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

Decarcerate Louisiana

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



ANSWER Coalition

Venezuelan Embassy stands strong

Activist-tenants vow to resist illegal eviction

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Mumia Abu-Jamal

See below: 

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

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

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

Stock or legacy gifts:
Noelle Hanrahan



Funds for Kevin Cooper


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

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

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

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

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



Don't extradite Assange!

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



Chelsea Manning denied release from jail

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

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



Words of Wisdom

Louis Robinson Jr., 77
Recording secretary for Local 1714 of the United Auto Workers from 1999 to 2018, with the minutes from a meeting of his union’s retirees’ chapter.

"One mistake the international unions in the United States made was when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. When he did that, the unions could have brought this country to a standstill. All they had to do was shut down the truck drivers for a month, because then people would not have been able to get the goods they needed. So that was one of the mistakes they made. They didn’t come together as organized labor and say: “No. We aren’t going for this. Shut the country down.” That’s what made them weak. They let Reagan get away with what he did. A little while after that, I read an article that said labor is losing its clout, and I noticed over the years that it did. It happened. It doesn’t feel good."

[On the occasion of the shut-down of the Lordstown, Ohio GM plant March 6, 2019.]



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

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













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

randy rowland
Podcast: Randy Rowland, GI resister
"I was the reluctant guy who's bit by bit by bit, just had to face the facts that things weren't the way I had been raised to believe that they were. It wasn't like I planned to be a resister or a troublemaker or anything of the sort," explains Randy Rowland, an organizer of the "Presidio 27 Mutiny."
This Courage to Resist podcast is the first in series to be produced in collaboration with the Vietnam Full Disclosure effort of Veterans for Peace — "Towards an honest commemoration of the American war in Vietnam." This year marks 50 years of GI resistance, in and out of uniform, for many of the courageous
individuals featured. Listen to Randy's story here.

ctr video
We shared our new 75 second promotional video on Facebook this week. Yes, FB is kind of evil, but we still reach a lot of folks that way. Please check it out, share with friends, and "like" our FB page.
ctr video
During Sunday's Objector Church online meetup, James Branum discussed the heroism of US Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds (1919–1985). MSgt Edmonds was the ranking US NCO at the Stalag IX-A POW Camp when he was captured in Germany during WWII. At the risk of his life, he prevented an estimated 200 Jews from being singled out from the camp for Nazi persecution and likely death. Watch the video here.
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist


Statement: Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech

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

Petition Text

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



Updates from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Justice for Rasmea Odeh! Justice for Palestine!

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

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

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

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

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

-- NYC Committee to Stop FBI Repression

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

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

Add us to your address book



Racism-Antiracism Board Game 
Dear Friends,                                                                   May 1, 2019
                       I have just produced this game. Race for Solidarityit is now available   at:  https://www.thegamecrafter.com/ .   An exciting board game of chance, empathy and wisdom, that entertains and educates as it builds solidarity through learning about the destructive history of American racism and those who have always fought back.   I  had hoped the game would be less expensive and  have done all I could to lower the price by taking the minimum of $1 for each game sold,  to be spent on promotion and publicity.  The price could be reduced by $10, but would sacrifice the historical richness of the over 200 cards.
                       Would you be so kind as to send this message to your friends via, E mail, Facebook etc?  Those in the field of education could be very interested.   If you have any suggestions on ways to help me promote this game please let me know.  Thank you.
In Solidarity,
Nayvin Gordon                 gordonnayvin@yahoo.com























Courage to Resist
Hi Bonnie. Courage to Resist is working closely with our new fiscal sponsor, the Objector Church, on a couple projects that we're excited to share with you.
objector registry
Objector Registry launches as draft registration of women nears
The first ever Objector Registry (objector.church/register) offers a declaration of conscience for anyone to assert their moral opposition to war, regardless of age, gender, or religious affiliation. This serves to create a protective record of beliefs and actions with which to oppose a later forced draft. Given last week's release of the report by the Congressionally mandated commission on military service, this free registry is coming online just in time. Please sign up yourself and share with friends!
weekly meetup
You're invited to join us online weekly
This is a great way to find out more about the Objector Church and why we might be the religious humanist interfaith peace and justice community you have been looking for! Our live meetups are lead by Minister James Branum from Oklahoma City. This Sunday at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern, if your not excited by the NFL's "big game", pop online and check us out at objector.church/meetup
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist




New "Refuse War" Shirts

We've launched a new shirt store to raise funds to support war resisters.

In addition to the Courage to Resist logo shirts we've offered in the past, we now  have a few fun designs, including a grim reaper, a "Refuse War, Go AWOL" travel theme, and a sporty "AWOL: Support Military War Resisters" shirt.

Shirts are $25 each for small through XL, and bit more for larger sizes. Please allow 9-12 days for delivery within the United States.

50% of each shirt may qualify as a tax-deductible contribution.

Courage to Resist -- Support the Troops who Refuse to Fight!
484 Lake Park Ave. #41, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-488-3559
couragetoresis.org -- facebook.com/couragetoresist







To: Indiana Department of Corrections

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson Should Have Access to His Personal Property

Petition Text

1. IDOC regulation 02-01-101-VIII must be respected! Kevin Johnson (IDOC# 264847) must be allowed to select from his property the items that he most immediately needs. He has been left without any of the material he requires for contacting his loved ones, his writing (this includes books), his pending litigation, and for his artwork. 
2. Kevin Johnson (IDOC# 264847) should be released into General Population. Prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture. Moreover, he has not committed any infractions.

Why is this important?

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson (IDOC# 264847) – a Virginia prisoner – was transferred to Indiana on November 4. His transfer was authorized under the Interstate Corrections Compact, commonly used to ship prisoners out of state. Virginia is one of several states that make use of this practice as a tool to repress and isolate prisoners who speak up for their rights.
These transfers are extremely disruptive, and serve as an opportunity for prison officials to violate prisoners' rights, especially regarding their property. This is exactly what has been done to Rashid.
Rashid has 24 boxes of personal property. These are all of his possessions in the world. Much of these 24 boxes consist of legal documents and research materials, including materials directly related to pending or anticipated court cases, and his list of addresses and phone numbers of media contacts, human rights advocates, outside supporters, and friends.
At Pendleton Correctional Facility, where Rashid is now being kept prisoner and in solitary confinement, only one guard is in charge of the property room. This is very unusual, as the property room is where all of the prisoners' belongings that are not in their cells are kept. The guard in charge, Dale Davis, has a dubious reputation. Prisoners complain that property goes missing, and their requests to access their belongings – that by law are supposed to be met within 7 days, or if there are court deadlines within 24 hours – are often ignored, answered improperly, or what they receive does not correspond to what they have asked for.
Despite having a need for legal and research documents for pending and anticipated court cases, his requests to receive his property have not been properly answered. The property officer, Dale Davis, is supposed to inventory the prisoners' property with them (and a witness) present, according to IDOC regulation 02-01-101-VIII; this was never done. When Rashid did receive some property, it was a random selection of items unrelated to what he asked for, brought to the segregation unit in a box and a footlocker and left in an insecure area where things could be stolen or tampered with.
On December 19th, Rashid received notice that Davis had confiscated various documents deemed to be "security threat group" or "gang" related from his property. Rashid has no idea what these might be, as (contrary to the prison regulations) he was not present when his property was gone through. Rashid does not know how much or how little was confiscated, or what the rationale was for its being described as "gang" related. None of Rashid's property should be confiscated or thrown out under any circumstances, but it is worth noting that the way in which this has been done contravenes the prison's own regulations and policies!
Dale Davis has been an IDOC property officer for 8 years. He has boasted about how he does not need any oversight or anyone else working with him, even though it is very unusual for just one person to have this responsibility. Prisoners' property goes "missing" or is tampered with, and prisoners' rights – as laid out by the Indiana Department of Corrections – are not being respected.
Rashid is not asking to have all of his property made available to him in his cell. He is willing to accept only having access to some of it at a time, for instance as he needs it to prepare court documents or for his research and writing. 
After two months in Indiana, he has still not been supplied with his documents containing the phone numbers and addresses of his loved ones and supporters, effectively sabotaging his relationships on the outside. Rashid is not asking for any kind of special treatment, he is only asking for the prison property room to follow the prison's own rules.
We ask that you look into this, and make sure that Mr. Johnson's right to access his property is being respected, and that something be done about the irregularities in the Pendleton property room. We ask that the rules of the Indiana Department of Corrections be respected.

Sign the petition here:

you can also hear a recent interview with Rashid on Final Straw podcast here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/post/tag/kevin-rashid-johnson/
Write to Rashid:
Kevin Rashid Johnson's writings and artwork have been widely circulated. He is the author of a book,Panther Vision: Essential Party Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party, (Kersplebedeb, 2010).

