Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 From: Jeff Mackler
Subject: Court denies Lynne Stewart a re-hearing
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2012 12:09:33 -0700

Dear Friends of Lynne Stewart,

On Monday, September 24, 2012 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Lynne's appeal for a re-hearing before the entire court. Her original conviction was upheld in 2009 by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit's opinion was not unexpected. This was the same court that earlier pressed Federal District Court John Koeltl to re-consider his original 28-month sentence and instead sentence Lynne to ten years.

Lynne, a leading civil rights attorney for 30 years, was convicted in 2005 on frame-up charges of  conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism. Her crime? She issued a press release on behalf of her client, the "blind sheik" Omar Abdel Rachman, a leading Egyptian Islamic cleric, was also a victim of the U.S. "war on terror" when a government-instigated frame-up trial convicted him of conspiracy to destroy New York buildings. Typical of "conspiracy" convictions, no evidence of wrongdoing was presented at his trial.

Rachman, a leading critic of the Hosni Mubarack dictatorship in Egypt, and now serving a life sentence in Rochester, Minnesota, was the subject of national attention a few months ago when Egypt's new president, Mohammad Morsi, embarrassed the Obama administration by demanding his release.

Lynne's attorneys explained on Monday that "The clock now starts running on our Petition for Certiorari to the Supreme Court.  We have 90 days to get it filed (with the possibility of a 30-day extension)."

Lynne is presently imprisoned at FMC Carswell outside of Fort Worth, Texas. She has successfully recovered from a difficult surgery that was spitefully delayed by prison authorities.
For the past 45 days Lynne was denied all visitors, and other basic prison rights on the trumped-up accusation that she violated prison rules in assisting a fellow prisoner certify a legal document.

Her spirits are high and she is now going through a backlog of  some 100-plus letters from friends and supporters.

Here's a brief summary/timeline of Lynne's case.

--indicted on April 9, 2002;

--on February 10, 2005, convicted on all counts of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism;

--on October, 17, 2006, sentenced to 28 months;

--on November 17, 2009, a US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit three-judge panel upheld the conviction, shamelessly accusing Lynne of "knowingly and willfully making false statements," re-directing her case to District Court Judge John Koeltl for re-sentencing, instructing him to consider enhancements for terrorism, perjury, and abuse of her position as a lawyer - an outrageous mandate intimidating Koeltl to comply.

--on November 19, 2009, Stewart jailed at MCC-NY, 150 Park Row, New York, NY; and

--on July 15, 2010, Stewart re-sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for doing her job honorably, ethically, and admirably with distinction for 30 years.

Disgracefully, Judge Koeltl explained it, saying: ."(C)omments by Stewart in 2006, including a statement in a television interview that she would do 'it' again and would not 'do anything differently' influenced (the) decision--indicat(ing) the original sentence 'was not sufficient' to reflect the goals of sentencing guidelines."

With Margarita Rosario and Cindy Sheehan

Forgotten were Koeltl's October 2006 comments, calling Lynne's character "extraordinary," saying she was "a credit to her profession," and that a long imprisonment would be "an unreasonable result," citing "the somewhat atypical nature of her case (and) lack of evidence that any victim was harmed."

He also considered her age (70), health (at times poor), distinguished career representing society's disadvantaged and unwanted, and the unlikelihood she'd commit another "crime." However, the Second Circuit Appeals Court intimidated him to comply, his own career perhaps on the line otherwise.

Please write Lynne at:

Lynne Stewart
FMC Carswell
P.O. Box 27137
Ft. Worth, Texas 76127

In solidarity,

Jeff Mackler, West Coast Coordinator
Lynne Stewart Defense Committee


Save Terry Williams from Execution!

Child abuse victim Terry Williams killed the man who raped him for five years -- now Terry faces the death penalty  on October 3. Help stop his execution.

Sign Petition HERE:

to Governor Tom Corbett, PA Board of Pardons, District Attorney Seth Williams: Grant Clemency to Terrance Williams, Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse


Hear Mumia's Ode to Terry:

Terry Williams is facing the death penalty on October 3, 2012 for killing the man who repeatedly raped him.

But when Terry was convicted, the jury didn't know the whole story. At the time of his trial, jurors say they had no history or background of the sexual assault and abuse that Terry Williams had suffered for years.

Terry was brutally raped for five years, beginning when he was thirteen, by an older man he trusted -- Amos Norwood. When the jury learned his information after the trial, five jurors came forward to say that they no longer supported his death sentence. Even Norwood's widow has forgiven him, and does not want Terry to be executed.

Sign the petition on asking Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania to stop Terry's execution scheduled on October 3 -- click here to add your name:

"When I heard about Terry Williams' life and his legal case, I knew I had to do what I could to stop the scheduled execution of a man who should not be on death row and would not be on death row had the jury heard all the relevant evidence," said Sue Osthoff, Director of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, a Philadelphia-based organization that assists victims of abuse and trauma who have been charged with crimes related to their abuse.

Like many of the victims of abuse Sue assists, Terry was repeatedly victimized. For Terry, that abuse by older males in his life started when he was only six years old. Despite continuing to suffer sexual abuse for the next twelve years, Terry received no counseling or support to help him deal with the repeated violence he endured. In fact, some of the people who were supposed to help were the ones who actually preyed on him.

None of this information was presented to the jurors during Terry's sentencing; had it been, Terry would not be on death row.

The public outcry for Terry's clemency is growing. A broad coalition of people has joined the jurors and victim's widow in asking that Terry’s sentence be commuted from death to life. Those calling for Terry’s life to be spared include a growing list of child advocates, victims' rights advocates, former prosecutors and judges, law professors, mental health professionals, and faith leaders across Pennsylvania.

Sue Osthoff is very familiar with stories like Terry's. She started this petition because she believes that if the jury had all of the evidence, they would not have sentenced Terry to death.

Join Sue in calling on Governor Corbett to spare Terry Williams' life for killing the man who raped him.

Call the Oscar Grant Committee at 510-239-3570 and visit us at


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:







Long Distance Revolutionary: A Jouney with Mumia Abu-Jamal

World Premiere: Mill Valley Film Festival!


Join us at the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival for the world premiere of the feature length documentary Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal, produced by Street Legal Cinema in association with Prison Radio. The screening will be followed by a conversation with director Stephen Vittoria and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Unlike any other film about Mumia Abu-Jamal, this definitive documentary focuses on his dramatic life as a writer, journalist, and revolutionary from Pennsylvania's Death Row.

SAT Oct 6 Noon
Rafael Film Center (California Film Institute)
1118 4th Street
San Rafael, CA 94901

MON Oct 8 4:45pm
Cinemark At Sequoia 25
Throckmorton Avenue
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(please forward widely)

P.O. BOX 411074



UNAC will be holding a national conference call to start the process of building actions across the country. All are welcome on the conference call please mark your calendar and join us.

JOIN THE CONFERENCE CALL WED., AUGUST 29. (218) 339-3600, access code 342310#.





The news is filled with alarming new threats of attacks on Syria and Iran. Secretary of State Clinton says the U.S. and Turkey are discussing details for a “No-Fly Zone” over Syria. We know from the Libyan experience that a “No-Fly Zone” would require massive NATO bombing of Syrian air defenses and huge civilian casualties. At the same time, State Department spokespeople are targeting Iran and Hezbollah for alleged military support to the Assad government and unsubstantiated terrorist actions. These claims and increased sanctions are designed to justify increased U.S. intervention. Israel says Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. Israel, whose belligerence was recently rewarded by the U.S. gift of a $680M missile shield (added to the $3.1 billion for military aid this year), has again gone to the airwaves threatening pre-emptive military action against Iran in the near future.

All of this sounds eerily familiar as lead-ups to new wars, when the old ones have not ended. This is how the public was whipped up and the basis was laid before attacking Iraq and Libya. Going after Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya, causing massive loss of life and destruction, could be small potatoes compared to the conflagration we might see following military intervention in Syria, Iran and Lebanon. This would also prevent achievement of the promise we witnessed with the Arab Spring uprisings. All of this stemming from a rapacious drive for imperialist domination of resources and power.

At the same time, we see increased repression and poverty at home. Islamophobia and scapegoating of Muslims leads to manufactured frame-ups and violence against the Muslim community, and by extension brutal attacks on Sikhs as well. Immigrants are targeted. Increased militarization of our society leads to an expansion of surveillance and stop-and-frisk operations, military weapons in the hands of police, and an explosion of the prison industry with mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth. Civil liberties and the right to dissent are under siege with indefinite detention and extra-judicial assassinations now the law of the land.

To pay for wars and to maximize the profits of the haves, they take more and more from the have-nots. We see cuts to the social safety nets, attacks on labor, privatization of government programs, huge unemployment, neglect of infrastructure, rapid climate change and poisoning of the environment.

When we need a strong and unified movement to mobilize against these horrors, much of the left is confused by the misinformation and distracted by the elections. We can’t be falsely assured that elections will save us when the wars and repressions have been bi-partisan. We are not powerless. We must do everything we can to counter these threats.

What should we do?

 Counter the media propaganda and educate people about the realities on the ground with teach-ins, forums, protests, letters to the editor, op-eds, phone calls to Congress, petitions, resolutions and referendums. Be creative.

 Reach out to new constituencies and form alliances based on our connected interests – students, Occupy activists, workers, immigrant groups, Muslims, community groups, civil liberties organizations, antiwar committees, international solidarity groups, communities of color.

 If there is direct military intervention or a “No Fly Zone”, we must pour into the streets with day-after mobilizations.

 Stand in solidarity with victims of police, state, and racial violence and repression and build links to people under attack – Sikhs, Muslims, undocumented workers, death row prisoners, African-American and Latino youth, social justice activists are all targets in an atmosphere of escalating racism and repression.

Build regional and local actions all over the country focused on the dual wars abroad and at home on October 5-7, the anniversary of the attack on Afghanistan and the initiation of the global War of Terror on the 99% in the interests of the 1%.


Help UNAC members and Upstate, NY drone activist go to Pakistan in September to protest drones and document their destruction.

To contribute, send a check to UNAC, PO Box 123, Delmar, NY 12054 or click here to donate online.

United National Antiwar Coalition
P.O. Box 123
Delmar, NY 12054


On the 11th anniversary of the U.S./NATO occupation

End the Afghanistan War NOW!
No New War & Sanctions vs. Syria & Iran!
Free Palestine – End the occupation!
Stop the attack on civil rights & liberties!
Jobs, healthcare, housing, education for all!

Sat., Oct. 6, 12 Noon – Powell & Market Sts., SF

Initiated by: ANSWER Coalition-Act Now to Stop War & End Racism. Co-sponsored by: Al-Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Code Pink, Unitarian Universalists for Peace-SF, Cindy Sheehan, FMLN-Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front-No. CA, Teachers for Public Education, Progressive Student Union, Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines, Women Organized to Resist & Defend,  National Lawyers Guild – LA Chapter, People's CORE, Vets for Peace – LA Chapter

For more information: 415-821-6545 * Email: * website:



[Some of these videos are embeded on the BAUAW website: or]


Labor Beat: SOJO - The Fight for Social Justice High School 

["This is not an education plan, it's a business plan." quote from the] 

The fight for community democratic control of Social Justice High School is an important battle waged during the countdown to a possible strike of the Chicago Teachers Union in early September, 2012. And on August 31, students and faculty achieved a victory in forcing SOJO (as the High School is known) to hire back two teachers who were earlier fired for opposing destructive changes in the school's programs. All this took place in the midst of a student sit-in, an intense mass meeting of the school community, and a powerful student protest campaign that got the fired teachers reinstated.

Here are scenes from that fight: The dramatic August 23 mass meeting, testimonies of student leaders (one who reads a poem she was earlier prohibited from reading by CPS toadies), a big Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign indoor rally featuring speeches by the two fired teachers Angela Sangha and Katie Hogan; the student protest march two days later; the reinstatement of the two fired faculty members.

Speaking/interviewed: Andrea Guzman (Little Village community activist); Professor David Stovall (Advisory Local School Council representative); Dennis Kosuth (Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign member); Angela Sangha (founding teacher, Social Justice High School); Katie Hogan (founding teacher, Social Justice High School); Professor Rico Gutstein (University of Illinois - Chicago).

Please make a Donation to Labor Beat (Committee for Labor Access) and help rank-and-file tv:

Produced by Labor Beat. Labor Beat is a CAN TV Community Partner. Labor Beat is a non-profit 501(c)(3) member of IBEW 1220. Views are those of the producer Labor Beat. For info:, 312-226-3330. For other Labor Beat videos, visit YouTube and search "Labor Beat".

On Chicago CAN TV Channel 19, Thursdays 9:30 pm; Fridays 4:30 pm. Labor Beat has regular cable slots in Chicago, Evanston, Rockford, Urbana, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Princeton, NJ; and Rochester, NY. For more detailed information, send us a request at


all the sons 

By Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Published on Aug 27, 2012 by
Men have been going off to war for centuries. In the past couple centuries, they have been migrating to other countries (especially the U.S.) for work. They have been organizing, too, to fight oppression and stop the deaths of their sons and brothers.

"And I don't know why it has to be this way again."

I wrote this song for the mothers, too, who lose their sons to war and murder by police officers. Maybe someday "it doesn't have to be this way again."


Labor Beat: Chicago Teachers Stand Strong

On May 23, 2012, Chicago Teachers Union held a massive rally at the Auditorium
theater to inform their membership about the coming contract struggle they face.
In the climate of school closings, budget cuts, a terrible new proposed
contract, and teacher-bashing on the part of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Chicago
schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizzard, CTU took to the streets to show their numbers
and appeal to the public, and within two weeks CTU was voting to authorize a

Meanwhile a few blocks away, Stand Up Chicago, Action Now, and many other
community organizations rallied against the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME,
the operator of the Chicago Board of Trade) and the $110 million tax break
they've been given by Illinois. CME is one of the most profitable companies in
the region, and yet now Illinois government is making broad cuts to social
programs needed by struggling families. These two marches converged at Jackson
and LaSalle in a unified demand for economic justice for Chicago's 99%.

Please make a Donation to Labor Beat (Committee for Labor Access) and help
rank-and-file tv:

Produced by Labor Beat. Labor Beat is a CAN TV Community Partner. Labor Beat is
a non-profit 501(c)(3) member of IBEW 1220. Views are those of the producer
Labor Beat. For info:, 312-226-3330. For
other Labor Beat videos, visit YouTube and search "Labor Beat".

On Chicago CAN TV Channel 19, Thursdays 9:30 pm; Fridays 4:30 pm. Labor Beat has
regular cable slots in Chicago, Evanston, Rockford, Urbana, IL; Philadelphia,
PA; Princeton, NJ; and Rochester, NY.


Guantanamo Bay Prisoners Were Tortured with Sesame Street\

Guantanamo Bay prisoners were reportedly tortured with the sounds of children's
Sesame Street songs, in an attempt to get them to talk.

Read more at\


15 yr old Teen girl in jail beating video speaks out on cop attacking her in
Police brutality case


1000 year of war through the world


Anatomy of a Massacre - Afganistan

Afghans accuse multiple soldiers of pre-meditated murder

To see more go to

Follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter

The recent massacre of 17 civilians by a rogue US soldier has been shrouded in
mystery. But through unprecedented access to those involved, this report
confronts the accusations that Bales didn't act alone.

"They came into my room and they killed my family". Stories like this are common
amongst the survivors in Aklozai and Najiban. As are the shocking accusations
that Sergeant Bales was not acting alone. Even President Karzai has announced
"one man can not do that". Chief investigator, General Karimi, is suspicious
that despite being fully armed, Bales freely left his base without raising
alarm. "How come he leaves at night and nobody is aware? Every time we have
weapon accountability and personal accountability." These are just a few of the
questions the American army and government are yet to answer. One thing however
is very clear, the massacre has unleashed a wave of grief and outrage which
means relations in Kandahar will be tense for years to come: "If I could lay my
hands on those infidels, I would rip them apart with my bare hands."

A Film By SBS

Distributed By Journeyman Pictures

April 2012


Photo of George Zimmerman, in 2005 photo, left, and in a more recent photo.\

SPD Security Cams.wmv


Kids being put on buses and transported from school to "alternate locations" in
Terror Drills


Private prisons,

a recession resistant investment opportunity


Attack Dogs used on a High School Walkout in MD, Four Students Charged With

"Thought Crimes"


Common forms of misconduct by Law Enforcement Officials and Prosecutors


Organizing & Instigating: OCCUPY - Ronnie Goodman


Rep News 12: Yes We Kony


The New Black by The Mavrix - Official Music Video


Japan One Year Later


The CIA's Heart Attack Gun\


The Invisible American Workforce


Labor Beat: NATO vs The 1st Amendment

For more detailed information, send us a request at


Anti-War Demonstrators Storm Pentagon 1967/10/24


Liberal Hypocrisy on Obama Vs Bush - Poll


Greek trade unionists and black bloc October 2011!


The Battle of Oakland

by brandon jourdan plus


Officers Pulled Off Street After Tape of Beating Surfaces


February 1, 2012, 10:56 am\


Defending The People's Mic

by Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street

The North Star

January 20, 2012

Grand Central Terminal Arrests - MIRROR

Two protesters mic check about the loss of freedom brought about by the passage
of the NDAA and both are promptly arrested and whisked out of public sight.


This is excellent! Michelle Alexander pulls no punches!

Michelle Alexander, Author of The New Jim Crow, speaks about the political

behind the War on Drugs and its connection to the mass incarceration of Black
and Brown people in the United States.

