Sunday, November 19, 2017

BAUAW NEWSLETTER, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2017






The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

invites you to attend a showing of:

Manufacturing Guilt

A short film about Mumia's innocence

12:15 PM, Sunday, 19th of November
in the Emma Goldman Room
at the Howard Zinn Book Fair
CCSF Mission Campus, 1125 Valencia St, San Francisco

This film lays out the undeniable evidence of a frame-up against
Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981.
Mumia is still doing a life sentence in Pennsylvania

for a crime he did not commit!

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Addicted to War:


And this does not include "…spending $1.25 trillion dollars to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and $566 billion to build the Navy a 308-ship fleet…"    
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/18/funding-for-war-vs-natural-disasters/





Dear Comrades, attached is some new art, where Xinachtli really outdid himself some.














Kaepernick sports new T-shirt:




Love this guy!






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Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:


A) EVENTS, ACTIONS 
AND ONGOING STRUGGLES

B) ARTICLES IN FULL


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A) EVENTS, ACTIONS AND ONGOING STRUGGLES


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Standing Rock raised the stakes for the global environmental and indigenous rights movements. Now, another victory. A North Dakota judge has ruled that my legal team is entitled to substantially more evidence from the North Dakota State Prosecutor's office than has been forthcoming in other water protector cases. We will be able to take sworn testimony and demand documents from Energy Transfer Partners and their private, militarized security firm, TigerSwan.
The timing on this ruling is important for all environmental protectors. 84 members of Congress—nearly all Republicans—recently sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions encouraging him to invoke the domestic terrorism statute to prosecute fossil fuel protesters. These attacks on our fundamental constitutional rights, spearheaded by Donald Trump and parroted by congressional shills of Big Oil, should deeply concern all citizens who value our right to speak freely and demonstrate.
Our team has produced a new video that explains how I was singled out and targeted—and the justification for our bold legal strategy to expose the illegal and immoral wedding of the fossil fuel industry, law enforcement, and militarized private security forces. You'll see why I took action on behalf of my people, millions of others downstream, and Unci Maka—Grandmother Earth. Please watch it, and share it widely.
Share on Facebook
Don't lose sight of what Standing Rock means. My tribe—one of the poorest communities in the nation—won't stop leading the struggles to protect the earth and freedom of expression. Continue to stand with me, my courageous fellow defendant HolyElk Lafferty, and hundreds of others being represented by our ally organization, the Water Protector Legal Collective. Our fight is your fight—and it is nothing less than the movement to protect freedom and the earth for future generations.
Wopila—I thank you.
Chase Iron Eyes
Lakota People's Law Project Lead Counsel
Lakota People's Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859
United States

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Labor Studies and Radical History

4444 Geary Blvd., Suite 207, San Francisco, CA 94118

415.387.5700

http://www.holtlaborlibrary.org/mayday.html

Hours

(call 415.387.5700 to be sure the library is open for the hours you are interested in. We close the library sometimes to go on errands or have close early) suggested)

7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on all major holidays and May Day 
We can arrange, by request, to keep the library open longer during the day or open it on weekends. Just ask.

Services

  • Reference Librarian On-site
  • Email and Telephone Reference
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Online Public Access Catalog 
  • Microfilm Reader/Printer
  • DVD and VCR players
  • Photocopier
  • Quiet well-lighted place for study and research 
For an appointment or further information, please email: david [at] holtlaborlibrary.org 

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Prison Radio UPDATE:

Please sign this petition:


Release all the records and files regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal case!
https://diy.rootsaction.org/petitions/release-mumia-abu-jamal-case-record
A ruling to implement Judge Leon Tucker's recent order to release Mumia's court documents could be made as soon as May 30, 2017. Please call or e-mail the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office now to pressure them to follow the court's order to release all the records and files regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal case.
Phone: 215-686-8000

Judge Orders DA to Produce Complete File for Mumia's Case

Dear Friend,

This just in! Judge Leon Tucker of the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia has ordered the District Attorney of Philadelphia to produce the entire case file for Cook v. the Commonwealth- the case file in Mumia Abu-Jamal's criminal conviction, by September 21st.

The DA's office has to produce the entire file for "in camera" review in Judge Tucker's chambers. This mean Judge Tucker thinks that a thorough review of all the relevant files is in order! Or in other words, what has been produced under court order from the DA'a office has been woefully deficient.

Judge Tucker worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the late 90's, so he knows what is in -and not in- files. Cook v. the Commonwealth comprises at least 31 boxes of material held by the DA. Will they turn over "all information and the complete file" for Mumia's case, as Judge Tucker has ordered?

This in camera review by Judge Tucker himself means that an independent jurist will personally inspect the documents the DA produces. See the order here.  Stay tuned for more information following September 21. This is just one step in a long walk to freedom. It is a step that has never been taken before.

OPEN the files. Justice Now!

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Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?


Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? (City Lights Open Media)
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
A Book Review by Robert Fantina

With the recent acquittal of two more police officers in the deaths of unarmed Black men, the question posed by the title of this book is as relevant as it ever was. Through a series of concise, clear essays, Mumia Abu-Jamal details the racism against Blacks, comparing today's behaviors with the lynchings that were common in the south prior to the decade of the sixties. He points out the obvious: The passage of Civil Rights legislation hasn't changed much; it simply changed the way racism operates.

The ways in which the white establishment has worked to oppress Blacks is astounding. After the Civil War, when slavery was no longer legal, "whites realized that the combination of trumped-up legal charges and forced labor as punishment created both a desirable business proposition and an incredibly effective tool for intimidating rank-and-file emancipated African Americans and doing away with their most effective leaders."

Abu-Jamal states that, today, "where once whites killed and terrorized from beneath a KKK hood, now they now did so openly from behind a little badge." He details the killing of Black men and women in the U.S. with almost complete impunity.

There are two related issues Abu-Jamal discusses. The first is the rampant racism that enables the police to kill unarmed Blacks, as young as 12 years old, for no reason, and the second is the "justice" system that allows them to get away with it.

One shocking crime, amid countless others, occurred in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2012; a police officer was acquitted in the deaths of two, unarmed Blacks, after leaping onto the hood of their car and firing 15 rounds from his semi-automatic rifle into the car's occupants. That is 137 shots, at point blank range, into the bodies of two unarmed people.

If this were an anomaly, it would be barbaric, but it is not: it is common practice for the police to kill unarmed Blacks, and, on the rare occasions that they are charged with a crime, for the judges and juries to acquit them.

In the U.S., Black citizens are disproportionally imprisoned. With for-profit prisons on the rise, this injustice will only increase.

Abu-Jamal relates story after story with the same plot, and only the names are different. An unarmed Black man is stopped by the police for any of a variety of reasons ranging from trivial (broken tail light), to more significant (suspect in a robbery). But too often, the outcome is the same: the Black man is dead and the police officer who killed him, more often than not white, is either not charged, or acquitted after being charged.

The Black Lives Matter movement formed to combat this blatant injustice, but it will be an uphill battle. As Abu-Jamal says, "Police serve the ownership and wealth classes of their societies, not the middling or impoverished people. For the latter, it is quite the reverse." As a result, people of color suffer disproportionately, too often winding up on the wrong side of a gun.

What is to be done? Abu-Jamal refers to the writings of Dr. Huey P. Newton, who calls not for community policing, but for community control of the police. Abu-Jamal argues forcefully for a new movement, "driven by commitment, ethics, intelligence, solidarity, and passions; for without passion, the embers may dim and die."

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? is powerful, disturbing, well-written, and an important book for our day.

Robert Fantina is the author of Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy. His articles on foreign policy, most frequently concerning Israel and Palestine, have appeared in such venues as Counterpunch and WarIsaCrime.org.
New York Journal of Books, July 2017


http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/Black-lives

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FREE OUR BROTHERS
Campaign to Stop Modern Day Slavery in Colorado, Demanding Equal Rights to the Under Represented

http://freeourbrothers.com

Petitioning Denver FBI & US Department of Justice

Stop Slavery in Colorado




On May 29, 2008 at approximately 10:00 p.m. Omar Gent was driving in his car headed to the gas station; however was pulled over by local police for what was stated to be a "traffic violation". Omar was then arrested on scene and taken to be identified as the suspect of a local robbery. The victim was shown a photo of Omar Gent (which is illegal) and then was taken to the traffic stop where Omar was already handcuffed in the back of the police car and a one-on-one show up was held at a distance of approximately 20-30 feet; the victim  was unable to identify Omar as the suspect during the first show up.  After given a second show up the victim believed he was 90% sure Omar was the suspect.
Coworkers #1 and #2  were not present at the time of the robbery but were used as witnesses to help identify the suspect. Coworker #1 was also taken to the one-on-one show up and was asked to identify Omar as the suspect and he could not as he stated "I have astigmatism" and was not 100% sure Omar was the man.  Coworker #2 positively identified Omar Gent as the suspect because he stated, "there aren't that many black men in Parker Colorado." At the pretrial suppression of ID/photo line up the victim picked three other black men all with different builds and heights; although prior the victim was "90% sure" he had identified the right man. In addition, Coworker #1 stated during the trial that he was angry when he made the ID because he was ready to go home and coworker #2  told him that it was Omar.
Omar's car was illegally searched without consent or warrant. After his arrest and enduring many hours of integration, Omar asked for an attorney, yet all he received were more questions and did not receive the legal representation requested.  During interrogation, the police tried to coerce Omar to confess to the robbery or else they would throw his family out of their home.  Omar maintained his innocence and did not confess to the crime and as a result the police kept their word. Four Colorado Police Officers forcefully entered Omar's home  and began to search his home without a warrant or consent; Omar's family was present and told police that they were not given permission to enter. The police forced Omar's family out of their home into the Colorado winter night. The police took what they wanted during the illegal search of Omar's home. Omar's family filed a complaint against the city because of the illegal search of their home.  In efforts to conceal the police officers' wrongdoing, the presiding Judge sealed the legit complaint. In addition, the video interrogation showing Omar requesting to have legal representation and police threats to throw his family out of their home unless he confessed was deemed inadmissible in court.
Omar has written proof that he requested a preliminary hearing to challenge the charges of probable cause but he was illegally denied the right--without Omar's knowledge and approval the public defender waived his rights to a preliminary hearing.  Omar was then charged with an infamous felony yet never received a grand jury indictment (which is required by Colorado Bill of Rights for felony charges). Due to the fact that Omar was never indicted, he was subsequently denied his sixth Amendment right (to confront and cross examine witnesses). Omar has been fighting his case by seeking justice for the violation of his civil rights. Help us stop illegal imprisonment in Colorado.
  • This petition will be delivered to:
    • Denver FBI & US Department of Justice 

"Please help us by stopping the mass incarceration in Colorado! Basic civil rights are being violated and we need your help to shed light on this issue." 