Kevin Johnson D.O.C. No. 264847
G-20-2C Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Rd.
Pendleton, IN 46064-9001



Get Malik Out of Ad-Seg

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

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

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

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

Phone zap on Tuesday, November 13

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

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

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

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


Background on Malik's Situation

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

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

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



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

By Michael Barbaro, May 30, 2018

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

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

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



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

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

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

NO ESTÁN SOLOS (You are not alone).

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Major Tillery and family

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

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

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




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

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

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

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    Free Leonard Peltier!

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



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





    1) How Big Tobacco Got a New Generation Hooked
    It's using the slick, high-tech disguise of vaping.
    By Alex Bogusky, May 3, 2019

    Juul promotes itself as a health-conscious company, even as it develops potentially more addictive vaping products.CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

    Twenty years ago, as a creative director, I helped create a commercial for the Truth campaign to introduce its effort to prevent cigarette smoking by young people. The spot was simply footage of tobacco executives all testifying, "I believe nicotine is not addictive." All we did was add a laugh track.
    The effect of my campaign and others was to help a generation of young people see the tobacco companies as they really were. Companies that lied not just to the government but the public, with misleading ad campaigns aimed at teenagers, their "growth market."

    Now they're doing it again, but in a new, slick, high-tech guise that is harder to combat. And ad agencies, which had mostly left Big Tobacco's side, are aiding the effort, lured back in by increasing fees for the work and decreasing fears the public will judge them for it.

    While teenage cigarette smoking rates have recently fallen below 5 percent, America is now contending with an epidemic of young people using e-cigs, vapes and other "nicotine delivery devices," as the tobacco industry christened them years ago in secret memos, searching for an official alternative to describing their products as cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaping rose by nearly 80 percent among high school students from 2017 to 2018, erasing previous progress in reducing tobacco use among teenagers.

    Vapes began as enigmatic underground products that might subvert Big Tobacco, but today the old corporate giants are major stakeholders in the market. Among them are Altria, which owns Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, yet also holds 35 percent of the vaping giant Juul; Reynolds American, which owns Vuse; and Imperial Tobacco, which owns Blu.
    The vaping industry exploits everything Big Tobacco was already good at. Grow the tobacco, extract the nicotine, provide it in concentrations even higher than found in cigarettes, put it in sleek packages and market it relentlessly.
    According to Juul — a brand so popular that "juuling" has become its own verb — one of its "pods" has more nicotine in it than an entire pack of cigarettes on average. 
    The sticks' fruity and minty flavors, the "vaping trick" competitions that resemble bubble gum blowing contests of yore and the range of custom colors to choose from, like you would with an iPhone, attracts the exact clientele you'd expect: Students "hit the Juul" on the way to class and raise their hands for a bathroom break to get a fix. It looks like a USB drive and leaves no lingering foul odor — many teenagers are reveling in the confusion it causes among adults. (Just search #doitforjuul, as a primer).

    The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, has called the use of e-cigarettes and vapes by about two million middle and high school teenagers annually a dangerous epidemic. And last year, the agency warned vaping manufacturers that if they didn't prove they could keep their products away from underage users, then they'd face penalties.
    But the tobacco companies have largely shrugged at the ultimatum.
    They are driving awareness and sales via a loophole big enough for the entire industry. Because the research on it isn't yet sufficient, vape brands aren't authorized by the F.D.A. to explicitly market their products for their ability to help smokers quit, or "cessation." So Juul, which controls roughly three-fourths of the American vaping market in the United States, instead simply runs ads in which people happen to describe getting rid of their cigarette habit by switching to Juul.
    And, yes, since there's plenty of nicotine per puff, you can easily switch from cigarettes. Still, your nicotine addiction isn't going anywhere. 
    For grown men and women, that's an alternative vice of their choice. But the chairman of a National Academies committee that produced a report evaluating e-cigarettes said that vaping's "adverse effects clearly warrant concern" for young adult users. But in a sea of paid influencer posts, magazine profiles of vapers, and mass-marketed ads, it can be hard for teenagers to fully appreciate the implications: vape liquids contain additives that can form carcinogenic compounds and researchers are concerned about long-term effects. 
    And now we know Juuling leads to smoking. In one British study, teenagers using these products who weren't smokers became four times more likely to go on to smoke cigarettes.
    If Juul were serious about marketing to adults, it could use pinpointed digital marketing to make sure that those seeing its ads are over 21. Stanford researchers found the company's launch marketing "was patently youth-oriented."
    Traditional tobacco products have strict regulations. But since Juul is a nicotine delivery device with no tobacco leaf, it is largely free to market as aggressively as possible. You won't hear cigarette ads on the radio. You could hear from Juul. You can't see cigarette ads on your televison. But you might see one for Juul, or any of the others.

    The quiet truth is these brands have to lure young users to grow fast and satisfy investors. You'll even see Juul signage placed near kids' eye level in stores — a ploy right out of the tobacco playbook.

    There was a longstanding taboo that kept most in the advertising world from working with cigarette brands. But the tobacco companies are reaching out to their old ad friends under new pretenses — like the Philip Morris-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. But selling vapes hasn't meant they've stopped selling cigarettes. If anything, with vaping it's getting closer to its core goal: nicotine addiction no matter the vehicle.
    Ad agencies have an important choice to make. Big Tobacco can pay big fees. But tobacco-related disease takes years off consumers' lives. Can you say to your friends and family with pride in your chest that you work for Big Tobacco? If that gives you pause, then ask if it's really worth the money.
    My agency, Crispin Porter Bogusky, is joining other ad agencies in the Quit Big Tobacco campaign led by the global health organization Vital Strategies in a pledge to not work for the tobacco industry, in any capacity, adjacent or direct. Oddly enough, as I drafted this essay, we were invited to propose an advertising campaign for a vaping product. The answer will be no. Still, if they're audacious enough now to approach an agency known for its anti-tobacco stance, we can be sure they're coming after us all. But there's no need to sell clouds of nicotine when there's so many other better products making the future.
    Alex Bogusky is a co-founder and the chief creative engineer of the advertising agency Crispin Porter Bogusky.

    2) Syrup Is as Canadian as a Maple Leaf. That Could Change With the Climate.
    By Kendra Pierre-Louis, May 3, 2019

    This season's maple syrup being bottled at Fulton's Pancake House and Sugarbush in Pakenham, Ontario.CreditCreditChristinne Muschi for The New York Times

    PAKENHAM, Ontario — By 9:30 a.m. the line for Fulton's Pancake House and Sugarbush had snaked out the door and down the driveway toward the parking lot, like the day a new iPhone goes on sale.
    But the restaurant, roughly 40 miles southwest of Ottawa, isn't brand-new. It's in its 50th year, and its star attraction, maple syrup, is much older. It was invented by Native Americans long before Europeans arrived in the Americas.
    "Maple is a social crop," said Shirley Fulton-Deugo, the owner. "It's the first crop of the year and a sign that spring is here." 

    Fulton's sits on 400 wooded acres in Eastern Ontario, and Mrs. Fulton-Deugo is a fourth-generation maple syrup producer. Her children help her run the business, and three of her grandchildren are already making their own syrup and selling it under the label Triple Trouble.

    But should the Triple Trouble generation have grandchildren one day, it's not clear they'll be able to take over the family business. A growing body of research suggests that warming temperatures and loss of snowpack linked to climate change may significantly shrink the range where it's possible to make maple syrup.

    In fact, climate change is already making things more volatile for syrup producers. In 2012, maple production fell by 54 percent in Ontario and by 12.5 percent in Canada overall, according to data from the Canadian government, because of an unusually warm spring. 
    Canada produces roughly 70 percent of the world's maple syrup. That was worth about $370 million in 2017.
    Warm weather can hurt syrup production because the process depends on specific temperature conditions: daytime highs above freezing with nighttime lows below freezing. This specific variation — which tends to happen as winter turns to spring, and fall into winter — causes pressure differences in the trees that allow the sap to flow. And it's the sap that the farmers boil to create maple syrup.

    To release the sap, maple producers make a small hole in the tree and insert a tap that allows it to spill out. But there's only a small window of time when conditions are right.
    "You're really only talking six to eight weeks," said Mark Isselhardt, a sugar maple expert at the University of Vermont. "Everyday that you don't get sap flow has the potential to really impact the total yield for that operation."

