Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, December 17, 2022


Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal march down JFK Blvd. past the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice and City Hall, in Philadelphia, Friday, December 16, 2022.Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

Mumia Abu Jamal: Mumia Court Hearing December 16th 2022


In October, Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons strongly signaled in a 30-page opinion that she is leaning toward dismissing the defense appeal.

However, she gave the two sides one last chance Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 to argue their positions. The lawyers did so in a courtroom filled with about 50 Abu-Jamal allies, as well as Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, and a smaller number of her supporters. Mumia Abu-Jamal was not present.

Clemons said she would rule within three months. Before ending the hearing, the judge asked the prosecutors and defense lawyers to make sure that Abu-Jamal’s lawyers had reviewed every scrap of evidence that the District Attorney’s Office could share.

“I do not want to do this again,” she said.




Watch the live-stream of the Dec. 16 Court Rally at youtu.be/zT4AFJY1QCo.

The pivotal hearing follows a hearing Oct. 26 at which the Judge said she intended to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s appeal based on six boxes of evidence found in the District Attorney’s office in Dec. 2018. Clemons repeatedly used procedural rules – rather than allowing for an examination of the new evidence – in her 31-page decision dismissing Mumia Abu-Jamal’s petition for a new trial. (https://tinyurl.com/mtvcrfs4 ) She left the door open on Abu-Jamal’s appeal regarding the prosecution’s selection of jurors based on race.

Abu-Jamal’s attorneys Judith Ritter, Sam Spital  and Bret Grote filed a “ Petitioner’s Response to the Court’s Notice of Intent to Dismiss PCRA Petition” (https://tinyurl.com/mvfstd3w ) challenging her refusal to hold a hearing on the new evidence.

Just this week, the UN Working Group on People of African Descent filed an Amicus brief, a friend of the court document that reinforced the facts and arguments in Mumia's attorney's PRCRA filing. (https://tinyurl.com/587r633p ) They argued that no judicial time bar should be applied when the defendant is a victim of historic racial bias that may have tainted the possibility of a fair trial and due process.

At a press conference Dec. 13 announcing the Amicus brief, the Hon. Wendell Griffen, Division 5 judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court for Pulaski County, Arkansas said, “Clemons is only the second Black judge to hear any aspect of Abu-Jamal’s case. Will she have the courage to say that there are too many factors here that compel for Mumia to justify dismissing the motion? This evidentiary hearing is required, because exculpatory evidence was concealed.” (https://youtu.be/Xh38IKVc_oc )

Griffen clarified his statement on Dec 14 during a Democracy Now interview (https://youtu.be/odA_jjMtXQA): “Under a 1963 decision that every law student knows about, and every lawyer that does criminal law practice, in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the U.S. held that due process of law is violated when the prosecution conceals evidence relevant to guilt or punishment from the bench. In this country, that kind of precedent should have required Mumia to be released and the Commonwealth decide whether or not to prosecute him based upon having revealed the right evidence. That hasn’t been done.”

More details on Abu-Jamal’s case can be found at 
https://tinyurl.com/ymhvjp8e and https://tinyurl.com/34j645jc.





Urgent support needed for cancer-stricken, imprisoned writer/artist, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s Legal Fund!

Fundraiser for an attorney to represent Rashid’s struggle for medical care
A campaign is underway to hire an attorney to represent Kevin Rashid Johnson’s struggle for medical care. The prison has denied this care to him, despite a cancer diagnosis discovered over one year ago for which no treatment has yet been provided.

Here is the donation link for Rashid’s legal fund: 
Please be as generous as you can.


Prostate cancer can be cured if discovered and treated before it spreads (metastasizes) beyond the prostate. But once it spreads it becomes incurable and fatal.

Rashid's prostate cancer was discovered over a year ago and diagnosed by biopsy months ago, before it had spread or any symptoms had developed. However, he has now developed symptoms that indicate it likely has metastasized, which would not have happened if he had begun receiving treatment earlier. Denied care and delayed hospital appointments continue, which can only be intended to cause spreading and worsening symptoms.

I just received word from Rashid through another prisoner where he is, that he was transported on October 25, 2022 to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) hospital, which is a state hospital where Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) officials also work. MCV appears to have a nefarious relationship with the VDOC in denying prisoners needed treatment. Upon arrival to the hospital he was told the appointment had been rescheduled, which has now become a pattern.

The appointment was for a full body PET scan to determine if and to what degree his cancer has metastasized. When he met with a radiologist on October 4, 2022, after 3 prior re-schedulings, there was concern that his cancer may have spread because of symptoms he's begun developing. This is his fourth rescheduled hospital appointment which has delayed appointments for weeks to months, preventing him from receiving care.

