Julian Assange Charged by U.S. With Conspiracy to Hack a Government Computer

By Eileen Sullivan and Richard Richard Pérez-Peña, April 11, 2019
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested Thursday at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had sheltered since 2012.
CreditCreditHenry Nicholls/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The United States has charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with one count of conspiracy to hack a computer related to his role in the 2010 release of reams of secret American documents, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday just hours after British authorities arrested him in London.

The single charge, conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, stems from what prosecutors said was his agreement to break a password to a classified United States government computer. It is not an espionage charge, a significant detail that will come as a relief to press freedom advocates. The United States government had considered until at least last year charging him with an espionage-related offense.

Mr. Assange, 47, has been living at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012. British authorities arrested him after he was evicted by the Ecuadoreans. The Metropolitan Police said that Mr. Assange had been detained partly in connection with an extradition warrant filed by the authorities in the United States.

Mr. Assange, born in Australia, has long been in the sights of the United States government since his 2010 release of American documents and videos about the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and confidential cables sent among diplomats.
Mr. Assange has most recently been under attack for his organization’s release during the 2016 presidential campaign of thousands of emailsstolen from the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee, leading to a series of revelations that embarrassed the party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. United States investigators have said that the systems were hacked by Russian agents.
Mr. Assange will have the right to contest the United States extradition request in British courts. Most people who fight extradition requests argue that the case is politically motivated rather than driven by legitimate legal concerns.

Eileen Sullivan reported from Washington, and Richard Pérez-Peña from London. David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from London, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner from Washington, and Raphael Minder from Madrid.



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The RootsAction.org Team

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

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


On January 3, 2019 the office of District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a letter memorandum to Judge Leon Tucker.  "DA [Larry Krasner], and members of his staff went to a remote and largely inaccessible of the DA's office marked "Storage" looking for office furniture." And found six boxes of files on Mumia Abu-Jamal's case that were not produced duringthe recent court proceedings.

The District Attorney Krasner's remarkable and suspicious discovery of six boxes of files marked Mumia or Mumia Abu-Jamal hidden in a storage room on December 28 was one day after Judge Tucker's historic decision granting Mumia Abu-Jamal new rights of appeal.

This is confirmation of what we've known for decades--the prosecution has hidden exculpatory evidence in Mumia's case.  Evidence that is likely proof that Mumia's guilt was intentionally manufactured by the police and prosecution and the truth of his innocence suppressed.

These files should be released to the public. DA Krasner should take this as evidence of the total corruptness of this prosecution against an innocent man. The remedy for this is nothing less than dismissal of the charges against Mumia and his freedom from prison!

It took DA Krasner six days to report this find to Judge Tucker. Why? And who has gone through those six boxes of files on Mumia's case? What assurance can DA Krasner give that there hasn't been further tampering with and covering up of the evidence, which led to an innocent man being framed for murder and sentenced to death?

The DA's letter was not publicly available, nor was the January 3 docket filing shown on the court's public access web pages of docket filing, until January 9.

Rachel Wolkenstein, January 10, 2019
WHYY (an affiliate of NPR)
Philly prosecutors discover mysterious 'six boxes' connected to Mumia Abu-Jamal in storage room
By Bobby AllynJanuary 9, 2019
A group of two dozen activists briefly block traffic during a rally outside the Philadelphia District Attorney's office on Friday. The group called on DA Larry Krasner to not challenge a Common Pleas court ruling that allows Mumia Abu-Jamal to file an appeal. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Days after Christmas, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and some of his assistants went rummaging around an out-of-the-way storage room in the office looking for some pieces of furniture. What they stumbled upon was a surprising find: six boxes stuffed of files connected to the case of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Five of the six boxes were marked "McCann," a reference to the former head of the office's homicide unit, Ed McCann. Some of the boxes were also marked "Mumia," or the former Black Panther's full name, "Mumia Abu-Jamal."

It is unknown what exactly the files say and whether or not the box's contents will shed new light on a case that for decades has garnered worldwide attention.

But in a letter to the judge presiding over Abu-Jamal's case, Assistant District Attorney Tracey Kavanagh wrote "nothing in the Commonwealth's database showed the existence of these six boxes," she said. "We are in the process of reviewing these boxes."

The surprise discovery comes just weeks after a Philadelphia judge reinstated appeals rightsto Abu-Jamal, saying the former radio journalist and activist should get another chance to reargue his case in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court due to a conflict-of-interest one of the justices had at the time Abu-Jamal's petition was denied.

Abu-Jamal's supportersare seizing on the mysterious six boxes as proof that his innocence has been systematically suppressed by authorities.

"There's no question in my mind that the only reason they could've been hidden like this is that this is the evidence of the frame-up of Mumia," said Rachel Wolkenstein, who has been a legal advocate and activist for Abu-Jamal for more than 30 years.

"What these missing boxes represent is confirmation of what we've known for decades: there's hidden, exculpatory evidence in Mumia's case, and that is evidence that Mumia's guilt was intentionally manufactured by the police and prosecution and the truth of his innocence was suppressed," Wolkenstein said.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office did not say anything at all about what is in the boxes, or whether there is evidence that the files are exculpatory, or capable of demonstrating that Abu-Jamal did not commit a crime. During his original trial three separate eyewitnesses testified Mumia did commit the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Wolkenstein's assessment is wild speculation, according to Ed McCann, the former homicide unit chief whose name was scrawled across the six boxes. McCann left the office in 2015 after 26 years there as a prosecutor. He was never directly involved in Abu-Jamal's case.

"I can't tell you 100% what is in these boxes," McCann said Wednesday night. "But I doubt there is anything in them that is not already in the public eye."

How and why did six boxes tied to one of the most legendary and racially-charged cases the office has ever handled get relegated to a dusty storage room?

McCann is not sure. But he said when the office moved locations in 2006, hundreds of boxes with his name written them were moved into the current headquarters on South Penn Square, just across the street from Philadelphia City Hall.

"I don't remember these six boxes. But nobody over there discussed this with me before filing this letter," McCann said. "I would think if they were really interested in what happened, they would have reached out to me."

In the two-page letter to the court, assistant district attorney Kavanagh wrote that if Judge Leon Tucker would like to review the boxes, prosecutors will turn them over.

Tucker, who is the same judge who ordered that Abu-Jamal should be given a new appeals argument, has not weighed in on the newly-discovered boxes.

But in his opinion last month, Tucker said former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille should have recused himself from hearing Abu-Jamal's petitions, since Castille himself was Philadelphia's District Attorney when the case was actively on appeal. "True justice must be completely just without even a hint of partiality, lack of integrity or impropriety," wrote Tucker, saying a new hearing in front of the state's high court is warranted.

Prosecutors have not taken a position yet on Tucker's opinion. The files unearthed in the six boxes could influence whether Krasner's office supports or opposes a new hearing for Abu-Jamal.

Wolkenstein said the thousands of people who have joined the "Free Mumia" movement around the globe should be able to review the documents themselves.

"These files should be released publicly," Wolkenstein said. "The remedy for this is nothing less than dismissal of Mumia's charges and his release from prison."



Statement: Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech

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

Petition Text

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



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

Add us to your address book























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

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

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

Major Tillery and family

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

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

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




    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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    Write to:
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    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) Alabama's Gruesome Prisons: Report Finds Rape and Murder at All Hours
    By Katie Benner and Shaila Dewan, April 3, 2019

    The segregation unit at Alabama's St. Clair Correctional Facility houses inmates in solitary confinement. Many have come to see the unit as a haven from the prison's general population.CreditCreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times

    One prisoner had been dead for so long that when he was discovered lying face down, his face was flattened. Another was tied up and tortured for two days while no one noticed. Bloody inmates screamed for help from cells whose doors did not lock.
    Those were some of the gruesome details in a 56-page report on the Alabama prison system that was issued by the Justice Department on Wednesday. The report, one of the first major civil rights investigations by the department to be released under President Trump, uncovered shocking conditions in the state's massively overcrowded and understaffed facilities.
    Prisoners in the Alabama system endured some of the highest rates of homicide and rape in the country, the Justice Department found, and officials showed a "flagrant disregard" for their right to be free from excessive and cruel punishment. The investigation began in the waning days of the Obama administration and continued for more than two years after Mr. Trump took office. 

    The department notified the prison system that it could sue in 49 days "if State officials have not satisfactorily addressed our concerns."

    [The New York Times received more than 2,000 photos taken inside an Alabama prison. This is what they showed.]
    Alabama is not alone in having troubled, violent prisons. But the state has one of the country's highest incarceration rates and its correctional system is notoriously antiquated, dangerous and short-staffed. The major prisons are at 182 percent of their capacity, the report found, contraband is rampant and prisoners sleep in dorms they are not assigned to in order to escape violence.
    "The violations are severe, systemic, and exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision," the report said, noting that some facilities had fewer than 20 percent of their allotted positions filled. It also cited the use of solitary confinement as a protective measure for vulnerable inmates, and "a high level of violence that is too common, cruel, of an unusual nature, and pervasive."
    State officials said the report addressed issues that Alabama was already aware of and working to fix.
    "For more than two years, the D.O.J. pursued an investigation of issues that have been the subject of ongoing litigation and the target of significant reforms by the state," a statement from the office of Gov. Kay Ivey said. "Over the coming months, my Administration will be working closely with D.O.J. to ensure that our mutual concerns are addressed and that we remain steadfast in our commitment to public safety, making certain that this Alabama problem has an Alabama solution."

    But the report called the state "deliberately indifferent" to the risks prisoners face, and said, "It has failed to correct known systemic deficiencies that contribute to the violence." Legislative efforts to reduce overcrowding through measures such as reducing sentences were not made retroactive and have had "minimal effect," the report said.
    Alabama's prisons have for years been the subject of civil rights litigation by the Equal Justice Initiative and the Southern Poverty Law Center, nonprofit legal advocacy groups based in Montgomery. Maria Morris, the lead lawyer for the center's lawsuit, also disputed the assertion that the problems were being fixed.
    "They're not fixing them," Ms. Morris said. "They're giving a lot of lip service to the need to fix them, but the lip service always comes back to we just need a billion dollars to build new prisons and, as the Department of Justice found, that's not going to solve the problem."
    Alabama inmates continue to die in high numbers. There have been 15 suicides in the past 15 months, and the homicide rate vastly exceeds the national average for prisons.
    The Justice Department report focused on the failure to prevent prisoner-on-prisoner violence because of what it said was inadequate training, failure to properly classify and supervise inmates, and failure to stem the flow of contraband including weapons and drugs, among other problems.
    The department is still investigating excessive force and sexual abuse by prison staff members, an investigation that former federal prosecutors say could lead to criminal indictments.

    • Friday:

       Three stabbings, including one that resulted in death.
    • Saturday:

       One beating and one discovery of a drug cache.
    • Sunday:

       Two beatings, one stabbing, one sexual assault and one beating with a sock full of metal locks.
    • Tuesday:

       One discovery of a drug cache and one case of arson, when a prisoner's bed was set on fire while he slept.
    • Wednesday:

       One sexual assault.
    • Thursday:

       One beating, one sexual assault and one overdose that resulted in death.

