Cuba Condemns the Terrorist Sabotage Against the Power Supply System in Venezuela
Havana, March 11, 2019—The Cuban government has issued a declaration on the terrorist cyber attack against Venezuela's national electric grid. The full text of the statement follows:
The Revolutionary Government strongly condemns the sabotage perpetrated against the power supply system in Venezuela, which is a terrorist action intended to harm the defenseless population of an entire nation and turn it into a hostage of the non-conventional war launched by the government of the United States against the legitimate government headed by comrade Nicolás Maduro Moros and the civic and military union of the Bolivarian and Chavista people.
Several U.S. politicians have rushed to celebrate an action that deprives the population from an essential basic service; leaves hospitals without the power they require to work; disrupts other basic services which are indispensable in the everyday-life of people, such as food, water supply, transportation, communications, public safety, trade, bank transactions and payments using credit cards. Such an action affects work in general and the proper functioning of schools and universities. 
The sequence and modality of these actions remind us of the sabotage perpetrated against the oil industry back in 2002 by a U.S. company that owned and operated the automated system that controlled the production, refining, transportation and distribution of hydrocarbons.
This adds to the ruthless economic and financial warfare imposed on Venezuela with the clear intention to subjugate, through shortages and deprivations, the political and sovereign will of a people that has not been brought to its knees.
This is an escalation of a non-conventional war led by the U.S. government against that sister nation, which is taking place after the failed provocation orchestrated on February 23 with the intention of carrying by force an alleged humanitarian aid into Venezuela, thus challenging the legitimate authorities of that country and violating International Law and the principles and norms of the United Nations Charter, with the purpose of causing widespread death and violence as a pretext for a "humanitarian intervention."
The experience of Cuba's own history and the history of other countries in the region show that these actions are a prelude of violent acts of a larger scope, as was the case of the armed invasion through Bay of Pigs in 1961. The international community has accumulated sufficient evidence to be on the alert.
The usurper and self-proclaimed "president" made in the U.S. has publicly said that, when the time comes, he would invoke Article 187 of the Constitution to authorize the use of foreign military missions in the country; and has repeated exactly the same phrase used by his American mentors: "All options are on the table."
He just needs to receive an order from Washington, since it is known that, during his tour around South America, he already asked certain governments to support a military intervention in his country.
The offensive launched against Venezuela has been accompanied by a ferocious campaign of McCarthyist propaganda and lies coordinated by the National Security Advisor of that country, John Bolton, as a pretext to apply by force the Monroe Doctrine, for which he has counted on the active participation of the anti-Cuban Senator Marco Rubio, who has frantically resorted to social networks, thus evidencing his interest and personal and conspiratorial involvement in the maneuvers perpetrated against Venezuela.
One of the most relentless and shameless statements made has been the slanderous assertion that Cuba has "between 20 and 25 thousand troops in Venezuela" which "exercise control" on that sister and sovereign nation and "keep" the members of the glorious and combative National Bolivarian Armed Forces "under threat." Cuba categorically rejects that lie and equally strongly refutes any insinuation that there is some level of political subordination by Venezuela to Cuba or by Cuba to Venezuela.
John Bolton is a well-known liar, whose trajectory goes back a long way. He was the U.S. government official who, back in 2002, accused Cuba of having a program to develop biological weapons, a fallacy that was publicly denied by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was his superior back then; and by ex-President James Carter. This falsehood also forced Bolton to undergo a U.S. Congress investigation.
Back in 2003, Bolton was also among those who disseminated the lie that the government of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and a program to develop them. Such a lie, after being repeated at every level of the U.S. government and magnified by the big media, served as a pretext for the aggression and military occupation of that Middle East country by the United States at a cost of almost one million deadly casualties and millions of displaced Iraqis, plus thousands of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded during a military campaign whose goal was also oil.
As has been publicly announced and is known by the honest and well-informed persons, the bilateral relations between Cuba and Venezuela are based on mutual respect, true solidarity; a shared commitment, based on the ideas of Bolivar, Marti, Fidel and Chavez, with the integration of an independent and sovereign "Our America;" the willingness to practice complementary cooperation among all the peoples of the South and the common effort to implement and defend the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
The projects contained in the Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement that was signed between both countries involve the participation of a little more than 20,000 Cubans, most of them women. Ninety six percent of them are devoted to the provision of health services to the population. Others work in other sectors such as education, culture, sports and agro-food production.
Just to mention some figures, the historical impact of that cooperation in Venezuela has been reflected in the 1,473,117 human lives that have been saved; the 717,029,310 medical diagnoses made; the medical assistance received by 62,031,309 persons suffering from eye problems; the 12,915,648 vaccines against measles and tuberculosis administered to people; and the 3,095,564 persons who have been taught to read and write.
It is absolutely not true that Cuba is taking part in operations carried out by the National Bolivarian Armed Forces or the security services. This is a slanderous rumor deliberately disseminated by the government of the United States. When Bolton as well as other politicians and officials of the U.S. government rely on such rumors, they are deliberately lying to pursue aggressive political purposes. They have sufficient data and information and know the truth.
Cuba does not interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela, just as Venezuela does not interfere in Cuba's internal affairs.
Unlike the United States, which has about 80 military bases in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the one that is usurping the Cuban territory in Guantánamo; and around 800 in the entire planet, with more than 250,000 quartered troops, Cuba does not have any base in any country; or specialists in torture and police repression; or secret prisons; or naval or air forces prowling around the coasts or the immediate air space of sovereign States; or satellites watching every single detail.
It was through the use of lies that imperialism promoted the bloody coup d'étatof Augusto Pinochet in Chile and many other coupsand repressive dictatorships in the region. It was through the use of lies that more than 10,000 defenseless citizens were assassinated during the military invasion against Panama in December of 1989. It was through the use of lies that the military aggression and destabilization of Libya was perpetrated.
It was with lies that the United States and other powers fully supported, all the way until the very last minute, the opprobrious apartheid regime in South Africa.
The Revolutionary Government warns and denounces that the tendency of the government of the United States to lie without any limit or restraint whatsoever has already had dangerous consequences in the past that could replicate in the present.
Radio Havana Cuba, March 11, 2019











Solitary Man: A Visit to Pelican Bay State Prison
A two person play with music performed by Fred Johnson and Charlie Hinton to celebrate Charlie's 74th birthday and recovery from cancer
Music by City Jazz will follow the performance

Monday, March 18
7:30 pm
Berkeley Marsh Cabaret
2120 Allston Way, Berkeley
(1 block from Downtown Berkeley BART)
No-Host Bar
Tickets: $15. Call 415-282-3055 or visit
Scroll down to Solitary Man, click on the purple bar

In Solitary Man, Charlie travels to Crescent City to visit a lifer named Otis Washington (played by Fred). A 64 year old native of New York City, Otis has been imprisoned since 1975 and at Pelican Bay since it opened in 1989. They get to know each other during the visit, and Otis explains some of what he has learned and experienced.

www.lifewish.org     •     Facebook: /solitarymantheplay




Courage to Resist
free chelsea manning
Free Chelsea Manning (again)!
U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. She could be jailed for up to 18 months this time.
As she was being taken back into custody on March 8th, she declared, “I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”  Here's how to offer your support.

randy rowland
Podcast: Randy Rowland, GI resister
“I was the reluctant guy who’s bit by bit by bit, just had to face the facts that things weren’t the way I had been raised to believe that they were. It wasn’t like I planned to be a resister or a troublemaker or anything of the sort,” explains Randy Rowland, an organizer of the “Presidio 27 Mutiny.”
This Courage to Resist podcast is the first in series to be produced in collaboration with the Vietnam Full Disclosure effort of Veterans for Peace — “Towards an honest commemoration of the American war in Vietnam.” This year marks 50 years of GI resistance, in and out of uniform, for many of the courageous individuals featured. Listen to Randy's story here.
ctr video
We shared our new 75 second promotional video on Facebook this week. Yes, FB is kind of evil, but we still reach a lot of folks that way. Please check it out, share with friends, and "like" our FB page.
ctr video
During Sunday's Objector Church online meetup, James Branum discussed the heroism of US Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds (1919–1985). MSgt Edmonds was the ranking US NCO at the Stalag IX-A POW Camp when he was captured in Germany during WWII. At the risk of his life, he prevented an estimated 200 Jews from being singled out from the camp for Nazi persecution and likely death. Watch the video here.
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
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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."



