Saturday, December 07, 2013




Make a donation today:



Monday, Dec. 9: National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education
4:30-6:00 p.m.
Start: Market & 9th St.

It's time to fight back against the corporations that are starving our public schools and colleges by not paying their fair share of taxes, who mistreat their workers, and who displace families. Join students, teachers, parents and tenants on December 9th starting at 4:30 p.m. as we march on local corporate tax evaders and expose this Tale of Two Cities. Gather at 4:30 p.m. at Market & 9th. March to Market & 5th St. at 5:00 p.m.


Gather at 9th & Market in front of Twitter
Demand that the $100 million from this “Tax Free Zone” go to more for more teachers in the classroom, investing in City College and in affordable housing, vital services, transit and more.



Public presentations by attorney David Coombs

David Coombs, attorney for American prisoner of conscience US Army Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, will speak at three upcoming West Coast events hosted by the Private Manning Support Network. Mr. Coombs continues to represent the heroic WikiLeaks whistle-blower recently sentenced to 35-years in military prison.

Sunday, Dec. 8 at 7:00pm -- Los Angeles CA
The Church in Ocean Park, 235 Hill Street, Santa Monica CA 90405 - View flyer (pdf)

Monday, Dec. 9 at 6:30pm -- Oakland CA
Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland CA 94612 - View flyer (pdf)

Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7:00pm -- Seattle WA
University Temple United Methodist Church (Fireplace Room), 1415 NE 43rd St., Seattle WA 98105 - View flyer (pdf)

Events will include Q&A with Mr. Coombs, and a fund pitch by the Support Network to benefit Pvt. Manning's ongoing defense efforts, including pending legal appeals.

Events are presented by the Private Manning Support Network and Courage to Resist, with the help of Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK, Bay Area Military Law Panel, War Resisters League-West, Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation, SF Women in Black, World Can't Wait-SF Bay, OccupySF Action Council & Environmental Justice Working Group, OccupyForum, SF LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, Queer Strike, National Lawyers Guild-SF, and the Civilian-Soldier Alliance, MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, Progressive Democrats of Santa Monica Mountains, March Forward, The ANSWER Coalition, Common Good Café, G.I. Voice / Coffee Strong, Peace Action Group of Plymouth Church UCC, Fellowship of Reconciliation-Seattle Chapter

$5-$10 donation requested at the door to cover event expenses. Wheelchair accessible. For more info, contact: Courage to Resist, 510-488-3559.

PVT Chelsea Manning tells TIME Magazine what she's thankful for this year

For their special Thanksgiving edition, TIME Magazine asked WikiLeaks whistleblower PVT Chelsea Manning what she's thankful for this year.  Her answer was published alongside those from Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and 14 other well-known public figures.  Her response, while demonstrating wisdom beyond her years, is one that many people who work for the betterment of society will appreciate:

"I’m usually hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. After all, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony systematically terrorized and slaughtered the very same Pequot tribe that assisted the first English refugees to arrive at Plymouth Rock. So, perhaps ironically, I’m thankful that I know that, and I’m also thankful that there are people who seek out, and usually find, such truths.  I’m thankful for people who, even surrounded by millions of Americans eating turkey during regularly scheduled commercial breaks in the Green Bay and Detroit football game; who, despite having been taught, often as early as five and six years old, that the “helpful natives” selflessly assisted the “poor helpless Pilgrims” and lived happily ever after, dare to ask probing, even dangerous, questions.
Such people are often nameless and humble, yet no less courageous. Whether carpenters of welders; retail clerks or bank managers; artists or lawyers, they dare to ask tough questions, and seek out the truth, even when the answers they find might not be easy to live with.

I’m also grateful for having social and human justice pioneers who lead through action, and by example, as opposed to directing or commanding other people to take action. Often, the achievements of such people transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries. Unfortunately, such remarkable people often risk their reputations, their livelihood, and, all too often, even their lives.

Malcolm X began to openly embrace the idea, after an awakening during his travels to the Middle East and Africa, of an international and unifying effort to achieve equality, and was murdered after a tough, yearlong defection from the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther King Jr., after choosing to embrace the struggles of striking sanitation workers in Memphis over lobbying in Washington, D.C., was murdered by an escaped convict seeking fame and respect from white Southerners. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the U.S., was murdered by a jealous former colleague. These are only examples; I wouldn’t dare to make a claim that they represent an exhaustive list of remarkable pioneers of social justice and equality—certainly many if not the vast majority are unsung and, sadly, forgotten.

So, this year, and every year, I’m thankful for such people, and I’m thankful that one day—perhaps not tomorrow—because of the accomplishments of such truth-seekers and human rights pioneers, we can live together on this tiny “pale blue dot” of a planet and stop looking inward, at each other, but rather outward, into the space beyond this planet and the future of all of humanity.

For those who don't already know, PVT Chelsea Manning grew up in a conservative community in the Midwest.  She suffered a dysfunctional home life, and she was bullied at school for being gay.  She was even homeless for a period, working two part-time jobs to get by.  She dreamed of one day going to college, and for this reason joined the Army at the age of 19.  A few years later she realized she was not gay, but transgender; since she was in the Army, her only option was to hide her identity while working 14 hour days in a war zone. Through all these obstacles, she has remained committed to educating herself, asking the hard questions, and taking risks in the name of helping other people.

This year, we give thanks for PVT Manning's humanist idealism, her bravery, and her unyielding belief that through the work of dedicated individuals our society can and will be made more just.  It is not only her actions, but also her unique individualism, that has inspired thousands of people around the world to action.  We hope you'll join us in showing thanks for Chelsea by making a gift to ensure her legal appeals process is fully funded.  35 years is far too harsh a punishment for showing the public the truth.

Donate to Support the Legal Appeals

So far we've raised just over $16,000 of the $40,000 needed.  Please help us meet our goal by Chelsea's birthday on December 17th.

Pvt. Chelsea Manning's fourth birthday in prison

“When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.”-Pvt. Manning
On December 17, Private Chelsea Manning will turn 26. It will be the fourth birthday this young Army whistle-blower has spent in prison.
Thanks to this brave soldier’s heroic actions, the public learned the following startling truths:
  • Donald Rumsfeld and General Petraeus helped support torture in Iraq.
  • Deliberate civilian killings by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan went unpunished.
  • Thousands of civilian casualties were never acknowledged publicly.
  • Most Guantanamo detainees were innocent.
“When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.”-Pvt. Manning

See even more of What WikiLeaks revealed

While some of these documents may demonstrate how much work lies ahead in terms of securing international peace and justice, their release changed the world for the better. Private Manning’s actions showed people everywhere how citizens can use the Internet to hold their governments accountable.
In Chelsea’s request for pardon from President Obama, she wrote:
“As the late Howard Zinn once said, ‘There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.’
Private Manning’s brave actions have set an example for us all.

Here are three important ways you can support Chelsea on her birthday:

1. Make a gift to the Private Manning Defense Fund. We are currently in the middle of a fund drive to raise $40,000 for her legal appeals and personal needs, including visits from family.
2. Send her a birthday message at:
PVT Bradley E Manning
1300 N Warehouse Rd
Ft Leavenworth KS 66027-2304

Please note that regular letter paper must be used, as cardstock will be turned away. However, you can easily print out your own card by searching for “free birthday templates” online.
3. Hold a party with friends and neighbors to raise money for Chelsea’s legal defense. Whether a dinner party, cocktail party or concert, bringing people together for an evening of education and socializing is a great way to kindle some social consciousness and holiday spirit. On each person's way out the door, you can ask them to add a personal message on a joint birthday letter to Chelsea. If you want your party to be public, send information about your event to

Help us continue to cover 100%
of Pvt. Manning's legal fees! Donate today.

484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:













(Unless otherwise noted)













1) Documents Say Phones Outside U.S. Are Tracked
By Z
December 4, 2013 

2) In Detroit Ruling, Threats to Promises and Assumptions
December 4, 2013 

3) Poor Black and Hispanic Men Are the Face of H.I.V.
December 4, 2013 

4) Arizona Agency Is Faulted in Deaths of Firefighters
"A commission report said the forestry division had kept the firefighters on the mountains even after commanders realized that they could not control the flames burning through the parched, thick chaparral along the western edge of the old gold-mining village of Yarnell, 80 miles northwest of Phoenix."
December 4, 2013 

5) Student Debt Load Found to Vary by College and State
December 4, 2013 

6) Report Details the Extent of a Crime Lab Technician’s Errors in Handling Evidence
December 5, 2013
7) Unarmed Man Is Charged With Wounding Bystanders Shot by Police Near Times Square
December 4, 2013

8) $15 Wage in Fast Food Stirs Debate on Effects
December 4, 2013

9) Facebook's Future Plans for Data Collection Beyond All Imagination
Facebook's dark plans for the future are given away in its patent applications.
December 4, 2013

10) Think the E.R. Is Expensive? Look at How Much It Costs to Get There
December 4, 2013 

11) Wanted: More Unemployment
"The number of people that the government counted as unemployed fell by 348,000, driving the unemployment rate from 7.2 percent to 7.0 percent. But the number of people with jobs only increased by 83,000. In other words, for every person who found a job between September and November, three other people stopped looking."
December 6, 2013 
13) Pushed Out of a Job Early
December 6, 2013 
December 6, 2013










1) Documents Say Phones Outside U.S. Are Tracked
By Z
December 4, 2013

The National Security Agency is tracking the location and movements of hundreds of millions of cellphones outside the United States in an effort to find suspicious travel patterns or coordinated activities by intelligence targets, according to secret documents leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden.

To carry out the tracking, the agency collects nearly five billion records on cellphones outside the United States each day from taps on fiber optic cables and other communication conduits that carry cellphone traffic, the documents say. Enough of that data is saved to track a small fraction of the phones over time.

The documents and the tracking program were described by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Cellphone calls, text messages and other traffic must be routed through global networks from the caller or sender to the intended recipient — another cellphone, for example. That routing is guided by so-called metadata, which acts as a sort of addressing system for the network. The metadata inevitably contains information about where a call originated, and therefore the location of a cellphone.

In October, The New York Times reported that the agency carried out a secret test project in 2010 and 2011 to collect large amounts of data on the location of Americans’ cellphones inside the United States. James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, confirmed the existence of the test program but said that it was never put into practice.

At the time, Mr. Clapper said that the United States was not collecting location information on Americans under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the agency says is the basis for its formerly secret program to collect telephone logs — another term for metadata — of all domestic calls. The domestic logs are collected directly from telephone companies.

The overseas collection described in the latest documents do not appear to raise legal questions in the United States, even though it is likely that cellphones carried by many Americans overseas would be included in the collection effort. Still, the revelation is certain to stoke further resentment by foreigners because the scope of N.S.A. spying overseas seems to widen with the leak of each new document.

The American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement, protested the collection of cellphone data on such a wide scale, saying that the program was particularly disturbing “given the substantial number of Americans having their movements recorded by the government.”

The premise of the N.S.A.’s overseas tracking program seems to be that algorithms can sift through billions of records and pick out suspicious activity like a terrorist planning session, or a series of phone calls to initiate an attack. The agency’s algorithms — like the methods used to track a contagion in a disease outbreak — would follow intelligence targets and provide agents with information on what sort of plan is afoot and how to stop it.

The N.S.A. has been either reluctant or unable to provide detailed information on whether its vast collection programs have an extensive record of pulling those needles out of the haystack of data.

It has long been standard in criminal investigations to use cellphone tracking data as a way of finding a suspect’s location. It can be “triangulated,” for example, based on its relative proximity to nearby cell towers. The latest documents make clear that the N.S.A. is collecting location data on a scale that was heretofore unimaginable: on millions of people around the world every day.



2) In Detroit Ruling, Threats to Promises and Assumptions
December 4, 2013

Someday, Detroit’s bankruptcy may well be seen as the start of an era of broken promises.

For years, cities have promised rock-solid pensions without setting aside enough money to pay for them, aided by lax accounting practices, easy borrowing and sometimes the explicit encouragement of labor unions.

Officials were counting on rich investment gains to fill the holes; unions and their retirees were counting on legal provisions — like Michigan’s Constitution — that said pensions were unassailable and that benefits would always be paid, whether through higher taxes or budget cutbacks elsewhere.

But a bankruptcy judge, Steven W. Rhodes, threw a wrench into that thinking on Tuesday, ruling that pension benefits could be reduced in a bankruptcy proceeding. The decision recast the landscape and gave distressed cities leverage to backtrack on their promises.

“Last night, as a public employees’ union leader, you went to bed thinking, ‘My workers’ pensions have special protection; I can continue to play hardball,’ ” Karol K. Denniston, a lawyer with the firm Schiff Hardin who has been advising residents of California cities on fiscal issues, said Tuesday after the judge issued his ruling. “This morning you woke up and found yourself in a new world.”

Public employees’ unions are already fighting back, though not against the chronic underfunding of their benefits. They are fighting the notion that at some point, the state protection of benefits does not hold.

Detroit’s biggest municipal union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or Afscme, swiftly asked permission to appeal directly to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, rather than Federal District Court, citing the wide public interest in the case. Officials of Detroit’s pension system said Wednesday that they planned to appeal as well.

“The state Constitution represents the people’s will,” they said in a statement. “That will cannot be ignored or subverted because it’s financially convenient to do so.”

Afscme leaders were also girding for battle in California, Florida and Illinois — places where public pension costs are rising beyond the local population’s willingness to pay, prompting cutbacks, whether in bankruptcy or not. They and other union officials argue that their members bargained away potential salary increases in favor of pensions, so cutting them now would be like refusing to issue paychecks at the end of the workweek.

“It’s a horror film,” said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for Afscme in Illinois, where the state legislature voted Tuesday to cut back retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments as part of a broad effort to bring the state’s pension system into balance. Illinois, like Michigan, has an explicit reference to protecting public pensions in its Constitution.