    But because of climate change, some years those key temperatures are more elusive.
    Instead of six or eight weeks to produce syrup in 2012, the Fultons had just 13 days. "We started the 8th of March and finished the 21st of March," Mrs. Fulton-Deugo said.
    "That type of condition will happen more often and it can have an impact like the impact it had in 2012," said Daniel Houle, a biologist at the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks.
    In addition to the shorter tapping window, spring is also arriving earlier. The phenomenon is called season creep and it means that fall ends later as well. 
    That creates more headaches for producers, and not only in Canada, because the timing of putting in taps is crucial. "I'm in my sixties," said Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York Maple Producers Association and a syrup producer. "When I was a kid, my dad had the rule that you tapped around March 15th." This year, they were tapping in late January.

    At first glance, the scene at Fulton's sugarbush corresponds perfectly with the bucolic picture typically associated with maple syrup. There are sleigh rides and children, their faces stained with maple taffy, squirming with energy across from the sugar camp where the alchemy that transformed maple sap into syrup was performed.

    Production techniques, though, are thoroughly modern. For now, that has helped the farm to adapt. 
    While many imagine sap collecting into metal buckets attached to trees, the Fultons and most other syrup producers now use plastic taps connected to long lines of food-grade plastic tubing. The tubes zigzag through acres of forest from tree to tree before pouring out into a collection tank. Because the system is cleaner than older methods, it allows producers to tap earlier without fear that the trees will plug the holes, the way a scab covers a cut, before the sap begins to flow. On the Fulton's sugarbush, the taps were in the trees weeks before the sap ran.
    To help coax the sap out of the trees, producers use vacuum pumps. "We've seen that you get basically double the amount of sap when you use vacuum," Mr. Isselhardt said.
    But the weather conditions still need to be right. And, of course, you still need trees. 
    Maples need to be about 40 years old before they can be tapped, though they don't come into their prime, according to Ms. Thomas, until they're about 90 years old. "If I planted maple trees today, it would be my grandchildren that would be harvesting the sap from them," she said.

    But a recent study suggests that the changing climate is a threat to that process of growth and renewal. Andrew B. Reinmann, an ecologist at the City University of New York, along with colleagues at Boston University and the United States Department of Agriculture, looked at what happens to trees when snowpack declines.

    Snowpack is important because, when temperatures dip, it acts as a blanket over the ground that prevents the soil, and the tree roots that reside in it, from freezing. By scraping off snow from some of the forest plots at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire during the first four to six weeks of winter, Dr. Reinmann and his colleagues were able to mimic the delayed snowfall that is predicted by century's end in the National Climate Assessment.
    "After the first year of snow removal, growth rates of the sugar maple trees declined by 40 percent or so, and growth rates remained suppressed between 40 and 55 percent below their growth rates prior to the start of the experiments," Dr. Reinmann said. 
    Dr. Reinmann has also been running a separate experiment where he heats up the soils to see if the increase in warmer temperatures linked to an earlier spring would offset losses from frost damage. So far, his results suggest that it doesn't.
    Diane M. Kuehn, a professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, has researched the perceptions of climate change by maple syrup producers. "What I heard frequently from people was that they're not concerned about themselves during their lifetime," she said, "But they are concerned about future generations and their families."
    That appeared to be on the mind of Mrs. Fulton-Deugo. "Most sugar makers are family farms and those family farms hold this land and hold this space for the next generation," she said.

    Kendra Pierre-Louis is a reporter on the climate team. Before joining The Times in 2017, she covered science and the environment for Popular Science. @kendrawrites


    3) You Can't Tax the Rich Without the I.R.S.
    If no one is around to root out offshore accounts, tax cheats won't be punished.
    "Businesses and the wealthy benefit the most from this state of affairs. The largest corporations in America used to be audited every year. That started to change when the cuts began, and today, the audit rate has fallen by half. It's a similar story for individuals making $10 million or more a year: With twice the chance of escaping I.R.S. scrutiny, the ultrarich are much less likely to lose at the game of audit roulette....The top 0.5 percent of highest-earning Americans account for about a fifth of the income that's hidden from the I.R.S., according to one University of Michigan study, or more than $50 billion a year in today's dollars. It's much easier to enforce the tax laws for the bottom 90 percent of earners. Wages are reported straight to the I.R.S., and computers can easily check that tax returns accurately report that income. This means that inadequate enforcement of the tax laws necessarily has a regressive effect, liberating those at the top from scrutiny while the masses continue to be tracked by machines. With its budget slashed, the I.R.S. has pulled back across the board — except for one area where it's been easier to keep the numbers from falling so much: audits of the poor. More than one-third of all audit targets claim the earned-income tax credit, one of the nation's largest anti-poverty programs. By the hundreds of thousands, I.R.S. computers spit out letters that require low-income taxpayers to prove their eligibility. The counties with the highest audit rates aren't found in the hedge fund precincts of Connecticut or the lobbyist enclaves of Northern Virginia. No, they're rural, mostly African-American counties in the Deep South."
    By Jesse Elsinger and Paul Kiel, May 3, 2019

    Tyler Comrie

    The hot policy in Democratic circles these days is raising taxes on the rich. Senator Elizabeth Warren has a plan to tax "ultramillionaires," as she calls them. Senator Bernie Sanders wants to expand the estate tax. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has floated raising the top income tax rate to 70 percent for those making over $10 million a year.
    But before this country raises taxes, it should grapple with something much more prosaic but equally important for tackling inequality: saving the Internal Revenue Service.
    Already, wealthy people and corporations easily get around today's rules. However tough any new laws might seem, they'd soon be undercut.
    Slowly and quietly over the past eight years, the I.R.S. has been eviscerated. It's lost tens of thousands of employees. It has fewer auditors now than at any time since 1953. In real dollars, the agency's budget has dropped by almost $3 billion since 2010.

    Businesses and the wealthy benefit the most from this state of affairs. The largest corporations in America used to be audited every year. That started to change when the cuts began, and today, the audit rate has fallen by half. It's a similar story for individuals making $10 million or more a year: With twice the chance of escaping I.R.S. scrutiny, the ultrarich are much less likely to lose at the game of audit roulette.

    The top 0.5 percent of highest-earning Americans account for about a fifth of the income that's hidden from the I.R.S., according to one University of Michigan study, or more than $50 billion a year in today's dollars.
    It's much easier to enforce the tax laws for the bottom 90 percent of earners. Wages are reported straight to the I.R.S., and computers can easily check that tax returns accurately report that income. This means that inadequate enforcement of the tax laws necessarily has a regressive effect, liberating those at the top from scrutiny while the masses continue to be tracked by machines.

    With its budget slashed, the I.R.S. has pulled back across the board — except for one area where it's been easier to keep the numbers from falling so much: audits of the poor. More than one-third of all audit targets claim the earned-income tax credit, one of the nation's largest anti-poverty programs. By the hundreds of thousands, I.R.S. computers spit out letters that require low-income taxpayers to prove their eligibility. The counties with the highest audit rates aren't found in the hedge fund precincts of Connecticut or the lobbyist enclaves of Northern Virginia. No, they're rural, mostly African-American counties in the Deep South.
    There's nothing easy about auditing the rich. Even when the I.R.S. has evidence of flat-out cheating, such as when it discovers a hidden Swiss bank account, it can take years of work to prove its case. Taking such time clashes with one of the core ways the I.R.S. evaluates its managers and agents: how efficiently they open and close audits. As one senior manager put it to us, "If you're not churning out the exams, you have to explain why you're not."
    But more often, the affairs of the superwealthy are infernally complicated and the I.R.S. doesn't have black-and-white proof of evasion. Instead, the agency runs up against what's called "aggressive" planning in the tax world. To the rich, a tax return is just an opening offer to the government. If they don't get audited, that's great. If they do, well, they're ready for a fight.
    In 2009, the I.R.S. decided to take a bold, new approach to auditing the superwealthy. The agency's idea was to bring specialists together and form a kind of green-eyeshade-wearing Delta Force. It would finally do something it — surprisingly — hadn't been doing before: look at the entirety of a taxpayer's empire. That meant examining how his partnerships, limited liability companies, foundations, gifts and overseas operations interact with one another. The ultrarich weave all these together so they end up with an ultralow effective tax rate. "We hadn't really been looking at it all together, and shame on us," Steven Miller, a former acting commissioner of the I.R.S., told us.
    Because of budget cuts and lobbying, this elite force never came together. The agency hoped to have a staff of about 240 expert auditors by 2012. But by 2014 it had 96, and by last year the number had fallen to 58. Initially spooked by the group's ambition, tax professionals who counsel the wealthy now speak of the effort with a kind of pity.
    Criminal tax enforcement has also faltered. More than 150 million income tax returns were filed in 2017, but the I.R.S. brought fewer than 800 cases in which someone was charged with making legal income but criminally evading taxes. That's one reason tax cheats can get away with brazen behavior for so long — until they attract the attention of federal investigators for other reasons. That's what happened to the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, and the celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who was charged with failing to file taxes at all for several years. (Mr. Avenatti denies the charges.)
    So, what to do? One 2020 candidate already has a bold proposal to resuscitate the I.R.S. It's a plan to pump tens of billions into the agency, enough to fund a second army of agents. That candidate's name is Donald Trump.

