Friday, December 26, 2014


Prison Radio posted in $10k in 10 Days to Protect Prisoners' Right to Speak!

Prison Radio    9:25am Dec 26

Please check out this statement from Michelle Alexander and support the lawsuit to protect prisoners' right to speak in PA. Every donation counts. Really! It's not what you give. It's that you give. And your donation will be doubled by the Redwood Justice Fund. We can only win this legal battle with everyone's support #KeepMumiaOnAir

WE HAVE 8 DAYS LEFT!!!! Please Donate now!

Big thanks to Chris Tinson, @Christopher Bangs, @Terence McCormack, Daniel Marc Perlmutter, Marian Douglas-Ungaro, @Anton Kerkula and anonymous donors. We're making it happen together. Thank you!

    Protect Freedom of Speech & Keep Mumia on the Air

Overturn Senate Bill 508: defend the First Amendment rights of prisoners, journalists & all of us.

Statement from Michelle Alexander:
Please support this effort to raise funds to overturn legislation adopted in Pennsylvania that empowers prosecutors to silence prisoners - bar them from speaking publicly in any form. This law was passed in response to Goddard College students inviting Mumia to deliver their commencement address from behind prison walls. But this isn't just about Mumia. This law threatens the ability of ANY prisoner in Pennsylvania to speak to the media if a victim objects, in clear violation of free speech principles. If the law is allowed to stand, it will make it even more difficult than it already is for people in prison to have their voices heard. And you can be certain that copycat legislation will be adopted in other states whenever prisoners actually succeed in getting their message heard on the outside. This law needs to be overturned now.



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:









Mass Mobilization to Stop Drone Wars!

A Convergence For Peace in the Nevada Desert

Join us March 4-6, 2015 at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, Nevada, for a national mobilization of nonviolent resistance to shut down killer drone operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan,Yemen, Somalia, and everywhere. Sponsored by CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Nevada Desert Experience , Veterans For Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. CODEPINK will also hold vigils daily on March 2nd and 3rd, prior to the official beginning of this Creech Convergence For Peace, and welcomes everyone to join them.

In 2005, Creech Air Force Base secretly became the first U.S. base in the country to carry out illegal, remotely controlled assassinations using the MQ-1 Predator drones, and in 2006, the more advanced Reaper drones were added to its arsenal.  Creech drone personnel sit behind computers in the desert north of Las Vegas and kill "suspects" thousands of miles away.  Recent independent research indicates that the identity of only one out of 28 victims of U.S. drone strikes is known beforehand. Though officials deny it, the majority of those killed by drones are civilians. In 2014, it was leaked that the CIA's criminal drone assassination program, officially a separate operation from the Air Force's, has been piloted all along by Creech's super-secret Squadron 17. 

Since 2009 dozens of activists have been arrested for allegedly trespassing at Creech, in attempts to stop the indiscriminate killing and burning of innocent people by drones.  At the trial of the "Creech 14," the first Americans prosecuted for trespass at a drone base, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark testified that "to have a baby burn to death because of a 'no trespass'  sign would be poor public policy, to put it mildly."  In a time of burning children, the "no trespass" signs attached to the fences that protect the crimes perpetrated with drones are not legitimate, and they do not command our obedience.  After all, it is the U.S. military that is guilty of lethal trespassing.

The US drone program is rapidly proliferating as air bases are being converted to drone bases across the U.S. and abroad, but Creech remains the primary air base in U.S. state-sponsored global terrorism. Creech is where the killer drone program started--it is where we shall end it.

We must put an end to this desecration of our Mother Earth and all creatures who inhabit it.

We must put an end to the dehumanization of lives from Ferguson to Palestine to Pakistan.

We must close all foreign U.S. military bases.  Money for human needs. 

We must put an end to drone warfare, drone surveillance, and global militarization.

We must...

More details to come soon!

Sign up on facebook

Or contact:

Toby Blomé of Code Pink, 510-215-5974 (h)

Brian Terrell of VCNV and NDE,   773-853-1886



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

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

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

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

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

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

Donate Now
to fight the “gag” law!
go to:

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


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Luchando por la justicia y la libertad,

Noelle Hanrahan, Director, Prison Radio


P.O. Box 411074 San Francisco, CA 94141 415-706-5222

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

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

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

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

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

Please call your legislators and demand that they vote NO on HB2533 and SB508. You can look up contact information at

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

Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne  (717) 787-1349

Senate Minority Whip Anthony Williams  (717) 787-5970

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi  (717) 787-4712

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (717) 787-7683

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

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

- See more at:




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

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

Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave. #41
 Oakland, CA 94610











1) Why Are Our Schools Still Segregated?



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



3) Judge in Maryland Locks Up Youths and Rules Their Lives



4) Cuba’s Gay Rights Evolution

In Cuba, street marches have historically been government-orchestrated events or dissident protests that are swiftly crushed by the authorities. So it was downright startling when, in May 2007, Fidel Castro’s niece sauntered down the street with a small army of drag queens waving gay pride flags.