Sharon Levine, a lawyer who helped lay out the unions’ case before Judge Rhodes, warned that his decision would “be a road map for governors across the country to use Chapter 9 to create a self-created emergency.”

Fiscal hawks argue that states and cities already have a pension emergency, just not an easy one to see. Economist after economist has begun to argue in recent years that trillions of dollars are missing from state and local pension systems, but the shortfall is obscured by murky accounting. Governmental accounting rules, in turn, were written differently from corporate ones on the thinking that a city differs from a company. One big difference is that companies go bankrupt by the thousands but cities are thought to last forever, supposedly giving them infinite time and little reason to disclose pension values precisely.

Detroit illustrates the flaw in that thinking, but not just since Tuesday’s ruling. Its painful decline has been happening for decades. As city workers continued to build up their benefits over the years, the cost of the pension promises grew beyond the means of the city’s shrinking tax base. In 2005, the city needed more cash for its pension funds, so it tapped the municipal bond markets for $1.4 billion.

Detroit, by that time, had already reached its legal borrowing limit, but its financial advisers were able to structure the deal to make it appear as if it did not add to the city’s debt. The unions signed on because the mayor at the time, Kwame M. Kilpatrick, warned that the only other option was to lay off 2,000 workers, many of them union members. The prospectus’s description of the constitutional pension protection made it seem as if the city was simply complying with its mandate.

Those securities were the first to go into default as Detroit plunged toward bankruptcy last summer. The investors who bought them have discovered that they, too, are unsecured creditors in bankruptcy — and they, too, thought they had legal protections from the state. “No one should be surprised,” said Richard Ravitch, the former lieutenant governor of New York who is conducting a research project to track the sustainability of state finances. “Every incentive in this system is to kick the can, and everybody’s doing it.”

“The unions knew the contracts would be abrogated in bankruptcy,” he said. “The bankers, too.”

Mr. Ravitch recalled the way company pensions were handled in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. In those cases, workers and retirees are treated as secured creditors to the extent that there is money in the pension fund. That money serves as collateral, fully backing the benefits. In the typical company bankruptcy these days, however, the pension fund has a shortfall, and the workers’ claim for that amount is treated as unsecured credit, as Judge Rhodes has ruled for Detroit.

Workers for companies owe their relative protection to big unions, like the United Auto Workers and the United Steelworkers, which pushed for a landmark pension law enacted in 1974. It set up a federal pension insurance program and required companies that promised pensions to fund them. It also empowers the federal government to penalize companies that fail to fund their benefits.

Members of Congress wanted the funding rules to cover state and city pensions, too. Russell Mueller, an actuary who spent months researching public pensions for a House subcommittee, filed a report in 1978 describing a pension Wild West, where the federal government was running dozens of plans that no one seemed to know about, and the states and cities had more than 7,000 overlapping plans. The accounting was so haphazard that when Mr. Mueller totaled the forgotten assets, the discrepancy had a material effect on the gross national product.

The report quoted a Michigan state representative, Dan Angel, complaining about the way pensions in his state were being granted: “This takes place in a totally political atmosphere, without any regard for how the bill will be paid, by whom, and when,” he said. “Employees had better get concerned that there is enough cash on hand to meet retirement needs, and taxpayers had better get concerned with these massive and increasing debt obligations.”

“Public pension legislation is inevitable,” Mr. Mueller concluded in his report.

But he was wrong. State and local officials shot down the proposed federal funding requirements. Mr. Mueller’s research was filed away and forgotten for the next 35 years, leaving governments and their workers to rely on state laws and constitutions, whose protection now has been called into serious question.




3) Poor Black and Hispanic Men Are the Face of H.I.V.
December 4, 2013

The AIDS epidemic in America is rapidly becoming concentrated among poor, young black and Hispanic men who have sex with men.

Despite years of progress in preventing and treating H.I.V. in the middle class, the number of new infections nationwide remains stubbornly stuck at 50,000 a year — more and more of them in these men, who make up less than 1 percent of the population.

Giselle, a homeless 23-year-old transgender woman with cafe-au-lait skin, could be called the new face of the epidemic.

“I tested positive about a year ago,” said Giselle, who was born male but now has a girlish hair spout, wears a T-shirt tight across a feminine chest and identifies herself as a woman. “I don’t know how, exactly. I was homeless. I was escorting. I’ve been raped.”

“Yes, I use condoms,” she added. “But I’m not going to lie. I slip sometimes. Trust me — everyone here who says, ‘I always use condoms’? They don’t always.”

Besides transgender people like Giselle, the affected group includes men who are openly gay, secretly gay or bisexual, and those who consider themselves heterosexual but have had sex with men, willingly or unwillingly, in shelters or prison or for money. (Most of those interviewed for this article spoke on the condition that only their first names be used.)

Nationally, 25 percent of new infections are in black and Hispanic men, and in New York City it is 45 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city’s health department.

Nationally, when only men under 25 infected through gay sex are counted, 80 percent are black or Hispanic — even though they engage in less high-risk behavior than their white peers.

The prospects for change look grim. Critics say little is being done to save this group, and none of it with any great urgency.

“There wasn’t even an ad campaign aimed at young black men until last year — what’s that about?” said Krishna Stone, a spokeswoman for GMHC, which was founded in the 1980s as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

Phill Wilson, president of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, said there were “no models out there right now for reaching these men.”

Federal and state health officials agreed that it had taken years to shift prevention messages away from targets chosen 30 years ago: men who frequent gay bars, many of whom are white and middle-class, and heterosexual teenagers, who are at relatively low risk. Funding for health agencies has been flat, and there has been little political pressure to focus on young gay blacks and Hispanics.

Reaching those men “is the Holy Grail, and we’re working on it,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of H.I.V. prevention at the C.D.C. His agency created its Testing Makes Us Stronger campaign — the one Ms. Stone referred to — and has granted millions of dollars to local health departments and community groups to pay for testing.

But he could not name a city or state with proven success in lowering infection rates in young gay minority men.

“With more resources, we could make bigger strides,” he said.

Reaching Out

Gay black youths are hard to reach, experts say. Few are out to their families. Many live in places where gays are stigmatized and cannot afford to move. Few attend schools with gay pride clubs or gay guidance counselors.

“When we talked about H.I.V. in sex ed, the class started freaking out,” said Alex, 20, who was born in St. Croix but raised in New York. “One guy said, ‘We ain’t no faggots; why do we have to learn this stuff?’ So the teacher stopped and moved on to another topic.”

When those who are poor and homeless go to traditional gay hangouts, they become prey.

Kwame, a 20-year-old from Philadelphia, said that on his first day wandering around New York last year, he was propositioned by an older homeless man and by an older transgender person. The homeless man later admitted that he was infected, and added: “If you sit here long enough, you’re going to get some propositions — and that’s where you’re going to sleep tonight. It happened to me, and it’s going to happen to you.”

Kwame said he had sex that night — with a man he met at a gay services center, where he had gone in search of emergency housing. “I wore a condom,” he said. “I did it sort of out of guilt, or pity. It’s how I was raised. I didn’t want him to think I thought less of him. Also, I needed someplace to stay.”

According to a major C.D.C.-led study, a male-male sex act for a young black American is eight times as likely to end in H.I.V. infection as it is for his white peers.

That is true even though, on average, black youths in the study took fewer risks than their white peers: they had fewer partners, engaged in fewer acts of sex while drunk or high, and used condoms more often.

They had other risk factors. Lacking health insurance, they were less likely to have seen doctors regularly and more likely to have syphilis, which creates a path for H.I.V.

But the crucial factor was that more of their partners were older black men, who are much more likely to have untreated H.I.V. than older white men.

Among the poor, untreated or inadequately treated H.I.V. is the norm, not the exception, said Perry N. Halkitis, a professor of psychology and public health at New York University. According to the C.D.C., 79 percent of H.I.V.-infected black men who have sex with men and 74 percent of Hispanics are not “virally suppressed,” meaning they can transmit the infection, either because they are not yet on antiretroviral drugs or are not taking them daily.

Giselle admitted to sometimes skipping days. “The medicine gets you sick,” she said. “It messes up your mental state. Or it can be freezing and I’m sweating.”

Missed doses let the virus rebound, sometimes in drug-resistant strains, experts said.

Other risk factors include depression and fatalism. In a 2012 project by the National Youth Pride Services, an advocacy organization for gay black youths, more than half of the young gay black people questioned said they feared their friends or families would disown them if they came out as gay, and about 4 in 10 said they had contemplated suicide over being gay.

“The image of a black gay man almost doesn’t exist,” said Shariff Gibbons, 25, who works with other young men at GMHC. “In the black community, the image that ‘gay men are sissies’ is amped up a billion times. And we all have an aunt who goes to church and says, ‘Being gay is wrong.’ That makes young men hide.”

Fighting Isolation

Roderick, 22, said his aunt, who took him in after his parents were arrested on drug charges, became furious after he told her at age 15 that he was gay. Later he attended a small New Jersey university and studied to be a veterinarian. But when his aunt learned that he was dating a white man, she demanded that he return home and go to a local community college.

She and his cousins called him an “Oreo” and even viler names, he said. “It got to where I felt I was going to snap, and kill myself or kill them. I didn’t want to do either, so one night I took my cousin’s bike and I left, and took a train to New York. I’m just basically dead to my family now.”

In New York, he found housing through the Ali Forney Center, which is named after a young gay rights advocate murdered in 1997 and which shelters gay minority youths, who are often abused in regular shelters. Roderick briefly supported himself by having sex for money at parties organized through Craigslist. But he gave that up, he said, has one partner and is applying for veterinary scholarships.

Several young men described having felt isolated and scared as teenagers, and so depressed that they hardly cared if they lived or died, which left them indifferent about using condoms, especially when they were offered money not to. And many turned to empathetic older men who had gone through the same crises in their youth. Alex said his mother threatened to throw him out when she caught him with another boy when he was a teenager — but she needed the disability checks he receives because of nerve damage done at birth.

“I have three strikes against me: I’m black, I’m gay, and I’m in a wheelchair,” he said. “All I wanted was love and comfort and being with someone in the world.”

Sex with strangers was as close as he could get. His first time was in a stairwell of his housing project with a man he met on a black gay chat site.

“It was a hit and a bounce and leave,” he said. “Unprotected oral and anal.” When he was older, he sold himself on the Chelsea Piers.

Two scary events — getting syphilis and being raped by an older man he thought loved him — brought him to GMHC, which offers separate support groups for black and Hispanic men, teenagers and transsexuals. They offer advice, H.I.V. tests and help on being openly gay.

For example, several men said they joined after being handed GMHC “I Love My Boo” fliers, which show young black male lovers holding hands and kissing in Central Park.

An Inadequate Response

But scattered local programs like these, and those offering housing, legal and medical help and other services, are not turning the tide of infections because the national response is fragmented and hesitant.

Few black political or religious leaders talk regularly about the problem — though there are exceptions, including Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Oakland, Calif., and the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Ms. Lee and several other congresswomen publicly take annual H.I.V. tests. Few men in the Congressional Black Caucus agree to join them, one of her aides said.

Dr. Butts has endorsed home H.I.V. tests from the pulpit and exhorted his congregants to accept gay relatives, but many black clergy members are far less accepting; some have fought same-sex marriage ballot measures.

Many programs have been proposed and tested, including financial incentives: paying parents who accept their gay sons to meet with parents who reject theirs; paying men who bring in friends for H.I.V. tests; and paying older black men to give cooking lessons and safe-sex advice to younger ones. But none have been widely adopted.

At a recent GMHC forum on why its programs for young black men were being cut, Janet Weinberg, the agency’s acting chief executive, said the epidemic was in some ways still where it was 30 years ago. “We have the tools to end it,” she said, “except for the government’s indifference.”



4) Arizona Agency Is Faulted in Deaths of Firefighters
"A commission report said the forestry division had kept the firefighters on the mountains even after commanders realized that they could not control the flames burning through the parched, thick chaparral along the western edge of the old gold-mining village of Yarnell, 80 miles northwest of Phoenix."
December 4, 2013

PHOENIX — A state safety commission recommended fines totaling $559,000 against the Arizona State Forestry Division on Wednesday, saying the agency wrongly put the protection of “structures and pastureland” ahead of the safety of firefighters battling a wildfire in central Arizona last summer, including 19 who died trapped by the flames at the base of a mountain.

A commission report said the forestry division had kept the firefighters on the mountains even after commanders realized that they could not control the flames burning through the parched, thick chaparral along the western edge of the old gold-mining village of Yarnell, 80 miles northwest of Phoenix.

In the report, inspectors for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health said the agency’s actions resulted in “multiple instances of firefighters being unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to the deadly hazards of wildland firefighting.”

The inspectors wrote that the agency did not protect the firefighters from “recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

The investigators recommended that the forestry division pay a penalty of $70,000, and $25,000 per firefighter who died, to be paid directly to their families or estates, a total of $545,000. Penalties of $14,000 were recommended for other safety infractions.

The report, released during a meeting of the Industrial Commission of Arizona, which enforces rules governing the health and safety of state employees, also faulted the team that ran firefighting operations on June 30, when the firefighters died, for being understaffed, which led to “an organization that lacked the initial cohesion needed” to successfully fight the fire. Safety officers who were recruited to help arrived only after firefighting operations were well underway that day, when thunderstorm winds sent flames racing toward the firefighters, all members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a highly trained front-line fire suppression squad.

At the meeting, Marshall Krotenberg, safety compliance supervisor for the state’s division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, told the commission’s members that the absence of safety officers “increased the risk of firefighter exposure to hazards.”

“Do we know why there was a delay?” Susan Strickler, the commission’s vice chairwoman, asked him.

