Breaking: Governor @GavinNewsom orders retesting of DNA evidence in the case of convicted murderer Kevin Cooper, who has long insisted he is innocent




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) Gov. Newsom orders new DNA testing in Kevin Cooper's 1983 quadruple murder case out of Chino Hills
    PUBLISHED:  February 22, 2019 at 9:03 am  | UPDATED:  February 22, 2019 at 9:30 am
    Kevin Cooper listens during his preliminary hearing in Ontario in November 1983 for the murders in Chino Hills in June of 1983. (File photo by Walter Richard Weis / Staff Photographer)

    Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Friday, Feb. 22, calling for new testing on DNA evidence in the 35-year-old quadruple murder case in Chino Hills.
    Kevin Cooper was convicted in the 1983 brutal slayings of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and 11-year-old neighbor Christopher Hughes.
    Former Gov. Jerry Brown ordered DNA testing in the case in December of last year. The items in Newsom's order are different from the one issued by Brown.
    Newsom's order directs the testing of untested hairs collected from the victim's hands at the crime scene, blood evidence, fingernail scrapings from the victims and a green button.
    "I take no position as to Mr. Cooper's guilt or innocence at this time. Especially in cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate penalty of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined," Newsom's executive order said.
    Cooper was scheduled for execution in 2004 but was stayed, however his appeals have been rejected by both the California and U.S. supreme courts.
    California hasn't executed anyone since 2006.

    2) 'We won't be trampled on': striking Mexican workers vow to fight the fight
    By David Agren, February 17, 2019
    Employees of Autoliv Mexico, the world's largest automotive safety supplier, strike in Matamoros. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

    Despite the winter chill in the air, the mood on the picket line outside the Matamoros Coca-Cola bottling plant was optimistic.
    "We're not fighting for ourselves, but for a better quality of life for our kids and their children. They won't be screwed over or trampled upon by these kinds of people any more," said Juan Luis Gaytán, 37, a mechanic at the plant, which is operated by Arca Continental, the world's second-biggest Coca-Cola bottler.
    Workers dressed in khaki uniforms brandished colourful homemade signs reading "We continue the struggle" and "20-32" – a reference to the strikers' demand of a 20% pay hike and a one-off 32,000-peso bonus.
    A wave of wildcat strikes has rolled across this Mexican border town, as thousands of workers walked off the job to demand better salaries, safer conditions – and union leaders who put members' concerns ahead of company interests.
    The strikes have closed or slowed production at dozens of maquiladora assembly plants and other factories located south of the border to take advantage of lower labour costs.
    But more than two weeks after the strike began, companies are still underestimating the workers' determination, Gaytán said. "They're absolutely confident we will give in. But if we give in, then things will stay the same."
    There have already been some victories: 48 maquiladoras represented by the Matamoros Industrial Workers and Labourers' Union announced a settlement to end their stoppages on 9 February, "having met the demands of our unionised workers".
    But local activists say the strikes are succeeding in spite of – not because of – the unions.
    At protest camps across the city, workers complain that union leaders are good at collecting membership dues, but not so efficient when it comes to sharing information or even copies of their collective contracts.
    "The union has always had us by the throat," said Heriberto Lomas, a striking employee at a plant manufacturing controls. "Everyone is scared they'll be fired. That's why they haven't gone on strike before."
    Despite paltry wages and shabby working conditions, widespread strikes are a rarity in Mexico. Business leaders boast often of "labour peace" – a euphemism for pliant unions, often chosen by the company itself, which receive a kind of "protection money" from management rather than negotiate on behalf of the workers.
    Nine out of 10 collective-bargaining contracts are agreed to without the consent – and sometimes without the knowledge – of the company's workers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
    Unused to negotiating, companies have been caught off-guard by the sudden outbreak of collective bargaining, said Aldo Muñoz, a labour expert at the Autonomous University of Mexico State.
    "Companies pay more money to protection unions than the bonuses that the striking workers are asking for in Matamoros," he said.
    The strikes have spread like wildfire in Matamoros, a city of 450,000 which sits across the border from Brownsville, Texas and has become a magnet for impoverished workers from across the country.
    Abdio Lorenzo moved to Matamoros 20 years ago from Veracruz and now employs 32 people in a company handling chemical waste. His invoices are going unpaid because of the strike, but like many locals, Lorenzo expressed sympathy for the strikers.
    "People aren't listening to their labour leaders any longer," he said. "It's become a social movement."
    The immediate trigger for the strikes was the inauguration in December of new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as Amlo, who campaigned on a promise to improve workers' conditions and promote independent unions.
    Amlo has not commented on the Matamoros strikes, but observers say he inadvertently triggered the walkouts with a promise to double the minimum wage to 176.20 pesos per day ($9.28) in the northern border region.
    The increase triggered a clause in some collective contracts in the city which index link pay rises to the minimum wage. In turn, workers on other contracts walked off the job, demanding the same 20-32 deal.
    Even non-unionised workers have joined the strike, such as delivery drivers at the local dairy.
    Under a ragged tent pitched outside the Leche Vakita plant, strikers invoked the 20-32 deal, before a rail-thin driver pulled out a neatly printed list of other demands: paid overtime when trucks break down, life insurance – and danger money for out-of-town routes which take them through the most dangerous killing fields of Mexico's drug war.
    "They've promised these things for years and not done anything," said Martín Villanueva, who told the story of a colleague who was shot and killed after he got caught in a shootout between rival narcos.
    He had barely finished speaking when a car pulled up by the picket line, and a stocky man marched up to the drivers shouting that one of their trucks had damaged his vehicle.
    He pulled a gun, sending strikers – and a Guardian correspondent – running for cover.
    He had barely finished speaking when a car pulled up by the picket line, and a stocky man marched up to the drivers shouting that one of their trucks had damaged his vehicle.
    He pulled a gun, sending strikers – and a Guardian correspondent – running for cover.
    "There's a lot of unease over the fallout [of the strike]," Claudio X Gonzalez, a former president of the Mexican Business Council, recently told Reforma. "Losses are great because we're living in a world that is very integrated with supply chains that have to be very efficient and effective, and when you stop them, things foul up and costs rise."
    An Arca Continental spokesman said its wages and benefits "were 48% to 120% better than the maquiladora industry", while it offered "one of the best-paid jobs in the city".
    Susana Prieto Terrazas, a veteran labour lawyer who has been advising the strikers, said that she could not remember a similar outbreak of labour activism in Mexico.
    "Workers can't make ends meet and they don't even make enough to buy a basic basket of goods," she said in an interview. "The working class is at the end of its tether."


    3) Why Does Obama Scold Black Boys? 
    The former president still can't see the beautiful and complex range of black culture.
    By Derecka Purnell, February 23, 2019
    "Programs like My Brother's Keeper insist on making better versions of Trayvon Martin, the black victim, instead of asking how to stop creating people like George Zimmerman, the racist vigilante. Rather than encouraging them to dismantle the systems that deepen wealth inequality, Mr. Obama tells black boys to tuck their chains."

    President Obama speaking to young men in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday.CreditCreditJosh Edelson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    On Tuesday, former President Barack Obama spoke in Oakland, Calif., at a town hall for My Brother's Keeper, an initiative to mentor young black men that he started after George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in 2012.
    He and the basketball player Stephen Curry discussed mentorship, masculinity and mass incarceration. But his scolding of black boys drew the most attention. 
    "If you are really confident about your financial situation," Mr. Obama told the crowd, "you are probably not going to be wearing a eight-pound chain around your neck." 

    "Because you know," he continued, "'Oh, I got a bank account.' I don't have to show you how much I got. I feel good."

    His comments disappointed me because they're part of problematic practices, like calling out black children for having ghetto names like mine or wearing Air Jordans. Such remarks by Mr. Obama reflect his administration's failure, and to an extent that of My Brother's Keeper, to tackle the systemic inequality that shapes black people's lives in America.
    I went to Harvard Law School decades after Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, graduated. When I was there in 2014, nobody wore thick gold chains to show off their wealth. They wore thin ones to match their David Yurman bracelets. Canada Goose down jackets may as well have been part of a uniform during Boston winters. Students "summered," took "gap years" and graduated from "Sidwell." Harvard was the first place I saw a Rolex in real life. I wonder if it was the same model as the $15,000 Rolex that Mr. Obama wears in the Kehinde Wiley painting of him in the National Portrait Gallery.
    My Brother's Keeper's participants are less like my wealthy law school classmates and more like my brothers, cousins and childhood friends. Like my family, many of them have no reason to be "really confident" about their financial situation. And Mr. Obama is partly to blame for that. 
    Black families were hit the hardest during the financial crisis. Because of falling homeownership rates and layoffs, blacks lost over half their wealth between 2005 and 2009, according to a report from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. Instead of bailing out families, Mr. Obama bailed out banks, failing to pursue specific policies that would have addressed the decline in black homeownership rates and equity.
    The economist William Darity painted a stark picture in a 2016 article in The Atlantic:
    Blacks working full time have lower levels of wealth than whites who are unemployed. Blacks in the third quintile of the income distribution have less wealth (or a lower net worth) than whites in the lowest quintile. Even more damning for any presumption that America is free of racism is our finding that black households whose heads have college degrees have $10,000 less in net worth than white households whose heads never finished high school.
    Yet Michelle's husband (as he introduced himself at the town hall) uses My Brother's Keeper to change life outcomes for boys of colors. But its solution to financial insecurity and the racist violence that led to Trayvon's murder are the same: community mentorship. This pales in comparison to reparations or any major social or legislative intervention that justice requires.

    At the Oakland event, Mr. Obama doubled-down on his finger-wagging. "Oftentimes racism, historically in this society, sends you a message that you are less than and weak," Mr. Obama said. "We feel like we got to compensate by exaggerating certain stereotypical ways that men are supposed to act, and that's a trap that we fall into that we have to pull out of." 
    This is also how conservatives depict black people, as the philosopher Cornel West explained in "Race Matters." Conservatives accuse them of being lazy and demand self-improvement. Liberals pity blacks for not being able to help themselves. But, to both groups, the burden is on black people to fix themselves. Neither conservatives nor liberals sufficiently challenge racist people or institutions that have long exploited poor people and people of color.
    To put it another way: Programs like My Brother's Keeper insist on making better versions of Trayvon Martin, the black victim, instead of asking how to stop creating people like George Zimmerman, the racist vigilante. Rather than encouraging them to dismantle the systems that deepen wealth inequality, Mr. Obama tells black boys to tuck their chains.
    Teenagers can be tough audiences and Mr. Obama could have just tried to be relatable. He's a masterful, charismatic storyteller. He sings, jokes and provokes. But throughout his candidacy and presidency, Mr. Obama repeatedly lectured black people. 
    In 2008, he scolded black parents for allegedly feeding their children "cold Popeyes" chicken, even though food deserts are becoming more prevalent in black neighborhoods. He shamed Ferguson and Baltimore protesters for resisting police violence with rocks, not the police officers whom the protesters were rightly defending themselves against. And in his Oakland comments, he criticized absent fathers, even though a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that black fathers were the most involved with their children daily than any other group of fathers. 
    What kind of men do these boys risk becoming, Mr. Obama asked? "If you are very confident about your sexuality, you don't have to have eight women around you twerking," Mr. Obama said. "Why are you all like, I mean, you seem stressed acting that way. Because I got one woman who I'm very happy with. And she is a strong woman."
    I admit. The former leader of the free world using "twerk" correctly made me giggle. But I felt uneasy.