    Of course, it was Mr. Trump's party that gutted the agency, costing the country, we estimate, more than $100 billion in lost revenue. The president's 2020 budget, however, did propose adding $15 billion over 10 years to the I.R.S. enforcement budget, a move that would more than double the agency's overall budget. The administration estimated this would produce revenue of at least $47 billion. The question arises: Has the administration genuinely had a change of heart? Or is this merely a neat trick to make deficit projections appear smaller?
    So far, this is all just talk. It is, though, one of the few areas where Mr. Trump and Democrats are in substantive agreement. Democrats in the House recently proposed a $400 million I.R.S. budget increase next year.
    Among the Democratic presidential candidates, Ms. Warren does mention the I.R.S. in her wealth tax proposal. She calls for an unspecified but "significant increase in the I.R.S. enforcement budget" and a minimum audit rate for taxpayers subject to her "ultramillionaire" tax.
    Raising taxes on the rich is a more compelling cause than increasing the operating budget of a bureaucracy most American voters probably hate thinking about. But the boldest tax plan of all starts with salvaging the I.R.S.
    Jesse Eisinger and Paul Kiel are reporters at ProPublica, an independent nonprofit investigative-journalism organization.

    4) Shrimp From 5 U.K. Rivers Have One Thing in Common: Cocaine
    By Palko Karasz, May 3, 2019

    The Stour River, in the eastern coastal county of Suffolk, was one of five English waterways where researchers found cocaine in shrimp.CreditCreditNick Ansell/Press Association, via Associated Press

    LONDON — Researchers seeking evidence of chemical "micropollution" in five rural English rivers have found pesticides in many of the freshwater shrimp they tested. And cocaine in all of them.
    The presence of the illegal drug was unexpected because the sites where the researchers gathered their samples, in the eastern coastal county of Suffolk, were miles away from any large city, said the study's lead author, Thomas Miller, a researcher at King's College London.
    "Although we know that pharmaceuticals, pesticides and so on are in our rivers, most studies in the world don't look at what's inside wildlife," Dr. Miller said in a telephone interview on Friday.

    Drugs and other chemicals that are flushed into the sewage systemhave presented regulators with a puzzle for years. At the low concentrations in which they generally reach waterways, the substances have been found unlikely to affect human health, but their presence is hard to ignore. Recent concerns about plastic waste in rivers and oceans have helped focus attention on the species that live in those waters as victims of pollution.

    Last month, researchers working on another project identified a small stream in Belgium so highly polluted that its waters could probably act as a pesticide, The Guardian reported.
    In 2016, researchers found a cocktail of drugs, including Prozac, in salmon in Puget Sound, off the coast of Seattle.
    The team working on the shrimp study, published online this week in the journal Environment International, said that they had not identified the source of the drugs and that there was little potential for any effect from the low concentrations of cocaine that they had detected.
    But some of the compounds they commonly found — which included fenuron, a pesticide no longer authorized for use in Europe — could "be of concern for the environment" or potentially "pose a risk for wildlife," Dr. Miller said in a statement on Wednesday.
    Future studies will examine the chemicals' effects and give a better idea of the risks, he said, adding that such studies needed to be done more routinely to gain a better picture of the effect of pollution on wildlife.

    Some varieties of pharmaceutical pollution have been found to affect behavior in both salmon and shrimp, The Atlantic has reported.
    "The impact of 'invisible' chemical pollution — such as drugs — on wildlife health needs more focus in the U.K. as policy can often be informed by studies such as these," Nic Bury of the University of Suffolk, a co-author of the study, said in the statement.
    Dr. Miller said that pending further research and policy changes, the public could already act to reduce the presence of drugs in waterways. The best thing, he said, was to return unwanted drugs to pharmacies that offered a take-back program.


    5) Nearly $300 Million in Tax Breaks Awarded to 4 Companies With Close Democratic Ties
    By Matthew Haag, May 2, 2019

    Three companies were awarded lucrative tax credits to move into this building in Camden, N.J. CreditCreditHannah Yoon for The New York Times

    NEWARK — The backlash over New Jersey's lucrative corporate tax incentives grew on Thursday when it was disclosed that four politically connected companies received nearly $300 million in tax breaks based on questionable claims that they would otherwise move out of state.
    The four companies all had close ties to George Norcross, a powerful Democratic leader in the southern part of the state.
    A state official revealed that three of the companies had indicated that they were considering moving to Philadelphia in order to qualify for tax breaks to stay in New Jersey, but in fact did not have viable offers to go there.

    The fourth business identified a potential relocation site in Philadelphia four days before the state approved its $40 million tax credit in 2014, the official said.

    The revelations about those companies, which all sought to move to the city of Camden with sizable tax credits, under a 2013 law known as the Economic Opportunity Act, were made public during a daylong hearing by a panel of investigators appointed by Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat. 
    The task force is examining whether $11 billion in economic development programs have delivered significant economic benefits or have been a boon to politically connected firms and companies.
    An investigation by The New York Times found that lawmakers allowed a real estate lawyer, Kevin D. Sheehan, whose influential law firm has close ties to Democratic politicians and state legislators, to edit drafts of the 2013 law that unlocked sizable tax breaks for his firm's clients.

    The testimony on Thursday by current and former officials at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which oversees the tax credit programs, raised serious concerns about the law, the lack of oversight in reviewing applications and the way some tax credits were awarded.

    A former president of the authority, Tim Lizura, also acknowledged that many last-minute changes to the law were made by Mr. Sheehan. The Times found that those alterations were done without any public disclosure. 
    Companies had been awarded $4.9 billion under the 2013 legislation by moving to New Jersey or remaining in the state and creating and retaining jobs. 
    The hearing was the second held in recent months by the task force, which in April referred evidence to federal prosecutors for possible criminal charges. It is not immediately known whether the evidence might lead to charges or what might result from Thursday's testimony. 
    But a member of the task force said companies could be held criminally liable.
    "There is real criminal exposure for companies that lie to the E.D.A.," said Pablo Quiñones, a special counsel on the task force.
    For several hours, another special counsel, Jim Walden, displayed some of the specific edits of the bill on a large screen. Some changes, he noted, were intended to allow specific companies, such as Subaru of America, to claim hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax breaks. 
    Several companies had business ties with Mr. Sheehan's firm, Parker McCay, Mr. Walden said.
    Mr. Sheehan did not register with the state as a lobbyist for the Economic Opportunity Act, and his firm told The Times that its work on the legislation did not amount to lobbying.
    "Parker McCay was asked by policymakers, including those in the Legislature, to review this legislation and offer input and suggestions on ways it could be strengthened to help Camden and other localities in South Jersey, which have historically lost out to North Jersey in receiving economic benefits from the state," the company said in a statement on Thursday.

    Beside his work on the bill, Mr. Sheehan also helped the four businesses who were considering a move to Philadelphia — Cooper Health System; Conner Strong & Buckelew; the Michaels Organization; and N.F.I. — assemble their tax credit applications, Mr. Walden said. 
    Cooper Health was awarded nearly $40 million in tax credits to relocate to Camden. It submitted an application on Nov. 7, 2014, and stated that none of its employees were at risk of losing their jobs and wrote "TBD" in response to a question about whether it was considering leaving the state, according to a copy of its application shown during the hearing. 
    The next month, a Cooper Health executive told the state that it had located a property in Philadelphia. Four days later, the Economic Development Authority approved its tax credit submission. 
    A Cooper Health spokesman said on Thursday that the company was truthful in its application and had hired more employees than it had proposed. A representative for Conner Strong & Buckelew said that suggestions made during the hearing were inaccurate and that the company was seriously considering a move out of state to consolidate its offices.
    The building that Cooper Health eventually moved into had been owned by the Economic Development Authority, according to records obtained by The Times. The agency sold the site in late December 2014 to a nonprofit organization, which sold it that same day to a real estate investment group, documents show.
    Intersecting nearly every piece of the testimony on Thursday, even though their names were rarely mentioned, were the Norcross brothers. 
    Parker McCay's chief executive is Philip Norcross, whose brother is George Norcross, an insurance executive at Conner Strong and the chairman of the board of trustees of Cooper Health System.