“The ball got dropped,” Mr. Krotenberg replied. “That’s what our understanding is.” In a statement, Carrie Dennett, a spokeswoman for the state’s forestry division, said the agency “cooperated fully” with the investigation, but “cannot provide any statement” on the report or the fines it recommended until they were reviewed.

The fire began when a bolt of lightning ignited a small area on the mountains west of Yarnell on June 28. The area was deemed inaccessible to vehicles and was hard to reach on foot, and the fire did not initially seem to pose a significant threat to homes or people despite a prolonged drought.

A fire management officer chose to delay firefighting efforts until the next morning. Flames were escaping, but fire managers nonetheless failed to assess the changing nature of the fire, compromising the safety of the operations that would follow, Mr. Krotenberg said. The report cited several additional problems. Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots — the 19 who died and their lookout, Brendan McDonough, who escaped — were tired, having just returned from fighting two fires. The report indicated that exhaustion could have affected their judgment.

A significant problem, Mr. Krotenberg said, was that despite forecasts and repeated warnings that a severe thunderstorm was on the way, there was no plan in place to account for it. There was, he added, “no information indicating that anyone had a plan in place,” addressing when and how the fire teams on the ground should evacuate to protect themselves from the dangers brought by the storm. Still, the report says that “even up to and including their last radio transmission,” Eric Marsh, the crew’s superintendent, who had been placed in charge of a region of the fire that day, and the rest of the Granite Mountain Hotshot team “were alert, unimaginably calm, thinking clearly and taking decisive actions.” That the 19 men died together — “no one ran,” the report says — was a testament to the strength of their bond and leadership, Mr. Krotenberg said. A separate report, by a team of local, state and federal investigators that was released in September, found no evidence of recklessness or negligence, but mentioned poor radio communication.



5) Student Debt Load Found to Vary by College and State
December 4, 2013

Rising student debt has become a national concern, but the picture is far from uniform, with students at some colleges borrowing 10 times as much as their counterparts at other colleges, a report released Wednesday says.

The Institute for College Access and Success, a research group, reported not only an enormous variation in student debt from college to college — from less than $5,000 per borrower at some to almost $50,000 at others — but also wide differences by region, with students in the East and Midwest borrowing far more than those in the West and South.

The report underscores the murkiness of college costs, with students and parents often focusing on sticker prices that have little to do with how much aid they might receive, how much they might pay out of pocket, and how much they might have to borrow.

“There’s a growing awareness of the importance of student debt, and there are many more tools available now for people to learn about costs, but we still have a long way to go in informing people about how to finance an education, and how much it varies from school to school,” said Lauren Asher, president of the institute.

The report came a day after the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that it would regulate large loan servicers like Sallie Mae — companies that do not lend the money in the first place, but take over the management of the loans — in the $1.2 trillion student debt market. The federal bureau, created after the 2008 financial crisis, already oversees lenders, but it recently reported that people with student debts are often tripped up by the loan servicers, particularly when they seek to change repayment terms.

The Institute for College Access and Success estimated that of the students who earned bachelor’s degrees in the United States in 2011-12, 71 percent had student loans, and the average borrower had $29,400 in debt, compared with 68 percent and $23,450 four years earlier. The group derived the figures from an annual survey of more than 1,000 colleges and a federal government survey of former students conducted every four years.

The numbers are skewed somewhat by for-profit colleges, which award about 6 percent of bachelor’s degrees, and where students are much more likely to borrow money, and borrow far more on average. Excluding for-profit schools, the institute reported that 68 percent of graduates had student debt, averaging $27,850; a recent report by the College Board, using different methodology, put those figures at 60 percent and $26,500.

The institute’s report lists some of the colleges where students borrow the most and the least, based on the college survey, but cautions that some colleges that did not take part in the survey might have made those rosters. Nearly all for-profit colleges did not take part. The high-debt private colleges listed are concentrated in the Northeast, while half of the high-debt public colleges are state schools in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

The institute also posted college-specific figures on Wednesday in a searchable online database. It shows two private colleges, Anna Maria College and Wheelock College, both in Massachusetts, with more than 80 percent of graduates having student loans, and the highest average debt per borrower, around $49,000, among colleges that provided figures. At two other private schools, Becker College in Massachusetts and Marylhurst University in Oregon, average debt was a few thousand dollars lower, but there were more borrowers — more than 90 percent of their graduates had debts.

The colleges on the report’s low-debt list are a geographically diverse mix of public and private, ranging from little-known places like Campbellsville University in Kentucky to Princeton University.

At California State University at Sacramento, fewer than half of graduates had student loans, which averaged less than $4,500. At Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York, the average debt per borrower was slightly higher, but only about one graduate in five borrowed any money for college.

State-wise, graduates of colleges in Arizona, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming were among the least likely to have student debt, and those who did borrowed relatively little. Graduates in New Mexico had the lowest average debt per borrower of any state, about $18,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, graduates in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, Minnesota and Ohio were among the most likely to borrow and had some of the highest debt loads. Delaware colleges had the highest debt per borrower, almost $34,000.




6) Report Details the Extent of a Crime Lab Technician’s Errors in Handling Evidence
December 5, 2013

The crime lab technician mislabeled samples, using “the victim’s name instead of suspect’s name,” her evaluation said. Her supervisors disqualified her from testifying in court because of her inability to “explain and retain basic concepts.”

Indeed, for a time, the technician, Serrita Mitchell, was only allowed to perform the most rote assignments at the New York City medical examiner’s office.

When she was given another chance, more errors occurred and she overlooked crucial evidence in a number of rape investigations, according to a new report by the state inspector general’s office.

The report describes a troubling pattern of mistakes at the city’s premier crime lab, also considered among the best in the country.

The inspector general’s office, which has already presented its findings to the medical examiner’s office, is expected to release its report Thursday morning.

The report was commissioned after The New York Times revealed some of Ms. Mitchell’s errors and efforts by the medical examiner’s office to determine the extent of her mistakes. It questioned the office’s application of a new method for interpreting complicated mixtures of DNA.

The method, known as the forensic statistical tool, is frequently used by the medical examiner’s office in cases where trace amounts of DNA might be found on a handgun that several people had handled.

But the report found that scientists in the medical examiner’s office often disagreed about how to read the results, sometimes overruling one another. Yet in those cases, disputes over the accuracy of the DNA analysis were never acknowledged in the case report shared with the district attorney, much less the defense lawyers.

The inspector general, Catherine Leahy Scott, said in a statement that such dissent should have been described in the case reports prepared for prosecutors.

Regarding Ms. Mitchell’s mistakes, the report underscores how much her supervisors knew about her “myriad failures,” but “did not terminate” her employment.

For starters, Ms. Mitchell regularly overlooked stains on the clothing of sexual assault victims, a lapse that meant crucial DNA evidence went ignored and untested.

In 2011, for instance, she was reprimanded after finding only six stains on a T-shirt and pair of jeans gathered as evidence in a sexual assault; a supervisor found 20 other stains on the clothing that should have been tested for DNA.

Even more troubling was evidence that Ms. Mitchell was not testing the few stains that she found, instead, in some instances, simply marking them negative for DNA. Her supervisors reviewing her work noted that it was an open question whether these were paperwork errors or whether she was “actually falsifying” test results.

For more than two years, the office of the chief medical examiner has been reviewing Ms. Mitchell’s casework. It has found discrepancies in the contents of 24 sexual assault kits that were a result of her misplacing evidence, sometimes returning it to an unrelated case.

The review also found 37 sexual assault cases in which she had overlooked evidence, preventing DNA profiles in some cases from being discerned until many years later.

In 2001, a 14-year-old girl told the police that an 18-year-old acquaintance had forced himself on her, but the case foundered. Ms. Mitchell was charged with examining the girl’s underwear for DNA, but none was found. In 2012, the evidence was re-examined and male DNA was discovered, leading to the man’s arrest.

The charges were ultimately dropped after the girl, now in her 20s, refused to testify.

In a statement, the medical examiner’s office noted that it had put in place numerous changes since the lab technician’s errors were discovered. “The inspector general concurred with the new policies and procedures we put in place, and found their recommendations to be valuable to our ongoing policy changes,” the office said.

Ms. Mitchell, who left her job in 2011, could not be reached for comment. Efforts to reach Ms. Mitchell at two telephone numbers were unsuccessful.

In examining the office’s use of the forensic statistical tool, the inspector general’s report cited a case of DNA taken from a gun in which the report examining the evidence “was rewritten six times” because of a dispute within the lab over how to interpret the mixture.

The disagreement centered on whether the DNA had come from two or three people; the answer would influence the degree to which a suspect was considered a likely contributor to the DNA mixture.

Despite having rules for how to resolve such disagreements, the inspector general found that a leading scientist at the lab, Theresa Caragine, had rewritten final reports and reassigned cases “when she disagreed with the findings” of lower-ranking analysts. No records of the disputes were ever given to prosecutors or defense lawyers. Dr. Caragine subsequently resigned. The report notes that lawyers involved in the criminal prosecution who read “the final report would be ignorant of the dissension among the criminalists and Caragine regarding the case.”



7) Unarmed Man Is Charged With Wounding Bystanders Shot by Police Near Times Square
December 4, 2013

An unarmed, emotionally disturbed man shot at by the police as he was lurching around traffic near Times Square in September has been charged with assault, on the theory that he was responsible for bullet wounds suffered by two bystanders, according to an indictment unsealed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.

The man, Glenn Broadnax, 35, of Brooklyn, created a disturbance on Sept. 14, wading into traffic at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue and throwing himself into the path of oncoming cars.

A curious crowd grew. Police officers arrived and tried to corral Mr. Broadnax, a 250-pound man. When he reached into his pants pocket, two officers, who, the police said, thought he was pulling a gun, opened fire, missing Mr. Broadnax, but hitting two nearby women. Finally, a police sergeant knocked Mr. Broadnax down with a Taser.

The shootings once again raised questions about the police use of firearms in crowded areas and drew comparisons to a shooting a year ago, when officers struck nine bystanders in front of the Empire State Building when they killed an armed murder suspect.

Initially Mr. Broadnax was arrested on misdemeanor charges of menacing, drug possession and resisting arrest. But the Manhattan district attorney’s office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. Specifically, the nine-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday said Mr. Broadnax “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”

“The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders,” said an assistant district attorney, Shannon Lucey.

The two police officers, who have not been identified, have been placed on administrative duty and their actions are still under investigation by the district attorney’s office, law enforcement officials said. They also face an internal Police Department inquiry.

Mr. Broadnax’s lawyer, Rigodis Appling, said Mr. Broadnax suffered from anxiety and depression and had been disoriented and scared when the police shot at him. He was reaching for his wallet, not a gun, she said. “Mr. Broadnax never imagined his behavior would ever cause the police to shoot at him,” she said.

After his arrest, Mr. Broadnax was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he told a detective that “he was talking to dead relatives in his head and that he tried throwing himself in front of cars to kill himself,” according to a court document released on Wednesday.

A judge ordered a mental evaluation, and a psychiatrist later found Mr. Broadnax competent to stand trial, Ms. Appling said.

On Wednesday, Justice Gregory Carro set bail at $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash. Mariann Wang, a lawyer representing Sahar Khoshakhlagh, one of the women who was wounded, said the district attorney should be pursuing charges against the two officers who fired their weapons in a crowd, not against Mr. Broadnax. “It’s an incredibly unfortunate use of prosecutorial discretion to be prosecuting a man who didn’t even injure my client,” she said. “It’s the police who injured my client.”



8) $15 Wage in Fast Food Stirs Debate on Effects
December 4, 2013

As fast-food workers plan yet another round of one-day strikes on Thursday in cities around the country, labor leaders, economists and industry officials continue to debate the potential effects of raising wages at companies that often assert that such increases would raise consumer prices and shrink the work force.

Organizers of the fast-food workers’ nascent movement are clamoring for a $15 an hour wage, which would mean a 67 percent pay increase in an industry where wages average around $9 an hour.

Restaurant industry officials have balked at so high a wage, saying it would sharply raise fast-food prices and reduce employment, in part by fueling automation of some jobs. They call the demand of $15 an hour a nonstarter as far as initiating negotiations.

“When you start by insisting on $15 an hour, that’s not conducive to substantive dialogue,” said Scott DeFife, an executive vice president with the National Restaurant Association.

But Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union, which has spent several million dollars to underwrite the fast-food strikes around the country that began a year ago, said it was only a matter of time before the worker protests became so great that McDonald’s, Burger King and other companies agreed to negotiate.

“I think there’s growing recognition that a nerve has been touched,” Ms. Henry said. “The industry had better start to take this seriously, because this isn’t going to blow over.”

But even experts who support some increase worry that a raise to $15 an hour would have profound effects on the industry. Arindrajit Dube, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said an increase in pay to $15 would push up fast-food prices by nearly 20 percent. With the industry estimating that one-third of its costs go to labor, he said a $15 wage would mean wage increases averaging around 60 percent, raising the cost of a $3 hamburger to $3.50 or $3.60.

Ken Jacobs, chairman of the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education, differed slightly on the effects, saying a $15 wage would cause a somewhat lesser price increase, perhaps 10 percent, and adding that higher pay would save restaurants some money by leading to less turnover and higher productivity per worker. In addition, he said, franchisees might swallow some of the increases instead of totally offsetting them with higher prices.

Stephen J. Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association, estimated that the demand for $15 wages would lead to a 25 percent to 50 percent increase in fast-food prices. “It would definitely hurt the consumer,” he said. “Increasing the cost of labor would lead to higher prices for the consumer, lower foot traffic and sales for franchise owners and ultimately lost entry-level jobs.”

Within academia, there has been a fierce debate about how much increases in the minimum wage affect employment.

Professor Dube has been a leading voice in arguing that a modestly higher minimum wage does not harm employment levels. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that an increase as steep as the rise to $15 could hurt employment.

