Cuba Warns U.S. Moving Special Forces Closer to Venezuela Under Guise of "Humanitarian Intervention"

By Jessica Corbett
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in May of 2018. (Photo: EFE/El Nuevo Diario)
As Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro urges the international community to condemn an ongoing U.S.-backed effort to overthrow him and calls for peaceful negotiations with critics led by self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaidó, the Cuban government—which supports Maduro—claimed on Thursday that the Trump administration is moving special forces closer to Venezuela "in preparation for a military adventure under the guise of a 'humanitarian intervention.'"
In a lengthy statement denouncing the steps President Donald Trump and his allies have taken to oust Maduro—particularly National Security Advisor John Bolton and Republican Senator Marco Rubio (Fla.)—the Cuban government said:
"Between February 6 and 10 of 2019, several military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport in Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base in the Dominican Republic, and other strategically located Caribbean Islands, most certainly without the knowledge of the governments of those nations. These flights took off from U.S. military facilities where Special Operation Troops and U.S. Marine Corps units operate. These units have been used for covert operations, even against leaders of other countries."
Pointing to a draft resolution that the Trump administration recently introduced at the U.N. Security Council that expresses concern about the humanitarian conditions of Venezuela, Cuba concluded:
"[T]he U.S. intends to fabricate a humanitarian pretext in order to launch a military attack on Venezuela and, by resorting to intimidation, pressure, and force, is seeking to introduce into this sovereign nation's territory alleged humanitarian aid...It is obvious that the United States is paving the way to forcibly establish a humanitarian corridor under international supervision, invoke the obligation to protect civilians, and take all necessary steps. It is worth recalling that similar behaviors and pretexts were used by the U.S. during the prelude to wars it launched against Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, which resulted in tremendous human losses and caused enormous suffering."
The warnings out of Cuba come after Guaidó vowed on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, that foreign aid—which has already begun arriving along the border with Colombia and Brazil—will enter Venezuela on February 23 in spite of objections from Maduro, who has also characterized offerings of aid as part of a "political war of American empire" and "warmongering in order to take over" Venezuela.
Since Trump recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's leader last month, he has appointed war hawk Elliott Abrams as a special representative to the country, repeatedly threatened military action if Maduro doesn't turn over power to Guaidó, and seized billions-of-dollars in Venezuelan oil assets. In its statement on Thursday, Cuba charged U.S. actions are "causing serious humanitarian damage and harsh deprivation" to the people of Venezuela.
During a press conference late last month announcing the sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Bolton—in a move that critics said was "likely not an accident"—held up a notepad on which he had written "5,000 troops to Colombia." A few days later, Bolton suggested that if Maduro keeps refusing to leave office, he could find himself locked up in a U.S. military prison at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba.
Common Dreams, February 14, 2019



No to the U.S. Intervention and Attempted Coup in Venezuela!

Note: The following resolution was adopted by the Delegates Meeting of the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) on Monday, February 11, 2019.

Whereas, Trump administration officials have openly declared their intention to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro; and

Whereas, the U.S. has tightened economic sanctions, including the seizure of Venezuela's oil properties in the United States, increasing the hardship on the people of Venezuela; and

Whereas, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and leading Trump administration foreign policy officials have made clear their intention to privatize Venezuela's oil and open it to exploitation by the U.S. oil companies if their coup strategy succeeds; and

Whereas, Elliott Abrams has been named Special Envoy to Venezuela and is notorious for his central role in the Iran-Contra scheme and arming of the Nicaraguan contras, the Salvadoran death squad government, and the genocidal regime in Guatemala responsible for the massacres of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people in that country; and

Whereas, the U.S. campaign of regime change in Venezuela is against the interests of the people of Venezuela, Latin America or the people of the United States; and

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council resolved on May 12, 2014, to "support the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to continue their political and social process free from foreign intervention," demanding "that the U.S. government refrain from intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela." 

Therefore Be It Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council endorse and support (1) the February 23 Emergency Bay Area Hands Off Venezuela protest action; (2) the March 16 National March on the White House to say "Hands Off Venezuela, No War, No Sanctions, No Coup," which in the Bay Area will be held on Saturday, March 9; and (3) the Hands Off Venezuela National Action, which in the Bay Area will be held on March 31.

Be It Further Resolved, that this resolution will be sent to the California Labor Federation and to Bay Area Congress members.

(adopted unanimously minus one abstention)

Respectfully submitted by
• Gloria La Riva, delegate, Pacific Media Workers Guild Local 39521
• Alan Benjamin, delegate, OPEIU Local 29
• David Welsh, delegate, NALC Branch 214



Send an email to the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center calling on them to open their books on activities in Venezuela 

The AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center has received at least $3,925,000 of public funds for its operations in Colombia and Venezuela, but next to nothing is known about its activities in Venezuela. Considering the role the Solidarity Center played in supporting coup plotters in 2002, and considering the current coup effort in Venezuela, the Solidarity Center should open its books and release details about what it is doing in Venezuela. We hope the Solidarity Center is not aiding and abetting today's coup plotters and Trump Administration plans for regime change. We need details that show us that the Solidarity Center is not going down the same road it did in 2002. If it is, we need to take action now to get the Solidarity Center on the right track. The Solidarity Center must represent workers, not the White House and its destabilization plans.  

What  is the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center Doing in Venezuela:  We Have a Right to Know!

by James Patrick Jordan 
The Solidarity Center--the AFL-CIO's organization for acting around the world--has long been active in Venezuela, and not usually for good effect.  We demand that the Solidarity Center open their books, and honestly report about their current operations in that country. 
We hope they are not supporting the current coup attempt against President Nicolaus Maduro in any way, as the coup attempt is an illegal effort to replace a democratically-elected president with one not elected by the Venezuelan people but of the US Government.  But we don't know; their past operations cause us great concerns; and we want them to prove to us they have nothing to do with the current attempt. 
The AFL-CIO associated Solidarity Center has received at least $3,925,000 for operations in Venezuela and Colombia between 2010 and 2019, and perhaps more. The Solidarity Center gets approximately 90 percent of its funding from the United States government, mostly via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The Solidarity Center has a history that includes advancing State Department goals even against the interests of workers. It channeled money to plotters in Venezuela behind the attempted coup of 2002. The Solidarity Center supported union officials who locked out their own oil workers during the economic sabotage that followed the failed coup attempt. In 2008, when the AFL-CIO was leading the resistance to a Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, the Solidarity Center was meeting with the U.S. Embassy in Colombia to discuss strategies for passing that same FTA. The Solidarity Center leadership that was in Venezuela and Colombia in 2002 and 2008 is still in place in 2019. 
The Solidarity Center's operations are part of the AFL-CIO (and previously, AFL) foreign operations that have taken place over the past 100+ years.  This was most completely documented in a 2010 book titled AFL-CIO's Secret War against Developing Country Workers:  Solidarity or Sabotage? by long-time labor activist and Purdue University sociologist, Kim Scipes (Lanham, MD:  Lexington Books).  The Solidarity Center has continued operating since then. 

Subject:  What is the Solidarity Center doing in Venezuela?

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DA Krasner: At long last, turn the page on Mumia Abu-Jamal case!

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In 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a former Black Panther and respected public radio journalist in Philadelphia, when he was jailed after a disputed incident in which police officer Daniel Faulkner was killed. In 1982, Abu-Jamal was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by Judge Albert Sabo, known as a "hanging judge" who'd sent more people to Death Row than any other U.S. judge.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International criticized the trial, pointing to racial bias and "possible political influences that may have prevented him from receiving an impartial and fair hearing." Unsuccessful appeals over the years have argued that prosecutors suppressed evidence and that blacks were systematically purged from the jury.

But after 37 years behind bars, much of it on death row in solitary confinement, Abu-Jamal now has some real hope.

Click here to tell Larry Krasner, Philadelphia's progressive District Attorney, that it's time to turn the page on Abu-Jamal's case.

Last December, Abu-Jamal won a major victory when Philadelphia Judge Leon Tucker ruled that he had the right to re-appeal his case because of the appearance of bias during the appeals process – specifically that a former DA-turned-Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice who'd blocked Abu-Jamal's appeals should have recused himself from the case.

This victory, clearing the path for a possible new trial, seemed especially hopeful because in 2017 Philadelphia voters, especially African American voters, had elected Krasner – a longtime foe of mass incarceration, the death penalty, and racism in criminal justice.

Click here to urge DA Krasner not to resist Judge Tucker's ruling and let justice be served.

At the end of January, Krasner shocked many by announcing that he would challenge Judge Tucker's decision to give Abu-Jamal the right to appeal, apparently over his concern that it might open up appeals for other convicted prisoners. Days later, Krasner was disinvited from a progressive law conference at Yale which he was to keynote, and conference organizers urged Krasner to drop his resistance to Abu Jamal's appeal: "We cannot understand how DA Krasner's decision in this case serves justice or the transformative vision that he ran on."

Add your voice to those who want DA Krasner to reverse course on Abu-Jamal's case – and to ask the DA: "Isn't nearly four decades behind bars more than enough?!" 

After signing the petition, please use the tools on the next webpage to share it with your friends.

This work is only possible with your financial support. Please chip in $3 now. 

-- The RootsAction.org Team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, Lila Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.

>> Amnesty International: "A Life in the Balance: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal" (Feb. 2000)
>> Essence: "Judge Rules Mumia Abu-Jamal Can Reargue Appeal To The Pennsylvania Supreme Court" (Dec. 28, 2018)
>> Philly.com: "Philly DA Larry Krasner disinvited to speak at Yale Law conference" (Feb. 2, 2019)
>> The Intercept.com: "Larry Krasner Responds to Progressive Critics" (Feb. 9, 2019)
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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."




