Friday, December 19, 2014

BAUAW NEWSLETTER: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2014

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Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:

A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS

B. ARTICLES IN FULL




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A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS



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Cops vs Free Speech
How police are threatening Mumia, convicts, teachers, and all of us with censorship as well as bullets!



• The New “gag” law in Pennsylvania that seeks to silence prisoners. This law, cobbled together in days following Mumia’s recorded presentation to a commencement ceremony at Goddard College, was explicitly designed to “shut him up.” The targets of this blatantly unconstitutional law, however, include all prisoners convicted of violent crimes!

• A Law Suit has been filed to stop the “gag” law from being implemented!  Support for this effort is critical. Donations will go toward the fight against the “gag” law.

• The  suppression of the “Urban Dreams” web site by the Oakland School Board. This teacher-created site of voluntary curriculum ideas included one comparing the suppression of Mumia’s commentaries with censorship of Martin Luther King’s later writings. While the Superintendent of Schools has now promised to restore the site, we must remain vigilant!

• Both of these measures—the “gag” law in Pennsylvania, and the suppression of the Urban Dreams website—were taken at the behest of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)!  The FOP is a highly politicized organization which seeks to silence social critics such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, and dictate the curricula in schools! The FOP and Democrat/Republican politicians will continue their attempts at intimidation and suppression, unless we act!

• Ferguson shows that black and Latino youth particularly are threatened by militarized and politicized police who shoot first and ask questions later, and frame their targets for crimes they didn’t commit. Chief targets have included Native American Activists like Leonard Peltier, militant working-class activists, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Black Panthers and Martin Luther King. Mumia is currently a top target to silence.  But anyone and everyone can be on their enemies list, and in their cross-hairs!  Fight back now!

Donate Now
to fight the “gag” law!
go to:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/protect-freedom-of-speech-keep-mumia-on-the-air

The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222  •  Oakland CA  •  510.763.2347
www.laboractionmumia.org

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Support Prison Radio

$35 is the yearly membership.

$50 will get you a beautiful tote bag (you can special order a yoga mat bag, just call us).

$100 will get the DVD "Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary"

$300 will bring one essay to the airwaves.

$1000 (or $88.83 per month) will make you a member of our Prison Radio Freedom Circle. Take a moment and Support Prison Radio

Luchando por la justicia y la libertad,

Noelle Hanrahan, Director, Prison Radio

PRISON RADIO

P.O. Box 411074 San Francisco, CA 94141

www.prisonradio.org
info@prisonradio.org 415-706-5222

Pennsylvania legislators are trying to stop prisoners from speaking about their ideas and experiences. Last week, PA Representative Mike Vereb introduced a bill (HB2533) called the “Revictimization Relief Act,” which would allow victims, District Attorneys, and the Attorney General to sue people who have been convicted of “personal injury” crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime “mental anguish.”

The bill was written in response to political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s commencement speech at Goddard College, and is a clear attempt to silence Mumia and other prisoners and formerly incarcerated people. We believe that this legislation is not actually an attempt to help victims, but a cynical move by legislators to stop people in prison from speaking out against an unjust system.

While to us this seems like a clear violation of the first amendment, unfortunately the PA General Assembly doesn’t appear to agree, and they have fast-tracked the bill for approval and amended another bill (SB508) to include the same language. The legislation could be voted on as early as Wednesday.

If this bill passes, it will be a huge blow to the movement against mass incarceration. People inside prisons play a leading role in these struggles, and their perspectives, analysis, and strategies are essential to our work. Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people who write books, contribute to newspapers, or even write for our Voices from the Inside section would run the risk of legal consequences just for sharing their ideas.

That’s why we are asking you to take action TUESDAY OCTOBER 14 by calling Pennsylvania lawmakers to tell them that prisoners should not be denied the right to speak.

Please call your legislators and demand that they vote NO on HB2533 and SB508. You can look up contact information at http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/.

We are also asking folks to call the following Senate leaders and ask them to stop the bill from moving forward:

Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne  (717) 787-1349

Senate Minority Whip Anthony Williams  (717) 787-5970

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi  (717) 787-4712

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (717) 787-7683

Not sure what to say on the phone? Click here for a sample call script.

Want to write a letter to your legislators, or looking for more talking points? Click here for more info!

