Wednesday, December 30, 2015

BAUAW NEWSLETTER, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2015




 
 

Happy New Year!
The whole world is in turmoil suffering the capitalist descent into barbarism. At the same time, there is a great awakening of consciousness among the masses of working people that we are all in the same sinking boat. Across the globe, we are all facing the economic reality of austerity for us, and untold accumulation of wealth for the ruling elite. Democratic rights are being decimated. Police brutality and murder is rampant. And while the corporations can kill, mutilate and rob with impunity, the poor are locked up for the crime of being impoverished. We are reaching a tipping point both in our climate crisis and our overwhelming social crisis of unending war, poverty and criminalization of the poor.
The only solution is world socialist revolution under the democratic control of the whole working class and in defense of all life on Earth!
Peace and solidarity for a better tomorrow,
Bonnie
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Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:

A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS

B. ARTICLES IN FULL



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A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS



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Chelsea Manning Support Network

Defend Chelsea Manning

Here are two important ways you can support Chelsea:

1. Give the gift of a donation to the Chelsea Manning Defense Fund

Attorneys Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward are well into the process of preparing for Chelsea's first legal appeal next year. The appeals process has the potential to take decades off Chelsea's 35 year prison sentence. Donate Today!

2. Send her a birthday message:

CHELSEA E. MANNING 89289
1300 N Warehouse Rd
Ft Leavenworth KS 66027-2304

Super secret insider info: Not only are Chelsea Manning shirts and stuff already 50% off in our online store, if you use discount code "chelsea" during check out, you'll get an additional 50% off. That is insane, so please don't tell anyone else, as we can't afford for this news to get out too broadly. Here's the link to the store, just for you Bonnie.

Chelsea honored in Advocate's 40 under 40!

"In blogs, tweets, and handwritten letters from prison, the former Army intelligence specialist is still trying to change the world."
"I often hear and read that many people all over the world consider me a ‘whistleblower’ or a ‘heroine.’ This experience can be a little intimidating at times," she tells The Advocate. "That’s an idea that would be a lot to live up to! I don’t feel like I can live up to the expectations of being a ‘heroine.’ I don’t have any special powers or abilities like a comic book super hero. I actually feel a lot more vulnerable than that. In fact, I am very vulnerable. I just try to be myself, and that’s all I aspire to be.” Read more...

Help us continue to cover
100% of Chelsea's legal fees
!

Please donate today!



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When Drone Whistleblowers are Under Attack,

What Do We Do?

STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!



 We honor Stephan, Michael, Brandon and Cian!

These four former ex-drone pilots have courageously spoken out publicly against the U.S. drone assassination program.  They have not been charged with any crime, yet the U.S. government is retaliating against these truth-tellers by freezing all of their bank and credit card accounts.  WE MUST BACK THEM UP!
Listen to them here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43z6EMy8T28

PLEASE HELP THEM:

1.  Sign up on this support network:
         www.facebook.com/events/1502272456740302/

2.  Sign this petition  NOW:
               https://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-congress-attorney-general-loretta-lynch-protect-the-drone-assassination-program-whistleblowers?recruiter=436431670&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink

3.  Call and email officials TODAY, listed below and on FB site.

4.  Ask your organization if they would join our network.


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Statement of Support for Drone Whistleblowers
(Code Pink Women for Peace: East Bay, Golden Gate, and S.F. Chapters 11.28.15)

Code Pink Women for Peace support the very courageous actions of four former US drone operators, Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, and Stephan Lewis, who have come under increasing attack for disclosing information about “widespread corruption and institutionalized indifference to civilian casualties that characterize the drone program.” As truth tellers, they stated in a public letter to President Obama that the killing of innocent civilians has been one of the most “devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”* These public disclosures come only after repeated attempts to work privately within official channels failed.

Despite the fact that none of the four has been charged with criminal activity, all had their bank accounts and credit cards frozen. This retaliatory response by our government is consistent with the extrajudicial nature of US drone strikes.

We must support these former drone operators who have taken great risks to stop the drone killing. Write or call your US Senators, your US Representatives, President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and CIA Director John Brennan demanding that Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, and Stephan Lewis be applauded, not punished, for revealing the criminal and extrajudicial nature of drone strikes that has led to so many civilian deaths.

Petition

URGENT: Sign and Share NOW! Drone Whistleblower Protection Petition
https://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-congress-attorney-general-loretta-lynch-protect-the-drone-assassination-program-whistleblowers?recruiter=436431670&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink

Contacting your Government
- White House comment line: 202-456-1111
 
- Email President Obama: president@whitehouse.gov and cc info@whitehouse.gov
 
- White House switchboard: 202-456-1414 for telephone numbers of your Senators and Representatives.

- Email your Senators and Representatives:
http://www.house.gov/representatives/
http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/


-Contact Ashton Carter Secretary of Defense: Go to http://www.defense.gov/About-DoD/Biographies/BiographyView/Article/602689 and select appropriate icon.

- Contact John Brennan, CIA Director: Go to
https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/leadership/john-o-brennan.html and select appropriate icon.

