Painting by Kevin Cooper, an innocent man on San Quentin's death row. www.freekevincooper.org

Decarcerate Louisiana

Declaration of Undersigned Prisoners 
We, the undersigned persons, committed to the care and custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections (LDOC), hereby submit the following declaration and petition bearing witness to inhumane conditions of solitary confinement in the N-1 building at the David Wade Corrections Center (DWCC). 
Our Complaint:
We, the Undersigned Persons, declare under penalty of perjury: 
1.    We, the undersigned, are currently housed in the N-1 building at DWCC, 670 Bell Hill Road, Homer, LA 71040. 
2.    We are aware that the Constitution, under the 8th Amendment, bans cruel and unusual punishments; the Amendment also imposes duties on prison officials who must provide humane conditions of confinement and ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and must take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates. 
3.    We are aware that Louisiana prison officials have sworn by LSA-R.S.15:828 to provide humane treatment and rehabilitation to persons committed to its care and to direct efforts to return every person in its custody to the community as promptly as practicable. 
4.    We are confined in a double-bunked six-by-nine foot or 54 square feet cell with another human being 22-hours-a-day and are compelled to endure the degrading experience of being in close proximity of another human being while defecating. 
5.    There are no educational or rehabilitation programs for the majority of prisoners confined in the N-1 building except for a selected few inmates who are soon to be released. 
6.    We get one hour and 30 minutes on the yard and/or gym seven days a week. Each day we walk to the kitchen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which takes about one minute to get there. We are given ten minutes to eat. 
7.    The daily planner for inmates confined in the N-1 building is to provide inmates one hour and 30 minutes on yard or gym; escort inmates to kitchen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to sit and eat for approximately ten minutes each meal; provide a ten minute shower for each cell every day; provide one ten minute phone call per week; confine prisoners in cell 22-hours-a-day. 
8.    When we are taking a shower we are threatened by guards with disciplinary reports if we are not out on time. A typical order is: “if you are not out of shower in ten minutes pack your shit and I’m sending you back to N-2, N-3, or N-4”—a more punitive form of solitary confinement. 
9.    When walking outside to yard, gym or kitchen, guards order us to put our hands behind our back or they’ll write us up and send us back to N-2, N-3, N-4. 
10.  When we are sitting at the table eating, guards order us not to talk or they’ll write us up and send us back to N-2, N-3, N-4. ) 
11.  Guards are harassing us every day and are threatening to write up disciplinary reports and send us back to a more punitive cellblock (N-2, N-3, N-4) if we question any arbitrary use of authority or even voice an opinion in opposition to the status quo. Also, guards take away good time credits, phone, TV, radio, canteen, and contact visits for talking too loud or not having hands behind back or for any reason they want. We are also threatened with slave labor discipline including isolation (removing mattress from cell from 5:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.,) strip cell (removing mattress and bedding and stationery from cell for ten to 30 days or longer), food loaf  (taking one’s meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and mixing it all together into one big mass, bake it in oven and serve it to prisoners for punishment.)
12.  When prison guards write up disciplinary reports and transfer us to the more punitive restrictive solitary confinement in N-2, N-3, N-4 or N-5, guards then enforce an arbitrary rule that gives prisoners the ultimatum of sending all their books and personal property home or let the prison dispose of it. 
13.  Louisiana prison officials charge indigent prisoners (who earn less than four cents an hour) $3.00 for routine requests for healthcare services, $6.00 for emergency medical requests, and $2.00 for each new medical prescription. They wait until our family and friends send us money and take it to pay prisoners’ medical bills. 
Our concerns:
14.  How much public monies are appropriated to the LDOC budget and specifically allotted to provide humane treatment and implement the rehabilitation program pursuant to LSA- R.S.15:828? 
15.  Why does Elayn Hunt Correctional Center located in the capitol of Louisiana have so many educational and rehabilitation programs teaching prisoners job and life skills for reentry whereas there are no such programs to engage the majority of prisoners confined in the N-1, N- 2, N-3, and N-4 solitary confinement buildings at DWCC. 
16.  It is customary for Louisiana prison officials and DWCC prison guards to tell inmates confined in the prison’s cellblocks to wait until transfer to prison dormitory to participate in programs when in fact there are no such programs available and ready to engage the majority of the state’s 34,000 prisoner population. The programs are especially needed for prisoners confined in a six-by-nine foot or 54 square feet cell with another person for 22-or-more-hours-per-day. 
17.  Why can’t prisoners use phone and computers every day to communicate with family and peers as part of rehabilitation and staying connected to the community? 
18.  Why do prisoners have to be transferred miles and miles away from loved ones to remote correctional facilities when there are facilities closer to loved ones? 
19.  Why are prison guards allowed to treat prisoners as chattel slaves, confined in cages 22-or-more-hours-per-day, take away phone calls and visitation and canteen at will, and take away earned good time credits for any reason at all without input from family, one’s peers and community? 
20.  Why do the outside communities allow prison guards to create hostile living environments and conditions of confinement that leaves prisoners in a state of chattel slavery, stress, anxiety, anger, rage, inner torment, despair, worry, and in a worse condition from when we first entered the prison? 
21.  Why do state governments and/or peers in the community allow racist or bigoted white families who reside in the rural and country parts of Louisiana to run the state’s corrections system with impunity? For example, DWCC Warden Jerry Goodwin institutes racist and bigoted corrections policies and practices for the very purpose of oppression, repression, antagonizing and dehumanizing the inmates who will one day be released from prison. 
22.  David Wade Correctional Center Colonel Lonnie Nail, a bigot and a racist, takes his orders from Warden Jerry Goodwin, another racist and bigot. Both Goodwin and Nail influences subordinate corrections officers to act toward prisoners in a racist or bigoted manner and with an arrogant attitude. This creates a hostile living environment and debilitating conditions of confinement for both guards and prisoners and prevents rehabilitation of inmates.
23.  In other industrialized democracies like Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, et al, it is reported that no prisoner should be declared beyond reform or redemption without first attempting to rehabilitate them. Punitive or harsh conditions of confinement are not supported because they see the loss of freedom inherent in a prison sentence as punishment enough. One Netherlands official reported that their motto is to start with the idea of “Reintegration back into society on day one” when people are locked up. “You can’t make an honest argument that how someone is treated while incarcerated doesn’t affect how they behave when they get out,” the official added. 
24.  Additionally, some Scandinavian countries have adopted open prison programs without fences or armed guards. Prisoners who prove by their conduct that they can be trusted are placed in a prison resembling a college campus more than a prison. The result is a 20 percent recidivism rate, compared to a 67 percent rate in the United States. 
25.  The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) in a position statement says: “Prolonged (greater than 15 consecutive days) solitary confinement is cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and harmful to an individual’s health.”
 What We Believe: 
26.  We believe that when the greater portion of public monies goes to war and the military, this leaves little funds left for community reinvestment and human development.The people have less access to resources by which to get a better idea of human behavior and rely on higher education instead of prison to solve cultural, social, political, economic problems in the system that may put people at risk to domestic violence and crime as a way to survive and cope with shortcomings in the system. 
27.  We believe that investing public monies in the rehabilitation program LSA-R.S.15:828 to teach prisoners job and life skills will redeem inmates, instill morals, and make incarcerated people productive and fit for society. 
28.  We believe that confining inmates in cellblocks 15-or-more=hours-per-day is immoral, uncivilized, brutalizing, a waste of time and counter-productive to rehabilitation and society’s goals of “promoting the general welfare” and “providing a more perfect union with justice for all.” 
29.  We believe that corrections officers who prove by their actions that incarcerated people are nothing more than chattel slaves are bucking the laws and creating hardening criminals and these corrections officers are, therefore, a menace to society. 
Our Demands:
30.  We are demanding a public conversation from community activists and civil rights leaders about (1) the historic relationship between chattel slavery, the retaliatory assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the resurrection of slavery written into the 13th Amendment; (2) the historic relationship between the 13th Amendment, the backlash against Reconstruction, Peonage, Convict Leasing, and Slavery; (3) the historic relationship between the 13th Amendment, the War Against Poverty, the War on Drugs, Criminal Justice and Prison Slavery. 
31.  We demand that the Louisiana legislature pass the Decarcerate Louisiana Anti-Slavery and Freedom Liberation Act of 2020 into law and end prison slavery and the warehousing of incarcerated people for the very purpose of repression, oppression, and using prisoners and their families and supporters as a profit center for corporate exploitation and to generate revenue to balance the budget and stimulate the state economy. 
32.  We are demanding that Warden Jerry Goodwin and Colonel Lonnie Nail step down and be replaced by people are deemed excellent public servants in good standing with human rights watchdog groups and civil rights community. 
33.  We are demanding that the LDOC provide public monies to operate state prison dormitories and cellblocks as rehabilitation centers to teach incarcerated people job and life skills five-days-a-week from 7:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. 
34.  We are demanding that the LDOC release a public statement announcing that “from this day forward it will not support punitive or harsh conditions of confinement,” and that “no prisoner should be declared beyond reform or redemption without first attempting to rehabilitate them.”
35.  We are demanding that the prison cellblocks be operated as open dormitories (made in part a health clinic and part college campus) so that incarcerated people can have enough space to walk around and socialize, participate in class studies, exercise, use telephone as the need arise. Prisoners are already punished by incarceration so there is no need to punish or further isolate them. Racism and abuse of power will not be tolerated. 
36.  We are demanding an end to unjust policies and practices that impose punishments and deprive incarcerated people of phone calls, visitation, canteen, good time credits, books and other personal property that pose no threat to public safety. 
37.  We are demanding that LDOC provide incarcerated people cellphones and computers to communicate with the public and stay connected to the community. 
38.  We are demanding the right to communicate with reporters to aid and assist incarcerated persons in preparing a press release to communicate to the public Decarcerate Louisiana’s vision and mission statements, aims, and plans for moving forward. 
39.  We are demanding the right to participate in the U.S.-European Criminal Justice Innovation Project and share our complaint, concerns, and demands for a humane corrections program. 
40.  We are only demanding the right to enough space to create, to innovate, to excel in learning, to use scientific knowledge to improve our person and place and standing in the free world. The rule of law must support the betterment and uplifting of all humanity. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” 
41.  We demand that the responsibility for prisoner medical care be removed from DOC wardens and place it under the management of the state’s health office; increase state health officer staff to better monitor prisoner healthcare and oversee vendor contracts. 
42.  We have a God-given right and responsibility to resist abuse of power from the wrongdoers, to confront unjust authority and oppression, to battle for justice until we achieve our demands for liberation and freedom. 
We, the undersigned, declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. 
Executed on this 28th Day of January 2019. 
Ronald Brooks #385964 
David Johnson #84970 
Freddie Williams #598701 
Earl Hollins #729041 
James Harris #399514 
Tyrone Carter #550354 
Kerry Carter #392013 
Ivo Richardson #317371 
Rondrikus Fulton #354313 
Kentell Simmons #601717 
Jayvonte Pines #470985 
Deandre Miles #629008 
Kenneth P. #340729 
Brandon Ceaser #421453 
Tyronne Ward #330964 
Jermaine Atkins #448421 
Charles Rodgers #320513 
Steve Givens #557854 
Timothy Alfred #502378 
—wsimg.com, January 2019



ANSWER Coalition

Venezuelan Embassy stands strong

Activist-tenants vow to resist illegal eviction

Embassy is owned by Government of Venezuela and protected by international law
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People from all over the United States came to Washington, D.C. and joined together last night at the Venezuelan Embassy in a powerful demonstration of solidarity with the people of Venezuela. While banners were hung from outside the windows of the Embassy, people held a night of political education and tactical discussions. The ongoing Embassy Protection Collective continues to prevent the U.S. government from illegally seizing the Embassy of Venezuela in Washington, D.C.
The Embassy building, located in Georgetown, is owned by the Venezuelan government and is a protected international compound by the Vienna Conventions. Progressive activists have been working and living inside the Embassy as invited guests for weeks.
The Embassy Protection Collective was initiated by CODEPINK and Popular Resistance, and the ANSWER Coalition has been mobilizing support for this effort in Washington and around the country. Many ANSWER volunteers and organizers are inside the Embassy.
"The people inside this Embassy are here at the invitation of its lawful owner, the Government of Venezuela," said ANSWER's National Director Brian Becker. "The Trump administration is acting as the world's number one international pirate as it seizes Venezuelan assets, properties and diplomatic compounds. In pure colonial fashion, U.S. and European entities have grabbed hold of Venezuela's oil revenue, gold reserves and bank accounts — while openly championing the Monroe Doctrine. We are joining with the people of the world to declare that the days of the Monroe Doctrine are over."
Becker continued, "Any action to evict the Embassy's current tenant guests by the MPD, Secret Service or other police agencies would be an illegal and unlawful arrest under both D.C. and international law. What we are doing here in this Embassy is not an act of civil disobedience. International law and D.C. law are on our side. The violator of these laws — the criminal in this case — is none other than the Trump White House and the U.S. State Department."
A letter was sent last night from the Embassy Protection Collective, with the assistance of lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, to the U.S. State Department: 
Members of the Embassy Protection Collective are writing to make it expressly clear and ensure all personnel are put on notice that any arrest of persons inside the embassy would constitute an unlawful arrest. We understand from our communications with your office that you are threatening to arrest persons inside the Venezuelan embassy.
Not only are we here at the invitation of persons lawfully in charge of the premises but we are also here as people with lawful rights under Washington, DC tenancy law.
It is our intention to hold responsible any person who orders or effectuates any unlawful actions against us.
We have received no eviction notice and due process opportunity to challenge any attempted eviction as is required by law.
[VIDEO: Eyewitness Venezuela Webinar. If you missed Saturday's informative webinar with anti-war leaders and journalists, or want to re-watch it, the whole thing has been posted here. Please share with friends and family to get out the truth about Venezuela!]
Please make a donation to support the anti-war movement's ongoing work to stop the Trump administration's regime change effort against Venezuela.
Here is the address to the Venezuelan Embassy:
Embassy of Venezuela
1099 30th St NW
Washington, DC 20007
United States
Google map and directions

