Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Baltimore Activist Alert - December 13 - 14, 2017

26] Don’t fire the special prosecutor – Dec. 13
27] NO to Trump's attempt to steal from the poor and middle class – Dec. 13
28] Save Net Neutrality – Dec.13
29] Replace NAFTA – Dec. 13
30] Protest Tax Scam – Dec. 13
31] See the film 13TH -- Dec. 13
32] Lobby Training for Prince George’s County – Dec. 13
33] Two authors at Red Emma’s – Dec. 13
34] Support Honduras Solidarity Network – Dec. 14
35] Impact of the Trump Presidency – Dec. 14
36] "Toward a Common North Korea Strategy" -- Dec. 14
37] See screening of "Spirits' Homecoming, Unfinished Story" -- Dec. 14
38] Progressive Prince George’s Chapter Meeting -- Dec. 14
39] Showing of "The Nuns, The Priests, and the Bombs” – Dec. 14
40] Progressive Victory dinner – Dec. 14
41] The Black Urbanist – Dec. 14
26] – The people deserve the full truth about Russia's interference in the 2016 election, and whether or not Trump or his campaign were involved. But Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into this has been under attack since Day 1. This week, the one person with authority to call off Mueller's investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Common Cause members will be there in person, to pack the room and show Congress that the people are paying attention.  Join them at 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. on Wed., Dec. 13 from 9:30 AM to noon.  No one – including the President himself – is above the law. This important hearing is an opportunity to show that we support the integrity of this investigation and are watching what happens closely.  RSVP at

27] – On Wed., Dec. 13 from 10 AM to 4 PM in Washington, D.C., leaders from the Women's March, Center for Popular Democracy, Housing Works, and others will come together to say NO to Trump's brazen attempt to steal from the poor and middle class in order to enrich himself and donors. Stand up and fight for health care, for women's economic rights, against crushing student debt, and for a fairer, more equitable nation. RSVP at Go to

28] – On Wed., Dec. 13 from 10 AM to 2 PM, Protest to Save Net Neutrality, hosted by Defend Net Neutrality, at the Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th St. SW, WDC 20554.  Come and peacefully protest against the FCC's proposed removal of the Net Neutrality Rules.  Go to or

29] – Senator Bernie Sanders will speak at a Replace NAFTA event on Capitol Hill on Wed., Dec. 13 at 11 AM in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 608, 100 Constitution Ave. NE, WDC 20002. RSVP at

30] – Congressional Republicans are holding their very first (and probably only) “open” hearing about the tax scam.  Join a People’s Rally starting at 1 PM on Wed., Dec. 13 outside the East Side of the U.S. Capitol.  RSVP at  At the People’s Rally Against the GOP Tax Scam, help show congressional Republicans that we’re still here, we’re still angry, and we’re not going anywhere. Now more than ever, we must take action, organize, make noise, and show Congress that the people stand firmly against the GOP tax scam. Add your name to the #NotOnePenny pledge:

31] – Join Progressive Maryland, Baltimore Chapter, for its 2nd Neighborhood Listening Session "Film, Food and Conversation." On Wed., Dec. 13 from 6 to 8 PM, see Ava Duvernay’s 13TH at 1403 Severn St., Baltimore 21230, and then discuss the racial inequality within the criminal justice system.  Come allow your voice to #BeMoreHeard.  Light refreshments will be served. RSVP at  Anthony S. White can be reached at

32] – On Wed., Dec. 13 from 6:30 to 8 PM get Lobby Training for Prince George’s County at Hillcrest Heights Library, Small Meeting Room, 2398 Iverson St., Temple Hills, MD 20748.  The Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Campaign aims to double wind and solar in Maryland in the upcoming legislative session.  The group is seeking activists in Districts 24, 25, and 26 to lobby legislators to garner support for the campaign. Contact Liz Lee, director of Maryland Volunteer Outreach Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), at

33] – On Wed., Dec. 13 at 7:30 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, turn out for AARON MAYBIN and KYLE POMPEY who will discuss ART-ACTIVISM & PERSPECTIVE: BALTIMORE.  This event will feature two books by Baltimore artists: Aaron Maybin's “Art-Activism: The Revolutionary Art, Poetry, & Reflections of Aaron Maybin and Kyle "Nice Shot" Pompey's “Perspective: Baltimore.” Call 443-602-7585.  RSVP at

34] – The Honduras Solidarity Network Issues a National Call-In Day to Stop U.S. Support for Electoral Fraud & Repression in Honduras. TAKE ACTION at Call the State Department and your senators and representative on Thurs., Dec. 14 with the following demands: 1] Cut off all U.S. political and economic support to Juan Orlando Hernandez, 2]     No recognition of any regime imposed through fraud and repression and 3].     Immediately cut off U.S. security aid to Honduras. The Congressional Switchboard (for both Representatives and Senators) is 202-244-3121.  Call the Western Hemisphere Bureau of the State Department: Acting Assistant Secretary Francisco L Palmieri at 202-647-8387.  And Tweet US Charge d'Affaires Heidi Fulton in the US Embassy to Honduras: @USAmbHonduras.

