Friday, December 20, 2013


Santa Should Be the Only One with Unlimited Spying Powers

We now know that this holiday season, our private communications aren't as private as we thought. While we're calling, texting, emailing, and visiting our friends and loved ones, the NSA is tuning in and collecting massive amounts of data on millions of Americans.

Thanks to the revelations from Edward Snowden, each week we get new proof that the NSA has vastly overstepped its authority.

The good news is that the tide is turning in the fight to rein in all this runaway surveillance. Right now, there is legislation pending in the House and Senate that would go a long way to stopping the worst of the NSA's excesses. So we need to turn up the pressure on Congress, which blindly gave the NSA too much spying power in the first place.

If we're going to get past this last hurdle, we need to stand together and send our representatives in Washington a crystal clear message: Americans stand opposed to this blatant abuse of power.

Sign the petition and let's push Congress to get in gear to end the secret surveillance state now.



Urgent Update on Lynne Stewart

“HELP BRING ME HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS” a life and death Appeal from renowned people’s attorney Lynne Stewart.
“I need to ask once again for your assistance in forcing the Bureau of Prisons to grant my Compassionate Release. They have been stonewalling since August and my life expectancy, as per my cancer doctor, is down to 12 months. They know that I am fully qualified and that over 40,000 people have signed-on to force them to do the right thing, which is to let me go home to my family and to receive advanced care in New York City.

“Yet they refuse to act. While this is entirely within the range of their politics and their cruelty to hold political prisoners until we have days to live before releasing us – witness Herman Wallace of Angola and Marilyn Buck – we are fighting not to permit this and call for a BIG push.”

Lynne Stewart, FMC Carswell

Take Action between now and the New Year. Telephone and send emails or other messages to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr. and Attorney General Eric Holder.

CHARLES E. SAMUELS, Jr., Director Federal Bureau of Prisons
(202) 307-3250 or 3062;

(202) 353-1555;

Contact U.S. Embassies and Consulates in nations throughout the world

LET US CREATE A TIDAL WAVE OF EFFORT INTERNATIONALLY. Together, we can prevent the bureaucratic murder of Lynne Stewart.


In a new 237-page report entitled “A Living Death,” the American Civil Liberties Union documents unconstitutional practices permeating federal and state prisons in the United States.

Focused on life imprisonment without parole for minor offenses, the ACLU details conditions of 3,278 individual prisoners whose denial of release is deemed “a flagrant violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment” occurring on an increasing scale.

The ACLU labels the deliberate stonewalling as “willful,” a touchstone of Federal Bureau of Prisons and Department of Justice arrogance.

These conclusions corroborate the findings of Human Rights Watch in 2012: “The Answer is ‘No’: Too Little Compassionate Release in U.S. Prisons.”
The Report is definitive in exposing arbitrary and illegal conduct that infuses every facet of the treatment accorded Lynne Stewart:

“…the Bureau has usurped the role of the courts. In fact, it is fair to say the jailers are acting as judges. Congress intended the sentencing judge, not the BOP to determine whether a prisoner should receive a sentence reduction.”

Lynne Stewart’s medical findings show less than twelve months to live as stipulated by her oncologist at FMC Carswell.

The Federal Bureau Prisons has failed to file the legally required motion, declaring instead that the matter lies “with the Department of Justice.”
Write to Lynne Stewart at:
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 



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) Why Other Countries Teach Better
December 17, 2013 

2) Snowden Offers Help to Brazil in Spy Case
December 17, 2013 

3) As Pressure Builds, Egypt’s Police Experience a New Feeling: Fear
December 17, 2013 

4) African Refugees Protest Detainment in Israel
December 17, 2013

5)  Suspect in 9/11 Case Is Ejected From a Guantánamo Court After Outbursts
December 17, 2013 

6) Judge Orders Freedom or Retrial for Connecticut Man Jailed Since ’95
December 17, 2013 

7) After Bangladesh Factory Collapse, Bleak Struggle for Survivors
"Other companies have so far refused to participate in a long-term compensation package, including all of the American brands..."
December 18, 2013 

8) Turn Off the Data Vacuum
December 18, 2013 

9) In Death Penalty’s Steady Decline, Some Experts See a Societal Shift
December 19, 2013 

10) State Dept. Warns of New Terrorist Group Posing Threat to U.S. Interests in Africa
December 18, 2013

11) N.S.A. Dragnet Included Allies, Aid Groups and Business Elite
By and
December 20, 2013

12) Tackling a Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Survival
December 20, 2013 

13) Obama Commutes Sentences for 8 in Crack Cocaine Cases
December 19, 2013


14) Setting the Table for a Regal Butterfly Comeback, With Milkweed
December 20, 2013 

15) Yemen Deaths Test Claims of New Drone Policy
December 20, 2013 

16) South Africa’s Biggest Trade Union Pulls Its Support for A.N.C.
December 20, 2013 

17) New Health Law Frustrates Many in Middle Class
By , and
December 20, 2013










1) Why Other Countries Teach Better
December 17, 2013

Millions of laid-off American factory workers were the first to realize that they were competing against job seekers around the globe with comparable skills but far smaller paychecks. But a similar fate also awaits workers who aspire to high-skilled, high-paying jobs in engineering and technical fields unless this country learns to prepare them to compete for the challenging work that the new global economy requires.

The American work force has some of weakest mathematical and problem-solving skills in the developed world. In a recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a global policy organization, adults in the United States scored far below average and better than only two of 12 other developed comparison countries, Italy and Spain. Worse still, the United States is losing ground in worker training to countries in Europe and Asia whose schools are not just superior to ours but getting steadily better.

The lessons from those high-performing countries can no longer be ignored by the United States if it hopes to remain competitive.

Finland: Teacher Training

Though it dropped several rankings in last year’s tests, Finland has for years been in the highest global ranks in literacy and mathematical skills. The reason dates to the postwar period, when Finns first began to consider creating comprehensive schools that would provide a quality, high-level education for poor and wealthy alike. These schools stand out in several ways, providing daily hot meals; health and dental services; psychological counseling; and an array of services for families and children in need. None of the services are means tested. Moreover, all high school students must take one of the most rigorous required curriculums in the world, including physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, music and at least two foreign languages.

But the most important effort has been in the training of teachers, where the country leads most of the world, including the United States, thanks to a national decision made in 1979. The country decided to move preparation out of teachers’ colleges and into the universities, where it became more rigorous. By professionalizing the teacher corps and raising its value in society, the Finns have made teaching the country’s most popular occupation for the young. These programs recruit from the top quarter of the graduating high school class, demonstrating that such training has a prestige lacking in the United States. In 2010, for example, 6,600 applicants competed for 660 available primary school preparation slots in the eight Finnish universities that educate teachers.

The teacher training system in this country is abysmal by comparison. A recent report by the National Council on Teacher Quality called teacher preparation programs “an industry of mediocrity,” rating only 10 percent of more than 1,200 of them as high quality. Most have low or no academic standards for entry. Admission requirements for teaching programs at the State University of New York were raised in September, but only a handful of other states have taken similar steps.

Finnish teachers are not drawn to the profession by money; they earn only slightly more than the national average salary. But their salaries go up by about a third in the first 15 years, several percentage points higher than those of their American counterparts. Finland also requires stronger academic credentials for its junior high and high school teachers and rewards them with higher salaries.

Canada: School funding

Canada also has a more rigorous and selective teacher preparation system than the United States, but the most striking difference between the countries is how they pay for their schools.

American school districts rely far too heavily on property taxes, which means districts in wealthy areas bring in more money than those in poor ones. State tax money to make up the gap usually falls far short of the need in districts where poverty and other challenges are greatest.

Americans tend to see such inequalities as the natural order of things. Canadians do not. In recent decades, for example, three of Canada’s largest and best-performing provinces — Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario — have each addressed the inequity issue by moving to province-level funding formulas. As a recent report by the Center for American Progress notes, these formulas allow the provinces to determine how much money each district will receive, based on each district’s size and needs. The systems even out the tax base and help ensure that resources are distributed equitably, not clustered in wealthy districts.

These were not boutique experiments. The Ontario system has more than two million public school students — more than in 45 American states and the District of Columbia. But the contrast to the American system could not be more clear. Ontario, for example, strives to eliminate or at least minimize the funding inequality that would otherwise exist between poor and wealthy districts. In most American states, however, the wealthiest, highest-spending districts spend about twice as much per pupil as the lowest-spending districts, according to a federal advisory commission report. In some states, including California, the ratio is more than three to one.

This has left 40 percent of American public school students in districts of “concentrated student poverty,” the commission’s report said.

Shanghai: Fighting Elitism

China’s educational system was largely destroyed during Mao Zedong’s “cultural revolution,” which devalued intellectual pursuits and demonized academics. Since shortly after Mao’s death in 1976, the country has been rebuilding its education system at lightning speed, led by Shanghai, the nation’s largest and most internationalized city. Shanghai, of course, has powerful tools at its disposal, including the might of the authoritarian state and the nation’s centuries-old reverence for scholarship and education. It has had little difficulty advancing a potent succession of reforms that allowed it to achieve universal enrollment rapidly. The real proof is that its students were first in the world in math, science and literacy on last year’s international exams.

One of its strengths is that the city has mainly moved away from an elitist system in which greater resources and elite instructors were given to favored schools, and toward a more egalitarian, neighborhood attendance system in which students of diverse backgrounds and abilities are educated under the same roof. The city has focused on bringing the once-shunned children of migrant workers into the school system. In the words of the O.E.C.D, Shanghai has embraced the notion that migrant children are also “our children” — meaning that city’s future depends in part on them and that they, too, should be included in the educational process. Shanghai has taken several approaches to repairing the disparity between strong schools and weak ones, as measured by infrastructure and educational quality. Some poor schools were closed, reorganized, or merged with higher-level schools. Money was transferred to poor, rural schools to construct new buildings or update old ones. Teachers were transferred from cities to rural areas and vice versa. Stronger urban schools were paired with rural schools with the aim of improving teaching methods. And under a more recent strategy, strong schools took over the administration of weak ones. The Chinese are betting that the ethos, management style and teaching used in the strong schools will be transferable.

America’s stature as an economic power is being threatened by societies above us and below us on the achievement scale. Wealthy nations with high-performing schools are consolidating their advantages and working hard to improve. At the same time, less-wealthy countries like Chile, Brazil, Indonesia and Peru, have made what the O.E.C.D. describes as “impressive gains catching up from very low levels of performance.” In other words, if things remain as they are, countries that lag behind us will one day overtake us.

The United States can either learn from its competitors abroad — and finally summon the will to make necessary policy changes — or fall further and further behind. The good news is that this country has an impressive history of school improvement, as reflected in the early-20th-century compulsory school movement and the postwar expansion, which broadened access to college. Similar levels of focus and effort will be needed to move forward again.



2) Snowden Offers Help to Brazil in Spy Case
December 17, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO — Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency now living temporarily in Russia, said in comments published on Tuesday that he was prepared to assist Brazilian investigations into American spying in Brazil. But he said he could not speak freely until a country granted him permanent political asylum, which he requested from Brazil months ago.