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




    On Monday March 4th, 2019 Leonard Peltier was advised that his request for a transfer had been unceremoniously denied by the United States Bureau of Prisons.

    The International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee appreciates and thanks the large number of his supporters who took the time to write, call, email, or fax the BOP in support of Leonard's request for a transfer.
    Those of us who have been supporting Leonard's freedom for a number of years are disappointed but resolute to continue pushing for his freedom and until that day, to continue to push for his transfer to be closer to his relatives and the Indigenous Nations who support him.
    44 years is too damn long for an innocent man to be locked up. How can his co-defendants be innocent on the grounds of self-defense but Leonard remains in prison? The time is now for all of us to dig deep and do what we can and what we must to secure freedom for Leonard Peltier before it's too late.
    We need the support of all of you now, more than ever. The ILPDC plans to appeal this denial of his transfer to be closer to his family. We plan to demand he receive appropriate medical care, and to continue to uncover and utilize every legal mechanism to secure his release. To do these things we need money to support the legal work.
    Land of the Brave postcard-page-0

    Please call the ILPDC National office or email us for a copy of the postcard you can send to the White House. We need your help to ask President Trump for Leonard's freedom.

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    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) America, Say My Name
    I tried Troy. I stuck with Viet.
    By Viet Thanh Nguyen, March 9, 2019

    LOS ANGELES — What's your name? Mine is Viet Thanh Nguyen, although I was born in Vietnam as Nguyen Thanh Viet. Whichever way you arrange my name, it is not a typical American name. Growing up in the United States, I was encouraged by generations of American tradition to believe that it was normal, desirable and practical to adopt an American first name, and even to change one's surname to an American one.
    Of course, that raises the question — what exactly is an American name?
    When my Vietnamese parents became American citizens, they took the pragmatic route and changed their names to Joseph and Linda. My adolescent self was shocked. Were these the same people who had told me, repeatedly, that I was "100 percent Vietnamese?"
    They asked me if I wanted to change my name. There was good reason for me to change my name, for throughout my childhood my classmates had teased me by asking if my last name was Nam. As in "Viet Nam." Get it? The autocorrect function on the iPhone certainly thinks so, as I still sometimes get messages — from friends — addressed to Viet Nam.
    I tried on various names. I did not want anything too typical, like my Catholic baptismal name, Joseph. Or Joe. Or Joey. I wanted something just a little bit different, like me. How about — Troy?

    It didn't work. That name, or any of the other contenders, seemed alien to me. My parents' constant reminder that I was 100 percent Vietnamese had worked its magic. I felt some kind of psychic connection to Vietnam, the country where I was born but that I remembered not at all, having left at age 4. This psychic tie was ironic, because my fellow Vietnamese refugees in San Jose, Calif., of the 1980s — who never called themselves Americans — would describe me as completely Americanized. A whitewash. A banana, yellow on the outside, white on the inside.
    If I were indeed a banana, many other Americans probably just saw the yellow part and not the soft whiteness inside. The dilemma of being caught in between opposing cultures was hardly new and has not gone away, but it was still difficult for me and everyone else who has had to experience it.
    I was hardly reassured when I went on a field trip to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey and a pleasant young white American soldier, dressed in Vietnamese garb and fluent in Vietnamese, translated my Vietnamese name into a kind of American equivalent: Bruce Smith.
    The Smith part was a good translation, as Nguyen is the most common Vietnamese surname, inherited from a royal dynasty. In Australia, where many of the refugees went, Nguyen is among the most common surnames. I wonder if the Australians have figured out how to pronounce my name in all of its tonal beauty. In the United States, most Vietnamese-Americans, tired of explaining, simply tell other Americans to say the name as "Win," leading to many puns about win-win situations.
    As for Bruce, I think George might have been more accurate. Viet is the name of the people, and George is the father of the country. Or maybe America itself should be my first name, after Amerigo Vespucci, the cartographer whose first name — Americus in Latin — has become a part of all our American identities.

    Or maybe, instead of contorting myself through translation — which comes from the Latin word meaning to "carry across," as my parents carried me across the Pacific — I should simply be Viet.
    That, in the end, was the choice I made. Not to change. Not to translate. Not, in this one instance, to adapt to America. It was true that I was born in Vietnam but made in America. Or remade. But even if I had already become an American by the time I took my oath of citizenship, I refused to take this step of changing my name.
    Instead, I knew intuitively what I would one day know explicitly: that I would make Americans say my name. I felt, intuitively, that changing my name was a betrayal, as the act of translation itself carries within it the potential for betrayal, of getting things wrong, deliberately or otherwise. A betrayal of my parents, even if they had left it open to me to change my name; a betrayal of being Vietnamese, even if many Vietnamese people were ambivalent about me. A betrayal, ultimately, of me.
    I render no judgment on people who change their names. We all make and remake our own selves. But neither should there be judgment on people who do not change their names, who insist on being themselves, even if their names induce dyslexia on the part of some Americans. My surname is consistently misspelled as Ngyuen or Nyugen — even in publications that publish me. 
    In Starbucks and other coffee shops, my first name is often misspelled by the barista as Biet or Diet. I have been tempted to adopt a Starbucks name, as my friend Thuy Vo Dang puts it, to make my life easier. Hers was Tina. Mine was Joe. I said it once to a barista and was instantly ashamed of myself.
    Never did I do that again. I wanted everyone to hear the barista say my name. Publicly claiming a name is one small way to take what is private, what might be shameful or embarrassing, and change its meaning. We begin at some place like Starbucks, which is itself an unusual name, derived from a character in "Moby Dick," itself an unusual name. Starbucks and Moby Dick are a part of the American lexicon and mythology. So can all of our names, no matter their origins, be a part of this country. All we have to do is proudly and publicly assert them.
    Recently I visited Phillips Exeter Academy, a once all-white institution founded in 1781 whose population is now about 20 percent Asian. In front of the entire student body, a student described how he dreaded introducing himself when he was growing up and made up nicknames for himself so that he would not have to explain his name's pronunciation. He asked me what I would say to people struggling to hold on to their names.

    "What's your name?" I asked.
    "Yaseen," he said.
    I told him that his name was beautiful, that his parents gave it to him out of love. I told him about the name I gave my son, Ellison, whom I named after the novelist Ralph Waldo Ellison, who was named after Ralph Waldo Emerson. I claimed for my son an American genealogy that was also an African-American genealogy that, through me and my son, would also be a Vietnamese-American genealogy. Ellison Nguyen, a name that compressed all of our painful, aspirational history as a country.
    America, too, is a name. A name that citizens and residents of the United States have taken for themselves, a name that is mythical or maligned around the world, a name that causes endless frustration for all those other Americans, from North to South, from Canada to Chile, who are not a part of the United States. A complicated name, as all names are, if we trace them back far enough.
    Yaseen. Ellison. Viet. Nguyen. All American names, if we want them to be. All of them a reminder that we change these United States of America one name at a time.
    Viet Thanh Nguyen, a contributing opinion writer, is the author, most recently, of "The Refugees" and the editor of "The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives." He teaches English at the University of Southern California.

    2) Footage Contradicts U.S. Claim That Maduro Burned Aid Convoy
    By Nicholas CaseyChristoph Koettl and Deborah Acosta, March 10, 2019

    CÚCUTA, Colombia — The narrative seemed to fit Venezuela's authoritarian rule: Security forces, on the order of President Nicolás Maduro, had torched a convoy of humanitarian aid as millions in his country were suffering from illness and hunger.
    Vice President Mike Pence wrote that "the tyrant in Caracas danced"as his henchmen "burned food & medicine." The State Department released a video saying Mr. Maduro had ordered the trucks burned. And Venezuela's opposition held up the images of the burning aid, reproduced on dozens of news sites and television screens throughout Latin America, as evidence of Mr. Maduro's cruelty.
    But there is a problem: The opposition itself, not Mr. Maduro's men, appears to have set the cargo alight accidentally.
    Unpublished footage obtained by The New York Times and previously released tapes — including footage released by the Colombian government, which has blamed Mr. Maduro for the fire — allowed for a reconstruction of the incident. It suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze.