35] – Hear The Impact of the Trump Presidency, Year 1: American and Japanese Perspectives on Thurs., Dec. 14 from 9:30 to 10:30 AM on Thurs., Dec. 14 from 9:30 to 10:30 AM at The Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, 8th Floor, WDC 20036. 2017 has been a year of challenge and change as the world adjusted to the policies of the Trump administration. From the “America First” approach to trade to the seeming departure from some of the fundamental principles that previously underpinned U.S. foreign policy, the administration has stoked uncertainty about the sustainability of U.S. commitments as a leader and team player in the international community. RSVP at

36] -- On Thurs., Dec. 14 from 12:30 to 4 PM hear "Toward a Common North Korea Strategy" with 12 speakers at the Center for a New American Security, The Washington Court Hotel, Grand Ballroom, 525 New Jersey Ave. NW, WDC. RSVP at

37] – See screening of "Spirits' Homecoming, Unfinished Story" on Thurs., Dec. 14 starting at 5 PM at the Marvin Center Amphitheater, 3rd Floor, 800 21st St. NW, W DC 20052.  The event is free of charge. There will be a finger food reception before the film-screening and a Q&A session with Director Jungrae Cho after the screening.  The film is part dramatization and part documentary. It is a visual testimony of the "Comfort Women," and it contains additional scenes from the movie "Spirits' Homecoming" along with filmed documentations of the "Comfort Women" from the House of Sharing archives. Through their testimonies, we provide proof of the victims of Japanese war crimes during WWII and the unspeakable atrocities they experienced. Unfortunately, a satisfying resolution has still not been achieved. We hope this film can further ignite discussions about this issue and make us think about what we can do to contribute and make a difference. RSVP at

38] – On Thurs., Dec. 14 from 6 to 8 PM, get over to the Progressive Prince George’s Chapter Meeting at Colmar Manor Town Hall, Lawrence Street in Colmar Manor, MD. Go to

39] – On Thurs., Dec. 14 at 7 PM, Helen Young, film director, and Jonathan Weisgall, Georgetown Law, will lead a discussion after a showing of "The Nuns, The Priests, and the Bombs" at George Washington University, 1957 E St. NW, WDC. Go to

40] – On Thurs., Dec. 14 from 7 to 10 PM, join Progressive Victory, every 2nd Thursday of the month, at Pho & Bahn Mi Wheaton, 11232 Grandview Ave., Silver Spring 20902. This is a Progressive Coalition Meeting MeetUp for MoveOn, MCPA, DFMC, PDA, and more.  The restaurant is a short walk from the Wheaton Metro. The agenda has a local, state, and federal action flavor. Pressure non-progressive officials to enact the policies we need! RSVP at Please contribute $15 to keep this meetup going. Pay online:

25] – On Thurs., Dec. 14 at 7:30 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, turn out for AN EVENING WITH KRISTEN JEFFERS, THE BLACK URBANIST. Jeffers has always been interested in how cities work. She’s also always loved writing things. She went off to a major state university, got a communication degree and then started a more professional Blogger site. Then, in her graduate seminar on urban politics, along with browsing the urbanist blogosphere, she realized that her ideas should have a stronger, clearer voice, one that reflects her identity as a Black southern woman. And with that The Black Urbanist blog was born. Call 443-602-7585.  RSVP at

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

From Barak to Trump

From Barak to Trump

Uri Avnery | Gush Shalom – TRANSCEND Media Service

9 Dec 2017 – Ehud Barak has “broken the silence”. He has published an article in The New York Times attacking our prime minister in the most abrasive terms. In other words, he has done exactly the same as the group of ex-soldiers who call themselves “Breaking the Silence”, who are accused of washing our dirty linen abroad. They expose war crimes to which they have been witnesses, or even participants.

   But apart from the attack on Binyamin Netanyahu, Barak has used the article to publish his Peace Plan. A former chief-of-staff of the Israeli army and a former prime minister, Barak is obviously planning a comeback, and his peace plan is part of the effort. There seems to be, anyhow, open season for Peace Plans in our region.

   I respect the intelligence of Barak. Many years ago, when he was still the deputy chief-of-staff, he unexpectedly invited me for a talk. We discussed the military history of the 17th century (military history is an old hobby of mine) and I soon realized that he was a real expert. I enjoyed it very much.

   On a spring evening In May 1999, I was part of a huge jubilant crowd in Tel-Aviv’s Rabin Square after Barak had won the Knesset elections and become prime minister. He promised us “the dawn of a new day”. In particular, he promised to make peace with the Palestinians.
Intellectually, Barak is superior to all other politicians on the Israeli scene. Soon enough it appeared that this may be a handicap.

   Intelligent people tend to be arrogant. They despise people of lesser mental powers. Knowing that he had all the answers, Barak demanded that President Clinton call a meeting with Yasser Arafat.