Long before the Obama administration announced a dramatic shift in Cuba policy on Wednesday, asserting that isolating the island had failed, a couple of Western governments with close ties to the United States saw the potential to help gay Cubans, even though it meant working with a prominent member of the Castro family. Havana’s first observance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia marked the beginning of a remarkable evolution of gay rights in the most populous island in the Caribbean, a region where hostile attitudes toward sexual minorities remain the norm.Mariela Castro, the daughter of the current president, Raúl Castro, has led the charge on legislative and societal changes that have given rise to an increasingly visible and empowered community. In the process, she has carved out a rare space for civil society in an authoritarian country where grass-roots movements rarely succeed. Some Western diplomats in Havana have seen the progress on gay rights as a potential blueprint for expansion of other personal freedoms in one of the most oppressed societies on earth.

Norway and Belgium have financially supported Ms. Castro’s organization, the National Center for Sexual Education, offering a test of the merits of supporting certain policies of a government that the United States and European capitals have largely shunned because of its bleak human rights record. As the Obama administration begins carrying out its new Cuba policy, it should draw lessons from the impact others have had by engaging.

“It’s fine to criticize, but you also have to acknowledge that they’ve done good,” said John Petter Opdahl, Norway’s ambassador to Cuba, in a recent interview. Mr. Opdahl, who is gay, said his government gave Ms. Castro’s organization $230,000 over the last two years. “She has taken off a lot of the stigma for most people in the country, and she has made life so much better for so many gay people, not only in Havana but in the provinces.”

Fidel Castro’s government ostracized sexual minorities during the 1960s and 1970s, sending some people to labor camps. The brutal treatment of gay men was poignantly chronicled by the Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, who was jailed in 1974 for literary works the authorities deemed an “ideological deviation.” His autobiography, “Before Night Falls,” a critically acclaimed book that was made into a movie, is perhaps the most authoritative testimony of a particularly dark chapter of Cuban history.

Ms. Castro said she and her mother, Vilma Espín, for years quietly pressed the Castro brothers to soften their attitude toward sexual minorities. A decade ago, Cuba’s gay community was no longer as persecuted, but it nonetheless operated in the shadows. Ms. Castro, a member of Cuba’s National Assembly, opted to take on the issue.

After the 2007 march, Ms. Castro, who is straight, began a public campaign to promote tolerance. She persuaded the government in recent years to offer state-paid gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatment for transgender people. Last year, when the Assembly passed a labor code that protected gays and lesbians — but not transgender people — from discrimination in the workplace, Ms. Castro became the first lawmaker in Cuban history to cast a dissenting vote in protest. Her ultimate goal, she said, was codifying full equality under the law.

Gay Cubans say that discrimination remains a problem, particularly outside big cities. Still, last year, a woman in Caribién, a municipality east of Havana, became the country’s first transgender elected official. At the urging of Ms. Castro and gay bloggers, in 2010 Cuba began voting in favor of resolutions supporting gay rights at the United Nations, breaking ranks with allies in Africa and the Caribbean.

While widely admired, Ms. Castro and her state-run organization are not without critics in Cuba’s gay community. In 2011, Yasmín Portales Machado, a gay rights activist, decided to start a new group called Proyecto Arco Iris, or Rainbow, feeling it was necessary to have a platform for other voices and ideas.In 2012, on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Arco Iris convened a public kissing meet-up to promote diversity and equality. Hours before it began, a security official called Ms. Machado. Next time, he asked, please pick a venue in a part of Havana that isn’t close to sensitive government buildings. The kissing event was a success. The call “was a gay-friendly gesture from state security,” she said, laughing.

The Obama administration has spent millions of dollars promoting gay rights around the world and has made the issue a diplomatic priority. In the Dominican Republic, Washington took a bold stance last year when officials appeared unwilling to accept Wally Brewster, the openly gay entrepreneur President Obama nominated as ambassador. The State Department warned Santo Domingo that if it turned Mr. Brewster down, the country would find itself without an American envoy for a long time.

When Dominican officials acquiesced, they asked that Mr. Brewster be discreet about his sexual orientation. American officials responded that he, like all ambassadors in the region, would be expected to champion gay rights. To make the point, the State Department released a video of Mr. Brewster and his partner expressing their enthusiasm for the new job.

By contrast, American officials have had few opportunities to support Cuba’s gay rights evolution and have been conflicted on how to handle Ms. Castro. When the Philadelphia-based Equality Forum nominated her for an award last year, American officials initially said they would not give her a visa. After the group protested, they relented.

Ms. Machado said most gay rights activists on the island have not accepted support from Washington because its policy toward Cuba was predicated on regime change. “While the United States is the enemy of our state, we can’t work with them,” she said recently in an interview in Havana. “Any support you receive makes you a traitor.”

That entrenched view has stymied American efforts to promote things such as freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. President Obama’s changed policy will make engagement with Americans more palatable.



5) Police Killed Her Son; Afterward, Louisville Evolved
By Dan Barry



6) Raúl Castro Thanks U.S., but Reaffirms Communist Rule in Cuba

HAVANA — President Raúl Castro declared victory for the Cuban Revolution on Saturday in a wide-ranging speech, thanking President Obama for “a new chapter” while also reaffirming that restored relations with the United States did not mean the end of Communist rule in Cuba.