Because of delayed testing and denied care Rashid has developed symptoms that continue to worsen, which include internal bleeding and pain. The passage of time without care is worsening his condition and making the likelihood of death from the spread of his cancer more certain.





Sign the petition:


If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.

UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".

Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”

Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”

The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.

Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.

The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense." 

The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.

The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.



Dear friends, 

Recently I’ve started working with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee. On March 17, Ruchell turned 83. He’s been imprisoned for 59 years, and now walks with a walker. He is no threat to society if released. Ruchell was in the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970, the morning Jonathan Jackson took it over in an effort to free his older brother, the internationally known revolutionary prison writer, George Jackson. Ruchell joined Jonathan and was the only survivor of the shooting that ensued. He has been locked up ever since and denied parole 13 times. On March 19, the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee held a webinar for Ruchell for his 83rd birthday, which was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell. (For information about his case, please visit: www.freeruchellmagee.org.)

Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar, plus 

• a petition you can sign

• a portal to send a letter to Governor Newsom

• a Donate button to support his campaign

• a link to our campaign website. 

Please take a moment and help. 

Note: We will soon have t-shirts to sell to raise money for legal expenses.

Here is the YouTube link to view the March 19 Webinar: 


Here is the Facebook link:


Sign the petition to Free Ruchell:


Write to Governor Newsom’s office:




Ruchell’s Website: 



Charlie Hinton


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



Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!


Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



Laws are created to be followed

by the poor.

Laws are made by the rich

to bring some order to exploitation.

The poor are the only law abiders in history.

When the poor make laws

the rich will be no more.


—Roque Dalton Presente!

(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)[1]

[1] Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.







Screenshot of Kevin Cooper's artwork from the teaser.


 “In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper

A film by Kenneth A. Carlson 

Teaser is now streaming at:



Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022



“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com


Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”


That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.


Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.


For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.


The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.

Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



The Moment

By Margaret Atwood*


The moment when, after many years 

of hard work and a long voyage 

you stand in the centre of your room, 

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, 

knowing at last how you got there, 

and say, I own this, 


is the same moment when the trees unloose 

their soft arms from around you, 

the birds take back their language, 

the cliffs fissure and collapse, 

the air moves back from you like a wave 

and you can't breathe. 


No, they whisper. You own nothing. 

You were a visitor, time after time 

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 

We never belonged to you. 

You never found us. 

It was always the other way round.


*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!



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






1) What We Know About Ronald Greene’s Death

The Louisiana State Police said Mr. Greene died in 2019 after crashing during a police chase, but video later showed troopers shocking, choking and beating him. Five officers have now been charged.

By The New York Times, Dec. 16, 2022

A sign reading “justice for Ronald Greene” at a protest.
Demonstrators marched to the governor’s mansion from the Capitol in Baton Rouge, La., in May 2021. Credit...Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

More than three years after Ronald Greene, a Black man, died in police custody in Louisiana, five law enforcement officers were charged on Dec. 15 in connection with the deadly encounter.


The authorities initially said Mr. Greene had been pursued by troopers because of a traffic violation and that he had refused to stop and resisted arrest. His death, in May 2019, was ruled accidental and was attributed to cardiac arrest.


Two years later, The Associated Press published body-camera footage that showed Mr. Greene being beaten and left handcuffed and face down for more than nine minutes. His family commissioned its own autopsy, which found that he had sustained severe injuries to his skull and had wounds on his face.


The footage brought Mr. Greene’s case, which initially drew little notice, to national attention amid a series of cases in which Black men died during encounters with the police.


Here’s what we know about the case.


Who was Ronald Greene?


Mr. Greene, 49, lived in Monroe, La. He was married, worked as a barber, and had reportedly gone into remission after battling cancer for two years. He was on his way to meet his wife in Florida when he was pulled over just after midnight on May 10, 2019, by state troopers in Union Parish, east of Shreveport in northern Louisiana.


What was his family told about his death?


The authorities told Mr. Greene’s relatives that he died from injuries he sustained in a crash outside Monroe after he failed to stop immediately for a traffic violation, a lawyer for his family said.


The A.P. initially reported, citing the Union Parish coroner, that Mr. Greene’s death was ruled accidental and was attributed to cardiac arrest, and that the coroner’s file made no mention of any struggle with the police.


What does the body-camera footage show?


In May 2021, two years after Mr. Greene’s death, The A.P. obtained body-camera footage of the episode and published three excerpts. The footage shows Mr. Greene’s S.U.V. stopped on the side of the road. Troopers are seen opening his vehicle and jolting Mr. Greene with a stun gun, and Mr. Greene is heard to scream “I’m sorry” and “I’m scared.”


According to The A.P., which said it had obtained 46 minutes of video footage from the encounter, one trooper wrestled Mr. Greene to the ground, put him in a chokehold and punched him in the face. Another trooper is seen briefly dragging Mr. Greene by shackles on his ankles as he lay on the ground.