ANSWER Coalition
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New Prison and Jail Population Figures Released by U.S. Department of Justice

By yearend 2017, the United States prison population had declined by 7.3% since reaching its peak level in 2009, according to new data released by the Department of Justice. The prison population decreases are heavily influenced by a handful of states that have reduced their populations by 30% or more in recent years. However, as of yearend 2017 more than half the states were still experiencing increases in their populations or rates of decline only in the single digits. 
Analysis of the new data by The Sentencing Project reveals that: 
  • The United States remains as the world leader in its rate of incarceration, locking up its citizens at 5-10 times the rate of other industrialized nations. At the current rate of decline it will take 75 years to cut the prison population by 50%.
  • The population serving life sentences is now at a record high. One of every seven individuals in prison – 206,000 – is serving life.
  • Six states have reduced their prison populations by at least 30% over the past two decades – Alaska, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.  
  • The rate of women's incarceration has been rising at a faster rate than men's since the 1980s, and declines in recent years have been slower than among men.
  • Racial disparities in women's incarceration have changed dramatically since the start of the century. Black women were incarcerated at 6 times the rate of white women in 2000, while the 2017 figure is now 1.8 times that rate. These changes have been a function of both a declining number of black women in prison and a rising number of white women. For Hispanic women, the ratio has changed from 1.6 times that of white women in 2000 to 1.4 times in 2017. 
The declines in prison and jail populations reported by the Department of Justice today are encouraging, but still fall far short of what is necessary for meaningful criminal justice reform. In order to take the next step in ending mass incarceration policymakers will need to scale back excessive sentencing for all offenses, a key factor which distinguishes the U.S. from other nations. 

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[Note: China's population is 1,419,147,756* as of April 26, 2019 with 1,649,804 in prison***; while the population of the USA is 328,792,291 as of April 27, 2019** with 2,121,600 in prison.*** 



"This is a people's victory"  Pam Africa.

Who would ever think that we would see this headline, in our lifetime.  This is the press release up on the Philadelphia District Attorney's website posted minutes ago.

The path to freedom is going to be hard and long, but we are on it.  When We Fight, We Win,
Noelle Hanrahan, P.I. Prison Radio

Mumia Abu-Jamal

See below: 

Statement: Philadelphia District Attorney's Office withdraws appeal in Mumia Abu-Jamal case 

Contact: Ben Waxman
PHILADELPHIA (April 17th, 2019) — Today the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office withdrew its recent appeal of an opinion granting a re-hearing of some previously decided issues in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We withdrew the appeal because the opinion we appealed has been modified consistent with our primary concern — -that ruling's effect on many other cases.
By way of background, Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of the murder of a young police officer, Daniel Faulkner, that occurred on December 9, 1981. Even after Maureen Faulkner, the wife of the victim, chose not to continue seeking the death penalty several years ago in hopes of closure, the case has evoked polarizing rhetoric and continues to assume a symbolic importance for many that is distinct from the factual and often technical legal issues involved in the case.
The technical issue at stake here is simply whether or not some decided issues need to be re-heard by a Pennsylvania appellate court due to one former judge's having worn two hats — -the hat of an apparently impartial appellate judge deciding Abu-Jamal's case after he earlier wore the hat of a chief prosecutor in the same case. Although the issue is technical, it is also an important cautionary tale on the systemic problems that flow from a judge's failing to recuse where there is an appearance of bias.
Justice Castille did not recuse himself before deciding appeals in the Abu-Jamal case and several others, including the Williams case. In the Williams case, the United States Supreme Court decided that Castille should have recused himself because of the role he took as a chief prosecutor in Mr. Williams's matter. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that Mr. Williams's appeal be re-heard by the Pennsylvania appeals judges, without the taint of Castille's participation.
A similar question of Castille's role exists in the Abu-Jamal case. In order to help resolve it, our Office exhaustively searched hundreds of file boxes in relation to the Mumia Abu-Jamal matter, including six previously undisclosed boxes (now turned over to the defense, as required by law). While we did not find any document establishing the same level of involvement by Castille in the Abu-Jamal case as in the Williams case, we did find (and turned over) a June, 1990 letter from then-District Attorney Castille to then-Governor Robert Casey, urging that the Governor issue death warrants, especially in cases involving people who have killed police, in order to "send a clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty actually means something." Although the letter does not mention Mr. Abu-Jamal or his case by name, at the time Justice Castille wrote to Governor Casey, there were only three cases involving people who had been convicted of killing police that were pending. One was Mr. Abu-Jamal's.
In the end, the trial-level judge considering this issue wrote an opinion that agreed with us that these indications of strong feelings on the part of Justice Castille did not rise to the level of the direct and active involvement Justice Castille took in the Williams case but went further, deciding there should be a re-hearing of Abu-Jamal's decided issues anyway, based on more general principles of judges needing to recuse to avoid the appearance of bias.
We appealed, making it extremely clear in our court papers that our primary concern was with the overly broad language of the opinion and its potentially devastating effect on hundreds of long settled cases, decades after their cases were resolved, including its hurtful effect on victims and survivors. We highlighted our concern with the overly broad language of that opinion in five specific respects and specifically noted that we would re-consider appealing if the trial-level court issued another decision addressing the concerns we raised.
Although the judge was not required to do so, on March 27 he issued another decision that addressed the concerns we raised. The judge made clear that his opinion should not be read to mean that several hundreds of cases were disturbed — -it should be applied only to people convicted of killing police officers whose cases were in the District Attorney's Office while Castille was District Attorney (the category of cases Castille highlighted in his June 1990 letter to Casey). Given that the trial-level court has now addressed the concerns that led us to appeal in the first place, we have withdrawn the appeal.
Our decision to withdraw the appeal does not mean Mr. Abu-Jamal will be freed or get a new trial. It means that he will have the appeals that Justice Castille participated in deciding reconsidered by a new group of appellate court judges, untainted by former Chief Justice Castille participating in their decision. The trial-level judge has ordered the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the defense to re-submit the legal briefs done in the past (which were written under prior administrations), effectively setting the clock back to where it was in the past.
The result will be that long-settled convictions in other cases will not be disturbed and that decisions made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the legal issues raised decades ago in the Abu-Jamal matter will no longer be tainted by the appearance of bias.  ===========end press release====================
Cuando luchamos, ganamos. When We fight, we win. 

Noelle Hanrahan
Director, Prison Radio
To give by check: 
PO Box 411074
San Francisco, CA

Stock or legacy gifts:
Noelle Hanrahan



Funds for Kevin Cooper


For 34 years, an innocent man has been on death row in California. 

Kevin Cooper was wrongfully convicted of the brutal 1983 murders of the Ryen family and houseguest. The case has a long history of police and prosecutorial misconduct, evidence tampering, and numerous constitutional violations including many incidences of the prosecution withholding evidence of innocence from the defense. You can learn more here . 

In December 2018 Gov. Brown ordered  limited DNA testing and in February 2019, Gov. Newsom ordered additional DNA testing. Meanwhile, Kevin remains on Death Row at San Quentin Prison. 

The funds raised will be used to help Kevin purchase art supplies for his paintings . Additionally, being in prison is expensive, and this money would help Kevin pay for stamps, paper, toiletries, supplementary food, and/or phone calls.

Please help ease the daily struggle of an innocent man on death row!



Don't extradite Assange!

To the government of the UK
Julian Assange, through Wikileaks, has done the world a great service in documenting American war crimes, its spying on allies and other dirty secrets of the world's most powerful regimes, organisations and corporations. This has not endeared him to the American deep state. Both Obama, Clinton and Trump have declared that arresting Julian Assange should be a priority. We have recently received confirmation [1] that he has been charged in secret so as to have him extradited to the USA as soon as he can be arrested. 
Assange's persecution, the persecution of a publisher for publishing information [2] that was truthful and clearly in the interest of the public - and which has been republished in major newspapers around the world - is a danger to freedom of the press everywhere, especially as the USA is asserting a right to arrest and try a non-American who neither is nor was then on American soil. The sentence is already clear: if not the death penalty then life in a supermax prison and ill treatment like Chelsea Manning. The very extradition of Julian Assange to the United States would at the same time mean the final death of freedom of the press in the West. 
The courageous nation of Ecuador has offered Assange political asylum within its London embassy for several years until now. However, under pressure by the USA, the new government has made it clear that they want to drive Assange out of the embassy and into the arms of the waiting police as soon as possible. They have already curtailed his internet and his visitors and turned the heating off, leaving him freezing in a desolate state for the past few months and leading to the rapid decline of his health, breaching UK obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights. Therefore, our demand both to the government of Ecuador and the government of the UK is: don't extradite Assange to the US! Guarantee his human rights, make his stay at the embassy as bearable as possible and enable him to leave the embassy towards a secure country as soon as there are guarantees not to arrest and extradite him. Furthermore, we, as EU voters, encourage European nations to take proactive steps to protect a journalist in danger. The world is still watching.
[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/us/politics/julian-assange-indictment-wikileaks.html
[2] https://theintercept.com/2018/11/16/as-the-obama-doj-concluded-prosecution-of-julian-assange-for-publishing-documents-poses-grave-threats-to-press-freedom/



Chelsea Manning denied release from jail

chelsea manning
Yesterday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to keep Chelsea Manning jailed for contempt of court. Chelsea has been jailed since March 8th for refusing to collaborate with the grand jury investigating Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. "While disappointing, we can still raise issues as the government continues to abuse the grand jury process. I don't have anything to contribute to this, or any other grand jury. While I miss home, they can continue to hold me in jail, with all the harmful consequences that brings. I will not give up. Thank you all so very much for your love and solidarity through letters and contributions," shared Chelsea. She faces another 16.5 months in jail. Donate to Chelsea's legal defense here. Write her a letter at: Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, A0181426, William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center, 2001 Mill Road, Alexandria, VA 22314.

484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist



How to buy a gun in the U.S. and New Zeland:

New Zealand to Ban Military-Style Semiautomatic Guns, Jacinda Ardern Says
By Damien Cave and Charlotte Graham-McLay, March 20, 2019













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
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist


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.



Updates from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Justice for Rasmea Odeh! Justice for Palestine!

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression strongly supports Rasmea Odeh's right to speak in Berlin about the Palestinian liberation struggle. We stand with the many other organizations who condemn the German, Israeli, and U.S. governments' attacks on Rasmea and their attempts to silence her by revoking her visa and prohibiting her from political activity (see article about the March 15 incident).

The actions of these governments blatantly reflect their racist anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim views. But we want to draw attention to the underlying reason for their targeting of Rasmea. The attack on her right to speak is deeply tied to U.S. and German support for the Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism in Palestine. Moreover, the attack on Rasmea reflects these countries' imperialist strategies for control of the Middle East. By the same token, these governments are clearly acting out of fear - fear that when Palestinian women and activists like Rasmea speak up, it chips away at such countries' grasp on Palestine and the surrounding region.

The attacks on Rasmea and Palestine also relate to political repression taking place across the globe. Germany, the U.S. and Israel are attempting to silence Rasmea for the same fundamental reasons that the Duterte government has murdered and attacked activists and human rights defenders in the Philippines; that the U.S. government is trying to forcibly install a new government in Venezuela; and that the NYPD's Strategic Response Group is surveilling and harassing leaders and activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. The imperialists who are in power are clearly afraid that people like Rasmea might inspire others to rise up and fight back against the racist and oppressive system in place.

We want to send a message to these imperialist powers, to say that fighting back is exactly what we plan to do. It is imperative that we fight back against this unjust system that tries to silence Palestinian women like Rasmea. We demand that Rasmea Odeh be permitted to speak in Germany, and we demand an end to state repression against all Muslim women, and all Palestinians who have boldly raised their voices against the imperialist and colonialist powers that are oppressing people across the world.

Activists are not terrorists! We stand in solidarity with Rasmea and all Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation.

-- NYC Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Copyright © 2019 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!

Our mailing address is:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
PO Box 14183
MinneapolisMN  55414

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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







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!





    1) Texas to Execute White Supremacist for 1998 Dragging Death of James Byrd Jr.
    By Campbell Robertson, April 24, 2019

    Louvon Harris with a photo of her brother James Byrd Jr., who was murdered by white supremacists in 1998.CreditCreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times

    On Wednesday evening around 6 p.m., Louvon Harris will be in Huntsville, Tex., about 70 miles north of Houston, for an appointment. She will sit and listen to the words, if any, from the man who tortured and killed her oldest brother over two decades ago in an act of unfathomable racist brutality. Then she will watch the State of Texas put him to death.
    "He's not going through any pain," Ms. Harris said of the man she is to watch die. "He's not chained and bound and dragged on a concrete road, swinging back and forth like a sack of potatoes, with an arm coming off and being decapitated or nothing like that."
    "When you look at it at that angle," she continued, "I don't have sympathy."