In a televised speech before Parliament and a group of favored guests — including Elián González, the center of a tug of war in 2000 between Cuban exiles and Havana, and the three men convicted of spying in the United States who were released as part of the historic agreement announced on Wednesday — Mr. Castro alternated between conciliatory and combative statements directed at the United States.

He stoked the flames of Cuban nationalism, declaring near the end of his statement, “We won the war.” But he also praised Mr. Obama for starting the biggest change in United States-Cuba policy in more than 50 years.

“The Cuban people are grateful,” he said, for Mr. Obama’s decision “to remove the obstacles to our relations.”

He added that all issues and disputes between Cuba and the United States would be on the table in coming discussions about re-establishing formal diplomatic ties between the two countries. But he offered no immediate concessions to demands for improvement in Cuba’s human rights record.

As he has done since he took over for his ailing brother Fidel in 2006, Mr. Castro prioritized economics. He acknowledged that Cuban state workers needed better salaries and said Cuba would accelerate economic changes in the coming year, including an end to its dual-currency system.

But he said the changes needed to be gradual to create a system of “prosperous and sustainable communism.”

Mr. Castro confirmed that he would travel to Panama in April for the Summit of the Americas, which Mr. Obama is also set to attend. A White House official said Saturday that there were no current plans for the two presidents to meet there.

Mr. Castro, wearing a traditional white shirt called a guayabera and only occasionally gesturing for emphasis, referred repeatedly to Mr. Obama, praising him personally while also emphasizing that with the process of real diplomacy just beginning, “the only way to advance is with mutual respect.”

He insisted, as he and Fidel Castro have for years, that the United States not meddle in the sovereign affairs of the Cuban state.

Carlos Alzugaray Treto, a Cuban diplomat and educator, said Mr. Castro’s strong wording, in a speech that is an annual event and rallying point, seemed to be mostly directed at his Communist Party loyalists.

“It’s domestic politics,” Dr. Alzugaray said.

He noted that, just as Mr. Obama must contend with Cuban-American lawmakers who are angry about the deal, Mr. Castro faces opposition from more conservative party members who recall that Cuba’s previous stance, established in the 1960s, was to hold off resuming relations until the United States lifted its trade embargo completely.

“It’s Raúl reassuring certain people,” Dr. Alzugaray said, adding that in both Cuba and the United States, the embryonic era of friendliness would need to be protected from those resisting reconciliation of any kind. “Obama more than Raúl has initiated the first step, but other steps are needed.”

In Miami on Saturday, several hundred people gathered for a rally where President Obama was denounced as a traitor and a liar.

Surrounded by flapping Cuban flags in the hot afternoon sun in José Martí Park — named after a hero of Cuban independence, protesters excoriated the president in Spanish for his overture to the Cuban government, a move that they insist will only cement the Castros’ hold on power.

“The government in Cuba will still repress and throw into jail anyone who opposes the Castro regime,” said Blanca Gonzalez, 65, who moved to the United States 13 years ago. Her son Normando Hernandez spent seven years in a Cuban prison, she said, for “practicing independent journalism”; he was freed in 2011.

“All Obama is doing is throwing a lifeline to the Castros so that they can continue crushing the people of Cuba,” said Roberto Delgado Ramos,78, who said he was arrested twice, in 1960 and 1964, for “counterrevolutionary activities” and served a total of 12 years in prison. “The Castros are the ones who need to pay for the blood that they have spilled.”

Amy Chozick contributed reporting from Honolulu, and Nick Madigan from Miami.


7) Fuel Rods Are Removed From Damaged Fukushima Reactor



8) In a Year, Egypt Detained 10,000
CAIRO — Egyptian security forces have detained nearly 10,000 people suspected of being militants, rioters and others wanted in violent attacks over the past 12 months in a crackdown that a senior Interior Ministry official said Saturday was aimed at those trying to curtail Egypt’s development.The official, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Osman, an aide to the interior minister, spoke to the official news agency MENA in an interview published Saturday, giving a rare accounting of the crackdown.

General Osman said security forces had foiled about 400 terrorist attacks since January. He said the security forces had also arrested 460 suspected members of terrorist cells, 6,400 rioters, 50 wanted militants and about 2,600 people accused of attacking police stations.

Thousands of other people were detained from July to December last year during the political turmoil after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.



9) Chanting ‘Black Lives Matter,’ Protesters Shut Down Part of Mall of America



10)  When Officers Die and Protests Get the Blame

In the days after Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s killings of two New York Police Department officers and the shooting of a Baltimore woman, some in positions of authority have linked the crimes to protests against police violence. But others believe this linkage misunderstands both Mr. Brinsley and the protests — and that such misunderstanding could have serious consequences.

Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a police union, spoke on Saturday of “those that incited violence on the street, under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day,” according to Azi Paybarah of Capital New York. Mr. Lynch also said “there’s blood on many hands tonight” and “that blood on the hands, starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.”