    I cannot imagine being a "boy" in that room, who feels like a girl or who is a girl, or dreams of eight men twerking around him, or wants to twerk, or is curious about both boys and girls.
    Boys are probably stressed by the idea that they should already be confident about their sexuality as teenagers, or that a healthy sexuality exists between only a man and a "strong woman." Not eight nameless, faceless women who twerk around a man.
    Mr. Obama's comments reinforced toxic masculinity and they didn't really give us an alternative. In the town hall, there was no black feminism, nothing that recognized the ordinary humanity of black girls and women; they were either on a pedestal or on the floor.
    I am sure some boys of color will benefit from My Brother's Keeper. I am much more excited about programs, like Assata's Daughters in Chicago, which teaches black girls about oppression, abolition and how to organize social justice campaigns.
    But it's clear Mr. Obama's chains still bind him, even after leaving the Oval Office, from seeing the beautiful and complex range of black culture and the ways we choose to survive.

    My NYT Comment:
    Wow! What a great OpEd piece! Thanks, Derecka, for pointing out the "shame game" that took place at the My Brother's Keeper town hall. Shame on Obama! And he has so much to be shameful for—wars, bombings, drone executions,  deportations, privatization of jails that profit off of increasing the prison population, privatization of public schools,  bank bailouts, huge corporate tax breaks all at taxpayers expense—just to name a few of the shameful things he has done. 
    —Bonnie Weinstein


    4) Inside the Neoliberal Laboratory Preparing for the Theft of Venezuela's Economy
    By Justin Podur, Venezuelanalysis.com, February 20, 2019
    Ricardo Hausmann (right) is one of the neoliberal advisors to Juan Guaido (left) (Archive)

    As we watch a U.S.-backed coupunfold in a distant country, as in Venezuela today, our eyes are drawn to the diplomatic, military, and economic elements of the U.S. campaign. The picture of a scowling John Bolton with a big yellow notepad with the message "5,000 troops to Colombia" reveals the diplomatic and military elements. The New York Timesheadline "U.S. Sanctions Are Aimed at Venezuela's Oil. Its Citizens May Suffer First" reveals the economic element.
    But U.S. foreign policy mobilizes every available resource for regime change and for counterinsurgency. Among those resources, you will always find academics. The pen may not always be mightier than the sword, but behind every U.S.-backed war on a foreign people there will be a body of scholarly work.
    The academic laboratory of the Venezuelan couphas the highest academic pedigree of all—it's housed at Harvard. Under the auspices of the university's Center for International Development, the Venezuela project of the Harvard Growth Lab (there are growth labs for other countries as well, including India and Sri Lanka) is full of academic heavyweights, including Lawrence Summers (who once famously argued that Africa was underpolluted.) Among the leaders of the growth lab is Ricardo Hausmann, now an adviser to Juan Guaido who has "already drafted a plan to rebuild the nation, from economy to energy."
    In an interview with Bloomberg Surveillance, Hausmann was asked who would be there to rebuild Venezuela after the coup—the IMF, the World Bank? Hausmann replied (around minute 20,) "we have been in touch with all of them. …I have been working for three years on a 'morning after' plan for Venezuela." The hosts interrupted him before he could get into detail, but the interview concluded that bringing back the "wonderful Venezuela of old," for investors, would necessitate international financial support. Never mind that the "wonderful Venezuela of old" was maintained through a corrupt compact between two ruling parties (called "Punto Fijo") and the imprisonment and torture of political opponents—amply documented but forgotten by those who accuse Maduro of the same crimes.
    The Growth Lab website provides some other ideas of what Hausmann's plan likely includes: Chavez's literacy, healthcare, and food subsidy "Missions," a growth lab paper argues, have not reduced poverty (and, implicitly, should go.) Another paper argues that the underperformance of the Venezuelan oil industry was due to the country's lack of appeal to foreign investors (hence Venezuela should implicitly be made more appealing to this all-important group.) A third paper argues that "weak property rights" and the "flawed functioning of markets" are harming the business environment—no doubt strengthening property rights and getting those markets functioning again will be in the plan. If this sounds like the same kind of neoliberal prescription that devastated Latin American countries for generations and was imposed and maintained through torture and dictatorship from Chile and Brazil to Venezuela itself, that is because the motivation is to bring back the "wonderful Venezuela of old."
    Wall Street Journalarticle by Bob Davis from 2005 credits Hausmann with being part of the original Washington Consensus in 1989, "the economic manifesto [that] identified government as a roadblock to prosperity, and called for dismantling trade barriers, eliminating budget deficits, selling off state-owned industries and opening Latin nations to foreign investment." Decades later, if the WSJarticle is to be believed, Hausmann looked at the data and found "Deep reforms; lousy growth," and concluded that there "must be something wrong with the theories of growth."
    Hausmann's academic work is highly technical, macroeconomic modeling. The models reveal the consequences of the assumptions used to construct them: at times there is some data fit to them. Others are applied mathematics exercises. A paper on 2005 "Growth Accelerations" looks for periods when countries' economies grew quickly. An earlier paper, from 2002, presents a roundabout argument on the so-called "resource curse," in which oil-dependent economies (like Venezuela) suffer poor developmental performance, arguing at that time that "more interventionist policies to subsidize investment in the non-tradable sector may also have a role to play."
    But whether it was written by Hausmann or not, the economic plan of Guaido's post-coupgovernment has no such heterodox ideas in it, however. It is difficult to imagine Hausmann or Guaido going against Bolton, who told Fox News that "It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela." The post-coupVenezuelan economy will not be all about mathematically rigorous experiments in economic growth like Hausmann's academic work. It will be about the privatization of Venezuela's assets.
    Hausmann might have a long record of publishing models of economic growth, but he has maintained a passion for regime change in Venezuela for more than a decade—even at the expense of academic integrity. After the Venezuelan opposition failed to oust Chavez in a coupin 2002 and failed again to oust him using a strike of the Venezuelan oil company in 2003, they resorted to constitutional means—a recall referendum, in 2004. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the recall in the referendum, which featured then new electoral machines that did an electronic tally verified by printed ballots (still the system used in Venezuela and praised by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter in 2012 as the "best in the world") and was overseen by numerous international observers including the Carter Center. But Hausmann prepared a highly dubious statistical analysis to cast doubt on the outcome. Hausmann's dubious statistics were cited numerous times. More may have been made of them had they not been thoroughly discredited by the U.S.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR.) Mark Weisbrot of CEPR summarized the episode in a 2008 report:
    "...the political impact of economic and econometric research on Venezuela can be very significant. For example, in 2004, economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard's Kennedy School (a former Minister of Planning of Venezuela) and Roberto Rigobon of MIT published a paper purporting to show econometric evidence of electronic fraud in the 2004 presidential recall referendum. The theory of the fraud was implausible in the extreme, the statistical analysis was seriously flawed, and the election was observed and certified by the Carter Center and the Organization of American States. Nonetheless this paper had a substantial impact. Together with faked exit polls by Mark Penn's polling firm of Penn, Schoen, and Berland—which purported to show the recall succeeding by a 60-40 margin, the mirror image of the vote count—it became one of the main pieces of evidence that convinced the Venezuelan opposition that the elections were fraudulent. On this basis they went on to boycott the 2005 congressional elections, and consequently are without representation in the National Assembly.
    "The influence of this Hausmann and Rigobon study would probably have been much greater, but CEPR refuted it and then the Carter Center followed with an independent panel of statisticians that also examined these allegations and found them to be without evidence. Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journaland other, mostly Latin American publications, used the study to claim that the elections were stolen. Conspiracy theories about Venezuelan elections continue to be widely held in Venezuela, and are still promoted by prominent people in major media sources such as Newsweek, even with regard to the recent constitutional referendum of December 2, 2007."
    Hausmann's 2004 statistical gambit is actually an established part of the U.S.-coupplaybook. The academic analysis of an election and the finding of flaws, real or imagined, in an electoral process are the beginning of an ongoing claim against the target's democratic legitimacy. The created flaw is then repeated and emphasized. Even if it was spurious and debunked, as was Hausmann's 2004 analysis, it can continue to perform in media campaigns against the target. After years of such repetition, the target can safely be called a "dictator" in Western media, even if the "dictator" has more electoral legitimacy than most Western politicians.
    The elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coupin 2004. Haiti's Hausmann was an academic named James Morrell. After Aristide won reelection in 2001 in a landslide, he stood poised to make major legislative moves on behalf of the country's poor majority. Morrell published an article about how Aristide had "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory," because of irregularities in the election of eight senators (out of 19, 18 of which were won by candidates from Aristide's party:) only the votes of the top four candidates in the senatorial elections were counted for these senate seats. These senators would have won regardless of the methodology used, but these supposed irregularities were enough to initiate the financial punishment of Aristide's government: the suspension of Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) financing, to the tune of $150 million. All eight senators were made to vacate their seats, but the IADB never provided the loan. Morrell's article played a key role as the intellectual backing for the attack on the Aristide government's legitimacy, despite Aristide's overwhelming victory in the 2001 election and the contrived nature of the "irregularities" in the senate seats.
    The coupagainst Aristide unfolded over a period of years: economic warfare, paramilitary violence, and the eventual kidnapping of Aristide from the palace were the tactics of choice in that regime change. But the academics preceded the coup, and followed it, providing justifications and obfuscations of what was happening in the post-coup, counterinsurgency violence.
    Latin American social violence has even longer-running academic underpinnings. Today, Colombia's president Iván Duque (the protégéof the previous warlord-president Álvaro Uribe Vélez) leads the call for regime change in Venezuela. Duque's country was reshaped by a multigenerational civil war during which the countryside was depopulated, through paramilitary violence, of millions of peasants (many of them Afro-Colombian or Indigenous.) The academic theorist behind this was the Canadian-born, U.S. "new dealer" Lauchlin Currie, whose theory (summarized by academic James Brittain in a 2005 article,) called "accelerated development," was that "the displacement of rural populations from the countryside and their relocation to the urban industrial centers would generate agricultural growth and technological improvements for Colombia's economy." Currie implemented these ideas as the director of the foreign mission of the World Bank from 1950, and as adviser to successive Colombian presidents. Today Colombia continues to suffer from Currie's academic theories. Despite the peace deal of 2016, it has the largest internally displaced population in the hemisphere.
    John Maynard Keynes wrote that "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back."
    As Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton show in their article about him, Guaido is just such a practical man, a U.S.-foundation-funded street fighter for the rich neighborhoods of Caracas. But he certainly has use of the academic scribblers gathered at Harvard.
    When it comes to suppressing the people of Latin America in their hopes to control their own fortunes and their own resources, the scribblers have a key role to play, as much as their diplomatic and military counterparts.
    Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer. You can find him on his website at podur.org and on Twitter @justinpodur. He teaches at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.
    Venezuelanalysis.com, February 20, 2019

    By John Pilger, February 22, 2019
    This photograph was produced by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency.