- See more at: http://decarceratepa.info/freespeech#sthash.TtdN3AkI.dpuf


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COURAGE TO RESIST
http://couragetoresist.org/

New Action- write letters to DoD officials requesting clemency for Chelsea!

November 24, 2014 by the Chelsea Manning Support Network
mchugh_md
Secretary of the Army John McHugh
President Obama has delegated review of Chelsea Manning’s clemency appeal to individuals within the Department of Defense.
Please write them to express your support for heroic WikiLeaks’ whistle-blower former US Army intelligence analyst PFC Chelsea Manning’s release from military prison.
It is important that each of these authorities realize the wide support that Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning enjoys worldwide. They need to be reminded that millions understand that Manning is a political prisoner, imprisoned for following her conscience. While it is highly unlikely that any of these individuals would independently move to release Manning, a reduction in Manning’s outrageous 35-year prison sentence is a possibility at this stage.
Take action TODAY – Write letters supporting Chelsea’s clemency petition to the following DoD authorities:
Secretary of the Army John McHugh
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0101
The Judge Advocate General
2200 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-2200
Army Clemency and Parole Board
251 18th St, Suite 385
Arlington, VA 22202-3532
Directorate of Inmate Administration
Attn: Boards Branch
U.S. Disciplinary Barracks
1301 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304
Suggestions for letters send to DoD officials:
  • The letter should focus on your support for Chelsea Manning, and especially why you believe justice will be served if Chelsea Manning’s sentence is reduced.  The letter should NOT be anti-military as this will be unlikely to help
  • A suggested message: “Chelsea Manning has been punished enough for violating military regulations in the course of being true to her conscience.  I urge you to use your authorityto reduce Pvt. Manning’s sentence to time served.”  Beyond that general message, feel free to personalize the details as to why you believe Chelsea deserves clemency.
  • Consider composing your letter on personalized letterhead -you can create this yourself (here are templates and some tips for doing that).
  • A comment on this post will NOT be seen by DoD authorities–please send your letters to the addresses above
This clemency petition is separate from Chelsea Manning’s upcoming appeal before the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals next year, where Manning’s new attorney Nancy Hollander will have an opportunity to highlight the prosecution’s—and the trial judge’s—misconduct during last year’s trial at Ft. Meade, Maryland.
Help us continue to cover 100% of Chelsea’s legal fees at this critical stage!
> > > Please donate today! < < <




Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave. #41
 Oakland, CA 94610
510-488-3559
couragetoresist.org

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B. ARTICLES IN FULL




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1) U.S. and Cuba, in Breakthrough, Will Resume Diplomatic Relations


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2) End Solitary Confinement for Teenagers


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3) U.S. Wealth Gap Is Widest in at Least 30 Years, Study Finds
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/business/economy/us-wealth-gap-widest-in-at-least-30-years-pew-study-says.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

The wealthy are getting wealthier. As for everyone else, no such luck.

A report released on Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that the wealth gap between the country’s top earners and the rest of America had stretched to its widest point in at least three decades.

Last year, the median net worth of upper-income families reached $639,400, nearly seven times as much of those in the middle, and nearly 70 times the level of those at the bottom of the income ladder.

There has been growing attention to the issue of income inequality, particularly the plight of those earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.Although income and wealth are related (the more you make, the more you can save), the wealth gap zeros in on a different aspect of financial well-being: how much money and other assets you have accumulated over time, including the value of your home and car plus any stocks and bonds. Think of it as “a measure of the family ‘nest egg,'” as Pew calls it — a hoard that can sustain a household during an emergency, like the loss of a job, and in the long run can see someone through retirement.

While those at the top have managed to recoup some of the wealth lost during the financial crisis, middle-income families have not made any gains.

“The Great Recession destroyed a significant amount of middle-income and lower-income families’ wealth, and the economic ‘recovery’ has yet to be felt for them,” the report concluded.

Pew, which used data from the Federal Reserve, defined middle income as $44,000 a year for a family of four, while a yearly income of $132,000 for the same-size family pushed a household into the upper ranks. About one in five families qualifies for that higher status, while 46 percent occupy the middle range.

The median household net worth last year for those in the middle was $96,500, only slightly above the $94,300 mark it hit in 1983 (after being adjusted for inflation). A poor household actually had a higher median net worth 30 years ago ($11,400 in 1983) than it counted last year ($9,300).

Compare those results with the top fifth of income earners. In 1983, when the Fed began collecting the data, that group had a median wealth of $318,000; in 2013 it owned more than twice that.