   On the morrow I spoke with Arafat and found him deeply worried. Nothing has been prepared, no prior exchange of views, nothing. He did not want to go to the meeting which he thought was bound to fail, but could not refuse an invitation from the president of the US.
The result was catastrophe. Barak, sure of himself as usual, presented his peace plan. It was more accommodating than any prior Israeli plan, but still fell far short of the Palestinians’ minimum. The meeting broke up.

   What does a diplomat do in such circumstances? He announces that “we had a fruitful exchange of views. We have not yet reached total agreement, but the negotiations will go on, and there will be more meetings, until we reach agreement.”

   Barak did not say that. Neither did he say: “Sorry, I am totally ignorant of the Palestinian point of view, and I shall now study it seriously.”
   nstead, Barak came home and announced that Israel had proposed the most generous terms ever, that the Palestinians had rejected everything, that the Palestinians want to throw us into the sea, that we have “no partner for peace”.

   If this had been declared by a right-wing politician, everybody would have shrugged. But coming from the leader of the Peace Camp, it was devastating. Its effects can be felt to this very day.

   SO HERE comes Barak, the new Barak, with a brand-new Peace Plan. What does he say? The aim, he writes, is “separation” from the Palestinians. Not peace, not cooperation, just separation. Get rid of them. “Peace” is not popular just now.

    How separation? Israel will annex the new Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and the “settlement blocs” – the clusters of Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line but close to it. He agrees to “land swaps”. And then comes the killer: “overall security responsibility in the West Bank will remain in the hands of the Israel Defense Forces as long as necessary.”
And the sad conclusion: “Even if it is not possible to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at this stage – and it probably is not…”

   If there is one Palestinian who would accept these terms, I shall be surprised. But Barak, then and now, does not care for the views and feelings of the Palestinians. Just like Netanyahu, who at least has the decency not to propose a “Peace Plan”. Unlike Trump.
DONALD TRUMP is not a genius like Barak, but he also has a Peace Plan.

   A group of right-wing Jews, including his son-in-law (also no genius, he) have been working on this for months. He has proposed it to Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, to the new Saudi Crown Prince and other Arab princes. It seems to provide for a Palestinian State composed of several small isolated enclaves on the West Bank, without Jerusalem and without an army.

  This is sheer lunacy. Not one single Palestinian and not one single other Arab would accept this. Worse, anyone proposing such a caricature of a state betrays utter ignorance.

   That’s where the real problem lies: it is much worse than just not knowing. It demonstrates abysmal contempt for the Palestinians and for Arabs in general, a basic belief that their feelings, if any, don’t matter at all. This is a remnant of colonial times.

   Palestinians, and Arabs at large, do have deep feelings and convictions. They are a proud people. They still remember the times when Muslims were incomparably more advanced than the barbarian Europeans. To be treated like dirt by the US president and his Jewish entourage hurts them deeply, and may lead to a disturbance in our region that no Arab prince, hired by the USA, will be able to control.

   THIS ESPECIALLY concerns Jerusalem. For Muslims, this is not just a town. It is their third holiest place, the spot from where the Prophet – peace be upon him – ascended to heaven. For a Muslim to give up Jerusalem is inconceivable.

   The latest decisions of Trump concerning Jerusalem are – to put it mildly – idiotic. Arabs are furious, Israelis don’t really care, America’s Arab stooges, princes and all, are deeply worried. If disturbances erupt, they may well be swept away.

  And what for? For one evening’s headline?

   There is no subject in our region, and perhaps in the world – that is more delicate. Jerusalem is holy to three world religions, and one cannot argue with holiness.

   In the past I have devoted much thought to this subject. I love Jerusalem (contrary to the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, who was disgusted by it and left it in a hurry after one single night). The early Zionists disliked the city as a symbol of all that is wrong and foul in Judaism.

   Some twenty years ago I composed a manifesto, together with my late friend, Feisal al-Husseini, the leader of Jerusalem’s Arabs and the scion of its most noble family. Hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians signed it.

   Its title was “Our Jerusalem”. It started with the words: “Jerusalem is ours, Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims, Christians and Jews.”

  It went on: “Our Jerusalem Is a mosaic of all the cultures, all the religions and all the periods that enriched the city, from earliest antiquity to this very day – Canaanites and Jebusites and Israelites, Jews and Hellenes, Romans and Byzantines, Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Mamelukes, Othmanlis and Britons, Palestinians and Israelis.
“Our Jerusalem must be united, open to all, and belonging to all its inhabitants, without borders and barbed wire in its midst.”

   And the practical conclusion: “Our Jerusalem must be the capital of the two states that will live side by side in this country – West Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel and East Jerusalem the capital of the State of Palestine.”