    At one point, a homemade bomb made from a bottle is hurled toward the police, who were blocking a bridge connecting Colombia and Venezuela to prevent the aid trucks from getting through.
    But the rag used to light the Molotov cocktail separates from the bottle, flying toward the aid truck instead.
    Half a minute later, that truck is in flames.
    The same protester can be seen 20 minutes earlier, in a different video, hitting another truck with a Molotov cocktail, without setting it on fire

    The burning of the aid last month has led to broad condemnation of the Venezuelan government.
    More than three million people have fled the country because of the humanitarian crisis caused by Mr. Maduro's mismanagement of the economy. Political opponents who have remained in the country face repression by his security forces, with many jailed, tortured or forced into exile. Many demonstrators have been killed and even more injured during street protests.
    Many of Mr. Maduro's critics claim that he ordered medication set on fire during the border standoff — even though many of his people have died of medicine shortages in hospitals.

    Yet the claim about a shipment of medicine, too, appears to be unsubstantiated, according to videos and interviews.
    The United States Agency for International Development, the principal supplier of the aid at the bridge, did not list medicine among its donations. A top opposition official on the bridge that day told The New York Times that the burned shipment contained medical supplies like face masks and gloves, but not medicine. And video clips reviewed by The Times show some of the boxes contained hygiene kits, which the Americans identified as containing supplies like soap and toothpaste.
    Yet the claim that Mr. Maduro burned medicine has persisted.
    "Maduro has lied about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, he contracts criminals to burn food and medicine intended for the Venezuelan people," wrote John R. Bolton, President Trump's national security adviser, in a message posted on Twitter on March 2.
    After being contacted by The Times about these claims, American officials released a statement describing how the fire began more cautiously.
    "Eyewitness accounts indicate that the fire started when Maduro's forces violently blocked the entry of humanitarian assistance," the statement said. It did not specify that Mr. Maduro's forces lit the fire.
    American officials also noted that, whatever the circumstances, they held Mr. Maduro responsible because he blocked the aid trucks that day, punishing Venezuelans in need.
    "Maduro is responsible for creating the conditions for violence," said Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "His thugs denied the entry of tons of food and medicine, while thousands of courageous volunteers sought to safeguard and deliver aid to Venezuelan families."

    The aid shipment created a showdown unlike any on the borderbetween Colombia and Venezuela in years.
    On Feb. 23, Venezuela's opposition planned to pierce a military blockade by Mr. Maduro, hoping that the president's security forces would break with him rather than stop much-needed aid. They argued that a cascade of defections in the military would follow, eventually toppling the government.
    Instead, Mr. Maduro's security forces, along with government-aligned gangs, attacked protesters, who came armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails. One of the aid trucks burned in the melee, igniting the bitter war of words over who was responsible.
    Mr. Maduro's government has also made unsubstantiated claims, starting with its longstanding insistence that there are no food shortages in Venezuela.
    It also claimed that the aid shipment contained expired supplies or American weapons.
    But one claim that appears to be backed up by video footage is that the protesters started the fire.
    "They tried a false flag operation, that supposedly the people of Venezuela had burned a truck carrying rotten food — no, no, no — it was they themselves, it was the criminals of Iván Duque," Mr. Maduro told a crowd, referring to Colombia's president.
    The day of the convoy, Colombia's government quickly became a chief booster of the theory that Mr. Maduro had been behind the fire. Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez posted a picture of what she said was "one of the trucks incinerated by gangs by order of Maduro."
    After the truck was destroyed, the Colombian government sent CCTV footage from the bridge to American officials and Colombian journalists, according to officials and journalists who received them.

    The footage was edited to show circles around Venezuelan security forces throwing tear gas canisters, which explode on impact, toward the aid convoy. Subsequent images show the truck erupting into smoke, implying that it was the Venezuelan officials who were responsible.
    But the footage distributed by the Colombian government removes the 13-minute period before the fire begins. Officials from Mr. Duque's office did not release the full video after repeated requests from The Times.
    Protesters who threw Molotov cocktails from the bridge insisted that Mr. Maduro's forces, not their homemade bombs, set the fire.
    Junior José Quevedo, 23, said he had arrived at 7 a.m. that day and tried to talk policemen into allowing the aid to pass. "But then another armed group came of colectivos," he said, referring to government-aligned gangs.
    Adalberto Rondón, another bomb thrower on the bridge that day, said it was national guardsmen who lit the fire.
    The same account was widely picked up that day by American officials.
    "Each of the trucks burned by Maduro carried 20 tons of food and medicine," Senator Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter, repeating a claim posted by a Colombian news network that was on the scene. "This is a crime and if international law means anything he must pay a high price for this."
    Contacted by The Times about the footage Saturday, a spokesman for Mr. Rubio did not address who burned the trucks, saying in a statement that "Maduro bears full responsibility for the destruction of humanitarian aid."

    Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela's opposition, has fervently maintained that the aid contained medicine and that it was burned by Mr. Maduro as well.
    When contacted by The Times on Thursday about possible contradictory information on what the truck contained, Edward Rodríguez, a spokesman for Mr. Guaidó, said he "didn't have the exact information" and referred questions to Gaby Arellano, a lawmaker in charge of the aid distribution.
    Ms. Arellano could not be reached for comment this past week. But when interviewed by The Times on the bridge shortly after the truck burned on Feb. 23, Ms. Arellano said the truck was not carrying any medicine.
    "There were face masks, syringes, gloves, the things that you use in an operating room," she said.
    Ms. Arellano also said Mr. Maduro's security forces had burned the shipment, with his forces throwing tear gas canisters that exploded on the vehicle.
    "Tear gas bombs, when they fall they throw out a spark," she said. "Since there were boxes, when the first one fell, it set everything on fire."
    Asked if it had been done on purpose, she said: "There couldn't be any other reason, could there? The world is here, it was all recorded live by the media. There's even videos where you can see it all happening."

    Nicholas Casey reported from Cúcuta, and Christoph Koettl and Deborah Acosta from New York. Albinson Linares contributed reporting from Cúcuta, and Anjali Singhvi from New York.


    3) Trump Administration Steps Up Air War in Somalia
    By Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage, March 10, 2019

    People standing near the wreckage of a recent Shabab-claimed suicide car bomb attack on a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Shabab has proved resilient against American airstrikes, and continues to carry out regular bombings in East Africa.CreditCreditFeisal Omar/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The American military has escalated a battle against the Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, in Somalia even as President Trump seeks to scale back operations against similar Islamist insurgencies elsewhere in the world, from Syria and Afghanistan to West Africa.
    A surge in American airstrikes over the last four months of 2018 pushed the annual death toll of suspected Shabab fighters in Somalia to the third record high in three years. Last year, the strikes killed 326 people in 47 disclosed attacks, Defense Department data show.
    [For more stories about the experiences and costs of war, sign up for the weekly At War newsletter.]
    And so far this year, the intensity is on a pace to eclipse the 2018 record. During January and February, the United States Africa Command reported killing 225 people in 24 strikes in Somalia. Double-digit death tolls are becoming routine, including a bloody five-day stretch in late February in which the military disclosed that it had killed 35, 20 and 26 people in three separate attacks.

    Africa Command maintains that its death toll includes only Shabab militants, even though the extremist group claims regularly that civilians are also killed. The Times could not independently verify the number of civilians killed. The rise in airstrikes has also exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the country, according to United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations working in the region, as civilians are displaced by conflict and extreme weather.

    "People need to pay attention to the fact that there is this massive war going on," said Brittany Brown, who worked on Somalia policy at the National Security Council in the Obama and Trump administrations and is now the chief of staff of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization focused on deadly conflicts.
    The war in Somalia appears to be "on autopilot," she added, and one that is drawing the United States significantly deeper into an armed conflict without much public debate.

    Somalia, a country that occupies a key strategic location in the Horn of Africa, has faced civil war, droughts and an influx of Islamist extremists over the years. The growing United States military engagement stands in stark contrast to the near-abandonment not long after the "Black Hawk Down" battle in 1993, which left 18 Americans and hundreds of militia fighters dead.
    The intensifying bombing campaign undercuts the Trump administration's intended pivot to confront threats from great powers like China and Russia, and away from long counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaigns that have been the Pentagon's focus since 2001.
    Analysts suggested that the increase in American strikes may also reflect an unspoken effort by American commanders to inflict as much punishment on the Shabab while they can.

