Saturday, April 06, 2019

BAUAW NEWSLETTER, SATURDAY, APRIL 6, 2019



BREAKING: A high level source within the Ecuadorian 

state has told that Julian Assange will be 

expelled within "hours to days" using the  

offshore scandal as a pretext--and that it already has an 

agreement with the UK for his arrest.


https://twitter.com/wikileaks

https://defend.wikileaks.org/2019/04/03/ecuador-twists-embarrassing-ina-papers-into-pretext-to-oust-assange/

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How to buy a gun in the U.S. and New Zeland:

New Zealand to Ban Military-Style Semiautomatic Guns, Jacinda Ardern Says
By Damien Cave and Charlotte Graham-McLay, March 20, 2019
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/21/business/boeing-safety-features-charge.html


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Courage to Resist
free chelsea manning
Free Chelsea Manning (again)!
U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. She could be jailed for up to 18 months this time.
As she was being taken back into custody on March 8th, she declared, "I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech."  Here's how to offer your support.

randy rowland
Podcast: Randy Rowland, GI resister
"I was the reluctant guy who's bit by bit by bit, just had to face the facts that things weren't the way I had been raised to believe that they were. It wasn't like I planned to be a resister or a troublemaker or anything of the sort," explains Randy Rowland, an organizer of the "Presidio 27 Mutiny."
This Courage to Resist podcast is the first in series to be produced in collaboration with the Vietnam Full Disclosure effort of Veterans for Peace — "Towards an honest commemoration of the American war in Vietnam." This year marks 50 years of GI resistance, in and out of uniform, for many of the courageous
individuals featured. Listen to Randy's story here.








ctr video
We shared our new 75 second promotional video on Facebook this week. Yes, FB is kind of evil, but we still reach a lot of folks that way. Please check it out, share with friends, and "like" our FB page.
ctr video
During Sunday's Objector Church online meetup, James Branum discussed the heroism of US Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds (1919–1985). MSgt Edmonds was the ranking US NCO at the Stalag IX-A POW Camp when he was captured in Germany during WWII. At the risk of his life, he prevented an estimated 200 Jews from being singled out from the camp for Nazi persecution and likely death. Watch the video here.
COURAGE TO RESIST ~ SUPPORT THE TROOPS WHO REFUSE TO FIGHT!
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist
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DA Krasner: At long last, turn the page on Mumia Abu-Jamal case!



GRAPHIC: Sign here button
 Share this action on Facebook
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Please donate 3 dollars
In 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a former Black Panther and respected public radio journalist in Philadelphia, when he was jailed after a disputed incident in which police officer Daniel Faulkner was killed. In 1982, Abu-Jamal was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by Judge Albert Sabo, known as a "hanging judge" who'd sent more people to Death Row than any other U.S. judge.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International criticized the trial, pointing to racial bias and "possible political influences that may have prevented him from receiving an impartial and fair hearing." Unsuccessful appeals over the years have argued that prosecutors suppressed evidence and that blacks were systematically purged from the jury.

But after 37 years behind bars, much of it on death row in solitary confinement, Abu-Jamal now has some real hope.

Click here to tell Larry Krasner, Philadelphia's progressive District Attorney, that it's time to turn the page on Abu-Jamal's case.

Last December, Abu-Jamal won a major victory when Philadelphia Judge Leon Tucker ruled that he had the right to re-appeal his case because of the appearance of bias during the appeals process – specifically that a former DA-turned-Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice who'd blocked Abu-Jamal's appeals should have recused himself from the case.

This victory, clearing the path for a possible new trial, seemed especially hopeful because in 2017 Philadelphia voters, especially African American voters, had elected Krasner – a longtime foe of mass incarceration, the death penalty, and racism in criminal justice.

Click here to urge DA Krasner not to resist Judge Tucker's ruling and let justice be served.

At the end of January, Krasner shocked many by announcing that he would challenge Judge Tucker's decision to give Abu-Jamal the right to appeal, apparently over his concern that it might open up appeals for other convicted prisoners. Days later, Krasner was disinvited from a progressive law conference at Yale which he was to keynote, and conference organizers urged Krasner to drop his resistance to Abu Jamal's appeal: "We cannot understand how DA Krasner's decision in this case serves justice or the transformative vision that he ran on."

Add your voice to those who want DA Krasner to reverse course on Abu-Jamal's case – and to ask the DA: "Isn't nearly four decades behind bars more than enough?!" 

After signing the petition, please use the tools on the next webpage to share it with your friends.

This work is only possible with your financial support. Please chip in $3 now. 



-- The RootsAction.org Team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, Lila Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.

Background:
>> Amnesty International: "A Life in the Balance: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal" (Feb. 2000)
>> Essence: "Judge Rules Mumia Abu-Jamal Can Reargue Appeal To The Pennsylvania Supreme Court" (Dec. 28, 2018)
>> Philly.com: "Philly DA Larry Krasner disinvited to speak at Yale Law conference" (Feb. 2, 2019)
>> The Intercept.com: "Larry Krasner Responds to Progressive Critics" (Feb. 9, 2019)
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Mumia Abu-Jamal

BREAKING NEWS! SHARE WIDELY!

On January 3, 2019 the office of District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a letter memorandum to Judge Leon Tucker.  "DA [Larry Krasner], and members of his staff went to a remote and largely inaccessible of the DA's office marked "Storage" looking for office furniture." And found six boxes of files on Mumia Abu-Jamal's case that were not produced duringthe recent court proceedings.

The District Attorney Krasner's remarkable and suspicious discovery of six boxes of files marked Mumia or Mumia Abu-Jamal hidden in a storage room on December 28 was one day after Judge Tucker's historic decision granting Mumia Abu-Jamal new rights of appeal.

This is confirmation of what we've known for decades--the prosecution has hidden exculpatory evidence in Mumia's case.  Evidence that is likely proof that Mumia's guilt was intentionally manufactured by the police and prosecution and the truth of his innocence suppressed.

These files should be released to the public. DA Krasner should take this as evidence of the total corruptness of this prosecution against an innocent man. The remedy for this is nothing less than dismissal of the charges against Mumia and his freedom from prison!

It took DA Krasner six days to report this find to Judge Tucker. Why? And who has gone through those six boxes of files on Mumia's case? What assurance can DA Krasner give that there hasn't been further tampering with and covering up of the evidence, which led to an innocent man being framed for murder and sentenced to death?

The DA's letter was not publicly available, nor was the January 3 docket filing shown on the court's public access web pages of docket filing, until January 9.

Rachel Wolkenstein, January 10, 2019
WHYY (an affiliate of NPR)
https://whyy.org/articles/philly-prosecutors-discover-mysterious-six-boxes-connected-to-mumia-abu-jamal-in-storage-room/
Philly prosecutors discover mysterious 'six boxes' connected to Mumia Abu-Jamal in storage room
By Bobby AllynJanuary 9, 2019
A group of two dozen activists briefly block traffic during a rally outside the Philadelphia District Attorney's office on Friday. The group called on DA Larry Krasner to not challenge a Common Pleas court ruling that allows Mumia Abu-Jamal to file an appeal. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Days after Christmas, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and some of his assistants went rummaging around an out-of-the-way storage room in the office looking for some pieces of furniture. What they stumbled upon was a surprising find: six boxes stuffed of files connected to the case of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Five of the six boxes were marked "McCann," a reference to the former head of the office's homicide unit, Ed McCann. Some of the boxes were also marked "Mumia," or the former Black Panther's full name, "Mumia Abu-Jamal."

It is unknown what exactly the files say and whether or not the box's contents will shed new light on a case that for decades has garnered worldwide attention.

But in a letter to the judge presiding over Abu-Jamal's case, Assistant District Attorney Tracey Kavanagh wrote "nothing in the Commonwealth's database showed the existence of these six boxes," she said. "We are in the process of reviewing these boxes."

The surprise discovery comes just weeks after a Philadelphia judge reinstated appeals rightsto Abu-Jamal, saying the former radio journalist and activist should get another chance to reargue his case in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court due to a conflict-of-interest one of the justices had at the time Abu-Jamal's petition was denied.

Abu-Jamal's supportersare seizing on the mysterious six boxes as proof that his innocence has been systematically suppressed by authorities.

"There's no question in my mind that the only reason they could've been hidden like this is that this is the evidence of the frame-up of Mumia," said Rachel Wolkenstein, who has been a legal advocate and activist for Abu-Jamal for more than 30 years.

"What these missing boxes represent is confirmation of what we've known for decades: there's hidden, exculpatory evidence in Mumia's case, and that is evidence that Mumia's guilt was intentionally manufactured by the police and prosecution and the truth of his innocence was suppressed," Wolkenstein said.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office did not say anything at all about what is in the boxes, or whether there is evidence that the files are exculpatory, or capable of demonstrating that Abu-Jamal did not commit a crime. During his original trial three separate eyewitnesses testified Mumia did commit the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Wolkenstein's assessment is wild speculation, according to Ed McCann, the former homicide unit chief whose name was scrawled across the six boxes. McCann left the office in 2015 after 26 years there as a prosecutor. He was never directly involved in Abu-Jamal's case.

"I can't tell you 100% what is in these boxes," McCann said Wednesday night. "But I doubt there is anything in them that is not already in the public eye."

How and why did six boxes tied to one of the most legendary and racially-charged cases the office has ever handled get relegated to a dusty storage room?

McCann is not sure. But he said when the office moved locations in 2006, hundreds of boxes with his name written them were moved into the current headquarters on South Penn Square, just across the street from Philadelphia City Hall.

"I don't remember these six boxes. But nobody over there discussed this with me before filing this letter," McCann said. "I would think if they were really interested in what happened, they would have reached out to me."

In the two-page letter to the court, assistant district attorney Kavanagh wrote that if Judge Leon Tucker would like to review the boxes, prosecutors will turn them over.

Tucker, who is the same judge who ordered that Abu-Jamal should be given a new appeals argument, has not weighed in on the newly-discovered boxes.

But in his opinion last month, Tucker said former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille should have recused himself from hearing Abu-Jamal's petitions, since Castille himself was Philadelphia's District Attorney when the case was actively on appeal. "True justice must be completely just without even a hint of partiality, lack of integrity or impropriety," wrote Tucker, saying a new hearing in front of the state's high court is warranted.

Prosecutors have not taken a position yet on Tucker's opinion. The files unearthed in the six boxes could influence whether Krasner's office supports or opposes a new hearing for Abu-Jamal.

Wolkenstein said the thousands of people who have joined the "Free Mumia" movement around the globe should be able to review the documents themselves.

"These files should be released publicly," Wolkenstein said. "The remedy for this is nothing less than dismissal of Mumia's charges and his release from prison."



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Statement: Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech

The International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity issued the following statement on 23 December, signed by 155 distinguished academics and human rights advocates.



Petition Text


Statement issued by the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity:
We, the undersigned, oppose the coordinated campaign to deny academics their free speech rights due to their defense of Palestinian rights and criticism of the policies and practices of the state of Israel. Temple University in Philadelphia, USA and the University of Sydney, Australia have been under great pressure to fire, respectively, Marc Lamont Hill and Tim Anderson, both senior academics at their institutions, for these reasons. Steven Salaita and Norman Finkelstein have already had their careers destroyed by such attacks. Hatem Bazian, Ahlam Muhtaseb, William Robinson, Rabab Abdulhadi and others have also been threatened.
The ostensible justification for such action is commonly known as the "Palestinian exception" to the principle of free speech. One may freely criticize and disrespect governments – including one's own – religions, political beliefs, personal appearance and nearly everything else except the actions and policies of the state of Israel. Those who dare to do so will become the focus of well-financed and professionally run campaigns to silence and/or destroy them and their careers.
We recognize that much of the free speech that occurs in academic and other environments will offend some individuals and groups. However, as has been said many times before, the answer to free speech that some may find objectionable is more free speech, not less. We therefore call upon all academic institutions, their faculty and students, as well as the public at large, to resist such bullying tactics and defend the free speech principles upon which they and all free societies and their institutions are founded.
https://diy.rootsaction.org/petitions/academic-institutions-must-defend-free-speech?just_launched=true

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Updates from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Justice for Rasmea Odeh! Justice for Palestine!


The Committee to Stop FBI Repression strongly supports Rasmea Odeh's right to speak in Berlin about the Palestinian liberation struggle. We stand with the many other organizations who condemn the German, Israeli, and U.S. governments' attacks on Rasmea and their attempts to silence her by revoking her visa and prohibiting her from political activity (see article about the March 15 incident).

The actions of these governments blatantly reflect their racist anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim views. But we want to draw attention to the underlying reason for their targeting of Rasmea. The attack on her right to speak is deeply tied to U.S. and German support for the Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism in Palestine. Moreover, the attack on Rasmea reflects these countries' imperialist strategies for control of the Middle East. By the same token, these governments are clearly acting out of fear - fear that when Palestinian women and activists like Rasmea speak up, it chips away at such countries' grasp on Palestine and the surrounding region.

The attacks on Rasmea and Palestine also relate to political repression taking place across the globe. Germany, the U.S. and Israel are attempting to silence Rasmea for the same fundamental reasons that the Duterte government has murdered and attacked activists and human rights defenders in the Philippines; that the U.S. government is trying to forcibly install a new government in Venezuela; and that the NYPD's Strategic Response Group is surveilling and harassing leaders and activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. The imperialists who are in power are clearly afraid that people like Rasmea might inspire others to rise up and fight back against the racist and oppressive system in place.

We want to send a message to these imperialist powers, to say that fighting back is exactly what we plan to do. It is imperative that we fight back against this unjust system that tries to silence Palestinian women like Rasmea. We demand that Rasmea Odeh be permitted to speak in Germany, and we demand an end to state repression against all Muslim women, and all Palestinians who have boldly raised their voices against the imperialist and colonialist powers that are oppressing people across the world.

Activists are not terrorists! We stand in solidarity with Rasmea and all Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation.

-- NYC Committee to Stop FBI Repression


Copyright © 2019 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!

Our mailing address is:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
PO Box 14183
MinneapolisMN  55414

Add us to your address book

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Courage to Resist
Hi Bonnie. Courage to Resist is working closely with our new fiscal sponsor, the Objector Church, on a couple projects that we're excited to share with you.
objector registry
Objector Registry launches as draft registration of women nears
The first ever Objector Registry (objector.church/register) offers a declaration of conscience for anyone to assert their moral opposition to war, regardless of age, gender, or religious affiliation. This serves to create a protective record of beliefs and actions with which to oppose a later forced draft. Given last week's release of the report by the Congressionally mandated commission on military service, this free registry is coming online just in time. Please sign up yourself and share with friends!
weekly meetup
You're invited to join us online weekly
This is a great way to find out more about the Objector Church and why we might be the religious humanist interfaith peace and justice community you have been looking for! Our live meetups are lead by Minister James Branum from Oklahoma City. This Sunday at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern, if your not excited by the NFL's "big game", pop online and check us out at objector.church/meetup
COURAGE TO RESIST ~ SUPPORT THE TROOPS WHO REFUSE TO FIGHT!
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist



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COURAGE TO RESIST


New "Refuse War" Shirts


We've launched a new shirt store to raise funds to support war resisters.