    The man set to be executed is John William King, 44, sentenced to die for his role in the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr. in the East Texas town of Jasper.

    Mr. King and two other white men attacked Mr. Byrd, a 49-year-old black man who had been offered a late-night ride home in a perverted gesture of neighborliness. The men beat him, spray-painted his face, chained him to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death on an isolated back road. The motive seemed shockingly clear-cut: Mr. King had come out of a stint in prison a committed white supremacist, his body a billboard of racist tattoos, including one depicting a black man hanged in a noose.

    Less than a year after the killing, Mr. King became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person. This was a troubling milestone given that, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, 344 black people were lynched in the 73 years after Reconstruction, a tally that includes only documented lynchings and stops in 1950.
    There have been several other such death sentences in Texas since, including one handed down to an accomplice in the killing, Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed in 2011. But Mr. King was the first.
    This has been on Ms. Harris's mind.
    "When you think about so many others that had to bury a loved one because of hate and didn't get justice at all," she said, talking of calls she has received from people with their own stories of racial mistreatment that were never addressed. "It's heartbreaking."

    The murder of Mr. Byrd led Texas to pass the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in 2001, strengthening punishments for crimes motivated by bigotry. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed into federal law, broadening the ability of the federal government to prosecute hate crimes. The legacies of the murder also include the Byrd Foundation, begun by Mr. Byrd's siblings to "promote racial healing and cultural diversity through education."
    But there is the broad campaign for racial justice, and there is justice in this specific case.
    The execution on Wednesday will be the last discrete punitive act by the state in response to Mr. Byrd's murder, beyond the day to day incarceration of Shawn Allen Berry, the third man involved in the killing, who is not up for parole until 2038.
    For some in Jasper, the execution is a resolution long sought, most likely the last time journalists will pour into town for interviews. The past 21 years have been painful for the town.
    "The majority of the people have been doing everything they can to forget it already," said Billy Rowles, who was sheriff of Jasper County when the killing happened. He is now the sheriff of neighboring Newton County, though he remains close to members of the Byrd family. It is clearly harder for someone like Mr. Rowles to move on than it is for some others. He believes the execution will be good for him and others close to the investigation, particularly the family members. Like Ms. Harris, he is planning on going to Huntsville, where the state's execution chamber is. But, he said, he wasn't going inside.

    "I've seen people die before," he said. "I've had that opportunity and I'm not going to do that. But I am going to go over and make sure it gets done. And even drink an adult beverage."
    But closure, a word as easy to say as it is difficult to realize, is not something Ms. Harris is expecting. She did not find it when she attended the execution of Mr. Brewer, who, after a last meal so plentiful that it put an end to last meal requests in Texas, made no statement of remorse, even telling a journalist beforehand that he would "do it all over again."

    The execution "doesn't change the fact that hate still exists in society," Ms. Harris said.
    It will not give the last 21 years back to Mr. Byrd, she said. It will not take away the 21 years Mr. King has been "still alive and breathing," corresponding with fans and pushing appeals in court.
    "It's not completely healing," she said. "It's just finding justice."
    And so she and two of her sisters are going.
    Another sister, Betty Boatner, who still lives in Jasper and takes care of their aging father, will not be joining them. She was scheduled to speak at a vigil in town on Wednesday, as she had in 2011 when Mr. Brewer was executed. But she has a sore throat, she said. She'll probably just stay in that night and get some rest.
    "I really haven't sat and thought about it, how it would make me feel," she said on Tuesday morning. She had forgiven her brother's killers a long time ago, she said. It still hurts, of course. And she does not object to the execution on Wednesday. It is what the jury decided, and that is the law. But what the justice system decides and what she seeks, these are two separate things.
    "I've been moving on by the grace of God, and whatever the state says that he deserves, the state has a right to make that decision," she said. "It is what it is."


    2) Karina Vetrano's Killer Is Sentenced to Life, but Maintains 'I Didn't Do This'
    Chanel Lewis had confessed to beating Ms. Vetrano, and traces of his DNA were found on her body.
    By Sean Piccoli, April 23, 2019

    Chanel Lewis, center, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for the murder of a Queens jogger, Karina Vetrano.CreditCreditPool photo by Charles Eckert

    A Brooklyn man was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison without chance of parole for the sexual assault and murder of Karina Vetrano, who was attacked as she jogged through a park near her home in Queens in 2016.
    Chanel Lewis, 22, was found guilty this month after a second trial. His first trial ended in a hung jury
    Justice Michael B. Aloise told Mr. Lewis that if he ever planned to atone for his crime, "You're going to do it inside a cage."

    Before he was sentenced, Mr. Lewis listened to a series of wrenching statements from Ms. Vetrano's father, mother and two siblings. When his turn to speak came, he said: "I'm innocent. I'm sorry for the family's loss, but I didn't do this."

    Mr. Lewis had confessed to beating Ms. Vetrano, and traces of his DNA were discovered on her neck and cellphone when her body was found on an overgrown path in Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach. His lawyers argued that the confession had been coerced and that the DNA evidence was unreliable.

    The killing of Ms. Vetrano, 30, was one of the highest-profile cases in the city in recent years, and it set in motion a huge police manhunt. 
    The prosecution of Mr. Lewis also prompted a fierce debate on social media and in the courtroom, as some observers said the confession and DNA evidence were proof enough of his guilt, while others argued that prosecutors had the wrong person. 
    The two trials also dredged up questions about coerced confessions, racial profiling and the fallibility of the police — issues that have hung over New York City's criminal justice system for decades. During the investigation, the police sought DNA samples from 380 black men before they found a match in Mr. Lewis. 

    Mr. Lewis's lawyers intend to appeal, they said. His supporters said they plan to hold protests in Howard Beach, where they predicted Ms. Vetrano's true killer would be found.
    Two of Mr. Lewis's supporters, Kevin McCall and Chris Banks — who were arrested outside the Queens courthouse for deliberately blocking traffic — portrayed the conviction and sentence as another injustice against a wrongfully accused black man. 
    They shouted "Justice for Chanel!" in the courtroom as spectators filed out at the end of the sentencing, and afterward, Mr. McCall said Mr. Lewis had been "lynched" in a sentence imposed by a "racist" judge. 
    When the case's lead prosecutor, Brad Leventhal, walked out of the courthouse, Mr. Lewis's supporters jeered and chanted, "Shame on you."

    "I know that my son is innocent," Mr. Lewis's mother, Veta Lewis, said on the courthouse steps. 
    She also said, without evidence, that investigators "planted Chanel's DNA on that girl."
    In their statements to the judge, Ms. Vetrano's father, mother and two siblings remembered Karina Vetrano as a "light" in their lives and spoke of the terror she must have felt in her last moments alive. They asked Justice Aloise to impose the maximum sentence, and they savaged Mr. Lewis and his defense team.

    "You are unremarkable, insignificant," Ms. Vetrano's older sister, Tana Vetrano, told Mr. Lewis. "May you live a long life in darkness and in fear." 
    Ms. Vetrano's father, Philip Vetrano, said his own life effectively ended with the death of his daughter, whose body he discovered in tall weeds near a jogging trail on Aug. 2, 2016. He said that he, his wife and children "walk the earth as zombies, just waiting to die so we can be with Karina again."
    "Only my faith in God and belief in heaven keeps me from killing myself," Mr. Vetrano said.
    Ms. Vetrano's mother said Mr. Lewis was a clever and remorseless criminal, not the emotionally challenged young man portrayed by his defense team.
    "The vacant expression you show is mostly a reflection of your empty soul," she said.
    Justice Aloise, echoing the religious tone of some of the Vetrano family's remarks, said he believed that Ms. Vetrano now sat beside God and urged Mr. Lewis to "put into practice" the research into redemption and second chances that the police found on his cellphone's search history.
    He rejected the defense team's appeal for a lighter sentence in light of Mr. Lewis's mental and emotional difficulties. 
    After Tuesday's sentencing, the Legal Aid Society said in a statement announcing an appeal that while Ms. Vetrano's death was tragic, "every aspect of this case — from the police investigation to jury deliberations — was propelled by a desire to convict at all costs."

    One of Mr. Lewis's defense lawyers, Julia Burke, said she wasn't surprised by the Vetrano family's criticism. "This case was emotionally charged," Ms. Burke said. "I agree with the judge that this was a loss for both families."
    At his second trial this month, a different jury took only five hours of deliberation to find Mr. Lewis guilty of first-degree murder, two second-degree murder counts and first-degree sexual abuse. 
    But one juror, Christopher Gooley, afterward accused others on the panel of misconduct in their rush to convict Mr. Lewis, leading to an extraordinary post-trial hearing on Monday in which jurors themselves took the stand and defense lawyers asked for a retrial. Justice Aloise denied the request.
    The case has fanned old tensions in a part of the city that was once the scene of racial violence. It also linked two families living a few miles away from one another but worlds apart. 
    Mr. Lewis, a son of Jamaican immigrants, graduated from a high school for students with learning disabilities, and lived in East New York with his mother, a nursing home aide. In court on Tuesday, Ms. Burke, the defense lawyer, said Mr. Lewis's father, a retired schoolteacher, was now living in a nursing home and suffering from dementia.
    Ms. Vetrano, whose father is a retired firefighter, worked as a speech pathologist for autistic children, and lived with her parents in Howard Beach, a predominantly white neighborhood that is home to many city police and fire department employees. 
    During closing arguments, both mothers could be seen with articles of religious faith, Ms. Vetrano holding a small cross while Ms. Lewis sat on the opposite side quietly reading a Bible. Ms. Vetrano's family said Mr. Lewis would face God's vengeance; his supporters also cited their faith in divine intervention.
    "God is going to vindicate my son," Ms. Lewis said.


    3) E.P.A. Proposes Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Drinking Water
    By Eric Lipton and Julie Turkewitz, April 25, 2019

    PFAS foam in Oscoda Township, Mich., near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.CreditCreditJake May/The Flint Journal, via Associated Press
    WASHINGTON — After pressure from the Defense Department, the Environmental Protection Agency significantly weakened a proposed standard for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by toxic chemicals that contaminate drinking water consumed by millions of Americans and that have been commonly used at military bases.
    Standards released by the agency on Thursday eliminated entirely a section that would have addressed how it would respond to what it has described as "immediate threats posed by hazardous waste sites." Those short-term responses, known as removal actionscan includeexcavating contaminated soil or building a security fence around a toxic area.
    Exposure to the class of toxic chemicals, called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has been linked in recent years to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and ulcerative colitis, among other diseases. Animal studies also show delays in development.

    For decades, the substances, more commonly known as PFAS, have been placed in all kinds of everyday products — nonstick pans, clothing, furniture. They can also be found in firefighting foams used on military bases, on airfields and by municipal firefighters.

    The proposed guidelines — which will now be open for 45 days of public comment before they are completed — could have the largest effect on the Defense Department. The Pentagon has used PFAS-related chemicals extensively as a firefighting tool, and it has confirmed the release or the possible release of the chemicals at 401 locations nationwide, in some cases contaminating known drinking water supplies.
    Over the past year, the Pentagon objected to language the E.P.A. had proposed to set these so-called cleanup standards, bringing those concerns to the White House, which coordinates the review of major regulatory proposals.
    In the proposal, the E.P.A. had suggested a water contamination level that could incite immediate removal action. That level was 400 parts per trillion of two types of PFAS, a copy of the original proposal shows. That suggestion is now gone.
    The recommendations issued Thursday focus instead on longer-term remedial actions — which can take years — to address instances in which the government has confirmed that drinking water supplies have been contaminated.
    In those cases, the agency said it expected cleanup or other actions in areas where drinking water supplies have been contaminated with at least 70 parts per trillion of the chemicals. A different threshold could potentially allow many sites that would have faced cleanup requirements based on its original proposal to avoid such efforts.

    The proposal also suggests that when water tests for PFAS at 40 parts per trillion, officials should open a larger investigation to evaluate the spread of the chemicals and find responsible parties.
    But the agency does not explicitly ask polluters to take action in areas around the United States where polluted water is not being used as drinking water.
    The guidelines immediately drew criticism from Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, the top Senate Democrat who helps oversee the E.P.A., and from environmentalists and health advocates who have urged the agency to aggressively confront the issue.
    A senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, David Andrews, criticized the guidelines as a "woefully inadequate response" to what has been widely called one of the most pressing public health threats in the United States. The groundwater contamination has turned up in at least 33 states and affects an estimated 10 million Americans.
    "It is a Band-Aid, at best, that does essentially nothing to help the hundreds — perhaps thousands — of communities, in almost every state, with contaminated tap water," he said. "Americans need real and swift action to address this crisis, not more toothless proposals from the Trump administration."
    An E.P.A. spokesman said it was incorrect to assert that the changes in the proposed guidelines meant that the agency would not advocate immediate steps to protect public health when such actions were warranted.
    "E.P.A. has worked and will continue to work with state, tribal, and local governments to protect the public health," said the spokesman, John Konkus.

    For months, people living in communities with contaminated groundwater have asked the E.P.A. to push for cleanup, concerned that groundwater will eventually become drinking water.
    Those places include cities and towns near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado; the former Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire; Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio; and Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.
    Oscoda, Mich., home to the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, is among the towns with extensive PFAS contamination in its groundwater.
    In an interview, Aaron Weed, the town supervisor and a 22-year veteran of the Air Force, said the guidelines gave him little hope that the Defense Department would move quickly to address cleanup.
    "I think the Air Force, who says that people are their No. 1 resources, aren't putting their money where their mouth is," he said, "and they are letting the citizens of their country sufferfrom their lack of desire to fix the problem."

