FEDERAL JUDGE STRIKES DOWN MICHIGAN’S GAY MARRIAGE BAN

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Winning plaintiff says, “This case is about the protection of our children”

Federal judge: Michigan state amendment barring gay marriage is unconstitutional

Michigan is the latest state in which a federal judge has taken action 

Its attorney general files appeal to stay, overturn judge’s decision

U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman

U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman

By Greg Botelho, CNNMarch 21, 2014 

(CNN) — A federal judge on Friday ruled that Michigan’s prohibition on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, ordering the state to stop enforcing the ban

“Today’s decision … affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail,” U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote.

(To read entire ruling, click on Friedman gay marriage findings of fact.)

Barb Byrum with supporters during run for Ingham County Clerk.

Barb Byrum with supporters during run for Ingham County Clerk.

Friday’s decision is different in that it opens the door for same-sex couples to get marriage licenses in Michigan very soon. Barb Byrum, the elected county clerk for Ingham County and a Democrat, said she is eager and ready to do so once her office opens at 8 a.m. Monday.”This is a wonderful decision,” Byrum said. “Many Michiganders have been waiting for equality in our great state, and I look forward to the opportunity to issue marriage licenses to all loving couples.”

That day may not come so fast. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican whose term expires later this year, announced Friday evening he’s filed an emergency request for Friedman’s order to be stayed and appealed.

Michigan AG Bill Schuette

Michigan AG Bill Schuette

“In 2004, the citizens of Michigan recognized that diversity in parenting is best for kids and families because moms and dads are not interchangeable,” Schuette said. “Michigan voters enshrined that decision in our state constitution, and their will should stand and be respected.”He was referring to the year that voters in Michigan, along with those in 10 other states, passed state constitutional amendments restricting “marriage or (a) similar union” to between one man and one woman.

Whether same-sex couples should be allowed to wed was a hot-button issue then and in subsequent years, with polls showing that most Americans favored restrictions.

Hawaiian Gov. Neil Abercrombie, left, and former Sen. Avery Chumley hold up a copy of the Star Advertiser after Abercrombie signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii on Wednesday, November 13, in Honolulu. Hawaii's same-sex marriage debate began in 1990 when two women applied for a marriage license, leading to a court battle and a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that said their rights to equal protection were violated by not letting them marry. Now the state is positioning itself for an increase in tourism as visitors arrive to take advantage of the new law, which took effect December 2.

Hawaiian Gov. Neil Abercrombie, left, and former Sen. Avery Chumley hold up a copy of the Star Advertiser after Abercrombie signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii on Wednesday, November 13, in Honolulu. Hawaii’s same-sex marriage debate began in 1990 when two women applied for a marriage license, leading to a court battle and a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that said their rights to equal protection were violated by not letting them marry. Now the state is positioning itself for an increase in tourism as visitors arrive to take advantage of the new law, which took effect December 2.

But public opinion shifted over time. An ABC News/Washington Post survey released earlier this month found that 59% of Americans favor allowing gay or lesbian couples to legally wed.

Michigan’s amendment, specifically, states the rationale for its restrictions is “to secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children.”

Friedman — like federal judges in other recent, similar cases — ruled Michigan’s ban violates the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Cory Booker, then-Newark mayor, officiates a wedding ceremony for Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell at City Hall early Monday, October 21, 2013. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied the state's request to prevent same-sex marriages temporarily, clearing the way for same-sex couples to marry in the state on October 21

Cory Booker, then-Newark mayor, officiates a wedding ceremony for Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell at City Hall early Monday, October 21, 2013. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied the state’s request to prevent same-sex marriages temporarily, clearing the way for same-sex couples to marry in the state on October 21

He said, “The court finds the (Michigan Marriage Amendment) impermissibly discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the provision does not advance any conceivable state interest.”

The plaintiffs in the Michigan case, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, sued in part because Michigan law also “restricts adoptions to either single persons or married couples.” They had hoped to jointly adopt three children under their care.

Friday’s ruling, then, would seem to open the door to same-sex couples jointly adopting children, since now they could be legally married.

In the ruling, Friedman cited the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions last June rejecting parts of the Defense of Marriage Act while ruling same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 26:  A couple celebrates upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage in City Hall June 26, 2013 in San Francisco, United States. The high court struck down DOMA, and will rule on California's Prop 8 as well.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 26: A couple celebrates upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage in City Hall June 26, 2013 in San Francisco, United States. The high court struck down DOMA, and will rule on California’s Prop 8 as well. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The justices didn’t go as far as saying that all states must allow such marriages to take place within their borders, but a number of lower federal courts did subsequently step into the fray.

Loving v VirginiaIn addition to United States v. Windsor, Friedman also pointed to Loving v. Virginia — in which the Supreme Court ruled that Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages was unconstitutional.

“Both the Windsor and Loving decisions stand for the proposition that, without some overriding legitimate interest, the state cannot use its domestic relations authority to legislate families out of existence,” the judge wrote.

Keeping their own family together is and was DeBoer and Rowse’s No. 1 goal, they said.

“Jayne and I do want to get married, but this case is about the protection of our children,” a joyful DeBoer said. “It is not about individuals, it is not about her or my relationship. It is about ensuring that our children will remain together no matter what happens to her and I.”

CNN’s Carma Hassan contributed to this report.

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Related stories from CNN:

New Jersey judge paves way for same-sex marriages

Kerry: Same-sex spouses’ visas will get equal treatment

Midnight vows: Same-sex couples ring in new lives

Process begins to allow federal benefits

Same-sex spouses entitled to federal benefits

California’s Proposition 8 appeal dismissed

Daughter fights to validate her marriage

The woman at the center of case


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MICH. REPS OLUMBA, SANTANA HELP PASS PRO-EAA BILL; SEATS FROM DETROIT COURTS REMOVED

Rally against EAA at Eastern Michigan University.

Rally against EAA at Eastern Michigan University.

(Note from VOD: this shocking development shows why Detroiters and state residents must move BEYOND electoral politics to direct action to save their city and state. VOD has long raised the need for a NATIONAL MARCH ON DETROIT, A NATIONAL STRIKE TO SAVE THE CITY THAT IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE UNION MOVEMENT, AND A BOYCOTT OF MAJOR MICHIGAN BUSINESSES.)

Sherry Gay-Dagnogo is applauded at Detroit City Council meeting Aug. 30, 2012 for her remarks on campaign for equal treatment for Black and Latin majority school districts.
Sherry Gay-Dagnogo is applauded at Detroit City Council meeting Aug. 30, 2012 for her remarks on campaign for equal treatment for Black and Latin majority school districts.

By Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, M. Ed.

March 21, 2014

“Power Concedes Nothing Without A Demand!” –Frederick Douglass

I love the quote by Frederick Douglass “Power Concedes Nothing Without A Demand!” I suppose if I were to offer one amendment, it would be the inclusion of “A Collective” Demand. With the attacks we’re facing in Michigan, it will take a coalition of men and women that will unite around a common agenda which protects our children, seniors, labor, and democracy.Dr. King said “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday’s passage of HB 4369 (EAA Expansion) is disappointing, and the encroachment upon our justice system to remove seats from 36th District Court and Third Circuit Court. So here we are, a place to mark in Detroit’s history where many have either become numb to the ongoing attacks resulting in the greatest loss of power we’ve know since the Civil Rights movement, or they refuse to speak out for fear of retribution.