While Rudy Giuliani said on “Fox News Sunday” that “it goes too far to blame the mayor for the murder,” he also said “the mayor did not properly police the protests.” He added: “The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence — a lot of them lead to violence — all of them lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist.” And on the “Today” show on Monday, the New York City police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said, “It is quite apparent, quite obvious, that the targeting of these two police officers was a direct spinoff of this issue of these demonstrations.”

But, writes Jamelle Bouie at Slate, “despite what these police organizations and their allies allege, there isn’t an anti-police movement in this country, or at least, none of any significance. The people demonstrating for Eric Garner and Michael Brown aren’t against police, they are for better policing. They want departments to treat their communities with respect, and they want accountability for officers who kill their neighbors without justification.”

And at The Guardian, Steven W. Thrasher writes that those protesting in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner “have been finding novel and peaceful forms of expression to resist oppression” and “have been protesting in reaction to police violence, not causing it.”

The effort to connect Mr. Brinsley’s crimes to larger public protests may be part of a larger phenomenon. “There is a history,” the sociology and psychiatry professor Jonathan Metzl told Op-Talk, “in the aftermath of senseless public crimes, to tell larger public stories that are linked to the politics of race.” In a recent paper on gun violence and mental illness (also discussed at Op-Talk last week), Dr. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish write that in the 1960s and ’70s, “when the potential assailants of a crime were Black, U.S. psychiatric and popular culture frequently blamed ‘Black culture’ or Black activist politics — not individual, disordered brains — for the threats such men were imagined to pose.”

When crimes are committed by white shooters, Dr. Metzl told Op-Talk, “there is a prevailing cultural narrative that tries to localize the question of what caused this or what is to blame to the pathologies of an individual white brain.” After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “there was a push to talk about Adam Lanza’s brain and his DNA, and talk about it in terms of individual mental illness.” But in the case of a black shooter, some in America have shown a tendency toward “defining black crime more broadly in terms of black culture,” a tendency he sees in recent rhetoric “that links this individual and by all accounts senseless crime, and a crime that wasn’t supported by any of the main political protest movements, to those very protest movements.”

Mr. Brinsley did apparently make Instagram posts referring to Michael Brown and Eric Garner. However, said Dr. Metzl, “there is often some sort of political connection to senseless crimes, at least in the narratives of the people who try to justify their senseless acts.”

“People who might be at risk or imbalanced in some way certainly coopt these messages and take them on as their own personal rhetoric to commit violence,” he explained. “But to me it’s a mistake to take that connection literally and to say that that is a reflection of the protest movement itself, when clearly what’s happening is a very pathological use of that language for a very different set of means and ends.”

And, he said, making such a connection might make it harder for Americans to take the message of the protests to heart.

“We never see white culture pathologized in the aftermath of senseless killings by white shooters,” he added in an email — “instead we often hear arguments for the affirmation of gun rights.”

Writing at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates draws another distinction, between reactions to the killings of police officers and reactions to killings of black Americans by police:

“The killings of Officers Liu and Ramos prompt national comment. The killings of black civilians do not. When it is convenient to award qualitative value to murder, we do so. When it isn’t, we do not.”

Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a research analyst for the Sentencing Project and the author of a report on Americans’ ideas about race and crime, told Op-Talk that even if Mr. Brinsley was motivated by political conviction and not by mental illness (Kim Barker and Al Baker of The Times cite reports that he had attempted suicide and received psychiatric care), “he acted on his own. The hundreds of thousands of people that have been out on the streets have been very explicit that they are nonviolent people, that they are trying to achieve reforms through nonviolent means. So there could be an underlying shared concern, but people are following very different paths.”

And, she argues, failing to listen to protesters may make it harder, not easier, for police to do their jobs. “We know from accounts from police officers themselves and from prosecutors,” she said, that “they are not able to do the work that they need to do effectively when they don’t have trust and cooperation from the communities that they’re serving.” Lack of trust in police may make it harder to convict criminals, she said, because police are not seen as credible witnesses. And when police have a bad relationship with the communities in which they work, “the happiness and the satisfaction that they have in their own work and the comfort that they have in doing it” can suffer — she cited claims that the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics actually harmed officer morale.

An unwillingness to hear criticism from the community, she said, “doesn’t serve public interest, and it doesn’t serve the interests of the front-line officers and correctional workers that are having to do this work, that are finding it harder to do the work that they need to get done.”



11) Argentina: Court Sides With Orangutan



12) Former Milwaukee Police Officer Won’t Be Charged in Death of Black Man in Park



13) After Shootings, Police Union Chief Deepens Rift With de Blasio



14) White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier
DEC. 24, 2014

In 1924, the State of Virginia attempted to define what it means to be white.

The state’s Racial Integrity Act, which barred marriages between whites and people of other races, defined whites as people “whose blood is entirely white, having no known, demonstrable or ascertainable admixture of the blood of another race.”

There was just one problem. As originally written, the law would have classified many of Virginia’s most prominent families as not white, because they claimed to be descended from Pocahontas.

