Friday, July 31, 2015

Closing of Baltimore Detention Center Marks a Milestone
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Jul 31, 2015, 5:23 AM ET
By BRIAN WITTE Associated Press

An announcement by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan that he is closing the Baltimore City Detention Center marked a milestone in long-standing problems with the state's dangerously decrepit correctional facilities.

The Republican governor said Thursday that the state would save $10 million to $15 million a year by closing the state-run complex, where inmates and corrupt guards had run a criminal conspiracy that garnered national attention and where hundreds of inmates are held while awaiting trial or serving short sentences.

"Given the space we have, it makes no sense whatsoever to keep this deplorable facility open," Hogan said.

Problems with the jail have bedeviled state officials for years and spanned Democratic and Republican administrations, providing a steady flow of ammunition for political sniping. Hogan, standing by the crumbling building with walls dating to the 19th century, repeatedly cited failures in leadership in creating what he called "a black eye in our state for too long."

"For too long Maryland had been led down the wrong path," Hogan said. "Out of touch politicians in Annapolis made a practice of clinging to the status quo instead of finding common sense solutions to the many challenges that this state faces."

The Republican governor sharply criticized his predecessor, former Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is now seeking the Democratic nomination for president. He blasted O'Malley for his response to a sweeping federal indictment in 2013, which exposed a sophisticated drug-and cellphone-smuggling ring involving dozens of gang members and correctional officers at the jail. The investigation also exposed sexual relations between jailhouse gang leader Tavon White and female guards that left four of them pregnant.

Forty of the 44 defendants charged in the racketeering conspiracy were convicted, including 24 correctional officers. Thirty-five defendants pleaded guilty; eight defendants went to trial and one defendant died. White pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Hogan criticized O'Malley for characterizing the indictments at the time as a positive step in rooting out corruption.

"It was just phony political spin on a prison culture created by an utter failure in leadership," Hogan said.

O'Malley, for his part, took a dim view of the correctional infrastructure he inherited upon taking office in 2007, after Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich's tenure. In his first year, O'Malley closed the notorious House of Correction, which first opened in Jessup in 1879. Serious problems with juvenile justice centers had plagued Maryland for years, bringing critical reports from the U.S. Justice Department for civil rights violations.

Maryland Democrats criticized Hogan on Thursday for not including them in any discussions about closing the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center.

"Consistently, the governor has circumvented the Legislature rather than working together to find bipartisan and consensus-driven solutions," said Sen. James DeGrange, D-Anne Arundel, and Sen. Guy Guzzone, D-Howard.

Hogan said he was convinced he was making the right decision.

"We would never have been able to accomplish this had it been discussed in committee and public without taking the decisive action today," Hogan said.

The governor noted that the building's roof was crumbling. It has regular flooding and sewage problems. And blind corners make the facility unsafe for employees.

Stephen Moyer, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said the unsafe and obsolete facility should have been closed years ago.

"Part of this structure pre-dates the Civil War," Moyer said. "Much of it is literally falling apart."

Moyer said inmates will be transported to other nearby facilities. A special phone line has been created so relatives will be able to find them.

The state has run the jail since 1991 and says it is one of the largest municipal jails in the country. Parts of the complex, which also has wings housing women and juveniles, date to 1859. Only the men's detention center is being closed. The men's facility had 841 pre-trial detainees on Thursday.

About 750 are expected to be moved, because other buildings in the complex could accommodate some, said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
How 'Black Lives Matter' Activists Are Shaping the 2016 Campaign

Image: Louise Brown walks down King Street during a Black Lives Matter march, Saturday, June 20, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. The event honored the Emanuel AME Church shooting victims. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

The activists who have protested police killings of African-Americans around the country and organized around the phrase "black lives matter" are pushing for a broad rethinking of how racism affects black Americans.

In their individual communities, these activists are pushing to see police officers punished for improper conduct, like the University of Cincinnati police officer who was indicted Wednesday on murder charges in the killing of a black man during a traffic stop. But the broader goal of the activists, many of whom are under 30, is for a deeper understanding of how discrimination and racism remain powerful forces that they say devalue African-Americans. Such a shift in thinking, these activists argue, would force changes in local, state and federal policies on a number of issues, including policing.

"A part of this movement is forcing the country to deal with the mythology of racism -- that black people are not fully human in the first place," said Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, a Philadelphia pastor who has been active in the Black Lives Matter movement. "When black life matters, you don't have to worry about whether or not a minor traffic violation is going to escalate like it did with Sandra Bland," the 28 year-old woman who died earlier this month in police custody after a traffic stop.

Elle Hearns, who helped organize a conference in Cleveland last week called "The Movement for Black Lives Convening," said that changing the way in which people of color are viewed and treated has to be a priority.

"Policy is a beautiful thing, but the reality is that policy isn't going to save anyone's life." said Hearns.

Five presidential candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, will address the National Urban League's annual conference in Fort Lauderdale on Friday. But while the Urban League is an older, more established civil rights organization, Clinton and the other candidates will also be tailoring their comments to the new, younger generation of activists who have emerged since the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri last August.

In recent weeks, Clinton has emphatically invoked their rallying cry, "black lives matter."

At a conference in Cleveland last week, none of the 2016 presidential candidates were in attendance, although BuzzFeed reported a Clinton aide was there.

In interviews with some of those who attended the Cleveland conference, organizers said that they discussed policy proposals but that their main focus was connecting with others within the movement.

"I didn't really get in contact with any specific policy demands," said Alwiyah Shariff, who attended the event and is a member of the Ohio Student Association, one of the organizations that put on the event. "For us, it was more about tackling the underlying issues in culture and society."

But despite their insistence that their movement is about more than just policy, many activists still view politics as a necessary part of accomplishing their goals.

"Politics are important," said Cedric Lawson, who attended the conference as a member of Black Youth Project, an organization aimed at mobilizing youth on issues of racial justice. "It is extremely important that activists are able to hold someone accountable."

In fact, many of the activists are unified on policies they view as vital to improving the lives of black people, such as raising the federal minimum wage, increasing federal oversight of police and of police funding and putting more money into public schools, particularly in poorer neighborhoods.

Fight for 15, a national campaign which seeks to increase the national minimum wage to $15, is popular among activists involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.

"This movement cannot be divorced from economic opportunity. A $15 minimum wage is certainly a game changer," said Tyler.

Some activists have even suggested that public school systems be funded by the federal government, not through state and local taxes as they currently are.

"Funding for public schools should come at the federal level," said Tyler. "If we go off of local property taxes, then we are always going to have a disparity. The way you don't leave children behind is that you don't have any schools that aren't properly funded."

While many cities are now requiring officers to wear body cameras, these activists say there is a need for more comprehensive reforms of policing.

"Body cameras clearly aren't enough," Shariff said. "People are dying every day, and we need to be giving less money to police and more training."

Charlene Carruthers, the national director for the Black Youth Project, agreed, stating, "We need an immediate reallocation of how we fund policing in this country."

"I believe that demilitarizing the police is a conversation that should be had," said Herns. "If we invested money into our communities instead, then the need to have more police and military weapons wouldn't be there."

How They Differ From the Traditional Civil Rights Groups

Many of the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement mirror those of traditional civil rights groups like the NAACP, the National Action Network (the Rev. Al Sharpton's organization) and the National Urban League: changing police practices that often result in a disproportionate number of blacks being pulled over, stopped or arrested; fighting racism in government policy but also in American culture; and seeking to reduce inequality between blacks and whites.