    A third brother, Donald Norcross, is a former Democratic state senator who represented Camden and had been a sponsor of the 2013 law; he is now a United States representative.
    Conner Strong, the Michaels Organization and N.F.I. submitted tax credit applications on the same day in October 2016. They collectively sought $245 million to relocate together to a new 18-story tower on the Camden waterfront. Without the tax credit, they were considering moves to office towers in Philadelphia, the companies claimed.
    But by the time they applied for the credits, the offers to lease space in Philadelphia had expired, according to David Lawyer, an official with the Economic Development Authority who had reviewed the applications for the task force.
    The companies later submitted new leases, but those offers should also have raised red flags, Mr. Lawyer said. 
    The companies had proposed new lease configurations in Philadelphia, with far different office layouts that had employees scattered on different floors, he said.

    Matthew Haag covers the intersection of real estate and politics in the New York region. He previously was a general assignment and breaking news reporter at The Times and worked as an education reporter at The Dallas Morning News. @matthewhaag


    6) AOC Says She Follows Democratic Leadership on Issue of US Intervention in Venezuela
    teleSUR/ov-LA-MH, May 4, 2019

    Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

    U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, said Wednesday she would follow the Democratic Party’s leadership in regards to Venezuela, declining to answer a question on whether she sees President Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate President of the Bolivarian Republic.

    Ocasio Cortez, sometimes referred to as AOC, was asked in an interview with the National Review if she sees President Maduro as legitimate, for which she replied, "I defer to caucus leadership on how we navigate this." 
    The leadership of the Democratic Party in U.S. Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have both officially recognized right-wing opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido, as "interim president" of Venezuela after he illegally self-declared as such back in January, offering a bipartisan consensus on Donald Trump's efforts for regime change. 
    In contrast, her follow progressive congresswoman Ilhan Omar has repeatedly denounced the U.S. economic war on Venezuela and the U.S.-backed coup attempt.
    Earlier in March When Omar was asked if she recognized Juan Guaido as President of Venezuela, she replied, “absolutely not.” Again this week. Ilhan Omar sent out tweets and made comments in interviews in which she rejected the latest failed coup attamept against President Maduro and slamming U.S. policy against Venezuela.
    Presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, has also been very clear in opposing sanctions and war, on Saturday tweeting, “The new Cold War is getting hotter. We need leaders with foresight to see how in Venezuela, Syria & other places, potential military conflict btwn US-Russia can quickly escalate into war—nuclear war, the greatest danger we face today.”
    Some argue that AOC has come under pressure from the Democratic leadership in an effort to silence her earlier objection to the Trump interventionist policies in Venezuela.
    Back in March AOC was quoted as saying that she was "very concerned about U.S. interventionism in Venezuela, and I oppose it, especially when we talk about a figure like U.S. Special Envoy Elliott Abrams here. I think it’s – he's pled guilty to several crimes related to Iran-Contra.”
    She went on to add that, “I am generally opposed to U.S. interventionism as a principle, but particularly under this administration and under his leadership I think it’s a profound mistake.”
    Critics on the left also point to other instances in which her stances on foreign policy are far from clear. As a way of tribute to war hawk John McCain, Cortez wrote that he was “an unparalleled example of human decency and American service”.
    On Palestine, she has also been largely silent, whilst other progressive congresswomen have spoken up. The editor of the right-wing Israeli outlet Hamodia, praised AOC saying; “She hasn’t made any similarly Israel-negative references, has strongly declared her affirmation of Israel’s legitimacy…”
    Disclosure: The title of this article has been changed and more reporting was added to this article in order to clarify the comments made by the U.S. congresswoman and the context of her recent and past statements on the topic of the article.

    7) What Happens to a Factory Town When the Factory Shuts Down?
    For more than 50 years, life in Lordstown, Ohio, has revolved around the G.M. plant at the edge of town.
    In March, the plant ceased production. These were the last cars off the line.
    This is the story of what happens to a factory town when the factory shuts down.

    The End of the Line


    Early in the morning on Nov. 26, 2018, Dave Green, the president of Local 1112 of the United Auto Workers, which represents workers at a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, received a call from the plant’s personnel director. Green needed to be at the plant at 9 a.m. for a meeting. The personnel director rarely called Green, and when he did, it was almost always bad news. Green got into his car — a silver Chevy Cruze — and sped toward the hulking 6.2-million-square-foot factory, which had manufactured nearly two million Cruzes since the car was introduced in 2011.
    “Management walks in 15 minutes late,” Green recalled, “and they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to unallocate the plant’ — that was it.”
    Green had never heard the term before, but he soon found out that it meant his members would no longer have a car to build. The Cruze was finished, and G.M. had no plans to make anything else at Lordstown. Green followed the managers to the production floor, where they shut down the assembly line before repeating the same brief message to more than a thousand workers. “Some people started crying, and some people turned white as a ghost and looked like they were going to throw up,” Green said. “It felt like, ‘Oh, the end is coming.’ ”
    On that same day, Mary Barra, the chief executive of G.M., announced that the company would unallocate four other North American plants and cut roughly 6,000 unionized hourly positions and 8,000 salaried positions. The largest affected plants manufactured sedans, and sedans would no longer be a major part of G.M.’s domestic production; instead, the company would focus on building S.U.V.s and trucks, which generate much higher profits. Manufacturing trade publications like IndustryWeek heralded Barra’s “willingness to wield the ax,” while Wall Street investors cheered the shedding of the “legacy” costs — pensions, health insurance — associated with G.M.’s American workers. On the day of Barra’s announcement, the company’s stock closed nearly 5 percent higher.
    Barra’s decision reflected many trends: declining small-car sales, an increasingly overvalued dollar that makes American exports more expensive and the continuing rise of American automobile manufacturing in Mexico, where autoworkers make an average of $2.30 an hour (last year, G.M. became that country’s largest vehicle manufacturer). It was yet more evidence of G.M.’s retrenchment from American manufacturing; since 2005, the number of states with active G.M. assembly plants has fallen to seven from 16. With the idling of Lordstown’s plant, Ohio became the latest casualty on that list.
    Though Lordstown was already operating far below capacity — it had eliminated its second and third shifts in the previous two years — the news still came as a shock. The company had received a $50 billion bailout from American taxpayers only a decade ago, and now it was making near-record-breaking profits.
    For the residents of Lordstown and the surrounding area, Barra’s decision promised disaster. A recent study by the Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University estimated that the elimination of all three shifts at the plant would ultimately cause the loss of nearly 8,000 jobs and more than $8 billion in economic activity in the regional economy. And since the 2008 financial crisis, wages in the area have fallen by 6 percent, even as they have risen nationally by 11 percent. “They’re scraping out what’s already been hollowed out,” Green said. “We need G.M. It’s the last thing standing around here.”
    The sense of crisis was acute. Green, left, and other union leaders focused on how best to help their members.
    As the weeks went by, the workers agonized over their options at union meetings.
    Some decided to put in for a transfer to another G.M. plant far away. Workers at the union’s transition center helped with this process.
    Some joined in a demonstration to pressure G.M. to reallocate the plant.
    Many neighbors showed their support, one of them with a daily vigil.
    The Lordstown plant has been a pillar of the regional economy since it was built in 1966. G.M. constructed the then-state-of-the-art facility (it included 26 robot welders) in the middle of a cornfield 15 miles northwest of Youngstown. It chose the site because of its distribution possibilities; half the population of the United States lived within 600 miles of it. Lordstown quickly became an important addition to the heavily industrialized Mahoning Valley, whose center was Youngstown (“Steeltown, U.S.A.”), which, after Pittsburgh, was the second-largest steel-manufacturing city in the United States.
    After decades of industrial job losses, the valley’s fate has become a national political issue. Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign relied heavily on the promise of restoring those jobs, a message that helped him win Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Significant to his Ohio victory was flipping the Mahoning Valley from blue to red. In the summer of 2017, Trump visited Youngstown, signaling the importance of the region to his re-election prospects. “Don’t move; don’t sell your house,” he said. “We’re going to fill up those factories.” (In a sign of how concerned he may be about Lordstown’s closing, he recently took to Twitter to personally attack Dave Green, who had appeared on a Fox News segment about the plant, writing that Green “ought to get his act together and produce.”)
    People in the valley take immense pride in their automaking heritage. Since 1966, the Lordstown plant has produced more than 16 million vehicles and more than a dozen different models, including the Chevy Impala, the Chevy Vega, the Pontiac Sunbird, the GMC conversion van and the Chevy Cavalier. G.M. cars and trucks are ubiquitous here, especially the fuel-efficient Cruze, which, at a time when gas prices were high, helped lift G.M. out of bankruptcy. Though profit margins are thin on the Cruze, it remained one of the company’s biggest sellers; last year, G.M. sold 143,000 Cruzes in the United States, the sixth-highest in volume out of the 38 models the company sold here.
    The U.A.W. has made significant concessions to help G.M., most notably in 2007 when the union accepted a contract that created a two-tiered system, with new hires forgoing a pension and earning roughly half of what traditional workers made. Just two years ago, Lordstown’s U.A.W. bargaining committee agreed to a giveback worth $118 million in order to keep producing the Cruze in Lordstown.
    Now the workers would be jobless. Some planned to go back to school or hunt for a new job nearby, while many feared the arrival of an “involuntary job offer” that would force them to relocate to a specific plant or lose their benefits. Some held out hope that the union leadership in Detroit would be able to undo the unallocation decision. In February, the U.A.W. filed suit against G.M. in federal court, arguing that “unallocating” the plants is a synonym for closing or idling them, both of which the union asserts are prohibited in the current four-year contract that expires this fall. As that suit moves forward, the U.A.W. has promised to fight hard to save Lordstown in contract negotiations planned for this summer.
    In the meantime, G.M. announced that the final shift at Lordstown would be on March 8.
    In the union hall and around the valley, people dealt with the looming deadline in different ways.