“Would I be concerned about possible job losses if there were a $15 minimum wage in the restaurant industry, yes, I’d be concerned,” he said. “There are concerns that it might lead to the substitution of automation for workers.”

Several fast-food chains have already cut labor costs by allowing self-service for soft drinks. And some restaurants have begun replacing counter workers with computer screens that greet customers and ask them to tap in their orders, which are relayed to the cooks.

David Neumark, an economics professor at University of California, Irvine, who has studied minimum wage increases in depth, estimated that raising fast-food pay to $15 would result in a 5 percent or 6 percent reduction in employment. He and Professor Dube said they were reluctant to speculate about the effects of a $15 wage because while many studies have been done about the effects of a 50 cent or $1 increase in the minimum wage, hardly any have been done about the effects of a sharp jump to the $15 area.

Still, Professor Neumark said, “Anyone who thinks sensibly about this should be concerned that $15 would have a big effect on employment.”

He said one advantage of a $15 wage was that it would save the government money by reducing workers’ reliance on food stamps and other programs. A study by the University of California, Berkeley, found that fast-food workers receive nearly $7 billion a year in public assistance.

Thursday’s one-day strikes are planned for 100 cities, and will include Boston, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Washington. The organizers say that there will be protest activities in an additional 100 cities and that thousands of fast-food workers will walk out. Industry officials insist that few workers will go on strike and that most of the protesters will be union or community activists.

Some fast-food workers who participated in a one-day strike in August say that they dream of getting a raise to $15, but would be happy to receive $12 or $13.

For the movement’s strategists, the big question is how to achieve their $15 goal. One option being debated is to push for referendums or city council measures that require restaurants and retailers to pay at least $15 an hour — similar to the recently approved referendum in SeaTac, Wash., requiring that workers at the international airport there be paid at least $15 an hour.

Ms. Henry, the service employees’ president, said the movement hoped to persuade McDonald’s and other companies to require franchisees to pay $15 an hour. To help the franchisees afford that, she said, the chains might agree to have their franchises pay them lower fees.

But Mr. Caldeira bridled at requiring a $15 wage. “It would put folks out of business,” he said.

Ms. Henry responded: “In our 90-year history as a union, I’ve never seen a time when workers got a wage increase that put people out of business. It’s in our interest to make sure we secure our employment, not to reduce employment.”

In some ways, the fast-food strikes parallel the Black Friday protests urging Walmart to pay its workers more. Some economists maintain that giving raises to low-paid fast-food and retail workers would stimulate the underperforming economy by increasing their ability to spend. But other economists counter that the stimulus would be negated when the raises forced restaurants and retailers to raise prices, subtracting from other consumers’ spending power. “The real problem with the economy is there aren’t enough people working,” said David French, a senior vice president at the National Retail Federation. “There’s been a lot of growth of jobs in the retail and service sector. It’s been one of the bright spots. Why then should the policy response be to create fewer jobs? That’s a bizarre remedy to a crushing problem.”



9) Facebook's Future Plans for Data Collection Beyond All Imagination
Facebook's dark plans for the future are given away in its patent applications.
“No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development, entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the fast stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: ‘Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.’”
—Max Weber, 1905

On November 12 Facebook, Inc. filed its 178th patent application for a consumer profiling technique the company calls “inferring household income for users of a social networking system.”

“The amount of information gathered from users,” explain Facebook programmers Justin Voskuhl and Ramesh Vyaghrapuri in their patent application, “is staggering — information describing recent moves to a new city, graduations, births, engagements, marriages, and the like.” Facebook and other so-called tech companies have been warehousing all of this information since their respective inceptions. In Facebook’s case, its data vault includes information posted as early as 2004, when the site first went live. Now in a single month the amount of information forever recorded by Facebook —dinner plans, vacation destinations, emotional states, sexual activity, political views, etc.— far surpasses what was recorded during the company’s first several years of operation. And while no one outside of the company knows for certain, it is believed that Facebook has amassed one of the widest and deepest databases in history. Facebook has over 1,189,000,000 “monthly active users” around the world as of October 2013, providing considerable width of data. And Facebook has stored away trillions and trillions of missives and images, and logged other data about the lives of this billion plus statistical sample of humanity. Adjusting for bogus or duplicate accounts it all adds up to about 1/7th of humanity from which some kind of data has been recorded.

According to Facebook’s programmers like Voskuhl and Vyaghrapuri, of all the clever uses they have already applied this pile of data toward, Facebook has so far “lacked tools to synthesize this information about users for targeting advertisements based on their perceived income.” Now they have such a tool thanks to the retention and analysis of variable the company’s positivist specialists believe are correlated with income levels.

They’ll have many more tools within the next year to run similar predictions. Indeed, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and the hundreds of smaller tech lesser-known tech firms that now control the main portals of social, economic, and political life on the web (which is now to say everywhere as all economic and much social activity is made cyber) are only getting started. The Big Data analytics revolutions has barely begun, and these firms are just beginning to tinker with rational-instrumental methods of predicting and manipulating human behavior.

There are few, if any, government regulations restricting their imaginations at this point. Indeed, the U.S. President himself is a true believer in Big Data; the brain of Obama’s election team was a now famous “cave” filled with young Ivy League men (and a few women) sucking up electioneering information and crunching demographic and consumer data to target individual voters with appeals timed to maximize the probability of a vote for the new Big Blue, not IBM, but the Democratic Party’s candidate of “Hope” and “Change.” The halls of power are enraptured by the potential of rational-instrumental methods paired with unprecedented access to data that describes the social lives of hundreds of millions.

Facebook’s intellectual property portfolio reads like cliff notes summarizing the aspirations of all corporations in capitalist modernity; to optimize efficiency in order to maximize profits and reduce or externalize risk. Unlike most other corporations, and unlike previous phases in the development of rational bureaucracies, Facebook and its tech peers have accumulated never before seen quantities of information about individuals and groups. Recent breakthroughs in networked computing make analysis of these gigantic data sets fast and cheap. Facebook’s patent holdings are just a taste of what’s arriving here and now.

The way you type, the rate, common mistakes, intervals between certain characters, is all unique, like your fingerprint, and there are already cyber robots that can identify you as you peck away at keys. Facebook has even patented methods of individual identification with obviously cybernetic overtones, where the machine becomes an appendage of the person. U.S. Patents 8,306,256, 8,472,662, and 8,503,718, all filed within the last year, allow Facebook’s web robots to identify a user based on the unique pixelation and other characteristics of their smartphone’s camera. Identification of the subject is the first step toward building a useful data set to file among the billion or so other user logs. Then comes analysis, then prediction, then efforts to influence a parting of money.

Many Facebook patents pertain to advertising techniques that are designed and targeted, and continuously redesigned with ever-finer calibrations by robot programs, to be absorbed by the gazes of individuals as they scroll and swipe across their Facebook feeds, or on third party web sites.

Speaking of feeds, U.S. Patent 8,352,859, Facebook’s system for “Dynamically providing a feed of stories about a user of a social networking system” is used by the company to organize the constantly updated posts and activities inputted by a user’s “friends.” Of course embedded in this system are means of inserting advertisements. According to Facebook’s programmers, a user’s feeds are frequently injected with “a depiction of a product, a depiction of a logo, a display of a trademark, an inducement to buy a product, an inducement to buy a service, an inducement to invest, an offer for sale, a product description, trade promotion, a survey, a political message, an opinion, a public service announcement, news, a religious message, educational information, a coupon, entertainment, a file of data, an article, a book, a picture, travel information, and the like.” That’s a long list for sure, but what gets injected is more often than not whatever will boost revenues for Facebook.

The advantage here, according to Facebook, is that “rather than having to initiate calls or emails to learn news of another user, a user of a social networking website may passively receive alerts to new postings by other users.” The web robot knows best. Sit back and relax and let sociality wash over you, passively. This is merely one of Facebook’s many “systems for tailoring connections between various users” so that these connections ripple with ads uncannily resonant with desires and needs revealed in the quietly observed flow of e-mails, texts, images, and clicks captured forever in dark inaccessible servers of Facebook, Google and the like. These communications services are free in order to control the freedom of data that might otherwise crash about randomly, generating few opportunities for sales.

Where this fails Facebook ratchets up the probability of influencing the user to behave as a predictable consumer. “Targeted advertisements often fail to earn a user’s trust in the advertised product,” explain Facebook’s programmers in U.S. Patent 8,527,344, filed in September of this year. “For example, the user may be skeptical of the claims made by the advertisement. Thus, targeted advertisements may not be very effective in selling an advertised product.” Facebook’s computer programmers who now profess mastery over sociological forces add that even celebrity endorsements are viewed with skepticism by the savvy citizen of the modulated Internet. They’re probably right.

Facebook’s solution is to mobilize its users as trusted advertisers in their own right. “Unlike advertisements, most users seek and read content generated by their friends within the social networking system; thus,” concludes Facebook’s mathematicians of human inducement, “advertisements generated by a friend of the user are more likely to catch the attention of the user, increasing the effectiveness of the advertisement.” That Facebook’s current So-And-So-likes-BrandX ads are often so clumsy and ineffective does not negate the qualitative shift in this model of advertising and the possibilities of un-freedom it evokes.

Forget iPhones and applications, the tech industry’s core consumer product is now advertising. Their essential practice is mass surveillance conducted in real time through continuous and multiple sensors that pass, for most people, entirely unnoticed. The autonomy and unpredictability of the individual —in Facebook’s language the individual is the “user”— is their fundamental business problem. Reducing autonomy via surveillance and predictive algorithms that can placate existing desires, and even stimulate and mold new desires is the tech industry’s reason for being. Selling their capacious surveillance and consumer stimulus capabilities to the highest bidder is the ultimate end.

Sounds too dystopian? Perhaps, and this is by no means the world we live in, not yet. It is, however, a tendency rooted in the tech economy. The advent of mobile, hand-held, wirelessly networked computers, called “smartphones,” is still so new that the technology, and its services feel like a parallel universe, a new layer of existence added upon our existing social relationships, business activities, and political affiliations. In many ways it feels liberating and often playful. Our devices can map geographic routes, identify places and things, provide information about almost anything in real time, respond to our voices, and replace our wallets. Who hasn’t consulted “Dr. Google” to answer a pressing question? Everyone and everything is seemingly within reach and there is a kind of freedom to this utility.

Most of Facebook’s “users” have only been registered on the web site since 2010, and so the quintessential social network feels new and fun, and although perhaps fraught with some privacy concerns, it does not altogether fell like a threat to the autonomy of the individual. To say it is, is a cliche sci-fi nightmare narrative of tech-bureaucracy, and we all tell one another that the reality is more complex.

Privacy continues, however, too be too narrowly conceptualized as a liberal right against incursions of government, and while the tech companies have certainly been involved in a good deal of old-fashioned mass surveillance for the sake of our federal Big Brother, there’s another means of dissolving privacy that is more fundamental to the goals of the tech companies and more threatening to social creativity and political freedom.

Georgetown University law professor Julie Cohen notes that pervasive surveillance is inimical to the spaces of privacy that are required for liberal democracy, but she adds importantly, that the surveillance and advertising strategies of the tech industry goes further.

“A society that permits the unchecked ascendancy of surveillance infrastructures, which dampen and modulate behavioral variability, cannot hope to maintain a vibrant tradition of cultural and technical innovation,” writes Cohen in a forthcoming Harvard Law Review article.

“Modulation” is Cohen’s term for the tech industry’s practice of using algorithms and other logical machine operations to mine an individual’s data so as to continuously personalize information streams. Facebook’s patents are largely techniques of modulation, as are Google’s and the rest of the industry leaders. Facebook conducts meticulous surveillance on users, collects their data, tracks their movements on the web, and feeds the individual specific content that is determined to best resonate with their desires, behaviors, and predicted future movements. The point is to perfect the form and function of the rational-instrumental bureaucracy as defined by Max Weber: to constantly ratchet up efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. If they succeed in their own terms, the tech companies stand to create a feedback loop made perfectly to fit each an every one of us, an increasingly closed systems of personal development in which the great algorithms in the cloud endlessly tailor the psychological and social inputs of humans who lose the gift of randomness and irrationality.

“It is modulation, not privacy, that poses the greater threat to innovative practice,” explains Cohen. “Regimes of pervasively distributed surveillance and modulation seek to mold individual preferences and behavior in ways that reduce the serendipity and the freedom to tinker on which innovation thrives.” Cohen has pointed out the obvious irony here, not that it’s easy to miss; the tech industry is uncritically labeled America’s hothouse of innovation, but it may in fact be killing innovation by disenchanting the world and locking inspiration in an cage.

If there were limits to the reach of the tech industry’s surveillance and stimuli strategies it would indeed be less worrisome. Only parts of our lives would be subject to this modulation, and it could therefore benefit us. But the industry aspires to totalitarian visions in which universal data sets are constantly mobilized to transform an individual’s interface with society, family, the economy, and other institutions. The tech industry’s luminaries are clear in their desire to observe and log everything, and use every “data point” to establish optimum efficiency in life as the pursuit of consumer happiness. Consumer happiness is, in turn, a step toward the rational pursuit of maximum corporate profit. We are told that the “Internet of things” is arriving, that soon every object will have embedded within it a computer that is networked to the sublime cloud, and that the physical environment will be made “smart” through the same strategy of modulation so that we might be made free not just in cyberspace, but also in the meatspace.

Whereas the Internet of the late 1990s matured as an archipelago of innumerable disjointed and disconnected web sites and databases, today’s Internet is gripped by a handful of giant companies that observe much of the traffic and communications, and which deliver much of the information from an Android phone or laptop computer, to distant servers, and back. The future Internet being built by the tech giants —putting aside the Internet of things for the moment— is already well into its beta testing phase. It’s a seamlessly integrated quilt of web sites and apps that all absorb “user” data, everything from clicks and keywords to biometric voice identification and geolocation.