Mr. Snowden, whose disclosures of N.S.A. surveillance practices have shaken Washington’s relations with an array of countries, made his comments in an “open letter” published in the Brazilian newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, in which he described the agency’s activities as potentially “the greatest human rights challenge of our time.”

Brazil, a leading target of the N.S.A.’s activities, has already reacted angrily over the spying, which included surveillance of President Dilma Rousseff, her inner circle of senior advisers and Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company. Ms. Rousseff called off a state visit to Washington in October over the revelations of the N.S.A.’s operations in Brazil.

Since then, Brazilian legislators have pressed ahead with inquiries into spying by the United States, relying to a large degree on news reports and testimony by Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist to whom Mr. Snowden leaked N.S.A. documents. David Miranda, the domestic partner of Mr. Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, has helped lead an effort to obtain asylum in Brazil for Mr. Snowden, who is now in Russia on a one-year visa.

“He deserves thanks for what he’s done, not a life in prison,” Mr. Miranda said, referring to the legal challenges Mr. Snowden faces in the United States. Mr. Miranda has been working with Avaaz, a global human rights group, to get signatures in support of Mr. Snowden’s asylum request in Brazil.

In his letter, Mr. Snowden referred to the spying on Ms. Rousseff, who as president personally decides on granting asylum to foreigners, and to N.S.A. surveillance of ordinary Brazilians who may be having extramarital affairs or viewing pornography, activities that could then be used to hurt their reputations.

“American senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not ‘surveillance,’ it’s ‘data collection,’ ” Mr. Snowden wrote. “They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong.”

Mr. Snowden continued: “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. Rousseff declined to comment on Mr. Snowden’s letter and his request for asylum in Brazil, which he had sought in July, when he also requested asylum in other countries. The authorities in Brazil did not accept his request at the time.

One spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said that it was monitoring the reaction to Mr. Snowden’s letter but that it was “not suitable for the Brazilian government nor the Foreign Ministry to respond.” Another spokesman said that Mr. Snowden had not yet made an official asylum request, as his original request was made in a faxed letter without a signature.

Venezuela and Bolivia have offered asylum to Mr. Snowden, but it is unclear whether their offers meet his conditions. In his letter, he referred to the refusal in July by several European nations to allow the plane of Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, into their airspace amid suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on board.

In Brazil, a Senate committee investigating the N.S.A.’s activities convened on Tuesday, with prominent senators expressing support for giving asylum to Mr. Snowden. In July, the Brazilian Senate’s committee on foreign relations and defense unanimously recommended granting asylum to Mr. Snowden.

Mr. Greenwald said he supported such a move. “Millions of people in nations around the world have understandably expressed gratitude for Edward Snowden’s courageous whistle-blowing,” he said. “Each of those countries’ governments has the legal and moral obligation to protect him from the persecution to which the U.S. government is now trying to subject him.”

Taylor Barnes contributed reporting.



3) As Pressure Builds, Egypt’s Police Experience a New Feeling: Fear
December 17, 2013

CAIRO — For six hours, heavily armed officers fired fusillades of buckshot and tear gas at students who were the latest front of anger toward Egypt’s military-backed rulers.

But as night fell and the students scattered last week, it was the police who seemed defeated, certain that the end of one protest simply marked a pause before the next. As two of the officers clad in black riot gear trudged away from the gates of Cairo University, one described the students as “bullies.”

“I’m not going back,” he told a friend.

Since the military ouster more than five months ago of President Mohamed Morsi, the interim leaders have leaned heavily on the police, sending them to stamp out dissent and stabilize the streets in a strategy that so far has come up empty.

Over the last three years of revolt, protesters have refused to be silenced, even when the authorities use deadly force.

And Egypt has also become far more dangerous for the authorities, with more than 150 police officers killed since mid-August alone. The attacks have affected police morale, officers said, and raised troubling questions about the government’s ability to secure the country in the face of increasingly frequent attacks by militants.

“Before, it was dramatic to lose an officer,” said one senior police official who serves in southern Egypt. Now, he said, “the likelihood has become normal.”

Between the attacks, including by armed jihadists, and the nonstop protests, the police, already poorly trained and equipped, have been stretched thin. On Thursday, at least one officer was killed and 20 were injured when a bomb detonated at a police camp in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, in the kind of attack that has become commonplace.

Officers have been pulled from their regular details to watch over demonstrations or secure suddenly vulnerable public buildings. They have also been called on to ensure compliance with a new law that criminalizes unauthorized gatherings — a law that the senior officer called “unenforceable.”

In a sign of the growing anger, hundreds of officers held a rare protest this month, the first by officers since the military takeover, demanding higher wages.

The new pressures on the police have served to highlight their abysmal reputation, which has long been haunted by allegations of corruption and torture. Complaints about police abuses helped fuel the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, but since then, none of Egypt’s leaders have made any serious effort to overhaul the department.

After the military takeover, the police boasted of a new era in their relationship with the public. The department’s failings persisted — and even grew worse — but the police won support from Egyptians weary from years of instability and crime.

There was little uproar, for instance, during the deadly crackdown on Mr. Morsi’s supporters, Islamists cast by officials as enemies of the state. But as other demonstrations flared, including by non-Islamist activists, police officials dismissed them as the work of conspirators, and spoke confidently about their ability to contain the unrest.

The students, though, have been harder to dismiss, and the forcible response to the protests has drawn more criticism of the police.

The protests intensified after the police were accused of killing a Cairo University student, Mohamed Reda, with birdshot last month. The Interior Ministry has reacted defensively to the charge that its officers are using excessive force.

As Egypt’s leaders struggle to quell the protests, two senior officers spoke about the growing toll on the force.

Friends and relatives on the force have been killed and their police stations have come under attack, they said. They complained that the public did not seem to notice their sacrifices, but they also faulted the military-backed government for relying so heavily on them to resolve its own political confrontations.

Many officers’ families have been torn by the same arguments that divide the rest of society. And relatives have grown increasingly worried for the officers’ safety, after a campaign of attacks by jihadist groups singling out the police and the army.

Those lethal strikes began soon after the security services violently dispersed two Islamist sit-in demonstrations in August, gunning down hundreds of people.

Two weeks later, witnesses said they saw gunmen wearing balaclavas open fire on a small police post on the outskirts of Cairo, killing an officer, as well as a furniture deliveryman who was nearby.

The senior officer stationed in southern Egypt, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said men besieged the encampment where he was stationed on the morning the Cairo sit-ins were stormed.

The Interior Ministry had given him no warning about possible retaliation, he said. As he and the 20 officers he commanded were overwhelmed, he called the ministry for help and received none, he said.

“May God be with you,” he quoted an official as saying.

He and his colleagues hid on top of a water tower for a time, and then he took shelter in a home near the base. Since then, he has sent his family back to their hometown, worried for their safety.

“People think we’re robots,” he said. “We have families.”

Another officer, Maj. Haitham Abbas, complained that the entire force had been tarnished by the response to the unrest, giving the example of a colleague who works in a unit that guards tourists:

“They told his son at school: ‘Your father is a murderer. He kills people in the streets,’ ” the officer said. “He probably never even pulled his gun out.”

Major Abbas said his normal duties included securing the Nile, but these days he is frequently asked to respond to protests — “so much that I don’t have time to do my original job, though it’s important.”

“The government must find a legitimate mechanism to change instead of having people march in the streets every time they have a complaint,” he said.




4) African Refugees Protest Detainment in Israel
December 17, 2013

JERUSALEM — Some arrived here on Tuesday in sturdy walking boots donated by local aid organizations; others came less equipped for the leftover snow on the ground, wearing sandals and house slippers.

They held placards bearing slogans like “Refugees but not criminals” and a verse invoking a biblical injunction against oppressing the stranger because “you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The roughly 200 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea came to protest their treatment by the Israeli authorities, finishing a two-day journey. On Sunday they left a new “open” detention facility where they were being held in the Negev desert and walked for about six hours to Beersheba, the nearest city. They spent the night in the bus station there and another night at a kibbutz that had agreed to host them. They made the final leg of the journey by bus.

Once in Jerusalem, they gathered outside the Israeli prime minister’s office and marched to the Parliament building.

It was the latest round in the long-running political, legal and emotional struggle of the African migrants and their Israeli supporters against a government that is committed to clamping down on “infiltrators,” the term it uses for those who enter the country surreptitiously.

The protest came after Parliament last week approved an amendment to Israel’s Prevention of Infiltration Law. It allows for the detention of migrants who enter the country illegally for up to a year without trial and allows the state to hold those already in Israel indefinitely in the open detention facility. The amendment replaced previous legislation that allowed for detention without trial for up to three years. Israel’s Supreme Court overturned that law in September, ruling that it violated principles of human dignity and freedom. Local human rights groups have already petitioned the Supreme Court against the new measures.

Named Holot, Hebrew for sands, the remote new facility is open by day and locked at night. But detainees have to be present for roll call three times a day, a provision meant to prevent them from working outside.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service said 484 detainees were transferred from Saharonim, a detention center in the Negev that is locked day and night, to Holot on Thursday and Friday, but by Monday only 139 remained. Residents who leave the facility for 48 hours or more can be arrested and sent back to Saharonim prison.

One of the demonstrators, Yasir Abdullah Mashin, 26, from western Sudan, said he had spent 16 months in Saharonim and another detention facility before being transferred to Holot on Friday.

“There’s no difference,” he said. “It’s all the same prison. We are refugees; otherwise, we wouldn’t have left Sudan. But how can a refugee be in prison for two years? We thought it was better to do something than nothing.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his government’s policies on Tuesday, saying, “Just as we are determined to protect our borders, we’re determined to enforce the law.”

He added, “The infiltrators who were transferred to the special detainment facility can either stay there or go back to their home countries.”

About 60,000 Africans have entered Israel since 2005, most of them Sudanese or Eritreans who cannot be sent back to their home countries because of the risks, in line with international conventions.

Israel acknowledges that some of the migrants may be genuine refugees from war-torn countries but says most of those who have crossed the border from the Egyptian Sinai are economic migrants seeking work. A mechanism to register legitimate refugees was set up in 2009, but few applications have been processed and approved. Israel recently constructed a fence along the border with Egypt, almost completely halting the influx.

The migrants have formed concentrations in rundown areas like south Tel Aviv, leading to friction with the local population. About four hours after the protesters arrived in Jerusalem, officers from the immigration police put them back on buses, some by force. A spokesman for the immigration department of the Interior Ministry said they were being taken to Saharonim, where they would be reincarcerated.



5)  Suspect in 9/11 Case Is Ejected From a Guantánamo Court After Outbursts
December 17, 2013

FORT MEADE, Md. — A military judge on Tuesday twice expelled Ramzi bin al-Shibh — one of five Guantánamo Bay detainees facing a death penalty trial — from a courtroom at the military base there in Cuba after he disrupted proceedings by shouting about his treatment.

