Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, December 23, 2020

  To subscribe to BAUAW (Bay Area United Against War) Newsletter  click the following link:


Photo from my backyard, San Francisco, December 23, 2012. —Bonnie Weinstein

Bring on a Socialist New Year!

Here's to the beginning a new year of united struggle against bigotry, war, environmental destruction, economic inequality, injustice and capitalist oppression. 

"Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!" The Communist Manifesto (1848), by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels



Carmen Trotta and Martha Hennessy, two of the Kings Bay Plowshares disarmament activists, self-reported to federal prisons yesterday to begin their sentences.

Carmen was driven by a group of community members and friends from St. Joseph House Catholic Worker in NYC to the prison in Otisville, NY, about a two hour drive. Before leaving he received a blessing from many friends with a laying on hands. The group also stopped for a farewell meal in Middletown near the prison.

Carmen was given a 14 month sentence and has already served 7 weeks. He is expected to be quarantined for two weeks and then put into the prison camp population. The prison has stopped all visiting which may be a sign that the virus rate is growing.

Carmen in middle before reporting

Martha was brought from her home in Vermont to Danbury, CT by her husband, Steven Melanson to begin her ten month sentence. Two of her codefendants, Mark Colville and Liz McAlister along with Liz's daughter Frida Berrigan and Bill Marsten met them in the parking lot. Mark reports, "I was conscious of Martha's courage and faith, her faithfulness to the Gospel and compassion for all of creation which has made it possible for our community of love and justice to extend beyond that prison.

Martha goes in with a message that we need now, more than ever, to abolish nuclear weapons and war. She's laying down her life for that good news. We celebrated her there with homemade soup and chocolate. Frida's children made beautiful signs saying 'FEAR NOT' and 'We love you, Martha!'

I remember one particular moment when Liz stepped forward and reminded all that many great spirits had passed through those prison gates, including her beloved, Phil Berrigan. God rest his soul and many other resisters. Martha is carrying on that tradition and we were able to celebrate her as a community. It was a beautiful day, with snow descending as we drove up and intensifying as we drove back. 

On the way, we passed through the little town of Sandy Hook. Dec. 14th, was the 8th anniversary of that terrible school shooting of all those children and educators. We are conscious of the connection between nuclear weapons and the kinds of violence that plague our communities and neighborhoods everywhere in this country. Martha's going forward very much was a witness to this connection between the ultimate violence of omnicidal nuclear weapons and the violence that plagues our neighborhoods."

Fr. Steve Kelly is now being transported from jail in Georgia where he has been held since the action in April, 2018 to federal court in Tacoma, WA to appear for a probation violation. Steve had been convicted of trespass in an earlier action at the Kitsap-Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base. Taking into account his good time credit, Steve has served beyond the 33 month sentence given by Judge Wood. It is expected that his extra time will be credited to any sentence from the Tacoma court. So far Steve has stayed COVID-free and healthy. He gave away all his belongings just after his October 15th sentencing expecting to be moved soon but it didn't happen quickly. The transport to the West Coast could take days or weeks through various intermediate stages and holding prisons. Check the website for updates.

Carmen Trotta #22561-021
FCI Otisville
Federal Correctional Institution
Satellite Camp
PO Box 1000
Otisville, NY 10963

Martha Hennessy #22560-021
FCI Danbury
Route 37
Danbury, CT 06811

You can send letters to them on white paper with blue or black ink but no drawings. We are checking what else they may receive. See the website for updates.

Clare Grady and Patrick O'Neill will report to prison in the New Year. Mark Colville has a delay for sentencing until February 19.

To access the defendants' powerful sentencing statements go to https://kingsbayplowshares7.org/sentencing-statements/ which is under the "Legal" tab in the menu. Biographical information can be found under the "About" tab.

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 symbolically and nonviolently disarmed Trident submarine nuclear weapons on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who devoted his life to addressing what he called the “triple evils of militarism, racism, and materialism.”  Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood, the seven attempted to convert weapons of mass destruction. They hoped to call attention to the ways in which nuclear weapons kill every day, by their mere existence and maintenance.





"The Most Broken of the Broken

Please sign the petition to stop her execution:



Dear lovers of peace & justice,

President Trump is planning to execute still more federal prisoners on death row.
Will it be by firing squad, poison gas or electrocution, three very cruel means of execution that Trump has recently reinstated?

Lisa Montgomery is one of the planned executions, a victim herself of lifelong cruelty and violence.

Say Her Name!  Know Her Story:

Better yet, watch & listen to:   LISA’S SONG
a poignant dedication to Lisa, who sustained a lifetime of cruelty from mother, father, friends, strangers, via physical and sexual abuse, repeated rape by father and husband and gang rape and sex trafficking by her mother, and ultimately, neglect and abuse by law enforcement and the state.  She is “profoundly mentally ill” as a result.

Her story is heartbreaking!  And now a January 12 execution?.

Write to Lisa!   Just a simple letter mutiplied by hundreds CAN make a difference:

Sandra Babcock, a lawyer working to halt the Lisa's execution, wrote:
"We are hoping that Lisa receives hundreds of messages for the holidays.  The other great thing is that the prison copies all of her correspondence, so they will have to copy hundreds of well-wishes for Lisa.  The prison will then likely send them to the Government, so the Government will see how many supporters she has.

Another benefit:  Lisa will finally receive, via the letters, overwhelming love and nurturing by many.  This can only give her a bit of healing and comforting that she has been deprived of for too long.

Please write on a plane piece of paper.  NO CARDS, POSTCARDS, DRAWINGS OR ANY OTHER MATERIAL ALLOWED.  Only words allowed!  (The cruelty continues.) 
A simple message can do wonders!  
Lisa loves Christmas….so your words may want to reflect on that.
Suggestion:  Choose a special stamp….to add color and vibrancy!

Mail to:

Lisa Montgomery, #11072-031
Federal Medical Center-Carswell
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

Let’s all be thinking and praying and hoping for long life and justice for Lisa.

Toby Blomé & Susan Witka
Women for Peace & Justice



Urgent Demand For Mumia's Release
Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM 8335
There is a serious outbreak of COVID 19 in Mahanoy Correctional Facility, where Mumia and 2,400 other men live.  As of now 20 guards have tested positive 4 COVID 19, and the prison is frantically testing those housed in the prison.  Obviously, this a a huge cause for concern.  Despite the prison being on lockdown, meaning no one leaves there cell except for showers and emergencies.  Food is brought to the cells. 


Needless, to say, Mumia quite worried as he should be.  He is 66, years old, has liver damage and prison personnel are the ones bringing in the virus. 


Please call Governor Tom Wolf to demand Mumia and other aging elders with underlying vulnerable health concerns be considered for compassionate release.  Clearly, there is no such thing as social distancing in prison.  The only way to stop this virus from spreading and killing those in its' path is to send our elders home
who pose no threat to our community. 


Governor Tom Wolf -1(717) 787-2500  Fax 1 (717) 772-8284
Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
HarrisburgPA  17120    
After calling the governor, send an online communication about our concerns.   https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/#PhoneNumber
Let us know what there response was, Thank you.  Mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com



Colin Kaepernick Supports Mumia!

 This message is from: the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

21 November 2020

Colin Kaepernick is a professional football quarter-back with a sterling record, but he is now an unemployed free agent. This could not be a more important indication of systemic racism in the US, nor a greater condemnation of the corporate worms that own football in this country.

In the 49ers' third preseason game in 2016 Kaepernick sat during the playing of the US  National anthem prior to the game, as a protest against police brutality and systematic oppression of blacks in this country. Throughout the regular season, Kaepernick continued his protest by kneeling during the anthem. During a post-game interview that year, Kaepernick explained his position stating, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Colin Kaepernick Speaks Out...and Gets Opposition

Since then, Kaepernick has continued his outrage against ongoing racist police murders of black people, such as that of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among many others. This has, of course, not come without opposition. President Trump mobilized his racist base with comments such as this: NFL owners should "fire" players who protest during the national anthem. 

Kaepernick has been unemployed in professional football since the end of the 2016 season.

Kaepernick Supports Mumia Abu-Jamal

Now, Colin Kaepernick has come out with a statement in defense of one of the most important political prisoners in recent US history: Mumia Abu-Jamal. We say this not because other political prisoners are not important--they are--but because prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier are specifically singled out as enemies of the state...of the US government specifically. 

Mumia, falsely accused of killing a Philadelphia cop in 1981, and Peltier, also falsely accused, in his case of killing federal agents at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975, are both the victims of frame-ups that extend through all levels from the US Justice Department, the FBI, and to national, state and local politicians and officials. These cases are prime examples of a racist and class-divided society that is corrupt every inch of the way from top to bottom.

An Important Time for Prisoners 

Colin Kaepernick’s statement on former Black Panther and MOVE supporter Mumia Abu-Jamal is an accurate and riveting summary of the false case made against this determined anti-racist fighter, who continues his insightful commentaries from behind bars in his 39th year of incarceration for a crime he did not commit.

This statement comes at an important time for all prisoners in the US, particularly those in federal and state prisons, because of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Prisoners have been denied protective measures, or sent to solitary confinement, or arbitrarily moved to other prisons resulting in the spread of infections in those prisons. 

The Labor Action Committee To free Mumia Abu-Jamal initiated several protests at San Quentin Prison beginning in May 2020. This work is now being carried forward by the No Justice Under Capitalism Coalition (NJUChttps://www.facebook.com/NoJusticeUnderCapitalism/ 

And for more information on Mumia Abu-Jamal, check http://www.freemumia.com/who-are-we/  and: www.laboractionmumia.org.

Colin Kaepernick’s Statement on Mumia:

 Free Mumia (6:52) Colin Kaepernick  



When I was invited to speak on behalf of Mumia, one of the first things that came to mind was how long he's been in prison. How many years of his life had been stolen away from him, his community, and his loved ones. He's been incarcerated for 38 years. Mumia has been in prison longer than I've been alive.

When I first spoke with Mumia on the phone, I did very little talking. I just listened. Hearing him speak was a reminder of why we must continue to fight. Earlier this year,  The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner issued a statement, noting that prolonged solitary confinement, the precise type often used in the United States, amounts to psychological torture.  Mumia Abu-Jamal has spent roughly 30 out of his 38 years in solitary confinement.

In his book Live From Death Row, Mumia wrote that prison is a second by second assault on the soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self, an oppressive steel and brick umbrella that transforms seconds into hours, and hours into days. He has had to endure this second-by-second assault on his soul for 38 years.

He had no record before he was arrested and framed for the death of a Philadelphia police officer. Since 1981, Mumia has maintained his innocence. His story has not changed. Mumia was shot, brutalized, arrested, and chained to a hospital bed. The first police officer assigned to him wrote in a report that the “Negro male made no comment” as cited in Philly Mag. Yet 64 days into the investigation, another officer testified that Mumia had confessed to the killing. Mumia’s story has not changed, but we're talking about the same Philadelphia Police Department whose behavior “shocks the conscience,” according to a 1979 DOJ report.  Behaviors like shooting nonviolent suspects, abusing handcuffed prisoners, and tampering with evidence.