For more information on the 4 Drone Whistleblowers:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1502272456740302/
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43z6EMy8T28

(Must see Democracy Now interview with the 4 drone operators)

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/18/life-as-a-drone-pilot-creech-air-force-base-nevada

*http://thefreethoughtproject.com/drone-pilots-bank-accounts-credit-cards-frozen-feds-exposing-murder/#fqt0crLvckG2OdbD.99

Code Pink Women for Peace: eastbaycodepink@gmail.com



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Save Ashraf Fayadh

Palestinian poet sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia.

Ashraf Fayadh, Palestinian refugee poet and artist living in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to death by a Saudi court, on charges of apostasy or abandoning his faith in Islam. The charges appear to be based on his poetry and writing and also maybe a form of retaliation for posting an online video showing Saudi religious police lashing a man in public.

Fayadh is a Palestinian refugee who was born in Saudi Arabia and has become a leading member of the young Saudi art scene. He was arrested in January 2014, his identity documents confiscated, and held for a lengthy period without charge. He was then sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes; after he appealed; he was re-tried last month and sentenced to death. He did not have legal representation.

Fayadh is being sentenced to death after having been jailed for more than 22 months in the Saudi city of Abha without clear legal charges beyond “insulting the Godly self” and having “ideas that do not suit the Saudi society.” These charges are based on the complaint of a reader’s interpretation of Fayadh's 2008 poetry collection titled, Instructions Within.

“According to Fayadh’s friends, when the police failed to prove that his poetry was atheist propaganda, they began berating him for smoking and having long hair,” reported the Guardian. Fayadh said his poetry book, Instructions Within, is “just about me being [a] Palestinian refugee…about cultural and philosophical issues. But the religious extremists explained it as destructive ideas against God.”

This is not the first time that Saudi authorities have arrested Ashraf Fayadh. The poet was detained before after a Saudi citizen filed a complaint with the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice accusing Fayadh of having “misguided and misguiding thoughts.” Fayadh was bailed out of jail at the time, only to get arrested again. According to sources close to Fayadh, the poet has been denied both visitation and legal representation rights.

Amnesty international stated, “We condemn these acts of intimidation targeting Ashraf Fayadh as part of a wider campaign inciting hate against writers and using Islam to justify oppression and to crush free speech. We express our solidarity with Fayadh, hoping to increase support for the poet as well as pressure to release him. Our efforts should come together to ensure the proliferation of free speech and personal freedoms. We specifically call on Saudi intellectuals to express solidarity with Fayadh against Takfiris’ intimidation practices meant to silence poets, writers, and artists like him. Let the flag of creativity fly free and remain innovative. Remaining silent towards Fayadh’s detention is an insult to knowledge, literature, culture, and thought as well as to freedom and human rights.”

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network joins the call for the immediate freedom of Ashraf Fayadh. His imprisonment, persecution and death sentence by the Saudi regime reflects the deeply reactionary and far-right role played by the Saudi regime in the region—alongside its close imperial partners in the United States, Canada and Europe—that threatens Palestinian and Arab culture, life, and movements and works to block and suppress any struggle for liberation.

One hundred Arab intellectuals have called for Fayadh’s release and so far over 10, 000 people have signed an AI petition to save his life. Please sign and share the petition. https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Amnesty_international_Save_the_palestinian_poet_and_artist_Ashraf_Fayadh/?tUPvwdb

To take further action:

1. Call the Saudi Embassy in your area and demand freedom for Ashraf Fayadh. In the United States, call 202-342-3800. In Canada, call 613-237-4100. Find the embassy in your country here: http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/saudi-arabia

2. Protest at the Saudi Embassy in your area for freedom for Ashraf Fayadh. Print signs and materials, and gather outside the Saudi embassy with Palestine rights activists, artists and others to demand his freedom. See the list of Saudi embassies here: http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/saudi-arabia

3. Contact your government officials. The Saudi regime is a close partner of the United States, Canadian and various European governments. Demand that your government pressure the Saudi regime to release Fayadh. In Canada, Call the office of the Foreign Minister, Stéphane Dion, at 613-996-5789 and demand Canada pressure Saudi Arabia to release Fayadh, or email: stephane.dion@parl.gc.ca. In the U.S., call the White House (202-456-1111) and the U.S. State Department (202-647-9572); demand the U.S. pressure Saudi Arabia to release Fayadh. In the EU, contact your Member of the European Parliament—you can find your MEP here:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/map.html

Please also write letters, Facebook posts, emails or send Facebook messages to your local politicians, newspapers and friends to publicize this dire case and spread the information about the situation of Ashraf Fayadh.

—Steven Katsineris

Information from Amnesty International, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and AVAAZ.

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Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence

Sign the Petition:
http://www.savekevincooper.org/pages/petition.php


Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.

"The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case

Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.

In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.

Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.

Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.

Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."

Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.

Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.

In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.

In solidarity,

James Clark
Senior Death Penalty Campaigner
Amnesty International USA

News Updates


  • Death Row Stories
    Kevin Cooper's case will be the subject of a new episode of CNN's "Death Row Stories" airing on Sunday, July 26 at 7 p.m. PDT. The program will be repeated at 10 p.m. PDT. The episode, created by executive producers Robert Redford and Alex Gibney, will explore how Kevin Cooper was framed by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney.Viewers on the east coast can see the program at 10 p.m. EDT and it will be rebroadcast at 1 a.m. EDT on July 27. Viewers in the Central Time zone can see it at 9 p.m. and midnight CDT. Viewers in the Mountain Time zone can see it at 8 p.m. and ll p.m MDT. It will be aired on CNN again during the following week and will also be able to be viewed on CNN's "Death Row Stories" website.
Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org
 
Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.

Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin.  He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence.  In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.

There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:

  The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?

  The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."

  Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.

  These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.

  The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.

Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.

The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.

The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited…         (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)

     This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015

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For Immediate Release – Thursday, October 29, 2015 
Solitary Prisoners' Lawyers Slam CDCR for Sleep Deprivation

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, lawyers for prisoners in the class action case Ashker v. Brown submitted a letter condemning Pelican Bay prison guards' "wellness checks," which have widely been viewed as sleep deprivation. The letter was submitted to United States Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, and calls on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to put an end to the checks.

Last month, prisoners achieved a historic victory in the settlement of Ashker v. Brown where the indefinite long term solitary confinement was effectively ended in California, with Magistrate Judge Vadas currently monitoring implementation of the settlement terms.

The guards at Pelican bay Security Housing Units have been conducting disruptive cell checks every 30 minutes around the clock for three months, causing prisoners widespread sleep disruption. The process is loud and according to prisoners, "the method and noise from the checks is torture."

Attorneys representing Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have just completed extensive interviews with prisoners who demand that "the every 30-minute checks have to be stopped or people are going to get sick or worse." In addition, they report that regular prison programs have been negatively impacted.

"To sleep is a fundamental human right," said Anne Weills, a member of the prisoners' legal team and one of the attorneys who conducted the interviews with prisoners in Pelican Bay. "To take away such a basic human right amounts to severe torture, adding to the already torturous conditions of being in solitary confinement."

Most prisoners report low energy, exhaustion and fatigue. Most state that they have trouble concentrating. They try to read, but they nod off and/or can't remember what they have read. Their writing is much slower ("I can't think to write"), and describe the constant welfare checks as having a negative impact on their mental state.

While this recent attorney survey was specifically focusing on sleep deprivation and its effects, prisoners volunteered information about the negative impact of these frequent checks: yard policy and practice has reduced access to recreation, access to showers has been reduced, programs and meals are being delayed, and property for those newly transferred to Pelican Bay is still being delayed and withheld.

Sleep deprivation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners and their attorneys are demanding that these checks be halted.
--
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org


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UPDATE:

Albert Woodfox, Angola Inmate, Can Be Tried 3rd Time, Court Rules


Free Albert Woodfox!

On June 8, 2015 a federal judge granted Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox unconditional release. Albert's conviction had already been overturned three times - most recently in 2013 - yet every time the state has appealed.

Today, Albert is still behind bars after spending four decades in cruel, unjust solitary confinement. He believes that he and fellow prisoners, Herman Wallace and Robert King, were first placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for their activism. All three men were members of the Black Panther Party. Together, they came to be known as the Angola 3.

It is time for the State of Louisiana to stop standing in the way of justice. Call on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to ensure Albert's cruel and unjust confinement is not his legacy. Learn more

http://act.amnestyusa.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1839&ea.campaign.id=35593&ea.tracking.id=Country_USA~MessagingCategory_PrisonersandPeopleatRisk&ac=W1506EAIAR2&ea.url.id=414689&forwarded=true

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Amnesty for all those arrested demanding justice for Freddie Gray!

 

Amnesty for ALL those arrested
demanding justice for Freddie Gray!

Sign and distribute the petition to drop the charges!
Spread this effort with #Amnesty4Baltimore

"A riot is the language of the unheard"
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

An estimated 300 people have been arrested in Baltimore in the last two weeks. Many have been brutalized, beaten and pepper-sprayed by police in the streets, and held for days in inhumane conditions. Those arrested include journalists, medics and legal observers.

One individual arrested for property destruction of a police vehicle is now facing life in prison and is being held on $500,000 bail. That's $150,000 more than the officer charged with the murder of Freddie Gray.  

The legal system has made it clear that they care more about broken windows than broken necks; more about a CVS than the lives of Baltimore's Black residents.

They showed no hesitation in arresting Baltimore's protesters and rebels, and sending in the National Guard, but took 19 days to put a single one of the killer cops in handcuffs. This was the outrageous double standard that led to the Baltimore Uprising.

 Sign the petition to drop the charges on all who have been arrested.

Petition to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Download PDF of Petition 

http://www.answercoalition.org/amnesty_for_all_those_arrested_demanding_justice_for_freddie_gray?utm_campaign=baltimore_amn1&utm_medium=email&utm_source=answercoalition

Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake
City Hall, Room 250,
100 North Holliday St.,
Baltimore, MD 21202

Dear Mayor Rawlings-Blake:

I stand in solidarity with those in Baltimore who are demanding that all charges be dropped against those who rose up against racism, police brutality, oppressive social conditions and delay of justice in the case of Freddie Gray. The whole world now recognizes that were it not for this powerful grassroots movement, in all its forms, there would be no indictment.

It is an outrage that peaceful protesters have been brutalized, beaten and pepper-sprayed by police in the streets, and held for days in inhumane conditions. Those arrested include journalists and legal observers.

