Saturday, May 23, 2009



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:

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SF Single Payer Rally - Friday, Noon, May 29
Put Single Payer on the Table for Discussion
Support HR 676
List of 32 national rallies plus Healthcare Now news.

Dear Single Payer Healthcare Activist,
We invite you to help build and attend our May 29 rally at the SF Federal Building. The noon rally will be at 450 Golden Gate. We will be demanding that Congress Member Nancy Pelosi foster a discussion on the single payer legislation, HR 676, the US National Healthcare Act. Our rally will be one of over 30 national rallies. See list below.
We also need help calling our phone tree and sending out a mailing for this event. The mailing party will be held at the home of Susan Cieutat at 531 Grove St. in San Francisco. We will send out the mail on Thursday, May 21 between 2pm and 10pm, and on Friday, May 22 from 11am to 9pm.
Below is the latest alert from Healthcare Now. It contains information on national single payer events. I encourage you to join their action alert list at
Please let us know if you can attend the rally, help with our mailing party, or help call our phone tree.

___ I plan to attend the May 29th noon rally in San Francisco.
___ I can help call our phone tree.
___ I can attend the mailing party on Thurs., May 21 between 2pm and 10pm.
___ I can attend the mailing party on Friday, May 22 between 11 and 9pm.
___ I have forwarded this message.

Thank you.
Don Bechler

Rally for Healthcare Minus the Insurance Companies
Tell Congress Member Nancy Pelosi to:
Put Single Payer Healthcare on the Table.
Support HR 676, the US National Healthcare Act
Fri. Noon, May 29
450 Golden Gate - SF
( The Federal Building )

Sponsored by Senior Action Network, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, San Francisco Gray Panthers, and Single Payer Now.
For more information, call 415-695-7891 or email labor donated


Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 7:00pm at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland


"I, Kevin Cooper, am asking you to get involved in a life and death struggle. This struggle is not just about me. Even though the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just denied my petition, if you read the 101 page dissent you will see that many of the judges acknowledged my innocence. They write that the evidence was tampered with, and that my constitutional rights were violated. I have been fighting, and will continue to fight. And I am asking you to fight, too.

You best believe that this state is now working very, very hard to have the legal obstacles to starting executions again removed. By the time this brief moratorium is over, there may be close to 20 inmates in here without any appeals left. Just think how many more men, and maybe women, will have their appeals denied by the court, and will be sitting here waiting to be tortured and murdered by this state?! This state will become 'Texas West' if they restart this killing machine in California! So what are we going to do about it? Are we ready for it, because it's coming?!"


Dear Friends,

Kevin Cooper, an innocent man on death row, was denied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 11th. His case will next go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kevin got support from a substantial minority of justices who voted against the denial. Judge Fletcher, who wrote the dissenting opinion, began his dissent: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." The dissent describes in detail the case for Kevin's innocence, the tampering, planting, and mishandling of evidence, police and prosecution misconduct, and the constitutional violations.

At the same time, a public comment period on the lethal injection process for the state of California has begun, and will end June 30th with a public hearing in Sacramento. The wrangling over the issue of lethal injection has stopped the State from executing anyone. If the courts approve the latest method, executions will restart.

Kevin, his friends and allies would like to invite you to a meeting to discuss Kevin's case and the state of the death penalty in California, and plan a course of action.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 7:00pm at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland.


Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:

May 18, 2009 interview with Kevin Cooper on Flashpoints radio show:

Kevin Cooper's website:


Campaign to End the Death Penalty
phone: 510-394-8625


End the Siege of Gaza! Rally in San Francisco on June 6
Solidarity Day on the 42nd Anniversary of Israel's seizure of Gaza
Support the Palestinian Right of Return! Stop U.S. Aid to Israel!
Saturday, June 6
12:00 noon
UN Plaza (7th and Market Sts.)

Saturday, June 6 marks the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli seizure of Gaza. Organizations and individuals in solidarity with the people of Palestine will be taking to the streets once again to demand: End the Siege of Gaza!

The world looked on in horror this past winter as Israel mercilessly starved and bombed the people of Gaza, killing around 1,200 Palestinians (at least a third of whom were children). The Arab world now refers to the dark days from the end of December to mid-January "The Gaza Massacre." Although the mainstream media no longer focuses on Gaza, the suffering continues there nonetheless. Using the pretext of combating terrorism, Israel has refused to allow in even one truckload of cement into Gaza. In other words, the city that was reduced to rubble still lies in rubble today. All these months later, people are still living in tents and are scarcely able to secure the necessities of life.

People of conscience around the world continue to raise their voices in outrage at this crime against humanity, and in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Gaza. We will also stand for all Palestinian people's inalienable right to return to their homes from which they were evicted. Let your voice be heard -- join us Saturday, June 6, at 12 noon at UN Plaza in San Francisco (7th and Market Sts.). There will be a joint action in Washington DC on June 6.

Sponsoring organizations include ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom, National Council of Arab Americans (NCA), Free Palestine Alliance (FPA), Al-Awda - Palestine Right of Return Coalition, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and more!

Contact us at 415-821-6545 or to endorse or volunteer!

The June 6 demonstration is a major undertaking and we can't do it without the support of the large number of people who are standing with Palestine. Please click this link right now to make a generous donation:


Appeals court to hear Pinkney defense June 9, 2009
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
The Michigan Citizen

To sign a petition in support of Pinkney:

On June 9, the State Appeals Court of Michigan will hear defense arguments in the case of Rev. Edward Pinkney. Pinkney, who is the leader of the Benton Harbor Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO), was convicted by a Berrien County, all-white jury in March 2007 on trumped-up charges related to false allegations of voter fraud.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan has taken Pinkney's case and was successful in winning his release on bond in December 2008, pending the outcome of the appeal.

Pinkney was convicted of four felony counts and one misdemeanor after heading a successful recall campaign against a City Commissioner.