    "Many of our commanders probably see a renewed urgency to degrade the enemy quickly and forcefully," said Luke Hartig, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council during the Obama administration.
    Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of Africa Command, said planned cutbacks elsewhere would not affect what the military is doing in Somalia.
    "We'll maintain our capability and capacity there," General Waldhauser told the House Armed Services Committee last Thursday. Africa Command is scaling back American forces nearly everywhere else on the continent in a move that poses a particular threat for West Africa, which is grappling with a range of extremist groups.
    The Shabab formally pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2012. But long before that, it fought Western-backed governments in Mogadishu as the group sought to impose its extremist interpretation of Islam across Somalia. In defending the fragile government, the United States has largely relied on proxy forces, including about 20,000 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda, Kenya and other East African nations.
    The United States estimates that the Shabab has about 5,000 to 7,000 fighters in Somalia, but the group's ranks are fluid. A State Department official, citing interviews from Shabab deserters, said that the number of hard-core ideologues may be as few as 500.
    There are also now roughly 500 American troops in Somalia. Most are Special Operations forces stationed at a small number of bases spread across the country. Their missions include training and advising Somali army and counterterrorism troops and conducting kill-or-capture raids of their own.
    The Shabab has proved resilient against the American airstrikes, and continues to carry out regular bombings in East Africa.

    A range of current and former American officials said no seismic strategic shift explains the increased airstrikes and higher body count; the mission remains providing security so the fledgling Somali government will have time and space to develop its own effective military and security services.
    But they noted a range of contributing factors for the rise in tempo and lethality of the military campaign.

    Taking a page from counterinsurgency tactics developed in Afghanistan, American forces have helped Somali soldiers build several outposts across Somalia, about 20 percent of which is still controlled by the Shabab. One is named for Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Conrad, of Chandler, Ariz., who was killed in a mortar attack last year while he helped to build it.
    The Shabab views the outposts "as an irritant, masses to go after it, but fails," Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, the Africa Command's director of operations, said in an interview.
    In turn, that has put attacking Shabab fighters in the cross hairs of American airstrikes to defend the Somali forces.
    Several officials said intelligence operations — including aerial surveillance, electronic intercepts and informant networks — have improved over the past year.
    American troops with the secretive Joint Special Operations Command have built up informant networks that lead to raids and strikes, after which they collect cellphones, laptops and documents to generate information for more.

    The drawdown of American military operations elsewhere in the world — including in Syria and, to a lesser immediate extent, Afghanistan — also has most likely freed up more drones and other gunships for use over Somalia, several former United States officials said.
    "We were geared up for counterterrorism efforts in Somalia, and now there are more resources to do it, so we're doing more of it," suggested Stephen Schwartz, who served as the United States ambassador to Somalia from 2016 to 2017, although he cautioned that he had no current insider knowledge.
    "It could be there is some well-thought-out strategy behind all of this," Mr. Schwartz added, "but I really doubt it."
    The loosening of Obama-era constraints on using force in Somalia, as approved by President Trump in 2017, has also contributed.
    Shortly after taking office, Mr. Trump declared Somalia to be an "area of active hostilities" subject to war-zone rules. That freed the United States military to carry out offensive operations whenever Shabab militants presented themselves — including against foot soldiers without special skills or roles.
    Mr. Trump also delegated authority to commanders to carry out strikes without high-level interagency vetting. But Africa Command was initially slow to embrace it, waiting months before it carried out its first strike in 2017 under the new rules.
    Now, however, it has opened the throttle, according to military data compiled by Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who has tracked counterterrorism airstrikes for more than a decade on his Long War Journal.

    Many of the recent airstrikes have targeted large groups of suspected fighters, killing more than 10 people in a single fierce swoop. Africa Command has disclosed strikes and estimated death tolls in a series of terse news releases, earning scant attention from Congress or the news media.
    Along with the European Union and the United Nations, the United States also has continued to invest in so-called soft power assistance to Somalia, providing humanitarian aid such as food to drought victims, and development programs on education and training.
    Officials cited signs of recent incremental progress in efforts to help the Somali government build a functional national army. And in December, the United States re-established a permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia for the first time since 1991. The current United States ambassador to Somalia, Donald Yamamoto, lives in Mogadishu, although the mission consists of a windowless bunker at the well-guarded airport.
    There is good reason for caution. In 2013, Shabab militants carried out a deadly attack at the Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. In January, they attacked a luxury hotel and office complex in Nairobi, killing 21 people. And in late February, the Shabab claimed a double bombing and the siege of a hotel in Mogadishu that killed at least 25 people.
    General Olson said the military would continue to go after the Shabab as long as that is its mission.
    "We go after the network when the network presents itself, whether a single node or a concentration," he said. "We've developed intelligence and are sussing out the relationship between the leadership and those being led; between those being led and those being trained or recruited or massed for an attack."
    "We understand the network better than we have in years past," General Olson said.

    Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.


    4) Thirteen Civilians Reported Killed in U.S. Airstrikes in Afghanistan
    By Zabihullah Ghezi and Fahim Abed, March 10, 2019

    JALALABAD, Afghanistan — At least 13 civilians, including several children, were killed in American airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan that were carried out in support of an Afghan-led operation against the Taliban, local officials and tribal elders said on Sunday.
    Members of a C.I.A.-sponsored Afghan strike force called in air support after coming under fire on Saturday as they mounted an assault on Taliban fighters in the district of Hesarak in Nangarhar Province, the officials said.
    The airstrikes hit two houses in the village of Naser Khil, said a tribal elder, Ruzi Khan Maruf. In one house, the village's lone doctor, his wife and their five teenage daughters were killed, Mr. Maruf said by telephone. In the other, the doctor's brother, his wife and their four children — three teenage girls and a boy — reportedly died. The brother was an Afghan soldier, Mr. Maruf said.
    Shah Mahmood Miakhel, the governor of Nangarhar Province, said an important Taliban commander had also been killed in the airstrikes. The exact number of civilians killed was unclear, he said.

    A spokeswoman for the American-led NATO mission in Afghanistan confirmed the airstrikes but did not directly address the reports of civilian casualties, saying only that the coalition was looking into the matter.

    "In self-defense, precision airstrikes were used to support the troops on the ground," said the spokeswoman, Sgt. First Class Debra Richardson, adding that the Afghans had been targeting a Taliban operations center. "We are fighting in a complex environment against those who intentionally kill and hide behind civilians. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of accuracy and accountability, and we are looking into this."
    American commanders say they follow strict procedures to try to ensure no civilians are present before airstrikes are authorized. They also often accuse insurgents of using civilians as shields, as Sergeant Richardson did on Sunday.
    Afghan strike teams, trained and overseen by the C.I.A., have been an effective force against some of the country's most brutal militant groups. But they have also been linked to widespread abuses, carrying out torture and killings with near impunity. They operate in parallel with the United States military, but under looser rules.
    In recent months, the American military has increased attacks against the Taliban, seeking leverage as American negotiators hold peace talks with the militants. Civilian deaths from airstrikes rose 39 percent during the first nine months of 2018, compared with the same period the year before, according to the United Nations.

    Last month, at least 10 civilians were reported killed in American airstrikes in southern Helmand Province.
    The issue of civilian casualties was raised in January during the talks between the Taliban and American representatives in Doha, the Qatari capital. Negotiators from both sides are meeting again now, in talks that have gone into a 14th day.
    In another deadly episode over the weekend, three civilians, including a woman and two children, were shot and killed during a nighttime raid in Wardak Province, said Shafiullah Hotak, a member of the provincial council. A Taliban commander was also killed in the operation, he said

    Zabihullah Ghazi reported from Jalalabad, and Fahim Abed from Kabul, Afghanistan. Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from Doha, Qatar


    5) Rap Sheets Haunt Former Convicts. California May Change That.
    By Timothy Williams, March 11, 2019
    "One in three Americans has a criminal record, according to the Justice Department, and a National Institute of Justice study found that having a criminal record reduced the chance of getting a job offer or a callback by 50 percent."

    Jay Jordan, who was arrested at 18 for auto theft, is now project director for Time Done, an Oakland nonprofit that works with people who were previously incarcerated.CreditCreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

    After spending more than seven years in prison for robbery and auto theft, Jay Jordan tried to get work selling insurance, real estate and used cars, but was repeatedly turned away, he said.
    Former felons are often barred from obtaining professional licenses, and an opportunity to be a barber at a friend's shop fell through for the same reason. A nonprofit program he started ran into trouble when a school sought to prevent him from meeting with students because of his criminal past — a history that began when he stole a car at 18, almost 15 years ago.
    Under a bill now making its way through the California State Legislature, millions of people like Mr. Jordan in the state could be spared those problems: their criminal records would automatically be sealed from public view once they completed prison or jail sentences.