It should therefore come as little surprise that, according to Dr. Johanna Fernandez, over one third of the 35 officers involved in Mumia's case, were subsequently convicted of rank corruption, extortion, and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions in unrelated cases. This is the same Philadelphia Police Department where officers ran racial profiling sweeps, like Operation Cold Turkey in March, 1985, targeting Black and Brown folks; and bombed the MOVE house in May of that year, killing 11 people, including five children and destroying 61 homes. 

The same Philadelphia police department, whose officers eight days before the 2020 presidential election, shot Walter Wallace Jr. dead in the streets in front of his crying mother. The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police has unrelentingly campaigned for Mumia’s execution. During their August, 1999, national meeting, a spokesperson for the organization stated that they will not rest until Abu-Jamal burns in hell. The former Philadelphia president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Richard Castello, went as far as to say that if you disagree with their views of Mumia, you can join him in the electric chair and that they will make it an electric couch.

The trial judge on Mumia's case in 1981, Albert Sabo was a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police. Court reporter Terry Maurer Carter even heard Judge Sabo telling a colleague “I'm going to help them fry the nigger.”

Found in December, 2018, in an inaccessible storage room of the DA's office, six boxes of documents for Mumia's case reveal previously undisclosed and highly significant evidence showing that Mumia’s trial was tainted by a failure to disclose material evidence in violation of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. In November, 2019, the Fraternal Order of Police filed a King's Bench Petition asking the court to allow the state attorney general, not the Philadelphia DA's office, to handle the upcoming appeals.

As the FOP president John McNesby said just last year, “Mumia should remain in prison for the rest of his life.” And a King's Bench order provides the legal angle for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to uphold Judge Sabo’s original wish, which was for Mumia ultimately to die in prison. 

Today we're living through a moment where it's acceptable to paint “end racism now” in front of the Philadelphia Police Department’s 26th district headquarters, and yet a political prisoner who has since the age of 14 dedicated his life to fighting against racism, continues to be caged and lives his life on a slow death row. We're in the midst of a movement that says Black Lives Matter. And if that's truly the case, then it means that Mumia’s life and legacy must matter. And the causes that he sacrifices life and freedom for must matter as well. 

Through all of the torture Mumia has suffered over the past 38 years, his principles have never wavered. These principles have manifested themselves in his writing countless books while incarcerated, in his successful radio show, and the time and energy he has poured into his mentorship of younger incarcerated folks and the continued concern for the people suffering outside of the walls. Even while living in the hells of the prison system, Mumia still fights for our human rights. We must continue to fight for him and his human rights.

Well, Mumia is 66 years old. He is a grandfather. He is an elder with ailments. He is a human being that deserves to be free. 

Free Mumia.



Artwork by Kevin "Rashid" Johnson

MOVE Family Says: Free Mumia!

MOVE family statement regarding the “apology” by Philadelphia officials for the 1985 bombing of their home.

December 7, 2020—ONA MOVE Everybody!

This is a statement from the MOVE family to let y’all know that the MOVE family ain’t interested in no apology from any officials in Philadelphia for the 1985 bombing of our family, causing the murder of 11 of our MOVE family members (five of our children and six of our adult sisters and brothers.) If city officials are sincere about rectifying the debacle of 1985, they would release our brother, Mumia Abu-Jamal immediately! They can’t give us back our 11 family members they murdered in 1985, but they can give us back our brother, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been in prison 39 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and everybody knows this—including the mouthpiece for the Fraternal Order of Police—Maureen Faulkner. MOVE is saying that if Philadelphia officials think offering an apology is the answer, they should be offering apologies to the families of Walter Wallace, Winston Hood, William Green and the families of the countless other victims of police brutality and murder in the city of so call “Brotherly Love.”

We’re saying an apology without action is meaningless! 

Release Mumia Abu-Jamal!  Long Live John Africa!

—The MOVE Family




Dear Friend:

We have organized a call-in campaign to advocate for Ed's release, and we need your help! Please phone each individual member of the Nebraska Pardons Board as many times as you and your friends, comrades, associates, and family can between December 10th and December 20th, 2020. We have provided a script below. Please give your name and the state that you live in, and if you can, leave a phone number.

Nebraska Board of Pardons Members:Governor Pete Ricketts: 402-471-2244Attorney General Doug Peterson: 402-471-2683
Secretary of State Robert Evnen: 402-471-2554

In solidarity,
Freedom for Ed Team

“Hello Pardons Board Member,

I am calling to demand and pray for the Compassionate Release/Commutation of Sentence and rapid release of Mr. Edward Poindexter.  Ed Poindexter is one of the eldest prisoners in the state penitentiary and as such, along with other elderly prisoners in Nebraska is at great risk of serious illness or death should he contract the coronavirus. We are focusing on Ed, but also pray for the release of other elderly prisoners. 

Therefore, I am requesting that you schedule a special Pardons Board hearing this month to consider ALL the commutation applications at once, particularly for prisoners over the age of 60.

Nebraska is not alone in facing this crisis, and if you act now with compassion to protect the lives of elders in prison, you will be in step with several other states who have taken this important step toward humanity and toward the application of the basic principle of human rights.  Please release Ed Poindexter and his peers immediately!  Thank you for having compassion for elderly prisoners who are at high risk of dying from covid19, and for recognizing that holding them during this worsening pandemic is tantamount to inflicting a sentence of death or debilitation.”



This message from the No Justice Under Capitalism Coalition, 

Forwarded by the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2020

For information call: Courtney Morris 510-335-9384 or Richard Tan 650-996-7888

Facebook / Instagram: @NoJustice Under Capitalism

San Quentin Prison Staff Forcing Prisoners to 

Accept Liability for Their Own Deaths from COVID-19


SAN QUENTIN, CA –  Prisoners at San Quentin State Prison are reporting that, over the past week, San Quentin medical staff have been pressuring prisoners to sign waiver forms accepting legal responsibility for their own deaths from COVID-19.

That, despite more than 10 months of continuous neglect and Eighth Amendment violations by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) which has, so far, killed 28 prisoners at the prison.

Multiple prisoners at San Quentin tell the same story. From December 2 – 4, they were taken to the medical unit and pressured by a nurse to accept an unsafe transfer to another California prison.

If they refused the transfer, the nurse would then pressure the prisoner to sign a waiver form. The form (attached) states, in part: “I agree to hold the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the staff of the medical department and the institution free of any responsibility for injury or complications that may result from my refusal [of the transfer].”

The prisoner is then pressured to initial sentences such as:

“I understand that due to my age, I am at high risk for developing serious complications [from COVID-19] . . .”

“I understand that I have one or more medical conditions that makes me high risk for developing serious complications [from COVID-19] . . .”

“I understand that COVID-19 could lead to serious complications such as lengthy hospitalizations or even death.”

“I understand that living in places where individuals are in close contact and physical distancing is difficult to follow, such as prison dormitory [sic], will increases [sic] my risk of being infected by COVID-19.”

Coercing prisoners to accept legal liability for their own deaths from COVID-19 is truly bizarre, given San Quentin’s documented, 10-month-long history of continuous indifference to prisoners’ lives – since the COVID-19 pandemic began, guards at San Quentin and throughout the California prison system have not worn masks, and moved freely between tiers.

A recent (October 2020) report by the California Office of the Inspector General states that prison staff frequently do not wear masks, and that there has only been one disciplinary action against a staff person, during the entire pandemic, at San Quentin for not wearing a mask.

The waiver form also demands that prisoners accept liability for being medically vulnerable and elderly. In fact, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported (December 6, 2020), CDCR has consistently refused to release at-risk elderly and immunocompromised prisoners, completely ignoring more than 5,200 out of the 6,500 at-risk prisoners in California prisons.

Overcrowding at San Quentin is also not the fault of individual prisoners. 

In the gym at San Quentin, CDCR claimed in June 2020 that prisoners were six feet apart when housed in bunk beds. In actuality, prisoners were only six feet apart if they slept head to toe and the distance was measured diagonally.

Following months of public pressure and protest, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco issued a decision, In re Ivan Von Staich (2020) 56 Cal.App.5th 53, holding that CDCR had violated the Eighth Amendment and ordering San Quentin to reduce its population by 50 percent - the minimum amount required for social distancing to take place.

Instead of accepting responsibility for their criminal neglect, Gov. Gavin Newsom and leaders at CDCR are now attempting to shift responsibility for their actions onto the backs of the victims of the state’s own incompetence and malfeasance.

No Justice Under Capitalism (NJUC) is a coalition working on behalf of prisoners throughout California. NJUC has organized protests in front of San Quentin since May 2020, along with other actions at prisons across the state, in front of CDCR’s offices in Sacramento, and in front of Governor Newsom’s and CDCR Secretary Diaz’s homes.

NJUC calls for immediate mass releases of prisoners as the only safe response to the COVID-19 crisis in California prisons, prioritizing elderly and immunocompromised prisoners, as well as prisoners whose sentences are almost over.




Courage to Resist

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









SIGN PETITION: Don't reincarcerate Jalil Muntaquim

Support for Jalil Muntaqim petition from the Movement for Black Lives:

Please click the below link to sign & share widely.

Support for Jalil Muntaqim
STATEMENT OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR JALIL MUNTAQIM We the undersigned fully support the New York State Parole Board’s decision to release Jalil Muntaqim. The parole process is meant to evaluate a person for release based on who they are today, not to extend one’s sentence into perpetuity. Mr. Muntaqim has been incarcerated since 1971, when he was 19 years old. During his 49 years in prison, Mr. Muntaqim has led education/mentorship programs for prisoners, earned several educational degrees and mentored many younger incarcerated men. He has been commended for preventing prisoner violence and promoting safety. As a result, hundreds of organizations and individuals have stepped forward to support his release including community and faith leaders, family members, and the NY State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. The Board finally acted honorably in following the guidelines put forth by New York State Executive Law 259-(i). A 2011, bi-partisan amendment to the law passed by Republican and Democratic lawmakers makes it clear that an individual’s readiness for successful re-entry should take priority in the decision to grant release. Upon his release, Mr. Muntaqim was warmly welcomed by a large, diverse set of community leaders and residents of Rochester, New York. He reported to his parole officers and followed instructions to sign up for various social services required by all senior citizens in his position. He was handed a large stack of paperwork including a voter registration form. Muntaqim, eager to follow instructions, appropriately filled out and signed everything required of him. Now, the Rochester District Attorney is attempting to reincarcerate an elder recovering from COVID-19 because he filled out a form as instructed. We are statewide and national organizations, community and faith leaders, elected officials, civil rights organizations, public defenders, and residents of the Rochester area. We pledge our continuing support for Mr. Muntaqim and our assistance in facilitating his reintegration into society. We vehemently oppose any efforts to remove him from our community and/or place him back in prison.
Please click the below link to sign & share widely.