If you think Bill Clinton was "the first black President" you need to watch this
video and see how much damage his administration caused for the black community
as a result of his get tough attitude on crime that appealed to white swing

This speech took place at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem on January 12,


Release Bradley Manning

Almost Gone (The Ballad Of Bradley Manning)

Written by Graham Nash and James Raymond (son of David Crosby)

School police increasingly arresting American students?



Nuclear Detonation Timeline "1945-1998"

The 2053 nuclear tests and explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998 are
plotted visually and audibly on a world map.


We Are the 99 Percent

We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to
choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are
suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay
and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1
percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.

Brought to you by the people who occupy wall street. Why will YOU occupy?


Drop All Charges on the 'Occupy Wall Street' Arrestees!

Stop Police Attacks & Arrests! Support 'Occupy Wall Street'!




We Are The People Who Will Save Our Schools



In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the 44-Day Flint Michigan sit-down strike at
GM that began December 30, 1936:

According to Michael Moore, (Although he has done some good things, this clip
isn't one of them) in this clip from his film, "Capitalism a Love Story," it was
Roosevelt who saved the day!):

"After a bloody battle one evening, the Governor of Michigan, with the support
of the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, sent in the National
Guard. But the guns and the soldiers weren't used on the workers; they were
pointed at the police and the hired goons warning them to leave these workers
alone. For Mr. Roosevelt believed that the men inside had a right to a redress
of their grievances." -Michael Moore's 'Capitalism: A Love Story'

- Flint Sit-Down Strike

But those cannons were not aimed at the goons and cops! They were aimed straight
at the factory filled with strikers! Watch what REALLY happened and how the
strike was really won!

'With babies & banners' -- 75 years since the 44-day Flint sit-down strike



HALLELUJAH CORPORATIONS (revised edition).mov




ILWU Local 10 Longshore Workers Speak-Out At Oakland Port Shutdown

Uploaded by laborvideo on Dec 13, 2011

ILWU Local 10 longshore workers speak out during a blockade of the Port of
Oakland called for by Occupy Oakland. Anthony Levieges and Clarence Thomas rank
and file members of the union. The action took place on December 12, 2011 and
the interview took place at Pier 30 on the Oakland docks.

For more information on the ILWU Local 21 Longview EGT struggle go to

For further info on the action and the press conferernce go to:

Production of Labor Video Project


UC Davis Police Violence Adds Fuel to Fire

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

19 November 11\

UC Davis Protestors Pepper Sprayed


Police pepper spraying and arresting students at UC Davis


UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walks to her car!

Occupy Seattle - 84 Year Old Woman Dorli Rainey Pepper Sprayed




Shot by police with rubber bullet at Occupy Oakland


Copwatch@Occupy Oakland: Beware of Police Infiltrators and Provocateurs


Occupy Oakland 11-2 Strike: Police Tear Gas, Black Bloc, War in the Streets


Quebec police admitted that, in 2007, thugs carrying rocks to a peaceful protest
were actually undercover Quebec police officers:

POLICE STATE Criminal Cops EXPOSED As Agent Provocateurs @ SPP Protest


Quebec police admit going undercover at montebello protests

G20: Epic Undercover Police Fail



Occupy Oakland Protest

Cops make mass arrests at occupy Oakland

Raw Video: Protesters Clash With Oakland Police

Occupy Oakland - Flashbangs USED on protesters OPD LIES

KTVU TV Video of Police violence

Marine Vet wounded, tear gas & flash-bang grenades thrown in downtown

Tear Gas billowing through 14th & Broadway in Downtown Oakland

Arrests at Occupy Atlanta -- This is what a police state looks like


Labor Beat: Hey You Billionaire, Pay Your Fair Share


Voices of Occupy Boston 2011 - Kwame Somburu (Paul Boutelle) Part I

Voices of Occupy Boston 2011 - Kwame Somburu (Paul Boutelle) Part II


#Occupy Wall Street In Washington Square: Mohammed Ezzeldin, former occupier of
Egypt's Tahrir Square Speaks at Washington Square!


#OccupyTheHood, Occupy Wall Street

By adele pham


Live arrest at brooklyn bridge #occupywallstreet by We are Change




One World One Revolution -- MUST SEE VIDEO -- Powerful and

"When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." Thomas Jefferson


Japan: angry Fukushima citizens confront government (video)

Posted by Xeni Jardin on Monday, Jul 25th at 11:36am



I received the following reply from the White House November 18, 2011 regarding
the Bradley Manning petition I signed:

"Why We Can't Comment on Bradley Manning

"Thank you for signing the petition 'Free PFC Bradley Manning, the accused
WikiLeaks whistleblower.' We appreciate your participation in the We the People
platform on

The We the People Terms of Participation explain that 'the White House may
decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or
similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or
agencies, federal courts, or state and local government.' The military justice
system is charged with enforcing the Uniform Code of

Military Justice. Accordingly, the White House declines to comment on the
specific case raised in this petition...

That's funny! I guess Obama didn't get this memo. Here's what Obama said about


"He broke the law!" says Obama about Bradley Manning who has yet to even be
charged, let alone, gone to trial and found guilty. How horrendous is it for the
President to declare someone guilty before going to trial or being charged with
a crime! Justice in the U.S.A.!

Obama on FREE BRADLEY MANNING protest... San Francisco, CA. April 21, 2011-
Presidential remarks on interrupt/interaction/performance art happening at
fundraiser. Logan Price queries Barack after org. FRESH JUICE PARTY political


Labor Beat: Labor Stands with Subpoenaed Activists Against FBI Raids and Grand
Jury Investigation of antiwar and social justice activists.

"If trouble is not at your door. It's on it's way, or it just left."

"Investigate the Billionaires...Full investigation into Wall Street..." Jesse
Sharkey, Vice

President, Chicago Teachers Union


Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks


Coal Ash: One Valley's Tale




Contact the Obama campaign now to voice your support for Bradley!

The Obama campaign keeps track of how many calls and e-mails they get about each issue.

Contact President Obama's team now and tell them "Obama must uphold his promise to protect whistle-blowers and free Bradley Manning!"
Call: 312-698-3670



You Have the Right to Remain Silent: NLG Guide to Law Enforcement Encounters

Posted 1 day ago on July 27, 2012, 10:28 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Occupy Wall Street is a nonviolent movement for social and economic justice, but in recent days disturbing reports have emerged of Occupy-affiliated activists being targeted by US law enforcement, including agents from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. To help ensure Occupiers and allied activists know their rights when encountering law enforcement, we are publishing in full the National Lawyers Guild's booklet: You Have the Right to Remain Silent. The NLG provides invaluable support to the Occupy movement and other activists – please click here to support the NLG.
We strongly encourage all Occupiers to read and share the information provided below. We also recommend you enter the NLG's national hotline number (888-654-3265) into your cellphone (if you have one) and keep a copy handy. This information is not a substitute for legal advice. You should contact the NLG or a criminal defense attorney immediately if you have been visited by the FBI or other law enforcement officials. You should also alert your relatives, friends, co-workers and others so that they will be prepared if they are contacted as well.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Law Enforcement Encounters

What Rights Do I Have?

Whether or not you’re a citizen, you have rights under the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment gives every person the right to remain silent: not to answer questions asked by a police officer or government agent. The Fourth Amendment restricts the government’s power to enter and search your home or workplace, although there are many exceptions and new laws have expanded the government’s power to conduct surveillance. The First Amendment protects your right to speak freely and to advocate for social change. However, if you are a non-citizen, the Department of Homeland Security may target you based on your political activities.

Standing Up For Free Speech

The government’s crusade against politically-active individuals is intended to disrupt and suppress the exercise of time-honored free speech activities, such as boycotts, protests, grassroots organizing and solidarity work. Remember that you have the right to stand up to the intimidation tactics of FBI agents and other law enforcement officials who, with political motives, are targeting organizing and free speech activities. Informed resistance to these tactics and steadfast defense of your and others’ rights can bring positive results. Each person who takes a courageous stand makes future resistance to government oppression easier for all. The National Lawyers Guild has a long tradition of standing up to government repression. The organization itself was labeled a “subversive” group during the McCarthy Era and was subject to FBI surveillance and infiltration for many years. Guild attorneys have defended FBI-targeted members of the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, and the Puerto Rican independence movement. The NLG exposed FBI surveillance, infiltration and disruption tactics that were detailed during the 1975-76 COINTELPRO hearings. In 1989 the NLG prevailed in a lawsuit on behalf of several activist organizations, including the Guild, that forced the FBI to expose the extent to which it had been spying on activist movements. Under the settlement, the FBI turned over roughly 400,000 pages of its files on the Guild, which are now available at the Tamiment Library at New York University.

What if FBI Agents or Police Contact Me?

What if an agent or police officer comes to the door?

Do not invite the agents or police into your home. Do not answer any questions. Tell the agent that you do not wish to talk with him or her. You can state that your lawyer will contact them on your behalf. You can do this by stepping outside and pulling the door behind you so that the interior of your home or office is not visible, getting their contact information or business cards and then returning inside. They should cease questioning after this. If the agent or officer gives a reason for contacting you, take notes and give the information to your attorney. Anything you say, no matter how seemingly harmless or insignificant, may be used against you or others in the future. Lying to or misleading a federal agent is a crime. The more you speak, the more opportunity for federal law enforcement to find something you said (even if not intentionally) false and assert that you lied to a federal officer.

Do I have to answer questions?

You have the constitutional right to remain silent. It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions. You do not have to talk to anyone, even if you have been arrested or are in jail. You should affirmatively and unambiguously state that you wish to remain silent and that you wish to consult an attorney. Once you make the request to speak to a lawyer, do not say anything else. The Supreme Court recently ruled that answering law enforcement questions may be taken as a waiver of your right to remain silent, so it is important that you assert your rights and maintain them. Only a judge can order you to answer questions. There is one exception: some states have “stop and identify” statutes which require you to provide identity information or your name if you have been detained on reasonable suspicion that you may have committed a crime. A lawyer in your state can advise you of the status of these requirements where you reside.

Do I have to give my name?

As above, in some states you can be detained or arrested for merely refusing to give your name. And in any state, police do not always follow the law, and refusing to give your name may make them suspicious or more hostile and lead to your arrest, even without just cause, so use your judgment. Giving a false name could in some circumstances be a crime.
Do I need a lawyer?

You have the right to talk to a lawyer before you decide whether to answer questions from law enforcement. It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer if you are considering answering any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer present during any interview. The lawyer’s job is to protect your rights. Once you tell the agent that you want to talk to a lawyer, he or she should stop trying to question you and should make any further contact through your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you can still tell the officer you want to speak to one before answering questions. Remember to get the name, agency and telephone number of any investigator who visits you, and give that information to your lawyer. The government does not have to provide you with a free lawyer unless you are charged with a crime, but the NLG or another organization may be able to help you find a lawyer for free or at a reduced rate.
If I refuse to answer questions or say I want a lawyer, won’t it seem like I have something to hide?

Anything you say to law enforcement can be used against you and others. You can never tell how a seemingly harmless bit of information might be used or manipulated to hurt you or someone else. That is why the right not to talk is a fundamental right under the Constitution. Keep in mind that although law enforcement agents are allowed to lie to you, lying to a government agent is a crime. Remaining silent is not. The safest things to say are “I am going to remain silent,” “I want to speak to my lawyer,” and “I do not consent to a search.” It is a common practice for law enforcement agents to try to get you to waive your rights by telling you that if you have nothing to hide you would talk or that talking would “just clear things up.” The fact is, if they are questioning you, they are looking to incriminate you or someone you may know, or they are engaged in political intelligence gathering. You should feel comfortable standing firm in protection and defense of your rights and refusing to answer questions.

Can agents search my home or office?

You do not have to let police or agents into your home or office unless they have and produce a valid search warrant. A search warrant is a written court order that allows the police to conduct a specified search. Interfering with a warrantless search probably will not stop it and you might get arrested. But you should say “I do not consent to a search,” and call a criminal defense lawyer or the NLG. You should be aware that a roommate or guest can legally consent to a search of your house if the police believe that person has the authority to give consent, and your employer can consent to a search of your workspace without your permission.

What if agents have a search warrant?

If you are present when agents come for the search, you can ask to see the warrant. The warrant must specify in detail the places to be searched and the people or things to be taken away. Tell the agents you do not consent to the search so that they cannot go beyond what the warrant authorizes. Ask if you are allowed to watch the search; if you are allowed to, you should. Take notes, including names, badge numbers, what agency each officer is from, where they searched and what they took. If others are present, have them act as witnesses to watch carefully what is happening. If the agents ask you to give them documents, your computer, or anything else, look to see if the item is listed in the warrant. If it is not, do not consent to them taking it without talking to a lawyer. You do not have to answer questions. Talk to a lawyer first. (Note: If agents present an arrest warrant, they may only perform a cursory visual search of the premises to see if the person named in the arrest warrant is present.)

Do I have to answer questions if I have been arrested?

No. If you are arrested, you do not have to answer any questions. You should affirmatively and unambiguously state that you wish to assert your right to remain silent. Ask for a lawyer right away. Do not say anything else. Repeat to every officer who tries to talk to or question you that you wish to remain silent and that you wish to speak to a lawyer. You should always talk to a lawyer before you decide to answer any questions.

What if I speak to government agents anyway?

Even if you have already answered some questions, you can refuse to answer other questions until you have a lawyer. If you find yourself talking, stop. Assert that you wish to remain silent and that you wish to speak to a lawyer.
What if the police stop me on the street?

Ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, consider just walking away. If the police say you are not under arrest, but are not free to go, then you are being detained. The police can pat down the outside of your clothing if they have reason to suspect you might be armed and dangerous. If they search any more than this, say clearly, “I do not consent to a search.” They may keep searching anyway. If this happens, do not resist because you can be charged with assault or resisting arrest. You do not have to answer any questions. You do not have to open bags or any closed container. Tell the officers you do not consent to a search of your bags or other property.

What if police or agents stop me in my car?

Keep your hands where the police can see them. If you are driving a vehicle, you must show your license, registration and, in some states, proof of insurance. You do not have to consent to a search. But the police may have legal grounds to search your car anyway. Clearly state that you do not consent. Officers may separate passengers and drivers from each other to question them, but no one has to answer any questions.

What if I am treated badly by the police or the FBI?

Write down the officer’s badge number, name or other identifying information. You have a right to ask the officer for this information. Try to find witnesses and their names and phone numbers. If you are injured, seek medical attention and take pictures of the injuries as soon as you can. Call a lawyer as soon as possible.

What if the police or FBI threaten me with a grand jury subpoena if I don’t answer their questions?

A grand jury subpoena is a written order for you to go to court and testify about information you may have. It is common for the FBI to threaten you with a subpoena to get you to talk to them. If they are going to subpoena you, they will do so anyway. You should not volunteer to speak just because you are threatened with a subpoena. You should consult a lawyer.
What if I receive a grand jury subpoena?

Grand jury proceedings are not the same as testifying at an open court trial. You are not allowed to have a lawyer present (although one may wait in the hallway and you may ask to consult with him or her after each question) and you may be asked to answer questions about your activities and associations. Because of the witness’s limited rights in this situation, the government has frequently used grand jury subpoenas to gather information about activists and political organizations. It is common for the FBI to threaten activists with a subpoena in order to elicit information about their political views and activities and those of their associates. There are legal grounds for stopping (“quashing”) subpoenas, and receiving one does not necessarily mean that you are suspected of a crime. If you do receive a subpoena, call the NLG National Hotline at 888-NLG-ECOL (888-654-3265) or call a criminal defense attorney immediately.

The government regularly uses grand jury subpoena power to investigate and seek evidence related to politically-active individuals and social movements. This practice is aimed at prosecuting activists and, through intimidation and disruption, discouraging continued activism.

Federal grand jury subpoenas are served in person. If you receive one, it is critically important that you retain the services of an attorney, preferably one who understands your goals and, if applicable, understands the nature of your political work, and has experience with these issues. Most lawyers are trained to provide the best legal defense for their client, often at the expense of others. Beware lawyers who summarily advise you to cooperate with grand juries, testify against friends, or cut off contact with your friends and political activists. Cooperation usually leads to others being subpoenaed and investigated. You also run the risk of being charged with perjury, a felony, should you omit any pertinent information or should there be inconsistencies in your testimony.

Frequently prosecutors will offer “use immunity,” meaning that the prosecutor is prohibited from using your testimony or any leads from it to bring charges against you. If a subsequent prosecution is brought, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving that all of its evidence was obtained independent of the immunized testimony. You should be aware, however, that they will use anything you say to manipulate associates into sharing more information about you by suggesting that you have betrayed confidences.

In front of a grand jury you can “take the Fifth” (exercise your right to remain silent). However, the prosecutor may impose immunity on you, which strips you of Fifth Amendment protection and subjects you to the possibility of being cited for contempt and jailed if you refuse to answer further. In front of a grand jury you have no Sixth Amendment right to counsel, although you can consult with a lawyer outside the grand jury room after each question.

What if I don’t cooperate with the grand jury?

If you receive a grand jury subpoena and elect to not cooperate, you may be held in civil contempt. There is a chance that you may be jailed or imprisoned for the length of the grand jury in an effort to coerce you to cooperate. Regular grand juries sit for a basic term of 18 months, which can be extended up to a total of 24 months. It is lawful to hold you in order to coerce your cooperation, but unlawful to hold you as a means of punishment. In rare instances you may face criminal contempt charges.

What If I Am Not a Citizen and the DHS Contacts Me?

