, a clemency campaign for abuse survivors incarcerated in New York state. During this past election season, organizers have rallied outside Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's fundraising events, office, and home. Among the survivors who #FreeThemNY has highlighted is 36-year-old Patrice Smith, whose story bears striking similarities to that of Brown.
    Smith was 15 years old when she met 70-year-old Robert Robinson Jr.,  a bishop who offered her money in exchange for sex. On at least one occasion, she says, he forced her to have sex after she refused. When she was 16, she and another friend were at Robinson's house when he demanded that she have sex with him. She refused; she says he hit her and threatened to get his gun, a gun that he had shown her in the past. Their argument became physical and, during the scuffle, Smith fatally wrapped a phone cord around Robinson's neck. Later, she testified that she did not mean to wrap the cord around his neck and that she was thinking, "I don't want my life to be taken just because I didn't want to have sex with this man."
    Smith was convicted and, despite her age, sentenced to 25 years to life. She has spent the past 20 years in prison, obtaining her GED and bachelor's degree and participating in numerous prison programs. She has applied for clemency and wrote in an open letter to Cuomo, "For 20 years I have been viewed through the lens of the law and lens of propriety because it was unbelievable that a man of God would abuse a child." She reminded the governor of her age at the time and asked him "to imagine being 16, with limited recourse, lacking the wherewithal to give a voice to my shame, so I accepted silence. As a survivor, I have to justify the irrational, overwhelming need of love, acceptance and the fear of abandonment."
    Cuomo issued seven commutations on New Year's Eve. None were for abuse survivors or people in women's prisons. Smith is still waiting—and hoping for a second chance.
    "There are thousands of Cyntoias in state prisons across the country and hundreds in New York state prisons," said Allison Brown of #FreeThemNY. "We are profoundly disappointed that Cuomo has failed to grant a single one of them clemency in 2018. We intend to keep the pressure on Cuomo and the state until they do the right thing."
    In Tennessee, Free Hearts will be starting the Love and Justice Project to continue supporting and advocating for the freedom of incarcerated survivors such as Cyntoia across the state.
    "We will be continuing our work to build a movement here to end the criminalization of survivors and challenge the criminal legal system as the solution to ending gender violence," Chambers said.


    10)  Is the President Making Middle School Worse?
    In Virginia, school bullying is up in regions that voted for Trump.
    By Michelle Goldberg, January ll, 2019

    Immediately after Donald Trump's election, alarming stories appeared of school bullies who seemed to be inspired by the new president. In York County, Pa., two students marched through their high school hallways holding a Trump sign while a third shouted, "White power!" A teacher in Kansas reported students taunting classmates with the refrain, "Trump won, you're going back to Mexico." At several schools, white school sports fans chanted, "Trump! Trump!" at opposing teams with more players of color.
    As these stories proliferated, no one knew for sure whether they were just scattered anecdotes or signs of more serious social change. Then researchers involved with a statewide survey of bullying in Virginia schools realized they had a way to find out.
    Every other year, tens of thousands of the state's public school students complete online surveys about their schools' social environment. They're asked a number of questions about bullying, including teasing over race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and other sexual issues. Because surveys of middle schoolers are done in odd years, researchers had data for seventh and eighth graders from both 2015, right before the election, and 2017, right after it. Over 400 middle schools participated. "It was an opportunity to see whether in fact there was this increase in bullying," said Dewey Cornell, a professor of education at the University of Virginia who led the team that developed the survey.
    It turned out that there was indeed an increase, but not everywhere. Cornell and a member of his team, Francis L. Huang, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia who specializes in quantitative research methods, found that in 2015, there'd been little difference in bullying rates between areas of the state that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and those that would support Trump. But in 2017, students reported 18 percent more bullying in Trump locales than the Clinton ones. In the Clinton regions, bullying actually declined slightly from 2015; in the Trump zones, it increased.
    The Trump areas saw particular increases in teasing about race and, to a lesser degree, sexual orientation. The greater the margin of Trump support in the community, "the higher the prevalence rates" of bullying, Huang told me, even after adjusting for factors like socioeconomic status and parental education.
    Cornell and Huang's peer-reviewed paper, "School Teasing and Bullying After the Presidential Election," was published on Wednesday. They don't claim to have discovered that a region's backing for Trump causes an uptick in reports of bullying, only that the two are correlated. Still, it's not hard to imagine that kids who spend their time around Trump enthusiasts might be getting the message that picking on racial minorities, and those who deviate from traditional gender norms, is O.K.
    "The adults that voted for Trump are much more likely to emulate Trump and be supportive of attitudes that we saw turned into bullying and teasing in middle school," said Cornell. "I suspect it's an indirect effect of the social environment that kids are in. It may be their parents, it may be other adults, it may be the adults in schools."
    In the 1990s, when Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky forced discussions of oral sex onto the evening news, many conservatives lamented the effect on impressionable youth. "Leaders affect the lives of families far beyond their own 'private life,'" wrote a Republican candidate for Congress named Mike Pence. (He added, "In a day when reckless extramarital sexual activity is manifesting itself in our staggering rates of illegitimacy and divorce, now more than ever, America needs to be able to look to her First Family as role models of all that we have been and can be again.")