Sign then share this petition at: 
https://www.change.org/p/u-s-department-of-justice-and-denver-fbi-stop-slavery-in-colorado

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Support:




CONTRIBUTE 
Thank you for being a part of this struggle.

Cuando luchamos ganamos! When we fight we win!

Noelle Hanrahan, Director
Facebook
Twitter
Website
To give by check: 
PO Box 411074
San Francisco, CA
94141

Stock or legacy gifts:
Noelle Hanrahan
(415) 706 - 5222

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MEDIA ADVISORYMedia contact: Morgan McLeod, (202) 628-0871
mmcleod@sentencingproject.org
NEW REPORT FINDS RECORD NUMBER OF PEOPLE SERVING
LIFE SENTENCES IN U.S. PRISONS
Washington, D.C.— Despite recent political support for criminal justice reform in most states, the number of people serving life sentences has nearly quintupled since 1984. 

A new report by The Sentencing Project finds a record number of people serving life with parole, life without parole, and virtual life sentences of 50 years or more, equaling one of every seven people behind bars. 


Eight states  Alabama, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Utah  have at least one of every five prisoners serving a life or de facto life sentence in prison. 
The Sentencing Project will host an online press conference to discuss its report Still Life: America's Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences, on Wednesday, May 3rd at 11:00 a.m. EDT.   
Press Conference Details
WHAT: Online press conference hosted by The Sentencing Project regarding the release of its new report examining life and long-term sentences in the United States. REGISTER HERE to participate. The call-in information and conference link will be sent via email.  
WHEN: 
Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. EDT 
WHO: 
  • Ashley Nellis, The Sentencing Project's senior research analyst and author of Still Life: America's Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences
  • Evans Ray, whose life without parole sentence was commuted in 2016 by President Obama
  • Steve Zeidman, City University of New York law professor and counsel for Judith Clark—a New York prisoner who received a 75 year to life sentence in 1983
The full report will be available to press on Wednesday morning via email.

Founded in 1986, The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.

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stand with reality winner
legal_update
Since our last legal update, there have been two important developments in Reality's case, giving us some insight into the arguments both sides intend to use in the trial.
The defense continues to build a case against the government's abuse of the Espionage Act, a strategy Reality's lawyers started laying out in their recent bail appeal. Taking that strategy further in a court brief on October 26th, they laid out a strong First Amendment challenge to the government's interpretation of the Espionage Act in cases involving whistleblowers.
If the defense's challenge succeeds, it would strengthen whistleblower protections significantly, and deny the government one of the main tools it uses to silence dissent.
Meanwhile, the government is doubling down on its strategy to put Reality's personality and politics on trial. A court filing, also on October 26th, repeated the same handful of sentence fragments obtained from eavesdropping on Reality's private conversations which the government claims is proof that she "hates America."They go on to make absurd claims about Reality's ability to flee the country while under total surveillance and without a passport, in their ongoing attempt to force her to serve time before she's been convicted of any crime.
Read the rest of the article at Stand With Reality.
STAND WITH REALITY WINNER ~ PATRIOT & ALLEGED WHISTLEBLOWERc/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
standwithreality.org ~ facebook.com/standwithreality

STAND WITH REALITY WINNER ~ PATRIOT & ALLEGED WHISTLEBLOWERc/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
standwithreality.org ~ facebook.com/standwithreality

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When they knock on your front door: Preparing for Repression

BAY AREA ANTI-REPRESSION COMMITTEE

When they knock on your front door: Preparing for Repression
 BY 

Mothers Message to the NY/NJ Activist Community 

In order to effectively combat the existing opportunism, hidden agendas and to better provide ALL genuinely good willed social justice organizations and individuals who work inside of the New York and New Jersey metropolitan areas... with more concrete guidelines; 

The following "10 Point Platform and Justice Wish List" was adopted on Saturday, May 13, 2017    during the "Motherhood: Standing Strong 4 Justice" pre-mothers day gathering which was held     at Hostos Community College - Bronx, New York.......

"What We Want, What We Need" 

May, 2017 - NY/NJ Parents 10 Point Justice Platform and Wish List 

Point #1 - Lawyers and Legal Assistance:  Due to both the overwhelming case loads and impersonal nature of most public defenders, the Mothers believe that their families are receiving limited options, inadequate legal advise and therefore; WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in gaining access to experienced "pro-bono" and/or activist attorneys as well as the free resources provided by non-profit social justice and legal advocacy groups.

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Point #2 - First Response Teams: The Mothers felt that when their loved ones were either killed or captured by the police that they were left in the hands of the enemy and without any support, information or direction on how to best move forward and therefore; WE WANT and NEED community activists to help us develop independently community controlled & trained first response teams in every borough or county that can confirm and be on the ground within 24 hours of any future incident.

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Point #3 - Security and Support At Court Appearances: The Mothers all feel that because community activist support eventually becomes selective and minimal, that they are disrespected by both the courthouse authorities, mainstream media and therefore;   WE WANT and NEED community activists to collectively promote and make a strong presence felt at all court appearances and; To always provide trained security & legal observers... when the families are traveling to, inside and from the court house.

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Point #4 - Emotional/Spiritual Healing and Grief and Loss Counseling: After the protest rallies, demonstrations, justice marches and television cameras are gone the Mothers all feel alone and abandoned and therefore;                                                                             WE WANT and NEED for community activists to refer/help provide the families with clergy, professional therapy & cultural outlets needed in order to gain strength to move forward. 

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Point #5 -  Parents Internal Communication Network: The Mothers agreed as actual victims, that they are the very best qualified in regards to providing the needed empathy and trust for an independent hotline & contact resource for all of the parents and families who want to reach out to someone they can mutually trust that is able understand what they are going through and therefore;           WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in providing a Parents Internal Communication Network to reach that objective.

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Point #6 -  Community Offices and Meeting Spaces: The Mothers agreed that there is an extreme need for safe office spaces where community members and family victims are able to go to for both confidential crisis intervention and holding organizing meetings and therefore;                                                                                                                                                                                                 WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in securing those safe spaces inside of our own neighborhoods.   

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Point #7 - Political Education Classes and Workshop Training: The Mothers agreed in implementing the "each one, teach one"   strategy and therefore;                                                                                                                                                                                         WE WANT and NEEDfor community activists to help us in being trained as educators and organizers in Know Your Rights, Cop Watch, First Response, Emergency Preparedness & Community Control over all areas of public safety & the police in their respective neighborhoods.

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Point #8 - Support From Politicians and Elected Officials: The Mothers believe that most political candidates and incumbent elected officials selectively & unfairly represent only those cases which they think to be politically advantageous to their own selfish personal success on election day and therefore;                                                                                                                                WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in either publicly exposing or endorsing these aforementioned political candidates and/or elected officials to their constituents solely based upon the uncompromising principles of serving the people.

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Point #9 - Research and Documentation: The Mothers believe that research/case studies, surveys, petitions, historical archives, investigative news reporting and events should be documented and made readily available in order to counter the self-serving  police misinformation promoted by the system and therefore;                                                                                                                          WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us by securing college/university students, law firms, film makers, authors, journalists and professional research firms to find, document & tell the people the truth about police terror & the pipeline to prison.

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Point #10 - Grassroots Community Outreach and Information: The Mothers believe that far too much attention is being geared towards TV camera sensationalism with the constant organizing of marches & rallies "downtown"  and therefore; WE WANT and NEED for community activists to provide a fair balance by helping us to build in the schools, projects, churches and inside of the subway trains and stations of our Black, brown and oppressed communities where the majority of the police terror is actually taking place. 



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Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring exchanges with an Outlaw Kindle Edition

by Kevin Rashid Johnson (Author), Tom Big Warrior (Introduction), Russell Maroon Shoatz(Introduction)

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MAJOR TILLERY: Still Rumbling!

October 22—Major Tillery's challenge to his 1985 conviction for a 1976 murder and assault goes to a Pennsylvania Superior Court appeals panel on October 31. Tillery's case is about actual innocence. It highlights Philadelphia's infamous culture of police and prosecutorial misconduct. The only so-called evidence against him was from lying jailhouse informants who were threatened with false murder prosecutions, and plea and bail deals on pending cases. A favorite inducement for jailhouse informants in the early 1980's was "sex for lies." Homicide detectives brought the informants and their girlfriends to police headquarters for private time in interview rooms for sex.