So the Virginia legislature revised the act, establishing what came to be known as the “Pocahontas exception.” Virginians could be up to one-sixteenth Native American and still be white in the eyes of the law.

People who were one-sixteenth black, on the other hand, were still black.

In the United States, there is a long tradition of trying to draw sharp lines between ethnic groups, but our ancestry is a fluid and complex matter. In recent years geneticists have been uncovering new evidence about our shared heritage, and last week a team of scientists published the biggest genetic profile of the United States to date, based on a study of 160,000 people.

The researchers were able to trace variations in our genetic makeup from state to state, creating for the first time a sort of ancestry map.

“We use these terms — white, black, Indian, Latino — and they don’t really mean what we think they mean,” said Claudio Saunt, a historian at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the study.

The data for the new study were collected by 23andMe, the consumer DNA-testing company. When customers have their genes analyzed, the company asks them if they’d like to make their results available for study by staff scientists.

Over time the company has built a database that not only includes DNA, but also such details as a participant’s birthplace and the ethnic group with which he or she identifies. (23andMe strips the data of any information that might breach the privacy of participants.)

The scientists also have been developing software that learns to recognize the origins of the short segments of DNA that make up our genomes. Recently they used their program to calculate what percentage of each subject’s genomes was inherited from European, African or Native American forebears.

“This year we saw that we were in a great position to do the analysis,” said Joanna L. Mountain, senior director of research at 23andMe.

On average, the scientists found, people who identified as African-American had genes that were only 73.2 percent African. European genes accounted for 24 percent of their DNA, while .8 percent came from Native Americans.

Latinos, on the other hand, had genes that were on average 65.1 percent European, 18 percent Native American, and 6.2 percent African. The researchers found that European-Americans had genomes that were on average 98.6 percent European, .19 percent African, and .18 Native American.

These broad estimates masked wide variation among individuals. Based on their sample, the resarchers estimated that over six million European-Americans have some African ancestry. As many as five million have genomes that are at least 1 percent Native American in origin. One in five African-Americans, too, has Native American roots.

Dr. Mountain and her colleagues also looked at how ancestry might influence ethnic identification.

Most Americans with less than 28 percent African-American ancestry say they are white, the researchers found. Above that threshold, people tended to describe themselves as African-American.

Katarzyna Bryc, a 23andMe researcher and co-author of the new study, didn’t want to speculate about why people’s sense of ethnic identity pivots at that point.

“We can only take it so far as geneticists,” she said.

The scientists also linked geographical patterns to their subjects’ ancestries. Latinos in the Southwest had high levels of Native American DNA, they found, while Latinos in the Southeast had high levels of African DNA.

The genes of African-Americans varied strikingly from state to state. In Oklahoma, the researchers estimated, 14 percent of African-Americans have genomes that are at least 2 percent Native American. This high percentage is probably due to the unique history of the state.

Some Native American tribes in the South, such as the Cherokee and Choctaw, kept African slaves. When they were expelled to Oklahoma in the 1830s, they brought the slaves with them. In some tribes, Native Americans and African slaves intermarried, and their descendants continue to live in Oklahoma today.

Dr. Saunt was fascinated in particular by the genetic findings among people in South Carolina. Dr. Mountain and her colleagues estimated that 13.3 percent of European-Americans in South Carolina have genes that are at least 1 percent African in origin.

But the researchers also found that African-Americans in South Carolina have among the lowest percentages of European DNA of any African-American population in the United States.

At one point, Dr. Saunt noted, South Carolina had more slaves than any other state. But there was also a large population of freed slaves in Charleston permitted to interact with whites.

“We know lots of planters had mistresses in Charleston, and they obviously had children together,” said Dr. Saunt. “So what happened to those children? Some remained in the African-American community, and some moved into the white community when they were able to.”

Jeffrey C. Long, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico who was not involved in the study, cautioned that the research was not based on a random sample of Americans. Instead, Dr. Mountain and her colleagues studied only people who were curious enough about their DNA to pay for a test.

“Perhaps people who have mixed ancestry are more interested in their ancestry than people who don’t think they have mixed ancestry,” Dr. Long said.

David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard University and a co-author on the new study, acknowledged this was a reasonable concern. “It’s classic survey bias,” he said. But Dr. Reich also noted that the new results were consistent with smaller studies done in the past.

As genetic databases grow, Dr. Reich predicted it would be possible to get even more detailed insights into American history. DNA may be able to illuminate the movements of people across the United States, such as the Great Migration that took African-Americans from the South to Chicago.

“We’re in striking distance of that now,” Dr. Reich said.



15) A Historic 50-Mile Walk, Nearly 50 Years Later
In ‘Selma,’ King Is Just One of the Heroes NYT Critics' Pick



16) Cautions Against Ferguson Comparisons After Officer Kills Black Teenager
Antonio Martin’s Death Is Investigated in Missouri



17) After Killing of Police Officers, Protest Movement Is at a Crossroads
“'Once we were asked to cease our protests, that was affirmation that we could not cease,' said Ms. Yates, 29, who lives in St. Louis but joined protests in New York after the Staten Island grand jury declined to charge a police officer in Mr. Garner’s case. 'They’re telling us that our grief doesn’t matter,' she said."