    Travelling with Hugo Chavez, I soon understood the threat of Venezuela.  At a farming co-operative in Lara state, people waited patiently and with good humour in the heat. Jugs of water and melon juice were passed around. A guitar was played; a woman, Katarina, stood and sang with a husky contralto.
    "What did her words say?" I asked.
    "That we are proud," was the reply.
    The applause for her merged with the arrival of Chavez. Under one arm he carried a satchel bursting with books.  He wore his big red shirt and greeted people by name, stopping to listen. What struck me was his capacity to listen.
    But now he read. For almost two hours he read into the microphone from the stack of books beside him: Orwell, Dickens, Tolstoy, Zola, Hemingway, Chomsky, Neruda: a page here, a line or two there. People clapped and whistled as he moved from author to author.
    Then farmers took the microphone and told him what they knew, and what they needed; one ancient face, carved it seemed from a nearby banyan, made a long, critical speech on the subject of irrigation; Chavez took notes.
    Wine is grown here, a dark Syrah type grape. "John, John, come up here," said El Presidente, having watched me fall asleep in the heat and the depths of Oliver Twist.
    "He likes red wine," Chavez told the cheering, whistling audience, and presented me with a bottle of "vino de la gente". My few words in bad Spanish brought whistles and laughter.
    Watching Chavez with la gente made sense of a man who promised, on coming to power, that his every move would be subject to the will of the people.  In eight years, Chavez won eight elections and referendums: a world record. He was electorally the most popular head of state in the Western Hemisphere, probably in the world.
    Every major chavista reform was voted on, notably a new constitution of which 71 per cent of the people approved each of the 396 articles that enshrined unheard of freedoms, such as Article 123, which for the first time recognised the human rights of mixed-race and black people, of whom Chavez was one.
    One of his tutorials on the road quoted a feminist writer: "Love and solidarity are the same." His audiences understood this well and expressed themselves with dignity, seldom with deference. Ordinary people regarded Chavez and his government as their first champions: as theirs.
    This was especially true of the indigenous, mestizos and Afro-Venezuelans, who had been held in historic contempt by Chavez's immediate predecessors and by those who today live far from the  barrios, in the mansions and penthouses of East Caracas, who commute to Miami where their banks are and who regard themselves as "white". They are the powerful core of what the media calls "the opposition".
    When I met this class, in suburbs called Country Club, in homes appointed with low chandeliers and bad portraits, I recognised them. They could be white South Africans, the petite bourgeoisie of Constantia and Sandton, pillars of the cruelties of apartheid.
    Cartoonists in the Venezuelan press, most of which are owned by an oligarchy and oppose the government, portrayed Chavez as an ape. A radio host referred to "the monkey". In the private universities, the verbal currency of the children of the well-off is often racist abuse of those whose shacks are just visible through the pollution.
    Although identity politics are all the rage in the pages of liberal newspapers in the West, race and class are two words almost never uttered in the mendacious "coverage" of Washington's latest, most naked attempt to grab the world's greatest source of oil and reclaim its "backyard".
    For all the chavistas' faults — such as allowing the Venezuelan economy to become hostage to the fortunes of oil and never seriously challenging big capital and corruption — they brought social justice and pride to millions of people and they did it with unprecedented democracy.
    "Of the 92 elections that we've monitored," said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre is a respected monitor of elections around the world, "I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world." By way of contrast, said Carter, the US election system, with its emphasis on campaign money, "is one of the worst".
    In extending the franchise to a parallel people's state of communal authority, based in the poorest barrios, Chavez described Venezuelan democracy as "our version of Rousseau's idea of popular sovereignty".
    In Barrio La Linea, seated in her tiny kitchen, Beatrice Balazo told me her children were the first generation of the poor to attend a full day's school and be given a hot meal and to learn music, art and dance. "I have seen their confidence blossom like flowers," she said.
    In Barrio La Vega, I listened to a nurse, Mariella Machado, a black woman of 45 with a wicked laugh, address an urban land council on subjects ranging from homelessness to illegal war. That day, they were launching Mision Madres de Barrio, a programme aimed at poverty among single mothers. Under the constitution, women have the right to be paid as carers, and can borrow from a special women's bank. Now the poorest housewives get the equivalent of $200 a month.
    In a room lit by a single fluorescent tube, I met Ana Lucia Ferandez, aged 86, and Mavis Mendez, aged 95. A mere 33-year-old, Sonia Alvarez, had come with her two children. Once, none of them could read and write; now they were studying mathematics. For the first time in its history, Venezuela has almost 100 per cent literacy.
    This is the work of Mision Robinson, which was designed for adults and teenagers previously denied an education because of poverty. Mision Ribas gives everyone the opportunity of a secondary education, called a bachillerato.(The names Robinson and Ribas refer to Venezuelan independence leaders from the 19th century).
    In her 95 years, Mavis Mendez had seen a parade of governments, mostly vassals of Washington, preside over the theft of billions of dollars in oil spoils, much of it flown to Miami. "We didn't matter in a human sense," she told me. "We lived and died without real education and running water, and food we couldn't afford. When we fell ill, the weakest died. Now I can read and write my name and so much more; and whatever the rich and the media say, we have planted the seeds of true democracy and I have the joy of seeing it happen."
    In 2002, during a Washington-backed coup, Mavis's sons and daughters and grandchildren and great-grandchildren joined hundreds of thousands who swept down from the barrios on the hillsides and demanded the army remained loyal to Chavez.
    "The people rescued me," Chavez told me. "They did it with the media against me, preventing even the basic facts of what happened. For popular democracy in heroic action, I suggest you look no further."
    Since Chavez's death in 2013, his successor Nicolas Maduro has shed his derisory label in the Western press as a "former bus driver" and become Saddam Hussein incarnate. His media abuse is ridiculous. On his watch, the slide in the price of oil has caused hyper inflation and played havoc with prices in a society that imports almost all its food; yet, as the journalist and film-maker Pablo Navarrete reported this week, Venezuela is not the catastrophe it has been painted. "There is food everywhere," he wrote. "I have filmed lots of videos of food in markets [all over Caracas] … it's Friday night and the restaurants are full."
    In 2018, Maduro was re-elected President. A section of the opposition boycotted the election, a tactic tried against Chavez. The boycott failed: 9,389,056 people voted; sixteen parties participated and six candidates stood for the presidency. Maduro won 6,248,864 votes, or 67.84 per cent.
    On election day, I spoke to one of the 150 foreign election observers. "It was entirely fair," he said. "There was no fraud; none of the lurid media claims stood up. Zero. Amazing really."
    Like a page from Alice's tea party, the Trump administration has presented Juan Guaido, a pop-up creation of the CIA-front National Endowment for Democracy, as the "legitimate President of Venezuela". Unheard of by 81 per cent of the Venezuelan people, according to The Nation, Guaido has been elected by no one.
    Maduro is "illegitimate", says Trump (who won the US presidency with three million fewer votes than his opponent), a "dictator", says demonstrably unhinged vice president Mike Pence and an oil trophy-in-waiting, says "national security" adviser John Bolton (who when I interviewed him in 2003 said, "Hey, are you a communist, maybe even Labour?").
    As his "special envoy to Venezuela" (coup master), Trump has appointed a convicted felon, Elliot Abrams, whose intrigues in the service of Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush helped produce the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and plunge central America into years of blood-soaked misery.
    Putting Lewis Carroll aside, these  "crazies" belong in newsreels from the 1930s. And yet their lies about Venezuela have been taken up with enthusiasm by those paid to keep the record straight.
    On Channel 4 News, Jon Snow bellowed at the Labour MP Chris Williamson, "Look, you and Mr. Corbyn are in a very nasty corner [on Venezuela]!" When Williamson tried to explain why threatening a sovereign country was wrong, Snow cut him off. "You've had a good go!"
    In 2006, Channel 4 News effectively accused Chavez of plotting to make nuclear weapons with Iran: a fantasy. The then Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, allowed a war criminal, Donald Rumsfeld, to liken Chavez to Hitler, unchallenged.
    Researchers at the University of the West of England studied the BBC's reporting of Venezuela over a ten-year period. They looked at 304 reports and found that only three of these referred to any of the positive policies of the government. For the BBC, Venezuela's democratic record, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction did not happen.  The greatest literacy programme in human history did not happen, just as the millions who march in support of Maduro and in memory of Chavez, do not exist.
    When asked why she filmed only an opposition march, the BBC reporter Orla Guerin tweeted that it was "too difficult" to be on two marches in one day.
    A war has been declared on Venezuela, of which the truth is "too difficult" to report.
    It is too difficult to report the collapse of oil prices since 2014 as largely the result of criminal machinations by Wall Street. It is too difficult to report the blocking of Venezuela's access to the US-dominated international financial system as sabotage. It is too difficult to report Washington's "sanctions" against Venezuela, which have caused the loss of at least $6billion in Venezuela's revenue since 2017, including  $2billion worth of imported medicines, as illegal, or the Bank of England's refusal to return Venezuela's gold reserves as an act of piracy.
    The former United Nations Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, has likened this to a "medieval siege" designed "to bring countries to their knees". It is a criminal assault, he says. It is similar to that faced by Salvador Allende in 1970 when President Richard Nixon and his equivalent of John Bolton, Henry Kissinger, set out to "make the economy [of Chile] scream". The long dark night of Pinochet followed.
    The Guardian correspondent, Tom Phillips, has tweeted a picture of a cap on which the words in Spanish mean in local slang: "Make Venezuela fucking cool again." The reporter as clown may be the final stage of much of mainstream journalism's degeneration.
    Should the CIA stooge Guaido and his white supremacists grab power, it will be the 68th overthrow of a sovereign government by the United States, most of them democracies. A fire sale of Venezuela's utilities and mineral wealth will surely follow, along with the theft of the country's oil, as outlined by John Bolton.
    Under the last Washington-controlled government in Caracas, poverty reached historic proportions. There was no healthcare for those could not pay. There was no universal education; Mavis Mendez, and millions like her, could not read or write. How cool is that, Tom?