In the clips published by the A.P., covering more than two minutes, Mr. Greene is seen being jolted again with a stun gun while lying handcuffed on the ground.


The A.P. reported that the troopers, who were white, left Mr. Greene lying facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as they wiped blood from their hands and faces. “I hope this guy ain’t got AIDS,” one of the troopers is heard to say, adding an expletive.


Video from several minutes later shows Mr. Greene limp, unresponsive and bleeding from his head and face, and he is then seen being loaded onto an ambulance gurney with his arm cuffed to a bedrail, according to The A.P.


Did the entire footage become public?


Yes, eventually.


The Louisiana State Police had described the release of the footage obtained by The A.P. as “premature” and unauthorized, and a state police spokesman said the agency could not yet release it because the encounter was the subject of an administrative and criminal investigation.


But two days after The A.P. published excerpts, the state police released what they said was all of the video of the encounter, including a 46-minute clip and additional footage from body and dashboard cameras. Col. Lamar A. Davis, the state police superintendent, said the parts that had been released without official authorization had not been “provided to the public in its full capacity, or context.”


What do the police say happened?


Mr. Greene’s family said state troopers initially told them that Mr. Greene died on impact after crashing his vehicle into a tree during the chase, according to The A.P.


A single-page crash report, released later by the state police and reviewed by The A.P., said that troopers tried to stop Mr. Greene for an unspecified traffic violation, but that he refused to pull over and troopers pursued him.


The report says that the chase ended when Mr. Greene’s vehicle crashed; that he was taken into custody after struggling with troopers; and that he became unresponsive and died on the way to a hospital, The A.P. reported. The news agency said the crash report did not mention any use of force by troopers.


The state police later released a statement acknowledging that the troopers did use force in the encounter, and saying the use of force was justified. It did not open an internal investigation until 474 days after Mr. Greene’s death, according to The A.P.


What does the Greene family say happened?


Mr. Greene’s family sued the police for wrongful death in May 2020, arguing that he had died as a result of a struggle with troopers that “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest.”


In their lawsuit, Mr. Greene’s relatives said that there was no sign that the front of Mr. Greene’s vehicle had struck anything, and that his airbag had not deployed.


The suit alleges that two troopers pinned Mr. Greene down and shocked him three times with a Taser while he begged them to stop. Emergency medical technicians who were called to the scene found Mr. Greene unresponsive, with several stun-gun barbs stuck in his body, according to the lawsuit. Included in the court papers are photos that circulated online, appearing to show Mr. Greene’s bruised and bloodied face.


The family commissioned an independent autopsy that found severe injuries to Mr. Greene’s head and skull and several wounds to his face, the family’s lawyer said. After examining the damage to Mr. Greene’s vehicle, which was mostly on the rear driver’s side, an accident reconstruction expert concluded that it was inconsistent with a fatal collision, the lawyer said.


In 2020, federal authorities opened a civil rights investigation into Mr. Greene’s death. In June of this year, the Justice Department announced that it had initiated a broader investigation into the Louisiana State Police over accusations of officers engaging in abusive and discriminatory behavior.


What has happened to the officers involved?


The charges announced on Dec. 15 — which include a single count of negligent homicide for one of the five officers — came from an indictment handed up by a state grand jury in Louisiana, officials and lawyers for Mr. Greene’s family said.


The state police said two troopers had been placed on administrative leave because of the indictment. One of them, Master Trooper Kory York, was charged with the most serious offenses, including negligent homicide and 10 counts of malfeasance in office. (Trooper York had previously received a 50-hour suspension and returned to active duty.) The other, Lt. John Clary, who was charged with malfeasance in office and obstruction of justice, was the highest-ranking trooper at the scene.


Two others with the state police, Trooper Dakota DeMoss and Capt. John Peters, were both charged with obstruction of justice. Christopher Harpin, a Union Parish sheriff’s deputy, was also named in the indictment, charged with three counts of malfeasance in office.


Trooper DeMoss was placed on leave last year after he was arrested in an unrelated case, in which he and three other troopers were charged with using excessive force and deactivating body cameras during arrests.


Another trooper involved in the arrest, Chris Hollingsworth, was killed in a single-vehicle highway crash in 2020. The A.P. reported at the time that he had been notified hours earlier that he would be fired for his part in Mr. Greene’s fatal arrest.


Reporting was contributed by Dan Levin, Michael Levenson, McKenna Oxenden and Rick Rojas.



2) Starbucks Union Strikes at Dozens of Stores as Talks Stall

Workers are pressing for a contract and accuse the company of anti-labor tactics. Management blames the union for the lack of bargaining progress.