Hello to You All,
                        I have created a board game—"RACE FOR SOLIDARITY" and am awaiting the copyright.   The board game involves throwing dice.  The game both teaches and tests historical knowledge of racism—USA, and the fight against racism involving the struggles for and of multiracial unity.  The game also demonstrates the negative, reactionary movement of the forces of racism as well as the progressive movement of solidarity forces.  Playing the game involves and depends upon successfully building solidarity during the game.  Also included is an extensive list of references for the answers to all questions.
                        Due to the expense of producing the game I presently have only three complete games.  I am hoping to find person, persons or organizations to help me both fund and promote this game.  I am open to suggestions.
Please contact me with any thoughts   gordonnayvin@yahoo.com
Thank you,
In Multiracial Solidarity,
Nayvin Gordon



Statement: Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech

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

Petition Text

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
























Courage to Resist
Hi Bonnie. Courage to Resist is working closely with our new fiscal sponsor, the Objector Church, on a couple projects that we're excited to share with you.
objector registry
Objector Registry launches as draft registration of women nears
The first ever Objector Registry (objector.church/register) offers a declaration of conscience for anyone to assert their moral opposition to war, regardless of age, gender, or religious affiliation. This serves to create a protective record of beliefs and actions with which to oppose a later forced draft. Given last week's release of the report by the Congressionally mandated commission on military service, this free registry is coming online just in time. Please sign up yourself and share with friends!
weekly meetup
You're invited to join us online weekly
This is a great way to find out more about the Objector Church and why we might be the religious humanist interfaith peace and justice community you have been looking for! Our live meetups are lead by Minister James Branum from Oklahoma City. This Sunday at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern, if your not excited by the NFL's "big game", pop online and check us out at objector.church/meetup
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



Get Malik Out of Ad-Seg

Keith "Malik" Washington is an incarcerated activist who has spoken out on conditions of confinement in Texas prison and beyond:  from issues of toxic water and extreme heat, to physical and sexual abuse of imprisoned people, to religious discrimination and more.  Malik has also been a tireless leader in the movement to #EndPrisonSlavery which gained visibility during nationwide prison strikes in 2016 and 2018.  View his work at comrademalik.com or write him at:

Keith H. Washington
TDC# 1487958
McConnell Unit
3001 S. Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102
Friends, it's time to get Malik out of solitary confinement.

Malik has experienced intense, targeted harassment ever since he dared to start speaking against brutal conditions faced by incarcerated people in Texas and nationwide--but over the past few months, prison officials have stepped up their retaliation even more.

In Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement) at McConnell Unit, Malik has experienced frequent humiliating strip searches, medical neglect, mail tampering and censorship, confinement 23 hours a day to a cell that often reached 100+ degrees in the summer, and other daily abuses too numerous to name.  It could not be more clear that they are trying to make an example of him because he is a committed freedom fighter.  So we have to step up.

Phone zap on Tuesday, November 13

**Mark your calendars for the 11/13 call in, be on the look out for a call script, and spread the word!!**

- Convene special review of Malik's placement in Ad-Seg and immediately release him back to general population
- Explain why the State Classification Committee's decision to release Malik from Ad-Seg back in June was overturned (specifically, demand to know the nature of the "information" supposedly collected by the Fusion Center, and demand to know how this information was investigated and verified).
- Immediately cease all harassment and retaliation against Malik, especially strip searches and mail censorship!

Who to contact:
TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier
Phone: (936)295-6371

Senior Warden Philip Sinfuentes (McConnell Unit)
Phone: (361) 362-2300


Background on Malik's Situation

Malik's continued assignment to Ad-Seg (solitary confinement) in is an overt example of political repression, plain and simple.  Prison officials placed Malik in Ad-Seg two years ago for writing about and endorsing the 2016 nationwide prison strike.  They were able to do this because Texas and U.S. law permits non-violent work refusal to be classified as incitement to riot.

It gets worse.  Malik was cleared for release from Ad-Seg by the State Classification Committee in June--and then, in an unprecedented reversal, immediately re-assigned him back to Ad-Seg.  The reason?  Prison Officials site "information" collected by a shadowy intelligence gathering operation called a Fusion Center, which are known for lack of transparency and accountability, and for being blatant tools of political repression.

Malik remains in horrible conditions, vulnerable to every possible abuse, on the basis of "information" that has NEVER been disclosed or verified.  No court or other independent entity has ever confirmed the existence, let alone authenticity, of this alleged information.  In fact, as recently as October 25, a representative of the State Classification Committee told Malik that he has no clue why Malik was re-assigned to Ad-Seg.  This "information" is pure fiction.   



Listen to 'The Daily': Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?

By Michael Barbaro, May 30, 2018

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile deviceVia Apple Podcasts | Via RadioPublic | Via Stitcher

The sole survivor of an attack in which four people were murdered identified the perpetrators as three white men. The police ignored suspects who fit the description and arrested a young black man instead. He is now awaiting execution.

On today's episode:
• Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California for three decades.



Last week I met with fellow organizers and members of Mijente to take joint action at the Tornillo Port of Entry, where detention camps have been built and where children and adults are currently being imprisoned. 

I oppose the hyper-criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers. Migration is a human right and every person is worthy of dignity and respect irrespective of whether they have "papers" or not. You shouldn't have to prove "extreme and unusual hardship" to avoid being separated from your family. We, as a country, have a moral responsibility to support and uplift those adversely affected by the US's decades-long role in the economic and military destabilization of the home countries these migrants and asylum seekers have been forced to leave.

While we expected to face resistance and potential trouble from the multiple law enforcement agencies represented at the border, we didn't expect to have a local farm hand pull a pistol on us to demand we deflate our giant balloon banner. Its message to those in detention:

NO ESTÁN SOLOS (You are not alone).

Despite the slight disruption to our plan we were able to support Mijente and United We Dream in blocking the main entrance to the detention camp and letting those locked inside know that there are people here who care for them and want to see them free and reunited with their families. 

We are continuing to stand in solidarity with Mijente as they fight back against unjust immigration practices.Yesterday they took action in San Diego, continuing to lead and escalate resistance to unjust detention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and to ICE. 

While we were honored to offer on-the-ground support we see the potential to focus the energy of our Drop the MIC campaign into fighting against this injustice, to have an even greater impact. Here's how:
  1. Call out General Dynamics for profiteering of War, Militarization of the Border and Child and Family Detention (look for our social media toolkit this week);
  2. Create speaking forums and produce media that challenges the narrative of ICE and Jeff Sessions, encouraging troops who have served in the borderlands to speak out about that experience;
  3. Continue to show up and demand we demilitarize the border and abolish ICE.

Thank you for your vision and understanding of how militarism, racism, and capitalism are coming together in the most destructive ways. Help keep us in this fight by continuing to support our work.

In Solidarity,
Ramon Mejia
Field Organizer, About Face: Veterans Against the War

P.O. Box 3565, New York, NY 10008. All Right Reserved. | Unsubscribe
To ensure delivery of About Face emails please add webmaster@ivaw.org to your address book.



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

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

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

Major Tillery and family

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

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

    Write to:
    Security Processing Center
    Major Tillery AM 9786
    268 Bricker Road
    Bellefonte, PA 16823
    For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org
    Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com
    Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com



    Free Leonard Peltier!

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



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







    December 29, 2018

    Dear Comrades and Friends Across the Globe:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    In solidarity and toward Mumia's freedom,

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


    1) Students Skip School Across Europe to Demand Climate Action
    By Megan Specia, February 15, 2019
    Demonstrators gathered Friday in Brighton, southern England.CreditCreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images

    Thousands of students streamed out of schools across Europe on Friday, waving placards and carrying banners as they marched as part of a coordinated walkout to demand action on climate change.
    In London, students chanting, "Save our planet!" gathered in Parliament Square, where they brought traffic to a standstill. Others held signs that read, "Change the politics not the climate."

    About 200 students gathered outside the Ministry of Ecology in Paris, saying they hoped to repeat the demonstration every week until their demands were heard. They urged the government to reduce France's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 4 percent per year.
    Activists on Friday near the Ministry for Ecology in Paris.CreditJacques Demarthon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    Similar demonstrations have been steadily gaining momentum since emerging in Sweden last year. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old activist, has been cutting class weekly since September to stage sit-ins at the Swedish Parliament demanding government action to address climate change.

    Inspired by her, a movement known as Youth Strike 4 Climate was founded in Britain and has since grown rapidly, propelled by social media. Demonstrations have been held in Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and elsewhere.

    Luisa Neubauer, 22, one of the organizers of marches in Berlin, which have gone on for weeks, called Friday's demonstrations powerful. Children as young as 6 joined university students on the streets, she said.
    "It's just during these strikes that I am convinced we can actually make a difference," she said.
    A nursery-school girl dressed as a superhero for a march in Manchester, northwest England.CreditChristopher Furlong/Getty Images

    While some politicians have rallied in support of the students, others, including Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, have been skeptical.
    A spokesman for Mrs. May said: "Everybody wants young people to be engaged in the issues that affect them most so that we can build a brighter future for all of us. But it is important to emphasize that disruption increases teachers' workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for."

    The prime minister's reaction was criticized by some, including Ms. Thunberg, the Swedish teenager.
    "British PM says that the children on school strike are 'wasting lesson time.' That may well be the case," Ms. Thunberg wrote on Twitter. "But then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And that is slightly worse."

    Juliette Hirsch contributed reporting.


    2) Why Did Police Officers Fire 42 Times to Bring Down a Robbery Suspect in Queens?
    By Michael Wilson, February 14, 2019

    A bullet lays next to an evidence marker on the ground outside a T-Mobile store in Queens where police officers shooting at a robbery suspect accidentally killed a veteran detective.CreditCreditUli Seit for The New York Times

    A question that often arises after many police shootings, especially when officers fire multiple rounds, is why did they need to shoot so many times?
    That question came up after Tuesday evening's police fusillade in Queens that claimed the life of a veteran detective and wounded a sergeant. Seven officers fired 42 rounds in 11 seconds. Their target was a 27-year-old man suspected of robbing a T-Mobile store, who was holding a pistol that turned out to be fake.