Col. James L. Pohl, the judge presiding over the pretrial military commission hearing, clashed with Mr. bin al-Shibh at the start of both the morning and afternoon sessions. Each time, Mr. bin al-Shibh began loudly complaining about torture instead of answering a question from the judge about whether he understood his rights. He is charged with aiding the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

As guards took him away the second time to watch the hearing on a monitor in a nearby holding cell, Mr. bin al-Shibh’s voice faded from the closed-circuit feed that reporters — some at a media facility on the base, some here at Fort Meade — are allowed to watch. He appeared to be shouting something like “I am not a war criminal; you are a war criminal.”

The outbursts contrasted with the fairly technical arguments debated the rest of the day. Since the five detainees were arraigned in May 2012, after the collapse of the Obama administration’s plan to prosecute them in a federal civilian court, their pretrial hearings have been bogged down in numerous challenges by defense lawyers about the fairness of the tribunal process. Any actual trial remains a distant prospect.

Among other matters, defense lawyers have challenged the decision by the military official who oversees the tribunals to classify the case as a potential death penalty matter. They argue that various obstacles had prevented them from having a meaningful opportunity to persuade him to take the possibility of execution off the table because, they say, the Central Intelligence Agency tortured their clients.

The official, Bruce MacDonald, a retired admiral who has since ended his tenure as the tribunals’ “convening authority,” testified about his decision-making process in February. On Tuesday, defense lawyers argued that two former MacDonald aides should also be required to testify about what they did or did not tell him about C.I.A. torture — and why. But Colonel Pohl, who had already ruled that their testimony was unnecessary, declined to change his mind.

In addition, Walter Ruiz, a reservist Navy commander who represents another of the five defendants, Mustafa al Hawsawi, made a lengthy presentation about problems he had experienced in obtaining a translator and death penalty mitigation specialist with security clearances before Mr. MacDonald made his decision.

But the most vivid events of the day involved Mr. bin al-Shibh, 41, a Yemeni accused of passing money and messages from Al Qaeda to the Sept. 11 hijackers.

At the start of the day, Mr. bin al-Shibh’s lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Bogucki of the Navy, complained that guards had kept his client awake the night before with bangs and clanking sounds. As a result, he argued, his client was groggy and not able to be “meaningfully” present to aid his defense.

Colonel Pohl noted that the government disputed such complaints, and that Commander Bogucki had not made any motion seeking a remedy. After that exchange, Mr. bin al-Shibh declined to address a question from the judge about whether he understood his rights to be present or absent on subsequent days.

While each of the other four defendants, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, answered yes in turn, Mr. bin al-Shibh said, “I totally refuse to answer this question as long as the judge is taking position against me and against my allegations.”

He then started in on a monologue. It was difficult to make out what he was saying on the audio feed, but it included something about “torture” and “a secret C.I.A. prison.”

“Nobody knows about it. Nobody enters it. Nobody sees it,” he said.

When Mr. bin al-Shibh refused requests to quiet down, the judge ordered guards to remove him until the hearing resumed after lunch. A similar scene ensued after the break.

When the detainee was removed the second time, Colonel Pohl told Commander Bogucki that he would not allow Mr. bin al-Shibh to provide other than “yes” or “no” answers because he might divulge classified information.

That explanation called into question Colonel Pohl’s order this week adjusting rules for the protection of classified information. The order has not yet been made public.

But in a statement on Monday, another defense lawyer, James Connell, said the judge had lifted a rule that deemed as classified the “observations and experiences” of the defendants about their time in custody. Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a military spokesman, instead portrayed the order as merely removing a rule that the judge deemed “superfluous,” and warned that “interested observers are well advised to read it prior to opining on what it says and means, the opinions of defense counsel notwithstanding.”


6) Judge Orders Freedom or Retrial for Connecticut Man Jailed Since ’95
December 17, 2013

After spending nearly two decades in prison, a man convicted of a double homicide in New Haven in 1990 was ordered freed by a federal judge, who ruled this week that the prosecution had withheld evidence of his innocence.

The judge, Charles S. Haight Jr., said in his decision on Monday that the man, Scott T. Lewis, was “entitled to federal habeas relief because the state suppressed exculpatory and impeachment evidence.”

Mr. Lewis must be released from the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in South Suffield, Conn., within 60 days unless the state decides to retry him. A spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office said it was reviewing the ruling.

“We’re elated and thankful to God,” said Marlo Lewis, his sister. “We have been dreaming of this day.”

Judge Haight found that Mr. Lewis should have been allowed to present evidence at his trial that the key witness against him was coached by a police detective, Vincent Raucci, who retired in 1996.

The testimony of the witness, Ovil Ruiz, was at the heart of the case against Mr. Lewis and another man, Stefon Morant, who, in a separate trial, was also found guilty of taking part in the murders.

Judge Haight’s ruling dealt only with the Lewis case. But because the convictions of Mr. Lewis and Mr. Morant rested on much the same evidence, it is quite likely that Mr. Morant, too, will challenge his conviction.

In addition to the questions about the veracity of Mr. Ruiz’s testimony, Judge Haight found that the state was wrong to withhold information about a police informer who said that another man had confessed to the crime. The state, Judge Haight wrote, did not even tell the defense that the informer had died before the trial, which might have allowed the defense to introduce an exculpatory police report into evidence.

The case has a long and tangled legal history. Judge Haight’s ruling was based solely on information from previous court proceedings, which include seven separate state court opinions and orders.

Judge Haight did not address whether Mr. Lewis was guilty, only whether he received a fair trial. He did not discuss related information that had emerged outside the courtroom.

Mr. Lewis, along with Mr. Morant, claimed that Mr. Raucci framed them because of their failure to repay a loan, and that he was involved with local drug dealers.

Their charges prompted an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that started in 1995 and lasted 22 months. The report by the bureau cast doubt on Mr. Raucci’s investigation.

The Justice Department declined to press charges against Mr. Raucci, citing the unsavory nature of many of those who accused him of wrongdoing. But at least one of the cases he investigated as a detective was overturned because of questions about his behavior.

A 1995 conviction of a man for rape was overturned after a judge ruled that the jury should have been told of allegations that Mr. Raucci had “wild sex” with the victim on the same night of the attack. The information, the judge ruled, may have bolstered the defendant’s contention that the sex was consensual.

Two years after Mr. Raucci retired, he was charged with having fraudulently claimed tens of thousands of dollars of overtime pay and was also accused of beating his ex-wife.

He jumped bail, fled to New Mexico and engaged in a four-hour standoff with the police before he was arrested. He pleaded no contest to larceny and domestic abuse and received a suspended sentence.

Judge Haight made no mention of Mr. Raucci’s record. But he wrote that there was enough evidence from previous court proceedings to raise doubts about his investigation.

For 14 years, Mr. Lewis represented himself, focusing on the idea that he was framed. In 2009, a professor at Yale Law School, Brett Dignam, took up his case. Professor Dignam, who is now at Columbia Law School, was assisted by students from both schools. A team of eight students joined her in presenting evidence and questioning witnesses during a June hearing before Judge Haight.

The case began in the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 1990, when a former New Haven alderman turned drug dealer, Ricardo Turner, and a man with him, Lamont Fields, were shot and killed. Three months later, in January, Mr. Ruiz made his first statements to the police implicating Mr. Lewis and Mr. Morant. Mr. Raucci led the interrogation.

Mr. Lewis was arrested in 1991 but did not go to trial until 1995. He was sentenced to 120 years in prison. But the defense was not told that another police officer, Detective Michael Sweeney, was present during part of the questioning and cast doubt on the credibility of Mr. Ruiz.

“During the course of these interactions, as described by Sweeney in his testimony, Sweeney heard Ruiz deny three times, in the manner of St. Peter in a different context, any knowledge of the Turner-Field murders,” Judge Haight wrote, “only to emerge after being closeted with Raucci as the state’s key fact witness against Lewis and Morant.”

Professor Dignam said that over the years, as Mr. Lewis led his own defense, he learned how powerful the law could be. Until Monday, that power had mostly worked against him. At one point, he asked her about the works of Kafka.

“Has he had times when he has been dispirited?” she said. “Of course.” But, she added: “He had a very strong view of how he wanted to proceed. He wanted out.”

Jack Begg contributed research.



7) After Bangladesh Factory Collapse, Bleak Struggle for Survivors
"Other companies have so far refused to participate in a long-term compensation package, including all of the American brands..."
December 18, 2013

SAVAR, Bangladesh — Inside the single room he shares with his wife and young child, Hasan Mahmud Forkan does not sleep easily. Some nights he hears the screams of the garment workers he tried to rescue from the wreckage of the Rana Plaza factory building. Or he dreams the bed itself is collapsing, sucking him down into a bottomless void.

A few miles away, at a rehabilitation center for the disabled, Rehana Khatun is learning to walk again. She lost both legs in the Rana Plaza collapse and worries that she is not improving because her prosthetic replacements are bulky and uncomfortable. She is only 20 and once hoped to save money so she could return to her village and pay for her own wedding.

“No, I don’t have that dream anymore,” she said, with a cold pragmatism more than self-pity. “How can I take care of a family?”

Eight months ago, the collapse of Rana Plaza became the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry, and many of the survivors still face an uncertain future. The shoddily constructed building pancaked down onto workers stitching clothes for global brands like Children’s Place, Benetton, C & A, Primark and many others. Workers earning as little as $38 a month were crushed under tons of falling concrete and steel. More than 1,100 people died and many others were injured or maimed.

But while the Rana Plaza disaster stirred an international outcry — and shamed many international clothing companies into pledging to help finance safety improvements in other Bangladeshi factories — the people most directly affected are still living without any guarantees of help or financial compensation.

Families who lost the wages of a son or daughter, husband or wife, are struggling.

Those who lost limbs, like Ms. Khatun, are uncertain if they will ever walk or hold things again. And many volunteer rescuers like Mr. Forkan and survivors are struggling to deal with debilitating emotional scars.

Today, Rana Plaza no longer exists. It is a gaping hole in a busy commercial street, mostly cleared of rubble, where rainwater has pooled into a small black lake. But the vacant space still exerts the potency of memory and loss. Banners demanding justice face the street. Sit-ins or small protests are sometimes held. Leftist parties have built a crude statue of a hammer and sickle.

There are also people, often hovering near the periphery, clutching official documents, proof of their loss, evidence of their claims for compensation. In a poor country like Bangladesh, a job in a garment factory, despite the low wages, is a financial toehold for many families. A daughter is sent to work to support her parents, or to pay to school her siblings.

Now it is the parents or siblings who come to the Rana Plaza site, trying to get attention and, they hope, financial assistance.

“We are a poor family,” said Monju Ara, 40, whose daughter Smriti, 17, died while working on the third floor of Rana Plaza. “That is why my daughter had to start work. Her wages helped us educate our younger children. Now we had to stop educating them.”

Ms. Monju Ara stood in a dirt alleyway beside the Rana Plaza site on a recent afternoon, as others soon appeared. One girl, Rahima, 9, was still carrying a “missing” poster for her brother. Another child, Smriti Mahmuda, 7, had lost her father, and her 15-year-old brother had taken a job in an embroidery factory to support the family. A rickshaw driver with the single name of Alauddin, 43, is now struggling to support his young daughter after his wife died in Rana Plaza.

“They always say I will get compensation,” he said, “but they don’t say when.”