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is now part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has been renamed and reorganized into: 1. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS); 2. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP); and 3. The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). All three bureaus will be referred to as DHS for the purposes of this pamphlet.

■ Assert your rights. If you do not demand your rights or if you sign papers waiving your rights, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may deport you before you see a lawyer or an immigration judge. Never sign anything without reading, understanding and knowing the consequences of signing it.

■ Talk to a lawyer. If possible, carry with you the name and telephone number of an immigration lawyer who will take your calls. The immigration laws are hard to understand and there have been many recent changes. DHS will not explain your options to you. As soon as you encounter a DHS agent, call your attorney. If you can’t do it right away, keep trying. Always talk to an immigration lawyer before leaving the U.S. Even some legal permanent residents can be barred from returning.

Based on today’s laws, regulations and DHS guidelines, non-citizens usually have the following rights, no matter what their immigration status. This information may change, so it is important to contact a lawyer. The following rights apply to non-citizens who are inside the U.S. Non-citizens at the border who are trying to enter the U.S. do not have all the same rights.

Do I have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any DHS questions or signing any DHS papers?

Yes. You have the right to call a lawyer or your family if you are detained, and you have the right to be visited by a lawyer in detention. You have the right to have your attorney with you at any hearing before an immigration judge. You do not have the right to a government-appointed attorney for immigration proceedings, but if you have been arrested, immigration officials must show you a list of free or low cost legal service providers.

Should I carry my green card or other immigration papers with me?

If you have documents authorizing you to stay in the U.S., you must carry them with you. Presenting false or expired papers to DHS may lead to deportation or criminal prosecution. An unexpired green card, I-94, Employment Authorization Card, Border Crossing Card or other papers that prove you are in legal status will satisfy this requirement. If you do not carry these papers with you, you could be charged with a crime. Always keep a copy of your immigration papers with a trusted family member or friend who can fax them to you, if need be. Check with your immigration lawyer about your specific case.

Am I required to talk to government officers about my immigration history?

If you are undocumented, out of status, a legal permanent resident (green card holder), or a citizen, you do not have to answer any questions about your immigration history. (You may want to consider giving your name; see above for more information about this.) If you are not in any of these categories, and you are being questioned by a DHS or FBI agent, then you may create problems with your immigration status if you refuse to provide information requested by the agent. If you have a lawyer, you can tell the agent that your lawyer will answer questions on your behalf. If answering questions could lead the agent to information that connects you with criminal activity, you should consider refusing to talk to the agent at all.

If I am arrested for immigration violations, do I have the right to a hearing before an immigration judge to defend myself against deportation charges?

Yes. In most cases only an immigration judge can order you deported. But if you waive your rights or take “voluntary departure,” agreeing to leave the country, you could be deported without a hearing. If you have criminal convictions, were arrested at the border, came to the U.S. through the visa waiver program or have been ordered deported in the past, you could be deported without a hearing. Contact a lawyer immediately to see if there is any relief for you.

Can I call my consulate if I am arrested?

Yes. Non-citizens arrested in the U.S. have the right to call their consulate or to have the police tell the consulate of your arrest. The police must let your consulate visit or speak with you if consular officials decide to do so. Your consulate might help you find a lawyer or offer other help. You also have the right to refuse help from your consulate.

What happens if I give up my right to a hearing or leave the U.S. before the hearing is over?

You could lose your eligibility for certain immigration benefits, and you could be barred from returning to the U.S. for a number of years. You should always talk to an immigration lawyer before you decide to give up your right to a hearing.

What should I do if I want to contact DHS?

Always talk to a lawyer before contacting DHS, even on the phone. Many DHS officers view “enforcement” as their primary job and will not explain all of your options to you.

What Are My Rights at Airports?

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is illegal for law enforcement to perform any stops, searches, detentions or removals based solely on your race, national origin, religion, sex or ethnicity.

If I am entering the U.S. with valid travel papers can a U.S. customs agent stop and search me?

Yes. Customs agents have the right to stop, detain and search every person and item.

Can my bags or I be searched after going through metal detectors with no problem or after security sees that my bags do not contain a weapon?

Yes. Even if the initial screen of your bags reveals nothing suspicious, the screeners have the authority to conduct a further search of you or your bags.

If I am on an airplane, can an airline employee interrogate me or ask me to get off the plane?

The pilot of an airplane has the right to refuse to fly a passenger if he or she believes the passenger is a threat to the safety of the flight. The pilot’s decision must be reasonable and based on observations of you, not stereotypes.

What If I Am Under 18?

Do I have to answer questions?

No. Minors too have the right to remain silent. You cannot be arrested for refusing to talk to the police, probation officers, or school officials, except in some states you may have to give your name if you have been detained.
What if I am detained?

If you are detained at a community detention facility or Juvenile Hall, you normally must be released to a parent or guardian. If charges are filed against you, in most states you are entitled to counsel (just like an adult) at no cost.

Do I have the right to express political views at school?

Public school students generally have a First Amendment right to politically organize at school by passing out leaflets, holding meetings, etc., as long as those activities are not disruptive and do not violate legitimate school rules. You may not be singled out based on your politics, ethnicity or religion.

Can my backpack or locker be searched?

School officials can search students’ backpacks and lockers without a warrant if they reasonably suspect that you are involved in criminal activity or carrying drugs or weapons. Do not consent to the police or school officials searching your property, but do not physically resist or you may face criminal charges.


This booklet is not a substitute for legal advice. You should contact an attorney if you have been visited by the FBI or other law enforcement officials. You should also alert your relatives, friends, co-workers and others so that they will be prepared if they are contacted as well.

NLG National Hotline for Activists Contacted by the FBI




Write to Lynne Stewart Defense Committee at:

Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York 11216

For further information: 718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759


Write to Lynne Stewart at:

Lynne Stewart #53504 - 054
Unit 2N
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TEXAS 76127

Visiting Lynne:

Visiting is very liberal but first she has to get people on her visiting list;
wait til she or the lawyers let you know. The visits are FRI, SAT, SUN AND MON for 4 hours and on
weekends 8 to 3. Bring clear plastic change purse with lots of change to buy from the
machines. Brief Kiss upon arrival and departure, no touching or holding during visit (!!) On visiting
forms it may be required that you knew me before I came to prison. Not a problem for most of

Commissary Money:

Commissary Money is always welcome It is how Lynne pay for the phone and for

Also for a lot that prison doesn't supply in terms of food and "sundries"
(pens!) (A very big list that includes Raisins, Salad Dressing, ankle sox, mozzarella (definitely
not from Antonys--more like a white cheddar, Sanitas Corn Chips but no Salsa, etc. To add money,
you do this by using Western Union and a credit card by phone or you can send a USPO money
order or Business or Govt Check. The negotiable instruments (PAPER!) need to be sent to

Bureau of Prisons, 53504-054, Lynne Stewart, PO Box 474701, Des Moines Iowa

(Payable to Lynne Stewart, 53504-054) They hold the mo or checks for 15 days.

Union costs $10 but is within 2 hours. If you mail, your return address must be
on the envelope. Unnecessarily complicated? Of course, it's the BOP !)

The address of her Defense Committee is:

Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York 11216

For further information:

718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759

Please make a generous contribution to her defense.


Free Mumia NOW!

Write to Mumia:

Mumia Abu-Jamal AM 8335

SCI Mahanoy

301 Morea Road

Frackville, PA 17932

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Rachel Wolkenstein
August 21, 2011 (917) 689-4009

On August 13, 2012, without any notice and in violation of his constitutional rights and state law, Mumia Abu-Jamal was formally sentenced by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe to life imprisonment without parole. The impact of this illegal sentencing is to prevent a possible challenge to the slow death of life imprisonment. All sentences, including "mandatory" sentences, require a formal proceeding allowing the person to be sentenced the right to be heard and to challenge his sentence.

Mumia confirmed to his son Jamal and to attorney Rachel Wolkenstein during a visit with him on Sunday, August 19, 2012, that he had no prior knowledge of the re-sentencing. The record of this re-sentencing is contained in the official Court of Common Pleas Docket Sheet. In attempting to find out more details, Wolkenstein searched for the court file on August 20. But there is no file containing a record of this sentencing with the Criminal Division Court of Common Pleas Clerk. The information released so far by Elaine Rattliff, Deputy Clerk of Courts is that the sentencing followed a call from the Department of Corrections and further explanation awaits a call back from Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe.

Notably Judge Dembe is same judge who refused in 2001 to consider a legal challenge to "hanging judge" Albert Sabo's self-confessed racism and bias against Mumia during his trial and post-conviction appeals from 1995-1998. Court reporter Terri Mauer-Carter heard Sabo declare before the start of the trial, "I'm going to help them fry the n-----."

For thirty years Mumia was kept in solitary confinement on death row under a death sentence that was illegally and unconstitutionally imposed. Federal district court Judge William Yohn ruled in December 2001 that Judge Albert Sabo incorrectly and unconstitutionally instructed the jury in deciding on life or death. Despite this decision, Mumia was kept on death row, in solitary confinement for the next ten years, while the prosecution pursued two appeals in the Federal Court of Appeals and two attempts at U.S. Supreme Court rulings to uphold the death sentence. All that time, Mumia sat in solitary confinement. According to Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rappatour on Torture, solitary confinement for longer than 15 days is a form of torture! Mumia should be freed from prison, now!

This latest legal outrage comes nine months after the state conceded defeat in obtaining its desired "legal lynching" of Mumia. On December 8, 2011, Philadelphia District Attorney, Seth Williams—with the support of Maureen Faulkner, the Fraternal Order of Police and former District Attorney, Philadelphia Mayor and PA governor, Edward Rendell—announced that they were no longer seeking a death sentence for Mumia. This was their recognition that it was neither legally possible nor politically advantageous to hold a new sentencing hearing.

Mumia's 1982 trial contained violations of every single element of due process and a fair trial. But it began with framing an innocent man. Mumia was framed for a crime he did not commit. His crime in the eyes of the state is that he was and continues to be "the voice of the voiceless," a former spokesman for the Black Panther Party and continuing supporter of the MOVE organization.

In his first phone call from general population on January 28, 2012, Mumia relayed the following message to his wife, Wadiya Jamal: "My dear friends, brothers and sisters – I want to thank you for your real hard work and support. I am no longer on death row, no longer in the hole, I'm in population. This is only Part One and I thank you for the work you've done. But the struggle is for freedom!"


Police Attack Antiwar Protester

Police Brutality Against Anti War demonstrator Buffalo New York 2011
NFTA Police and anti terror task force assault anti war demonstration in Buffalo.
Nate Buckley maced while in handcuffs. His new trial date is October 16, 2012.

For updates or to donate please go to:
Sign the petition:
Watch a video of the incident:


Sign the petition for the NATO 5!
Drop all charges against the NATO 5 and all anti-NATO protesters!
Protesters are still being held in Cook County Jail in Chicago. Release them all
Sign the Petition Here:

The charges against the NATO 5 and the others are false. All these prisoners
urgently need your solidarity. Please sign our petition. Share it with your
family, friends and coworkers. Signing the petition will generate a direct email

Illinois State's Attorney Anita Alvarez
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
and several other public officials, demanding all charges against the NATO5
be dropped.

Email addresses for the targets

Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war
and international solidarity activists!

Our mailing address is:

Committee to Stop FBI Repression

PO Box 14183

Minneapolis, MN 55414


Tarek Mehanna - another victim of the U.S. War to Terrorize Everyone. He was
targeted because he would not spy on his Muslim community for the FBI. Under the
new NDAA indefinite military detention provision, Tarek is someone who likely
would never come to a trial, although an American citizen. His sentencing is on
April 12. There will be an appeal.

Another right we may kiss goodbye. We should not accept the verdict and continue
to fight for his release, just as we do for hero Bradley Manning, and all the
many others unjustly persecuted by our government until it is the war criminals
on trial, prosecuted by the people, and not the other way around.

Marilyn Levin

Official defense website:



(For a complete analysis of the prospects of war, click here)


"A Child's View from Gaza: Palestinian Children's Art and the Fight Against
Censorship" book


Justice for Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace: Decades of isolation in Louisiana
state prisons must end

Take Action -- Sign Petition Here:\




Write to Bradley

View the new 90 second "I am Bradley Manning" video:

I am Bradley Manning

Courage to Resist

484 Lake Park Ave. #41

Oakland, CA 94610


"A Fort Leavenworth mailing address has been released for Bradley Manning:

Bradley Manning 89289

830 Sabalu Road

Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027

The receptionist at the military barracks confirmed that if someone sends
Bradley Manning a letter to that address, it will be delivered to him."

This is also a Facebook event!/event.php?eid=2071005093\

Courage to Resist needs your support

Please donate today:

"Soldiers sworn oath is to defend and support the Constitution. Bradley Manning
has been defending and supporting our Constitution." --Dan Ellsberg, Pentagon
Papers whistle-blower

Jeff Paterson

Project Director, Courage to Resist

First US military service member to refuse to fight in Iraq

Please donate today.

P.S. I'm asking that you consider a contribution of $50 or more, or possibly
becoming a sustainer at $15 a month. Of course, now is also a perfect time to
make a end of year tax-deductible donation. Thanks again for your support!

Please click here to forward this to a friend who might also be interested in
supporting GI resisters.


The Battle Is Still On To


The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

PO Box 16222 • Oakland CA 94610


Call for EMERGENCY RESPONSE Action if Assange Indicted,

Dear Friends:

We write in haste, trying to reach as many of you as possible although the
holiday break has begun.......This plan for an urgent "The Day After"
demonstration is one we hope you and many, many more organizations will take up
as your own, and mobilize for. World Can't Wait asks you to do all you can to
spread it through list serves, Facebook, twitter, holiday gatherings.

Our proposal is very very simple, and you can use the following announcement to
mobilize - or write your own....



New Federal Building, 7th and Mission, San Francisco (nearest BART: Civic

4:00-6:00 PM on The Day FOLLOWING U.S. indictment of Assange

Demonstrations defending Wikileaks and Assange, and Brad Manning, have already
been flowering around the world. Make it happen here too. Especially here . . .

To join into this action plan, or with questions, contact World Can't Wait or
whichever organization or listserve you received this message from.

World Can't Wait, SF Bay




Reasonable doubts about executing Kevin Cooper

Chronicle Editorial

Monday, December 13, 2010

Death penalty -- Kevin Cooper is Innocent! Help save his life from San Quentin's
death row!


- From Amnesty International USA

17 December 2010

Click here to take action online:\

To learn about recent Urgent Action successes and updates, go to

For a print-friendly version of this Urgent Action (PDF):


Short Video About Al-Awda's Work

The following link is to a short video which provides an overview of Al-Awda's
work since the founding of our organization in 2000. This video was first shown
on Saturday May 23, 2009 at the fundraising banquet of the 7th Annual Int'l
Al-Awda Convention in Anaheim California. It was produced from footage collected
over the past nine years.


Support Al-Awda, a Great Organization and Cause!

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, depends on your financial
support to carry out its work.

To submit your tax-deductible donation to support our work, go to

and follow the simple instructions.

Thank you for your generosity!


D. ARTICLES IN FULL (Unless otherwise noted)


1) Miners Sign Deal in South Africa
September 18, 2012

MOOINOOI, South Africa (AP) — Striking platinum miners in South Africa signed a wage deal late Tuesday that ended a bloody five-week strike at a mine run by Lonmin, a London-based company, that had spread to other parts of the industry.

The agreement for the company’s 28,000 miners ended the strike but did not resolve the widespread anger over inequality in South Africa and the government’s failure to address high unemployment and poverty.

Lonmin agreed to pay $1,385 a month to rock drill operators who had been demanding a take-home wage of $1,560.

The deal includes a payment of $250 for miners who persisted with the no-work, no-pay strike, said Bishop Joe Seoka of the Anglican Church, a member of the negotiating team and head of the South African Council of Churches.

More than 40 people have died since the strike began. On Aug. 16, police officers fired on a group of platinum miners engaged in an illegal strike at the mine, in the town of Marikana, killing 34 and wounding dozens. Ten others died in earlier violence, including two police officers.

South Africa has the world’s largest reserves of platinum.