As a result of the recall, the courts in Berrien County overturned the election results citing irregularities. The first trial against Pinkney ended in a hung jury in 2006. The charges were reinstated leading to Pinkney's conviction and subsequent house arrest. He was initially sentenced to one year in jail and four years probation by Berrien County Judge Alfred Butzbaugh.

Pinkney was placed on a tether and not allowed to step outside of his home. His phone calls were monitored and he was prohibited from engaging in community or church activities in Berrien County.

When Pinkney published an article in the Chicago-based People's Tribune newspaper criticizing Judge Butzbaugh's actions in his case, Berrien County hauled Pinkney into courtroom in December of 2007. He was charged with threatening the life of the trial judge and sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison because in the article he had quoted the Book of Deuteronomy 28:14-22.

Over the next year Pinkney was transferred to over six correctional facilities throughout the state.

A nationwide campaign in his defense drew worldwide attention to the pastor's plight as a political prisoner. Even though Pinkney was released on appeal bond on December 24, 2008, his conditions of probation are draconian.

Rev. Pinkney's bond hearing was held in the same Berrien County court system. Under his appeal bond he is denied the right to preach, grant interviews, write articles, address crowds or engage in politics.

Support Builds for Appeals Hearing

In March three friend-of the court briefs were filed in support of overturning the conviction of Rev. Pinkney. A broad-based group of religious organizations, law professors and free speech advocates submitted the legal documents.

"We are thrilled with the overwhelming support from the religious community, constitutional scholars and free speech organizations," said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director. "The groups persuasively argue for the fundamental American principle that a preacher cannot be thrown in prison for his religious speech even if some find it offensive."

The religious freedom brief encompasses the views of numerous faith-based organizations.

Another brief was submitted by 18 law professors from various universities including Wayne State Law School, University of Detroit Law School and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The brief states that "In this country, under this Constitution, and on this Court's watch, he must not be imprisoned for speaking his conscience."

Also the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression argued in its brief that "In finding that Rev. Pinkney's newspaper editorial violated his conditions of probation, the lower court punished speech at the core of First Amendment protection: public criticism of the judiciary."

Berrien County and American Apartheid

This southwest Michigan county is a stark representation of racism and national oppression in the United States. Benton Harbor, which is over 90 percent African American, is one of the most underdeveloped cities in the state of Michigan. In neighboring St. Joseph, a nearly all-white city, the standard of living is much higher and it is the seat of the county where the court is located.

Over the last several years a so-called development project, Harbor Shores, has unveiled plans to take control of large sections of Benton Harbor to construct a golf course and residential enclave for the wealthy. These plans, along with astronomical foreclosure and unemployment rates, are forcing many residents of Benton Harbor to leave the area.

According to an article published by Dorothy Pinkney, the wife of the persecuted minister, the presiding trial Judge Butzbaugh has interests in the Harbor Shores development project. The Whirlpool Corporation, which is highly-influential in the region, is major promoter of the Harbor Shores scheme.

"My husband was denied due process and the right under state law to an impartial decision maker because the trial judge, Alfred Butzbaugh, had a financial interest in the development of Harbor Shores. This huge development project is what motivated my husband to seek the recall of the corrupt Benton Harbor City Commissioner Glen Yarbrough," Dorothy Pinkney wrote.

She continues by pointing out that "The trial court's financial interest in the Harbor Shores project was not known to my husband until after the trial. The Harbor Shores project which has been primarily pressed by Cornerstone Alliance on behalf of Whirlpool Corporation began in 1998 when the community economic development corporation was formed by John Dewane of the law firm Butzbaugh and Ryan." (BANCO website, April 2009)

The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) and the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) are mobilizing people to attend the appeals hearing for Rev. Pinkney on June 9.

The hearing will take place in Grand Rapids at the Court of Appeals Building, 350 Ottawa St at 9:00 a.m.

For information on transportation from the Detroit area please call MECAWI at 313.680.5508. [For other Michigan transportation, contact]


Urgent News
Hearing on Death Penalty June 30, Sacramento

On May 1st, the State of California announced that it is moving forward with developing execution procedures in order to comply with a recent legal ruling and resume executions, which have been on hold for more than three years.

The State will be holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 30th from 9am to 3pm in Sacramento to hear public comments about the proposed execution procedures.

Death Penalty Focus, along with our allies, will be organizing a critical Day of Action to End the Death Penalty on June 30th.

What You Can Do to Help:

1. Please plan to attend the hearing on June 30th in Sacramento. We will be organizing buses from the SF Bay Area (more details to be announced very soon).


We need to pack the room with more than 300 hundred supporters. More than one hundred individuals will be needed to give public comment. If they cannot accommodate everyone who signs up to speak, it is possible they will have to schedule another hearing.

After the hearing, we will head to the Capitol to share ours views with elected officials.

2. Please plan to submit a written comment to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). In just a few days we will be sending out suggestions for your comments and instructions on how to submit your comments. The CDCR is required by law to review and respond to every written comment. We need to generate thousands of comments from across the state, country and globe. We need to flood them with paperwork.

Please help us make this Day of Action a success!

Legislative Successes

Colorado came very close to ending the death penalty this month when their State Senate voted 17-18 in favor of replacing the death penalty with life without parole and redirecting funding to solve murders. The State House has already passed the bill by a vote of 33-32.

On May 13, the Connecticut House voted 90-56 in favor of ending the death penalty. The bill now moves on to the Senate.

Several abolition bills are still active in other states, including New Hampshire, Illinois, Washington, and also in the U.S. Senate.


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On behalf of the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations, we are writing to invite you and members of your organization to attend a national antiwar conference to be held July 10-12, 2009 at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The purpose of this conference is to bring together antiwar and social justice activists from across the country to discuss and decide what we can do together to end the wars, occupations, bombing attacks, threats and interventions that are taking place in the Middle East and beyond, which the U.S. government is conducting and promoting.