By Noam Scheiber, Dec. 16, 2022

Reporting from Chicago


Starbucks workers held signs and chanted during a strike on Friday in St. Paul, Minn.

Starbucks workers held signs and chanted during a strike on Friday in St. Paul, Minn. Credit...Kerem Yücel/Minnesota Public Radio, via Associated Press

The union organizing Starbucks workers declared a strike at dozens of stores on Friday, the latest escalation in its campaign to secure a labor contract.


The strike is intended to last for three days at many of the stores, according to Workers United, the union representing the workers. It follows a one-day strike at roughly 100 stores last month.


Workers involved in the strike say they are protesting the company’s slow pace of bargaining and its recent closing of unionized stores, including one near Broadway and Denny Way in Seattle. They also complain about understaffing and cuts to their hours.


“Starbucks sent a clear message when they closed the Broadway and Denny store,” Michelle Eisen, a Buffalo-based barista who has been a leader of the union campaign, said in a statement. “They’re doubling down on their union-busting, so we’re doubling down, too. We’re demanding fair staffing, an end to store closures, and that Starbucks bargain with us in good faith.”


Several Starbucks workers at a store in Chicago stood outside in snowy conditions holding picket signs, but the store remained open, and a manager said he was preparing orders for pickup.


The union, which represents workers at more than 250 of the roughly 9,000 company-owned stores in the United States, said Starbucks representatives had walked out of dozens of bargaining sessions this fall after shortly after they began, preventing progress on a contract.


The company said it closed the Seattle store along with more than 35 others nationwide since July, typically because of security concerns, including about 10 unionized stores.


It said that its negotiators had walked out of bargaining sessions because union representatives sought to broadcast the sessions to co-workers outside the room using video-chat software, potentially inhibiting the discussions, but that negotiators had “come to the table time after time prepared to bargain in good faith.”


The union won its first vote at a store in Buffalo last December, and the campaign spread quickly across the country during the first half of this year.


But organizing has slowed in recent months, with filings for union elections dropping from about 70 in March to fewer than 10 in August.


Workers United has argued that Starbucks impeded the organizing campaign by firing dozens of union supporters and excluding unionized stores from recent wage increases and new benefits.


The federal labor board has issued numerous complaints over these accusations, and judges at the agency have ruled against the company in some cases. The company has appealed at least one of the rulings.


Starbucks has said that the firings reflect violations of company policies and that it is legally prohibited from granting new benefits and wage increases at unionized stores without bargaining over them first.



3) The Rich Get College Subsidies While the Student Debt Debate Goes On

As debt relief for student loan borrowers faces scrutiny, wealthy families can amass millions of dollars in tax-favored 529 college savings plans.

By Ron Lieber, Dec. 13, 2022

Ron has been writing about 529 plans for at least 18 years and will start paying for college in about 18 months.


An illustration of two grandparents, a woman and a man, throwing money into an oversize graduation cap.
Robert Neubecker

For months now, we’ve been in a nationwide debate over whether we should cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for tens of millions of people. Next year, the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on the hundreds of billions of dollars at stake — and talking heads will debate, yet again, who is deserving of help in America.


The student debt cancellation program excludes people with especially high incomes. But hiding in plain sight is another federal program — 529 college savings plans — that offers the biggest benefits to wealthy families.


With the right accounting and legal moves — ones that have never been subject to the kind of scrutiny that debt cancellation has faced — people with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spare can create 529 accounts that will end up holding millions of dollars. With some careful planning, no taxes will come due for most people as long as future generations use the money to pay for college (say, $84,000 a year at a private university like Duke), graduate school (hello, half-a-million-dollar New York University dental school) and any other related educational costs, including high-rise dorms and Apple laptops.


These maneuvers result in something that finance types have started referring to as “Dynasty” 529 plans. The accounts provide a marked contrast to the legacy of indebtedness that is emerging in families with fewer means. After all, it’s hard to save much in a 529 plan when you’re still paying off your own student loans as your children start college themselves. Then, those children borrow, too — and the parents may borrow even more to help pay the kids’ tuition.


To take a cleareyed view of who is getting what from the federal government in the realm of higher education, it helps to take a snapshot of how things work at this moment.


Slowly over time, we’ve decided that it is perfectly fine for two-thirds of college graduates to have borrowed tens of thousands of dollars along the way. “The choice we’re making is to shift the burden onto children,” said Victoria J. Haneman, a Creighton University law professor who has written about Dynasty 529 plans and the tax advantages they provide for the wealthy.


An elaborate governmental infrastructure has emerged to do the lending. In fact, most parents and graduate students can borrow whatever they want from the federal government, up to the full cost of attendance minus aid, no matter how little they earn. Schools like this, a lot.