    2) A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy
    The rise of Candida auris embodies a serious and growing public health threat: drug-resistant germs.
    By Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs, April 6, 2019
    Dr. Shawn Lockhart, a fungal disease expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, holding a microscope slide with inactive Candida auris collected from an American patient.CreditMelissa Golden for The New York Times

    For decades, public health experts have warned that the overuse of antibiotics was reducing the effectiveness of drugs that have lengthened life spans by curing bacterial infections once commonly fatal. But lately, there has been an explosion of resistant fungi as well, adding a new and frightening dimension to a phenomenon that is undermining a pillar of modern medicine.
    "It's an enormous problem," said Matthew Fisher, a professor of fungal epidemiology at Imperial College London, who was a co-author of a recent scientific review on the rise of resistant fungi. "We depend on being able to treat those patients with antifungals."

    Simply put, fungi, just like bacteria, are evolving defenses to survive modern medicines.
    Yet even as world health leaders have pleaded for more restraint in prescribing antimicrobial drugs to combat bacteria and fungi — convening the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 to manage an emerging crisis — gluttonous overuse of them in hospitals, clinics and farming has continued.
    Resistant germs are often called "superbugs," but this is simplistic because they don't typically kill everyone. Instead, they are most lethal to people with immature or compromised immune systems, including newborns and the elderly, smokers, diabetics and people with autoimmune disorders who take steroids that suppress the body's defenses.
    Scientists say that unless more effective new medicines are developed and unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs is sharply curbed, risk will spread to healthier populations. A study the British government funded projects that if policies are not put in place to slow the rise of drug resistance, 10 million people could die worldwide of all such infections in 2050, eclipsing the eight million expected to die that year from cancer.

    In the United States, two million people contract resistant infections annually, and 23,000 die from them, according to the official C.D.C. estimate. That number was based on 2010 figures; more recent estimates from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine put the death toll at 162,000. Worldwide fatalities from resistant infections are estimated at 700,000.
    Antibiotics and antifungals are both essential to combat infections in people, but antibiotics are also used widely to prevent disease in farm animals, and antifungals are also applied to prevent agricultural plants from rotting. Some scientists cite evidence that rampant use of fungicides on crops is contributing to the surge in drug-resistant fungi infecting humans.

    Yet as the problem grows, it is little understood by the public — in part because the very existence of resistant infections is often cloaked in secrecy.

    With bacteria and fungi alike, hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of being seen as infection hubs. Even the C.D.C., under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks. State governments have in many cases declined to publicly share information beyond acknowledging that they have had cases.
    All the while, the germs are easily spread — carried on hands and equipment inside hospitals; ferried on meat and manure-fertilized vegetables from farms; transported across borders by travelers and on exports and imports; and transferred by patients from nursing home to hospital and back.
    C. auris, which infected the man at Mount Sinai, is one of dozens of dangerous bacteria and fungi that have developed resistance. Yet, like most of them, it is a threat that is virtually unknown to the public.

    Other prominent strains of the fungus Candida — one of the most common causes of bloodstream infections in hospitals — have not developed significant resistance to drugs, but more than 90 percent of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one drug, and 30 percent are resistant to two or more drugs, the C.D.C. said.
    Dr. Lynn Sosa, Connecticut's deputy state epidemiologist, said she now saw C. auris as "the top" threat among resistant infections. "It's pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identity," she said.

    Nearly half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days, according to the C.D.C. Yet the world's experts have not nailed down where it came from in the first place.
    "It is a creature from the black lagoon," said Dr. Tom Chiller, who heads the fungal branch at the C.D.C., which is spearheading a global detective effort to find treatments and stop the spread. "It bubbled up and now it is everywhere."

    In late 2015, Dr. Johanna Rhodes, an infectious disease expert at Imperial College London, got a panicked call from the Royal Brompton Hospital, a British medical center outside London. C. auris had taken root there months earlier, and the hospital couldn't clear it.
    "'We have no idea where it's coming from. We've never heard of it. It's just spread like wildfire,'" Dr. Rhodes said she was told. She agreed to help the hospital identify the fungus's genetic profile and clean it from rooms.
    Under her direction, hospital workers used a special device to spray aerosolized hydrogen peroxide around a room used for a patient with C. auris, the theory being that the vapor would scour each nook and cranny. They left the device going for a week. Then they put a "settle plate" in the middle of the room with a gel at the bottom that would serve as a place for any surviving microbes to grow, Dr. Rhodes said.
    Only one organism grew back. C. auris.
    It was spreading, but word of it was not. The hospital, a specialty lung and heart center that draws wealthy patients from the Middle East and around Europe, alerted the British government and told infected patients, but made no public announcement.

    "There was no need to put out a news release during the outbreak," said Oliver Wilkinson, a spokesman for the hospital.
    This hushed panic is playing out in hospitals around the world. Individual institutions and national, state and local governments have been reluctant to publicize outbreaks of resistant infections, arguing there is no point in scaring patients — or prospective ones

    Dr. Silke Schelenz, Royal Brompton's infectious disease specialist, found the lack of urgency from the government and hospital in the early stages of the outbreak "very, very frustrating."
    "They obviously didn't want to lose reputation," Dr. Schelenz said. "It hadn't impacted our surgical outcomes."
    By the end of June 2016, a scientific paper reported "an ongoing outbreak of 50 C. auris cases" at Royal Brompton, and the hospital took an extraordinary step: It shut down its I.C.U. for 11 days, moving intensive care patients to another floor, again with no announcement.
    Days later the hospital finally acknowledged to a newspaper that it had a problem. A headline in The Daily Telegraph warned, "Intensive Care Unit Closed After Deadly New Superbug Emerges in the U.K." (Later research said there were eventually 72 total cases, though some patients were only carriers and were not infected by the fungus.)

    Yet the issue remained little known internationally, while an even bigger outbreak had begun in Valencia, Spain, at the 992-bed Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe. There, unbeknown to the public or unaffected patients, 372 people were colonized — meaning they had the germ on their body but were not sick with it — and 85 developed bloodstream infections. A paper in the journal Mycoses reported that 41 percent of the infected patients died within 30 days.
    A statement from the hospital said it was not necessarily C. auris that killed them. "It is very difficult to discern whether patients die from the pathogen or with it, since they are patients with many underlying diseases and in very serious general condition," the statement said.
    As with Royal Brompton, the hospital in Spain did not make any public announcement. It still has not.
    One author of the article in Mycoses, a doctor at the hospital, said in an email that the hospital did not want him to speak to journalists because it "is concerned about the public image of the hospital."
    The secrecy infuriates patient advocates, who say people have a right to know if there is an outbreak so they can decide whether to go to a hospital, particularly when dealing with a nonurgent matter, like elective surgery.

    "Why the heck are we reading about an outbreak almost a year and a half later — and not have it front-page news the day after it happens?" said Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, a physician in Kentucky and board chairman of Health Watch USA, a nonprofit patient advocacy group. "You wouldn't tolerate this at a restaurant with a food poisoning outbreak."

    Health officials say that disclosing outbreaks frightens patients about a situation they can do nothing about, particularly when the risks are unclear.
    "It's hard enough with these organisms for health care providers to wrap their heads around it," said Dr. Anna Yaffee, a former C.D.C. outbreak investigator who dealt with resistant infection outbreaks in Kentucky in which the hospitals were not publicly disclosed. "It's really impossible to message to the public."
    Officials in London did alert the C.D.C. to the Royal Brompton outbreak while it was occurring. And the C.D.C. realized it needed to get the word to American hospitals. On June 24, 2016, the C.D.C. blasted a nationwide warning to hospitals and medical groups and set up an email address, candidaauris@cdc.gov, to field queries. Dr. Snigdha Vallabhaneni, a key member of the fungal team, expected to get a trickle — "maybe a message every month."
    Instead, within weeks, her inbox exploded.
    In the United States, 587 cases of people having contracted C. auris have been reported, concentrated with 309 in New York, 104 in New Jersey and 144 in Illinois, according to the C.D.C.
    The symptoms — fever, aches and fatigue — are seemingly ordinary, but when a person gets infected, particularly someone already unhealthy, such commonplace symptoms can be fatal.
    The earliest known case in the United States involved a woman who arrived at a New York hospital on May 6, 2013, seeking care for respiratory failure. She was 61 and from the United Arab Emirates, and she died a week later, after testing positive for the fungus. At the time, the hospital hadn't thought much of it, but three years later, it sent the case to the C.D.C. after reading the agency's June 2016 advisory.

    This woman probably was not America's first C. auris patient. She carried a strain different from the South Asian one most common here. It killed a 56-year-old American woman who had traveled to India in March 2017 for elective abdominal surgery, contracted C. auris and was airlifted back to a hospital in Connecticut that officials will not identify. She was later transferred to a Texas hospital, where she died.
    The germ has spread into long-term care facilities. In Chicago, 50 percent of the residents at some nursing homes have tested positive for it, the C.D.C. has reported. The fungus can grow on intravenous lines and ventilators.
    Workers who care for patients infected with C. auris worry for their own safety. Dr. Matthew McCarthy, who has treated several C. auris patients at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, described experiencing an unusual fear when treating a 30-year-old man.
    "I found myself not wanting to touch the guy," he said. "I didn't want to take it from the guy and bring it to someone else." He did his job and thoroughly examined the patient, but said, "There was an overwhelming feeling of being terrified of accidentally picking it up on a sock or tie or gown."

    As the C.D.C. works to limit the spread of drug-resistant C. auris, its investigators have been trying to answer the vexing question: Where in the world did it come from?
    The first time doctors encountered C. auris was in the ear of a woman in Japan in 2009 (auris is Latin for ear). It seemed innocuous at the time, a cousin of common, easily treated fungal infections.

    Three years later, it appeared in an unusual test result in the lab of Dr. Jacques Meis, a microbiologist in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, who was analyzing a bloodstream infection in 18 patients from four hospitals in India. Soon, new clusters of C. auris seemed to emerge with each passing month in different parts of the world.
    The C.D.C. investigators theorized that C. auris started in Asia and spread across the globe. But when the agency compared the entire genome of auris samples from India and Pakistan, Venezuela, South Africa and Japan, it found that its origin was not a single place, and there was not a single auris strain.

    The genome sequencing showed that there were four distinctive versions of the fungus, with differences so profound that they suggested that these strains had diverged thousands of years ago and emerged as resistant pathogens from harmless environmental strains in four different places at the same time.
    "Somehow, it made a jump almost seemingly simultaneously, and seemed to spread and it is drug resistant, which is really mind-boggling," Dr. Vallabhaneni said.
    There are different theories as to what happened with C. auris. Dr. Meis, the Dutch researcher, said he believed that drug-resistant fungi were developing thanks to heavy use of fungicides on crops.
    Dr. Meis became intrigued by resistant fungi when he heard about the case of a 63-year-old patient in the Netherlands who died in 2005 from a fungus called Aspergillus. It proved resistant to a front-line antifungal treatment called itraconazole. That drug is a virtual copy of the azole pesticides that are used to dust crops the world over and account for more than one-third of all fungicide sales.