City Council members took to the streets in New York to block traffic in solidarity with the demonstrators demanding changes in policing. The Council speaker opened a meeting of her fellow Council members with a call to utter the protest mantra, “I can’t breathe,” the final words of a Staten Island man killed by a police chokehold. And last Friday, the mayor sat down with leaders of the demonstrations, heeding their appeal for a face-to-face meeting even as they vowed to continue disrupting the city.

The gestures served as an unabashed embrace by the city’s unabashedly liberal elected leaders, a sign that protest organizers, after weeks in the streets, had begun the process of channeling raw anger into real change.

Then, on Saturday, in the seconds it took to shoot two officers dead in Brooklyn, the ground shifted beneath the marching feet of the thousands of people who had made New York the center of protests over the killing of unarmed black men by the police.

Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were gunned down on Saturday afternoon as they sat in their patrol car at a busy intersection in Bedford-Stuyvesant. They were killed by a man who hours earlier announced his intentions on Instagram and invoked the names of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man killed by the chokehold in July, and Michael Brown, the man killed by the Ferguson, Mo., police in August. The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, killed himself minutes later, the police said.

The killing of the officers, coming five days before Christmas, stunned the city into collective mourning. In an instant, criticism of the police seemed out of touch. “Die-ins,” which had become a staple of demonstrations in Grand Central Terminal, City Hall and elsewhere, suddenly struck a discordant note. And as the city prepared to bury Officer Ramos on Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the protesters to suspend their demonstrations until the officers’ funerals were over.

The groups had already been grappling with their future, working on ways to retain the energy and diversity of the younger protesters while exploiting the organizational assets of established civil rights groups.

Now, they face an even more pointed test.

“This is par for the course,” the Rev. Michael A. Walrond Jr. told protesters after a march through Harlem on Sunday, the day after the officers were killed. “You were called for such a time as this. Don’t get tired. Don’t get weary.”

Indeed, though some groups were willing to stand down, others balked. Along with the protest on Sunday, led by Justice League NYC, a demonstration was held on Tuesday along Fifth Avenue. Another protest is to take place in Brooklyn on Saturday, the day of the funeral for Officer Ramos.

Joo-Hyun Kang, executive director of Communities United for Police Reform, said halting the protests would be misguided.

“It is wrong to connect the isolated act of one man who killed N.Y.P.D. officers to a nonviolent mass movement,” she said.

“Silencing the countless voices of New Yorkers who are seeking justice, dignity and respect for all, is a mistake.”

On Monday, the group Ferguson Action tweeted, “The N.Y.P.D. wants to use this tragedy to silence this movement. Not gonna happen.”

Ashley Yates, a member of Ferguson Action and a co-founder of Millennial Activists United, said she knew immediately that the officers’ deaths would cause some backlash. But the call for a protest suspension surprised her.

“Once we were asked to cease our protests, that was affirmation that we could not cease,” said Ms. Yates, 29, who lives in St. Louis but joined protests in New York after the Staten Island grand jury declined to charge a police officer in Mr. Garner’s case.

“They’re telling us that our grief doesn’t matter,” she said.

For some who share the protesters’ concerns, the insistence on pressing on in spite of the funerals is damaging.

“I don’t think the protesters do themselves a favor by protesting until after these officers are laid to rest,” said Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president.

Mr. Diaz, echoing some other elected leaders, said the groups were costing themselves support with their disruptive tactics. “They’re losing favor with a lot of New Yorkers,” he said.

Michael Kazin, a Georgetown University professor who studies protest movements, said the strongest ones can survive a lot of animosity and adversity.

“In the antiwar movement, too, there was a lot of bad publicity given people burning draft cards and burning flags,” Professor Kazin said. “But the movement went on and was successful in convincing the public that we needed to get out of Vietnam.”

Obstacles, he said, are inevitable. “In some ways, the test of a successful movement is how you respond. You have to expect that there will be moments like this in a movement. If you don’t, you’re naïve and you don’t know what you got yourself into,” he said.

Just how dramatic the turnabout has been in New York could be measured by a scene that unfolded this week at City Hall. There were no Council members blocking traffic. There were no choruses of “I can’t breathe.” And there were no mayoral meetings with protesters.

Instead, there was unstinting praise for the police from the Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who earlier this month had asked her colleagues to repeat “I can’t breathe” 11 times, for the number of times Mr. Garner said those words before he died in the encounter with the police.

“We are here to send a simple and direct message: that we unequivocally support, appreciate and value our police officers, that we condemn any and all violence against them, that we must end hateful and divisive rhetoric which seeks to demonize officers and their work,” Ms. Mark-Viverito, flanked by fellow Council members, said at a news conference.

Tanzina Vega and Vivian Yee contributed reporting.


18) Rise in Loans Linked to Cars Is Hurting Poor

The rusting 1994 Oldsmobile sitting in a driveway just outside St. Louis was an unlikely cash machine.