Student loan repayment plans are numerous and confounding enough that the quasi-governmental bill collectors frequently give young adults bad advice about which plan to choose. Then, lawyers working at the behest of the federal government stick it to the destitute when they try to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy court.


As a kind of apology for all of this, President Biden wants to lop up to $20,000 off the federal student loan balances of people who earn no more than $125,000 a year ($250,000 if you’re married). Eyebrows up at the break for this six-figure crew, certainly.


To beat back skepticism, the White House proposed to limit the $20,000 offer to people who started college with very little — those who, back when they were students, qualified for federal Pell Grants for people from low-income families. Everyone else would get up to $10,000 of relief.


The White House also noted that nearly one-third of the debtors now eligible for relief did not finish school and are burdened with the debt but not the degree that would probably have made loan payments more affordable. Overall, close to 90 percent of the deleted debt dollars were supposed to go to people earning less than $75,000 a year.


Most people with five-figure incomes have trouble saving a lot of money for college in 529 plans, which allow users to invest money in stock funds that can outrun tuition inflation over time. Tax breaks that come with the accounts — whether they are state income tax deductions for deposits or the avoidance of federal taxes upon withdrawal — are often more valuable to people with the highest incomes.


Now, enter those Dynasty 529 plans. Two years ago, an accountant and financial planner named Jeffrey Levine — beloved on tax Twitter for his lengthy, in-the-moment dissections of complicated legislation — wrote a kind of treatise on the topic on the website kitces.com.


In a somewhat bemused, can-you-believe-this-is-real tone that ran over 6,000 words, he outlined the possibilities. In short, wealthy individuals can front-load large 529 deposits in such a way that the accounts can pay for several college educations decades from now and still have money left over for other family members pursuing higher education in future generations. It’s all legal, and if you jump through a few modest hoops, it’s generally tax-free.


In fact, Mr. Levine spreadsheeted a jaw-dropping situation where two aspiring grandparents each invest $15,000 a year and let the money grow for 35 years. In that time, they could pay full tuition for four potential grandchildren, assuming a $30,000 annual bill today that would grow at a 5 percent annual rate.


Even after the generous grandparents did all of that, there would be over $3 million left over to let ride for future generations.


“My personal feeling is that it is absolutely insane,” said Mr. Levine, who is the chief planning officer at Buckingham Strategic Wealth. Nevertheless, he is a fiduciary sworn to act in every client’s best interest. That means telling the ones with the most money how to create wealth of the fantastic dynastic variety.


There ought to be a law, right? Funny you should ask. In 2015, President Obama proposed taxing future earnings in 529 accounts. The blowback from the upper middle class was so severe — and from Democrats and Republicans alike — that he rescinded the plan in the same month that he introduced it.


“I still think it’s the most ridiculous public policy episode I’ve been involved with, in my life,” said Jason Furman, who was chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers at the time and is now a Harvard professor.


In reviewing this episode, we should be clear that we did not, as a nation, feel the need to call on The Supremes to weigh in on the legality of maintaining tax-favored savings for millions of people who could afford many college educations anyway. We just canceled the cancellation of their sweet, juicy subsidy without a vote in Congress or a trial. Trying again to limit 529 plans would be politically complicated, and courage is both lacking and impractical in Washington these days.


President Biden has done what he can — even if nine justices declare debt cancellation to be an overreach. He has made progress with improving various student loan programs and adjusting many rules.


But on a per-saver, per-student basis, it is the wealthy who have the best opportunity to extract the largest breaks from the federal government when it comes to saving and paying for college. We should ask, repeatedly, why this is so and live in the discomfort that comes from the realization that there are no good answers.



4) U.S. Health Officials Seek New Curbs on Private Medicare Advantage Plans

Proposed regulations would crack down on misleading ads for the private plans and would enhance scrutiny of denials for coverage of medical care.

By Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz, Dec. 17, 2022


A white minibus with red-and-blue markings and stars spells out MedicareBus on the side.
A Senate report last month outlined deceptive advertising practices, including the use of a bus by a company in Ohio to advertise with the name “Medicare,” while the website went to an independent insurance agency. Credit...U.S. Senate Committee on Finance

Federal health officials are proposing an extensive set of tougher rules governing private Medicare Advantage health plans, in response to wide-scale complaints that too many patients’ medical claims have been wrongly denied and that marketing of the plans is deceptive.


Medicare Advantage is the private-sector alternative to the federal program covering those 65 and over and the disabled. By next year, more than half of Medicare recipients are expected to be enrolled in private plans. These policies are often less expensive than traditional Medicare and sometimes offer attractive, additional benefits like dental care.