    6) "Austerity, That's What I Know:" The Making of a Young U.K. Socialist
    Alex McIntyre, 19, was brought up in Britain being reshaped by government cuts. He gave up on capitalism after a year in college.
    by Ellen Barry, February 24, 2019

    Alex McIntyre hanging out with a friend in his flat in Brighton, England. Mr. McIntyre is part of a group of young Wetherspoons employees who are fighting for better working conditions and fairer pay.CreditCreditMary Turner for The New York Times

    BRIGHTON, England — Alex McIntyre was raised on budget cuts.
    The youth center where he went after school was shuttered when he was 10. When he was 11, his mother's housing benefit was shaved away, a casualty of the Welfare Reform Act. By the time the streetlight in his cul-de-sac began blinking off at midnight a few years later, these events had knitted together into a single story, about a government policy that had defined his childhood.
    "Austerity, that's what I know, that's my life," said Mr. McIntyre. "I've never known an England that was a different way."
    Now 19 and old enough to vote, Mr. McIntyre is making up for lost time. Over the last six months, he was drawn into the center of the Momentum movement, an ideological marketplace buzzing with rebranded socialism and trade unionism. His parents may have gotten their news from The Sun and The Daily Mail, but he listens to reports on the "crisis of capitalism" from Novara Media, a left-wing independent media group. Over Christmas he started reading Marx.
    Mr. McIntyre is the first in his family to attend college, part of a vast cohort of young Britons that was meant to embody upward social mobility. It is a paradox that so many in this bulge, like their counterparts in the United States, are giving up on free-market capitalism, convinced it cannot provide their families with a decent life.

    The general election of 2017 exposed the starkest generation gap in the recent history of British politics. Young voters broke dramatically for the Labour Party, whose socialist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has promised to rebuild the welfare state and redistribute wealth. Hardened against the centrists of their parents' generation, they have tugged the party to the left, opening up rifts that are now fracturing Labour.
    Students getting their hair cut at Black L'Amour, a Brighton barbershop popular for its low prices. Though the portion of Britons attending college has climbed to 49 percent, the highest level ever, they will graduate into a historic spell of wage stagnation.CreditMary Turner for The New York Times

    The young also saw their views on exiting the European Union — three-quarters of them voted to remain — bulldozed by Leavers their grandparents' age. Mr. McIntyre is still angry that he was too young, by a year, to vote in that 2016 referendum. He is pale and lanky, discreetly tattooed, caustically funny and so well mannered that he would rather miss his train than cut into a line. ("Being British can be limiting," he observed.)
    He is not representative of a generation. But his grievance is generational: that the state has taken away benefits his parents and grandparents enjoyed, like low-cost housing and free education.
    "We're not blind to it. We're not stupid, you know," Mr. McIntyre said. "The reason we're opposing what's going on is what we've been dealt."
    Britons who came of age in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 will, in many cases, be worse off than their parents. Born on the wrong side of skyrocketing property values, 30-year-olds are only half as likely to own homes as baby boomers were at the same age. A third are expected to rent for their whole lives.

    Unlike previous generations, they are expected to foot the bill for an expensive education. The average graduate now owes the government more than 50,800 pounds, or $64,000, a debt to be paid back gradually upon securing a well-paid job, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The portion of Britons attending college has climbed to 49 percent, the highest level ever, but they will graduate into a historic spell of wage stagnation.
    Robert Ford, a professor of politics at the University of Manchester, recalled Margaret Thatcher's thesis about homeownership: By allowing low-income Britons to buy the state housing they rented, she could make them into stakeholders in market capitalism, enlarging the Tory Party. With his students, realizing in their 20s that they are not likely ever to own a home, that process has been thrown into reverse.
    "All the risk has been shifted onto them," he said. "They know this is not the situation their parents and grandparents were in. You've got a generation since the crisis with lower mobility and lower security. It makes them less convinced that the market delivers good outcomes."
    Mr. McIntyre, center right, celebrating the series of walkouts and strike actions that he and his friends have organized.CreditMary Turner for The New York Times

    It was a big deal for Alex McIntyre to make it to college.
    He comes from a lower-middle-class neighborhood of Welwyn Garden City, north of London, one where life expectancy trails the national average. He grew up in a state-subsidized rental property and attended a school ranked "Requires Improvement" by the state educational inspection agency. His sister had her first child at 16.
    Social mobility was a mantra for the Conservative Party during those years. David Cameron promised this in 2010, as he announced the tripling of university tuition fees. Higher fees, he argued, would open up new spots and create better opportunities by encouraging market competition, something closer to the American system.
    "We have made our choice," Mr. Cameron said. "A choice in favor of social mobility, in favor of a fairer society. Of a country where you can escape — truly escape — the circumstances of your birth."
    Mr. McIntyre was a test case for this experiment. He was identified as gifted and enrolled in a charity program, the Social Mobility Foundation. He was sent to stay at Cambridge University, where he ate in a wood-paneled dining hall, served by waiters, an experience he described as "hilarious." He thrilled his mother by saying he wanted to become a doctor.

    But once he arrived at the University of Brighton, that confidence collapsed. Rents in Brighton rose faster than anywhere else in England last year, according to Hamptons International, a rental agent. The room he found, at the top of a musty, water-stained stairway, cost more than his government maintenance loan could cover. When he added up his tuition and maintenance loans, the amount he will repay the government once he is in a secure job, it came to 46,500 pounds, or roughly $61,000. His anxiety was so intense that he tried to get an appointment for medication.

    "It's that feeling of having absolutely nothing which I don't want to even go near," he said.
    The panic eased when he found a job as a kitchen assistant at a J.D. Wetherspoon pub. Wetherspoons is Britain's ubiquitous low-cost restaurant chain, like Applebee's, but with pints of ale. Its founder, a bluff self-made millionaire named Tim Martin, is an American-style celebrity entrepreneur who counts Walmart's Sam Walton among his heroes.
    Mr. McIntyre worked the fryer, lowering hash browns and sausages in a metal basket into a spitting tub of hot oil, so that his hands were speckled with pinprick burns. He liked the Wetherspoons clientele, including the ones who lined up, shakily, for pints at 8 a.m. "Forgotten people," he called them.
    But he seethed over the pay and working conditions. Five days a week he worked midnight-to-8 a.m. shifts, which left him shaky and ill. Was this adult life, this relentless precariousness? His co-workers did not offer much comfort: A lot of them already had university degrees.
    "Other people can't pay their rent, and I'm a paycheck away from not being able to pay my rent," he said. He was in this frame of mind when he was approached quietly by a co-worker, who asked him, a little mysteriously, "We're fed up. Are you fed up?"

    A few months later, Mr. McIntyre strode out on to North Street for his first walkout, accompanied by their union rep from the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, demanding a minimum wage of £10 an hour. The strikers looked nothing like the coal miners of the 1980s printed on Britain's collective memory; they were sons and daughters of the middle class, wearing wallet chains and leopard skin pants and Doc Martens. "You are already trending, No. 6 on Twitter," whooped the union rep. "Solidarity from Plovdiv, Bulgaria!" someone shouted.
    Afterward, Mr. McIntyre was so exhilarated that he barely slept. "I'm sitting here with a cup of coffee, thinking, 'What just happened?' " he said a little later. "This is not the end. It is the first step in something big."

    He had passed into the world of the young left that has coalesced in Brighton, a bohemian university town. It is a world of anticapitalist workshops, anarchist retreats, "red gyms" and rent strikes, and it is embodied by Mr. Corbyn, 69, a grandfatherly socialist who was dismissed as an anachronism during the centrist era of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.
    Mr. McIntyre said he encountered new ideas every day now, like food on a cafeteria shelf. He met Callum Cant, a tall, thin, erudite doctoral student who has organized a Marx reading group for employees at Wetherspoons and edits Notes from Below, an online journal on "self-emancipation of the working class from capitalism and the state."
    Mr. Cant, 24, who comes from a wealthy village in Hampshire, arrived at college in 2014 and was swept into protests against austerity and tuition hikes. He never drifted back to the path his parents expected of him, toward a job in London finance or journalism.
    "I get teased about coming from a private school among comrades," he said. "But I got a look at what their lives were like. They weren't happy. They weren't fulfilled."
    Callum Cant, center, describes capitalism as "a threat to the continuation of human life on this planet."CreditMary Turner for The New York Times

    A group of young Wetherspoons employees met up with strikers from McDonald's and T.G.I. Friday's as they arrived in London last year for a rally to demand fairer pay and better working conditions at the Wetherspoons public house chain.CreditMary Turner for The New York Times

    Now, he is one of the group of hipster leftists who broadcast over Novara Media.
    One of them, the 26-year-old Ash Sarkar, thrilled left-wing Twitter in a televised debate this summer by eye-rolling Piers Morgan, one of Britain's most famous journalists, who had mistaken her for a garden-variety Labour activist. "I'm a communist, you idiot!" she told him, throwing him a withering look reserved for the young who disdain the old. "I'm literally a communist!" (Novara now charges £15 for T-shirts with this quote.)
    One of its planks is "Fully Automated Luxury Communism," the notion of a "post-work society" in which labor is largely automated and workers live off a "massively increased minimum wage."

    Mr. McIntyre wasn't certain where he stood on Marx, but he did feel at home with the trade union guys. A future was taking shape in Mr. McIntyre's mind, complete with new friends and new ideas — the thing, in other words, that college had been supposed to provide.

    He wasn't sure, anymore, about going into medicine. He called his mother one day to give her this news.
    "I thought I wanted to be a scientist, but I love politics," he said later. "There are amazing opportunities with the bakers' union."
    He was, he acknowledged, of two minds, having invested so many years in preparing for college. "I've accrued half the debt, it would be quite dumb of me to completely abandon what I've worked years for," he said. "On the other hand, my passion for what I do at uni has dwindled."
    Protesters showing off their matching "Anti Capitalista" tattoos.CreditMary Turner for The New York Times

    She listened to him quietly and hung up the phone, he said. A single mother, she had worked two or three jobs the whole time he was growing up and still takes in ironing for extra cash. His applications to college had been thrilling for her, and she went through the choices with him, one by one.
    "She wants me to have a better future," he said. "For her, that is going to university, getting a degree, earning loads of money."
    The next day she called to tell him to stay in school. He said he would.
    At home for the holidays, he was warned not to discuss politics with his Thatcherite grandparents, and tiptoed around the subject. No one in his life has brought up the bitter, divisive strikes of the 1970s and '80s, which soured public opinion against the labor movement.
    "Either they are left-wing or they aren't political at all," he said. "That's young people. That's us."