United States Patent 8,572,174, another of Facebook’s recent inventions, allows the company to personalize a web page outside of Facebook’s own system with content from Facebook’s databases. Facebook is selling what the company calls its “rich set of social information” to third party web sites in order to “provide personalized content for their users based on social information about those users that is maintained by, or otherwise accessible to, the social networking system.” Facebook’s users generated this rich social information, worth many billions of dollars as recent quarterly earnings of the company attest.

In this way the entire Internet becomes Facebook. The totalitarian ambition here is obvious, and it can be read in the securities filings, patent applications, and other non-sanitized business documents crafted by the tech industry for the financial analysts who supply the capital for further so-called innovation. Everywhere you go on the web, with your phone or tablet, you’re a “user,” and your social network data will be mined every second by every application, site, and service to “enhance your experience,” as Facebook and others say. The tech industry’s leaders aim to expand this into the physical world, creating modulated advertising and environmental experiences as cameras and sensors track our movements.

Facebook and the rest of the tech industry fear autonomy and unpredictability. The ultimate expression of these irrational variables that cannot be mined with algorithmic methods is absence from the networks of surveillance in which data is collected.

One of Facebook’s preventative measures is United States Patent 8,560,962, “promoting participation of low-activity users in social networking system.” This novel invention devised by programmers in Facebook’s Palo Alto and San Francisco offices involves a “process of inducing interactions,” that are meant to maximize the amount of “user-generated content” on Facebook by getting lapsed users to return, and stimulating all users to produce more and more data. User generated content is, after all, worth billions. Think twice before you hit “like” next time, or tap that conspicuously placed “share” button; a machine likely put that content and interaction before your eyes after a logical operation determined it to have the highest probability of tempting you to add to the data stream, thereby increasing corporate revenues.

Facebook’s patents on techniques of modulating “user” behavior are few compared to the real giants of the tech industry’s surveillance and influence agenda. Amazon, Microsoft, and of course Google hold some of the most fundamental patents using personal data to attempt to shape an individual’s behavior into predictable consumptive patterns. Smaller specialized firms like Choicestream and Gist Communications have filed dozens more applications for modulation techniques. The rate of this so-called innovation is rapidly telescoping.

Perhaps we do know who will live in the iron cage. It might very well be a cage made of our own user generated content, paradoxically ushering in a new era of possibilities in shopping convenience and the delivery of satisfactory experiences even while it eradicates many degrees of chance, and pain, and struggle (the motive forces of human progress) in a robot-powered quest to have us construct identities and relationships that yield to prediction and computer-generated suggestion. Defense of individual privacy and autonomy today is rightly motivated by the reach of an Orwellian security state (the NSA, FBI, CIA). This surveillance changes our behavior by chilling us, by telling us we are always being watched by authority. Authority thereby represses in us whatever might happen to be defined as “crime,” or any anti-social behavior at the moment. But what about the surveillance that does not seek to repress us, the watching computer eyes and ears that instead hope to stimulate a particular set of monetized behaviors in us with the intimate knowledge gained from our every online utterance, even our facial expressions and finger movements?

Darwin Bond-Graham, a contributing editor to CounterPunch, is a sociologist and author who lives and works in Oakland, CA. His essay on economic inequality in the “new” California economy appears in theJuly issue of CounterPunch magazine. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion

Darwin Bond-Graham, a contributing editor to CounterPunch, is a sociologist and author who lives and works in Oakland, CA. His essay on economic inequality in the “new” California economy appears in theJuly issue of CounterPunch magazine. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion



10) Think the E.R. Is Expensive? Look at How Much It Costs to Get There
December 4, 2013

Kira Milas has no idea who called 911, summoning an ambulance filled with emergency medical technicians. Ms. Milas, 23, was working as a swim instructor for the summer and had swum into the side of the pool, breaking three teeth.

Shaken, she accepted the ambulance ride to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. The paramedics applied a neck brace as a precaution.

A week later she received a bill for the 15-minute trip: $1,772.42. Though her employer’s workers’ compensation will cover the bill, she still was stunned at the charge. “We only drove nine miles and it was a non-life-threatening injury,” she said in a phone interview. “I needed absolutely no emergency treatment.”

Thirty years ago ambulance rides were generally provided free of charge, underwritten by taxpayers as a municipal service or provided by volunteers. Today, like the rest of the health care system in the United States, most ambulance services operate as businesses and contribute to America’s escalating medical bills. Often, they are a high-cost prequel to expensive emergency room visits.

Although ambulances are often requested by a bystander or summoned by 911 dispatchers, they are almost always billed to the patient involved. And the charges, as well as insurance coverage, range widely, from zero to tens of thousands of dollars.

“There are a significant numbers of patients who have no coverage for this, and the number of self-pay patients has climbed” since the recession, said Jay Fitch, president of Fitch and Associates, the largest emergency medical services consulting firm in the United States.

What is more, since ambulances companies typically collect only 30 to 40 percent of the amount they bill, they often try to charge more for patients with insurance and those who can pay, Mr. Fitch said.

Part of the inconsistency in pricing stems from the fact that ambulance services are variously run by fire departments, hospitals, private companies and volunteer groups. Some services are included in insurance networks, others not.

“There’s a saying that if you’ve seen one emergency medical system, you’ve seen one emergency medical system — no two are alike,” said Dr. Robert E. O’Connor, a vice president of the American College of Emergency Medicine and chairman of the department at the University of Virginia. Charges and payments, he said, “are all over the place.” Fire departments, which don’t charge for driving to fire alarms, do charge for ambulance runs.

In such a fragmented system, it is hard to know how much high-priced ambulance transport contributes nationally to America’s $2.7 trillion health care bill. And total out-of-pocket expenditures by individuals are hard to tally.

But Medicare, the insurance program for the elderly, does tabulate its numbers and has become alarmed at its fast-rising expenditures for ambulance rides: nearly $6 billion a year, up from just $2 billion in 2002.

That is true even though Medicare’s fixed payments for ambulance rides — ranging from $289 to $481 in 2011 — are far lower than commercial rates. Ambulance companies complain that Medicare rates do not meet the costs of running what are essentially mobile emergency rooms staffed by highly trained professionals.

In a recent study, the federal Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General noted that the Medicare ambulance services were “vulnerable to abuse and fraud,” in part because there were lax standards on when an ambulance was needed and how the trip should be billed. The number of transports paid for by Medicare increased 69 percent between 2002 and 2011, while the number of Medicare patients increased only 7 percent during that period. In the last year, two ambulance companies have pleaded guilty or settled claims for overbilling Medicare.

The Affordable Care Act requires policies to include some coverage for emergency care as an essential benefit, including ambulance transport. But the ambulance ride and the care are billed separately. Many Silver plans — a lower-tier plan — require patients to pay an initial copay of $250 for the emergency room and $250 more for the transport, for example.

Every insurance plan evaluates ambulance rides differently for coverage, with many seeking to determine if the service was really needed — a true “emergency.”

That determination can be highly subjective. Some will grant coverage if the destination was an emergency room, regardless of the patient’s status, but others may require admittance to the hospital as evidence that the condition was serious. “Insurers will generally cover if you had good reason to believe there was a serious threat to your life or health,” said Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry group.

But when an ambulance arrives, sick patients or injured people like Ms. Milas, often feel they have little choice but to get in, unaware of the potential price tag.

If an emergency call comes to 911, dispatchers decide which ambulance to send, depending on proximity. Most ambulance companies bill according to the level of skill of the team on board, rather than the medical needs of the patients they collect. A team capable of administering Advanced Cardiac Life Support costs more than one with only basic first aid training.

Distance rarely counts for much, although a small mileage charge is added to the fee. Some companies even charge hundreds of dollars extra if a friend or relative rides along with an injured patients.

This fall, Joanne Freedman went to an urgent care center near her home in New York City with a bad headache and a fever. The doctor recommended she go to a hospital for further evaluation and offered to call an ambulance.

“I could have walked, but I’m feeling crummy so I think, ' OK, why not?’ ” she recalled.

The two-block ride was billed at $900, and she has not yet learned what her insurer may ask her to pay. “It was crazy,” she said. “All they did was put a paper mask on me so I wouldn’t infect anyone else.” Ms. Freedman had a spinal tap at the hospital and was admitted for a few days. Nonetheless, she said, for $900, the next time, no matter how ill she will walk up the hill or take a cab.



11) Wanted: More Unemployment
"The number of people that the government counted as unemployed fell by 348,000, driving the unemployment rate from 7.2 percent to 7.0 percent. But the number of people with jobs only increased by 83,000. In other words, for every person who found a job between September and November, three other people stopped looking."

It is bad news for the American economy that the unemployment rate fell in November. Yes, you read that correctly: We need higher unemployment.

As I’ve noted repeatedly in recent months, the unemployment rate is an odd measuring stick for the health of the labor market. It basically tells us how many people are looking for work. It falls when people get jobs, which is good. But it also falls when people stop looking for work, which of course is not so good.

In recent years a lot of people have given up on looking for work. As a result, the unemployment rate has gradually declined from 10 percent to 7 percent even as the share of American adults who are working has remained basically steady.

It’s easier to see the trends if you skip over the government’s wacky data for the month of October, and compare November with September. The number of people that the government counted as unemployed fell by 348,000, driving the unemployment rate from 7.2 percent to 7.0 percent. But the number of people with jobs only increased by 83,000. In other words, for every person who found a job between September and November, three other people stopped looking.

Explanations for this problem fall into two categories, both depressing.

The first school holds that the economy is broken: We have entered an era of “secular stagnation.” We must resign ourselves to a smaller work force.

The second school holds that the government is broken. There are steps we could take to grow faster but, for the most part, we are doing the opposite.

This sounds more promising, but some subscribers to the second school add an important caveat. They warn that as time passes, problems that could have been fixed calcify into enduring realities. People who might have returned to the work force fall back on disability benefits, or simply begin to lose necessary skills.

One of the most striking examples of this phenomenon is a 2008 Swedish study that found unemployed people experienced a gradual deterioration in literacy.

So these explanations may, in time, converge. The economy will have suffered permanent damage. But there will at least be the comfort of knowing the unemployment rate, once again, is an accurate measure of what’s possible.



12) Displaced by Hurricane Sandy and Living in Limbo, Instead of at Home
By and
December 6, 2013

LONG BEACH, N.Y. — For Kathryn Fitzgerald and her young daughter, Megan, home was a modest three-bedroom house here, on a tightly packed segment of Delaware Avenue two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. That was the only home that Megan had ever known, until Hurricane Sandy hit and a rank mixture of floodwater and untreated sewage rose to chest-high in the lower level of the house.

Since then, they have lived in rental apartments and Megan, now 9, attended an unfamiliar school in another town for a while as her mother appealed for enough aid to rebuild the life they had.

When inspectors arrived at Ms. Fitzgerald’s house in November 2012, they pronounced her house “substantially damaged,” meaning that more than half of its value had been destroyed overnight. But her homeowner’s insurance policy did not cover flood damage.

She had a federally subsidized flood insurance policy, but the company that wrote it offered her just $71,000. She appealed, arguing that her three-bedroom house had been worth more than double that, but her appeal was denied. She appealed again, and was again denied.

Lacking the wherewithal to start overhauling her house and believing that it was too vulnerable to another big storm, Ms. Fitzgerald paid $11,500 to have it torn down. Now she owns a sandlot surrounded by a fence bearing a sign that warns against trespassing.

“This has been a horrendously hard year for me,” she said. “If I don’t think of this in a way that is going to relieve the anger and upset, then I’ll just go back to crying every day.”

More than a year after one of the country’s largest-ever disaster recovery efforts began, Ms. Fitzgerald is among the more than 30,000 residents of New York and New Jersey who remain displaced by the storm, mired in a bureaucratic and financial limbo.

Imposing on relatives and draining their savings while pleading for assistance from a dizzying array of government agencies, they say they fear they will never get home.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had provided $1.4 billion in direct aid to victims of the storm and $7.9 billion in flood insurance payouts, and that the Small Business Administration had made $2.4 billion in low-interest loans to homeowners and businesses. What it did not announce was that less than half of the people who sought emergency money received any, as an analysis by The New York Times of FEMA data shows, or that in many cases flood insurance covered only a fraction of the losses.

According to the analysis by The Times, in the areas in and around New York City that were hit hardest by the storm, almost half of the people who received assistance from FEMA got less than $5,000. Most of that money was intended to cover housing and other emergency costs immediately after the storm.

Hurricane Sandy was a storm like no other in the history of New York. It left more than 100 people dead and caused enormous structural damage that will take years to repair.

FEMA has received claims for nearly 16 million square feet of drywall, 56,000 furnaces and water heaters and enough paint to cover 43 million square feet.

But the most the agency gave in “individual assistance” to any single homeowner was about $36,000. The agency’s representatives instructed homeowners to file claims on their flood insurance policies, if they had one, and to apply for loans from the Small Business Administration, if they qualified. But as those first, small installments ran out, the frustration of negotiating with insurers added to the stress of being displaced.

“I think flood insurance underpayments is the single biggest reason for why the rebuilding hasn’t really taken off,” said Benjamin R. Rajotte, director of the Disaster Relief Clinic at the Touro Law Center in Central Islip, N.Y. “Frequently, people are coming in saying they received half or less of what it would take to rebuild their house, not even to raise them up but just to rebuild.”

Officials at FEMA, which oversees the national flood insurance program, said that adjusters had incentive to cover all eligible losses, but that some policyholders might be disappointed at receiving money for what things were worth, rather than what it would cost to replace them. Those with complaints may appeal the decisions.

Many residents of the region were also surprised to have claims denied for damage to the foundations of their houses because the damage was deemed to have resulted from “earth movement,” not storm flooding.