    Such concerns have since fallen from fashion on the right. Last week, when Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed decrying the president's terrible character, many conservatives were incensed. "Romney would like you to believe you can have your cake and eat it, too — that you can be against Trump's character but for his policies," complained Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in The Washington Post. In fact, Olsen wrote, "Railing about character hurts the president, and Republicans know that." The very idea of good character has become a partisan attribute.

    Kids get this, though it shows up in different ways. Some of our children are growing up knowing that the president of the United States is also one of the country's very worst people, which surely affects their conception of government. Some are growing up scared of him. I've tried to explain to my own young kids that even though the administration has taken other children from their parents, they are safe and protected. More vulnerable families have to have far more difficult conversations.
    But some kids, it seems, could be growing up with permission and even encouragement to act like the president. Middle-school students, said Cornell, are acutely status-conscious and particularly prone to tormenting one another. (The older kids in "Lord of the Flies" were middle-school age.) "If there's any place where a cultural change that encourages disrespect for other people is going to be manifest," he said, it would be among middle schoolers. "They're kind of a mirror of what we're seeing in our communities." What they're reflecting isn't pretty.
    Michelle Goldberg has been an Opinion columnist since 2017. She is the author of several books about politics, religion and women's rights, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2018 for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues.


    11)  'A Watershed Moment': 31,000 Los Angeles Teachers Prepare to Strike
    By Andrew Gumbel, January 11, 2019

    Manuela Panjoj, 42-year-old mother of five children, holds a sign during a news conference outside the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters. (photo: Jae C Hong/AP)

    The fight in Los Angeles is, essentially, a bitter family squabble over dizzying challenges and dismally inadequate resources