    Mr. McIntyre has begun to count the months until he will graduate and throw himself into full-time activism.
    Before Christmas he was invited by the bakers' union president, Ian Hodson, to speak to students in the left-wing stronghold of Liverpool. He drank pints of beer with veteran organizers, men with meaty forearms who spoke to him in a Lancashire twang about Maggie Thatcher and the Peasants' Revolt. On his way home he stopped by a picket of shipbuilders at Liverpool's docks, his first old-school industrial picket line.
    He was bleary, after nightclubbing with the bakers' union president until 3 the night before, and wheeling a carry-on bag behind him.
    Then he saw what he had been looking for: the gray hulk of the Cammell Laird plant, and two dozen workers warming their hands over a fire in a steel barrel. They were picketing over layoffs, and complained that they had been replaced by Romanians. A half-finished icebreaker loomed at the pier, its deck crawling with tiny figures. "This is Franny, he built the Titanic," joked one of the men, and offered Mr. McIntyre a bacon sandwich.
    "It's so inspiring," Mr. McIntyre said. "It gives me goose bumps."
    He picked up a union banner and walked out to the roadway to hold it for a few minutes, trying to make eye contact with the drivers. Cargo trucks were barreling by and drenching his feet in plumes of water.
    A few of them saw him. A van marked "compressed air" honked. A street sweeper honked. So did a flatbed truck loaded with wooden pallets. Mr. McIntyre grinned. He was at home. "I love it," he said.


    7) It's Time for Pharmaceutical Companies to Have Their Tobacco Moment
    Elected officials have made a lot of noise about the cost of prescription drugs. Now they must demand answers from pharmaceutical companies.
    "Drug prices are soaring in a way that defies reason. A vial of insulin that cost less than $200 a decade ago now sells for closer to $1,500. Actimmune, a drug that treats malignant osteoporosis and sells for less than $350 for a one-month supply in Britain, costs $26,000 for a one-month supply in the United States."
    The Editorial Board, February 24, 2019

    Twenty-five years ago, Congress hauled before it the top executives of the nation's seven largest tobacco companies and forced them to make a number of long-overdue admissions about cigarettes — including that they might cause cancer and heart disease and that the executives had suppressed evidence of their addictive potential. In one dramatic exchange, when pressed by Representatives Henry Waxman and Ron Wyden, the executives denied that their products were addictive but admitted that they would not want their own children to use them.
    The hearing ushered in a public health victory for the ages. In its wake, lawmakers and health officials enacted measures that would ultimately bring smoking rates in the United States to an all-time low.
    With seven pharmaceutical executives set to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, one can only hope for a similarly pivotal moment for prescription drug prices. Like their predecessors in the tobacco industry, the drug makers will testify at a time of near-universal anger over industry antics.
    Drug prices are soaring in a way that defies reason. A vial of insulin that cost less than $200 a decade ago now sells for closer to $1,500. Actimmune, a drug that treats malignant osteoporosis and sells for less than $350 for a one-month supply in Britain, costs $26,000 for a one-month supply in the United States. And the prices of many drugs — that treat cancers, high blood pressure, allergies and more — have risen so much that average consumers are rationing them, at grave peril. Not even experts seem to know how those prices are set or why they keep rising.

    The industry's own explanations — that other entities in America's byzantine health care system are to blame for most price increases, and that its products are expensive and risky to make — are tough to swallow, given drug companies' conspicuous profit margins. Its response to the crisis of soaring drug prices has been meager at best — and duplicitous at worst. Last year, several companies agreed to hold off on planned price increases, but only for six months, and only after President Trump chastised them on Twitter. Those same companies have aggressively resisted both state and federal efforts to enact formal changes to drug pricing rules.
    Mr. Trump has not kept his campaign promise to "negotiate like crazy" with drug makers to lower the cost of their products, and his statementlast May that the industry would soon announce "voluntary, massive" price cuts came to naught. But his bluster on the issue, along with his blueprint for resolving it, have at least helped to keep a spotlight on the pharmaceutical industry and its questionable practices.
    If the members of the Senate Finance Committee want to make use of that spotlight, here's what to ask executives on Tuesday:
    How do you determine list prices for drugs? Who decides the factors that go into the companies' drug-pricing formulas, and why can't those formulas be made public? Senators should also ask Olivier Brandicourt, the chief executive of Sanofi — the only major insulin maker scheduled to participate in the hearing — why the cost of insulincontinues to rise year after year, given that the drug has been available for roughly a century, and in many cases still enjoys patent protection. On Friday, Senator Chuck Grassley and now-Senator Wyden, the ranking members on the Finance Committee, opened an investigationinto insulin prices. 
    What's a fair profit margin for lifesaving products? A common lament among pharmaceutical executives has been that without enough profit from one drug, companies can't afford to make the next one. That's a fair point. Still, many leading companies enjoy billions of dollars a year in pure profit, even as lives are put at risk for want of basic medications. Insurers are subject to a 15 to 20 percent cap on profits and administrative expenses. Congress should consider a similar requirement for certain prescription drugs. 
    How much do you spend on research and development, and where do those dollars go? Pharmaceutical companies routinely argue that drug prices are high because research and development is expensive and because any successful drug is preceded by many failures. Industry critics, however, note that a good deal of basic research is funded by the federal government, through the National Institutes of Health, and not by the drug makers. Many leading drug makers spend most of their research dollars looking for new uses of existing drugs, not on risky innovations. And independent studies show that research and development costs for drug companies are not large enough to explain high drug prices.

    Why would any drug need more than 100 patents? Patent protection enables drug makers to recoup the money they spend developing and marketing a new product. But most experts agree that leading drug makers have gamed this system: By applying for dozens of patents for minor technical tweaks that provide little clinical benefit, they stave off competition for decades.
    Take Humira, which treats inflammatory disorders like arthritis and Crohn's disease, and is the best-selling prescription drug in the world. In the two decades since the drug came on the market, its maker has applied for 247 patents, according the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge; it is currently protected from competition by more than 100 such patents. Richard Gonzalez, the C.E.O. of AbbVie, the company that makes Humira, will appear at Tuesday's hearing. Can he justify that practice?
    What will you change? The senators must not allow drug makers to point the finger elsewhere on Tuesday. Yes, insurance companies and other entities play a role in the drug cost crisis. But this hearing is not about them. It's about the pharmaceutical companies. And those companies need to take meaningful steps toward lowering drug prices. If the Finance Committee members come prepared on Tuesday, they could finally force the industry to help relieve the strain.


    8) The Opioid Crisis Isn’t White
    Contrary to media portrayals, overdose deaths are ravaging communities of color.
    By Abdullah Shihipar, February 26, 2019
    Smoking crack in an East Harlem housing project in 1986. Compared to the opioid crisis of today, the response to the mostly black victims of the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s was mass incarceration instead of compassion.CreditSusan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

    Last April, The Baltimore Sun ran an op-ed essay by a woman in mourning. Her sister, a “middle-class suburban mom,” had become addicted to alcohol and opioids and died. Two years earlier, The Wall Street Journal published the names and photographs of some of the 300,000 Americans who had died of opioid overdoses since the 1990s. Smiling faces stared back at the reader with eyes full of promise. The families of the dead described how their once-vibrant loved ones had fallen into opioid use, how an injury or divorce led to medication, which then spiraled into addiction. In 2016, the NPR podcast “Embedded” told the heartbreaking story of a nurse with three children who hurt her back at work and was soon hooked on opioids.
    It’s notable how this kind of coverage emphasizes the humanity of opioid users. Phrases like “introduced to,” “caused by” and “fell into” are increasingly used to describe pathways to addiction, and we often hear the perspectives of loved ones who vouch for the lives of victims were before they became addicted. Something else stands out, too: It seems the majority of the victims whose stories have been told in recent years are white. This has led to journalists and others pointing out the stark contrast between the kind of compassionate treatment opioid users receive now and the contempt that dominated reports about the largely black victims of the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

    But the opioid epidemic is not entirely white — and it’s a mistake to characterize it that way, given how opioids are harming nonwhite communities.

    According to statistics collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation, black people made up 12 percent of all opioid-related fatal overdose victims in 2017, with 5,513 deaths, more than double the number in 2015. (Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 78 percent of all victims — 37,113 deaths in total, a 37 percent increase from 2015 — and Hispanics 8 percent.)
    Twelve percent may not seem like a lot, but it is roughly proportional to the number of African-Americans in the United States population as a whole. In some areas, most victims of fatal overdoses are black, as in the District of Columbia, where black people make up more than 80percent of opioid-related deaths. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, opioid death rates are going down for all other groups, but continue to rise for black people.
    Dr. Tom Gilson, a medical examiner in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, told the Boston NPR affiliate WBUR that there was a “Fourteen-fold increase in fentanyl deaths among African-Americans” in three years; most of those deaths involved fentanyl mixed with cocaine. A recent studyfound that between 2012 and 2015, black men died from cocaine overdose at rates as high as white men who died from opioids during that period. If fentanyl-laced cocaine becomes more common, overdoses among black Americans could get much worse.
    Native Americans have also been hit hard by the opioid crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1999 and 2015 Native Americans had the largest increase in overdose deaths compared to other groups. The C.D.C. also reported that in 2016, rates of prescription-opioid-related overdose were higher among both non-Hispanic whites and Native Americans than other groups. In response to this, several Native American tribes have filed lawsuitsagainst the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids.
    Where the opioid crisis has affected nonwhite communities, the response has often been slow and inadequate. In Puerto Rico, before Hurricane Maria, there were 600 fentanyl-related overdoses and 60 deaths in 2017. There are no official statistics for the time after that, but those who work with drug users say they have seen an increase in overdoses since the hurricane. Puerto Rico has not applied for federal funding to tackle the opioid crisis, nor has it passed a law to allow the administration of the lifesaving overdose drug naloxone by nonmedical personnel.

    Similarly, the District of Columbia has faced criticism for its slow response to overdose deaths, distributing naloxone at a lower rate than other cities and failing to establish addiction treatment programs. 
    In cities like New York, access to addiction treatment can be segregated by income and race: low-income Latino and black users often have to travel far from home to get methadone from clinics, while more affluent white patients can afford to get prescriptions of newer drugs used to treat addiction, like buprenorphine, from private doctors. A 2016 study found that rates of buprenorphine use increased the most in areas with higher incomes and low percentages of black and Latino people.
    Labeling the opioid crisis as “white” risks overlooking the very real damage experienced by black, Latino and Native American communities. This is not a call to ignore the wrongs of the past. We should continue to scrutinize how attitudes toward drug users seem to change depending on the racial identity of the people whose stories the media tells. 
    But this crisis is a reminder that anyone can become addicted to drugs. Our empathy should not be conditional.
    Mr. Shihipar is a masters of public health candidate at the Brown University School of Public Health.