    A 2013 paper in Plos Pathogens said that it appeared to be no coincidence that drug-resistant Aspergillus was showing up in the environment where the azole fungicides were used. The fungus appeared in 12 percent of Dutch soil samples, for example, but also in "flower beds, compost, leaves, plant seeds, soil samples of tea gardens, paddy fields, hospital surroundings, and aerial samples of hospitals."
    Dr. Meis visited the C.D.C. last summer to share research and theorize that the same thing is happening with C. auris, which is also found in the soil: Azoles have created an environment so hostile that the fungi are evolving, with resistant strains surviving.
    This is similar to concerns that resistant bacteria are growing because of excessive use of antibiotics in livestock for health and growth promotion. As with antibiotics in farm animals, azoles are used widely on crops.
    "On everything — potatoes, beans, wheat, anything you can think of, tomatoes, onions," said Dr. Rhodes, the infectious disease specialist who worked on the London outbreak. "We are driving this with the use of antifungicides on crops."
    Dr. Chiller theorizes that C. auris may have benefited from the heavy use of fungicides. His idea is that C. auris actually has existed for thousands of years, hidden in the world's crevices, a not particularly aggressive bug. But as azoles began destroying more prevalent fungi, an opportunity arrived for C. auris to enter the breach, a germ that had the ability to readily resist fungicides now suitable for a world in which fungi less able to resist are under attack.
    The mystery of C. auris's emergence remains unsolved, and its origin seems, for the moment, to be less important than stopping its spread.

    For now, the uncertainty around C. auris has led to a climate of fear, and sometimes denial.
    Last spring, Jasmine Cutler, 29, went to visit her 72-year-old father at a hospital in New York City, where he had been admitted because of complications from a surgery the previous month.
    When she arrived at his room, she discovered that he had been sitting for at least an hour in a recliner, in his own feces, because no one had come when he had called for help to use the bathroom. Ms. Cutler said it became clear to her that the staff was afraid to touch him because a test had shown that he was carrying C. auris.
    "I saw doctors and nurses looking in the window of his room," she said. "My father's not a guinea pig. You're not going to treat him like a freak at a show."
    He was eventually discharged and told he no longer carried the fungus. But he declined to be named, saying he feared being associated with the frightening infection.

    Matt Richtel is a best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter based in San Francisco. He joined The Times staff in 2000, and his work has focused on science, technology, business and narrative-driven storytelling around these issues.   @mrichtel

    Andrew Jacobs is a reporter with the Health and Science Desk, based in New York. He previously reported from Beijing and Brazil and had stints as a Metro reporter, Styles writer and National correspondent, covering the American South. @AndrewJacobsNYT


    3) Three Black Churches Have Burned in 10 Days in a Single Louisiana Parish
    By Richard Fausset,, April 5, 2019
    Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, La., one of three historically black churches that have recently burned in St. Landry Parish.CreditCreditLeslie Westbrook/The Advocate, via Associated Press

    ATLANTA — Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they had found "suspicious elements" in each case. The officials have not ruled out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.
    "There is clearly something happening in this community," State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement on Thursday. "That is why it is imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is."
    The three fires occurred on March 26, Tuesday and Thursday in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette. A fourth fire, a small blaze that officials said was "intentionally set," was reported on Sunday at a predominantly black church in Caddo Parish, about a three-hour drive north.
    "But just as we haven't connected the three in St. Landry, we haven't connected the one in Caddo," said Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, on Friday.

    Local officials said that they were still investigating the fires, and did not say if they knew of any suspects, a motive, or whether racism was an element.
    "There certainly is a commonality, and whether that leads to a person or persons or groups, we just don't know," Mr. Browning said at a news conference on Thursday.
    The F.B.I. and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved in the investigation, said Jeff Nowakowski, a spokesman for the A.T.F.'s New Orleans field division.
    The Rev. Gerald Toussaint, pastor at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, La., was driving to work on Thursday morning at around 4:45 a.m. when his wife called him to say she had seen on social media that their church was ablaze.
    Mr. Toussaint was aware of the two other fires that had been set at nearby houses of worship, St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, and Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas. He rushed to the scene.

    The church, which was founded in the 19th century, had undergone extensive remodeling two years ago. Now it is nearly gone, he said, except for a brick wall and corridor in the front.
    "I'm trying to find out who did it, why they did it, did it have anything to do with me," said Mr. Toussaint, who drives trucks for a living. "I don't know none of this."
    He also said he did not want to speculate, for fear of angering potential arsonists, or prompting copycat crimes.
    St. Landry Parish is a rural area studded with crawfish ponds and bayous in the heart of Cajun and Creole country. It is 56 percent white and 41 percent black. Mr. Toussaint said that relations were generally good between black and white residents.
    Since the 1950s, black churches across the South have been the targets of numerous racist attacks, from arson to bombing to armed assault. In 2015, a white supremacist shot and killed nine people at a Bible study at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C.
    In 2006, a string of arsons at Alabama churches, some predominantly white, some predominantly black, proved to be the work of three college students that officials characterized as a "joke" that had spun out of control.
    Last month, a black member of a predominantly black congregation, Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., pleaded guilty to burning his church. The church was spray-painted with the words "Vote Trump" in an effort to make the attack seem politically motivated, a Mississippi official said.

    At the news conference Thursday, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz of St. Landry Parish said that law enforcement officials would do "whatever it takes" to protect churches and churchgoers.
    "We're doing everything we can, collectively, to solve this crime," he said.


    4) Texas Prison Won't Give Inmate With Allergies a Cotton Blanket, Lawsuit Says
    By Julia Jacobs, April 6, 2019

    Calvin E. Weaver, an inmate at this prison northwest of Houston, says he has been asking for a cotton blanket for 10 years.CreditCreditMichael Stravato for The New York Times

    A Texas inmate who says he is allergic to the synthetic blankets provided by his prison says he has asked for 10 years to be given a cotton blanket instead.
    The inmate, Calvin E. Weaver, 73, filed a lawsuit against the prison system in May, claiming that its employees violated his civil rights by ignoring his frequent complaints about relentless itchiness and resulting health problems caused by the blanket.
    A federal judge ruled last week that some of Mr. Weaver's claims could proceed, despite the state's requests to dismiss them.

    The itchiness has led to open sores on his body, sleep deprivation, hypertension and anxiety, Mr. Weaver said in the complaint. He asked the prison not only for a cotton blanket but for punitive damages to make up for what he described as physical and psychological pain.

    Mr. Weaver was told around 2001 that he was allergic to the wool blanket then used by the prison system, according to the complaint, and he was issued a medical pass to receive a cotton blanket. But eight years later, Mr. Weaver wrote, the prison system replaced its blankets with a fiber blend. He said the new blankets also prompted an allergic reaction but his medical pass was not renewed.
    The prison system's current blankets are made of 40 percent virgin synthetic polyester staple and 60 percent recycled synthetic natural fiber, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement. He said there was no wool in the blankets.
    "An offender who asks for an alternative due to a potential medical issue is tested for any potential allergies and if warranted offered a medical pass for an alternative blanket," the statement said.
    When asked whether Mr. Weaver was tested for allergies after the new blankets were introduced, the spokesman said he could not comment on a particular case because of laws governing medical privacy.
    Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt of United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas has denied Mr. Weaver's request for a lawyer in the case, according to court documents. Most of the publicly available documents Mr. Weaver has filed in connection with the suit are handwritten.

    "It took me 10 years to finally file this lawsuit in hopes that this issue would finally be resolved," Mr. Weaver wrote in a letter to the state's attorney general in September.
    Mr. Weaver, who is in a prison northwest of Houston, was sentenced in 1998 to life in prison for aggravated sexual assault of a child, according to a state database.
    Judge Hoyt dismissed Mr. Weaver's claims against some of the prison system employees in a March 29 court order, but he allowed others against the executive director of the Department of Criminal Justice, a staffer at a prison medical practice and a prison unit supervisor to proceed.
    Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment on Friday night. They had argued that the judge should dismiss Mr. Weaver's lawsuit because the defendants had not shown "deliberate indifference" to the inmate's medical needs, according to court documents.
    Judge Hoyt wrote that Mr. Weaver's allegations that the three defendants had personal knowledge of his medical needs and had ignored repeated requests for treatment were sufficient to allow his civil rights case to proceed.


    5) New U.S. Sanctions Seek to Block Venezuelan Oil Shipments to Cuba
    By Annie Karni and Nicholas Casey, April 5, 2019

    A fisherman casts his net as an oil tanker sails in Venezuela. "Venezuela's oil belongs to the Venezuelan people," Vice President Mike Pence said, announcing sanctions.CreditCreditJuan Barreto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Friday its latest round of economic sanctions against the government of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, this time aimed at oil shipments between Venezuela and Cuba, a country that the administration has accused of propping up Mr. Maduro's authoritarian government.
    In a speech to the Venezuelan exile community in Houston, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the United States is levying sanctions on 34 vessels owned or operated by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., Venezuela's state-run oil company, as well as on two international companies that transport Venezuelan crude oil to Cuba.
    "Venezuela's oil belongs to the Venezuelan people," said Mr. Pence, who is expected to address the United Nations Security Council next week on the situation in Venezuela.

    The goal of the sanctions, senior administration officials said, was to force a "recalibration" of the relationship between Venezuela and Cuba, which, alongside China and Russia, has been defending the Maduro government.

    But in the short run, they are meant to end the arrangement by which the Maduro government provides oil to Cuba in exchange for intelligence and counterintelligence services while the Venezuelan people lack food, medicine and clean water. Venezuela has been shipping 20,000 to 50,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba, according to experts in the oil industry and administration officials.
    Russ Dallen, the managing partner of Caracas Capital Markets, who specializes in the Venezuelan oil industry, said the most likely outcome of the sanctions would be to create an atmosphere in which shipping companies would be even more wary of doing business with either Cuba or Venezuela, for fear of triggering sanctions.
    He said they were also meant to "name and shame" companies that have transported Venezuelan oil to Cuba so that Mr. Maduro can help an ideological ally rather than use profits from the oil to feed a starving population.
    "It makes Cuba and Venezuela even more radioactive," he said.
    Mr. Dallen, who tracks oil shipments leaving Venezuela, said that some of the ships had begun turning off their transponders when in Venezuelan ports, something regulations prohibit but is a technique used in countries like Iran to conceal their presence in the country. One ship, Mr. Dallen said, had recently left its transponder off until it reached Europe.
    The sanctions come as Venezuela has faced a month of blackouts that have resulted in an estimated loss of a week's oil production

    President Trump has thrown his support behind Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader, who in January declared himself the country's interim president and who has demanded Mr. Maduro's departure. Venezuela's economy and population have slipped further into crisis — with blackouts, as well as food and water shortages — while Mr. Maduro and Mr. Guaidó appear to be trying to wait each other out.
    A senior administration official said on Friday that the latest round of sanctions would "tighten the noose of the financial strangulation of Maduro and his cronies." Those sanctions come weeks after the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on a Russia-based bank that it accused of helping Mr. Maduro's government sidestep American financial penalties.
    But it has been more than two months since the Trump administration began imposing sanctions in Venezuela in hopes of pushing Mr. Maduro's government out of power. But to people living in Caracas, the capital, it is not clear that his grip on power is loosening, despite the American effort to target governors, generals and the state-run oil company and to cancel visas for Mr. Maduro's friends and family members.
    The American official said that there would be more actions by the United States in the coming weeks and that a military response continued to be a "very serious option." The official hinted that a red line for American intervention would be any threat to arrest Mr. Guaidó.