Even the youth who are charged with property destruction and looting should be given an amnesty. There is no reason a teenager -- provoked by racists and justifiably angry -- should be facing life in prison for breaking the windows of a police car.

The City of Baltimore should work to rectify the conditions that led to this Uprising, rather than criminalizing those who took action in response to those conditions. Drop the charges now!

Sincerely,
[add your name below]

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MUMIA ABU-JAMAL COURT UPDATE FROM PRISON RADIO

Devastating cross examination
Dateline: 12-23-2015 Scranton PA Federal Court


Day Two of "Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes" had fireworks equal to the opening round on Friday. The arguments for a Preliminary Injunction continued before the U.S. District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

It was a day of dueling doctors, admissions, explosive documents, and first hand testimony, which debated the constitutional right to healthcare while in prison.  The question: does Mumia Abu-Jamal receive life saving new anti viral drugs that cure Hepatitis C? Or will Judge Robert Mariani's federal court allow the Department of Corrections in Pennsylvania to deny any treatment for chronic Hepatitis C - and maintain (a just revealed protocol) that calls for "denying care" and "monitoring imates" while the virus ravages the body causing irreversible organ damage.   

The morning featured vigorous cross examination.  Dr. Joseph Harris, deftly handled Department of Corrections cross, emphasizing this key point: the cure for Hep C is clearly the medical standard of care. And denial of treatment is no treatment for a progressive and infectious disease.

In a last minute addition to the witness list the DOC questioned dermatologist Dr. Schleicher who first treated Mumia's devasting skin condition in Feb. of 2015.  The Department of Corrections through this expert unconvincingly asserted that Mumia's skin condition was unrelated to Hepatitis C, and that his low platelet counts, anemia of chronic disease, abnormal liver function tests, are not caused by Hep C.

At 12:10 of the hearing a withering cross exam by Robert Boyle (Attorney for Abu-Jamal) exposed Schleicher's limited diagnostic acumen, his failure to monitor Mumia's two hospital ICU admissions and the illuiminating fact that he did not follow up on Geisinger Medical Center's recommendation in May for an Hep C viral load test.  He got him to admit that "he did not know much about Hep C". Schleicher has continued to treat Mumia, and it was revealed was unaware that the infectious disease specialist hired by the department of Corrections, Dr. Ramon Gadea, had recommended on September 9th treatment for Hepatitis C in response to Mumia's ongoing ravaged skin. Notably, Dr. Gadea and the onsite doctors at SCI Mahanoy who see Mumia in the infirmary on a weekly basis were not called to testify.  It can be presumed that  their testimony would have been unfavorable to the DOC.
 
Standing Up for Mumia

The mid afternoon featured Dr. Suzanne Ross and Dr. Johanna Fernandez.  The value of these two frequent and long term visitors to Mumia was in the compelling details that they provided describing Mumia's injuries, acute sysmptoms, and deteriorating health.  Some examples from the acute period of symptoms in the spring and summer included Mumia's slurred words, elephant skin, scales and bloody cracks in his skin on 90% of his body, extreme weakness, swelling of his limbs, and loss of mental acuity.  When cross-exmamined both Ross and Fernandez were unapologetic, as they expounded on Mumia's innocence, unjust incarceration, and the state's naked attempts to silence him.

As those who know Mumia personally realize, the man just does not complain, and is frankly unable to describe his own vulnerablity.  As such, this testimony was key.  Present through video streaming throughout the proceedings Mumia was, as Dr. Fernandez testified is part of his character, simply stoic.  Before this devastating health crisis, there were only a handful of occasions that he has gone to sick call during 34 years of incarceration.  This might be surprising for a man who is known to the world as a writer and eloquent pubic commentator. 

Key Evidence Exposed


In an explosive revelation: Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center, dissected the testimony of DOC defense witness infirmary administrator, Mr. Steinhart - revealing that there is a written Hep C treatment protocol that was developed this year.  Grote appealed to the judge, and he required that the DOC immediately produce a copy of the document.  Laura Neal, DOC counsel quickly tried to surpress the public release of the document, calling for it to remain under seal.  Overheard in the courtroom, DOC associate defense counsel noted that they did not want this document available publically because it would increase the department's liability in the class action pending for inmate Hep C treatment.  Debate continues Wed morning on whether this document will be sealed.  A Right To Know request  by Prison Radio requesting the document was filed with the state during break requested by the judge so he could read the protocol

On tap: Cross Examination of DOC expert- Dr. Jay Cowan, notoriously head of Riker's Island Medical Center. 

The doctors and lawyers that enforce the PA Department of Corrections policy have got a problem. Healthcare is a constitutional right, even for those who are incarcerated.   Proving that the DOC has been "deliberately indifferent"  the required standard for a preliminary injunction and relief in this case clearly has been met by Abu-Jamal's attorneys.

Please make a contribution to defend Mumia's right to treatment!  

please forward: this video www.bit.ly/curehimnow

Luchando por la justicia y la libertad,

Noelle Hanrahan
Noelle Hanrahan
Director
To give by check:
PO Box 411074
San Francisco, CA
94141

Stock or legacy gifts:
Noelle Hanrahan
(415) 706 - 5222


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CANCEL ALL STUDENT DEBT!