2)  Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis: Deal Ending Strike a Victory for Education
DemocracyNow! Interview with Karen Lewis
DemocracyNow!, September 19, 2012

Amy Goodman: We’re on the road in Chicago as part of our 100-city election 2012 tour. Chicago public school students are returning to classes after the governing body of the Chicago Teachers Union voted to suspend its nine-day strike, the first teachers’ strike in Chicago since 1987. The decision came after hours of closed-door talks among union members who had asked for time to review details of their proposed new contract. Union President Karen Lewis spoke to reporters shortly after the vote.
Karen Lewis: We are trying to have people understand that when people come together to deal with problems of education, the people that are actually working in the schools need to be heard. And I think that this has been an opportunity for people across the nation to have their voices heard. And I think we’re moving in the right direction.
Amy Goodman: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel framed the end of the strike as a victory for the city’s children. This came after he sought a court injunction to force an end to the walkout. Following Tuesday’s vote, Mayor Emanuel said the new contract could bring welcome changes to the city’s public schools.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel: This settlement is an honest compromise. It means returning our schools to their primary purpose, the education of our children. It means a new day and a new direction for the Chicago public schools. In this contract, we gave our children a seat at the table. In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more, but our kids got less. This time, our taxpayers are paying less, and our kids are getting more. Because of the past contracts, teachers and principals had to make false choices about where they spent their time, because there was so little of it. This contract is a break with past practices and brings a fundamental change that benefits our children.
We have been discussing the need for more school time as a city for over a decade but lacked the ability to achieve our primary educational goal. We have been discussing the need for more reading and more recess, for more science and sports, for more math and music, geometry and gym. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been discussing that. Each time, it was postponed or rejected because the changes were considered too difficult. Today, that era and those false choices come to an end.
Amy Goodman: Since the 800 delegates of the Chicago Teachers Union voted overwhelmingly to suspend the strike, the agreement will now go before the entire membership. The deal calls for a double-digit salary increase over the next three years, including raises for cost of living, while maintaining other increases for experience and advanced education. This is teacher and union delegate Adam Heenan, who voted to end the walkout.
Adam Heenan: I feel like we got something that we can go back to the classroom with dignity with. We didn’t win as much on fair compensation, but we have positions that are going back—arts positions, PE positions. We have a promise to hire a hundred more support staff and social workers, psychologists. We have an anti-bullying clause. You know, anti-workplace bullying is something that, you know, even our mayor is joining in on. And I think that we’re going to go back being able to be advocates for better classroom conditions. We have a parents’ member on each class-size panel. Even though, you know, we fought on class sizes, that was some of the non-permissible material. We fought off merit pay. There’s no merit pay in our system. We were able to fight back on a—on the Performance Evaluation Reform Act, that was designed to get rid of 6,000 union members in two years, and kind of reinventing seniority. I feel really good right now.
Amy Goodman: For more, we’re joined here in Chicago by the woman who led the city’s first teachers’ strike in a quarter of a century. Karen Lewis is president of the Chicago Teachers Union. She’s also part of the union’s Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, known as CORE. She used to teach chemistry at Martin Luther King High School on the South Side of Chicago.
Amy Goodman: And this is a momentous week right now in Chicago. This is the first morning after the decision the teachers have made to go back. Do you feel you have won this strike?
Karen Lewis: Oh, absolutely. I think that teachers across the country realize how important it is to stand up as a union together and fight back against things that are actually bad for children. And I want to tell you that, as we went through the contract, basically article by article, one of the things that got the absolute most applause of the night was lesson plans, that teachers could do their own lesson plans. You know, I mean, it’s like things like this that are making our lives absolutely insane, that we’ve been micromanaged into doing things that we know are harmful for children. So, to finally stand up and say, you know, this is not a good way of doing school, because somebody in an air-conditioned building with a spreadsheet thinks that’s a good way of doing it, this has been a real victory.
Amy Goodman: Well, let’s talk about what you believe you have achieved. On the strike end of things, that had to do with salary and other issues like that.
Karen Lewis: Sure, it did, because we are prohibited from striking for just about everything else that other districts in the state can strike for. So it’s about compensation and benefits and procedures. So, we were able to strike over the salary piece. We were able to strike over the procedure of evaluations. And we were also looking to do some other things that, even though they’re not permissible and not strikeable, that we couldn’t settle the contract without. So, that included what the content of the evaluation piece looked like.
Amy Goodman: Well, I want to talk about the evaluation piece, but in terms of salary, what did you achieve?
Karen Lewis: Well, we fought off merit pay, which was something that they were absolutely adamant about. They wanted to take away our lanes, which are for achievement of advanced degrees. They wanted to take away our steps, which are for experience. And it’s the way we’ve been doing things traditionally for some time. They wanted to replace that with some sort of merit pay piece, or, as they call it, "differentiated compensation," that would tie to evaluations. And we were adamantly against that, and for a variety of reasons. And that took an awful lot of wrangling. So, in terms of that, you know, I mean, austerity contract compared to what we had before, but at least we were able to maintain this. And when we argued about it, they said, "Well, we’re giving you your lanes and steps." And I said, "But you need to understand, we had never lost them. So, that was something in your mind that you are giving." And I think that’s problematic.
We also got a right to recall in schools that—where enrollment drops. If that enrollment comes back up, if they projected incorrectly, then we got the right to recall, which we’ve never had, by the way. So, in many districts, when things like this happen, the right to recall is no big deal. But now we actually have it. So, there are small things. We got an anti-bullying measurement—I mean, an article. And one of the issues about that is that our members have been so miserable in the schools. We’ve had a lot of problems with principals changing people’s programs in order to set them up for failure. It’s like I know of a National Board certified teacher in science who taught seventh and eighth grade science, and she was given a kindergarten class. I mean, this is like an inappropriate—you know, there’s no pedagogical reason for this. So, these are the kinds of things that were going on in Chicago that were really driving people to easily decide to make a decision to strike, so...
Amy Goodman: I wanted to play for you comments by two Chicago teachers who participated in the strike. James Cavallero is a special education teacher in Chicago.
James Cavallero: We’d like to see our class sizes be smaller. We’d like to see more wraparound services, so more social workers, more nurses, other services that our kids can get. In special ed, we’d like to see, you know, more special ed teachers hired so that we can really benefit those kids that really need as much one-on-one attention and even in just smaller group attention.
Amy Goodman: And this is Garth Liebhaber, a fifth grade teacher in Chicago, speaking about the impact of the strike.
Garth Liebhaber: We’ve gained dignity. We’ve gained respect for our profession and for our school communities. We have regained unionism and what it means for working people. Today, our struggle has not just been about simply a contract, because a contract is worthless unless there are people to enforce it. This has been about returning power to where it belongs: amongst the working people and the communities they serve.
Amy Goodman: Two teachers talking about the strike. We’re joined by Karen Lewis. She is the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, just came out of the negotiations. Their responses, what they have said, what this meant for the teachers, as well as parents and students. What’s been fascinating, watching this from afar and then coming in to Chicago, is the level of support you had, even though kids were out and teachers were scrambling, overall, from the community.
Karen Lewis: Yeah. Well, we’ve been working on that for quite some time. I mean, before we ever gained office of the union, we worked very hard against the school closings that had been going on. And we have reached out into the community, worked with parents, worked with students, and when you build relationships like that, it just grows. So, to us, the whole idea of a union movement in school means you have to have all the stakeholders there. And that’s something that’s been missing, I think, from people in general across the country, that unionism has been sort of like the school system: it’s been very top-down.
And the two gentlemen that you actually spoke to are on our big bargaining team. So we had—we had members from all over the city in different areas—high school, grammar school, our paraprofessionals, our clinicians—all on our big bargaining team, so that they could actually see the process of negotiations, that it wasn’t like a little room with just two or three people in it just haggling out, you know? So that made a difference, too, because people felt involved. And it was also the reason why we were not able to come to an agreement on Sunday night, because people had not seen the language. And because of the lack of trust between the staff and management, they really wanted some time to look at that agreement, as opposed to just looking at a framework. So, it took them a couple of days, and it happened.
Amy Goodman: We’re going to come back to this discussion. Our guest is Karen Lewis. She’s president of the Chicago Teachers Union. "Back to school." That’s the word today all over Chicago. And we’re going to talk about what this means for the country. Chicago is an incubator for what is called school reform around the country. What does this strike mean?
Amy Goodman: Rebel Diaz, Rebel Diaz singing "Chicago Teacher." Rebel Diaz are graduates of the Chicago public schools. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’re on the road in Chicago on our 100-city tour. I’m Amy Goodman.
The new Chicago teachers’ contract could allow Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to solidify his main reform objective of lengthening what had been one of the nation’s shortest school days and years. He spoke about this on Tuesday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Our elementary students will gain an extra hour and 15 minutes every day and two additional weeks every year. Our high school students will be in front of a great teacher for the extra 30 minutes, just like here at Walter Payton, each day, and two additional weeks each year. For the 6,000-and-plus students who are entering kindergarten, the additional kindergarten students we put in, they will have an extra two-and-a-half years in classroom by the time they graduate high school. That two-and-a-half years of additional education is a new day and a new direction for Chicago’s children and Chicago’s schools.
Amy Goodman: That was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff of President Obama. Karen Lewis, our guest, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, just after the vote for suspending the teachers’ strike, the first teachers’ strike called in a quarter of a century. Your response to what Rahm Emanuel considers his greatest achievement, the lengthening of the school day?
Karen Lewis: Well, I mean, that was his mantra from the very beginning. I think it’s interesting that when he first started out, he claimed that students would have four extra years because, you know, of this horrible, horrible short school day. Now it’s down to two-and-a-half years. You know, we know that quantity is not quality. And from the very beginning, we didn’t actually fight him on this longer school day, because the law gave him the opportunity to impose it. But we wanted to make sure it was a better school day. And a better school day for us included a broad, rich curriculum for our students. We were concerned that the direction of school reform is about standardized testing, so it’s about math and reading all day, which doesn’t engage children. So we wanted to make sure they had art, music, PE, world languages. These are the kinds of things that also stimulate critical thinking. And we wanted to also bring the joy of teaching and learning back into the classroom.
Amy Goodman: I was speaking to some people last night who were pointing out that Rahm Emanuel’s own children go to the Lab School, as did President Obama’s. Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, also went there himself. What are the standards of the Lab School when it comes to number of teachers per—the ratio of kids to teachers, the length of the school day?
Karen Lewis: Well, I’m not really sure about the ratio. I know it’s a lot smaller than the one that we have—
Amy Goodman: It’s a private school here that’s run by the University of Chicago.
Karen Lewis: —because it’s a private school. However, I also know that the Lab School has nine art teachers and quite a few music teachers and a real commitment to a rich, broad curriculum. As a matter of fact, when we heard that the mayor was sending his children to the Lab School, we went on the Lab School’s website, pulled down what their educational program looked like, and we said, from the very beginning, we’re glad that Rahm Emanuel knows what a good education looks like, so we’re going to make sure that every child in Chicago has that opportunity, too.
Amy Goodman: The role of the Democratic Party? I mean, you’re a union. Unions traditionally support the Democratic Party, but wasn’t it the Romney-Ryan ticket, Congressman Ryan, applauding Mayor Rahm Emanuel and what he was trying to do in this?
Karen Lewis: Right. Well, the school reform issue is an issue of billionaire elites, by and large, and it’s very nonpartisan. So it’s no surprise that the Romney-Ryan ticket would support any anti-union, you know, beef that the mayor has. I mean, so, other people that ran for mayor were actually told, "Oh, so, are you going to crush the unions? You know that’s part of your—your in-for-a-dollar, in-for-a-dime with us." So, I mean, that doesn’t surprise me.
But politically, I really wasn’t thinking about that, and none of us were. We were just trying to build some unity in our union, which had been extremely fractured and kind of moribund for a while. And what we wanted to do was to empower our rank-and-file teachers so that the real work of the union is in the buildings, not in an office downtown. We wanted to go from a service model to an organizing model, so that people that are feeling empowered can also do what’s best for children.
Amy Goodman: What about President Obama? He comes from here. Where was the Democratic Party? Where was the president in showing support, expressing support? You had the Republican ticket supporting Rahm Emanuel. What about the Democratic ticket and the president of the United States?
Karen Lewis: I don’t know. I mean, nobody contacted us, so I’m not—I mean, again, you know, we weren’t looking for a political solution to this. And I think that there are other ways to deal with the political solution, but in terms of this strike and this aggregation of power to the rank and file, I think that’s kind of threatening to just about every political institution, so I don’t think it really matters.
Amy Goodman: I want to ask you about a comment made by Bruce Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist who’s helping lead a drive for more charter schools here in Chicago. He is also a close behind-the-scenes adviser to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. On Tuesday, he said, quote, "The critical issue is to separate the union from the teachers. They’re not the same thing. ... The union basically is a bunch of politicians elected to do certain things—get more pay, get more benefits, less work hours, more job security. That’s what they’re paid to do. They’re not about the students. They’re not about results. They’re not about the taxpayers." Karen Lewis, you’re the president of the Chicago Teachers Union. Your response?
Karen Lewis: I actually know Bruce Rauner. I met him when I first took this job. And he was actually quite impressed with me and invited me to join a board that he was on. He and I also went to the same undergraduate school. And so—
Amy Goodman: Where did you go to school?
Karen Lewis: We both went to Dartmouth. I’m a few classes ahead of him. And so, we’ve seen each other a variety of times. And he’s always made it clear that he did not believe in unions or any collectivism.
I mean, the problem is, he has the wrong idea of what this union is. Now, that may be so for other unions, but we purposely tried to change the culture of union so that the union is about education, is about empowering teachers and paraprofessionals and clinicians. And as a result, the union officers took pay cuts, significant pay cuts, so that we can have an organizing department, so that we can have a research department, so that we didn’t do the union the way the old union was done, because those days are over, because then people like Bruce Rauner can separate the union from the teachers. And this is where they’re wrong. They’re absolutely wrong, and they acted that way the entire time, because they didn’t understand what we were really doing, which was organizing our members, not about the whole—yes, we have to negotiate for whatever, but that’s not our main focus.
So our main focus is trying to make education better, because we feel like we can solve some of the problems. The longer school day was a hot, buttery mess until we sat down with them and said, "OK, look, you can’t afford to pay us this entire length of day, because the arbitrator told you that, so here’s a way to figure this out by staffing up so that you can save some money." We actually brought that to the board, because they were clueless. They were absolutely clueless in trying to figure out the problem. We’re teachers. We’re problem solvers. And for—Bruce Rauner has to remember, I’m two years out of the classroom, so, for me, not a bureaucratic union hack. Sorry, that tag just won’t hang on us.
Amy Goodman: Well, let’s talk about that, your background, chemistry teacher at Martin Luther King High here in Chicago, the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators. Explain what CORE is and where you came from.
Karen Lewis: Right. Well, we were sitting around a table, literally, eight of us, reading about the school closings in Chicago and understanding that this was basically a real-estate plan—and it still is, by the way—and not an educational plan. So, we were trying to figure out how do we actually use our voices to attack that? We read—we did book clubs, literally. We started as a book club. We read Shock Doctrine.
Amy Goodman: Naomi Klein’s book.
Karen Lewis: Yeah, Naomi Klein’s book, which was very helpful to us to kind of put in perspective what these people were doing and how they amassed this power over the last 30 years. And then, all of this started in Chicago at the business school, right? So we started just trying to take off small bites of the apple by going to the school closing hearings, demanding that the Board of Education come to these hearings. They weren’t. And again, we have an appointed mayoral-controlled board. They’re not accountable to anyone. And they’re certainly not accountable to the community.
When the community would come and beg for their schools, this is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in my life. Children, teachers—and not so much teachers at first, but parents and community members begged for their schools. And that fell on deaf ears. So people felt completely unempowered, that if a decision was made, it was made, and there was nothing you could do about it.
Well, in the first year we started this, we got six schools taken off the hit list. That had never happened before. We changed the way the Board of Ed did things. The board members actually came to the schools. And we said, "You should at least come to the schools you’re going to close and look these people in the eye and explain to them why." And that had never happened.
Amy Goodman: What happens when a school closes? Where do the kids go?
Karen Lewis: It depends, you know. A lot of times the kids will go to another school, or some just get lost in the shuffle. I mean, none of this stuff had been taken into consideration. They had no plans for closing a school and doing anything appropriately for the children. They had no plans of bringing the faculties of the two schools together to have some conversation so there’s some continuity of instruction for children. But none of that, and no safety plan. So, you know, Chicago is a pretty dangerous place, as you may have heard, and this—absolutely no plan for how are we going to get kids safely through different territories. None of that was ever—and when we bring this up and we beg them, "Don’t do this. It’s a mistake," and they just absolutely ignored the community. And this year, there were parents from more affluent communities that got ignored. So, I mean, there was this whole kind of feeling of the Board of Education is completely unaccountable. There’s something wrong with this.
Amy Goodman: Actually, on the issue of accountability, before the vote to suspend the teachers’ strike, Mayor Emanuel spoke about the need to hold teachers and principals accountable. Let’s go to that clip.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel: I want people to understand, this is a crux of whether we’re going to make any improvements in our education of our children and create a culture where people are held accountable for the results. And these principals, like the others who signed the letter, are being clear that one of the goals they want to—they chose this. They want to be held accountable. They expect to produce results. To do that, they have to be able to also choose that the teachers that work in the building—third grade, fifth grade, what class it is—these individuals are trained. Some of them are former teachers, now principals, as in Dr. Hines’s case. And it’s a key issue about which direction we’re going to take and whether we’re going to have a school system built for accountability that holds our principals accountable—in the schools, rather than downtown, making the choice.
Amy Goodman: That’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Karen Lewis, your response?
Karen Lewis: Well, I mean, the whole accountability movement is a disguise for pushing forth another agenda. Here’s the problem with the so-called principal accountability and flexibility. In Chicago, the shelf life of a principal is about four-and-a-half years. So, the question to us is, are we going to just have a lot of turn, every four years or so? Now, that means—that’s the average, so we have less than that on some ends. The days when the principal was in the school for a significant period of time, knew families, understood the neighborhood, those days are over. So, what they’re doing is turning through principals, and then they also want to turn faculty through that, too. So there are some schools where you have absolutely no veteran staff and nobody in the middle part of their career, but they have brand new teachers. So second-year teachers are mentoring first-year teachers. That is a plan for disaster, quite frankly.
So, you know, a lot of the whole—we want to know who is accountable for destroying neighborhoods? Who is held accountable for the lack of stability throughout the city that has all of these other implications? So, the whole accountability movement is just geared in one direction. So, where is the accountability upwards? Who loses their jobs for the hot mess they create for the rest of us?
Amy Goodman: Finally, have other teachers’ unions around the country been calling you?
Karen Lewis: Absolutely. They’ve not only been calling us, they’ve been sending us letters of support. They’ve been sending us, actually, money. Local 2, the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, sent us $10,000, I mean, for our solidarity fund. It’s just been amazing. Boston took out an ad refuting Rahm Emanuel’s, you know, "Oh, why can’t we just settle like Boston did?" I mean, it was just a really wonderful outpouring of support—
Amy Goodman: But are they going to—
Karen Lewis: —not just from the country—
Amy Goodman: Are they turning to you for what they can do in their cities, like around issues of what’s called merit pay?
Karen Lewis: We haven’t talked about it yet, but I’m sure those conversations are going to get started, because I think we have changed the conversation in this country.
Amy Goodman: And the issue of school reform nationally and what even that term "school reform" means? The person who is hailing this is Arne Duncan from—former head of the schools here, now secretary of education, the whole Race to the Top, as they call it.
Karen Lewis: Yeah. We’ve never liked it, and we’ve never liked those programs. We found them to be extraordinarily destabilizing. And also, the idea of the market approach for public education, as far as we’re concerned, tramples on democracy. You know, public schools are the place where you get to learn about democracy, and it’s been trampled out. And Chicago has the potential for that. We have local school councils of elected parents and community members and staff who are supposed to choose principals, evaluate principals, look at how the discretionary funds are spent. And the local school councils in schools that are very high-functioning, the local school councils are also high-functioning. But in the schools that aren’t so much, you find those aren’t functioning as well, and it’s due to a lack of training and will.
Amy Goodman: And evaluating teachers according to these high-stakes tests?
 Karen Lewis: Well, that is something that the law requires now, so it’s not like, you know, we had a choice around it. But what we didn’t like is that the mayor and CPS decided to pile on and add extra—
Amy Goodman: Chicago Public—
Karen Lewis: —extra things that were not in the law. So, I mean, and that’s part of what we see. There is like this whole thing about, "Oh, I’m tougher on my teachers than you are," you know, like it’s some kind of competition amongst the elite to have who’s the baddest person in the room. But, you know, my concern about all of this is that we care about kids because that’s the work we do. And this mayor has said he cares about students. I would like to hope that he does. I know that he cares about some of them. But 25 percent, he told me, were never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything, and he wasn’t going to waste money on them. So, if we decrease wages for everybody across the board, then we see that, and we see those lack—that lack of resources coming into play. All of this makes perfect sense when you understand what their calculus really is.
Amy Goodman: Karen Lewis, you were a stand-up comic. Was there anything funny about this strike or what you see coming?
Karen Lewis: Well, I mean, I find humor in just about everything, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s how I get through the day. No, there have been some funny moments, but, by and large, this has been absolutely serious. I think the sea of red and the show of support—I mean, there’s something to be said when people are bootlegging your T-shirts, you know?
Amy Goodman: You’re talking about the red T-shirts.
Karen Lewis: Oh, yes.
Amy Goodman: And they’re going to wear them back in the schools today.
Karen Lewis: Oh, yes. We told everybody, walk together. Meet each other in the parking lot and walk together as a union back into the buildings.