Some of those displaced, like Rochelle Grubb of Far Rockaway, Queens, had no insurance at all against a flood.

Ms. Grubb, 41, a special-needs teacher at Public School 256 in Queens, had allowed her flood insurance to lapse before her house on Beach 101st Street was inundated by the fast-rising water.

In early December, she said she had been tutoring and her husband, Timothy, had been working overtime to come up with the $270,000 they estimated it would cost them to rebuild.

They said they expected it would be more than a year before they could return to their house, but they do have flood insurance now. Ms. Grubb said she had to buy it to qualify for a $135,000 loan she received from the Small Business Administration.

“It’s 101 Street but we all called it One Hundred and Fun Street,” she said, referring to her close-knit neighbors. “Now when we see each other, we’d just hug and cry. And we’re like, when, when, when?”

‘Too Much Red Tape’

FEMA officials say that their primary goal is to provide emergency aid in the days and weeks after a disaster strikes — the first splash of what is known in Washington as the cascade of federal assistance.

The process of obtaining full compensation for losses is designed to involve several steps and to frustrate efforts to take unfair advantage, as some were accused of doing after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, government officials say.

Standing beside Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in Manhattan in late October, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that more care was being taken to minimize fraud. “We’re not just sending checks willy-nilly,” he said.

The biggest chunks of federal aid for residents come not from FEMA but from HUD, which received $16 billion from Congress to dole out in grants to state and local agencies. That money was part of a total federal allocation of about $60 billion in recovery money.

So far, New York City and the States of New York and New Jersey have received more than $10.2 billion of that money. But they have handed out only a small fraction of it.

By the anniversary of the storm on Oct. 29, New Jersey had spent about $230 million of its grants, but New York City and New York State had made very few payments through their rebuilding programs, known as Build it Back in the city and New York Rising on Long Island.

Robert Smith, 64, a retired New York Police Department detective, said he had nearly given up hope on receiving enough money to rebuild the cottage he shared with his wife in the Broad Channel section of Queens. “FEMA has been totally insensitive to what I consider our basic needs,” said Mr. Smith, who has been living with his wife in their cabin upstate.

As for the Build It Back program, he said he had talked to dozens of homeowners in Broad Channel and none had received any money from that program. “It’s close to 15 months later and the only thing we’re getting is a bureaucracy and promises,” Mr. Smith said. “I want nothing more than to go back to live in Queens, or buy me out.”

Caswell F. Holloway IV, the deputy mayor overseeing Build It Back, said city officials waited until HUD had made its second allocation to the program before telling applicants how much they might receive.

The state’s New York Rising program kicked into high gear this October, sending out 4,200 letters that promised $450 million to homeowners and families on Long Island. A second mass-mailing, in November, promised payments to an additional 350 recipients.

In late October, the announcement of the latest portion of federal money spurred Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York to declare that “the aid spigot is now open, money will be flowing.” He conceded that “in Year 1, we all agree, the aid flowed too slowly” and said that there was “too much red tape.”

Only a few of those payments have been made so far, but state officials said on Friday that they had asked HUD to allow them to send more than $650 million directly to 6,666 homeowners before the end of the year.

Garrett J. Kaiser, a heavy equipment operator who lives with his wife and two children in Patchogue on Long Island, became one of the first beneficiaries of the state’s program this week.

Mr. Kaiser, 37, and his family lived for months in a camping trailer in their next-door neighbors’ driveway after the nearby bay rose up and filled their single-level house with two feet of water.

After the storm, he set about tearing out the soaked Sheetrock almost immediately, then had the structure raised seven feet. He personally rebuilt much of it, dipping into his family’s savings before he started receiving installments of insurance proceeds that totaled $115,000. In late October, he was one of the first applicants to the New York Rising program to sign the final paperwork to close a deal.

The promised payment of $38,000 would cover all of the expenses that FEMA and flood insurance did not, he said last month. He added that he had heard of people receiving promises of as much as $250,000 from New York Rising and that everyone he knew who had applied to the program was satisfied.

“Now I feel blessed that the storm hit because I have a wonderful new home,” said Mr. Kaiser, who has gone into business elevating other homes in flood-prone areas. “I’m staying forever.”

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Kaiser had not yet received any money from New York Rising. But after an inquiry from a reporter about the delay, Mr. Kaiser said the full $38,000 was deposited in his account on Thursday.

An Uneven Recovery

Conni Freestone and her boyfriend, David Fagan, have been sleeping on air mattresses in a rented bungalow they have shared with Ms. Freestone’s ailing, 63-year-old mother in Toms River, N.J.

They had been living in her mother’s home in nearby Point Pleasant when the hurricane drove water from a creek into the garage and main floor of the two-story house. The flood ruined most of the instruments used by Mr. Fagan’s band and the equipment Ms. Freestone used as a freelance photographer. But the flood insurance on the house did not cover those contents.

Ms. Freestone had been frustrated by the slow response of FEMA to their many appeals for help and found out only after pestering Gov. Chris Christie in public that the agency had estimated the damage to the house at less than $7,000. (An aide to Mr. Christie investigated and discovered the low estimate.)

That sum amounted to a fraction of the $83,000 a local contractor said the repairs would cost. The family had been paying for his work out of equity withdrawn from the house, which was their main asset.

Much of that work, including electrical wiring, proved shoddy, Ms. Freestone said, and the family was afraid to move back in. With mold climbing the new drywall, they decided to sue the first contractor and find another. But they had received just $55,000 from their insurance policies, so they kept asking for more help as the anniversary of the storm came and went.

“I felt like I was begging,” Ms. Freestone said of her frequent appeals to FEMA and state agencies. “When I did suck it up and begged, I got shot down. I’m used to being the volunteer, not the one asking for help.”

The disparities in recovery from Hurricane Sandy are on stark display in Long Beach, N.Y., on the block of modest homes where Ms. Fitzgerald and Megan lived next door to a couple, Anne Walsh and Penny Ryan. Their two-story houses, which stood side by side on lots of just 1,800 square feet, suffered similar damage when the floodwaters rose above their floorboards.

But Long Beach officials did not declare Ms. Walsh and Ms. Ryan’s house to be “substantially damaged.” And that determination has made all the difference.

Unlike Ms. Fitzgerald, they were cleared to fix up their home without having to elevate it off the ground. So now Ms. Walsh and Ms. Ryan return from work in New York City to a pin-neat living room with a gleaming floor made of Brazilian teak.

Within weeks after the waters receded, Ms. Walsh, a nurse, and Ms. Ryan, a public school principal, had dipped into their savings to pay a contractor to start tearing out and replace the ruined floors and walls. All told, they said, they had spent about $200,000 to restore their home — considerably more than they recouped through FEMA, flood insurance and a $26,000 grant from New York Rising.

“We went from having a comfortable lifestyle to being totally in debt,” said Ms. Ryan, 50.

Ms. Walsh said she thought it would take five years for the neighborhood they cherished to come fully back to life. Some houses still sit dark and boarded up, others are being raised several feet to avoid another flooding.

Ms. Fitzgerald had held out hope that the New York Rising program would come through with a grant big enough to bridge the wide gap between what she received from her insurance companies and what it would cost to build a house from scratch so close to New York City.

When she finally got her answer from New York Rising, Ms. Fitzgerald said she was “wrecked” by “bitter disappointment.”

The state had calculated that her house could be rebuilt for $160,000, so they subtracted the $84,000 they say she had received from other sources since the storm and awarded her $76,000. She said that she thought it would cost closer to $250,000 to rebuild.

And she has already spent some of her insurance proceeds to pay for demolition and plans and permits for a new house, leaving her with far less than what she needs to rebuild.

“I’m not looking for anything fabulous,” Ms. Fitzgerald said, choking back the frustration of not knowing if she and her daughter would ever get back to Delaware Avenue. “I love that block,” she said. “I want to build back.”

Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting.



13) Pushed Out of a Job Early
December 6, 2013

If there is one thing older workers fear in this economy, it’s losing their jobs as they approach retirement. But that is exactly what happened in March to Richard L. White, who was the director of career services at Rutgers University for 22 years.

Mr. White, 63, had received positive annual reviews from 1990 to 2011. In 2009, the supervising administrator wrote that his work was “conducted at the highest possible level!”

He was considered a leader in the field, winning a Fulbright grant in 2005, the first year it was offered for career services directors. Rutgers, the biggest public university in New Jersey, was ranked 21st nationally in 2010 by The Wall Street Journal for placing undergraduates; in 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the business school 33rd in the nation for M.B.A. pay.

But none of this information was included when Gregory S. Jackson, now the university president’s chief of staff, wrote Mr. White’s performance appraisal for the first time in April 2012. Mr. Jackson, who had recently taken oversight of career services, wrote that Mr. White had failed to meet standards in every category.

Soon after, Mr. White was removed as director; within a year, he was fired.

In January, shortly before leaving, Mr. White filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Rutgers. Three other longtime administrators who were also terminated joined the lawsuit, bringing into the open an increasingly contentious workplace issue.

Age discrimination claims are on the rise as members of the post-World War II baby boom enter their 60s. Last year, 22,857 people filed age-related complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, compared with 16,548 in 2006.

Mr. White, as well as two other career services administrators fired from Rutgers — Dorothy Kerr, 60, and Chrystal McArthur, 64 — had received positive job reviews until Mr. Jackson became involved in 2012. (The fourth who sued, Ms. Kerr’s husband, Mark, 58, did not receive formal appraisals because he was not a supervisor.)

According to Ms. Kerr, who had spent more than 40 years at Rutgers, Mr. Jackson “kept asking us when we were going to retire.”

In the view of the fired administrators, Mr. Jackson wanted to bring in his own people, most of whom were younger, and instead of offering them other positions, dismissed them without cause.

In an email, Peter J. McDonough Jr., a Rutgers spokesman, said that university officials believed the lawsuit was “without merit” and that they would “vigorously defend our practices.” He noted that the new career services director, Richard Hearin, 64, is older than Mr. White. University officials also said that an investigation by Rutgers’s Office of Employment Equity found no policy violation.

A lawyer for Rutgers, John Bennett, said he was unable to go into further detail because of an Oct. 10 court order restricting the release of personnel documents.

(Before that order, however, both the university and the fired administrators provided The New York Times with copies of job assessments that indicated they met all standards in 2011, but none in 2012.)

Once older workers lose their jobs, many never regain their former standard of living. On average, those who do find work make 20 percent less than they had in their previous positions, the biggest income loss for any age group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While Mr. White has found part-time employment at another university, the position does not include benefits and he is spending $2,400 a month for his family’s health coverage. None of his former colleagues have found full-time work either.

Winning an age discrimination case in a federal court has become particularly difficult since a 2009 Supreme Court ruling requiring an employee to prove that age was the determining factor for a layoff. In a few states, however, including New Jersey, the standard of proof is lower, requiring only that workers show that age was one factor.

The lawsuit against Rutgers and Mr. Jackson represents a third instance of high-ranking officials facing public claims of abusive or discriminatory behavior since Robert L. Barchi became president last year. It has received much less publicity than the others, which revolve around the athletic department and the firing of Mike Rice, the men’s basketball coach, after a video surfaced that showed him shouting homophobic slurs and throwing balls at players.

The career services case unfolded in 2012, when Rutgers officials arranged an external review by three national experts, who concluded that the department needed to be reorganized. Among their criticisms of Mr. White: He had failed to coordinate his office’s services with the university, made questionable professional judgments in managers he selected and demonstrated a weakness in leadership because of an aversion to conflict.

But the review also said Mr. White provided “a broad and commendable variety of direct services,” was “extremely well liked by the overwhelming majority of his staff” and had created a program that was “generally well regarded.”

Other experts in career services interviewed for this article said several aspects of the external review raised concerns. One of the three reviewers hired by the university — who were paid $1,000 each — was Mr. Hearin, then director of career services at the University of Maryland. Shortly after recommending that Mr. White be removed from his position, Mr. Hearin was hired to take his place.

John Fracchia, an administrator at Ithaca College who is co-chairman of the committee that oversees external reviews for the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers, and Scott Brown, a dean at Colgate who has conducted more than a dozen such reviews, said Mr. Hearin’s involvement could be perceived as a conflict of interest.

“In terms of ethics, serving on an external review is not supposed to be a backdoor way to get employment,” Mr. Fracchia said.

Mr. White said he believed that Mr. Jackson had made up his mind to remove his colleagues and him long before the review.

On Friday, April 27, at 5 p.m., the review team finished its two-day visit and on Monday, April 30, Mr. Jackson gave Mr. White, Ms. Kerr and Ms. McArthur their annual appraisals, which quoted extensively from the review team’s negative conclusions.

Typically a review report takes two to six weeks to complete, Mr. Fracchia and Mr. Brown said. The reviewers transcribe their notes, which are then collected by a member they have designated to write the report. Normally, that person finishes a first draft, to which the other two contribute edits for a final version. Neither Mr. Fracchia nor Mr. Brown had heard of an external review being concluded so rapidly.

Mr. White said he asked several times for a copy of the review but was turned down. This June, however, the university provided a copy — stamped “confidential” — to The Times.

The reviewers recommended that Mr. White be removed from his job, but “retained” and “reassigned.”

Rutgers said that neither Mr. Hearin nor Mr. Jackson would discuss the report or the decision to remove Mr. White and name Mr. Hearin as his replacement.

Unmentioned in Mr. Jackson’s appraisal was the external review team’s conclusion that the biggest problem with career services was not leadership. It was lack of resources.

“Even among the academic administrative partners who tend to be the most critical of career services,” they wrote, “the criticism was measured and centered more on resource constraints than service delivery.”

Additional resources were eventually appropriated — after Mr. White was removed.

In a news release about Mr. Hearin’s appointment, Mr. Jackson said the department would add three directors, expand the counseling staff and be moved to a centrally located office.