In addition to the Courage to Resist logo shirts we've offered in the past, we now  have a few fun designs, including a grim reaper, a "Refuse War, Go AWOL" travel theme, and a sporty "AWOL: Support Military War Resisters" shirt.

Shirts are $25 each for small through XL, and bit more for larger sizes. Please allow 9-12 days for delivery within the United States.

50% of each shirt may qualify as a tax-deductible contribution.

Courage to Resist -- Support the Troops who Refuse to Fight!
484 Lake Park Ave. #41, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-488-3559
couragetoresis.org -- facebook.com/couragetoresist

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To: Indiana Department of Corrections

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson Should Have Access to His Personal Property

Petition Text

1. IDOC regulation 02-01-101-VIII must be respected! Kevin Johnson (IDOC# 264847) must be allowed to select from his property the items that he most immediately needs. He has been left without any of the material he requires for contacting his loved ones, his writing (this includes books), his pending litigation, and for his artwork. 
2. Kevin Johnson (IDOC# 264847) should be released into General Population. Prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture. Moreover, he has not committed any infractions.

Why is this important?

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson (IDOC# 264847) – a Virginia prisoner – was transferred to Indiana on November 4. His transfer was authorized under the Interstate Corrections Compact, commonly used to ship prisoners out of state. Virginia is one of several states that make use of this practice as a tool to repress and isolate prisoners who speak up for their rights.
These transfers are extremely disruptive, and serve as an opportunity for prison officials to violate prisoners' rights, especially regarding their property. This is exactly what has been done to Rashid.
Rashid has 24 boxes of personal property. These are all of his possessions in the world. Much of these 24 boxes consist of legal documents and research materials, including materials directly related to pending or anticipated court cases, and his list of addresses and phone numbers of media contacts, human rights advocates, outside supporters, and friends.
At Pendleton Correctional Facility, where Rashid is now being kept prisoner and in solitary confinement, only one guard is in charge of the property room. This is very unusual, as the property room is where all of the prisoners' belongings that are not in their cells are kept. The guard in charge, Dale Davis, has a dubious reputation. Prisoners complain that property goes missing, and their requests to access their belongings – that by law are supposed to be met within 7 days, or if there are court deadlines within 24 hours – are often ignored, answered improperly, or what they receive does not correspond to what they have asked for.
Despite having a need for legal and research documents for pending and anticipated court cases, his requests to receive his property have not been properly answered. The property officer, Dale Davis, is supposed to inventory the prisoners' property with them (and a witness) present, according to IDOC regulation 02-01-101-VIII; this was never done. When Rashid did receive some property, it was a random selection of items unrelated to what he asked for, brought to the segregation unit in a box and a footlocker and left in an insecure area where things could be stolen or tampered with.
On December 19th, Rashid received notice that Davis had confiscated various documents deemed to be "security threat group" or "gang" related from his property. Rashid has no idea what these might be, as (contrary to the prison regulations) he was not present when his property was gone through. Rashid does not know how much or how little was confiscated, or what the rationale was for its being described as "gang" related. None of Rashid's property should be confiscated or thrown out under any circumstances, but it is worth noting that the way in which this has been done contravenes the prison's own regulations and policies!
Dale Davis has been an IDOC property officer for 8 years. He has boasted about how he does not need any oversight or anyone else working with him, even though it is very unusual for just one person to have this responsibility. Prisoners' property goes "missing" or is tampered with, and prisoners' rights – as laid out by the Indiana Department of Corrections – are not being respected.
Rashid is not asking to have all of his property made available to him in his cell. He is willing to accept only having access to some of it at a time, for instance as he needs it to prepare court documents or for his research and writing. 
After two months in Indiana, he has still not been supplied with his documents containing the phone numbers and addresses of his loved ones and supporters, effectively sabotaging his relationships on the outside. Rashid is not asking for any kind of special treatment, he is only asking for the prison property room to follow the prison's own rules.
We ask that you look into this, and make sure that Mr. Johnson's right to access his property is being respected, and that something be done about the irregularities in the Pendleton property room. We ask that the rules of the Indiana Department of Corrections be respected.

Sign the petition here:
https://diy.rootsaction.org/petitions/kevin-rashid-johnson-should-have-access-to-his-personal-property?bucket&source=facebook-share-email-button&time=1547257147&fbclid=IwAR3rjpTZog631Oxv6oqjZmaJQv1GLIMHMuhDaP4g0Xu_EajWwW6X1faBPbE


FOR UPDATES CHECK OUT RASHID'S WEBSITE AT RASHIDMOD.COM
you can also hear a recent interview with Rashid on Final Straw podcast here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/post/tag/kevin-rashid-johnson/
Write to Rashid:
Kevin Rashid Johnson's writings and artwork have been widely circulated. He is the author of a book,Panther Vision: Essential Party Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party, (Kersplebedeb, 2010).

Kevin Johnson D.O.C. No. 264847
G-20-2C Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Rd.
Pendleton, IN 46064-9001
www.rashidmod.com

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Get Malik Out of Ad-Seg


Keith "Malik" Washington is an incarcerated activist who has spoken out on conditions of confinement in Texas prison and beyond:  from issues of toxic water and extreme heat, to physical and sexual abuse of imprisoned people, to religious discrimination and more.  Malik has also been a tireless leader in the movement to #EndPrisonSlavery which gained visibility during nationwide prison strikes in 2016 and 2018.  View his work at comrademalik.com or write him at:

Keith H. Washington
TDC# 1487958
McConnell Unit
3001 S. Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102
Friends, it's time to get Malik out of solitary confinement.

Malik has experienced intense, targeted harassment ever since he dared to start speaking against brutal conditions faced by incarcerated people in Texas and nationwide--but over the past few months, prison officials have stepped up their retaliation even more.

In Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement) at McConnell Unit, Malik has experienced frequent humiliating strip searches, medical neglect, mail tampering and censorship, confinement 23 hours a day to a cell that often reached 100+ degrees in the summer, and other daily abuses too numerous to name.  It could not be more clear that they are trying to make an example of him because he is a committed freedom fighter.  So we have to step up.


Phone zap on Tuesday, November 13

**Mark your calendars for the 11/13 call in, be on the look out for a call script, and spread the word!!**

Demands:
- Convene special review of Malik's placement in Ad-Seg and immediately release him back to general population
- Explain why the State Classification Committee's decision to release Malik from Ad-Seg back in June was overturned (specifically, demand to know the nature of the "information" supposedly collected by the Fusion Center, and demand to know how this information was investigated and verified).
- Immediately cease all harassment and retaliation against Malik, especially strip searches and mail censorship!

Who to contact:
TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier
Phone: (936)295-6371

Senior Warden Philip Sinfuentes (McConnell Unit)
Phone: (361) 362-2300

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Background on Malik's Situation

Malik's continued assignment to Ad-Seg (solitary confinement) in is an overt example of political repression, plain and simple.  Prison officials placed Malik in Ad-Seg two years ago for writing about and endorsing the 2016 nationwide prison strike.  They were able to do this because Texas and U.S. law permits non-violent work refusal to be classified as incitement to riot.

It gets worse.  Malik was cleared for release from Ad-Seg by the State Classification Committee in June--and then, in an unprecedented reversal, immediately re-assigned him back to Ad-Seg.  The reason?  Prison Officials site "information" collected by a shadowy intelligence gathering operation called a Fusion Center, which are known for lack of transparency and accountability, and for being blatant tools of political repression.

Malik remains in horrible conditions, vulnerable to every possible abuse, on the basis of "information" that has NEVER been disclosed or verified.  No court or other independent entity has ever confirmed the existence, let alone authenticity, of this alleged information.  In fact, as recently as October 25, a representative of the State Classification Committee told Malik that he has no clue why Malik was re-assigned to Ad-Seg.  This "information" is pure fiction.   

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Listen to 'The Daily': Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?

By Michael Barbaro, May 30, 2018
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/podcasts/the-daily/kevin-cooper-death-row.html?emc=edit_ca_20180530&nl=california-today&nlid=2181592020180530&te=1

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile deviceVia Apple Podcasts | Via RadioPublic | Via Stitcher


The sole survivor of an attack in which four people were murdered identified the perpetrators as three white men. The police ignored suspects who fit the description and arrested a young black man instead. He is now awaiting execution.


On today's episode:
• Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California for three decades.



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Last week I met with fellow organizers and members of Mijente to take joint action at the Tornillo Port of Entry, where detention camps have been built and where children and adults are currently being imprisoned. 

I oppose the hyper-criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers. Migration is a human right and every person is worthy of dignity and respect irrespective of whether they have "papers" or not. You shouldn't have to prove "extreme and unusual hardship" to avoid being separated from your family. We, as a country, have a moral responsibility to support and uplift those adversely affected by the US's decades-long role in the economic and military destabilization of the home countries these migrants and asylum seekers have been forced to leave.

While we expected to face resistance and potential trouble from the multiple law enforcement agencies represented at the border, we didn't expect to have a local farm hand pull a pistol on us to demand we deflate our giant balloon banner. Its message to those in detention:

NO ESTÁN SOLOS (You are not alone).

Despite the slight disruption to our plan we were able to support Mijente and United We Dream in blocking the main entrance to the detention camp and letting those locked inside know that there are people here who care for them and want to see them free and reunited with their families. 


We are continuing to stand in solidarity with Mijente as they fight back against unjust immigration practices.Yesterday they took action in San Diego, continuing to lead and escalate resistance to unjust detention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and to ICE. 

While we were honored to offer on-the-ground support we see the potential to focus the energy of our Drop the MIC campaign into fighting against this injustice, to have an even greater impact. Here's how:
  1. Call out General Dynamics for profiteering of War, Militarization of the Border and Child and Family Detention (look for our social media toolkit this week);
  2. Create speaking forums and produce media that challenges the narrative of ICE and Jeff Sessions, encouraging troops who have served in the borderlands to speak out about that experience;
  3. Continue to show up and demand we demilitarize the border and abolish ICE.

Thank you for your vision and understanding of how militarism, racism, and capitalism are coming together in the most destructive ways. Help keep us in this fight by continuing to support our work.


In Solidarity,
Ramon Mejia
Field Organizer, About Face: Veterans Against the War


P.O. Box 3565, New York, NY 10008. All Right Reserved. | Unsubscribe
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Major George Tillery
MAJOR TILLERY FILES NEW LEGAL PETITION
SEX FOR LIES AND
MANUFACTURED TESTIMONY
April 25, 2018-- The arrest of two young men in Starbucks for the crime of "sitting while black," and the four years prison sentence to rapper Meek Mill for a minor parole violation are racist outrages in Philadelphia, PA that made national news in the past weeks. Yesterday Meek Mills was released on bail after a high profile defense campaign and a Pa Supreme Court decision citing evidence his conviction was based solely on a cop's false testimony.
These events underscore the racism, frame-up, corruption and brutality at the core of the criminal injustice system. Pennsylvania "lifer" Major Tillery's fight for freedom puts a spotlight on the conviction of innocent men with no evidence except the lying testimony of jailhouse snitches who have been coerced and given favors by cops and prosecutors.

Sex for Lies and Manufactured Testimony
For thirty-five years Major Tillery has fought against his 1983 arrest, then conviction and sentence of life imprisonment without parole for an unsolved 1976 pool hall murder and assault. Major Tillery's defense has always been his innocence. The police and prosecution knew Tillery did not commit these crimes. Jailhouse informant Emanuel Claitt gave lying testimony that Tillery was one of the shooters.

Homicide detectives and prosecutors threatened Claitt with a false unrelated murder charge, and induced him to lie with promises of little or no jail time on over twenty pending felonies, and being released from jail despite a parole violation. In addition, homicide detectives arranged for Claitt, while in custody, to have private sexual liaisons with his girlfriends in police interview rooms.
In May and June 2016, Emanuel Claitt gave sworn statements that his testimony was a total lie, and that the homicide cops and the prosecutors told him what to say and coached him before trial. Not only was he coerced to lie that Major Tillery was a shooter, but to lie and claim there were no plea deals made in exchange for his testimony. He provided the information about the specific homicide detectives and prosecutors involved in manufacturing his testimony and details about being allowed "sex for lies". In August 2016, Claitt reaffirmed his sworn statements in a videotape, posted on YouTube and on JusticeforMajorTillery.org.
Without the coerced and false testimony of Claitt there was no evidence against Major Tillery. There were no ballistics or any other physical evidence linking him to the shootings. The surviving victim's statement naming others as the shooters was not allowed into evidence.
The trial took place in May 1985 during the last days of the siege and firebombing of the MOVE family Osage Avenue home in Philadelphia that killed 13 Black people, including 5 children. The prosecution claimed that Major Tillery was part of an organized crime group, and falsely described it as run by the Nation of Islam. This prejudiced and inflamed the majority white jury against Tillery, to make up for the absence of any evidence that Tillery was involved in the shootings.
This was a frame-up conviction from top to bottom. Claitt was the sole or primary witness in five other murder cases in the early 1980s. Coercing and inducing jailhouse informants to falsely testify is a standard routine in criminal prosecutions. It goes hand in hand with prosecutors suppressing favorable evidence from the defense.
Major Tillery has filed a petition based on his actual innocence to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Larry Krasner's Conviction Review Unit. A full review and investigation should lead to reversal of Major Tillery's conviction. He also asks that the DA's office to release the full police and prosecution files on his case under the new  "open files" policy. In the meantime, Major Tillery continues his own investigation. He needs your support.
Major Tillery has Fought his Conviction and Advocated for Other Prisoners for over 30 Years
The Pennsylvania courts have rejected three rounds of appeals challenging Major Tillery's conviction based on his innocence, the prosecution's intentional presentation of false evidence against him and his trial attorney's conflict of interest. On June 15, 2016 Major Tillery filed a new post-conviction petition based on the same evidence now in the petition to the District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit. Despite the written and video-taped statements from Emanuel Claitt that that his testimony against Major Tillery was a lie and the result of police and prosecutorial misconduct, Judge Leon Tucker dismissed Major Tillery's petition as "untimely" without even holding a hearing. Major Tillery appealed that dismissal and the appeal is pending in the Superior Court.
During the decades of imprisonment Tillery has advocated for other prisoners challenging solitary confinement, lack of medical and mental health care and the inhumane conditions of imprisonment. In 1990, he won the lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens, that forced the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) to end double celling (4 men to a small cell) at SCI Pittsburgh, which later resulted in the closing and then "renovation" of that prison.
Three years ago Major Tillery stood up for political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and demanded prison Superintendent John Kerestes get Mumia to a hospital because "Mumia is dying."  For defending Mumia and advocating for medical treatment for himself and others, prison officials retaliated. Tillery was shipped out of SCI Mahanoy, where Mumia was also held, to maximum security SCI Frackville and then set-up for a prison violation and a disciplinary penalty of months in solitary confinement. See, Messing with Major by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Major Tillery's federal lawsuit against the DOC for that retaliation is being litigated. Major Tillery continues as an advocate for all prisoners. He is fighting to get the DOC to establish a program for elderly prisoners.
Major Tillery Needs Your Help:
Well-known criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio represents Major pro bonoin challenging his conviction. More investigation is underway. We can't count on the district attorney's office to make the findings of misconduct against the police detectives and prosecutors who framed Major without continuing to dig up the evidence.
Major Tillery is now 67 years old. He's done hard time, imprisoned for almost 35 years, some 20 years in solitary confinement in max prisons for a crime he did not commit. He recently won hepatitis C treatment, denied to him for a decade by the DOC. He has severe liver problems as well as arthritis and rheumatism, back problems, and a continuing itchy skin rash. Within the past couple of weeks he was diagnosed with an extremely high heartbeat and is getting treatment.
Major Tillery does not want to die in prison. He and his family, daughters, sons and grandchildren are fighting to get him home. The newly filed petition for Conviction Review to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office lays out the evidence Major Tillery has uncovered, evidence suppressed by the prosecution through all these years he has been imprisoned and brought legal challenges into court. It is time for the District Attorney's to act on the fact that Major Tillery is innocent and was framed by police detectives and prosecutors who manufactured the evidence to convict him. Major Tillery's conviction should be vacated and he should be freed.