Sign the Petition:

http://cancelallstudentdebt.com/?code=kos



Dear President Obama, Senators, and Members of Congress:


Americans now owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. Eighty-six percent of that money is owed to the United States government. This is a crushing burden for more than 40 million Americans and their families.

I urge you to take immediate action to forgive all student debt, public and private.

American Federation of Teachers
Campaign for America's Future
Courage Campaign
Daily Kos
Democracy for America
LeftAction
Project Springboard
RH Reality Check
RootsAction
Student Debt Crisis
The Nation
Working Families


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Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson
 
Updates from the New "Team Free Lorenzo Johnson":
Thank you all for your relentless effort in the fight against wrongful convictions and your determination to stand behind Lorenzo.

To garner even more support for Lorenzo Johnson, we have been hard at work updating the website and developing an even more formidable and dedicated team. Please take a moment to visit the new site here.

During the month of July, Lorenzo wrote two new articles for The Huffington Post titled "When Prosecutors Deny Justice for the Innocent," and "Hurry Up and Wait for Justice: The Struggle of Innocent Prisoners." In these articles, Lorenzo discusses the flaws in the criminal justice system, which he deems is a "serious problem in this country."

Lastly, Lorenzo has a message to you all.

A Letter from Lorenzo:

July 23, 2015
Dauphin County Prison
Harrisburg, PA

Dear Supporters,

I hope all is well with everyone and your families. As for myself, I'm still on my journey in pursuit of my vindication. Sorry for my website being shut down for a couple of weeks. It was being transferred to a new provider and management. I'm back and will do my best to keep everything up to speed with what's taking place.

I would like to thank ALL of my loyal supporters in the U.S. and in the MANY different counties that have signed on to support my innocence. Thanks for all of the letters, emails, photos, etc. Like I always say, I get energy to carry on and inspiration hearing form you, please stay engaged in my struggle.

As of this moment, nothing has changed, but – the continued delay tactics are constantly being used by my prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General William Stoycos. With the mounting of evidence that supports my innocence and police and prosecution misconduct claims that is steadily piling up, you would think that I would be having a couple of evidentiary hearings on my actual innocence appeal that have been pending since August 5, 2013.

At the time of this writing, I've been moved from SCI-Mahanoy to Dauphin County Prison and locked down for 23 hours and 40 minutes a day. In the 20 minutes I get to come out, I get to take a shower and make a short call. Prosecutor Stoycos had me moved so I can be a witness in his attempt to have my codefendant Corey Walker's attorney removed from representing him. How dare he call into question an attorney who is seeking justice for her client, when prosecutor Stoycos himself violated multiple constitutional rights of mine and Mr. Walker, that led to us being in prison for 20 years and counting.

Prosecutor Stoycos is continuously abusing his power and his endless resources he has at his disposal. He is not tough on crime, he's tough on Innocent Prisoners. Prosecutor Stoycos is doing everything in his power to prevent justice from taking place. I encourage everyone to continue to speak out against my nightmare, invite others to get involved by going to my website and signing my Freedom Petition and whatever else they're willing to do.

On a positive note, I just enrolled in warehouse management trade and started on July 13th. Unfortunately, you're only allowed to miss a couple of days and Prosecutor Stoycos had me temporarily transferred on July 14th … It's extremely hard on Lifers to get into these trades due to the fact that Lifers are placed at the back of the list of ALL vocational classes. I try to further my education every chance I get, so when I do come home, I will be certified in different work.

The month of the hearing has come and left, without me being brought to the courthouse … I'm one of MANY innocent prisoners who endures this non-stop madness in our pursuit of Justice and Freedom. Now that my webpage is almost caught up to speed, I promise prompt updates and as everyone knows that contacted me directly, I personally reply to those in the states and out of the country. For those who can make a financial contribution, everything counts. Take care and let's continue to fight until we achieve Freedom, Justice, and Equality for all innocent prisoners.

"The Pain Within"

Free the Innocent
Lorenzo "Cat" Johnson

[Note: Lorenzo has since been transferred back to SCI Mahanoy and can be reached at his usual address.]

Thank you all for reading this message and please take the time to visit the new website and contribute to Lorenzo's campaign for freedom!

Write: Lorenzo Johnson
            DF 1036
            SCI Mahanoy
            301 Morea Rd.
            Frackville, PA 17932

 Email: Through JPay using the code:
              Lorenzo Johnson DF 1036 PA DOC
                                     or
              Directly at LorenzoJohnson17932@gmail.com

Have a wonderful day!
- The Team to Free Lorenzo Johnson


freelorenzojohnson.org

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Join the Fight to Free Rev. Pinkney!

Click HERE to view in browser

http://www.iacenter.org/prisoners/freepinkney-1-28-15/


On December 15, 2014 the Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan was thrown into prison for 2.5 to 10 years. This 66-year-old leading African American activist was tried and convicted in front of an all-white jury and racist white judge and prosecutor for supposedly altering 5 dates on a recall petition against the mayor of Benton Harbor.

The prosecutor, with the judge's approval, repeatedly told the jury "you don't need evidence to convict Mr. Pinkney." And ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE WAS EVER PRESENTED THAT TIED REV. PINKNEY TO THE 'ALTERED' PETITIONS. Rev. Pinkney was immediately led away in handcuffs and thrown into Jackson Prison.