We believe that such a conference will be welcomed by the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Iran, who are the victims of these policies. It will also be welcomed by victims of the depression-type conditions in this country, with tens of millions losing jobs, homes, health care coverage and pensions, while trillions of dollars are spent bailing out Wall Street and the banks, waging expansionist wars and occupations, and funding the Pentagon's insatiable appetite.

This will be the National Assembly's second conference. The first was held in Cleveland last June and it was attended by over 400 people, including top leaders of the antiwar movement and activists from many states. After discussion and debate, attendees voted - on the basis of one person, one vote - to urge the movement to join together for united spring actions. The National Assembly endorsed and helped build the March actions in Washington D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the April actions in New York City.

We are all aware of the developments since our last conference - the election of a new administration in the U.S., the ongoing occupation of Iraq, the escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the horrific Israeli bombing of Gaza, and the extreme peril of an additional war in the Middle East, this time against Iran. Given all this, it is crystal clear that a strong, united, independent antiwar movement is needed now more than ever. We urge you to help build such a movement by attending the July conference and sharing your ideas and proposals with other attendees regarding where the antiwar movement goes from here.

For more information, please visit the National Assembly's website at, email us at, or call 216-736-4704. We will be glad to send you upon request brochures announcing the July conference (a copy is attached) and you can also register for the conference online. [Please be aware that La Roche College is making available private rooms with baths at a very reasonable rate, but will only guarantee them if reserved by June 25.]

Yours for peace, justice and unity,
National Assembly Administrative Body

Zaineb Alani, Author of The Words of an Iraqi War Survivor & More; Colia Clark, Chair, Richard Wright Centennial Committee, Grandmothers for Mumia Abu-Jamal; Greg Coleridge, Coordinator, Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC) and Economic Justice and Empowerment Program Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); Alan Dale, Iraq Peace Action Coalition (MN); Donna Dewitt, President, South Carolina AFL-CIO; Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace; Jerry Gordon, Former National Co-Coordinator of the Vietnam-Era National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC) and Member, U.S. Labor Against the War Steering Committee; Jonathan Hutto, Navy Petty Officer, Author of Anti-War Soldier; Co-Founder of Appeal for Redress; Marilyn Levin, Coordinating Committee, Greater Boston United for Justice with Peace, Middle East Crisis Coalition; Jeff Mackler, Founder, San Francisco Mobilization for Peace, Jobs and Justice; Fred Mason, President, Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO and Co-Convenor, U.S. Labor Against the War; Mary Nichols-Rhodes, Progressive Democrats of America/Ohio Branch; Lynne Stewart, Lynne Stewart Organization/Long Time Attorney and Defender of Constitutional Rights [Bay Area United Against War also was represented at the founding conference and will be there again this year. Carole Seligman and I initiated the motion to include adding opposition to the War in Afghanistan to the demands and title of the National Assembly.




FLASHPOINTS Interview with Innocent San Quentin Death Row Inmate
Kevin Cooper -- Aired Monday, May 18,2009
To learn more about Kevin Cooper go to:
San Francisco Chronicle article on the recent ruling:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:


Don't let them kill Troy Davis

The case of Troy Davis highlights the need for criminal justice reform in the United States.

Please help us fight for the rights -- and life -- of Troy Davis today by signing the petition below, asking Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to act on behalf of justice and commute Troy Davis's death sentence to ensure that Georgia does not put to death a man who may well be innocent.

Mr. Davis has a strong claim to innocence, but he could be executed without a court ever holding a hearing on his claims. Because of this, I urge you to act in the interests of justice and support clemency for Troy Davis. An execution without a proper hearing on significant evidence of innocence would compromise the integrity of Georgia's justice system.

As you may know, Mr. Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail, a conviction based solely on witness testimony. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted or contradicted their trial testimony.

The courts, citing procedural rules and time limits, have so far refused to hold an evidentiary hearing to examine these witnesses. Executive clemency exists, and executive action - and your leadership - is required to preserve justice when the protections afforded by our appeals process fail to do so.

Thank you for your attention.

See also:

In the Absence of Proof
Op-Ed Columnist
May 23, 2009


Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) Ex-Soldier Gets Life Sentence for Iraq Murders
"At least four other soldiers have pleaded guilty or were convicted in military courts for their roles in the rape and murders. While most received long prison terms, none are facing the death penalty, and all will be eligible for parole in 10 years or less."
May 22, 2009

2) Plan to Charge Working Homeless Draws Fire, Again
By Julie Bosman
May 22, 2009, 11:36 am

3) City Temporarily Stops Charging Rent to the Working Homeless
May 22, 2009

4) The top 10 enemies of single-payer
April 15, 2009

5) In the Absence of Proof
Op-Ed Columnist
May 23, 2009

6) President's Detention Plan Tests American Legal Tradition
May 23, 2009

7) Informer's Role in Bombing Plot
May 23, 2009


1) Ex-Soldier Gets Life Sentence for Iraq Murders
"At least four other soldiers have pleaded guilty or were convicted in military courts for their roles in the rape and murders. While most received long prison terms, none are facing the death penalty, and all will be eligible for parole in 10 years or less."
May 22, 2009

A jury in Kentucky sentenced a 24-year-old former soldier to life in prison without parole on Thursday for raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her, her parents and a younger sister in Iraq.

The verdict spared the defendant, Steven D. Green, death for a crime that prompted Iraqi demands for retribution and raised questions about Army oversight of its combat-stressed forces.

After deliberating for just one day, the 12-member jury, sitting in Paducah, Ky., declared itself hung late Thursday afternoon, resulting in the lesser sentence, said Dawn Masden, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, based in Louisville.

The verdict seemed likely to anger Iraqis who had argued that Mr. Green and the other soldiers involved in the murders should have been tried by an Iraqi court and who had asserted that only a death penalty could satisfy the family and fellow villagers.

At least four other soldiers have pleaded guilty or were convicted in military courts for their roles in the rape and murders. While most received long prison terms, none are facing the death penalty, and all will be eligible for parole in 10 years or less.