    Eric Lipton reported from Washington, and Julie Turkewitz from Denver.


    4) An Emperor Penguin Colony in Antarctica Vanishes
    A colony in Halley Bay lost more than 10,000 chicks in 2016 and hasn't recovered. Some adults have relocated.
    By Karen Weintraub, April 25, 2019

    Emperor penguin chicks in 2010 at Halley Bay in Antarctica. For three years, beginning in 2016, researchers have found an almost "total breeding failure."CreditCreditPeter Fretwell/British Antarctic Survey, via Associated Press


    The Antarctic's second-largest colony of emperor penguins collapsed in 2016, with more than 10,000 chicks lost, and the population has not recovered, according to a new study
    Many of the adults relocated nearby, satellite imagery shows, but the fact that emperor penguins are vulnerable in what had been considered the safest part of their range raises serious long-term concerns, said Phil Trathan, the paper's co-author and head of conservation biology with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England.
    "That means that these places aren't as safe as we thought previously," Dr. Trathan said.
    The colony at Halley Bay has all but disappeared, the research team at the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement.
    Emperor penguins — the world's largest — breed and molt on sea ice, chunks of frozen seawater. Awkward on land, they cannot climb icy cliffs and so are vulnerable to warming weather and high winds whipping across the ice. Under the influence of the strongest El Niño in 60 years, September 2015 was a particularly stormy month in the area of Halley Bay in Antarctica, with heavy winds and record-low sea ice.

    The penguins generally stayed there from April until December when their chicks fledged, or had grown their feathers, but the storm occurred before the chicks were old enough. 
    Those conditions, Dr. Trathan said, appeared to have led to the loss of about 14,500 to 25,000 eggs or chicks that first year and the colony has not rebounded. The study called the three-year decline unprecedented: "three years of almost total breeding failure."
    Still, the population in Halley Bay represents only about 8 percent of the world's population of emperor penguins, Dr. Trathan said, so the loss does not pose a threat to the future of the species. Roughly 130,000 to 250,000 breeding pairs of emperor penguins live in 54 colonies worldwide, he said. 
    British researchers have been studying penguins in the area since 1956 and had never seen a decline of this magnitude, he said.
    While some adult emperor penguins have migrated to another region, researchers said they were alarmed by the swift decline of the Halley Bay colony. CreditMarcel Mochet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    Other scientists have projected drastic declines in emperor penguin populations by the end of the century, because of climate change. Stephanie Jenouvrier, an associate researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, has predicted a 30 percent worldwide drop in coming decades. Her model did not include significant events like the 2015 stormy season, which will most likely make the situation worse, she said.
    Several researchers said they were encouraged by satellite evidence suggesting that many of the animals were able to relocate to a colony called Dawson-Lambton, about 35 miles to the south, which has seen a more than tenfold increase in penguins in the last few years.
    "It is a very huge movement and a huge number of birds that were able to move between two colonies after an extreme event," Dr. Jenouvrier said. "I think this is very cool to be able to show that."
    Heather Lynch, an associate professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University in New York, viewed that relocation as "extremely hopeful," a sign that the animals would be able to adapt to climate change at least in the short term. In past models, she said, researchers often assumed the penguins would not find another home.
    "My hope is that there are refuges that they can move to for at least some period of time and that might buffer some of the most dramatic effects of climate change," Dr. Lynch said. 
    The new study also shows the power of satellite data to track species in the most inaccessible parts of the globe. "At least we have a means to keep an eye on these birds from the world's more remote places," she said.
    Still, the Halley Bay decline in population is troublesome because the drop-off was rapid, rather than a gradual decrease in the face of climate change.

    "You don't know how close to the cliff you are until it's too late," Dr. Lynch said, "and you can't assume you'll be able to walk back from the cliff when you get there."


    5) San Francisco Had an Ambitious Plan to Tackle School Segregation. It Made It Worse.
    By Dana Goldstein, April 25, 2019

    Rooftop Elementary School in San Francisco. The city allows parents to apply to any school in the district, having done away with traditional school zoning in an effort to desegregate its classrooms.CreditCreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

    SAN FRANCISCO — Like many parents in San Francisco, Melvin Canas and Delfina Ramirez described applying to public kindergarten as a part-time job. They researched schools all over the city for their daughter, Cinthya; took unpaid hours off their jobs as cooks to tour over a dozen; and ultimately ranked 15 of them on her application.
    San Francisco allows parents to apply to any elementary school in the district, having done away with traditional school zoning 18 years ago in an effort to desegregate its classrooms. Give parents more choices, the thinking was, and low-income and working-class students of color like Cinthya would fill more seats at the city's most coveted schools.
    But last month, Cinthya's parents, who are Hispanic, found out she had been admitted to their second-to-last choice, a school where less than a third of students met standards on state reading and math tests last year. Only 3 percent were white.

    Results like these have soured many on the city's school enrollment plan, which is known here as "the lottery" and was once considered a national model.

    "Our current system is broken," said Stevon Cook, president of the district Board of Education, which, late last year, passed a resolution to overhaul the process. "We've inadvertently made the schools more segregated."
    For decades, the education mantra from presidential campaign trails to local school board elections has been the same: Your ZIP code should not determine the quality of your school. Few cities have gone further in trying to make that ideal a reality than San Francisco.
    But as education leaders from New York to Dallas to San Antonio vow to integrate schools, and as presidential candidates like Joseph R. Biden Jr. are being asked to answer for their records on school segregation, San Francisco's ambitious plan offers a cautionary tale.

    Parental choice has not been the leveler of educational opportunity it was made out to be. Affluent parents are able to take advantage of the system in ways low-income parents cannot, or they opt out of public schools altogether. What happened in San Francisco suggests that without remedies like wide-scale busing, or school zones drawn deliberately to integrate, school desegregation will remain out of reach.

    After families submit their kindergarten applications, ranking as many school choices as they like across the city, a computer algorithm makes assignments. Those from neighborhoods where students have scored low on state tests get first dibs at their top-ranked programs. Each child gets an address-based priority at one school, but it is considered only after those with test-score priority are offered seats.
    The district had previously used busing to try to desegregate schools, under a 1983 agreement with the N.A.A.C.P. But a group of Chinese-American families sued in the 1990s, saying their children were being denied seats at elite campuses. The city settled the case by devising a choice-based enrollment process meant to be race-neutral but still achieve integration.
    Research shows that desegregation can drive learning gains for students of all races. And on paper, San Francisco's system showed promise. In recent years, it succeeded in breaking up racial concentrations at a handful of schools.
    But over all, many parents and city leaders consider it a disappointment. The district's schools were more racially segregated in 2015 than they were in 1990, even though the city's neighborhoods have become more integrated, research shows. That pattern holds true in many of the nation's largest cities, according to an analysis by Ryan W. Coughlan, an assistant professor of sociology at Guttman Community College in New York.
    Segregation looks different in San Francisco than in other parts of the country. The district is one of the most diverse in the nation: 35 percent of students are Asian, 27 percent are Hispanic, 15 percent are white and 7 percent are African-American. Schools here are not racially monolithic. But over the past several decades, white, Asian and Hispanic students, on average, have been clustered in schools with more children of their own races.
    While black children were slightly less racially isolated in 2015 than in 1990, that was largely a result of their lower enrollment in the district, Professor Coughlan said — a change driven by astronomical housing costs.

    Even the school district has acknowledged that a system of geographically zoned schools would most likely create more racial integration than the current, choice-driven approach.

    There are several reasons the system has not worked as intended. One is a lack of transportation. Fewer than 4,000 of the district's 54,000 students ride a bus to school. The city's busing program was reduced in 2010, during the last recession, and has not been restored.
    Shurrin Zeng, vice chairwoman of the district's English Learners Advisory Committee, said location had been the No. 1 factor in her decision to enroll her 10-year-old daughter in the school closest to their home, which is overwhelmingly Hispanic and Asian, and largely low-income. She is not completely happy with the school, but choice, she said, was not meaningful without "more convenient transportation" to ensure access.
    And some parents may not have heard about better, far-flung schools. Not everyone has the time to navigate the complex process of researching, touring and ranking campuses. Families who want a different school from the one they are given can try their luck in three more lottery rounds, filing paperwork and managing waiting lists even past the start of the school year, in some cases.
    School tours typically take place between 8 and 10 a.m. — prime commuting and work hours — and some of the most desired schools require parents to sign up weeks in advance.
    At Rooftop Elementary in the Twin Peaks neighborhood — Mr. Canas and Ms. Ramirez's first choice for Cinthya — a tour in December was dominated by professional-class parents with flexible schedules. They took in breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and strolled past a climbing wall and gardening plots. Jonathan and Sofia Perel, an IT director and a consultant to nonprofits, said they had visited 18 schools.
    In contrast, Kenika Eison, a medical assistant, had to show up at schools unannounced during off hours, hoping a principal would come out to talk to her. She ended up enrolling her son Aaden in a charter school close to the clinic where she works, partly because of the school's good reputation, but also because she would not need to arrange child care in the mornings.

    Since the district uses neighborhood test scores to determine admissions preferences, some students from low-income and working-class families in San Francisco, like Cinthya, do not get an advantage, while a handful of wealthier students, whose parents happen to live in areas with historically lower test scores, do.
    The system benefits gentrifiers, in a city where public housing can be tucked beneath hills studded with multimillion-dollar Victorians.
    Anne Zimmerman, a stay-at-home parent and writer, had what others call, sometimes derisively, the "golden ticket." She and her husband, who works in advertising, moved into their two-bedroom rental in the Potrero Hill neighborhood a decade ago, without realizing their address granted them priority in the school lottery.
    This year, their daughter, Vera, was offered admission to their first-choice kindergarten, one of the most requested in the city. The school is 37 percent white and 21 percent low-income. Districtwide, 15 percent of students are white and 55 percent are low-income.
    "I feel so very conflicted" about getting an advantage, Ms. Zimmerman said. Both she and her husband are white. "The system was developed to equalize the playing field, and I don't think it really has done it."
    Those who defend the current system point out that 79 percent of black parents, 79 percent of Filipino parents and 61 percent of Hispanic parents received their first-choice kindergarten for next fall, compared with 48 percent of white parents.

    Rionda Batiste is a member of the district's African-American Parent Advisory Council and a resident of the Bayview, a neighborhood with test-score priority in the lottery. She has been thrilled with the system, which allowed her to enroll two of her children in a school of her choice outside the neighborhood.

    "Until our schools are being made to have the same resources and quality as the other schools in the other areas, I'm not going to disadvantage her," Ms. Batiste said of her daughter, Victoria.
    But the voices of parents who feel hurt by the lottery hold powerful political sway here. One family of two doctors whose child — like 12 percent of kindergarten applicants — was not admitted to any of the 15 schools they listed, said they would not send their child to the school they were ultimately assigned, which is across the city from their home. The school has struggled with underenrollment and low test scores, and is predominantly black and low-income.
    The parents, who are Hispanic and asked not to be named, ended up putting down a deposit for a private school.
    About a quarter of the city's children are enrolled in private school, a higher percentage than in some other major cities, like New York, where it is around 20 percent. The lottery system is thought to be a major reason wealthy parents here opt out of public schools, further worsening segregation.
    At the request of the Board of Education, the district is considering how expanded busing could help integrate schools. It is also looking at models in Berkeley, Calif., and Boston, where parents can rank choices from a small group of schools determined by address. San Francisco has already limited choices at the middle-school level, with some success.

    Stevon Cook, the board president, said one of the biggest problems with the lottery was "the implicit message that we send" to low-income parents: that schools in their own communities are "inadequate," and that they should seek to escape them. "We should pour more into those schools to make them attractive," he said.
    The strengths of predominantly black schools, in particular, were often overlooked, said Rachel Norton, a longtime member of the board.
    "I don't want to suggest that every school is of equal quality across the district, but they are closer in quality to each other than people think," she said.
    Mr. Canas, the chef, spoke to teachers at the school where his daughter was admitted, and heard some things he liked about it. But he still hoped Cinthya would be chosen off a waiting list to attend one of the higher-ranked schools on her application, and was bracing for more rounds in the lottery.
    Even if the chances of a dream placement remained low, Mr. Canas said, he would exhaust all options. "I can't really put a price on my daughter's education."


    6) Crime Is Down, Yet U.S. Incarceration Rates Are Still Among the Highest in the World
    "The United States still has the largest known incarcerated population in the world. ...while the United States accounts for about 4 percent of the world's population, it has more than a third of the estimated number of people serving life sentences,...racial disparity among men remains stark, with black men serving prison sentences at almost six times the rate of white men.... Black women are still incarcerated at around double the rate of white women."
    By Campbell Robertson, April 25, 2019

    A federal prison in Big Spring, Tex. A drop in the federal prison population accounts for a third of a year-over-year decline in the number of people in prisons in the United States.CreditCreditJulia Robinson for The New York Times

    For all the talk of curbing America's appetite for mass incarceration and bipartisan support for reducing prison sentences, the number of people incarcerated in the United States declined only slightly in 2017, according to data released on Thursday by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    The United States still has the largest known incarcerated population in the world.
    "If we keep working on the kinds of criminal justice reforms that we're doing right now, it's going to take us 75 years to reduce the population by half," said Rachel Barkow, a sentencing expert at New York University School of Law and author of "Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration."