This is Major Tillery's 34th year in prison on a sentence of life without parole. Over twenty of those years were spent in solitary confinement in some of the harshest federal and state "control units."

"Major Tillery, for many years known as the jailhouse lawyer who led the 1990 Tillery v. Owens prisoners' rights civil case, spawned from unconstitutional conditions at the state prison in Pittsburg, is still rumbling these days, this time for his life as well as his freedom."    —Mumia Abu-Jamal, Major: Battling On 2 Fronts, 9/17/17

This past year the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) acknowledged that Major Tillery has hepatitis C, which has progressed to cirrhosis of the liver. The DOC nonetheless refused to provide treatment, ignoring the federal court ruling in Abu-Jamal v. Wetzel that the DOC's hep-C protocols violate the constitutional requirement to provide prisoners adequate medical care. With the help of the Abolitionist Law Center, Major Tillery is now receiving the anti-viral treatment.
Tillery has been doubly punished in prison for his activism in support of fellow prisoners. His 1990 lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens resulted in federal court orders to the PA Department of Corrections to provide medical and mental health treatment and end double-celling. He challenged the extreme conditions of solitary confinement in the NJ State prison in Trenton, Tillery v. Hayman (2007). His advocacy for Mumia Abu-Jamal in February 2015 helped save Mumia's life. Major Tillery filed grievances for himself and other prisoners suffering from painful and debilitating skin rashes. For these acts of solitary with other prisoners, just months after he re-entered general population from a decade in solitary confinement, Tillery was set up with false prison misconduct charges and given four months back in "the hole." Major Tillery filed a federal retaliation lawsuit against the DOC. Recently, Major succeeded in getting a program for elderly prisoners established at SCI Frackville.

For his appeals and continuing investigation, Major Tillery now has the pro bono representation of Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio:

"I took on Major Tillery's defense, which exposes prosecutorial misconduct in convicting Major Tillery of a nine-year old murder based solely on the testimony of jailhouse informants. This testimony was recanted in the informants' sworn statements that detail the coercion and favors by homicide detectives and prosecutors to manufacture false trial testimony.

"Now the DA's office wants to uphold the unconstitutional application of 'timeliness' restrictions applied to post-conviction petitions to dismiss Major Tillery's petition, arguing he is too late in uncovering that the DA's office knowingly put a lying witness on the stand."

Major Tillery's appeal is to win his "day in court" on his petition based on his innocence and misconduct by the police and prosecution. At the same time, the investigation continues to further uncover the evidence of this misconduct.

Although Major Tillery has pro bono legal representation there are still substantial costs to appeal and to conduct additional investigation..  Please help with a donation.


How You Can Help

Financial Support—Major Tillery needs funds for a lawyer in his appeal to overturn his conviction.

Go to PayPal

Go to JPay.com;
code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC
Or send a check/money order to: Major Tillery or Kamilah Iddeen, U.S. Post Office,
2347 N. 7th St., PO Box 13205, Harrisburg, PA 17110-6501

Have a fund-raising event! Thanks to Dr. Suzanne Ross, International Spokesperson for the International Concerned Family and Friends for Mumia Abu-Jamal for $1000 gifted during her 80th Birthday celebration.


Tell Philadelphia District Attorney:
Free Major Tillery! He is an innocent man, framed by police and and prosecution.
Call: 215-686-8711 or  Email: DA_Central@phila.gov

Write to:
Major Tillery AM 9786, SCI Frackville, 1111 Altamont Blvd., Frackville, PA 17931

For More Information, To read the new appeal, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery
Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com
Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com


www.JusticeForMajorTillery.org





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Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence

Sign the Petition:
http://www.savekevincooper.org/pages/petition.php


Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.


"The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case



Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.

In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.

Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.

Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.

Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."

Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.

Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.

In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.

In solidarity,

James Clark
Senior Death Penalty Campaigner
Amnesty International USA

    Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org

    Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.

    Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin.  He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence.  In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.

    There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:

      The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?

      The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."

      Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.

      These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.

      The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.

    Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.

    The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.

    The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited…         (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)

         This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015


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    B. ARTICLES IN FULL


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    1) Australia Votes for Gay Marriage, Clearing Path to Legalization
     NOV. 14, 2017
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/world/australia/yes-same-sex-marriage-gay.html?rref=
    collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=
    rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

    People celebrated in Melbourne on Wednesday after Australians indicated in a survey that they would approve same-sex marriage. CreditScott Barbour/Getty Images


    MELBOURNE, Australia — A solid majority of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in a historic survey that, while not binding, paves the way for Parliament to legally recognize the unions of gay and lesbian couples.
    Of 12.7 million Australians who took part in the government survey, 61.6 percent voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no, officials announced on Wednesday morning. Participation was high, with 79.5 percent of voting-age Australians sending back their postal ballots.
    "The Australian people have spoken, and they have voted overwhelmingly 'yes' for marriage equality," said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who called the survey in a move described by advocates as a delay tactic devised to appease his party's far-right faction. "They voted 'yes' for fairness, they voted 'yes' for commitment, they voted 'yes' for love."
    The high turnout and unequivocal result amounted to a rebuke for Australia's most conservative politicians, many of whom saw a majority of their constituents vote to support same-sex marriage despite their arguments against it.

    Proponents of gay rights spent the day celebrating. They gathered in cities around the country to watch news broadcasts of the survey results. The largest crowd, at Prince Alfred Park in Sydney, broke into cheers, with hugs, dancing and tears, as soon as the news was announced.
    "This is our proudest moment as gay and lesbian Australians," said Chris Lewis, 60, an artist from Sydney, who waved a large rainbow flag he bought in San Francisco about 30 years ago. "Finally I can be proud of my country."
    But many Australians said it was also late in coming.
    Annika Lowry, 42, who brought her 4-year-old daughter to the celebration, said the vote revealed a widening gap between Australia's political class and voters who have been demanding same-sex marriage legislation for years.
    "It was not just about us," she said. "It's for our kids, so that they know equality is important."
    Alex Greenwich, a state lawmaker from New South Wales and the co-chairman of Australian Marriage Equality, an advocacy group, said the vote "shows that Australians have truly come together in support of their gay and lesbian mates and have said that everybody should be able to have the freedom to marry."
    In calling for the national survey, Mr. Turnbull sought public backing for a shift in social policy that was opposed by many members of his center-right Liberal Party.
    Mr. Turnbull voted yes, and he urged other Australians to do so as a matter of fairness, seeking to blunt opposition from far-right members of his party.
    "My commitment was to give every Australian their say," Mr. Turnbull said after the results were announced. "That has been done, they have spoken."
    He added: "Now it is up to us, here in the Parliament of Australia, to get on with it — to get on with the job the Australian people have tasked us to do, and get this done, this year, before Christmas."
    Dean Smith, a federal senator from the Liberal Party, who is gay, said that he would immediately introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. He said on Tuesday that he believed he had the votes to pass the legislation in the Senate and send it to Parliament's lower house for approval.
    Lyle Shelton, a Christian lobbyist who was the "no" campaign's most outspoken advocate, said he would begrudgingly "accept the democratic decision."
    "Millions of Australians will always believe the truth about marriage, that it's between one man and one woman," Mr. Shelton said. "It could take years, if not decades, to win that back."
    The record of subjecting same-sex marriage to a public vote remains mixed.
    In 2015, Ireland was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by referendum, but the same year, voters in Slovenia rejected a lawlegalizing such unions.
    In the United States, numerous states outlawed same-sex marriage in referendums; in 2012, Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to legalize such unions by referendum. The United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the nation in 2015.
    The survey in Australia was controversial, not only because it placed such a thorny issue at the whims of direct democracy but also because of its cost.
    As the deadline approached for citizens to mail in their ballots, passions were inflamed by heartfelt pleas and vitriolic attacks.
    Many supporters of same-sex marriage opposed the survey, saying that human rights should not be a matter for an up-or-down vote and urging Parliament to decide the matter.
    Estimates put the cost of the survey around 122 million Australian dollars, or $97 million. The poll was not a legally required step for changing the law.
    Activists in September challenged the survey's legality, arguing that it was an unconstitutional use of tax money, but Australia's High Court allowed the poll to proceed. In the end, the response rate was higher than supporters of same-sex marriage anticipated, showing both frustration with parliamentary inaction and the extent to which mainstream opinion has shifted in support of sexual minorities.
    Although legalization is not guaranteed, the results announced on Wednesday make the country's path to same-sex marriage much clearer.
    Mr. Greenwich said the outcome delivered "an unequivocal mandate for Parliament to legislate for this bill as soon as possible for a fair bill this year."
    Focus has already shifted to that bill, and what form it will take.
    "After a cost of 122 million, and over two months of campaigning and years of public discussion, it makes no sense to delay a parliamentary debate," Mr. Smith, the Liberal senator, said in an interview. "Australians upheld their end of the bargain by voting en masse. Now it's time for Parliament to uphold its end of the same deal."
    Mr. Smith's bill provides for some religious protections and allows members of the clergy to refuse to solemnize marriages that conflict with their beliefs.
    "That bill is obviously manifestly inadequate," said Mr. Shelton, the opponent of same-sex marriage, who added that it focused on wedding ceremonies. "The 'yes' side should make good on its promise that no one else's freedoms would be affected. They've maintained this all along. They've said that our concerns about freedom of speech and freedom of religion are red herrings."
    Mr. Shelton said Mr. Smith's bill would affect Muslim and Christian schools that wish to teach that marriage is between one man and one woman. "We're worried about bakers and florists being taken to court, as has occurred in the United States," he added.
    An alternative bill, proposed by another Liberal Party senator, James Paterson, has more robust religious protections. His bill would allow service providers like bakers and photographers to refuse service to same-sex couples, without facing legal action. His bill would provide additional anti-discrimination protections for religious people and businesses opposed to gay marriage. Reflecting the national debate that often centered on the well-being of children, Mr. Paterson's bill would allow parents the right to take their children out of classes that "conflict with their values."
    However, within hours of the survey's result being revealed, Mr. Paterson took to Facebook to announce that he would be working on Mr. Smith's bill.
    "It is clear the majority of senators believe my colleague Senator Dean Smith's bill is where we should start," Mr. Paterson wrote.
    In the dwindling days of the campaign — with "yes" looking more and more likely to prevail — many conservatives on the opposing side pushed for Mr. Paterson's bill, saying that it provided the best protections for free speech and religion. But Mr. Turnbull said he did not believe Mr. Paterson's bill could pass Parliament. "I don't believe Australians would welcome, and certainly the government would not countenance, making legal discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful, today."
    At least seven members of Australia's Parliament have publicly committed to voting against any bill to legalize same-sex marriage, according to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Most lawmakers, however, said they would support such a bill.
    "There's no denying that this has been tough for many people. This has been a campaign which has gone on for more than 10 years," said Mr. Greenwich, the same-sex marriage advocate. "This result is a reflection of the leadership that's been shown by everyday Australians during this campaign. It shows that Australians truly did have the opportunity to shape our nation as a fairer and more equal place."