Mr. Green's trial was the first capital punishment case tried under a 2000 law allowing federal criminal courts to try crimes committed overseas by former members of the military, military dependents, contractors and other civilians, legal experts said. Mr. Green left the Army, with an honorable discharge on a diagnosis for a personality disorder, just weeks before he was arrested in 2006.

The March 2006 murders in Mahmudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, were so bloody that American and Iraqi authorities first thought they were the work of insurgents. The American soldiers were implicated after at least one acknowledged to fellow soldiers a role in the crimes.

At the time, the Iraq insurgency was near its violent apex, and American forces were suffering heavy casualties. Private Green's unit, Bravo Company, First Battalion, 502nd Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division, was sent to a particularly violent area that soldiers called the Triangle of Death soon after arriving in Iraq in the fall of 2005.

The battalion quickly suffered casualties, including a sergeant close to Private Green. In December, Private Green, along with other members of his platoon, told an Army stress counselor that he wanted to take revenge on Iraqis, including civilians. The counselor labeled the unit "mission incapable" because of poor morale, high combat stress and anger over the deaths, and said it needed both stronger supervision and rest. It got neither, testimony at Mr. Green's trial showed.

On March 11, 2006, after drinking Iraqi whiskey, Private Green and other soldiers manning a checkpoint decided to rape an Iraqi girl who lived nearby, according to testimony. Wearing civilian clothing, the soldiers broke into a house and raped Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. Soldiers in the group testified that Private Green killed the girl's parents and a younger sister before raping and then shooting the girl in the head with the family's own AK-47, which it had kept for self defense.

At his trial, Mr. Green's lawyers built a case intended less to deny his role in the crime than to plant questions about whether he deserved the death penalty.

Mr. Green, who was reared in Midland, Tex., came from a broken and chaotic home, defense witnesses testified, and despite scoring well on intelligence tests, was highly impulsive and did poorly in school. He got into the Army in 2005 on a so-called morals waiver, having had problems with alcohol and drug abuse.

On May 7, the same jury that issued the life sentence convicted Mr. Green on 17 counts, including premeditated murder.

In the sentencing phase of the trial, the Army stress counselor, Lt. Col. Karen Marrs, a mental health nurse practitioner, testified that Private Green was disturbed by deaths in his unit and had expressed a desire to hurt Iraqi civilians. But Colonel Marrs also said such sentiments had been expressed by other members of the unit and were not uncommon among troops in combat. On questioning from the prosecution, she also said that she thought Private Green clearly understood that hurting civilians would be wrong and that he had no plans to act on his anger.

The defense argued that the Army should have provided stronger leadership to Private Green's unit and should have removed Private Green from front-line duty for more intensive mental health care.

The prosecution strenuously rejected that argument, saying that many combat troops faced the same kinds of trauma and stress as Private Green and his platoon, but that few committed atrocities.

"The defendant failed to live up to his duty to protect the innocent people of Iraq," Marissa Ford, one of the federal prosecutors, said near the beginning of the penalty phase.

After the sentencing, Doug Green, 28, Mr. Green's brother, told The Associated Press: "I do think it gives him a chance to have some semblance of a life. We're grateful for that."

The team of defense lawyers, Scott Wendelsdorf, Darren Wolff and Patrick Bouldin, said in a statement: "The defense thanks the jury for their careful consideration and ultimate decision. There are no winners in a case like this that is tragic on so many levels."


2) Plan to Charge Working Homeless Draws Fire, Again
"The rent program is based on a 1997 state law that had not been enforced. The amount of rent owed varies based on factors that include family size and what shelter is being used, but it should not exceed 50 percent of a family's income."
By Julie Bosman
May 22, 2009, 11:36 am

City Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, the chairman of the General Welfare Committee, lashed out at city officials in a letter on Thursday for their role in a program charging rent to the working homeless in city shelters.

Addressing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of the homeless services department, Mr. de Blasio called the implementation of the state-mandated policy "premature and poorly planned."

"Homeless families in shelter are a vulnerable population with few resources," Mr. de Blasio wrote. "Any plan requiring payment from them, particularly one that comes with the threat of ejection from shelter for noncompliance, should have been better thought out prior to implementation."

The rent program is based on a 1997 state law that had not been enforced. The amount of rent owed varies based on factors that include family size and what shelter is being used, but it should not exceed 50 percent of a family's income.

After the program was implemented earlier this month, hundreds of shelter residents said that they had not received notice of their rent payments or that they had been overcharged.

On Thursday, Anne Heller, a deputy commissioner at the Department of Homeless Services, informed shelter providers that "technical issues" had forced officials to shut down the state-mandated program until the issues could be resolved.

Mr. de Blasio said he intended to question Mr. Hess about the program on Tuesday, during a budget hearing at City Hall.


3) City Temporarily Stops Charging Rent to the Working Homeless
May 22, 2009

The Bloomberg administration has stopped charging rent to homeless people who have income and live in city shelters, temporarily suspending a state-mandated program that has been marked by mismanagement and the threat of a lawsuit.

In a memo sent by e-mail to 56 family shelter providers on Thursday morning, Anne Heller, a deputy commissioner at the Department of Homeless Services, said that "technical issues" had forced officials to shut down the program until the issues are resolved.

The three-week-old rent program was openly loathed by shelter providers, who hold contracts with the city and were forced to begin collecting rent from people who live in the shelters but have income from jobs.

"No one liked the idea, and we were quite shocked that they were even implementing it," said Manuela Schaudt, the executive director of Concourse House, a family shelter in the Bronx.

The state required the city to begin the program this month - based on a 1997 state law that had not been enforced. The amount of rent owed varies based on factors that include family size and what shelter is being used, but should not exceed 50 percent of a family's income, an official has said.

Immediately after the program went into effect, many shelter residents complained that they were not properly notified of their rights to contest the rent, and some residents were asked to pay far more than they were supposed to.

Michael Hayes, a spokesman for the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, said a "technical glitch" caused notices to shelter residents to contain errors, or for some affected families not to receive notices at all.