3) The Shooting of Alan Blueford
Searching for Answers to a Police Killing
By Darwin Bond-Graham
Counterpunch, September 19, 2012

All summer long the slaying of teenager Alan Blueford by a police officer festered in the city of Oakland, a metropolis already stained by its troubled police department which for nearly ten years has been spiraling toward federal receivership due to its institutionalized culture of brutality and misconduct. It was no surprise then that the first meeting of the City Council last night [September 18, 2012], in its new session after the Summer recess, was met by over one hundred outraged protesters and the family of the young man whose death at the hands of OPD frustratingly remains a mystery, with all known facts indicating an unjustifiable murder. The internal police department investigation of Alan Blueford’s killing drags on, as do virtually any and all other official investigations, studies, and reports intended to bring about transparency and accountability within Oakland’s police department. Nothing seems to be working.

“According to the Coronor’s report, my son’s body was removed at 1:25 in the morning,” said Alan’s father, Adam Blueford, before the council, describing the haste with which the police cleaned up the scene of Alan’s demise. “How can a murder investigation be done in less than one hour?” he asked incredulously.

Alan Blueford was shot by officer Miguel Masso around 12:25 A.M. on the morning of May 6 around 92nd Avenue and Birch Street in deep east Oakland after a brief foot chase. Alan had been waiting with a friend for a ride home after watching a boxing match. Police initially said Alan was in a “gun battle” with the officer, but then backpedaled when evidence showed Blueford hadn’t fired a shot. There had been no shootout, only a one-way volley of gunfire. Blueford had committed no crime or offense prior to being confronted and chased by the police.

The next police claim, that Blueford was taken to the hospital after being wounded, was also later proven false; days after his death it became known that Alan died on the scene from gunshot wounds. The officer, who it turns out also shot himself in the leg, was taken to the county medical center. These were only the first false reports in a series of troubling claims. “Lies,” say the family.

“Why did this cop chase my son five blocks and murder him? He had no reason to stop or Chase my son,” said Mr. Blueford as members of the public murmured in support. The family has not yet sued the city over Alan’s death, even though they have retained the services of John Burris, a renowned civil rights lawyer who sued Oakland in the early 2000s over a particularly violent clique of cops known as the Riders, and set in motion federal oversight of the police department. The Blueford’s say they simply want justice and lasting changes that will prevent future police violence.

The deep east where Alan Blueford was killed is a part of Oakland devastated by the economic crash and foreclosure crisis that commenced in 2008. But the problems there go back much further. Blocks around 92nd Avenue encompass a region that was attacked by decades of divestment by both the Bay Area’s white middle class who fled to East Bay suburbs, and by corporations which shut down local factories sited on Oakland’s waterfront and busy railway and freeway corridors. Banks redlined much of east Oakland for decades, and only began extending credit through subprime loans in the late 1990s, often in a very predatory manner.

Local and state leaders abdicated any responsibility to the area’s growing black population and abandoned it, lavishing state resources instead on Silicon Valley, San Francisco, downtown Oakland, and nearby suburbs. While in the 2000s downtown Oakland, picturesque Lake Merritt, and the “Temescal” neighborhood were loci of artsy gentrification and real estate developments, the deep east declined further, sharing in none of the associated benefits of urban revitalization efforts promoted by various mayors, most notably Jerry Brown.

Meanwhile the police department spiraled out of control, disfigured by their own gangs of criminal officers who have infamously brutalized and framed hundreds of residents, and more systematically shaped by an internal rank and file culture that holds Oakland’s majority population in open contempt. Today 91 percent of OPD officers live outside city limits, mostly in majority white suburbs where the schools haven’t been destroyed by decades of tax cuts, and the where the Black population is less than five percent to Oakland’s 30 percent, places where there are jobs, clean air, and parks. In many Oakland neighborhoods, especially in East Oakland, cops are seen as an occupying army of outsiders, mercenaries prone to make arbitrarily brutal, even lethal decisions when patrolling, especially when approaching young Black and Latino men.[1]

Family members of Alan Blueford have taken to speaking of a cover up, a purposeful effort by the Oakland Police Department to suppress the truth, an effort aided in no small part by the inaction of a do-nothing City Council that has become all the more paralyzed in an election season. In a city divided by sharp racial lines and harsh economic inequality, Oakland politicians skirt a fine line between pandering to the city’s hill residents, mostly white middle and upper class homeowners who demand a Reaganesque war-on-crime politics and low taxes, and the working class flatlands majority who are as worried about the cops killing their children as they are about drug dealers and carjackers.

The City Administrator, a power-hungry technocrat trained in the purposefully de-politicizing profession of city management, Deanna Santana, seems more interested in preventing a federal takeover of the police force than undertaking a genuine effort to weed out bad cops and rebuild a department capable of respecting and protecting Oakland’s majority of working class residents. In fact Santana has been as much an obstacle to police accountability as anyone else in her short tenure as the city’s de-facto boss.[2]

Alan Blueford’s mother Jeralynn opened the public comment period of Oakland’s first City Council meeting of the new session demanding answers: “We still don’t have the police report, Mr. Reid,” she complained, calling out Larry Reid, a fifteen year veteran of the Oakland City Council and major political force in city politics. “Back in May we came here asking for your help. You came to our son’s services, Mr. Reid, saying you would help.” The seeming inaction of Council members over the summer to provide the Blueford family and community with answers about Alan Blueford’s death has stoked widespread outrage. Monthly rallies downtown and in East Oakland routinely drew dozens of concerned residents. It’s not uncommon to randomly spot posters pasted to light posts around town with Alan Blueford’s face and the word “justice” printed boldly across the top. It’s equally common to spot youngsters sporting t-shirts with Alan’s handsome face. An image of Alan dressed in a white tux with bow tie, probably for his prom, has become a symbol of the movement.

“Where’s Howard Jordan!” The public at last night’s council meeting took every spare moment to demand the appearance of Oakland’s chief of police who was scheduled to give a crime reduction strategies report, but who was nowhere in sight.

“Howard is a coward,” rang another chant after it became clear the brass would not make an appearance. There again would be no answers forthcoming as to why a young Black man guilty of no crime was summarily gunned down by a police officer. It quickly became clear the city would not even provide the police report that the family had been demanding for months.

Speaking shortly after Blueford’s family was Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, the young man who was executed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer three years ago on New Year’s Eve. Johnson became a leader of the Oscar Grant Movement and was key in organizing the rallies and articulating the sentiment that drove the rebellion of Oakland youth following Grant’s murder. That rebellion, as painful and costly as it was, was widely credited for forcing the local power structure to take action, and to charge a police officer with manslaughter.

Johnson warned the Council of the consequences of their inaction: “We have an opportunity to resolve this before it turns violent. It behooves you to at least investigate officer Masso and fire him for lying, and for his violation of the police officer’s code of conduct.” Echoing sentiments held widely in Oakland’s neighborhoods where the police are viewed as a brutal occupying force that often brings summary judgment and death, Johnson warned, “This has to be addressed before the community explodes.” These days it’s a matter of conjecture as to what will happen first; will the community explode from grief and anger at police brutality, or will the police department implode from its own misconduct and ineptness?

After hearing an hour of testimony from Blueford’s family and a few supporters, City Council president Larry Reid called for a ten-minute break. It could have been an attempt to disrupt the momentum of the public’s call for the police chief, and answers to the dubious circumstances Alan Blueford’s killing. It could have also been a goodwill effort to contact the police chief, and have him produce the report on Alan’s slaying.

After twenty minutes of this ten-minute break, with the public impatiently waiting and council members walking among them, attempting to feel the pain and demonstrate concern, it became clear to many that the council had either executed a stalling tactic, or else the city’s police chief was refusing to appear. After thirty minutes a chant again arose—“Where’s Howard Jordan? Where’s Howard Jordan?”

Ignacio De La Fuente, the longest serving member of the Council reconvened the meeting while Reid was elsewhere, perhaps attempting to broker some kind of face-saving appearance. De La Fuente unfortunately attempted to move the city onto other business, creating an irony fit for the ages. On the city’s agenda was a resolution that would deem Oakland a “city of peace,” formally stamping September 21 as Oakland’s “international day of peace.” The City Clerk’s recital of the absurdly timed and obviously inappropriate peace resolution elicited an angry and flabbergasted boo from the audience, and a new chant—“no justice, no peace!”
“No justice, no peace!”

The chambers became a deafening roar of booing, chanting, clapping and whistling, all intended to prevent any business as usual from occurring until the police chief appeared or substantive answers were provided to address Alan Blueford’s death.

Within minutes Council president Larry Reid re-entered the chambers attempting to gain control of the meeting, but it was too late. Months of abdication and irresponsibility by the city’s leaders had allowed a questionable killing of a teenager to go unanswered, even while new facts emerged that indicated Alan Blueford was quite simply murdered. There was no way the people of Oakland seemed ready to entertain any business as usual.

Reid picked up his papers and made for the exit under a storm of jeers and cries of “shame!” from the galleries. “We’ll be back!, We’ll be back,” chanted Alan Blueford’s family and their supporters who exited City Hall to gather on its steps in the early evening darkness for a rally.

“I can’t bring Alan back, but I can stand up for him today,” said Jeralynn Blueford.

Darwin Bond-Graham is a sociologist and author who lives and works in Oakland, CA. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion


4) Life Spans Shrink for Least-Educated Whites in the U.S.
September 20, 2012

For generations of Americans, it was a given that children would live longer than their parents. But there is now mounting evidence that this enduring trend has reversed itself for the country’s least-educated whites, an increasingly troubled group whose life expectancy has fallen by four years since 1990.

Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.

The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.

White men lacking a high school diploma lost three years of life. Life expectancy for both blacks and Hispanics of the same education level rose, the data showed. But blacks over all do not live as long as whites, while Hispanics live longer than both whites and blacks.

“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” said John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, who was not involved in the new study.

The five-year decline for white women rivals the catastrophic seven-year drop for Russian men in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London.

The decline among the least educated non-Hispanic whites, who make up a shrinking share of the population, widened an already troubling gap. The latest estimate shows life expectancy for white women without a high school diploma was 73.5 years, compared with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or more. For white men, the gap was even bigger: 67.5 years for the least educated white men compared with 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.

The dropping life expectancies have helped weigh down the United States in international life expectancy rankings, particularly for women. In 2010, American women fell to 41st place, down from 14th place in 1985, in the United Nations rankings. Among developed countries, American women sank from the middle of the pack in 1970 to last place in 2010, according to the Human Mortality Database.

The slump is so vexing that it became the subject of an inquiry by the National Academy of Sciences, which published a report on it last year.

“There’s this enormous issue of why,” said David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard who was an author of a 2008 paper that found modest declines in life expectancy for less educated white women from 1981 to 2000. “It’s very puzzling and we don’t have a great explanation.”

And it is yet another sign of distress in one of the country’s most vulnerable groups during a period when major social changes are transforming life for less educated whites. Childbirth outside marriage has soared, increasing pressures on women who are more likely to be single parents. Those who do marry tend to choose mates with similar education levels, concentrating the disadvantage.

Inklings of this decline have been accumulating since 2008. Professor Cutler’s paper, published in Health Affairs, found a decline in life expectancy of about a year for less educated white women from 1990 to 2000. Three other studies, by Ahmedin Jemal, a researcher at the American Cancer Society; Jennifer Karas Montez, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at Harvard; and Richard Miech, a professor at the University of Colorado Denver, found increases in mortality rates (the ratio of deaths to a population) for the least educated Americans.

Professor Olshansky’s study, financed by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society, found by far the biggest decline in life expectancy for the least educated non-Hispanic whites, in large part because he isolated those without a high school diploma, a group usually combined with high school graduates. Non-Hispanic whites currently make up 63 percent of the population of the United States.

Researchers said they were baffled by the magnitude of the drop. Some cautioned that the results could be overstated because Americans without a high school diploma — about 12 percent of the population, down from about 22 percent in 1990, according to the Census Bureau — were a shrinking group that was now more likely to be disadvantaged in ways besides education, compared with past generations.

Professor Olshansky agreed that the group was now smaller, but said the magnitude of the drop in life expectancy was still a measure of deterioration. “The good news is that there are fewer people in this group,” he said. “The bad news is that those who are in it are dying more quickly.”

Researchers, including some involved in the earlier studies that found more modest declines in life expectancy, said that Professor Olshansky’s methodology was sound and that the findings reinforced evidence of a troubling pattern that has emerged for those at the bottom of the education ladder, particularly white women.

“Something is going on in the lives of disadvantaged white women that is leading to some really alarming trends in life expectancy,” said Ms. Montez of Harvard.

Researchers offered theories for the drop in life expectancy, but cautioned that none could fully explain it.

James Jackson, director of the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan and an author of the new study, said white women with low levels of education may exhibit more risky behavior than that of previous generations.

Overdoses from prescription drugs have spiked since 1990, disproportionately affecting whites, particularly women. Professor Miech, of the University of Colorado, noted the rise in a 2011 paper in the American Sociological Review, arguing that it was among the biggest changes for whites in recent decades and that it appeared to have offset gains for less educated people in the rate of heart attacks.

Ms. Montez, who studies women’s health, said that smoking was a big part of declines in life expectancy for less educated women. Smoking rates have increased among women without a high school diploma, both white and black, she said. But for men of the same education level, they have declined.

This group also has less access to health care than before. The share of working-age adults with less than a high school diploma who did not have health insurance rose to 43 percent in 2006, up from 35 percent in 1993, according to Mr. Jemal at the American Cancer Society. Just 10 percent of those with a college degree were uninsured last year, the Census Bureau reported.

The shift should be seen against the backdrop of sweeping changes in the American economy and in women’s lives, said Lisa Berkman, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. The overwhelming majority of women now work, while fertility has remained higher than in European countries. For women in low-wage jobs, which are often less flexible, this could take a toll on health, a topic that Professor Berkman has a grant from the National Institute on Aging to study.


5) Canada: U.S. Soldier Who Fled Is Arrested at Border
September 20, 2012

  The first woman to flee the United States military as an Iraq war resister was arrested at the border in northern New York on Thursday after losing her bid to remain in Canada, according to an advocacy group that had campaigned on her behalf. The soldier, Kimberly Rivera, 30, a private who served three months in Iraq and traveled to Canada while on leave in 2007, was taken into custody at the Thousand Islands Bridge border station about 30 miles north of Watertown, N.Y., said Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman with the War Resisters Support Campaign. “She presented herself voluntarily, was arrested and taken to Fort Drum,” Ms. Robidoux said. The Pentagon had no immediate comment. Private Rivera, who had been living in Toronto with her partner and four children, deserted because she developed an opposition to the mission in Iraq, Ms. Robidoux said. She was denied refugee status by Canadian authorities and last month lost her appeal of a deportation order. She had been given until Sept. 20 to leave Canada.