What has emerged over the last year as a key difference is in rhetoric and how they define America's racial problems. The younger activists often use phrases like "white supremacy" and "black lives matter," and they emphatically reject others, like "black-on-black crime" and "white lives matter." (In part because of how America is segregated, the victims of most crimes are the same race as the perpetrators, so these activists argue that isolating black victims of crimes by fellow blacks is misleading.)

Their view of race in America often mirrors that of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the influential writer for The Atlantic and the author of "Between the World and Me." Coates wrote a widely-read essay last year calling for reparations to Africans-Americans because of the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws that emerged after the Civil War, and racially-biased housing policies. He has criticized President Barack Obama for too often focusing on the behavior of African-Americans rather than systemic racism that they face.

But more traditional civil rights groups take an approach more like Obama's. They seek policy changes, such as getting schools to reduce the number of suspensions handed out black and Hispanic students, without necessarily convincing whites in today's America they are part of a group that has long had privilege and supremacy.

"We are much sharper and focused on public policy," Marc Morial, the Urban League's president, said in an interview, comparing his institution to the younger activists. But he added, "they are adding support and momentum."

"I don't' think there's a great difference in terms of what we want," he said.

The other difference is that the traditional civil rights groups' agenda, unlike that of the new activists, is more closely aligned with the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

The Urban League, for example, is calling for a $12 minimum wage rather than the $15 hike that many Black Lives Matter activists have pushed.

What About The Presidential Candidates?

Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University who writes about African-American politics, said that activists have been successful in getting the attention of candidates.

"Because of protests, politicians are being forced to look at these issues," she said.

Their influence was particularly on display earlier this month at progressive conference Netroots Nation, where a group protested speeches by ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. O'Malley later apologized for using the phrase "black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter" at the gathering; Sanders, who was criticized for appearing dismissive of the protesters, addressed those complaints in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press.

Leading Democratic candidates have been significantly more vocal in recent weeks about the kinds of policy reforms these activists are pushing.

Clinton has called for body cameras in every police department in America and a rethinking of how America prosecutes non-violent drug crimes. Sanders recently proposed cutting federal funding for police departments that don't overhaul their officer training, and O'Malley has advocated for major reforms to police transparency.

And they have also used new language to address activists' concerns. Clinton has decried "institutional racism," Sanders dubbed it "structural racism," and O'Malley used the phrase "triumphs of white racism"

But some of the activists want two specific policies that are more controversial: a massive public jobs program that would help reduce black unemployment, and a net reduction in the amount the U.S. spends on law enforcement, premised on the idea that America is over-policed.

Sanders is for the former; it's not clear Clinton or O'Malley would endorse either idea.

The activists in the Black Lives Matter movement say they are unsatisfied so far with the presidential candidates.

"I haven't really seen anything except for them saying 'black lives matter," Shariff said.

"I think that some folks are taking notice of it, but many of them have said nothing and done nothing," Carruthers said. "I remain skeptical."

Morial too expressed some dissatisfaction.

"I have not seen any of them lay out any plans that properly address and champion these issues," Morial said.

The Republican candidates have largely rejected both the rhetoric and the policies of the emerging young civil rights activists, opposing the economic policies they back and generally avoiding rhetoric like "black lives matter."

Bush, in fact, suggested that the phrase "black lives matter" is a "slogan."

The activists decry what they call "respectability politics," the idea that problems for African-Americans are rooted in absent black fathers and failures of blacks to do enough to help themselves.

But Bush, in an op-ed in May after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, leaned in this direction, arguing "an effective anti-poverty program is a strong family, led by two parents." (The former governor is also controversial with black activists in Florida because he signed one of the nation's first "Stand Your Ground" laws, which some African-Americans say made it easier for George Zimmerman to be found not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.)

At the same time, some of Republican candidates have embraced criminal justice reform, an idea backed by both the new activists, the traditional civil rights groups, and a growing number of conservatives like the Koch brothers.

In a recent speech, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for changing job forms that require a person to indicate if they have a committed a felony, a policy that often makes it harder for ex-offenders to get jobs. Civil rights groups have long advocated so-called "ban the box" legislation.

Christie also urged the adoption of community policing like in Camden, New Jersey, the same town Obama praised in May.

"The war on drugs has become a war without end," Christie said, calling it a "failure."

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is pushing a bill in the Senate that would end the ban on people convicted low-level drug crimes from getting food stamps, and he has stressed the need to roll back minimum sentencing laws.

"I tell people that I think they're not looking if they don't think that the incarceration problem in our country is not skewed towards one race," Paul said in March. "I don't think it's purposeful but I do think it is actual and it is real and we should do something about it."
Online Petition Demands Winston-Salem Remove Historic Black Panther Party Marker
2:04 PM, JULY 30, 2015

 Former members and current supporters cheered the unveiling of the city's historic marker commemorating the Winston-Salem chapter of the Black Panther Party at the corner of Fifth Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard in Winston-Salem, N.C. in 2012.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — An online petition is asking the city of Winston-Salem to remove a historic marker for the city chapter’s of the Black Panther Party — a sign that the petition says honors a racist and violent organization, according to The Winston-Salem Journal.

Wayne Pearce of Henderson started the petition drive at , a website that allows people throughout the world to start online petitions for various causes. Pearce’s petition had more than 930 signatures late Wednesday. Pearce couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

The petition demands that the Winston-Salem City Council remove the sign located at the northeast corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and East Fifth Street.

The petition also mentions a rally two weeks ago in South Carolina in which a leader and members of the so-called New Black Panther Party called for killing white people.

This organization has no relations to the BPP formed by Huey P.Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland during Oct. 1966. The original party initiated by Stokely Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1965 ad 1966.

Newton, Seale and others set up there own Black Panther organizations in 1966.
Confederate Flags Placed at Martin Luther King's Church
ATLANTA — Jul 31, 2015, 4:26 AM ET
Associated Press

Surveillance cameras caught images of two white males laying Confederate battle flags on the ground near the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s church, but it wasn't clear whether they had committed a crime.

Atlanta police Chief George Turner said Thursday his officers were working with federal authorities and hadn't determined what, if any, charges might be sought. Turner said they had not ruled out a hate crime, though Georgia has no state hate crimes law.

An officer from the Atlanta FBI's joint terrorism task force was on the scene "to better determine if any specific threats were received" and to provide support to Atlanta police, FBI Special Agent Steve Emmett said in an email.

The placing of the flags was the latest provocative act involving the Civil War-era symbol since nine black church members were gunned down during Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, and it happened in the heart of an area devoted to the slain civil rights leader, near his birthplace, his crypt and a center devoted to preserving his legacy.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, called placing the flags on church grounds a "terroristic threat."

"This act by a cowardly and misguided individual or individuals is provocative to say the least. It ought to get the attention not only of black people but of freedom-loving people," he said. "To place Confederate flags on the campus of Ebenezer Baptist Church after this horrific act in Charleston, in the wake of all this happening in our country, whatever the message was, it was clearly not about heritage, it was about hate."

Two former Georgia prosecutors said leaving the flags alone doesn't amount to a terroristic threat in the eyes of the law.

Bob Keller, the Clayton County district attorney for nearly three decades until 2004, said he couldn't think of a crime they had committed.

"It was certainly divisive and not acceptable behavior the way it was done, but I cannot find a criminal act to it," he said.

Ken Hodges, who served as Dougherty County district attorney from 1997 to 2008, struggled at first to think of a crime they might have committed before saying a charge of vandalism to a place of worship might be possible. That includes the malicious defacing or desecration of a church or other place of worship.

King preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue, once a bustling center of commerce for Atlanta's African-American businesses and residents. The area is home to the historic church and a new church building where the congregation now meets and where the flags were placed. Nearby is the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and all of those buildings are just a short walk from the home of King's grandparents, where he lived for the first 12 years of his life.

Atlanta police officer Gary Wade said a maintenance worker discovered the flags at 6 a.m. Thursday and notified the National Park Service, which operates the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which is adjacent to the church.

The flags weren't stuck in the ground but instead laid flat. One was placed near a bell tower under a poster that said: "Black Lives Matter." The slogan, which has been spray-painted on Confederate monuments across the South this summer, has become part of a movement of civil rights supporters who say police treat blacks unfairly.

Warnock said black clergy from around the country were gathered at Ebenezer on Thursday to discuss the role of black churches in social justice issues, including mass incarceration. The placing of the flags only strengthens their resolve, he said.

Superintendent Judy Forte of the National Park Service said her office at the King historic site received a threatening phone message the day before the shooting at the South Carolina church. The message was rambling and "very alarming and they did mention coming here to the historic site," she said. There was no indication that was connected to the flags.

At some point within the last two years, a Confederate battle flag was placed at the tomb of King and his wife Coretta across the street from the church, said Forte, who couldn't recall exactly when that happened.

"It was disturbing and sickening, but unfortunately not terribly surprising," Warnock said of the latest incident. "We've seen this kind of ugliness before."
Associated Press writer Jeff Martin contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

W. E. B. Du Bois to Malcolm X: The Untold History of the Movement to Ban the Bomb
07/30/2015 1:59 pm EDT

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. announced his strong opposition to the war in Vietnam, the media attacked him for straying outside of his civil rights mandate. In so many words, powerful interests told him: "Mind your own business." In fact, African American leaders have long been concerned with broad issues of peace and justice—and have especially opposed nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, this activism is left out of mainstream corporate-produced history textbooks.

On June 6, 1964, three Japanese writers and a group of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) arrived in Harlem as part of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki World Peace Study Mission. Their mission: to speak out against nuclear proliferation.

Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American activist, organized a reception for the hibakusha at her home in the Harlem Manhattanville Housing Projects, with her friend Malcolm X. Malcolm said, "You have been scarred by the atom bomb. You just saw that we have also been scarred. The bomb that hit us was racism." He went on to discuss his years in prison, education, and Asian history. Turning to Vietnam, Malcolm said, "If America sends troops to Vietnam, you progressives should protest." He argued that "the struggle of Vietnam is the struggle of the whole Third World: the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism." Malcolm X, like so many before him, consistently connected colonialism, peace, and the Black freedom struggle. Yet, students have rarely heard this story.

With the recent developments in Charleston surrounding the Confederate flag, there is a renewed focus on what should be included in U.S. history textbooks and who should determine the content. Focusing on African American history, too often textbooks reduce the Black freedom movement to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington. Rosa Parks and Dr. King are put in their neat categorical boxes and students are never taught the Black freedom struggle's international dimensions, viewing slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement as purely domestic phenomena unrelated to foreign affairs. However, Malcolm X joined a long list of African Americans who, from 1945 onward, actively supported nuclear disarmament. W. E. B. Du Bois, Bayard Rustin, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Black Panther Party were just a few of the many African Americans who combined civil rights with peace, and thus broadened the Black freedom movement and helped define it in terms of global human rights.

W. E. B. Du Bois

If students learn about Du Bois at all, it is usually that he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or that he received a PhD from Harvard. However, a few weeks after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Du Bois likened President Truman to Adolf Hitler, calling him "one of the greatest killers of our day." He had traveled to Japan and consistently criticized the use of nuclear weapons. In the 1950s, fearing another Hiroshima in Korea, Du Bois led the effort in the Black community to eliminate nuclear weapons with the "Ban the Bomb" petition. Many students go through their entire academic careers and learn nothing of Du Bois' work in the international arena.

If students ever hear the name Bayard Rustin, it is usually related to his work with the March on Washington. He has been tragically marginalized in U.S. history textbooks, in large part because of his homosexuality. Bayard Rustin speaking at the 1958 Anti-Nuclear Rally England. Image: Contemporary Films.However, Rustin's body of work in civil rights and peace activism dates back to the 1930s. In 1959, during the Civil Rights Movement, Rustin not only fought institutional racism in the United States, but also traveled to Ghana to try to prevent France from testing its first nuclear weapon in Africa.

These days, some textbooks acknowledge Dr. King's critique of the Vietnam War. However, King's actions against nuclear weapons began a full decade earlier in the late 1950s. From 1957 until his death, through speeches, sermons, interviews, and marches, King consistently protested the use of nuclear weapons and war. King called for an end to nuclear testing asking, "What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and White, are merely free to face destruction by Strontium-90 or atomic war?" Following the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, King called on the government to take some of the billions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons and use those funds to increase teachers' salaries and build much needed schools in impoverished communities. Two years later, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, King argued the spiritual and moral lag in our society was due to three problems: racial injustice, poverty, and war. He warned that in the nuclear age, society must eliminate racism or risk annihilation.

Letter from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament inviting Dr. King and Bayard Rustin to their mass march. Click to read letter at the King Center website.

Dr. King's wife largely inspired his antinuclear stance. Coretta Scott King began her activism as a student at Antioch College. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, King worked with various peace organizations, and along with a group of female activists, began pressuring President Kennedy for a nuclear test ban. In 1962, Coretta King served as a delegate for Women Strike for Peace at a disarmament conference in Geneva that was part of a worldwide effort to push for a nuclear test ban treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. Upon her return, King spoke at AME church in Chicago, saying: "We are on the brink of destroying ourselves through nuclear warfare . . . . The Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement must work together ultimately because peace and civil rights are part of the same problem."

Soon, we will commemorate the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not long after comes the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Students will then return to school and to their history textbooks. However, most will not learn how these issues are connected. They will not learn of all those in the Civil Rights Movement who simultaneously fought for peace. But this must change, and soon. The scarring of war and poverty and racism that Malcolm X spoke of continues. It's time that students learn about the long history of activism that has challenged these deadly triplets.

 Vincent J. Intondi is an associate professor of history at Montgomery College and director of research for American University's Nuclear Studies Institute. He is the author of African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movementif_we_knew_banner (Stanford University Press, 2015). This article is part of the Zinn Education Project's If We Knew Our History series. Learn more about the Zinn Education Project and how you can help bring people's history to the classroom.
Why Union Leaders Want L.A. to Give Them a Minimum Wage Loophole
Los Angeles Times

One of the most divisive issues that Los Angeles City Council members expect to confront when they return this week from a summer recess will be a proposal by labor leaders to exempt unionized workers from the city's new minimum wage.

The push for the loophole, which began in the final days before the law's passage, caused a backlash rarely seen in this pro-union city and upended perceptions of labor's role in the fight to raise pay for the working poor. Union activists were among the most stalwart backers of L.A.'s ordinance raising the wage to $15 by 2020, and argued against special consideration for nonprofits and small businesses.

Rusty Hicks, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the union waiver would be a routine protection against challenges to the ordinance under federal labor law. "This is about staying consistent with previous provisions and crafting something that will withstand legal scrutiny and delay," Hicks said in May. In California, he added, "we've seen every city that has passed a minimum wage include this kind of a provision."

A Times review of other cities' minimum wage laws, as well as interviews with labor leaders and legal experts, suggests the truth is more complicated.