Charlie Hinton
No one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side


Drop the Charges Against Jalil Muntaqim

By David Andreatta - December 7, 2020

Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, a parolee living in Brighton facing felony charges for attempting to register to vote, has been denied a pardon from the governor restoring his right to cast a ballot that is granted to most parolees, according to the Governor's Office and the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Sandra Doorley, the Monroe County district attorney, made a bad decision in October, when she charged Bottom with felonies related to him illegally registering to vote. Continuing the prosecution will only make it worse.


Not that Bottom, who lives in Brighton under the name he assumed in prison, Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, didn’t attempt to register to vote. He did. He filled out the paperwork on Oct. 8, a day after he was released from prison on parole.


The problem with his timing was that parolees in New York are allowed to vote only upon receiving a conditional pardon from the governor that restores their voting rights — and Muntaqim hadn’t received that pardon.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued such pardons as a matter of course on a monthly basis since 2018, when he signed an executive order directing the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to submit to the governor each month a list of every felon newly eligible for parole, with each name to be “given consideration for a conditional pardon that will restore voting rights.”


Anyone on the list would be eligible for a pardon as long as they weren’t flagged for any specific concern. Most parolees receive their pardon within four to six weeks of their release. The pardon doesn’t expunge their record or restore other rights stripped from them, such as the right to own a gun.


Cuomo denied Muntaqim a pardon when his name came up for consideration in November, spokespeople for the governor and the Department of Corrections said.

By then, Muntaqim had already been arraigned on felony charges of tampering with public records and offering a false instrument for filing, which carry maximum penalties of seven years and four years in prison, respectively. He is scheduled to appear next in Brighton Town Court on Dec. 14.


If convicted, Muntaqim will likely return to prison and die there. He is 69 years old.


Not that Muntaqim’s fate matters much to a lot of people.


The concept of disenfranchising felons dates to colonial days, when certain criminals were stripped of rights in a practice known as civil death. Later Americans applied their own uniquely racist twist to the practice after the Civil War, when many states used it to deprive Black men of the vote they had recently gained.


Today, the impact of these laws still falls disproportionately on poor people of color.


The Supreme Court interprets the Constitution in such a way that upholds these restrictions, which are a confusing patchwork of laws that vary by state.


Forty-eight states prohibit current inmates from voting and 30 keep parolees from the polls, according to the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group for criminal justice reform. Indeed, if Muntaqim resided in 20 other states, he wouldn’t be in this predicament.


“The laws are different from state to state, they’re very confusing, and the penalties for these offenses are extreme and unconscionable,” Nicole Porter, the director of advocacy at the Sentencing Project, said. “I don’t know how these prosecutors sleep at night.”


A national movement to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people is gaining steam, though.


Advocates say restoring voting rights to former felons helps them shed the stigma of criminal conviction and empowers them to be responsible citizens with a voice in their community.


But many conservative groups oppose the movement. They point out that supporters often make no mention of restoring other rights, such as the right to own a gun, suggesting that the push is really just about getting the votes of felons.


“You lose many other rights besides your right to vote when you are convicted of a felony,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that tracks voting prosecutions. “Yet many of those moving for immediate restoration of the ability to vote when a felon steps out of prison don’t seem very concerned about restoring those rights.”


They have a point. The movement to expand access to the vote has become a political hot potato, with Republicans opposing it and Democrats tending to support it, in part because they stand to gain the most from it.


Perhaps not surprisingly, then, it was the head of the Monroe County Republican Party, William Napier, who alerted Doorley to Muntaqim’s registration, which was filed under his birth name. Napier even called a news conference for the occasion.

The case was a gimme for Doorley, who is also a Republican. That Muntaqim attempted to register to vote is so clear it doesn’t require the qualifier “allegedly” here.


Whether he did it with intent to defraud, which is required for the charges to stick, is another matter, however.


It is absurd to think that a man who spent nearly 50 years behind bars would be so hellbent on casting a ballot in a single election as to jeopardize his newfound freedom on Day One. It seems obvious that Muntaqim didn’t know what he was doing when he filled out that form.


Muntaqim and his lawyer, a public defender, wouldn’t comment on his circumstances. But his mother has cast his actions as “a mistake,” saying the voter registration form was in “a packet of papers that was issued to him to help him assimilate himself back into society.”


Friends of Muntaqim said that packet was given to him by the county’s Department of Human Services, which helps newly released prisoners acclimate. Those packets include everything a former inmate might need — information on Medicaid, food stamps, child care, becoming an organ donor, and a voter registration form.


“I don’t think he was trying to game the system” by signing the form, said James Schuler, who has known Muntaqim since they met as inmates at Auburn Correctional Facility in 2000. “One thing he wanted to be more than anything was a productive member of society. They gave him paperwork to do that and he signed.”


Schuler, 52, described Muntaqim as “a leader” and “a peacekeeper” in prison, where he earned college degrees and mentored inmates.


After nearly 50 years of incarceration, Muntaqim corrected his bad decision to the extent he could. The New York Board of Parole recognized that when it deemed him ready to return to society, having taken into consideration his disciplinary record, personal growth, and the severity of his crimes.


Doorley said in an interview that her charges against him have nothing to do with his criminal past. She said they were about answering allegations of voter fraud in the weeks before the election and that Muntaqim’s case seemed straightforward.


“Is it a major thing?” she asked of the charges. “No.”


Not to her, but the stakes for Muntaqim are life-changing at a time when the nation is changing to recognize the implications of disenfranchising people who look like him.


Asked if she would consider dropping the charges, Doorley replied, “I don’t think we’ve ruled anything out. It’s not like we’re rushing to a grand jury. Obviously, we may consider making some plea offer.”


Now it’s Doorley turn to correct her bad decision.


David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com



History, Great Britain, and Julian Assange

By Clifford D. Conner

Below are the comments Clifford D. Conner made at a September 8, 2020 press conference in front of the British consulate in New York City. Conner is an historian and author of Jean Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution and The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump. The court in Britain is holding hearings on the Trump administration’s request to have Julian Assange, the Australian editor, publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, extradited. Assange would be tried in a Virginia court on 17 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison.

In 2010 Assange had the audacity to post a video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter indiscriminately murdering a dozen civilians and two Reuters’ journalists in the streets of Baghdad.

Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, testified in court on September 16 that Assange could not receive a fair trial in the United States. When he pointed out that the Collateral Murder video was clearly a war crime, the prosecution maintained that Assange was not wanted by Washington for it but for publishing documents without redacting names. Ellsberg pointed out that when he leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did not redact a single name.

Assange’s lawyer has since informed the London court that in 2017 former Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Charles Johnson, a far-right political activist, relayed Trump’s offer to pardon Assange if he provided the source for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. This was described to Assange as a “win-win” situation for all involved.

A National Committee to Defend Assange and Civil Liberties, chaired by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker has been set up. For further information, go to: www.facebook.com/CommitteeToDefendJulianAssangeThe press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee: NYCFreeAssange.org

—Dianne Feeley for The Editors, Against the Current

Comments by Clifford D. Conner

I am here at the British Consulate today to protest the incarceration and mistreatment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison in Great Britain, to demand that you immediately release him, and above all, to demand that you NOT extradite Julian Assange to the United States.

As a historian who has written extensively on the case of the most persecuted journalist of the 18th century, Jean Paul Marat, I am in a position to make historical comparisons, and in my judgement, Julian Assange is both the most unjustly persecuted journalist of the 21st century and arguably the most important journalist of the 21st century.

Julian Assange is being hounded and harassed and threatened with life in prison by the United States government because he dared to publish the truth about American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for the whole world to see. This persecution of Julian Assange is an assault on the fundamental principles of journalistic freedom.

The sociopathic Donald Trump and his accomplice, Attorney General William Barr, are demanding that you deliver Assange to them to face false charges of espionage. Every honest observer in the world recognizes Trump and Barr as utterly incapable of acting in good faith. If they succeed in suppressing Julian Assange’s right to publish, it will be a devastating precedent for journalists and publishers of news everywhere—and above all, for the general public, who will lose access to the information necessary to maintaining a democratic society.

If you allow yourselves to become co-conspirators in this crime, History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.

Last November, more than 60 doctors from all over the world wrote an open letter to the British government saying that Julian Assange’s health was so bad that he could die if he weren’t moved from Belmarsh Prison, where he was being held, to a hospital, immediately. Your government chose to ignore that letter and he was not hospitalized, then or later. History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.

Of all crimes against humanity, the most unforgivable is torture. No nation that perpetrates torture has the right to call itself civilized. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has unequivocally characterized Julian Assange’s treatment in Belmarsh Prison as torture. History will neither forget nor forgive that terrible moral transgression.

Furthermore, the exposure of the widespread use of torture by the United States military and the CIA at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, at Guantánamo Bay, and at so-called “black sites” all over the world, absolutely disqualifies the United States from sitting in moral judgement of anybody. If you deliver Julian Assange into the hands of torturers, history will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.

So, I join together today with human rights advocates and advocates of journalistic freedom around the world.

I stand with the Committee to Protect Journalists, which declared: “For the sake of press freedom, Julian Assange must be defended.”

I stand with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which said that the attempt to prosecute Julian Assange is “a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news’.”

And I stand with the ACLU, which said: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”

History will not only record the names of the countries that collaborate in this travesty of justice, but also the names of the individuals—the judges, the prosecutors, the diplomats, and the politicians—who aid and abet the crime. If you, as individuals, choose to ally yourselves with the likes of Donald Trump and William Barr, be prepared for your names to be chained to theirs in infamy, in perpetuity.

History will certainly absolve Julian Assange, and it certainly will not absolve his persecutors.

Against the Current, November/December 2020




About Albert Einstein

In September 1946, (after the war, before the civil rights movement), Albert Einstein called racism America’s “worst disease.” Earlier that year, he told students and faculty at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the oldest Black college in the Western world, that racial segregation was “not a disease of colored people, but a disease of white people, adding, “I willl not remain silent about it.” 

His peers criticized this appearance. The press purposefully didn't cover it. He simply wanted to inspire young minds with the beauty and power of science, drawing attention to the power of ALL human minds, regardless of race.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” -Albert Einstein




Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 

The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 

State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:

Know Your Rights Materials

The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides. 

WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office

We also recommend the following resources: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective



Note: Below are comments from Ambassador Andrew Young, who is also the former Mayor of Atlanta. The Ambassador notes that Imam Jamil Al-Amin was wrongfully convicted and that it's time to 'rejudge'.

Below is also a correction in the title of the previous posting about Otis Jackson, who admitted to the killing of which Imam Jamil Al-Amin was falsely accused of committing. The article is included below with the title correction being, "There are demands for a new trial"

And again, please sign the petition for a new trial and ask your friends to do so as well.