  I wish I could nail this Manifesto to the doors of the White House.
___________________________________________ Avnery is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. He is an Israeli journalist, writer, peace activist, a former Knesset member, and the founder of Gush Shalom.
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Incentive for Terrorism: The US Has Taken Nearly 70 Percent of the World's Wealth Gains Since 2012

Monday, 11 December 2017

Incentive for Terrorism: The US Has Taken Nearly 70 Percent of the World's Wealth Gains Since 2012


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America's super-rich are taking not only from their own nation, but also from the rest of the world. Data from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook (GWD: Table 2-4) and various war reports help to explain why we're alienating people outside our borders.

From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and U.S. wealth increased by $26 trillion. Thus, largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years. Based on their dominant share of U.S. wealth, America's richest 10% -- much less than 1% of the world's adult population -- took over HALF the world's wealth gain in the past five years.

Wealth in the Volatile Middle East Has DECLINED at the Same Time

It's not surprising that young men in the Middle East and Africa would harbor resentment against a country that takes the great majority of the wealth -- especially considering that the most troubled areas of the world have collectively LOST WEALTH between 2012 and 2017. That's both average wealth AND median wealth.

Although the GWD has limited data about individual nations in the Middle East and Africa, some is available. Median wealth has PLUMMETED in Syria and Iran and Yemen. It has gone down by almost half in all of Africa. Wealth levels are crashing in the areas of the world where we wage war.

We're Bombing Nations That Aren't Terrorist Threats

An explosion jolted Basim awake, and he could see the night sky through the massive hole in his bombed-out Iraqi house. "Mayada!" he screamed for his wife. No response from her, or from his daughter Tuqa....In the hospital days later, Basim lifted his phone and looked at the smiling images of a wife and daughter he would never see again. He began to sob uncontrollably.

One would think that a nation monopolizing the world's new wealth would avoid alienating the victims of inequality. But it's just the opposite. The U.S. dropped thousands of bombs on seven Middle Eastern and African countries in 2016. Estimates of civilian deaths by air war monitoring groups surpass official Pentagon numbers by a wide margin.

For the desperate residents of Yemen, attacks by Saudi Arabia continue with American weapons, using American targeting data, and delivered by American jets. Power and water facilities have been destroyed. Supply lines have been cut. Hospitals have been bombed, and a cholera epidemic is raging out of control.

In Africa, the Pentagon is engaged in about 100 missions in 20 African countries. That includes Somalia, which has been the target of a wave of new U.S. bombings in 2017, even though that country is one of the Middle-Eastern states which "are not serious terrorism risks," according to the Cato Institute. The bombing campaign in Somalia is waged with no public debate or Congressional authorization. Since 2001 the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act has been used to justify deadly attacks on any newly feared potential enemy, under the guise of taking aggressive action on any nation that might have "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks" of 9/11.

Apology to the Troops

Big money interests have turned America into a financial machine, accumulating more and more tax-deferred wealth through the stock market, and using the media to frighten us with overblown terrorist threats. At the same time, Americans are brainwashed into believing that we're forever fighting a war for freedom. But 'freedom' has become a distorted concept in our increasingly unequal nation. Young lives are put at risk to ensure that a few thousand American households are free to take most of the wealth.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, December 11, 2017

Here’s what’s at stake for the 21 kids suing the Trump administration over climate change

Here’s what’s at stake for the 21 kids suing the Trump administration over climate change

Arguments before the Ninth Circuit will decide whether the case goes to trial.


(CREDIT: Our Children's Trust)


  On Monday, a group of 21 youth plaintiffs currently suing the federal government over climate change will go before a federal court to argue that their case — which legal experts have classified as a groundbreaking piece of climate litigation — should be allowed to proceed to trial.

   On the other side of the court will be lawyers for the Trump administration, who will argue that the mere process of preparing for trial — sifting through decades of government documents and communication with fossil fuel companies, among other things — would constitute an overwhelming burden.

   Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether the case can move forward to trial — a decision that could shape the future of climate litigation for years to come.

    “The Ninth Circuit faces a simple question with profound consequences: Should people have access to the courts when the federal government threatens their fundamental rights?” Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, told ThinkProgress via email. “The Trump Administration argues that the government could actually render the climate incapable of sustaining human life without violating the Constitution. It’s a claim as chilling as it is extraordinary; and it should be rejected.”

The hearing on Monday is hardly the first time the plaintiffs have had to make their case before a judge — but it is potentially the final barrier that must be crossed before the plaintiffs can argue their case in a trial, which would be the first trial to consider whether the government’s actions on climate change actually violate the U.S. Constitution.

  “The Juliana case is about much more than children’s rights or even climate change,” James May, a professor at the Widener University School of Law, told ThinkProgress. “It is about the power of the executive to constrain the ability of an independent judiciary to perform its core function of interpreting the constitution.”

   The plaintiffs — who range in age from ten to 21 — base their case on a theory known as the public trust doctrine, which holds that the United States government must maintain and protect certain commonly-held resources, like rivers, or seashores, for use by the public.
The plaintiffs in the youth climate case take the doctrine one step further, arguing that the atmosphere, as a commonly-held element, qualifies for protection by the government as part of the public trust. By failing to act to stave off the worst impacts of climate change — and by actually undermining climate action, through things like fossil fuel subsidies — the plaintiffs argue that the government has in essence violated their constitutional right to a protected atmosphere. The plaintiffs also argue that the government, through its actions, has denied them due process under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which holds that the federal government cannot deprive a person of “life, liberty, or property” without “due process of law.”