    Annie Karni reported from Washington, and Nicholas Casey from New York.


    6) Judge Who Asked Woman in Sexual Assault Case if She Closed Her Legs Faces Suspension
    By Mihir Zaveri, April 6, 2019

    Superior Court Judge John F. Russo Jr. of Ocean County, N.J., has been accused of judicial misconduct by a state committee.CreditCreditTanya Breen/The Asbury Park Press, via Associated Press

    A New Jersey judge who asked a woman if she had closed her legs to try to prevent an alleged sexual assault should be suspended without pay for three months, a state committee has recommended.
    The recommendation in March was based on the committee's finding that John F. Russo Jr., a superior court judge in Ocean County, violated the code of judicial conduct on four occasions, including during the exchange with the woman, who was not identified.
    This week, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that a hearing be held in July about the recommendation from the state's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.
    A lawyer for Judge Russo declined to comment on Friday night.

    "Judge Russo looks forward to a public hearing in which he will be able to respond to the allegations against him," the lawyer, David F. Corrigan, told NBC4 in March of last year, after a complaint was filed. "We have respect for the process as well as the advisory committee on judicial conduct, and therefore won't comment further."

    A 45-page report from the committee detailed four counts of alleged misconduct.
    The first focused on an exchange between Judge Russo and the woman who said she had been sexually assaulted, at a hearing in May 2016. The woman was seeking a restraining order against her alleged assailant, a man who she said had also threatened her life and made inappropriate comments to their child.
    "Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?" Judge Russo asked the woman.
    "Yes," she replied.
    "How would you do that?" the judge asked.
    The woman said she would try to physically harm the attacker and say "no," to which Judge Russo asked, "What else?"
    The woman said she would ask the person to stop, to which Judge Russo again asked, "What else?"
    She then said she would run away.
    "Run away, get away," he said. "Anything else?"
    "Block your body parts?" Judge Russo added. "Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?"

    The woman said she did not call the police until later. Judge Russo continued to question her about whether she had asked the man to stop, whether she tried to leave and how he had prevented her from leaving, as she had alleged he had done.
    The judicial conduct committee said Judge Russo's "questioning of the plaintiff in this manner, to include hypotheticals, was wholly unwarranted, discourteous and inappropriate" and could "re-victimize the plaintiff."
    In its second count of alleged misconduct, the committee said Judge Russo had abused his office by asking a family division manager to help change the scheduling of a guardianship hearing for the judge's son, who has disabilities.
    The committee's third count said Judge Russo should have recused himself from a hearing involving a man he knew from high school, whose pizza parlor the judge admitted to frequenting. The fourth count involved a nine-minute phone conversation about paternity testing that Judge Russo had with a woman when the father, who was the plaintiff in the case, was not present.
    The committee's recommendation said Judge Russo had admitted wrongdoing in the last two counts but denied it in the first two.
    The panel also recommended that Judge Russo receive additional training on "appropriate courtroom demeanor," according to the Supreme Court.


    7) We Fled the Gangs in Honduras. Then the U.S. Government Took My Baby.
    I still don't know where or in whose care my daughter was when we were apart. She's still traumatized.
    By Sindy Flores, April 3, 2019

    Sindy Flores, an asylum seeker from Honduras, holding her 18-month-old daughter, Grethshell, at a temporary living space in San Bruno, California.CreditCreditPeter DaSilva for The New York Times

    SAN FRANCISCO — I am an asylum seeker from Honduras and a mother of three children. For over a month my youngest daughter was separated from her father and me by the United States government. I still don't know where she was during that time or who took care of her. 
    She's a toddler, so she can't tell me if something bad happened to her. I don't know if she thinks we chose to abandon her. All I know is she came back pounds thinner, with lice and a hacking cough, and she cried for days, traumatized by a government that keeps children from their parents because they are migrants.
    We fled Honduras to the United States because we feared for our lives. I grew up in the capital, Tegucigalpa. In the past few years, my neighborhood has become one of the deadliest in the city. We had had run-ins with the gangs in the past. On Oct. 18, gang members came to our house looking for my partner, Kevin. 

    They showed me their guns and told me, "If you don't leave in 24 hours, you know what will happen to you."

    I knew what they were capable of. When my eldest daughter was 2 years old and I was pregnant with my son, their father was murdered and his body dismembered by gang members. Even after he was killed, we got death threats. We tried moving to another town until things cooled down, but the gangs found us there and extorted us.
    The death threats started again after Kevin and I got together and our daughter Grethshell was born. People who are deported from the United States as he was are targeted by the gangs, because they are presumed to have money. With the new threats, I grabbed the little money we had, around $80, and filled the children's backpacks with clothes for them and a doll for Grethshell, who was 15 months old. I picked up my son at school and we made our way to the bus station to meet Kevin. 
    We bought tickets to the closest town in Guatemala, and from there we took another bus to the southern Mexican border. In Mexico, out of money, we traveled on the freight train nicknamed "la Bestia," the Beast.
    While we waited for the train in Puebla, Mexican immigration agents showed up and beat people and threw them in vans. In the chaos, I grabbed my two older children and hid in the nearby bushes. Kevin, who was carrying Grethshell in a sling, took off in a different direction. That was the last time I saw them together.
    During the journey, we had come up with a plan in case we were separated. My uncle lives in San Francisco and that's where we would reunite. "We'll find each other there," Kevin said. "We'll be safe there."

    We arrived at the border at Calexico, Calif., on Dec. 31. Despite appealing for help, I was turned away by the Border Patrol agents. Desperate to reunite our family, I found us a way across in the early morning hours of Jan. 1. 
    We were caught by agents after we crossed and taken to one of the detention centers known as "hieleras," or iceboxes, because they are kept so cold. There I learned that Kevin was taken to the same detention center with Grethshell and she had been separated from her father. Two fellow migrant women told me that five agents held him down while they ripped her from his arms. Other migrant women were asked to watch her. 
    When I and my two other children were released on Jan. 2, my uncle confirmed what the women had told me. Kevin was charged with a felony for returning to the United States after having been deported. He was taken to jail, while our daughter was sent to a shelter for migrant children in San Antonio. 
    The family separation was not reported to the court on his charging documents. The charges against him were dropped, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement is still using those initial charges as an excuse to keep him detained indefinitely while he fights for asylum.
    I was told I would be reunited with my daughter in a week, but first I needed to fill out paperwork. Then I was told to provide a credit card with up to a $4,000 credit line for her flight, an impossibility for me. Officials refused to say who was looking after her. Finally I got fed up and went to the press. Grethshell was finally put on a plane and brought to me after I threatened to go to the address I had for the shelter manager and get her myself.
    When a social worker put my daughter in my arms on Jan. 30, she was inconsolable. My whole body shook as I held her and tried to soothe her, telling her that everything would be O.K. She was so sick I had to take her to the doctor the next day. For three weeks she resisted me, fearful, when I tried to hold her. She still cries out for her father at night.
    I know I am not alone. There are around 311,000 immigrants who have requested asylum after escaping violence in their home countries like us. Our future is uncertain. My children and I were just evicted from the home we shared with six other people. I'm trying to survive as a single mother of three. I don't know if we'll be granted asylum or sent back to our deaths at the hands of the gangs.

    When I asked to be let into this country because my family was in mortal danger, a Border Patrol agent told me I was weak. That it would be better if I went to Canada. "I don't care if one of your kids dies," he said. I wonder what that agent would have done if someone had threatened to murder his children. Wouldn't he have risked everything to ensure their safety? 
    As the United States decides what kind of country it wants to be, Americans need to reckon with the humanitarian crisis the current administration has created and what these policies have done to families like ours who have come here seeking protection.


    8) Migrants and Climate Change in Central America
    By Lauren Markham, April 6, 2019

    April 6, 2019—Media outlets and politicians routinely refer to the "flood" of Central American migrants, the "wave" of asylum seekers, the "deluge" of children, despite the fact that unauthorized migration across the U.S. borders is at record lows in recent years. Comparing human beings to natural disasters is both lazy and dehumanizing, but perhaps this tendency to lean on environmental language when describing migration is an unconscious acknowledgement of a deeper truth: much migration from Central America and, for that matter, around the world, is fueled by climate change
    Yes, today's Central American migrants—most of them asylum seekers fearing for their lives—are fleeing gangs, deep economic instability (if not abject poverty,) and either neglect or outright persecution at the hands of their government. But these things are all complicated and further compounded by the fact that the northern triangle of Central America—a region comprising Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and the largest sources of asylum seekers crossing our border in recent years—is deeply affected by environmental degradation and the impacts of a changing global climate.
    The average temperature in Central America has increased by 0.5 Celsius (32.9 Farenheit) since 1950; it is projected to rise another 1-2 degrees before 2050. This has a dramatic impact on weather patterns, on rainfall, on soil quality, on crops' susceptibility to disease, and thus on farmers and local economies. Meanwhile, incidences of storms, floods and droughts are on the rise in the region. In coming years, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development, countries in the northern triangle will see decreased rainfall and prolonged drought, writ large. In Honduras, rainfall will be sparse in areas where it is needed, yet in other areas, floods will increase by 60 percent. In Guatemala, the arid regions will creep further and further into current agricultural areas, leaving farmers out to dry. And El Salvador is projected to lose 10-28 percent of its coastline before the end of the century. How will all those people survive, and where will they go?
    This September, I travelled to El Salvador to report on the impacts of the U.S. government's family separation policy. I'd been to El Salvador many times before, but never to the Jiquilisco Bay, a stunning, shimmering and once abundant peninsula populated by mangroves and fishing communities and uncountable species of marine life. It is also one that, like many places in El Salvador, and like many places in the world, is also imperiled by climate change. Rising sea levels are destroying the mangrove forests, the marine life that relies on them, and thus the fishermen who rely on that marine life to feed themselves and eke out a meager economy.
    I met a man there named Arnovis Guidos Portillo, a 26-year-old single dad. Many people in his family were fishermen, but they were able to catch fewer and fewer fish. The country's drought and devastating rainfall meant that the area's farming economy, too, was suffering. The land was stressed, the ocean was stressed, and so were the people. Arnovis got into a scuffle one day at a soccer game, which placed him on a hit list with a local gang. He had been working as a day laborer here and there, but the drought meant there was less work, and it was hard to find work that didn't require crossing into rival gang territory. If he did, he would be killed. So he took his daughter north to the United States, where border patrol agents separated them for two months, locking them up in different states and with zero contact.
    Violence and environmental degradation are inextricably linked, and both lead to mass migration. An unstable planet and ecosystem lends itself to an unstable society, to divisions, to economic insecurity, to human brutality. When someone's home becomes less and less livable, they move elsewhere. Wouldn't each and every one of us do the same?
    This week, the New Yorker'sJonathan Blitzer published a series of pieces about the impacts of climate change in the Guatemalan highlands, where farmers are struggling to grow crops that they have been farming there for centuries. "In most of the western highlands," Blitzer wrote, "the question is no longer whether someone will emigrate but when." A few years ago, I reported from Guatemala's dry corridor, several hours away from where Blitzer was reporting, where persistent drought had decimated the region's agriculture, and particularly the coffee crop, on which roughly 90 percent of local farmers relied. It was a wildly different landscape from the one Blitzer described, but it faced the same problem: if you live in an agricultural zone, come from a long line of farmers and can't reliably harvest your crops any more, what else is there to do but leave?
    It's abundantly clear that climate change is a driver of migration to the U.S.—we have the data, we have the facts, we have the human stories. Still, the Trump administration has done nothing to intervene in this root cause. In fact, the U.S. government has systematically denied the existence of climate change, rolled back domestic regulations that would mitigate U.S. carbon emissions and thumbed its nose at international attempts—such as the Paris accords—to curb global warming.
    Now, in his latest futile, small-minded and cruel attempt to cut migration off at the neck (something we know is not possible—an unhealthy societal dynamic must be addressed at the root, just like with a struggling tree or crop,) Donald Trump announced last week that he would cut all foreign aid to the northern triangle. It's a punitive move, and one that—just like building a wall, separating families, locking people up indefinitely, and refusing asylum seekers entry across the border—is a petty intimidation tactic that will do nothing to actually curb forced migration.
    In fact, cutting aid to Central America will do quite the opposite, for as much waste and imperfections as there are in international aid, aid in Central America has been vital for creating community safety programs, job skills development and government accountability standards. It has also helped with drought mitigation and supporting climate-resilient agricultural practices. In other words, foreign aid to Central America—a place unduly hit by climate change—is supporting the kind of climate change resiliency that will keep people from having to leave in the first place.
    Because people really don't want to leave their homes for the vast uncertainty of another land, particularly when that land proves itself again and again to be hostile to migrants' very existence. People don't want to be raped along the route north, or die in the desert, or have their child ripped away from them by the border patrol, or be locked up indefinitely without legal counsel, without adequate medical care, with no idea what will happen to them and when. Who would risk this if things were OK back home? People like Arnovis leave because they feel like they have to.
    Eventually Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) officials convinced Arnovis to sign deportation papers with the promise that, if he did, he would be reunited with his daughter and returned to El Salvador. But he was shooed on to a plane back home without her. It took a tremendous amount of advocacy, but, after months locked up in the U.S., she, too, was returned home. They are now back together, which is a good thing, but the fundamental problem hasn't changed: he can't find work. His society is ill. So is the planet, and the land and sea all around him.
    Today, there are 64 million forced migrants around the world, more than ever before. They are fleeing war, persecution, disaster and, yes, climate change. The UN estimates that by 2050, there will be 200 million people forcibly displaced from their homes due to climate change alone.
    Migration is a natural human phenomenon and, many argue, should be a fundamental right, but forced migration—being run out of home against one's will and with threat to one's life—is not natural at all. Today, whether we choose to see it or not, climate change is one of the largest drivers of migration, and will continue to be for years to come—unless we do something about it. If we want people to be able to stay in their homes, we have to tackle the issue of our changing global climate, and we have to do it fast.
    The Guardian, April 6, 2019