    9) Chicago, Seeking a New Mayor, Sees Many Black Residents Voting With Their Feet
    By Monica Davey, February 25, 2019

    Crime, and relations between the city’s police and its residents, are central issues in the mayoral race.CreditAlyssa Schukar for The New York Times

    As Chicagoans go to the polls on Tuesday to choose a new mayor, many African-Americans have cast their votes another way: They have moved away. CreditAlyssa Schukar for The New York TimesCredit
    CHICAGO — The glitz of downtown, the influx of tech jobs, the tourist dollars pouring into city coffers: None of those things are keeping many in Chicago’s black neighborhoods from loading their belongings into car trunks and moving vans and seeking better lives someplace else.
    As Chicagoans go to the polls on Tuesday to choose a new mayor in one of the most wide-open elections the nation’s third-largest city has experienced in generations, many African-Americans have cast their votes another way. They have moved out.
    Downtown Chicago is booming, its skyline dotted with construction cranes. Yet residents only a few miles to the south and west still wrestle with entrenched gang violence, miserable job prospects and shuttered schools — some of the still-being-identified forces, experts say, that are pushing black Chicagoans to pack up and get out.

    Of the nation’s largest five cities, only Chicago saw its population decline in 2017, the third year in a row. Over all, the drops in this city of 2.7 million residents are only slight. But the trend is alarming to city leaders, and demographers say it reveals a larger truth: Black residents are leaving by the thousands each year even as new white residents flow in.

    The Rev. Ira Acree said members of his West Side congregation have begun approaching him in growing numbers to say goodbye; last fall, he said, his own daughter moved away to Texas. “It’s like, where does this end?” Mr. Acree said. “For our community, it’s a state of emergency.”
    Chicago stands at a pivotal crossroads, and with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to seek a third term, its next leader must contend with a longstanding sense of division between a prosperous economic core and forgotten neighborhoods.
    “People are frustrated and they’re saying, ‘We’ve just had enough. No more mayors for the 1 percent. This city belongs to all of us, not just the people who live in the Gold Coast,’” Sharon Fairley, a former federal prosecutor who also led an agency that oversees Chicago police, said of the hurdles facing the next mayor. “The biggest challenge that anyone coming into this position now is facing is generating a feeling of inclusiveness.”
    At the same time, other challenges loom large. Residents say they are weary from years of tax hikes and fee increases, but the new mayor will need to come up with another $1 billion in the next four years to continue pulling the city out of a pension crisis, a process for which Mr. Emanuel has been credited with shepherding.

    Crime and violence remain persistent problems even as the city wrestles with a history of troubled relations between its police force and its residents — problems that reached an apex during Mr. Emanuel’s turbulent eight years in office.

    “There’s a set of crises that need to be addressed simultaneously when each one of them, alone, is a bear,” said Representative Jesús G. García, a Democrat who forced Mr. Emanuel into a runoff for mayor in 2015 before running for the House last fall. “There’s so much on the line for the city of Chicago. The next four years are going to be a very, very critical time. It could be a turning point, for the better or for the worse.”
    Chicago is accustomed to elections in which the outcome is all but certain before the first vote is cast. But this time, there’s a blur of 14 candidates who want to be mayor and no clear favorite. It’s only the fourth time in a century that an incumbent isn’t on the ballot and in at least one of those elections, eight years ago, the winner, Mr. Emanuel, seemed preordained.
    A who’s who of Chicago politics has stepped forward and Chicago seems, mainly, confused. Polls show no one near the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a second election — a runoff is expected in April — and lots of Chicagoans said they were undecided with only days to go.
    “No one has really captured the imagination of the city,” said David Axelrod, a longtime Chicagoan and political strategist. “It is generating kind of a ho-hum from voters, but this is an election of real consequence.”
    In a contest that is technically nonpartisan, though Democrats reliably win, there’s a Daley, the brother and son of famed mayors who ran this place for 43 of the last 63 years.
    There’s a county board president with strong union backing.
    There’s a New York native who was hired (and later fired) by Mr. Emanuel to lead the Chicago Police Department; a former leader of the Chicago public schools; a community activist endorsed by Chance the Rapper; and on and on.
    The odd and chaotic campaign has played out amid a more standard plot for this city: A corruption scandal is simultaneously unfolding at City Hall, a place all too familiar with corruption scandals. That has left many of the candidates rushing to distance themselves from Chicago’s most powerful alderman, Ed Burke, who was charged last month with a federal crime and whose wiretapped phones have become a topic of wonder and worry on the campaign trail.

    The past months have been a marathon of forums, some with the whole crowd of mayoral candidates crushed onto a single stage. Some political analysts wonder whether the result may be truly surprising, propelling some unlikely, low-vote candidate into a runoff election to run Chicago by virtue of happenstance and the spreading of the city’s 1.5 million registered voters across so many candidates. Chicago’s population is split approximately into thirds — white, black and Latino.

    Mr. Emanuel, who stunned the city in September when he announced that the mayor’s office “is not a job for a lifetime” and that he would not run again, has steered clear of weighing in publicly on the race.
    Before his announcement, he was facing a wide field of people who said they would challenge him, as well as criticism over a tenure that included conflicts over police conduct, street violence and the closings of schools on the city’s South and West Sides. And Mr. Emanuel’s policies have remained a focal point for criticism from some who now hope to succeed him.
    Mr. Emanuel has been credited by fiscal experts with pressing to solve some of the city’s most troubling financial woes, in part by raising taxes and fees. For years, the problem of the city’s underfunded pension systems has loomed, and fallout from that became clear when Moody’s Investors Service in 2015 downgraded the city’s rating to junk status. His administration put all four of the city’s pension funds on a route to stability, fiscal experts said, but the next mayor will need to find additional revenue by 2023, when the city’s mandatory annual contribution jumps by $1 billion.
    “There’s been an overreliance on property taxes,” said Michele Smith, an alderman representing a ward that includes the well-to-do Lincoln Park neighborhood, on the city’s North Side.
    Laurence Msall, the president of the Civic Federation, a watchdog group, said the incoming mayor faced a conundrum. Earlier mayors had already “tapped out every recognizable commodity,” he said, leaving the next mayor with few places to turn for new sources of revenue and, it seems, with little patience from the public.
    All along the campaign trail, candidates have been asked to come up with a solution to Chicago’s intransigent problem with violence, an issue that Mr. Emanuel wrestled with throughout his tenure. Shootings and homicides have dropped some over the last few years from the city’s most vexing period, but, with more than 550 homicides in 2018, Chicago had far more killings than in the nation’s two larger cities, New York and Los Angeles.

    “There are so many layers to this violence now,” said Cleopatra Cowley, the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, a high school student who was fatally shot in a South Side park only days after performing at festivities for President Barack Obama’s inauguration to a second term in 2013.
    All the while, tensions between residents, particularly in African-American neighborhoods on the West and South Sides, and the Chicago police have mounted. Few events defined Mr. Emanuel’s time as mayor more than the months of outrage that followed the shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, and the eventual release of a police video that showed Officer Van Dyke firing into Laquan 16 times.
    As a result of the case, a new mayor will arrive as Chicago is under the terms of a consent decree, requiring a negotiated overhaul of the troubled Police Department.
    “The next mayor is going to be scrutinized for how they deal with the police department and how they deal with the communities,” said Ja’Mal Green, a community organizer on the South Side. “Many people are going to expect the next mayor to come in and move things quicker.”


    10) Split-Sex Animals Are Unusual, Yes, but Not as Rare as You’d Think
    From butterflies to chickens to lobsters, mixed male-female bodies offer clues as to why certain diseases strike one gender more often than the other.
    By Karen Weintraub, February 25, 2019

    Top left, a male blue morpho butterfly; top middle, a female. The remainder are gynandromorphic, with both male and female characteristics.CreditCreditNipam H. PatelAll serious butterfly collectors remember their first gynandromorph: a butterfly with a color and pattern that are distinctly male on one wing and female on the other.
    Seeing one sparks wonder and curiosity. For the biologist Nipam H. Patel, the sighting offered a possible answer to a question he had been pondering for years: During embryonic and larval development, how do cells know where to stop and where to go?
    He was sure that the delicate black outlines between male and female regions appearing on one wing — but not the other — identified a key facet of animal development.
    “It immediately struck me that this was telling me something interesting about how the wing was being made,” said Dr. Patel, a biologist who now heads the Marine Biological Laboratory, a research institute in Woods Hole, Mass., affiliated with the University of Chicago.

    The patterning on the gynandromorph’s wing shows that the body uses signaling centers to control where cells go during development and what tissues they become in creatures as diverse as butterflies and people, Dr. Patel said. 
    Gynandromorph butterflies and other half-male, half-female creatures, particularly birds, have fascinated both scientists and amateurs for centuries. The latest sensation was a half-red, half-taupe cardinal that became a regular visitor in the backyard of Shirley and Jeffrey Caldwell in Erie, Pa. Although the bird would have to be tested to confirm that it is a gynandromorph, its color division strongly suggests that it is, scientists say.
    Split-sex creatures are not as unusual as they may seem when one discovery goes viral, as the cardinal’s did. It extends beyond birds and butterflies to other insects and crustaceans, like lobsters and crabs. 
    Scientists say these instances of split-sex animals and insects could offer clues to why some human diseases strike one sex more than the other. 
    Researchers thought they had figured out the genetics of birds and bees, but gynandromorphs suggest that there is more to learnsaid Jennifer Marshall Graves, a distinguished professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

    Mammals have X and Y chromosomes, birds and insects have Z and W, and some reptiles can change their sex depending on temperature, or a combination of temperature and sex chromosomes, she said.
    It was believed that the sex of a bird was determined by a protein made by the DMRT1 gene, which would reach all the cells of the bird through the bloodstream, Dr. Graves said. But for two sides of the bird to share the same bloodstream but not the same sex, there must be more to the story.
    Hormones can’t be the sole drivers of sex either, but they most likely play some role, said Arthur Arnold, a distinguished research professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. In a paper published in 2003 in PNAS, Dr. Arnold showed that in gynandromorphic zebra finches, brain cells on the female side were more masculine than comparable cells in a typical female.
    A chicken with bilateral gynandromorphism.CreditMichael Clinton/Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh

    How gynandromorphs are born at all still remains a mystery. For birds, the most likely explanation is that a female makes an unusual double-nucleus egg cell, one with a Z chromosome and one with a W chromosome, and each is fertilized by a Z sperm, making some cells ZZ and others ZW in the same individual, Dr. Arnold said.
    “Although this happens regularly, it’s very rare,” he added. Gene editing is tricky in birds, so it has not been possible to experimentally induce this phenomenon in birds, and it’s not well understood, he said. 
    The same process is very unlikely to happen in mammals, he said. Female mammals naturally have two of the same sex chromosomes, and the instant a mammalian egg and sperm fuse, “dramatic changes prevent the entry of a second sperm.”
    Gynandromorphs occur naturally, usually resulting from a random genetic error, Dr. Patel said. The phenomenon can be inherited — with some flies and moths passing unstable sex chromosomes down to their offspring, he said. But it is also possible that stress can cause the unusual sex split.