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    2)  A Nearby Earth-Size Planet May Have Conditions for Life
     NOV. 15, 2017
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/science/planet-ross-128.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fus&action=click&contentCollection=us&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=sectionfront

    An artist's impression of a newly discovered planet and its red dwarf star, Ross 128. The planet, 11 light-years away, is roughly the size of Earth but closer to Ross 128 than our planet, or even Mercury, is to our sun. CreditM. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory


    There's a new place to look for life in the universe.
    Astronomers announced on Wednesday the discovery of an Earth-size planet around a small red star in our corner of the galaxy. The planet could hold liquid water and conditions favorable for life.
    The star, Ross 128, is not the closest with a planet similar in size to ours. That would be the sun's next door neighbor, Proxima Centauri, just 4.2 light-years away.
    And there appears to be just one planet orbiting Ross 128 — not the bounty of seven Earth-size planets that circle Trappist-1, a red dwarf about 40 light-years from here.
    But unlike those stars, Ross 128, about 11 light-years from Earth, appears to be a quiet, well-behaved star, without the violent eruptions of radiation that might wipe out any beginnings of life before they had a chance to take hold on the planet.

    "Those flares can sterilize the atmosphere of the planet," said Xavier Bonfils of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble, France, the lead author of a paper describing the planet. "Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of the neighborhood."
    The findings appear in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
    The astronomers did not directly see the planet but instead used a telescope in Chile to measure wobbles in the wavelengths of light coming from the star. The wobbles are caused by the gravitational pull of the unseen planet.
    The magnitude of the wobbles indicates that the planet is at least 1.35 times the mass of Earth but could easily be twice the mass of Earth.
    Astronomers' instruments are not yet sensitive enough to spot Earth-size planets in Earthlike orbits around stars similar to our sun. It is easier to detect Earth-size planets around dimmer and cooler stars known as red dwarfs, which are the most common type of star in the Milky Way.
    Astronomers have in the past couple of decades discovered an abundance of star-hugging planets, far different from anything in our solar system. The Ross 128 planet is only about 4.5 million miles from the star, much closer than the 93 million miles between Earth and the sun. Even Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system, is 36 million miles from the sun.
    If the newly discovered planet were the same distance from the red dwarf as Earth is from the sun, it would be frigid. But it is close enough to Ross 128 that it absorbs warmth sufficient for liquid water, one of the requisite ingredients for life, to potentially exist on the surface. (If anything, the planet may be too warm, more like the planet Venus.)
    Dr. Bonfils said Ross 128 appears to be at least 5 billion years old — older than our solar system — and perhaps as old as 10 billion years. The star may have been more turbulent in its youth. But even if solar flares billions of years ago stripped away the planet's atmosphere, it could have been replenished by gases emanating from the planet's interior, Dr. Bonfils said.
    Vladimir Airapetian, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., questioned whether Ross 128 would be such a benign star.
    "Even being quiet, its X-ray to extreme U.V. emission can be 10 times higher than that of the sun," said Dr. Airapetian. That amount of radiation might be enough to destroy the planet's atmosphere.
    In an Astrophysical Journal Letters article in February, he and his colleagues noted that radiation from red dwarf stars might strip oxygen from the atmospheres of nearby planets.
    William C. Danchi, also a Goddard astrophysicist and an author of that article, was more positive.
    "There is potential for an atmosphere and hence habitability, but it is highly uncertain," he said. "This is an important discovery and well worth many follow-up studies."
    The next generation of large terrestrial telescopes, with mirrors 100 feet or more in diameter, should be able to make out the planet circling Ross 128 and possibly identify specific molecules in its atmosphere.
    "It would be rather easy to search for oxygen in the atmosphere of such a planet," Dr. Bonfils said.

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    3)  Keystone Pipeline Leaks 210,000 Gallons of Oil in South Dakota
     NOV. 16, 2017
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/us/keystone-pipeline-leaks-south-dakota.html?_r=0


    About 5,000 barrels of oil, or about 210,000 gallons, gushed out of the Keystone Pipeline on Thursday in South Dakota, blackening a grassy field in the remote northeast part of the state and sending cleanup crews and emergency workers scrambling to the site.
    "This is not a little spill from any perspective," said Kim McIntosh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. No livestock or drinking water sources appeared to be threatened, Ms. McIntosh said, and no farm buildings or houses are within a mile.
    The spill, near Amherst, S.D., comes just days before regulators in neighboring Nebraska decide whether to grant the final permit needed to begin construction on a different pipeline proposal, the Keystone XL, which would be operated by the same company. An announcement in Nebraska is expected on Monday.
    The pipeline company, TransCanada, said in a statement that the South Dakota leak was detected around 6 a.m. local time on Thursday. The pipeline was shut down, and the cause of the leak was under investigation.
    "TransCanada appreciates the collaborative support of local officials, emergency response personnel and commissioners in Marshall County, as well as the landowner who has given permission to access land for assessment, identification and cleanup activities," the company said in its statement.
    A photo of the spill, which was posted to the company's Twitter account, showed a large, darkened area in a field. The Keystone Pipeline is part of a 2,687-mile system that carries crude oil from Alberta to several points in the United States, including Illinois and Oklahoma.
    A reporter for The Aberdeen American News at the scene of the spill said on Twitter that the area was blocked off by emergency vehicles.
    Opponents of Keystone XL, which is proposed to run about 1,100 miles and would become part of the Keystone system, quickly cited Thursday's spill as evidence of the risks posed by such pipelines, and urged Nebraska regulators to take note.
    "We've always said it's not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us," Kelly Martin of the Sierra Club said in a statement. "This is not the first time TransCanada's pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won't be the last."
    Keystone XL has the strong support of President Trump and most Republican politicians, but it has faced years of vocal opposition in Nebraska from some farmers and ranchers who worry that a spill could spoil their groundwater and decimate agricultural land.
    "That's our fear — that pipelines do leak," said Jeanne Crumly, whose farm near Page, Neb., is along the proposed Keystone XL route, after being told about the South Dakota spill.
    Ms. Crumly and about 90 other Nebraska landowners have not signed easements with TransCanada and have urged against issuing a permit for the project. Nebraska's Public Service Commission plans to announce on Monday morning whether it will approve the permit, the last major regulatory hurdle before construction on Keystone XL could begin.
    Thursday's episode is one of several major pipeline spills in recent years. More than a million gallons leaked from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010, and 50,000 gallons of oil gushed into the Yellowstone River in Montana in 2015, contaminating drinking water there.
    Oil pipelines have faced greater scrutiny since thousands of protesters gathered near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota last year to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. The site of Thursday's spill was near the boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe.
    Dave Flute, the tribal chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, said he was contacted early in the afternoon by emergency management services and told that there was a "substantial leak" in the pipeline.
    "We are monitoring the situation as this leak is adjacent to our reservation," Mr. Flute said in a statement. "We do not know the impact this has on our environment at this time but we are aware of the leak."
    Ms. McIntosh, the South Dakota environmental official, said that TransCanada employees and contractors were at the spill site and that soil cleanup workers were on the way. The state was overseeing the response.
    Ms. McIntosh said that the leak was "a large release" of oil, but that "the location of this is not in a sensitive area."
    "They've got a response plan that they kicked in right away," Ms. McIntosh said. "The area's very rural, which is very positive. There's no one nearby that is drinking any of the groundwater that may be impacted, so that's less of an issue."