    9) How Tough-on-Crime Prosecutors Contribute to Mass Incarceration
    By David Lat, April 8, 2019

    The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration
    By Emily Bazelon
    409 pp. Random House. $28.
    If you aspired to high office in the 20th and early 21st centuries, this was sound advice: Get thee to a prosecutor's office. Politicians from both parties, from Democrats like John Kerry to Republicans like Rudolph Giuliani, parlayed prosecutorial perches into political power and nationwide fame.
    The basic recipe for using a prosecutor's post as a springboard into politics required being "tough on crime," protecting the public by putting criminals behind bars. The vast majority of state and local prosecutors in the United States are elected, and taking a punitive tack was generally considered to be the path to re-election — and, frequently, election to higher office. Prosecutors had strong incentives to be harsh rather than lenient (or merciful) when dealing with defendants, and those incentives helped shape the criminal justice system as we know it today. In the words of the law professor and historian Jed Shugerman, a scholar of prosecutors turned politicians: "The emergence of the prosecutor's office as a steppingstone for higher office" has had "dramatic consequences in American criminal law and mass incarceration."

    These consequences are on full display in "Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration," by Emily Bazelon, a lecturer at Yale Law School and staff writer at The New York Times Magazine. In "Charged," a persuasive indictment of prosecutorial excess, Bazelon argues that the lawyers who work in the more than 2,000 prosecutors' offices around the country — conducting investigations, filing criminal charges and trying cases (or, much more commonly, striking plea bargains) — bear much of the responsibility for over-incarceration, conviction of the innocent and other serious problems of the criminal justice system.
    "We often think of prosecutors and defense lawyers as points of a triangle on the same plane, with the judge poised above them: equal contest, level playing field, neutral arbiter," Bazelon writes. But this is a misconception. As the Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, puts it to her: "It's all about discretion. Do you authorize the arrest, request bail, argue to keep them in jail or let them out, go all out on the charges or take a plea bargain? Prosecutors decide, especially, who gets a second chance."
    To show how prosecutorial power operates in the real world, Bazelon follows two young defendants through the system: Kevin (a pseudonym), a 20-year-old from the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn who is charged with illegal gun possession, and Noura Jackson, a teenager from Memphis who is accused of murdering her mother.
    Their cases are very different — one involving a victimless crime, the other the most heinous crime of all — and so are the district attorneys. Kevin's prosecutor is Gonzalez, an aspiring reformer and the first Latino to serve as Brooklyn's district attorney, while Noura's is Amy Weirich, a hard-charging attorney in the traditional law-and-order mold. Bazelon uses these contrasting cases to demonstrate that having the right (or wrong) prosecutor can make a huge difference — between justice tempered with mercy and grave injustice.
    Bazelon tells the tales of Noura and Kevin in rich, novelistic prose, which at its best puts one in mind of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's book "Random Family" (2003), about a troubled family from the Bronx in the grip of the criminal justice system. Consider the opening to Noura's story, the most gripping section of "Charged": "The blood was everywhere. Spattered on the floor of the hallway, on the doorframe of the bedroom and on the bedposts. Soaked into the sheets and pillows, and covering the body splayed on the floor at the foot of the bed. Jennifer Jackson was naked. Her face was covered by a wastepaper basket. Her chest and torso and hands were slashed, the pale skin torn by the blade of a knife. She'd been stabbed a total of 50 times."
    Bazelon interweaves Kevin's and Noura's stories with a remarkable amount of academic research by law professors, criminologists and other social scientists. The endnotes, replete with charts and graphs, run to more than 50 pages and acknowledge intellectual debts to such thinkers as Angela J. Davis, Paul Butler, Michelle Alexander and William Stuntz. This combination of powerful reporting with painstaking research yields a comprehensive examination of the modern American criminal justice system that appeals to both the head and the heart.
    The study of criminal justice is the study of power, and as a veteran legal journalist, Bazelon has long been concerned with this theme. Her last book, "Sticks and Stones," explored the culture of bullying and painted a nuanced portrait, rejecting a simple dichotomy between blameworthy bullies and innocent victims. "Charged" is considerably less balanced — in, say, its discussion of plea-bargaining, which Bazelon (convincingly) asserts is used to excess without sufficiently acknowledging its necessary role in the system, or of pro-prosecutor rulings by the Supreme Court, which she analyzes almost entirely from a public-policy perspective with little focus on their legal reasoning. This could cause readers who do not share Bazelon's politics to dismiss her core argument. But to the extent that it's a polemic, "Charged" reflects its author's passion for her subject. "As a journalist," she writes, "I've never felt a greater sense of urgency about exposing the roots of a problem and shining a light on the people working to solve it."
    Bazelon doesn't go easy on prosecutors, but at the same time she believes that American prosecution can heal itself. Discussing a group of young, diverse, reform-minded prosecutors whom she calls "the New D.A.s," she argues that "prosecutors also hold the key to change. They can protect against convicting the innocent. They can guard against racial bias. They can curtail mass incarceration." In a lengthy appendix, she offers "21 Principles for 21st-Century Prosecutors," a road map for those interested in reducing incarceration and increasing fairness in the justice system.
    Which of Bazelon's two visions for the future of American prosecution will carry the day: a continuation of the deplorable status quo or a revolution in fairness led by "the New D.A.s"? Recent developments offer reason to be hopeful. As was true of the factors that led us to the current sad state of affairs, it's all about incentives.
    The movement to reform the criminal justice system enjoys support from across the political spectrum, from Black Lives Matter activists trying to protect minority communities to libertarians like the Koch brothers troubled by government overspending. In December, Donald Trump, who campaigned for the presidency on a law-and-order platform, signed the First Step Act, a bipartisan package of sentencing and prison-condition reforms.
    This broader criminal justice reform reflects, and also contributes to, changing views of prosecutors. No longer simply the women and men who wear the "white hats," prosecutors today are seen — and properly so — as major players in the criminal justice system who can do great harm as well as good.
    As a result, in some cases, a prosecutor's record is no longer a political asset but a liability, or at least a mixed blessing. Take Kamala Harris, whose stints as San Francisco's district attorney and California's attorney general fueled her rise to the United States Senate. She now finds her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination complicated by decisions she made in her past positions: She has come under attacklargely for having been too aggressive as a prosecutor, a historical novelty in American politics.
    If prosecutorial service is no longer a golden ticket to a successful political career, then being a prosecutor could lose some of its luster to young lawyers seeking power and prestige. Perhaps that's a good thing. In these often overlooked but incredibly important posts, we need people committed to advancing the interests of justice, not just their own ambitions.
    David Lat, a former federal prosecutor, is the founder of the legal news website Above the Law and the author of the novel "Supreme Ambitions."


    10) Hunger and an 'Abandoned' Hospital: Puerto Rico Waits as Washington Bickers
    By Patricia Mazzei, April 7, 2019

    With the island's only labor and delivery room closed, expectant mothers must travel, usually by sea, to the big island eight miles away to give birth.CreditErika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

    VIEQUES, P.R. — A newborn's cries rarely echo anymore though the hallways of what passes as a hospital on the ravaged island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico.
    "We miss it," said Dennisse Bermúdez Colón, a nurse.
    Hurricane Maria closed the island's only labor and delivery room, forcing expectant mothers to travel, usually by sea, to the big island eight miles away to have their babies. Just a few emergency births have taken place in an old storm shelter converted into a provisional clinic.
    Nearly 18 months after the storm, the temporary arrangement feels increasingly permanent. The original hospital remains a shuttered wreck of rust and mold, home to the occasional rooster and a band of wild horses whose droppings litter the empty parking lot and ambulance bay.