August 10, 2020
Justice Initiative

"(There's one case) that weighs heavy on my heart because I really think he was wrongfully convicted."
This Man, a Muslim, helped "clean up" Atlanta's West End.
"I'm talking about Jamil Al-Amin," he said, "H. Rap Brown."
"I think it's time to rejudge. He's been dying of cancer and has been suffering away from his family in the worst prisons of this nation." 
Ambassador Andrew Young Jr. 

Otis Jackson Speaks - 
The Man Who Committed 
The Crime Imam Jamil Is Serving Life For
There are demands for a new trial for 
Imam Jamil Al-Amin
Please sign the petition for a new trial

The Confession - My Name Is James Santos aka Otis Jackson (We Demand A Retrial For Imam Jamil)
The Confession - My Name Is James Santos aka OtisJackson (We Demand A Retrial For Imam Jamil)

Otis Jackson is a self-proclaimed leader of the Almighty Vice Lord Nation (AVLN). Founded in the late 1950s, the AVLN is one of the oldest street gangs in Chicago.
According to Jackson, the group under his leadership was focused on rebuilding communities by pushing out drug dealers and violence.
In a never-before published sworn deposition, Jackson recalls the events of the night of Thursday, March 16, 2000, in vivid detail.
It was a cool night as Jackson remembers. He wore a knee-high black Islamic robe with black pants, a black kufi-Muslim head covering-underneath a tan hat, and a tan leather jacket. His silver sunglasses with yellow tint sat above his full beard and mustache.
He arrived at Mick's around 7PM, when he realized his schedule had changed. He was no longer the food expediter in the kitchen; his title was now dishwasher/cook, which meant he would wash dishes and then help close the kitchen at night.
Since his title changed, he wasn't required to work that Thursday night. It immediately dawned on him that he had a 10-hour window to do whatever he wanted. As a parolee under house arrest, the opportunity to have truly free time was rare if even existent. Jackson decided to fill his new found freedom like most people fill their free time-he ran a few errands.
His first stop was the West End Mall where he got a bite to eat, did some shopping and then headed toward the West End community mosque, led by Al-Amin. He knew it was a regular building off of Oak Street, but wasn't sure which one exactly.
He parked his black Cadillac in an open field and walked down toward a house that turned out to be the mosque. He passed a black Mercedes before he got to the mosque, where he met a man named Lamar "Mustapha" Tanner. They talked for a while during which Jackson explained to Tanner that he was looking for Al-Amin to talk about how the AVLN could help Al-Amin's community.
Tanner told Jackson to check the grocery store, since Al-Amin could usually be found there. Tanner then gave Jackson his phone number and hurried away to go pick up his wife. Jackson proceeded to the grocery store. He wanted to discuss with Al-Amin how his AVLN organization could help further clean the streets of drug dealers in the West End community.
By the time Jackson made his way to Al-Amin's store, it was already late. He was afraid the store would be closed since he didn't see anyone else on the street. His fear was affirmed; the store wasn't open.
Hoping that maybe the owner would be in the back closing up, he knocked on the door a few more times. No answer. As he turned to leave, Jackson saw a patrol car pull up. By the time Jackson walked by the black Mercedes, the patrol car was parked in front of it, nose-to-nose. The driver of the patrol car got out and asked Jackson to put his hands up.
Immediately, this scenario flashed through Jackson's head: Here he was, violating his parole by not being at work, with a 9mm handgun in his waist. Jackson was afraid the cops would think he was breaking into the store. That meant they would probably frisk him and find the gun. The gun would be a direct violation of his parole; he'd be sent back to prison in Nevada.
Jackson ignored the order to put his hands up and instead began to explain that he was not trying to break into the store. He stated that he wasn't trying to steal the Mercedes either; his car was parked down the street. Both officers were out of the car with guns drawn and demanding Jackson put his hands up. The cops were closing in and there was little space between them. Jackson made a quick decision. He backed up against the Mercedes, pulled out his gun and began to fire.
He fired off two shots. The officers, while retreating, returned fire. Jackson wasn't hit and bolted toward his car, where in the trunk he had an arsenal of other weapons. As Jackson explains, "the organization I was about to form, the Almighty Vice Lord Nation, we're anti-oppression, and we fight, you know, drug dealers and what not, so...we need artillery."
He quickly opened the trunk - the lock was broken and held together with shoe string-and grabbed a lightweight, semiautomatic carbine Ruger Mini-14 with an extended clip housing 40 .223 caliber rounds. Jackson then headed back toward the cops; one was moving for cover behind the Mercedes, the other was on the police radio screaming for backup.
Jackson approached the officer he thought was the most aggressive, who was using the Mercedes for cover and resumed firing his rifle. The officer returned fire, hitting Jackson in the upper left arm twice.
Jackson, now angered and fearful for his life, shot back, downing the officer. Jackson stood over him and shot him in the groin up to four times. The fallen officer, Deputy Kinchen, in a last attempt to plead with his killer, described his family, mother, and children to Jackson, hoping for mercy.
But Jackson admits that by this time, "my mind was gone, so I really wasn't paying attention." Jackson fired again at the officer on the ground. Dripping his own blood on the concrete where he stood, Jackson then turned his attention to Deputy English who was running toward the open field. Jackson believed English was flagging down another officer; he couldn't let him get away.
Jackson hit English four times. One shot hit him in the leg; he soon fell, screaming, thereby confirming Jackson's shot. After English went down, Jackson, in a state of shock, walked down pass the mosque.
Nursing his bleeding wounds, he tried to stop three passing cars on the road; no one dared pull over. He then walked back down the street and knocked on three different doors for assistance. Only one even turned the light on, but no one opened the door for Jackson. He then made his way back to his car and drove to his mother's home.
As he walked in the door, the phone rang. His mother was asleep, so Jackson hurriedly answered it in the other room. It was a representative from the Sentinel Company that provided the monitoring service for Jackson's ankle bracelet. The man on the phone asked where Jackson was; he responded that he was at work. The Sentinel representative explained that his unaccounted for absence would have to be marked down as a violation. Jackson agreed and quickly ended the conversation.
Although one bullet exited through the back of his arm, the other was still lodged in his upper left arm. Jackson called a couple of female friends, who were registered nurses. The women, who were informed by Jackson that he was robbed in the middle of the night, arrived at his house and worked for three hours to remove the bullet from his arm. Jackson then called Mustapha Tanner, whom he just met earlier in the evening, and asked him to come by his house.
Tanner arrived before 10am. Jackson explained what had happened the previous night and said he needed to get rid of the guns and the car. Jackson's car trunk contained enough artillery for a mini-militia: three Ruger Mini-14 rifles, an M16 assault rifle, a .45 handgun, three 9mm handguns and a couple of shotguns. Once Tanner left, Jackson called his parole officer Sarah Bacon and let her know that he "had been involved in a situation," but left out the details.
In the following days, Jackson was asked to report to the Sentinel Company. He checked in with the monitoring company and his parole officer, and was then given a ride back home. As they pulled onto his street, Jackson noticed many unmarked police cars. After entering his driveway, multiple police officers emerged. The police searched Jackson's house and found rounds of Mini-14, .223, 9mm, and M16 ammunition. Jackson's bloody clothes and boots from the shootout with the deputies the night before were left untouched in his closet.
On March 28, 2000, Jackson's parole was revoked and he was sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence in Nevada. Upon his detainment in Florida and later transfer to Nevada, Jackson confessed the crime to anyone who would listen. Jackson claims that when he reached the Clark County Jail in Las Vegas, Nevada, he made numerous phone calls to the F.B.I., after which an agent arrived to discuss the incident with him. Jackson recalls telling his story to "Special Agent Mahoney."
Special Agent Devon Mahoney recalls documenting the confession, but not much beyond that. Mahoney remembers getting a call from a superior to "talk to someone" in a Las Vegas jail and then to "document it and file it up the chain of command." The confession was documented and filed on June 29, 2000.

Gray & Associates, PO Box 8291, ATLANTA, GA 31106
Constant Contact
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Timeless words of wisdom from Friedrich Engels:

This legacy belongs to all of us:

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forest to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. . . Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature–but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.” The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man 1876. —Friedrich Engels














Still photo from Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove"released January 29, 1964

Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons 

Spending 2020

  In its report "Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons Spending 2020" the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has produced the first estimate in nearly a decade of global nuclear weapon spending, taking into account costs to maintain and build new nuclear weapons. ICAN estimates that the nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.9 billion on their 13,000-plus nuclear weapons in 2019, equaling $138,699 every minute of 2019 on nuclear weapons, and a $7.1 billion increase from 2018.
These estimates (rounded to one decimal point) include nuclear warhead and nuclear-capable delivery systems operating costs and development where these expenditures are publicly available and are based on a reasonable percentage of total military spending on nuclear weapons when more detailed budget data is not available. ICAN urges all nuclear-armed states to be transparent about nuclear weapons expenditures to allow for more accurate reporting on global nuclear expenditures and better government accountability.
ICAN, May 2020

















When faced with the opportunity to do good, I really think it’s the instinct of humanity to do so. It’s in our genetic memory from our earliest ancestors. It’s the altered perception of the reality of what being human truly is that’s been indoctrinated in to every generation for the last 2000 years or more that makes us believe that we are born sinners. I can’t get behind that one. We all struggle with certain things, but I really think that all the “sinful” behavior is learned and wisdom and goodwill is innate at birth.  —Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)



Support Major Tillery, Friend of Mumia, Innocent, Framed, Now Ill

Major Tillery (with hat) and family

Dear Friends of the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia,

Major Tillery, a prisoner at SCI Chester and a friend of Mumia, may have caught the coronavirus. Major is currently under lockdown at SCI Chester, where a coronavirus outbreak is currently taking place. Along with the other prisoners at SCI Chester, he urgently needs your help.

Major was framed by the Pennsylvania District Attorney and police for a murder which took place in 1976. He has maintained his innocence throughout the 37 years he has been incarcerated, of which approximately 20 were spent in solitary confinement. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture has said that 15 days of solitary confinement constitutes torture.

When Mumia had Hepatitis C and was left to die by the prison administration at SCI Mahanoy, Major Tillery was the prisoner who confronted the prison superintendent and demanded that they treat Mumia. (see https://www.justiceformajortillery.org/messing-with-major.html). Although Mumia received medical treatment, the prison retaliated against Major for standing up to the prison administration. He was transferred to another facility, his cell was searched and turned inside out repeatedly, and he lost his job in the prison as a Peer Facilitator.

SCI Chester, where Major is currently incarcerated, has been closed to visitors since mid-March. Fourteen guards and one prisoner are currently reported to be infected with the coronavirus. Because the prison has not tested all the inmates, there is no way to know how many more inmates have coronavirus. Major has had a fever, chills and a sore throat for several nights. Although Major has demanded testing for himself and all prisoners, the prison administration has not complied.

For the past ten days, there has been no cleaning of the cell block. It has been weeks since prisoners have been allowed into the yard to exercise. The food trays are simply being left on the floor. There have been no walk-throughs by prison administrators. The prisoners are not allowed to have showers; they are not allowed to have phone calls; and they are not permitted any computer access. 