Major Tillery and family

HOW YOU CAN HELP
    Financial Support—Tillery's investigation is ongoing. He badly needs funds to fight for his freedom.
    Go to JPay.com;
    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:
    The Conviction Review Unit should investigate Major Tillery's case. He is innocent. The only evidence at trial was from lying jail house informants who now admit it was false.
    Call: 215-686-8000 or

    Write to:
    Security Processing Center
    Major Tillery AM 9786
    268 Bricker Road
    Bellefonte, PA 16823
    For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org
    Call/Write:
    Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com
    Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com




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    ILPDC NEWSLETTER BANNER
      

    On Monday March 4th, 2019 Leonard Peltier was advised that his request for a transfer had been unceremoniously denied by the United States Bureau of Prisons.

    The International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee appreciates and thanks the large number of his supporters who took the time to write, call, email, or fax the BOP in support of Leonard's request for a transfer.
    Those of us who have been supporting Leonard's freedom for a number of years are disappointed but resolute to continue pushing for his freedom and until that day, to continue to push for his transfer to be closer to his relatives and the Indigenous Nations who support him.
    44 years is too damn long for an innocent man to be locked up. How can his co-defendants be innocent on the grounds of self-defense but Leonard remains in prison? The time is now for all of us to dig deep and do what we can and what we must to secure freedom for Leonard Peltier before it's too late.
    We need the support of all of you now, more than ever. The ILPDC plans to appeal this denial of his transfer to be closer to his family. We plan to demand he receive appropriate medical care, and to continue to uncover and utilize every legal mechanism to secure his release. To do these things we need money to support the legal work.
    Land of the Brave postcard-page-0

    Please call the ILPDC National office or email us for a copy of the postcard you can send to the White House. We need your help to ask President Trump for Leonard's freedom.
      

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    GoDaddy Email Marketing ®

    Free Leonard Peltier!


    Art by Leonard Peltier
    Write to:
    Leonard Peltier 89637-132
    USP Coleman 1,  P.O. Box 1033
    Coleman, FL 33521

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    Working people are helping to feed the poor hungry corporations! 
    Charity for the Wealthy!



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    1) Who Counts as a Woman?
    The attempt to exclude trans women from the ranks of women reinforces the dangerous idea that there is a right way to be female.
    By Carol Hay, April 1, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/01/opinion/trans-women-feminism.html

    A woman getting a closer look at a painting by Paul Delvaux at the Grand Palais, Paris.CreditCreditMartine Franck/Magnum Photos


    Who counts as a woman? Is there some set of core experiences distinctive of womanhood, some shared set of adventures and exploits that every woman will encounter on her journey from diapers to the grave? The recent debates over the experiences of trans women gives us new reason to return to a question feminists have been grappling with for decades.
    Ever since Simone de Beauvoir quipped in 1949 that one is not born a woman, but becomes one, feminists have been discussing the implications of understanding gender as a cultural construct. But more recently, this approach to gender has come under scrutiny. After all, it's all well and good to say that gender is a cultural construct, but it's a mistake to then pretend that cultures construct gender the same way for all people. Let's just say that the sisterhood hasn't always been great about attending equally to the experiences of all sisters.
    But thanks to the past 40 years of work from intersectionalist feminists, we're finally paying attention to what women of color have been saying since at least the days when Sojourner Truth had to ask if she, too, got to count as a woman: that what it's like to be a woman varies drastically across social lines of race, socioeconomic class, disability and so on, and that if we try to pretend otherwise, we usually just end up pretending that the experiences of the wealthy, white, straight, able-bodied women who already have more than their fair share of social privilege are the experiences of all women.

    You might think we just need to get over the thought that there's anything like the female experience, that the search for a shared female experience is dicey at best, fraught with way too many historical examples of feminists getting it wrong and making things worse for less-privileged women along the way. At the limit, these concerns result in the view that the category of "womanhood" itself is fundamentally confused and thus better abandoned entirely. This is the route taken by feminists like Judith Butler in her iconic 1990 book "Gender Trouble."

    There's a reason that after describing gender as fundamentally a performance, Butler counsels people to revel in messing with its scripts, to treat gender as nothing more than an ironic parody. Gender categories need to be taken down a notch, she thinks, but not only because they harm people in all the ways feminism spends so much time criticizing. Butler charges that in their focus on spelling out the harms of gendered socialization, feminists unwittingly entrenched the very things they claimed to be criticizing. By demarcating feminism's subject matter — by articulating a concrete category of harms that deserved feminist attention — feminists inadvertently defined womanhood in a manner that implies that there are right and wrong ways to be a woman. "Identity categories are never merely descriptive," she insists in "Gender Trouble," "but always normative, and as such, exclusionary."
    Any attempt to catalog the commonalities among women, in other words, has the inescapable result that there is some correct way to be a woman. This will inevitably encourage and legitimize certain experiences of gender and discourage and delegitimize others, subtly reinforcing and entrenching precisely those forces of socialization of which feminists claim to be critical. And what's worse, it will inevitably leave some people out. It will mean that there are "real" women whom feminism should be concerned about and that there are impostors who do not qualify for feminist political representation.
    The women who are accused of being impostors these days are often trans women. You might think that a shared suspicion of conventional understandings of sex and gender would make feminists and trans activists natural bedfellows. You'd be wrong. It all started with Janice Raymond's controversial book, "The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male," published in 1979. Reissued in 1994, the book continues to inspire "gender-critical" or "trans-exclusionary" radical feminists — TERFs, for short. (For the record, while some consider the acronym derogatory, it is a widely accepted shorthand for a literal description of the views these feminists hold; also for the record, many of us who are critics of TERFs consider Raymond's book to be hate speech.) 
    Feminists who deny "real woman" status to trans women seem to rely on a false assumption — that all trans women have lived in the world unproblematically as men at some point — and claim the importance of affirming the identity and experiences of those who've spent entire lives in women's shoes. Even the feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has echoed this, claiming in a 2017 interview, "It's about the way the world treats us, and I think if you've lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change gender, it's difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are."
    TERFs also sometimes complain that the performances of femininity enacted by trans women are chiefly retrograde stereotypes, caricatures of a femininity designed primarily for the pleasure of men. When Caitlyn Jenner says that she has always felt like a woman, for example, what she seems to mean by this is that she wants to be an airheaded piece of arm candy all dolled up for delights of the male gaze. "The hardest part of being a woman," she infamously quipped, "is figuring out what to wear."

    It's nonsense like this that motivated Germaine Greer to call Glamour magazine "misogynist" for honoring Jenner at its Women of the Year ceremony, claiming that the move was tantamount to affirming that with enough plastic surgery someone who is assigned male at birth can "be a better woman" than someone "who is just born a woman." 
    While the rhetoric used by those in the trans-exclusionary camp is frequently inexcusable, you might think that some of their frustration is understandable. Feminists who've spent the better part of their lives fighting against a status quo that uncritically affirms gender stereotypes might be forgiven for getting a little resentful when women like Jenner seem to suggest that these stereotypes tell us what it's "really like" to be a woman. On the other hand, it's worth asking why the full brunt of the most extreme TERFs' ire is so often directed at individual trans women who are just trying to get by like the rest of us, rather than on the fact that the media insists on focusing so single-mindedly on trans performances of gender that endorse a regressive, man-pleasing version of femininity to the exclusion of the many diverse others. 
    For the most part, Greer and Raymond and others who share their view are outliers in contemporary feminism, particularly in North America. Adichie, for instance, could not accurately be called a TERF: She thinks trans women's oppression is not the same as the oppression experienced by women who are assigned female at birth, yet recognizes that trans women are undoubtedly oppressed and should be "part of feminism." Most feminists these days go even further, however, fully rejecting trans-exclusionary rhetoric and agreeing that trans women are women, full stop.

    Thankfully, feminists have finally started to realize that the varied experiences of trans women have a thing or two to teach us, if only we're willing to actually listen. All the way back in 1974, Andrea Dworkin launched an early salvo in what would become the "TERF wars," remarking, "It is commonly and wrongly said that male transvestites through the use of makeup and costuming caricature the women they would become, but any real knowledge of the romantic ethos makes clear that these men have penetrated to the core experience of being a woman, a romanticized construct." (There are some important objections that should be made about her terminology here — "transvestite" is no longer the preferred nomenclature, and she doesn't distinguish between male drag queens and trans women — but it would be anachronistic to get too fussed about it.)
    Instead of complaining that trans women like Jenner are cartoons of reality, Dworkin would have us be honest with ourselves about the absurd amount of time and energy cis women are expected to invest in our performances of femininity. If cis women were honest about this, we'd admit that if some trans women occasionally camp up their femininity a little more than TERFs might like, they're not doing anything we're not just as guilty of. If we don't like what we see when trans women turn the mirror of femininity toward us, we have only ourselves to blame.
    Further driving home the importance of not throwing stones when you live in glass houses, Lori Watson, a professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego, points out that when cis women live as cis, they too are affirming a world of binary gender identifications, a world of gender stereotypes, a world with a limited number of acceptable ways to be a woman, just as much as any trans woman does.

    When I, a cis woman, perform my not terribly original rendition of conventional femininity, I am in part saying that this is what women should be like. "In fashioning myself, I fashion Man," Jean-Paul Sartre said. I might not always like it, but when I present myself in ways that I know that others around me will read as female, I'm not only going along with but actually affirming their conventional beliefs about what women are like. (This, in part, is the power of Butler's advice to mess with our performances of gender: doing so unsettles people's unthinking preconceptions.)
    But if I'm as guilty of entrenching regressive gender stereotypes as anyone else, why do TERFs think it's trans women who are specially culpable for shoring up gender essentialism? Why aren't they going after cis women like me, too? We might all agree that the goal is to get to a world free of the shackles of conventional gender ascriptions, but that is not the world we currently live in. "The criticism of trans women as failing to act in ways that are consistent with an ideal of liberation from sex and gender," Watson cracks, "is a little like criticizing any of us for making a decent living under capitalism, or investing our retirement funds in the stock market, if the aim of liberation is the destruction of capitalism as a social, political, and economic system. Even Karl Marx had to eat in the here and now."
    Talia Mae Bettcher, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles, demonstrates how trans people are caught in a double bind. If a trans person successfully passes as cis and is later discovered to be trans, they're seen as an "evil deceiver" who has lied about who they really are. Trans people who are open about being trans, on the other hand, are seen as "make-believers" — cheap counterfeits, pathetically attempting to be something they couldn't possibly actually be. The problem with this view of trans people as either deceptive or pathetic frauds is that it presupposes that there's a real thing that trans women are failing to be. And this sounds an awful lot like the biological essentialism that almost all feminists reject.
    The current debates over trans women bring us back to the question of what set of core experiences supposedly make someone who was assigned female at birth a "real" woman. Is it menstruation or childbirth? Nope — lots of women don't experience those, either by fate or by choice. What about being subject to sexual violence and harassment? Trans women face as much if not more sexual violence than cis women. How about simply a lifetime of unwanted objectifying male sexual attention? There are plenty of women who don't meet the standards of superficial sexual attractiveness who do not get such attention, and some of them even long for it. And surely we don't want to go back to the days of defining women by their hormones or even their chromosomes — if for no other reason than we'd leave out the estimated 1.7 percent of women who are intersex.
    When a cis woman complains that trans women haven't had the same experiences as "real" women-born-women, then, what she's really saying is, "Trans women haven't had the same experiences as women like me." If 30-plus years of intersectional feminism has taught us anything, it's that this is precisely the move that feminists need to stop making.
    Carol Hay is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and the author of the forthcoming book, "Quite Contrary: A Feminist Survival Guide."
    Now in print: "Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments" and "The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments," with essays from the series, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, published by Liveright Books.
    My New York Times Comment:
    This is a fascinating article. I'm 73-years-old, so I'm mortified at the beliefs I had and was raised with about gender and sexuality. 
    The times have changed and, certainly, for the better. 
    I read a question in another comment that asks, "Is it fair for trans-athletes to compete with cis-women athletes?" And I immediately thought of major-league football where some of the players weigh 300+ pounds and others are much lighter. They play different positions that are advantageous to those positions. The same is true in most sports. And, what difference does it make, say, in weight-lifting competition if all genders can compete? Some men can lift more than some women and vice-versa. 
    In another comment in reference to anti-abortion laws that make abortion illegal as soon as a heartbeat is detected, the author asks, "Do you want to know what experience biological women share?  It's the vulnerability that a sexual encounter can leave them pregnant and not in legal control of their bodies."  This is true, but this is precisely because of bigotry, sexual and class divide that is contrived under capitalism.
    It's hard to break "out of the mold" of "gender identification" that has been the "norm" in our society. But it hasn't always been that way. Some indigenous peoples have identified up to five genders.
    We are all human. And, I might add, we are all sentient beings like the rest of our menagerie on this planet we share. —Bonnie Weinstein

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    2) A Former Detective Accused of Framing 8 People for Murder Is Confronted in Court
    By Sean Piccoli, April 1, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/01/nyregion/nypd-detective-louis-scarcella.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage

    Derrick Hamilton spent nearly 21 years in prison for a 1991 murder investigated by Mr. Scarcella, before his conviction was overturned in 2015.CreditSuzanne DeChillo/The New York Times


    Louis Scarcella, the former homicide detective, needed paperwork to refresh his memory and glasses borrowed from a prosecutor to read documents he was handed, including reports that he had written himself more than 20 years ago.
    But as he looked out from the witness box in a Brooklyn courtroom on Friday, he could plainly see the row of angry men staring him down in the audience, all wearing hats that said "Wrongfully Convicted." They were men he had helped to arrest and put in prison decades ago and who had later been exonerated.
    Mr. Scarcella was in court to testify about yet another imprisoned man, Nelson Cruz, who claimed he had been framed for murder. Once again, Mr. Scarcella was asked to defend his work, and once again, he did so without apology.

    When Mr. Cruz's lawyer, Justin Bonus, asked him, "Do you stand by all of the investigations you've conducted?" Mr. Scarcella replied, "110 percent."