    Like others who study the United States prison population, Ms. Barkow saw the significance of Thursday's report not in the decline itself, but in how minor it was.

    "The kinds of reforms we're seeing now are really modest," she said. "I'm glad were getting them. But this is not transformative yet."

    Slightly under 1.5 million people were in prison at the end of 2017, a slight decrease from 2016 but still a population that, if gathered in one place, would be one of the largest cities in the country.

    County and city jails held around 750,000 inmates in mid-2017.

    Combined, the United States would remain the world's leader in incarceration, according to data collected by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birkbeck, University of London. It is unclear, though, exactly how many people are held in detention in China, a country with a similarly high prison population.

    [Note: China's population is 1,419,147,756* as of April 26, 2019 with 1,649,804 in prison***; while the population of the USA is 328,792,291 as of April 27, 2019** with 2,121,600 in prison.*** 

    The incarceration rates for both jails and prisons in the United States have declined by more than 10 percent over the past 10 years, the federal report found. (Prison is for people serving sentences longer than one year, while jails typically hold those awaiting trial or sentencing, or those serving shorter sentences.)
    The decline in the prison population is not connected to the crime rate, which has fallen steadily over the past decades. Instead it is it the result of policy changes and court orders, and has been markedly uneven.
    A drop in the federal prison population, due in large part to a 2014 decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce sentences for drug crimes, accounts for a third of the year-over-year decline. And while some states have significantly reduced their prison populations in recent years, others continue to set records for the number of people they are keeping locked up.

    Some of the states with notable drops, including New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, pushed through significant policy changes, such as reclassifying felonies as misdemeanors and giving more discretion to sentencing judges.
    But one of the large reductions over the past decade was in California, which was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 to reduce its overcrowded prisons by 30,000 inmates. That this was done under court order, rather than voluntarily, shows the political difficulty of taking aggressive steps to curb mass incarceration.
    At the end of 2016, the federal report said, more than half of state prisoners had been convicted of violent offenses, even though the country's violent crime rate has dropped drastically since the early 1990s. So many experts say that a dramatic reduction in the prison population is unlikely if policy changes address only nonviolent offenses — what Ms. Barkow refers to as "the low hanging fruit."
    The size of the United States prison population has resulted from not only locking more people up, but also keeping them locked up longer.
    A record number of people are serving life sentences, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates improvements to the criminal justice system. In fact, while the United States accounts for about 4 percent of the world's population, it has more than a third of the estimated number of people serving life sentences, according to "Life Imprisonment: A Global Human Rights Analysis," an international survey by a professor and researcher at the University of Nottingham.
    The statistics released on Thursday showed that the nature of the prison population has changed in a number of ways.
    As measures like parole and compassionate release have been curtailed, or even eliminated in some places, prisoners have become older and more costly. According to the report, more than one in 10 prison inmates in 2017 were 55 years or older.

    The rate of black adults serving prison sentences declined by nearly a third over the past decade. But the racial disparity among men remains stark, with black men serving prison sentences at almost six times the rate of white men.
    The racial disparity among women in prison, however, has considerably narrowed.
    Black women are still incarcerated at around double the rate of white women. But the number of white women in prison has increased by more than 40 percent since the turn of the century, while the number of incarcerated black women has dropped by nearly half.
    Wendy Sawyer, a senior policy analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative, suggested that several trends may explain this. Arrests of women for drug violations have spiked over the last decade, even as drug-related arrests have declined for men, she said. Separately, statistics show a shift generally "from urban areas to rural areas in light of the opioid crisis." It is possible, she said, that this was driving the increased incarceration of white women.


    7) Flint's Water Crisis Started 5 Years Ago. It's Not Over.
    Pipes are now being replaced and officials say the water is safe, but residents still worry, drink bottled water and doubt their elected leaders.
    By Mitch Smith, Julie Bosman and Monica Devey, April 25, 2019

    Rick Hayood loaded bottles of water into a resident's car in Flint, Mich., in October. Five years after the city's water crisis, suspicions remain high.CreditCreditBrittany Greeson for The New York Times

    On April 25, 2014, a group of smiling officials in Flint, Mich., stood in front of television cameras, held their glasses aloft and toasted the switch to the city's new water source, the Flint River.
    "Here's to Flint!" Dayne Walling, the mayor, said, taking a gulp of river water.
    The Flint water crisis was born that day. Almost immediately, Flint residents began telling their elected officials that there was something wrong with the water, which smelled terrible, tasted like metal and seemed to give them skin rashes. They confronted elected officials outside City Hall, hoisting bottles full of rust-colored water from their taps, only to be told, again and again, that the water was fine. 
    The water was not fine. Flint officials had failed to add needed corrosion controls to the river water. Lead from the city's old pipes leached into the water, causing alarmingly high lead levels in the blood of many residents. The outcry that followed forced a change in the city's leadership, criminal charges against state and local officials and a yearslong effort to replace Flint's dangerous lead pipes.
    But in Flint, the water crisis is by no means in the past.

    "It's a community that's still dealing with the trauma and the aftermath of having been poisoned at the hands of the government," Karen Weaver, who replaced Mr. Walling as mayor largely because of anger over the water crisis, said in an interview this week. Ms. Weaver continues to tell residents to drink only bottled or filtered water.

    On Thursday, pastors and activists gathered outside the city's water treatment plant to call for more help. Some wore shirts that said "Flint Is Still Broken." Half a decade into the water crisis, here is what has changed in the city — and what has not. 
    Five years ago, Melissa Mays was a concert promoter in Flint who drank from the tap and never worried about lead or Legionella. But when the water turned foul, Ms. Mays spoke out. She organized protests, filed lawsuits and became one of the most visible faces of her city's troubles.
    Today, she drinks only bottled water. She showers quickly. She does not trust what the government tells her. "It's one huge nightmare piled on top of another one," Ms. Mays said this week. 
    She has scaled back her work in music. She now helps people find social services. There is also a personal toll. "I used to be a lot more optimistic and cheerful," she said, "but now I'm literally just pissed."
    For a bit, several years ago, Ms. Mays said there was a sense that Flint might get enough national notice over the water crisis to overcome it. But she said not enough has been done. Attention faded. Faith has dwindled.

    "We're back to where we first started, where we're yelling and screaming," Ms. Mays said. "And it seems like nobody can hear us."

    As the state of Michigan tells it, the water in Flint now meets federal standards. Levels of lead and copper are down. "Flint's water continues to test the same as or better than similar cities across the state and country," the state says.
    But residents are wary. After all, in 2014 and 2015, officials also had insisted the water was safe, brushing aside the concerns of residents. Bottled water remains in high demand, and suspicion abounds about the city's lead pipes, its decaying water infrastructure and pretty much everything else.
    "We don't trust," Ms. Weaver, the mayor, said. "Trust was broken on every single level of government."
    Ms. Weaver vowed after taking office to replace all of the city's lead and galvanized-steel service lines, and she has made progress. More than 8,000 service lines have been replaced so far, and thousands more have been examined and found to not be made of lead. She hopes to have the rest — as many as 7,000 more — finished this summer.
    But as work on the pipes progressed, officials have tried to wean residents off the free bottled water that National Guard troops distributed at the height of the crisis.

    The state closed its bottled water distribution sites last year. Bottles donated by Nestlé continue to be handed out, but only from a few locations and on certain days, and with no promise of it continuing past August. 
    Flint's struggles did not start with the water. In the middle of the 20th century, Flint was a small but thriving city, a hub of manufacturing where solid, middle-class jobs at General Motors were plentiful. When the automotive industry faltered, so did Flint.
    After thousands of factory jobs left Flint, so did many of its residents, and neighborhoods throughout the city are still marked by blight and abandoned houses, often vandalized or taken over by squatters. The city continues to lose residents: In 2017, Flint's population fell to 96,448. In 1960, the city was twice as big.
    "Water was a symptom of this much bigger problem of a community with a really rich history that rightfully feels that it's continually being left behind," said Representative Dan Kildee, Democrat of Michigan, whose district includes Flint.
    Though the city has been lifted by its universities and a small but energetic push to rebuild small businesses, the solid jobs in manufacturing that were lost decades ago have not been replaced. With a declining tax base, the city's fiscal condition slid, too. Ultimately, Flint's finances were so perilous that the state sent in emergency managers to oversee city operations, a move that irked local leadersand left many in the Democratic stronghold complaining that Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, was taking away local control. 
    An emergency manager was still guiding the city at the point at which Flint switched water sources, a decision that was aimed at saving money.
    "Flint was, I think, before the water crisis, just on the edge of a crisis of some kind," Mr. Kildee said. "And all it took was this one thing to tip the scale."

    The authorities pledged to bring justice to Flint. Those at fault in the water crisis would be held responsible, they promised. "These charges are only the beginning," Bill Schuette, Michigan's former attorney general, said three years ago, as he announced the first criminal cases. "There will be more to come — that I can guarantee you."
    And there were more. By now, 15 people who worked in state and local government roles have been charged with crimes in Flint's crisis. And the charges have reached high levels of Michigan's government, and suggested that officials had failed to warn residents of known risks and allowed their desire to save money in financially strapped Flint to come before the safety of water. 
    Still, five years later, no one has been sentenced to prison time. Seven people have pleaded no contest to misdemeanors as parts of plea deals, while others — including some of the highest-level employees — have cases still pending.
    "Whether they plea bargain out or actually do jail time, I think it would mean a lot to the community," said Eric Mays, a Flint City Council member who is not related to Melissa Mays. He added: "We are in a watching-every-step-of-the-way mode."

    Some of the Flint leaders who stood before the cameras, toasting the city's new water supply, are gone — at least partly because of the water. 
    A re-election bid by Mr. Walling, a Flint native and Rhodes scholar who seemed to have a promising political career ahead, fell apart in late 2015 as test results confirmed what residents had been worried about for months.

    Others who are gone: Mr. Snyder, Michigan's governor at the time; a manager appointed by the state to oversee Flint's finances; and numerous state and local employees who were involved in the city's water system.
    Mr. Snyder was prevented from seeking re-election by term limits. But Flint was perhaps the most difficult chapter of his eight years in office. Mr. Snyder was not charged with wrongdoing, but some of his administration's leaders were, and some residents blamed him. 
    Mr. Mays, the councilman, said he had seen progress since the city was released from state oversight and since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, took office this year. 
    Ms. Weaver, too, sounded hopeful.
    "I don't say it's over," Ms. Weaver said, but "we're moving from crisis to recovery, and you can see the progress that we've made."

    Mitch Smith covers the Midwest and the Great Plains. Since joining The Times in 2014, he has written extensively about urban violence, oil pipelines, state-level politics and the national debate over police tactics. He is based in Chicago.  @mitchksmith
    Julie Bosman is a national correspondent who covers the Midwest. Born and raised in Wisconsin and based in Chicago, she has written about politics, education, law enforcement and literature. @juliebosman  Facebook
    Monica Davey is the Chicago bureau chief, covering the Midwest. She joined The Times in 2003. She previously worked at The Chicago Tribune, and wrote for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, the Roanoke Times and others. @monicadavey1


    8) Judge Gives U.S. 6 Months to Account for Thousands More Separated Migrant Families
    By Miriam Jorden, April 25, 2019

    Brenda Garcia was reunited with her 7-year-old son last June, 34 days after they were separated by officials after crossing the border into the United States illegally.CreditCreditRyan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

    LOS ANGELES — A federal judge on Thursday gave the Trump administration six months to locate thousands more children and parents who were potentially separated at the southern border under a policy intended to deter illegal immigration.
    Early this year, it came to light that many more children most likely had been forcibly separated from their parents even before a border-enforcement policy known as zero tolerance was officially unveiled in the spring of 2018. Under the policy, nearly all adults who entered the country illegally faced criminal prosecution, and any children accompanying them were placed in shelters or foster care. They often ended up hundreds or thousands of miles apart for weeks or longer.

    Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California had asked the government to devise a plan to account for the additional children and their families. The request came after a report from government inspectors in January revealed that the Trump administration most likely separated thousands more children from their parents than had been previously reported, because of a lack of coordinated formal tracking among the various federal agencies involved.

    "The order shows that the court continues to recognize the gravity of this situation," said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that resulted in the reunification of nearly 2,800 families that were separated last year. The A.C.L.U. had asked the judge to order the government to take responsibility for additional children and families affected by the policy.
    "The court once again made clear that it was not prepared to put up with any delays, and that these families must be found," Mr. Gelernt said.
    The government initially resisted accounting for the families, saying that it would be extremely challenging to find children who have since been released from government-contracted facilities and whose whereabouts was unknown.
    Early this month, the government said that it could apply a statistical analysis to about 47,000 children who were referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is responsible for the minors held in custody. It could then manually review the records of those children who appeared to have the highest probability of being among those separated from their parents.
    In justifying the time-consuming process, the government said that United States Customs and Border Protection had not collected specific data on migrant family separations before April 2018.