This coronavirus outbreak at SCI Chester is the same situation which is playing out in California prisons right now, about which the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia, along with other groups, organized a car caravan protest at San Quentin last week. Prisons are enclosed indoor spaces and are already an epicenter of the coronavirus, like meatpacking plants and cruise ships. If large numbers of prisoners are not released, the coronavirus will infect the prisons, as well as surrounding communities, and many prisoners will die. Failing to release large numbers of prisoners at this point is the same as executing them. We call for "No Execution by COVID-19"!

Major is close to 70 years old, and has a compromised liver and immune system, as well as heart problems. He desperately needs your help. 

Please write and call Acting Superintendent Kenneth Eason at:

Kenneth Eason, Acting Superintendent
SCI Chester
500 E. 4th St.
Chester, PA 19013

Telephone: (610) 490-5412

Email: keason@pa.gov (Prison Superintendent). maquinn@pa.gov (Superintendent's Assistant)
Please also call the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at:Department of Corrections
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Telephone: (717) 737-4531
This telephone number is for SCI Camp Hill, which is the current number for DOC.
Reference Major's inmate number: AM 9786

Email: ra-contactdoc@pa.gov
Demand that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections immediately:

1) Provide testing for all inmates and staff at SCI Chester;
2) Disinfect all cells and common areas at SCI Chester, including sinks, toilets, eating areas and showers;
3) Provide PPE (personal protective equipment) for all inmates at SCI Chester;
4) Provide access to showers for all prisoners at SCI Chester, as a basic hygiene measure;
5) Provide yard access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
6) Provide phone and internet access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
7) Immediately release prisoners from SCI Chester, including Major Tillery, who already suffers from a compromised immune system, in order to save their lives from execution by COVID-19.

It has been reported that prisoners are now receiving shower access. However, please insist that prisoners be given shower access and that all common areas are disinfected.

In solidarity,

The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal








1) Punch After Punch, Rape After Rape, a Murderer Was Made

The execution of Lisa Montgomery would be an injustice on top of an injustice.

By Rachel Louise Snyder, tauthor of “No Visible Bruises,” about domestic violence, Dec. 18, 2020

Aldon Koch

This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.


On Jan. 12, Lisa Montgomery is set to become the first woman executed on federal death row in nearly 70 years. The last executions, both in 1953, were of Bonnie Heady, killed in a gas chamber in Missouri, and Ethel Rosenberg. Ms. Montgomery would be only the fifth woman put to death in a federal civilian execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.


On Dec. 16, 2004, Ms. Montgomery drove to Skidmore, Mo., where she strangled a pregnant woman named Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then sliced open her belly and took the baby to the home she shared with her husband, Kevin, in Kansas. The baby survived.


These basic facts, however, are nearly all that is not under dispute in the case. Her post-conviction lawyers, Kelley Henry, Amy Harwell and Lisa Nouri, have sent a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights claiming that Ms. Montgomery’s trial “fell far short of minimum standards of fairness” and thus violated international law, and that the United States government itself bears some culpability for her crime given its abject failure, throughout her life, to protect her from severe child abuse and sexual violence.


On Dec. 1, the commission ruled that the execution would result in “irreparable harm” and requested a delay until it has had the chance to reach a decision on Ms. Montgomery’s petition. The commission’s rulings are not legally binding, but past ones have resulted in stayed executions in Ohio and Texas.


In addition to this petition, more than one thousand supporters have put forth their own letters and petitions, including prosecutors, anti-trafficking and domestic violence organizations, and mental health practitioners.


But none of this has any real bearing on whether Ms. Montgomery’s execution will go forward. Her only chance at clemency rests entirely with President Trump — whose administration has ordered an astonishing six people be executed during his final days in office.


The Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide found that 16 other women across the United States have committed comparable crimes to Ms. Montgomery’s since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, yet none of them have been executed. Even cases that captured the national spotlight — like the attacks by the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, for instance — have not resulted in the death penalty.


So why is Lisa Montgomery going to be executed?


A capital case has two distinct parts: the trial, or culpability; and the sentencing, or punishment. The Supreme Court has held that “death is different.” Because the punishment is irreversible, the standards for a death sentence should be higher. In the sentencing phase of a capital trial, mitigation evidence in the form of life history and mental health testimony is presented to the jury; these narratives are meant to humanize the defendant and offer context to determine the appropriate punishment.


Ms. Montgomery’s guilt was never in question. But she was sentenced to death because her trial lawyers, uninformed about gender violence, didn’t seem to understand how to defend her.


Ms. Montgomery has bipolar disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorder, psychosis, traumatic brain injury and most likely fetal alcohol syndrome. She was born into a family rife with mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Ms. Montgomery’s mother, Judy Shaughnessy, claimed to have been sexually assaulted by her father.


Ms. Montgomery’s own father left when she was a toddler. Her family moved every year, sometimes more than that — to Washington, Kansas, Colorado, back to Kansas. She was abused by her mother in extreme and sadistic ways, according to court documents and mitigation investigations with nearly 450 family members, neighbors, lawyers, social workers and teachers, most done only at the behest of the post-conviction attorneys.


She was forced to sit for hours in a highchair if she didn’t finish her food. Ms. Shaughnessy so regularly covered her daughter’s mouth with duct tape to keep her quiet, Lisa learned not to cry. Ms. Shaughnessy told an investigator that Lisa’s first words were, “Don’t spank me. It hurts.”


Lisa’s stepfather, Jack Kleiner, began to sexually assault her when she was around 13. He built a shed-like room with its own entrance on the side of the family’s trailer outside Tulsa, Okla., and kept Ms. Montgomery there. Ms. Montgomery’s post-conviction team learned that Mr. Kleiner, who was a rampant alcoholic, would bring friends over to rape her, often for hours, often three at once. Ms. Shaughnessy also began to prostitute her daughter to offset bills for plumbing and electric work. (She refused to speak to her daughter’s post-conviction counsel, and has since died.)


Before he died in 2009, Mr. Kleiner videotaped a statement denying the abuse, but his employer testified that Mr. Kleiner had admitted to raping Ms. Montgomery. Her half brother Teddy Kleiner confirmed that their mother would make the other kids go outside while she was being raped (his statement wasn’t made until 2013).


The jury in her 2007 trial heard very little of any of this. Ms. Montgomery’s male attorneys failed to offer a comprehensive picture of her decades of torture. Instead, they suggested that Tommy Kleiner was the actual killer, despite having his own probation officer as his alibi.


The jury never saw the M.R.I. scans of Ms. Montgomery’s brain, which showed tissue loss in her parietal lobe and limbic structures, and larger-than-normal ventricles, which indicate brain damage. They never saw the PET scans, which showed an abnormal pattern of cerebral metabolism indicative of brain dysfunction. These areas can be affected by traumatic experiences and are responsible for regulating social and emotional behavior and memory.


And, perhaps most important, her trial lawyers did not adequately explain the insidious ways sexual and domestic violence alters one’s very neurology, behavior and sense of self. One expert witness for the government even described the rapes by Ms. Montgomery’s stepfather as consensual. “My recollection,” he testified, was that “she was a willing participant, at least at some point.”


The jurors deliberated for under five hours before reaching a guilty verdict. Days later, they recommended the sentence be death, and the judge ruled accordingly.




Many children are abused in secret. What’s striking about the violence in Ms. Montgomery’s family is how many people knew about it — or at least had good reason to suspect it.


Diane Mattingly, Ms. Montgomery’s half sister, was sent to foster care after being raped by one of Ms. Shaughnessy’s acquaintances when she was 8. (Lisa was around 4, and the sisters shared a room so small they could hold hands in bed.) Ms. Mattingly testified that she threw up as she left, knowing what would befall her younger sister. Ms. Montgomery’s post-conviction team found no evidence that anyone followed up on the other children.


Others noticed, too. Lisa, an A student in elementary school, was placed in special needs classes in middle school. An administrator thought deep emotional trauma was a likely cause but it appears that the school failed to alert anyone.


When Lisa was a teenager, she told her cousin, David Kidwell, then a deputy sheriff in Kansas, that Mr. Kleiner and his friends raped her. According to court documents, he said he knew she was telling the truth — she was “crying and shaking”— and he still lives with regret about not speaking up.


When Ms. Shaughnessy and Mr. Kleiner divorced in 1985, Lisa, then 17, was forced by her mother to give a statement about the rapes for their divorce proceedings. Ms. Shaughnessy sat so unmoved during her daughter’s testimony that the judge reprimanded her for lacking empathy. A social worker found Lisa’s allegations of abuse credible and turned the file over to the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, where it appears no one ever followed up.


When she was 18, Ms. Montgomery married her 25-year-old stepbrother, Carl Boman, the son of Ms. Shaughnessy’s fourth husband. A report called a Biopsychosocial History, which documents Ms. Montgomery’s neurodevelopmental and social history, notes that Ms. Montgomery told a mitigation expert that Mr. Boman assaulted her vaginally and anally and with bottles, tied her in stress positions, held a knife to her throat. One of Ms. Montgomery’s half brothers told an investigator that he saw a video of Mr. Boman raping and beating her. “It was like a scene out of a horror movie,” he said, but this, too, never came up at trial. (Mr. Boman, who is in jail awaiting trial on charges of child sexual abuse, could not be reached for comment.)


By 23 she had four young children, and her grip on reality was growing ever more tenuous. At one point, she woke the kids in the middle of the night for what she said was to be an educational trip to the Alamo. She put a diaper on a pet goat, put it in the car, and drove from Kansas to Texas in a haze of mania.


Eventually, she and Mr. Boman divorced, and she married Kevin Montgomery, who has remained supportive of her throughout her legal battle. Ms. Montgomery’s Biopsychosocial History says that Mr. Montgomery insisted on incorporating sexual violence into their relationship, but that he “was not as violent or hurtful as Carl.”


In the time leading up to her crime, Ms. Montgomery repeatedly pretended to be pregnant, and each time claimed to have lost the baby. Her ex-husband, Mr. Boman, knew she was lying — Ms. Montgomery had undergone sterilization after the birth of her fourth child. Mr. Boman filed to take custody of two of their children in December 2004 — very near the time of the homicide, which surely weighed on her.


There would have been good reason to take the children away. Lisa Montgomery was an abusive and neglectful mother. The prosecutor in her case made much of this. He spoke about Ms. Montgomery’s inability to feed and bathe her children and her own lack of hygiene (she had lice for several years).


Her defense team, on the other hand, mostly avoided the subject, presumably for fear it would make her look even worse — a common mistake by lawyers in cases involving domestic violence, a miscalculation that feeds into a persistent stereotype about what a victim should look and act like. As a result, both sides flattened Lisa Montgomery’s personhood; in one version she’s a monster, and the other a myth.