     nationwide teachers' revolt that last year saw walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma and other largely Republican-run states has now spread to California, where teachers and support staff in the vast, sprawling, predominantly low-income Los Angeles Unified School District are on the verge of striking.
    About 31,000 members of the local teachers' union are threatening to walk off the job on Monday to demand better pay, lower class sizes and improved student access to nurses, psychological counselors and other key services.
    Their union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has been fighting with the school district – America's second largest – for more than a year. Both sides agree that schools are underfunded and teachers underpaid, but that has not prevented trust between the two sides from eroding to a vanishing point.
    In contrast to the disputes in Oklahoma and other red states, where the fight has been seen as one pitting teachers and administrators against tight-fisted conservative legislators, the fight in Los Angeles is, essentially, a bitter family squabble over dizzying challenges and dismally inadequate resources.
    The district has proposed a 6% pay rise over the first two years of a new three-year contract. The union wants a 6.5% raise right away as well as a flurry of new hiring and other school resources.
    "We are at a watershed moment in defending public education in Los Angeles," the union told its members late last month, describing the moment as one of existential crisis.
    The difference between the two sides, which shows no sign of being resolved, is likely to lead to major disruptions across the city if the threatened strike becomes a reality. The district wants students to come to school even if teachers are not there, but has hired just 400 extra support staff to take the place of 31,000 unionized workers. Nobody knows what largely unsupervised schools are going to look like, especially if the walkout stretches out over days or weeks.
    Some parents have said they will keep their children home in solidarity with the striking teachers, but many others have to work and cannot afford extra childcare. More than 80% of district students are poor enough to qualify for free breakfast and lunch. If they don't come to school for those meals, it's unclear if they can afford to eat at all.
    The crisis is piling pressure on the Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, who has no direct control over the school district but knows the optics are bad for a possible presidential bid. He has offered to act as a mediator, but the union has rebuffed his offer.
    It is piling pressure, too, on California's newly inaugurated governor, Gavin Newsom, who has ambitious plans to expand access to early-childhood education and community college but has not so far proposed a significant increase in school funding.
    The district claims its hands are tied in the contract negotiations because it relies on the state for funding and revenues have been dropping over the past decade. That's partly because of the 2008 recession but also because funding depends on enrollment and parents have been shifting their children out of struggling district schools in growing numbers.
    The union, for its part, points to a $1.8bn reserve fund – a fund the district says it needs to meet a growing shortfall in pension and health benefit obligations – and fears that the district is more interested in promoting charter schools and dismembering public education than it is in making sure teachers have what they need to excel in the classroom.
    One lightning rod of criticism is the district's relatively new superintendent, Austin Beutner, a former Wall Street investment banker who has proposed breaking up the district into 32 mini-fiefdoms. UTLA describes Beutner as an "out-of-touch billionaire" and a "corporate downsizer" at odds with the core mission of public schools.
    Another lightning rod is the school board, which over the past couple of election cycles has filled with ever more champions of charter schools, which now educate almost one-third of Los Angeles schoolchildren district and in some cases share space with the public schools whose students they are luring away.
    All the bad blood has a long history, however, stemming in particular back to a watershed referendum in 1978 that capped California's property taxes and slowly turned one of America's best-funded state education systems into one of its worst. "We've seen a national momentum in favor of teachers … and California has a historically underfunded system," said Robin Lake of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization based in Washington state.
    In Los Angeles, the problems have only been magnified because of the city's size and because of the large number of lower-income children who fail to graduate high school at a shocking 50% clip. Lake argued that while the district's financial struggles are genuine, it has also managed to alienate students and parents by expanding the size of its central office and making ever more demands of its employees without providing extra resources.
    "Teachers have a general sense that they are not being respected," Lake added. "A lot of them see the push for education reform as a bit of a slap in the face."
    Most observers agree the best solution would lie in all the parties – locally and in state government – coming together and figuring out a common approach. Instead, however, Beutner's office and UTLA are exchanging daily stink bombs in the form of press releases, public statements and – increasingly, as the prospect of a strike has drawn nearer – in dueling filings in court. The strike was, in fact, due to start on Thursday, but the district sued for a delay on a procedural technicality and won.

    12)  'Shameful Day for Canada': First Nations Encampment Violently Raided, Land Protectors Arrested
    By Jessica Corbett, January 8, 2019

    Reacting to footage of the "invasion" by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Monday, author and activist Naomi Klein said it was "a shameful day for Canada, which has marketed itself as a progressive leader on climate and Indigenous rights." (Photo: Michael Toledano/@M_Tol)

    More than 50 protests have been planned for across the globe on Tuesday in solidarity with a First Nations group fighting against the construction of TransCanada's Coastal GasLink through unceded Wet'suwet'en territory, with the number of protests rising overnight after Canadian police broke down a checkpoint gate erected by Indigenous land protectors and arrested more than a dozen people.