    Derrick Hamilton, 53, was one of the exonerated men listening to Mr. Scarcella testify. He spent nearly 21 years in prison for a 1991 murder investigated by Mr. Scarcella, before his conviction was overturned in 2015. It was the fourth time he had watched Mr. Scarcella testify at a wrongful conviction hearing.
    "His story is the same: He doesn't have anything to do with the case. He wasn't involved. It was somebody else's case," Mr. Hamilton said. "But he did all the work."

    In the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Scarcella was a rock-star homicide detective in some of Brooklyn's most crime-ridden precincts. He cut a swaggering figure, with a taste for cigars and a reputation for persuading even the toughest suspects to confess.
    Then in 2013, one of Mr. Scarcella's most celebrated cases — the arrest of David Ranta, an unemployed drug addict convicted of killing a Hasidic rabbi — fell apart after evidence emerged that Mr. Ranta had been framed. The collapse of the case led to Mr. Ranta's release from prison after 23 years and to an inquiry into more than 70 homicides that Mr. Scarcella had helped to investigate over his long career.

    Since then, the Brooklyn district attorney's office has asked judges eight times to reverse guilty verdicts that Mr. Scarcella helped to obtain. Several other people imprisoned for crimes Mr. Scarcella investigated have been released by judges after hearings.
    In some of those cases, judges noted in their decisions that the former detective had not been truthful in his testimony. Yet he has never been charged with breaking the law or official misconduct.
    Mr. Scarcella, who retired in 1999 after 26 years as a police officer, has steadfastly stood by his work and has maintained he never fabricated a confession in his life.
    Mr. Cruz, 38, was a teenager when he was convicted in the March 1998 shooting death of Trevor Vieira in East New York. He has claimed in court filings that Mr. Scarcella and his partner, Stephen W. Chmil, pressured a witness to falsely identify him as the gunman, despite police officers at the scene saying he was not there.
    A judge rejected Mr. Cruz's first motion to throw out his conviction, but he and his lawyers are rearguing it before Justice ShawnDya L. Simpson with new evidence.

    On the stand, Mr. Scarcella demurred when asked about his reputation among his peers as a closer other detectives turned to.

    "I helped whenever I could." Mr. Scarcella said.
    At another point, Mr. Bonus asked the retired detective about his 2007 appearance on the television show, "Dr. Phil." The subject was false confessions.
    "Did you say on Dr. Phil there was no rules on homicide investigations?" the lawyer asked.
    "I stated there were no rules but I operated under the law," Mr. Scarcella said. "That's what everybody leaves out."
    Mr. Scarcella, who grew up in Brooklyn, wore a wide-shouldered dark suit with a patterned tie; his thinning hair was slicked back, and he looked like an older version of the sharply dressed detective he used to be.
    Friday was not the first time that Mr. Scarcella, who now lives on Staten Island, had to come to court since his retirement in 1999 to answer accusations that he had manufactured evidence or coerced confessions.
    He testified in 2017 in a review of the case of Sundhe Moses, whose guilty verdict was later thrown out by a Brooklyn judge. Mr. Moses served 18 years for the killing of a 4-year-old girl caught in a hail of gang gunfire and claimed in his appeal that he had confessed after Mr. Scarcella choked and punched him.
    In 2015, Mr. Scarcella said on the stand that he had trouble remembering how he came to arrest a 14-year-old in the 1991 shootings of two off-duty correction officers, one of whom died of his injuries.

    Mr. Scarcella, 68, was adamant on Friday that he did not run the investigation leading to the arrest and conviction of Mr. Cruz. He only pitched in, he said, as he was often asked to do. He blamed his incomplete memory on the passage of time and on the sheer number of homicide cases he handled — more than 160 by his own estimate.

    He flatly rejected any suggestion that he had ever done anything unethical to get a conviction.
    As Mr. Bonus reeled off the names of people in other cases who were freed or had convictions overturned, Mr. Scarcella refused to discuss some of them. He bristled at hearing old accusations leveled at him again.
    "Ridiculous!" he said when asked by Mr. Bonus if he had once tilted a lineup by telling witnesses "to pick the guy with the big nose."
    Outside the courtroom, the group of older men in "Wrongfully Convicted" hats mocked Mr. Scarcella's memory lapses as convenient.
    "Every time he does this he gets more and more confident because he knows that nothing is going to happen to him," said Shabuka Shakur, 54, who spent more than 27 years behind bars on a false murder conviction he said was aided by Mr. Scarcella.
    Mr. Hamilton, who is suing Mr. Scarcella, said watching the former detective on the stand is torture.
    "To see that this guy hasn't been arrested — it really bothers me," Mr. Hamilton said. "And they call guys like us criminals."
    Mr. Scarcella, who had his lawyer by his side during his testimony, declined to answer questions as he left the courthouse in the company of other detectives and union representatives.

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    3) Why It's So Easy for a Bounty Hunter to Find You
    Wireless companies sell your location data. Federal regulators should stop them.
    By Geoffrey Starks, April 2, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/02/opinion/fcc-wireless-regulation.html

    Illustration by Jeffrey Henson Scales; photographs by Rostislav Sedlacek, and Denisfilm/iStock, via Getty Images Plus


    When you signed up for cellphone service, I bet you didn't expect that your exact location could be sold to anyone for a few hundred dollars. The truth is, your wireless carrier tracks you everywhere you go, whether you like it or not. When used appropriately, this tracking shouldn't be a problem: location information allows emergency services to find you when you need them most. 
    But wireless carriers have been selling our data in ways that allows it to be resold for potentially dangerous purposes. For instance, stalkers and abusive domestic partners have used location data to track, threaten and attack victims. This industrywide practice facilitates "pay to track" schemes that appear to violate the law and Federal Communications Commission rules.
    Companies are collecting and profiting from our private data in hidden ways that leave us vulnerable. As you carry your phone, your wireless carrier records its location so calls and texts can reach you. And you can't opt out of sharing location data with your carrier, as you can with a mobile application. Your carrier needs this data to deliver service.But, according to recent news reports, this real-time phone location data has long been available to entities beyond your wireless carrier, for a price. In one alarming example, reported by Vice, a bounty hunter was able to pay to track a user's location on a map accurate to within a few feet. In another case, a sheriff in Missouri used location data provided by carriers to inappropriately track a judge.

    In other words, an ability that seems to come right out of a spy movie is now apparently available to just about anybody with your phone number and some cash. The pay-to-track industry has grown in the shadows, outside of the public eye and away from the watch of regulators.

    Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, first raised the alarm last year, sending a letter to the F.C.C. on May 8 demanding an investigation into abuses by the pay-to-track industry. The Times reported on the issue the same week. Senator Wyden also demanded answers from the major wireless carriers. After that, the top wireless companies said that bounty hunters and others would no longer have access to their customers' locations.
    But months later the reports continueOther recent articles suggest that highly accurate GPS location information from our phones — which, according to F.C.C. rules, should be used to send help to 911 callers — is available on a location-data black market. Since then, wireless companies have said they'll stop selling our location information completely — eventually.
    The misuse of this data is downright dangerous. The harms fall disproportionately upon people of color. According to the Pew Research Center, people of color rely more heavily on smartphones for internet access, so they create more of this data, which makes them more vulnerable to tracking. Researchers also know that location data can be used to target them with misinformation or voter suppression tactics. It can also lead to assumptions about a person's race or income level, assumptions that can feed into discriminatory automated decision making.
    What is the government doing to protect us? Congress passed laws years ago protecting this kind of information and entrusted the F.C.C. with the responsibility of enforcing them.

    It is unquestionably the F.C.C.'s job to protect consumers and address risks to public safety. Our location information isn't supposed to be used without our knowledge and consent and no chain of handoffs or contracts can eliminate the wireless company's obligations. This is particularly true for the misuse and disclosure of GPS-based 911 location data — which is squarely against F.C.C. rules.
    The F.C.C. says it is investigating. But nearly a year after the news first broke, the commission has yet to issue an enforcement action or fine those responsible. This passage of time is significant, as the agency usually has only one year to bring action to hold any wrongdoers accountable before the statute of limitations runs. Some may argue that the F.C.C.'s authority to take action against wireless carriers for this activity has gotten weaker in recent years, with the repeal of consumer-focused privacy and net neutrality rules during the current administration. But I believe that the commission still has ample authority to address these egregious pay-to-track practices.
    Federal action is long overdue. As a Democratic commissioner at the Republican-led agency, I can call for action, but the chairman sets the agenda, including deciding whether and how quickly to respond to pay-to-track schemes. The agency's inaction despite these increasingly troubling reports speaks volumes and leaves our duty to the public unfulfilled. The F.C.C. must use its authority to protect consumers and promote public safety, and act swiftly and decisively to stop illegal and dangerous pay-to-track practices once and for all.
    Geoffrey Starks is a member of the Federal Communications Commission.
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    4) A Rural County Owes $28 Million for Wrongful Convictions. It Doesn't Want to Pay.
    By Jack Healy, April 1, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/01/us/beatrice-six-nebraska.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

    Top, from left, Joseph White, Tom Winslow, and Ada JoAnn Taylor. Bottom, from left, Deb Shelden, James Dean and Kathy Gonzalez. They came to be known as the Beatrice Six.CreditLincoln Journal Star
    BEATRICE, Neb. — Kathy Gonzalez knows that many people across the cornfields and cattle ranches of eastern Nebraska believe she is a murderer. It doesn't change the fact that they owe her millions of dollars.
    Ms. Gonzalez was one of six innocent people who collectively spent 77 years in prison in the murder of a 68-year-old woman named Helen Wilson, whose death haunted this rural county for decades. Now, years after DNA evidence exonerated the defendants, they are about to collect a $28 million civil rights judgment against Gage County, which prosecuted them based on false confessions.
    But because the county has limited financial resources and a dwindling population, nearly all of its 22,000 residents must foot the bill by paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in higher property taxes. County leaders have pleaded for help from state lawmakers, and even flirted with declaring bankruptcy.

    "Do I think it's fair these people are going to have to pay us off?" Ms. Gonzalez asked. "No. But it wasn't fair what they did to us, either."

    The $28 million jury award is one of the largest judgments ever levied against such a small place, say experts who study wrongful convictions. It has stirred resentment in the coffee shops and bars of Beatrice, a small town where suspicions about the defendants — known as the Beatrice Six — still linger like an oil stain on the road.
    "There's a feeling of, 'Why us?'" said Myron Dorn, a state senator and former county supervisor who has introduced a bill that would allow Gage County to impose a sales tax to help raise money. "Why are we being held accountable for paying this off?"

    The Beatrice case is an extreme example of the difficulties faced by those who have been promised compensation for being wrongfully convicted and spending years behind bars.
    In Illinois, exonerated prisoners spent months waiting for compensation as state lawmakers dithered over passing a budget. Michigan's wrongful compensation fund ran low on money earlier this year, and exonerees told The Detroit News that they were left to wait for payments as a bill to replenish the fund with $10 million moved through the State Legislature.

    Some in Gage County say the community has a moral obligation to compensate the Beatrice Six. Other residents say they should not be held financially responsible for an investigation and prosecution that unfolded more than three decades ago.
    "I wasn't even born," said Nick Faulder, 25, who manages a paint store. He expects to pay an additional $3,500 in property taxes this year on his family's 320-acre farm. "I'm unfortunate enough to have to pay for the mistakes of the past leadership."
    But a darker view also pervades conversations across Beatrice's downtown among those who still believe that the six people who were convicted are guilty, despite the pardons, the DNA evidence and the state-run investigation identifying a different killer.
    "They knew too much about it to be innocent," Karen Probst said one afternoon as she chatted with customers inside her family's quilting store. Her family owns hundreds of acres of precious irrigated land outside Beatrice, with tax bills that she said were likely to increase by $10,000 or more.

    "They had some part in it," her daughter, Ann Freese, said.
    The tangled case began in February 1985, when Ms. Wilson was found inside the apartment where she lived by herself. She had been beaten, raped and suffocated.
    Ms. Wilson was the heart of her family, recalled her grandson, Bob Houseman. She volunteered at a Methodist church in town, composed little poems for her grandchildren on their birthdays and was forever snapping photos and making tape recordings at family parties to preserve the memories.

    "She's the forgotten person in this," Mr. Houseman said one morning, standing at the counter of his family's dry-cleaning business, where he has spent 30 years answering people's questions about his grandmother's murder.
    As the official investigation went cold, a former Beatrice police officer, Burdette Searcey, was pursuing his own private investigation, and eventually took over the case after he was hired as a Gage County sheriff's deputy in 1989.
    Mr. Searcey, who did not respond to a request for comment, focused on six mostly poor, troubled people with loose ties to Beatrice. Some had substance abuse problems and criminal records. One of the three women charged in the murder said she had been sexually assaulted multiple times as a girl and had spent her life dealing with mental illness. Another had developmental disabilities and said she had been raped by her stepfather.
    "None of us were living aboveboard lives," Ms. Gonzalez said. "We were all partyers. We were all basically chemically induced idiots. That made us disposable. That made it O.K. for them to throw us away."

    Gage County built its criminal case against the Beatrice Six by drawing out false confessions and manufactured memories from three of the defendants, a state-run inquiry and court reviews would later find. Investigators showed them photos of the crime scene. They dangled cooperation as a way of serving shorter sentences and avoiding the electric chair. They even urged the defendants to reach into their dreams to recall "suppressed memories" of the murder.
    It was enough to convince five of the six to plead guilty or no contest in Ms. Wilson's murder. Only one, Joseph White, took his case to trial, and he was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to life in prison after three of his co-defendants gave false testimony against him.

    Mr. White never stopped insisting that he was innocent, and in 2008, he and his lawyers were able to obtain DNA tests that cleared Mr. White and the other five.
    A task force led by Nebraska's attorney general then identified the real killer as Bruce Allen Smith, who had been 22 at the time of the murder and was seen heading toward Ms. Wilson's apartment building the night she was killed. Mr. Smith died in 1992.
    After the Beatrice Six were exonerated, they filed a lawsuit against Gage County and the investigators who had put them behind bars.
    Gage County spent a decade and nearly $2 million in legal fees fighting the suit, rejecting offers to settle for $15 million, before its final appeals were rejected by the United States Supreme Court early this month. The county's insurance will not cover the judgment, which puts taxpayers on the hook for the full $28 million.

    As people around Beatrice wait for this year's tax bills to arrive, the case boils up constantly in conversation, said Dana Hydo, whose family runs the Gems and Junk shop downtown.
    "I'm amazed at how many people believe they did it," she said one afternoon as she was tagging inventory. "I truly believe we put them in jail illegally."

    One of her customers piped up: "No way," she said. "I think they did it."
    The Beatrice Six are not there to be part of the debate. They scattered across Nebraska and the rest of the country after being released from prison and cleared, and they do not speak much to one another. Mr. White, who spent almost 20 years in prison, was killed in a workplace accident in Alabama in 2011. One of the six still believes the false confession she gave implicating herself.
    "It ruined all of our lives," Ms. Gonzalez said.
    Ms. Gonzalez now works as a cashier at a grocery store in the tiny town of York, Neb., and said the $2 million she is owed could come in handy. She needs to buy a car, see a dentist to fix her teeth and install air-conditioning in her house before Nebraska's summer swelter descends.
    But in her view, the judgment is also poisoned, the money forever rooted in the murder of one innocent woman and the wrongful convictions of six others.
    "This is not something you win at the lottery, something I'm inheriting from a rich relative," she said. "Nobody wants this."
    Ms. Gonzalez, a voracious reader, often gets to work early to read the newspapers in the grocery store break room, and not long ago came upon a letter to the editor from a Gage County farmer who argued that his taxes should not have to go up on account of someone else's actions 30 years ago.
    Ms. Gonzalez said she was struck by the irony.
    "Because I know about paying for something somebody else did," she said.