Guarantees that organized workers should be allowed to bargain for a subminimum wage appear to have scant legal justification, some experts said. They are not a universal feature of local wage ordinances, in California or other states. San Diego, the largest California city to raise its minimum wage in recent years before L.A., did not include such an exception.

And whether the exemptions are what their harshest critics say — a scheme to swell union rolls with more dues-paying members by appealing to businesses that would rather let workers organize than be forced to pay them more — they are unpopular even among some at the highest levels of the labor movement.

"Unions in America, obviously we're in decline," said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW, the union that represents home healthcare workers and is leading the campaign for a California ballot measure to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15. "I don't think we help ourselves by taking positions where we don't hold ourselves to the same standards as everybody else."

Regan said that "under no circumstances" would such an exemption be included in the 2016 initiative that SEIU-UHW is championing. He said it was "silly" to suggest, as some in L.A. do, that the exemption would make a wage increase more legally defensible. "I just think that's a red herring," he said. "It's not true."

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In May, when L.A. elected leaders approved the minimum wage hike, they opted to defer debate on the question of a union waiver and asked for further research into the matter from city analysts. It is still unclear when the provision could come up for a vote.

Hicks declined to comment for this report. In previous statements, he and others have warned that one way opponents of the $15 minimum wage could challenge the ordinance in court is asserting that it violates the National Labor Relations Act by intruding on the collective bargaining process. He said a waiver for unions would safeguard the law from such arguments.

Legal experts said the attack that Hicks described would be unlikely to succeed. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that "minimum labor standards" don't conflict with workers' right to unionize, said William B. Gould IV, a professor emeritus at Stanford Law School and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. Many lower courts have held that a minimum wage is such a standard.

Betsy Johnson, an attorney with the national firm Ogletree Deakins who has practiced employment law in California for three decades, said she could see no conflict between collective bargaining rights and L.A.'s new minimum wage. "All it does is set a higher floor for the unions to work from" when bargaining, she said.

Recent history also indicates that the exemptions don't discourage lawsuits. In fact, when hotel industry groups went to federal court to challenge a 2014 L.A. ordinance that raised the hourly minimum wage to $15.37 for workers at large hotels, the groups' lawyers argued that the measure's union exception was one way in which it ran afoul of federal labor law. (The case is pending.)

The experience of other cities suggests that a range of different motives can drive unions to seek exemptions for their workers.

When City Council members in San Diego voted to raise the hourly minimum wage to $11.50 last year, some activists sought an escape clause for union workers. Tom Lemmon of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, one of the groups that lobbied for the waiver, said the survival of labor-friendly businesses was at stake.

Without leeway to pay a subminimum wage, he said, those companies could be outbid by nonunion shops that chose to ignore the new pay standards.

"The reason we asked was so that we could continue to be competitive," Lemmon said. "We knew that our people were going to be following the rules and other folks would not.... One more layer of rules was just going to make it harder for our contractors to compete."

San Diego ultimately did not include the exemption. Business leaders opposed to the city's wage increase gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the law, which is on hold pending the vote's outcome.

Some see thinly veiled self-interest at work in labor's quest for waivers in minimum wage laws. Glenn Spencer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that Southern California in particular shows the potential benefits of such provisions for private-sector unions at a time when many are struggling to stanch long-term declines in membership.

Beginning in 2006, the local chapter of the national hotel workers union Unite Here successfully campaigned for ordinances in L.A. and Long Beach that raised the minimum wage for workers at some large hotels. As a result of union opt-out clauses in those laws, Spencer says, Unite Here was able to pitch itself to hotel companies as a means for evading employee pay raises — the "low-cost option."

Spencer pointed to data from the federal government's Office of Labor Management Standards showing that Unite Here Local 11, which covers L.A. and Long Beach, grew from 11,936 members in 2006 to 20,691 in 2014. But the exact cause of that influx is unclear. The same federal data show Local 11's spending jumped from 2006 to 2014, suggesting Unite Here might simply have attracted new members by pouring more resources into organizing.

One of Unite Here's top executives, Maria Elena Durazo, held Hicks' job as head of the L.A. county labor federation until last year. Durazo declined to comment. Hotel managers contacted by The Times either did not respond or declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the hotels' dealings with employees.

Mike Casey, the outgoing president of Unite Here Local 2 in San Francisco — a city whose $15 minimum wage law includes a collective-bargaining exemption — rejected suggestions that such clauses are intended to pressure businesses to unionize.

"This is not some cynical thing," Casey said. "It gives us more latitude and more flexibility at the bargaining table."

For example, he said, workers might choose to accept a subminimum wage in exchange for better benefits. Because of tax breaks associated with employer-provided health insurance, such trade-offs can be advantageous both for businesses and workers.

Whatever labor leaders' motives for seeking freedom for union members to earn a subminimum wage, others argue that the exemptions' potential benefits should be carefully balanced against the suspicions they create.

"At this point in our history, we have to be very careful to send the message that we stand up for all workers," said David Rolf, an SEIU leader in Seattle who helped pass that city's $15 minimum wage ordinance, which does not include a union waiver.

"A wage is a wage is a wage," he said. "It's very hard to justify why you'd want any worker to make less than the minimum wage."

Follow @PeteJamison for news from L.A. City Hall.
At Newark, N.J., Protest: Police Brutality, Racism, Inequality Targeted
By Monica Moorehead
Workers World
July 29, 2015

Newark, N.J. — Several thousand people braved a hot sun and no shade in over 90-degree heat to rally and march in Newark, N.J., on July 25. They were protesting police brutality, racial injustice and economic inequality.

The majority African-American crowd, which also included Latinos/as, Asians and whites, youth and seniors, were supporting a demonstration initiated by the Newark-based People’s Organization for Progress, chaired by Larry Hamm. Delegations traveled from as far away as Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond and New York City, as well as other parts of New Jersey.

Newark is the most populated city in New Jersey with the second-highest poverty rate: 30.2 percent, based on a family of four making only $22,000 or less, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

A main theme of the march and rally was Black Lives Matter, which focused on Black women and men killed by racist terror — such as Sandra Bland and Kindra Chapman, who were recently found dead in jail cells — and others who lost their lives at the hands of police in the Newark area and around the country. Family members, especially mothers of those killed by police, spoke with great emotion at the rally.

A public statement on the “Million People’s March” Facebook page from Hamm explains what motivated the march:

“Police brutality is an ongoing, growing and deadly problem in the United States of America.

“It includes the unwarranted and unjustified killing of unarmed people, the use of excessive force, the violation of peoples’ constitutional rights, racist and discriminatory practices, criminal activity, corruption and misconduct, increased militarization of police forces, and the failure of the criminal justice system to hold police accountable.

“Police brutality is not an isolated problem. It is a historical problem with roots that are deep in the social fabric of this country. It must be seen within the broader context of racial and economic injustice and inequality.

“While the victims of police brutality come from all racial groups in society, the vast majority come from African American, Latino, Native American and other communities of color. They are overwhelmingly poor and working class. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Abdul Kamal, Kashad Ashford and Rekia Boyd are among the recent victims.

“Police brutality has been and continues to be the cause of social unrest in the country. Throughout contemporary U.S. history incidents of police brutality have sparked explosive episodes of civil rebellion and unrest, with the most recent being that of Ferguson, Missouri.

“The failure of the criminal justice system to hold police officers accountable is causing a political crisis as more people discover that police brutality goes unpunished. Police kill unarmed civilians and are not even charged.

“One grand jury after another fails to indict police officers. The cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner being the most recent examples. This is perpetuating a growing belief that the criminal justice system is racist and illegitimate.