Other economists have traced the growing wealth gap to a much narrower slice of the population. In a working paper recently released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman argued, “The rise in wealth inequality is almost entirely due to the rise of the top 0.1 percent wealth share, from 7 percent in 1979 to 22 percent in 2012.” The share of wealth controlled by the bottom 90 percent of Americans, they concluded, has steadily declined since the mid-1980s.

The report on Wednesday is the second in a week from Pew detailing how different groups of Americans are faring financially more than five years after the recession ended. The earlier study found a growing racial and ethnic wealth gap, with whites registering a median wealth of nearly $142,000, 13 times the net worth of blacks and 10 times that of Hispanics.

The latest report highlights how the fortunes of the middle class have eroded. And the results, the report said, “could help explain why, by other measures, the majority of Americans are not feeling the impact of the economic recovery, despite an improvement in the unemployment rate, stock market and housing prices.”

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4) Panel to Set Terms to End Abusive Reign at Los Angeles County Jail System

 



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5) As Havana Celebrates Historic Shift, Economic and Political Hopes Rise


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6) How the High Cost of Medical Care Is Affecting Americans
  • A bill of over $40,000 for the 20 minutes it took a doctor to stitch a cut.
  • An ambulance ride of only 200 feet that cost $3,421.
  • A healthy, insured couple “slowly going under” because their premiums, co-pays and deductibles are now twice as high as their mortgage and food costs.
Over the past two years, the New York Times series Paying Till It Hurts has examined the high costs of ordinary medical care in the United States, exposing the reasons and chronicling the human fallout behind the nation’s extraordinary $2.9 trillion medical bill. In response, more than 10,000 readers shared individual experiences like the ones above.

But how does a collection of often heartbreaking, often startling tales reflect national experiences and attitudes? The available data did not answer all of my questions. So, using reader comments as a starting point, The Times designed a questionnaire with CBS News and conducted a national poll this month.

Here is a snapshot of the American experience with the cost of medical care.

Affording medical care is more of a hardship.

Reader comments and emails told of the increasing burden of health care costs on many Americans. T.R. Ellis, a freelancer in New York who has two healthy teenage daughters, wrote that the relentless rise of premiums has forced the family into a high-deductible plan, adding “For the first time, I will be paying medical bills by borrowing against our home.”.

The poll bore out readers’ experiences: Nearly half of respondents described the affordability of basic medical care as a hardship for them and their family, up 10 points from a year ago. While the Affordable Care Act has expanded insurance to millions of Americans, including those with existing conditions, it does not directly address cost. And cost is becoming increasingly problematic.

Out-of-pocket expenses have gone up.

Many readers, even those with good insurance coverage, were surprised by rising out-of-pocket expenses. Tina H. relayed how having her son’s broken arm set in a temporary splint in an emergency room this year “cost us $3,500 out-of-pocket, even with decent insurance.” The poll found that just more than half of Americans say the amount of money they and their family have paid out of pocket for health care and prescription drugs has gone up over the past few years, and about a third of Americans said they have gone up a lot.

Why? Partly because newer insurance plans — including policies under the Affordable Care Act — are designed to make sure patients have “more skin in the game,” so they will be more discriminating users of health care. Fixed co-pays, say $20 for a visit to a doctor, are being replaced by requirements that patients contribute a percentage of charges, which often ends up costing them far more.

Some Americans are less likely to get treatment because of cost.

Many readers wrote that they were avoiding attending to medical conditions or symptoms because they could not afford treatment or were worried about potential costs, even if they had insurance. “My employer-paid plan has a $5K deductible, so I don’t get medical services if I can help it,” said Ed, 61, from Winston-Salem, N.C. “I forgo blood pressure meds and colonoscopy,” he continued, even though his last test found polyps that should be monitored. While the Affordable Care Act mandates the coverage of certain screening services at no cost to patients, any resulting treatment means money out of pocket.

Americans wish their doctors would discuss costs.

Although doctors in many other countries post price lists in their offices, talking about money upfront is traditionally taboo in American health care, and many readers complained about being unable to discuss the issue with their doctors. Physicians say they are unprepared for the discussion and do not know how much treatments cost anyway, in part because of the uncertainties of insurance reimbursement.