    Eight of the bullets knocked down the suspect, but the shooting also left Detective Brian Simonsen, 42, dead and Sgt. Matthew Gorman, 34, seriously wounded.
    On Tuesday, the police received a call about a masked man with a gun in the T-Mobile store at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 120th Street. The caller said the man was holding two employees hostage in a back room.

    Officers in at least half a dozen police cars quickly responded that they were en route. The first group to arrive included Detective Simonsen and Sergeant Gorman, both in civilian clothing, and two uniformed officers. The officers and Sergeant Gorman entered the store, and were met by the man, Christopher Ransom, 27, who advanced toward them from the back of the store with an authentic-looking imitation handgun.
    The officers and the sergeant retreated from the store. By then, several more officers had arrived and were in front of the store. The police said Mr. Ransom approached the store's door and pointed his fake gun at the police, moving it as if he were firing.
    The police opened fire, shooting Mr. Ransom through the glass storefront. Detective Simonsen and Sergeant Gorman, who were not wearing body armor, were caught in crossfire, senior police officials said.
    The police are trained to fire their weapons until a threat has been eliminated, not one or two rounds at a time. In ideal circumstances, an officer can take cover and shoot in small bursts, reassessing the threat after every couple of rounds. But facing a lethal threat, an officer tends to empty his weapon, experts on firearms training say.
    In recordings of the officers' panicked radio calls to a dispatcher on Tuesday, a thunderous barrage of gunfire can be heard in the background. It would have been practically impossible for each officer to stop and realize how many bullets had been fired during those 11 seconds.

    Also, it's very unlikely that an officer in that type of situation would know how many other officers had previously fired their weapon. For example, the seventh officer to shoot in a sequence would not have likely known in what order they were shooting, the police have said after similar incidents.
    When the police opened fire on Tuesday, they riddled the glass front and side of the T-Mobile store with bullets — at least 16 holes were visible the following day.
    That scenario might have caused a phenomenon that an expert witness described as "blowback" at the 2008 criminal trial of three officers who shot and killed Sean Bell, an unarmed driver leaving his bachelor party in Queens in 2006.
    In that case, officers, believing the men in the car had a gun, fired 50 rounds at Mr. Bell and his two passengers as they attempted to flee in a car. At the trial in State Supreme Court in Queens, a crime scene analyst, Alexander Jason, said that bullets passing through Mr. Bell's car windows might have caused glass to blow outward, making it appear to the officers that they were being shot at.
    All three officers who faced criminal charges — two others involved in the shooting were not charged — in the case were acquitted. But in 2010, New York City agreed to pay more than $7 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by Mr. Bell's family and two friends.
    Experienced police officers say the adrenaline that flows during a live gunfight can push an officer to fire more than he even realizes.
    One of the officers in the Sean Bell incident, Detective Michael Oliver, fired an eyebrow-raising 31 of 50 rounds, first emptying his pistol, which held 16 rounds, reloading it with a 15-round magazine and then emptying it again.

    Detective Oliver recalled the events of that night in his testimony before a grand jury in 2007:
    "I looked at my gun. I didn't know if it had any bullets or something was wrong. I was standing right in front of him. I see him lifting his arms. I didn't want to die. I reloaded the gun, and I continued to fire, and the shots still are going on around me. I don't know where they are coming from, and all this is happening in a matter of a couple of seconds, which it seemed."
    Another factor on Tuesday that investigators may examine is the phenomenon of "contagious shooting," which theorizes that police officers fire because other officers are firing, with everyone believing the threat against them is growing.
    In 1995, officers responding to a robbery at a bodega in the Bronx fired 107 rounds. "They were shooting to the echo of their own gunfire," a former police official said at the time.
    On Tuesday, Sergeant Gorman fired 11 rounds, the police said, and Detective Simonsen, two. Five other officers fired the remaining 29 rounds.
    An investigation into the Tuesday's "friendly-fire" incident is being conducted by the Force Investigation Division, which investigates all police shootings. Investigators will have access to footage from five officers' body cameras and surveillance video and interviews with witnesses. Police investigators do not generally interview the officers who have fired their weapons right away for legal reasons.
    Past shootings have led to revisions in police training, and time will tell whether that occurs in this instance. At a news conference on Wednesday, Chief Terence Monahan, the Police Department's highest-ranking uniformed officer, spoke about the gap between training and real-life situations.
    "Every six months, when you go to the range, you get trained," he said, referring to the police firearms range. "We talk about the tactics, we talk about incidents that have occurred over the course of the last six months. You want to avoid that crossfire situation. But understand — it's great to train — everything happens in a second. You're reacting within seconds and you're in fear for your life. Your adrenaline is high."

    Ali Winston contributed reporting.


    3) Time to Panic
    The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways. And fear may be the only thing that saves us.
    "In December, a national survey tracking Americans' attitudes toward climate change found that 73 percent said global warming was happening, the highest percentage since the question began being asked in 2008. But a majority of Americans were unwilling to spend even $10 a month to address global warming; most drew the line at $1 a month...Buying an electric car is a drop in the bucket compared with raising fuel-efficiency standards sharply. Conscientiously flying less is a lot easier if there's more high-speed rail around. And if I eat fewer hamburgers a year, so what? But if cattle farmers were required to feed their cattle seaweed, which might reduce methane emissions by nearly 60 percent according to one study, that would make an enormous difference."
    By David Wallace Wells, February 16, 2019
    Mr. Wallace Wells is the author of the forthcoming "The Uninhabitable Earth. Life After Warming."
    Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California last summer, when more than a million acres burned in the state. Scientists cite climate change as a factor in California's increasingly destructive wildfire seasons.CreditNoah Berger/Associated Press

    The age of climate panic is here. Last summer, a heat wave baked the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing dozens from Quebec to Japan. Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history turned more than a million acres to ash, along the way melting the tires and the sneakers of those trying to escape the flames. Pacific hurricanes forced three million people in China to flee and wiped away almost all of Hawaii's East Island
    We are living today in a world that has warmed by just one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s, when records began on a global scale. We are adding planet-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a rate faster than at any point in human history since the beginning of industrialization. 
    In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what has become known as its "Doomsday" report — "a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen," as one United Nations official described it — detailing climate effects at 1.5 and two degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). At the opening of a major United Nations conference two months later, David Attenborough, the mellifluous voice of the BBC's "Planet Earth" and now an environmental conscience for the English-speaking world, put it even more bleakly: "If we don't take action," he said, "the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon." 
    Scientists have felt this way for a while. But they have not often talked like it. For decades, there were few things with a worse reputation than "alarmism" among those studying climate change.

    This is a bit strange. You don't typically hear from public health experts about the need for circumspection in describing the risks of carcinogens, for instance. The climatologist James Hansen, who testified before Congress about global warming in 1988, has called the phenomenon "scientific reticence" and chastised his colleagues for it — for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat actually was. 
    That tendency metastasized even as the news from the research grew bleaker. So for years the publication of every major paper, essay or book would be attended by a cloud of commentary debating its precise calibration of perspective and tone, with many of those articles seen by scientists as lacking an appropriate balance between bad news and optimism, and labeled "fatalistic" as a result. 
    In 2018, their circumspection began to change, perhaps because all that extreme weather wouldn't permit it not to. Some scientists even began embracing alarmism — particularly with that United Nations report. The research it summarized was not new, and temperatures beyond two degrees Celsius were not even discussed, though warming on that scale is where we are headed. Though the report — the product of nearly 100 scientists from around the world — did not address any of the scarier possibilities for warming, it did offer a new form of permission to the world's scientists. The thing that was new was the message: It is O.K., finally, to freak out. Even reasonable.
    This, to me, is progress. Panic might seem counterproductive, but we're at a point where alarmism and catastrophic thinking are valuable, for several reasons.

    The first is that climate change is a crisis precisely because it is a looming catastrophe that demands an aggressive global response, now. In other words, it is right to be alarmed. The emissions path we are on today is likely to take us to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040, two degrees Celsius within decades after that and perhaps four degrees Celsius by 2100.

    As temperatures rise, this could mean many of the biggest cities in the Middle East and South Asia would become lethally hot in summer, perhaps as soon as 2050. There would be ice-free summers in the Arctic and the unstoppable disintegration of the West Antarctic's ice sheet, which some scientists believe has already begun, threatening the world's coastal cities with inundation. Coral reefs would mostly disappear. And there would be tens of millions of climate refugees, perhaps many more, fleeing droughts, flooding and extreme heat, and the possibility of multiple climate-driven natural disasters striking simultaneously.
    There are many reasons to think we may not get to four degrees Celsius, but globally, emissions are still growing, and the time we have to avert what is now thought to be catastrophic warming — two degrees Celsius — is shrinking by the day. To stay safely below that threshold, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, according to the United Nations report. Instead, they are still rising. So being alarmed is not a sign of being hysterical; when it comes to climate change, being alarmed is what the facts demand. Perhaps the only logical response.
    This helps explain the second reason alarmism is useful: By defining the boundaries of conceivability more accurately, catastrophic thinking makes it easier to see the threat of climate change clearly. For years, we have read in newspapers as two degrees of warming was invoked as the highest tolerable level, beyond which disaster would ensue. Warming greater than that was rarely discussed outside scientific circles. And so it was easy to develop an intuitive portrait of the landscape of possibilities that began with the climate as it exists today and ended with the pain of two degrees, the ceiling of suffering.
    In fact, it is almost certainly a floor. By far the likeliest outcomes for the end of this century fall between two and four degrees of warming. And so looking squarely at what the world might look like in that range — two degrees, three, four — is much better preparation for the challenges we will face than retreating into the comforting relative normalcy of the present.