EAA Passes House Amid Passionate Debate (Excerpt from MIRS)

After weeks of behind-the-scenes talks, it was two Detroiters today who helped get a bill through the House that could one day allow the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to operate in more schools.

State Reps. John Olumba and Harvey Santana, both D-Detroit, sold out Michigan students with their vote on the EAA.
State Reps. John Olumba and Harvey Santana, both D-Detroit, sold out Michigan students with their vote on the EAA.

After fierce attacks from Democrats, members voted 56-54 for HB 4369, which supporters say would provide the state with more options for trying to turnaround failing schools that find themselves in the State School Reform/Redesign District (SSRRD).

The only non-Republican votes in those 56 — the minimum needed to get a bill through House — came from Reps. John OLUMBA (I-Detroit) and Harvey SANTANA (D-Detroit)

And they both spoke out in favor of the bill on the House floor today.

Much of the focus of their comments was that lawmakers needed to move beyond the political discourse to take definitive action to help students in failing schools.

Detroit educational leaders adamantly oppose EEA during forum Aug. 2, 2012. Detroit School Board member Elena Herrada is speaking,

Detroit educational leaders adamantly oppose EEA during forum Aug. 2, 2012. Detroit School Board member Elena Herrada is speaking,

The EAA, which features a longer school day and a longer calendar, has “great possibilities,” Olumba argued.

Santana said the system isn’t perfect, but is “progress.”

“I refuse to play politics with our children’s future,” he said at one point.

Olumba, Santana and a handful of amendments helped get a bill through the House today that had been waiting since December.

It’s a bill that has the support of Gov. Rick SNYDER, who touted the House’s vote in a press release.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his appointed Detroit EM Kevyn Orr announce disastrous filing of bankruptcy for Detroit July 28, 2013.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his appointed Detroit EM Kevyn Orr announce disastrous filing of bankruptcy for Detroit July 28, 2013.

“The legislation expands opportunities for intermediate and local school districts to be involved in turnaround efforts as well as offers innovative options like the Education Achievement Authority and charter public schools,” Snyder said.

“These changes will encourage innovation, including longer school days and calendars, to help students in struggling schools reach their full potential.”

But Democrats see the bill as merely an attempt to expand the EAA’s reach across the state. The EAA, which currently operates 15 schools in Detroit through an interlocal agreement with Eastern Michigan University, hasn’t proven its self, the Democrats said.

State Rep. Theresa Abed/Facebook
State Rep. Theresa Abed/Facebook

On the floor, Rep. Theresa ABED (D-Grand Ledge) labeled the EAA an “experiment gone bad.” And Rep. Doug GEISS (D-Taylor) said the authority has “achieved nothing.”

Rep. Brian BANKS (D-Harper Woods) also spoke against the bill.

“As a parent, as an aunt, as an uncle, would you send your child to the EAA?” Banks asked his colleagues. “Would you send your children to a school that has multiple safety concerns, failing academics, high teacher turnover?

“I think we know the answer, Mr. Speaker, and the answer is no.”

I ask…Where is our leader? Where is our collective voice? Everything thing that has been fought for; our basic freedom and liberties are being rescinded with the push of one legislative button.

I shall never forget March 20, 2014 for as long as I live. But now we must move forward with an even greater resolve to ensure Democratic victory 2014. I strongly believe #TogetherWeCan. I hope you will join me Thursday, April 10, 2014, 5:30 p.m., Hustle & Flow, T.U.L.C. 8670 Grand River, Detroit, MI. Donation: $20.14. 

Opponents to the Education Achievement Authority march in front of Welch Hall on Cross Street at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti December, 2013. Many were members of the American Association of University Professors. Photo: AANews

Opponents to the Education Achievement Authority march in front of Welch Hall on Cross Street at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti December, 2013. Many were members of the American Association of University Professors. Photo: AANews

MEAP COHORT DATA REVEAL STAGNATION AND DECLINE IN EAA STUDENT TEST ACHIEVEMENT

Results contradict EAA’s previous claims of phenomenal growth

Dr. Thomas Pedroni speaks at Lansing rally against Michigan EAA.
Dr. Thomas Pedroni speaks at Lansing rally against Michigan EAA.

“The 2013 MEAP cohort data show us, convincingly, that most EAA students failed to make even marginal progress toward proficiency. The portrait is even grimmer for the small number of students who had entered the EAA already demonstrating proficiency. In math, 66% are no longer proficient. In reading, 37% are no longer proficient.”

By Dr. Thomas C. Pedroni

March 3, 2014

For better view of graphs, which did not copy in color, see original article at: https://sites.google.com/site/detroitdataanddemocracyproject/MEAP-Cohort-Data-Reveal-Stagnation-and-Decline-in-EAA-Achievement

2013 MEAP cohort data published Friday by the Michigan Department of Education provide a stark contrast to EAA claims, dating back to February 2013, of fantastic student achievement gains on its quarterly performance assessment.

EAA FailedBecause the cohort data enable MDE to track individual student progress from year to year, they provide us with the most reliable picture of student test performance and test score growth over time.  Unlike proficiency scores that tell us the proportion of students who met MDE’s proficiency cut score, cohort data use students’ mean scale scores to chart student growth.  Since mean scale scores are based on students’ raw test scores, they give us a picture of student achievement test growth even if students have not yet obtained proficiency.

The cohort data are especially important because, as the EAA has rightly maintained, students who start out so far behind might take a few years to reach the proficiency cut score, even if they are making steady progress from year to year.  Thus, while proficiency rates are not a good measure of whether or not the EAA’s students are progressing on tested curriculum, the cohort data are.

So what do the cohort data tell us?

In all, MDE successfully matched 1,377 students from their 2012 math MEAP performance to their 2013 math MEAP performance, and 1400 students from their 2012 reading MEAP performance to their 2013 reading MEAP performance.  The matched math and reading cohorts, according to MDE, constituted 86.8% and 87.7% respectively of all 2013 EAA testers on those two tests.

The tracking of those students shows us, convincingly (see Table I and II below), that the majority of EAA students failed to demonstrate even marginal progress toward proficiency on the State’s MEAP exams in math and reading.  Among students testing this year who did not demonstrate proficiency on the MEAP math exam last year, 78.3% showed either no progress toward proficiency (44.1%) or actual declines (34.2%).  In reading, 58.5% showed either no progress toward proficiency (27.3%) or actual declines (31.2%).

EAA Table I Math

EAA all bldgsEAA readingEAA reading performanceThe portrait is even grimmer for the small number of students who had entered the EAA already demonstrating proficiency on the MEAP.

During the 2013 administration of the MEAP math test, there were a total of only 56 test-takers who had scored proficient the year before.  Of those 56 students, only 10 stayed at the same level of proficiency or improved (see Table I). That means that 46 of those 56 previously proficient students actually declined—became less proficient.   26 of those 56 had what the MDE terms significant declines.  Another way of saying this is that of those 2013 test takers who had scored proficient the year before, 82.1% declined in proficiency in just one year with the EAA.  Only 7.1% increased in proficiency, while 10.7 percent stayed the same.

In fact, only 19 of the 56 students who tested as proficient in math in 2012 remain proficient now.  37 children—two thirds of those previously proficient—have gone far enough the wrong way on the tested curriculum to no longer be considered proficient (see Table III).  Among the students who entered the EAA already proficient in reading, 37% are now no longer proficient (see Table IV).

TABLE IV.