    Jonathan Achey Jr., 45 
    Body shop
    I think that today, a lot of the time people don’t appreciate what they have. I’ve never not appreciated my job at G.M. or what it could do — not just for me but for my son, for my wife, for my family. I get that from my father. He taught me not to take stuff for granted, and that’s what I tell my son, Michael.
    Thank God my dad was lucky enough to spend 35 years at Lordstown. He bought a house a couple of miles away from where he grew up, where my grandparents lived. And I loved the fact that, when I was a kid, it took us not even 10 minutes to go to the place where my dad grew up. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. And right now, Michael has that option: He can go to my mom’s house and say his dad was born and raised in that house.
    My whole life has been General Motors. I have 28 years invested in the company that is doing this to me. I understand it’s a business, and they have to make decisions when it comes to business. If this is what they feel they have to do, then I’ll have to accept it. But it’s hard when you see money going to other places, when you see C.E.O.s making the money they’re making. Do I feel like I got slapped in the face? Absolutely. It definitely feels like a smack in the face. But am I going to let that determine who I am after 45 years? No, I’m not. I’m not. I can’t, and I won’t.
    With his mother, Kathleen.
    Louis Robinson Jr., 77
    Recording secretary for Local 1714 of the United Auto Workers from 1999 to 2018
    One mistake the international unions in the United States made was when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. When he did that, the unions could have brought this country to a standstill. All they had to do was shut down the truck drivers for a month, because then people would not have been able to get the goods they needed. So that was one of the mistakes they made. They didn’t come together as organized labor and say: “No. We aren’t going for this. Shut the country down.” That’s what made them weak. They let Reagan get away with what he did. A little while after that, I read an article that said labor is losing its clout, and I noticed over the years that it did. It happened. It doesn’t feel good.
    With the minutes from a meeting of his union’s retirees’ chapter.
    Kesha Scales, 46
    Metal assembly
    I’m a little hardened because of the factory work. I know I am. When I got hired in, it was so loud in there that you had to wear earplugs; you couldn’t hear anything. It was dirty, and you smelled like oil. But you also smelled like something else — you smelled like production. You smelled like you made some money today. If you can make it working at G.M., you can make it working anywhere.
    The feeling in the plant my last day was eerie, because nobody knew what to say. That’s why I was so hellbent on trying to get out of there as fast as I could. I didn’t want to see that last Cruze — I just didn’t. I walked out, and I didn’t look back. I didn’t want to look back. I just kept saying to myself, “This is the last time you’re going to make this trip, from somewhere that you’ve been going for 22 years.” I was so loyal to G.M., but it’s just a game to them.
    With her friend and former co-worker Beverly Williams.
    Dave Green, 49
    President of Local 1112 of the United Auto Workers
    Unions aren’t just about making more money. It’s about having a seat at the table. It’s about having the ability to talk to your employer and be respected, having some dignity in work, having some dignity and respect in what you do.
    People keep saying: “Well, I feel sorry for you. Your plant’s closed.” It ain’t closed! It’s unallocated! If the company would come out and tell us that the plant is closed, then I could process what I would think about my kids and where they’re going, and about my parents and how they’re feeling, and about what plant I could go to. But I can’t think that far ahead because I’m not in a position to leave. I can’t transfer out right now. I ran for this job 10 months ago, and I got elected. I’m going to leave now? I have to wait until all this plays out.
    What the hell does “unallocated” even mean? I don’t know. We have specific language in our national agreement that talks about a “closed” plant status and an “idled” plant status, but there’s not any language that talks about “unallocated.” So they’ve come up with this word to put us in a situation where: A, the contractual language doesn’t fit for this specific situation, and B, they’re kind of skirting their obligations, right? If we were in closed-plant status, there would actually be more benefits for our members right now. But we’re not.
    So I’m going to ride this out, and if the plant does close, I’ll figure it out then. If it doesn’t, then I’ll stay here and get to give good news to people. That’s the hope.
    With his daughters, Alison and Cate, and parents, Elaine and Roger.
    As the March 8 stop date drew closer, union meetings grew more fraught. Members were fearful about the future and angry at G.M. and Mary Barra, who they noted received nearly $22 million in compensation last year. Some were frustrated over the union’s diminished leverage. A few members reflected on their fathers’ militancy in the early 1970s, when G.M. managers pushed to nearly double the speed of the line so it could produce 100 Chevy Vegas an hour, even as it cut the number of workers at the plant. The managers’ effort was met with strong resistance. Workers rebelled against the brutal pace of the line by staging wildcat strikes, using absenteeism and even sabotage. The uprising peaked with a three-week strike in 1972 that focused not on wages or benefits but on reclaiming the workers’ value as human beings. Reporters called the rebellion “Lordstown syndrome,” and it became a nationwide synonym for working-class disaffection. One article in Newsweek said the Lordstown strikers had created an “industrial Woodstock.”
    But the early ’70s turned out to be a high-water mark of working-class leverage; in 1973, the weekly earnings, in real dollars, of nonmanagement private-sector workers reached its peak. The precipitous decline came soon after and can be marked by another local event: Black Monday. On Sept. 19, 1977, Youngstown Sheet & Tube announced without notice that it would be closing the larger of its two mills, laying off 5,000 workers. By the mid-1980s, virtually all the steel and steel-related industry — some 50,000 well-paying jobs — had vanished from the Mahoning Valley as a similar process of deindustrialization played out in the Rust Belt. Still, as recently as the early 1990s, the Lordstown plant employed close to 10,000 U.A.W. members.
    Despite its weakened bargaining position, Local 1112 remains a lifeline for its workers. Dave Green spent many of the days leading up to March 8 fielding desperate calls from members seeking advice on whether to put in for a transfer to another plant or to stay put on the chance that G.M. would give Lordstown a new car to build. At the transition center, laid-off assembly-line workers help members obtain unemployment benefits, improve résumés, find job openings and apply for plant transfers, a speculative process that offers no guarantees. U.A.W. members can request a transfer to another G.M. plant if there is an opening; priority is given based on seniority. A U.A.W. worker who was hired before October 2007 receives a pension after 30 years of service. For someone who has worked full time at G.M. for, say, 24 or 25 years, it is difficult to throw away those years of investment.
    This had already been happening for many years with other G.M. plants that have been idled or closed. One worker at the transition center, Christina Defelice, said she knew plant workers who arrived at Lordstown after four other transfers, or had been commuting from Pittsburgh or even from as far as Tennessee to keep their families on their health insurance or make their 30 years. She said she knew of a number of divorces, nervous breakdowns and even three suicides caused by such dislocation. Now those out-of-town transplants might have to move on again, joined by hundreds of Lordstown’s newly unallocated workers — people like Ernie Long, who had worked at the plant for 11 years.
    Ernie Long, 41
    Stamping department
    Seven years ago, I bought my property. Ever since then, I’ve been preparing it, clearing the land, trees, stumps. As I progressed in wage and made more money, I thought about building a house, because General Motors was doing so well. We came out of bankruptcy, and the Cruze was our top-selling vehicle. We were supposed to build the Cruze through 2021, which would still be another two years. So in 2013, we thought about building a house. Now I’ve had my house for two years, and now Mary Barra thinks we don’t need to sell the Cruze anymore.
    If we have to move for work, I’ll have to go by myself. We’ve had the conversation. I wouldn’t say I’d be mentally prepared, but I know I’d have to leave. I would’ve liked to go to Toledo, or Parma, or Buffalo-Tonawanda. They’re all within about three hours — if I needed to come home that day, I could drive back. Whereas if I went to Spring Hill, that’s nine hours one way. Eydokia would still have her parents here to help her with the kids, and obviously I’d send money home. We would have to pay for rent there and a mortgage here; I’d have to move in with somebody. I still have work to do at my house; I still have a yard to put in. But how are you going to do that knowing you don’t have a job?
    With his wife, Eydokia; their children, Christian and Mia; and his sister, Brandie.
    Cindy Higinbotham, 13 (left)
    I was kind of scared and sad when I found out about the plant. My father has lived next to Lordstown his entire life. We know everyone.
    I’m scared about moving, but I’m trying to be brave about it. I know it’s going to be hard, because I’ll be going into a new school. I have to make new friends, and I’m not really social.
    I want other kids to just be brave. Be there for your parents. Give them moral support, give your family support and make sure they are O.K.
    I wasn’t O.K. at first. I don’t want to go. All my friends don’t want me to go, and I know it’s hard to leave friends. But if you have to leave something, you have to leave and go on with life. It just goes on.
    In the Lordstown High School band room with her friend Monet Hostutler.
    Sherria Duncan, 43 (second from right)
    Paint shop
    When I was hired, my mother took me to work with her and showed me the ropes. I was terrified, and my mom was like a mama bear looking over her cub. I didn’t find out until years later that she had so many friends at the plant who would say, “Your daughter went here for lunch” or “She was talking to that person” or “These guys were looking at her.” She was on the women’s committee and the election committee, so when she retired, I joined those committees.
    Family is important to us, and the possibility of having to leave the area is hard, because our family would probably be separated. Both of our mothers help a lot, and we really rely on our parents because we work separate shifts. A lot of times we have to work mandatory Saturdays, so we’re really left with one day each week for quality time.
    Jason and I would go days when we literally didn’t see each other. I felt lonely a lot, because he worked the afternoon shift so he could put Olivia on the school bus in the morning, when I was at work. Usually I get off at 3:30, but there are days that they’ll tell you at the last minute, “You have to stay until 4 o’clock.” Well, Olivia gets off the bus at 4, and Jason is already at work. My mom’s on standby, but I feel like a burden.
    They say “Family first” at G.M., but it isn’t true, because they don’t understand that a lot of people have children in school. So that’s very scary if we have to transfer plants, because we won’t have that safety net.
    At home with her daughter, Olivia; her mother, Waldine Arrington; and her husband, Jason Duncan.
    Vickie Raymond, 49
    Paint shop
    My father was a city kid in Cleveland; my mom was only 17 when they got married. We lived in Windham until I was 6, and then a guy my father worked with at the plant told him about a house in Hanoverton. They came out and looked at it, and they liked it because it had land and room, and it was quiet and safe. That’s where they lived for 43 years.
    It was just an old 1800s farmhouse with five acres, but we felt like we were on “Little House on the Prairie.” It had horsehair plaster with wood slats and no dry wall at all. It had newspapers in the walls as insulation; it was very cold in there. My dad and my mom did the majority of the remodeling themselves. They put vinyl siding on it and installed new windows, and they painted it yellow with light-green shutters.
    When my dad passed away in 2013, my mom wasn’t able to maintain the home. I would go over every day after work to clean it, vacuum it, dust it, whatever she needed. I’d do the outside maintenance, planting flowers and gardening, staining the deck, power washing. When my mom had cancer, one thing that bothered her most was worrying about what was going to happen to me because of G.M. idling.
    I don’t want to let our house go, but it has to be done. I made a promise to my mom before she passed. I promised her I wouldn’t let our place sit there without another family in it. You can’t let an old farmhouse sit there too long, because things start falling apart.
    At her parents’ home.
    The last Cruze came off the line on March 6, two days ahead of schedule. That afternoon, workers gathered on the shoulder of a turnpike exit next to the plant for a celebratory protest. Dave Green and a few others gave brief speeches, and a local folk singer played a version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Youngstown,” with revamped lyrics to reflect Lordstown’s struggles. Afterward, people ran into the road, whooping and hollering at the honking cars and tractor-trailers before dispersing in the bitter cold. The last Cruze remained inside the plant, awaiting a final inspection. By then, it had already come to be much more than a car. It was a token of the most coveted working-class possession: a secure, well-paying job with health insurance and a pension.
    The car had already been sold, but its owner wanted it displayed so people could see the last of the line.
    It was loaded onto a truck destined for Sweeney Chevrolet, a dealership in Youngstown.
    At Sweeney, employees discovered signatures that the Lordstown workers had left underneath the car and a collection of handmade signs that they had placed in the trunk.
    “We will survive,” one read.