Compensation remains a complicated and contested issue. Bangladesh’s government has made some modest short-term compensation payments to some victims. Families were given a one-time payment of $257 when they collected the body of a relative in the days after the collapse, and the government has established annuities for survivors who lost limbs — Ms. Khatun gets about $206 a month in interest, more than most others.

But much of the money donated to the government for the survivors and the families of the dead has not been released. Many of these claimants have been told that full compensation packages will be provided after the process of identifying all the dead is completed. A special committee appointed by the Bangladesh High Court has suggested individual compensation packages of roughly $25,000; lobbyists for factory owners are proposing a far lower figure. The final decision is expected to rest with the high court.

For now, most of the short-term compensation has come from the British chain Primark, which has been paying salaries for survivors and families of those who died. More recently, Loblaw, a Canadian retailer, announced that it, too, would step in to help with compensation.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the powerful industry trade group, has also provided compensation, according to some survivors who received a few months’ salary.

But the long-term picture remains muddled. Other companies have so far refused to participate in a long-term compensation package, including all of the American brands, but for many Rana Plaza survivors, the short-term compensation is already running out. Shukrani, who survived the collapse but lost a daughter, who was working on a different floor, is almost out of money.

“My other daughter had appendicitis,” she said. “I had to spend part of my money for her operation. Now I don’t know how I’ll survive.”

Down the road from Rana Plaza, at the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed, Ms. Khatun and others spend their mornings trying to learn how to walk or hold a pen with prosthetics. The nonprofit organization has a long history of helping the disabled and is now helping several Rana Plaza survivors learn how to use the prosthetics provided by another donor.

But the prosthetics are a problem: One man, Saddam Hossain, 27, who was a salesman in a building adjacent to Rana Plaza, lost his right arm. He had been studying for a graduate degree in economics and, after his amputation, still took the test in June, with someone else writing his answers for him. Now he is trying to adjust to his mechanical prosthetic arm, which is clumsier than Western models.

“I’m an educated man,” he said. “I want to do a job.”

Ms. Khatun is grateful for her prosthetic legs but is also struggling with them. She has practiced for two months but finds them painful. Her legs were amputated above the knee, making it more difficult. She will need walking sticks, and she has decided to leave the chaos of the city and return to her village. There, though, the roads are muddy and difficult to traverse.

She had left the village after her mother tried to arrange her marriage. The cost of a wedding would have bankrupted her family, so she came to Savar and found work in Rana Plaza. She thought she could save up to pay for her own wedding and also educate her younger brothers.

“I dreamed that I could see my mother smiling,” she said. “Now it is meaningless to talk about what my dreams are. I cannot lead a life like normal people. I will have an unusual, different life.”

Before the Rana Plaza disaster, many of the workers were already living on the margins. Few had much education and most struggled to get by on the low wages. They were not qualified to do much else but work in a sewing factory. But now, for many, merely stepping back into a factory incites anxiety.

Mohammad Ujjal Hossain, 30, spent three days trapped under a wall of fallen concrete. When rescuers found him, he handed them his cellphone and told them to call his mother to tell her he was alive.

“Now, I’m not doing anything,” he said.

“I went to a factory to work as a line chief. I worked for a day, but I was filled with fear when I was inside the building. I worried that this building would also collapse. I quit after that day.”

And of all those whose lives are now entwined with Rana Plaza, it is the volunteer rescuers, ordinary people who rushed forward in a crisis, who have received no financial help at all. Mr. Forkan, 37, spent three weeks helping firefighters and soldiers pull bodies out of the rubble. He crawled into the wreckage and freed one woman by cutting an iron rod that pierced deep into her leg.

But when it was over, Mr. Forkan found it difficult to return to his ordinary life.

He is an electrician and regularly works in dangerous situations. But he finds it difficult to concentrate. He deliberately avoids the Rana Plaza site, detouring around it, and his wife often has to wake him when he shouts in his sleep.

“We need proper treatment to return to a normal life,” he said, expressing concern about what would happen to his family if he could no longer work. “This is my only way to earn money.”

Julfikar Ali Manik contributed reporting.



8) Turn Off the Data Vacuum
December 18, 2013

In the days after one of the biggest national security leaks in United States history revealed the existence of vast, largely unchecked government surveillance programs, President Obama said he would “welcome” a robust national debate over the appropriate balance between protecting national security and respecting individual privacy and civil liberties.

The answer has now landed squarely on Mr. Obama’s desk, with the release late Wednesday afternoon of a remarkably thorough and well-reasoned report calling on the government to end its bulk phone-data collection program and to increase both the transparency and accountability of surveillance programs going forward.

The 300-plus-page report was written by a five-member advisory panel of intelligence and legal experts that was commissioned by the president himself and made 46 recommendations for reform. The recommendations demonstrate how far afield the National Security Agency has wandered in its zeal to vacuum up the phone and Internet data of virtually every American, not to mention world leaders and other non-American citizens.

They also show the lack of regard for the Constitution that has led those efforts, and the virtual absence of supervision and restraint by Mr. Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

The most far-reaching recommendations are also the most common sense. For example, the report calls for legislation requiring the government to meet a higher standard before it can order a company to turn over private customer records. As it stands, the law puts “extremely broad discretion in the hands of government officials,” the report said.

It also calls for an end to the government’s mass storage of those records, recommending that they be kept by the companies themselves or a private third party in order to prevent government abuse. Otherwise, the report warns, “high-level government officials will decide that this massive database of extraordinarily sensitive private information is there for the plucking.”

“Americans must never make the mistake of wholly ‘trusting’ our public officials,” the authors write.

Among its many other important recommendations, the report singles out the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose judges hear arguments in secret from the government alone, with no opposition, and issue classified rulings on significant constitutional issues. The panel said Congress should establish an advocate to argue in those hearings for the privacy and civil liberties interests of the public. And the selection of the court’s judges, which now resides solely in the hands of the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts Jr., should be divided among all the justices of the Supreme Court.

Perhaps most damning of all, the report calls into doubt the central justification for the surveillance dragnet: preventing terrorism. Echoing the finding of a federal judge who ruled on Monday that the phone-data collection program was probably unconstitutional, the report said the data sweep “was not essential to preventing attacks.”

The surveillance programs began before Mr. Obama’s presidency, but he allowed them to continue and grow in unprecedented ways. Lately, he has expressed an openness to reforming the programs themselves and the operations of the intelligence court. One important step would be to support legislation in Congress that would achieve many of the panel’s goals, and codify them to restrain future presidents. But Mr. Obama need not wait for Congress to act to implement the reforms he said he wants. He can quickly adopt his panel’s recommendation and end the ineffective and constitutionally dangerous dragnet surveillance.



9) In Death Penalty’s Steady Decline, Some Experts See a Societal Shift
December 19, 2013

The death penalty in the United States continued its pattern of broad decline in 2013, with experts attributing the low numbers to a critical shortage of drugs used for lethal injection, increasing public concern over judicial mistakes and the expense of capital cases, and a growing preference for life without parole.

Eighty death sentences were imposed by American courts this year, compared with a peak of 315 in 1994, and 39 executions took place, compared with 98 in 1999, according to an annual accounting released on Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center, a private group in Washington.

“A societal shift is underway,” said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the information center, which opposes capital punishment.

In May, Maryland became the sixth state in the last six years to abolish the death penalty, leaving 32 states with capital punishment on the books. But for the second straight year, only nine states put prisoners to death.

Douglas A. Berman, an expert on criminal sentencing at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, said a significant retrenchment in the use of the death penalty was taking place, but also noted that “a majority of states and people still favor using it for the most serious crimes.”

Texas, long the nation’s leader in executions, provides strong evidence of a dwindling role for capital punishment. The state carried out 16 executions this year — still the most of any state, but far below the record 40 that it carried out in 2000.

Texas courts sentenced nine defendants to die this year, fewer than the number it executed. It was the sixth year in a row in which fewer than 10 new death sentences were handed down.

Legislatures in Texas and other states have adopted life without parole for severe offenders, which Mr. Berman called “the single most important factor in the decline in the death penalty in the last 15 years.”

Prosecutors, judges and victims are less likely to demand execution when they know that violent criminals will die in prison, especially in the face of the expense and delays involved in capital cases, Mr. Berman said. But he added that civil rights groups now argue that life sentences are imposed too readily on nonviolent offenders as well.

Tangled legal battles over acceptable methods of lethal injection have blocked executions in Arkansas, California and North Carolina for more than seven years. Throughout the country, the issue has been further complicated by shortages of some drugs after European and American manufacturers stopped providing them for executions.

Some states like Ohio and Texas have turned to lightly regulated “compounding pharmacies” to obtain needed drugs. Others, including Florida, propose using new combinations or single-drug protocols, but these plans are in many cases under court scrutiny.

In terms of the future of capital punishment, California may be the biggest unknown. Tied up with legal challenges and the litigation on injection protocols, the state now has 731 prisoners on death row, including some who have been there for three decades.

In 2012, California voters rejected by 52 percent to 48 percent a proposal to end the death penalty and give life without parole to those on death row. But they have also elected a governor, Jerry Brown, who opposes capital punishment. Sorting out the lethal injection protocol may still take years, some experts say. But California courts are still meting out death sentences — 24 this year, more than any other state.



10) State Dept. Warns of New Terrorist Group Posing Threat to U.S. Interests in Africa
December 18, 2013

WASHINGTON — The State Department warned Wednesday that a new terrorist group linked to an Algerian militant has emerged as “the greatest near-term threat to U.S. and Western interests” in the Sahel region of Africa. The State Department’s move underscored the resilience of the militant factions and their ability to forge new terrorist alliances, even in the face of Western pressure.

“We are seeing a dangerous mutation of the threat,” said Bruce Hoffman, an expert on terrorism at Georgetown University. “Splinters can become even more consequential than their parent organization.”

The source of much of the concern is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian militant who has long been a notorious figure in the Sahel region — a vast area on the southern flank of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to Chad — and who appears to have become more dangerous even as his ties to Al Qaeda seem to have become more tenuous. Known as Laaouar, or the one-eyed, after losing an eye to shrapnel, Mr. Belmokhtar fought against a Soviet-installed government in Afghanistan.

After returning to Algeria in the 1990s, he joined a militant Algerian group and took refuge in Mali, where he was involved in smuggling and kidnapping for ransom, including the abduction of a Canadian diplomat in 2008.

Mr. Belmokhtar became a leading figure in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or A.Q.I.M., the Qaeda affiliate in North Africa.

But in 2012, he split with the group to lead the Al Mulathameen Battalion, which was officially designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department on Wednesday.

“The finding reflects the fact that the terrorist groups in the region are in flux, although certain individuals remain constant,” said Michael R. Shurkin, a former C.I.A. analyst who is now at the RAND Corporation.

Since breaking with the Qaeda affiliate, Mr. Belmokhtar has shown a penchant for carrying out headline-grabbing attacks against Western interests.

“He is a more adventurous, perhaps even more reckless operator than the A.Q.I.M. leadership has shown itself to be,” said Daniel Benjamin, the former senior counterterrorism official at the State Department who is now a scholar at Dartmouth College. “And that translates into a threat.”