    Reacting to footage of the "invasion" by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), author and activist Naomi Klein said it was "a shameful day for Canada, which has marketed itself as a progressive leader on climate and Indigenous rights."
    Klein condemned the government's raid on unceded Wet'suwet'en territory and the arrest of First Nations land defenders, "all for a gas pipeline that is entirely incompatible with a safe climate."

    People at the Gidimt'en camp have been anticipating the arrival of the RCMP, who are enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction that came last month in response to another camp on the territory formed by another Wet'suwet'en clan, the Unist'ot'en, in opposition to the fossil fuel company's proposed route for the fracked gas pipeline.

    "Camp members faced both uniformed RCMP and camouflage-wearing Emergency Response Team tactical unit officers through the barbed wire," according to the Toronto Star. "Police climbed a ladder over the top of the gate, circumventing a secondary blockade formed by the bodies of the camp members themselves. Then they began to arrest people."

    The Mounties established a "temporary exclusion zone," and said in a statement that "there are both privacy and safety concerns in keeping the public and the media at the perimeter, which should be as small as possible and as brief as possible in the circumstances, based on security and safety needs." The statement noted that "during the arrests, the RCMP observed a number of fires being lit along the roadway by unknown persons, and large trees felled across the roadway."

    Journalists and supporters of the land defenders posted updates from the scene to social media and called out Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the clear contrast between his claims that he wants to build a legacy of "reconciliation" with First Nations and how his government has responded to objections from the Wet'suwet'en people over the pipeline.

    As Common Dreams reported Monday, although TransCanada claims it has signed agreements with First Nations leaders along the pipeline routes, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs were not consulted, and say that those who signed off on the pipeline, which is set to cut through traditional lands, were not authorized to do so under Indigenous laws.


    13) The real border crisis: medical neglect of migrants in detention centers
    By Chanelle Diaz, January 10, 2019

    An immigrant child looks out from a U.S. Border Patrol bus in McAllen, Texas, in June 2018.

    In his Oval Office address on Tuesday, President Trump called the situation at the border a "growing humanitarian and security crisis." His declaration failed to acknowledge the real crisis at hand — the medical neglect at border facilities and the more than 200 immigration jails across the country that has led to more than 20 deaths since 2010.
    Among them were three children. Eight-year-old Felipe Alonso-Gomez and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin died in Customs and Border Protection custody this past December. In May of 2018, 19-month-old Mariee Juarez died after being released from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility where she had been detained with her mother for three weeks. Their deaths could have been prevented with timely access to appropriate care.
    As a physician who has evaluated adults held in immigration jails, I have witnessed conditions in detention facilities that are unsafe for adults and deadly for children. Advocates have called attention to overcrowding, insufficient food and water, and abusive conditions at border processing facilities. Across the country, immigration jails are plagued by human and civil rights abuses and dangerously subpar access to medical care.
    More children — almost 15,000 of them — are now in immigration detention facilities than ever before. Sadly, there is money to be made from jailing migrants, including children. Southwest Key, whose facilities include a converted Walmart Supercenter, has collected $1.7 billion in federal grants for warehousing migrant children. While making record profits, these facilities have been cited by the Office of Inspector General for providing inadequate medical care.