Of the roughly 500 homeless families who were meant to receive notices advising them to begin paying rent, about 190 received notices with errors, including miscalculations in the amount of rent due, Mr. Hayes said. He said the Human Resources Administration, the city's welfare agency, was responsible for some of the errors, largely for some notices not getting out.

Steven Banks, the attorney in chief for the Legal Aid Society, threatened to sue the city, pointing to errors resulting in residents being locked out of their rooms in shelters and threatened with eviction. "We would hope that the entire concept would be re-evaluated," he said.

Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services, said the program would be revamped and expressed hope "that we can end up with a program that makes sense." Even as city officials became aware of problems with the program, they asked shelter providers to help them promote it.

Providers fumed over another e-mail message sent on Wednesday, this one on behalf of Ms. Heller, the deputy commissioner, requiring them to give the Department of Homeless Services examples of families who are working full time and successfully paying rent - so the department could "put a positive spin" on the rent program. "Anne wants to send a message that these are not the working poor, but individuals who are capable of contributing toward their cost of shelter," the e-mail read.

"I'm amazed by it," said Ralph Nunez, chief executive of Homes for the Homeless, a shelter provider. "I don't work for the Department of Homeless Services. I work for homeless families."

Heather Janik, a department spokeswoman, said that the message sent on Wednesday was sent in error and that Ms. Heller did not direct it to be sent.


4) The top 10 enemies of single-payer
April 15, 2009

Most people, when they arrive in Washington, D.C., see it for what it is - a cesspool of corruption.

Two reasonable reactions to the cesspool.

One, run away screaming in fear.

Two, stay and fight back and bring to justice those who have corrupted our democracy.

Unfortunately, many choose a third way - stay and be transformed.

Instead of seeing a cesspool, they begin seeing a hot tub.

The result - profits and wealth for the corporate elite - death, disease and destruction for the American people.

Nowhere does this corrupt, calculating transformation do more damage than in the area of health care.

Outside the beltway cesspool/hot tub, the majority of doctors, nurses, small businesses, health economists, and the majority of the American people - according to recent polls - want a Canadian-style, single payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital, national health insurance system.

Inside the beltway cesspool/hot tub, the corrupt elite will have none of it.

They won't even put single payer on the table for discussion.

Why not?

Because it will bring a harsh justice - the death penalty - to their buddies in the multi-billion dollar private health insurance industry.

The will of the American people is being held up by a handful of organizations and individuals who profit off the suffering of the masses.

And the will of the American people will not be done until this criminal elite is confronted and defeated.

(Remember, virtually the entire industrialized world - save for us, the U.S. - makes it a crime to allow for-profit health insurance corporations to make money selling basic health insurance.)

Before we confront and defeat the inside the beltway cesspool/hot tub crowd, we must first know who they are.

To wit, we present the Top Ten Enemies of Single Payer (listed here in alphabetical order):

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

AARP, one of DC's most powerful lobbying groups, has worked inside the beltway for years to defeat single payer. Why? AARP makes about a quarter of its money selling insurance through its affiliate, United Healthcare Group, the nation's largest for-profit insurance company. AARP must defeat single payer - which if enacted, would wipe out that revenue stream.

American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

The private health insurance industry. Public enemy number one. The health insurance corporations must die so that the American people can live. Of course, facing the death penalty, AHIP is the most aggressive opponent to single payer. No compromise with AHIP.

American Medical Association.

With a shrinking base of doctors (only 25 percent of doctors nationwide belong) - the AMA is the most conservative of the doctors' organizations. I just returned from a health care policy forum at the Center for American Progress. As usual, not one of the panelists mentioned single payer. Only during the question period did a self-identified patient/citizen ask the single payer question. And a pit bull-like Nancy Nielsen, president of the AMA, ripped into the questioner. "Sounds more like a statement than a question," Nielsen said. "And clearly you have a point of view about that. And I don't happen to share that point of view." Clearly she doesn't. But just as clearly, the majority of doctors, probably even a majority of doctors who belong to the AMA, support single payer. Nielsen is in denial and must be defeated.

Barack Obama.

He was for it when he was a state Senator in Illinois. Now, ensconced in the corporate prison that is the White House, he says single payer is off the table. To get off the list, Obama needs to put single payer back on the table.

Business Roundtable.

Dr. David Himmelstein, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), was at a health care forum a couple of years ago sponsored by the Business Roundtable. And the moderator asked the audience - made up primarily of representatives of big business - to indicate their preference of health care reforms. And the majority came out in favor of single payer. Why then is the Business Roundtable opposed? Himmelstein put it this way: "In private, they support single payer, but they're also thinking - if you can take away someone else's business - the insurance companies' business - you can take away mine. Also, if workers go on strike, I want them to lose their health insurance. And it's also a cultural thing - we don't do that kind of thing in this country."

Families USA.

A major inside the beltway liberal foundation and long-time foe of single payer. It's chief executive, Ron Pollack, was once an advocate for single payer. But no more. In November 1991, Pollack was at a Washington hotel debating Yale University professor Ted Marmor in front of then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Marmor was making the argument for single payer. Pollack against. A November 1994 article in the Washington Monthly, co-authored by Marmor, reported the result this way:

"After the two advocates finished, Clinton looked thoughtful, pointed to Marmor and said, 'Ted, you win the argument.' But gesturing to Pollack, Marmor recalls, the governor quickly added, 'But we're going to do what he says.' Even considering the Canadian system, everyone in the room agreed, would prompt GOP cries of 'socialized medicine' - cries that the press would faithfully report."

Health Care for American Now.

The largest coalition of liberal groups promoting a choice between a public plan and private insurance companies. "They are saying - we can't do single payer because Americans don't want it," said Kip Sullivan of the Minnesota chapter of PNHP. "That's based on junk research conducted by Celinda Lake for the Herndon Alliance. It is bad enough to say we can't do single payer because the insurance industry is too powerful to beat. But it is just plain insidious to say we can't do single payer because the American people don't want it. In fact, polling data indicates that two-thirds of Americans support a single payer system. And that level of support exists despite the fact that there is little public discussion about it."