    The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    In his order on Thursday, Judge Sabraw said that he had approved of the government's plan for identifying additional children. However, he disagreed with a government proposal to accomplish the task in two years, writing that it must be completed in six months, or by Oct. 25, "subject to modification upon a showing of good cause."
    Last June, the judge ordered the reunification of all children and parents who had been separated by the zero-tolerance policy. That same month, President Trump issued an executive order ending the policy, which had prompted public outrage.
    The families that the government must locate entered the United States on or after July 1, 2017, the earliest known date that separations occurred — and before the judge's original order in June 2018 to reunify them. Those families reunified thus far are those whose children were in government custody when the judge issued the order in June.
    The January report from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services said the lack of an effective tracking system made it possible that thousands more separated families had not been accounted for by the government. It said that even before the zero-tolerance policy was official, it had noted a "sharp increase" in the number of children separated from a parent or guardian. The total number of children who were separated was "unknown," the report said.
    Two months later, Judge Sabraw ruled that the original A.C.L.U. lawsuit should be expanded to include the additional families, because they had been subjected to the same policy that had resulted in separations under "questionable circumstances," he said.
    Family separations were central to the Trump administration's early efforts to discourage migrant families from trying to enter the United States after traveling over land through Mexico. Arrivals of families decreased while the policy was in effect but have since surged to record levels.


    9) The Devastating Consequences of Being Poor in the Digital Age
    When someone who is living paycheck to paycheck falls victim to an online fraud or a breach, the cascade of repercussions can be devastating.
    By Mary Madden, April 25, 2019

    Dalbert B. Vilarino

    One of the tragic ironies of the digital age is this: Despite the fact that low-income Americans have experienced a long history of disproportionate surveillance, their unique privacy and security concerns are rarely visible in Washington and Silicon Valley. As my colleague Michele Gilman has noted, the poor often bear the burden of both ends of the spectrum of privacy harms; they are subjected to greater suspicion and monitoring when they apply for government benefits and live in heavily policed neighborhoods, but they can also lose out on education and job opportunities when their online profiles and employment histories aren't visible (or curated) enough.
    The poor experience these two extremes — hypervisibility and invisibility — while often lacking the agency or resources to challenge unfair outcomes. For instance, they may be unfairly targeted by predictive policing tools designed with biased training data or unfairly excluded from hiring algorithms that scour social media networks to make determinations about potential candidates. In this increasingly complex ecosystem of "networked privacy harms," one-size-fits-all privacy solutions will not serve all communities equally. Efforts to create a more ethical technology sector must take the unique experiences of vulnerable and marginalized users into account.
    I led Pew Research Center's research on understanding how Americans' attitudes toward privacy were affected by Edward Snowden's leak of documents about widespread government surveillance by the National Security Agency. Through surveys and focus group interviews, I started to see that part of the untold story in the research and policy community was the way in which low-income communities experience privacy-related harms differently.

    What we found in a nationally representative survey of 3,000 American adults was striking. Not only did Americans with lower levels of income and education have fewer technology resources and lower levels of confidence in their ability to protect their digital data, but they also expressed heightened sensitivities about a range of overlapping offline privacy and security harms. This helped to illustrate a critical dimension of digital inequality that is often overlooked; the poor must navigate a matrix of privacy and security vulnerabilities in their daily lives — any of which could dramatically upend their financial, professional or social well-being. For example, when someone who is living paycheck to paycheck falls victim to an online fraud or loses the ability to use his or her smartphone after it gets hacked, the cascade of repercussions can be devastating.

    We found that not only are low-income Americans more concerned than their wealthier counterparts about losing control over how their information is collected or being used, but they're also more worried about being harassed online or having their financial information stolen. And while societal fears about data breaches are widespread, identity theft poses a much heavier burden for people living on the margins.
    At the same time, the backdrop for these online experiences is a heightened sense of worry about the precariousness of their physical privacy and security. For instance, low-income Americans, particularly in communities of color, are significantly more likely than higher-income groups to express concerns about being unfairly targeted by law enforcement. This kind of targeting may take the form of warrantless cellphone location tracking that results in wrongful arrests or pervasive networks of cameras and sensors that monitor all of the public activity in low-income neighborhoods in a constant search for suspicious activity.
    The story of income inequality and differential surveillance practices in America is also deeply intertwined with the history of racial inequalities. In addition to understanding the differing concerns of economically marginalized groups, it's critical to understand how different racial and ethnic groups experience privacy. From the government surveillance of black civil rights leaders in the 1960s to the surveillance of Black Lives Matter protesters on social media today, there are myriad examples of communities of color enduring a disproportionate level of scrutiny when compared with white Americans engaged in the same kinds of activities.
    More recently, the ongoing government tracking of the foreign-born Hispanic population — which is also among the poorest and least-educated group of adults in the country — has resulted in raids and deportations that have separated family members and created a climate of widespread fear. This mass surveillance is causing eligible families not to apply for life-sustaining supports like food stamps, to avoid getting the health care they need and to pull their children out of school.

    What does this surveillance look like in practice? We recently learnedthat in Washington State, at least once per day over a period of two and a half years, agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would, without warrants, obtain the names, birth dates, identification data, room assignments and license plate numbers of guests at several Motel 6 locations. They would then highlight the names of guests that "sounded Latino" to target them for questioning, detainment and deportation. Motel 6 was ultimately ordered to pay $12 million dollars in damages to guests who were affected. But the scale of this kind of targeting and discrimination pales in comparison with the kind of automated surveillance of social media, search and facial recognition data that have been pursued in support of President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy on immigration.
    Our research suggests that low-income Americans, and in particular, foreign-born Hispanic adults, are disproportionately reliant on mobile devices as their primary source of internet access. While internet connectivity has become essential to these communities, it also creates privacy and security vulnerabilities that they don't feel prepared to navigate. The survey findings illustrate a substantial demand for educational resources among low-socioeconomic-status groups, but many feel as though it would be difficult to get access to the tools and strategies they would need to learn more about protecting their personal information online.
    As we approach the 2020 census, and the first time ever that the bureau will be asking a majority of people to answer the census online, it is critically important that we do more to address the lack of confidence that low-income and marginalized communities have in the integrity of our data ecosystem more broadly. When those who influence policy and technology design have a lower perception of privacy risk themselves, it contributes to a lack of investment in the kind of safeguards and protections that vulnerable communities both want and urgently need.
    Mary Madden is a researcher at the Data & Society Research Institute.


    10) Julian Assange and the Woeful State of Whistle-Blowers
    As the media's indispensable helpmates, don't they deserve constitutional protection too?
    By Edward Wasserman, April 26, 2019

    Illustration by Adam Maida; Photographs by aaaaimages and Boris Roessler/picture alliance, via Getty Images

    To the journalism mainstream, Julian Assange, newly imprisoned founder of WikiLeaks, is less a hero than a conundrum. True, he was midwife to some of the most sensational and genuinely consequential journalistic disclosures of recent years. Yet he's a perplexing figure, among the "righteous scumbags" who often figure in free-speech cases, as a headline on the Columbia Journalism Review website puts it, or maybe just "a solid jerk," as the columnist Kathleen Parker suggests.
    The underlying question is whether Mr. Assange is too reckless, undiscerning, unprincipled and morally damaged to merit defending for his work in getting hugely significant information to the public, via some of the same news media that now find him distasteful.
    Many journalists doubt that he deserves First Amendment consideration, since that belongs mainly to other journalists, which they say Mr. Assange isn't. And it's true that he's plainly not a reporter, since he conveys information unearthed by others, and not a publisher either, since he often works through other news outlets to reach the public.
    So he isn't really one of us. Worse, he's a rogue. He even helped the Russians defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Until April 11, when his hosts invited the London constabulary to drag him out and put him behind bars, he'd been squatting for nearly seven years in Ecuador's tiny embassy there to avoid extradition to Stockholm, where the Swedes wanted him to answer allegations of sexual wrongdoing. Now, in the aftermath, The Washington Post's editorialists declare he's not "a free-press hero," and the headline on an article by The Post's foreign affairs columnist, David Ignatius, asks whether he's anything more than "an accused thief."

    My answer is he's a lot more. News is in danger, and news isn't a person, it's a process, which desperately needs protecting. The element of that process that is most in peril is the source, and for all his sins, real and alleged, Julian Assange has been one of the most extraordinary sources of the new millennium.
    WikiLeaks enabled spectacular disclosures of official secrets — from war crimes, torture and atrocities on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan to corruption in Kenya and Tunisia, the latter a catalyst of the Arab Spring. His jailing is the latest event in the ferocious reprisal against a decade of digital whistle-blowing — which has never, to my knowledge, yielded information that was inaccurate or unimportant — and that has now produced little but misery, banishment or imprisonment for the people who tried to force officialdom to come clean.
    So we're in a chilly time for whistle-blowers. While the digital age is endlessly permissive in propagating falsity and racism, authorities are uncompromisingly harsh when the information is accurate, important and inconvenient. Now that Mr. Assange is in British hands — awaiting extradition either to Sweden or to Washington, where he has been indicted on a charge of coaching one of his sources, Chelsea Manning, on how to get access to government secrets without detection — it's a good time to consider what he has done and been accused of, and what that says about the embattled state of journalism.
    Let's recall some facts of importance. In 2010 — and this is when the sin for which Mr. Assange has been jailed was supposedly committed — WikiLeaks provided some of the world's most respected news organizations with accurate information of deep public importance that exposed outrageous, even murderous, wrongdoing. Mr. Assange then submitted — perhaps gracelessly, but submitted nonetheless — to their editorial judgment as to how much of that information should be published and in what form. This included a vast trove exposing the American war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan as killing many more civilians than our government had ever acknowledged. A further batch included a huge number of reports from our own diplomats on the corruption and double-dealing of foreign governments. 
    Pretty good stuff, on balance. Still, there's little sympathy in the media for the idea that jailing Mr. Assange is a violation of First Amendment press freedom — while there's broad agreement that prosecuting the news organizations that published the material he provided would be unthinkable. This is bolstered by First Amendment jurisprudence that encourages a myopia that holds expressive freedom in the news realm to be the exclusive property of professional journalists. At first glance, this makes no moral sense: If the handing over of secrets can be prosecuted, why should the publication of those same secrets be protected?

    The fabled Pentagon Papers win before the Supreme Court in 1971 stopped the government from halting publication; it didn't forbid prosecuting the publishers afterward. That never happened. But the sources? Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo were left to confront Espionage Act charges for their whistle-blowing that were not dismissed for nearly two years. They got little help from the same media that were eager to canonize themselves for their courage in publishing the leaks.

    Why are whistle-blowers being jailed while reporters who publish their prohibited leaks win awards? Does the government's restraint reflect nothing more than the reluctance of politicians to do battle with the digital equivalent of publishers who buy ink by the barrel?
    Perhaps, though that has helped ensure press independence as a powerful force for official accountability. But shouldn't sources also have independent standing as players indispensable to the news and deserving of constitutional protection? Can you have a free press without sources? Isn't the process of news-gathering dependent not just on the skill and tenacity of reporters, but also on the willingness of sources to step forward, sometimes at great risk, and tell what they know?
    Ms. Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was Mr. Assange's source for the 2010 disclosures, is back behind bars — after serving nearly seven years for espionage for leaking secrets to WikiLeaks — for refusing to incriminate Mr. Assange in the squirrelly case the government is trying to assemble. The former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, under indictment since 2013, remains exiled in Russia for exposing domestic surveillance that was later ruled illegal by federal courts, as Mr. Snowden himself believed. That's not to mention Thomas Drake, Shamai Leibowitz, John Kiriakou, Stephen Kim, Jeffrey Sterling and, most recently, Reality Winner. All of them were informants who sought not to peddle secrets to the country's enemies but to share information with the public about things they believed we needed to know. All were prosecuted, nearly all were jailed. The wrongs they sought to expose were not trivial.
    The permissibility of secrecy violations should depend, in the final analysis, on a judgment as to whether the leaks made things better or worse. The public-benefit defense, which whistle-blowers can offer in many countries, is forbidden in ours. That should change. Yes, letting leakers use it may induce people to do foolish things in the poorly based hope they'll be redeemed by a future consequence they cannot know. But it also offers a powerful promise: that ultimately the wisdom of the disclosure, even if illegal, will be reviewed by a dispassionate tribunal that will do what judges are supposed to do — make a judgment. Was the secrecy warranted? Was wrongdoing properly exposed? Did disclosure leave the public well served?
    The media's own de facto immunity from prosecution has been a great success historically, and no breach in that should be tolerated. Importantly, news organizations have responded to the freedom it ensures by following due-diligence practices that apply much the same logic described here — identify and minimize potential harms while serving the public's right to be informed about matters of significance. Aren't the media's indispensable helpmates, their sources, entitled to some of that same deference?

    Edward Wasserman is a professor of journalism and dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.


    11) U.S. to Consider Listing Giraffes as Endangered Species
    By Mihir Zaveri, April 27, 2019

    Giraffes in Nairobi National Park in Kenya. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service said it would explore listing giraffes as an endangered species.CreditCreditYasuyoshi Chiba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    Federal wildlife officials said Thursday that they would officially consider listing the giraffe as an endangered species, a move long sought by conservationists alarmed by the African mammal's precipitous decline and a growing domestic market for giraffe products.
    The United States Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that it had found "substantial information" that listing giraffes as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act "may be warranted." The finding came more than two years after conservation groups petitioned the Trump administration for the protection, warning that the animals were in danger of extinction.
    The Fish and Wildlife Service will now begin an in-depth review before making a final decision. The process could take years, conservationists said.

    Designating giraffes as endangered or threatened would place restrictions on their import into the United States and make federal funding available for conservation efforts.