In January, Mr. Belmokhtar led the attack on a gas plant in Algeria that resulted in the death of 38 civilians, including three Americans. Four months later, his group joined with a Western African terrorist faction — the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa — to carry out attacks in Niger that killed at least 20 people, the State Department said.

In August, Mr. Belmokhtar’s faction and the West African extremists announced that they were joining to establish yet another group: Al Murabitoun.

The new terrorist group, a State Department official said, “concerns us more than any in the region.”

Even before joining with Mr. Belmokhtar’s organization, the West African group was a concern in its own right: It participated in the push toward Bamako, Mali’s capital, which led to the French intervention in January.

Designating Mr. Belmokhtar’s faction as a foreign terrorist group allows the United States to take legal action against it, such as arresting individuals in the United States who provide “material support” and seizing assets in American-based banks. It does not authorize military action, but it is a useful form of diplomatic pressure on other nations to take steps to crack down on the group and its supporters.

The Obama administration has not always seemed to be of one mind on how aggressively to pursue Mr. Belmokhtar, especially when it comes to considering military action or providing intelligence to Algeria or other nations that would enable them to take such action.

Mr. Belmokhtar’s precise whereabouts is not known, though he and his group are believed to operate in Libya, southern Algeria and northern Mali.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from New York.



11) N.S.A. Dragnet Included Allies, Aid Groups and Business Elite
By and
December 20, 2013

Secret documents reveal more than 1,000 targets of American and British surveillance in recent years, including the office of an Israeli prime minister, heads of international aid organizations, foreign energy companies and a European Union official involved in antitrust battles with American technology businesses.

While the names of some political and diplomatic leaders have previously emerged as targets, the newly disclosed intelligence documents provide a much fuller portrait of the spies’ sweeping interests in more than 60 countries.

Britain’s General Communications Headquarters, working closely with the National Security Agency, monitored the communications of senior European Union officials, foreign leaders including African heads of state and sometimes their family members, directors of United Nations and other relief programs, and officials overseeing oil and finance ministries, according to the documents. In addition to Israel, some targets involve close allies like France and Germany, where tensions have already erupted over recent revelations about spying by the N.S.A.

Details of the surveillance are described in documents from the N.S.A. and Britain’s eavesdropping agency, known as GCHQ, dating from 2008 to 2011. The target lists appear in a set of GCHQ reports that sometimes identify which agency requested the surveillance, but more often do not. The documents were leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden and shared by The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel.

The reports are spare, technical bulletins produced as the spies, typically working out of British intelligence sites, systematically tapped one international communications link after another, focusing especially on satellite transmissions. The value of each link is gauged, in part, by the number of surveillance targets found to be using it for emails, text messages or phone calls. More than 1,000 targets, which also include suspected terrorists or militants, are in the reports.

It is unclear what the eavesdroppers gleaned. The documents include a few fragmentary transcripts of conversations and messages, but otherwise contain only hints that further information was available elsewhere, possibly in a larger database.

Some of the surveillance relates to issues examined by an advisory panel in Washington, which on Wednesday recommended stricter limits on the N.S.A., including restrictions on spying on foreign leaders, particularly allies. In a response to questions by The Times, the N.S.A. said that it was reviewing how it coordinates with allies on spying. A GCHQ spokesman said that its policy was not to comment on intelligence matters, but that the agency “takes its obligations under the law very seriously.”

The reports show that spies monitored the email traffic of several Israeli officials, including one target identified as “Israeli prime minister,” followed by an email address. The prime minister at the time of the interception, in January 2009, was Ehud Olmert. The following month, spies intercepted the email traffic of the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, according to another report. Two Israeli embassies also appear on the target lists.

Mr. Olmert confirmed on Friday that the email address was used for correspondence with his office, which he said staff members often handled. He added that it was unlikely that any secrets could have been compromised.

“This was an unimpressive target,” Mr. Olmert said. He noted, for example, that his most sensitive discussions with President George W. Bush took place in private. “I would be surprised if there was any attempt by American intelligence in Israel to listen to the prime minister’s lines,” he said.

Still, despite the close ties between the United States and Israel, the record of mutual spying is long: Israeli spies, including Jonathan Jay Pollard, who was sentenced in 1987 to life in prison for passing intelligence information to Israel, have often operated in the United States, and the United States has often turned the capabilities of the N.S.A. against Israel.

The interception of Mr. Olmert’s email occurred while he was dealing with fallout from Israel’s military response to rocket attacks from Gaza, but also at a particularly tense time in relations with the United States. The two countries were simultaneously at odds on Israeli preparations to attack Iran’s nuclear program and cooperating on the design and launching of a wave of cyberattacks on Iran’s major nuclear enrichment facility.

A year before the interception of Mr. Olmert’s email, the documents listed another target, the Institute of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an internationally recognized center for research in atomic and nuclear physics.

Also appearing on the surveillance lists is Joaquín Almunia, vice president of the European Commission, which, among other powers, has oversight of antitrust issues in Europe. The commission has broad authority over local and foreign companies, and has punished a number of American companies, including Microsoft and Intel, with heavy fines for hampering fair competition. The reports say that spies intercepted Mr. Almunia’s communications in 2008 and 2009.

Mr. Almunia, a Spaniard, assumed direct authority over the commission’s antitrust office in 2010. He has been involved in a three-year standoff with Google over how the company runs its search engine. Competitors of the online giant had complained that it was prioritizing its own search results and using content like travel reviews and ratings from other websites without permission. While pushing for a settlement with Google, Mr. Almunia has warned that the company could face large fines if it does not cooperate.

The surveillance reports do not specify whether the interceptions of Mr. Almunia’s communications were requested by the N.S.A. or British spies. Nor do the reports make clear whether he was a longstanding surveillance target or swept up as part of a fleeting operation. Contacted by The New York Times, Mr. Almunia said he was “strongly upset” about the spying.

In a statement, the N.S.A. denied that it had ever carried out espionage to benefit American businesses.

“We do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” said Vanee Vines, an N.S.A. spokeswoman.

But she added that some economic spying was justified by national security needs. “The intelligence community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities, are critical to providing policy makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security,” Ms. Vines said.

At the request of the GCHQ, The Times agreed to withhold some details from the documents because of security concerns.

The surveillance reports show American and British spies’ deep appetite for information. The French companies Total, the oil and gas giant, and Thales, an electronics, logistics and transportation outfit, appear as targets, as do a French ambassador, an “Estonian Skype security team” and the German Embassy in Rwanda.

Germany is especially sensitive about American spying since reports emerged that the agency listened to Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s cellphone calls. Negotiations for a proposed agreement between Germany and the United States on spying rules have recently stalled for several reasons, including the refusal of the United States to guarantee that it would never spy on German officials other than the prime minister.

Multiple United Nations missions in Geneva are listed as targets, including the United Nations Children’s Fund, or Unicef, and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. So is Médecins du Monde, a medical relief organization that goes into war-ravaged areas. Leigh Daynes, an executive director of the organization in Britain, responded to news about the surveillance by saying: “There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be secretly monitored.”

More obvious intelligence targets are also listed, though in smaller numbers, including people identified as “Israeli grey arms dealer,” “Taleban ministry of refugee affairs” and “various entities in Beijing.” Some of those included are described as possible members of Al Qaeda, and as suspected extremists or jihadists.

While few if any American citizens appear to be named in the documents, they make clear that some of the intercepted communications either began or ended in the United States and that N.S.A. facilities carried out interceptions around the world in collaboration with their British partners. Some of the interceptions appear to have been made at the Sugar Grove, Va., listening post run by the N.S.A. and code-named Timberline, and some are explicitly tied to N.S.A. target lists in the reports.

Many of the reports, written by British teams specializing in Sigint, shorthand for “signals intelligence,” are called “Bude Sigint Development Reports,” referring to a British spy campus on the Cornwall coast. The reports often reveal which countries were the endpoints for the intercepted communications, and information on which satellite was carrying the traffic.

Strengthening the likelihood that full transcripts were taken during the intercepts is the case of Mohamed Ibn Chambas, an official of the Economic Community of West African States, known as Ecowas, a regional initiative of 15 countries that promotes economic and industrial activity. Whether intentionally or through some oversight, when Mr. Chambas’s communications were intercepted in August 2009, dozens of his complete text messages were copied into one of the reports.

Referred to in the transcripts as “Dr. Chambers,” he seems to have been monitored during an especially humdrum day or two of travel. “Am glad yr day was satisfying,” Mr. Chambas texted one acquaintance. “I spent my whole day travelling... Had to go from Abidjan to Accra to catch a flt to Monrovia... The usual saga of intra afr.”

Later he recommended a book, “A Colonial History of Northern Ghana,” to the same person. “Interesting and informative,” Mr. Chambas texted. The high point of his day was receiving an award in Liberia, but soon he was busy working out logistics for future appointments.

“Where is the conference pl? Didnt get the invt,” he texted another contact. He discussed further details before adding, perhaps wistfully, given his grinding travel schedule: “Have a restful Sunday.”

Katrin Bennhold contributed reporting from London, David E. Sanger from Washington and Ethan Bronner from New York.



12) Tackling a Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Survival
December 20, 2013

MEMPHIS — After her doctor told her two months ago that she had breast cancer, Debrah Reid, a 58-year-old dance teacher, drove straight to a funeral home. She began planning a burial with the funeral director and his wife, even requesting a pink coffin.

Sensing something was amiss, the funeral director, Edmund Ford, paused. “Who is this for?” he asked. Ms. Reid replied quietly, “It’s for me.”

Aghast, Mr. Ford’s wife, Myrna, quickly put a stop to the purchase. “Get on out of here,” she said, urging Ms. Reid to return to her doctor and seek treatment. Despondent, Ms. Reid instead headed to her church to talk to her pastor.

“I was just going to sit down and die,” she says.

Like many other African-American women in Memphis and around the country, Ms. Reid learned about her breast cancer after it had already reached an advanced stage, making it difficult to treat and reducing her odds of survival. Her story reflects one of the most troubling disparities in American health care. Despite 20 years of pink ribbon awareness campaigns and numerous advances in medical treatment that have sharply improved survival rates for women with breast cancer in the United States, the vast majority of those gains have largely bypassed black women.

The cancer divide between black women and white women in the United States is as entrenched as it is startling. In the 1980s, breast cancer survival rates for the two were nearly identical. But since 1991, as improvements in screening and treatment came into use, the gap has widened, with no signs of abating. Although breast cancer is diagnosed in far more white women, black women are far more likely to die of the disease.

And Memphis is the deadliest major American city for African-American women with breast cancer. Black women with the disease here are more than twice as likely to die of it than white women.

“The big change in the 1990s was advances in care that were widely available in early detection and treatment,” said Steven Whitman, director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute in Chicago. “White women gained access to those advances, and black women didn’t.”

Over all, black women with a breast cancer diagnosis will die three years sooner than their white counterparts. While nearly 70 percent of white women live at least five years after diagnosis, only 56 percent of black women do. And some research suggests that institutions providing mammograms mainly to black patients miss as many as half of breast cancers compared with the expected detection rates at academic hospitals.