Kaiser Family Foundation.

One of the most prestigious liberal inside the beltway think tanks on health reform policy. Saul Friedman is a reporter for Newsday. In February, Friedman wrote an article for Newsday arguing that single payer is suffering from a conspiracy of silence. And he says Kaiser is the most culpable of the co-conpsirators. Kaiser, funded initially by insurance industry money, regularly keeps single payer off the table, Friedman says. When single payer advocates released a study in January asserting that Congressman John Conyers' single payer bill (HR 676) could create 2.6 million new jobs and would cost far less than the private insurance currently paid for by individuals and employers, "the Kaiser Family Foundation's daily online report on health care developments at didn't mention it," Friedman reported. "Nor has Kaiser, the most comprehensive online source of health care information, made any mention of single-payer or the Conyers bill since it was introduced in 2003, despite widespread support for such a plan according to Kaiser's own polls." After a number of insistent inquiries, Kaiser told Friedman that they would publish charts in March comparing the Stark and Conyers bills. They never did.

The Lewin Group.

The go-to consulting firm for health reform studies. The most recent study, released last week and widely quoted in the press, of the public plan option, showed that the insurance industry would lose 32 million policy holders if a public plan is enacted. Lewin's health reform policy guru, John Sheils, told the Associated Press: "The private insurance industry might just fizzle out altogether." What the mainstream press didn't report was that The Lewin Group is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ingenix, which is in turn owned by UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest health insurance corporation. Lewin Group has conducted studies on single payer at the state level - and their studies consistently show that single payer is the most efficient cost saving system. But Lewin Group has never done a study on HR 676 - which would create a single payer for the entire country and drive The Lewin Group's parent - UnitedHealth Group- out of business. When asked why Lewin Group never has done a study on HR 676, Sheils said - "the President didn't propose single payer, did he?" No, he didn't. That's why he too is on this list. (Sheils says The Lewin Group has studied national single payer. He points to a recent comparison of the different health reform proposals floating on Capitol Hill - including one by Congressman Pete Stark (D-California). Stark's bill would give every American the option of opting into Medicare. But that's not single payer, because it keeps the private insurance industry in the game. Sheils counters that he modeled the Stark bill as single-payer. "The employer coverage option under the Stark bill is made so unfavorable that no employer would do it. We have everyone in Medicare, with the resulting savings." Sheils says that of all the plans studied, the Stark bill saves the most money.)

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America (PHRMA).

PHRMA chief executive Billy Tauzin says that under single payer, the government would become a "price fixer." By which he means, the government, as a single payer, will have the power to negotiate drug prices downward, thus costing the drug corporations millions in excess profits. In recent years, PHRMA has infiltrated liberal sounding groups like America's Agenda - Health Care for All. PHRMA's Vice President for Government Affairs and Law, Jan Faiks, now sits on the board of America's Agenda and PHRMA contributes money to the group - which has worked in recent years to undermine single payer at the state level. (America's Agenda Mark Blum won't say how much money PHRMA gives to his group.)

We have met the enemy.

And they ain't us.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of Corporate Crime Reporter and founder of


5) In the Absence of Proof
Op-Ed Columnist
May 23, 2009

The options are running out for Troy Davis, a man who has been condemned to death for killing a police officer in Georgia, but whose guilt is seriously in question.

It's bad enough that we still execute people in the United States. It's absolutely chilling that we're willing to do it when we're not even sure we've got the right person in our clutches.

Mr. Davis came within an hour of execution last fall. His relatives and his attorney, Jason Ewart, had come to the state prison to say goodbye. Mr. Davis had eaten his last meal, and Mr. Ewart was ready to witness his execution.

The mind-numbing tension was broken with a last-minute stay from the Supreme Court. The case then made its way to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, which ruled 2-to-1 last month against Mr. Davis's petition for a hearing to examine new evidence pointing to his innocence.

The countdown to the ghoulish ritual of execution resumed.

Mr. Davis was convicted of shooting a police officer to death in the parking lot of a Burger King in Savannah, Ga., in 1989. The officer, Mark Allen MacPhail, was murdered as he went to the aid of a homeless man who was being pistol-whipped.

I'm opposed to the death penalty, but I would have a very hard time finding even the faintest glimmer of sympathy for the person who murdered that officer. The problem with taking Mr. Davis's life in response to the murder of Officer MacPhail is the steadily growing mass of evidence that Mr. Davis was not the man who committed the murder.

Nine witnesses testified against Mr. Davis at his trial in 1991, but seven of the nine have since changed their stories. One of those seven, Dorothy Ferrell, said she was on parole when she testified and was afraid that she'd be sent back to prison if she didn't agree to cooperate with the authorities by fingering Mr. Davis.

"I told the detective that Troy Davis was the shooter," she said in an affidavit, "even though the truth was that I didn't know who shot the officer."

Another witness, Darrell Collins, who was a teenager at the time of the murder, said the police had "scared" him into falsely testifying by threatening to charge him as an accessory to the crime. He said he was told that he would go to prison and might never get out if he refused to help make the case against Mr. Davis.

This week Mr. Davis's lawyers, led by Mr. Ewart of the Arnold & Porter law firm in Washington, filed a last-ditch, long-shot petition with the Supreme Court, asking it to intervene and allow Mr. Davis's claims of innocence to be fully examined.

An extraordinary group of 27 former judges and prosecutors joined in an amicus brief in support of the petition. Among those who signed on were William Sessions, the former director of the F.B.I.; Larry Thompson, a U.S. attorney general from 2001-2003; the former Congressman Bob Barr, who was the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990; and Rudolph Gerber, who was an Arizona trial and court of appeals judge from 1979-2001.

The counsel of record for the amicus brief is the Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree. The brief asserts that the Supreme Court should intervene "because Mr. Davis can make an extraordinary showing through new, never reviewed evidence that strongly points to his innocence, and thus his execution would violate the Constitution."