Sandra Babcock, the founder and faculty director of the Cornell death penalty center and an expert in gender discrimination in capital cases, says such trials often become about a woman’s character. “Prosecutors have a set playbook in capital cases involving women,” she said. “They condemn women who are bad mothers, or who don’t fit an idealized version of femininity.”


What the defense team should have done is frame her inability to care for her children — and herself — as a symptom of her years of abuse.


On an Adverse Childhood Experiences test, Ms. Montgomery scored nine out of 10 — a number that coincides with the most extreme forms of torture. On a different test, the Global Assessment of Functioning, given by one of her therapists a year or so before the crime, Ms. Montgomery scored a 48. A normal score is 80 to 100. Such a score points to “severe impairment” in daily activities. (In prison, it took Ms. Montgomery an entire month to learn to make her bed according to the guidelines.)


A social worker who spoke with Ms. Montgomery after she was arrested found she sometimes recounted her experiences in the present tense, as if she was reliving them, unable to distinguish between the present and the past. Her defense team suggested that she suffered from a rare condition called pseudocyesis — when a woman believes she is pregnant and will even develop physical symptoms. But pseudocyesis, if she had it, was a symptom of a bigger problem. (It didn’t help that the defense’s expert witness, who wasn’t a licensed mental health practitioner in this country, later said he had no special expertise in pseudocyesis.)




There was chaos and churn in her defense team, and she ended up with three male attorneys, John O’Connor, Frederick Duchardt and David Owen. From 2004 to 2007, when the trial finally took place, several female attorneys either withdrew from the case or were dismissed. A lawyer who once worked with Mr. Owen, Laine Cardarella, told Ms. Montgomery’s post-conviction team that Mr. Owen was overbearing and misogynistic. (“You’re not one of those militant female lawyer types, are you?” Mr. Owen asked her once, she says.)


A particular blow to Lisa Montgomery was the loss of Judy Clarke, a renowned lawyer who helped Ted Kaczynski, Zacarias Moussaoui (conspirator in the Sept. 11 attacks) and Jared Loughner (the Arizona gunman who nearly killed Representative Gabrielle Giffords) avoid death sentences. Ms. Clarke, who has twice argued before the Supreme Court, was described in a 2015 profile in The New Yorker as quite possibly “the best death-penalty lawyer in America.”


Ms. Clark was dropped from the team in April 2006. The judge in the case, Gary Fenner, said he dismissed her because “her involvement was obstructive in getting a defense for Miss Montgomery put together.” Ms. Montgomery’s post-conviction team believes that Mr. Owen, who attended a series of unrecorded meetings with the judge leading up to Ms. Clarke’s dismissal and later described Ms. Clarke as bossy and “emasculating,” was the one who convinced Judge Fenner to dismiss her. (Mr. Owen, Mr. Duchardt and Judge Fenner declined to comment for this article.)


Ms. Montgomery, whose understanding of her own circumstances appears to wax and wane, was shattered at the loss of Ms. Clarke, who seemed to be the first attorney Ms. Montgomery had ever trusted. She was so upset, she wrote a letter to Judge Fenner, who told her Ms. Clarke was let go because she was “no longer necessary and/or helpful.” Once Ms. Clarke left, any semblance of teamwork seemed to disappear.


A year and a half later, Ms. Montgomery was convicted, and four days after that, her sentencing hearing was held.


It’s standard practice at such hearings to present mitigating evidence collected by a trained investigator called a “mitigation specialist.” Ms. Montgomery’s lawyers went through four different mitigation specialists, all of them women. Mr. Duchardt called the profession of mitigation specialists “laughable.” None of the specialists were asked to testify at Ms. Montgomery’s trial, though they have all since spoken under oath during post-conviction proceedings.


As Ms. Henry, one of the post-conviction lawyers, put it, “We’ve had a lot of training when it comes to implicit bias as it relates to race, but I don’t think we’ve had enough on gender bias.” She said she didn’t “mean to suggest the men in this case thought they were engaging in misogynistic behavior, or that their ideas of gender norms” affected the case, “but they did.”


Ms. Montgomery’s execution, far from righting a wrong, would in itself be an injustice atop an injustice.


The prosecutor, Matt Whitworth, an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., used the famous Alan Dershowitz phrase “abuse excuse” in his closing argument. But what Mr. Whitworth and so many others refuse to understand is how abuse is cumulative. Traumatic brain injuries are cumulative. Punch after punch, kick after kick, rape after rape. Injured brains do not heal like injured bodies.


Of course, boys and men are also victims of abuse and sexual assault. But courts can’t treat experiences like Ms. Montgomery’s as genderless. Her rapes, her teenage marriage, the multiple pregnancies with an abusive partner — Ms. Montgomery endured a lifetime of abuse because she was a woman. She was trafficked and raped because she was a girl. And the severe cognitive impairment she suffers today is a direct result of those crimes.


“Were it not for her being a woman,” Ms. Babcock told me, “she would not be on death row, because she wouldn’t be subjected to the kind of torture that she was.” Her case, she said, “is all about gender.”


Systems failed her again and again. Child protective services failed her, the education system failed her and law enforcement failed her; later, when she was an adult, mental health services failed her and domestic violence advocacy failed, and eventually, all these failings resulted in an unimaginable crime.


No one is arguing that Lisa Montgomery should be freed from prison. But her abuse should take death off the table.


That the Department of Justice is ordering executions in the middle of a pandemic is itself cause for alarm. Since the Supreme Court has prohibited the execution of people who are mentally incompetent, Ms. Montgomery is entitled to be assessed by a mental health professional close to the date of her execution — something that might not be possible during the coronavirus outbreak. No one can visit her at her prison in Texas except her immediate family and her lawyers, two of whom are based in Nashville and are recovering from Covid-19. The third lawyer is based in Kansas City and cannot travel to Texas because of the risks posed by the virus.


As Ms. Montgomery’s legal team wrote to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “In its haste to execute her notwithstanding the pandemic, the government has violated her rights to petition the authorities and to due process.”


Retribution is one method of accountability for criminal acts. But Ms. Montgomery’s life, however much she has left of it, is already irreparably shattered. For many of us, that might seem punishment enough.



2) Employers Can Require Workers to Get Covid-19 Vaccine, U.S. Says

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said employees could be barred from the workplace if they refused the vaccine.

By Vimal Patel, Dec. 18, 2020

The administration of a Covid-19 vaccine by an employer doesn’t run afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal agency said.
The administration of a Covid-19 vaccine by an employer doesn’t run afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal agency said. Credit...Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

Employers can require workers to get a Covid-19 vaccine and bar them from the workplace if they refuse, the federal government said in guidelines issued this week.


Public health experts see employers as playing an important role in vaccinating enough people to reach herd immunity and get a handle on a pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans. Widespread coronavirus vaccinations would keep people from dying, restart the economy and usher a return to some form of normalcy, experts say.


Employers had been waiting for guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination, because requiring employees be tested for the coronavirus touches on thorny medical and privacy issues covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.


The guidance, issued on Wednesday, confirmed what employment lawyers had expected.


Businesses and employers are uniquely positioned to require large numbers of Americans who otherwise would not receive a vaccination to do so because their employment depends on it.


The disabilities act limits employers’ ability to require medical examinations like blood tests, breath analyses and blood-pressure screening. These are procedures or tests, often given in a medical setting, that seek information about an employee’s physical or mental conditions.


The administration of a Covid-19 vaccine to a worker by an employer doesn’t fit that definition, the commission said.


“If a vaccine is administered to an employee by an employer for protection against contracting Covid-19, the employer is not seeking information about an individual’s impairments or current health status,” it stated, “and, therefore, it is not a medical examination.”


On its website, the commission said that requiring an employee to show proof of having gotten a Covid-19 vaccination would not amount to a disability-related inquiry.


“There are many reasons that may explain why an employee has not been vaccinated, which may or may not be disability-related,” the commission said.


Even so, employers may need to be careful about how they handle the process.


Prescreening vaccination questions could violate an A.D.A. provision on disability-related inquiries. Employers administering vaccines, the guidance said, must show that prescreening questions are “job related and consistent with business necessity.”


The guidance comes amid skepticism about the vaccinations among large swaths of the public. A recent poll of about 2,000 New York City firefighters found that nearly 55 percent said they would not get a vaccine if offered one by their department, according to CNN.


Only 42 percent of Black Americans say they intend to be vaccinated, according to a Pew Research poll. And 58 percent of Americans over all indicated they would get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a Gallup Panel survey from November.


Distrust in vaccinations is also being fanned by political commentators and groups.


On his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson this week highlighted the stories of a small number of Americans who have had adverse reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine. And experts who study extremism have warned that groups that have protested election results and Covid-19 lockdowns across the United States are now turning their attention to the anti-vaccine movement.


The rollout of a vaccine and urgent logistical questions about its distribution signal that the end of the pandemic is in sight, but the virus is also deadlier than it has ever been, with the United States reporting more than 3,000 deaths in a day for the first time this month.


As federal and state governments prepare for large-scale vaccination efforts, the Trump administration’s messaging on the pandemic remains muddled.


Vice President Mike Pence just days ago hosted a holiday party at his residence, where guests posed for pictures without masks, according to attendees. But on Friday morning, Mr. Pence received his first vaccine shot on live television. He was joined by his wife, Karen Pence, and Jerome Adams, the surgeon general.


The administration said the live event was intended to “promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people.”



3) Congress Passes COVID Relief With Billions in Handouts for the Wealthy

By Jake Johnson, December 22, 2020


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wears a protective mask as he walks to the Senate floor on October 21, 2020, in Washington, D.C. STEFANI REYNOLDS / GETTY IMAGES

In late-night votes just hours after nearly 5,600 pages of legislative text were released, the U.S. Congress on Monday approved trillions of dollars worth of government funding and coronavirus relief that will temporarily avert a catastrophic expiration of key benefits, send $600 direct payments to many Americans, and provide billions of dollars in handouts to the rich.


The entire Senate Democratic caucus and every Republican but six voted for the roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief legislation, which was paired with a $1.4 trillion spending package that will fund the federal government through next September. Just two House Democrats — Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — voted against the coronavirus relief portion of the sprawling package (pdf), which President Donald Trump is expected to sign.


“I voted against the latest Covid-19 relief legislation because it is woefully inadequate in addressing the needs of people,” Tlaib said in a statement late Monday. “I have watched as many of my colleagues rush to provide billions to corporations and wealthy individuals, while admonishing the needs of the majority of families.”


“Republicans continue to do all they can do to poison our society further with corporate greed, while abandoning the very people they are supposed to be working for,” Tlaib added. “This is evident by the inclusion of the ‘three martini lunch’ tax giveaway.”


The tax deduction for business meals was one of several giveaways to wealthy Americans stuffed in the mammoth legislative package, which was made available to read Monday afternoon after reported computer issues delayed its release. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was one of several lawmakers who publicly expressed outrage at the lack of time lawmakers were given to read the bill before voting on it.