EAA math transition

NOTE: 1377 students (86.8%) were successfully matched from Fall 2012 to Fall 2013

Source: Michigan Department of Education

EAA reading 3

The cohort data, as mentioned earlier, contrast markedly with the EAA’s claims of unprecedented student academic growth on the EAA’s quarterly Performance Series tests.  According to the EAA, those tests demonstrated that in the 2012-2013 school year alone, “64% of students across all 12 schools that are directly run by the Education Achievement Authority achieved a year or more’s growth in reading, and 58% achieved 1.5 year’s growth or more.”  Furthermore, “68% of students across the 12 direct run schools achieved a year or more’s growth in math with 59% achieving 1.5 year’s growth or more.”

Despite research dating back to last May that raised serious questions about the validity of those claims, the EAA has highlighted its achievement claims in advertisements and other promotions to help it fight its 24% enrollment slide after its first year of operation.  It has been aided in its recruitment efforts by Excellent Schools Detroit, which publishes an annual school report card to help families choose schools for their children.  Despite being aware of critics’ concerns, ESD praised the six EAA elementary schools, calling their claimed progress “promising”.

Charter schools advocate Doug Ross, Carol Goss of Skillman Foundation and former DPS EFM Robert Bobb at 2010 meeting of Excellent Schools Detroit. Goss later became VP of the EAA. Photo: Diane Bukowski
Charter schools advocate Doug Ross, Carol Goss of Skillman Foundation and former DPS EFM Robert Bobb at 2010 meeting of Excellent Schools Detroit. Goss later became VP of the EAA. Photo: Diane Bukowski

Although Excellent Schools Detroit advertises itself to Detroit’s families as an objective source of school data compiled to help families in pinpointing and selecting quality schools for their children, the connections between ESD and the EAA suggest a much closer relationship.  The current Chair of both EAA administrative boards, Carol Goss, incubated and funded Excellent Schools Detroit in 2010 in her capacity as CEO and President of the Skillman Foundation. 

Eli and Edythe Broad of the anti-public schools Broad Foundation.
Eli and Edythe Broad of the anti-public schools Broad Foundation.

Goss, who also served as ESD Chair until December 31, 2013, serves on the three-member board of the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation, through which funds are funneled from the Broad Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, and others, to the EAA.  Both ESD and the EAA are reported to have a fiduciary relationship with the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation, although ESD CEO and President Dan Varner insists that ESD does not have such a fiduciary relationship.  Five current or recent ESD board members, including EAA Chancellor Covington and Goss, who served as ESD Chair until December 31, 2013, currently serve or have recently served on the EAA board.

The staggered release of the MEAP data is also noteworthy.  While the public only gained access to the results of the MEAP this past Friday, February 28, State Superintendent Michael Flanagan shared with me via personal email that school district administrators, including EAA administrators, had received the MEAP results on January 27. 

John Covington
John Covington

According to a member of the State Board of Education, Flanagan had already decided to terminate the exclusivity agreement between the MDE’s State School Reform/Redesign Office and the EAA by February 5, although this announcement was not made public until February 18.  February 5 is also around the time that Republican legislators initiated a sudden aggressive push for passage of HB 4369—legislation that would codify and expand the EAA, but that had been languishing in the legislature for over a year due to insufficient votes for passage.

EAA observers have speculated that these moves by Flanagan and Republican legislators were at least in part instigated by their awareness of what the MEAP cohort data revealed about the EAA’s performance.  Flanagan, admirably, asked EAA Chancellor John Covington for an immediate voluntary termination of the EAA’s exclusivity agreement with the State School Reform/Redesign Office.  When Covington did not respond to this request, Flanagan went public on February 18 with a letter giving the EAA the required one-year notice for termination of the exclusivity agreement.

The specter of student stagnation and decline in the EAA provided by the MDE’s MEAP cohort data fits well with what we know of the EAA’s learning environment based on numerous published accounts from current and former EAA teachers.  At the same time, the cohort data further undermine the EAA’s insistence that their students have made unprecedented gains in academic achievement in tested curriculum.

Related articles:

Michigan cancels EAA’s exclusive responsibility for state’s failing schools
From The Detroit News Feb. 19, 2014

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EXPERT PILOT TRACKS MALAYSIAN PLANE WITH PLAUSIBLE BUT TRAGIC SCENARIO

Missing Malaysia Flight 370

Missing Malaysia Flight 370, captain was experienced and a human rights defender.

Deborah DupreDeborah Dupre Human Rights Examiner

March 18, 2014

Ten days of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have spawned speculations and investigations related to its passengers, pilots, ground crew, geopolitics and hijacking scenarios. Today, ten days later, using known data, a seasoned pilot provides on Google+, picked up by Wired Magazine, the most logical, albeit devastating, theory regarding where the plane is.

13,000-foot Runway at Pulau Langkawi

We know the basic MH370 story: A loaded Boeing 777 departed March 8 on a hot midnight from Kuala Lumpur, headed to Beijing. Approximately one hour out, across the gulf toward Vietnam, the plane’s transponder and secondary radar tracking shut down.

Anyone following the story knows the Malaysian military radar tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca. Malaysians headed back.

Transponders/Communications Loss ‘Perfect Sense’

The left turn is the key to Chris Goodfellow, with 20 years experience as a Canadian Class-1 instrumented-rated pilot for multi-engine planes.

Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah with family.
Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah with family.

Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a well-loved and respected human rights defender, was a very experienced senior captain with 18,000 hours of flight time.

“We old pilots were drilled to know what is the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise,” says Chris Goodfellow. ”Airports behind us, airports abeam us, and airports ahead of us. They’re always in our head. Always.

“If something happens, you don’t want to be thinking about what are you going to do–you already know what you are going to do. When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for an airport.”

Runway at
Runway at Palau Langkawi

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was flying a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles, Goodfellow says.

He did not turn back to Kuala Lumpur because he knew that terrain was hostile: 8,000-foot ridges to cross. He knew he was closer to Langkawi. [See this airport on Google Earth.]

Goodfellow says that Captain Shah did all the right things when confronted by a major event onboard.

Pilot Chris Goodfellow
Pilot Chris Goodfellow

“For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire,” Goodfellow says. “And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one.

“If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations.”

Two Types of Fires, One Incapacitating Type of Smoke

One type of fire is electrical – not as fast and furious, with or without incapacitating smoke. Goodfellow shows how a fire explains every aspect known about MH370 and its capable pilot.

One possibility he says is an overheat on one of the front landing gear tires, it blew on takeoff and started slowly burning.

Nigeria Airways Flight 2120
Nigeria Airways Flight 2120

“Yes, this happens with underinflated tires,” Goodfellow says. “Remember: Heavy plane, hot night, sea level, long-run takeoff. There was a well known accident in Nigeria of a DC8 that had a landing gear fire on takeoff. Once going, a tire fire would produce horrific, incapacitating smoke.

“Yes, pilots have access to oxygen masks, but this is a no-no with fire. Most have access to a smoke hood with a filter, but this will last only a few minutes depending on the smoke level. (I used to carry one in my flight bag, and I still carry one in my briefcase when I fly.)

“What I think happened is the flight crew was overcome by smoke and the plane continued on the heading, probably on George (autopilot), until it ran out of fuel or the fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed.

Inferno in region.
Inferno in region.

One might also remember that massive infernos have blazed across the region. Fire and smoke in the entire region has been so severe, major airports have since been closed.

Tragically, Goodfellow says MH370 would be found along that route and “looking elsewhere is pointless.”

He says the last words from MH370, “good night,” strongly indicates all was OK on the flight deck as far as the crew knew at that time.