    "There are so many of us who just want to be better, but are constantly turned down, turned away," said Mr. Jordan, who is now project director for Time Done, an Oakland nonprofit that works with former convicts, and supports the California legislation.

    In the United States, a record showing a criminal conviction or even an arrest that does not lead to a conviction can make it nearly impossiblefor someone to find jobs or apartments or to obtain professional licenses like those required in many states for barbers or real estate agents.
    One in three Americans has a criminal record, according to the Justice Department, and a National Institute of Justice study found that having a criminal record reduced the chance of getting a job offer or a callback by 50 percent.
    The legislation, introduced last week in the State Assembly, would make California — where an estimated eight million people have criminal records — the first state in the nation to automatically scrub the rap sheets of people who have committed misdemeanors or lower-level felonies. The law would apply retroactively, meaning that people arrested or convicted of various crimes dating back decades would have their records automatically sealed. The records would still be accessible to law enforcement agencies, but not to members of the general public, including potential landlords and employers.
    The legislation is part of a larger push to overhaul elements of the nation's criminal justice system by people who say it incarcerates too many people, wasting money and lives.
    In recent years, dozens of states and municipalities have prohibited employers from asking job -candidates about prior arrests; prosecutors have moved to clear convictions for marijuana possession; and police chiefs have instructed officers to stop arresting people for low-level crimes.

    A law approved in Pennsylvania last year automatically clears the records of people with misdemeanor offenses if, after 10 years, they have not been convicted of any other crime.
    So far, the California proposal has raised few public objections, largely because it does not expand the range of crimes that can be sealed. Under current law, people in California can seek to have records of misdemeanors and low-level felonies sealed by making a formal request to a court; under the new legislation, sealing would happen automatically.
    Under the current rules, it's rare that people pursue sealing their records, and most don't even know it is an option, according to George Gascón, San Francisco's district attorney. Only about 20 percent of those eligible to get their records sealed in California actually do so.
    In an interview, Mr. Gascón, a Democrat, acknowledged that the legal system, including his own office, was partly responsible for the low rate. Mr. Gascón said he decided that it was critical to shift the burden away from individuals, and onto the judicial system.
    "People don't understand how it works, or they don't have the capacity to get it done," he said. "We cannot keep people caged in a paper prison for the rest of their lives."
    Offenses that would qualify to be automatically sealed under the new legislation are identical to those that people are permitted to seek to have sealed now, said Phil Ting, the State Assembly member, a Democrat, who introduced the bill.
    Those crimes include certain felonies, like burglary and other property crimes and drug offenses, and all misdemeanors. People convicted of the most serious crimes, like murder and rape, would not be eligible.

    For felonies, eligibility would depend, in part, on how severe the punishment for them was; crimes that earned a jail sentence, rather than a term in state prison, would generally qualify.
    The California Justice Department would decide which cases would be eligible for sealing; county prosecutors could contest the state's decisions in specific cases if they feared that public safety was at risk.
    Still uncertain, the bill's backers say, is exactly how many people the legislation would affect, but they estimate that the number will be in the millions.
    The legislation is expected to be approved by both chambers of the State Legislature, which are dominated by Democrats, in the current session.
    Joseph Kinzel, a deputy district attorney in Kern County, said the automatic sealing of records might overwhelm local courts and prosecutors' offices. He said that the current system — in which former convicts must petition courts — is hardly onerous.
    "It's not a steep burden, and it's not too much to ask," he said.
    But former inmates say the process can be intimidating, time-consuming and expensive.
    According to the state's website, the process includes as many as a dozen steps and can involve paying a fee of up to $150.

    Some advocates for overhauling the criminal justice system say California's legislation could go farther.
    Margaret Colgate Love, executive director of the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, a nonprofit group focused on eliminating legal hurdles facing former inmates, said that other states have enacted more expansive protections for people who have been arrested but not convicted of crimes. One of those states is Colorado, which enacted a law in 2016 authorizing courts to automatically seal the records of people who have been acquitted at trial or whose charges have been dismissed.
    Ms. Love said the California bill does not make clear how people will be able to know whether their records are sealed, or whether a district attorney has challenged the sealing.
    "That said, the bill is an important step," she said. "A good deal depends on how much data the California Department of Justice has, how accurate it is, and how efficient their procedures are."


    6) A chimpanzee cultural collapse is underway — and it's driven by humans
    Written by The Conversation, March 12, 2019
    Royalty-free stock photo ID741351946. Chimpanzee consists of two extant species: common chimpanzee and bonobo. Bonobos and common chimpanzees are the only species of great apes that are currently restricted in their range to Africa.

    Our closest relatives show distinct cultural behaviour in different populations. But those differences are being erased.

    Language, music, and art often vary between adjacent groups of people, and help us identify not only ourselves but also others. And in recent years rich debates have emerged and spawned research into culture in non-human animals.
    Scientists first observed chimpanzees using tools more than half a century ago. As this complex behaviour appeared to differ across different populations, researchers concluded that tool use in apes was socially learned and therefore a cultural behaviour.
    This was the beginning of exploring what behaviours in other species might be considered cultural as well. Killer whale pods and dolphins exhibit different dialects and use tools differently, for instance. Scientists have mostly focused on primates, however. Capuchin monkeys of Central and South America exhibit 13 variants of social customs, to take one example, while different orangutan populations vary their callsand the use of tools, nests or other objects. But no species has garnered more discussion on the presence, importance, and evolution of culture than chimpanzees.
    Examples of chimpanzee culture range from social customs, such as the way they grasp their hands during grooming, to how males sexually display, to the type of tools used for cracking nuts or ant-dipping. An early study argued that there are as many as 39 different behaviours that are candidates for cultural variation. This set off an eager debate about whether animals have culture or not and how we would be able to detect it.
    As in humans, cultural behaviours in chimpanzees are likely critical for individuals to demonstrate community membership. If a young chimpanzee in the Tai forest in the Ivory Coast wants to signal to a peer that they would like to play around, then they build a small, rudimentary ground nest and sit in it. In most other chimpanzee groups, ground nests are mainly used for resting.
    But chimpanzees now face the daunting task of surviving in a habitat increasingly infested and assaulted by humans. And as their populations decline, so does their behavioural variation. In short, humans are causing chimpanzee cultural collapse.
    Two of us (Alexander and Fiona) were involved in a new study which integrated data from 144 chimpanzee communities across Africa, and found the more that humans had disturbed an area, the less behavioural variants are exhibited by nearby chimpanzees. The results are published in the journal Science.
    The actual mechanism behind this is not entirely known. The most obvious explanation is that increased human disturbance means there are fewer chimpanzees overall. Even those that remain have to be more inconspicuous in order to survive in areas where their food and nesting sites are threatened by logging operations, their water sources are polluted by miners, and they risk being hunted for bushmeat by poachers brought into their forests by newly-built roads.
    All this forces the chimpanzees to forage in smaller groups and use less long distance communication like pan hoots and drumming on tree trunks. This likely leads to a decrease in the spread of cultural behaviours, as associating in smaller group sizes lowers the chance of learning socially from one another.
    Chimpanzees have also been observed to adapt to human disturbance by inventing new coping mechanisms such as eating human crops. But despite these rare adaptations, overall human activity is vastly erasing the rich behavioural diversity that now characterises chimpanzees.
    Chimpanzee monoculture
    But, if the species is gradually merging into a single cultural entity that stretches all the way from Senegal to Tanzania – why does this matter? After all, monocultural species are not inherently problematic. There is no direct relationship between cultural diversity and species distribution, for example. Flies, rats and crocodiles are all disseminated across a vast area, and yet have not yet been described as cultural. Losing chimpanzee behavioural diversity doesn't itself threaten the species survival.
    Losing diversity could be representative of larger issues, however, not least that the species is on the decline, which is the worst scenario. For example, we don't yet know how adaptive these behaviours are. A loss of behavioural diversity could represent compromises in how animals respond to selection pressures like changes in food availability and how they adapt to climate change.
    The risk is that we humans are irreversibly endangering a unique chance to discover the full extent of cultural diversity in our closest living relatives. When scientists discover a new group of wild chimpanzees it often exhibits unique behaviours that have never been observed previously, and it is hard to know what would be eradicated before we know about it.
    If things continue as they are, the opportunity to study common evolutionary roots with our own species might soon be forever lost. Making protection of cultural diversity a conservation priority, which extend to numerous other species, would help to ensure the survival of our extraordinary primate heritage.