6) Commander Who Pepper-Sprayed Protesters Is Sued Again

Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, the police commander sued in July for pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protesters, has been sued again.

On Thursday, two people, who claim that their rights were violated when officers under Inspector Bologna's command arrested them as they stood on the sidewalk in Greenwich Village last year, filed suits against Inspector Bologna as well as the city and the police commissioner.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the lawyer who filed the suit (click to read complaint) in Federal District Court in Manhattan, said that she wanted to examine sidewalk arrests, which she thought had been intentionally used by the police in New York to limit participation in Occupy protests.

"Sidewalks are, constitutionally and practically, a safe haven for peaceable protest and political association, a space upon which people may engage others in free speech, in collective action," she wrote in the complaint. "In New York City, police routinely abuse their authority, to engage in the false arrest of protesters (or persons associated with protest) who are lawfully present on the sidewalks."

The resulting message, she wrote, was that people who participate in demonstrations or are simply near demonstrators run the risk of arrest, even if they are not marching in roadways or engaging in other activities that are commonly understood to involve the possibility of arrest.

A spokeswoman for the city's Law Department said: "We have not yet received the papers but will review them thoroughly upon receipt."

During Occupy demonstrations over the past year, the police have arrested numerous protesters who have run into streets, sat down or lay down on the ground in symbolic protest or walked onto a bridge roadway. But there have also been occasions, including several in the past week, when police officers arrested protesters who were walking or standing on sidewalks. Some of the people were wearing masks, which is unlawful under certain circumstances, but others did not appear to be engaged in obvious wrongdoing.

The plaintiffs in the suit filed on Thursday, Johanne Sterling and Joshua Cartagena, said that they were arrested last Sept. 24 while standing on a sidewalk on East 12th Street off Fifth Avenue. (Ms. Sterling said that she was also struck by the pepper spray blast from Inspector Bologna.)

The suit also names two other officers, who the plaintiffs said swore out false declarations claiming that the defendants were blocking vehicles or pedestrians.


7) Medicare Bills Rise as Records Turn Electronic
September 21, 2012

When the federal government began providing billions of dollars in incentives to push hospitals and physicians to use electronic medical and billing records, the goal was not only to improve efficiency and patient safety, but also to reduce health care costs.

But, in reality, the move to electronic health records may be contributing to billions of dollars in higher costs for Medicare, private insurers and patients by making it easier for hospitals and physicians to bill more for their services, whether or not they provide additional care.

Hospitals received $1 billion more in Medicare reimbursements in 2010 than they did five years earlier, at least in part by changing the billing codes they assign to patients in emergency rooms, according to a New York Times analysis of Medicare data from the American Hospital Directory. Regulators say physicians have changed the way they bill for office visits similarly, increasing their payments by billions of dollars as well.

The most aggressive billing — by just 1,700 of the more than 440,000 doctors in the country — cost Medicare as much as $100 million in 2010 alone, federal regulators said in a recent report, noting that the largest share of those doctors specialized in family practice, internal medicine and emergency care.

For instance, the portion of patients that the emergency department at Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare in Utica, N.Y., claimed required the highest levels of treatment — and thus higher reimbursements — rose 43 percent in 2009. That was the same year the hospital began using electronic health records.

The share of highest-paying claims at Baptist Hospital in Nashville climbed 82 percent in 2010, the year after it began using a software system for its emergency room records.

In e-mailed statements, representatives for both hospitals said the increases reflected more accurate billing for services. Faxton also said its patients required more care than in past years.

Over all, hospitals that received government incentives to adopt electronic records showed a 47 percent rise in Medicare payments at higher levels from 2006 to 2010, the latest year for which data are available, compared with a 32 percent rise in hospitals that have not received any government incentives, according to the analysis by The Times.

The higher coding has captured the attention of federal and state regulators and private insurers like Aetna and Cigna. This spring, the Office of Inspector General for the federal Health and Human Services Department warned that the coding of evaluation services had been “vulnerable to fraud and abuse.”

Some experts blame a substantial share of the higher payments on the increasingly widespread use of electronic health record systems. Some of these programs can automatically generate detailed patient histories, or allow doctors to cut and paste the same examination findings for multiple patients — a practice called cloning — with the click of a button or the swipe of a finger on an iPad, making it appear that the physicians conducted more thorough exams than, perhaps, they did.

Critics say the abuses are widespread. “It’s like doping and bicycling,” said Dr. Donald W. Simborg, who was the chairman of federal panels examining the potential for fraud with electronic systems. “Everybody knows it’s going on.”

When Methodist Medical Center of Illinois in Peoria rolled out an electronic records system in 2006, Dr. Alan Gravett, a former emergency room physician, quickly expressed alarm.

He said the new system prompted doctors to click a box that indicated a thorough review of patients’ symptoms had taken place, even though the exams were rarely performed, while another function let doctors pull exam findings “from thin air” and include them in patients’ records.

In a whistle-blower lawsuit filed in 2007, Dr. Gravett contended that these techniques drove up Medicare reimbursement levels substantially. According to the lawsuit, Dr. Gravett was eventually fired for ordering too many tests. He says he was retaliated against for complaining about the new system. The Justice Department is weighing whether to join an amended suit in Federal District Court in Central Illinois.

An independent analysis by The Times showed that Methodist’s Medicare billings for the highest level of emergency care jumped from 50 percent of its emergency room Medicare claims in 2006 to more than 80 percent in 2010, making the 353-bed hospital one of the country’s most frequent users of high-paying evaluation codes.

Methodist declined to comment on Dr. Gravett’s allegations. But in an e-mailed statement, a spokesman said that not all of the hospital’s billing was done electronically, that it followed professional coding guidelines and that its patients required more care than patients at other hospitals.

Many hospitals and doctors say that the new systems allow them to better document the care they provide, justifying the higher payments they are receiving. Many doctors and hospitals were actually underbilling before they began keeping electronic records, said Dr. David J. Brailer, an early federal proponent of digitizing records and an official in the George W. Bush administration. But Dr. Brailer, who invests in health care companies, acknowledged that the use of electronic records “makes it faster and easier to be fraudulent.”

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have encouraged electronic records, arguing that they help doctors track patient care. When used properly, the records can help avoid duplicate tests and remind doctors about a possible diagnosis or treatment they had not considered. As part of the economic stimulus program in 2009, the Obama administration put into effect a Bush-era incentive program that provides tens of billions of dollars for physicians and hospitals that make the switch.

But some critics say an unintended consequence is the ease with which doctors and hospitals can upcode — industry parlance for seeking a higher rate of reimbursement than is justified. They say there is too little federal oversight of electronic records.

A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department, however, said electronic health records “can improve the quality of care, save lives and save money.” Medicare, he added in an e-mailed statement, “has strong protections in place to prevent fraud and abuse of this technology that we’re improving all the time.”

He also said Medicare had reduced improper payments in the last two years.

In emergency rooms, which use special billing codes to indicate how much care a patient needs, hospitals have increased their claims for the two highest-paying categories to 54 percent of Medicare claims in 2010, from 40 percent in 2006, according to The Times’s analysis of Medicare data. The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism group, recently released a similar analysis.

Some contractors handling Medicare claims have already alerted doctors to their concerns about billing practices. One contractor, National Government Services, recently warned doctors that it would refuse to pay them if they submitted “cloned documentation,” while another, TrailBlazer Health Enterprises, found that 45 out of 100 claims from Texas and Oklahoma emergency-department doctors were paid in error. “Patterns of overcoding E.D. services were found with template-generated records,” it said.

The Office of Inspector General is studying the link between electronic records and billing.

One sophisticated patient witnessed the overbilling firsthand. In early 2010, Robert Burleigh, a health care consultant, came to the emergency room of a Virginia hospital with a kidney stone. When he received the bill from the emergency room doctor, his medical record, produced electronically, reflected a complete physical exam that never happened, allowing the visit to be billed at the highest level, Mr. Burleigh said.

The doctor indicated that he had examined Mr. Burleigh’s lower extremities, but Mr. Burleigh said that he was wrapped in a blanket and that the doctor never even saw his legs.

“No one would admit it,” Mr. Burleigh said, “but the most logical explanation was he went to a menu and clicked standard exam,” and the software filled in an examination of all of his systems. After he complained, the doctor’s group reduced his bill.

As software vendors race to sell their systems to physician groups and hospitals, many are straightforward in extolling the benefits of those systems in helping doctors increase their revenue. In an online demonstration, one vendor, Praxis EMR, promises that it “plays the level-of-service game on your behalf and beats them at their own game using their own rules.”

The system helps doctors remember what they did when they successfully billed for similar patients, and ensures that they do not forget to ask important questions or to perform necessary tests, said Dr. Richard Low, chief executive of Infor-Med Corporation, which developed Praxis. “The doctor can use a chart the way the pilot uses a checklist,” he said.

But others place much of the blame on the federal government for not providing more guidance. Dr. Simborg, for one, said he helped draft regulations in 2007 that would have prevented much of the abuse that now appears to be occurring. But because the government was eager to encourage doctors and hospitals to enter the electronic era, he said, those proposals have largely been ignored.

“What’s happening is just the problem we feared,” he said.


8) Middle Schools Add a Team Rule: Get a Drug Test
September 22, 2012

MILFORD, Pa. — As a 12-year-old seventh grader, Glenn and Kathy Kiederer’s older daughter wanted to play sports at Delaware Valley Middle School here. She also wanted to join the scrapbooking club.

One day she took home a permission slip. It said that to participate in the club or any school sport, she would have to consent to drug testing.

“They were asking a 12-year-old to pee in a cup,” Kathy Kiederer said. “I have a problem with that. They’re violating her right to privacy over scrapbooking? Sports?”

Olympic athletes must submit urine samples to prove they are not doping. The same is true for Tour de France cyclists, N.F.L. players, college athletes and even some high school athletes. Now, children in grades as low as middle school are being told that providing a urine sample is required to play sports or participate in extracurricular activities like drama and choir.

Such drug testing at the middle school level is confounding students and stirring objections from parents and proponents of civil liberties.

The Kiederers, whose two daughters are now in high school, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Delaware Valley School District, with the daughters identified only by their first initials, A. and M. The parents said that mandatory drug testing was unnecessary and that it infringed on their daughters’ rights. (For privacy reasons, they asked that their daughters’ first names not be published.)

A lawyer for the school district declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

It is difficult to gauge how many middle schools conduct drug tests on students. States with middle schools that conduct drug testing include Florida, Alabama, Missouri, West Virginia, Arkansas, Ohio, New Jersey and Texas.

Some coaches, teachers and school administrators said drug-testing programs served as a deterrent for middle school students encountering drugs of all kinds, including steroids, marijuana and alcohol.

“We wanted to do it to create a general awareness of drug prevention,” said Steve Klotz, assistant superintendent at Maryville School District in Missouri. “We’re no different than any other community. We have kids who are making those decisions.”

There are no known instances of a middle school student testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs like steroids or human growth hormone. The few positive results among middle school students have been attributed to marijuana, officials said, and even those cases are rare.

Maryville’s drug-testing program, which includes most of its middle and high school students, begins this fall after officials spent 18 months reviewing other programs in the state, Mr. Klotz said. In the fall of 2011, Mr. Klotz said, the school board conducted a survey of parents, and 72 percent said that a drug-testing program was necessary. The cost will be $5,000 to $7,000 a year and will come from the school’s general operating budget.

“Drug testing is a multibillion-dollar industry,” said Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of the Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University. “They go to these schools and say it’s great. But do the schools actually look at the data? Schools don’t know what to do.”

Drug testing for high school athletes, which has been around for years, was deemed constitutional in a 1995 United States Supreme Court ruling. Some districts have expanded their drug-testing programs in recent years to include middle school students.

In 2003, the Department of Education started a program that offered federal money for drug testing in grades 6 through 12, and the last of the grants will be closed out this fall. The program, following the outlines of the Supreme Court decision, allowed testing for students who participated in school activities, or whose parents chose to enroll them.

In the 2004-5 school year, an estimated 14 percent of public school districts conducted some form of random drug testing, according to a Department of Education report. But middle school testing is not thoroughly tracked by officials.

The nature of drug-testing programs at the middle school level varies by school district. In general, an outside testing company conducts the tests under contract with school authorities. Students are generally given little, if any, advance notice and are pulled away from class and asked to urinate in a cup — unsupervised, to comply with privacy laws.

Specimens are sent to a laboratory, and parents and students are notified of any positive result. Some schools require a second test to confirm a positive result; in others, parents may request a challenge to a result, sometimes for a fee. Results are generally not shared with law enforcement.

Punishment for a positive test can range from a warning to removal from a sports team or an activity.

“It starts early with kids,” said Matthew Franz, who owns the drug testing company Sport Safe based in Columbus, Ohio, and is a member of the Student Drug-Testing Coalition, an organization of drug-testing proponents. “You want to get in there and plant these seeds of what’s out there and do prevention early. The 11th and 12th graders, most of them have already made a choice. But the eighth graders, they’re still making decisions, and it helps if you give them that deterrent.”

But some experts doubt the effectiveness of such testing.

“There’s little evidence these programs work,” Dr. Goldberg said. “Drug testing has never been shown to have a deterrent effect.”

In 2007, Dr. Goldberg published the results of a study of athletes at five high schools with drug testing and six schools that had deferred implementing a testing policy. He found that athletes from the two groups did not differ in their recent use of drugs or alcohol.

“I think you have to look at the reason for testing,” Dr. Goldberg said. “With Olympic testing, it’s to weed out the people who are cheating. If you’re using drug testing to weed out a problem in kids, you need to get them in therapy. But it doesn’t reduce whether or not kids use drugs.”

Some coaches and school administrators, however, say the dearth of positive tests is an indication that testing is working effectively as a deterrent.

“We don’t want to catch students,” said Jerry Cecil, assistant superintendent of the Greenwood School District in Arkansas. “We want them not to be using. We don’t consider this community to have a big problem.”

Despite the Supreme Court ruling in 1995, some districts have been challenged in lower courts.

The American Civil Liberties Union won a settlement last year relying on California’s stricter state privacy laws that prevented the schools from conducting random drug testing for students in nonathletic activities absent a reasonable ground for suspicion. The district, in Redding, Calif., discontinued its program as part of the settlement.

Not all parents oppose testing of middle school students. Daniel Alef, the father of an eighth-grade swimmer in Santa Barbara, Calif., said he would support testing at his son’s school.

“Kids today grow up too quickly and have access to way more information,” he said. “But in the end, I think it goes back to the parents.”

In Pennsylvania, the Kiederers are waiting as their case, filed by the civil liberties union in the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County, works through the legal system.

Last year, they won an injunction preventing the district from enforcing its policy and allowing their daughters to participate in extracurricular activities.

“They’re losing their rights every day and you ask yourself, what are we teaching the kids?” Glenn Kiederer said.


9) Disturbing: Cops Tase Scared Old Woman to Evict Her (Video)

Lilly Washington, a Romanian woman who was being evicted from her home--while she tried to appeal the mortgage payment in court--was tasered repeatedly. Here's the news report from the local CBS station, followed by the video of the incident.

The video is hard to watch - Washington, from Romania, the mother of a soldier overseas, getting tased during her eviction.

"I see a uniform and I was so scared so I tried to close the door," Washington said. She said the deputies showed up when she was still in bed and she wanted them to wait so she could change clothes.

"'No! You have to get out!'" Washington said the deputies told her.

"Ms. Washington refused to leave the house," said MCSO Deputy Chief Paul Chagolla. He said it was up to the two female deputies seen here to get Washington out of the home. The other deputies inside were looking for anyone else who might be in the home, like Washington's son. And the deputies outside were securing the perimeter.

"They did deploy a Taser, it did not have an effect as you saw in the video," Chagolla said. He said the deputy used a drive-stun technique, which gives out an electric current. Chagolla said one five-second current was given first, followed by subsequent currents.

The comments below the article are revelatory about the psychic split in American politics, with some calling the woman a freeloading Democrat, while others vigorously question why the law enforcement would act as proxy for banks in evicting this woman--who now lives in her van.


10) Violence Erupts as Greeks Strike to Protest Austerity
"Anna Afanti, 50, a secondary school teacher, removed a surgical mask she had been wearing to ward off the tear gas to lambast Greece’s foreign creditors. 'They just want to impoverish us, to bring our salaries down to the level in India and swoop in and buy everything on the cheap,' she said, referring to planned privatization."
September 26, 2012

ATHENS — Widespread protests erupted across Greece on Wednesday as trade unions called a nationwide strike to contest billions of euros in new salary and pension cuts being discussed by the government and its international creditors.

The walkout is the first since a conservative coalition led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras came to power in June.

Mr. Samaras is negotiating a $15 billion austerity package that is needed to persuade Greece’s so-called troika of lenders — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission — to release nearly $40.7 billion in financial aid that the country needs to stay solvent.

In Athens, demonstrations were peaceful throughout the morning, as civil servants, teachers, medical personnel, bank employees and lawyers made their way to the city center. A police spokeswoman put the turnout at 35,000 to 40,000 people — modest by Greek standards.

But violence broke out shortly after 1 p.m. as a group of people wearing black face masks hurled Molotov cocktails at police officers on Vasilissis Sofias, a wide avenue abutting the Parliament building, sending bursts of flame and black smoke into the air. Firebombs were also thrown at the Finance Ministry building and into the lush National Gardens next to the Parliament building. Crowds scattered inside Syntagma Square when similarly clad youths destroyed a tent and set part of it on fire.