    The third reason is while concern about climate change is growing — fortunately — complacency remains a much bigger political problem than fatalism. In December, a national survey tracking Americans' attitudes toward climate change found that 73 percent said global warming was happening, the highest percentage since the question began being asked in 2008. But a majority of Americans were unwilling to spend even $10 a month to address global warming; most drew the line at $1 a month, according to a poll conducted the previous month.

    Last fall, voters in Washington, a green state in a blue-wave election, rejected even a modest carbon-tax plan. Are those people unwilling to pay that money because they think the game is over or because they don't think it's necessary yet?
    This is a rhetorical question. If we had started global decarbonization in 2000, according to the Global Carbon Project, we would have had to cut emissions by only about 2 percent per year to stay safely under two degrees of warming. Did we fail to act then because we thought it was all over already or because we didn't yet consider warming an urgent enough problem to take action against? Only 44 percent of those surveyed in a survey last month cited climate change as a top political priority.

    But it should be. The fact is, further delay will only make the problem worse. If we started a broad decarbonization effort today — a gargantuan undertaking to overhaul our energy systems, building and transportation infrastructure and how we produce our food — the necessary rate of emissions reduction would be about 5 percent per year. If we delay another decade, it will require us to cut emissions by some 9 percent each year. This is why the United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, believes we have only until 2020 to change course and get started.

    A fourth argument for embracing catastrophic thinking comes from history. Fear can mobilize, even change the world. When Rachel Carson published her landmark anti-pesticide polemic "Silent Spring," Lifemagazine said she had "overstated her case," and The Saturday Evening Post dismissed the book as "alarmist." But it almost single-handedly led to a nationwide ban on DDT. 
    Throughout the Cold War, foes of nuclear weapons did not shy away from warning of the horrors of mutually assured destruction, and in the 1980s and 1990s, campaigners against drunken driving did not feel obligated to make their case simply by celebrating sobriety. In its "Doomsday" report, the United Nations climate-change panel offered a very clear analogy for the mobilization required to avert catastrophic warming: World War II, which President Franklin Roosevelt called a "challenge to life, liberty and civilization." That war was not waged on hope alone.
    But perhaps the strongest argument for the wisdom of catastrophic thinking is that all of our mental reflexes run in the opposite direction, toward disbelief about the possibility of very bad outcomes. I know this from personal experience. I have spent the past three years buried in climate science and following the research as it expanded into ever darker territory. 
    The number of "good news" scientific papers that I've encountered in that time I could probably count on my two hands. The "bad news" papers number probably in the thousands — each day seeming to bring a new, distressing revision to our understanding of the environmental trauma already unfolding. 
    I know the science is true, I know the threat is all-encompassing, and I know its effects, should emissions continue unabated, will be terrifying. And yet, when I imagine my life three decades from now, or the life of my daughter five decades now, I have to admit that I am not imagining a world on fire but one similar to the one we have now. That is how hard it is to shake complacency. We are all living in delusion, unable to really process the news from science that climate change amounts to an all-encompassing threat. Indeed, a threat the size of life itself.
    How can we be this deluded? One answer comes from behavioral economics. The scroll of cognitive biases identified by psychologists and fellow travelers over the past half-century can seem, like a social media feed, bottomless, and they distort and distend our perception of a changing climate. These optimistic prejudices, prophylactic biases and emotional reflexes form an entire library of climate delusion.

    We build our view of the universe outward from our own experience, a reflexive tendency that surely shapes our ability to comprehend genuinely existential threats to the species. We have a tendency to wait for others to act, rather than acting ourselves; a preference for the present situation; a disinclination to change things; and an excess of confidence that we can change things easily, should we need to, no matter the scale. We can't see anything but through cataracts of self-deception.

    The sum total of these biases is what makes climate change something the ecological theorist Timothy Morton calls a "hyperobject" — a conceptual fact so large and complex that it can never be properly comprehended. In his book "Worst-Case Scenarios," the legal scholar Cass Sunstein wrote that in general, we have a problem considering unlikely but potential risks, which we run from either into complacency or paranoia. His solution is a wonky one: We should all be more rigorous in our cost-benefit analysis.
    That climate change demands expertise, and faith in it, at precisely the moment when public confidence in expertise is collapsing is one of its many paradoxes. That climate change touches so many of our cognitive biases is a mark of just how big it is and how much about human life it touches, which is to say, nearly everything.
    And unfortunately, as climate change has been dawning more fully into view over the past several decades, all the cognitive biases that push us toward complacency have been abetted by our storytelling about warming — by journalism defined by caution in describing the scale and speed of the threat. 
    So what can we do? And by the way, who's "we"? The size of the threat from climate change means that organization is necessary at every level — communities, states, nations and international agreements that coordinate action among them. But most of us don't live in the halls of the United Nations or the boardrooms in which the Paris climate agreement was negotiated. 
    Instead we live in a consumer culture that tells us we can make our political mark on the world through where we shop, what we wear, how we eat. This is how we get things like The Lancet's recent dietary recommendations for those who want to eat to mitigate climate change — less meat for some, more vegetables — or suggestions like those published in The Washington Post, around the time of New Year's resolutions. For instance: "Be smart about your air-conditioner."
    But conscious consumption is a cop-out, a neoliberal diversion from collective action, which is what is necessary. People should try to live by their own values, about climate as with everything else, but the effects of individual lifestyle choices are ultimately trivial compared with what politics can achieve.

    Buying an electric car is a drop in the bucket compared with raising fuel-efficiency standards sharply. Conscientiously flying less is a lot easier if there's more high-speed rail around. And if I eat fewer hamburgers a year, so what? But if cattle farmers were required to feed their cattle seaweed, which might reduce methane emissions by nearly 60 percent according to one study, that would make an enormous difference.

    That is what is meant when politics is called a "moral multiplier." It is also an exit from the personal, emotional burden of climate change and from what can feel like hypocrisy about living in the world as it is and simultaneously worrying about its future. We don't ask people who pay taxes to support a social safety net to also demonstrate that commitment through philanthropic action, and similarly we shouldn't ask anyone — and certainly not everyone — to manage his or her own carbon footprint before we even really try to enact laws and policies that would reduce all of our emissions. 
    That is the purpose of politics: that we can be and do better together than we might manage as individuals.
    And politics, suddenly, is on fire with climate change. Last fall, in Britain, an activist group with the alarmist name Extinction Rebellion was formed and immediately grew so large it was able to paralyze parts of London in its first major protest. Its leading demand: "Tell the truth." That imperative is echoed, stateside, by Genevieve Guenther's organization End Climate Silence, and the climate-change panel's calls to direct the planet's resources toward action against warming has been taken up at the grass roots, inspiringly, by Margaret Klein Salamon's Climate Mobilization project.
    Of course, environmental activism isn't new, and these are just the groups that have arisen over the past few years, pushed into action by climate panic. But that alarm is cascading upward, too. In Congress, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has rallied liberal Democrats around a Green New Deal — a call to reorganize the American economy around clean energy and renewable prosperity. Washington State's governor, Jay Inslee, has more or less declared himself a single-issue presidential candidate
    And while not a single direct question about climate change was asked of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential debates, the issue is sure to dominate the Democratic primary in 2020, alongside "Medicare for all" and free college. Michael Bloomberg, poised to spend at least $500 million on the campaign, has said he'll insist that any candidate the party puts forward has a concrete plan for the climate.
    This is what the beginning of a solution looks like — though only a very beginning, and only a partial solution. We have probably squandered the opportunity to avert two degrees of warming, but we can avert three degrees and certainly all the terrifying suffering that lies beyond that threshold.

    But the longer we wait, the worse it will get. Which is one last argument for catastrophic thinking: What creates more sense of urgency than fear?

    My NYT Comment: 
    This article is correct to point out that individual commitment to ending global warming such as buying electric cars (as if most working people can even afford to buy a new car;) or taxing everyone a dollar a month, will not solve the problem. But I can't, for the life of me, understand why the multi-billion-dollar corporations and their insanely wealthy CEOs are exempt from, not only carrying the burden, but from making the kinds of changes that could repair and prevent the damaging pollution their businesses produce on a massive scale. The argument, that it's "not good for business" is an obvious cop-out. The fact is, business, i.e., capitalism is not good for the world! We need to build a democratically planned, worldwide socialist society to take the profit out of pollution and produce for want (for what all people want and need to live a healthy life,) not the private profit of the tiny few. —Bonnie Weinstein


    4) Her Daughters Died in a Fire as She Did Laundry. She Sobbed While Pleading Guilty.
    By Jan Ransom, February 17, 2019

    Haya Konte, whose two young daughters perished in a 2016 fire that erupted after they were left alone in a Bronx apartment, clutched the backpack of her surviving 2-year-old.CreditCreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

    Everything Haya Konte had ever dreamed of for herself and for her family in America perished in a matter of minutes on April 13, 2016.
    That day, Ms. Konte, a young undocumented immigrant, stepped out of an apartment in the Butler Houses, a public housing complex in the Bronx, to get her two toddlers ice cream and to put clothes in the dryer at a laundromat across the street. She left the girls — aged 2 and 18 months — home alone with incense burning. She was under the mistaken impression a roommate was in the home at the time, she said.
    fire tore through the apartment while she was out, killing both children. Ms. Konte was charged with criminally negligent homicide.

    "It's a feeling I can't forget," Ms. Konte said, speaking publicly for the first time about her daughters' deaths and the criminal charges that followed. "It's something I will deal with for the rest of my life."