The gap in cancer survival cannot be explained away by biological differences in cancer between blacks and whites, researchers say. While African-American women are at greater risk of a more aggressive form of cancer known as triple negative, those cancers account for only about 10 percent of diagnoses.

Researchers from the Sinai Institute last year analyzed breast cancer cases in the country’s 25 largest cities and found that African-American women with breast cancer were, on average, 40 percent more likely to die of their disease than white women. In the United States, the disparity in breast cancer survival translates to about 1,700 additional deaths each year — or about five more black women dying every day.

Many Health Issues

News that Memphis has the widest survival gap between black and white hit the medical community here hard. When the breast cancer disparity study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology last year, Edward Rafalski was one of the first here to read it. He is senior vice president for strategic planning at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, which operates eight hospitals in the Memphis area.

As it happened, Dr. Rafalski had previously worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago and knew the study’s lead author, Dr. Whitman of the Sinai Institute. As local headlines declared the city’s troubling record, Dr. Rafalski invited Dr. Whitman to the city. Memphis, population 655,000, is more than two-thirds black, and more than a quarter of its residents are poor.

“When you look at any epidemiological study, Memphis is often the epicenter of virtually any disease, be it diabetes, heart failure — there are a lot of health issues here,” Dr. Rafalski said. “But for breast cancer to be as bad as it is — that’s why everyone came to the table and said, ‘We have to do something.’ ”

Dr. Whitman flew to Memphis for a strategy session. The study’s co-author, Marc Hurlbert of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which funded the research, joined the conference by phone.

The solution, everyone agreed, would not be simple. Doctors and health care researchers say the reasons behind the black-white cancer divide are complex. Economic disparities that disproportionately affect African-Americans explain some of it. Years of racial discrimination and distrust of the medical establishment dating back to the Tuskegee, Ala., syphilis experiments on black men in the 1930s continue to influence health decisions made by African-American families in the South.

Lack of health insurance among low-income and self-employed women was also cited as an obstacle to timely care, a problem that may be eased if some of them gain insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Black women often arrive at the hospital with cancers so advanced, they rival the late-stage disease that doctors see among women in developing nations. A study based on Medicare records published in July in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 20 percent of African-American women with breast cancer did not learn of their disease until it had advanced to Stage 3 or 4. By comparison, only 11 percent of white women learn at late stages.

Doctors in Memphis and in cities around the country tell horrific stories of poor and uneducated patients, black and white, who arrive at the clinics with festering tumors or a breast that has been all but consumed by a growing cancer.

With a grant from the Avon Breast Cancer Foundation, researchers at the Methodist system analyzed their records of breast cancer patients and discovered that even in what is widely viewed as the top hospital system in the region, black patients took on average about a month longer to begin treatment after diagnosis compared with white patients.

“A large percentage of our African-American population is also poor, and poor people don’t have the luxury of being sick,” said Dr. Kurt Tauer, an oncologist with the West Cancer Clinic, which is affiliated with the Methodist system. “They have to take off work, find someone to give them a ride.”

But the larger issue, hospital officials say, is that many black women in Memphis do not seek health care at all. They do not undergo mammograms for screening or see a doctor when the earliest signs of breast cancer develop. Even among women with Medicare coverage, black women were significantly less likely than white women to have seen a primary care doctor in the six to 18 months before diagnosis, and also had far lower rates of breast cancer screening — 23.5 percent in that period, compared with 35.7 percent of white women, the JAMA study found.

The challenge is to get women screened and treated in good time. But how, the Methodist officials asked, do you reach African-American women who have felt excluded from the health care system for most of their lives?

Spreading the Word

It is often said that there is a church on every street corner in Memphis. In a half-mile stretch of Elvis Presley Boulevard, there are six: the Faith Temple Holiness Church, the Holmes Road Church of Christ, the CME Temple Christian Methodist Church, the Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ, Our Savior Lutheran Church and the Holy Spring Baptist Church. Methodist hospital system officials estimate there are 3,000 to 4,000 churches in the area they serve.

“Our patients are in churches on Sunday,” said the Rev. Bobby Baker, director of faith and community partnerships at Methodist. “If we want to be in their lives when they’re not in our hospital, the church is where to find them.”

In 2005, the hospital system formed the Congregational Health Network. It began with 12 area churches and has grown to more than 500 congregations. Through the network, the hospitals have registered 18,000 people and given them messages promoting prevention, screening and health education. An analysis of hospital records shows that patients in the network fare better, staying out of the hospital four months longer than non-network patients with a similar diagnosis.

Dr. Rafalski and his Methodist colleagues realized that this network would be the best way to reach out to black women on breast cancer issues. With a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, they hired Carole Dickens to work with pastors and congregants. During Sunday services, she spreads the word about early screening, gives women her cellphone number and follows up with those who share their contact information. She helps them gain access to public health programs and offers taxi vouchers so they can get to medical appointments.

Many of the women admit to never getting a mammogram and avoiding doctors. Sometimes, it is because they do not have health insurance, so Ms. Dickens refers them to free mammography programs in the area. Others admit they are stopped by fear.

“They have all kinds of reasons for not doing it,” Ms. Dickens said.

She said the women have told her: “I don’t want anybody cutting on me.”

“My mama died, and my aunt died and they suffered so much. I didn’t want to go through that.”

“If I’ve got it, I’ve got it. I’m going to die from something.”

A Daunting Task

Mary Singleton, 57, a Memphis print shop owner, noticed a lump in her breast in July. Because she did not have health insurance, she did not get the lump checked, telling herself that she did not need to worry because she did not have a family history of breast cancer.

One afternoon this fall, the Boulevard Church of Christ hosted a health fair, giving away pink bags that included pink pens, a key chain and a brochure from the American Cancer Society. It prompted Ms. Singleton to seek a free mammogram through the local health department. She learned she had Stage 4 cancer in October.

“It takes a while for the brain to process,” she said. “There’s a difference between what you heard about cancer, and now somebody is telling you that it’s your story.”

After years without health insurance, she was told that her cancer treatment would be covered by Tenncare, the state’s Medicaid program.

“I had to get cancer to get health insurance,” Ms. Singleton said, a tear rolling down her cheek. “I’ve been one of those people waiting for Obamacare, waiting for health insurance. And this is how I finally get it.”

After her diagnosis, her son George moved home from Iowa to help her run her printing business, which she had just opened about a month before learning of her illness. The business, named STBS, for Sisters Together Building Success, is in an office she leased from her church, just off Elvis Presley Boulevard.

On a recent day, she stepped out of her shop to watch a holiday parade move slowly past. She had printed some of the signs being carried in the parade, and she wanted to see them go by. A dance group called the Sassie Seniors strutted by in red Santa jackets. The leader, in a shiny red leotard and boots with faux leopard fur, was none other than Ms. Reid, the dance instructor who began planning her funeral after learning she had breast cancer.

After the funeral home refused her business, Ms. Reid sought counseling from the Rev. Robert J. Matthews of the New Hope Baptist Church of Memphis. He is a 12-year survivor of colon cancer, and their talk was transformative for her.

“I’m not a weak person,” she said. “I decided to be a messenger.”

Ms. Reid, a former member of the Grizzlies Grannies, a dance team for the Memphis Grizzlies, the city’s professional basketball team, said she had avoided a mammogram for eight years because she found them so unpleasant. Last month, she called a meeting of the Sassie Seniors in the dressing room before a performance.

“I revealed my breast so they could see it,” she said. “It was swollen. I made them touch it. It shocked them. Out of 21 people with me that night, 15 have already had mammograms, and others have them scheduled.”

While Ms. Reid, who has Stage 3 cancer, hopes her story will help other women, she knows that education is not enough. “A lot of us don’t have insurance,” she said. “And without insurance, a lot of stuff goes undetected.”

Ms. Reid, like Ms. Singleton, is undergoing treatment at the West Cancer Clinic.

Doctors say it will be months or even years before they know if their efforts to reach out to African-American women will lead to more early diagnoses and begin to narrow the black-and-white divide for breast cancer.

“It’s such a daunting task,” said Dr. Rafalski of Methodist. “It’s almost easier to throw up your hands, but we can’t. We have to fix it, one little step at a time.”




13) Obama Commutes Sentences for 8 in Crack Cocaine Cases
December 19, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama, expanding his push to curtail severe penalties in drug cases, on Thursday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses. Each inmate has been imprisoned for at least 15 years, and six were sentenced to life in prison.

It was the first time retroactive relief was provided to a group of inmates who would most likely have received significantly shorter terms if they had been sentenced under current drug laws, sentencing rules and charging policies. Most will be released in 120 days. The commutations opened a major new front in the administration’s efforts to curb soaring taxpayer spending on prisons and to help correct what it has portrayed as inequality in the justice system.

In a statement, Mr. Obama said that each of the eight men and women had been sentenced under what is now recognized as an “unfair system,” including a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses that was significantly reduced by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Mr. Obama said. “Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”

The commutations have come during a pendulum swing away from tough mandatory minimum sentencing laws enacted a generation ago amid the crack epidemic. The policies fueled an 800 percent increase in the number of prisoners in the United States. They also carried a racial charge: Offenses involving crack, which was disproportionately prevalent in impoverished black communities, carried far more severe penalties than those for powder cocaine, favored by affluent white users.

According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, about 8,800 federal inmates are serving time for crack offenses committed before Congress reduced mandatory minimum sentences, going forward, in the 2010 law.

The commutation recipients included Clarence Aaron of Mobile, Ala., who was sentenced to three life terms in prison for his role in a 1993 drug deal, when he was 22. Mr. Aaron’s case has been taken up by civil rights groups and congressional critics of severe sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses, and has received significant news media attention.

Margaret Love, his lawyer, said she received a call informing her of the decision on Thursday morning and called her client, who along with his family was “very grateful.”

“He was absolutely overcome,” Ms. Love said. “Actually, I was, too. He was in tears. This has been a long haul for him, 20 years. He just was speechless, and it’s very exciting.”

Rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which had profiled several of the recipients in a recent report on nonviolent offenders serving life sentences, greeted the announcement with praise and calls for additional efforts.

Reaction among conservatives, who in states like Texas and South Carolina have been at the forefront of efforts to reduce the mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders, was muted. The top Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees declined to comment.

The commutation recipients also included Reynolds Wintersmith, of Rockford, Ill., who was 17 in 1994 when he was sentenced to life in prison for dealing crack, and Stephanie George, of Pensacola, Fla., who received a life sentence in 1997, when she was 27, for hiding a boyfriend’s stash of crack in a box in her house. In both cases, the judges criticized the mandatory sentences they were required to impose, calling them unjust.

In December 2012, The New York Times published an article about Ms. George’s case and the larger rethinking of the social and economic costs of long prison terms for nonviolent offenders. Mr. Obama mentioned the article in an interview with Time magazine that day and said he was considering asking officials about ways to do things “smarter.”

Around that time, a senior White House official said, Mr. Obama directed Kathryn Ruemmler, his White House counsel, to ask the Justice Department to examine pending clemency petitions to assess whether there were any in which current inmates serving long sentences would have benefited from subsequent changes to sentencing laws and policy.