Despite their popularity, the plans have been the subject of considerable scrutiny and criticism lately. A recent report by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that several plans might be inappropriately denying care to patients. And nearly every large insurance company in the program, including UnitedHealth Group, Elevance Health, Kaiser Permanente and Cigna, has been sued by the Justice Department for fraudulently overcharging the government.


The period leading up to this year’s enrollment deadline, Dec. 7, amplified widespread criticism about the deceptive tactics some brokers and insurers had used to entice people to switch plans. In November, Senate Democrats issued a scathing report detailing some of the worst practices, including ads that appeared to represent federal agencies and ubiquitous television commercials featuring celebrities.


Federal Medicare officials had said they would review television advertising before it aired, and the new rule targets some of the practices identified in the Senate report that caused some consumers to confuse the companies with the government Medicare program. A proposed regulation would ban the plans from using the Medicare logo and require that the company behind the ad be identified.


“It is certainly a shot across the bow for brokers and insurers in response to the rising number of complaints about misleading marketing activities,” said Tricia Neuman, the executive director of the center for Medicare policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Ms. Neuman and her team routinely review television ads from the plans.


The proposal would also allow beneficiaries to opt out of marketing calls for plans and would limit how many companies can contact a beneficiary after he or she fills out a form asking for information. The Senate report described patients who had received dozens of aggressive marketing calls they did not request.


David Lipschutz, an associate director at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said that while the federally proposed rules did not include everything on his wish list, the goals were wide-reaching and significant.


“This is really a meaningful response,” he said. “And where we sit, we don’t get to say that that often.”


Mr. Lipschutz said that the changes would ultimately be judged by how effectively and aggressively Medicare enforced the standards. Much of the deceptive marketing is now conducted by brokers, agents and other third-party marketing firms who are paid commissions when they enroll people, not by the insurers themselves. The proposed rule would hold insurers accountable for the actions of the firms they hire.


“These proposals are an important step toward protecting seniors in Medicare from scammers and unscrupulous insurance companies and brokers,” Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement.


The rules would also address the health plans’ use of techniques that require the company to approve certain care before it would be covered. Patients and their doctors complained to Medicare that the private plans were misusing prior authorization processes to deny needed care. The inspector general’s report estimated that tens of thousands of individuals had been denied necessary medical care that should be covered under the program.


The new proposal would require plans to disclose the medical basis for denials and rely more heavily on specialists familiar with a patient’s care to be involved in the decision-making. Medicare has also established tighter time limits for answers on authorizations; patients now often wait up to 14 days. The new rules would also require authorization to cover the full length of a treatment so patients don’t have to continually request identical approvals.


Dr. Meena Seshamani, the director of the Center for Medicare and a deputy administrator at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the changes had been influenced by thousands of public comments solicited by the agency and by lawmakers.


“The proposals in this rule we feel would really meaningfully improve people in Medicare’s timely access to the care they need,” she said.


The insurance industry has said it is generally supportive of regulators’ efforts to protect Medicare enrollees from deceptive marketing, and the Better Medicare Alliance, a group that advocates for Medicare Advantage, said it agreed with officials “that there must be no room in the system for those who would deceive seniors,” according to a statement from the group’s chief executive, Mary Beth Donahue.


Ms. Donahue added that her group was continuing to review the agency’s proposals on how patients have to seek prior authorization for treatment. She said the organization hoped to work with Medicare officials to improve the process.


Hospitals, which have been pushing for changes that would address their concerns that insurers were abusing prior authorization, applauded the proposals. But they emphasized that the Biden administration’s health officials would have to commit to enforcing the stricter oversight.


“The agency really needs to keep their eye on the ball,” said Molly Smith, the group vice president for public policy at the American Hospital Association, a trade organization.


The proposed regulations are not yet final. Health officials are soliciting comments from the public and may make changes.



5) Military Spending Surges, Creating New Boom for Arms Makers

The combination of the war in Ukraine and concern about longer-term threats from Russia and China are driving a bipartisan push to increase U.S. capacity to produce weapons.

By Eric Lipton, Michael Crowley and John Ismay, Dec. 18, 2022


President Biden shakes the hand of a worker with a weapon in the foreground.

President Biden greeted employees in May at a Lockheed Martin facility that manufactures weapon systems, including Javelin antitank missiles. Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The prospect of growing military threats from both China and Russia is driving bipartisan support for a surge in Pentagon spending, setting up another potential boom for weapons makers that is likely to extend beyond the war in Ukraine.


Congress is on track in the coming week to give final approval to a national military budget for the current fiscal year that is expected to reach approximately $858 billion — or $45 billion above what President Biden had requested.


If approved at this level, the Pentagon budget will have grown at 4.3 percent per year over the last two years — even after inflation — compared with an average of less than 1 percent a year in real dollars between 2015 and 2021, according to an analysis by Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments for The New York Times.