    8) Civilization Is Accelerating Extinction and Altering the Natural World at a Pace ‘Unprecedented in Human History’
    By Brad Plumer, May 6, 2019

    Fishing nets and ropes are a frequent hazard for olive ridley sea turtles, seen on a beach in India’s Kerala state in January. A new 1,500-page report by the United Nations is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe.CreditCreditSoren Andersson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.
    The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.
    Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”
    At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. 
    As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts. 
    Cattle grazing on a tract of illegally cleared Amazon forest in Pará state, Brazil. In most major land habitats, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century.Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times
    Cattle grazing on a tract of illegally cleared Amazon forest in Pará state, Brazil. In most major land habitats, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century.Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times
    The report is not the first to paint a grim portrait of Earth’s ecosystems. But it goes further by detailing how closely human well-being is intertwined with the fate of other species.
    “For a long time, people just thought of biodiversity as saving nature for its own sake,” said Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which conducted the assessment at the request of national governments. “But this report makes clear the links between biodiversity and nature and things like food security and clean water in both rich and poor countries.“
    previous report by the group had estimated that, in the Americas, nature provides some $24 trillion of non-monetized benefits to humans each year. The Amazon rain forest absorbs immense quantities of carbon dioxide and helps slow the pace of global warming. Wetlands purify drinking water. Coral reefs sustain tourism and fisheries in the Caribbean. Exotic tropical plants form the basis of a variety of medicines.
    But as these natural landscapes wither and become less biologically rich, the services they can provide to humans have been dwindling. 
    Humans are producing more food than ever, but land degradation is already harming agricultural productivity on 23 percent of the planet’s land area, the new report said. The decline of wild bees and other insects that help pollinate fruits and vegetables is putting up to $577 billion in annual crop production at risk. The loss of mangrove forests and coral reefs along coasts could expose up to 300 million people to increased risk of flooding.
    The authors note that the devastation of nature has become so severe that piecemeal efforts to protect individual species or to set up wildlife refuges will no longer be sufficient. Instead, they call for “transformative changes” that include curbing wasteful consumption, slimming down agriculture’s environmental footprint and cracking down on illegal logging and fishing.
    “It’s no longer enough to focus just on environmental policy,” said Sandra M. Díaz, a lead author of the study and an ecologist at the National University of Córdoba in Argentina. “We need to build biodiversity considerations into trade and infrastructure decisions, the way that health or human rights are built into every aspect of social and economic decision-making.”
    Scientists have cataloged only a fraction of living creatures, some 1.3 million; the report estimates there may be as many as 8 million plant and animal species on the planet, most of them insects. Since 1500, at least 680 species have blinked out of existence, including the Pinta giant tortoise of the Galápagos Islands and the Guam flying fox.
    Though outside experts cautioned it could be difficult to make precise forecasts, the report warns of a looming extinction crisis, with extinction rates currently tens to hundreds of times higher than they have been in the past 10 million years. 
    “Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before,” the report concludes, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken.”
    Unless nations step up their efforts to protect what natural habitats are left, they could witness the disappearance of 40 percent of amphibian species, one-third of marine mammals and one-third of reef-forming corals. More than 500,000 land species, the report said, do not have enough natural habitat left to ensure their long-term survival.
    Over the past 50 years, global biodiversity loss has primarily been driven by activities like the clearing of forests for farmland, the expansion of roads and cities, logging, hunting, overfishing, water pollution and the transport of invasive species around the globe.
    In Indonesia, the replacement of rain forest with palm oil plantations has ravaged the habitat of critically endangered orangutans and Sumatran tigers. In Mozambique, ivory poachers helped kill off nearly 7,000 elephants between 2009 and 2011 alone. In Argentina and Chile, the introduction of the North American beaver in the 1940s has devastated native trees (though it has also helped other species thrive, including the Magellanic woodpecker). 
    All told, three-quarters of the world’s land area has been significantly altered by people, the report found, and 85 percent of the world’s wetlands have vanished since the 18th century.
    And with humans continuing to burn fossil fuels for energy, global warming is expected to compound the damage. Roughly 5 percent of species worldwide are threatened with climate-related extinction if global average temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the report concluded. (The world has already warmed 1 degree.)
    “If climate change were the only problem we were facing, a lot of species could probably move and adapt,” Richard Pearson, an ecologist at the University College of London, said. “But when populations are already small and losing genetic diversity, when natural landscapes are already fragmented, when plants and animals can’t move to find newly suitable habitats, then we have a real threat on our hands.”
    The dwindling number of species will not just make the world a less colorful or wondrous place, the report noted. It also poses risks to people.
    Volunteers collected trash in March in a mangrove forest in Brazil. The loss of mangrove forests and coral reefs along coasts could expose up to 300 million people to increased risk of flooding.Amanda Perobelli/Reuters