This is an outrageous charge. It is an outrageous conviction. It is an even more outrageous sentence! It must be appealed.

With your help supporters need to raise $20,000 for Rev. Pinkney's appeal.

Checks can be made out to BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community Organization). This is the organization founded by Rev. Pinkney.  Mail them to: Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney, 1940 Union Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022.

Donations can be accepted on-line at bhbanco.org – press the donate button.

For information on the decade long campaign to destroy Rev. Pinkney go to bhbanco.org and workers.org(search "Pinkney").

We urge your support to the efforts to Free Rev. Pinkney!Ramsey Clark – Former U.S. attorney general,
Cynthia McKinney – Former member of U.S. Congress,
Lynne Stewart – Former political prisoner and human rights attorney
Ralph Poynter – New Abolitionist Movement,
Abayomi Azikiwe – Editor, Pan-African News Wire<
Larry Holmes – Peoples Power Assembly,
David Sole – Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
Sara Flounders – International Action Center

MESSAGE FROM REV. PINKNEY

I am now in Marquette prison over 15 hours from wife and family, sitting in prison for a crime that was never committed. Judge Schrock and Mike Sepic both admitted there was no evidence against me but now I sit in prison facing 30 months. Schrock actually stated that he wanted to make an example out of me. (to scare Benton Harbor residents even more...) ONLY IN AMERICA. I now have an army to help fight Berrien County. When I arrived at Jackson state prison on Dec. 15, I met several hundred people from Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids. Some people recognized me. There was an outstanding amount of support given by the prison inmates. When I was transported to Marquette Prison it took 2 days. The prisoners knew who I was. One of the guards looked me up on the internet and said, "who would believe Berrien County is this racist."

Background to Campaign to free Rev. Pinkney

Michigan political prisoner the Rev. Edward Pinkney is a victim of racist injustice. He was sentenced to 30 months to 10 years for supposedly changing the dates on 5 signatures on a petition to recall Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower.

No material or circumstantial evidence was presented at the trial that would implicate Pinkney in the purported5 felonies. Many believe that Pinkney, a Berrien County activist and leader of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), is being punished by local authorities for opposing the corporate plans of Whirlpool Corp, headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

In 2012, Pinkney and BANCO led an "Occupy the PGA [Professional Golfers' Association of America]" demonstration against a world-renowned golf tournament held at the newly created Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The course was carved out of Jean Klock Park, which had been donated to the city of Benton Harbor decades ago.

Berrien County officials were determined to defeat the recall campaign against Mayor Hightower, who opposed a program that would have taxed local corporations in order to create jobs and improve conditions in Benton Harbor, a majority African-American municipality. Like other Michigan cities, it has been devastated by widespread poverty and unemployment.

The Benton Harbor corporate power structure has used similar fraudulent charges to stop past efforts to recall or vote out of office the racist white officials, from mayor, judges, prosecutors in a majority Black city. Rev Pinkney who always quotes scripture, as many Christian ministers do, was even convicted for quoting scripture in a newspaper column. This outrageous conviction was overturned on appeal. We must do this again!

To sign the petition in support of the Rev. Edward Pinkney, log on to: tinyurl.com/ps4lwyn.

Contributions for Rev. Pinkney's defense can be sent to BANCO at Mrs Dorothy Pinkney, 1940 Union St., Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Or you can donate on-line at bhbanco.org.

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COURAGE TO RESIST

http://couragetoresist.org/

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

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!


Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave. #41
Oakland, CA 94610
510-488-3559
couragetoresist.org


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B. ARTICLES IN FULL


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1) FOIA Request Shows Govt Lied About Lead in Water, Knowingly Poisoning Countless Children
Instead of keeping children safe from toxic chemicals, Michigan officials repeatedly lied about the safety of their drinking water.
By Andrew Emett
December 25, 2015
http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/foia-request-shows-govt-lied-about-lead-water-knowingly-poisoning-countless?akid=13812.229473.PevXNV&rd=1&src=newsletter1047977&t=18

Flint, MI — After filing a FOIA request, a Virginia Tech professor recently discovered Michigan state officials knew the city of Flint’s water supply was giving children lead poisoning while falsely assuring residents that the water was safe. Although the government had been aware of the increased levels of lead poisoning since July, they continued to lie to the public until a Flint pediatrician published a study in September that found lead exposure in children had doubled citywide and nearly tripled in high-risk areas.

Agreeing to temporarily switch from Detroit’s water supply to the Flint River in April 2014, residents in the city of Flint immediately noticed their tap water appeared cloudy while emitting a pungent odor. After testing the water supply on August 14, 2014, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) discovered the water tested positive for fecal coliform bacteria, also known as E. coli. Although the city issued several boil advisories to kill the bacteria, the CDC has found that heating or boiling water only increases the lead concentration in the water.

In an interview with Michigan Radio on September 6, Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards warned that preliminary tests revealed serious levels of lead in Flint’s water supply. Refuting the university’s findings, MDEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel stated, “The samples don’t match the testing that we’ve been doing in the same kind of neighborhoods all over the city for the past year. With these kind of numbers, we would have expected to be seeing a spike somewhere else in the other lead monitoring that goes on in the community.”