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    4)  By Having the Washington R*dskins Host a Game on Thanksgiving, NFL Owners Show Their True Colors
    by Dave Zirin
    Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder speaks during a news conference in 2009.  (AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    This NFL season has blazed new political trails as players have used their platform to stand up to racism in the face of a ferocious backlash. It has truly been a season of firsts. But there is another "first" on the immediate horizon that speaks to the league's baldly reactionary history in regards to race.
    The NFL—for all their corporate rhetoric about being something that "brings the country together"—of course has a team named after a Native American racial slur in the nation's capital. That's not news. What is news is that on Thanksgiving, for the first time in league history, this team in Washington will be playing host. That means as we finish our food, slip into sweatpants, and to gather around the television to watch NFL football, a tradition only slightly less ubiquitous than pumpkin pie, the R*dskins slur— a name that exists only because of genocide and displacement—will have center stage.
    Not unlike Houston Texans owner Bob McNair saying that "the inmates are running the prison" as NFL players were speaking about criminal-justice reform, this raises irony to the level of obscenity, especially as owners, and their pizza-purveying sponsors, are trying to convince players and the public that they are enlightened about these issues. It's as if NFL owners, by having Washington host this game, are having their own private joke at the expense of the players, fans, and commentators who care about these issues. All the team would say to us at The Nation was, "The [R*dskins] are excited to host the first ever Thanksgiving game in Washington. We appreciate our fans spending their holiday with us, and we want to create new traditions and special experiences that [R*dskins] fans and families are sure to remember."
    To get an actual comment, I reached out to Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and spokesman for the Change the Mascot Campaign. He said, "Thanksgiving has long been a difficult day for many Native Americans, because the holiday story promoted in popular culture often omits the oppression, violence, and bloodshed that our people faced when Europeans migrated to this continent. Using the holiday to additionally promote the Washington team's derogatory name further marginalizes Native Americans—and tells people across the country that on this holiday it is perfectly acceptable to promote a painful racial slur. At a time when our political debate is so polarized and filled with invective, we should be able to agree that the NFL should not promoting a racial slur."
    The fact that this team is owned by Dan Snyder, who blocked with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in calls to crack down on players protesting racism during the anthem, and gave over a million dollars to the Trump inaugural committee, should not be lost in this discussion. Snyder has pledged to never change the team namewith a belligerence that mirrors his man in the White House. Snyder's refusal to meet with native leaders and his ignoring the laundry list of tribal governments and organizations who have called for it to change is also from the Trumpian textbook: creating a billionaire's echo chamber that permits only ideas that fluff the master. The same mendacious mentality that allows Snyder to deny that "redskin" is a racial slur is also the mindset that allowed him to say in an owners' meeting that "96 percent" of people oppose the player protests.
    I spoke to Suzan Shown Harjo, the Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee activist and president of the Morningstar Institute, who has led this fight to end racist mascotry for decades. She told me, "The owner of the Washington NFL franchise is such a hypocrite, pretending to take a knee with players regarding racism, while requiring his employees to commit acts of racism, stereotyping, and cultural appropriation against Native Peoples. The idea of him 'hosting' a Thanksgiving game is quite fitting, actually. It celebrates what the name, imagery, and behaviors associated with the team he owns also celebrate in history—a time when European and then American men skinned Native men, women, and children and produced them as 'proof of Indian kill' in order to collect bounties issued first by colonies and companies and then by states and territories. This grotesque practice still was in full swing when my grandmother was growing up, so I dispute anyone's argument that this was too long ago to be an ongoing injury or threat to my generation or the later ones. Slavery in the Americas spanned about the same time, yet few could honestly deny its present and lasting trauma. Hypocrisy, thy name is Snyder."
    In this season of racial dissent and dialogue over racism, the Washington team name has been erased from the discussion. Perhaps this Thanksgiving we can center it exactly where it belongs, and understand that a league that celebrates racial slurs can never be an engine for racial justice.

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    5) In Mocking Franken Over Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Trump Joins a Debate He Started
     NOV. 17, 2017
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/17/us/politics/trump-sexual-harassment-debate.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=
    Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


    WASHINGTON — Last fall, Donald J. Trump inadvertently touched off a national conversation about sexual harassment when a recording of him boasting about groping women was made public at the same time a succession of women came forward to assert that groping was something he did more than talk about.
    A year later, after a wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media, the discussion has come full circle with President Trump criticizing the latest politician exposed for sexual misconduct even as he continues to deny any of the accusations against him.
    In this case, Mr. Trump focused his Twitter-fueled mockery on a Democratic senator while largely avoiding a similar condemnation of a Republican Senate candidate facing far more allegations. The turn in the political dialogue threatened to transform a moment of cleansing debate about sexual harassment into another weapon in the war between the political parties, led by the president himself.
    Indeed, Republicans on Friday were more than happy to talk about Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, who apologized this week after a radio newscaster said he forcibly kissed her and posed for a photograph a decade ago appearing to fondle her breasts while she was sleeping. Democrats, for their part, sought to keep the focus on Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate in Alabama who has been accused of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple women going back even further, including one who was 14 at the time.
    But the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump's history would stay far away from discussing someone else's behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight. But as Mr. Trump has shown repeatedly during his 10-month presidency, he is rarely deterred by conventional political wisdom even as he leaves it to his staff to fend off the cries of hypocrisy.
    "Like everything else Trump touches, he hijacks it with his chronic dishonesty and childishness," said Mark Salter, a longtime adviser to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. "The intense, angry and largely ignorant tribalism afflicting our politics predates Trump's arrival on the scene. But he has infused it with a psychopath's inability to accept that social norms apply to him."
    White House aides labored on Friday to distinguish Mr. Trump's case from those of others, arguing that the president's conduct was not at issue because he won the election last year after voters had a chance to evaluate both the claims against him and his denials.
    "This was covered pretty extensively during the campaign," said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. "We addressed that then. The American people, I think, spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president."
    She added that Mr. Trump still maintained that the more than a dozen women who have said that he kissed or groped them against their will were all lying. And she acknowledged no double standard in the president chastising others for sexual misconduct.
    "Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't," she said. "I think that's a very clear distinction."
    But Democrats saw the distinction differently. Hillary Clinton said Mr. Franken's apology and call for an ethics committee investigation "is the kind of accountability I'm talking about — I don't hear that from Roy Moore or Donald Trump." Speaking with Rita Cosby on WABC Radio, Mrs. Clinton added, "Look at the contrast between Al Franken, accepting responsibility, apologizing, and Roy Moore and Donald Trump, who have done neither."
    For her own part, the sexual harassment conversation has been uncomfortable for Mrs. Clinton as well. Conservatives defending Mr. Moore point to various allegations made against Bill Clinton when he was president, including sexual assault, and even some liberals said they should rethink their defense of the 42nd president.
    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York who succeeded Mrs. Clinton in the Senate, told The New York Times on Thursday that in retrospect, Mr. Clinton should have resigned during the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal, which led to the president's impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate.
    That drew a sharp retort from Mrs. Clinton's longtime adviser, Philippe Reines. "Senate voted to keep POTUS WJC," he wrote on Twitter. "But not enough for you @SenGillibrand? Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons' endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite."
    Mr. Trump jumped into the sexual harassment debate about 10 p.m. on Thursday. "The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words," he wrote on Twitter, misspelling Frankenstein. "Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?"
    Mr. Trump has said nothing on Twitter about Mr. Moore, who has been abandoned by many national Republicans. When the allegations arose, Mr. Trump was in Asia and he had Ms. Sanders issue a statement saying he hoped that "if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside." Asked by reporters on Air Force One about the case, Mr. Trump said he did not know much about it and would comment once he returned to Washington.
    Since returning, however, he has said nothing, leaving it instead to Ms. Sanders. "The president certainly finds the allegations extremely troubling," she said on Friday, adding that it would be up to "the people in the state of Alabama" to decide "whether or not they support and vote for Roy Moore."
    Unlike her father, Ivanka Trump has not hesitated to condemn Mr. Moore. "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children," she said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. "I've yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts."
    Kellyanne Conway, the president's counselor, explained the president's decision to speak out about Mr. Franken and not Mr. Moore as a function of the news cycle. "Al Franken was a brand new news story yesterday and the president weighed in as he does on the news of the day, often enough," she said on Fox News. "The Roy Moore story is eight days old and the president put out a statement during his Asia trip on that."
    Other Republicans shook their heads. "It's surprising to me that he would draw attention to this given the conversation about him, even if it's all untrue," said Sara Fagen, a White House political director under President George W. Bush. "This is one you send your vice president on."
    The president's comment on Mr. Franken inevitably led television networks to replay his now infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, in which he was recorded saying that when he saw beautiful women, "I just start kissing them" and would try to "grab 'em" by their private parts. "And when you're a star, they let you do it," he said. "You can do anything."
    He apologized, saying those remarks did not reflect his real self, but later dismissed them as "locker room talk." A succession of women, however, accused him of grabbing their breasts, trying to put his hand up a skirt and other sexual misconduct. Mr. Trump called such claims "lies" but never followed up on his threat to sue them.
    And so the president's behavior has become wrapped up in the larger national conversation on women, power and sex that arguably started, in its current incarnation, with his campaign a year ago, a conversation that Ms. Sanders said "should be taken very seriously." But the nation's leader is a compromised figure when it comes to that discussion.
    "A president should be a step above in leading for the entire country," Ms. Fagen said. "When somebody is behaving in such a immoral way, a president should call them out. Trump's a unique case here. He's got his own issues with respect to this. He denies them all but he's got them."