    "If they keep doing nothing, the hospital will get more deteriorated," Isabel Encarnación Nazario, 65, lamented on a recent morning as she picked up a lab-work kit for her ailing 90-year-old mother from the makeshift clinic.
    The languishing Vieques hospital is one of many places where rebuilding has stagnated nearly a year and a half after the ruinous September 2017 hurricane. Repairs have yet to begin, slowed by disagreements over the project's scope and cost, though reopening the hospital is supposed to be a top priority.
    Puerto Rico was in financial distress and had crumbling infrastructure before Hurricane Maria, and many residents complain of government malfeasance that exacerbated the storm's impact, echoing criticism from Washington. But Puerto Rican leaders say the delay to the Vieques hospital and thousands of other stalled projects is a reflection of unequal treatment from the White House and Congress, which last week failed to pass disaster relief legislation because of a dispute over how much money to send the island.
    The dispute has interfered with aid reaching other parts of the country, including Midwestern states seeking flood relief and coastal states looking to increase hurricane protection. President Trump again accused Puerto Rican politicians of corruption and incompetence last week, signaling his unwillingness to approve more funds for the bankrupt commonwealth.
    "So many wonderful people, but with such bad Island leadership and with so much money wasted," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
    Republican and Democratic lawmakers have endorsed providing Puerto Rico with $600 million to address a more basic need than reconstruction: hunger. After the nearly Category 5 hurricane, Congress authorized $1.27 billion for Puerto Rico's food stamp program, which for a year increased recipients' monthly benefits to match those on the mainland. The bump expired last month.
    "I haven't eaten in two days," María Concepción, 52, said last week in the parking lot of a local food stamp office in the municipality of Bayamón, outside San Juan, the capital. A few minutes later, she burst into tears.
    Ms. Concepción, who said she is epileptic and suffering from cancer, had walked about two hours from her home only to learn that her appointment had been canceled. She hoped to request more money, after her benefit was cut more than half, to $108 a month.
    "It's not enough," she said.
    About 85 percent of food on the island is imported, elevating prices for consumers. Some 1.3 million of 3.2 million Puerto Ricans — about 43 percent of the population — qualify for food stamps. The island has been in an economic recession for 12 years.
    "It's not much, but it's something," William Miranda, 59, a janitor who lost his job after the hurricane, said at the food stamp office. "We buy as much as possible on special at the supermarket," added his wife, Carmen Lugo, 62.

    House Democrats have pushed for funding beyond the food stamp program, including $849 million for the Environmental Protection Agency to fix damaged water systems, about $150 million in housing grants for Puerto Ricans to repair their homes, and a provision requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay the full cost of permanent work on public buildings and other infrastructure, as it did after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
    Without the FEMA provision, Puerto Rico could have to pick up 10 percent of the rebuilding costs — billions of dollars the commonwealth government, whose finances have been controlled by a federal oversight board since 2016, said it does not have.
    That is why Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló, other Puerto Rican officials and their allies on Capitol Hill have cast the disaster relief package as critical for the island's long-term rebuilding. The legislation would not provide direct funding for projects like the Vieques hospital, but it would help ensure that the Puerto Rican government's budget troubles don't hold the project up.
    "This affects everything," Mr. Rosselló, a Democrat, said in an interview last week. "It hinders the recovery. It hinders our objective of having an energy grid that is sustainable, that's reliable and that's modern. It hinders our capability of fixing our water systems."
    Also awaiting funding: police stations, public schools and roads. The town of Villalba needs to replace its emergency operations center and an assisted living facility for seniors, both destroyed by the hurricane, Mayor Luis Javier Hernández said. (The town has leased other buildings to house the facilities in the meantime.) Residents of nearby Barranquitas, in Puerto Rico's mountainous central region, have had to take 40-minute detours along country roads because two major bridges were washed out.
    "It's been dangerous, and there have been several accidents," Mayor Francisco López of Barranquitas said. "It's really concerning, because the hurricane was a year and a half ago — and we're two months from the start of a new hurricane season."
    In the San Juan neighborhood of Ocean Park, where some streets were flooded with smelly water for two weeks after Hurricane Maria, Jesús Herbón, the owner of a local bakery, jokes that he has become an expert on water pumps from all the time he has devoted to learning about how they failed during the storm.

    "This could have turned into a source of infection," Mr. Herbón said. "Of course we're worried it could happen again."

    Temporary pumps are now backing up the old ones while the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources awaits FEMA funds for permanent upgrades, a department spokeswoman said.
    So far, FEMA and other agencies have disbursed $11.2 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, according to the federal Office of Management and Budget. Some $41 billion has been allocated but not yet distributed; the budget office estimates the island could receive $91 billion over the next 20 years.
    "It is the biggest amount appropriated to the island, that's true, but it is the biggest disaster to hit our island," said Representative Jenniffer González-Colón, a Republican and Puerto Rico's nonvoting member of Congress. "People get frustrated that all the money has been there — you can smell it, you can touch it — but you can't grab it."
    The Trump administration has questioned Puerto Rico's ability to spend the money wisely ever since the commonwealth awarded a $300 million contract to Whitefish Energy, a Montana company with only two employees. Puerto Rico later created a recovery agency and agreed to additional oversight, though some residents remain skeptical that the money will be well-spent.
    "Donald Trump is partly right — scoundrel that he is — because in Puerto Rico we live off the government," said Ms. Encarnación, the Vieques resident.
    Most of the aid Puerto Rico has received has gone toward emergency work, including debris removal and power restoration, a huge undertaking that took nearly a year. The New York Times found last year that much of FEMA's money for emergency home repairs went to contractors charging steep markups.

    For Mr. Rosselló, the funding fight is a question of fairness. For every long-term rebuilding project underway in Puerto Rico at this point after Hurricane Maria, there were 28 projects underway in Texas for damage from Hurricane Harvey, and 32 projects in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, the governor said. "Puerto Rico is getting much fewer and much lower resources than any comparable jurisdiction in the United States."
    A University of Michigan analysis published in the journal BMJ Global Health in January found it took twice as long — four months — for Hurricane Maria survivors in Puerto Rico to receive a comparable amount of individual aid (about $1 billion) as Hurricane Harvey survivors in Texas and Hurricane Irma survivors in Florida, though Maria was stronger and more devastating. Maria killed an estimated 2,975 people in Puerto Rico.
    In addition to the slow disbursement of aid, a report last month from the Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Housing and Urban Development lacked a robust plan to monitor disaster relief grants, including $20 billion approved for Puerto Rico.
    In Vieques, with the hospital out of commission, dialysis patients had to travel to the big island three times a week to get treatment for more than a year after the storm. Several patients died. Finally, in November, a mobile dialysis unit in a shiny trailer arrived at the temporary clinic, allowing local treatments to resume.
    "It wasn't easy," said Edwin Alvarado Cordero, a 58-year-old diabetic. Standing across the street from the pharmacy in Isabel Segunda, the bigger of the island's two towns, Mr. Alvarado recounted his thrice-weekly trips from Vieques to Humacao, which began at 4 a.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m.
    Last year, on the ferry to the big island, Mr. Alvarado suffered a heart attack. He had open-heart surgery and survived. Though he can now receive dialysis in Vieques, he still travels to San Juan periodically to see his cardiologist. Specialists visit Vieques infrequently.
    "It's far, but it's better there," Mr. Alvarado said. "What's left of the hospital here is grass and horses. They abandoned it."

    Alejandra Rosa contributed reporting from Bayamón, P.R.


    11) Black Hole Picture Revealed for the First Time
    Astronomers at last have captured an image of the darkest entities in the cosmos.
    By Dennis Overbye, April 10, 2019

    The first image of a black hole, from the galaxy Messier 87.CreditCreditEvent Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation

    Astronomers announced on Wednesday that at last they had seen the unseeable: a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it.

    "We've exposed a part of our universe we've never seen before," said Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C.

    The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of the galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from here, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the power and malevolence of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.

    To capture the image, astronomers reached across intergalactic space to a giant galaxy known as Messier 87, in the constellation Virgo. There, a black hole about seven billion times more massive than the sun is unleashing a violent jet of energy some 5,000 light years into space.
    The image offered a final, ringing affirmation of an idea so disturbing that even Einstein, from whose equations black holes emerged, was loath to accept it. If too much matter is crammed into one place, the cumulative force of gravity becomes overwhelming, and the place becomes an eternal trap, a black hole. Here, according to Einstein's theory, matter, space and time come to an end and vanish like a dream.
    On Wednesday morning that dark vision became a visceral reality. When the image was put up on the screen in Washington, cheers and gasps, followed by applause, broke out.
    The image emerged from two years of computer analysis of observations from a network of radio antennas called the Event Horizon Telescope. In all, eight radio observatories on six mountains and four continents observed the galaxy in Virgo on and off for 10 days in April 2017. 
    The telescope array also monitored a dim source of radio noise called Sagittarius A* (pronounced Sagittarius A-star), at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. There, 26,000 light-years from Earth, and buried in the depths of interstellar dust and gas, another black hole, with a mass of 4.1 million suns, almost certainly lurks.

    The network is named after the edge of a black hole, the point of no return; beyond the event horizon, not even light can escape the black hole's gravitational pull.
    For some years now, the scientific literature, news media and films such as "Interstellar" and the newly released "High Life" have featured remarkably sophisticated and highly academic computer simulations of black holes. But the real thing looked different. For starters, the black holes in movies typically are not surrounded by fiery accretion disks of swirling, doomed matter, as are the black holes in Virgo and Sagittarius.
    Perhaps even more important, the images provide astrophysicists with the first look at the innards of a black hole. The energy within is thought to be powerful enough to power quasars and other violent phenomena from the nuclei of galaxies, including the jets of intense radiation that spew 5,000 light years from the galaxy M87. 
    As hot, dense gas swirls around the black hole, like water headed down a drain, the intense pressures and magnetic fields cause energy to squirt from either side. As a paradoxical result, supermassive black holes, which lurk in the centers of galaxies, can be the most luminous objects in the universe.

    The unveiling, before a crowd at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. and five other venues around the world, took place almost exactly a century after images of stars askew in the heavens made Einstein famous and confirmed his theory of general relativity as the law of the cosmos. That theory ascribes gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, much as a mattress sags under a sleeper, and allows for the contents of the universe, including light rays, to follow curved paths.
    General relativity led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could quiver, bend, rip, expand, swirl like a mix-master and even disappear forever into the maw of a black hole.
    To Einstein's surprise, the equations indicated that when too much matter or energy was concentrated in one place, space-time could collapse, trapping matter and light in perpetuity.
    Einstein disliked that idea, but the consensus today is that the universe is speckled with black holes waiting for something to fall in.

    Many are the gravitational tombstones of stars that burned up their fuel and collapsed. But others, crouching in the centers of nearly every galaxy, are millions or billions of times more massive than the sun.
    Nobody knows how such behemoths of nothingness could have been assembled. Dense wrinkles in the primordial energies of the Big Bang? Monster runaway stars that collapsed and swallowed up their surroundings in the dawning years of the universe?
    Nor do scientists know what ultimately happens to whatever falls into a black hole, nor what forces reign at the center, where according to the math we know now the density approaches infinity and smoke pours from God's computer.
    Any lingering doubts about the reality of black holes vanished three years ago when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, detected the collision of a pair of distant black holes, which sent a shiver through the fabric of space-time.

    Since then, other collisions have been recorded, and black holes have become so humdrum that astronomers no longer bother sending out news releases about them.
    Now the reality has a face.

    The proof that these objects are really black holes would be to find that the darkness at the heart of Virgo was smaller than the mathematical predictions for a black hole. But the more astronomers narrowed it down, the harder they had to work.
    Interstellar space is filled with charged particles such as electrons and protons; these scattered the radio waves emanating from the black hole into a blur that obscured details of the source. "It's like looking through frosted glass," said Dr. Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope..
    To penetrate the haze and see deeper into the shadows of Virgo, astronomers needed to be able to tune their radio telescope to shorter wavelengths. And they needed a bigger telescope. The bigger the antenna, the higher the resolution, or magnification, it can achieve.
    Enter the Event Horizon Telescope, named for a black hole's point of no return; whatever crosses the event horizon falls into blackness everlasting. The telescope was the dream-child of Dr. Doeleman, who was inspired to study black holes by examining the mysterious activity in the centers of violent radio galaxies such as M87.