State officials continued telling the public that the water supply was safe until a team of researchers led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha reported an alarming increase in childhood lead poisoning later that month. But on Monday, Prof. Edwards revealed that government officials had known the water supply was contaminated since July. According to a series of memos and emails obtained through a FOIA request, Edwards revealed the director of DHHS and the office of Gov. Rick Snyder both received data between July and September documenting the recent spike in kids suffering from lead poisoning.

According to the World Health Organization, “lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.”

Earlier this week, Edwards wrote, “After missing warning signs of spiking childhood lead poisoning that occurred a few months after switching to a corrosive river water source in 2014, outside pressure forced officials at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to closely scrutinize their data in July 2015. They discovered scientifically conclusive evidence of an anomalous increase in childhood lead poisoning in summer 2014 immediately after the switch in water sources, but stood by silently as Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) officials repeatedly and falsely stated that no spike in blood lead levels (BLL) of children had occurred.”

Although Flint finally reconnected to Detroit’s water supply on October 16, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency on December 14. Referring to the contamination as a “manmade disaster,” Mayor Weaver expressed concern that the increased levels of lead poisoning in Flint’s children will result in “learning disabilities and the need for special education and mental health services and an increase in the juvenile justice system.”

Instead of keeping children safe from toxic chemicals, Michigan officials repeatedly lied about the safety of their drinking water even though they knew it was poisoned. Last month, the parents of these children and other Flint residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the governor and over a dozen other public officials responsible for failing an entire city. Unfortunately, no amount of money can compensate for the needless loss of a child’s developmental abilities. 
 
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2) Cleveland Grand Jury Declines to Indict Cops Who Shot Tamir Rice
December 28, 2015 
https://news.vice.com/article/breaking-cleveland-grand-jury-declines-to-indict-cops-who-shot-tamir-rice?utm_source=vicenewsemail

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office announced on Monday that a Cleveland grand jury will not bring charges against either of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy by a Cleveland police officer in November of 2014.

A grand jury for weeks has been hearing testimony into the shooting of Tamir Rice within seconds after police arrived at a park next to a Cleveland recreation center in response to reports of a suspect with a gun. Rice died the next day.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said at a press conference on Monday that the shooting was "a perfect storm of human error," but that it was "indisputable" that Rice appeared to be drawing a gun from his waistband — even if it was a toy weapon.

"Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police," McGinty said.

The morning of the shooting on November 22, 2014, officers were dispatched to respond to a 911 call reporting someone who had been seen in the area with a weapon. The caller noted that the weapon was "probably fake," but the police dispatcher handling the call did not relay this last detail.

The rookie officer who fired the shots at Rice, 27-year-old Timothy Loehmann, said in a statement to the grand jury in December that he believed his life was in danger at the time. Loehmann responded to the park along with Officer Frank Garmbach — a 47-year-old police veteran who was behind the wheel of the police cruiser and serving as Loehmann's training officer.

In the statement, Loehmann said he assumed Rice was roughly 18 years old and 185 pounds. He said that he saw Rice's hand move toward his waist, and that he continued to yell "show me your hands" as the officers approached the boy.

Related: The Cleveland Cop Who Fatally Shot Tamir Rice Finally Speaks Out

"I was focused on the subject. Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn't fire. I was yelling the command 'show me your hands,'" Loehmann claimed.

The officer said he had very little time as he exited his vehicle. Fearing that Rice was an active shooter and that he and his partner were in danger, he discharged two fatal shots.

Footage of the shooting shows that Loehmann drew and fired his gun within two seconds of the patrol car pulling directly up to Rice, leaving in doubt the number of times he could have shouted orders to Rice, who was seemingly been given little chance to comply. Attorneys for Rice's family have repeatedly denied the officers' claims that the boy received sufficient warning before they opened fire.

In the footage of the incident, Rice appears alone in a gazebo. It is unclear why the officers did not stop the car some distance from Rice and use it as cover as they identified themselves, rather than suddenly pull up the car to within feet of him. Both officers declined to be interviewed by investigators, but provided unsworn written testimony that was presented to grand jurors on Tuesday.

After the shooting, four minutes passed before an FBI agent responded to the scene and attempted to administer first aid to Rice as the officers stood idly by.

The grainy footage also shows cops rushing to restrain Rice's 14-year-old sister as she attempted to check on her sibling. One officer pushed the girl to the ground and handcuffed her as she screamed, "My baby brother, they killed my baby brother," according to a lawsuit filed by Rice's family.

Related: Prosecutor Stirs Controversy by Releasing Analysis of Tamir Rice Shooting Video

In response to that suit, the city issued a 41-page court filing claiming that Rice was to blame for his own death because he failed to "avoid injury."

McGinty's office released two reports from law enforcement experts who said that the officers' actions during the shooting were "reasonable," and a third report that provided a frame-by-frame analysis of the surveillance video with notes detailing how it appeared as though Rice was reaching for his waistband. Rice's family questioned the validity of these reports and expressed outrage over their release.

A lawyer for Rice's family issued a statement on Monday expressing disappointment — but not surprise — with the grand jury's decision. The family accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment," and said the way the prosecutor handled the case added to their grief. They previously requested a special prosecutor, which was denied.

The statement also urged any protesters rallying against the grand jury decision to do so "peacefully and democratically."