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    6) C.E.O. of Puerto Rico Power Authority Resigns
     NOV. 17, 2017
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/17/us/prepa-ceo-resigns-puerto-rico.html?hp&action=
    click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=
    top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    Ricardo L. Ramos stepped down as chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority after weeks of outcry over a contract to restore service after Hurricane Maria. CreditAlvin Baez/Reuters


    SAN JUAN, P.R. — The chief executive of Puerto Rico's troubled public electric company stepped down on Friday amid a two-month island-wide blackout and weeks of bruising public outcry over a costly contract to restore service.
    The resignation of Ricardo L. Ramos, the chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as Prepa, was effective immediately.
    The governor, Ricardo A. Rosselló, told reporters that he accepted the resignation because Mr. Ramos had become a "distraction." A spokeswoman for Mr. Rosselló said the governor had not asked for Mr. Ramos to step down.
    "There is an investigation that we've called upon for the whole contracting situation," Mr. Rosselló said in an interview. "The truth of the matter is that this decision was taken with the best interests of the people of Puerto Rico."

    Mr. Ramos's resignation caps a yearslong saga of dysfunction and mismanagement at Prepa, which filed for bankruptcy in July. Mr. Ramos, an engineer, had been at the helm of the company for six months when Hurricane Maria destroyed the island's poorly maintained power grid on Sept. 20.
    He immediately came under withering criticism and congressional and federal review for awarding a $300 million contract to a small private company from Montana, Whitefish Energy Holdings, to help repair the grid. Prepa had agreed to pay $319 an hour for electrical linemen; the average salary in Puerto Rico for that work is $19 an hour. The authority later canceled the contract, even while defending it.
    Mr. Ramos faced a skeptical Senate hearing on Tuesday. Lawmakers were hesitant to approve the governor's request for $94 billion in aid while questions remained unanswered about the power grid contract. Mr. Ramos told lawmakers that there had been no kickbacks, but acknowledged that the company had long been rife with political patronage, and that up to half of the employees were the family members of politicians.
    Mr. Ramos has given various contradictory explanations for why he chose Whitefish over mutual aid agreements with other utility companies, which are customary after disasters.
    He told The New York Times last month that he preferred Whitefish because he expected the United States Army Corps of Engineers to pay the company, which meant the bankrupt utility would not have to front any of the money for repairs. Under mutual aid agreements, Prepa would have to pay for the work and then seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    "This is a cash flow problem for Prepa," he said.
    But Mr. Ramos told legislators on Tuesday that he went with the private company because he did not have the resources to find lodging for workers borrowed from other utilities. But emails released this week by the House Committee on Natural Resources show that Whitefish could not find housing, either.
    "There has to be some level of corruption. Otherwise, how can somebody be so incompetent?" said Ramon J. Cruz, a former member of Puerto Rico's energy commission who has been following the issue closely.
    It had been a rough week for Mr. Ramos.
    On Monday, The New York Times reported that some of the subcontractors Whitefish had hired to do the work — people Prepa could have hired itself — were earning just $42 an hour. At the Senate hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Ramos fended off accusations of price gouging.
    On Wednesday, Mr. Ramos and the governor proudly hailed an important milestone: The company had finally reached 50 percent of its power capacity. Minutes later, a key line failed, again plunging the northern half of the island into darkness. Another line failed on Thursday.
    Nearly two months after the storm, the grid is generating power at 45 percent of capacity. Most homes are without power and traffic lights remain out. Several hospitals are still running on generators and thousands of small businesses are closed.
    On Friday, a local newspaper reported that Mr. Ramos had hired a friend who was once implicated in a federal criminal case to help advise the company. Mr. Ramos posted a cheerful technical update in a video on Facebook defending the consultant, whom he described as an experienced electrical engineer. Twenty minutes later, the company announced that Mr. Ramos had quit.
    "It's shocking that it took so long," said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group that is investigating the contract. "And I also think it's critical that investigations continue, because it's not credible that Mr. Ramos was the only person involved in this."
    Prepa is the largest of Puerto Rico's many government enterprises, responsible for $9 billion of the government's $74 billion debt. It was also the first branch of the government to go broke, running out of cash in 2014. Since then, its lenders have kept it afloat with money to buy fuel and repay its older debts.
    The company provides free power to Puerto Rico's municipalities, in exchange for not having to pay local property taxes. For years it told investors the municipalities were paying cash for the power, creating the illusion that it had plenty of money to repay its bonds. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the disclosures as a possible securities fraud.

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    7) 'Gene Drives' Are Too Risky for Field Trials, Scientists Say
    By Carl Zimmer, November 16, 2017
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/science/gene-drives-crispr.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    The short-tailed weasel, or stoat, decimated native bird populations after it was introduced to New Zealand. Altering the genes of invasive animals might save threatened species, scientists said, but could also have devastating consequences. CreditDeAgostini, via Getty Images


    In 2013, scientists discovered a new way to precisely edit genes — technology called Crispr that raised all sorts of enticing possibilities. Scientists wondered if it might be used to fix hereditary diseases, for example, or to develop new crops.
    One of the more intriguing ideas came from Kevin M. Esvelt and his colleagues at Harvard University: Crispr, they suggested, could be used to save endangered wildlife from extinction by implanting a fertility-reducing gene in invasive animals — a so-called gene drive.
    When the genetically altered animals were released back into the wild, the fertility-reducing gene would spread through the population, eradicating the pests.
    The idea appealed to conservation biologists who had spent decades fighting a losing battle against exotic species. Some labs began running preliminary experiments. But now, three years later, Dr. Esvelt wishes he hadn't broached the idea.

    "I feel like I've blown it," Dr. Esvelt, now an assistant professor at M.I.T., said in an interview. Championing the notion was "an embarrassing mistake."
    His regret arises from a study that he and his colleagues published on Thursday on the preprint bioRxiv server.
    They created a detailed mathematical model describing what happens following the release of Crispr-altered organisms. And they discovered an unacceptable risk: Altered genes might spread to places where the species isn't invasive at all, but a well-established part of the ecosystem.
    Dr. Esvelt, who also is a co-author of a commentary on the study's implications in the journal PLOS Biology, and his colleagues still think it's worth investigating gene drives to save threatened species. But researchers will have to invent safer forms of the technology first.
    Dr. Esvelt and other researchers have also been investigating the possibility of using gene drives to eradicate diseases. The most advanced of these projects seeks to wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitoes. These projects are still viable but, Dr. Esvelt warned, scientists now must be mindful of just how powerful gene drives may become.
    "It's an important contribution," said John M. Marshall, a mathematical biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said of the new research. "A study like this is the beginning of a formal analysis we need."
    Crispr makes it possible to build molecules that can find a particular sequence of DNA inside a cell. The molecules then snip out the sequence, allowing it to be replaced by a different one.
    The technique might make it possible to introduce not just a gene engineered to reduce fertility in, say, an invasive weasel, but also the genes for the Crispr molecules themselves. Then the weasel would gene-edit itself.
    Weasels inheriting just one copy of the low-fertility gene would end up with two copies, which they'd pass down to offspring. Soon the whole population of invasive weasels would be producing fewer young, until eventually the population collapsed.
    Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, showed that the idea could really work by spreading a gene in fruit flies reared in the lab. Soon afterward, Dr. Esvelt's own team showed that the process could make certain genes more common in yeast.
    The National Academy of Sciences released a report on gene drives in 2016. While experts recognized a number of potential risks, they endorsed more research — possibly including "highly controlled field trials."
    So what exactly would happen if a gene drive were set loose in the wild? Dr. Esvelt collaborated with Charleston Noble, a graduate student at Harvard, and other colleagues to make an informed guess.
    The researchers created a detailed mathematical model that took into account how often Crispr fails to do its job and how often mutations arise that protect a target gene from editing, among many other factors.
    The model revealed that a gene drive would be remarkably aggressive. It would take relatively few engineered organisms to spread a new gene through much of a population. "It only takes a handful," said Dr. Esvelt.
    That aggressiveness might be good for eradicating an invasive weasel that couldn't be stopped by poison baits or hunting. But if a few engineered weasels managed to escape the local environment — or were intentionally taken somewhere else — they could easily spread the gene drive throughout the weasel's native habitat.
    That may well mean that experiments in the real world are just too risky right now.
    "The very idea of a field trial is that it's a trial that's confined to an area," Dr. Esvelt said. "Our model indicates that this is not the case."
    "The kind of gene drive that is invasive and self-propagating is in many ways the equivalent of an invasive species," he added.
    But safer forms of the technology might be able to attack species where they're invasive and not harm them elsewhere. In his own lab, Dr. Esvelt is investigating a gene drive that can self-destruct after several generations.
    Other researchers are trying to build gene drives that are tailored to invasive populations on islands but can't harm mainland relatives.
    "I would buy into that," said James P. Collins, an evolutionary ecologist at Arizona State University and co-chairman of the N.A.S. committee on gene drives. "Universal gene drives do have the downsides that these guys talk about."
    But when it comes to attempts to wipe out malaria, Dr. Esvelt draws a different conclusion from his data.
    While self-limiting gene drives might be easier to control, they may be too weak to affect vast mosquito populations. It might well be necessary to deploy a quickly spreading gene drive.
    Dr. Esvelt's study suggests that if one nation decided to release such genetically engineered mosquitoes, neighboring countries quickly would become part of the experiment — whether they liked it or not.
    International negotiations might be required before such genetically modified mosquitoes were set loose. "That's not a question for scientists to answer on their own," said Jason A. Delborne, a social scientist at North Carolina State University and a member of the N.A.S. gene drive committee.
    Yet Dr. Esvelt would be willing to take that leap. "I have two kids," he said. "If they lived in Africa, I would say do it."