One other expenditure was not mentioned in the release. After 22 years as director, Mr. White made $118,000 a year; Mr. Hearin’s starting salary was $155,000.

Once Mr. White was removed from office, he was named the associate director for graduate student services. Though he felt humiliated, Mr. White said, he planned to stay until he reached 65, and then retire.

But six months later, a new review by Mr. Jackson said Mr. White was guilty of “neglect of duty.” The primary criticism was that Mr. White had taught a university course without supervisory approval, for which he was “remunerated above and beyond his salary.”

“More problematic,” the appraisal said, the course met during the day, when Mr. White should have been doing student services work.

Mr. White was one of 20 midlevel administrators who taught a section for an honors colloquium that met for an hour a week. There were no papers or exams to be graded.

He said his only preparation was reading one novel, which was discussed throughout the semester. He did not ask permission, he said, because in the four years he had been doing it, no one had ever said there was a problem. He was paid $750.

“It wasn’t the money,” he said. “I did it because I have a doctorate in English and love the opportunity to discuss a novel with such bright Rutgers students.”

March 12 was Mr. White’s last day at Rutgers. Two days later, he and the three others sent a “farewell” letter to the university president. “This is not how long-serving, dedicated Rutgers employees should be treated,” they wrote, with no “recognition, celebration and expression of gratitude or a simple goodbye.”



14) F.D.A. Approves Pill to Treat Hepatitis C
December 6, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a pill that is expected to make the treatment of hepatitis C less onerous, shorter in duration and more effective.

The drug, Sovaldi, from Gilead Sciences, will allow at least some patients infected with the liver-destroying virus to be treated with pills only, doing away with weekly injections of a drug that can have debilitating side effects.

“Today’s approval represents a significant shift in the treatment paradigm for some patients with chronic hepatitis C,” said Dr. Edward Cox, director of the office of antimicrobial products at the F.D.A.

But the greater convenience and effectiveness comes at a price.

Gilead said the wholesale cost of Sovaldi, which is known generically as sofosbuvir, would be $28,000 for four weeks — or $1,000 per daily pill. That translates to $84,000 for the 12 weeks of treatment recommended for most patients, and $168,000 for the 24 weeks needed for a hard-to-treat strain of the virus.

“This is unbearable to the health care system and it is completely unjustified,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which runs treatment clinics in the United States and abroad and has previously clashed with Gilead on the price of its drugs for H.I.V.

The Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge, a legal group based in New York, recently filed a motion to try to block patenting of the drug in India. If it succeeds, generic manufacturers in India will be able to manufacture cheap copies of the drug for distribution there and in some other developing countries.

Gilead said the price was fair given the drug’s higher cure rate and that the total cost for the 12-week regimen was “consistent with, and in some cases lower than” the cost of some other regimens for hepatitis C. It said it would offer financial assistance to some patients.

Some three million to four million Americans, many of them in middle age, are believed to have a chronic hepatitis C infection, though many do not know it. The virus slowly damages the liver, leading to cirrhosis and in some cases to liver cancer. But it often takes decades before any damage is noticeable, and many people never experience a problem.

Globally, at least 150 million people have hepatitis C.

Sovaldi was obtained by Gilead in an $11 billion acquisition of a smaller company, Pharmasset. The high purchase price raised eyebrows when the deal was announced in 2011, but it has vaulted Gilead to the lead in a heated race to develop all-oral treatments for hepatitis C.

AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and others are also developing all-oral regimens for hepatitis C that could reach the market in the next one to three years.

Some analysts expect Sovaldi to become one of the best-selling drugs in the world. Matthew Roden, an analyst at UBS, said in a note on Friday that annual sales could surpass the record of around $13 billion achieved by Lipitor, from Pfizer, in its peak year.

Sales are expected to be strong from the start, because many patients, on the advice of their doctors, have been putting off starting treatment until Sovaldi became available.

One person waiting is Tom Espinosa, a building inspector in Oakland, Calif. He has tried the existing drugs and some experimental ones, without success, so this drug might be his last chance. His liver is already deteriorating badly, but he is hoping the new drug will stop the progression.

Other companies are trying to get at least a little piece of Gilead’s bounty. Merck, Roche and Idenix Pharmaceuticals are separately claiming that Sovaldi infringes on patents they hold. Should any of those companies prevail, it is expected they will receive royalties, not keep the drug off the market.

Until two years ago, the treatment for hepatitis C consisted of 24 to 48 weeks of weekly injections of interferon alfa combined with daily tablets of ribavirin. Neither drug was developed specifically to treat hepatitis C. The combination cured about half of patients, but the side effects, including flulike symptoms, anemia and depression, could be severe.

Sovaldi and newer drugs work by inhibiting enzymes produced by the hepatitis C virus. This is the same approach that was used to make drugs for H.I.V. As in H.I.V., two or more of these drugs for hepatitis C must be used together, to prevent the virus from developing resistance.

Cure rates with Sovaldi, a polymerase inhibitor, are over 80 percent, though success and treatment duration depend in part on which strain, or genotype, of the virus is involved.

For genotypes 2 and 3, which together account for about 20 to 25 percent of cases in the United States, Sovaldi’s label recommends the drug be used with ribavirin. This will constitute the first all-oral, interferon-free treatment for hepatitis C. Genotype 2 will require 12 weeks of treatment and genotype 3 will need 24 weeks.

For genotype 1, which accounts for more than 70 percent of American cases, Sovaldi is supposed to be used with injected interferon and ribavirin. But the treatment is for only 12 weeks instead of 24 or 48, and the cure rate is about 90 percent for newly treated patients.

The label, however, says that genotype 1 patients who are ineligible for interferon can be treated for 24 weeks with Sovaldi and ribavirin. Wall Street analysts had not been expecting an all-oral regimen to be endorsed for genotype 1 patients.

The side effects seem mild, though the clinical trials to date have not been able to distinguish the effects of Sovaldi from the drugs it was taken with.

Ribavirin requires several pills taken more than once a day. Gilead hopes to combine Sovaldi with another drug it is developing into a single pill that can be taken once a day and cure most cases of genotype 1.

Results of clinical trials testing how that combination pill works are expected in the coming weeks. If all goes well, that drug could get to market by the end of next year.



15) California: Cold Is Blamed in Four Deaths in Bay Area
[They didn't die of the cold, they died of  homelessness--cold-hearted homelessness]
December 6, 2013

Four people have died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay Area while the region is gripped by freezing temperatures. Rosie Dominguez, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County coroner’s office, confirmed the deaths and their cause on Friday, but provided no further information. The San Jose Mercury News reported that three of the victims died in homeless encampments while a fourth person died in a garage in the county on the south end of San Francisco Bay. Temperatures had dropped as low as 30 degrees at San Jose International Airport early Friday.
































Monday, Dec. 9: National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education
4:30-6:00 p.m.
Start: Market & 9th St.

It's time to fight back against the corporations that are starving our public schools and colleges by not paying their fair share of taxes, who mistreat their workers, and who displace families. Join students, teachers, parents and tenants on December 9th starting at 4:30 p.m. as we march on local corporate tax evaders and expose this Tale of Two Cities. Gather at 4:30 p.m. at Market & 9th. March to Market & 5th St. at 5:00 p.m.


Gather at 9th & Market in front of Twitter
Demand that the $100 million from this “Tax Free Zone” go to more for more teachers in the classroom, investing in City College and in affordable housing, vital services, transit and more.



Public presentations by attorney David Coombs

David Coombs, attorney for American prisoner of conscience US Army Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, will speak at three upcoming West Coast events hosted by the Private Manning Support Network. Mr. Coombs continues to represent the heroic WikiLeaks whistle-blower recently sentenced to 35-years in military prison.

Sunday, Dec. 8 at 7:00pm -- Los Angeles CA
The Church in Ocean Park, 235 Hill Street, Santa Monica CA 90405 - View flyer (pdf)

Monday, Dec. 9 at 6:30pm -- Oakland CA
Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland CA 94612 - View flyer (pdf)

Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7:00pm -- Seattle WA
University Temple United Methodist Church (Fireplace Room), 1415 NE 43rd St., Seattle WA 98105 - View flyer (pdf)

Events will include Q&A with Mr. Coombs, and a fund pitch by the Support Network to benefit Pvt. Manning's ongoing defense efforts, including pending legal appeals.

Events are presented by the Private Manning Support Network and Courage to Resist, with the help of Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK, Bay Area Military Law Panel, War Resisters League-West, Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation, SF Women in Black, World Can't Wait-SF Bay, OccupySF Action Council & Environmental Justice Working Group, OccupyForum, SF LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, Queer Strike, National Lawyers Guild-SF, and the Civilian-Soldier Alliance, MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, Progressive Democrats of Santa Monica Mountains, March Forward, The ANSWER Coalition, Common Good Café, G.I. Voice / Coffee Strong, Peace Action Group of Plymouth Church UCC, Fellowship of Reconciliation-Seattle Chapter

$5-$10 donation requested at the door to cover event expenses. Wheelchair accessible. For more info, contact: Courage to Resist, 510-488-3559.
Help us continue to cover 100%
of Pvt. Manning's legal fees! Donate today.

484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610

























U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Against Lorenzo Johnson’s
New Legal Challenge to His Frame-up Conviction!
Demand the PA Attorney General Dismiss the Charges!
Free Lorenzo Johnson, Now!

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Lorenzo Johnson’s motion to file a Second Habeas Corpus Petition. The order contained the outrageous declaration that Johnson hadn’t made a “prima facie case” that he had new evidence of his innocence. This not only puts a legal obstacle in Johnson’s path as his fight for freedom makes its way (again) through the state and federal courts—but it undermines the newly filed Pennsylvania state appeal that is pending in the Court of Common Pleas.

Stripped of  “legalese,” the court’s October 15, 2013 order says Johnson’s new evidence was not brought into court soon enough—although it was the prosecution and police who withheld evidence and coerced witnesses into lying or not coming forward with the truth! This, despite over fifteen years and rounds of legal battles to uncover the evidence of government misconduct. This is a set-back for Lorenzo Johnson’s renewed fight for his freedom, but Johnson is even more determined as his PA state court appeal continues.

Increased public support and protest is needed. The fight for Lorenzo Johnson’s freedom is not only a fight for this courageous man and family. The fight for Lorenzo Johnson is also a fight for all the innocent others who have been framed and are sitting in the slow death of prison. The PA Attorney General is directly pursuing the charges against Lorenzo, despite the evidence of his innocence and the corruption of the police. Free Lorenzo Johnson, Now!

—Rachel Wolkenstein, Esq.
   October 25, 2013

For more on the federal court and PA state court legal filings.
Hear Mumia’s latest commentary, “Cat Cries”
Go to: for more information, to sign the petition, and how to help.





Call and write Ft Leavenworth today and tell them to honor Manning's wishes around her name and gender:
Chelsea's supporters were awarded the title “absolutely fabulous overall contingent” at the San Francisco Pride Parade

Call: (913) 758-3600

Write to:
Col. Sioban Ledwith, Commander
U.S. Detention Barracks
1301 N Warehouse Rd
Ft. Leavenworth KS 66027

Private Manning has been an icon both for the government transparency movement and LGBTQ activists because of her fearlessness and acts of conscience. Now, as she begins serving her sentence, Chelsea has asked for help with legal appeals, family visits, education, and support for undergoing gender transition. The latter is a decision she’s made following years of experiencing gender dysphoria and examining her options. At a difficult time in her life, she joined the military out of hope–the hope that she could use her service to save lives, and also the hope that it would help to suppress her feelings of gender dysphoria. But after serving time in Iraq, Private Manning realized what mattered to her most was the truth, personal as well as political, even when it proved challenging.

Now she wants the Fort Leavenworth military prison to allow her access to hormone replacement therapy which she has offered to pay for herself, as she pursues the process to have her name legally changed to ‘Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.’

To encourage the prison to honor her transgender identity, we’re calling on progressive supporters and allies to contact Fort Leavenworth officials demanding they acknowledge her requested name change immediately. Currently, prison officials are not required to respect Chelsea’s identity, and can even refuse to deliver mail addressed to the name ‘Chelsea Manning.’ However, it’s within prison administrators’ power to begin using the name ‘Chelsea Manning’ now, in advance of the legal name change which will most likely be approved sometime next year. It’s also up to these officials to approve Private Manning’s request for hormone therapy.

Call: (913) 758-3600

Write to:
Col. Sioban Ledwith, Commander
U.S. Detention Barracks
1301 N Warehouse Rd
Ft. Leavenworth KS 66027

Tell them: “Transgender rights are human rights! Respect Private Manning’s identity by acknowledging the name ‘Chelsea Manning’ whenever possible, including in mail addressed to her, and by allowing her access to appropriate medical treatment for gender dysphoria, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT).”

While openly transgender individuals are allowed to serve in many other militaries around the world, the US military continues to deny their existence. Now, by speaking up for Chelsea’s right to treatment, you can support one brave whistleblower in her personal struggle, and help set an important benchmark for the rights of transgender individuals everywhere. (Remember that letters written with focus and a respectful tone are more likely to be effective.) Feel free to copy this sample letter.

Earlier this year, the Private Manning Support Network won the title of most “absolutely fabulous overall contingent” at the San Francisco Pride Parade, the largest celebration of its kind for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) people nationwide. Over one thousand people marched for Private Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning in that parade, to show LGBTQ community pride for the Iraq War’s most well-known whistleblower.

Help us continue to cover 100%
of Pvt. Manning's legal fees! Donate today.

484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610




Please sign the NEW petition for Lynne Stewart.

Your signature will send a letter to Bureau of Prisons Director Samuels and to Attorney General Holder requesting that they expedite Lynne Stewart’s current application for compassionate release. The NEW petition is at

Free Lynne Stewart: Support Compassionate Release

Free Lynne Stewart: Support Compassionate Release

By Ralph Poynter, Brooklyn, NY
Renowned defense attorney Lynne Stewart, unjustly charged and convicted for the “crime” of providing her client with a fearless defense, is dying of cancer while imprisoned in the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, Texas.