    Contractors have failed to protect the vulnerable children under their charge. Reports have surfaced of their failure to complete adequate background checks of employees. There have also been widespread reports of child abuse occurring in detention facilities, including forced medication and sexual assault.
    Even as pediatricians strongly oppose the detention of children, which causes long-term psychological trauma and health harms, Trump has asked Congress to terminate the Flores settlement agreement, which gives children the right to reasonably prompt release, potentially allowing for their indefinite detention. Children whose parents are seeking asylum could instead be released to sponsors and spared from this psychological damage. Yet the Trump administration has slowed this process almost to a halt, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement has targeted more than 170 potential sponsors for deportation.
    The preventable deaths of adults in immigration detention facilities are no less a crime than the deaths of children. According to an NBC analysis, there have been 22 deaths in ICE detention since Trump took office (not including Felipe, Jakelin, and Mariee). Roxsana Rodriguez, a transgender woman and asylum seeker from Honduras, died in ICE custody in May. An autopsy showed that she had been physically abused before her death.
    Jose Azurdia, a refugee from Guatemala, died in a California detention facility after falling ill and vomiting. According to Human Rights Watch, a nurse did not want to treat him because "she did not want to get sick." It turned out that Azurdia was having a heart attack.
    All Americans should be outraged by the preventable deaths of children and adults who were needlessly detained. A $5.7 billion border wall will not address the root cause of migration and displacement.
    It is time to end the inhumane detention of children and families seeking asylum. Justice for these families will entail increased oversight of detention facilities, better access to quality medical care, and an independent investigation into all of the deaths at detention facilities.
    The agencies responsible for jailing children, lobbing tear gas canisters at migrant mothers and their toddlers, and separating families need to be reined in before more people are harmed.
    Chanelle Diaz, M.D., is a resident physician in Bronx, N.Y.; a National Physicians Alliance Copello Health Advocacy Fellow; and a volunteer for the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest Medical Provider Network.

    14)  Amnesty International Statement in Response to Closure of Tornillo Tent City

    For Immediate Release


    15)  A New Migrant Caravan Is Forming in Central America, With Plans to Leave Next Week
    By Sarah Kinosian and Kevin Sieff, January 12, 2019

    A caravan of migrants moving north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala. (photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

    nother migrant caravan is forming in Honduras, with plans to set out next week on a journey that will once again test the immigration policies of Mexico and the United States. 
    In much the way last year’s Central American caravan originated, a flier is circulating on Honduran social media. “We’re looking for refuge,” it says. “In Honduras, we are being killed.” It advertises a 5 a.m. departure on Jan. 15 from the northern city of San Pedro Sula.
    The Mexican government says it is preparing for the group’s arrival.
    “We have information that a new caravan is forming to enter our country in mid-January,” Olga Sánchez Cordero, the interior minister, said at a news conference Monday. “We are already taking the necessary steps to ensure the caravan enters in a safe and orderly way.”
    When the previous caravan reached Mexico in October, Mexican authorities closed one of the main border crossings but allowed thousands of migrants to swim across the river separating the country from Guatemala. The migrants then continued north through Mexico, most of them traveling without documents.
    This time, Sánchez Cordero said, the government will place guards at 370 illegal crossing points, and the border will be “controlled to prevent the entry of undocumented people.” But she suggested that members of the caravan could be allowed into the country legally if they apply for visas.
    “We don’t know how many people this will be, but it’s a lot,” said Walter Coello, a taxi driver from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, who helped organize the last caravan and is playing a similar role once again. “With this caravan, the goal is to give them a chance to work and have a better life, be it in Mexico or the United States.”
    Last year’s group, with about 7,000 people, was dwarfed by the roughly 400,000 people who were apprehended at the U.S. border in 2018, as well as the more than 100,000 who applied for asylum in that period. But it became a major focus for President Trump, who attempted to use the specter of an invading caravan to rally his supporters.
    On Thursday, Trump deployed similar rhetoric about the new group.
    “There is another major caravan forming right now in Honduras, and so far we’re trying to break it up, and so far it’s bigger than anything we’ve ever seen, and a drone isn’t going to stop it, and a sensor isn’t going to stop it, but you know what’s going to stop it in its tracks?” he said. “A nice, powerful wall.”
    For Central Americans, who typically depend on expensive and unreliable smugglers to travel to the United States, caravans offer a cheaper, safer way to migrate. So, despite Trump’s opposition, experts say it is likely that they will continue to form.
    “The caravans are an opening for people,” said Karen Valladares, executive director of the National Forum for Migration in Honduras. “Every day, people leave, but this way they feel more secure. There is more solidarity in going with groups. They don’t have the fear that they are going to be the victims of organized crime.”
    Thousands of members of the previous caravan are still waiting in Tijuana to begin their asylum applications. A U.S. policy shift in November requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their claims are being processed has not yet been implemented, but it could delay their entrance into the United States even further.
    Yet in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where pockets of extreme violence persist and economic opportunities are limited in many places, there is a widespread perception that the earlier group succeeded.
    “Many people see the last caravan as a success in that people were able to travel safely, and they were well taken care of,” Valladares said.
    Glen Muños, 18, from the Honduran city of Choloma, plans to travel with the next group this month.
    “It’s not just employment or that Honduras is dangerous,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’m young, and I want to know another place.”
    Muños’s brother, 36, traveled with last year’s caravan but split off from it in northern Mexico and crossed the border illegally in Texas.
    “Honduras is dangerous and I’m not having him stay there. I want him next to me working, not there,” he said of his younger brother in a text message. He spoke on the condition of anonymity now that he is living illegally in the United States.
    Karla Riviera is also considering traveling with the caravan. She traveled with the last one from Honduras to the Guatemala-Mexico border. But in southern Mexico, immigration officials took her to a makeshift detention center, she said, first claiming they were offering her shelter and later returning her by plane to Honduras.
    “They treated us like criminals. They tricked us, jailed us and deported us,” she said, speaking by phone.
    Back in Honduras, she said she continues to receive rape and death threats — from the father of her niece, whom she reported for sexually abusing the child, from “macho men” who insult her because she is gay, and from the father of her partner’s children.
    “Right now, I don’t leave my house much. I have to hide. I’m still worried about my life,” she said.
    She saw news about the coming caravan on WhatsApp and asked her partner whether she was interested in going.
    “We are talking it out,” she said. “I guess my alternative is to live and hide.”


    16) Yellow Vests Continue Protests Despite Government Threats
    By teleSUR, January 12, 2019

    French protesters clad in high-visibility yellow vests. (photo: AFP)

    Thousands of French citizens launch protests against President Emmanuel Macron policies for the ninth weekend in a row.

    ellow Vests protesters congregated at different points in France, for the ninth Saturday of demonstrations, against the austerity policies of President Emmanuel Macron.
    After last week's riots, Interior Minister Laurent Nunez elected to deploy a large group of police personnel, with some 80,000 agents mobilized across the country; 5,000 of them in Paris.
    In the early hours of Saturday, the Avenue des Champs Elysees, in Paris, had already been separated by a fence which ran from one side of the roadway to the next. The authorities have been forced to divert traffic to streets around the Republic Square and the North Station.
    Several demonstrators were acosted by the riot police in front of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
    The Yellow Vests also arranged a meeting in Bourges, a small town in the center of France, to facilitate the participation of protesters coming from lesser populated provinces.
    Minister Nunez, through his Twitter account, warned that there would be "zero tolerance" for rioters. "If there are excesses, either in Paris or anywhere in France, we will give them an extremely firm response," the minister said.
    In addition, President Macron made controversial statements Friday night, lamenting that "too many French people" lack "sense of effort", which prevents the country from regaining strength and cohesion.
    After the Yellow Vest's last protest on Jan. 6, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the government would legislate sanctions against demonstrators as well as create a registry for agitators; a measure, he affirms, will allow authorities to restrict such persons from attending future protests.
    The police, after the announced push-back measures, have remained cognizant that there could be retaliation during the protests, especially since more than 50,000 Yellow Vests are expected at the demonstrations.
    The Yellow Vests movement is a citizen's protest that started in France in Oct. 2018. The model have since spread to other countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Greece, Italy, Israel, Portugal and Spain.
    Initially, the movement were focused on rejecting fuel tax increases, however, their demands evolved to include addressing the purchasing power of the middle and lower classes, as well as the resignation of President Macron.
    Since inception, the Yellow Vests involve organized street blockades, the comandeering of public sites in addition to planning other events across the country.



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