“Members of Congress have not read this bill. It’s over 5,000 pages, arrived at 2 pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in two hours,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez, who voted against a rule paving the way for speedy passage but ultimately voted yes on the coronavirus aid portion of the package. “This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking.”


While the contents of the measure are still being combed, progressives noted and denounced the inclusion of billions of dollars in gifts to wealthy Americans — benefits made more obscene by the bill’s inadequate relief for people who are hungry, sick, unemployed, and facing eviction.


“Pathetic,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pointing to the bill’s $120 billion handout to rich business owners and other provisions that will disproportionately benefit the wealthiest people in the country during the most unequal recession in modern U.S. history.


The Vermont senator voted for the relief legislation, noting that “the average family of four will receive a direct payment of $2,400.”


“While including these direct payments ultimately improved this bill, given the enormous economic desperation that so many working families across this country are now experiencing, there is no question but that this legislation did not go anywhere near far enough,” Sanders said in a statement.


The $900 billion coronavirus relief package is a far cry from what economists say is necessary to bring the faltering U.S. economy out of recession and provide meaningful relief to the increasingly desperate public amid rising poverty and a major hunger crisis. Some economists are calling for a roughly $4 trillion package, warning that anything less would result in “permanent damage” to families and the economy.


On top of the paltry direct payments — for which millions of vulnerable people will not be eligible — the newly passed bill provides a non-retroactive $300-per-week federal boost to unemployment insurance and an 11-week extension of UI benefits, an extension accompanied by more burdensome documentation requirements for applicants who are already struggling to navigate rickety state systems.


“States will be asked to implement a significant number of new rules for these programs for a law that will only last 11 weeks,” noted Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. “In reality, many workers won’t receive the benefits until well into this short period — and at that point, the states will be forced to cut it off once again. Worst of all, Congress will be setting itself up for another 10 million-plus worker benefit cut off that will start in mid-March, before the new administration and Congress can be reasonably expected to pass another round of relief.”


“Congress has given itself little choice but to immediately get to work on the next economic stimulus package as soon as President Biden and the 117th Congress take office,” Stettner added. “That package must build on the CARES Act and include key reforms to make sure benefits are available as long as the economy remains constrained by this disastrous pandemic.”


Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, also raised concerns about the too-short duration of relief and pointed to the bill’s inadequate sick and family leave provisions. “While the agreement continues the tax credits for employers established under the Families First Act for providing coronavirus-related sick days and family leave,” Greenstein said in a statement, “it doesn’t extend workers’ right to take that time off, leaving that to employers’ discretion.”


“A likely result,” Greenstein warned, “is that a substantial number of workers will be unable to stay home when they are quarantined or ill or will be unable to balance work and family care-giving needs when schools are closed or a family member has Covid-19.”


Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who voted for the final relief package, said late Monday that she is glad the legislation will provide direct payments that were not originally on the table as well as billions of dollars in funding for schools.


“But that doesn’t mean this package is anything close to enough,” said Omar. “Six hundred dollars is not close to sufficient to cover eight months of lost wages, food, or rent expenses… Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues have stonewalled state and local aid, along with survival checks that meet the scale of the crisis. This is a collective failure in helping Americans in their time of need.”



4) Buried in Pandemic Aid Bill: Billions to Soothe the Richest

The voluminous coronavirus relief and spending bill that blasted through Congress on Monday includes provisions — good, bad and just plain strange — that few lawmakers got to read.

By Luke Broadwater, Jesse Drucker and Rebecca R. Ruiz, Published Dec. 22, 2020, Updated Dec. 23, 2020

Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, at the Capitol last week. He said leadership intentionally waited until the last minute to unveil final proposals to the spending bill.
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, at the Capitol last week. He said leadership intentionally waited until the last minute to unveil final proposals to the spending bill. Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Tucked away in the 5,593-page spending bill that Congress rushed through on Monday night is a provision that some tax experts call a $200 billion giveaway to the rich.


It involves the tens of thousands of businesses that received loans from the federal government this spring with the promise that the loans would be forgiven, tax free, if they agreed to keep employees on the payroll through the coronavirus pandemic.


But for some businesses and their high-paid accountants, that was not enough. They went to Congress with another request: Not only should the forgiven loans not be taxed as income, but the expenditures used with those loans should be tax deductible.


“High-income business owners have had tax benefits and unprecedented government grants showered down upon then. And the scale is massive,” said Adam Looney, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Treasury Department tax official in the Obama administration, who estimated that $120 billion of the $200 billion would flow to the top 1 percent of Americans.


The new provision allows for a classic double dip into the Payroll Protection Program, as businesses get free money from the government, then get to deduct that largess from their taxes.


And it is one of hundreds included in a huge spending package and a coronavirus stimulus bill that is supposed to help businesses and families struggling during the pandemic but, critics say, swerved far afield. President Trump on Tuesday night blasted it as a disgrace and demanded revisions.


“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it,” he said in a video posted on Twitter that stopped just short of a veto threat.


The measure includes serious policy changes beyond the much-needed $900 billion in coronavirus relief, like a simplification of federal financial aid forms, measures to address climate change and a provision to stop “surprise billing” from hospitals when patients unwittingly receive care from physicians out of their insurance networks.


But there is also much grumbling over other provisions that lawmakers had not fully reviewed, and a process that left most of them and the public in the dark until after the bill was passed. The anger was bipartisan.


“Members of Congress have not read this bill. It’s over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, tweeted on Monday. “This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking.”


Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, agreed — the two do not agree on much.


“It’s ABSURD to have a $2.5 trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then—hours later—demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read,” he tweeted on Monday.


The items jammed into the bill are varied and at times bewildering. The bill would make it a felony to offer illegal streaming services. One provision requires the C.I.A. to report back to Congress on the activities of Eastern European oligarchs tied to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The federal government would be required to set up a program aimed at eradicating the murder hornet and to crack down on online sales of e-cigarettes to minors.


It authorizes 93 acres of federal lands to be used for the construction of the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota and creates an independent commission to oversee horse racing, a priority of Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.


Mr. McConnell inserted that item to get around the objections of a Democratic senator who wanted it amended, but he received agreement from other congressional leaders.


Alexander M. Waldrop, the chief executive of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said on Tuesday that Mr. McConnell had “said many times he feared for the future of horse racing and the impact on the industry, which of course is critical to Kentucky.”


That the racing legislation — versions of which the industry had debated for years — passed as part of the Covid-19 relief bill was of no particular mind, Mr. Waldrop said.


“It just developed this way over the last several weeks,” he said. “The only approach left to us was a federally sanctioned, independent, self-regulatory organization. It was our only viable option left, and this legislation accomplishes that.”


But the tax provisions — including extending a $2.5 billion break for racecar tracks and allowing a $6.3 billion write-off for business meals, derided as the “three-martini lunch” expense — have prompted the most hand-wringing.


The bill also lowers some taxes on alcoholic beverages.


No break is bigger, however, than the deductions that will soon be permitted under the Paycheck Protection Program. Businesses had been lobbying the Treasury Department and the I.R.S. since the spring to deduct spending from the program’s loans, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was firmly opposed, saying deducting expenditures from funds not considered taxable income violated “Tax 101.”


The Paycheck Protection Program was the most visible part of the federal government’s coronavirus relief efforts in the spring to keep small businesses afloat. So far, the government has distributed more than $500 billion in loans, which could be forgiven and turned into permanent grants as long as the businesses use most of the money to pay workers and keep people employed.


In passing the law in the spring, Congress explicitly said that the Paycheck Protection Program funds should not be included as taxable income — unlike, say, unemployment benefits.


Despite that largess, businesses wanted more. In May, the heads of the tax-writing committees — Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts — wrote Mr. Mnuchin urging him to reconsider his opposition.


“Small businesses need help maintaining their cash flow, not more strains on it,” they wrote.


But a Brookings Institution analysis said the change would help far more wealthy than mom-and-pop business owners.


“So there’s no cost on the way in and no cost on the way out — those two don’t add up,” said Richard L. Reinhold, the former chairman of the tax department at Willkie Farr & Gallagher and a professor at Cornell Law School. Congress could have simply expanded the program, but instead it did it almost by stealth, through a tax deduction.


“That’s the part that is troublesome,” he said.


Although there had been discussion of limiting the deduction to Paycheck Protection Program recipients below a certain income threshold, the final provision was made available to anyone, regardless of income.


The Small Business Administration this month released data showing that just 1 percent of the program’s 5.2 million borrowers had received more than a quarter of the $523 billion disbursed.


That 1 percent included high-priced law firms like Boies Schiller Flexner and the operator of New York’s biggest horse tracks, which received the maximum loan amount of $10 million.


“The year 2020 is going to be one of the most unequal years in modern history,” Mr. Looney said. “Part of the inequity is the effect of Covid, which hammered service sectors the most and allowed rich, educated people to work on Zoom. But the government totally compounded these inequities with their response.”


Yet in the end, only six senators, all Republicans, voted against the coronavirus relief package and spending bill, mostly citing fiscal concerns about runaway spending, while 85 House members — a mix of Democrats and Republicans — voted against its military provisions. The bill increased military spending by about $5 billion.


Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, opposed the military spending but voted for other aspects of the bill. He and his liberal colleagues had lobbied for direct payments for most Americans as part of a relief package, and he said he shared colleagues’ concerns about a lack of time to review the final piece of legislation.


“We need a better system to have members review online text as it is being drafted and have input,” Mr. Khanna said. “That said, leadership did keep us informed on almost daily calls about the essential aspects of the bills and the issues at stake.”


Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and one of the leaders of the bipartisan group that pushed for a $900 billion stimulus, said leadership intentionally waited until the last minute to unveil final proposals.


“Leadership likes the process the way it is,” he said. “Wait until the deadline, and then there’s no input at all. They say, take this or not. I’m sick and tired of how this game has been played.”


That said, there was plenty for lawmakers to cheer for. They sent out news releases promoting preferred provisions like the ban on most surprise medical bills, the restoration of college financial aid for incarcerated people and the restrictions on the use of powerful planet-warming chemicals that are commonly used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. The bill also creates new museums honoring women and Latinos.


“What you see at the end of every Congress is a clearing of the decks,” said Josh Huder, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University. “It’s all the stuff we wanted to pass but couldn’t. Everybody would love for legislation to be passed individually, but that is really a function of a bygone era that is not coming back.”


“There’s a lot of good stuff,” he said, “but something definitely gets snuck in.”



5) 40 Years a Prisoner Unearths a Little-Told History of Police Violence in Philadelphia

Cassie da Costa - December 24, 2020



Mike Africa Jr. met his parents in prison. In fact, he was born in a cell. For most of his life, he did all he could to get his mother, Debbie Africa, and father, Mike Africa Sr., released. A new documentary, 40 Years a Prisoner, available on HBO now, follows his journey fighting his parents’ incarceration—and rigorously examines the sordid history of law enforcement practices like the ones that landed them there in the first place.