   “What this litigation does is it fast forwards that constitutional principle to the modern urgency of climate crisis,” Mary Woods, a law professor at the University of Oregon who first proposed applying public trust doctrine to the atmosphere, told ThinkProgress in 2015. “It’s a very simple extension of logic. If navigable waters were crucial to the public back then, certainly the air, atmosphere, and climate systems warrant protection as public trust systems as well.”

The case was initially scheduled to go to trial on February 5 in Oregon, after U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled in November of 2016 that the plaintiffs had sufficiently proven that they were likely to suffer personal damages due to climate change. Initially filed against the Obama administration in August of 2015, the youth plaintiffs named President Donald Trump as a defendant in the case when Trump took office in January.

   Since being named as a defendant, the Trump administration has fought all attempts to bring the case to trial, filing an appeal of Aiken’s November decision in March. In June, Aiken denied the administration’s appeal — only for the administration to file another appeal with the Ninth Circuit court in June. That appeal, known as a writ of manadmus, asked the higher court to reconsider Aiken’s decision to allow the case to move to trial, and asks the court to use its supervisory powers to “end this clearly improper attempt to have the judiciary decide important questions of energy and environmental policy to the exclusion of the elected branches of government.”

   Following the administration’s appeal, the Ninth Circuit temporarily paused all proceedings in the case until a decision could be reached. The hearing on Monday will take place before a three judge panel comprised of Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, a Clinton-appointee, Circuit Judges Alex Kozinski, a Reagan-appointee, and Marsha Berzon, a Clinton-appointee. The defendants and plaintiffs will each get 20 minutes for arguments, with the administration going first.

   “Rather than forthrightly address the issues and defend the case at trial, the government has filed an emergency motion that seeks to circumvent the ordinary processes of adjudication,” Doug Kysar, a professor at Yale Law School who joined a group of legal experts in filing a brief in support of the plaintiffs case, told ThinkProgress. “The real emergency here is what’s happening to the climate — not the government’s claimed emergency that it would be too burdensome to explain to the court why it has chosen to gamble with the planet’s very ability to support life.”

    Eric Grant, who was appointed to be a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice for the Trump administration in April, will likely argue that, among other things, the pre-trial process involved in the case would include a discovery process that would likely force the government to uncover decade’s worth of information on climate change, from federal science to communications with fossil fuel companies. The federal government has argued that the breadth of discovery required by the case would be overly onerous.

But Grant will likely also argue that the plaintiffs lack standing — or the ability to prove that they would suffer sufficient harm from a particular law or, in this case, action — to bring their complaint before a court. In November, Judge Aiken found that the plaintiffs had proved sufficient standing in arguing personal damage from climate change, citing things like ocean acidification or wildfires that threaten food sources and property. But the issue of standing in climate litigation has been controversial, with federal courts often issuing contradictory rulings — some courts have ruled that only states have proper standing in climate litigation, like the case of Massachusetts vs. EPA, which paved the way for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant.

   And some reports suggest that, if the case proceeds to trial, the Trump administration will attempt to recruit scientists skeptical of the mainstream consensus on climate change in an attempt to undercut certainty around climate science. Ninety-seven percent of publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is both happening and a product of human activity, though a small, vocal minority has found particular quarter within the Trump administration. Trump himself as repeatedly cast doubt on climate science, calling it a “hoax” created by the Chinese, and has appointed climate-deniers to top posts within his administration.

    Regardless of what happens on Monday, the youth climate lawsuit is far from the only piece of climate litigation working its way through the U.S. court system. In California, five communities — two counties and three cities — are suing fossil fuel companies for their role in climate-fueled sea level rise, hoping to recoup the costs of climate mitigation projects to protect against flooding and coastal erosion. And in Pennsylvania, two children are suing the Trump administration over its anti-climate, anti-regulatory agenda, arguing that the administration’s actions are based on “junk science” that knowingly increases the “damages, death and destruction” of climate change.