    By combining data from radio telescopes as far apart as the South Pole, France, Chile and Hawaii, using a technique called very long baseline interferometry, Dr. Doeleman and his colleagues created a telescope as big as Earth itself, with the power to resolve details as small as an orange on the lunar surface.

    The network has gained antennas and sensitivity over the last decade. In the spring of 2015 an effort using seven telescopes took aim at the centers of the Milky Way and M87, but bad weather hampered the observations.
    Two years later, in April 2017, the network of eight telescopes, including the South Pole Telescope, synchronized by atomic clocks, stared at the two targets off and on for 10 days.
    It took the Event Horizon team two years to reduce and collate the results from their 2017 observations. The data were too voluminous to transmit over the internet, and so had to be placed on hard disks and flown back to M.I.T.'s Haystack Observatory, in Westford, Mass., and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, in Bonn, Germany.

    The data from the South Pole could not arrive before December 2017, Dr. Doeleman said, "because it was Antarctic winter, when nothing could go in or out."
    Last year the team divided into four groups to assemble images from the data dump. To stay objective and guard against bias, the teams had no contact with each other, Dr. Doeleman said.

    In the meantime, the telescope kept growing. In April 2018, a telescope in Greenland was added to the collaboration. Another observation run was made of the Milky Way and M87, and captured twice the amount of data gathered in 2017.
    "We've hitched our wagon to a bandwidth rocket," Dr. Doeleman said last week. The new observations weren't included in Wednesday's reveal, but they will allow the astronomers to check the 2017 results and to track changes in the black holes as the years go by.
    "The plan is to carry out these observations indefinitely," said Dr. Doeleman, embarking on his new career as a tamer of extragalactic beasts, "and see how things change."


    12) California Today: How Large Is the Bay Area's Homeless Population?
    By Jill Cowan, April 10, 2019

    The Jungle, a homeless encampment in San Jose, in 2014.CreditCreditMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Good morning.
    (Here's the sign-up, if you don't already get California Today by email.)
    In recent years, journalists and advocates have tried to capture the scope of the Bay Area's homelessness crisis — a problem that often feels unfathomable in its depth and complexity.
    Still, much of the discussion has centered on San Francisco, or on the efforts of individual cities throughout the region.

    Today, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the think-tank arm of a business group, is set to release a report that examines the issue through a regional lens.

    "One of the things about the Bay Area is, it's a wonderful place, but it's very divided up," Jim Wunderman, the council's president and chief executive, told me. "We have 101 cities in nine counties around this very large bay and there's no one city that dominates the landscape."
    But that isn't how programs aimed at moving people into housing have been implemented, he said, even as more people in smaller suburbs find themselves in tenuous housing situations, and more people live out of their cars, which means they're mobile.
    The group wanted to explore ways to scale up successful programs and boost coordination among communities. To do that, Mr. Wunderman said, the group needed to better understand what was at stake.
    The report found:
    • Roughly 28,200 people were homeless across the Bay Area, according to point-in-time counts in 2017. That was the third largest population in the country, after New York (76,500) and Los Angeles (55,200). The next largest overall number was 11,600 in Seattle and King County.
    • But the Bay Area has a relatively large percentage of homeless people without shelter (indicating there's a shortage of subsidized housing, short-term shelters and transitional housing). That was 67 percent.

    That's compared with just 5 percent in New York and 47 percent in Seattle and King County. Once again, though, Los Angeles had the largest percentage of unsheltered homeless people: 75 percent.
    • The analysis found that spending on services for people experiencing homelessness or people who were at risk varied widely across the region. Part of that stems from the fact that the costs to build vary widely.
    For instance, the report said, building new permanently supportive housing costs $730,560 on average per unit in San Francisco County, compared with $393,580 per unit on average in Solano County.
    However, Mr. Wunderman said that particular finding shouldn't be taken as a sign that services, housing and emergency shelter should be concentrated in the least expensive parts of the Bay.
    "We're going to continue to need to develop programs locally," he said. "I think this is a burden that has to be shouldered by everyone."
    Mr. Wunderman suggested one way to persuade communities to do their part: Tie state money to initiatives.


    13) How Capitalism Betrayed Privacy
    By Tim Wu, April 10, 2019

    For much of human history, what we now call “privacy” was better known as being rich. Privacy, like wealth, was something that most people had little or none of. Farmers, slaves and serfs resided in simple dwellings, usually with other people, sometimes even sharing space with animals. They had no expectation that a meaningful part of their lives would be unwatchable or otherwise off limits to others. That would have required homes with private rooms. And only rich people had those.
    The spread of mass privacy, surely one of modern civilization’s more impressive achievements, thus depended on another, even more impressive achievement: the creation of a middle class. Only over the past 300 years or so, as increasingly large numbers of people gained the means to control their physical environment through the acquisition of wealth and private property, did privacy norms and eventually privacy rights come into existence. What is a right to privacy without a room of your own?
    The historical link between privacy and the forces of wealth creation helps explain why privacy is under siege today. It reminds us, first, that mass privacy is not a basic feature of human existence but a byproduct of a specific economic arrangement — and therefore a contingent and impermanent state of affairs. And it reminds us, second, that in a capitalist country, our baseline of privacy depends on where the money is. And today that has changed.
    The forces of wealth creation no longer favor the expansion of privacy but work to undermine it. We have witnessed the rise of what I call “attention merchants” and what the sociologist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — the commodification of our personal data by tech giants like Facebook and Google and their imitators in telecommunications, electronics and other industries. We face a future in which active surveillance is such a routine part of business that for most people it is nearly inescapable. In this respect, we are on the road back to serfdom.

    That future, however, is not preordained, for Americans overwhelmingly want stronger privacy protections. But that will require laws that do not merely tinker with but fundamentally alter the economics of privacy.

    To be sure, ours is not the first era in which privacy has come under attack. American moralists at the height of the temperance movement pushed for laws that gave the police broad authority to break into homes and arrest drinkers, adulterers and gay men. Authoritarian and totalitarian states, insecure in their power, have always fought mass privacy with their spies and extensive networks of secret police, as have democratic countries at war or in times of unrest.
    But none of these opponents of privacy had capitalism firmly on its side. In the United States, it is safe to say, privacy “won” the 20th century. Its crowning triumph was the Supreme Court’s recognition in 1965 of a constitutional right to privacy, but the legal victory should not obscure the economic forces that were its foundation.
    By the 1960s the rise of a propertied middle class had put each man in his “castle,” each drinker in his saloon, each worker in his own office and each child in her own bedroom. Private physical spaces, along with semiprivate spaces like motels, bathhouses and dance clubs, created their own expectations of privacy (as did, later, virtual spaces like personal computers and hard drives). It was on those foundations that legal thinkers and activists began to speak of the masses enjoying a right to privacy, to be unwatched — a right to be “left alone.” Capitalism was on privacy’s side.

    In those earlier times, surveillance wasn’t particularly profitable, but over the last two decades, new technologies coupled with new theories of value have transformed the economics of privacy. A drastic decrease in the cost of mass surveillance (thanks to the internet) has increased the value of two types of asset: our data and our attention. The race to maximize those assets by companies big and small has made surveillance a growth industry. It is in this sense that capitalism has begun to change sides.
    [As technology advances, will it continue to blur the lines between public and private? Sign up for Charlie Warzel’s limited-run newsletter to explore what's at stake and what you can do about it.]
    You can, of course, still make plenty of money in more traditional ways. But the richest companies in the world now generate wealth by putting as many trackers, devices and screens inside our homes and as close to our bodies as possible. Accumulated data creates competitive advantage, and money can be made by consolidating everything that is known about an individual.
    This business model was pioneered by Facebook, Google and the online advertising industry, but other sectors of the economy now want in. Amazon is a convert, as are cable and telecom companies like Comcast and Verizon, as well as the electronics industry with its “smart” devices that spy as they serve. Many employers also now constantly watch their employees. There is good reason to believe that, if nothing is done, gratuitous surveillance will be built into nearly every business and business model.
    Some have argued that there’s no need to be concerned. After all, even in an age of constant surveillance, we’re talking about being watched not by the secret police but by advertisers and other commercial enterprises. This “spying,” the argument goes, only makes products better and advertisements more “personalized.” The end result is selling people stuff, not sending them to Siberia.
    But this argument ignores several hard truths that we have learned in the last decade. One is that data and surveillance networks created for one purpose can and will be used for others. You must assume that any personal data that Facebook or Android keep are data that governments around the world will try to get or that thieves will try to steal.
    A similar lesson can be drawn from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook collected information from millions of users for one set of purposes, but Cambridge Analytica, a political data company working for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, used that information to try to influence American voters.

    Perhaps the hardest truth we’ve learned is that once you realize you’re being watched, it is a tough sensation to shake. As our experiences with social media have made all too clear, we act differently when we know we are “on the record.” Mass privacy is the freedom to act without being watched and thus in a sense, to be who we really are — not who we want others to think we are. At stake, then, is something akin to the soul.
    Some 92 percent of Americans say they want stronger privacy protections. This is why there has been a spate of new state privacy laws and new privacy bills in Congress. But too many of these interventions are small bore — more notices and disclaimers to read and click through, more excessively complex options for how to manage your account. Tinkering around the edges will not work.
    To be truly effective, privacy laws must seek to change the incentives that foster gratuitous surveillance and the reckless accumulation of personalized data. We need strong bans, including those that prohibit companies from sharing their customers’ personal information. New rights for consumers have to be easy to understand (like the European Union’s “right to be forgotten”) and easy to use (like a national “do not track” list). And companies that repeatedly fail to protect sensitive data need to face dire consequences.
    Nor is there any reason not to use our buying power strategically. Those who want privacy should support and reward the companies who respect it. The economics of privacy would change if enough consumers bought from companies that don’t spy on us and whose products actually help people avoid an unwanted gaze.
    Privacy is sometimes characterized as the concern only of an overly sensitive elite. But it was once only an overly sensitive elite that cared about public literacy or stopping child labor. The driving ambition of modern civilization has been to pull us out of a feudal existence, to extend what were once thought of luxuries to everyday people.
    Now is no time to drift backward — especially not in the name of progress.
    Tim Wu is a law professor at Columbia, the author of “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle to Get Inside Our Heads” and a contributing opinion writer.

    14) Global Executions Fall 31 Percent, Driven by Iran, Report Finds
    "While even repressive governments like Iran’s have taken steps to reduce death sentences, executions still rose, albeit in small numbers, in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the United States."
    By Niraj Chokshi, April 10, 2019

    People protesting Iran’s use of the death penalty in London in October.CreditCreditJohn Keeble/Getty Images

    The number of executions around the world fell by about a third in 2018, reaching the lowest level in at least a decade as several countries scaled back or abolished the death penalty, Amnesty International said in a report released on Wednesday.
    The global decline was driven largely by Iran, where executions were halved because of legal reforms that included eliminating the death penalty for a number of drug-related crimes.