“For these reasons POP is calling a Million People’s March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, and Economic Inequality. We will march to demand an end to police brutality and justice for all of its victims, police reform, and an end to the problems of racial injustice and economic inequality which lead to police brutality.”

Photo: People’s Organization for Progress march for racial and economic justice.
Credit: Joseph Piette
New York March Demands Justice for Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman
By Teresa Gutierrez
Workers World
July 29, 2015

Outrage over deaths of Black women in police custody.On July 22, the New York City Chapter of the Peoples Power Assemblies held a spirited rally and march in solidarity with Sandra Bland and Kindra Chapman. The PPA demanded justice for these sisters’ deaths. The two Black women had both been found dead by hanging, in Texas and Alabama jail cells respectively.

Despite a heavy police presence, about 1,000 people began to gather around 5 p.m. in Union Square where PPA organizer Terrea Mitchell opened the rally. She welcomed everyone with an emotional explanation of why the PPA had called the protest on short notice.

Mitchell’s rage at yet another Black person killed as a result of detention by police was vivid, as it was for every person who spoke out at the rally. Organizers from several Black Lives Matter groups added their voices, including NYC Shut It Down, trans activists and families of victims of police brutality.

PPA organizer Larry Holmes said that “the killing of Sandra Bland is the killing of an activist. She was one of us. This is why we must fight until victory is ours.” The crowd responded militantly to all calls for fundamental change and revolutionary struggle.

After the short rally, thousands of protesters marched through midtown Manhattan, first on the sidewalk and then in the streets. Once the demonstrators reached Penn Station and marched into it, they got a great response from people waiting for trains.

The protesters then went to Grand Central Station — where Black Lives Matter protests take place on a weekly basis — with their demands for justice and solidarity.

During the march some people sat down in a crossing area. The cops arrested 14 people, including one PPA organizer, who was dragged through the street before being arrested and put into a ­police wagon.

All those arrested were given desk warrants and were released the same night, some after midnight.

The next step in the struggle in cities around the country will be Aug. 8-9, the first anniversary of the murder of Michael Brown and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. In New York a PPA protest, “One Year Commemoration of the Murder of Michael Brown, the Ferguson Rebellion, & the Black Lives Matter Uprising,” will be held on Aug. 9 at 12 noon at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

For more information, visit and

Claudia Palacios contributed to this report.
Trans Woman Found Beaten to Death in Florida Believed to Be 10th Murder This Year
Jul 23, 2015, 3:20 PM ET

The transgender community and the family of a transgender woman named India Clarke are in mourning after police said she was found apparently beaten to death in a Tampa, Florida, park this past Tuesday morning.

Clarke, 25, is believed to be the 10th trans woman murdered in the U.S. this year, the majority of whom were trans women of color, according to reports published by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and the Human Rights Campaign (HCR), along with the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC). The NCAVP is an advocacy group that works to prevent and respond to LGBTQ+ and HIV-affected violence, and the HCR and TPOCC are also LGBTQ+ advocacy groups that partnered earlier this year to release a report detailing the violence transgender people face.

Clarke was discovered with "obvious signs of homicidal violence to the upper body," lying on the ground next to basketball courts at a park by Tampa's University Area Community Center, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office told ABC News today in a statement. Officials found the body after a center employee called authorities around 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the sheriff's office said.

Sheriff's officials said they are investigating Clarke's death as a homicide, though they are waiting for the completion of an autopsy to confirm the exact cause of death.

"I'm hurting all over right now," Clarke's mother, Thelma Clarke, 49, told ABC News today as she was on her way to make funeral arrangements. "I love my child. This was my baby, my youngest child. I just want to know who did this. I'm praying to God every night they find the person who took part of my life away from me. My daughter did not deserve this.

Thelma Clarke added that India Clarke "was a very loving, happy-going person" who "always tried to make people smile."

She added that India Clarke was born Samuel Elijah Clarke, but told the family a few years ago that she identified as a woman and wanted to be called India.

"We didn't like it in the beginning, but that's still our child, and we accepted the way she said she was and loved her, and still do now," Thelma Clarke said. "We called her India, though sometimes we'd call her Sammy depending on a certain situation, since that was what we called her when she was younger. We saw the life she wanted to live, and we respected that, and we were happy with it as long as she was happy with it."

Hundreds of people attended a vigil Wednesday night at the park where India Clarke was found dead, Thelma Clarke said, adding that another vigil organized by local transgender women in Tampa would take place downtown this Friday.

Clarke's death is being mourned nationwide by the transgender community, which has been calling for greater awareness and better response to the alarming rate at which transgender people, especially trans women of color, face violent discrimination. The community also has been calling for an end to the use of improper pronouns.

"India Clark's death is a tragedy, which is made worse by egregious misgendering by local police and media," read a statement by Chai Jindasurat, co-director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti Violence Project. "We must honor India Clarke, and all of the transgender women, especially trans women of color, killed in this epidemic by supporting the leadership of transgender women, public awareness and respect campaigns, speaking out against this violence, and protecting transgender people from harassment and discrimination."

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office referred to India Clarke as a "male dressed in women's clothing" in a news release. A spokesman for the department declined to comment on criticism about the gender reference and referred ABC News back to the news release.

Trans celebrities, including "Orange is the New Black" star Laverne Cox and MSNBC's "SOPOPular" host Janet Mock, both expressed their condolences and concerns via social media.

"She was only 25 years old and clearly into all things beauty hair and makeup just like me," Cox wrote on Instagram. I can't help but feel like I'm next. That's why I do the work I do because the avg. life expectancy for someone like me is only 35 years old."
Tsipras Confronts Rebels Within Who Oppose Greek Aid Talks
World Economy News

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras confronted rebels within his own party for not backing his deal with creditors, in a showdown that could put Europe’s most indebted state on course for snap elections.

Speaking to a central committee meeting of the Syriza governing party, Tsipras challenged dissenters to hold an internal party ballot on Sunday if they reject his decisions. He also called for an emergency congress in September to gauge his support and set priorities. The committee will decide on the initiatives, after about a quarter of the party’s lawmakers rejected Tsipras’s move to seek a new bailout in votes this month.

The premier dared those who wanted another leader to say so, adding that he wasn’t going to be the one to lead Greece to “catastrophe.” A formal party split would strip Tsipras’s coalition of its parliamentary majority and could force him to hold elections. Two officials have said an election could take place as soon as directly after Syriza’s congress.

“Whoever thinks another government and another prime minister would do better should speak up,” Tsipras, 41, said.

The so-called Left Platform of Syriza, led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, accuses Tsipras of violating the mandate voters gave him in January and in a July 5 referendum that saw Greeks oppose more austerity measures. Lafazanis was replaced as energy minister after leading a revolt against the new agreement for as much as 86 billion euros ($94 billion) attached to belt-tightening conditions.

The dissent has forced Tsipras to rely on opposition support to pass policies demanded by creditors.

Left Platform

“After abandoning earlier vows of unity, both sides appear to be preparing for a showdown today that could even split the party,” Paris Mantzavras and George Grigoriou, analysts at Athens-based Pantelakis Securities, wrote in a note to clients. “In theory, even an immediate Syriza split would not automatically lead to snap elections, as the current parliament could agree to form a ‘special purpose’ government.”

Left Platform dissenters, publishing their views on Iskra, a website named after a newspaper managed by Vladimir Lenin, have called on Tsipras to annul a July 12 agreement with creditors, and lead the country out of the euro area. Other prominent Syriza lawmakers, including Parliament Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou, have joined them in voting against the deal in two votes.