That was until the car’s owner, a 30-year-old hospital lab technician, saw a television commercial describing how to get cash from just such a car, in the form of a short-term loan.

The lab technician, Caroline O’Connor, who needed about $1,000 to cover her rent and electricity bills, believed she had found a financial lifeline.

“It was a relief,” she said. “I did not have to beg everyone for the money.”

Her loan carried an annual interest rate of 171 percent. More than two years and $992.78 in debt later, her car was repossessed.

“These companies put people in a hole that they can’t get out of,” Ms. O’Connor said.

The automobile is at the center of the biggest boom in subprime lending since the mortgage crisis. The market for loans to buy used cars is growing rapidly.

And similar to how a red-hot mortgage market once coaxed millions of borrowers into recklessly tapping the equity in their homes, the new boom is also leading people to take out risky lines of credit known as title loans.

They are, roughly speaking, the home equity loans of subprime auto. In these loans, which can last as long as two years or as little as a month, borrowers turn over the title of their cars in exchange for cash — typically a percentage of the cars’ estimated resale values.

“Turn your car title into holiday cash,” TitleMax, a large title lender, declared in a recent television commercial, showing a Christmas stocking overflowing with money.

More than 1.1 million households in the United States used auto title loans in 2013, according to a survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — the first time the agency has included the loans in its annual survey.

Title loans are an increasingly prevalent form of high-cost, short-term credit in subprime finance, as regulators in a number of states crack down on payday loans.

For many borrowers, title loans, also sometimes known as motor-vehicle equity lines of credit or title pawns, are having ruinous financial consequences, causing owners to lose their vehicles and plunging them further into debt.

A review by The New York Times of more than three dozen loan agreements found that after factoring in various fees, the effective interest rates ranged from nearly 80 percent to over 500 percent. While some loans come with terms of 30 days, many borrowers, unable to pay the full loan and interest payments, say that they are forced to renew the loans at the end of each month, incurring a new round of fees.

Customers of TitleMax, for example, typically renewed their loans eight times, a former president of the company disclosed in a 2009 deposition.

And because many lenders make the loan based on an assessment of a used car’s resale value, not on a borrower’s ability to repay that money, many people find that they are struggling to keep up almost as soon as they drive off with the cash.

As a result, roughly one in every six title-loan borrowers will have the car repossessed, according to an analysis of 561 title loans by the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit in Durham, N.C.

The lenders argue that they are providing a source of credit for people who cannot obtain less-expensive loans from banks. The high interest rates, the lenders say, are necessary to offset the risk that borrowers will stop paying their bills.

Title loans are part of a broader lending boom tied to used cars. Auto loans allowing subprime borrowers — those with credit scores at 640 or below — to buy cars have surged in the last five years.

The high interest rates on the loans have enticed an influx of Wall Street money. Private equity firms are investing in lenders, and some big banks are ramping up their auto lending to people with blemished credit.

Propelling this lending spree are the cars themselves, and their centrality in people’s lives.

In most parts of the country, a car is vital to participating in the work force, and lenders are betting that people will do virtually anything to keep their cars, choosing to make auto loan payments before paying for just about any other expense.

The title lending industry, perhaps more than any other facet of subprime auto lending, thrives because of the car’s importance.

While people seeking title loans are often at their most desperate — dealing with a job loss, a divorce or a family illness — the lenders are willing to extend them loans because they know that most borrowers will pay their bill to keep their cars. Some lenders do not even bother to assess a borrower’s credit history.

“The threat of repossession turns the borrower into an annuity for the lenders,” said Diane Standaert, the director of state policy at the Center for Responsible Lending.

Unable to raise the thousands of dollars he needed to repair his car, Ken Chicosky, a 39-year-old Army veteran, felt desperate. He received a $4,000 loan from Cash America, a lender with a storefront in his Austin, Tex., neighborhood.

The loan, which came with an annual interest rate of 98.3 percent, helped him fix up the 2008 Audi that he relied on for work, but it has sunk his credit score. Mr. Chicosky, who is also attending college, uses some of his financial aid money to pay his title-loan bill.

Mr. Chicosky said he knew the loan was a bad decision when he received the first bill. It detailed how he would have to pay a total of $9,346 — a sum made up of principal, interest and other fees.

“When you are in a situation like that, you don’t ask very many questions,” he said.

Cash America declined to comment.

Rapid Expansion

Clutching handfuls of cash, a former Miss America contestant zips around in a red sports car, dancing and rapping about how TitleMax has “your real money.”

Commercials like these help companies like TitleMax entice borrowers to take on the costly loans. TitleMax, a brand of TMX Finance, is privately held — like virtually all of the title loan companies — and does not disclose much financial information. But a regulatory filing for the first three months of 2013 offers a glimpse into the industry’s tremendous growth.

During that period, the profits at TMX Finance rose by 47 percent from the same period two years earlier, and the number of stores it operated nearly doubled, to 1,108. The total volume of loans originated during the first three months of last year reached $169 million, up 67 percent from the same period in 2011.