    On Feb. 7, inside a third-floor courtroom at the Bronx Hall of Justice, Ms. Konte stood at the defense table flanked by her lawyer and an interpreter. Her head was dropped. Her shoulders were slumped forward. She tried to fight back tears, but failed.
    Between sobs, Ms. Konte, 29, pleaded guilty to two counts of criminally negligent homicide in the deaths of her daughters Jainabu Jabbie, 2, and Adama Jabbie, 18 months. As part of the no-prison plea deal, she also agreed to voluntarily leave the country. The guilty plea had taken more than two years to negotiate.
    The deaths of Jainabu and Adama rattled the city, but struck a particular nerve with a segment of working-class New Yorkers familiar with the challenges of juggling parenthood, work and routine responsibilities.
    The case also fed into a wider national debate over what constitutes negligence in the era of helicopter parenting. Some states, for instance, have passed laws making it illegal to leave a child alone at home or in a car. But others have pushed back, passing "free-range parenting" lawsthat set the bar higher for charging parents with neglect. Like many other states, child neglect laws in New York are broad and include any action that results in a child's death or serious harm.
    The authorities have said no adult was present when the incense came in contact with a couch, sparking the blaze. One child was lying on the couch and another was sitting on the living room floor, she said.

    The Bronx district attorney's office ultimately determined Ms. Konte's actions went so far beyond what a reasonable parent would do to keep her children safe that she had committed a crime. "The loss of these two young girls is a devastating consequence of their mother's seemingly innocuous actions," the district attorney, Darcel D. Clark, said at the time.
    The Bronx district attorney's office declined to comment on the decision not to seek a prison term. The offense is punishable by up to four years in prison.
    In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Konte described being haunted by her decisions that day. Her life has unraveled since the fire, which also injured 10 other people, including three firefighters.
    Born in France, Ms. Konte was raised in a small village in Gambia. She was 23 when she arrived in New York in 2012, seeking a better life as she left behind a poor economy and an oppressive regime at home. She found work as an on-call hair braider in salons.
    She said she entered the United States with a passport. But she had remained in the country illegally, officials said.
    She said she had met a taxi driver, Bully Jabbie, online before arriving in the United States. They married, and their first child, Jainabu, was born in 2014.
    "Life was good," Ms. Konte said through a translator at the Bronx mosque where she worships. "I was happy to be a mother."

    But soon after the birth of their second child, Adama, Ms. Konte said her husband began to change. He stopped helping as much with the children, she said, and most of the child care fell to her.

    The family was sharing an apartment with a friend who allowed them to stay temporarily in a third-floor unit at the Butler Houses on Webster Avenue in the Claremont Village section of the Bronx. Ms. Konte, pregnant with their third child, said her husband had tried to find a new place for the family to live; when he failed to do so, it became a point of contention in their marriage.
    Ms. Konte said she remembers each detail from the day of the fire with raw clarity.
    She was four months pregnant. That morning, she had walked across the street to Webster Laundromat with her two daughters. She filled the washing machines with clothes before returning to the apartment.
    Once inside, Ms. Konte said Jainabu spotted an ice cream truck from the window. "Mommy, ice cream," Ms. Konte recalled the little girl saying.
    She looked out the window, but the truck had left.
    That evening, a second ice cream truck pulled up in front of the building. Ms. Konte ran down to catch it, but she missed it, she said. Her husband, she said, was praying in a mosque.
    She then returned to the laundromat to put her clothes in the dryer, leaving the girls inside. Her imam, Musa Kabba, of Masjid Ar Rahmah, said she was away from the apartment for up to 40 minutes before fire trucks arrived. She said she rushed out of the laundromat at the sound of sirens and fainted at the sight of one of her daughters being carried out of the building by firefighters.
    "I couldn't take it," Ms. Konte said.
    The fire prompted intense debate on social media. Some expressed sympathy for Ms. Konte, saying the loss of her children was punishment enough for her carelessness, while others harshly criticized her as a mother and said she should be charged with a crime. There were no earlier reports of neglect, or complaints that she had left her children alone.

    For her part, Ms. Konte said the fire was an accident and that she loved her children. Her cousin, Mohamed Gumaneh, said, "If she knew this would happen she would not even do the laundry."
    Since the fire, Ms. Konte and the daughter she was carrying at the time, who is now 2, have been living in a shelter in the South Bronx. Ms. Konte and her husband divorced last year.
    Ms. Konte arrived at court earlier this month with her daughter, who resembles Jainabu. The restless toddler looked on as Ms. Konte pleaded guilty for the deaths of her sisters.
    Christine Scaccia, a senior prosecutor in the Bronx district attorney's office, told Justice Ralph Fabrizio in State Supreme Court that prosecutors had met with Ms. Konte's ex-husband and he found the plea to be "acceptable." Mr. Jabbie could not be reached for comment.
    Ms. Konte said during the interview that she felt rushed into making a decision to take the plea offer. She also said she had been scared about going to trial.
    Some community leaders and city officials questioned the Bronx district attorney's decision to bring criminal charges against Ms. Konte.
    "There's no punishment greater than what she actually lost," Councilman Rory Lancman, a candidate for Queens district attorney, said, adding, "And the knowledge that she maybe could have prevented it. Why would banishment be appropriate? There's no point to it."

    Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the New York University Family Defense Clinic, said prosecutors had overreached. "Most of the time when parents lose a child we sympathize with them," she said.
    But Mark A. Bederow, a defense lawyer and former Manhattan prosecutor, said as a legal matter it was clearly negligent for Ms. Konte to have left her two young children home alone. "The charges were appropriate," he said.
    Ms. Clark was also criticized for not filing criminal charges against a public housing maintenance worker who provided false information in safety reports and lied about the smoke detectors in Ms. Konte's apartment hours before the fire.
    Ms. Konte is expected back in court March 27 for sentencing.
    She has not decided where she and her daughter will go when they leave the country.
    "This disaster happened by mistake," Mr. Kabba said. "She has faith that a better life is coming. I'm praying for her."


    5) Seven Labour Lawmakers Resign in U.K., in Rebuke of Jeremy Corbyn
    By Stephen Castle,  February 18, 2019
    "'Both of the main parties are pulling away from the center ground, where traditionally British elections are won,'"

    Members of Britain's opposition Labour Party pressing this month for a second referendum on membership in the European Union.
    CreditCreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press


    LONDON — A bitter internal struggle within Britain's opposition Labour Party burst into open warfare on Monday, when seven lawmakers resigned, castigating their left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and calling for a movement to champion a brand of new, more centrist, politics.
    The development raises the intriguing — if still distant — possibility of a realignment of British politics, coming at a moment of significant flux, with both main political parties divided while also appearing to flee the political center ground.
    On Monday the rebel Labour lawmakers accused Mr. Corbyn of equivocating over Britain's withdrawal from the European Union and tolerating anti-Semitism, with some of them professing embarrassment or shame about the state of the party they had spent years serving.

    Labour and the governing Conservatives both appear to be buckling as they grapple with the ramifications of Britain's imminent departure from the European Union, or Brexit. That process is reaching some sort of denouement with Britain less than 40 days away from leaving the bloc and still without any exit agreement, something that could precipitate a disorderly, possibly chaotic, rupture.

    Amid the strains of Brexit, growing inequality and years of budget cuts under the government's austerity program, the two major parties have become increasingly polarized.
    "Both of the main parties are pulling away from the center ground, where traditionally British elections are won," said Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics. "Many members of Parliament in both parties think that the current situation can't go on, they don't think it can remain stable."
    "The question," he added, "is whether there is a potential correcting mechanism with British politics that means that the broad mass of moderate voters can find a way of voting for moderate members of Parliament, to bring politics back from the extreme left and the Brexit hard right."
    That will not be easy. The seven rebel lawmakers will sit as independents in Parliament, having decided not to establish a new political party, at least for now. Doing so is difficult in Britain because the country's electoral system makes it hard for smaller groups to win representation in Parliament. A faction that splintered from Labour in the 1980s to form a centrist social democratic party ultimately failed.

     Nevertheless, in some parts of Europe, new political forces have exploited the weakness of existing parties, including in France where President Emmanuel Macron successfully created a new centrist movement.

    In Britain, Mr. Travers noted, there is "a gaping gap" in politics. Under Mr. Corbyn, Labour has both its most left-wing leader in decades and a lifelong critic of the European Union, who has resisted demands from some of his lawmakers and party members to support another referendum on Brexit.
    The Conservatives have their schisms as well. Within the governing Conservative Party of Prime Minister Theresa May, Brexit has been embraced with enthusiasm by party activists, who tend to be older and more nativist. This has strengthened the hand of hard-liners, including lawmakers who meet as the European Research Group, some of whom are happy to contemplate leaving the European Union without any agreement.