Spending on procurement would rise sharply next year, including a 55 percent jump in Army funding to buy new missiles and a 47 percent jump for the Navy’s weapons purchases.


On Friday, Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, put the buildup in strategic terms, saying the war in Ukraine had exposed shortfalls in the nation’s military industrial base that needed to be addressed to ensure the United States is “able to support Ukraine and to be able to deal with contingencies elsewhere in the world.”


Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest military contractor, had booked more than $950 million worth of its own missile military orders from the Pentagon in part to refill stockpiles being used in Ukraine. The Army has awarded Raytheon Technologies more than $2 billion in contracts to deliver missile systems to expand or replenish weapons used to help Ukraine.


“We went through six years of Stingers in 10 months,” Gregory J. Hayes, Raytheon’s chief executive, said in an interview earlier this month, referring to 1,600 of the company’s shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles sent by the U.S. government to Ukraine. “So it will take us multiple years to restock and replenish.”


But those contracts are just the leading edge of what is shaping up to be a big new defense buildup. Military spending next year is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II — a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined.


On Friday, Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, put the buildup in strategic terms, saying the war in Ukraine had exposed shortfalls in the nation’s military industrial base that needed to be addressed to ensure the United States is “able to support Ukraine and to be able to deal with contingencies elsewhere in the world.”


Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest military contractor, had booked more than $950 million worth of its own missile military orders from the Pentagon in part to refill stockpiles being used in Ukraine. The Army has awarded Raytheon Technologies more than $2 billion in contracts to deliver missile systems to expand or replenish weapons used to help Ukraine.


“We went through six years of Stingers in 10 months,” Gregory J. Hayes, Raytheon’s chief executive, said in an interview earlier this month, referring to 1,600 of the company’s shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles sent by the U.S. government to Ukraine. “So it will take us multiple years to restock and replenish.”


But those contracts are just the leading edge of what is shaping up to be a big new defense buildup. Military spending next year is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II — a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined.


And none of this counts an estimated $18 billion of planned but now delayed weapons deliveries by the United States to arm Taiwan against a possible future attack by China.


The combination of the Ukraine war and the growing consensus about the emergence of a new era of superpower confrontation is prompting efforts to ensure the military industrial base can respond to surges in demand. The issue has become urgent in some cases as the U.S. and its NATO allies seek to keep weapons flowing to Ukraine without diminishing their own stocks to worrisome levels.


The Ukrainian military has run through years’ worth of the missile production capacity of Western suppliers in a matter of months. At the same time, contractors remain concerned about investing to meet growing demand for weapons that could dry up again when the war ends or politics shifts course.


“The difficulty of starting a production line back up, that doesn’t come for free,” Tom Arseneault, president of BAE Systems, which is now considering restarting its M777 howitzer manufacturing line, which the company had been in the process of shutting down. The M777 is a highly accurate, towed gun that fires 155-millimeter artillery shells, which are also in diminishing supply.


The annual military authorization bill that passed the Senate on Thursday prevents the Air Force and Navy from retiring aging weapons systems that the military would like to take out of service, including certain C-130 transport planes or F-22 fighter jets. At the same time, it includes billions of dollars in extra money to build even more new ships and planes than the Pentagon itself asked for, including $2.2 billion alone for an extra Navy-guided missile destroyer, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee.


And there is $678 million to expand ammunition plants in spots such as Scranton, Pa.; Middletown, Iowa; and Kingsport, Tenn., where contractors work with the Army to manufacture the ammunition that Ukrainian artillery crews have burned through at an alarming rate. (The money for these programs is expected to be included in a massive appropriations bill that appears to be on track to pass Congress and signed into law by Mr. Biden by the end of the week.)


Spending could be even higher, as Congress is also considering a request for an extra $21.7 billion for the Pentagon, above the already expanded 2023 annual budget, to allocate more money to resupply materials used in Ukraine.


In an indication of how government policy is shifting to rebuild industrial capacity for the military, Congress this year has moved to allow the Defense Department to more broadly make multiyear spending commitments for certain weapons systems and shipbuilding operations. That is a provision that industry lobbyists have long pushed for, arguing it gives companies certainty that investments they make to start production will see continued returns in future years.


“We have to make a commitment with the industry,” said Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who supported the change. “Then the industry will step forward to restart or grow their production lines.”


That move alone suggests $73 billion in additional munitions orders could be on the way in the next three years, contracts that will largely benefit the big players like Lockheed and Raytheon, according to an analysis by Myles Walton, a military industry analyst at Wolfe Research, a Wall Street research firm.


These trends help explain stock market performance of the major military contractors — a small group of which control the bulk of sales to the Pentagon. Lockheed and Northrop Grumman both have seen their stock prices jump more than 35 percent so far this year in a market whose main indexes are down overall for the year.