© 2017 ThinkProgress

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

A Dubious Arrest, a Compromised Prosecutor, a Tainted Plea: How One Murder Case Exposes the System

A Dubious Arrest, a Compromised Prosecutor, a Tainted Plea: How One Murder Case Exposes the System

Saturday, December 09, 2017By Megan RoseProPublica | Report

Smith's troubling ordeal, Alford plea included, is a road map of nearly every way the justice system breaks down -- and how easily a cascade of bad outcomes can be triggered by one small miscarriage of justice. Demetrius Smith's troubling ordeal is a road map of nearly every way the justice system breaks down -- and how easily a cascade of bad outcomes can be triggered by one small miscarriage of justice. (Photo: Stefanie Kaufmann)
The case of Demetrius Smith reads like a preposterous legal thriller: dubious arrests, two lying sex workers, prosecutorial fouls and a judge who backpedaled out of a deal.
It also delivers a primer on why defendants often agree to virtually inescapable plea deals for crimes they didn't commit.
ProPublica has spent the past year exploring wrongful convictions and the tools prosecutors use to avoid admitting mistakes, including an arcane deal known as an Alford plea that allows defendants to maintain their innocence while still pleading guilty. Earlier this year, we examined a dozen such cases in Baltimore.
Smith's troubling ordeal, Alford plea included, is a road map of nearly every way the justice system breaks down -- and how easily a cascade of bad outcomes can be triggered by one small miscarriage of justice. For Smith, a young black man in Baltimore, it started with a questionable collar. Nine years later he's still struggling to clear his name.  
The Arrest
Smith's saga began in the summer of 2008 in the low-income, high-crime neighborhood in southwest Baltimore where he lived. A man named Robert Long had been shot twice in the head execution-style that March. Long was a cooperating witness in a police investigation, and the killing had all the makings of a hit.
A man and a female sex worker both claimed to have seen the murder and fingered Smith. At the time, Smith was 25 and had a record of minor drug and assault offenses. When he was arrested about three months after the murder, Smith was adamant that he had nothing to do with it.
At this point, the justice system appeared to work as it should. Smith had a bail hearing before a judge who said the prosecution's evidence was nothing more than "skeletal allegations." In a rare move for a murder case, Baltimore District Judge Nathan Braverman released Smith on $350,000 bond.
"It was probably the thinnest case I'd ever seen," Braverman, now retired, said recently. Smith's alleged crimes were the most heinous of the cases before him that day, he said, but Smith was the only one granted bail -- a sign of how weak the evidence was.
But what should have been the first step in freeing Smith from a misguided murder charge instead further ensnared him. Braverman's bail decision drew sharp public criticism, and Smith was soon back in the sights of the same detective who investigated the murder.
About a month later, Detective Charles Bealefeld arrested Smith again, this time for allegedly shooting a man in the leg during a late-night robbery. Bealefeld, the brother of the then-police commissioner, wrote in his report that "word on the street" was that Smith was the assailant.
Smith lived near the victim and told police he knew the victim's parents well enough to call them by nicknames. But the victim never named Smith or described his assailant as someone he'd seen before. He said only that a black male in his 20s shot him. Later that night at the hospital, the victim identified Smith from a photo array. Bealefeld then found a second witness, another sex worker, who he said also picked Smith out of an array.
At this point, Smith was convinced Bealefeld was targeting him. He told his lawyers that the detective had admitted during the arrest that he knew Smith didn't do it. Bealefeld left the Baltimore police in 2008 amid a federal investigation into a racial incident in the department in which he was named publicly by a city councilman and local media. He declined to comment. Bealefeld is now an officer with the Annapolis Police Department.
After Smith's second arrest, the head of the police union told the local press that it proved Braverman had been reckless in releasing Smith. "It's frustrating to police officers who did the hard work to get this guy charged," the union head said, calling for the judge to be banned from presiding over bail hearings.
The Trial
Smith was jailed until his murder trial 18 months later, and unwaveringly maintained his innocence. The cases against him were remarkably similar: The prosecution relied almost exclusively on eyewitness testimony -- and in each case a key witness was a sex worker.
In January 2010, Smith went on trial for Long's murder. Prosecutor Rich Gibson, a six-year veteran of the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, hung his case on the testimony of the man who'd first identified Smith as the killer. The witness claimed he'd not only seen the murder from a nearby pay phone, but knew why it was done. Long, he said, had stolen drugs from Smith. Gibson ran with that theory, building Smith's history of minor offenses into a story of a neighborhood kingpin slaughtering the victim to send a message about what happens to those who steal from him.
What Gibson didn't tell the jury was that the witness was an informant for the police whose assistance on multiple cases had repeatedly kept him out of trouble. The witness only told police he'd seen the murder after he was arrested on an unrelated charge, according to police files. And, court records show, the witness had a clear understanding that any breaks he got for his testimony would best be hidden from the defense. At one point, he even wrote the judge in his case directly to ask for a sentence modification for his participation in Smith's murder trial, saying "as you already know, the detective nor the state's attorney can contact me about my matter because that would be promising me something for my testimony."