    That has left the party's more pragmatic lawmakers on the defensive, confronting the prospect of something they fear could be an economic catastrophe. Several of the more pro-European Conservative lawmakers have been threatened with deselection by their local parties, a development that mirrors the faction-fighting within Labour.
    While there is a vacant space at the center of Britain's politics, the middle-of-the-road Liberal Democrats have failed to recover the credibility they lost with voters during their coalition government with the Conservatives from 2010 to 2015.
    On Monday, the seven lawmakers gave differing reasons for their resignations when they addressed the media. Luciana Berger, who represents Liverpool Wavertree, has been a vocal critic of Mr. Corbyn's handling of anti-Semitism allegations, and was threatened with a vote of no-confidence by local party activists, a motion that was eventually withdrawn.
    Last year Ms. Berger protested when it emerged that, in 2012, Mr. Corbyn had endorsed a mural on a wall in east London that appeared to depict a group of caricatured Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the poor. Since that episode, for which he apologized, Mr. Corbyn, who is a vehement and unapologetic critic of the current Israeli government, has failed to shake off claims that he has tolerated anti-Semitism within Labour's ranks.
    "I cannot remain in a party that I have come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic," said Ms. Berger, who is Jewish.
    Chris Leslie, a former minister, said that the Labour Party had been "hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left" and criticized "Labour's betrayal on Europe." Pro-Europeans are furious that Mr. Corbyn has not pushed for a second referendum, despite a motion from last year's Labour Party conference calling for such a move, if there was no sign of a general election.
    And Chuka Umunna, once considered a possible future leader of the Labour Party, appealed to voters to help forge a new movement. "We have taken the step in leaving the old politics behind and invite others to do the same," he said.
    Responding to the announcement, Mr. Corbyn sought to contain, rather than inflame, the split, avoiding harsh rhetoric and expressing his disappointment. "The Conservative government is bungling Brexit," he said, "while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan."
    Though Mr. Corbyn may not be sad, personally, to see the back of some internal critics, he knows that a cleavage in the party could prevent him from ever becoming prime minister. In 2017 his campaign in a general election proved more successful than many expected, depriving Mrs. May of a majority in Parliament and silencing many internal critics, including lawmakers who had sought his ouster.
    Some of Mr. Corbyn's supporters called on the seven lawmakers to resign their seats in Parliament and fight them again as independents in by-elections.
    That underscores one of the problems confronting the seven rebels who, without the official endorsement of the Labour Party, will find it hard to hold their seats in Parliament at the next general election.
    That gives them only a limited time to plot a future. Mr. Travers said that their decision to form an independent grouping in Parliament rather than a party, meant they were in a "holding pattern."
    Their prospects could improve if the growing influence of pro-Brexit hard-liners pushes more moderate Conservative lawmakers out of their party, leaving them politically homeless.
    And, if opinion polling were to suggest that there could be significant support for a new party, that could encourage more of Mr. Corbyn's critics within the Labour Party to quit.
    But the lessons of recent political history are not encouraging. In 1981, a group of senior figures in the Labour Party resigned to form the Social Democratic Party, promising to break the mold of British politics. Despite some initial success that saw the SDP at one point winning a quarter of the vote, it later failed.
    The most recent new political party to make an impact was the pro-Brexit U.K. Independent Party. But it managed to get its foothold in the political discourse by winning seats in the European Parliament where a system of proportional representation is in place, helping smaller parties. Assuming Britain leaves the European Union on March 29, as planned, that option would not be open to any new centrist party.
    Dick Newby, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and a member of the ill-fated SDP, wrote on Twitter than the seven lawmakers were "a very brave group.""
    "Anyone who left Labour for the SDP knows how difficult such a decision is," added.


    6) Trump Delivers Blunt Warning to Venezuela Military Over Aid Impasse
    By Annie KarniNicholas Casey and Anatoly Kurmanaev, February 18, 2019

    Colombian security forces stand guard in front of shipping containers placed by Venezuelan security forces to block the border bridge that connects Colombia to Venezuela.CreditCreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

    MIAMI — President Trump on Monday delivered his sharpest warning yet to Venezuela’s military authorities in an increasingly tense showdown over that country’s crisis, proclaiming they would “lose everything” by remaining loyal to President Nicolás Maduro and refusing to allow in emergency aid stockpiled on the border.
    Mr. Trump gave the warning in a speech denouncing Venezuela’s brand of socialism to an enthusiastic crowd in Miami that included many Americans of Venezuelan descent who have fled Venezuela or have relatives in the country, once Latin America’s wealthiest but now facing the greatest economic collapse in generations.

    He spoke five days before a deadline that his administration and the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, have declared for getting humanitarian aid into the country — a move aimed at weakening Mr. Maduro, who is no longer recognized by the United States and roughly 50 other nations as the country’s president. Mr. Trump was the first to recognize Mr. Guaidó last month as Mr. Maduro’s replacement until new elections can be held.

    “We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open,” Mr. Trump said. He urged all members of the Venezuelan military to permit the aid into the country, and advised them to accept the opposition’s amnesty offer — or they will find “no safe harbor, no easy exit, and no way out.”

    “You will lose everything,” the president said.
    Despite the tough language, it remained unclear how the Venezuelan opposition would break Mr. Maduro’s blockade of the border with a delivery of food and medication on Saturday. Mr. Trump’s own national security adviser said the American military — which has airlifted tons of supplies to Venezuela’s doorstep on the Colombia border — will not cross into the country.
    The ambitious land-and-sea campaign would bring humanitarian supplies through Colombia, Brazil and the Caribbean and into the hands of thousands of Venezuelans who have suffered from protracted shortages of food and medicine.
    Mr. Trump’s warning followed a whirlwind of high-profile visits to the Venezuela-Colombia border by American officials — including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and the head of the United States Agency for International Development — who have embraced the opposition’s plans to use aid as their chief political weapon.
    If Mr. Maduro’s stranglehold on the food and medicine supply can be broken, and he can be shown to have lost control of the border, his legitimacy as the country’s president will weaken, the reasoning goes. If the military can be convinced to not stand between the Venezuelan population and the humanitarian aid, he may fall.

    “On the 23rd some people in the regime will have to make a life-defining decision,” Mr. Rubio said Monday in an interview in Cúcuta, where a bridge into Venezuela is blocked on Mr. Maduro’s orders by a couple of shipping containers. “Either they stick with this dictator, who is illegitimate and whose days are numbered, and deny your people food and medicine. Or is this the time to say, ‘this is as far as we will go’?”

    It is a risky gamble for Mr. Maduro’s adversaries, who say they are unclear as to how they will break the blockade at the border on Saturday.
    While Mr. Guaidó is regarded by the Trump administration as Venezuela’s rightful president, the White House is facing the reality that Mr. Maduro still controls the military, and with it, the state.
    “If the opposition — and Trump administration — are trying to find ways to peel away military support for Maduro, threatening its monopoly on food distribution is not likely to be helpful in that regard,” said Cynthia J. Arnson, the Latin America director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

    She added that by creating a political showdown over the humanitarian shipment, the White House only increased the prospects that Mr. Maduro would keep blocking the aid.
    For Mr. Guaidó, there is an additional risk: In accepting wholeheartedly Mr. Trump’s embrace, Mr. Guaidó may look like a puppet of the United States.
    “Being associated too closely with the U.S. carries too much baggage anywhere in Latin America,” said Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group. “And when you have a leftist government that rallies its base on these issues of American imperialism, it plays closely into their narrative.”
    Mr. Isacson, who directs the group’s security and defense program, also expressed concern about the tension that the rhetoric of Mr. Trump and Mr. Maduro was raising on the border.

    “With this kind of saber-rattling you create potential for a hair-trigger moment,” he said, citing Mr. Maduro’s dispatch of troops to the border. “An incident there could go badly.”
    Cúcuta, which is across a river from Venezuela, now offers the kind of contradictory scenes that reflect a country where two men claim the presidency. One of the shipping containers blocking the bridge into Venezuela, emblazoned with the word “paz,” Spanish for “peace.”
    On the Venezuelan side, the government has amassed soldiers, militiamen, armored vehicles and even missiles. On the Colombian side sit news camera crews and trucks full of supplies. Richard Branson, the British billionaire, has invited a lineup of Latin American musicians to perform an aid concert on Friday night.
    Yet no one has explained how the aid will reach Venezuela. The opposition has so far been quiet about details of its plans, saying that if they released information Mr. Maduro would stymie them with his security forces.

    Gaby Arellano, an opposition lawmaker sent by Mr. Guaidó to coordinate the aid, said that the opposition did not necessarily have to use the blocked Tienditas Bridge.
    “The border with Colombia is immensely long, and so is the border with Brazil, and the border with the Antilles,” she said. “We want the aid to be coming in at all points.”
    For more than a week, activists and officials have said they are mulling the option of simply smuggling in aid through Venezuela’s porous land borders, along routes long used to transport contraband products and fuel. Opposition activists have said they have already joined forces with the Pemones indigenous community in eastern Venezuela to bring in supplies by river, using their canoes.

    Another option, pushed by those looking for a more direct confrontation with Mr. Maduro, would have activists encircle an aid truck in Colombia as it slowly makes its approach to Venezuela. Under this plan, protesters from Venezuela would overrun soldiers stationed on the Venezuelan side and allow the aid to move in, possibly using a forklift to push aside the containers blocking the bridge.

    In Curacao, opposition officials were buoyed by the willingness of the country’s foreign minister to stage aid along a sea corridor long used by Venezuelan migrants to flee the country. But in recent days, plans appeared to be falling apart as politicians in Curacao objected to the use of the aid as a political weapon.
    The uncertainty has left some in Venezuela not counting on aid anytime soon.
    “They say they are in charge of the government, but the ones who are in charge are the ones who control the bridge,” said Héctor Cárdenas, 52, who crossed the border to buys a month’s worth of cooking oil, vegetables, soap and medicines in Colombia. “The opposition has no real power.”
    John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, told reporters in Miami before the speech that Venezuelan volunteers would bring in all the donated supplies, with no assist from the American forces that have stockpiled the aid on the Colombian side.
    Regardless, the outcome would not be ideal for Mr. Maduro, Mr. Bolton said, because if the Venezuelan military blocked the aid, the world would see Mr. Maduro’s “true colors.”
    “We hope that the press will be there to see the Maduro loyalists stopping humanitarian assistance from going to the poor people of Venezuela,” Mr. Bolton said. “People want to know why the Venezuelan people are rising up. That act by Maduro would be proof beyond words.”
    In Caracas, the Venezuelan government made its own attempt to turn the propaganda wars on food to its own advantage on Monday.

    Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez said Venezuela would be sending 20,000 boxes of food into Cúcuta, citing Colombia’s history of drug violence and poverty.
    “It seems that no one takes care of the Colombian people, especially those on the border,” he said.