    7) I Learned in College That Admission Has Always Been for Sale
    The bribery scandal is no more abhorrent than the completely legal industry that helps many wealthy kids get into the schools of their dreams.
    By Rainesford Stauffer, March 13, 2019

    Shortly after my freshman year of college, when I was debating whether to transfer to another college or drop out and venture into the work force sans degree, I met with an older friend who had attended an Ivy League-adjacent school. I wanted her advice on whether to apply to her alma mater.
    I’d love it there, she assured me, with one caveat: You have to be really smart, she said. It became evident that her “smart” and my “smart” were different things. She casually rattled off hours she’d logged with a personalized standardized test tutor, paid to boost her score. Her parents opted not to pay an editor to work with her on her application essay, but plenty of her classmates’ families had.
    I suddenly felt as though I’d failed a test I didn’t know I was taking. I was even more gobsmacked when I realized how common her experience was. Asking around, I learned that a subset of my peers had been carefully groomed with tools I hadn’t even known existed. I came to realize that my “A” in Literature from my freshman year and a job between classes and on weekends were not going to compete with pedigrees buffed to application perfection thanks to highly compensated college admissions coaches.
    I did end up transferring, not to my friend’s school but to The New School, where I finished my degree remotely while working full time,and I graduated in January 2017. Now I talk to young people, including my own sister, who agonize over the fact that, no matter how hard they study, they will never compete with students who have test and application boosts. Even so, I know I’ve enjoyed benefits that many other students haven’t because I’m white and have parents who are college graduates. I’m more angry on behalf of those with fewer resources than me who have to compete with those gaming the system.

    So when news broke that celebrities, top university coaches and other ultrarich individuals were accused by the Justice Department of engaging in college admissions bribery, my initial thought was that this latest round of revelations is no more abhorrent than what happens every day.
    It’s obviously a scandal when rich people are accused of breaking the law to get their kids into top schools. But the bigger outrage should be that a legal version of purchasing an advantage happens every college application season and that there’s an entire industry supporting it.
    Anyone can see the kinds of things outlined in the indictment —  bribes paid by wealthy parents in exchange for their children’s admission to top universities, and accompanying schemes to secure athletics scholarships for teens who didn’t even play high school sports — are unacceptable. But what about the standardized test prep industry, worth around $840 million, which involves parents forking over up to $200 an hour for Ivy League tutors tasked with increasing their children’s scores. That doesn’t include application essay writers, who coach students on what to write about, edit their writing and, in some cases, write for them. It doesn’t include college coaching firms, which charge up to $40,000 to strategize an applicant’s entire process.
    Donations made to schools by the parents of legacy students can essentially buy acceptance letters. Meanwhile, there are some students who don’t have a parent to skim their essay for typos or can’t afford to pay to enroll in a prep course or to repeatedly take a standardized test until their score rises.
    Natasha Warikoo, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education and the author of “The Diversity Bargain,” says while there’s no debate that the actions the people involved in this week’s admissions scandal are accused of are reprehensible, there’s actually very little agreement among Americans or admissions officers about what is and isn’t O.K. in terms of application assistance.

    “A fair system to me would produce an outcome in which people who are selected are representative of 18-year-olds overall in the United States,” Ms. Warikoo said, noting that while wealthy students are overrepresented, working class and poor students, black, Latino, Native American and first generation students are underrepresented on most campuses. “We don’t have consensus in the United States about what is a fair system of selection.”
    “If you had to design a system that would give rich, white kids the best odds of getting into prestigious colleges and universities, look no further than the current system,” said Nikhil Goyal, author of “Schools on Trial” and a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge. His research has found that universities ending legacy admissions and making standardized tests optional “would boost class and racial diversity and signal to youth that their worth is less defined by test scores and more by their creativity and passions.” It’s no coincidence that one of these can be bought: the test scores. Creativity and passion cannot. 
    Perhaps it wouldn’t sting so much if we scrapped the college rankings, or if we didn’t bill college as the foremost experience for young people, one that sets the tone for their entire lives.
    This newest admissions scandal is infuriating, but the ongoing, perfectly legal one that lets wealthy families pay for the things that lead to greater chances of admission hurts even more. It sends a message to any student who can’t take advantage of the current system that no matter how hard he or she has worked, it will always be possible for someone else to buy a better life.


    8) Gov. Gavin Newsom to Halt Carrying Out Death Penalty in California
    By Tim Arango, March 12, 2019

    A condemned inmate is led out of his cell at San Quentin State Prison in California, which has a quarter of the country’s death row inmates.CreditCreditEric Risberg/Associated Press

    LOS ANGELES — Gov. Gavin Newsom will announce a moratorium on capital punishment on Wednesday, granting a temporary reprieve for the 737 inmates who wait on the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere.
    The move is highly symbolic because legal challenges have already stalled executions in California; the last one was in 2006. But death penalty opponents hope that because of California’s size and political importance, the governor’s action will give new urgency to efforts to end executions in other states as popular support for the death penalty wanes.
    Supporters of capital punishment said the move went against the will of the state’s residents. California voters have rejected an initiative to abolish the death penalty and in 2016, they approved Proposition 66 to help speed it up.

    “I think this would be a bold step and I think he’s got to be aware of the political downside,” said Michael D. Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, an organization in Sacramento that favors the death penalty and helped draft the ballot proposition. “Voters have had multiple opportunities in California over three decades to abandon the death penalty and they’ve shut them down at every chance.”

    Former Gov. Jerry Brown, a liberal who made criminal justice reform in California a hallmark of his legacy, resisted calls to commute California’s death sentences before he left office in January.
    His refusal was in some ways a political gift to Mr. Newsom, giving him the opportunity to take a high-profile position with national significance early in his administration. In 2004, Mr. Newsom took a similar tack as mayor of San Francisco, when he legalized gay marriage in the city at a time when even the Democratic Party opposed it.
    With capital punishment, Mr. Newsom is not at the vanguard of the opposition movement. The death penalty has been on the decline in America for two decades. But it has become a defining issue for him, widening the dividing line between California and the policies of President Trump, who has spoken out in favor of the death penalty, even for drug dealers.
    On Wednesday morning Mr. Trump tweeted in response: “Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”
    In an executive order Mr. Newsom plans to sign on Wednesday, he will do three things: grant reprieves to the inmates currently on death row — they will still be under a death sentence, but not at risk of execution; close the execution chamber at San Quentin prison; and withdraw the state’s lethal injection protocol, the formally approved procedure for carrying out executions.

    “I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,” Mr. Newsom plans to say on Wednesday, according to prepared remarks. “In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”
    Even before Mr. Newsom made his announcement, supporters of the death penalty predicted legal challenges to any moratorium. Michele Hanisee, the president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles said that reprieves for condemned inmates would be, “in effect, invalidating the law” that California voters have repeatedly affirmed, despite the liberal values that dominate the state.
    “I think it surprises me too, sometimes,” she said. “California is liberal, I think we all know that. We have Hollywood, and the music industry, which I think affects people’s thinking. I think with the death penalty it comes down to specifics of cases. We have serial killers and lots of bad people in California.”
    Mr. Newsom has long said he is morally opposed to capital punishment. In 2012, he was the only statewide official to publicly support a ballot initiative to repeal it, and he has said in interviews that the question of what he would do if confronted with the possibility of an execution on his watch weighed heavily on him.
    Mr. Newsom’s move will surely be applauded by liberal activists, members of his own party and many conservatives, some of whom have come to see the death penalty as exorbitantly costly and have argued against it on economic grounds.
    Three other governors — in Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania — have issued moratoriums on the death penalty. In other states, the practice has been abolished by either legislatures or courts. The latest was Washington, which last year became the 20th state to end capital punishment when the State Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, after a moratorium issued by the governor.
    “A moratorium in California has enormous symbolic value,” said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “It’s part of the momentum we are seeing.”