Even more troubling, there was evidence that the witness wasn't at the scene of the murder at all. Baltimore has cameras panning much of the city 24 hours a day, and the murder was caught on tape. The shooter couldn't be seen, but what was clear is that no one was at the pay phone at the time of the shooting, said Michele Nethercott, the head of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore Law School. The sex worker who also said she witnessed the murder wasn't on the video either, Nethercott said. It's unclear why the video footage wasn't addressed in detail at Smith's trial. Gibson declined to comment about his actions in the case.
The jury found Smith guilty. When he was sentenced to life plus 18 years, Smith told the judge, "They know I didn't do this."
That conviction did more than send Smith to prison. It pushed him into choices he never would have made.
The Plea
A year after his murder trial in February 2011, Gibson offered Smith a plea deal on the still pending charges for the shooting. Smith, proclaiming his innocence, reluctantly agreed. The system had failed him so badly once, he felt like he was "in a no-win situation," Smith told the court.
The deal Smith made is known an as Alford plea. It allows a defendant to say for the record that he's innocent of the crime but believes the state has enough evidence to convict him. Still, Smith railed against a central piece of Gibson's evidence -- that the victim had identified Smith from a photo array. That didn't make any sense, Smith told the judge, since the victim "was my neighbor. He didn't say 'my neighbor did it.' He didn't say, 'Well that guy across the street did it.'"
Under the plea, Smith would serve 10 years concurrently with his life sentence. But Smith was worried about what would happen when he was exonerated, which Smith fervently believed would happen eventually. If he was no longer serving a life sentence, he didn't want to be stuck serving the 10 years for another crime he didn't commit. So, he wanted his plea deal to have an escape hatch: He must be allowed the chance to get out of the 10-year sentence if he was found innocent of the murder.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams called the deal "strange," but agreed that under those circumstances Smith could come back to his courtroom to revisit the plea. Gibson also agreed, according to a transcript, and that unlike most plea deals he would allow Williams full discretion.
The agreement was also laid out the next day by Smith's public defender in a court filing. It said that although Williams made no promises about what his ruling would be, the judge would nevertheless be the one to "determine whether to change the sentence" and "the assistant state's attorney agreed not to oppose the judge's ruling."
"I'm copping out to something I didn't do," Smith said at the hearing. "I just want to get it over with."
The Exoneration
Astonishingly, mere months later in the spring of 2011, Smith's stubborn faith seemed validated.
During a related investigation, the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland had turned up Long's real killer and informed Baltimore prosecutors that they had the wrong man. Federal agents quickly unraveled the case against Smith. It wasn't about drugs, as Gibson had argued. Instead, the victim, Long, had been killed in a murder-for-hire plot to keep him from testifying about crimes committed by his boss. Long had also specifically warned the Baltimore authorities not to include his lawyer in a meeting about cooperating because the lawyer worked for his boss. But they did it anyway. Six days after police searched his boss' home based on Long's information, Long was dead.
At Smith's murder trial, however, Detective Steve Hohman had testified that there was no reason to investigate Long's boss. He left out that police had done several interviews with Long's associates that pointed to the boss as a suspect, Long's family had told them that the boss threatened to kill Long days before his death, and the police had requested the boss' phone records. But that information wasn't turned over to Smith's defense, a violation of Smith's constitutional rights. Gibson told the jury that "no stone was left unturned."
Federal agents also discovered that the sex worker who'd identified Smith had been six miles away receiving methadone treatment around the time of the murder. She recanted her statement, telling federal investigators that Hohman had yelled, banged the table and generally pressured her into her testimony. (By this time, the state's other key witness, who supposedly saw Smith from a pay phone, was dead.)
Hohman has since been promoted, and the Baltimore Police Department said it stands by its investigation.
Gibson and the state's attorney's office continued to insist to Smith's lawyers that Smith had been justly prosecuted, according to Smith's public defender and Nethercott, the innocence lawyer who later took up Smith's case.
A year and a half went by while Smith remained locked up, serving a life sentence for a murder someone else had committed. Under pressure from federal prosecutors, the state finally and quietly dropped the case against Smith in August 2012.
"What was driving this case really was the U.S. attorney," Nethercott said recently. The federal government was about to indict and prosecute another person "while Demetrius was sitting there serving life on a theory that was completely different."
Rod Rosenstein, the top federal prosecutor in Maryland at the time and now the deputy attorney general of the United States, announced that the federal case had "resulted in the exoneration of an innocent man and the conviction of the real killer."
No such declaration came from Baltimore prosecutors.
"What they were not willing to do," Nethercott said, "was to say: 'We clearly made a mistake.'"
Their error didn't just damage Smith. Braverman, the judge who'd scoffed at the prosecution's case, had been shortlisted to move up to the circuit court at the time of the bail hearing, according to The Baltimore Sun, but he wasn't selected. After Smith's case, the local press closely covered Braverman's subsequent bail decisions. There was no follow-up acknowledgement from the police or others that his instincts had been right about Smith.
And even though Smith was cleared of Long's murder, he was still in maximum security prison in Hagerstown, Maryland, serving his 10-year sentence for the robbery shooting.
The Half Measure
In May 2013, as promised, Smith went back before the judge to revisit the terms of that deal. By this time, he'd been in prison for nearly five years.