The deputy attorney general, James M. Cole, who oversees the pardon office, worked on the policy shift and ultimately returned the eight cases with positive recommendations from the department, the official said.

In 2010, there was bipartisan support in Congress for reducing the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine, against a backdrop of crime rates that have plunged to the lowest levels in four decades. And in August, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. instructed prosecutors to omit listing any quantities of illicit substances in indictments for low-level drug offenses in order to avoid triggering mandatory minimum sentences.

But those moves have left unanswered what, if anything, to do about federal inmates serving lengthy sentences for crack offenses committed before the Fair Sentencing Act.

A bill co-sponsored by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, would make the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive for some offenders, allowing inmates to apply to a judge for a review of whether a reduced sentence would be appropriate.

The Obama administration supports that bill, the White House said on Thursday, as an orderly way to ensure case-by-case analysis in addressing the broader problem.

“In the new year, lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress,” Mr. Obama said. “Together, we must ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all.” Mr. Obama, who has made relatively little use of his constitutional clemency powers to forgive offenses or reduce sentences, also pardoned 13 people who completed their sentences long ago. Those cases involved mostly minor offenses, in line with his previous pardons.


14) Setting the Table for a Regal Butterfly Comeback, With Milkweed
December 20, 2013

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Bounding out of a silver Ford pickup into the single-digit wind-flogged flatness that is Iowa in December, Laura Jackson strode to a thicket of desiccated sticks and plucked a paisley-shaped prize.

It was a pod that, after a gentle squeeze, burst with chocolate brown buttons: seeds of milkweed, the favored — indeed, the only — food of the monarch butterfly caterpillar.

Once wild and common, milkweed has diminished as cropland expansion has drastically cut grasslands and conservation lands. Diminished too is the iconic monarch.

Dr. Jackson, a University of Northern Iowa biologist and director of its
Tallgrass Prairie Center, is part of a growing effort to rescue the monarch. Her prairie center not only grows milkweed seeds for the state’s natural resources department, which spreads them in parks and other government lands, but has helped seed thousands of acres statewide with milkweed and other native plants in a broader effort to revive the flora and fauna that once blanketed more than four-fifths of the state.

Nationwide, organizations are working to increase the monarchs’ flagging numbers. At the University of Minnesota, a coalition of nonprofits and government agencies called
Monarch Joint Venture is funding research and conservation efforts. At the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch has enlisted supporters to create nearly 7,450 so-called way stations, milkweed-rich backyards and other feeding and breeding spots along migration routes on the East and West Coasts and the Midwest.

But it remains an uphill struggle. The number of monarchs that completed the largest and most arduous migration this fall, from the northern United States and Canada to a mountainside forest in Mexico, dropped precipitously, apparently to the lowest level yet recorded. In 2010 at the University of Northern Iowa, a summertime count in some 100 acres of prairie grasses and flowers turned up 176 monarchs; this year, there were 11.

The decline has no single cause. Drought and bad weather have decimated the monarch during some recent migrations. Illegal logging of its winter home in Mexico has been a constant threat. Some studies conclude that pesticides and fungicides contribute not just to the monarchs’ woes, but to population declines among bees, other butterflies and pollinators in general.

But the greatest threat to the butterfly, most experts agree, is its dwindling habitat in the Midwest and the Great Plains, the vast expanse over which monarchs fly, breed new generations and die during migrations every spring and autumn. Simply put, they say, the flyway’s milkweed may no longer be abundant enough to support the clouds of monarchs of years past.

Soaring demand for corn, spurred by federal requirements that gasoline be laced with corn-based ethanol, has tripled prices in a decade and encouraged farmers to plant even in places once deemed worthless. Since 2007, farmers nationwide have taken more than 17,500 square miles of land out of federal conservation reserves, an Agriculture Department venture that pays growers modest sums to leave land fallow for wildlife. Iowa has lost a quarter of its reserve land; Kansas, nearly 30 percent; South Dakota, half.

A study published in February in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed land use in five states — Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Nebraska — in the broad arc of farmland where corn and soybeans are intensively planted. Over the five years from 2006 to 2011, the study concluded, 5 percent to 30 percent of the grasslands were converted to corn and soybean fields, a rate it said was “comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia.”

At the same time, farmers have switched in droves to new varieties of crops that are genetically engineered to tolerate the most widely used weed killer in the United States. The resulting use of weed killers has wiped out much of the milkweed that once grew between crop rows and on buffer strips separating fields and roads.

Roughly half of all Mexico-bound monarchs are hatched in the Midwest and depend as caterpillars on milkweed for food, according to
a 2012 study that concluded that the region lost 58 percent of its milkweed and 81 percent of its monarchs between 1999 and 2010.

Said Dr. Jackson, “I can drive five hours east, five hours north, five hours south, five hours west and see nothing — nothing — but corn and soybeans.”

Beleaguered as they are, the butterflies do have one advantage:
their seemingly unmatched popularity. Scientists allow that neither the butterfly nor its migration is crucial to the balance of nature. But as rallying points for conservationists and early warning signals of environmental problems, they are invaluable, backers say.

Monarch Watch’s director, Chip Taylor, decided last spring to sell milkweed “plugs” to supporters, charging $58 for a flat of 32 plants — and sold 22,000. The Natural Resources Defense Council gave him a grant this month to supply still more to 100 schools. Even the crowdfunding website Kickstarter sports
a proposal to rally monarch support through an arts program.

There is no shortage of ideas. The
Pollinator Partnership, a San Francisco-based organization, is pushing for federal legislation that would encourage more state highway departments to stop mowing roadsides and plant bee-friendly wildflowers and monarch habitat instead. (Some states, including Iowa, Texas and Minnesota, already plant some medians and shoulders.)

Next month, the group will publish a booklet showing utility companies how to establish monarch habitats under their power line rights-of-way. The organization’s executive director, Laurie Davies Adams, promoted aid to monarchs before the
Wildlife Habitat Council, a consortium of major corporations involved in environmental stewardship.

“This is the Fortune 500 — big manufacturing and mining concerns,” she said in an interview. “I talked about pollinators and monarchs specifically, and they get it. But nobody’s acting yet.”

A few have stepped forward. Chevron added monarch habitat several years ago to a 500-acre stretch of native wetlands and prairie it maintains on an old refinery site 20 miles west of Cincinnati. Waste Management Inc. includes butterfly-friendly plantings on scores of capped landfills around the nation.

Dr. Taylor, of Monarch Watch, said he was convinced that the annual migration to Mexico can be revived; butterfly populations, he said, can fluctuate wildly from year to year as weather and habitat change. The insect’s troubles probably were as deep, or deeper, during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, he said. But so far, he said, monarch backers are mostly preaching to the choir, “and the choir’s of limited size.”

Northern Iowa’s Dr. Jackson said it would take a much larger — and speedier — effort to undo the impact of thousands of square miles of habitat loss.

“Monarchs are just like other iconic species,” she said. “Once people stop being accustomed to seeing them, they stop caring and they forget. Support drops like a ratchet.”



15) Yemen Deaths Test Claims of New Drone Policy
December 20, 2013

WASHINGTON — In some respects, the
drone strike in Yemen last week resembled so many others from recent years: A hail of missiles slammed into a convoy of trucks on a remote desert road, killing at least 12 people.

But this time the trucks were part of a wedding procession, making the customary journey from the groom’s house to the house of the bride.

The Dec. 12 strike by the Pentagon, launched from an American base in Djibouti, killed at least a half-dozen innocent people, according to a number of tribal leaders and witnesses, and provoked a storm of outrage in the country. It also illuminated the reality behind the talk surrounding the Obama administration’s
new drone policy, which was announced with fanfare seven months ago.

Although American officials say they are being more careful before launching drone strikes in
Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere — and more transparent about the clandestine wars that President Obama has embraced — the strike last week offers a window on the intelligence breakdowns and continuing liability of a targeted killing program that remains almost entirely secret.

Both the Pentagon and the
C.I.A. continue to wage parallel drone wars in Yemen, but neither is discussed publicly. A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment about the Dec. 12 strike, referring a reporter to a vague news release issued last week by the government of Yemen, written in Arabic.

It remains unclear whom the Americans were trying to kill in the strike, which was carried out in a desolate area southeast of Yemen’s capital, Sana. Witnesses to the strike’s aftermath said that one white pickup truck was destroyed and that two or three other vehicles were seriously damaged. The Associated Press
reported Friday that the target of the strike was Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani, a militant who is accused of planning a terrorist plot in August that led to the closing of more than a dozen United States Embassies. American officials declined to comment about that report.

At first, the Yemeni government, a close partner with the Obama administration on counterterrorism matters, said that all the dead were militants. But Yemeni officials conceded soon afterward that some civilians had been killed, and they gave 101 Kalashnikov rifles and about 24 million Yemeni riyals (about $110,000) to relatives of the victims as part of a traditional compensation process, a local tribal leader said.

Yemeni government officials and several local tribal leaders said that the dead included several militants with ties to
Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, but no one has been able to identify them. Some witnesses who have interviewed victims’ families say they believe no militants were killed at all.

The murky details surrounding the strike raise questions about how rigorously American officials are applying the standards for lethal strikes that Mr. Obama laid out in a speech on May 23 at the National Defense University — and whether such standards are even possible in such a remote and opaque environment.

In the speech, the president said that targeted killing operations were carried out only against militants who posed a “continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” Over the past week, no government official has made a case in public that the people targeted in the strike posed a threat to Americans.

Moreover, the president said in May, no strike can be authorized without “near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured” — a bar he described as “the highest standard we can set.”

At the time, administration officials said that authority over the bulk of drone strikes would gradually shift to the Pentagon from the C.I.A., a move officials said was intended partly to lift the shroud of secrecy from the targeted killing program.

But nearly seven months later, the C.I.A. still carries out a majority of drone strikes in Yemen, with the remote-controlled aircraft taking off from a base in the southern desert of Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon strikes, usually launched from the Djibouti base, are cloaked in as much secrecy as those carried out by the C.I.A.

“The contradictory reports about what happened on Dec. 12 underscore the critical need for more transparency from the Obama administration and Yemeni authorities about these strikes,” said Letta Tayler of Human Rights Watch, who has done extensive research in Yemen about the drone strikes.

The very fact that the drone strike last week targeted an 11-vehicle convoy — a much larger group than Al Qaeda would typically use — suggests that the new American guidelines to rule out civilian casualties may not have been followed in this case.

And the confusion over the victims’ identities raises questions about how the United States government gathers intelligence in such a contested region and with partners whose interests may differ sharply from those of the Obama administration.

The area where the strike occurred, in the central province of Bayda, is almost completely beyond the control of the Yemeni government, and is populated by tribes whose recurring feuds can easily become tied up in the agendas of outsiders.

Over the past two years, the Saudi government — which for decades has used cash to maintain a network of influence in Yemen — has increased its payments to tribal figures in Bayda to recruit informers and deter militants, according to several tribal leaders in the area. This shadowy system appears to contribute to the secretive process of information-gathering that determines targets for drone strikes, a process in which Saudi and Yemeni officials cooperate with Americans.