But many patients say they need the information in order to manage health expenses. Here is what one reader from Atchison, Kan., had to say: “Even when I have asked a straightforward question like, ‘What is your standard cost for an initial office visit?' doctor’s offices have simply refused to comment. It is completely impossible for a medical consumer in this country to have any information at all until the bill is received.”

Insurance paperwork is a problem for many Americans.

As I interviewed patients for the series and requested bills and insurance statements, the burdens created by America’s medical billing system came up again and again. One patient, an attorney, said he had to take three days off from work to navigate bills after a two-day hospital stay. Visiting patients in their homes, I saw shelves containing binders brimming with bills and payment plans after only minor illnesses.

One reader, Aaron Bassett of Laconia, N.H., relayed his tradition during his wife’s pregnancy: “Once a week I have to spread out all the bills we’ve received on the dining room table and try to cross reference them with the health insurance paperwork” to determine which ones to pay.

Americans are eager for relief.

There seems to be widespread agreement that medical prices are burdensome for American patients, and new solutions are needed. But will the answer be a market-based approach involving greater price transparency? More regulation, focusing on price? A government-sponsored single-payer health system, like that in Canada? Or allowing younger people to join Medicare, the popular health insurance program for seniors? Many readers surprised me by saying they could not wait to turn 65. As one reader from Texas said: “I bought medicine in Mexico for 23 years before I became eligible for the promised land of Medicare.”


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7) South Carolina Judge Vacates Conviction of George Stinney in 1944 Execution
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/us/judge-vacates-conviction-in-1944-execution.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=mini-moth&region=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below

Calling it a “great and fundamental injustice,” a South Carolina judge on Wednesday vacated the 1944 murder conviction of 14-year-old George J. Stinney Jr., the youngest person executed in the United States in the last century.

Judge Carmen T. Mullen of Circuit Court did not rule that the conviction of Mr. Stinney for the murder of two white girls in the town of Alcolu was wrong on the merits. She did find, however, that the prosecution had failed in numerous ways to safeguard the constitutional rights of Mr. Stinney, who was black, from the time he was taken into custody until his death by electrocution.

The all-white jury could not be considered a jury of the teenager’s peers, Judge Mullen ruled, and his court-appointed attorney did “little to nothing” to defend him. His confession was most likely coerced and unreliable, she added, “due to the power differential between his position as a 14-year-old black male apprehended and questioned by white, uniformed law enforcement in a small, segregated mill town in South Carolina.”

The order was a rare application of coram nobis, a legal remedy that can be used only when a conviction was based on an error of fact or unfairly obtained in a fundamental way and when all other remedies have been exhausted.

“I am not aware of any case where someone who was convicted has had the trial conviction and sentence vacated after they’d been executed,” said Miller W. Shealy Jr., a professor at the Charleston School of Law and one of the lawyers who worked on behalf of the Stinney family to have the conviction thrown out.

Ernest A. Finney III, the solicitor who had opposed the request on the state’s behalf — and a son of the first black State Supreme Court justice since Reconstruction — had argued in a two-day hearing in January that the conviction was valid under the legal system in place at the time. He did not return calls for comment.

At the hearing, in Sumter, Mr. Stinney’s two sisters testified, and a videotaped deposition from his brother was played. They spoke of the morning in March 1944 when the two girls, Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 7, were seen riding bicycles by the pastures in rural Alcolu. The girls’ bodies were found the next morning in a ditch, their skulls crushed. Mr. Stinney was taken into custody within hours, and confessed to the murders that day.Two white men who had helped search for the girls also testified, and a cellmate of Mr. Stinney’s recounted conversations in which Mr. Stinney said he was innocent and had been made to confess. Less than three months passed between the murder and the execution; the trial and sentencing took less than a day.

Some of the problems of due process highlighted in the ruling were not rare in the Jim Crow South. Still, Mr. Shealy cautioned that this case was exceptional, due in part to Mr. Stinney’s age. Judge Mullen also emphasized that it should not become a standard resort for families grieving over decades-old injustices.

“The extraordinary circumstances discussed herein simply do not apply in most cases,” she wrote.

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8) Snow Is Down and Heat Is Up in the Arctic, Report Says


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9) U.S. Frees Last of the ‘Cuban Five,’ Part of a 1990s Spy Ring


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10) Judge Sits Out Decision on Eric Garner Transcripts


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11) Why Are Our Schools Still Segregated?


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12)  Contesting Traffic Fines, Missouri Sues 13 Suburbs of St. Louis


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