Officers wielding batons responded with bursts of tear gas, causing demonstrators and tourists to flee the acrid clouds as police helicopters circled overhead and flares exploded. Many cursed the police with cries of “traitors!” and “Merkel’s pigs!” — a reference to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which is widely blamed for an austerity drive.

The strike came as a public backlash against austerity mounts in countries around southern Europe that have had to reach out to other countries for financial aid amid the euro zone’s debt crisis.

On Tuesday in Spain, thousands of demonstrators besieged Parliament to protest austerity measures planned by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Last week, more than half a million people marched in cities across Portugal to protest an increase in social security contributions.

The proposed cuts in Greece have ignited fresh anger among a broad group of Greeks. Many talk openly of increased impoverishment as the nation grapples with a third round of austerity measures in three years.

Mr. Samaras is scheduled to meet Thursday with his restive coalition partners — Evangelos Venizelos, the Socialist leader, and Fotis Kouvelis of the Democratic Left — to seek a common line regarding the $15 billion austerity plan.

Representatives of the troika left Athens last week after tussling with the government over the depth of cuts planned for salaries and pensions. The two sides need to reach an agreement before the lenders can issue a report in October grading Greece’s ability to mend its tattered finances. Additional financial aid depends on a positive assessment, and is key to lifting confidence that Greece will remain in the euro zone.

But for many Greeks who took to the streets, that pact amounts to a bargain with the devil.

Anna Afanti, 50, a secondary school teacher, removed a surgical mask she had been wearing to ward off the tear gas to lambast Greece’s foreign creditors. “They just want to impoverish us, to bring our salaries down to the level in India and swoop in and buy everything on the cheap,” she said, referring to planned privatization.

Ms. Afanti, who traveled about 40 miles from the town of Halkida to Athens with several colleagues to attend Wednesday’s protest, said her salary had been cut by a third since the crisis hit, making it harder to care for her three children, one of whom is disabled. “I should have left this country a long time ago,” said Ms. Afanti, who teaches English and Italian literature. “Now I’m stuck here.”

Smaragda Aivalioti, 21, an economics student at Athens University, had planned to stay in Greece despite the crisis. “But now I just don’t see any hope,” she said. “All the odds are stacked against Greece. Even if we stay in the euro, life will be wretched. What’s the point?”

Speaking to state television from the demonstration, Alexis Tsipras, the head of the leftist opposition party Syriza, which opposed Greece’s bailout terms, said the country’s only hope was in Greeks’ rejecting austerity.

Numerous government services across the country were shuttered for the day, and main transportation arteries in central Athens were disrupted. Flights to and from the main Athens airport were delayed as air traffic controllers briefly took part in the strike.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 26, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated the day that demonstrators marched on Parliament in Spain. It was Tuesday, not Monday.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 26, 2012


11) Protesters Take to Street in Madrid
September 25, 2012

MADRID — The pressures facing the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy mounted on several fronts on Tuesday, as thousands of demonstrators besieged Parliament and Spain’s two largest regions took steps that underscored their deepening economic troubles and displeasure with his austerity plans.

Presenting the biggest domestic political challenge, the leader of Catalonia, Spain’s most powerful economic region, called an early election for Nov. 25 that could turn into an unofficial referendum on whether to split from the rest of the country.

Catalonia’s demands for more autonomy have been fueled by its own financial problems, which forced the Catalan government last month to request $6.5 billion from an emergency fund of $23.3 billion set up by Mr. Rajoy’s government to help regions meet their debt financing obligations.

Underlining its deepening financial difficulties, another region, Andalusia, said Tuesday that it was preparing to request $6.3 billion from the fund.

The developments unfolded as police officers and protesters clashed before the Parliament building and as Mr. Rajoy comes under intense pressure from investors and his European counterparts to clean up Spain’s banks and public finances, particularly at the regional level.

The problems in the regions, both political and economic, appear to be intensifying, as Catalonia’s move showed Tuesday, two weeks after a huge pro-independence rally in Barcelona.

“The voice of the street needs to be moved to the ballot boxes,” the president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, told lawmakers at the regional Parliament. “We want to have the same instruments that other nations have in order to develop their own collective identity.”

Following the Sept. 11 rally in Barcelona, Mr. Rajoy called on regions and their politicians to avoid raising tensions and instead to close ranks and help Spain emerge from its economic quagmire. Last week, in an unusual political foray, King Juan Carlos I also published a letter urging national unity.

“Mas has been under intense pressure to calm things down, even from the king, but what we now see is that far from taking any step back, Mas is in fact seeking a fresh mandate from voters to move things forward,” said Josep Ramoneda, a Catalan political commentator and philosopher. The result of the vote, Mr. Ramoneda added, “will determine exactly how far and fast Catalonia moves toward independence.”

Economists warned that the call for a Catalonia election added yet another element of uncertainty for Spain.

“Once comforted in power after elections, the government could then work more constructively towards a redefinition of the relationship between the central government and the regions,” said Gilles Mo√ęc, an economist at Deutsche Bank in London. “Still, in the meantime, political turmoil in Spain’s richest region could generate the kind of market reaction which would precipitate a request for European support by Madrid.”

Mr. Rajoy has been debating whether to tap into a new bond-buying program proposed by the European Central Bank. While such additional help would considerably alleviate Spain’s debt problems, Mr. Rajoy finds himself in an increasingly tight bind between Spanish voters who oppose further cuts and investors and European finance officials demanding reassurance that Spain can meet budget deficit targets.

On Tuesday, Parliament took on the appearance of a fortress as about 1,400 police officers ringed the building to keep back demonstrators. The organizers of the latest protest said in a statement that they had no plans to try to occupy Parliament, but instead wanted to surround the building to show that “democracy has been kidnapped” by inept Spanish politicians.

Using their truncheons, the police scattered protesters in an effort to keep some approaches to the Parliament building open. By the evening, the police said that 10 people had been arrested and six had been injured.

Catalonia is the third region to call an early election, with the Basque region and Mr. Rajoy’s home region of Galicia set to hold separate votes next month.


12) Deportation Deferrals Put Employers of Immigrants in a Bind
September 25, 2012

Manuel Cunha has been fighting for three decades to persuade the federal government to provide more legal immigrant workers for farmers in California’s verdant San Joaquin Valley. So he was initially excited when President Obama announced in June that he would suspend the deportations of hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants.

But after reading the program’s fine print, Mr. Cunha is telling the growers and small-business owners he organizes to proceed with caution.

Immigrants applying for two-year deportation deferrals can ask employers to verify their job status as one way to meet a requirement showing that they have lived for at least five years in the United States. But employers who agree to those requests could be acknowledging that they knowingly hired an unauthorized worker — a violation of federal law. Mr. Cunha fears that the enforcement authorities could one day use the information in their files to prosecute the employers.

The Department of Homeland Security “is not friendly at all to us,” said Mr. Cunha, the president of the Nisei Farmers League, which is based in Fresno, Calif. “We have seen agriculture being audited and targeted. For the workers, after two years this program could end. And then the agency could go after the employers for hiring illegal aliens.”

Mr. Cunha said the message from Obama administration officials was “Just trust me.” His reply: “No, no, there is no more trust.”

The minefield for employers is one of the hazards that have appeared in the deferred deportation program since the agency in charge, Citizenship and Immigration Services, began receiving applications on Aug. 15. In the first month, the agency, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, logged in more than 82,000 applications, a figure that officials say shows that the program is advancing at a fast pace.

But with more than 1.2 million young immigrants estimated to be immediately eligible, some immigrant organizations say the application numbers are lower than they expected, in part because of unexpected pitfalls.

To qualify, illegal immigrants must have been under 31 years old on June 15, when Mr. Obama announced the program. They must show that they came to the United States before they were 16, have been here for at least five years and were in the country on June 15. They must also be enrolled in school or have a high school diploma or be honorably discharged from the military, and pass criminal background checks.

If approved, immigrants are granted what is officially known as deferred action, and separately they receive legal work permits. But they do not gain any legal immigration status.

A particularly tricky dilemma is facing farmers and other businesses nationwide that rely on low-wage labor. Many young immigrants work part time to help pay for college. Others are working after dropping out of college, unable to get tuition discounts or financial aid because of their status. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a research group, about 740,000 immigrants eligible for deferment are in the work force.

“If you have actual knowledge that an employee is not authorized to work, you can’t employ them,” said Greg Siskind, an immigration lawyer in Memphis who has advised businesses on how to respond to job verification requests.

A lot depends on how an employee poses the question, said Tamar Jacoby, the president of ImmigrationWorks USA, an organization of small businesses that employ immigrants. Those who ask for verification for deportation deferrals are admitting to being unauthorized workers. They might eventually obtain a permit to work legally, but in the meantime, the employer might have to fire them, Ms. Jacoby said.

The immigration agency issued new guidelines this month confirming that businesses could provide verification for deferred deportation applicants. This information will not be shared with the enforcement authorities “unless there is evidence of egregious violations of criminal statutes or widespread abuses,” the guidelines say.

Peter Boogaard, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said the agency is seeking to focus enforcement resources on threats to public safety. He said officials would investigate if workers’ applications pointed to “widespread patterns and practices of unlawful hiring” or “abusive employers who are violating other criminal laws.”

Neither Ms. Jacoby nor Mr. Cunha was comforted. “That’s a safety net with a lot of holes in it,” Ms. Jacoby said. She urges advocates to tell applicants not to mention the deferment program when asking for job verification.

The immigration service also clarified a section of the application that had asked immigrants to list Social Security numbers they had used. It is common for them to use fake Social Security numbers, or sometimes real numbers belonging to another person. On an official application, such numbers could be evidence of fraud or even identity theft.

The form is asking only for numbers “that were officially issued to you by the Social Security Administration,” the new guidelines say.

Department of Homeland Security officials “are not conferring immunity on anyone,” an administration official said. “But they are not interested in using this as a way to identify one-off cases where some individual may have violated some federal law in an employment relationship.”


13) Prosecutor Deals Blow to Stop-and-Frisk Tactic
September 25, 2012

In a significant blow to New York City’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics, the Bronx district attorney’s office is no longer prosecuting people who were stopped at public housing projects and arrested for trespassing, unless the arresting officer is interviewed to ensure that the arrest was warranted.

Prosecutors quietly adopted the policy in July after discovering that many people arrested on charges of criminal trespass at housing projects were innocent, even though police officers had provided written statements to the contrary.

By essentially accusing the police of wrongfully arresting people, the stance taken by Bronx prosecutors is the first known instance in which a district attorney has questioned any segment of arrests resulting from stop-and-frisk tactics.

Bronx prosecutors are now requiring that they interview the arresting officer in the “hopes of eliminating tenants and invited guest from being prosecuted unlawfully,” according to a letter to the Police Department from Jeannette Rucker, a bureau chief in the district attorney’s office.

Trespass arrests in the Bronx have fallen 38.2 percent, year to date, compared with 2011.

In August, arrests for all second- and third-degree misdemeanor trespassing cases in the Bronx fell by nearly 25 percent from August 2011. In Manhattan and Brooklyn, trespass arrests were down less than 5 percent in August compared with August 2011, and in Queens trespass arrests actually rose considerably.

Steven Banks, the chief lawyer of the Legal Aid Society in New York, said that the new requirement put “a procedure in place to verify that the stop and subsequent arrest were proper.”

“This is exactly what prosecutors should be doing before proceeding with criminal prosecutions — namely making sure that formulaic statements by police officers actually have some basis to support the arrest and prosecution,” Mr. Banks said.

The city’s reliance on stop-and-frisk has come under intense scrutiny and legal challenges, as critics charge that the police disproportionately target minorities and harass innocent people. That sentiment is especially prevalent at housing projects, which account for about 10 percent to 15 percent of all police stops; the trespassing arrests occur when officers are unconvinced that a person lives at the housing project or is a guest.

Police officers typically fill out a sworn statement and some check-the-box-type paperwork on such low-level arrests.

Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, said that the new policy of requiring interviews of officers “was discussed with the offices of the other district attorneys and the N.Y.P.D.,” but he would not comment further because of continuing litigation.

The new policy in the Bronx led to an Internal Affairs Bureau inquiry into the allegation of improper arrests, according to a letter sent by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to Mr. Johnson on Sept. 6. Mr. Kelly said that no misconduct had been uncovered, and that it appeared that Ms. Rucker’s “estimation of the issue was in error and that she overstated her perception of discrepancies regarding criminal trespass arrests in the Bronx.”

Mr. Kelly also suggested that Ms. Rucker was unable to provide specifics of the cases referred to in her letter, and that she could cite only one example in which she alleged an arrest was dismissed because of a police error. Nonetheless, he added that the legal issues surrounding trespassing arrests would be addressed at training sessions at the precinct and borough levels.

Mr. Johnson has adopted some independent positions before. In 2006, he became the first prosecutor to use the state’s 2001 antiterrorism statute, doing so against a street gang member. He also issued a statement in 1995 saying he did not intend to pursue execution in first-degree murder cases.

The letter from Ms. Rucker, who is the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, was filed in federal court this week in a lawsuit challenging trespass arrests in New York. The lawsuit was filed by Legal Aid and the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund.

Prosecutors in the Bronx have been “experiencing a great deal of problems with trespassing” arrests, Ms. Rucker wrote in the July 18 letter. She wrote that she had received numerous complaints from defense lawyers who claimed that many of the people arrested were not trespassers. Deciding to investigate further, she found that “in many (but not all) of the cases the defendants arrested were either legitimate tenants or invited guests,” she wrote.

In some cases, Ms. Rucker claimed, the police arrested people even when there was persuasive evidence that they were not trespassing, citing “several instances where defendants who were guests, had the person whom they were visiting verify this fact to the arresting officer, yet the defendant was arrested anyway.” In those cases, the deposition from the arresting officer “indicated the defendant did not know the name of any tenant or the apartment number.”

From 2009 to 2011, the police arrested more than 16,000 people on trespass charges in public housing, according to a report filed as part of the federal litigation over the arrests.

At the Mott Haven Houses in the Bronx on Tuesday, several tenants and neighbors said they had been wrongly arrested for trespassing.

Darren Jones, 28, said he was arrested in the elevator of his building in the development about two months ago because he did not have identification.

Quanell Carwell, 27, a hairstylist who lives at the Mott Haven complex, said she was in the courtyard common area three weeks ago when she was arrested on a trespassing charge. She was given a desk appearance ticket, but said she was going to plead not guilty because she did not do anything wrong.

In addition to stops in public housing, Ms. Rucker’s letter addresses stops in private buildings registered with the Clean Halls program, in which landlords of some 16,000 buildings have given the police permission to enter and patrol the hallways and stairwells. The Legal Aid Society and civil rights groups, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, have sued the city over trespass arrests in both public housing and buildings registered with the Clean Halls program.

According to another memorandum filed in the lawsuit, the Police Department had voiced its own concern about the legality of police stops at housing projects. In 2010, Katherine Lemire, the counsel to Mr. Kelly, told the Civilian Complaint Review Board that she had “found many instances in which officers were incorrectly stating the required standard for a question or stop” at public housing, according to a memo prepared by Meera Joshi, then a deputy executive director at the board.

Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, said that Ms. Lemire only learned of “several” instances — not “many” — in which officers were mistaken about the legal standard for stopping people.

Ms. Joshi wrote that Ms. Lemire pointed out that some officers were under the mistaken impression that they “were entitled to stop and question anyone inside” public housing.

In fact, legal experts say, the police require reasonable suspicion that a person is about to or has just committed a penal code violation before stopping that person.

After Ms. Lemire’s findings, Commissioner Kelly issued a directive reinforcing the legal standards and ordered intensive training for all housing officers and certain patrol officers. In all, some 3,000 officers went through a three-week training program, conducted by the department’s academy chief and overseen by the commanding officer of the Legal Bureau, according to Ms. Joshi’s Sept. 28, 2010, memo.

Even so, problems with trespassing cases seemed to persist.

“Unfortunately, as this most recent letter shows, these stops and arrests continue, and more drastic measures are needed,” Christopher Dunn, the associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said.

Mr. Browne said that the department was committed to lawfully conducting “stops of trespassers in New York City public housing as a means of fighting crime and offering some semblance of safety that residents of doormen buildings often take for granted.”

He said that even though the department’s inquiry into the allegations by the Bronx district attorney’s office had not found any police misconduct, “the N.Y.P.D. engaged in retraining on the issues,” adding that Ms. Rucker has asked that her own staff receive the same training.

In Brooklyn, prosecutors shared their own concerns about potentially problematic trespass cases with prosecutors around the city and the Police Department’s legal bureau, according to Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the borough’s district attorney. The topic surfaced about two years ago, he said.

“We found that there were times when the basis for the arrests might not have been the criteria we were looking for, and we addressed that through training,” Mr. Schmetterer said.

Randy Leonard and Wendy Ruderman contributed reporting.


14) Chicago teachers 'not happy' with proposed contract; strike continues
[While dated, this article gives details of what was in dispute in the]
By NBC News and wire services
September 16, 2012

Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET: Delegates from the Chicago Teachers Union told their bargaining team Sunday that they want to meet with the schools they represent before making a decision about whether to end their strike.

"They’re not happy with the agreement and would like it to be a lot better for us than it is," Union President Karen Lewis said in a news briefing Sunday evening, adding that they are returning to their schools with the proposal because they do not want to feel rushed to make a decision.