    It’s impossible to track an entire population to understand what percentage have unusual sex chromosomes, Dr. Patel said. In the lab, scientists have used radiation to create gynandromorph flies, he said, but it is difficult to sort out the potential causes — including environmental harm — in a wild population.
    Why cells of opposite sex end up on opposite sides of these gynandromorphs remains unclear, Dr. Arnold said. “I don’t have a good explanation,” he said.
    Although many of the birds studied have been roughly 50 percent male on one side and 50 percent female on the other, a 2010 study in chickensshowed that the cells weren’t that evenly distributed. 
    Animals can also develop as mosaics, with some cells genetically different from others. Some of Dr. Patel’s butterflies, for instance, show male coloration and patterns on parts of a wing, rather than the entire side.
    From left, a male Pamela butterfly, a mosaic gynandromorph and a female.CreditNipam H. Patel

    Dr. Arnold said his own research on sex genes has implications for treating a variety of human diseases that seem to vary by gender. His U.C.L.A. collaborator, Rhonda Voskuhl, has found, for instance, that in multiple sclerosis, a genetically female mouse with two X chromosomes fares worse than a mouse with an X and a Y, even if they have the same hormones. Understanding why females fare worse could help explainand treat M.S. in people, where there is also a gender difference, with women accounting for three times as many cases as men.
    Obesity, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s, even aging differs by sex, Dr. Arnold noted. Twenty years ago, he said, scientists didn’t think that sex chromosomes played any role at all in causing sex differences in these diseases. “But now we know it makes a difference in mice, so we can say: Where does it make a difference in humans?” he said.
    A better understanding of the role of sex in disease would eventually enable better treatments, he said. “That’s kind of the hope — that sex differences are not only important to understanding diseases in men and women, but also to developing a more fundamental understanding of the disease processes, so that you can manipulate them,” Dr. Arnold said.

    In most cases, losing a chromosome or having an extra one is lethal,said Jeannie Lee, a geneticist and expert on the X chromosome at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. 
    Most people have 46 chromosomes, with 23 inherited from each parent. A few chromosomes can come with an extra copy, including chromosomes 13, 18 and 21 — which is commonly called Down syndrome. Losing any chromosome other than a second sex chromosome is always lethal to a fetus.
    But the sex chromosome is the only one that people can survive with just one copy, Dr. Graves said. “Girls with a single X and no Y suffer few anomalies because the second X is largely inactive anyway. After all, males have only one X,” she said. 
    People with anomalous numbers of sex chromosomes, such as those with Turner Syndrome, have a range of problems from virtually no issues to infertility, heart problems and cognitive impairment. About one in 2,500 girls is born with Turner Syndrome. It is also possible for people to be intersex, born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male, which may but doesn't have to involve sex chromosomes, according to the Intersex Society of North America, an advocacy group.
    It is not clear what mechanisms the body has to ensure that most men get only one Y and most women get two X chromosomes, said Karissa Sanbonmatsu, a structural biologist and principal investigator at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. In typical females, one X is usually — but not always — turned off, she said, and some research suggests that there is a mechanism that counts how many X chromosomes are present and generally turns off all but one of them.
    The interplay between genetics and hormones is complicated, she said. “Genetics produce hormones, but then the hormones can reprogram DNA,” she said, which might explain why there is a mismatch in some people between their sex chromosomes and their sex hormones. “That’s very speculative,” Dr. Sanbonmatsu said, adding, “It’s hard to get funding to do this kind of research.”
    People with androgen insensitivity syndrome, for instance, are born with XY chromosomes, but develop as female, because their cells cannot process male hormones. “So, it’s as if the testosterone doesn’t exist,” she said. They are infertile.

    The more science learns about sex, “the more we find anomalies,” said Alice Dreger, a historian of sexuality. 
    “Nature’s dealing with conformity all the time in brutal ways and loving ways and all the rest of it,” Dr. Dreger said. “It doesn’t follow the human fantasy of everybody having to be normal. And humans don’t follow that ridiculous idea either.”


    11) Doctors and Racial Bias: Still a Long Way to Go
    It would be easy to look at a photo from the 1980s and conclude that things have changed. Many have not.

    A lot of research shows that African-American patients are treated differently than white patients when it comes to cardiovascular procedures.CreditCreditTony Cenicola/The New York Tims

    The racist photo in the medical school yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia has probably caused many physicians to re-examine their past.
    We hope we are better today, but the research is not as encouraging as you might think: There is still a long way to go in how the medical field treats minority patients, especially African-Americans.
    A systematic review published in Academic Emergency Medicinegathered all the research on physicians that measured implicit bias with the Implicit Association Test and included some assessment of clinical decision making. Most of the nine studies used vignettes to test what physicians would do in certain situations.

    The majority of studies found an implicit preference for white patients, especially among white physicians. Two found a relationship between this bias and clinical decision making. One found that this bias was associated with a greater chance that whites would be treated for myocardial infarction than African-Americans.

    This study was published in 2017.
    The Implicit Association Test has its flaws. Although its authors maintain that it measures external influences, it’s not clear how well it predicts individual behavior. Another, bigger systematic review of implicit bias in health care professionals was published in BMC Ethics, also in 2017. The researchers gathered 42 studies, only 15 of which used the Implicit Association Test, and concluded that physicians are just like everyone else. Their biases are consistent with those of the general population.
    The researchers also cautioned that these biases are likely to affect diagnosis and care.
    study published three years earlier in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine surveyed 543 internal medicine and family physicians who had been presented with vignettes of patients with severe osteoarthritis. The survey asked the doctors about the medical cooperativeness of the patients, and whether they would recommend a total knee replacement.
    Even though the descriptions of the cases were identical except for the race of the patients (African-Americans and whites), participants reported that they believed the white patients were being more medically cooperative than the African-American ones. These beliefs did not translate into different treatment recommendations in this study, but they were clearly there.
    In 2003, the Institute of Medicine released a landmark report on disparities in health care. The evidence for their existence was enormous. The research available at that time showed that even after controlling for socioeconomic factors, disparities remained.
    There’s significant literature documenting that African-American patients are treated differently than white patients when it comes to cardiovascular procedures. There were differences in whether they received optimal care with respect to a cancer diagnosis and treatment. African-Americans were less likely to receive appropriate care when they were infected with H.I.V. They were also more likely to die from these illnesses even after adjusting for age, sex, insurance, education and the severity of the disease.

    Disparities existed for patients with diabeteskidney disease, mental health problems, and for those who were pregnant or were children.
    The report cited some systems-level factors that contributed to this problem. Good care may be unavailable in some poor neighborhoods, and easily obtained in others. Differences in insurance access and coverage can also vary by race.
    But the report’s authors spent much more time on issues at the level of care, in which some physicians treated patients differently based on their race.
    Physicians sometimes had a harder time making accurate diagnoses because they seemed to be worse at reading the signals from minority patients, perhaps because of cultural or language barriers. Then there were beliefs that physicians already held about the behavior of minorities. You could call these stereotypes, like believing that minority patients wouldn’t comply with recommended changes.
    Of course, there’s the issue of mistrust on the patient side. African-American patients have good reason to mistrust the health care system; the infamous Tuskegee Study is just one example.
    In its report, the Institute of Medicine recommended strengthening health plans so that minorities were not disproportionately denied access. It urged that more underrepresented minorities be trained as health care professionals, and that more resources be directed toward enforcing civil rights laws.
    In practice, it endorsed more evidence-based care across the board. It noted the importance of interpreters, community health workers, patient education programs and cross-cultural education for those who care for patients.

    All of this has met with limited success.
    In 2017, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality issued its 15th yearly report on health care quality and disparities, as called for by the medical institute in 2002. It found that while some disparities had gotten better, many remained. The most recent data available showed that 40 percent of the quality measures were still worse for blacks than whites. Other groups fared worse as well. Measures were worse for 20 percent of Asian-Americans, 30 percent of Native Americans, and one third of Pacific Islanders and Hispanics.
    Of the 21 access measures tracked from 2000 to 2016, nine were improving. Nine were unchanged. Three were worsening.
    It would be easy to look at a racist photo from the 1980s and conclude that it was a different time and that things have changed. Many things have not. We know that racism, explicit and implicit, was pervasive in medical care back then. Many studies show that it’s still pervasive today. The recommendations from the medical institute in 2003 still hold. Any fair assessment of the evidence suggests much work remains to be done.

    Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicinewho blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist and makes videos at Healthcare Triage. He is the author of “The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully.” @aaronecarroll


    12) Cubans Approve a Constitution, but Opponents Speak Out
    By Elisabeth Malkin, February 25, 2019

    A billboard in Las Tunas, Cuba, promoted voting “yes” for a new constitution.CreditCreditFernando Medina/Reuters

    MEXICO CITY — Cubans voted to approve a new constitution, the government announced Monday, but the growing boldness of those opposing its policies seemed to overshadow the modest legal changes that were on the ballot.
    Nearly 87 percent of Cubans who cast ballots voted “yes” in Sunday’s referendum, the National Electoral Commission said, according to Cuban media reports. But about 15 percent of voters stayed home, and those Cubans, along with the ones who voted “no,” represented an unusual show of opposition in the one-party state.
    While the final result presents no real challenge to the leadership of President Miguel Díaz-Canel and the continued control of the Cuban Communist Party, it reflects the growing confidence of diverse groups that have pushed back against official decisions in recent months and forced the government to negotiate.

    Evangelical groups protested a provision in the proposed constitution that would have legalized same-sex marriage, artists demanded the repeal of a decree they said would give the government more power to censor them, and small private businesses bristled at new regulations.

    “None of those issues threatened the basic structure of the single-party system,” said William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University and a specialist in United States-Cuba relations. But, he added, “when you create a precedent that people can mobilize politically to pursue policy differences with the government, it’s not so easy to put that genie back in the bottle.”
    While it is unclear how far these voices of civil society will resonate, they reveal the narrow line that Mr. Díaz-Canel is walking between a conservative old guard and an increasingly pluralistic society.

    Without the authority that Fidel and Raúl Castro enjoyed as leaders of the 1959 revolution, and with no real economic improvement that he can point to, Mr. Díaz-Canel, who succeeded Raúl Castro as president last April, is seeking to establish his legitimacy. To do that, analysts say, he is cultivating an image of a president who is responsive to people’s needs.
    At the same time, the widening reach of the internet makes it easier to mobilize groups around a single issue, and independent voices have multiplied online as Cubans have tested the limits of free expression.
    In December, Cuba introduced 3G service, which allows people with mobile phones to access the internet, sign on to social media and read foreign media. Service is expensive, and for many Cubans, packages cost from almost a quarter to a full month’s salary, but those who work in the private sector or receive money from relatives abroad can afford it.