“Remember, there are many ways a pilot can communicate distress. A hijack code or even transponder code off by one digit would alert ATC that something was wrong. Every good pilot knows keying an SOS over the mike always is an option. Even three short clicks would raise an alert.

He says, unknown to the pilots at that point, things were probably in the process of going wrong. Continue reading


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THE PLOT AGAINST PENSIONS: PEW/ARNOLD FOUNDATION, ALEC SUPPORT BANKSTERS’ ATTACK

Detroit pensions photo

THE PLOT AGAINST PENSIONS

The Pew-Arnold campaign to undermine America’s retirement security – and leave taxpayers with the bill

News Release
What the Media Are Saying

Plot against Pensions photoThis report evaluates both the general state of the national debate over pensions and the specific effects of the partnership between the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Sector Retirement Systems Project and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Full report at Plot-Against-Pensions-final

Here is a summary of the report’s findings:

Finding: Conservative activists are manufacturing the perception of a public pension crisis in order to both slash modest retiree benefits and preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks.

1214 Griswold Apartments developers linked to Detroit multi-billionaire Dan Gilbert grin at United Community Housing Coalition Director Ted Phillips as he assures City Council, voting on a tax abatement for the developers, that displaced Black, senior and disabled Sec. 8 tenants will be taken care of.
1214 Griswold Apartments developers linked to Detroit multi-billionaire Dan Gilbert grin at United Community Housing Coalition Director Ted Phillips as he assures City Council, voting on a tax abatement for the developers, that displaced Black, senior and disabled Sec. 8 tenants will be taken care of.

States and cities have for years been failing to fully fund their annual pension obligations. They have used funds that were supposed to go to pensions to instead finance expensive tax cuts and corporate subsidies. That has helped create a real but manageable pension shortfall. Yet, instead of citing such a shortfall as reason to end expensive tax cuts and subsidies, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing it as a reason to slash retiree benefits.

Finding: The amount states and cities spend on corporate subsidies and so-called tax expenditures is far more than the pension shortfalls they face. Yet, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing the pension shortfalls and not the subsidies as the cause of budget squeezes. They are then claiming that cutting retiree benefits is the solution rather than simply rolling back the more expensive tax breaks and subsidies.

City Council gave Detroit billionaire  Mike Illitch a new tax-free Red Wings hockey stadium and adjacent private developments at a cost of at least $881 million, 61 percent publicly-funded. An estimated $536 million would come from tax increments including school, library, city, county and state taxes.
City Council gave Detroit billionaire Mike Illitch a new tax-free Red Wings hockey stadium and adjacent private developments at a cost of at least $881 million, 61 percent publicly-funded. An estimated $536 million would come from tax increments including school, library, city, county and state taxes.

According to Pew, public pensions face a 30-year shortfall of $1.38 trillion, or $46 billion on an annual basis. This is dwarfed by the $80 billion a year states and cities spend on corporate subsidies. Yet, conservatives cite the pension shortfall not as reason to reduce the corporate subsidies and raise public revenue, but instead as proof that retiree benefits need to be cut.

Finding: The pension “reforms” being pushed by conservative activists would slash retirement income for many pensioners who are not part of the Social Security system. Additionally, the specific reforms they are pushing are often more expensive and risky for taxpayers than existing pension plans.

Whether “cash balance” schemes or 401(k) style defined contribution plans, many of the pension “reforms” being championed by conservative activists risk incurring more costs and increasing risks for taxpayers.

Laura and John Arnold, a former Enron billionaire who helped gut employees' pensions there.
Laura and John Arnold, a former Enron billionaire who helped gut employees’ pensions there.

Finding: The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are working together in states across the country to focus the debate over pensions primarily on slashing retiree benefits rather than on raising public revenues.

Pew’s Public Sector Retirement Systems Project and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are working in tandem on public pension policy to manufacture the perception of crisis and press for cuts to guaranteed retirement income. This campaign has played an integral role in states passing legislation that cuts guaranteed retirement income – all while those states preserve more expensive corporate subsidies.

Finding: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is run by conservative political operatives and funded by an Enron billionaire.

Bad Lay PostJohn Arnold is an Enron billionaire whose only major experience with pension management was his role in a company that decimated public pension funds. Well-known conservative political operatives and consultants run his foundation.

Finding: The techniques used by conservative activists to gain public support to privatize the public pensions that public workers have instead of Social Security are, if successful, likely to be used in efforts to privatize Social Security in the future.

The current campaign to slash public pension benefits has relied on many of the same PR strategies as President Bush’s earlier campaign to privatize Social Security. In that sense, the campaign against public pensions is an exercise in perfecting methods that manufacture the perception of a crisis – and then result in cuts to guaranteed retirement income. If the state-based crusade against public pensions is successful, it will probably fuel a renewed effort to privatize Social Security.

About the Report

Dont privatize social securityThis report was commissioned by the Institute for America’s Future (IAF), a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) research and education institution devoted to new thinking and progressive economic ideas. This report benefited from resources, information, data and research from (among others) the National Public Pension Coalition, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, the Center for American Progress, the Economic Policy Institute and Good Jobs First.

The author, David Sirota is a journalist, nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and the bestselling author of Hostile Takeover (2006), The Uprising (2008) and Back to Our Future (2011). Sirota’s research assistant on this project was journalist Zaid Jilani.

http://ourfuture.org/plotagainstpensions 

ALEC and TIAA-CREF JOIN THE ASSAULT ON PUBLIC PENSIONS

October 21, 2013

Isaiah-J_-Poole_avatar_1376533318-60x60By Isaiah J. Poole

The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council has jumped into the conservative effort to dismantle public pension systems in a big way, making it one of its top 2014 legislative priorities, a public pension advocacy group has warned.

The National Public Pension Coalition, which represents public sector employees, in a statement today flagged ALEC’s entry into the public pension battle as a threat to the financial security of millions of state and local public employees.

Detroit retirees protest theft of their pensions at bankruptcy court. Photo/Popular Resistance
Detroit retirees protest theft of their pensions at bankruptcy court. Photo/Popular Resistance

It’s an escalation of the campaign against public pensions highlighted in the Institute for America’s Future Report, “The Plot Against Pensions.” That report focuses on the work of a foundation founded by John Arnold, a former Enron executive, and a public pensions project of the Pew Charitable Trusts to promote the notion that there is a public-pension “crisis” that can only be solved by substituting these pension programs for programs that shift risks to workers, eliminate benefit guarantees and create new profit streams for Wall Street money managers. “Studies” that take advantage of the Pew reputation as a reputable, unbiased source of information have encouraged several states to take actions to privatize their retirement systems that, as the report points out, leaders in some of those states have already begun to regret.

Mass protest outside ALEC's 2013 convention in Chicago.
Mass protest outside ALEC’s 2013 convention in Chicago.

ALEC set the stage for its own intervention into the public pension debate with a report in August that encouraged states to convert their public pension (“defined benefit”) plans into 401(k) plans or other “defined contribution” plans. The report said that the “unfunded liabilities” incurred by state pension plans could range anywhere from “$750 billion to more than $4 trillion.” To address the shortfall, the report concludes, “There is ample evidence to suggest that legislators should move from defined-benefit systems to properly designed alternatives, such as defined-contribution, cash-balance, or hybrid plans.”

That report was followed by a paper issued earlier this month by TIAA-CREF Institute, the research arm of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association–College Retirement Equities Fund, which markets the kind of plans that ALEC wants states to move to. That paper was written by an associate of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and asserts that a defined-contribution plan is not necessarily more expensive for workers and taxpayers than a defined-benefit pension plan.

Protest outside Detroit Mayor's State of the City address.
Protest outside Detroit Mayor’s State of the City address.

That assertion has not been borne out by many of state states that have switched to defined contribution plans. “When states have adopted pension overhaul legislation, they have found that it came at a significant cost,” according to the National Public Pension Coalition statement. “Alaska and Michigan went down that road and saw their pension debts increase. West Virginia adopted a 401(k)-like plan for public employees in 1991, but reversed course in 2006 after a report found that public employees had such low incomes in retirement that they were eligible for means-tested public programs, driving up costs to the state.”

Also, the Plot Against Pensions report notes that in Rhode Island, which Arnold and ALEC hold up as their model for how the system should be remade, costs were driven up so much by fees to Wall Street money managers that even the business-friendly Forbes magazine called it “just a blatant Wall Street gorging.”

Absent from the ALEC report, as well as from the materials Arnold and Pew have sent around the country, is the fact that the amount of money needed to close any shortfalls in the pension systems and give them long-term sustainability could be easily raised by closing tax loopholes to corporations and the wealthy. Pew’s Public Sector Retirement Project estimates that public pensions face a 30-year shortfall of $1.38 trillion, or about $46 billion a year. (Notably, ALEC’s report does not offer a time frame for its shortfall estimates that would put the numbers in proper context.) That $46 billion compares to the estimated $80 billion a year that states and cities spend on corporate subsidies, many of which provide no demonstrable economic benefit beyond those receiving the subsidy.

Not only is securing a decent retirement for state workers, using funds that are often invested in projects that serve the public interest, a more efficient use of tax dollars than many of these tax giveaways to the wealthy, but a key argument ALEC and other conservatives use to justify dismantling public pensions has it exactly backwards. The ALEC report notes that most private companies have shifted from pensions to 401(k) plans, and questions why public employees should retain a benefit that private sector employees have all but lost. As employees who lost as much as 25 percent or more of their 401(k) balances as a result of the 2008 recession could attest, we should be fixing, not destroying, public pensions and holding those up as a model for how we can help restore retirement security to private sector workers.

http://ourfuture.org/20131021/alec-and-tiaa-cref-join-the-assault-on-public-pensions

Protest outside Detroit bankruptcy court.

Protest outside Detroit bankruptcy court.


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CRIMEANS VOTE OVERWHELMINGLY TO JOIN RUSSIA TO COUNTER NAZI COUP IN UKRAINE

People celebrate as they wait for the announcement of preliminary results of today's referendum on Lenin Square in the Crimean capital of S Over 95 percent of voters in the Crimean referendum have answered ‘yes’ to the autonomous republic joining Russia and less than 4 percent of the vote participants want the region to remain part of Ukraine, according to preliminary results.  With over 75 percent of the votes already counted, preliminary result show that 95.7 percent of voters said 'yes' to the reunion of the republic with Russia as a constituent unit of the Russian Federation.   The overall voter turnout in the referendum on the status of Crimea is 81,37%, according to the head of the Crimean parliament’s commission on the referendum, Mikhail Malyshev.   The preliminary results of the popular vote were announced during a meeting in the center of Sevastopol, the city that hosts Russia's Black Sea fleet.   Over a half of the Tatars living in the port city took part in the referendum, with the majority of them voting in favor of joining Russia, reports Itar-Tass citing a representative of the Tatar community Lenur Usmanov. About 40% of Crimean Tatars went to polling stations on Sunday, the republic’s prime minister Sergey Aksyonov said.   In Simferopol, the capital of the republic, at least 15,000 have gathered to celebrate the referendum in central Lenin square and people reportedly keep arriving. Demonstrators, waving Russian and Crimean flags, were watching a live concert while waiting for the announcement of preliminary results of the voting.   Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the citizens of the peninsula have been given an opportunity to freely express their will and exercise their right to self-determination.   International observers are planning to present their final declaration on the Crimean referendum on March 17, the head of the monitors’ commission, Polish MP Mateush Piskorski told journalists. He added that the voting was held in line with international norms and standards.   Next week, Crimea will officially introduce the ruble as a second official currency along with Ukrainian hryvna, Aksyonov told Interfax. In his words, the dual currency will be in place for about six months.   Overall, the republic’s integration into Russia will take up to a year, the Prime Minister said, adding that it could be done faster. However, they want to maintain relations with “economic entities, including Ukraine,” rather than burn bridges.   Moscow is closely monitoring the vote count in Crimea, said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasin.   “The results of the referendum will be considered once they are drawn up,” he told Itar-Tass.   The decision to hold a referendum was made after the bloody uprising in Kiev which ousted President Vladimir Yanukovich from power. Crimea - which is home to an ethnic Russian majority population - refused to recognize the coup-appointed government as legitimate. Crimeans feared that the new leadership would not represent their interests and respect rights. Crimeans were particularly unhappy over parliament's decision to revoke the law allowing using minority languages – including Russian – as official along with the Ukrainian tongue. Crimeans staged mass anti-Maidan protests and asked Russia to protect them.   imferopol March 16, 2014 (Reuters / Thomas Peter)

People celebrate as they wait for the announcement of preliminary results of today’s referendum on Lenin Square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol March 16, 2014 (Reuters / Thomas Peter)

 

95.7% of Crimeans in referendum voted to join Russia – preliminary results

RT logo

March 16, 2014

95 percent of voters in the Crimean referendum have answered ‘yes’ to the autonomous republic joining Russia and less than 4 percent of the vote participants want the region to remain part of Ukraine, according to preliminary results.

With over 75 percent of the votes already counted, preliminary  result show that 95.7 percent of voters said ‘yes’ to the reunion  of the republic with Russia as a constituent unit of the Russian  Federation.

Crimean supporters of Russia demonstrate in front of statue of Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Soviet Communist revolution.

Crimean supporters of Russia demonstrate in front of statue of Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Soviet Communist revolution.

The overall voter turnout in the referendum on the status of  Crimea is 81.37%, according to the head of the Crimean  parliament’s commission on the referendum, Mikhail Malyshev.

The preliminary results of the popular vote were announced during  a meeting in the center of Sevastopol, the city that hosts  Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Over a half of the Tatars living in the port city took part in  the referendum, with the majority of them voting in favor of  joining Russia, reports Itar-Tass citing a representative of the  Tatar community Lenur Usmanov. About 40% of Crimean Tatars went to polling stations on Sunday,  the republic’s prime minister Sergey Aksyonov said.

Crimean voters celebrate overwhelming victory at polls.

Crimean voters celebrate overwhelming victory at polls.

In Simferopol, the capital of the republic, at least 15,000 have  gathered to celebrate the referendum in central Lenin square and  people reportedly keep arriving. Demonstrators, waving Russian  and Crimean flags, were watching a live concert while waiting for  the announcement of preliminary results of the voting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the citizens of the peninsula have  been given an opportunity to freely express their will and  exercise their right to self-determination.

Mateush PiskorskiInternational observers are planning to present their final  declaration on the Crimean referendum on March 17, the head of  the monitors’ commission, Polish MP Mateush Piskorski told  journalists. He added that the voting was held in line with  international norms and standards.

Next week, Crimea will officially introduce the ruble as a second  official currency along with Ukrainian hryvna, Aksyonov told  Interfax. In his words, the dual currency will be in place for  about six months.

Overall, the republic’s integration into Russia will take up to a  year, the Prime Minister said, adding that it could be done  faster. However, they want to maintain relations with  “economic entities, including Ukraine,” rather than burn  bridges.

Map of Ukraine and the peninsula of Crimea

Map of Ukraine and the peninsula of Crimea

Moscow is closely monitoring the vote count in Crimea, said  Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasin.“The results of the referendum will be considered once they  are drawn up,” he told Itar-Tass.

The decision to hold a referendum was made after the bloody uprising  in Kiev which ousted President Vladimir Yanukovich from  power. Crimea – which is home to an ethnic Russian majority  population – refused to recognize the coup-appointed government  as legitimate. Crimeans feared that the new leadership would not  represent their interests and respect rights. Crimeans were  particularly unhappy over parliament’s decision to revoke the law allowing using minority languages –  including Russian – as official along with the Ukrainian tongue.  Crimeans staged mass anti-Maidan protests and asked Russia to  protect them.

Mass rally in Kharkiv against right-wing junta. Photo: Borotba

Mass rally in Kharkiv against right-wing junta.
Photo: Borotba

workers world logoTHOUSANDS IN EASTERN UKRAINE JOIN CRIMEA TO PROTEST KIEV REGIME

By on March 13, 2014

As reported by the Union Borotba (Struggle), a mass protest took place on the March 8 International Women’s Day holiday in Kharkiv city center in the eastern Ukraine. Many of the thousands carried red flags and gathered near the monument to Lenin, “which we managed to protect from the Nazis during recent rallies.”

BorotbaBorotba describes itself as representing four or five anti-capitalist and anti-racist groups, including former members of the youth organization of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

Participants denounced the new Kiev regime as representing a collaboration of the oligarchs and Nazis who, unable to cope with the socioeconomic crisis looming in Ukraine, are trying to dump the costs onto the majority of working people.

Massive anti-fascist rally in Moscow.

Massive anti-fascist rally in Moscow.

The speakers also opposed war within Ukraine, arguing that workers in western Ukraine are not their enemies. They attacked the Kiev right-wing junta for trying to “bang their heads” against the people living in the southeast of the country.

Borotba reported that the Kiev regime had sent political police to Kharkiv who tried to intimidate printers from printing leaflets against the coup “government.” They were printed anyway.

For more information on the protest or on the Borotba program, see a longer article online at workers.org or the English section of borotba.org.

Also see:

Anti-fascist protesters march in Ukraine

U.S. officials caught in Ukraine plot

As pro-imperialists besiege Ukraine, Communists warn of fascist coup attempt

Don’t forget Ukraine’s communist traditions

Why are Nazi & Confederate flags on display in Kiev?


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GODBOLDO VICTORY: JUDGE GILES DISMISSES CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAIN

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Giles cites COA ruling which opened the door to other reasons for dismissal 

Godboldo and supporters jubilant 

Attorneys call on Pros. Kym Worthy to end  family’s ordeal now; but Worthy says she intends to appeal

By Diane Bukowski 

March 15, 2014 

Maryanne Godboldo (2nd from l) with attorney Allison Folmar (l), Mubarak Hakim, Penny Godboldo, and other supporters after first dismissal by Giles Aug. 29, 2011.

Maryanne Godboldo (2nd from l) with attorney Allison Folmar (l), Mubarak Hakim, Penny Godboldo, and other supporters after first dismissal by Giles Aug. 29, 2011.

DETROIT – A jubilant crowd of Detroit mother Maryanne Godboldo’s supporters erupted in applause after 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles once again dismissed all criminal charges against her March 14. Godboldo has received national awards and international acclaim for standing off a Detroit police “SWAT” team who tried to take her daughter Ariana Godboldo-Hakim, then 13, in 2011, to administer the dangerous drug Risperdal to the child.

They acted on what Giles earlier ruled was an “illegal order” written by Mia Wenk, a state Child Protective Services (CPS) worker with no medical training. It was rubber stamped with a judge’s signature, without a judicial hearing, by a probation officer at Wayne County Juvenile Court. [Voice of Detroit first revealed this fact after a court supervisor testified at a hearing before Wayne County Juvenile Court Judge Lynn Pierce.]

This is not a picture from the 1967 rebellion, but shows tanks rolling down Linwood to confront mother Maryanne Godboldo and her 13-year-old daughter in their home in May, 2011.
This is not a picture from the 1967 rebellion, but shows tanks rolling down Linwood to confront mother Maryanne Godboldo and her 13-year-old daughter in their home in May, 2011.

When Godboldo would not admit police to her home, a “SWAT” team with helicopters, tanks, and assault rifles was called to the scene, and the 11-hour stand-off took place. Godboldo was charged with eight felonies including discharging a firearm in a dwelling.

“I feel wonderful,” Godboldo said outside the courthouse afterwards. “I am a firm believer in Yahweh, and knew he was protecting me. I knew Judge Giles was a just judge and would uphold the law. I have had the support of moms from all over the world, including my own mother, along with that of my wonderful attorneys.”

Maryanne Godboldo weeps in the arms of friends during a vigil outside the Hawthorne hospital where her daughter was detained for six weeks.
Maryanne Godboldo weeps in the arms of friends during a vigil outside the Hawthorne hospital where her daughter was detained for six weeks.

She said her daughter, now 16, is “100 percent” better than she was while held captive in the state Hawthorne psychiatric facility for six weeks after the traumatic incident. Wenk gave written permission for doctors there to administer not just Risperdal, but numerous other medications, to the child. Godboldo and Ariana’s father Mubarak Hakim have also contended that Ariana was severely abused there.

“She’s still not completely well,” Godboldo said. “We have had to go back to a counselor. She still suffers nightmares about the abuse, and often stays up all night. It doesn’t help that I keep having to go back to court hearings on the case.”

Attorneys Allison Folmar, Byron Pitts, and Roger Farinha represented Godboldo and Hakim during their three year ordeal, which included an ultimately failed attempt to seize permanent custody of Ariana.

Atty. Byron Pitts with Maryanne Godboldo in her home during an evidence search five months after the incident.
Atty. Byron Pitts with Maryanne Godboldo in her home during an evidence search five months after the incident.

“This is the third time that a judge has dismissed these criminal charges,” Pitts said. “This is a victory for mothers across the country, in stopping the kidnapping of children by the state. I strongly urge the Wayne County Prosecutor to leave this mother alone now. Any force used in the home was reasonable, against the unlawful entry by police without legal authority to kidnap a child. Mothers across Wayne County must unite and contact the Prosecutor’s Office to tell her to stop this.”

“My client was charged for simply being a mom,” Attorney Folmar added. “CPS must stop the senseless removal of our children.”

Both Giles and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Bill adamantly dismissed the charges against Godboldo in 2011.

Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Giles conducted a lengthy preliminary exam which spanned two full days, during which he allowed Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Laura Weingarden to present all evidence she deemed necessary. He then ruled on Aug. 29, 2011 that the prosecution’s evidence was “the fruit of a poisonous tree . . . .an order that is grossly inadequate and incorrect. . . .It is ridiculous to go in to remove in this court’s opinion somebody’s children based on THIS order.”

Bill expressly upheld all of Giles’ findings.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy appealed their decisions, and a state Court of Appeals remanded the case to Giles for further consideration beyond “the fruit of a poisonous tree” doctrine.

“I agree with the prosecution that a person cannot use deadly force to resist an unlawful arrest,” Giles said. “However, if you look at the facts, [the defendant] is charged with felonious assault, but not assault with intent to commit murder. I disagree with the prosecution that the fact alone that a firearm was discharged means that deadly force was used. The gun was discharged at the top of the door into the ceiling, which can be characterized only as some type of warning shot.”