Your action now can lead to her freedom so that she may live out her remaining days with the comfort and joy of her family and those closest to her, including her devoted husband Ralph Poynter, many children, grandchildren, a great grandchild and lifelong friends.

The conservative medical prognosis by the oncologist contracted by the prison is that Lynne Stewart has but 16-months to live. Breast cancer, in remission prior to her imprisonment, reached Stage Four more than a year ago, emerging in her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs.

Despite repeated courses of chemotherapy, cancer advances in her lungs, resistant to treatment. Compounding her dire condition, Lynne Stewart’s white blood cell count dropped so low that she has been isolated in a prison hospital room since April 2013 to reduce risk of generalized infection.

Under the 1984 Sentencing Act, upon a prisoner’s request, the Bureau of Prisons can file a motion with the Court to reduce sentences “for extraordinary and compelling reasons,” life threatening illness foremost among these.

Lynne Stewart’s recent re-application for compassionate release meets all the criteria specified in guidelines issued by the Bureau of Prisons in August 2013.

These “new guidelines” followed a searing report and testimony before Congress by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz. His findings corroborated a definitive report by Human Rights Watch. Inspector General Horowitz excoriated the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the restrictive crippling of the compassionate release program. In a 20-year period, the Bureau had released a scant 492 persons – an average of 24 a year out of a population that exceeds 220,000.

Over 30,000 people of conscience from all walks of life in the United States and internationally took action to free Lynne Stewart following her first application for compassionate release in April of this year.

Among those who raised their voices are former Attorney General Ramsey Clark – who was co-counsel in the case that led to Lynne Stewart’s imprisonment, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President of the United Nations General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Ed Asner, Daniel Berrigan, Liz McAllister Berrigan, Richard Falk, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Cornell West, Dick Gregory, Alice Walker and Bianca Jagger.

They along with thousands of individuals and organizations, such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, directed letters, phone calls and public declarations to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr. and to Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Dick Gregory has refused all solid food since April 4 and his remarkable moral witness will not end until Lynne Stewart is released.

We call upon all to amplify this outpouring of support. We ask all within our reach to convey to Bureau of Prisons Director Samuels his obligation to approve Lynne Stewart’s application and instruct the federal attorney to file the requisite motion for Lynne Stewart’s compassionate release.

Please sign this new petition and reach out to others to sign. The letter below will be sent on your behalf via email to Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and to Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. Telephone calls also can be made to the Bureau of Prisons:
(202) 307-3250/3262.
Write to Lynne Stewart at:
Lynne Stewart #53504-054Unit 2N
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX  76127

or via:

What you can do:
Demand Compassionate Release for Lynne Now!

Write and call:

President Obama
The White House
Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
(202) 456-1111

Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
(202) 353-1555

Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534
(202) 307-3250/3262

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

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


Kimberly Rivera

Imprisoned pregnant resister seeks early release for birth

  • Print
495 supporters from around the world write letters in support of clemency application
By James Branum and Courage to Resist. November 4, 2013
Fort Carson, Colorado – Imprisoned war resister PFC Kimberly Rivera has submitted a clemency application seeking a reduction by 45 days in the 10 month prison sentence she received for seeking asylum in Canada rather return to her unit in Iraq.

The request for clemency was based on humanitarian reasons due to pregnancy. Unless clemency is granted, Private First Class Kimberly Rivera will be forced to give birth in prison and then immediately relinquish custody of her son while she continues to serve the remainder of her sentence.

Unfortunately military regulations provide no provisions for her to be able to breastfeed her infant son while she is in prison.
Fort Carson Senior Commander Brigadier General Michael A. Bills will be making a decision on PFC Rivera’s clemency request in the coming weeks.
PFC Rivera’s case made international news when she was the first female US soldier in the current era to flee to Canada for reasons of conscience. After a protracted struggle through the Canadian legal system, she was deported back to the United States in September 2012. She was then immediately arrested and sent back to the Army to stand trial.
In an interview with Courage to Resist  on the eve of her court-martial, Rivera said, “When I saw the little girl [in Iraq] shaking in fear, in fear of me, because of my uniform, I couldn’t fathom what she had been through and all I saw was my little girl and I just wanted to hold her and comfort her. But I knew I couldn’t. It broke my heart. I am against hurting anyone… I would harm myself first. I felt this also made me a liability to my unit and I could not let me be a reason for anyone to be harmed—so I left... Even though I did not fill out the official application to obtain conscientious objector status, I consider myself a conscientious objector to all war.”
On April 29, 2013, PFC Rivera pled to charges of desertion. She was sentenced by the military judge to fourteen months in prison, loss of rank and pay, and a dishonorable discharge; thanks to a pre-trial agreement her sentence was reduced to an actual sentence to ten months of confinement and a bad-conduct discharge.
Kimberly Rivera has been recognized by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience.” She is the mother of four children, ages 11, 9, 4 and 2.
Kimberly Rivera’s request for clemency was accompanied by 495 letters of support, written by family members, friends, as well as members of Amnesty International from 19 countries.
“We have many organizations to thank for the outpouring of support for Kimberly Rivera, including Amnesty International, Courage to Resist, the War Resisters Support Campaign of Canada, Veterans for Peace and Coffee Strong,” said James M. Branum, civilian defense attorney for PFC Rivera. “We also want to recognize the tireless efforts of local supporters in Colorado Springs and San Diego who have taken the time to visit Kim in prison as well as to provide important support to Kim’s family in her absence.”
While the official clemency request is now complete, supporters of PFC Rivera are still encouraged to continue to speak out on her behalf. Letters in support of PFC Rivera’s clemency request can be sent directly to:
Brigadier General Michael A. Bills
c/o Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
1626 Ellis Street
Suite 200, Building 1118
Fort Carson, CO 80913
(fax: 1-719-526-1021)
Supporters are also encouraged to sign an online petition posted at:

Photos: Top-Kimberly with husband Mario during her court martial. Middle-Kimberly in Canada prior to being deported. Bottom-Courage to Resist rallies outside Canadian Consulate, San Francisco CA, prior to Kimberly's forced return.
Initial press release by The Center for Conscience in Action, an Oklahoma City-based organization dedicated to the intersection of peace, conscience and direct action. CCA’s Legal Support Project provides low and no cost legal representation to military service members seeking discharge on the grounds of conscience.
For more information or to schedule an interview about this subject, please contact James M. Branum, lead defense counsel for PFC Rivera, at 405-494-0562 or girightslawyer(at)gmail(dot)com. Consolidated Brig Miramar generally forbids inmates from doing interviews with the press, but you are welcome to see if an exception can be made by contacting the Brig Public Affairs office at 858-577-7071.
Additional case updates will be posted at and




Two campaigns that need funds – Please donate!

Cartoon by Anthonty Mata for CCSF Guardsman

We are working to ensure that the ACCJC’s authority is not renewed by the Department of Education this December when they are up for their 5-year renewal. Our campaign made it possible for over 50 Third Party Comments to be sent to the DOE re: the ACCJC. Our next step in this campaign is to send a delegation from CCSF to Washington, D.C. to give oral comments at the hearing on December 12th. We expect to have an array of forces aligned on the other side who have much more money and resources than we do.
So please support this effort to get ACCJC authority revoked!

Save CCSF members have been meeting with Attorney Dan Siegel since last May to explore legal avenues to fight the ACCJC. After much consideration, and consultation with AFT 2121’s attorney as well as the SF City Attorney’s office, Dan has come up with a legal strategy that is complimentary to what is already being pursued. In fact, AFT 2121’s attorney is encouraging us to go forward.
The total costs of pursuing this (depositions, etc.) will be substantially more than $15,000. However, Dan is willing to do it for a fixed fee of $15,000. He will not expect a retainer, i.e. payment in advance, but we should start payments ASAP. If we win the ACCJC will have to pay our costs.

Checks can be made out to Save CCSF Coalition with “legal” in the memo line and sent to:
Save CCSF Coalition
2132 Prince St.
Berkeley, CA 94705
Or you may donate online:



16 Years in Solitary Confinement Is Like a "Living Tomb"
American Civil Liberties Union petition to end long-term solitary confinement:
California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard: We stand with the prisoners on hunger strike. We urge you to comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.
Sign the petition:
In California, hundreds of prisoners have been held in solitary for more than a decade – some for infractions as trivial as reading Machiavelli's "The Prince."

Gabriel Reyes describes the pain of being isolated for at least 22 hours a day for the last 16 years:

“Unless you have lived it, you cannot imagine what it feels like to be by yourself, between four cold walls, with little concept of time…. It is a living tomb …’ I have not been allowed physical contact with any of my loved ones since 1995…I feel helpless and hopeless. In short, I am being psychologically tortured.”

That’s why over 30,000 prisoners in California began a hunger strike – the biggest the state has ever seen. They’re refusing food to protest prisoners being held for decades in solitary and to push for other changes to improve their basic conditions.

California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard has tried to dismiss the strikers and refuses to negotiate, but the media pressure is building through the strike. If tens of thousands of us take action, we can help keep this issue in the spotlight so that Secretary Beard can’t ignore the inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Sign the petition urging Corrections Secretary Beard to end the use of long-term solitary confinement.

Solitary is such an extreme form of punishment that a United Nations torture rapporteur called for an international ban on the practice except in rare occasions. Here’s why:

The majority of the 80,000 people held in solitary in this country are severely mentally ill or because of a minor infraction (it’s a myth that it’s only for violent prisoners)
Even for people with stable mental health, solitary causes severe psychological reactions, often leading people to attempt suicide
It jeopardizes public safety because prisoners held in solitary have a harder time reintegrating into society.

And to add insult to injury, the hunger strikers are now facing retaliation – their lawyers are being restricted from visiting and the strikers are being punished. But the media continues to write about the hunger strike and we can help keep the pressure on Secretary Beard by signing this petition.

Sign the petition urging Corrections Secretary Beard to end the use of long-term solitary confinement.

Our criminal justice system should keep communities safe and treat people fairly. The use of solitary confinement undermines both of these goals – but little by little, we can help put a stop to such cruelty.

Thank you,
Anthony for the ACLU Action team
P.S. The hunger strikers have developed five core demands to address their basic conditions, the main one being an end to long-term solitary confinement. They are:

-End group punishment – prisoners say that officials often punish groups to address individual rule violations

-Abolish the debriefing policy, which is often demanded in return for better food or release from solitary

-End long-term solitary confinement

-Provide adequate and nutritious food

-Expand or provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates

“Solitary - and anger - in California's prisons.” Los Angeles Times July 13, 2013
“Pelican Bay Prison Hunger-Strikers' Stories: Gabriel Reyes.” TruthOut July 9, 2013
“Solitary confinement should be banned in most cases, UN expert says.” UN News October 18, 2011
"Stop Solitary - Two Pager"

What you Didn't know about NYPD's Stop and Frisk program !


Egypt: The Next President -- a little Egyptian boy speaks his remarkable mind!


Wealth Inequality in America

[This is a must see to believe]



Read the transcription of hero Bradley Manning's 35-page statement explaining why he leaked "state secrets" to WikiLeaks.

March 1, 2013


The statement was read by Pfc. Bradley Manning at a providence inquiry for his formal plea of guilty to one specification as charged and nine specifications for lesser included offenses. He pled not guilty to 12 other specifications. This rush transcript was taken by journalist Alexa O'Brien at Thursday's pretrial hearing and first appeared on



Call for a Compassionate Release for Lynne Stewart:
Attorney General Eric Holder: 202-514-2001
White House President Obama: 202-456-1414
Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels: 202-307-3198 ext 3

Urgent: Please sign the petition for compassionate release for Lynne Stewart

For more information, go to

Write to Lynne Stewart at:

Lynne Stewart #53504-054
??Federal Medical Center, Carswell
PO Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127



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





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






"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




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!











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








Exceptional art from the streets of Oakland:

Oakland Street Dancing




On Gun Control, Martin Luther King, the Deacons of Defense and the history of Black Liberation


Fukushima Never Again

"Fukushima, Never Again" tells the story of the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns in north east Japan in March of 2011 and exposes the cover-up by Tepco and the Japanese government.

This is the first film that interviews the Mothers Of Fukushima, nuclear power experts and trade unionists who are fighting for justice and the protection of the children and the people of Japan and the world. The residents and citizens were forced to buy their own geiger counters and radiation dosimeters in order to test their communities to find out if they were in danger.

The government said contaminated soil in children's school grounds was safe and then

when the people found out it was contaminated and removed the top soil, the government and TEPCO refused to remove it from the school grounds.

It also relays how the nuclear energy program for "peaceful atoms" was brought to Japan under the auspices of the US military occupation and also the criminal cover-up of the safety dangers of the plant by TEPCO and GE management which built the plant in Fukushima. It also interviews Kei Sugaoka, the GE nulcear plant inspector from the bay area who exposed cover-ups in the safety at the Fukushima plant and was retaliated against by GE. This documentary allows the voices of the people and workers to speak out about the reality of the disaster and what this means not only for the people of Japan but the people of the world as the US government and nuclear industry continue to push for more new plants and government subsidies. This film breaks

the information blockade story line of the corporate media in Japan, the US and around the world that Fukushima is over.

Production Of Labor Video Project

P.O. Box 720027

San Francisco, CA 94172

For information on obtaining the video go to:



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 and 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


The Battle of Oakland

by brandon jourdan plus


Officers Pulled Off Street After Tape of Beating Surfaces


February 1, 2012, 10:56 am\



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,




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


Release Bradley Manning

Almost Gone (The Ballad Of Bradley Manning)

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


Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks


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?


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


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


Coal Ash: One Valley's Tale



To unsubscribe go to: