LIBYAN CHILD CARRIES JUG OF WATER AFTER THE U.S. AND NATO BOMBED HIS COUNTRY BACK TO THE STONE AGE, IN THE PROCESS DESTROYING ITS WORLD-CLASS WATER INFRASTRUCTURE. THESE TERRORIST ACTIONS WERE CARRIED OUT BY PRES. BARACK OBAMA WITH HILLARY CLINTON AS HIS SECRETARY OF STATE. MAKE NO MISTAKE: THE POISONING OF FLINT IS NOT A PARTISAN OR AN ELECTION ISSUE. IT GOES TO THE HEART OF THE RUTHLESS PROFIT SYSTEM THAT RUNS THE UNITED STATES.
Dear Gov. Snyder: You Have to Go to Jail
Sign petition below
For everyone wanting to sign on to this petition calling for the IMMEDIATE resignation of Governor Snyder AND for the FBI to arrest him, please sign the petitio here.
Michael Moore, filmmaker and Flint resident.
Dear Governor Snyder:
Thanks to you, sir, and the premeditated actions of your administrators, you have effectively poisoned, not just some, but apparently ALL of the children in my hometown of Flint, Michigan.
And for that, you have to go to jail.
To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven’t figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.
But you did. Your staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison — but you decided that taking over the city and “cutting costs” to “balance the budget” was more important than the people’s health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders.) So you cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River — a body of “water” where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years.
GM, U.S. PROFIT SYSTEM DESTROYED FLINT, POISONED ITS PEOPLE FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.
And then you decided to put a chemical in this water to “clean” it — which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint’s aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people’s taps. Your callous — and reckless (btw, “reckless” doesn’t get you a pass; a reckless driver who kills a child, still goes to jail) — decision to do this has now, as revealed by the city’s top medical facility, caused “irreversible brain damage” in Flint’s children, not to mention other bodily damage to all of Flint’s adults. Here’s how bad it is: Even GM won’t let the auto parts they use in building cars touch the Flint water because that water “corrodes” them. This is a company that won’t even fix an ignition switch after they’ve discovered it’s already killed dozens of people. THAT’s how bad the situation is. Even GM thinks you’re the devil. Continue reading →
USDOJ says Gilbert’s Quicken Loans guilty of “hundreds of millions of dollars” in HUD mortgage insurance fraud, 40% of company’s loans
Detroit grandmother, community advocate Stafford unjustly convicted of charges in single mortgage she was not party to
By Diane Bukowski
March 17, 2016
Mary Stafford is currently in Michigan’s Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility for crimes she did not commit.
DETROIT – The justice system in this country is clearly fractured beyond repair. Though there are thousands of examples, including the fact that the United States has five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its incarcerated people, one case in Detroit stands out for its glaring contradictions related to race and class.
Mary Stafford, a Black 66-year-old Detroit grandmother on Social Security, and a long-time community advocate, is languishing behind the walls of the Michigan’s Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, sentenced to one to 10 years by Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway on Feb. 19.
Her alleged crimes? “False pretenses” and “obstruction of justice” involving ONE mortgage loan which she did not even borrow. Wells Fargo Bank approved the loan in 2007 just before the global economy tanked due to the greedy corporate lending frenzy.
Dan and wife Jennifer Gilbert party with friends.
To justify exceeding a sentencing recommendation of 18 months probation, Hathaway compared Stafford’s alleged acts to “the excesses, fraud and greed of the mortgage banking industry, with dozens if not hundreds of mortgage bankers who should be in prison.”
Dan Gilbert, multi-billionaire owner of most of downtown Detroit, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and outstate gambling casinos, who basks in luxury and acclaim, is one of those mortgage bankers, says the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ).
The USDOJ is suing Gilbert’s company Quicken Loans, alleging it defrauded taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars by approving Federal Housing Authority (FHA) insurance for mortgages it knew were ineligible, involving 40 percent of its total loan output. The USDOJ contends the loan approvals resulted from management policies that arrogantly scorned HUD guidelines.
In an email, Quicken Loans Operations Director Mike Lyons called these “bastard loans . . . . plausible to the investor even though we know its creation comes from something evil and horrible,” says the USDOJ complaint.
But Wayne State’s Law School is featuring Gilbert at a “marquee event” March 30. Law School Dean Jocelyn Benson gushed in a release, “We are thrilled to have Mr. Gilbert join us . . . .to hear his thoughts on the numerous ways he has helped to lead Detroit’s revitalization.”
Quicken Loans sought to outwit the U.S. government by filing a pre-emptive lawsuit in Detroit against the USDOJ, but U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith peremptorily dismissed it Dec. 31, 2015. The USDOJ says in its filings in the District Court of the District of Columbia that the lawsuit delayed its proceedings for nine months, but it is now moving forward.
Ironically, one of the claims the USDOJ makes in its lawsuit is that, “When Quicken suspected that a potential [individual] borrower had committed fraud or made a misrepresentation, Quicken was quick to notify HUD. However, Quicken failed to notify HUD of any loans with serious underwriting deficiencies committed by Quicken, even when it concluded internally that loan approval was not justified.”
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Mortgage Deed Fraud Task Force clearly followed that example, targeting individuals like Mary Stafford instead of the predator banks and mortgage companies like Quicken Loans. Ironically, in Stafford’s case, Wells Fargo told VOD specifically that it had not sought prosecution of Mary Stafford or other parties with relation to the $395,000 and had sustained no losses after it foreclosed.
Wells Fargo itself has been charged by the USDOJ with similar mortgage crimes, as well as others. It clearly did not want to bring further attention to one of many predatory loans it approved.
In contrast to Mrs. Stafford’s quiet life as a homemaker and caregiver to numerous relatives and neighborhood children, Gilbert has flourished to mainstream media acclaim. As a mayoral appointee, he heads the Detroit Blight Task Force, which is demolishing thousands of homes across the city at inflated prices. Many were foreclosed as a result of Quicken Loans’ fraudulent actions.
He also accompanied former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer to Washington, D.C. to meet with top aides to U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss Detroit’s future after bankruptcy. Neither President Obama nor former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ever responded to a request from U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit) that the Justice Department investigate Public Act 4 (predecessor to the current Emergency Manager Act) as a violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
Now the most dire consequences of Michigan’s EM law have been laid bare in world-wide coverage of the irreversible lead poisoning and outright murder of the people of Flint. The Flint water crisis follows the scurrilous Detroit bankruptcy, which has robbed the people of Detroit of most of their major assets, caused huge public job losses, impoverished retirees, while banks and corporations recovered 95.9 percent of their debt. Detroit’s debt is now projected to rise to 300 percent of what it was in 2013.
Now Gilbert is being held up as an example for Wayne State Law School students, alumni and the community-at-large by Dean Benson and WSU. Perhaps this is why the Staffords had continuing problems finding warrior attorneys with principles who were not frightened of Judge Hathaway, and willing to fight the injustice perpetrated on their clients. What are today’s lawyers learning in this city’s law schools?
The State Appellate Defender’s Office has now been assigned to deal with Mary Stafford’s appeal, through prominent attorney Valerie Newman. Judge Hathaway earlier denied Stafford’s motion for an appeal bond, claiming that she had no likelihood of prevailing on appeal despite blatant irregularities at her trial.
Judge Michael Hathaway
They included Judge Hathaway asking expert defense witness Rick Woonton, ON THE RECORD, if he thought the Staffords were guilty; instructing the jury that they could find them guilty of “aiding and abetting” unnamed parties; conducting an ex parte discussion with another defense witness, and comparing Mary Stafford to arch criminal Bernie Madoff. Stories linked below tell the details of the trial.
Her husband and supporters are hoping for an emergency writ from the appeals court to free her while her appeal is pending.
Send letters of support to Mrs. Mary Stafford, #972040, 3201 Bemis Road, Ypsilanti, MI 48197-0911. She can also be reached by signing up for JPay, at www.jpay.com . Emails and funds can be sent through JPay, as well as photos and Ecards.
A spectre is hovering high over the United States – the spectre of a Trump presidency. All the elders of the Republican Party have now entered into a frightful alliance to disown and exorcise this spectre. But the goblin listens to no one, as millions of xenophobic, angry, “poorly educated” (as Trump proudly calls his own supporters), mostly white men and women storm around him, raising their right hands “Sieg Heil” style and pledging allegiance.
“In an extraordinary display of Republican chaos,” CNN reports, “the party’s most recent presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, lambasted current frontrunner Donald Trump on Thursday, calling him unfit for office and a danger for the nation and the GOP [Grand Old Party].”
CORPORATE SKIN, POLITICAL MASKS
What is the difference between Trump and Clinton? This is the critical question the US voters face this year, but not the world at large, for which Trump promises to do more of what Clinton and all Democrat and Republican presidents before her have already done and continue to do to the world.
Hillary Clinton–the mask of naked fascism.
The difference between Trump and Clinton is the difference between commodity and branding. Trump is the real face of corporate America, Clinton its mask. In choosing Donald Trump, Americans are choosing corporate America instead of its representative Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump is the real deal, Hillary Clinton is the camouflage.
Why buy the stooge of corporate America, Donald Trump supporters are effectively asking, when the real deal, their preferred candidate, is on sale?
This is a decisive moment because the fake facade of US politics is finally falling down and the naked truth of corporate reality running this show reveals its naked fascistic face for the whole world to see.
A demagogue salesman is appealing to the basest instinct of US consumers, to the very logic of US capitalism run amuck.
His supporters have been trained Pavlovian dog-style for Trump from birth and now instinctively each time they push a cart down the supermarket isle hunt for the cheapest product on sale. Trump is the cheapest product on sale.
Donald Trump–the specter of unmasked fascism.
The naked fascism that Trump flaunts today has always been there but hidden behind the mask of politics-as-usual; hidden behind smiling faces, false promises, gaudy oratorical speeches, the kissing of frightened babies, the shaking of insincere hands, while hiding the terror of global warfare, drone attacks, special forces, secret kill lists, CIA torture chambers.
A consensus is now building in the US that the Trump presidency is so dangerous Democrats and Republicans should unite to prevent it by electing Hillary Clinton. But what exactly is the difference between a Clinton and a Trump presidency for the world at large?
The prospect of a Trump presidency is only frightful if you think Hillary Clinton’s record of warmongering around the world – from Iraq to Libya to her threatening Iran with annihilation – is a stellar record of high-minded and competent diplomacy.
Video below: Hillary Clinton ordered vicious execution of Muammar Gaddafi; U.S./NATO bombed African Libya back to the stone age
Americans have every reason to fear a Trump presidency, but the world at large has not an iota of reason to believe Clinton would be any better. Trump is promising to deliver to Americans a dose of what Clinton, her husband, the current US president, and all the Republicans and Democrat presidents before him have administered to the world at large.
Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton have wrought destruction across globe, poverty, repression across U.S.
Now suddenly these Republicans are scared of fascism. They did not worry about fascism when they produced George W. Bush, who wreaked havoc on Afghanistan and Iraq and set in motion a criminal catastrophe that has now resulted in murderous mayhem raging from Iraq to Syria.
But now that Trump appears to threaten their entire party apparatus suddenly they worry about fascism. Fascism arrived and wreaked havoc from one end of the globe to another by these very Republican cons and neocons a very long time ago.
XENOPHOBIA IS ON SALE
Clinton has a proven record of murderous warmongering on a par with any Republican warmonger. Donald Trump only promises to do more of what she has done. He has no record of any such atrocities as yet.
He, in fact, has occasionally condemned both the Afghan and Iraq invasions, and on Israeli murderous records he has declared himself agnostic and neutral, even daring to suggest that Israel is not sincere in its claim to be peaceful. And, contrary to Clinton, he is not in any billionaire Zionist’s deep pocket and has not written and signed a pledge of allegiance to those hell-bent on stealing the entirety of Palestine no matter what the cost to Palestinian lives and Liberty.
Yes, indeed, the horrors of Trump’s xenophobic racism and misogyny against Mexicans, Muslims, women etc. are abominable, but we know all this because he is not a seasoned politician and has not learned how to conceal and camouflage his racism.
Video below: Hillary Clinton slurs African-American youth
When Clinton’s guard was down and she did not realize the cameras were rolling, she too called young African Americans “super-predators” who had to be “brought to heel”.
She is the same person – only now she has learned how to camouflage her racism.
Clintons at Trump wedding reception.
Trump has not mastered that art. Trump has a different product to sell – himself – and has targeted a different market – white supremacists basking in their racism. The salesman is naked in his fascism, the politician is properly dressed in socially acceptable verbiage.
In choosing Trump over Clinton, Americans are opting to buy the real product instead of a badly packaged camouflage representation of that product.
Clinton is the political mask of the corporate face of America, and this time around Americans wish to see the real face of their government, the rule of corporate America, and not some corrupt politician being funded by them to represent that face with a mask of fair play and warm wishes.
Ramarley Graham, 18, with his little brother and grandmother, who saw white NYC cop Richard Haste shoot him to death in their home in 2012.
Feds refuse to file civil rights charges against white cop Richard Haste
Earlier state manslaughter charge dismissed
Family wants all cops involved charged and fired
By Colleen Long
March 10, 2016
Killer cop Richard Haste is applauded by his fellow white NYC cops as he leaves court.
NEW YORK (AP) — The family and friends of an unarmed black teen shot to death in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother by a white police officer demanded the officer’s badge Thursday and argued that if the races had been reversed, justice would be swifter.
This week, federal prosecutors declined to file federal civil rights charges against Officer Richard Haste in the 2012 death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham. The decision ended the possibility of criminal charges for Haste, who was indicted earlier on a state manslaughter charge that a judge dismissed, saying prosecutors had improperly instructed grand jurors. Another grand jury then declined to indict Haste, who said he fired at Graham because he thought Graham would shoot him.
The police department hit Haste with internal charges. Disciplinary proceedings are now moving forward now that criminal proceedings are completed, which is standard procedure.
Ramarley’s mother Constance Malcolm and father Franclot Graham weep at press conference. His father sang to him as a baby, “Ramarley Charley, you are my Charley Ramarley.” His nickname became Charley.
Haste was reassigned to the fleet services division and remains stripped of his gun and badge. He could request an internal trial and faces being fired, though Commissioner William Bratton has the ultimate say.
On Thursday, the frustration by Graham’s family was palpable — they believe Haste, his supervisor that day and any other officer involved should already be fired.
“We are tired,” said Constance Malcolm, Graham’s mother. “It’s four years, and I still don’t have an answer for why my son is dead.”
There’s also a larger problem at hand, they said. City Councilman Andy King said he is pressing Mayor Bill de Blasio and his colleagues for more candid discussion of how the black community is policed in New York, but he’s not getting anywhere fast enough and he’s tired of what he sees as a double standard.
New York City Councilman Charles Barron, a member of the Freedom Party.
“If this had been a black officer knocking down the door to a house of a white person and shoot a white teenager, see what kind of conversation we’d be having today,” he said.
City Councilman Charles Barron said so much disappointment within the black community could turn the movement from peaceful to violent.
“We’re not going to take this lying down,” he said. “Don’t blame me when people start saying, ‘An eye for an eye.'”
Haste’s lawyer Stuart London said that his client was gratified he wasn’t facing civil rights charges but that “there never were any winners in this case.”
And his union echoed the sentiment.
“The officer was working to combat the scourge of guns and drugs in the community,” said Patrick J. Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “The good-faith effort to combat those ills brought us to this tragedy. We extend our sympathies to the family.”
Graham’s family settled with the city in January 2015 for $3.9 million.
One of many rallies for Ramarley Graham, whose case was known around the world.
Davontae’s mother, Taminko Sanford-Tilmon, with his stepfather and family, pray for his release outside the Frank Murphy Hall, where Kym Worthy’s offices are located, in 2012.
By Diane Bukowski
March 9, 2016
Davontae Sanford’s case is one of the worst miscarriages of justice Voice of Detroit has seen. At the age of 14, Davontae was lured by Detroit police into confessing to the gruesome murders of four people in an alleged drug house on Runyon Street on Detroit’s east side in September, 2007. Davontae is blind in one eye and developmentally disabled. Neither his mother, Taminko Sanford-Tilmon, nor an attorney, were present during that confession.
He is now 23, and has been imprisoned since 2008 on four counts of second-degree murder and one count of felony firearms. His earliest release date is in 2048 and latest release date is in 2099. Davontae has been subjected to numerous horrors while inside the walls.
Vincent Smothers (l) has repeatedly confessed to the crimes of which Davontae Sanford, shown at age 14 (r) is accused.
His case is known across the world because Vincent Smothers, an admitted hit man, has repeatedly told police and prosecutors that he and another man committed the four killings, and that Davontae was absolutely not involved.
“I understand what prison life is like; it’s miserable,” Smothers told AP reporter Ed White in a prison interview. “To be here and be innocent – I don’t know what it’s like. He’s a kid, and I hate for him to do the kind of time they’re giving him.”
Two innocence clinics came to his last aid year, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan have so far refused to let him withdraw his confession and go home to his loving family, despite an Appeals Court ruling that Smothers be allowed to testify on his behalf.
Davontae’s next court hearing, noted as a “Review Date” on the court website, is set for April 1, 2016 at 9 a.m. in Judge Sullivan’s courtroom.
Davontae Sanford family and supporters after appeals court hearing August 6, 2013. Mother Taminko Sanford-Tilmon and stepfather Jermaine Tilmon at right. Detroit News reporter Oralandar Brand-Williams takes their photo at left.
Video above: DPS students from East English Village Academy, formerly the historic Finney High School, walked out Feb. 29 to protest school conditions, along with their teachers. Police maced and brutalized them, and arrested the teachers, just as they did in 2007 when students protested the closure of Northern High School, one of 210 closures that has hit DPS to date.
More closures, racist treatment likely under Gov. Snyder’s newly-appointed DPS overseer Steven Rhodes
Rhodes carried out Detroit bankruptcy on orders from banks, corporations
Dismantled Detroit, likely to demolish what is left of DPS
By Diane Bukowski
March 7, 2016
BYE BYE DPS! Former bankruptcy judge Stephen Rhodes dismantled City of Detroit, now will preside over death of DPS.
DETROIT— Conveniently turning the spotlight away from the state’s criminal chemical poisoning of the people of Flint, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed former U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes the new overseer (with “emergency manager” powers) of what is left of the Detroit Public Schools Feb. 29.
The same day, students at East English Village Academy, formerly the storied Finney High School, walked out with their teachers to join other protests in DPS across the city. (See video above.)
“Judge Rhodes was a natural choice,” Snyder said. “He is highly respected in the city and was invaluable in leading Detroit out of bankruptcy. Detroit needs strong public schools for the city’s economic comeback to continue through its neighborhoods.”
Rhodes later told the Detroit Free Press he would appoint an “interim” superintendent to head a school board appointed by Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan until elections take place. He recommended elections take place in August. Bills in the Michigan Legislature that would divide the district in two would set the election for November. Rhodes said he would resign in September if they do not pass.
WELCOME WHITE DETROIT! Rhodes roller skates with family in hometown of Cape May, N.J, 5 % Black.
One district would pay off a $1.5 billion DPS debt owed through the year 2040, accumulated primarily under periods of state management since 1999. To pay this year’s allotment of the debt, 66 percent of the district’s state per-pupil aid would be used.
The other “debt-free” district would run a schools system tailored to incoming city residents being courted by Rhodes and Duggan, not to the majority-Black students left after state managers closed two-thirds of the district’s schools.
Rhodes did not rule out the possibility of yet more school closures, but said the process would be “transparent.”
“We also have to understand that in the context of school capacity, that our goal here is to compete with the charters,” Rhodes told the Free Press.
“The appointment of Judge Rhodes shows that the white power structure considers the last 47,000 students left in the system and their families expendable,” Detroit schools activist Agnes Hitchcock responded. “Not only do we have an illegal white write-in Mayor running our city, now we have a little white bankruptcy judge running our schools.”
Agnes Hitchcock (center in yellow scarf) and allies from Call ’em Out hold Blackinaw Island rally May 31, 2014 to protest the white-out of Detroit.
Hitchcock and the organization Call ‘em Out battled for years against the closure of 210 schools, two thirds of the district’s original number, tens of thousands of lay-offs of teachers and support staff, and the loss of 137,000 students, 74 percent of the 1994 enrollment of DPS. These actions began with the first state takeover in 1999 under Gov. John Engler (R), and were followed later by takeovers initiated by Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) and Snyder (R).
Wayne State University Professor of Education Thomas Pedroni posted the following comment on the Detroit Free Press website.
Prof. Thomas Pedroni
“24 hours a week, $225,000 per year,” Pedroni, who has adamantly campaigned for the restoration of DPS, said.
“No wonder Rhodes suddenly feels he is qualified, when before he said he would not take the position because he was not qualified. What qualifies a judge to run a school district? This guy went from having no confidence in himself to do the job to his current claim that he shouldn’t need more than 24 hours a week to get the job done. Finally, why is it beyond any Freep or Detroit news reporter’s capability to ask what exactly it is about the existing elected board that makes it out of the question that it would continue as the elected board over schools? Is it such an obvious foregone conclusion that the same electorate that is credited with electing [Mike] Duggan cannot be trusted in the choices it has already made for school board?”
Prior to his appointment by conservative Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals former Chief Judge Alice Batchelder to handle the Detroit bankruptcy filing, Rhodes existed in virtual oblivion at the bottom rank of federal judges. He hails from the resort town of Cape May, N.J., where only five percent of the population is Black.
Detroit’s 1967 rebellion.
“Part of the decline of the city itself can be attributed to our unique racial circumstances,” Rhodes told the Detroit Free Press about the bankruptcy. “However, the concept of civil unrest or civil disobedience [in response to bankruptcy cuts] was not really on my mind.” But when Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellerman rose during a hearing to tell Jones Day attorneys, “You are not the City of Detroit,” Rhodes ignominiously ran off the bench to hide.
The only other Chapter 9 bankruptcy Rhodes had handled was the 1992 case of “Addison Community Hospital Authority,” in which he barred the “Concerned Citizens for Addison Community Hospital” from intervening as a group. Addison, located just south of Jackson, MI, has a population of only 605 according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
EM/Ch9 forum Oct. 10, 2012: (l to r) Frederick Headen, Edward Plawecki, Rhodes, Douglas Bernstein, Judy O’Neill, Charles Moore.
Rhodes began his rise to fame as overseer of the largest municipal bankruptcy in the U.S. by connecting with the major players in the genocidal attack on Detroit and Michigan’s other Black-majority cities. In October, 2012, prior to the bankruptcy trial, he chaired a Federal Bar Association (FBA) of Eastern Michigan Bankruptcy Committee forum, called “Between a Rock and a Hard Place–Municipal Entities in Distress.” In its notice of the forum, the FBA said it was “a panel discussion on emergency managers and Chapter 9 bankruptcy.”
Its participants were veterans of the battle to enact Michigan’s Emergency Manager Act, including Frederick Headen of the state Treasurer’s office, who has helped bring about numerous state takeovers during his tenure, Douglas Bernstein and Judy O’Neill, both of whom acted as trainers for emergency managers, with O’Neill helping draft Public Act 4, the predecessor to the current EM Act 436. Most astonishingly, Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie spoke, and went on to become one of the chief witnesses for Orr during bankruptcy proceedings.
Protester carries a sign vs. removal of Blacks from Detroit, March 7, 2016.
Rhodes rejected this reporter/retiree’s request to recuse himself for this blatant conflict of interest.
The mainstream media, which practically anointed Rhodes Pope of Detroit for his handling of the Detroit Chapter 9 bankruptcy declared by Snyder’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr in 2013, predictably celebrated Rhodes’ return.
Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley called for Rhodes to deep-six what is left of DPS, despite his claims that he wants to increase enrollment.
“Just over a year after exiting bankruptcy, Detroit faces yet another great challenge,” Riley wrote. “Its schools are headed for either the greatest restructuring in the district’s history or an implosion that will force leaders and parents to find other ways to educate the city’s children — ways that might include citywide charter schools.”
Citing egregious mistreatment of Black students, New Orleans parents filed suit against the nation’s first all-charter school district, created by the state of Louisiana in 2014, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It is called the “Recovery School District (RSD).”
“The vast majority of public schools closed by RSD in the past five years were in poor and working class, African-American neighborhoods,” their lawsuit says. “Many of the schools existed for over a hundred years before being closed and had been attended by multiple generations in one family. These schools employed teachers and administrators who have taught in our communities for decades—staff who hold community knowledge, understand the hardships that face our students, and pass down our shared values. … After everything that we lost in Katrina, it has been devastating to lose our schools as well.”
A recent study by Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies showed that Detroit is the state’s capital of charter schools. As a Black-majority city, it has been targeted just as New Orleans was, by the state’s charter schools, 70 percent of which operate for profit, not for the children.
Despite the fact that 59 percent of Detroit’s children live in poverty and are now being consigned to a school district whose primary purpose will be to pay off DPS debt, the teachers’ union, minus its ousted but duly elected militant president Steve Conn, hailed Rhodes’ appointment.
“The Detroit Federation of Teachers will continue to fight for a locally elected and empowered school board, and it is our sincere hope that Judge Rhodes’ transitional leadership moves us closer to that goal and away from the failed emergency manager system,” the union said in a statement.
Ironically, Detroit teachers had just shut down most of the district’s schools in January, calling in sick to protest deplorable conditions. They did not cite as the chief cause of those conditions the loss of most of the system’s revenues to debt service since the first state takeover of 1999 under Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, followed by more takeovers under Governors Jennifer Granholm (D), and Snyder (R).
“I think the governor is doing his part to pay off Rhodes for the illegal bankruptcy he and Jones Day carried out against Detroit,” Bill Davis, president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), said. DAREA has appealed Rhodes’ bankruptcy confirmation to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which now has a new Black Chief Judge, R. Guy Cole, Jr.
Bill Davis, president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA).
“Snyder is doing this despite the fact that both Orr and Jones Day have been exposed as totally incompetent, for leaving out a half-billion worth of pension debt that they supposedly didn’t know about from the bankruptcy plan. Rhodes, Orr, Snyder and [former State Treasurer Andy] Dillon should end up in jail as part of a RICO conspiracy for this bankruptcy. Rhodes shouldn’t’ be in charge of anything.”
Davis referred to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s revelation during his State of the City address that bankruptcy consultants including Jones Day, Orr’s former law firm, used outdated mortality tables in their proposed plan of confirmation that left Detroit with a $491 million pension fund shortfall.
“How did we pay (bankruptcy consultants) $177 million for work they did and once they’re out of town they leave a $491 million hole a few months later?” Duggan said.
Voice of Detroit has exposed the criminal nature of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing in numerous articles. It left the city in a shambles. Detroit now owes three times its original debt, has lost most of its major assets including the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), now operating in a temporary six-month “partnership” with the Great Lakes Water Authority.
DAREA corresponding secretary Belinda Myers-Florence with mother and husband Jesse Florence, a D-DOT retiree. Mrs. Florence passed away in Nov. 2015 after working tirelessly against the bankruptcy. She and her husband lost huge portions of their pensions and health benefits.
In the process, thousands of city workers have lost their jobs, further diminishing the city’s tax base as well as that of DPS. Due to drastic cuts in retiree pensions, individual savings accounts, and health care provision, many retirees have fallen below the poverty level.
The situation city retirees face is so drastic that the city figures they will be chomping at the bit to cash out part of their meager death benefits, while giving up the rest of their value. This reporter, as a City of Detroit Retiree, has been asked if she wants to get “$1,413. 50 in lieu of a death benefit in the amount of $3,255.00 otherwise payable to my named beneficiary or beneficiaries upon my death.”
Not only are the wealthy elite who run this country determined to drive Detroit retirees to early deaths by cutting their income and benefits, they want to consign them to paupers’ graves.
Historic Finney High School, closed in 2009 at a cost of $2.9 million from 1994 bond, replaced later by East English Village Academy at a cost of $58.6 million from 2009 bond. It bordered the wealthy Grosse Pointe suburbs.
(VOD editor’s note: this story is several years old, but gives a clear and concise understanding, with examples, of what has happened to Detroit Public Schools bond money from 1994 to 2013, emphasizing the theft of billions of dollars for unregulated, non-public charter schools, the Educational Achievement Authority, and school closings and demolition. It does not emphasize the enormous amounts the banks have made from those bonds, which VOD will be doing in a story on Judge Steven Rhodes’ takeover of DPS, shortly forthcoming.)
Douglass Academy students walkout over school conditions 2012.
Detroit Public Schools had, at that time, 261 schools not including administration buildings. Total repair costs and construction estimates stood at $3.9 billion, well above the bond amount. Construction delays caused by problems with the building plans stalled renovations so much that by 1999, very little of the bond money had actually been used to improve schools. Enrollment had continued rising, topping out at 173,000 students. (VOD–school activists said at the time that the real reason for not spending the bond money was DPS’ majority-Black governance. An article in Education Week in 1996 alleged that only one-third of the bond was to go to refurbishing current schools; Michigan’s State Treasurer had to approve any spending from the bond. See http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1996/02/21/22detroi.h15.html .)
Also in 1999, citing low academic achievement and mismanagement of the district, the state enacted special legislation (Public Act 10 of 1999) for the purpose of allowing then-Governor John Engler to replace the democratically elected school board with state-appointed board members. Residents were not happy about the forced take-over of their school district and loss of local control. The immediate result was a loss of 5,000 students from the district for the next school year which began a hemorrhage of students that will continue long into the future.
The remains of the original Frederick Douglass High School on the city’s east side long after its closure. This tragic photo was posted by author to hail graffiti art. The neighborhood around the school has deteriorated to below-poverty conditions.
(VOD note: the paragraph above cites “low academic achievement” as a purported cause of the first state takeover in 1999, while in fact DPS student scores were rising rapidly, and the district had a budget SURPLUS of close to $100 million. After the takeover, the $1.5 Billion bond was handed over to national white-owned corporations like Barton-Malow, which used it for primarily for unnecessary new school construction rather than renovation.)
Detroit Public Schools was operated under [state] receivership from 1999 through 2005. When DPS was first put into receivership, they actually had a stable budget with a slight surplus. Since then, the surplus has been depleted and Detroit Public Schools has been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. An Emergency Financial Manager was put in charge of DPS again in 2009 by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm under the provisions of PA72 of 1990, the Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act.
Rally to stop the first Emergency Manager Law, PA 4, in Lansing, MI April, 2013.
A second bond was voted for in 2009, under Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, adding another $500.5 million for building improvement, even though the district had lost over half of its student enrollment and closed dozens of buildings by then.
Whatever became of the bond money? It was spent on facilities, because by law it could not be spent on anything else such as decreasing the deficit, day-to-day operations or teachers salaries. The problem is in what happened to those buildings after renovations. Some were demolished; many have been leased to charter schools; and many more have been shuttered where they lay in disrepair attracting vandals, vagrants, drug dealers, feral animals, and scrap collectors who have gutted the structures and left nothing but barren shells of formerly majestic century-old showplaces.
Some of the more costly bond funded renovations went to the following projects:
Jared Finney High School as originally built.
Finney High School was demolished at a cost of $2.5 million under the 1994 bond, prior to the approval of the 2009 bond by voters.
Under the new bond, construction of a new high school on the former site of Finney HS was completed at a cost of $56.9 million. The new high school was named East English Village Preparatory Academy in 2012 and remains open to service DPS high school students. The school concentrates on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and Fine and Performing Arts. Students must undergo an application and admissions process to attend this public school, so it is not an open admission neighborhood school available to all DPS students.
Demolition of historic Mumford High School, contracted out to Walbridge Aldinger, whose CEO John Rakolta is a close ally of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Mumford High School was demolished and replaced with a new building at a cost of $56 million.
Upon completion in 2012, Mumford High School was immediately leased to the Educational Achievement Authority, a newly created statewide school reform district comprised of the 5% lowest performing schools in [the state–all in Detroit]. The lease amount is for $1 million per year, which will amortize the construction cost in a mere 56 years.
The EAA has benefited greatly from bond money intended to improve DPS buildings. Southeastern High School and Central High School both received renovations and repairs amounting to more than $50 million for each building and are also being leased to the EAA.
Kettering High School students walked out in 2009 to protest closure of the famous “K.” Sign supports the school’s principal. Photo: WSWS
Kettering High School, renovated at a cost of $6.9 million, was closed in 2012 and remains vacant. Kettering was specially outfitted to service physically disabled students, with one entire wing converted for this purpose. Southwestern High School was closed in 2012 and remains vacant following a $6.5 million bond investment that included revamping the auditorium.
The bulk of the bond money paid by the residents of Detroit to improve their school system was spent between 1999 and 2006 (from the 1994 bond), and from 2009 through 2012 (from the 2009 bond). During all but a short period of time in 2006, Detroit Public Schools has been under the control of state appointed school board members or an Emergency Financial Manager.
Gov. John Engler (R)
Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D)
Gov. Rick Snyder (R)
For years, the waste of funding has been blamed on Detroiters and poor election choices, but that is certainly not the case when it comes to the problems incurred by DPS. Those issues lay solely at the feet of the state, under three different governors (Engler until the end of 2002, Granholm from January 2003 through December 2010, and Rick Snyder from January 2011 to present). Money that was spent to build new buildings or improve buildings seems to be overwhelmingly benefitting the EAA reform district and not DPS students.
Chadsey High School, permanently closed, after several student walkouts, was renowned for its multi-racial, multi-cultural student population.
There are currently 87 vacant or underutilized buildings belonging to DPS that are for sale or lease. A total of $78.6 million was spent on improvements or renovations to 83 of those buildings. There have been 26 buildings demolished at a cost of $27.4 million. Another 28 buildings received a whopping $295.4 million investment and are now leased to community organizations, the EAA reform district, or charter schools. DPS has also sold several buildings that received a total $36.4 million in renovations and repairs prior to the sales. That is a lot of expenditure for buildings not being used by DPS. In fact, just over half of the bond money was spent on buildings that are still in use by DPS for Detroit students.
The previous two decades has been full of misspent funding by governor-appointed school boards, elected officials, and governor appointed Emergency Financial Managers. The toll this has taken on the Detroit Public Schools district has been devastating. But the biggest change in district enrollment numbers has an entirely different source– the rapid increase in Charter Schools following the enactment of the charter school law in 1994 (Public Act 362 of 1993).
School choice has been the single most devastating fact that has caused the decline of Detroit Public Schools. Residents are currently liable for the two bonds, plus interest, for building renovations on school buildings that the district is now leasing to charter corporations that are in direct competition with DPS for declining student enrollments. Over the past ten years, DPS has been forced to shut down a full two-thirds of their neighborhood schools. Enrollment in DPS has decreased to fewer than 50,000 students, while enrollment in competing charter schools has increased to 68,000.
That is the real cost of unlimited charter school expansion.
Detroit Public Schools teachers walked out across the district in 2001 to rally in Lansing against bill that would have opened the way to more charter schools. They succeeded for the time being, only to face the devastation to come.
Salt Lake police battle rock throwers after shooting
Associated Press 8:05 a.m. EST February 28, 2016
A woman holds a frightened child as police battle protesters after cops shot a 16-year-old in Salt Lake City. Photo: Lennie Mahler, AP
SALT LAKE CITY – Unrest broke out in a Salt Lake City neighborhood after what appeared to be a shooting involving a police officer.
The shooting happened about 8:15 p.m. Saturday near downtown. Selam Mohammad told the Salt Lake Tribune that a police officer shot a 16-year-old boy who was his friend.
In a tweet late Saturday night, Salt Lake City police said that officers were responding to an unrelated call in area when they were told of an assault in progress. The officers “tried to engage altercation,” the tweet says.
Detective Greg Wilking told the Tribune that “shots were fired,” but not how many or whether an officer fired them. Later Saturday, Salt Lake City police told the newspaper that one officer, and possibly a second one, were involved in the shooting,
Selam Mohammad says it was his friend police shot.
Mohammad told the Tribune that the victim and a man were in a confrontation, and the victim was holding part of a broomstick at his side when officers arrived.
“They told him to put it down, once,” Mohammad said, and “started shooting him as soon as he turned around.”
The teenager was hit in the chest and stomach, Mohammad said. The victim was taken to a hospital, the Tribune reported.
City police were helped by officers from three other departments as onlookers threw rocks at officers and yelled obscenities, the Tribune said. Police closed a light rail stop in the neighborhood.
Police detained multiple people, but Wilking could not elaborate on the reason for the detentions.
Friends of Salt Lake City teen shot by cops say he is from Kenya.
There were “a lot of hostile people upset about what had taken place,” Wilking told the Tribune.
At 8:40 p.m., a line of officers moved protesters down a sidewalk, the newspaper reported.
There are a number of homeless shelters in the neighborhood, and business owners have long complained about the homeless population and drug dealing, the Tribune said.
DPS student Sasha Alford during 2005 protest against school closings and layoffs, outside the Coleman A. Young Center. Photo: Diane Bukowski
Dr. David Snead in 1994
“I’ve been reading news reports as well viewing them on national TV, about the deplorable conditions in DPS. Please know that the 1.5 Billion [bond] I campaigned for was never intended to knock down old schools but rather to renovate and repair. Very few new buildings were needed at the time for a growing population. I would have fought against that unholy effort. By doing so the powers that be helped the politicians and blood sucking vendors line their pockets with gold disguised as political contributions. If the schools had been renovated and repaired as well as they should have been the present conditions would not exist.”—Dr. David Snead, former DPS Superintendent
********************************************************** Agnes Hitchcock, Marie Thornton, Diane Bukowski to appear on WHPR 33 Black History Month show Sat. Feb. 27 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss 22-year dismantling of the Detroit Public Schools by white power structure.
DETROIT – Long-time Detroit Public Schools activists Agnes Hitchcock and Marie Thornton say a 22-year long process of dismantling the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system, and the resulting denial of quality, accessible education to Detroit’s majority-Black schoolchildren, began with the passage of a $1.5 billion school bond by grass roots voters in 1994.
Marie Thornton speaking at rally Jan. 28, 2009
“They decided Black people shouldn’t have that bond money,” Thornton, a former Detroit Board of Education member elected in 2005, said, referring to the 1999 state takeover of DPS under the administrations of Gov. John Engler and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.
Madison Madison International, a Black general contractor, was replaced with white-owned contractors to profit from the $1.5 billion bond, and tens of thousands of mainly Black, Detroit-resident DPS workers were laid off as private contracts were doled out.
Over the next 17 years, a succession of state-appointed CEO’s and Emergency Managers including Kenneth Burnley, Robert Bobb, Roy Roberts and Jack Martin closed hundreds of venerable DPS schools and drove the district deeper and deeper into debt at the urging of Michigan Governors Engler, Jennifer Granholm, and Rick Snyder, as well as Wall Street banks slavering for profit from bond money.
“Now they are trying to erase any sign of the history of a Black DPS,” Thornton continued. “Seven years after the bond passed, they began closing nearly all our schools, selling them off to become charter schools and churches. Now we have 47,000 children in DPS, down from 186,000 in 1999.”
Agnes Hitchcock speaks at Call em Out Town Hall at Bert’s on Feb. 25, 2010.
Hitchcock said, “All of this was part of a plot to take over City of Detroit from its Black majority, its schools, its world-class water infrastructure and international waterways, Belle Isle, the DIA, and its homes. Detroit used to be the Black home ownership capital of the country.”
Ironically, their comments come as former Mayor Dave Bing is being excoriated for belatedly denouncing the removal of Black people from Detroit, and predicting that Detroit is on the brink of becoming another Ferguson or Chicago. (Better late than never, Mr. Bing.)
Hitchcock, founder of “Call ‘em Out,” became famous world-wide in 2006, for throwing what became known as “the grapes of wrath” at newly-elected school board members who had just voted to close the first 50 DPS schools of hundreds more to come. Board Member Thornton was the lone dissenting vote on the closures, in keeping with her practice of voting her conscience no matter what abuse was heaped upon her by opponents.
Hitchcock noted that Detroit residents are still paying off the system’s bond debt, including a succession of other huge bonds and loans devoted not to growing DPS, but to demolish it as Hurricane Katrina demolished public schools in majority-Black New Orleans.
DPS 4th grader cries after being maced by DPS police during protest against the closing of Northern High School May 5, 2007.
Detroit, the nation’s largest Black-majority city, thus became the first major city to face total war against its public school system. Ironically, kidnapped Africans who won their freedom after the Civil War were largely responsible for starting the public school system in the U.S., having been lynched and tortured for learning to read and educate themselves.
“Where is our money, our $1.5 billion?” Hitchcock asked. “The back of my property tax bill includes millages largely for funding education.” She listed them as follows:
5 ml for state education,
3.6 ml for school operations,
18.0 ml for school bond debt,
13.0 ml for a ‘school judgment,’
0.9 ml for Wayne County RESA [a regional school district],
3.67 mills for RESA special ed,
3.24 ml for Wayne County Community College,
3.6 ml for the libraries.
DPS student speaks against school closings, including that of the historic Chadsey High School, at board meeting March 10, 2005
“Then we have 19.9 ml for City of Detroit operations, 2.9 ml for the city garbage tax, 7.9 ml for city debt service, .9 ml for the Wayne County Jail, .24590 ml for Wayne County parks, 2.1 ml for the Detroit Wayne County Community Mental Health Authority, 1.0 ml for the Wayne County zoo, and .20 ml for the Wayne County Detroit Institute of Arts,” Hitchcock concluded.
Detroit co-czar Mike Illitch is grabbing a large portion of that millage money, building his new tax-free Red Wings hockey development at a cost of $881 million, 61 percent publicly funded by school, library, city, county and state taxes.
Meanwhile, Wall Street banks have grown fat off the profits from bonds and loans to DPS. From July 2015 through June 2016 alone, they are slated to take 75 percent of the district’s for-pupil state funding in debt set-asides, a total of $215,414,000 out of $285,366,000 in state aid.
Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights at protest demanding cancellation of Detroit city and schools debts May 9, 2012.
A condition of a record $210 million loan with a 50 percent finance charge, taken out by DPS CEO Kenneth Burnley under Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2004, was that DPS report to the New York Bank Mellon on a monthly basis that it had set aside enough funds out of state per-pupil aid to Detroit to cover debt payments. It has done so ever since.
A US court of appeals vacated the conviction of Palestinian American activist Rasmea Odeh on Thursday, returning her case to the district judge for a possible retrial.
U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain
In November 2014, Odeh, 68, was convicted of immigration fraud for failing to disclose her 1969 arrest and conviction by the Israeli military on her immigration and naturalization documents filed respectively in 1994 and 2005.
Her lawyers appealed her conviction on the basis that US District Judge Gershwin Drain had denied Odeh the opportunity to present a complete defense by prohibiting her from speaking about the torture and abuse she endured that led to her signing a false confession in 1969.
Fabri testified that Odeh’s PTSD may have affected her state of mind when she failed to disclose her military court conviction on her citizenship application.
Protest at U.S. District Court in Detroit during Rasmea’s trial.
The panel of three justices reviewed Fabri’s testimony and unanimously agreed that the trial judge erred on his basis for excluding it from Odeh’s trial.
Judge Drain had barred it on the basis that Odeh was charged with a “general intent” crime rather than a “specific intent” crime – a legal distinction he held would make her state of mind irrelevant to the case.
“Regardless of whether [it] was a specific or general intent crime,” the ruling states, “Dr. Fabri’s proffered testimony is relevant to whether Odeh knew that her statements were false.”
Now Judge Drain must determine if there is another basis on which to exclude the expert testimony. Failing that, Odeh will be allowed to have a new a trial with the expert testimony.
Attorney Michael Deutsch with Rasmea Odeh.
“I feel confident she will get a new trial,” Michael Deutsch, Odeh’s lead attorney, told The Electronic Intifada.
“I don’t see another reasonable reason to exclude the expert testimony.”
Deutsch called the appellate court’s ruling a “a great victory.”