    Conservationists also hope that a listing could elevate the giraffes' plight, which they said was often overshadowed by higher-profile initiatives to protect lions, elephants and other distinctive animals.
    "Tons of money is poured into conservation projects for these species," said Adam Peyman, manager of wildlife programs and operations for the Humane Society International, one of the groups that filed the petition. "Giraffes just don't enjoy that."
    Per federal regulations, the wildlife service's response to the groups' petition should have come within 90 days of the petition's filing in April 2017. In December, more than a year after the petition was filed, the groups sued the wildlife service to compel a response. It is not clear what took the wildlife service so long, or whether the announcement on Thursday was prompted by the lawsuit.
    Mr. Peyman said the wildlife service routinely missed deadlines, though the delay on the giraffe petition was the longest he had ever seen.
    Federal wildlife officials did not respond to further requests for comment Friday.
    The agency's finding appeared to be a distinctly pro-conservation move by an administration that has repeatedly rolled back environmental protections. The wildlife service moved last year to allow some hunters to import big-game trophies, including elephant tusks and lion hides, overturning an Obama-era ban.

    Tanya Sanerib, international legal director and senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the agency's decision to conduct the in-depth review on giraffes was akin to clearing a "tiny little hurdle." The bigger obstacle, she said, would be actually listing giraffes as endangered or threatened.
    "While it's shocking that the Trump administration made a possible finding for wildlife, it would have been more astonishing to say giraffes don't pass that first hurdle," she said.
    Mr. Peyman said it was not clear whether the agency would ultimately decide to protect giraffes. It could say that giraffes do not deserve protections under the Endangered Species Act, or that the federal government's limited resources should be focused on other species.
    Conservationists say there is a strong argument for listing giraffes under the Endangered Species Act.
    The population of giraffes, the tallest land animals on the planet, has declined about 40 percent in the last 30 years, according to the groups' petition. They estimate the population today is close to 97,000.
    Among the biggest threats to giraffes is habitat loss driven by the expansion of cities, agriculture and timber harvest. Poaching and legal hunting have also contributed to the decline.
    In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources declared the giraffe "vulnerable to extinction."

    The market for products derived from giraffes has also increased in the United States. According to a report released last year by the Humane Society of the United States, more than 40,000 giraffe parts were imported from 2006 to 2015 to be made into expensive pillows, boots, knife handles, Bible covers and other trinkets.
    Mr. Peyman acknowledged, however, that legal hunting had a relatively small impact on giraffe populations when compared with habitat loss or poaching. He said it was not clear how much of the giraffe products' import comes from poaching.
    "What we want to do is raise that bar, make it so that giraffes aren't threatened by trade in addition to the other threats they are facing," he said.
    Some, however, say that listing the giraffes under the Endangered Species Act could have an adverse impact on their population.
    The Safari Club International, a pro-hunting group, said that the potential measures could "would reduce U.S. hunters' willingness to pay top dollar for giraffe hunts," money that could in turn be used to buy land to increase giraffes' habitat or fund anti-poaching programs.
    "Many species, including giraffes, benefit from this investment in conservation," the group said in a statement. "Without offering anything in return, an ESA listing could reduce the revenues and incentives currently being generated by hunting."


    12) 'We Must Be Better': A Young Black Student Takes His Own Life
    By Pierre-Antoine Louis, April 27, 2019

    Nigel Shelby

    Last week, Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old black student at Huntsville High School in Alabama, killed himself. His family said he had been the target of homophobic bullying.
    I remember when I was a young black boy in high school like Nigel. I was ridiculed and called homophobic slurs that, at such a young age, I hardly understood. I remember grappling with the feeling that I was different from my peers.
    According to the Center for Social Equity, a nonprofit organization based in South Carolina, 74 percent of L.G.B.T.Q. youths say they do not feel safe in the schools they attend. Many students don't feel comfortable telling their teachers about the bullying they experience because they fear it will lead to more bullying. They don't bring it up with their parents because they don't want to deal with questions they are not quite ready — or able — to answer.

    I also remember how being both black and gay made all of this worse. I was fighting both racism and homophobia while also trying to figure out who I was. I bottled up all my emotions hoping that someone would notice how much pain I was in and hear my cry for help.

    Sadly, for some of us, that cry is never heard.
    Nigel's untimely and tragic death is a reminder of the urgent need for more research to help us better understand how racial disparities affect the national suicide crisis. Studies show that black children take their own lives at a rate that is nearly twice as high as white children.
    "Parents, please talk to your students about Nigel's death," Aaron King, the principal of Nigel's school, said in a statement. "Know and be aware of changes in your child. Talk to them about what they see, words they speak and actions they can take to make a difference. We must be better."
    We must do better.

    13) US Sanctions Killed Over 40,000 Venezuelans Since 2017
    By TeleSUR, April 25, 2019
    President Donald Trump's economic sanctions against Venezuela are affecting not only President Nicolas Maduro's administration but also the civilian population after over 40,000 deaths were reported in a study released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) said Thursday.
    The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) released Thursday a study revealing that President Donald Trump's actions against Venezuela are mostly affecting not President Nicolas Maduro's administration but the civilian population, as more than 40,000 deaths have been brought about by U.S. economic sanctions.
    "The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports," said Mark Weisbrot, the CEPR Co-Director and co-author of the report. "This is illegal under international laws and treaties that the U.S. has signed. Congress should move to stop it."
    The "Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela" study was also written by Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned economist who teaches at Columbia University and was a director of the Harvard Institute for International Development at the Kennedy School of Government.
    Besides pointing out that the U.S. actions have been rapidly worsening the humanitarian crisis, the CEPR study notes that a new set of financial and trade sanctions have been deployed to devastate the Venezuelan economy since the U.S. recognized Juan Guaido's parallel government in January 2019.
    "Venezuela's economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela but it is much more than that. U.S. sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela's economy and thereby lead to regime change," the Columbia professor said and explained that "it's a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people," the authors write. 
    Nevertheless, by prohibiting international transactions with the Bolivarian government, the United States has "efficiently" affected Venezuela's oil production, which can be clearly seen when a correlation is drawn between oil production levels and the dates when the sanctions went into effect.

    The loss of oil-based incomes has prevented the Venezuelan government from not only improving the country's balance of payments but also buying food and medicines at international markets.
    "Since the January 2019 sanctions, oil production has fallen by 431,000 barrels per day or 36.4 percent. This will greatly accelerate the humanitarian crisis, but the projected 67 percent decline in oil production for the year, if the sanctions continue, would cause vastly more loss of human life," the report warned.
    The CEPR report also reveals that Venezuela's economic contraction is clearly not a "natural fact" but rather a consequence of the current U.S. foreign policy, which represents a "very serious harm to human life and health."
    "The sanctions reduced the public's caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation. They exacerbated Venezuela's economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans," the Weisbrot & Sachs study denounces.
    CEPR estimated more than 40,000 deaths prompted by U.S. actions since August 2017. That figure is based on an estimated 80,000 people with HIV who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension, many of whom cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine.


    14) Can What We Eat Affect How We Feel?
    Nutritional psychiatrists counsel patients on how better eating may be another tool in helping to ease depression and anxiety and may lead to better mental health.
    By Richard Schiffman, March 28, 2019

    CreditCreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

    The patient, a 48-year-old real estate professional in treatment for anxiety and mild depression, revealed that he had eaten three dozen oysters over the weekend.
    His psychiatrist, Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, was impressed: "You're the only person I've prescribed them to who came back and said he ate 36!"
    Dr. Ramsey, the author of several books that address food and mental health, is a big fan of oysters. They are rich in vitamin B12, he said, which studies suggest may help to reduce brain shrinkage. They are also well stocked with long chain omega-3 fatty acids, deficiencies of which have been linked to higher risk for suicide and depression

    But shellfish are not the only food he is enthusiastic about. Dr. Ramsey is a pioneer in the field of nutritional psychiatry, which attempts to apply what science is learning about the impact of nutrition on the brain and mental health.

    Dr. Ramsey argues that a poor diet is a major factor contributing to the epidemic of depression, which is the top driver of disability for Americans aged 15 to 44, according to a report by the World Health Organization. Together with Samantha Elkrief, a chef and food coach who sits in on many of his patient sessions, he often counsels patients on how better eating may lead to better mental health.
    The irony, he says, is that most Americans are overfed in calories yet starved of the vital array of micronutrients that our brains need, many of which are found in common plant foods. A survey published in 2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that only one in 10 adults meets the minimal daily federal recommendations for fruit and vegetables — at least one-and-a-half to two cups per day of fruit and two to three cups per day of vegetables. 
    Nutritional psychiatrists like Dr. Ramsey prescribe antidepressants and other medications, where appropriate, and engage in talk therapy and other traditional forms of counseling. But they argue that fresh and nutritious food can be a potent addition to the mix of available therapies.
    Americans routinely change what they eat in order to lose weight, control their blood sugar levels and lower artery-clogging cholesterol. But Dr. Ramsey says that it is still rare for people to pay attention to the food needs of the most complex and energy-consuming organ in the body, the human brain.
    The patient Dr. Ramsey was seeing that day credits the nutritional guidance, including cutting down on many of the processed and fried foods and fatty meats that used to be part of his diet, with improving his mood and helping him overcome a long-term addiction to alcohol.

    "It's one part of the whole package that helps alleviate my depression and helps me to feel better," he said.
    Research on the impact of diet on mental functioning is relatively new, and food studies can be difficult to perform and hard to interpret, since so many factors go into what we eat and our general well-being. But a study of more than 12,000 Australians published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2016 found that individuals who increased the number of servings of fruits and vegetables that they ate reported that they were happier and more satisfied with their life than those whose diets remained the same. 
    Another study of 422 young adults from New Zealand and the United States showed higher levels of mental health and well-being for those who ate more fresh fruits and vegetables. Interestingly, the same benefits did not accrue to those who ate canned fruits and vegetables. "We think this is due to the higher nutrient content of raw fruits and vegetables, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C, which are vulnerable to heat degradation," said Tamlin Conner, a study author and senior lecturer at the University of Otago.
    One of the first randomized controlled trials to test whether dietary change may be effective in helping to treat depression was published in 2017. In the study, led by Felice Jacka, a psychiatric epidemiologist in Australia, participants who were coached to follow a Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks reported improvements in mood and lower anxiety levels. Those who received general coaching showed no such benefits. 
    A Mediterranean diet, rich in whole grains, legumes and seafood as well as nutrient-dense leafy vegetables that are high in the fiber, promotes a diverse population of helpful bacteria in the gut. Research suggests that a healthy gut microbiome may be important in the processing of neurotransmitters like serotonin that regulate mood. 
    "Our imaging studies show that the brains of people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet typically look younger, have larger volumes and are more metabolically active than people who eat a more typical Western diet," said Dr. Lisa Mosconi, the director of the Women's Brain Initiative at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. Such brain benefits may be protective against the onset of dementia, she said.
    Dr. Mosconi noted that "there is no one diet that fits all" but advises patients to cut out processed foods, minimize meat and dairy and eat more whole foods like fatty fish, vegetables and whole grains and legumes to cut the risk of developing degenerative brain diseases associated with aging.

    She and Dr. Ramsey both recommend "eating the rainbow," that is, consuming a wide array of colorful fruits and vegetables like peppers, blueberries, sweet potatoes, kale and tomatoes. Such foods are high in phytonutrients that may help to reduce harmful inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, and promote the growth of new brain cells throughout our adult years, they say.
    Dr. Emily Deans, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, cautions that a plant-only diet may carry some risks. Some large observational studies suggest, for example, that strict vegetarians and vegans may have somewhat higher rates of depression and eating disorders than those who eat a more varied diet. Those on a meat-free diet may also need to take supplements to provide missing nutrients. "Some of the key nutrients for the brain, like long chain omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B12, are simply not found in vegetable only diets," says Dr. Deans. 
    Samantha Elkrief, the food coach who assists Dr. Ramsey, adds that it's not just what we eat but the attitudes that we bring to our food that contribute to mental well-being. "I want to help people find the foods that give them joy, that make them feel good," she says. "It's about slowing down and becoming more mindful, noticing your body, noticing how you feel when you eat certain foods."


    15) Ex-Officer in Florida Gets 25 Years in Prison for Killing Black Man
    By Emily S. Rueb, April 25, 2019

    Nouman K. Raja being brought into the courtroom for sentencing on Thursday.CreditCreditPool photo by Lannis Waters

    A former police officer in Florida was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison for fatally shooting a black man who had been awaiting help on a highway more than three years ago.
    "This has been a heartbreaking case," Judge Joseph Marx said in sentencing the former officer, Nouman K. Raja, for the two counts a jury found him guilty of last month: manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.
    Mr. Raja, 41, who had faced a maximum penalty of life in prison in the fatal shooting of Corey Jones, received a 25-year term for each count. The sentences will be served concurrently.

    In asking the judge to hand down the maximum sentence, Adrienne Ellis, the chief assistant state's attorney, said that Mr. Jones, 31, "had done nothing wrong that night.".

    "He did everything right, and yet, he still lost his life," she said. "Corey essentially begged the defendant not to kill him."
    Richard G. Lubin, who oversaw Mr. Raja's defense team, asked the judge to sentence Mr. Raja only on the manslaughter count and not on the attempted first-degree murder charge.
    He said that it was difficult for his client to receive a fair trial, because people "have stoked the narrative that this is another case about a white cop murdering a black man."
    "He doesn't have a prejudiced bone in his body," Mr. Lubin said of Mr. Raja, who is of Asian descent. "He himself has had a lifetime of suffering prejudice because of his race."

    Lawyers for Mr. Raja are likely to appeal the decision.
    Before the judge announced his decision, Mr. Raja's wife, Karine Raja, pleaded for leniency, pointing to the support that she would need from her husband to care for the couple's two children.