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    8)  Pipeline protester speaks out for first time after nearly losing her arm
    By Melkorka Licea, November 18, 2017
    https://nypost.com/2017/11/18/pipeline-protestor-recalls-horror-of-nearly-losing-her-arm-in-clash-with-police/


    Sophia Wilansky says she was injured by a grenade while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.Annie Wermiel


    A year ago Tuesday, Sophia Wilansky stood on a bridge just outside the Dakota Access Pipeline encampment when she was flattened by a deafening explosion.
    She refused to look down at her left hand, because she could not feel it and feared it had been blown off.
    It became the emblematic moment of violence in the 10-month standoff between authorities and protestors, and it is not known if the metal shrapnel that tore through Sophia’s forearm came from a cop’s concussion grenade or a protester’s propane-tank bomb.
    Four surgeries later and still under FBI suspicion, the 22-year-old activist from Riverdale spoke publicly for the first time about the horror of Nov. 21, 2016.
    It was 4 a.m. and the Williams College theater grad and lawyer’s daughter was on guard duty at the Backwater Bridge near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. It was dark, and she was bundled up in a puffer jacket against the 20-degree temperature.
    She had volunteered, along with three others, to hold the ground in front of the span, which the protest army had cleared of police- and pipeline-company barricades earlier in the day.
    Suddenly a cop on a loudspeaker yelled, “Get away!”
    Instantly she was hit by three rubber bullets, in the groin, chest and left arm. She fumbled to pick up a plastic shield, but the onslaught escalated.
    “I heard a loud blast and was knocked to the ground,” said Wilansky. “I was in complete shock.”
    The explosion had ripped out the radius bone, muscle, nerves and arteries of her left arm, and her hand was hanging by a few threads of flesh.
    Her comrades scooped her up, carried her to their car and drove about 30 minutes to a waiting ambulance at a local casino.
    “It was the most painful thing I ever felt, but it didn’t make sense in that situation to freak out,” she said. “I just kept thinking about how I would soon be in a hospital with pain meds.”
    With her free hand, she texted friends and posted on Facebook.
    The post has since been taken down, and in the spring the FBI applied for a warrant to search her Facebook account as the feds sought evidence of Wilansky’s possible connection to homemade explosives, according to court documents unsealed last month.
    She has not been charged, and her lawyer says the probe is baseless.
    “It was intended to scare her and other [protesters] from speaking out about that incident,” said Lauren Regan, who heads the Civil Liberties Defense Center.
    Wilansky says she plans to sue to procure the shrapnel and clothing removed by surgeons and collected by the feds, in order to use the evidence in legal actions she will pursue against the law enforcement agencies she believes hurt her that day.
    The Morton County Sheriff’s Office denies using a concussion grenade or any explosive device that day.
    “Those are lethal devices and those are not even something [the department] ever had or has in its inventory,” said Morton County spokeswoman Maxine Herr. She said police fired sponge and bean-bag rounds and one stinger ball, which launches dozens of tiny rubber balls and gas.
    Police claim Wilansky and three others refused orders to emerge from behind a shield. Officers said they saw someone roll metal cylinders toward the protesters and three propane canisters were found where the explosion took place, Herr said.
    Wilansky’s injury was the most severe to result from the protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who feared the oil pipeline would pollute their drinking water and intrude on sacred grounds. The Obama administration temporarily halted the project, but it was completed under President Trump in June.
    Wilansky, who can no longer use her left hand and has very little feeling in her arm, vows to continue the fight against climate change and for the rights of indigenous people.
    “I will not let the threat of being injured or prosecuted deter me from standing up for what I believe in,” she declared.

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    9) When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work
    Twenty states suspend people’s professional or driver’s licenses if they fall behind on loan payments, according to records obtained by The New York Times.




    Debra Curry, a nurse in Georgia, fell behind on her student loan payments when she took time off to raise her six children. Her nursing license was briefly suspended. “It was traumatic,” she said. Now, she worries that her debt will again affect her ability to work. CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times


    Fall behind on your student loan payments, lose your job.
    Few people realize that the loans they take out to pay for their education could eventually derail their careers. But in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work.
    As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans. Going after professional licenses stands out as especially punitive.
    Firefighters, nurses, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists and real estate brokers have all had their credentials suspended or revoked.

    Determining the number of people who have lost their licenses is impossible because many state agencies and licensing boards don’t track the information. Public records requests by The New York Times identified at least 8,700 cases in which licenses were taken away or put at risk of suspension in recent years, although that tally almost certainly understates the true number.
    Shannon Otto, who lives in Nashville, can pinpoint the moment that she realized she wanted to be a nurse. She was 16, shadowing her aunt who worked in an emergency room. She gaped as a doctor used a hand crank to drill a hole into a patient’s skull. She wanted to be part of the action.
    It took years of school and thousands of dollars of loans, but she eventually landed her dream job, in Tennessee, a state facing a shortage of nurses.
    Then, after working for more than a decade, she started having epileptic seizures. They arrived without warning, in terrifying gusts. She couldn’t care for herself, let alone anyone else. Unable to work, she defaulted on her student loans.
    Ms. Otto eventually got her seizures under control, and prepared to go back to work and resume payments on her debt. But Tennessee’s Board of Nursing suspended her license after she defaulted. To get the license back, she said, she would have to pay more than $1,500. She couldn’t.
    “I absolutely loved my job, and it seems unbelievable that I can’t do it anymore,” Ms. Otto said.
    With student debt levels soaring — the loans are now the largest source of household debt outside of mortgages — so are defaults. Lenders have always pursued delinquent borrowers: by filing lawsuits, garnishing their wages, putting liens on their property and seizing tax refunds. Blocking licenses is a more aggressive weapon, and states are using it on behalf of themselves and the federal government.
    Proponents of the little-known state licensing laws say they are in taxpayers’ interest. Many student loans are backed by guarantees by the state or federal government, which foot the bills if borrowers default. Faced with losing their licenses, the reasoning goes, debtors will find the money.
    But critics from both parties say the laws shove some borrowers off a financial cliff.
    Tennessee is one of the most aggressive states at revoking licenses, the records show. From 2012 to 2017, officials reported more than 5,400 people to professional licensing agencies. Many — nobody knows how many — lost their licenses. Some, like Ms. Otto, lost their careers.
    “It’s an attention-getter,” said Peter Abernathy, chief aid and compliance officer for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, a state-run commission that is responsible for enforcing the law. “They made a promise to the federal government that they would repay these funds. This is the last resort to get them back into payment.”
    In Louisiana, the nursing board notified 87 nurses last year that their student loans were in default and that their licenses would not be renewed until they became current on their payments.
    Eighty-four paid their debts. The three who did not are now unable to work in the field, according to a report published by the nursing board.
    “It’s like shooting yourself in the foot, to take away the only way for these people to get back on track,” said Daniel Zolnikov, a Republican state representative in Montana.
    People who don’t pay their loans back are punished “with credit scores dropping, being traced by collection agencies, just having liens,” he said. “The free market has a solution to this already. What is the state doing with this hammer?”
    In 2015, Mr. Zolnikov co-sponsored a bill with Representative Moffie Funk, a Democrat, that stopped Montana from revoking licenses for people with unpaid student debt — a rare instance of bipartisanship.
    The government’s interest in compelling student borrowers to pay back their debts has its roots in a policy adopted more than 50 years ago.
    In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Higher Education Act, which created financial aid programs for college-bound students. To entice banks to make student loans, the government offered them insurance: If a borrower defaulted, it would step in and pick up the tab. The federal government relied on a network of state agencies to administer the program and pursue delinquent borrowers. (Since 2010, the federal government has directly funded all student loans, instead of relying on banks.)
    By the late 1980s, the government’s losses climbed past $1 billion a year, and state agencies started experimenting with aggressive collection tactics. Some states garnished wages. Others put liens on borrowers’ cars and houses. Texas and Illinois stopped renewing professional licenses of those with unresolved debts.
    The federal Department of Education urged other states to act similarly. “Deny professional licenses to defaulters until they take steps to repayment,” the department urged in 1990.
    Two years ago, South Dakota ordered officials to withhold various licenses from people who owe the state money. Nearly 1,000 residents are barred from holding driver’s licenses because of debts owed to state universities, and 1,500 people are prohibited from getting hunting, fishing and camping permits.
    “It’s been quite successful,” said Nathan Sanderson, the director of policy and operations for Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The state’s debt collection center — which pursues various debts, including overdue taxes and fines — has brought in $3.3 million since it opened last year. Much of that has flowed back to strapped towns and counties.
    But Jeff Barth, a commissioner in South Dakota’s Minnehaha County, said that the laws were shortsighted and that it was “better to have people gainfully employed.”
    In a state with little public transit, people who lose their driver’s licenses often can’t get to work.
    “I don’t like people skipping out on their debts,” Mr. Barth said, “but the state is taking a pound of flesh.”
    Mr. Sanderson countered that people did not have to pay off their debt to regain their licenses — entering into a payment plan was enough.
    But those payment plans can be beyond some borrowers’ means.
    Tabitha McArdle earned $48,000 when she started out as a teacher in Houston. A single mother, she couldn’t keep up with her monthly $800 student loan payments. In March, the Texas Education Agency put her on a list of 390 teachers whose certifications cannot be renewed until they make steady payments. She now has no license.
    Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who has worked to overturn these laws, called them “tantamount to modern-day debtors’ prison.”
    States differ in their rules and enforcement mechanisms. Some, like Tennessee, carefully track how many borrowers are affected, but others do not keep even informal tallies.
    In Kentucky, the Higher Education Assistance Authority is responsible for notifying licensing boards when borrowers default. The agency has no master list of how many people it has reported, according to Melissa F. Justice, a lawyer for the agency.
    But when the agency sends out default notifications, licensing boards take action. A public records request to the state’s nursing board revealed that the licenses of at least 308 nurses in Kentucky had been revoked or flagged for review.
    In some states, the laws are unused. Hawaii has a broad statute, enacted in 2002, that allows it to suspend vocational licenses if the borrower defaults on a student loan. But the state’s licensing board has never done so, said William Nhieu, a spokesman for Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, because no state or federal student loan agencies have given it the names of delinquent borrowers.
    Officials from Alaska, Iowa, Massachusetts and Washington also said their laws were not being used. Oklahoma and New Jersey eliminated or defanged their laws last year, with bipartisan support.
    But in places where the laws remain active, they haunt people struggling to pay back loans.
    Debra Curry, a nurse in Georgia, fell behind on her student loan payments when she took a decade off from work to raise her six children. In 2015, after two years back on the job, she received a letter saying that her nursing license would be suspended unless she contacted the state to set up a payment plan.
    Ms. Curry, 58, responded to the notice immediately, but state officials terminated her license anyway — a mistake, she was told. It took a week to get it reinstated.
    “It was traumatic,” Ms. Curry said. She now pays about $1,500 each month to her creditors, nearly half her paycheck. She said she worried that her debt would again threaten her ability to work.
    “I really do want to pay the loans back,” she said. “How do you think I’m going to be able to pay it back if I don’t have a job?”
    Bonnie Weinstein
     San Francisco 1 minute ago
    The real truth is that student loans are taken because ordinary working people can't afford to pay for higher education. It's too expensive. But the idea of the "American Dream", i.e., "go to college, earn a degree or two, and you, too, can earn enough to live comfortably while paying back your student loans." That dream was a giant lie. It's especially difficult for single parents, especially women, who only earn 2/3rd of what men earn in the workplace, to be in a position to pay back student loans. That's why young people today are demanding free education and healthcare for all. The U.S. is the richest country in the world but it can't support free education and healthcare that even Cuba, one of the poorest countries in the world (due mainly to the U.S. embargo against it) can afford to do—to supply excellent free healthcare and education to all its citizens and even offers it to students from other countries who go there to study! Go figure!
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/18/business/student-loans-licenses.html?comments#permid=24898527