    In some ways, the new constitution is catching up to Cuba’s changing reality as it assures the continuity of the political system. It recognizes private property and foreign investment and gives legal status to Cuba’s opening to the private sector, now almost a decade in the making. Some 30 percent of Cubans are self-employed or work in small businesses.
    But the document maintains the one-party state and socialist management of the economy, does not recognize the separation of powers and does little to broaden civil and political rights. Indeed, the final text that voters endorsed proved to be more conservative than the draft that was presented last summer.
    The government held public consultations across the country and invited citizens to submit their proposals. But it ignored some suggestions, like the call for citizens to elect their president directly, and incorporated more conservative language, including new limits on the press.
    Most significantly, it restored the word “communism” in the final version and scaled back a proposal to allow same-sex marriage. That suggests that the “most conservative and unmovable” sector of the Cuban elite prevailed in the debate over the text, wrote Rafael Rojas, a Cuban historian at Cide, a Mexico City university.
    In December Cuba introduced 3G service, which allows people with mobile phones to access the internet, sign on to social media and read foreign news outlets.CreditDesmond Boylan/Associated Press

    “That the constitution ended up far below the reformist expectations that it raised two years ago, when Raúl Castro announced it, speaks to the inability of Miguel Díaz-Canel’s leadership to cope with a real constitutional modernization of the Cuban system,” Mr. Rojas wrote in an email.
    Ted Henken, a Cuba expert at Baruch College of the City University of New York, said that the constitutional vote was an important effort to establish legitimacy for Mr. Díaz-Canel. He has “an easily digestible, more hip image that is covering over the same unworkable revolutionary edifice,” Mr. Henken said.
    The government had campaigned heavily for ratification, as its appeals filled radio and television programming, and billboards declaring “Yo Voto Sí” covered Cuba’s streets.

    With little open opposition, the government’s campaign on behalf of the changes seemed to some to be excessive, at times including accusations that those who would vote “no” were siding with Cuba’s “traditional enemies” — a veiled reference to the United States.
    But on social media, some Cubans spoke up, anyway, to declare that they would vote “no.” In one test of government monitoring, people sent text messages declaring “Yo Voto No,” but the messages never arrived, though the senders were charged texting fees, Mr. Henken said.
    Claudia Padrón Cueto, 26, a journalist who writes for El Toque, a nonofficial online publication, said some people were beginning to shake off their fear. “Contrary opinions haven’t been allowed for many years,” she wrote in an online interview. “Access to the internet has started to change this context. There is more access to information, and people have more platforms where they can express themselves.”
    Ms. Padrón said she was voting against the new constitution because she disagreed with having one party, the Communist Party, remain above all other government institutions and with the enshrinement of only one economic model, socialism. Her opposition was also rooted in the document’s failure to guarantee basic political freedoms, she added.

    But expressing opposition offline is more complicated. José Daniel Ferrer García, a leader of the dissident group Patriotic Union of Cuba, was briefly detained twice this month, most recently as he protested in a park in Santiago de Cuba with a large handmade “no” sign.
    The police also raided his home and those of several other activists, taking computers and camera equipment, he said.
    The biggest surprise came from evangelical churches, which opposed a proposal in the initial draft to recognize same-sex marriage.

    Almost a quarter of the proposed changes submitted to the government drafting commission dealt with the article that would have defined marriage as a union between two people. Most of these comments were in opposition, the government said.
    Evangelical churches hung posters on their facades declaring: “I am in favor of the original design. Marriage: Man+Woman” in a presumably unprecedented public display of opposition to the government proposal.
    In the end, the government backed down and removed the article, but promised to bring up the issue again under a change in the country’s civil code.
    “What was there before was the willingness we had” to change the law, Homero Acosta, the secretary of the Council of State, said in December when he presented the changes to the draft constitution. “But now is not the time to establish it because there was no consensus,” he said.

    The partial retreat on same-sex marriage came on the heels of another concession, this one to private business owners. In an effort to regulate the private sector, new rules would have limited Cubans to only one business license, and the number of seats in restaurants to 50.
    But in early December, the government agreed to lift those proposals — although it kept many others — after protests by the private sector. And in the constitution’s final version, a proposal to “limit” the concentration of property was altered to say the government would “regulate” it.
    The government’s sometimes contradictory approach to the private sector reflects an ideological discomfort and a concern that some people are amassing too much wealth, said Michael Bustamante, a Cuba historian at Florida International University. “In the Cuba context this private sector got pretty successful, pretty quickly,” he said. “It’s an issue of growing inequality that’s real.”

    At the same time, he said, the government portrayed its backtracking on the new rules as evidence of Mr. Díaz-Canel’s new approach.
    “This is not a retreat, this reflects who we are as a government; we listen, we adjusted course,” Mr. Bustamante said, describing the message that was intended. “You could see moves like that as helping him to build legitimacy, as being responsive.”
    The government was less willing to completely overturn its proposal when it came to a new decree regulating artists, one that artists said would lead to arbitrary censorship. Instead, the government said it would study the implementation of the rules.
    But the government reversals can be read in a different way, Mr. Henken said. “Mr. Díaz-Canel has a lot less power to dictate,” he said. “He has a more difficult balancing act.” He “had to keep the old guard in his corner” even as he tried to build bridges to religious groups, artists and the private sector.
    Cuban society is becoming more heterogenous socially and economically, Mr. Henken said. But is the government’s response to these diverse groups a sign of its increasing tolerance or of their growing demands? The answer is not clear, Mr. Henken said.


    13) Woman Delivers Stillborn Baby While in ICE Custody
    By Mihir Zaveri, February 25, 2019
    "Twenty-eight women 'may have experienced a miscarriage just prior to, or while in ICE custody' between Oct. 1, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2018, she said."

    A 24-year-old Honduran woman delivered a stillborn boy at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas last week, the authorities said.CreditCreditDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    A 24-year-old Honduran woman gave birth to a stillborn baby boy last week while in ICE custody, the authorities said Monday, further raising concerns about the care pregnant women receive while detained.
    The woman, whose name has not been released, was apprehended by United States Border Patrol officials near Hidalgo, Tex., on Feb. 18, according to a joint statement issued Monday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. She told the authorities that she was six months pregnant, and she was taken to a hospital and examined, the agencies said.
    The woman was placed in ICE custody at the Port Isabel Detention Center near Los Frenos, Tex., and set to be released last Friday. Then she complained of abdominal pain and was to be sent to a hospital, but went into labor.

    She gave birth to an unresponsive baby boy. Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman, said she had seen no information that indicated the woman’s detention contributed to the stillbirth.

    “Although for investigative and reporting purposes, a stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death, ICE and CBP officials are proactively disclosing the details of this tragic event to be transparent with Congress, the media and the public,” the agencies said in the statement.
    Ms. Bennett said that ICE has 60 pregnant detainees in custody and that between Oct. 1, 2017, and Aug. 31, 2018, more than 1,600 pregnant women had been booked into ICE custody.
    Twenty-eight women “may have experienced a miscarriage just prior to, or while in ICE custody” between Oct. 1, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2018, she said.
    Ms. Bennett said that without a full understanding of someone’s medical history, it was difficult to tell what caused a miscarriage or when exactly it began.
    Randy Capps, director of United States research for the Migration Policy Institute, said because the woman’s detention was only for a few days, “it would seem unlikely detention was the cause” of the stillbirth.

    But how immigration officials care for people in their custody has been under scrutiny in recent months. An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, Felipe Gómez Alonso, died on Christmas Eve while in United States custody, and three weeks earlier, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, died in Border Patrol custody.
    “There has been more and more public death,” said Erika Andiola, chief of advocacy for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or Raices, a nonprofit organization that provides low-cost legal defense services to immigrant and refugee families in Texas.
    She said the treatment of pregnant women had been a particular focus after the Trump administration said it would stop assuming pregnant women should be released, instead detaining them on a case-by-case basis.
    Ms. Andiola said based on interviews with migrants who have recently left detention centers, some pregnant women do not get the care they need at the centers. For example, some were told they would be taken to off-site medical professionals but never were, she said.
    “We know those are not the best conditions for pregnant women at all,” Ms. Andiola said. “This is not surprising, really.”
    The story of the Honduran woman detailed Monday still has many uncertainties. It is not clear how or why she was taken into custody by the Border Patrol officers or how it was determined that she should be released.
    Ms. Bennett, the spokeswoman, referred questions about the woman’s apprehension to Customs and Border Protection. C.B.P. did not answer questions seeking more information Monday.


    14) Video With ‘Racist, Homophobic’ Language Surfaces at Elite Private School
    By James Barron, February 25, 2019

    Students from the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx were involved with a video that the school said on Monday showed them using “racist, homophobic and misogynistic language.”CreditCreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

    Several students at an elite private school were involved with a video that the school on Monday said showed them using “racist, homophobic and misogynistic language.”
    The school, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, said in a statement that the students were seniors in the upper school — its high school division — on its campus in the Bronx. The head of the school, Jessica L. Bagby, wrote in a schoolwide email that one student involved in the incident had already withdrawn from Fieldston.
    The students were recorded counting down “three, two, one” — and then saying “crack,” followed by a racial epithet.

    Calling the language in the video a “clear violation of our community values and expectations,” Ms. Bagby said a disciplinary process began soon after school officials became aware of the video a couple of weeks ago. A spokesman for Fieldston, Davidson Goldin, declined to comment on how the other students would be disciplined, citing student confidentiality.

    Ms. Bagby’s email said a former student had also been involved in the video, which she said had been shot “a few years ago.” It surfaced amid a dispute between the students, according to a person who had been briefed on the situation but spoke on condition of anonymity. The story was first reported by The Daily News, which posted the video on its website.
    The video injected Fieldston into the national conversation about racism a little more than a month after a blackface video went viral at another private school in New York, Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. That incident propelled New York City’s private schools, which are overwhelmingly wealthy and white, into an often-painful dialogue as the city struggles to integrate its public schools and issues like income inequality and the concentration of wealth have increasingly figured in the political discussion.
    Fieldston, with a tuition of $52,993 this academic year, according to its website, said that nonwhite students make up nearly 40 percent of its 1,500-person student body, from prekindergarten through 12th grade. Fieldston said it grants more than $14 million a year in financial aid.
    Once school officials learned of the video, the school acted rapidly. Ms. Bagby’s email on Monday was the second about the video in two weeks. The first — from Ms. Bagby and the principal of the upper school, Nigel D. Furlonge — was sent on Feb. 13.
    “The anguish and outrage so many of us feel cannot be overstated enough,” it said. “We have a strict no-tolerance policy when it comes to acts of bias and hate speech.”

    It also said that in conversations with faculty and staff members and administrators, “many students of color currently in the upper school shared stories of microaggressions and racism that they have experienced during their time” at Ethical Culture Fieldston.
    In her email on Monday, Ms. Bagby said she was “heartsick about the situation for our children and our school.”
    She said the upper-school administration had led the investigation into the video and that the school’s discipline committee had met last week to discuss the matter.
    She said that after consulting with her, Mr. Furlonge, the principal, had “affirmed the Discipline Committee’s recommendations of consequences.”
    She would not provide details, but added, “The consequences for other students involved have been differentiated based on their responsibility for video, its content and how it was used.”



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