    “The trend points toward a world ridding itself of the death penalty,” said Oluwatosin Popoola, Amnesty International’s adviser on the death penalty.

    Over all, at least 690 people were executed last year, compared with 993 the year before, the organization said. Despite the reforms, Iran still executed more than 250 people last year, second only to China. Iran was followed by Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iraq in executions.

    Critically, though, the report’s headline figure omits the thousands of estimated annual executions carried out by China, which Amnesty International calls “the world’s top executioner.” The group stopped providing estimates for China a decade ago, after the government there began misrepresenting the numbers, which are only minimum estimates.

    The country-by-country figures, published annually by Amnesty International since 2008, are based on what the group can reasonably confirm through official and informal sources. Some countries, such as China, consider death sentences to be a state secret, while little information can be gathered on others that are too restrictive or marred by conflict, such as North Korea or Syria.
    While even repressive governments like Iran’s have taken steps to reduce death sentences, executions still rose, albeit in small numbers, in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the United States.

    In the United States, 25 people were executed last year, slightly up from the year before. Executions in the country peaked in 1999, when 98 people were put to death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
    In Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena announced plans to resurrect the death penalty after a 40-year moratorium, while Thailand carried out its first execution in a decade.
    Amnesty International also expressed concern about an increase in death sentences in some countries. In Iraq, for example, the number of people sentenced to death last year quadrupled to 271. In Egypt, 717 were sentenced to death last year, compared with 402 the year before.
    Still, the group found that the death penalty is generally on the decline, with a growing number of countries limiting its use or banning it outright, as Gambia and Malaysia announced last year. By the end of last year, 142 countries had abolished the death penalty by law or in practice.


    15) Suspect Arrested in Fires at Black Churches in Louisiana
    By Alan Binder and Karen Zraick, April 10, 2019

    The Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, La., after a fire on April 2.CreditCreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times

    BATON ROUGE, La. — A suspect has been arrested in the burnings of three historically black churches in one south Louisiana parish in the last month, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday night.
    David C. Joseph, the United States attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, confirmed in a statement that a suspect was in custody. He did not elaborate.
    Representative Clay Higgins of Louisiana said the suspect was the son of a St. Landry Parish deputy sheriff.

    The fires, which destroyed the three churches, occurred on March 26, April 2 and April 4 in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette. The first was at St. Mary Baptist in Port Barre; the two others were at Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist in Opelousas, the St. Landry Parish seat. Officials had said they found “suspicious elements” in each case.

    “They burned down a building,” the Rev. Harry J. Richard of the Greater Union church said as he preached at a gathering on April 7 after the fire. “They didn’t burn down our spirit.”
    [‘They didn’t burn down our spirit’: black churches in Louisiana were worried but defiant after the fires.]
    A fourth fire, a small blaze that officials said was “intentionally set,” was reported on March 31 at a predominantly white church in Caddo Parish, about a three-hour drive north. It was unclear if that fire was connected to the others.
    Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana and law enforcement officials were scheduled to provide details on the arrest at a news conference on Thursday morning in Opelousas.
    The F.B.I. and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had been involved in the investigation, as well as the Louisiana and Florida state fire marshals, the cybercrime unit of the Louisiana attorney general’s office, and state and local police.

    Since the 1950s, black churches across the South have been the targets of racist attacks, from arson and bombing to armed assault.

    John Eligon contributed reporting


    16) ‘I Don’t Want to Stay Here’: Half a Million Live in Flood Zones, and the Government Is Paying
    By Sarah Mervosh, April 11, 2019

    Residents of Arbor Court evacuating in 2016. Nationwide, about 450,000 government-subsidized households are in flood plains, according to a 2017 report by the Furman Center at New York University.CreditBrett Coomer/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

    When a deadly rainstorm unloaded on Houston in 2016, Sharobin White’s apartment complex flooded in up to six feet of water. She sent her toddler and 6-year-old to safety on an air mattress, but her family lost nearly everything, including their car.
    When Hurricane Harvey hit the next year, it happened all over again: Families rushed to evacuate, and Ms. White’s car, a used Chevrolet she bought after the last flood, was destroyed.
    “It’s not safe,” said Ms. White, now 29. “Everybody gets to panicking when it rains. You can’t live like that.”

    But Ms. White and many of her neighbors cannot afford to leave. They are among hundreds of thousands of Americans — from New York to Miami to Phoenix — who live in government-subsidized housing that is at serious risk of flooding, a danger that is becoming increasingly urgent in the era of climate change.

    Global warming has been linked to heavier rainfall, making record-breaking flooding more likely. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees some of the at-risk properties, does not currently have a universal policy against paying for housing in a designated flood zone.
    There may be good reason for that: Much of the nation’s affordable housing stock was built before climate change was well understood, and many properties already sit in flood zones. So the government continues to pay — a strategy that keeps a roof over families’ heads, but potentially leaves them in harm’s way.
    Nowhere is that tension more acute than in Houston, where residents of the nation’s fourth-largest city have been pounded by severe storms in recent years — and where HUD is facing a lawsuit brought by Ms. White and a dozen of her neighbors. The residents say they are trapped in a dangerous area because their housing vouchers can be used only at that apartment complex, which sits in a particularly flood-prone area next to a bayou.
    Daija Jackson, left, and Sharobin White at Arbor Court. “I don’t want to stay here,” Ms. Jackson said. “Period.”
    CreditWilliam Chambers for The New York Times

    The complex, Arbor Court Apartments, which is run by a private landlord that contracts with HUD, has been in a flood plain since 1985 and under HUD’s oversight since at least 1991, according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court last year.

    After the 2016 flood, HUD renewed its contract with the owner, for about $1.6 million a year. Only a year later, Hurricane Harvey wiped out the first floor, leaving many families displaced and others complaining of major problems, including mold.
    “Arbor Court is not a close question,” said Michael M. Daniel, a civil rights lawyer whose firm has worked with Lone Star Legal Aid and the affordable-housing group Texas Housers on behalf of the residents. “How in the world it hasn’t flunked the ‘decent, safe and sanitary’ test — it’s beyond belief.”
    Kenneth B. Chaiken, a lawyer for Arbor Court, said his client was a “terrific owner” that was deeply committed to offering affordable housing to families who need it. And he said the property’s location in a flood plain alone did not make it unsafe.
    “People can safely live there,” he said. While families may occasionally suffer damage or displacement in an unusual storm, he said, “those are all the same risks that everybody else everywhere in Houston that suffered flooding experienced.”
    HUD, citing the dire shortage of rental homes for extremely low-income families, says its goal is to preserve affordable housing whenever possible. So while the agency takes flood risk into account for new and substantially rehabilitated housing, it continues to fund existing properties in flood plains.
    A senior HUD official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations, said the agency was evaluating that strategy.

    “Properties like Arbor bring that policy into question,” the official said. But if the agency institutes a blanket “we’re not going to renew in flood plains” policy, the official added, “then communities and residents lose that housing.”

    Nationwide, about 450,000 government-subsidized households — about 8 to 9 percent — are in flood plains, according to a 2017 report by the Furman Center at New York University.
    Many of those, including traditional public housing, low-income housing for older people and Section 8 properties like the one in Houston, are financed by HUD. There are also properties in flood plains that receive tax credits to rent to low-income tenants, which are subsidized with other federal money allocated to states.
    But the federal government’s maps to assess risk are based partly on historical data and don’t necessarily account for climate effects, like increased local precipitation, said Laurie Schoeman, a disaster recovery and resilience specialist for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit group based in Maryland.
    “If anything,” she said, “that is an underestimate of areas that are at risk.”
    Climate change is putting everyone at greater risk for natural disasters, including flooding, wildfires and drought. Low-income and minority communities are especially vulnerable. Families like those at Arbor Court, who qualify for assistance and are 95 percent black, are not only among the least able to recover when disaster strikes, but they also tend to live in flooding-prone areas because the land was historically cheaper to build on.
    Robert D. Bullard, an environmental justice advocate and a professor at Texas Southern University in Houston, said that subsidizing low-income families in flood zones overlaid with the government’s record of redlining and placing African-American families near industrial sitesand other undesirable areas.
    “It’s the same history,” he said.
    When Ms. White moved into Arbor Court, she said, she had no idea it was at risk of flooding. But one night in 2016, water came bursting through a wall in her bathroom, she said, sending her and her two children fleeing to a neighbor’s apartment upstairs. By daylight, the area around the complex looked like a lake.

    “They were putting kids in refrigerators, in baskets — that’s how bad the water was,” she said.
    Her belongings destroyed, Ms. White shuffled among relatives’ houses — a trauma that was compounded because she had recently been fired from her warehouse job after missing work when her son was hospitalized for a fever, she said.
    She returned to Arbor Court a few months later, unaware that flooding would come again so soon.

    When Hurricane Harvey dumped staggering amounts of rain on the city in 2017, another young mother, Daija Jackson, had recently moved into what she hoped would be a starter apartment for her young family. Flooding soaked their clothes and toys, and more precious items, like her newborn daughter’s bassinet, she said.
    “We were trying to get on our feet, but then the storm hit,” said Ms. Jackson, now 22. “It pushed us way back.”
    They lived in a hotel for months, only to return to find that their new apartment had problems with mold, according to the lawsuit.
    Although moving isn’t ideal for everyone — it can be especially disruptive for seniors and people with disabilities — Ms. Jackson is among those leading the fight to get out.
    “I don’t want to stay here,” she said. “Period.”
    As the nation grapples with both its affordable housing crisis and the realities of living on a warming planet, the tensions gripping Arbor Court could soon play out in other communities across the country.

    “It’s not something that is going to go away,” Dr. Bullard said. “You can point to this apartment and say, How many times or how much damage and harm must those residents fare? And how many times do we have to say, Not again?”
    Ms. Schoeman acknowledged that the government could not suddenly withdraw support from all properties in flood plains without creating a new crisis of homelessness. But she said HUD could lead the way by coming up with creative solutions.
    The agency could incentivize communities to use grant money to come up with local plans, a strategy a housing authority in North Carolina hopes to use to relocate two public housing properties out of flood zones. Last year, HUD allocated nearly $16 billion for states to use on disaster mitigation.
    Ms. Schoeman also raised the possibility of “climate vouchers,” to give people living in vulnerable areas the choice to relocate.

    In Houston, Arbor Court has requested to move its contract to another apartment complex 25 miles away and on the other side of town. Mr. Chaiken said that his client was working on fixing up the property and that it would be ready for families to live in soon.
    Residents’ lawyers argue that would perpetuate racial segregation — the new address is in a ZIP code that is about 70 percent black. They are instead asking for portable housing vouchers, often thought of as “golden tickets” that allow families to move into better neighborhoods of their choosing. But in reality, many landlords refuse to accept them, particularly in hot housing markets.

    Officials said HUD was working toward a solution, which could include giving the residents a choice between the two options.
    Until then, Ms. White is still living at Arbor Court, waiting out each new rainstorm. She also worries about safety and roaches in the kitchen. But she hopes not for much longer.
    Her vision for her next home is simple.
    “No roaches, no gunshots, no flooding,” she said. “Everything opposite from where I am now.”







    Posted by: bonnieweinstein@yahoo.com

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