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    10)  Six Years After Fukushima, Robots Finally Find Reactors’ Melted Uranium Fuel
    The Japanese government and companies used radiation-hardened machines to search for the fuel that escaped the plant’s ruined reactors.
    The Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima plant, whose top was blown away when it melted down on March 11, 2011. CreditKo Sasaki for The New York Times

    FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT, Japan — Four engineers hunched before a bank of monitors, one holding what looked like a game controller. They had spent a month training for what they were about to do: pilot a small robot into the contaminated heart of the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant.
    Earlier robots had failed, getting caught on debris or suffering circuit malfunctions from excess radiation. But the newer version, called the Mini-Manbo, or “little sunfish,” was made of radiation-hardened materials with a sensor to help it avoid dangerous hot spots in the plant’s flooded reactor buildings.
    The size of a shoe box, the Manbo used tiny propellers to hover and glide through water in a manner similar to an aerial drone.
    After three days of carefully navigating through a shattered reactor building, the Manbo finally reached the heavily damaged Unit 3 reactor. There, the robot beamed back video of a gaping hole at the bottom of the reactor and, on the floor beneath it, clumps of what looked like solidified lava: the first images ever taken of the plant’s melted uranium fuel.
    The discovery in July at Unit 3, and similar successes this year in locating the fuel of the plant’s other two ruined reactors, mark what Japanese officials hope will prove to be a turning point in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.
    The fate of the fuel had been one of the most enduring mysteries of the catastrophe, which occurred on March 11, 2011, when an earthquake and 50-foot tsunami knocked out vital cooling systems here at the plant.
    Left to overheat, three of the six reactors melted down. Their uranium fuel rods liquefied like candle wax, dripping to the bottom of the reactor vessels in a molten mass hot enough to burn through the steel walls and even penetrate the concrete floors below.
    No one knew for sure exactly how far those molten fuel cores had traveled before desperate plant workers — later celebrated as the “Fukushima Fifty” — were able to cool them again by pumping water into the reactor buildings. With radiation levels so high, the fate of the fuel remained unknown.
    As officials became more confident about managing the disaster, they began a search for the missing fuel. Scientists and engineers built radiation-resistant robots like the Manbo and a device like a huge X-ray machine that uses exotic space particles called muons to see the reactors’ innards.
    Now that engineers say they have found the fuel, officials of the government and the utility that runs the plant hope to sway public opinion. Six and a half years after the accident spewed radiation over northern Japan, and at one point seemed to endanger Tokyo, the officials hope to persuade a skeptical world that the plant has moved out of post-disaster crisis mode and into something much less threatening: cleanup.
    “Until now, we didn’t know exactly where the fuel was, or what it looked like,” said Takahiro Kimoto, a general manager in the nuclear power division of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco. “Now that we have seen it, we can make plans to retrieve it.”
    Tepco is keen to portray the plant as one big industrial cleanup site. About 7,000 people work here, building new water storage tanks, moving radioactive debris to a new disposal site, and erecting enormous scaffoldings over reactor buildings torn apart by the huge hydrogen explosions that occurred during the accident.
    Access to the plant is easier than it was just a year ago, when visitors still had to change into special protective clothing. These days, workers and visitors can move about all but the most dangerous areas in street clothes.
    A Tepco guide explained this was because the central plant grounds had been deforested and paved over, sealing in contaminated soil.
    During a recent visit, the mood within the plant was noticeably more relaxed, though movements were still tightly controlled and everyone was required to wear radiation-measuring badges. Inside a “resting building,” workers ate in a large cafeteria and bought snacks in a convenience store.
    At the plant’s entrance, a sign warned: “Games like Pokemon GO are forbidden within the facility.”
    “We have finished the debris cleanup and gotten the plant under control,” said the guide, Daisuke Hirose, a spokesman for Tepco’s subsidiary in charge of decommissioning the plant. “Now, we are finally preparing for decommissioning.”
    In September, the prime minister’s office set a target date of 2021 — the 10th anniversary of the disaster — for the next significant stage, when workers begin extracting the melted fuel from at least one of the three destroyed reactors, though they have yet to choose which one.
    The government admits that cleaning up the plant will take at least another three to four decades and tens of billions of dollars. A $100 million research center has been built nearby to help scientists and engineers develop a new generation of robots to enter the reactor buildings and scoop up the melted fuel.
    At Chernobyl, the Soviets simply entombed the charred reactor in concrete after the deadly 1986 accident. But Japan has pledged to dismantle the Fukushima plant and decontaminate the surrounding countryside, which was home to about 160,000 people who were evacuated after accident.
    Many of them have been allowed to return as the rural towns around the plant have been decontaminated. But without at least starting a cleanup of the plant itself, officials admit they will find it difficult to convince the public that the accident is truly over.
    They also hope that beginning the cleanup will help them win the public’s consent to restart Japan’s undamaged nuclear plants, most of which remain shut down since the disaster.
    Tepco and the government are treading cautiously to avoid further mishaps that could raise doubts that the plant is under control.
    “They are being very methodical — too slow, some would say — in making a careful effort to avoid any missteps or nasty surprises,” said David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who was a co-author of a book on the disaster.
    “They want to regain trust. They have learned that trust can be lost much quicker than it can be recovered.”
    To show the course followed by the Manbo, Tepco’s Mr. Hirose guided me inside the building containing the undamaged Unit 5 reactor, which is structurally the same as two of the destroyed reactors.
    Mr. Hirose pointed toward the spot on a narrow access ramp where two robots, including one that looked like a scorpion, got tangled in February by debris inside the ruined Unit 2.
    Before engineers could free the scorpion, its monitoring screen faded to black as its electronic components were overcome by radiation, which Tepco said reached levels of 70 sieverts per hour. (A dose of one sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness in a human.)
    Mr. Hirose then led me underneath the reactor, onto what is called the pedestal.
    The bottom of the reactor looked like a collection of huge bolts — the access points for control rods used to speed up and slow down the nuclear reaction inside a healthy reactor. The pedestal was just a metal grating, with the building’s concrete floor visible below.
    “The overheated fuel would have dropped from here, and melted through the grating around here,” Mr. Hirose said, as we squatted to avoid banging our heads on the reactor bottom. The entire area around the reactor was dark, and cluttered with pipes and machinery.
    To avoid getting entangled, the Manbo took three days to travel some 20 feet to the bottom of Unit 3.
    To examine the other two reactors, engineers built a “snake” robot that could thread its way through wreckage, and the imaging device using muons, which can pass through most matter. The muon device has produced crude, ghostly images of the reactors’ interiors.
    Extracting the melted fuel will present its own set of technical challenges, and risks.
    Engineers are developing the new radiation-resistant robots at the Naraha Remote Technology Development Center. It includes a hangar-sized building to hold full-scale mock-ups of the plant and a virtual-reality room that simulates the interiors of the reactor buildings, including locations of known debris.
    “I’ve been a robotic engineer for 30 years, and we’ve never faced anything as hard as this,” said Shinji Kawatsuma, director of research and development at the center. “This is a divine mission for Japan’s robot engineers.”

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