    But in 2016, Californians doubled down on the death penalty, approving a measure that streamlined the appeals process, which has typically taken about 25 years in California for condemned prisoners. The initiative, which was backed by many law enforcement officials and prosecutors, passed with 51 percent of the vote, belying California’s national image as place where politics was steadily moving to the left. It was approved at the same time that voters legalized marijuana.
    Even without a moratorium, capital punishment in California has stalled in the courts because of challenges to the state’s use of a three-drug protocol, which can cause painful deaths. New death sentences have been on the wane.
    But the endurance of the death penalty in California has acted as a check on the national movement against capital punishment, said Shilpi Agarwal, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco who is involved in the lethal injection litigation.
    “It is a state people look to to set the tone for national policy,” she said. “The fact that so many states have abolished the death penalty — but California hasn’t — has given people cover for this narrative that people are still supportive the death penalty.”
    In an interview last fall during his campaign for governor, Mr. Newsom cited his Irish Catholic, Jesuit background, saying he opposed capital punishment for “moral, ethical and economic reasons.”
    He said he had been reading former President Bill Clinton’s memoir, highlighting passages about how he faced the death penalty as governor of Arkansas. Asked if he would sign a death warrant if a planned execution reached his office, he said then, “I’m not prepared to answer that question, because I’m not prepared to answer the question. And in that preparation comes a lot of soul searching.”
    California governors are limited in their power to commute sentences, but they do have the power to issue temporary reprieves. A moratorium, said Stefanie Faucher of the 8th Amendment Project, an organization that opposes capital punishment, is “functionally a series of reprieves.”

    In order to commute death sentences to life in prison for death row inmates that have a prior felony, which many do, Mr. Newsom would need approval from the California Supreme Court.
    California, which reinstated the death penalty in 1978, has 737 inmates on death row in San Quentin prison, about a quarter of the total number of death row inmates in the United States. But only 13 executions have been carried out since 1978. The last one, in 2006, was of Clarence Ray Allen, who was executed 23 years after his conviction for hiring someone to carry out three murders.
    Opponents of the death penalty, including Mr. Newsom, have long argued that the practice is rife with racial disparities and is not justified by the high cost to state taxpayers. One study, in 2011, found that California pays $184 million a year to sustain capital punishment — or close to an accumulated $5 billion since the practice was reinstituted in 1978.
    In February, Mr. Newsom intervened in a high-profile death row case that for years activists have claimed was a prime example of racial injustice.
    Kevin Cooper, a black man who was convicted of four brutal murders by stabbing in 1983, has long maintained his innocence. His supporters have put forward evidence that he was framed by San Bernardino police officers. Mr. Newsom ordered DNA testing in the case, something that state officials had refused to do in the past.
    The possibility of a wrongful convictions — nationally, more than 150 people on death row have been exonerated since the mid-1970s, according to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty — has also energized the opposition movement, around the country and in California.
    Last April in California, a man who had been on death row for 25 years for murdering a young girl, a former farmworker named Vicente Figueroa Benavides, was freed after a court determined that testimony given at his trial was false.


    9) Treated Like a ‘Piece of Meat’: Female Veterans Endure Harassment at the V.A.
    By Jennifer Steinhauer, March 12, 2019

    Corey Foster, 34, retired as an Army sergeant. “Standing in line at the registration desk, I was getting comments from the male patients behind me, looking me up and down,” she said, describing a visit to her local Veterans Affairs medical center. “It was a major source of discomfort.”CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

    WASHINGTON — Corey Foster spent her Army career caring for wounded troops, both as a flight medic in the Iraq war and at Walter Reed hospital, so she looked forward to one of the most celebrated benefits of military service — health care for life from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then she walked through the door at a V.A. medical center in Temple, Tex.
    “You felt like you were a piece of meat,” said Ms. Foster, 34, who retired as a sergeant. “Standing in line at the registration desk, I was getting comments from the male patients behind me, looking me up and down. It was a major source of discomfort.”
    The treatment was the same at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where Ms. Foster moved after living in Texas. At that point she gave up, and opted for her husband’s insurance outside the department. “They need to make the facilities not feel like an old soldier’s home,” Ms. Foster said.
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    An entrenched, sexist culture at many veterans hospitals is driving away female veterans and lags far behind the gains women have made in the military in recent years, veterans and lawmakers of both parties say. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs has scrambled to adjust to the rising population of female veterans and has made progress — including hiring more women’s health care providers, fixing basic privacy problems in the exam rooms and expanding service to women in rural areas — sexual harassment at department facilities remains a major problem.

    Women say it is galling that such a demeaning atmosphere persists, especially for the roughly 30 percent of female veterans who have reported being harassed or assaulted while serving in the military. That number includes Senator Martha McSally, Republican of Arizona, who spoke at a congressional hearing last week about being raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force.
    “Changing the culture has been an ongoing, overarching goal,” said Dr. Patricia Hayes, the chief consultant for Women’s Health Services at the veterans agency. “We want women veterans to feel respected and safe and secure.”

    At a recent hearing with veterans agency officials on Capitol Hill, Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas, described the treatment of female constituents trying to obtain V.A. health care. “It’s like a construction site,” he said.
    Mr. Carter cited the same medical center in Texas that Ms. Foster had used — and noted that the Women’s Trauma Recovery Center within it was moved last year to a female-only facility in Waco so that women, who said they feared for their safety, could receive treatment without facing harassment.

    Representative Will Hurd, Republican of Texas, was visibly frustrated as he described women abandoning the center in his district because of harassment. “This is the biggest concern I hear from female veterans,’’ he said.
    While the number of women using veteran health services has tripled since 2000 — to about 500,000 from 159,810 — they still make up only 8 percent of all users of health care at the V.A. Officials expect that the number will increase. Two million women are in the American veteran population, or about 10 percent, and yet they make up 16 percent of the active-duty military force.
    “I believe that we still have a tsunami wave of women vets coming in,” said Dr. Hayes, of Veterans Affairs.
    For now, many female veterans say they are made to feel as if they do not belong at the V.A., as they describe front-desk employees asking for a husband’s Social Security number when they check in or being passed over for items like complimentary coffee, which employees say are “for vets.”
    “It’s hard to walk into a place and feel like everyone is looking at you wondering why you are there,” said Kristen Rouse, 45, founding director of the NYC Veterans Alliance, who described a sense of loss every time she glanced at the department’s motto affixed to her center in New York City: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” Her organization supports changing the motto.

    “Over the 24 years I have served my country, I have never been any of those,” said Ms. Rouse, who remains a reservist in the Army. “And I never will be.” (That portion of the motto, coined by President Lincoln, is now the subject of legislation.)

    Some centers, like the one in Washington, have removed benches from entryways so that men no longer have a place to linger and badger women, or have created separate facilities, like the one in Texas. Every center now has at least two providers focused on women’s health and nearly 6,000 providers have been trained in the practice; about 98 percent of them are women.
    While the V.A. is still trying to address the needs of pregnant veterans — the centers do not provide full obstetrics care on site — many of the centers across the country now have baby showers around Mother’s Day, offering diapers and other baby supplies.
    Yet the culture remains an impediment for many.
    Brandy Baxter, who served as a senior airman in the Air Force, loves the care she receives at the women’s health clinic through the Veterans Affairs center in Dallas. But she hates the elevator ride to get there.
    “The male vets give me the once over with their eyes,” she said. “I look them right in the eye, just to tell them, ‘I’m checking your height, your weight, your skin color — just in case I need to report you.’ ”
    This year, the House Veterans Affairs Committee will establish a task force to address women’s health care, and harassment issues are expected to be front and center. “This is about the physical transformation of our facilities,” said Representative Mark Takano, Democrat of California and the new chairman of the committee.
    A model for what women’s health care can be is on display at the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center in Chicago, where the vast majority of doctors and staff members are women. The five exam rooms and waiting area are only for women, and beyond offering basic health care, the center offers women a number of programs like a golf team, a weight loss group and art therapy.

    “I think women veterans really want programming that speaks to their entire identity,” said Jenny Sitzer, the coordinator for women at the center.

    Staff members wear badges that read, “My name is not ‘Hey baby,’” and banners all over the campus feature the faces of female veterans describing the pain of being harassed on their way through the broader V.A.
    Lori Brown, 58, is grateful for all these services, but most of all for the ability to walk into the medical center without facing harassment, and to have only women for her care. “I can allow myself to be who I am in front of the doctor or nurse and not be intimidated by men,” said Ms. Brown, who was an Army sergeant.
    Many other challenges face the V.A., like a shortage of providers for specialty services. Some women say they still struggle to get all of their birth control needs fulfilled at some facilities, and complex laws governing certain fertility treatments remain another area of complaint.
    Many women do not use the medical facilities because they lack child care, which the department is largely not legally able to provide. Another issue is reaching homeless female veterans, a serious problem that also affects the male population.
    Women also have mental health care needs — over 40 percent of female veterans who use the V.A. are diagnosed with at least one mental health condition, compared with about 25 percent of men.
    Bills touching on these issues are expected to come up in this Congress, and some veterans’ organizations have made services for women a top legislative priority, especially Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, all in the name of making the V.A. a better place for women.
    “One must be persistent,” Dr. Hayes said. “Culture change does not happen overnight. We want to continue to get the message to women that we want you here.”