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    5) Philippine Supreme Court Orders Release of Documents in Duterte's Drug War
    By Jason Gutierrez, April 2, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/02/world/asia/philippines-duterte-drug-war.html

    Relatives of victims of drug-related killings at a church in Quezon City, the Philippines, last month.CreditCreditFrancis R Malasig/EPA, via Shutterstock


    MANILA — The Philippines' highest court ordered the government on Tuesday to release documents relating to thousands of deaths linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war.
    Rights groups quickly welcomed the Supreme Court ruling, saying it would give closure to many families of the more than 20,000 people they estimate have been killed in the crackdown that Mr. Duterte has justified as necessary to end the drug trade.
    A court spokesman said the solicitor general had been ordered to submit police and other reports on the killings to the Supreme Court within 60 days and to copy the petitioners.

    The solicitor general, Jose Calida, had argued that sharing the documents with third parties could jeopardize national security. The court had previously rejected the same argument after the petition was filed last February, when Mr. Cadila sought to avoid submitting the documents at all.

    The petitioners were the Center for International Law (Centerlaw), a rights advocacy group, and the Free Legal Assistance Group, which represents low-income clients.
    The court has yet to rule on a separate petition by the Free Legal Assistance Group asking it to declare the police crackdown unconstitutional. The group says the police have been permitted to kill people suspected of selling drugs rather than arresting them.
    The government says 5,000 deaths have occurred during police operations. But there are thousands more cases that are classified as "deaths under investigation," including many that officials say were killings by pro-government vigilantes.
    The majority of those killed were residents of poor communities or politicians whom Mr. Duterte had personally tagged as drug lords. The president's critics have accused him of using the drug war to eliminate rivals.

    Although three police officers were found guilty last year of the murder of a teenager mistaken for a drug dealer, rights groups say the killing spree has continued.

    Romel Bagares, a lawyer helping Centerlaw in the case, called the Supreme Court decision a "big step towards establishing accountability" for drug war deaths.
    In an interview, Mr. Bagares said the police reports should show whether proper procedures were followed. According to the operations manual used by the police, he said, the death of a suspect during an operation requires the filing of at least 30 documents, including a report to the state prosecutor seeking to establish that the suspect died while resisting officers.
    "There ought to be 5,000-plus inquest reports there," Mr. Bagares said, adding that for every report, the "forensics aspect should match the procedures for their use of force."
    The Supreme Court also ordered state attorneys to submit records for all "buy-bust operations" conducted in the San Andres Bukid district of Manila, the Philippine capital, where many of the killings have taken place. In 2017, Centerlaw filed a petition with the Supreme Court to issue a "writ of amparo" protecting residents of the district from the drug war.
    Mr. Duterte already faces two murder complaints at the International Criminal Court, a situation that led his government to officially withdraw from the court last month.
    The first complaint was filed in April 2017 by two men who said they had worked in Mr. Duterte's death squad after he became mayor of the southern city of Davao in the late 1980s. The second was filed last August by relatives of eight people killed by police officers in the drug war.

    Neri Colmenares, a rights lawyer who helped bring the second case to the international court, said the police had no choice but to comply with the Philippine court ruling, even if it angered Mr. Duterte.
    In an interview, Mr. Colmenares demanded that the government follow the court order and provide copies of the police reports to lawyers representing the families of victims.
    "This will help us see the true situation of human rights in the country in the time of Duterte's drug war," he said.

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    6) Whale Is Found Dead in Italy With 48 Pounds of Plastic in Its Stomach
    By Iliana Magra, April 2, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/02/world/europe/plastic-whale-dead-italy.html

    A sperm whale was found dead last week in Porto Cervo, in northern Sardinia.CreditCreditSEAME Sardinia Onlus, via Associated Press


    More than 48 pounds of plastic, including disposable dishes, a corrugated tube, shopping bags and a detergent package with its bar code still visible, were found inside a dead sperm whale in Italy, the World Wildlife Fund said on Monday.
    The whale, a young female, washed ashore in Porto Cervo, a seaside resort in the north of the Italian island of Sardinia. It was also carrying a fetus "in an advanced state of decomposition," the fund said.
    This was the latest in a grim international collection of whale carcasses burdened by dozens of pounds of plastic trash.

    Last month, a whale was found dead on a Philippine beach with 88 pounds of plastic in its body. More than 1,000 assorted pieces of plastic were discovered inside a decomposing whale in Indonesia in November. A sperm whale died in Spain last year after being unable to digest more than 60 pounds of plastic trash.

    "Plastic is one of the worst enemies of marine species," the World Wildlife Fund said on Monday.
    The whale in Porto Cervo was found on Thursday, according to a Facebook post by SeaMe Sardinia, a nonprofit organization that studies marine mammals. The cause of death is still being investigated, but the quantity of plastic found is unusual for a whale of its size, about 26 feet, the World Wildlife Fund said.
    Plastic recovered from the belly of the whale.CreditSEAME Sardinia Onlus, via Associated Press

    "The amount of plastic found in the cetacean's digestive tract was practically intact, and the proportion between the size of the animal and the ingested plastic is particularly significant," it said in a statement on Monday.
    Europe is the second-largest producer of plastics in the world, "dumping 150,000-500,000 tons of macroplastics and 70,000-130,000 tons of microplastics in the sea every year," according to a report the fund published in June.
    Surveys suggest that has left the Mediterranean with some of the highest microplastic pollution levels in the world.

    Partly in response to such findings, the European Union Parliament voted last week to approve a ban on many single-use plastic products, including disposable plastic straws, cutlery and plates.
    Those measures are scheduled to take effect by 2021. On Sunday, in a Facebook post that featured a picture of the dead whale, Italy's environment minister, Sergio Costa, promised his country would be one of the first to carry out the ban.
    This sort of pollution, he wrote, "afflicts the whole marine world, not just Italy, of course, but every country in the world has the duty to apply the policies to fight it: not today, yesterday."
    "Is there still someone who says that these are not important problems?" he asked.

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    7) Americans Borrowed $88 Billion to Pay for Health Care Last Year, Survey Finds
    By Karen Zraick, April 2, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/02/health/americans-health-care-debt-borrowing.html

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a Democratic health care plan last week. About 70 percent of respondents in a new survey said they did not have confidence in their elected officials to lower health care costs.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times


    Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion over the last year to pay for health care, according to a survey released on Tuesday by Gallup and the nonprofit West Health.
    The survey also found that one in four Americans have skipped treatment because of the cost, and that nearly half fear bankruptcy in the event of a health emergency.
    There was a partisan divide when respondents were asked whether they believed that the American health care system is among the best in the world: Among Republicans, 67 percent of respondents said they believed so; that number was 38 percent among Democrats.
    But Democrats and Republicans had similar responses about putting off medical treatment. Asked if they had deferred treatment because of the cost, 27 percent of Democrats said they had, compared with 21 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of independents.

    Respondents from across the political spectrum also reported pessimism about their leaders' abilities to reduce health care costs. About 70 percent of respondents said they had no confidence in their elected officials to bring prices down. And 77 percent said they were concerned that rising health care costs would damage the American economy.
    "Our data shows an American public that's beaten down from this really serious issue," said Dan Witters, a senior researcher at Gallup.
    At the same time, 64 percent of respondents said they were mostly satisfied with their experiences in the health care system. When asked if they were satisfied with how well the system was serving Americans generally, only 39 percent said they were.

    The survey's authors noted that Americans' feelings were complicated and at times conflicted. But one thing was clear: High health care costs had created significant anxiety.

    Even among households earning $180,000 or more a year, a third of respondents said they were concerned about the specter of personal bankruptcy due to a health crisis. (There has been fierce debate among researchers about the extent to which health care costs can be blamed for bankruptcies.)
    Many American families earning less than that, of course, feel the effects of high health care costs acutely. They are forced to cut back on other expenses to pay for health care, or skip appointments and prescription refills, creating health risks down the road.
    Twelve percent of respondents said they had borrowed money for care, including 11 percent of those with health insurance, who may still face high deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.
    Most survey respondents said they believed that Americans were paying too much for health care relative to what they receive. Asked to choose between a hypothetical freeze in their health care costs or a 10 percent increase in household income, 61 percent of respondents chose the freeze. Those in low-income households were most likely to choose that option.
    "When we're talking about health care and the debate right now, it usually bifurcates between the financial impact of health care or the health outcomes themselves," said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for West Health, a nonpartisan nonprofit that aims to lower health care prices.
    "But those two things intersect at access," which can have dire health consequences, he said.
    The organization believes that Congress should allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies; that there should be more transparency about the prices of medicines and procedures; and that the health care industry should shift toward "value-based care" — in which doctors are paid based on patient outcomes — rather than the current "fee-for-service" model.

    Mr. Lash noted that other wealthy countries spend much less on health care than the United States does, while achieving better outcomes in areas like life expectancy and infant mortality. Although about 87 percent of Americans have health insurance, according to data from Gallup, an individual's plan may not cover all costs associated with treatment.
    President Trump, who has sought to undo the Affordable Care Act, tweeted about high deductibles under the law on Monday morning, promising that "Good things are going to happen!" and tagging several Republican lawmakers.
    The administration asked a federal appeals court to invalidate the lawlast week, while Democrats announced a health care bill that builds on the Affordable Care Act and seeks to lower premiums, among other goals.
    The partnership between West Health and Gallup, the analytics and consulting company, was a first. The survey results are based on phone interviews conducted in English and Spanish in early 2019 with a random sample of 3,500 adults across the country. The margin of sampling error ranged from one to two percentage points for results based on the total sample, and three to five percentage points for results based on subgroups such as political identity or income level, so differences of less than those amounts are statistically insignificant.
    Gallup and West Health said they will conduct similar surveys in the coming years.

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    8) How Bees Find Your Flowerpots
    By C. Claiborne Ray, April 1, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/01/science/bees-flowers-pollen-honey.html

    CreditVictoria Roberts


    A. Foraging bees use the same methods to find nectar and pollen four floors up that they use at ground level.
    Honeybees routinely fly two miles from their hives in their search for raw material for honey; it doesn't require much extra energy to fly several stories up. 

    It takes only one scout to report a promising garden to the rest of the hive with a famous waggle dance. The scout relies on its sophisticated eyes, which are tuned to a variety of wavelengths, including ultraviolet color patterns in flowers that are invisible to people.

    When the bees get closer to flowers, smell receptors begin transmitting information. And it has recently been discovered that both bumblebees and honeybees can detect and discriminate among weak electrostatic fields emanating from flowers.

    The bees accumulate a positive charge, while the flowers have a negative charge. The interaction between the fields is detected by antennae or sensitive hairs on the body. The electrical field helps bees to recognize pollen-rich blooms and perhaps even to transfer the pollen.

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    9) The Great Barrier Reef Was Seen as 'Too Big to Fail.' A Study Suggests It Isn't.
    By Livia Albeck-Ripka, April 3, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/world/australia/great-barrier-reef-corals-bleaching.html?action=click&module=Discovery&pgtype=Homepage

    Studying bleached corals on the Great Barrier Reef in 2017.CreditGergely Torda/ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies


    MELBOURNE, Australia — For millenniums, ecosystems have withstood fires, floods, heat waves, drought and even disease by adapting and rebuilding their biodiverse communities.
    But according to new research, there is a limit to what even the largest and most resilient places can stand, and climate change is testing that limit by repeatedly disturbing one of the earth's most precious habitats: the Great Barrier Reef.
    The study, released Wednesday in the journal Nature by researchers from the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia, monitored the death and birth of corals following ocean heat waves that caused mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017.

    Not only did many of the adult corals die off, but for the first time, researchers observed a significant decline in new corals settling on the reef, compromising its capacity to recover.
    "There are so many corals, and it's been disturbed many times in the past," said Andrew Baird, chief investigator at the research center and one of the paper's lead authors.
    "We never thought we'd see this happen," he said.
    The study is the first to show the collapse of fundamental ecosystem processes in a marine environment, Professor Baird said.
    "We thought the Barrier Reef was too big to fail," he said, "but it's not."
    The Great Barrier Reef, off Australia's east coast, covers 133,000 square miles and can be seen from outer space. It pumps 6.4 billion Australian dollars, or $4.5 billion, into the Australian economy per year and supports tens of thousands of jobs, according to 2017 figures from Deloitte.
    But in recent years, research has shown that the time left to save it is growing short.
    Since 1998, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered four mass bleaching events, two of them back to back in 2016 and 2017. While coral populations can recover from a bleaching event — which stresses individual corals and strips them of their vibrant color — they need up to a decade to do so. And if carbon emissions continue at the high-emissions scenario, bleaching will occur twice every decade starting in 2035, and annually after 2044, according to climate models from Unesco.

    "It's not too late to act, but time is running out," Prof. Baird said, adding that without drastic climate action, reefs will be "fundamentally changed, as will everything."

    Coral reefs were among the first ecosystems to respond to the rise in global temperatures, he said, "but it's only a matter of time before these changes are happening in our back gardens."
    According to the researchers' findings, the settlement of baby corals on the reef declined 89 percent last year. The coral that experienced the most significant decline in new organisms, at 93 percent, was a type called Acropora, which provides most of the reef habitat that supports thousands of other species, including coral trout, clown fish and triggerfish.
    Adult corals that were further south escaped bleaching, but they were too far from the bleached northern reefs to help them replenish, the scientists found. They also explored the impact of back-to-back cyclones in 2014 and 2015 on the reef's north at Lizard Island, which, despite killing off 80 percent of the adult corals, did not cause a decline in new corals settling.
    "Cyclones are fairly patchy," Professor Baird said, whereas heat and bleaching "just kills everything."
    The corals that do manage to survive such trauma, however, were found to be more resistant to periods of extreme warmth in a separate study conducted by Professor Baird and his colleagues last year. Scientists have been trying to breed the most resilient forms of coral in the hope that they can use these to repopulate the reef.
    While crucial, such projects are limited, said Mark Eakin, the coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch program, who was not involved in the study but has previously worked with the Australian researchers.

    "Those are at the scale of a large family garden," he said of the restoration efforts, whereas the collapse of the Great Barrier Reef would mean "the loss of an entire seascape," akin, he said, to the fall of the Roman Empire.
    "This is just further evidence of how much damage climate change is having," Dr. Eakin said.
    Russ Babcock, a senior research scientist at an Australian government agency called the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, said the study, which he was also not involved in, had confirmed many scientists' worst fears.
    "All ecosystems have some things in common, and one of them is the ability to recover," he said. "There's going to be no lucky escape."