36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles
36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles

Giles said evidence given the preliminary exam only “inferred” that Godboldo was even the shooter. He said he agreed with defense arguments and briefs that the Court of Appeals opinion actually opened the door for him to dismiss the case on other grounds.

“In its opinion, the Court of Appeals [cited rulings] that a defendant may use reasonable force as necessary, and has a common law right to resist unlawful police conduct. Based on that, I find that the defendant did use reasonable force to prevent an illegal attachment, the removal of her child by the Detroit police with an invalid court order. The court is not going to bind the defendant over and the case is dismissed.”

Giles noted that his ruling is likely to “go upstairs” on appeal. Many in the courtroom cited him for his fortitude, using the terms “balls” and “guts,” since some lower level judges are cowed when higher courts overturn their decisions.

Slogan on T-Shirt supporting Godboldo family.
Slogan on T-Shirt supporting Godboldo family.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, through her spokesperson Maria Miller, said, “We appealed Judge Giles’ ruling dismissing the case before and prevailed, as a result, and the case was remanded for the judge to rule today. We disagree with the judge’s dismissal of the case, and we will be appealing the ruling to the Wayne County Circuit Court.”

Attorney Folmar added later, “A parent has the final word on using any anti-psychotic drug on their child,” Folmar said. “In this case, the mom tried it, and it made Ariana horribly ill and aggressive. Risperdal has killed children. In a ‘free’ society we are not medical property. In America, we can go and get a second opinion. Somebody could have died that day.”

Folmar earlier cited the killing of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones by during a “SWAT” team raid on her home May 16, 2010, shot in the head by Officer Joseph Weekley, using an MP-5 submachine gun. A pre-trial hearing for Weekley on charges of “involuntary manslaughter” and “reckless use of a firearm” was once again postponed indefinitely May 14, allegedly due to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway’s continued “scheduling conflicts.”

Expert depiction of Aiyana Jones' killing by Officer Joseph Weekley, which Atty. Folmar said could easily have been repeated in Godboldo's home.
Expert depiction of Aiyana Jones’ killing by Officer Joseph Weekley, which Atty. Folmar said could easily have been repeated in Godboldo’s home.

Many feel it is likely Weekley and the rest of the police department involved will walk scott free. Aiyana’s uncle-in-law Chauncey Owens has now been convicted on first-degree murder charges, and her father Charles Jones on second-degree murder charges, in the death of Jerean Blake two days before the raid. Mainstream media has eported falsely that the original raid on the Jones home sought both Owens and Jones. However, police had only a warrant seeking Owens. Jones was not charged until 17 months later.

Jones’ sentencing has been postponed. His jury contradictorily found him not guilty of gun charges in the case, while the prosecution had charged him with murder, solely alleging that he gave a gun to Owens during the Blake killing.  Both cases are being appealed.

For further information:

Website: http://justice4maryanne.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-for-Maryanne-Godboldo/178678602179610

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jstice4maryanne

Related VOD stories:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/02/23/global-hero-maryanne-godboldo-back-in-court-new-criminal-hearing-set-for-march-14/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/06/01/michigan-court-re-instates-criminal-charges-against-maryanne-godboldo/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/09/state-county-pursue-prosecution-of-maryanne-godboldo-and-her-child/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/05/18/michigan-supreme-court-upholds-right-to-resist-police-misconduct/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/02/25/wayne-co-requests-appeal-on-dismissed-maryanne-goldboldo-case-almost-30-days-late/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/12/13/double-victories-for-maryanne-godboldo-and-family/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/12/06/worthy-tries-to-reinstate-charges-against-maryanne-godboldo-hearing-set-for-fri-dec-9-9-am-judge-gregory-bill/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/10/31/stop-state-child-abductions-support-godboldos-tues-nov-1-12-noon/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/30/9604/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/24/referee-youssef-orders-mother-from-home-after-cps-claims-5-children-suffer/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/17/detroit-father-of-5-pursues-federal-civil-rights-suit-against-mia-wenk-dhs-judges-agencies-for-removal-of-children/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/17/police-invade-godboldo-home-2nd-time-in-belated-evidence-search/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/16/jury-rules-against-maryanne-godboldo-in-custody-trial/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/08/ariana-godboldo-hakim%e2%80%99s-parents-tell-of-loving-life-with-daughter-during-custody-trial-nso-worker-testifies-she-admitted-child-to-psychiatric-hospital-without-family-consent-or-doctors-orde/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/08/tangled-web-in-godboldo-case-drug-cos-private-and-public-agencies-judge-dhs-all-benefit-from-child-abduction/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/07/u-s-johnson-johnson-wrongly-marketed-risperdal-to-kids/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/08/03/another-shock-no-judge-authorized-ariana-godboldos-removal/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/07/27/shocking-new-details-in-godboldo-police-stand-off-case/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/07/23/broad-support-at-maryanne-godboldo-rally-pack-36th-district-court-mon-july-25-830-a-m/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/07/15/my-child-does-not-belong-to-the-state-rally-for-maryanne-godboldo-sun-july-17/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/07/11/godboldo-hearing-adjourned-to-mon-july-25-830-a-m-%e2%80%9cpromptly%e2%80%9d-mother%e2%80%99s-supporters-to-rally-sun-july-17-8801-woodward-4-6-p-m/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/07/07/godboldo-hearing-thurs-july-7-9-am-alternet-article-on-militarization-of-police-in-u-s/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/06/28/judge-ewell-revokes-stay-on-criminal-charges-v-maryanne-godboldo-attorneys-protest/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/05/06/judge-orders-godboldo-daughter-home-to-family-may-6/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/05/02/pack-court-hearing-may-4-to-demand-ariana-godboldos-release/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/04/26/judge-orders-joint-medical-plan-for-ariana-in-one-week-subsequent-release-from-hawthorn-center/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/04/24/child-removal-laws-are-unconstitutional-hurt-michigan-families-aclu-charges-in-federal-lawsuit/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/04/14/%e2%80%9ci-want-my-daughter-back-now%e2%80%9d/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/04/08/mother-wins-indefinite-stay-of-criminal-proceedings/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/04/08/justice-4-maryanne-free-ariana/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/03/29/community-rallies-behind-mother-accused-of-stand-off/

 


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MAYOR CHOKWE LUMUMBA HOMEGOING; JACKSON RISING CONFERENCE STILL ON FOR MAY 2-4, 2014 JSU

Video above by Kenny Snodgrass

Published on Mar 10, 2014

Chokwe Lumumba Lives! Home Going – – A No Struggle, No Development Production! By Kenny Snodgrass, Activist, Photographer, Videographer, Author of
1} From Victimization To Empowerment… www.trafford.com/07-0913  eBook available at www.ebookstore.sony.com
2} The World As I’ve Seen It! My Greatest Experience!
{Photo Book}
YouTube: I have over 499 Video’s, 388 Subscribers, over 239,000 hits, now averaging 10,000 monthly on my YouTube channel @ www.YouTube.com/KennySnod 

Video above published on Jan 20, 2014

http://hiphopandpolitics.com/2014/01/…
Davey D – Hard Knock Radio – 2014 Agenda for Mayor Chokwe Lumumba Administration

Jackson-RisingSUPPORT THE JACKSON RISING CO-OP CONFERENCE THIS MAY

Link: Support Jackson Rising Co-op Conference in May

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/576703775745210/

On Tuesday February 25th, 2014 Mayor Chokwe Lumumba unexpectedly passed away. The Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference (May 2-4, 2014 at Jackson State University) was intended to be one of the primary initiatives and vehicles of the Lumumba administration to build a more equitable and democratic economy in Jackson, MS. The organizers intend to fulfill this mission. The conference will still take place.