    10) After Racist Video Surfaces, Private School Students Protest With Overnight Lock-in
    By Eliza Shapiro, March 12, 2019

    “We are often given obstacles where we are put into classes filled with only white teachers and white students,” said Chassidy Titley, left, who along with Lauryn Silver, center, and Isabella Ali was protesting at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.CreditCreditJames Estrin/The New York Times

    Students arrived at Ethical Culture Fieldston, one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools, early Monday to find one of their classroom buildings locked. On the other side of a set of blue doors stood classmates who had barricaded themselves inside, protesting what they said was a racist culture that Fieldston’s leaders had not done enough to reform.
    By Monday night, some students were curled up in sleeping bags. On Tuesday, they were occupying the building for a second day as the head of their school was in crisis mode, trying to work with students and parents to end the lock-in.
    Tensions at the school’s sprawling Bronx campus had been building for weeks, after a video of students using the word “crack” followed by a racial epithet was shared among students and eventually seen by administrators. The video was created several years ago.

    The administrators sprang into action after viewing the clip. Of the five students in the video, one had withdrawn from school, the school said. Three others were disciplined, and one student, who appeared unconscious in the footage, was not. None of those four students has returned to classes.

    The head of the school, Jessica L. Bagby, scheduled meetings with students, parents and staff members in an effort to “create an enduring change in our school culture.”
    But that was not enough for many students.
    “I feel like our school can be a bit deceiving, because we do promote this mission of being dedicated to diversity, ethics, progressivism,” said Isabella Ali, a 17-year-old senior who helped organize the demonstration.
    “Clearly, that’s not a true reflection of who we are. If anything, these incidents are a true reflection of who we are,” she added, referring to the video.
    Fieldston, which has long prided itself on its progressive mission and experimental approach to combating racism, is now an epicenter of a citywide debate over how elite private schools, which serve mostly white and wealthy students, should handle race, class and prejudice. Fieldston’s tuition is just under $53,000 a year, though the school said it grants more than $14 million annually in financial aid.
    Brooklyn’s private Poly Prep Country Day School also was the site of protests this year, after a years-old video of students in blackface resurfaced in January.

    And on Monday, students at Sarah Lawrence College, a small liberal arts school a few miles north of Fieldston, held a sit-in to protest what they called a racist campus culture.
    Though some private schools have brought in anti-bias trainers and diversity officers in recent years, students of color have said they feel marginalized and misunderstood by peers and teachers. Fieldston is more diverse than many private schools: About 40 percent of its roughly 1,400 prekindergarten through 12th-grade students are not white.
    The school is “really unwelcoming a lot of the time” to students of color, Chassidy Titley, a 16-year-old junior, said.
    “We are often given obstacles where we are put into classes filled with only white teachers and white students.”
    Naomi Habtu, also a 16-year-old junior, said she resented only being required to take European and American history classes. “I applied because of the name Ethical Culture,” she said.
    But, she said, the emergence of the video showed “how the school is straying more and more from that mission.”
    Student organizers posted a list of demands on the building’s doors and online, seeking written apologies from the classmates involved in the video; a mandatory black studies course for high school students; and two students’ attendance at board of trustees meetings, among other requests.

    They said the lock-in would continue until some of those demands were met.
    Ms. Bagby said on Tuesday afternoon that she wanted to stop communicating via email with the students and instead meet face to face. She also called a mandatory meeting for the parents of students who were planning to sleep at the school on Tuesday night.
    The protest, which started around dawn on Monday, was organized by a group calling itself Students of Color Matter. It grew as other children skipped classes and joined in.

    By midafternoon, protesting students lined the hallways and stairways of the so-called administration building. When a teacher tried to enter, he found it barricaded.
    By early Tuesday, dozens of teenagers said they were at a whiteboard, creating a plan for a second day of the sit-in.
    Several parents have joined the lock-in during the day. In an email sent to families on Monday, Ms. Bagby said she did not think it was “appropriate for parents, regardless of their position on this matter, to engage with students participating in the sit-in or choosing not to do so.”
    On Tuesday she sent another email, writing that the conflict arose “out of multi-year racial trauma our students have experienced while at our school. My colleagues and I could not be more profoundly sorry for this reality, which we fully recognize has weighed on the minds, hearts, and spirits of our students of color and their families for years.”

    “We unequivocally honor students’ right to protest,” she added. “We must also provide for the rights of their peers to attend class.”

    The demonstration is strikingly similar to a protest organized by Fieldston students in 1970. In March of that year, a group of mostly black high school students barricaded themselves in a building and called on the administration to hire more black teachers and staff members, and integrate black studies into the curriculum.
    “We don’t want any more nice chats with the administration, we’ve had plenty of those,” said Mary Bassett, then a high school senior who went on to become Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first Health Department commissioner.


    11) Chelsea Manning Jailed Again
    By Barry Sheppard, March 12, 2019

    Chelsea Manning, a transgender U.S. soldier who blew the whistle on U.S. war crimes, and spent 2013 to 2017 in an army stockade as a result, is back in prison again.
    This time because she refuses to join a bipartisan campaign against WikiLeaksthat seeks to bring Julian Assange from his refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to the U.S. in order to put him on trial and send him to prison.
    In 2010, she leaked hundreds-of-thousands of documents about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She first tried to get mainstream media to publish them, to no avail, before turning to WikiLeaks, which did publish them.
    One of these was a video, shown on TV at the time. The video was taken by U.S. soldiers aboard a helicopter gunship as they machine-gunned Iraqi civilians in the street as they attempted to flee. The soldiers joked and laughed while they committed murder.
    Daniel Ellsberg, who released the secret Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War that documented the long campaign Washington engaged against Vietnam from the end of WWII through the Vietnam War itself, said recently on Democracy Now!
    “She also revealed massive, widespread torture being conducted by our Iraqi allies, with our knowledge and complicity, going from George W. Bush on into President Obama’s term.
    “So there is a lot of resentment against her in the intelligence community and the Army about the shameful things she revealed. Also assassination squads, death squads, corruption in general.”
    Manning is in prison once again for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaksand its founder, Julian Assange. She was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors to appear for questioning about her 2010 leak to WikiLeaks, and jailed for contempt for refusing to do so. In 2010 she testified that she acted alone (on record if the prosecutors really want to know,) and now stands by that.
    Journalist Glenn Greenwald said on Democracy Now!
    “I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that Chelsea Manning is extraordinarily heroic. She has demonstrated that repeatedly over the last decade in all kinds of ways. But what she’s doing here is really remarkable, because the context is that the Trump administration is trying to do what the Obama administration tried to do but concluded it couldn’t do without jeopardizing press freedoms, which is to prosecute WikiLeaksand Julian Assange for what it regards as the crime of publishing top secret or classified documents.”
    He added: 
    “The Obama administration tried to create theories to say that WikiLeaksdid more than passively receive documents from Chelsea Manning and then publish them…. The Justice Department under Obama, searched high and low for evidence that WikiLeaks participated in Chelsea Manning’s taking of those documents. They found no evidence….
    “And unfortunately, between the Republicans, who have long hated WikiLeaksfor exposing the war crimes of the Bush administration and Democrats, who now hate WikiLeaksbecause they published documents that reflected poorly on Hilary Clinton and the Democratic Party, very few people are willing to stand up to this very serious attack on press freedom.”
    The latter refers to WikiLeakspublishing Democratic National Committee documents that exposed Clinton’s and the DNC’s dirty tricks to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016. That is, WikiLeakspublished the truth. But the Democrats are joining the Trump administration in going after WikiLeaksfor a deeper reason—the whole U.S. government operates behind a vast wall of secrecy, and hates it when they are exposed for their crimes.
    In 2017, then head of the CIA Mike Pompeo, who is now Secretary of State, charged that: 
    WikiLeakswalks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service and has encouraged its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence. It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information…. It’s time to call out WikiLeaksfor what it is: a nonstate, hostile intelligence service….”
    That’s what the federal prosecutors are now trying to substantiate to criminalize WikiLeaksand jail Assange. Chelsea Manning won’t go along with this, and is sitting in jail, with nary a squeak of protest by Democrats.  
    —March 12, 2019



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