The very idea of executing someone who may in fact be innocent should also violate the nation's conscience. Mr. Davis is incarcerated. He's no threat to anyone. Where's the harm in seeking out the truth and trying to see that justice is really done?

And if the truth can't be properly sorted out, we should be unwilling to let a human life be taken on mere surmise.

There was no physical evidence against Mr. Davis, and no murder weapon was ever found. At least three witnesses who testified against him at his trial (and a number of others who were not part of the trial) have since said that a man named Sylvester "Redd" Coles admitted to killing the police officer.

Mr. Coles, who was at the scene, and who, according to witnesses, later ditched a gun of the same caliber as the murder weapon, is one of the two witnesses who have not recanted. The other is a man who initially told investigators that he could not identify the killer. Nearly two years later, at the trial, he testified that the killer was Mr. Davis.

Officer MacPhail's murder was a horrendous crime that cries out for justice. Killing Mr. Davis, rather than remedying that tragedy, would only compound it.


6) President's Detention Plan Tests American Legal Tradition
May 23, 2009

President Obama's proposal for a new legal system in which terrorism suspects could be held in "prolonged detention" inside the United States without trial would be a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free.

There are, to be sure, already some legal tools that allow for the detention of those who pose danger: quarantine laws as well as court precedents permitting the confinement of sexual predators and the dangerous mentally ill. Every day in America, people are denied bail and locked up because they are found to be a hazard to their communities, though they have yet to be convicted of anything.

Still, the concept of preventive detention is at the very boundary of American law, and legal experts say any new plan for the imprisonment of terrorism suspects without trial would seem inevitably bound for the Supreme Court.

Mr. Obama has so far provided few details of his proposed system beyond saying it would be subject to oversight by Congress and the courts. Whether it would be constitutional, several of the legal experts said in interviews, would most likely depend on the fairness of any such review procedures.

Ultimately, they suggested, the question of constitutionality would involve a national look in the mirror: Is this what America does?

"We have these limited exceptions to the principle that we only hold people after conviction," said Michael C. Dorf, a constitutional law professor at Cornell. "But they are narrow exceptions, and we don't want to expand them because they make us uncomfortable."

In his speech on antiterrorism policy Thursday, Mr. Obama, emphasizing that he wanted fair procedures, sought to distance himself from what critics of the Bush administration saw as its system of arbitrary detention.

"In our constitutional system," Mr. Obama said, "prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man."

But Mr. Obama's critics say his proposal is Bush redux. Closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and holding detainees domestically under a new system of preventive detention would simply "move Guantánamo to a new location and give it a new name," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested this month that as many as 100 detainees might be held in the United States under such a system.

Mr. Obama chose to call his proposal "prolonged detention," which made it sound more reassuring than some of its more familiar names. In some countries, it is called "administrative detention," a designation with a slightly totalitarian ring. Some of its proponents call it "indefinite detention," which evokes the Bush administration's position that Guantánamo detainees could be held until the end of the war on terror - perhaps for the rest of their lives - even if acquitted in war crimes trials.

Mr. Obama's proposal was a sign of the sobering difficulties posed by the president's plan to close the Guantánamo prison by January. The prolonged detention option is necessary, he said, because there may be some detainees who cannot be tried but who pose a security threat.

These, he said, are prisoners who in effect remain at war with the United States, even after some seven years at Guantánamo. He listed as examples detainees who received extensive explosives training from Al Qaeda, have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden or have otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans.

Other countries, including Israel and India, have had laws allowing indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, said Monica Hakimi, an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan who has written about the subject. But, she said, few provide for essentially unending detention, and several European countries have restricted preventive detention to days or weeks.

Mr. Obama's proposal, Professor Hakimi said, appears to be "an aggressive approach that is not commonly taken in other Western developed countries."

In a letter to the president on Friday, Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said he was not sure Mr. Obama's idea would prove constitutional, and added that "such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world."

Some critics of the Bush administration, who have become critics of Mr. Obama as well, have long said they are skeptical that there are detainees who are a demonstrable risk to the country but against whom the government can make no criminal case.

But some proponents of an indefinite detention system argue that Guantánamo's remaining 240 detainees include cold-blooded jihadists and perhaps some so warped by their experience in custody that no president would be willing to free them. And among them, the proponents say, are some who cannot be tried, in part for lack of evidence or because of tainted evidence.

Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Mr. Obama's proposal was contrary to the path his administration apparently hoped to take when he took office. But that was before he and his advisers had access to detailed information on the detainees, said Mr. Wittes, who in a book last year argued for an indefinite detention system.

"This is the guy who has sworn an oath to protect the country," he said, "and if you look at the question of how many people can you try and how many people are you terrified to release, you have to have some kind of detention authority."

Civil liberties lawyers say American criminal laws are written broadly enough to make it relatively easy to convict terrorism suspects. They say Mr. Obama has not made the case persuasively that there is a worrisome category of detainees who are too dangerous to release but who cannot be convicted. The reason to have a criminal justice system at all, they say, is to trust it to decide who is guilty and who is not.

"If they cannot be convicted, then you release them," said Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. "That's what it means to have a justice system."


7) Informer's Role in Bombing Plot
May 23, 2009

Everyone called the stranger with all the money "Maqsood." He would sit in his Mercedes, waiting in the parking lot of the mosque in Newburgh, N.Y., until the Friday prayer was over. Then, according to members of the mosque, the Masjid al-Ikhlas, he approached the young men.

He asked Shakir Rashada, 34, if he wanted to come over for lunch. He offered Shafeeq Abdulwali, 39, a job, perhaps at his construction company. Jamil Muhammed, 38, said he was offered cellphones and computers.

The man, a Pakistani, occasionally approached the assistant imam of the mosque, proposing meetings, or overpaying for a sandwich he would buy at a mosque fund-raiser. In time, many of the mosque's older members had made the man for a government informant, according to mosque leaders. They said that he seemed to focus most of his attention on younger black members and visitors.