    Volunteers collected trash in March in a mangrove forest in Brazil. The loss of mangrove forests and coral reefs along coasts could expose up to 300 million people to increased risk of flooding.Amanda Perobelli/Reuters
    Today, humans are relying on significantly fewer varieties of plants and animals to produce food. Of the 6,190 domesticated mammal breeds used in agriculture, more than 559 have gone extinct and 1,000 more are threatened. That means the food system is becoming less resilient against pests and diseases. And it could become harder in the future to breed new, hardier crops and livestock to cope with the extreme heat and drought that climate change will bring.
    “Most of nature’s contributions are not fully replaceable,” the report said. Biodiversity loss “can permanently reduce future options, such as wild species that might be domesticated as new crops and be used for genetic improvement.”
    The report does contain glimmers of hope. When governments have acted forcefully to protect threatened species, such as the Arabian oryx or the Seychelles magpie robin, they have managed to fend off extinction in many cases. And nations have protected more than 15 percent of the world’s land and 7 percent of its oceans by setting up nature reserves and wilderness areas.
    Still, only a fraction of the most important areas for biodiversity have been protected, and many nature reserves poorly enforce prohibitions against poaching, logging or illegal fishing. Climate change could also undermine existing wildlife refuges by shifting the geographic ranges of species that currently live within them.
    So, in addition to advocating the expansion of protected areas, the authors outline a vast array of changes aimed at limiting the drivers of biodiversity loss. 
    Farmers and ranchers would have to adopt new techniques to grow more food on less land. Consumers in wealthy countries would have to waste less food and become more efficient in their use of natural resources. Governments around the world would have to strengthen and enforce environmental laws, cracking down on illegal logging and fishing and reducing the flow of heavy metals and untreated wastewater into the environment.
    The authors also note that efforts to limit global warming will be critical, although they caution that the development of biofuels to reduce emissions could end up harming biodiversity by further destroying forests.
    An elephant in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy at the foot of Mount Kenya, outside Nairobi. More than 500,000 land species do not have enough natural habitat left to ensure their long-term survival.Tony Karumba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    An elephant in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy at the foot of Mount Kenya, outside Nairobi. More than 500,000 land species do not have enough natural habitat left to ensure their long-term survival.Tony Karumba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
    None of this will be easy, especially since many developing countries face pressure to exploit their natural resources as they try to lift themselves out of poverty. 
    But, by detailing the benefits that nature can provide to people, and by trying to quantify what is lost when biodiversity plummets, the scientists behind the assessment are hoping to help governments strike a more careful balance between economic development and conservation.
    “You can’t just tell leaders in Africa that there can’t be any development and that we should turn the whole continent into a national park,” said Emma Archer, who led the group’s earlier assessment of biodiversity in Africa. “But we can show that there are trade-offs, that if you don’t take into account the value that nature provides, then ultimately human well-being will be compromised.”
    In the next two years, diplomats from around the world will gather for several meetings under the Convention on Biological Diversity, a global treaty, to discuss how they can step up their efforts at conservation. Yet even in the new report’s most optimistic scenario, through 2050 the world’s nations would only slow the decline of biodiversity — not stop it.
    “At this point,” said Jake Rice, a fisheries scientist who led an earlier report on biodiversity in the Americas, “our options are all about damage control.”


    9)  Fragile Cease-Fire Takes Hold Between Israel and Gaza After Weekend Attacks
    By Isabel Kershner, May 6, 2019

    Israeli tanks stationed near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel, on Monday.CreditCreditJack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    JERUSALEM — A tentative cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza appeared to have taken hold Monday morning, bringing a short but deadly bout of cross-border fighting to an end as abruptly as it had started. At least 22 Palestinians, including militants and children, were killed in Gaza over the weekend, and four Israeli civilians died in the fighting.

    Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Gaza groups that fired about 600 projectiles at southern Israel on Saturday and Sunday, had indicated a readiness to restore the fragile truce that went into effect nearly five years ago but has been interrupted repeatedly by violence. A Hamas-run television channel reported in the early hours of Monday that a new cease-fire had been reached, and would come into effect at 4:30 a.m.

    According to Arab news reports, the understanding was brokered by Egypt and the United Nations, and includes measures to ease the acute economic crisis in the impoverished Gaza Strip, home to two million people. It came with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

    At least nine militants and as many Palestinian civilians, including two children, were killed by Israeli forces on Sunday alone, according to Health Ministry officials in the Hamas-run coastal territory. It was the worst violence between the two sides since a 50-day war in 2014.
    The Israeli military said it had struck 350 militant targets over the weekend. It resumed wartime tactics that included the targeted assassination of individuals and bombing multistory buildings it said were used for military purposes.

    The remains of a building in Gaza City after it was hit by Israeli air strikes on Sunday.CreditMahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    The Israeli government did not overtly confirm a renewed cease-fire, as is customary in such situations, with officials reluctant to go public about understandings or agreements with groups that Israel classifies as terrorist organizations.
    But in an acknowledgment of the restoration of calm, the Israeli military announced the lifting, from 7 a.m., of all restrictions on public gatherings in communities within a 25-mile radius of Gaza. Roads in the vicinity of the border and most schools reopened.

    Then, in a statement issued around 11 a.m., Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alluded to the end of this round of battle, if not the general state of war.
    “Over the last two days, we struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force,” he said. “We hit over 350 targets. We struck at terrorist leaders and operatives and we destroyed terrorist buildings. The campaign is not over, and it demands patience and sagacity. We are prepared to continue. The goal has been — and remains — ensuring quiet and security for the residents of the south. I send condolences to the families and best wishes for recovery to the wounded.”
    Israeli commentators said that Israel had also been eager to cut short the fighting, with Memorial Day and Independence Day celebrations coming this week, and a stream of international singers arriving to compete in the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv this month. In hosting the international contest, Israel intends to showcase itself as a tourist destination.
    The exact terms of the cease-fire were not publicized, but in the past they have included measures like an extension of the fishing zone off the Gaza coast in the Mediterranean waters controlled by Israel, assurances for the smooth transfer of Qatari money into the territory and other measures to ease the blockade imposed by Israel, with Egypt’s help. Both countries restrict the movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave, citing security grounds and the need to stop weapons smuggling.
    Shortly before the cease-fire came into effect, Abdul Latif Al-Kanoo, a Hamas spokesman, said, referring to Israel, “Any truce that does not obligate the occupation to lift the siege on our people in Gaza will be fragile and collapse once again.”

    This latest round of fighting appeared to have been set off by events on Friday, when two Israeli soldiers were wounded by a Gaza sniper and four Palestinians were killed.

    Two of the Palestinians were shot by Israeli forces during weekly protest along the fence dividing the territory from Israel, according to Gaza health officials. The others, who were identified as Hamas militants, were killed in an Israeli airstrike in retaliation for the sniper attack. Starting Saturday morning, Hamas and Islamic Jihad unleashed an unusually heavy barrage of rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel.
    Perennially simmering tensions along the border have burst into at least eight brief but increasingly fierce rounds of fighting over the past year, sometimes lasting little more than a day. These exchanges appear to have replaced the broader wars that occurred in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014, with neither side showing any appetite now for a full-scale showdown.
    Mr. Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s defense minister, is in the process of forming a new, right-wing governing coalition after his party’s victory in the general elections in April.
    Opposition leaders from the political center and left have repeatedly criticized him as lacking a more decisive and strategic policy toward Gaza.
    Yair Lapid, of the centrist Blue and White party, accused Mr. Netanyahu of “a complete surrender” to Hamas.
    Mr. Netanyahu was also criticized by a senior politician in his own Likud party.
    “The cease-fire, given the circumstances under which it was reached, lacks achievements for Israel,” the politician, Gidon Saar, who is considered a rival for the party leadership, wrote on Twitter. “The time ranges between the rounds of violent attacks on Israel and its citizens are getting shorter, and the terrorist organizations in Gaza use the periods in between to get stronger. The campaign has not been prevented, but postponed.”


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