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    10) Belgium Apologizes for Kidnapping Children From African Colonies
    By Milan Schreuer,April 4, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/04/world/europe/belgium-kidnapping-congo-rwanda-burundi.html

    Visitors at Mr. Michel's speech to Parliament in Brussels. Dozens of mixed-race people were among those in attendance.CreditFrancois Lenoir/Reuters


    BRUSSELS — Belgium apologized on Thursday for the kidnapping, segregation, deportation and forced adoption of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during its colonial rule of Burundi, Congo and Rwanda.
    The apology is the first time that Belgium has recognized any responsibility for what historians say was the immense harm the country inflicted on the Central African nations, which it colonized for eight decades. Prime Minister Charles Michel offered the apology on Thursday afternoon in front of a plenary session of Parliament, which was attended by dozens of people of mixed race in the visitors gallery.
    "Throughout Belgian colonial Africa, a system of targeted segregation of métis and their families was maintained by the Belgian state and acts were committed that violated the fundamental rights of peoples," he said, using the term for mixed-race people.

    "This is why, in the name of the federal government, I recognize the targeted segregation of which métis people were victims" under Belgian colonial rule in Africa, and "the ensuing policy of forced kidnapping" after independence, he added.

    "In the name of the federal government," Mr. Michel said, "I present our apologies to the métis stemming from the Belgian colonial era and to their families for the injustices and the suffering inflicted upon them."
    "I also wish to express our compassion for the African mothers, from whom the children were taken," he said.
    The prime minister said that the Belgian government would make resources available to finance additional research on the issue, open up its colonial archives to métis people and offer administrative help to those seeking to gain access to their official records and seeking Belgian nationality.
    Over the past year, Belgium has taken a number of steps to reassess its colonial past. Today's apologies also come at a time when politicians across Europe are under pressure from a growing African diaspora and a younger generation that wishes to shed a new light on colonial history in order to tackle latent racism and discrimination in European society.
    Some experts on colonial history noted that Belgium's apology had came late — nearly 60 years after the three countries gained independence.

    Racial segregation was a pillar of Belgian colonial rule, historians say. Until the late 1950s, the colonial authorities discouraged interracial romance and banned interracial marriage before the Catholic Church.
    Many white Belgian men, nevertheless, married black Congolese women according to local customs, producing children sometimes called métis. But in the eyes of Belgium, these children undermined official segregation policies and blemished the white race's prestige, official documents from that time show.

    Fearing a repeat of the Red River Rebellion in Canada in 1869-1870, when métis people revolted and overthrew the local government, the Belgian authorities ordered métis children in Congo to be separated from their families, and from the black population as a whole.
    An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 children were segregated from their parents — most often from single African mothers — and placed in orphanages and schools predominantly run by the Catholic Church, historians said.
    "Children born out of parents of mixed color during colonial times were always considered as a threat to the colonial enterprise, to profits and to the prestige and the domination of the white race," said Assumani Budagwa, 65, a Belgian engineer and amateur historian who was born in colonial Congo and whose family experienced the separation of mixed-race children.
    Mr. Budagwa was a co-author of a Parliamentary resolution that was unanimously adopted last year urging the government to apologize and recognizing Belgium's misdeeds regarding the mixed-race children with the complicity of the Roman Catholic Church.

    The resolution also demanded that the government open up its colonial archives and grant administrative help to hundreds of people in Congo and in Belgium who still do not possess their official birth certificates, and to those who wish to reconstitute their true family history.
    Around the time when Belgium's colonies gained independence, in the early 1960s, thousands of métis children were taken from Burundi, Congo and Rwanda to Belgium, where they were either adopted by white parents or raised in Belgian boarding schools. Many are still alive today.
    The Catholic Church apologized in 2017 for its "participation" in the kidnapping and segregation of métis children and in the banning of mixed-race marriages. In a letter, the Belgian bishops stated: "Many never knew their mother or their father, and many mothers never saw their children again. For a long time, they couldn't fully exercise their civic rights, and a large number later found itself on the margins of Belgian society in insecurity and hardship."
    The letter said, "We present our apologies to those people for the part taken by the Catholic Church in these deeds."
    Métis de Belgique, a Belgian group representing mixed-race people affected by the segregation, along with their descendants, counts a few hundred active members and fights for their right to obtain Belgian nationality, which in some cases still has not been granted, and to gain access to their families' colonial records.
    While some historians say Belgium's apology was not sufficient, Mr. Budagwa, co-author of the resolution that led to Thursday's official apology, was more optimistic.
    "Peoples rarely and with great difficulty recognize their errors and their responsibility in historical crimes," he said, calling the prime minister's declaration both historic — because it was done in the name of the Belgian people — and symbolic, because it "doesn't efface the aftermath of the colonization."
    He added, "And it is also, above all, human."

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    11) Alabama's Gruesome Prisons: Report Finds Rape and Murder at All Hours
    By Katie Benner and Shaila Dewan, April 3, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/us/alabama-prisons-doj-investigation.html

    The segregation unit at Alabama's St. Clair Correctional Facility houses inmates in solitary confinement. Many have come to see the unit as a haven from the prison's general population.CreditCreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times


    One prisoner had been dead for so long that when he was discovered lying face down, his face was flattened. Another was tied up and tortured for two days while no one noticed. Bloody inmates screamed for help from cells whose doors did not lock.
    Those were some of the gruesome details in a 56-page report on the Alabama prison system that was issued by the Justice Department on Wednesday. The report, one of the first major civil rights investigations by the department to be released under President Trump, uncovered shocking conditions in the state's massively overcrowded and understaffed facilities.
    Prisoners in the Alabama system endured some of the highest rates of homicide and rape in the country, the Justice Department found, and officials showed a "flagrant disregard" for their right to be free from excessive and cruel punishment. The investigation began in the waning days of the Obama administration and continued for more than two years after Mr. Trump took office. 

    The department notified the prison system that it could sue in 49 days "if State officials have not satisfactorily addressed our concerns."

    [The New York Times received more than 2,000 photos taken inside an Alabama prison. This is what they showed.]
    Alabama is not alone in having troubled, violent prisons. But the state has one of the country's highest incarceration rates and its correctional system is notoriously antiquated, dangerous and short-staffed. The major prisons are at 182 percent of their capacity, the report found, contraband is rampant and prisoners sleep in dorms they are not assigned to in order to escape violence.
    "The violations are severe, systemic, and exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision," the report said, noting that some facilities had fewer than 20 percent of their allotted positions filled. It also cited the use of solitary confinement as a protective measure for vulnerable inmates, and "a high level of violence that is too common, cruel, of an unusual nature, and pervasive."
    State officials said the report addressed issues that Alabama was already aware of and working to fix.
    "For more than two years, the D.O.J. pursued an investigation of issues that have been the subject of ongoing litigation and the target of significant reforms by the state," a statement from the office of Gov. Kay Ivey said. "Over the coming months, my Administration will be working closely with D.O.J. to ensure that our mutual concerns are addressed and that we remain steadfast in our commitment to public safety, making certain that this Alabama problem has an Alabama solution."

    But the report called the state "deliberately indifferent" to the risks prisoners face, and said, "It has failed to correct known systemic deficiencies that contribute to the violence." Legislative efforts to reduce overcrowding through measures such as reducing sentences were not made retroactive and have had "minimal effect," the report said.
    Alabama's prisons have for years been the subject of civil rights litigation by the Equal Justice Initiative and the Southern Poverty Law Center, nonprofit legal advocacy groups based in Montgomery. Maria Morris, the lead lawyer for the center's lawsuit, also disputed the assertion that the problems were being fixed.
    "They're not fixing them," Ms. Morris said. "They're giving a lot of lip service to the need to fix them, but the lip service always comes back to we just need a billion dollars to build new prisons and, as the Department of Justice found, that's not going to solve the problem."
    Alabama inmates continue to die in high numbers. There have been 15 suicides in the past 15 months, and the homicide rate vastly exceeds the national average for prisons.
    The Justice Department report focused on the failure to prevent prisoner-on-prisoner violence because of what it said was inadequate training, failure to properly classify and supervise inmates, and failure to stem the flow of contraband including weapons and drugs, among other problems.
    The department is still investigating excessive force and sexual abuse by prison staff members, an investigation that former federal prosecutors say could lead to criminal indictments.

    • Friday:

       Three stabbings, including one that resulted in death.
    • Saturday:

       One beating and one discovery of a drug cache.
    • Sunday:

       Two beatings, one stabbing, one sexual assault and one beating with a sock full of metal locks.
    • Tuesday:

       One discovery of a drug cache and one case of arson, when a prisoner's bed was set on fire while he slept.
    • Wednesday:

       One sexual assault.
    • Thursday:

       One beating, one sexual assault and one overdose that resulted in death.
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    12) A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy
    The rise of Candida auris embodies a serious and growing public health threat: drug-resistant germs.
    By Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs, April 6, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/health/drug-resistant-candida-auris.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
    Dr. Shawn Lockhart, a fungal disease expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, holding a microscope slide with inactive Candida auris collected from an American patient.CreditMelissa Golden for The New York Times

    For decades, public health experts have warned that the overuse of antibiotics was reducing the effectiveness of drugs that have lengthened life spans by curing bacterial infections once commonly fatal. But lately, there has been an explosion of resistant fungi as well, adding a new and frightening dimension to a phenomenon that is undermining a pillar of modern medicine.
    “It’s an enormous problem,” said Matthew Fisher, a professor of fungal epidemiology at Imperial College London, who was a co-author of a recent scientific review on the rise of resistant fungi. “We depend on being able to treat those patients with antifungals.”

    Simply put, fungi, just like bacteria, are evolving defenses to survive modern medicines.
    Yet even as world health leaders have pleaded for more restraint in prescribing antimicrobial drugs to combat bacteria and fungi — convening the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 to manage an emerging crisis — gluttonous overuse of them in hospitals, clinics and farming has continued.
    Resistant germs are often called “superbugs,” but this is simplistic because they don’t typically kill everyone. Instead, they are most lethal to people with immature or compromised immune systems, including newborns and the elderly, smokers, diabetics and people with autoimmune disorders who take steroids that suppress the body’s defenses.
    Scientists say that unless more effective new medicines are developed and unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs is sharply curbed, risk will spread to healthier populations. A study the British government funded projects that if policies are not put in place to slow the rise of drug resistance, 10 million people could die worldwide of all such infections in 2050, eclipsing the eight million expected to die that year from cancer.

    In the United States, two million people contract resistant infections annually, and 23,000 die from them, according to the official C.D.C. estimate. That number was based on 2010 figures; more recent estimates from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine put the death toll at 162,000. Worldwide fatalities from resistant infections are estimated at 700,000.
    Antibiotics and antifungals are both essential to combat infections in people, but antibiotics are also used widely to prevent disease in farm animals, and antifungals are also applied to prevent agricultural plants from rotting. Some scientists cite evidence that rampant use of fungicides on crops is contributing to the surge in drug-resistant fungi infecting humans.

    Yet as the problem grows, it is little understood by the public — in part because the very existence of resistant infections is often cloaked in secrecy.

    With bacteria and fungi alike, hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of being seen as infection hubs. Even the C.D.C., under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks. State governments have in many cases declined to publicly share information beyond acknowledging that they have had cases.
    All the while, the germs are easily spread — carried on hands and equipment inside hospitals; ferried on meat and manure-fertilized vegetables from farms; transported across borders by travelers and on exports and imports; and transferred by patients from nursing home to hospital and back.
    C. auris, which infected the man at Mount Sinai, is one of dozens of dangerous bacteria and fungi that have developed resistance. Yet, like most of them, it is a threat that is virtually unknown to the public.

    Other prominent strains of the fungus Candida — one of the most common causes of bloodstream infections in hospitals — have not developed significant resistance to drugs, but more than 90 percent of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one drug, and 30 percent are resistant to two or more drugs, the C.D.C. said.
    Dr. Lynn Sosa, Connecticut’s deputy state epidemiologist, said she now saw C. auris as “the top” threat among resistant infections. “It’s pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identity,” she said.

    Nearly half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days, according to the C.D.C. Yet the world’s experts have not nailed down where it came from in the first place.
    “It is a creature from the black lagoon,” said Dr. Tom Chiller, who heads the fungal branch at the C.D.C., which is spearheading a global detective effort to find treatments and stop the spread. “It bubbled up and now it is everywhere.”

    In late 2015, Dr. Johanna Rhodes, an infectious disease expert at Imperial College London, got a panicked call from the Royal Brompton Hospital, a British medical center outside London. C. auris had taken root there months earlier, and the hospital couldn’t clear it.
    “‘We have no idea where it’s coming from. We’ve never heard of it. It’s just spread like wildfire,’” Dr. Rhodes said she was told. She agreed to help the hospital identify the fungus’s genetic profile and clean it from rooms.
    Under her direction, hospital workers used a special device to spray aerosolized hydrogen peroxide around a room used for a patient with C. auris, the theory being that the vapor would scour each nook and cranny. They left the device going for a week. Then they put a “settle plate” in the middle of the room with a gel at the bottom that would serve as a place for any surviving microbes to grow, Dr. Rhodes said.
    Only one organism grew back. C. auris.
    It was spreading, but word of it was not. The hospital, a specialty lung and heart center that draws wealthy patients from the Middle East and around Europe, alerted the British government and told infected patients, but made no public announcement.

    “There was no need to put out a news release during the outbreak,” said Oliver Wilkinson, a spokesman for the hospital.
    This hushed panic is playing out in hospitals around the world. Individual institutions and national, state and local governments have been reluctant to publicize outbreaks of resistant infections, arguing there is no point in scaring patients — or prospective ones

    Dr. Silke Schelenz, Royal Brompton’s infectious disease specialist, found the lack of urgency from the government and hospital in the early stages of the outbreak “very, very frustrating.”
    “They obviously didn’t want to lose reputation,” Dr. Schelenz said. “It hadn’t impacted our surgical outcomes.”
    By the end of June 2016, a scientific paper reported “an ongoing outbreak of 50 C. auris cases” at Royal Brompton, and the hospital took an extraordinary step: It shut down its I.C.U. for 11 days, moving intensive care patients to another floor, again with no announcement.
    Days later the hospital finally acknowledged to a newspaper that it had a problem. A headline in The Daily Telegraph warned, “Intensive Care Unit Closed After Deadly New Superbug Emerges in the U.K.” (Later research said there were eventually 72 total cases, though some patients were only carriers and were not infected by the fungus.)

    Yet the issue remained little known internationally, while an even bigger outbreak had begun in Valencia, Spain, at the 992-bed Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe. There, unbeknown to the public or unaffected patients, 372 people were colonized — meaning they had the germ on their body but were not sick with it — and 85 developed bloodstream infections. A paper in the journal Mycoses reported that 41 percent of the infected patients died within 30 days.
    A statement from the hospital said it was not necessarily C. auris that killed them. “It is very difficult to discern whether patients die from the pathogen or with it, since they are patients with many underlying diseases and in very serious general condition,” the statement said.
    As with Royal Brompton, the hospital in Spain did not make any public announcement. It still has not.
    One author of the article in Mycoses, a doctor at the hospital, said in an email that the hospital did not want him to speak to journalists because it “is concerned about the public image of the hospital.”
    The secrecy infuriates patient advocates, who say people have a right to know if there is an outbreak so they can decide whether to go to a hospital, particularly when dealing with a nonurgent matter, like elective surgery.