    Annie Karni reported from Miami, and Nicholas Casey and Anatoly Kurmanaev reported from Cúcuta, Colombia. Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting from Miami.


    7) Another Migrant With an Illness Has Died in Border Patrol Custody
    By Caitlin Dickerson, February 18, 2019

    The port of entry over the Rio Grande River from Mexico to the United States in Roma, Tex.CreditCreditLarry W. Smith/Epa-Efe, via Rex, via Shutterstock, via Larry W. Smith, via Epa-Efe, via Rex, via Shutterstock

    A 45-year-old Mexican migrant died on Monday in the custody of United States Customs and Border Protection, an event that was sure to intensify pressure on an agency overwhelmed by record numbers of migrant families crossing the border, while its health and safety standards have come under harsh public scrutiny.
    The migrant, who was not identified, had been apprehended on Feb. 2 by the police in Roma, Tex., near a port of entry into the United States, and requested medical attention. He was found to have cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure, the agency said in a statement, and was hospitalized twice while in custody — the second time spending two weeks in the intensive care unit of the McAllen Medical Center. He died there around 9 a.m. Monday.
    The death came less than two months after 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo also died in the agency’s custody, in December, amid three straight months of record-breaking numbers of migrant families entering the country. Both had shown symptoms of illness after they were taken into custody along the Southwest border, and their deaths prompted widespread condemnation from members of Congress and the public. The agency soon after announced new medical checks for children, and a temporary infusion of support from other federal agencies, including the Coast Guard and the United States Public Health Service.

    Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary, has requested $800 million from Congress to address the influx of migrant children and families, calling it a “humanitarian crisis.” The money would go toward staffing, supplies and enhanced facilities, among other things.

    The migrant who died Monday was apprehended alone for “illegal re-entry,” meaning that he had entered the United States without authorization at least once in the past, according to Andrew Meehan, an assistant commissioner with the agency’s Office of Public Affairs.
    “This loss of life is tragic,” Mr. Meehan said in a statement. “Our condolences go out to the family and loved ones. C.B.P. remains committed to ensuring the safe and humane treatment of those within the care of our custody.”
    Many migrants who cross the Southwest border, hoping either to request asylum or sneak in illicitly, become injured or ill during their journey to the United States, while others arrive in need of care for chronic or longstanding conditions.
    The demographics of border crossers have evolved significantly in the last decade, putting a strain on C.B.P.’s resources. Once predominantly single, healthy men from Mexico who could be returned home within a few hours, a majority of current border crossers are Central Americans who cannot be turned back immediately because of legal provisions. Many of them request asylum, assuring an even longer stay in federal custody.
    More than 40 percent of migrants apprehended along the Southwest border enter through the Rio Grande Valley, where Roma is, and where local residents have become accustomed to a heavy presence of Border Patrol and newly arrived immigrants. Recently, though, higher numbers of migrants have been crossing in remote areas — in part as a result of harsh policies introduced by the Trump administration — where the lack of resources has been particularly acute.

    Encounters with migrants who have come to be in grave danger have also increased, the agency said, including 17 people who had to be rescued on Thursday after becoming stranded or overcome by swift currents as they tried to cross the Rio Grande. The rescues took place near Eagle Pass, Tex., about 200 miles northwest of Roma.
    C.B.P.’s Office of Professional Responsibility is reviewing the death that occurred on Monday, Mr. Meehan, the agency spokesman, said. The office is also reviewing the deaths of the two children that occurred in December. Jakelin Caal Maquin’s father has disputed the agency’s assertion that she had not eaten or had water for several days before they were apprehended.


    8) Anti-Semitic Taunts by Yellow Vests Prompt French Soul-Searching
    By Adam Nossiter, February 18, 2019
    A Yellow Vest protest in Paris on Saturday.CreditCreditBenoit Tessier/Reuters

    Note: This article is equating being anti-Zionist and pro-Palestine as being anti-Semitic. It is NOT! This is a glaring attempt to, yet again, disparage the Yellow Vest Movement. Finkielkraut is an all-out right winger and open hater of the people in France's Muslim suburbs—those who the Yellow Vests are reaching out to. Being against Zionist Israel, pro-Palestine and pro-BDS is not anti-Semitic—it's anti-apartheid! —Bonnie Weinstein (I would have stated this in a NYT comment section but there was no comment section for this article.)
    PARIS — He was one of France’s few public intellectuals to express support for the Yellow Vest movement at the beginning, but last week he said the protesters “devastate without regard for anything or anybody.”
    Over the weekend, they turned their ire on him.
    As Alain Finkielkraut, one of France’s leading essayists and critics from the right, walked by a Yellow Vest demonstration, protesters at its edge shouted insults widely condemned as anti-Semitic.
    “Fascist!” they yelled.“Palestine!” “Go home to Israel!” “Tel Aviv, back to Tel Aviv!”
    By Monday, the affair had snowballed into another episode of anguished national soul-searching over the problem of persistent anti-Semitism in France, and the evolution of the Yellow Vest movement from gas-tax protest to violent street revolt with hints of menace and hooliganism.
    Some politicians and intellectuals accused others of not condemning the insults to Mr. Finkielkraut firmly enough. President Emmanuel Macron telephoned him to express his anger, but said he would not be attending a march in Paris scheduled for Tuesday to condemn anti-Semitism.

    The march, the accusations and counteraccusations, and the insults themselves are a recurring feature of public life in France, where the Interior Ministry last week reported a 74-percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents nationally.
    The extreme sensitivity of the issue was evident again Monday in the recriminations that poured down on those whose condemnation was judged not severe enough. A lawyer with connections to Mr. Macron was forced to apologize for seeming to take the epithets too lightly in a television interview.
    The affair crystallizes a number of dark elements bubbling to the surface in a climate of public tension in France, even beyond the Yellow Vest protests, now in their 14th week, whose economic resentments sometimes elide with anti-Semitism.
    Mr. Finkielkraut, the son of an Auschwitz survivor and a member of the Académie Française, one of the country’s oldest cultural institutions, is a polarizing figure. His views on politics and France’s immigrants put him well to the right in the country’s political spectrum.
    Apart from displaying his erudition as a critic deeply knowledgeable about French literature and philosophy, Mr. Finkielkraut regularly inveighs, on a popular weekly radio program, against what he considers the lack of respect for traditional French culture in France’s immigrant communities. He has lamented the incursion of these communities into hitherto all-French zones, and often speaks out about the anti-Semitism in France’s Muslim suburbs.
    Some of the virulence directed at him Saturday could perhaps be explained by these positions, though analysts said there was no doubt that anti-Semitism also played a role. The Yellow Vest movement has been criticized for its lack of diversity and for not raising the problems of longstanding poverty in France’s heavily immigrant suburbs, or banlieues.
    The movement has been fueled by economic and class resentments, particularly over elitism and inequality, and mostly among white working-class French in small towns and rural areas.
    Muttering about the “Rothschild bank” can frequently be heard at the edges of the demonstrations, mixed in with expressions of hatred toward the president.
    Mr. Macron was a banker at Rothschild and Company. But the invocation of Rothschild has also become a kind of anti-Semitic code for the supposed influence of Jews over the economy.
    Mr. Finkielkraut was in the cross hairs of several of these currents on Saturday, as he stepped out to take his mother-in-law home from lunch and crossed the now-weekly Yellow Vest demonstration near his home on the Left Bank.
    Citizen videos, which have run continually on French television, make clear what happened next: Several in the crowd, recognizing Mr. Finkielkraut from his frequent television appearances, began yelling insults.

    One man was particularly virulent: Tugging at a sort of kaffiyeh scarf, he yelled: “France belongs to us! Damn racist! You are a hatemonger. You are going to die. You are going to hell. God will punish you. The people will punish you. Damn Zionist!”

    The intentions of some in the crowd were clear, Mr. Finkielkraut said. “I think some of them wanted to beat the hell out of me,” he told the television station LCI.

    “There was a pogrom-like violence about it,” Mr. Finkielkraut said, though he noted that “one of them accompanied me so that I would escape from my aggressors.” The ones who wanted to harm him had “faces full of hatred,” he said.
    Mr. Macron, writing on Twitter, said, “The anti-Semitic insults he was subjected to are the absolute negation of what we are and what makes us of a great nation.”
    The Paris prosecutor’s office said it was opening a criminal investigation into “public insults attributable to origin, ethnicity, nationality, race or religion.” France’s interior minister said Mr. Finkielkraut’s principal antagonist had been identified by the authorities.
    The barrage aimed at Mr. Finkielkraut combined elements of traditional French anti-Semitism, deeply rooted in the writing and thinking of many of the country’s greatest writers, and the so-called new anti-Semitism of the country’s Muslim suburbs.
    “It’s a mix of the two,” said Laurent Joly, one of France’s leading historians of anti-Semitism and the author of numerous books on the subject. “It’s quite striking, and it’s the first time.”
    “It’s a kind of hybrid phenomenon, a sort of intellectual confusion,” he said.
    The insults combined anti-Semitism, hatred of elites and anger at Republican institutions. That made for a close parallel with the political anti-Semitism of the late 19th century, in Mr. Joly’s view.
    “It’s a hatred of the elites that are in place,” the historian said. “Before, Jews were accused of being the winners in the Republic. It’s a little bit now what were hearing, with all this talk against the Rothschilds.’’


    9) Why Teacher Strikes Keep Happening (and Why There’s No End in Sight)
    By Dana Goldstein, February 19, 2019
    "Many influential Democrats support the charter school sector and efforts to hold teachers accountable for students’ academic achievement. They see such policies as a civil rights imperative, since students of color and those from low-income families are the most likely to attend low-performing schools."