The case was now being handled by Tony Gioia, then head of the state's attorney's conviction integrity unit. Gioia made no mention of Smith's innocence on the murder charge, telling the judge that the prosecution had "moved to vacate the murder conviction for a Brady violation" by the original prosecutor, Gibson. Brady refers to the 1963 Supreme Court ruling that said prosecutors must turn over evidence of innocence to the defense for a trial to be fair.
Gioia said he'd reviewed the police documents about the shooting, and had "some issues about the facts." He agreed to modify Smith's sentence to time served and release him immediately on three years' probation. Smith was free.
But on paper he was still a convicted felon for the shooting, limiting his ability to get a lease and a job -- he had three offers revoked after a background check. Smith wanted a clean record and to be completely free of the system that had now eaten up nearly a decade of his life.
In the four years since his release, damning new evidence had emerged that echoed the murder case. The sex worker recanted her statement implicating Smith and said she'd been coerced into identifying Smith by Bealefeld, the detective who investigated both of Smith's cases.
The night of the shooting, the sex worker had told police she heard gunshots and saw a man she'd been with earlier flee the scene. Bealefeld, she said, showed her an array of photos and repeatedly pointed to a picture of Smith, saying "That's him, isn't it?" When she continually denied that Smith was the man she saw, Bealefeld threatened to arrest her.
"I was afraid I'd be locked up, and so I finally signed the array as he had directed me," she said in an affidavit in June 2013.
But the new evidence had come too late. Maryland gives defendants a special path to challenge their conviction with new evidence of innocence, but those who take plea deals are barred. Smith's Alford plea meant he couldn't get the conviction vacated.
He had one last option: Ask Judge Williams to modify his plea deal again.
The Final Attempt
With the help of new pro bono lawyers, Smith filed a motion to change his sentence for the shooting from "time-served" to "probation before judgment," which means a judge withholds finding a defendant guilty so long as the defendant successfully completes a period of probation. Since Smith had finished his three years of probation, the change would essentially wipe the conviction off his record.
On July 28, Smith walked back into Williams' courtroom in a light blue blazer with hope that the judge would finally end his ordeal.
When Smith's case was called, a familiar face stood up for the prosecution. Gibson, the original prosecutor, was back and he told the judge he opposed any changes.
"What's your basis for saying 'no'?" Williams asked him. "You acknowledge" that on the murder charge "he was exonerated; is that correct?"
"The State acknowledges," Gibson responded, "that -- that after the case was tried, and the defendant was convicted of murder, and after the -- the Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction, my office, after discussions with federal authorities, chose to vacate that conviction to allow the federal prosecution to go forward the way they envisioned it."
Williams looked taken aback. "So, you're stating in open court that your office isn't saying that he wasn't guilty. You just did it for other reasons?"
Gibson offered only a vague reply, and Williams kept pressing him, at one point interjecting with exasperation that "it's a simple question."
In all, Gibson evaded the question five times before Williams abruptly stopped and ruled that Smith's original guilty plea was a binding plea -- meaning that the only way it could be changed was with the support of the prosecutor.
That contradicted how both the judge and the prosecutor had defined the plea six and a half years earlier. At the time in 2011, Gibson said that the terms of the deal meant Smith could "come back and put it before the judge and the judge can do whatever he's going to do with it."
And Williams had specifically noted the plea meant that the prosecution was "giving up the right to say to this court, 'Judge, you cannot change it.' He now has acknowledged that. ... It will be up to me to make a decision."
But now, for reasons he didn't explain, Williams said, "I have not the authority ... despite what I would, what I may or may not want to do it's irrelevant."
"Motion is denied."
Smith's lawyer, Adam Braskich, jumped up to argue that was incorrect, but the judge cut him off with a curt "thank you."
In the hallway outside the court, Smith shook his head, not entirely surprised. His gold teeth flashed through a smile. "It is what it is," he said. "You keep fighting."
Braskich and Smith's other lawyer, Barry Pollack, thought it was clear the judge had the legal authority to change Smith's sentence.
  "After being wrongfully convicted of murder and then convicted for an assault he didn't commit, Demetrius served five years in prison," Pollack said. "He should not also be saddled with a felony conviction. We didn't think a fresh start was too much to ask, and we're disappointed that Demetrius still can't put this behind him."
 Williams declined to comment on his ruling.
 The next possible step is to apply for a rare pardon from the governor.
  Like Gibson -- who's running for state's attorney one jurisdiction over in Howard County, Maryland -- the current Baltimore City state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby, won't say whether her office believes Smith is innocent of the murder, or the shooting. Spokeswoman Melba Sanders provided a short, written statement that said the office couldn't comment on the review process that led the prior administration to vacate Smith's murder conviction, but "we respect their decision."
  If any case should cause prosecutors to concede mistakes, Nethercott said, it's Smith's. "What's so striking about Demetrius' case is there are very few times when you come in with an innocence claim that's supported, endorsed and proven by the United States government," she said. "If that doesn't move people, it's hard to see what would."
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Megan Rose covers the military for ProPublica. Previously she was the national correspondent at Stars and Stripes. She reported from several conflict and disaster zones, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, and covered military operations in the Pacific. 

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