Bank Collapse

Konstantopoulou said earlier this month that the measures creditors, led by Germany, are asking Greece to implement constitute “a crime against humanity” and “social genocide,” while the country’s debt is “illegal, odious and unsustainable.”

Tsipras fought back on Wednesday, telling Sto Kokkino radio that the alternative to July’s agreement would be the collapse of Greece’s financial system.

“If I did what my heart was telling me to do, get up and leave, the very same day the branches of Greek banks abroad would fall,” Tsipras said. “Within 48 hours,” Tsipras added, the European Central Bank would pull the plug of emergency loans from Greek lenders, “which would mean, at first, the collapse of Eurobank, then possibly the National Bank of Greece, and, maybe, along the way — the rest of the banks.”

Source: Bloomberg
The Housing Market Still Isn’t Rational
Demonstration in downtown outside the Wayne County Treasurer
demanding an indefinite moratorium on tax foreclosures.
JULY 24, 2015
New York Times

Home prices have been climbing. They have risen 27 percent nationally since 2012, even more in places like San Francisco. But why worry? If you accept the efficient markets theory — and believe that real estate is an efficient market — then these prices are based on “new information,” even if you don’t know what that information is.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that the efficient markets theory is at best a half-truth, as a voluminous literature on market anomalies shows. What’s more, even that half-truth is grounded mainly in the stock market, which attracts professional investors who sometimes do make the market behave efficiently.

The housing market is another matter. It is far less rational than even the often irrational stock market, for a couple of important reasons. First, most investors find it difficult to understand how housing supply responds to changes in demand. Only a small minority of people think carefully about such things. Second, it is very hard for the minority of smart-money investors who do understand such matters to bet against bubble-level prices in real estate markets. In housing, the smart money has relatively little voice.

For the first point, in “A Nation of Gamblers: Real Estate Speculation and American History,” a presentation at the 2013 American Economic Association convention, Edward L. Glaeser of Harvard University reviewed real estate booms and busts. He showed how real estate investors have repeatedly made the mistake of neglecting the supply response to rising prices. In the Alabama cotton farmland boom of 1815 to 1819, for example, high cotton prices seemed to justify high prices for cotton land. What most investors failed to see at the time was that these cotton prices would induce new farmers around the world to begin to grow cotton. That same failure to anticipate how supply can respond to demand applies to many forms of real estate today. Developers and builders will, one way or another, exploit overpricing, increasing effective supply, in that way bringing real estate prices down.

For the second point, in 1977 Edward M. Miller pointed out in The Journal of Finance something that should have been obvious: Efficient markets require the possibility of selling short. In the stock market, for example, with short-selling, people who think the market is overpriced and headed for a fall can borrow shares and sell the borrowed shares at the current high price. If share prices do indeed fall, they can buy the shares back at a lower price and repay the loan, with a profit.

Short-selling helps prevent bubbles from forming, but such negative bets cannot easily occur in the housing market. You can’t routinely borrow a house and sell it, promising to buy back the same house later to repay the loan.

Markets without the possibility of making these negative bets will be inefficient. That’s because if it is not possible to short, the smart money can do no more than avoid holding an overpriced asset. Canny traders are forced to sit on the sidelines, and watch in futility as prices decline as they expected. Without short-sellers, there is nothing to stop a group of ignorant investors — who get some ill-conceived idea that a certain investment is just terrific — from bidding up prices to extravagant levels. In the housing market, that poses an enormous problem.

Suppose that you are convinced housing prices are too high. How can you profit from this insight?

You might consider shorting the residential real estate investment trusts (REITs) that invest in residential properties and are themselves traded on stock exchanges. However, REIT prices do not have a consistent correlation with housing prices, and tend to resemble stock prices instead. For example, the housing market declined in the two years after the March 2009 bottom of the stock market. The S & P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index fell 6 percent over this period. But, over that same time interval, the S & P 500 Residential REIT index tripled in value. Clearly, shorting this index would have been a bad move, even though a bet that housing prices would decline was spot on.

During the financial crisis, some professional investors did manage to profit by correctly forecasting home price declines. They used mortgage derivatives such as collateralized debt obligations to place their bets. John Paulson of Paulson & Company is well known for very successfully profiting from his prediction of trouble in the housing market. But mortgages are not homes, and he and others like him did not beat down the emerging housing bubble before it grew out of proportion.

In 2006, in collaboration with several colleagues and me, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange set up a futures market for single-family homes in 10 United States cities. This market is still going today, but it is not very active and it can be used to place only a small bet that home prices will fall.

There is a way for smart money to profit from an understanding of high prices. It is to build new houses and sell them before prices fall. This is a time-consuming process but it is what we are starting to see now, as housing starts and permits data show.

Still, despite rising prices, at present, exuberant investors do not dominate the domestic housing market over all. The Pulsenomics survey of household heads in January showed that national home price expectations are modest: on average increases of only 3.7 percent a year are expected for the next 10 years.

Extravagant expectations do lurk in parts of the market. In the 2015 Yale School of Management survey of recent home buyers that Karl Case of Wellesley College, Anne Thompson of Dodge Data and Analytics and I direct, our preliminary results confirmed the overall Pulsenomics conclusion yet found that some people have strikingly unrealistic expectations.

In San Francisco, for example, we found that while the median expectation for annual home price increases over the next 10 years was only 5 percent, a quarter of the respondents said they thought prices would increase each year by 10 percent or more. That would mean a net 150 percent increase in a decade. These people are apparently not thinking about the supply response that so big a price increase would generate. People like this could bid prices in some places so high that eventually the local market will collapse. Yet the smart money can’t find a profitable way to correct such errors today.

The bottom line is that there is no reason to assume that the real estate market is even close to efficient. You may want to buy a house if you love it and can afford it. But remember that you cannot safely rely on “comparable sales” to judge that the price is fair. The market isn’t efficient enough for that.

Robert J. Shiller is Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertJShiller.

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Cincinnati Officer Indicted in Samuel DuBose Shooting 'Felt His Life Was in Jeopardy'
Jul 30, 2015, 7:31 AM ET

A police officer indicted for murder "felt his life was in jeopardy" when he fatally shot a man during a traffic stop in Cincinnati earlier this month, his attorney told ABC News.

An arraignment was scheduled Thursday morning for Ray Tensing, who was indicted on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Samuel DuBose. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

"He’s been crucified since this thing first happened by the whole community without knowing what the evidence is," said his attorney, Stewart Matthews.

Matthews described Tensing, 25, as a man who only wanted to be a police officer and who sobbed when he learned he was being indicted.

"This is all he's ever wanted to do," he said. "His head just sank to the table. We were sitting around and his family -- mother, father and aunt -- were there with us and it just devastated all of them."

Tensing worked for the University of Cincinnati Police Department for the last year and a half, said Matthews. He was fired Wednesday when the indictment was announced.

DuBose, 43, was killed during a traffic stop on July 19 near the University of Cincinnati's campus, authorities said, noting that he was stopped because his car did not have a license plate in the front.

DuBose apparently refused to provide a driver's license, produced an open alcohol bottle and a struggle ensued, during which Tensing was knocked to the ground and fired one shot into DuBose's head, according to police.

Two videos were released by the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office when the indictment was announced Wednesday. The first shows the shooting from Tensing's body camera. The second video, from the body camera of an arriving officer, shows Tensing lying in the road before he gets up to run toward DuBose's crashed car.

Neither video shows Tensing being dragged as he has told investigators, according to a police report and his radio call. Matthews said he believed a jury would find that Tensing did not overreact during the traffic stop.

"He felt like his life was in jeopardy and that’s why the shot was fired," Matthews said.