Opponents of higher military budgets say they are frustrated.


Military contractors are “riding high again, and Ukraine just gives them another argument as to why things need to continue onward and upward,” said William D. Hartung, a fellow at the non-interventionist Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.


“The trillion-dollar defense budget — that is where we are headed,” said Lawrence J. Korb, who served as an assistant defense secretary during the Reagan administration and was once a vice president at Raytheon. “Nobody seems to want to make the tough choices. Even the Democrats now seem to be afraid to be seen as being soft on defense.”


The biggest barrier for growth for major military contractors — the list includes Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, BAE, Northrop Grumman and Huntington Ingalls Industries — is finding sufficient supplies of key components, such as microelectronics and missile warheads, as well as a steady supply of new employees to assemble all these items.


“You cannot throw much more money at the seven shipbuilders that build U.S. warships in the United States of America right now,” Adm. Michael M. Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said this month during the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, referring to a $32.6 billion shipbuilding budget in the military authorization bill that is $4.7 billion more than the Pentagon requested. “Their capacity is about at max. And Congress is helping us max them out.”


Raytheon, which has 180,000 workers, has hired 27,000 new employees so far this year, its chief executive said in October. But even with that, it is still running into bottlenecks in terms of available parts and labor shortages that are slowing sales, its executives said.


The sheer scale of the munitions and missiles sent to Ukraine illustrates just how much matériel a war can consume.


That includes more than 104 million rounds of small-arms ammunition, at least one million rounds of 155-millimeter artillery shells, 46,000 anti-tank weapons, more than 1,600 Stinger antiaircraft missiles and 8,500 Javelin anti-armor missiles, according to a Pentagon tally.


The resupply challenge is not just a matter of money. Military contractors have nearly stopped manufacturing Stingers — Raytheon’s last contract from the U.S. government was in 2002, Mr. Haynes said. And while Javelins are still being made jointly by Raytheon and Lockheed — in September they were awarded a $311 million contract to deliver more of them — historically they have only been able to make about 2,100 a year, or about a quarter of what Ukraine has burned through since the outbreak of the war in February.


In total, the Pentagon as of early December had awarded at least $6 billion to military contractors to resupply these and other items sent to Ukraine.


“We’re going to ramp up,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said this month. “We’ve really been working closely with industry to both increase their capacity and also the speed at which they’re able to produce.”


The overall spending on national defense still remains relatively low as a percentage of the nation’s economy: about 3.2 percent of the gross domestic product this year, compared to 37 percent during World War II and 13 percent during the Korean War, according to Pentagon records.


Still, companies are scrambling to avoid or resolve bottlenecks caused by the increase in demand.


Lockheed, for example, spent more than $60 million of its own money in advance of getting Pentagon contract commitment to build more of its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System vehicles, or HIMARS, which fire guided rockets carrying 200 pounds of explosives that can hit targets nearly 50 miles away. The vehicles have been much sought after by Ukraine, which has used them to devastating effect against the Russians.


Traditionally, Lockheed has been able to build 60 of these trucks per year, but it is now shifting production to 24 hours a day and seven days a week in an effort to bring that annual total to 96 units. It also now has a new $430 million contract to deliver more HIMARS, along with a new $521 million contract to build more of the rockets, called GMLRS, that these vehicles can fire.


These resupply orders, while large in terms of many other contracts the federal government issues, are still relatively small for the biggest contractors. At Lockheed, for example, about 70 percent of sales come from the U.S. government, and most of the rest from other governments worldwide. Supply chain and labor shortage problems are cutting into sales and profits, including at Lockheed, which expects to see annual sales decline this year to $62.3 billion from $67 billion.


“The clutch is engaging but into some lower gears initially,” James Taiclet, Lockheed’s chief executive, said in October, adding that higher sales might not show up for another year.


But there are more of the big-ticket orders coming. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland and Germany have both moved in recent months to finalize orders for the F-35 fighter jets, collectively worth $16 billion. Overall foreign military sales notifications to Congress so far in 2022 have totaled $81 billion, the third highest figure in the last 25 years, with an increasing share of these sales going to European and Asian nations.


Next year’s military budget also includes major investments in new hypersonic weapons that are also being aggressively pursued by China. Raytheon and Northrop Grumman in September won a $1 billion contract just to build prototypes for the Air Force.


Other companies want to replace older equipment sent to Ukraine with newer models. BAE, for example, intends to sell the Army more armored vehicles called AMPVs, in place of the more than 200 of BAE’s Vietnam-era M113 armored personnel carriers sent to Ukraine, which it no longer makes.


“Nothing’s cheap, right?” said Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro earlier this month at the conference in California, as he ran through many new investments the Navy is making. “Nothing’s free.”


Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.