"It's easy to influence someone with the dollar," said Mr. Muhammed, a longtime member of the mosque. "Especially these guys coming out of prison."

The members of the mosque now believe that Maqsood was the government informant at the center of the case involving four men from Newburgh arrested and charged this week with having plotted to explode bombs at Jewish centers in New York City. The government has said that the four men, several of whom visited the mosque in Newburgh and all of whom spent time in prison, were eager to kill Jews, and prosecutors charged that they had actually gone so far as to plant what they believed to be bombs on the streets of New York, an act the F.B.I. captured on videotape.

The government case revolves significantly around the work of an informant who facilitated the men's desire to mount a terrorist attack.

The role of informants has been a constant in the terror cases made by federal and local authorities since 9/11. And just as constant have been the attempts by lawyers for those charged to portray their clients as dupes, people who would not have committed to do harm without the provocation of the informants.

Those attempts have typically failed. Juries, evidently unmoved by claims about the conduct and influence of the informants, have routinely convicted those charged in the terror plots, like the five men charged with wanting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey, and the young Pakistani immigrant from Queens charged with conspiring to plant a bomb in Herald Square.

And, it turns out, an entrapment defense failed in a case involving the informant in this week's bomb plot investigation.

The informant was not identified in court papers unsealed on Wednesday in Manhattan. But according to a person briefed on the case, the informant is Shahed Hussain, the central prosecution witness in a 2004 federal sting focusing on a pizzeria owner and an imam at an Albany mosque.

Lawyers for those men argued that Mr. Hussain, who had posed as a wealthy Muslim radical, had entrapped their clients in an ultimately fictional plot to kill a Pakistani diplomat with a missile. But a federal jury convicted the two men, and they were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

"Any defense attorney worth his salt is going to argue entrapment," Raymond W. Kelly, the New York police commissioner, said Friday when asked about the use of an informant in the Newburgh case. "The argument will be made in court. But in essence, the law says you have to be otherwise not disposed to do the crime to successfully use the defense of entrapment."

The government's court filings present the informant as someone who merely assisted the violent intentions of the four men. Federal authorities have asserted that one of the defendants, James Cromitie, was angry about the war in Afghanistan and was determined to strike at America, and later at Jews. The informant, who told the men he had connections to a Pakistani terror group, then provided the men with what they believed to be sophisticated explosives and a missile.

Asked whether he thought the four men were a serious security risk before they were approached by the informant, Joseph M. Demarest Jr., who heads the F.B.I.'s New York office, said: "It was their plot and their plan that they pushed forward. We merely facilitated. They asked for the explosives. They asked for the Stingers, or rockets, I think, is the way they described it. They did leave the packages of what they believed to be real explosives, the bags, in front of two temples in the Bronx."

Vincent L. Briccetti, who represents Mr. Cromitie, said he was aware of Mr. Hussain's role in the Albany case, which was reported on Friday in The New York Post.

"His history is of interest to us," Mr. Briccetti said.

Court records from the Albany case show that Mr. Hussain came to the United States from Pakistan in 1993 or 1994. He appears to have held a variety of jobs, and come to own a number of businesses and properties. But in 2002, he was charged with a scheme involving taking money to illegally help people in the Albany area get driver's licenses.

To avoid being deported, he agreed to assist the government - first taking part in a sting aimed at the driver's license scheme, and later in a heroin trafficking case. In 2003, the F.B.I. enlisted him in a more ambitious case. They wanted him to help them learn more about the intentions of a man who they worried might be supportive of terror, Yassin Aref, and toward that end, began to focus on his friend Mohammad Mosharref Hossain.

Under the coaching of a federal agent, and often wearing a recording device, he met with the men, and presented himself as what he later at trial called "a wealthy radical." Eventually, the government charged the two men with money laundering as part of a plot to acquire missiles, and perhaps use one to kill a Pakistani diplomat.

Mr. Hussain testified at length at the trial of the two men, and defense lawyers sought to portray him as a tool of an overly zealous government.

He said that he met with an F.B.I. agent before every encounter with the two men to go over his game plan.

"What Agent Coll used to tell me, I used to tell them exactly," Mr. Hussain testified under cross-examination about his dealings with the F.B.I. agent and the two men.

"So you did exactly what Agent Coll told you?" he was asked by a defense lawyer.

"True," he answered.

James E. Long, a lawyer who represented Mr. Hussain from 2002, when he was arrested, until 2006, refused to comment.

William C. Pericak, an assistant United States attorney in Albany who prosecuted Mr. Aref and Mr. Hossain, also would not comment about the informant. But after the convictions of the two men, he said, "You can't put a percentage on how likely these guys would have been to commit an act of terrorism. But if a terrorist came to Albany, my opinion is that these guys would have assisted 100 percent."

The man called Maqsood, before appearing in Newburgh, had first approached the Masjid Al-Noor mosque in nearby Wappingers Falls, according to members there. The imam and several board members said a man who called himself Maqsood started sporadically attending services there in 2007. He was flashy, they said, and bragged about his real estate business and properties. He drove a black Mercedes and always came alone.

Zubair Zoha, a former treasurer of the mosque, said the man asked him three times for the full list of members of the mosque, saying he wanted to approach potential customers. But he was largely ignored or dismissed.

He stopped coming, the members said, around June 2008.

It was then, according to the government's court papers, that their informant struck up a relationship with Mr. Cromitie at the mosque in Newburgh, a set of dealings that would result in the bomb plot.

The imam in Newburgh, Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, said he was angry that the informant had associated his mosque with the scheme that had nothing to do with regular members. He condemned the plot, but questioned whether the men who were arrested would have committed to it had the informant not shown up.

Mr. Muhammad said he wondered whether he should have done anything differently once he had suspicions about the man named Maqsood.

"How do you go to the government about the government?" he asked.

Colin Moynihan, Nate Schweber and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.


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