ABC News' Avianne Tan and Katie Muldowney contributed to this report.
Sudanese Opposition Call to Resist Price Increase
July 29, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese opposition forces have called for general mobilization to resist the anticipated increase in the price of water, electricity and bread.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the “Sudan Call” forces announced its rejection to the increase in electricity and water prices which are expected to be approved by the parliament soon.

Sudan’s minister of water resources and electricity, Muataz Musa, on Friday said that increase in the price of electricity is inevitable. Also, the water corporation said it would increase the price of water by %100.

Sudan has a 40% electricity shortage and as of late the capital Khartoum has been plagued with power outages which have also exacerbated water cuts.

The opposition statement has attributed the deteriorating living condition and economic meltdown to corruption, lack of production policies, reliance on oil and lack of economic reform vision following the secession of South Sudan.

Sudan lost 75% of its oil reserves after the southern part of the country became an independent nation in July 2011, denying the north billions of dollars in revenues. Oil revenue constituted more than half of Sudan’s revenue and 90% of its exports.

The “Sudan Call” forces said that the extravagant spending on the security and sovereign sectors besides the cost of civil wars has led to an unprecedented deterioration in the living conditions of the Sudanese people in both rural and urban areas.

It added that the deterioration affected peoples’ daily needs from food, health, education and security.

The Sudanese pound lost 100% of its value since South Sudan’s secession. One US dollar is now trading at 9.6 Sudanese pounds (SDG) in the black market. The official exchange rate is around 5.7 pounds to the dollar.

The statement accused the government of mismanaging the services sector in the country, pointing to the lack of spending and incompetent workforce.

It warned that the 100% increase in the price of water and electricity would raise the general price level, adding that the recent government decision to increase the price of the US dollar for import of wheat would either raise the price of bread or reduce its weight.

“The services and economic crises and impoverishment policies would continue as long as this regime is sticking to power and the only available solution for the [political] forces that are keen on the future of Sudan is to work hard to change the regime,” the statement reads.

It added that the “Sudan Call” forces declares the general mobilization and urges all civil and political forces to mobilize the masses to resist the increase in the price of goods and services.

It should be mentioned that the “Sudan Call” forces include the rebel umbrella Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), National Umma Party (NUP) and the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF).

In September 2013, protests erupted in Sudan’s major towns following an announcement by the government that it was reducing subsidies on fuel and other basic commodities, leading to calls for regime change.

At least 200 protesters died, 15 of them children and more than 800 others have been detained.

South Sudan’s Opposition Leader Says Martyrs Day Reminds of Hard Won Freedom
July 29, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s former vice president, Riek Machar, who now leads an armed opposition faction against president Salva Kiir’s government, said 30 July Martyrs Day was a reminder that the people of the world’s youngest nation sacrificed millions of lives in order to achieve freedom and sovereign independence.

The rebel leader issued the statement on Wednesday on the eve of the Martyrs Day which the country commemorates every year on 30 July.

“This important day reminds the people of this young nation of the spilt blood of our heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives in the struggle for freedom, independence and sovereignty of our beloved country,” Machar stated through his press secretary, James Gatdet Dak, on Wednesday.

“It is unfortunate that our people have continued to shed blood after independence to resist a dictatorship that threatens to deny them freedom, democracy, justice and development which millions died for during decades of liberation struggle,” he said.

He said among the lives lost was the first president of the then southern Sudan government, late John Garang de Mabior, who was founder of the current ruling party in South Sudan.

“It is our hope that this situation shall be overcome and peace, stability and prosperity shall reign in South Sudan,” he concluded.

South Sudan’s SPLM Forms Committees to Study IGAD Peace Proposal
July 29, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s ruling SPLM party has formed three committees to study a peace proposal document released last week by mediators of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to end the 19-month long civil war in the country.

In a meeting chaired by president Salva Kiir on Wednesday, the SPLM officials in the executive and legislative organs gave the committees 48-hours to report their findings to a plenary.

“After the deliberating, the meeting decided to set up three committees so that they go and [study] the provisions of the agreement and come back to report to the plenary on Friday the 31st of July at 10am,” Michael Makuei Lueth, the country’s information minister and senior official of the SPLM, told reporters after the meeting on Wednesday.

“The three committees are committee on governance, committee on economic issues and the third committee is on permanent ceasefire and security arrangement,” he said.

Makuei said he will head the committee on governance and minister of humanitarian affairs, Awut Deng Acuil, leads the economic group while deputy foreign affairs minister, Peter Bashir Gbandi is the chairperson of the security arrangement committee.

Each committee started meeting at 4:pm local time in SPLM House, parliamentary affairs ministry and the national parliament, according to Lueth.

IGAD-Plus peace proposal on security arrangements provides for at least 18 months out of the 30 months of transitional period during which to complete integration of the two rival forces loyal to president Kiir and opposition leader, Riek Machar.

The two principals will separately be the commanders-in-chief of their respective armies, pending completion of the integration process. The two forces will begin to assemble 90 days after signing of a final peace agreement.

South Sudan’s capital, Juba, will be demilitarized and its security provided by international and regional forces. A radius of 25kms will be imposed for 30 months until the end of the transitional period. President Kiir will be allowed to have 260 soldiers as bodyguards while the armed opposition leader, Machar, will have 195 bodyguards.

On economic sector the proposal stressed the importance of realizing major reforms that will ensure equitable distribution of wealth in the country. The document has not however detailed how the wealth should be shared among different levels of government.

In the document the power sharing in the national executive would be 53% of ministerial positions for the government, 33% for the opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), 7% for former detainees and 7% for other political parties.

In the oil-rich greater Upper Nile region, the SPLM-IO would have 53% in the three states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, while the government would take 33% and 14% divided between former detainees and other political parties. No power sharing in the seven states of greater Bahr el Ghazal and greater Equatoria regions as government would take 100% in the two regions.

Also the top executive at the national level would include the incumbent president Kiir, first vice president to be named by the SPLM-IO and the incumbent vice president, James Wani Igga.

While the president shall be the executive head of state and chair the council of ministers, national defence council and national security council, the first vice president deputizes him and acts on his behalf in the event of absence.

The main task of the first vice president would be to initiate and implement reforms in the transitional government of national unity. There are other functions which are joint executive powers that need consultations between the president and the first vice president, and at times include the vice president in consultations.

The national legislative assembly would expand from the current 332 membership to 400 members. Members who rebelled from within the 332 MPs will be reinstated. SPLM-IO would appoint 50 additional new members to the parliament and former detainees plus other political parties would appoint 18. The Council of states would not be affected.

The speaker of the national parliament should also come from the states of greater Equatoria region.

The two warring parties to the South Sudan’s nineteen months long conflict have until August 5th to return to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to resume peace talks. IGAD and other members of the international community have set August 17 as the last day to sign an agreement to end the war.

South Sudan Says African Union Inquiry Found ’No Evidence of Genocide’
July 29, 2015 (JUBA) - The South Sudanese government has welcomed and commended the African Union (AU) for releasing a report, which it said found no evidence of genocide committed in the country’s ongoing war and recommended the need for reconciliation.

The AU commission of inquiry on South Sudan, chaired by ex-Nigerian president, Olusegun Obassanjo released on Friday its report into allegations of atrocities and human right abuses committed in the country during the initial start of the conflict.

According to the South Sudanese foreign affairs minister, Benjamin Marial, the AU report found no evidence of genocide, though misunderstanding within the leadership of ruling party (SPLM) over reforms sparked violence and subsequent loss of lives and properties.