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family against the two officers and the city of Cleveland is still pending.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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3) The E.U. Migrant Crisis, Told in 2 Startling Numbers


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4) Cleveland Officer Will Not Face Charges in Tamir Rice Shooting Death


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5) Star Wars and the Death of American Cinema
‘Star Wars’ is a simple story, simply told, of good versus evil, light versus darkness, and freedom versus tyranny. In other words it is the story of America’s struggle to preserve democracy and civilization in a world beset by evil and ‘evildoers’.

Movies and political propaganda have long walked hand in hand. Indeed if ever a medium was suited to propaganda it is the medium of cinema. And if ever an industry could be credited with creating an alternate reality so pervasive it has managed to convince generations of Americans and others around the world that up is down, black is white, and left is right, that industry is Hollywood.

George Lucas, the creator of a Star Wars franchise which, including this latest installment, has churned out seven movies since the original appeared in 1977, is along with Steven Spielberg a child of the reaction to the American counter-culture of the sixties and early seventies.

Though both products of the sixties – a decade in which culture and the arts, particularly cinema, was at the forefront of resistance to the US military industrial complex – Lucas and Spielberg came to prominence in the mid 1970s with movies which rather than attack or question the establishment, instead embraced its role as both protector and arbiter of the nation’s morals. The curtain began to come down on the most culturally vital and exciting and cerebral period of American cinema – responsible for producing such classics as ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, ‘MASH’, ‘The Last Detail’, ‘The French Connection’, ‘The Wild Bunch’, ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Apocalypse Now’ – with Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’ in 1975, followed in 1977 by Lucas’s ‘Star Wars’. The former frightened America, while the latter made it feel good about itself again.

Both movies together spawned the high concept blockbuster, wherein audiences were invited to feel rather than to think, allowing them to suspend disbelief and escape reality instead of sharing the experience of confronting it via stories in which alienated characters expressed the angst, frustration, anger, and disaffection which they themselves were experiencing in their own lives, thus inducing a sense of solidarity.

It was the era of the anti-hero, main characters for whom the system and conformity was the enemy, and who ploughed their own furrow regardless of the consequences. The questioning of authority and its received truths reflected a country whose young and not so young were hungry for radical change. The war in Vietnam, Watergate, the black civil rights and nationalist movements had shaken up American society and, with it, its culture and cultural references.

But by the mid seventies, with the end of the Vietnam War, and with the counter culture running out of steam, the time had arrived to box up all that alienation, anger and rebelliousness and allow the mythology of the American dream and democracy to reassert its dominance.

In his peerless history of this vital period of American cinema – ‘Easy Riders, Raging Bulls’ – author and cultural critic Peter Biskind writes:
“Beyond its impact on movie marketing and merchandising, Star Wars had a profound effect on the culture. It benefited from the retrenchment of the Carter [President Jimmy Carter] years, the march to the center that followed the end of the Vietnam War.”
This march to the center became a march to the right under Reagan, which manifested in Hollywood as artistic and cultural stagnation, wherein directors such as Spielberg and Lucas became less concerned with story and character and more focused on spectacle. Bigger, louder and richer was the mantra as two dimensional characters and plotlines that your average ten year old with a set of crayons and an imagination could come up with predominated.
Biskind writes:
“Lucas knew that genres and cinematic conventions depend on consensus, the web of shared assumptions that had been sundered in the ‘60s. He was recreating and reaffirming these values, and Star Wars, with its Manichean moral fundamentalism, its white hats and black hats, restored the luster to threadbare values like heroism and individualism.”
In this latest Star Wars movie, directed by J J Abrams, Lucas makes do with a writing credit after selling the franchise to Disney in 2012 for $4.05 billion. Yes you read that right; he sold it for $4.05 billion. That kind of money will buy you a lot of light sabres.

Disney and Abrams have reached back in time in order to refresh the franchise, returning it to its roots with the return of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and the old iconic favourites Chewbacca and R2D2. For Star Wars buffs there’s even the return of Han Solo’s iconic spaceship the Millennium Falcon. The movie’s antagonist, its Darth Vader, is named Kylo Ren, played by Vladimir Putin…sorry Adam Driver. With this character lies the one interesting twist in the plot. Mind, having said that, we’re talking ‘interesting’ relative to the rest of the plot. We’re not talking Roman Polanski and ‘Chinatown’ here.

There are also major roles in the movie for two relative unknowns, both British: Rey, through whose eyes the narrative unfolds, is played by Daisy Ridley, while Finn is played by John Boyega.

For all the hype surrounding its release, and the rave reviews it has garnered, the latest instalment of the long running and inordinately successful Star Wars franchise – ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ – is so embarrassingly and toe-curlingly clichéd it’s impossible to walk out afterwards without limping.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the movie is not the battle of good versus evil it portrays but the fact that Harrison Ford was reportedly paid 76 times more than newcomer Daisy Ridley to star in it. The 73 year old’s financial package comprised an upfront fee in the region of $20 million plus 0.5 percent of the movie’s gross earnings, which are projected to reach a whopping $1.9 billion.

It is proof that the story of America is not good versus evil or light versus darkness at all. It is instead the story of the super rich versus everybody else.

John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1

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6) Alarm Spreads in Brazil Over a Virus and a Surge in Malformed Infants


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7) More Police Officers Facing Charges, but Few See Jail


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