But Saudi and American interests diverge in important ways in Yemen. Many of the militants there who fight in Al Qaeda’s name are expatriate Saudis whose sole goal is to bring down the Saudi government.

Because of the program’s secrecy, it is impossible to know whether the American dependence on Saudi and Yemeni intelligence results in the killing of militants who pose a danger only to Arab countries.

Some Yemeni officials have also hinted that the timing and target of the drone strike last week may have been influenced by
a devastating attack two weeks ago on the Yemeni Defense Ministry in which 52 people were killed, including women, children and doctors at the ministry’s hospital.

That attack ignited a desire for revenge in Yemen’s security establishment and also damaged Al Qaeda’s reputation in Yemen, leaving the group hungry for opportunities to change the subject. Both parties, in other words, may have had reasons to manipulate the facts, both before and after the drone strike.

American officials will not say what they knew about the targets of the strike last week. But in the past, American officials have sometimes appeared to be misinformed about the accidental deaths of Yemeni civilians in drone strikes.

In one example from Aug. 1, a drone strike killed a 28-year-old man who happened to hitch a ride with three men suspected to have been Qaeda members. According to a number of witnesses, relatives and local police officials, the man, Saleh Yaslim Saeed bin Ishaq, was waiting by a gas station late at night when the three men stopped in a Land Cruiser and agreed to give him a ride.

Mr. Ishaq’s ID card and belongings were found in the burned wreckage of the vehicle, and the local police — who confirmed that the other three dead men were wanted militants — said he appeared to have been an innocent person whose presence in the car was accidental.

When contacted about the strike, American officials said they were aware only of the three militants killed. Yet the details of Mr. Ishaq’s death, and an image of his ID card, were published at the time in newspapers and on websites in Yemen.

Shuaib al-Mosawa contributed reporting from Sana, Yemen.



16) South Africa’s Biggest Trade Union Pulls Its Support for A.N.C.
December 20, 2013

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s largest trade union withdrew its support for the African National Congress on Friday, a move that is likely to erode the party’s dominance ahead of national elections next year and reorder the politics of a country the party has governed with huge majorities since the end of white rule two decades ago.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which calls itself “the biggest union in the history of the African continent,” with 338,000 members, announced Friday after a special congress that it would seek to start a socialist party aimed at protecting the interests of the working class. It was a direct rebuke to the A.N.C., which since its days as an underground movement resisting apartheid rule has portrayed itself as the champion of South Africa’s downtrodden.

“It is clear that the working class cannot any longer see the A.N.C. or the S.A.C.P. as its class allies in any meaningful sense,” Irvin Jim, the union’s secretary general, said at a news conference, referring to the governing party and its partner in government, the South African Communist Party.

The announcement came at the end of 10 days of mourning for Nelson Mandela, the man who led the A.N.C. to victory in the nation’s first fully democratic elections in 1994 and was to many people here the moral compass of the party. His successors, especially the current president, Jacob Zuma, have come under increasing fire for allegations of corruption and cronyism.

Several government agencies are investigating $20 million in improvements to Mr. Zuma’s private home that were billed as security upgrades but included luxuries like a swimming pool and an amphitheater at government expense, according to a preliminary government report.

More broadly, some in the left wing of the labor movement have denounced the government’s coziness with big business, exemplified by its handling of a wildcat strike by miners in Marikana last year. The government ordered the police to break up the strike, and
the police fired upon a group of miners, killing 34 people. The A.N.C.’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, had been on the board of the platinum mining company whose workers were striking.

“The congress called on President Jacob Zuma to resign with immediate effect because of his administration’s pursuit of neo-liberal policies,” Mr. Jim said, describing Mr. Zuma’s government as “steeped in corruption, patronage and nepotism.”

The call by the union to abandon the A.N.C. has turned what had been fissures in the broad alliance that governs South Africa into gaping chasms that could, in time, end the A.N.C.’s grip on national power. The nation’s broader labor union alliance, Cosatu, and the South African Communist Party form two legs of the stool that has kept the A.N.C. firmly in government since the end of white rule in 1994. The metalworkers’ union is part of Cosatu.

“It is a massive development,” said Mondli Makhanya, a newspaper columnist and political analyst. “People have long been predicting the breakup of the alliance, and it never came to pass; they always managed to rescue it at a certain point. But not this time.”

The A.N.C. and its alliance partners have always represented a big tent in South African politics, including elements of the old Stalinist left, wealthy business leaders, labor unions and deeply conservative traditional leaders. Holding that mix together has always been tricky, but as inequality has deepened and more voters come to think that a small elite with links to the party has enriched itself at the expense of the majority of voters, unity has frayed.

Mr. Zuma has become a lightning rod for such criticism. His reputation has plummeted so deeply that he was booed by thousands of people at a national memorial held on Dec. 10 for Mr. Mandela, enduring humiliation as he stood onstage beside world leaders.

Elections scheduled for April were already expected to be a crucial test for the A.N.C., which has seen its popularity eroded by corruption scandals, poor government services and the killings in Marikana. “The A.N.C. monopoly is being dented in all sorts of way by internal factionalism, disenchantment of voters, and now this,” said Steven Friedman, a political analyst at the University of Johannesburg.



17) New Health Law Frustrates Many in Middle Class
By , and
December 20, 2013

Ginger Chapman and her husband, Doug, are sitting on the health care cliff.

The cheapest insurance plan they can find through the new federal marketplace in New Hampshire will cost their family of four about $1,000 a month, 12 percent of their annual income of around $100,000 and more than they have ever paid before.

Even more striking, for the Chapmans, is this fact: If they made just a few thousand dollars less a year — below $94,200 — their costs would be cut in half, because a family like theirs could qualify for federal subsidies.

The Chapmans acknowledge that they are better off than many people, but they represent a little-understood reality of the Affordable Care Act. While the act clearly benefits those at the low end of the income scale — and rich people can continue to afford even the most generous plans — people like the Chapmans are caught in the uncomfortable middle: not poor enough for help, but not rich enough to be indifferent to cost.

“We are just right over that line,” said Ms. Chapman, who is 54 and does administrative work for a small wealth management firm. Because their plan is being canceled, she is looking for new coverage for her family, which includes Mr. Chapman, 55, a retired fireman who works on a friend’s farm, and her two sons. “That’s an insane amount of money,” she said of their new premium. “How are you supposed to pay that?”

An analysis by The New York Times shows the cost of premiums for people who just miss qualifying for subsidies varies widely across the country and rises rapidly for people in their 50s and 60s. In some places, prices can quickly approach 20 percent of a person’s income.

Experts consider health insurance unaffordable once it exceeds 10 percent of annual income. By that measure, a 50-year-old making $50,000 a year, or just above the qualifying limit for assistance, would find the cheapest available plan to be unaffordable in more than 170 counties around the country, ranging from Anchorage to Jackson, Miss.

A 60-year-old living in Polk County, in northwestern Wisconsin, and earning $50,000 a year, for example, would have to spend more than 19 percent of his income, or $9,801 annually, to buy one of the cheapest plans available there. A person earning $45,000 would qualify for subsidies and would pay about 5 percent of his income, or $2,228, for an inexpensive plan.

In Oklahoma City, a 60-year-old earning $50,000 could buy one of the cheapest plans for about 6.6 percent of his income, or about $3,279 a year with no subsidy. If he earned $45,000, with the benefit of a subsidy, he would spend about $2,425.

While the number of people who just miss qualifying for subsidies is unclear, many of them have made their frustration known, helping fuel criticism of the law in recent weeks. Like the Chapmans, hundreds of thousands of people have received notices that their existing plans are being canceled and that they must now pay more for new coverage.

In an effort to address that frustration, the Obama administration announced on Thursday that it would permit people whose plans had been canceled to buy bare-bones catastrophic plans, which are less expensive but offer minimal coverage. Those plans have always been available to people under 30 and to those who can prove that the least expensive plan in their area is not affordable. But the announcement does not address the concerns of those who would like to buy better coverage, yet find premiums in their area too expensive.

David Oscar, an insurance broker in New Jersey, another high-cost state, said many of his clients had been disappointed to learn that the premiums were much more expensive than they had expected.

“They’re frustrated,” he said. “Everybody was thinking that Obamacare was going to come in with more affordable rates. Well, they’re not more affordable.”

Many of the biggest provisions of the Affordable Care Act are aimed squarely at the poorest of Americans. Under the law, states have the option of expanding Medicaid to a larger pool of people with the lowest incomes. To those earning more, the law provides subsidies to people earning up to four times the federal poverty level, or $45,960 for an individual and $62,040 for a couple.

Ninety percent of the country’s uninsured population have incomes that fall below that level, according to one recent analysis. As a result, the subsidies “are well targeted for people who are uninsured or underinsured,” said Sara R. Collins, an executive with the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that finances health policy research. “That is really where the firepower of the law is focused.”

Federal assistance is based on the cost of premiums for the second-cheapest silver, or midlevel, plan in a person’s geographic area and are set so the amount the person must pay for coverage does not exceed a certain percentage of income, ranging from 2 to 9.5 percent.

Even before the announcement on Thursday giving people with canceled plans the option of buying catastrophic coverage, the law permitted people to select such plans if the price of premiums in their area exceeded 8 percent of their income. The catastrophic plans are often less expensive and include three doctor visits and free preventive care, but require someone to pay almost all of the medical bills up to a certain amount, which is usually several thousand dollars.

That is the option that the Chapmans say they are likely to choose when their current insurance plan, which costs $665 a month, expires in September. Anthem is the only insurer offering plans in the marketplace in New Hampshire, and prices there are higher than in many other parts of the country.

Some experts dismissed the varying effects of the income cutoff, saying the law’s main elements benefit most of those who could not previously buy insurance.

“I think that job one was to make sure that the people who clearly have the greatest difficulty affording premiums receive the greatest help,” said Ron Pollack, the founding executive director of Families USA, a consumer advocacy group that favored the law.

To avoid creating such steep cliffs, federal officials would have had to spend more money on the subsidies, said Larry Levitt, an executive with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group that is closely following the health care law. Subsidies would have been higher, and could have been more gradually phased out, he said. The design “was largely driven by budgetary decisions,” Mr. Levitt said.

The subsidy cutoff can seem especially arbitrary to people whose incomes vary from year to year, even if they stand to benefit from the law.

Christian Johnsen, a bakery owner who lives with his wife and two children in Big Sky, Mont., and has an income of about $88,000, will probably be eligible for subsidies next year. As a result, the family could buy a midlevel insurance plan for about $697 a month.

But if the bakery does better next year, the family could be asked to pay a lot more. Without any subsidy, the same plan would cost $822.

Mr. Johnsen, who is 47, said he would like to buy insurance for his family. They have gone without it for the last two years, paying out of pocket on rare visits to the doctor. But he said it is hard to justify those prices to prevent an unforeseen catastrophe when so many real-world expenses demand his attention first. “I know absolutely that I’m going to need a new car in two years, but I don’t know that I’m going to have a catastrophic accident,” he said. “That’s the kind of debate that happens in our house.”

















































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



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