"There was no evidence of genocide in the report. It reflected truth and reports about real events. As the government we welcomed it and assure our commitment to fully implement its recommendations, especially on the issues of peace and reconciliation”, Marial told Sudan Tribune Wednesday.

Marial was present at the AU Peace and Security Council meeting as representative of the South Sudanese government during which the report was released by the committee.

“The recommendations of the report are very clear. The outcome made it very clear that what happened in South Sudan was not genocide but it is the responsibility of the African to carry out proper investigation and come out with the findings reflective of their research and investigation”, he said.


In his speech to the people of African on Tuesday at the headquarters of the African Union on Tuesday, Obama called to end wars in Africa. He mentioned the armed conflicts in Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan and South Sudan.

He further stressed on the urgent need to stop the inter-South Sudanese conflict and to hold account the perpetrators of atrocities in the youngest African nation.

"In South Sudan, the joy of independence has descended into the despair of violence," he said adding "And neither Mr. Kiir, nor Mr. Machar have shown, so far, any interest in sparing their people from this suffering, or reaching a political solution".

Obama further disclosed that he agreed with the IGAD and AU leaders that the warring parties must sign a peace agreement by 17 August and warned saying "because if they do not, I believe the international community must raise the costs of intransigence".

"And the world awaits the report of the AU Commission of Inquiry, because accountability for atrocities must be part of any lasting peace in Africa’s youngest nation," he stressed.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Detroit Demonstration Held to Halt Forced Removals of African Americans
Abayomi Azikiwe, center, with Attys. Jerry Goldberg and
Vanessa Fluker addressing the Detroit City Council.
Shop owners, taxi drivers protest against real estate magnates, unlicensed drivers

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

A rally and march in Hart Plaza and at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center (City Hall) on July 21 exposed the false narrative emanating from the corporate media saying that Detroit is being revitalized.

The city emerged from a contrived financial emergency and forced bankruptcy late in 2014 with billions stolen from pensioners and residents who witnessed public assets taken over by private interests under the guise of cost-cutting. Over 60,000 households are still facing property tax foreclosures while hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies are being awarded to billionaires such as banker Dan Gilbert and stadium owner Mike Illitch.

Despite the propaganda advanced by the daily newspapers and television stations, the majority African American population has not witnessed any semblance of an economic revival since the Great Recession which began in late 2007. Well over 100,000 bank foreclosures were carried out against the working class city while the politicians did nothing to protect the interests of their constituents.

Even small African American shop owners are being driven out of the downtown and Midtown areas. Taxi drivers are now forced to compete with Uber Technologies, Inc., a transportation service which has generated controversy and protest internationally.

On July 21, both the shop and restaurant owners rallied beginning with a caravan from Eastern Market to Hart Plaza. Bert’s Market Place, a Jazz club and restaurant, owned by an African American Bert Dearing, has been a threatened with closure.

Dearing had owned the location but lost it to foreclosure after a lengthy illness. The property was listed on with a starting price of $700,000 and Dearing says he has until 2017 to resolve the issue or move.

Bert’s has been a mainstay for people in the downtown area and throughout the city. Dearing opened his doors for a fundraiser in support of people’s attorney Vanessa Fluker in 2011 after she had been fined by a local Wayne County judge in her militant efforts to save a family’s home through appealing an unjust decision that had racial implications.

Other small business people were also present at the demonstration who discussed familiar scenarios. Owners of building have sold to other interests that want the African Americans and their constituents out.

Taxi Drivers Join Demonstration

In addition to the shop owners and their supporters, the Metro Detroit Cab Drivers Association were also present protesting against the growing influence of Uber services which they say puts the local drivers at a disadvantage. Taxi cabs have to undergo expensive inspections, as well as pay excessive fees for insurance and bond plates.

These costs are compounded with the potential for random stops by the police who often ticket drivers for various spurious violations such as not having an updated log of trips.

Kenneth Kabaka Reynolds, the president of the Cab Drivers Association said of Uber that “"They are illegal in the state of Michigan and they're operating with impunity.”

Reynolds, a longtime activist and professional photographer, said if Uber is to continue operating in Detroit, city officials should regulate it like the traditional taxi cab industry. "And if you're not going to regulate Uber, deregulate the taxi cab industry.”

During the rally a statement of solidarity was delivered by Cecily McClellan, a leader in the Detroit Active and Retirees Association (DAREA). This organization was formed in the aftermath of the pension and healthcare cuts imposed by Judge Steven Rhodes who presided over the bankruptcy.

DAREA’s leaders were the most vocal opponents of the bankruptcy during the proceedings during 2013-2014. At present they have filed an appeal in federal court to overturn the attacks carried out against municipal retirees.

After the demonstrators marched from Hart Plaza on the Detroit River to City Hall for another rally, dozens of taxi vehicles began to circle the building honking their horns in an act of defiance. Later the rally participants marched around the building chanting slogans against current city policies under the administration Mike Duggan, the first corporate-imposed white mayor in forty years.

Calls for Solidarity Evoking Ferguson and Baltimore

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition participated in the demonstration and addressed the crowd and encouraged them to endorse the upcoming People's Assembly and Speak Out scheduled for Grand Circus Park downtown on Aug. 29. Moratorium NOW! Coalition reminded the crowd that African Americans still constituted the overwhelming majority of the population of Detroit and that the people of Ferguson and Baltimore had spoken to the concrete conditions prevailing in urban areas and pointed to a way forward.

If African Americans are being ignored by the city administration then the streets must be filled with angry people who are committed to reversing the business as usual atmosphere in the downtown area, the activists concluded. Despite the claims of an economic boom downtown and in Midtown, many businesses are still closing, even those not owned by African Americans.

One major problem is the construction along Woodward Avenue, the main thoroughfare in the city, where the M-1 rail line is being put down. With the disruptions along the street from downtown to the New Center area, there is no parking on the street along Woodward.

Moreover, the poverty and jobless rate among the people who live in the city is hovering near 50 percent. There are no plans for the implementation of a jobs program locally or nationally and consequently hundreds of thousands will remain on the margins of the working class.

The People’s Assembly and Speak Out scheduled for Aug. 29 is being held under the theme, “Rally For Our Future: Stop the War on Detroit! The leaflets being circulated in the city say that “From Greece to Puerto Rico to Spain and Across the United States workers are fighting back against the austerity being imposed by the banks and financial institutions.”

A list of grievances and demands on the leaflet publicizing the event calls for the stopping of police killings and brutality and the jailing of killer cops. In addition other issues to be address includes the need for at least a $15 an hour minimum wage; health care for all and single payer now; the halting of tax and mortgage foreclosures along with a demand that the Hardest Hit Homeowners funds be released to keep people in their residences in Detroit and Wayne County.

This demonstration will emphasize the need for a moratorium on water shut-offs and to stop the ongoing attempts to privatize the Detroit Water & Sewage Department (DWSD), which is undergoing a regionalization process as the Great Lakes Regional Water Authority. The Moratorium NOW! Coalition along with DAREA is supporting a petition drive to force a vote on the regionalization of the water services.  

On July 21, the same day that the demonstration was held at City Hall, the Detroit City Council in a 5-4 vote, approved a 7.5 percent water rate increase. These actions prompted by the state-run Detroit Financial Oversight Committee, which really runs the city in the post-bankruptcy and emergency management period. These policies will force more people into poverty risking their water services being terminated.

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition is asking other organizations locally, nationally and internationally to endorse the Aug. 29 rally and demonstration. Anyone interested in supporting the initiative should contact the organization at or call 313-680-5508.