    "Why I'm so angry is that the wrong person was chosen as the sacrificial lamb," she said. "Raja is the man you wanted serving and protecting you."
    After leaving the courthouse on Thursday afternoon, family members and friends of Mr. Jones held hands and sang the spiritual song "Victory is Mine."
    "This is a milestone in black America," said Benjamin L. Crump, one of the lawyers for Mr. Jones's family.
    "It is a footnote in American jurisprudence," he continued. "But based on the fact that this is the first time in over 30 years that a police officer has been convicted of killing a black person in the state of Florida, it is a milestone for many black Americans, not only in Florida but all across the United States."
    According to the Miami Herald, the last time an officer was sentenced for an on-duty killing in Florida was 1989.
    The 2015 killing of Mr. Jones, a church band member without a criminal record, became a flash point in a string of contentious shootings of black men by the police.

    The encounter also highlighted Florida's so-called Stand Your Ground law, which Mr. Raja's lawyer had cited in his defense.
    The Stand Your Ground law removes the obligation to retreat if a person feels threatened and frees the person to use deadly force "if he or she reasonably believes" it is necessary "to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."
    A picture of Corey Jones was shown to the jury as his brother, Clinton Jones Jr., testified in the trial of Mr. Raja, a former Palm Beach Gardens police officer.CreditPool photo by Lannis Waters

    On the night of Oct. 18, 2015, Mr. Jones was on the side of an Interstate 95 exit ramp in Palm Beach County at about 3:15 a.m. waiting for a tow truck when Mr. Raja, an officer with the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department who was on duty in plainclothes, approached Mr. Jones's S.U.V. in an unmarked van.
    According to prosecutors, Mr. Raja did not identify himself as a police officer.
    The Police Department initially said Mr. Jones had "confronted" Mr. Raja, who then fired his weapon.
    Mr. Jones had a legally purchased handgun with him, which Mr. Raja had claimed that Mr. Jones pointed at him.
    Within moments of approaching Mr. Jones, Mr. Raja fired six shots and struck Mr. Jones three times, killing him.

    It was later discovered that the interaction between the two men had been recorded on a phone line after Mr. Jones called for roadside assistance.
    Prosecutors said that Mr. Jones was heard calmly speaking to the tow-truck dispatcher and to Mr. Raja.
    The audio recording, in which gunshots could be heard, was played repeatedly for the jury.
    Mr. Raja was fired by the Police Department within a month of the killing, and was charged in June 2016.
    This week, C.J. Jones, Mr. Jones's older brother, told a local news station, CBS 12, that he blamed himself for not getting out of bed to help his brother when he called that night shortly before 3 a.m.
    "It's hard," he said. "It's really hard."
    "I never had a fight with him," Mr. Jones said. "We never had to argue about nothing. It was the best feeling to have a brother like that because he looked up to me, he listened to me, he lived his life."


    16) Profitable Giants Like Amazon Pay $0 in Corporate Taxes. Some Voters Are Sick of It.
    By Stephanie Saul and Patricia Cohen, August 29, 2019

    Members of the Akron chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America spent two hours recently talking over a framework for a post-capitalist society.CreditCreditAllison Farrand for The New York Times

    AKRON, Ohio — Colin Robertson wonders why he pays federal taxes on the $18,000 a year he makes cleaning carpets, while the tech giant Amazon got a tax rebate.
    His concerns about a tilted economic playing field recently led Mr. Robertson to join the Akron chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. At a gathering this month, as members discussed Karl Marx and corporate greed over chocolate chip cookies, it wasn’t long before talk turned to income inequality and how the government helps the wealthy avoid taxes.
    “One of the benefits of taxation is taking it and using it for the collective good,” said Mr. Robertson, 25, comparing his minimal income to the roughly $150 billion net worth of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and the world’s richest person.

    “He could be taxed at 99.9 percent and still have millions left over,” Mr. Robertson said, “and I’d be homeless.”

    It’s a topic that several presidential candidates, led by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have hammered recently as they travel the campaign trail, spurred by a report that 60 Fortune 500 companies paid no federal taxes on $79 billion in corporate income last year. Amazon, which is reported to be opening a center in an abandoned Akron mall that will employ 500 people, has become the poster child for corporate tax avoidance; last year it had an effective tax rate of below zero — receiving a rebate — on income of $10.8 billion.
    For decades, profitable companies have been able to avoid corporate taxes. But the list of those paying zero roughly doubled last year as a result of provisions in President Trump’s 2017 tax bill that expanded corporate tax breaks and reduced the tax rate on corporate income.
    “Amazon, Netflix and dozens of major corporations, as a result of Trump’s tax bill, pay nothing in federal taxes,” Mr. Sanders said last week during a Fox News town hall-style event. “I think that’s a disgrace.”

    Companies That Paid No Federal Taxes in 2018

    These are the 30 most profitable companies that paid no federal income taxes in 2018. In many cases, the companies also received tax rebates that could be used to reduce their tax burdens in other years.
    $5 billion
    $10 billion
    Delta Air Lines
    General Motors
    EOG Resources
    Duke Energy
    Occidental Petroleum
    Dominion Energy
    Deere & Company
    American Electric Power
    Public Service Enterprise Group
    Kinder Morgan
    Prudential Financial
    Principal Financial
    Xcel Energy
    WEC Energy
    Molson Coors
    Devon Energy
    Pioneer Natural Resources
    DTE Energy
    CMS Energy
    Federal tax rebate
    Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
    By The New York Times
    Corporations’ ability to whittle down their tax bills has long been a target of criticism by Democrats, and this presidential campaign is no exception, particularly among left-wing candidates who argue that corporations should be accountable for wage inequality and its impact on low- and middle-income workers.
    Here in Ohio, even though unemployment has hit an 18-year low, several counties still have jobless rates significantly higher than the national rate, 3.8 percent, and the statewide rate, 4.4 percent. Ohioans have witnessed so many factory closures over the years that they seem to live with a permanent sense of economic wariness. The question for Democrats is how to leverage that to their advantage as they try to retake the state, which Mr. Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2016.
    David Betras, the Democratic chairman in Mahoning County, a traditionally blue stronghold of union voters that President Trump nearly carried in 2016, said that Democrats had not yet figured out how to use the economic angst of laid-off employees and minimum-wage workers to defeat Mr. Trump in Ohio in 2020.
    “Believe it or not, if you listen to the president, he addresses that issue,” Mr. Betras said. “He does it with a lot of smoke and very many mirrors, but he’s at least talking about how good the economy is and what I’ve done for you. ‘I’m with you. I have your back.’”
    Even as candidates focus on corporate taxation, Mr. Betras said the issue didn’t resonate with voters in the same way as more familiar topics like health care or immigration. “It appeals to a small slice of the electorate,” he said. (Mr. Betras, a lawyer, has endorsed Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio for the Democratic nomination.)
    Gallup poll last fall suggested that taxes were generally a more important issue for Republicans than for Democrats.

    In an election in which Democrats will seek to win back voters who supported President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, then switched to Mr. Trump, some Democrats also worry that calls to increase corporate taxes might actually turn off swing voters in this critical state, those like Thomas Chhay, a student at the University of Akron.

    "I lean Republican,” Mr. Chhay, 18, said last week while having lunch at the university’s student union. “I agree with corporate tax cuts unless the companies ship the jobs overseas.”
    The list of profitable companies that pay no corporate taxes, compiled by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, also includes Goodyear and three other Ohio companies, including the Akron-based electric utility FirstEnergy. The company, which has the naming rights to the Cleveland Browns’ stadium, paid no taxes last year on $1.5 billion in income, according to the analysis, and will receive additional tax credits that can be used in the future. In a win for consumers, some of that will be returned to the utility’s customers.

    Largest Tax Rebates as a Percentage of 2018 Profit
    Largest Tax Rebates, in Millions 
    Activision Blizzard
    Pitney Bowes
    Prudential Financial
    Duke Energy
    WEC Energy
    Duke Energy
    Prudential Financial
    EOG Resources
    Deere & Company
    Activision Blizzard
    WEC Energy
    Delta Air Lines
    Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
    By The New York Times
    Ms. Warren has gone the furthest in issuing a detailed plan to alter the corporate system. Under her proposal, corporations would pay a new 7 percent tax on every dollar over $100 million in profits they earn anywhere in the world. She estimated the new tax would apply to roughly 1,200 companies and bring in $1 trillion.
    During the 2016 presidential campaign and in this one, Mr. Sanders has routinely talked about closing loopholes and capturing some of the billions in profits that multinationals have kept overseas in tax havens and out of the Internal Revenue Service’s reach.
    Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator who is also running, has taken a different approach. She has tied a proposed increase in the corporate tax rate, to 25 percent from the current 21 percent, to plans to rebuild bridges, roads and airports nationwide. About $400 billion of her trillion-dollar infrastructure plan would be financed by the tax increase.
    Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who officially entered the race on Thursday, has not issued a formal proposal on corporate taxes. In remarks last May, however, he blamed a “yawning” income gap for tearing the country apart. “We have to deal with this tax code,” he said. “It’s wildly skewed toward taking care of those at the very top. It overwhelmingly favors investors over workers.”

    In surveys, more Americans support raising the corporate tax rate than lowering it or leaving it unchanged. And several Democratic candidates, like the former housing secretary Julián Castro, invoke “fair share” rhetoric in speeches or vow to undo the recent Republican tax law. Others, like Senator Kamala Harris of California, have focused more on the individual income tax and reducing the burden on working families.
    But raising the headline tax rate on corporations won’t eliminate the corporate zero-rate club, which also results from companies taking advantage of loopholes and the way global profits are taxed.
    Two years ago, Mr. Trump appeared at a sold-out rally in working-class Youngstown, the seat of Mahoning County, and delivered a message full of economic reassurance.
    “I was looking at some of those big, once incredible job-producing factories,” the president said. “Those jobs have left Ohio. They’re all coming back. They’re all coming back. Don’t move. Don’t sell your house.”
    But it has not entirely worked out that way.
    General Motors, one of the companies on the zero-tax list, recently idled a large plant near Youngstown that produced the Chevrolet Cruze, a decision that helped increase the company’s stock price even as G.M. paid no federal taxes on $4.32 billion in income.
    “What was promised to these people was more jobs,” said David Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents workers at the plant, which is in Lordstown. “When you give them the tax break and they take the jobs away, that’s like a double whammy. That’s a lose, lose.”

    Lordstown is in Trumbull County, where the unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in March and many of those who work are eligible for public assistance. “Working people can get free cheese? The system is broken,” Mr. Green said.

    Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s entreaty two years ago that local workers stay put, Tyler Savin, a real estate agent, said the idling of the plant had added to his home listings and that many sellers wouldn’t get their asking prices as they leave Ohio for other G.M. locations.
    Mr. Savin, 22, was among the customers last week at Tommy Dogg’s Bar and Grill in nearby Niles, the birthplace of both Mr. Ryan, the local favorite-son candidate, and William McKinley, a Republican president who was known for imposing tariffs on foreign goods.
    Mr. Savin likes Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, but will ultimately vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is, he said in a whisper lest pro-Trump patrons overhear.
    “I think corporations should pay their taxes, like Amazon,” he said. But he said health care and support for abortion rights were more important to him.
    Jeff Williams, 57, who manages a convenience store on the midnight shift, had heard about Amazon’s tax breaks on the radio. Last week, as he sat outside his home in Niles catching the first warm rays of the year, he also was doing some comparison.
    He was treated for cancer, heart disease and two hernias last year but wasn’t able to deduct his expenses, he said. Amazon, meantime, availed itself of a full suite of tax breaks. “Amazon doesn’t pay taxes, but I pay taxes,” Mr. Williams said.

    Akron, about an hour west, is faring better economically. Mayor Daniel Horrigan won’t confirm or deny it, but Amazon is believed to be the company he has recruited to move into Akron’s Rolling Acres Mall, a once-thriving shopping center that closed in 2008, becoming a symbol of both the recession and the retail disruption caused by online shopping.
    Under Ms. Warren’s plan, Amazon would have paid $698 million instead of $0 in federal taxes for 2018. In a statement, the company said it “pays all the taxes we are required to pay in the U.S. and every country where we operate.” The company would not comment on whether it planned to open a facility in Akron.
    Mr. Horrigan has been working to invigorate the economy of Akron, historically known as the Rubber City for its role in tire manufacturing. The tire jobs have mostly moved elsewhere.
    Goodyear, which made the list of 60 by paying no federal corporate income taxes, employs 64,000 people worldwide, but only 3,000 of them remain here, mostly in the company’s headquarters. A spokesman said the company’s 2018 tax situation stemmed from “historical losses in U.S. operations.”
    The Democratic Socialists have close to 100 members in Akron, many of them supporters of Mr. Sanders. Those attending last week’s meeting ranged from a stay-at-home mother who said she hadn’t been able to pay her water bill for a year to a college professor, David Pereplyotchik.
    Mr. Pereplyotchik, 37, said he believed the group should come up with a viable alternative to the corporate tax and wage system in the United States.
    “If we’re fighting for something, what version of the thing are we fighting for?” asked Mr. Pereplyotchik, who teaches philosophy. “It seems like if you just make them pay employees more, they’re just not going to hire employees.”
    Mr. Robertson, the carpet cleaner, has his own idea: nationalizing the companies. “I think forcing them to pay higher alone is inefficient,” he said, “and taxation alone is inefficient.”


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