That means Chicago public schools will remained closed Monday and likely Tuesday, affecting 350,000 kindergarten, elementary and high school students. Parents should plan for their children to be out of school until at least Wednesday, Lewis said.

Following the announcement, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, calling the strike "illegal," said he would file an injunction to force an end to the walkout.

"I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union," Emanuel said, adding that the union walked out over issues that are not subject to a strike under Illinois state law.

The union delegates aren't scheduled to meet again until Tuesday, in part out of respect for for the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which began at sundown Sunday.

A union bargaining team and city officials had hammered out a proposed contract that would move away from merit pay and allow teachers to appeal their evaluations.

A faction of the union sees it as a "back room deal" that does not have unified support. A source close to the union told NBC Chicago that Lewis' caucus shouted obscenities at her and other leaders late Saturday night, saying, "You sold out" and, "Rahm's getting everything they wanted, what the hell did we get?"

Lewis, exhausted from a tense week, indicated that she's done negotiating and asked "Will my own caucus defy me?"

At the heart of those who oppose this new deal - they feel the negotiating team did not fight for paraprofessionals and special education teachers and students.

Some delegates shouted at Lewis there is "no way to vote on something we haven't seen."

Teachers revolted last week against sweeping education reforms sought by Emanuel, especially evaluating teachers based on the standardized test scores of their students. They also fear a wave of neighborhood school closings that could result in mass teacher layoffs. They want a guarantee that laid-off teachers will be recalled for other jobs in the district.

"They're still not happy with the evaluations. They're not happy with the recall (provision)," Lewis said of delegates.

Still, Lewis seemed energized in a statement Saturday night, buoyed by the agreement, which came after a weeklong strike that began on Sept. 10.

"This union has proven the Chicago labor movement is neither dormant nor dead," Lewis said in a statement on the union’s blog late on Saturday. "We have solidified our political power and captured the imagination of the nation. No one will ever look upon a teacher and think of him or her as a passive, person to be bullied and walked on ever again."

Emanuel's chief negotiator, School Board President David Vitale, said the union should allow children to go back to school while the two sides complete the process.

"We are extremely disappointed that after 10 months of discussion reaching an honest and fair compromise that (the union) decided to continue their strike of choice and keep our children out of the classroom," Vitale said.

The contract includes what Lewis called victories for the 29,000 union members, which she outlined on the union’s website:

PAY: The teachers union wants a three-year contract that guarantees a 3-percent increase the first year and 2-percent increases for the second and third years. The contract also includes the possibility of being extended a fourth year with a 3-percent raise. A first-year teacher earns about $49,000, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality; the highest-paid teacher earns $92,227.

Chicago Public Schools would move away from merit pay for individual teachers.

EVALUATION: Teachers would be evaluated 70 percent in terms of how they teach (“teacher practice”) and 30 percent in terms of how their students improve (“student growth”). Evaluations will not affect tenured teachers during the first year, and teachers may appeal their evaluation.

HIRES: Responding to parent demands, Chicago Public Schools would hire more than 600 teachers specialized in art, music, physical education and foreign languages, among other teacher specialties. More than half of large school districts rehire laid-off teachers, according to The New York Times; the Chicago school board has pushed to leave control to principals.

Those new hires will allow for the longer class day – which will be seven hours for elementary school students, up from five hours and 45 minutes. Chicago had been known for one of the shortest school days in the country -- a point that became a sticking point for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Of those new hires, half must be union employees who were previously laid off. (Higher-rated teachers would have a better chance at being rehired, the Chicago Tribune reported.)

BULLYING: The contract demands ending bullying by principals and managerial personnel to “curtail some of the abusive practices that have run rampant in many neighborhood schools.” Principals, however, will continue to exercise power over hiring teachers, the Tribune reported.

In one instance, according to CBS Chicago, dozens of complaints were made about a principal at Josiah Pickard Elementary School during his five years on the job. A union representative told CBS Chicago that the volume of complaints was not normal for a principal.

TEXTBOOKS: Chicago students would have their textbooks on the first day of school instead of having to wait up to six weeks

Related: Chicago strike: Will teachers union approve proposed contract?

The strike may have hurt Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s image as a hard-nosed innovator, the Chicago Tribune reported, largely because of the mayor’s aggressive statements about teachers – which he implied after the school board nixed half their pay raise.

The strike received nationwide attention in part because Chicago is the third-largest school district in the nation and its teachers hadn’t gone on strike for 25 years, since 1987.

But the strike has made headlines also because Emanuel was Obama’s first chief of staff. Obama, whose daughters attended the private University of Chicago Laboratory School (known as the “Lab school”), campaigned on public school reform and has advocated merit pay.

On Friday, Emanuel released a more muted statement than his ones in the past, according to the Tribune:

"This tentative framework is an honest and principled compromise that is about who we all work for: our students. It preserves more time for learning in the classroom, provides more support for teachers to excel at their craft and gives principals the latitude and responsibility to build an environment in which our children can succeed."

Emanuel had argued for a long school day – which he appears to have achieved with the proposed contract. For high schools, the bell would ring after seven and a half hours.

The contract doesn’t end the school district’s woes, however. After school doors open again, the school district is likely to shutter schools to help close a projected $1 billion budget deficit for the 2014-1015 school year, according to the Tribune.

NBC's Isolde Raftery, Sevil Omer and Reuters contributed to this report.


15) Veterans Wait for Benefits as Claims Pile Up
September 27, 2012

For Dennis Selsky, a Vietnam-era veteran with multiple sclerosis, it was lost documents. It seemed that every time he sent records to the Department of Veterans Affairs, they disappeared into the ether.

For Mickel Withers, an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, it was a bureaucratic foul-up. The department said he received National Guard pay in 2009, though he had left the Guard the previous year, and cut his disability compensation by $3,000. He filed for bankruptcy to protect himself from creditors.

For Doris Hink, the widow of a World War II veteran, it was the waiting. The department took nearly two years to process her claim for a survivor’s pension, forcing her daughter to take $12,000 from savings to pay nursing home bills.

These are the faces of what has become known as “the backlog”: the crushing inventory of claims for disability, pension and educational benefits that has overwhelmed the Department of Veterans Affairs. For hundreds of thousands of veterans, the result has been long waits for decisions, mishandled documents, confusing communications and infuriating mistakes in their claims.

Numbers tell the story. Last year, veterans filed more than 1.3 million claims, double the number in 2001. Despite having added nearly 4,000 new workers since 2008, the agency did not keep pace, completing less than 80 percent of its inventory.

This year, the agency has already completed more than one million claims for the third consecutive year. Yet it is still taking about eight months to process the average claim, two months longer than a decade ago. As of Monday, 890,000 pension and compensation claims were pending.

Skyrocketing costs have accompanied that flood of claims. By next year, the department’s major benefit programs — compensation for the disabled, pensions for the low-income and educational assistance — are projected to cost about $76 billion, triple the amount in 2001. By 2022, those costs are projected to rise nearly 70 percent to about $130 billion.

These are the compounding wages of war, and they are not just the result of recent conflicts. The department is administering pensions for World War II veterans while handling new claims from Vietnam veterans struggling with the multiplying ailments of age. Indeed, nearly a third of all pending new claims are from Vietnam-era veterans, roughly equal to the number from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Thanks to superior battlefield medicine and armor, those Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have survived combat at a higher rate. As they return home with more wounds, and perhaps more savvy, the ones who file for disability compensation are claiming on average nearly 10 disorders or injuries each, compared with 6 for Vietnam veterans and fewer than 4 for World War II veterans. Their complex claims are often more time-consuming to process, adding to the backlog.

At the same time, a higher percentage — nearly half — of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are filing for disability compensation, partly because of the weak economy. That is double the rate for previous wars.

“We’re not gaining any ground here,” Eric K. Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, acknowledged in an interview over the summer. “Am I impatient? Yes, but I’ve got a fix.”

That fix is the department’s “transformation plan,” which calls for a new training regimen that Mr. Shinseki says will improve speed and accuracy in processing claims; creation of special teams to handle complex claims; and new digital technology that will replace the current paper-choked system.

When all those pieces are in place by 2015, Mr. Shinseki says that every claim will be processed in fewer than 125 days, with almost no errors — a pledge that veterans’ advocates view skeptically.

Current and former front-line workers, who spoke out of frustration with the widespread criticism of their agency, offer a different analysis. The dysfunction, they say, stems from inadequate training and weak management, an excessively complicated process, and assembly line-like performance standards that require them to meet production quotas under threat of demotion or firing. The solution, they say, is clear.

“They need more workers,” said Mark Locken, a retired Army artillery officer who worked for the department for three years in Boston before quitting in May because, he said, of the stress.

The history of the backlog, which predates the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,suggests another source of the problem: a bureaucratic culture with conflicting missions.

On one hand, Department of Veterans Affairs employees are urged to be advocates for veterans. “I tell them: you’re going to take care of these young men and women for life,” Allison A. Hickey, a retired Air Force brigadier general who is under secretary for benefits, said in an interview.

Yet those workers are also required to be stewards of the public dime, called on to distinguish the truly needy from the less needy from the fraudulent.

That means they must evaluate veterans to determine whether their illnesses or injuries are real, and whether they are the result of military service, or something else. If those problems are deemed “service connected,” the workers must then quantify their severity and attach dollar values.

Is that traumatic brain injury from high school football or a roadside bomb in Iraq? Is that back injury a 10 percent disability or 30 percent? Is that post-traumatic stress disorder real?

Medical questions without simple answers must be settled by harried bureaucrats and overworked doctors applying black-and-white rules to very gray ailments. Their decisions mean the difference between monthly checks of a few hundred dollars versus a few thousand.

When veterans are not happy with the results, as is often the case, they can appeal, or reapply, submitting new documents and diagnoses to bolster their claims — and adding years to the process.

About half of the current backlog is due to veterans reapplying for denied claims or seeking to increase existing benefits because of new or worsening conditions. So the backlog grows, and along with it, the pessimism of some advocates.

“They are rearranging the decks chairs on a sinking ship,” said Katrina Eagle, a lawyer who represents veterans before the agency. “You can hire people and buy new software. But nothing will improve.”

Bureaucratic Behemoth

Born from a system that paid pensions to Revolutionary War soldiers, the Department of Veterans Affairs has grown into a behemoth with more than 270,000 employees who maintain 131 cemeteries, operate 152 hospitals and disburse benefits to more than four million veterans. The nation has a total of about 23 million veterans.

Congress, the courts and the executive branch have contributed to the growth by creating new benefits and rights like perennial blooms. Typically, Congress has accomplished that by establishing “presumptive connections” between military service and certain diseases, allowing veterans to seek disability compensation if they received a diagnosis within a certain period.

There are now scores of diseases that are presumed to be the result of, or aggravated by, military service, from anemia to yellow fever. Each time the government adds a new one, thousands of veterans apply for benefits.

In 2010, for example, Mr. Shinseki announced that three diseases — ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and b-cell leukemia — would be considered the result of Agent Orange exposure for veterans who served in Vietnam. As of this week, the department had processed more than 240,000 claims for those diseases filed in just the last two years.

Since at least the 1960s, multiple sclerosis has been on the presumptive list, and in the decades since, tens of thousands of veterans with the disease have received benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dennis Selsky, 69, is one.

A Navy reservist from the Philadelphia area who was called to active duty for 10 months in 1968, Mr. Selsky worked as an ordnance specialist on domestic air bases. Two years after leaving the service in 1970, he says, doctors told him he had multiple sclerosis, which Mr. Selsky believes he contracted from working on planes contaminated with the herbicide Agent Orange.

Two years ago, he learned from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that he was eligible for veterans compensation, applied and was granted the minimum benefit: a 30 percent rating, worth $435 a month. That seemed low to him because, he says, he has tremors, walks with a cane and is losing his vision. So Mr. Selksy, who spent 31 years with Verizon before retiring in 1998, appealed, seeking a 100 percent rating that would pay about $3,000 a month.

Then his problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs began in earnest.

First, the Philadelphia regional office lost part of his file, his wife, Sheila, said. Then it lost authorizations to obtain records from his cardiologist, podiatrist, neurologist and ophthalmologist — more than once. After the office finally obtained those doctors’ reports, it still required him to see department doctors to confirm his diagnoses.

Each appointment and lost document has added weeks to the processing, now in its 15th month. So have skeptical department examiners, who have requested additional information on whether Mr. Selsky’s heart palpitations and vision loss are related to his multiple sclerosis. “This should be a slam dunk,” Ms. Selsky said. “He keeps getting worse, and they keep fighting and fighting and fighting with us. The stress is unbelievable.”

Mr. Selsky may have also been the victim of another problem common to claims processing: the chaotic handling of records. Lost or mishandled documents are perhaps the No. 1 complaint about the processing system. Indeed, a 2009 review by the department’s inspector general found rampant cases of mishandled mail, including documents being improperly put in shred bins at 40 of the department’s 57 regional offices.

Workers who process mail in the Philadelphia regional office, which handled Mr. Selsky’s claim, say that veterans’ records have for years piled up in gray file cabinets or cardboard boxes because they were thought to lack clear identifying information, like Social Security numbers.

Ryan Cease, a former mail handler at the regional office, said that earlier this year he saw workers who were cleaning up the mail room in preparation for a visit by a senior official tossing records into boxes marked “for shredding.”

Suspicious, he and a fellow worker later leafed through the boxes and found numerous records that they believed could have easily been identified.

Mr. Cease, through another employee, sent an urgent e-mail to the department’s central office. After an investigation, the department concluded that nothing improper had occurred.

“We have not shredded any documents up there,” Ms. Hickey said.

Mr. Cease is not so sure. “I’m convinced,” he said in an interview, “that mail was shredded and that the mail was identifiable.”

Manpower Shortage Cited

In 2009, Kathryn Kausch learned that her mother, Doris Hink, was eligible for a pension because her husband, who died in 1987, had served honorably during World War II. Ms. Kausch sent in the paperwork, hoping the funds would help pay assisted living costs for her mother, now 89, who has dementia.

The application was rejected because her mother’s assets were above the $80,000 threshold. But in a year, those assets had shrunk and Ms. Kausch reapplied in January 2010. That September, the Philadelphia pension office asked for additional documents, and she sent off a fat packet of bank statements, medical invoices and other financial records.

In November, the office notified her that it had not received the documents and was rejecting her mother’s application again. But Ms. Kausch produced a receipt showing that the documents had been delivered, and the office acknowledged it had received them. Then she hunkered down to wait. Months passed.

Ms. Kausch began dipping into her savings to pay her mother’s bills at an assisted living center. Then in July 2011, Ms. Kausch was laid off from her job at Xerox. Desperate for help, she called her congressman, Representative Michael Fitzpatrick, a Republican from the Philadelphia suburbs. A week after his office made inquiries, her mother’s pension was approved.

But Ms. Kausch’s problems did not end. Her mother is eligible for $22,000 in retroactive pension payments dating to 2009. But because of her mother’s dementia, the department must approve Ms. Kausch as her mother’s fiduciary. Though the department has conducted the required interview, it has not filled out the final paperwork, despite calls from Mr. Fitzpatrick’s office.

“No wonder our government has such problems,” Ms. Kausch, 58, said. “It seems you get lost in this bureaucratic paperwork.”

A routine pension claim, undisputed by the department, took nearly two years to process, and only after a congressman’s intervention. An equally straightforward fiduciary application is still pending after six months. Why?

Employees and veterans advocates repeatedly point to one reason: a lack of manpower. Though the Veterans Benefits Administration, the division that oversees entitlement programs, has grown significantly in the past decade, to 20,600 employees from 12,150, it still often assigns mandatory overtime to meet workload demands. And because the processing is so complicated, it can take two years before new hires are fully productive, the department says.

With its staff stretched to the limit, the Veterans Benefits Administration supervisors set priorities for processing claims, workers say, with seriously wounded recent veterans, the homeless and terminally ill often rising to the top. Veterans or survivors who are already receiving benefits but applying for new ones may, as a consequence, be given lower priority, the workers say.

Another problem, front-line claims workers say, are production quotas that determine whether they will be promoted, given raises, demoted or fired. The pressure to meet those quotas cause some workers to skip complicated, time-consuming files and reach for simpler ones, workers and advocates say.

“Given the choice, they’ll go for the thin folder every time,” said Gerald T. Manar, a former manager for the Veterans Benefits Administration who now works for Veterans of Foreign Wars.

More processors would make a difference, most experts say. But at a time when both parties are talking about slashing the federal deficit, hiring more employees may be impossible. Since 2004, the department’s total budget — which includes health care, administrative costs and entitlements — has doubled, to $127 billion. “New employees hired into a broken system that awards process instead of outcomes will not get us there,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

For Mickel Withers, a veteran of the Georgia National Guard, the system was not exactly broken. But it was blundering. After serving on a bomb-detection team in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, he left the Army in 2008 with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and started receiving $3,080 a month in disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

But this May, a check arrived for only $109. The department told him they were docking his compensation because they had determined he received drill pay from the Guard in 2009. Veterans are not allowed to receive both kinds of pay. In fact, Mr. Withers had left the Guard as a sergeant in 2008, but it took the department weeks to confirm that fact. With two children and a wife to support, he had to seek emergency housing assistance from a veterans group to pay rent and filed for bankruptcy to avoid debt collectors.

It was his second bad experience with the benefits system: In 2009, the department overpaid the art school he was attending, then tried to collect the money from Mr. Withers. It took months to resolve that dispute.

“I think they are so overwhelmed over there, they just glance at things,” he said. “It doesn’t make me feel good about the system.”