    “Why the heck are we reading about an outbreak almost a year and a half later — and not have it front-page news the day after it happens?” said Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, a physician in Kentucky and board chairman of Health Watch USA, a nonprofit patient advocacy group. “You wouldn’t tolerate this at a restaurant with a food poisoning outbreak.”

    Health officials say that disclosing outbreaks frightens patients about a situation they can do nothing about, particularly when the risks are unclear.
    “It’s hard enough with these organisms for health care providers to wrap their heads around it,” said Dr. Anna Yaffee, a former C.D.C. outbreak investigator who dealt with resistant infection outbreaks in Kentucky in which the hospitals were not publicly disclosed. “It’s really impossible to message to the public.”
    Officials in London did alert the C.D.C. to the Royal Brompton outbreak while it was occurring. And the C.D.C. realized it needed to get the word to American hospitals. On June 24, 2016, the C.D.C. blasted a nationwide warning to hospitals and medical groups and set up an email address, candidaauris@cdc.gov, to field queries. Dr. Snigdha Vallabhaneni, a key member of the fungal team, expected to get a trickle — “maybe a message every month.”
    Instead, within weeks, her inbox exploded.
    In the United States, 587 cases of people having contracted C. auris have been reported, concentrated with 309 in New York, 104 in New Jersey and 144 in Illinois, according to the C.D.C.
    The symptoms — fever, aches and fatigue — are seemingly ordinary, but when a person gets infected, particularly someone already unhealthy, such commonplace symptoms can be fatal.
    The earliest known case in the United States involved a woman who arrived at a New York hospital on May 6, 2013, seeking care for respiratory failure. She was 61 and from the United Arab Emirates, and she died a week later, after testing positive for the fungus. At the time, the hospital hadn’t thought much of it, but three years later, it sent the case to the C.D.C. after reading the agency’s June 2016 advisory.

    This woman probably was not America’s first C. auris patient. She carried a strain different from the South Asian one most common here. It killed a 56-year-old American woman who had traveled to India in March 2017 for elective abdominal surgery, contracted C. auris and was airlifted back to a hospital in Connecticut that officials will not identify. She was later transferred to a Texas hospital, where she died.
    The germ has spread into long-term care facilities. In Chicago, 50 percent of the residents at some nursing homes have tested positive for it, the C.D.C. has reported. The fungus can grow on intravenous lines and ventilators.
    Workers who care for patients infected with C. auris worry for their own safety. Dr. Matthew McCarthy, who has treated several C. auris patients at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, described experiencing an unusual fear when treating a 30-year-old man.
    “I found myself not wanting to touch the guy,” he said. “I didn’t want to take it from the guy and bring it to someone else.” He did his job and thoroughly examined the patient, but said, “There was an overwhelming feeling of being terrified of accidentally picking it up on a sock or tie or gown.”

    As the C.D.C. works to limit the spread of drug-resistant C. auris, its investigators have been trying to answer the vexing question: Where in the world did it come from?
    The first time doctors encountered C. auris was in the ear of a woman in Japan in 2009 (auris is Latin for ear). It seemed innocuous at the time, a cousin of common, easily treated fungal infections.

    Three years later, it appeared in an unusual test result in the lab of Dr. Jacques Meis, a microbiologist in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, who was analyzing a bloodstream infection in 18 patients from four hospitals in India. Soon, new clusters of C. auris seemed to emerge with each passing month in different parts of the world.
    The C.D.C. investigators theorized that C. auris started in Asia and spread across the globe. But when the agency compared the entire genome of auris samples from India and Pakistan, Venezuela, South Africa and Japan, it found that its origin was not a single place, and there was not a single auris strain.

    The genome sequencing showed that there were four distinctive versions of the fungus, with differences so profound that they suggested that these strains had diverged thousands of years ago and emerged as resistant pathogens from harmless environmental strains in four different places at the same time.
    “Somehow, it made a jump almost seemingly simultaneously, and seemed to spread and it is drug resistant, which is really mind-boggling,” Dr. Vallabhaneni said.
    There are different theories as to what happened with C. auris. Dr. Meis, the Dutch researcher, said he believed that drug-resistant fungi were developing thanks to heavy use of fungicides on crops.
    Dr. Meis became intrigued by resistant fungi when he heard about the case of a 63-year-old patient in the Netherlands who died in 2005 from a fungus called Aspergillus. It proved resistant to a front-line antifungal treatment called itraconazole. That drug is a virtual copy of the azole pesticides that are used to dust crops the world over and account for more than one-third of all fungicide sales.

    A 2013 paper in Plos Pathogens said that it appeared to be no coincidence that drug-resistant Aspergillus was showing up in the environment where the azole fungicides were used. The fungus appeared in 12 percent of Dutch soil samples, for example, but also in “flower beds, compost, leaves, plant seeds, soil samples of tea gardens, paddy fields, hospital surroundings, and aerial samples of hospitals.”
    Dr. Meis visited the C.D.C. last summer to share research and theorize that the same thing is happening with C. auris, which is also found in the soil: Azoles have created an environment so hostile that the fungi are evolving, with resistant strains surviving.
    This is similar to concerns that resistant bacteria are growing because of excessive use of antibiotics in livestock for health and growth promotion. As with antibiotics in farm animals, azoles are used widely on crops.
    “On everything — potatoes, beans, wheat, anything you can think of, tomatoes, onions,” said Dr. Rhodes, the infectious disease specialist who worked on the London outbreak. “We are driving this with the use of antifungicides on crops.”
    Dr. Chiller theorizes that C. auris may have benefited from the heavy use of fungicides. His idea is that C. auris actually has existed for thousands of years, hidden in the world’s crevices, a not particularly aggressive bug. But as azoles began destroying more prevalent fungi, an opportunity arrived for C. auris to enter the breach, a germ that had the ability to readily resist fungicides now suitable for a world in which fungi less able to resist are under attack.
    The mystery of C. auris’s emergence remains unsolved, and its origin seems, for the moment, to be less important than stopping its spread.


    For now, the uncertainty around C. auris has led to a climate of fear, and sometimes denial.
    Last spring, Jasmine Cutler, 29, went to visit her 72-year-old father at a hospital in New York City, where he had been admitted because of complications from a surgery the previous month.
    When she arrived at his room, she discovered that he had been sitting for at least an hour in a recliner, in his own feces, because no one had come when he had called for help to use the bathroom. Ms. Cutler said it became clear to her that the staff was afraid to touch him because a test had shown that he was carrying C. auris.
    “I saw doctors and nurses looking in the window of his room,” she said. “My father’s not a guinea pig. You’re not going to treat him like a freak at a show.”
    He was eventually discharged and told he no longer carried the fungus. But he declined to be named, saying he feared being associated with the frightening infection.

    Matt Richtel is a best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter based in San Francisco. He joined The Times staff in 2000, and his work has focused on science, technology, business and narrative-driven storytelling around these issues.   @mrichtel

    Andrew Jacobs is a reporter with the Health and Science Desk, based in New York. He previously reported from Beijing and Brazil and had stints as a Metro reporter, Styles writer and National correspondent, covering the American South. @AndrewJacobsNYT


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    13) Three Black Churches Have Burned in 10 Days in a Single Louisiana Parish
    By Richard Fausset,, April 5, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/05/us/louisiana-black-church-fires.html
    Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, La., one of three historically black churches that have recently burned in St. Landry Parish.CreditCreditLeslie Westbrook/The Advocate, via Associated Press

    ATLANTA — Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they had found “suspicious elements” in each case. The officials have not ruled out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.
    “There is clearly something happening in this community,” State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement on Thursday. “That is why it is imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is.”
    The three fires occurred on March 26, Tuesday and Thursday in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette. A fourth fire, a small blaze that officials said was “intentionally set,” was reported on Sunday at a predominantly black church in Caddo Parish, about a three-hour drive north.
    “But just as we haven’t connected the three in St. Landry, we haven’t connected the one in Caddo,” said Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, on Friday.

    Local officials said that they were still investigating the fires, and did not say if they knew of any suspects, a motive, or whether racism was an element.
    “There certainly is a commonality, and whether that leads to a person or persons or groups, we just don’t know,” Mr. Browning said at a news conference on Thursday.
    The F.B.I. and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved in the investigation, said Jeff Nowakowski, a spokesman for the A.T.F.’s New Orleans field division.
    The Rev. Gerald Toussaint, pastor at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, La., was driving to work on Thursday morning at around 4:45 a.m. when his wife called him to say she had seen on social media that their church was ablaze.
    Mr. Toussaint was aware of the two other fires that had been set at nearby houses of worship, St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, and Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas. He rushed to the scene.

    The church, which was founded in the 19th century, had undergone extensive remodeling two years ago. Now it is nearly gone, he said, except for a brick wall and corridor in the front.
    “I’m trying to find out who did it, why they did it, did it have anything to do with me,” said Mr. Toussaint, who drives trucks for a living. “I don’t know none of this.”
    He also said he did not want to speculate, for fear of angering potential arsonists, or prompting copycat crimes.
    St. Landry Parish is a rural area studded with crawfish ponds and bayous in the heart of Cajun and Creole country. It is 56 percent white and 41 percent black. Mr. Toussaint said that relations were generally good between black and white residents.
    Since the 1950s, black churches across the South have been the targets of numerous racist attacks, from arson to bombing to armed assault. In 2015, a white supremacist shot and killed nine people at a Bible study at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C.
    In 2006, a string of arsons at Alabama churches, some predominantly white, some predominantly black, proved to be the work of three college students that officials characterized as a “joke” that had spun out of control.
    Last month, a black member of a predominantly black congregation, Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., pleaded guilty to burning his church. The church was spray-painted with the words “Vote Trump” in an effort to make the attack seem politically motivated, a Mississippi official said.

    At the news conference Thursday, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz of St. Landry Parish said that law enforcement officials would do “whatever it takes” to protect churches and churchgoers.
    “We’re doing everything we can, collectively, to solve this crime,” he said.

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    14) Texas Prison Won’t Give Inmate With Allergies a Cotton Blanket, Lawsuit Says
    By Julia Jacobs, April 6, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/us/texas-inmate-wool-allergy.html

    Calvin E. Weaver, an inmate at this prison northwest of Houston, says he has been asking for a cotton blanket for 10 years.CreditCreditMichael Stravato for The New York Times


    A Texas inmate who says he is allergic to the synthetic blankets provided by his prison says he has asked for 10 years to be given a cotton blanket instead.
    The inmate, Calvin E. Weaver, 73, filed a lawsuit against the prison system in May, claiming that its employees violated his civil rights by ignoring his frequent complaints about relentless itchiness and resulting health problems caused by the blanket.
    A federal judge ruled last week that some of Mr. Weaver’s claims could proceed, despite the state’s requests to dismiss them.

    The itchiness has led to open sores on his body, sleep deprivation, hypertension and anxiety, Mr. Weaver said in the complaint. He asked the prison not only for a cotton blanket but for punitive damages to make up for what he described as physical and psychological pain.

    Mr. Weaver was told around 2001 that he was allergic to the wool blanket then used by the prison system, according to the complaint, and he was issued a medical pass to receive a cotton blanket. But eight years later, Mr. Weaver wrote, the prison system replaced its blankets with a fiber blend. He said the new blankets also prompted an allergic reaction but his medical pass was not renewed.
    The prison system’s current blankets are made of 40 percent virgin synthetic polyester staple and 60 percent recycled synthetic natural fiber, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement. He said there was no wool in the blankets.
    “An offender who asks for an alternative due to a potential medical issue is tested for any potential allergies and if warranted offered a medical pass for an alternative blanket,” the statement said.
    When asked whether Mr. Weaver was tested for allergies after the new blankets were introduced, the spokesman said he could not comment on a particular case because of laws governing medical privacy.
    Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt of United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas has denied Mr. Weaver’s request for a lawyer in the case, according to court documents. Most of the publicly available documents Mr. Weaver has filed in connection with the suit are handwritten.

    “It took me 10 years to finally file this lawsuit in hopes that this issue would finally be resolved,” Mr. Weaver wrote in a letter to the state’s attorney general in September.
    Mr. Weaver, who is in a prison northwest of Houston, was sentenced in 1998 to life in prison for aggravated sexual assault of a child, according to a state database.
    Judge Hoyt dismissed Mr. Weaver’s claims against some of the prison system employees in a March 29 court order, but he allowed others against the executive director of the Department of Criminal Justice, a staffer at a prison medical practice and a prison unit supervisor to proceed.
    Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment on Friday night. They had argued that the judge should dismiss Mr. Weaver’s lawsuit because the defendants had not shown “deliberate indifference” to the inmate’s medical needs, according to court documents.
    Judge Hoyt wrote that Mr. Weaver’s allegations that the three defendants had personal knowledge of his medical needs and had ignored repeated requests for treatment were sufficient to allow his civil rights case to proceed.

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    15) New U.S. Sanctions Seek to Block Venezuelan Oil Shipments to Cuba
    By Annie Karni and Nicholas Casey, April 5, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/05/us/politics/trump-sanctions-venezuela-cuba.html

    A fisherman casts his net as an oil tanker sails in Venezuela. “Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people,” Vice President Mike Pence said, announcing sanctions.CreditCreditJuan Barreto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Friday its latest round of economic sanctions against the government of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, this time aimed at oil shipments between Venezuela and Cuba, a country that the administration has accused of propping up Mr. Maduro’s authoritarian government.
    In a speech to the Venezuelan exile community in Houston, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the United States is levying sanctions on 34 vessels owned or operated by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., Venezuela’s state-run oil company, as well as on two international companies that transport Venezuelan crude oil to Cuba.
    “Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people,” said Mr. Pence, who is expected to address the United Nations Security Council next week on the situation in Venezuela.

    The goal of the sanctions, senior administration officials said, was to force a “recalibration” of the relationship between Venezuela and Cuba, which, alongside China and Russia, has been defending the Maduro government.

    But in the short run, they are meant to end the arrangement by which the Maduro government provides oil to Cuba in exchange for intelligence and counterintelligence services while the Venezuelan people lack food, medicine and clean water. Venezuela has been shipping 20,000 to 50,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba, according to experts in the oil industry and administration officials.
    Russ Dallen, the managing partner of Caracas Capital Markets, who specializes in the Venezuelan oil industry, said the most likely outcome of the sanctions would be to create an atmosphere in which shipping companies would be even more wary of doing business with either Cuba or Venezuela, for fear of triggering sanctions.
    He said they were also meant to “name and shame” companies that have transported Venezuelan oil to Cuba so that Mr. Maduro can help an ideological ally rather than use profits from the oil to feed a starving population.
    “It makes Cuba and Venezuela even more radioactive,” he said.
    Mr. Dallen, who tracks oil shipments leaving Venezuela, said that some of the ships had begun turning off their transponders when in Venezuelan ports, something regulations prohibit but is a technique used in countries like Iran to conceal their presence in the country. One ship, Mr. Dallen said, had recently left its transponder off until it reached Europe.
    The sanctions come as Venezuela has faced a month of blackouts that have resulted in an estimated loss of a week’s oil production

    President Trump has thrown his support behind Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader, who in January declared himself the country’s interim president and who has demanded Mr. Maduro’s departure. Venezuela’s economy and population have slipped further into crisis — with blackouts, as well as food and water shortages — while Mr. Maduro and Mr. Guaidó appear to be trying to wait each other out.
    A senior administration official said on Friday that the latest round of sanctions would “tighten the noose of the financial strangulation of Maduro and his cronies.” Those sanctions come weeks after the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on a Russia-based bank that it accused of helping Mr. Maduro’s government sidestep American financial penalties.
    But it has been more than two months since the Trump administration began imposing sanctions in Venezuela in hopes of pushing Mr. Maduro’s government out of power. But to people living in Caracas, the capital, it is not clear that his grip on power is loosening, despite the American effort to target governors, generals and the state-run oil company and to cancel visas for Mr. Maduro’s friends and family members.
    The American official said that there would be more actions by the United States in the coming weeks and that a military response continued to be a “very serious option.” The official hinted that a red line for American intervention would be any threat to arrest Mr. Guaidó.