Like Africa Jr., director Tommy Oliver grew up in Philadelphia, hearing rumblings about MOVE—the back-to-the-land Black anarchist group Africa Jr.’s parents were core members of. (While the name is capitalized, it’s not an acronym.) It wasn’t until Oliver began doing his own research on MOVE that a much bigger story began to reveal itself. “I watched everything I could. And then I went to the Temple [University] Urban Archives, and I went through dozens of boxes of content,” Oliver told Vanity Fair. “There was still so much that I knew wasn’t there. So I had a friend make an intro to MOVE”—first to a woman named Ramona, then to Africa Jr. He informed Oliver about the MOVE Nine, the incarcerated members of the group, which was founded in 1972 by John Africa. (All members take on the last name Africa.) Two had died in prison, while the other seven were still alive at the time, including his parents.


From the moment of its inception, MOVE had been a target of controversy, curiosity, confusion, and aggression. The film recounts a 1976 encounter between the group and Philadelphia police. Law enforcement attacked MOVE members just outside of their commune residence, claiming there was a disturbance. A female member of the group, Janine Africa, was holding her baby when she was shoved to the ground by an officer; the baby died. The tragedy would foreshadow the ultimate standoff between MOVE and Philadelphia police on August 8, 1978, and the resulting incarceration of the MOVE Nine.


A detailed, panoptic investigation into the lead-up to that fateful day, 40 Years a Prisoner lays bare the distortions of Philadelphia law enforcement as led by Mayor Frank Rizzo. Oliver weaves together extensive archival footage and new interviews with police, journalists, and MOVE members. The result is not only a historical excavation of anti-Blackness in one of America’s Blackest cities, but an unforgettable look into how propaganda becomes the foundation of American life.


“The truth is independent of what one believes. It just is,” Oliver told me in an interview. How, then, did he go about depicting that truth for inevitably biased audiences? The answer lies in Police Commissioner Joseph O’Neill. “When we see Commissioner O’Neill at City Hall during the press conference on August 8,” Oliver said, “[O’Neill] is flanked on either side by the D.A., Ed Rendell, and Mayor Rizzo.” In the footage, O’Neill claims that MOVE member Delbert Africa came out of MOVE headquarters armed “with a clip in one hand and a knife in the other.”


“And he’s talking to the media. He’s talking to the news. He’s talking to everybody,” Oliver explained. “And that is the information that’s going to be disseminated, that’s going to be shared and played and replayed.” After showing that clip, Oliver shows another from that day: “Delbert, hands open, no shirt on, nothing in either hand. And you see the very clear difference between what is being told versus what actually happened.”


The media often takes the police’s word for unvarnished truth. But serious research reveals what many at the time already knew: MOVE, while politically militant, was not an armed organization. (They had rifles, but during an earlier raid, police themselves found that they were nonfunctional.) A police officer died on August 8, though there is no evidence, besides police testimony, of what led to his death. “There is no video, no photos. And guess what happens? You take exactly what’s given,” Oliver said. “On top of that, [regarding] evidence, the house is literally razed by the city hours after. And so that’s how I deal with it. The idea of sort of showing very clearly, literally in black and white—because that footage is in black and white—the difference between what actually happened versus what [the police] say.”


Now, after some 40 years, Africa Jr.’s parents are finally out of prison. Still, the fight is not over. Africa Jr. hopes to have their 50-plus-year parole terms commuted, and to see MOVE supporter Mumia Abu-Jamal released. As for the film about the events that have shaped his entire life, from the time he was in the womb? “My hope is that people will look at the film and do a little digging into some of these issues themselves,” Africa Jr. told me. “Today in the Philadelphia Daily News, the front page of the paper says, ‘Guilty until proven innocent.’ And that is because another man was exonerated from prison based on evidence, and witnesses that were intimidated.”



6) Walter Tevis Was a Novelist. You Might Know His Books (Much) Better as Movies.

In addition to “The Queen’s Gambit,” adapted into the current Netflix hit, Walter Tevis wrote the novels “The Hustler,” “The Color of Money” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”

By Nancy Wartik, Published Dec. 23, 2020, Updated Dec. 24, 2020

Walter Tevis in 1982. His novel “The Queen’s Gambit” is the source material for the popular Netflix series of the same name.
Walter Tevis in 1982. His novel “The Queen’s Gambit” is the source material for the popular Netflix series of the same name. Credit...E. Martin Jessee/Lexington Herald-Leader

The wildly popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” has done for chess what Julia Child once did for French cooking. Chess set sales have skyrocketed; enrollment in online chess classes has surged. The series has been the subject of hundreds of articles and interviews. The novel that inspired the show, first published in 1983, has been on The New York Times’s trade paperback best-seller list for five weeks.


Yet little attention has been paid to Walter Tevis, the author whose creation has stirred all the commotion.


Tevis once pegged himself as “a good American writer of the second rank.” But Allan Scott, the screenwriter who first optioned “The Queen’s Gambit” in the 1980s, disagrees. Mr. Scott co-created and executive-produced the current Netflix show.


“I think very highly of Tevis,” he said in an email. “I think he was one of the best American writers of the 20th century. ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ lays out a terrific story very simply. Child, mother killed, orphanage, touch of genius, addiction. It’s Dickensian.” (It took decades to bring the book to the screen, Mr. Scott said, because studios thought the subject of chess was a commercial dead-end.)


Born in 1928, Tevis wrote six novels, a surprising number of which made high-profile leaps to the screen: “The Hustler,” about a young pool shark played by Paul Newman; “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” starring David Bowie as a lonesome alien; and “The Color of Money,” a follow-up to “The Hustler,” which won Mr. Newman his first Oscar. Tevis’s 1980 science fiction book, “Mockingbird,” a commentary on humanity’s dwindling interest in reading, has long had a modest cult following.


Tevis was a family man who played board games and fished with his kids; a popular professor of writing and literature at Ohio University in Athens; a cat-lover and movie aficionado; and a talented amateur chess and pool player. He was pale and gangly; some of his students called him “Ichabod Crane.” He was also a three-pack-a-day smoker, a serious gambler and an alcoholic who made several suicide attempts. His fiction often plumbs his psyche, metaphorically.


“He’s the hero of all his own books,” said his son, Will Tevis, 66, before correcting himself: “He’s the antihero.”


Tevis considered his terrain to be the world of underdogs.


“I write about losers and loners,” he told this newspaper in 1983. “If there’s a common theme in my work, that’s it. I invented the phrase ‘born loser’ in ‘The Hustler.’ In one way or another I’m obsessed with the struggle between winning and losing.”


Tevis was born in San Francisco, into what he called a “feelingless, uptight” home. His parents moved to Kentucky when he was 10. Because young Walter had a heart condition, his parents left him behind in a convalescent home, where he spent months drugged on phenobarbital like Beth Harmon, the main character in “The Queen’s Gambit.” In an essay published in 1990, Tevis’s first wife, Jamie, wrote: “He never got over the scars of the early experience with narcotics.”


Tevis believed that early experience fueled his later alcoholism.


When he left California to rejoin his family, Tevis found his new environment bewildering. In a 1981 interview, he said that “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” about an alien who lands in Kentucky and can’t adjust to life on this planet, was “disguised autobiography.”


“[It] has to do with my having moved from what I thought was the city of light, San Francisco, when I was 11, to Lexington, Ky., where I went to a tough Appalachian school in the fifth grade and was beaten up regularly,” Tevis said. (Tevis gave the movie version of the book a C-plus, calling it confusing, but when he met David Bowie found him to be “a wonderful man.”)


The day he turned 17, Tevis joined the Navy. On a ship home from Okinawa, he met Hilary Knight, who went on to illustrate the Eloise books. The two connected instantly, Mr. Knight, now 94, recalled, because both were “total misfits.”


“We were two people in a dream world, though his was much more logical than mine,” Mr. Knight said. “The other crew paid little or no attention to us. They didn’t want to know these weirdos. Walter was too smart, and the ship was full of dumbbells. We had a great time laughing about everything.”


“The Hustler,” drawn from Tevis’s rough-and-tumble pool hall experiences before and after the war, came out in 1959, followed by “The Man Who Fell to Earth” in 1963. Then, Tevis published almost nothing until 1980. He and his wife, whom he met when they taught at the same high school, raised two children while Tevis was at Ohio University. He played chess and shot pool, often with his colleague Daniel Keyes, who wrote “Flowers for Algernon.” Tevis drank heavily and his marriage suffered. Even so, his children remember Tevis as a devoted parent.


His daughter, Julia McGory, 63, said that his kids had experienced some of “the sadness and complexities of our father,” but “never doubted how much he loved us and enjoyed being with us.”


In the mid-1970s, Tevis sobered up, partly with help from Alcoholics Anonymous. Deeply frustrated by his writer’s block, he got a divorce and decided to try his creative luck in Manhattan. He began a relationship with, and eventually married, Eleanora Walker, who worked for his agent. He reconnected with Mr. Knight: “We became great friends again,” Mr. Knight said.


Tevis also regained his writerly mojo, finishing four more novels and a collection of short stories. He helped convince Paul Newman to star in the movie version of “The Color of Money.” He also wrote “The Queen’s Gambit” during those years. The writer Tobias Wolff called it an “overlooked masterpiece.”


“Tevis has a gift for vivid characterization and propulsive narratives,” Mr. Wolff said in an email. “His style is direct and efficient, never calling attention to itself; yet it grows in power through the course of a novel by its very naturalness.”


Describing young Beth learning a chess move in “The Queen’s Gambit,” Tevis wrote: “She decided not to take the offered pawn, to leave the tension on the board. She liked it like that. She liked the power of the pieces, exerted along files and diagonals. In the middle of the game, when the pieces were everywhere, the forces crisscrossing the board thrilled her. She brought out her king’s knight, feeling its power spread.”


More lyrically, as Beth sits bored in class, Tevis wrote that her “mind danced in awe to the geometric rococo of chess, rapt, enraptured, drawing in the grand permutations as they opened to her soul, and her soul opened to them.”


In the book, Beth is a harder-edged, less obviously triumphant character than in the Netflix series. Tevis once explained why he made the choice to portray a female chess champion. “Sometimes I was really more wrapped up in the idea of intelligence in women, for which I have an enormous respect and a kind of awe, more wrapped up in that even than the game of chess itself,” he said.


In a 1981 interview, Tevis said he’d realized in middle age that “life is worth living.” He hoped to write one book per year for the rest of his life. Just three years later, he died of lung cancer, at 56.


Tevis’s publishing career may not be over. His estate holds two unpublished children’s books, said Susan Schulman, the agent who represents it. “Gangster Cat” is the story of a New York City cat and his gang. “Turnip Island” is the story of a family who live on an island of nothing but mud.


“They are completely delightful,” Ms. Schulman said.


If he were still alive, Will Tevis said, his father would be “basking in glory right now. He had desires for the spotlight. He wanted to be known and noticed.”

























































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