    Teachers on strike in Denver last week. Educators were set to walk off the job in West Virginia and Oakland, Calif., this week, continuing a protest movement that has persisted for the past year.CreditCreditDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    American teachers in the past year have mounted the most sustained educator protest movement in decades. Their relentless string of mass walkouts continues this week in West Virginia, where education unions abruptly called a statewide strike on Monday evening, and in California, which is bracing for a districtwide strike in Oakland on Thursday.
    The movement started with cries for better pay and benefits for educators, and more funding for schools and classrooms. But it has evolved into a protest against the argument that has driven the bipartisan education reform agenda for the past two decades: that traditional public schools and the people who work in them are failing, and that they must be challenged by charter schools, private school vouchers, test-driven accountability and other forms of pressure to improve.

    Here’s the latest on the teacher walkouts:
    The teacher protest movement began in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. Educators in six conservative and swing states with weak unions — West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina — thronged capitals to demand that politicians raise education budgets, sometimes by instituting new taxes.
    Those protests won teachers a series of modest raises, but were less successful in pushing back against fiscal austerity more broadly. And though candidates who supported the walkouts won some state-level elections in November, the movement was not able to flip party control in red bastions like Arizona and West Virginia. That’s the major reason some of the same fights over local school funding, salaries and reform policies are still going on.

    The movement has entered a second phase, which began at the end of last year. Teachers led by strong unions organized strikes in a series of liberal cities. Those actions took place in Chicago charter schools and in Los Angeles, Denver and now Oakland.
    The protest is no longer solely against the types of policies, like tax cuts and trimming budgets, that are supported by Republicans. With teachers pushing back against charter schools and other forms of school choice and competition embraced by some Democrats, the movement has taken on new life and may continue to spread.
    Almost exactly one year after teachers in West Virginia kicked off the walkout movement, three state education unions called for a second walkout on Monday night, to begin Tuesday. Schools are closed in all but one of the state’s 55 counties.
    This time, teachers are protesting a bill in the Republican-controlled Legislature that would allow public dollars to pay for private school tuition, and would create up to seven charter schools. The bill would also give teachers and other school workers a 5 percent raise, in addition to the 5 percent raise they won with last year’s walkout.
    But organizers said getting a raise was less important than taking a stance against what they call school privatization. (Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed.) They see the Legislature’s action as retaliatory against their movement.

    The calling of a second state walkout within a year raises the question of whether educators will be able to sustain their energy, and whether parents will be willing to put up with more school shutdowns.
    Several thousand teachers in Oakland expect to strike Thursday. The district has about 36,000 students, and the teachers union is pushing back against a proposal to shut down several dozen schools that serve predominantly black and Latino students. They are also asking for a raise, more charter school accountability and more funding for guidance counselors and nurses.
    The Oakland Unified School District says it may be necessary to close schools because of a budget shortfall and declining enrollment. Families are leaving Oakland for the same reason teachers are dissatisfied with their pay: the Bay Area’s staggering housing costs, driven by the growth of the technology sector and a lack of new construction.
    These issues are similar to those that prompted a weeklong strike in Los Angeles last month. That strike ended with the school board moving to slow the growth of the charter school sector.
    Certainly — and not just among conservative budget-cutters. While many progressives applauded when some of the poorest-paid teachers in the country walked out of red-state classrooms last year, more recently, the strikes in Los Angeles and Denver revealed how deeply divisive education politics remain.
    Many influential Democrats support the charter school sector and efforts to hold teachers accountable for students’ academic achievement. They see such policies as a civil rights imperative, since students of color and those from low-income families are the most likely to attend low-performing schools.
    They have been frustrated to see their party’s presidential hopefuls line up to state their support for striking teachers — an indication of Democrats’ leftward shift on a host of issues related to the economy and inequality.


    10) New York City to Ban Discrimination Based on Hair
    New guidelines out this week give legal recourse to individuals who have been harassed, punished or fired because of the style of their hair.
    By Stacey Stowe, February 18, 2019

    The New York City's human rights commission specifically asserts the right of people to have “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”CreditCreditAndre D. Wagner for The New York Times
    Under new guidelines to be released this week by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the targeting of people based on their hair or hairstyle, at work, school or in public spaces, will now be considered racial discrimination.
    The change in law applies to anyone in New York City but is aimed at remedying the disparate treatment of black people; the guidelines specifically mention the right of New Yorkers to maintain their “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”
    In practice, the guidelines give legal recourse to individuals who have been harassed, threatened, punished, demoted or fired because of the texture or style of their hair. The city commission can levy penalties up to $250,000 on defendants that are found in violation of the guidelines and there is no cap on damages. The commission can also force internal policy changes and rehirings at offending institutions.

    The move was prompted in part by investigations after complaints from workers at two Bronx businesses — a medical facility in Morris Park and a nonprofit in Morrisania — as well as workers at an Upper East Side hair salon and a restaurant in the Howard Beach section of Queens. (The new guidelines do not interfere with health and safety reasons for wearing hair up or in a net, as long as the rules apply to everyone.)

    The guidelines, obtained by The New York Times before their public release, are believed to be the first of their kind in the country. They are based on the argument that hair is inherent to one’s race (and can be closely associated with “racial, ethnic, or cultural identities”) and is therefore protected under the city’s human rights laws, which outlaw discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, religion and other protected classes. 
    To date, there is no legal precedent in federal court for the protection of hair. Indeed, last spring the United States Supreme Court refused an NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund request to review a case in which a black woman, Chastity Jones, had her job offer rescinded in 2010 at an Alabama insurance company after she refused to cut off her dreadlocks.
    But New York City’s human rights commission is one of the most progressive in the nation; it recognizes many more areas of discrimination than federal law, including in employment, housing, pregnancy and marital status. Its legal enforcement bureau can conduct investigations, and has the ability to subpoena witnesses and prosecute violations.
    “There’s nothing keeping us from calling out these policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with black people,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, the commissioner and chairwoman of the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
    “They are based on racist standards of appearance,” Ms. Malalis continued, saying that they perpetuate “racist stereotypes that say black hairstyles are unprofessional or improper.”

    In New York, it isn’t difficult to find black women and men who can speak about how their hair has affected their lives in both subtle and substantial ways, ranging from veiled comments from co-workers to ultimatums from bosses to look “more professional” or find another job.
    For Avery, 39, who works in Manhattan in court administration and declined to provide her last name for fear of reprisal at work, the answer to how often she fields remarks on her hair in a professional setting is “every day.”
    Avery said her supervisor, who is white, encourages her to relax her hair, which she was wearing in shoulder-length chestnut-colored braids. “She’s like, ‘You should do your hair,’ when it is already styled, or she says, ‘straight is better,’” Avery said. She added that the only hair color her supervisor approves of is black.
    Georbina DaRosa, who is interning to be a social worker, had her hair in box braids as she ate lunch with a colleague at Shake Shack on East 86th Street on a recent weekend afternoon. Ms. DaRosa said her hair sometimes elicited “microaggressions” from her superiors at work. 
    “Like, people say, ‘I wouldn’t be able to recognize you because you keep changing your hairstyle,’ that’s typical,” said Ms. DaRosa, 24. 
    Her lunch partner, Pahola Capellan, who is also black and whose ringlets were bobbed just above her shoulders, said, of her own experience: “It’s very different. There’s no discrimination because my hair is more acceptable.”

    A 21-year-old black woman who gave her name only as Enie said she quit her job as a cashier at a Manhattan Wendy’s six months ago when a manager asked her to cut off her 14-inch hair extensions. “I quit because you can’t tell me my hair is too long, but the other females who are other races don’t have to cut their hair,” said Enie, who now works at a hospital.
    There has long been a professional toll for those with certain hairstyles. Almost 18 percent of United States soldiers in active duty are black, but it is only in recent years that the military has dropped its prohibitions on hairstyles associated with black culture. The Marines approved braid, twist and “lock” (usually spelled loc) hairstyles in 2015, with some caveats, and the Army lifted its ban on dreadlocks in 2017.

    And certain black hairstyles are freighted with history. Wearing an Afro in the 1960s, for instance, was often seen as a political statement instead of a purely aesthetic choice, said Noliwe Rooks, an author and professor at Cornell University whose work explores race and gender. Dr. Rooks said that today, black men who shave designs into their hair as a stylistic choice may be perceived as telegraphing gang membership.
    “People read our bodies in ways we don’t always intend,” Dr. Rooks said. “As Zora Neale Hurston said, there is the ‘will to adorn,’ but there is often a backlash against it.”
    Chaumtoli Huq, an associate professor of labor and employment law at City University of New York School of Law, said that attitudes will change as black politicians, like Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor of Georgia, and Ayanna Pressley, who represents Massachusetts in Congress, rise in prominence.
    “As more high-profile black women like Abrams and Pressley opt for natural hairstyles, twists, braids, we may see a positive cultural shift that would impact how courts view these guidelines that seek to prevent discrimination based on hair,” Ms. Huq said.

    Hair discrimination affects people of all ages. In the past several years, there have been a number of cases of black students sent home or punished for their hairstyles. In New Jersey, the state civil rights division and its interscholastic athletic association started separate investigations in December when Andrew Johnson, a black high school student, was told to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match. 
    Last August, an 11-year-old student in Terrytown, La., was sent home from school for wearing braids, as was a 6-year-old boy in Florida who wore dreadlocks. In 2017, Mya and Deana Cook, twin sisters in Massachusetts, were forced to serve detentions because officials said their braids violated their school’s grooming policy.
    Similar instances in New York City could fall under the human rights commission’s expansive mandate, as do instances of retailers that sell and display racist iconography.
    In December, the commission issued a cease-and-desist order to Prada, the Italian luxury fashion house, after the window of its SoHo store was adorned with charms and key chains featuring blackface imagery. 
    The fashion company instituted training in the city’s human rights law for employees, executives, and independent contractors. It also immediately pulled the line of goods from its United States stores.



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