    Annie Karni reported from Washington, and Nicholas Casey from New York.

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    16) Judge Who Asked Woman in Sexual Assault Case if She Closed Her Legs Faces Suspension
    By Mihir Zaveri, April 6, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/nyregion/judge-john-russo-new-jersey.html

    Superior Court Judge John F. Russo Jr. of Ocean County, N.J., has been accused of judicial misconduct by a state committee.CreditCreditTanya Breen/The Asbury Park Press, via Associated Press


    A New Jersey judge who asked a woman if she had closed her legs to try to prevent an alleged sexual assault should be suspended without pay for three months, a state committee has recommended.
    The recommendation in March was based on the committee’s finding that John F. Russo Jr., a superior court judge in Ocean County, violated the code of judicial conduct on four occasions, including during the exchange with the woman, who was not identified.
    This week, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that a hearing be held in July about the recommendation from the state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.
    A lawyer for Judge Russo declined to comment on Friday night.

    “Judge Russo looks forward to a public hearing in which he will be able to respond to the allegations against him,” the lawyer, David F. Corrigan, told NBC4 in March of last year, after a complaint was filed. “We have respect for the process as well as the advisory committee on judicial conduct, and therefore won’t comment further.”

    A 45-page report from the committee detailed four counts of alleged misconduct.
    The first focused on an exchange between Judge Russo and the woman who said she had been sexually assaulted, at a hearing in May 2016. The woman was seeking a restraining order against her alleged assailant, a man who she said had also threatened her life and made inappropriate comments to their child.
    “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?” Judge Russo asked the woman.
    “Yes,” she replied.
    “How would you do that?” the judge asked.
    The woman said she would try to physically harm the attacker and say “no,” to which Judge Russo asked, “What else?”
    The woman said she would ask the person to stop, to which Judge Russo again asked, “What else?”
    She then said she would run away.
    “Run away, get away,” he said. “Anything else?”
    “Block your body parts?” Judge Russo added. “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”

    The woman said she did not call the police until later. Judge Russo continued to question her about whether she had asked the man to stop, whether she tried to leave and how he had prevented her from leaving, as she had alleged he had done.
    The judicial conduct committee said Judge Russo’s “questioning of the plaintiff in this manner, to include hypotheticals, was wholly unwarranted, discourteous and inappropriate” and could “re-victimize the plaintiff.”
    In its second count of alleged misconduct, the committee said Judge Russo had abused his office by asking a family division manager to help change the scheduling of a guardianship hearing for the judge’s son, who has disabilities.
    The committee’s third count said Judge Russo should have recused himself from a hearing involving a man he knew from high school, whose pizza parlor the judge admitted to frequenting. The fourth count involved a nine-minute phone conversation about paternity testing that Judge Russo had with a woman when the father, who was the plaintiff in the case, was not present.
    The committee’s recommendation said Judge Russo had admitted wrongdoing in the last two counts but denied it in the first two.
    The panel also recommended that Judge Russo receive additional training on “appropriate courtroom demeanor,” according to the Supreme Court.

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    17) We Fled the Gangs in Honduras. Then the U.S. Government Took My Baby.
    I still don’t know where or in whose care my daughter was when we were apart. She’s still traumatized.
    By Sindy Flores, April 3, 2019
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/opinion/border-honduras-separation-gangs.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

    Sindy Flores, an asylum seeker from Honduras, holding her 18-month-old daughter, Grethshell, at a temporary living space in San Bruno, California.CreditCreditPeter DaSilva for The New York Times


    SAN FRANCISCO — I am an asylum seeker from Honduras and a mother of three children. For over a month my youngest daughter was separated from her father and me by the United States government. I still don’t know where she was during that time or who took care of her. 
    She’s a toddler, so she can’t tell me if something bad happened to her. I don’t know if she thinks we chose to abandon her. All I know is she came back pounds thinner, with lice and a hacking cough, and she cried for days, traumatized by a government that keeps children from their parents because they are migrants.
    We fled Honduras to the United States because we feared for our lives. I grew up in the capital, Tegucigalpa. In the past few years, my neighborhood has become one of the deadliest in the city. We had had run-ins with the gangs in the past. On Oct. 18, gang members came to our house looking for my partner, Kevin. 

    They showed me their guns and told me, “If you don’t leave in 24 hours, you know what will happen to you.”

    I knew what they were capable of. When my eldest daughter was 2 years old and I was pregnant with my son, their father was murdered and his body dismembered by gang members. Even after he was killed, we got death threats. We tried moving to another town until things cooled down, but the gangs found us there and extorted us.
    The death threats started again after Kevin and I got together and our daughter Grethshell was born. People who are deported from the United States as he was are targeted by the gangs, because they are presumed to have money. With the new threats, I grabbed the little money we had, around $80, and filled the children’s backpacks with clothes for them and a doll for Grethshell, who was 15 months old. I picked up my son at school and we made our way to the bus station to meet Kevin. 
    We bought tickets to the closest town in Guatemala, and from there we took another bus to the southern Mexican border. In Mexico, out of money, we traveled on the freight train nicknamed “la Bestia,” the Beast.
    While we waited for the train in Puebla, Mexican immigration agents showed up and beat people and threw them in vans. In the chaos, I grabbed my two older children and hid in the nearby bushes. Kevin, who was carrying Grethshell in a sling, took off in a different direction. That was the last time I saw them together.
    During the journey, we had come up with a plan in case we were separated. My uncle lives in San Francisco and that’s where we would reunite. “We’ll find each other there,” Kevin said. “We’ll be safe there.”

    We arrived at the border at Calexico, Calif., on Dec. 31. Despite appealing for help, I was turned away by the Border Patrol agents. Desperate to reunite our family, I found us a way across in the early morning hours of Jan. 1. 
    We were caught by agents after we crossed and taken to one of the detention centers known as “hieleras,” or iceboxes, because they are kept so cold. There I learned that Kevin was taken to the same detention center with Grethshell and she had been separated from her father. Two fellow migrant women told me that five agents held him down while they ripped her from his arms. Other migrant women were asked to watch her. 
    When I and my two other children were released on Jan. 2, my uncle confirmed what the women had told me. Kevin was charged with a felony for returning to the United States after having been deported. He was taken to jail, while our daughter was sent to a shelter for migrant children in San Antonio. 
    The family separation was not reported to the court on his charging documents. The charges against him were dropped, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement is still using those initial charges as an excuse to keep him detained indefinitely while he fights for asylum.
    I was told I would be reunited with my daughter in a week, but first I needed to fill out paperwork. Then I was told to provide a credit card with up to a $4,000 credit line for her flight, an impossibility for me. Officials refused to say who was looking after her. Finally I got fed up and went to the press. Grethshell was finally put on a plane and brought to me after I threatened to go to the address I had for the shelter manager and get her myself.
    When a social worker put my daughter in my arms on Jan. 30, she was inconsolable. My whole body shook as I held her and tried to soothe her, telling her that everything would be O.K. She was so sick I had to take her to the doctor the next day. For three weeks she resisted me, fearful, when I tried to hold her. She still cries out for her father at night.
    I know I am not alone. There are around 311,000 immigrants who have requested asylum after escaping violence in their home countries like us. Our future is uncertain. My children and I were just evicted from the home we shared with six other people. I’m trying to survive as a single mother of three. I don’t know if we’ll be granted asylum or sent back to our deaths at the hands of the gangs.

    When I asked to be let into this country because my family was in mortal danger, a Border Patrol agent told me I was weak. That it would be better if I went to Canada. “I don’t care if one of your kids dies,” he said. I wonder what that agent would have done if someone had threatened to murder his children. Wouldn’t he have risked everything to ensure their safety? 
    As the United States decides what kind of country it wants to be, Americans need to reckon with the humanitarian crisis the current administration has created and what these policies have done to families like ours who have come here seeking protection.

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    18) Migrants and Climate Change in Central America
    By Lauren Markham, April 6, 2019
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/06/us-mexico-immigration-climate-change-migration

    April 6, 2019—Media outlets and politicians routinely refer to the “flood” of Central American migrants, the “wave” of asylum seekers, the “deluge” of children, despite the fact that unauthorized migration across the U.S. borders is at record lows in recent years. Comparing human beings to natural disasters is both lazy and dehumanizing, but perhaps this tendency to lean on environmental language when describing migration is an unconscious acknowledgement of a deeper truth: much migration from Central America and, for that matter, around the world, is fueled by climate change
    Yes, today’s Central American migrants—most of them asylum seekers fearing for their lives—are fleeing gangs, deep economic instability (if not abject poverty,) and either neglect or outright persecution at the hands of their government. But these things are all complicated and further compounded by the fact that the northern triangle of Central America—a region comprising Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and the largest sources of asylum seekers crossing our border in recent years—is deeply affected by environmental degradation and the impacts of a changing global climate.
    The average temperature in Central America has increased by 0.5 Celsius (32.9 Farenheit) since 1950; it is projected to rise another 1-2 degrees before 2050. This has a dramatic impact on weather patterns, on rainfall, on soil quality, on crops’ susceptibility to disease, and thus on farmers and local economies. Meanwhile, incidences of storms, floods and droughts are on the rise in the region. In coming years, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development, countries in the northern triangle will see decreased rainfall and prolonged drought, writ large. In Honduras, rainfall will be sparse in areas where it is needed, yet in other areas, floods will increase by 60 percent. In Guatemala, the arid regions will creep further and further into current agricultural areas, leaving farmers out to dry. And El Salvador is projected to lose 10-28 percent of its coastline before the end of the century. How will all those people survive, and where will they go?
    This September, I travelled to El Salvador to report on the impacts of the U.S. government’s family separation policy. I’d been to El Salvador many times before, but never to the Jiquilisco Bay, a stunning, shimmering and once abundant peninsula populated by mangroves and fishing communities and uncountable species of marine life. It is also one that, like many places in El Salvador, and like many places in the world, is also imperiled by climate change. Rising sea levels are destroying the mangrove forests, the marine life that relies on them, and thus the fishermen who rely on that marine life to feed themselves and eke out a meager economy.
    I met a man there named Arnovis Guidos Portillo, a 26-year-old single dad. Many people in his family were fishermen, but they were able to catch fewer and fewer fish. The country’s drought and devastating rainfall meant that the area’s farming economy, too, was suffering. The land was stressed, the ocean was stressed, and so were the people. Arnovis got into a scuffle one day at a soccer game, which placed him on a hit list with a local gang. He had been working as a day laborer here and there, but the drought meant there was less work, and it was hard to find work that didn’t require crossing into rival gang territory. If he did, he would be killed. So he took his daughter north to the United States, where border patrol agents separated them for two months, locking them up in different states and with zero contact.
    Violence and environmental degradation are inextricably linked, and both lead to mass migration. An unstable planet and ecosystem lends itself to an unstable society, to divisions, to economic insecurity, to human brutality. When someone’s home becomes less and less livable, they move elsewhere. Wouldn’t each and every one of us do the same?
    This week, the New Yorker’sJonathan Blitzer published a series of pieces about the impacts of climate change in the Guatemalan highlands, where farmers are struggling to grow crops that they have been farming there for centuries. “In most of the western highlands,” Blitzer wrote, “the question is no longer whether someone will emigrate but when.” A few years ago, I reported from Guatemala’s dry corridor, several hours away from where Blitzer was reporting, where persistent drought had decimated the region’s agriculture, and particularly the coffee crop, on which roughly 90 percent of local farmers relied. It was a wildly different landscape from the one Blitzer described, but it faced the same problem: if you live in an agricultural zone, come from a long line of farmers and can’t reliably harvest your crops any more, what else is there to do but leave?
    It’s abundantly clear that climate change is a driver of migration to the U.S.—we have the data, we have the facts, we have the human stories. Still, the Trump administration has done nothing to intervene in this root cause. In fact, the U.S. government has systematically denied the existence of climate change, rolled back domestic regulations that would mitigate U.S. carbon emissions and thumbed its nose at international attempts—such as the Paris accords—to curb global warming.
    Now, in his latest futile, small-minded and cruel attempt to cut migration off at the neck (something we know is not possible—an unhealthy societal dynamic must be addressed at the root, just like with a struggling tree or crop,) Donald Trump announced last week that he would cut all foreign aid to the northern triangle. It’s a punitive move, and one that—just like building a wall, separating families, locking people up indefinitely, and refusing asylum seekers entry across the border—is a petty intimidation tactic that will do nothing to actually curb forced migration.
    In fact, cutting aid to Central America will do quite the opposite, for as much waste and imperfections as there are in international aid, aid in Central America has been vital for creating community safety programs, job skills development and government accountability standards. It has also helped with drought mitigation and supporting climate-resilient agricultural practices. In other words, foreign aid to Central America—a place unduly hit by climate change—is supporting the kind of climate change resiliency that will keep people from having to leave in the first place.
    Because people really don’t want to leave their homes for the vast uncertainty of another land, particularly when that land proves itself again and again to be hostile to migrants’ very existence. People don’t want to be raped along the route north, or die in the desert, or have their child ripped away from them by the border patrol, or be locked up indefinitely without legal counsel, without adequate medical care, with no idea what will happen to them and when. Who would risk this if things were OK back home? People like Arnovis leave because they feel like they have to.
    Eventually Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) officials convinced Arnovis to sign deportation papers with the promise that, if he did, he would be reunited with his daughter and returned to El Salvador. But he was shooed on to a plane back home without her. It took a tremendous amount of advocacy, but, after months locked up in the U.S., she, too, was returned home. They are now back together, which is a good thing, but the fundamental problem hasn’t changed: he can’t find work. His society is ill. So is the planet, and the land and sea all around him.
    Today, there are 64 million forced migrants around the world, more than ever before. They are fleeing war, persecution, disaster and, yes, climate change. The UN estimates that by 2050, there will be 200 million people forcibly displaced from their homes due to climate change alone.
    Migration is a natural human phenomenon and, many argue, should be a fundamental right, but forced migration—being run out of home against one’s will and with threat to one’s life—is not natural at all. Today, whether we choose to see it or not, climate change is one of the largest drivers of migration, and will continue to be for years to come—unless we do something about it. If we want people to be able to stay in their homes, we have to tackle the issue of our changing global climate, and we have to do it fast.
    The Guardian, April 6, 2019
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/06/us-mexico-immigration-climate-change-migration
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