TMX Finance, based in Savannah, Ga., wants to expand further, opening stores in states where regulations are “favorable,” according to a 2013 regulatory filing. Only a few years after emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, the company is enjoying an influx of cash from mainstream investors. Big bond funds managed by Legg Mason and Putnam Investments have bought portions of TMX Finance’s debt. The company also borrowed $17.5 million to buy a private jet.

The title lenders are seizing upon a broad retrenchment among banks, which have become wary of making loans to borrowers on the fringe of the financial system. Regulations passed after the financial crisis have made it much more expensive for banks to make loans to all but the safest borrowers.

The title lenders are also benefiting as state authorities restrict payday loans, effectively pushing payday lenders out of many states. While title loans share many of the same features — in some cases carrying rates that eclipse those on payday loans — they have so far escaped a similar crackdown.

In 21 states, car title lending is expressly permitted, with title lenders charging interest of up to 300 percent a year. In most other states, lenders can make loans with cars as collateral, but at lower interest rates.

Seeing the regulatory landscape shift, some of the country’s largest payday lenders are switching gears. When Arizona effectively outlawed payday loans, ACE Cash Express registered its payday loan storefronts in the state as car title lenders, state records show.

Lenders made similar changes in Virginia, where lawmakers outlawed payday lending in 2010. But title lenders were untouched by that law and have expanded throughout the state, drawing business from Maryland.

The number of stores offering title loans in Virginia increased by 24 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to state records. Last year, the lenders made 177,775 loans, up roughly 612 percent from 2010, when the state banned payday lending.

In Tennessee, the number of title lending stores increased by about 22 percent from 2011 to 2013, reaching 1,017.

That is a small fraction of the industry’s overall size, state regulators say, because only a handful of states keep statistics. Legal aid offices in Arizona, California, Georgia, Missouri, Texas and Virginia report that they have experienced an influx of clients who have run into trouble with the loans.

“The demand is there for people who are desperate for money,” said Jay Speer, the executive director of the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

Loopholes and Adversity

When Tiffany Capone suggested that her fiancé, Michael, take out a $10,000 TitleMax loan with a 119 percent interest rate, she figured it would be a temporary fix to pay the bills. But this summer, after Michael fell behind on the loan payments, the couple’s three-year-old Hyundai was repossessed.

“It had my child’s car seat in the back,” said Ms. Capone, of Olney, Md.

With their car gone, the couple had to sell most of their furniture and other belongings to a pawnshop so they could afford to pay for taxis to ferry Michael, a diabetic with a heart condition, to his frequent doctors’ appointments.

The hardships caused by title loans are being cited as one of the big challenges facing poor and minority communities.

“It is a form of indenture,” said Robert Swearingen, a lawyer with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, adding that “because of the threat of repossession, they can string you along for the rest of your life.”

Johanna Pimentel said she and both of her brothers had taken out multiple title loans.

“They are everywhere, like liquor stores,” she said.

Ms. Pimentel, 32, had moved her family out of Ferguson, Mo., to a higher-priced suburb of St. Louis that promised better schools. But after a divorce, her former husband moved out, and she had trouble paying her rent.

Ms. Pimentel took out a $3,461 title loan using her 2002 Suburban as collateral.

After falling behind, she woke up one morning last March to find that the car had been repossessed. Without it, she could not continue to run her day care business.

Pointing to such experiences, lawmakers in some states — regulating the industry largely falls to states — have called for stricter limits on title loans or outright bans.

In Virginia, lawmakers passed a bill in 2010 that institutes some restrictions on the practice, including preventing lenders from trying to collect money from customers once a car has been repossessed. That same year, Montana voters overwhelmingly backed a ballot initiative that capped rates on title loans at 36 percent.

But for every state where there has been a crackdown, there are more where the industry has mobilized to beat back regulations.

In Wisconsin, it took the title loan industry only one year to reverse a ban on the loans that had been put in place in 2010. In New Hampshire in 2008, state legislators enacted a law that put a 36 percent ceiling on the rates that title lenders could charge. Four years later, though, lobbyists for the industry won a repeal of the law.

“This is nothing but government-authorized loan sharking,” said Scott A. Surovell, a Virginia lawmaker who has proposed bills that would further rein in title lenders.

Even when there are restrictions, some lenders find creative ways to continue business as usual. In California, where the interest rates and fees that lenders can charge on loans for $2,500 or less are restricted, some lenders extend loans for just over that amount.

Sometimes the workarounds are more blatant.

The City of Austin allows title lenders to extend loans only for three months. But that did not stop Mr. Chicosky, the veteran who borrowed $4,000 for car repairs, from getting a loan for 24 months.

Last year, after applying for a loan at a Cash America store in Austin, Mr. Chicosky said, a store employee told him that he would have to fill out the paperwork and pick up his check in a nearby town. Mr. Chicosky’s lawyer, Amy Clark Kleinpeter, said the location switch appeared to be a way to get around the rules in Austin.

The lender offered a different explanation to Mr. Chicosky. “They told me that they didn’t have a printer at the Austin location that was big enough to print my check,” he said.



























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