On February 26, 2014 (after Mayor Lumumba’s death) they were successful in having the Jackson City Council pass a resolution endorsing the conference.

Help make Jackson, Mississippi, a center of economic democracy where strong cooperatives along with other forms of worker owned enterprises and financial institutions will create jobs with dignity, stability, living wages, and quality benefits.

Chokwe A Lumumba for Mayor

Video above published on Feb 26, 2014

Several civil rights leaders and close associates remember Chokwe Lumumba who died suddenly on Tuesday.  Guests: Akinyele Umoja, associate professor and chair of the Department of African-American Studies at Georgia State University. Benjamin Jealous, former president and CEO of NAACP. Bill Chandler, a close ally to Mayor Lumumba, and  a member of his transition team, Kwame Kenyatta, former Detroit city councilman who moved to Jackson last year to serve as Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s contract compliance officer.

HOW AND WHY DID CHOKWE LUMUMBA DIE? 

BAR logo 2Tue, 03/04/2014 – 22:55 — Glen Ford

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Glen FordChokwe Lumumba ran for mayor of Jackson, Mississippi in order to set in motion a process of “social transformation from the ground up.” He died eight months into his term, but the state refused to do an autopsy. Lots of folks suspect he was assassinated for challenging the ruling order – which is logical, since “Mississippi has murdered thousands of Black people for far less reason than that.”

“It is imperative that impartial science tell us the exact and incontestable cause of this man’s demise.”

Chokwe Lumumba in Detroit several years ago with long-time activist Cornell Squires.
Chokwe Lumumba in Detroit several years ago with long-time activist Cornell Squires.

When a Black radical dies in Mississippi, one should never accept at face value the state’s word on the cause of death. When that revolutionary Black man dies soon after becoming mayor of the state’s capital and largest city, history and reason compel us to put assassination first on our list of possibilities. And, if that Black man has brought with him to Jackson, Mississippi, a band of fellow revolutionaries from around the state and the nation, united under the banner of Malcolm X, for the purpose of totally upending the old order of race and class, not just in the Deep South, but across the planet, then it is imperative that impartial science tell us the exact and incontestable cause of this man’s demise.

People's Attorney Leonard Eston of Detroit attended law school with Chokwe Lumumba and subscribed to his militant vision for the Black nation. Eston worked with Cornell Squires in We the People for the People before his untimely death on Sept. 15, 2013 at Henry Ford Hospital. He had been recuperating from a heart attack and mysteriously  took a turn for the worse. From Mississippi GODDAM to Detroit GODDAM.
People’s Attorney Leonard Eston of Detroit attended law school with Chokwe Lumumba and subscribed to his militant vision for the Black nation. Eston worked with Cornell Squires in We the People for the People before his untimely death on Sept. 15, 2013 at Detroit Receiving Hospital. He had been recuperating from a heart attack at Henry Ford Hospital and mysteriously took a turn for the worse. From Mississippi GODDAM to Detroit GODDAM.

Yet, the Mississippi state coroner has refused to perform an autopsy on the body of Chokwe Lumumba, who was elected by a landslide in June and died last Tuesday after checking into a hospital. The coroner says only that the mayor succumbed of “natural causes.” But, the state of Mississippi and its minions have zero credibility when it comes to Black life and death. Common sense tells us that the state is full of people who would love nothing better than to kill its most prominent radical, who was inviting other radicals of all races from around the country to a conference in May, to discuss the nuts and bolts of social transformation from the ground up. The “Jackson Rising” conference – which is still scheduled – is an invitation to a second Reconstruction through participatory democracy and new, cooperative economics. The event is meant to present a clear and present challenge to the rule of money and the hierarchy of race. Mississippi has murdered thousands of Black people for far less reason than that.

“The state of Mississippi and its minions have zero credibility when it comes to Black life and death.”

Prof. Akinyele Umoja
Prof. Akinyele Umoja

Mayor Lumumba’s family and close friends sought an independent autopsy, and the National Council of Black Lawyers, of which Mayor Lumumba had been a member since his days in law school, in Detroit, put out the call for funds. Akinyele Umoja, a close friend and longtime comrade in the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which Lumumba helped found in 1993, and who is also chairman of African American Studies at Georgia State University, says that even if Mississippi agreed to do an autopsy, there’s no reason to believe their findings. “We don’t want to trust them to do it, anyway,” said Professor Umoja.

Kenny Stokes, a Black supervisor for the county surrounding Jackson, thinks the mayor was murdered, pure and simple. “I’m not going to sugar coat it,” said the elected official. “I believe that someone killed him…and a lot of other people feel he was killed.”

No matter what the independent autopsy concludes, Mississippi is guilty, has always been guilty, and will remain guilty, until it is transformed by the kind of people’s power that Chokwe Lumumba envisioned.

The mayor’s funeral is this Saturday. His 30 year-old son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, is likely to announce he’ll run to fill his father’s seat in a special election on April 8th, so that Jackson can keep on rising.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com .

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.


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DETROIT EMERGENCY TOWN HALL MEETING OPPOSES BANKRUPTCY PLAN; MASS PROTEST AT COURT APRIL 1; SIGN OBJECTIONS

Video above, by Leona McElvene: Mass organizer Monica Patrick addresses crowd composed primarily of city retirees, who stand to lose up to 70% of their pensions, annuities and benefits

Moratorium NOW! calls for protest April 1st at bankrupty court

Forms to file with court to oppose vicious “Plan of Adjustment” provided

FIST proposes “Youth March for Jobs” April 4

Atty. Alice Jennings: May 1 should be no school, no work, no shopping day

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Videos by Leona McElvene

Slides by Cheryl Labash

March 4, 2014

DETROIT — A standing-room-only audience at Central United Methodist Church participated in an Emergency Town Hall meeting March 2 in response to the “Plan of Adjustment” in the Detroit federal bankruptcy case. The document is designed to institutionalize corporate rule over the people of this majority African-American city.

Participants in town hall meeting cheer speakers.

Participants in town hall meeting cheer speakers.

The event was planned by a coalition of organizations fighting the emergency management and bankruptcy of the city, including the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, National Action Network Detroit Chapter, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

The crowd was made up of many retired city workers. Under the state-imposed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan, retirees will be subjected to cuts that are tantamount to 70 percent of their overall income and benefits package.

Video above by Leona McElvene: People’s attorney Vanessa Fluker speaks

The plan does not mention the role of the banks in destroying the city. There were tens of thousands of foreclosures in the city beginning in 2007 as a direct result of the predatory lending of the banks and the failure of state and local government to impose a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds and settlement monies from fines paid by banks have been funneled to the state of Michigan, but very little has reached Detroit and other distressed cities to support the stabilization and reconstruction of working-class communities.

Standing room only crowd.

Standing room only crowd.

Several speakers stressed that developments in the coming weeks will be critical. Workers, retirees and the community must come out in force to stop the banks’ and the bondholders’ plans to impose their austerity program on the people of Detroit.

Several proposals were put forward by the organizers. On April 1 there will be a hearing in bankruptcy court for objectors to the Orr plan. Forms were distributed for retirees and residents to formally oppose the program of austerity. The Moratorium NOW! Coalition called for a mass demonstration in front of the courthouse that day.

Fred Westbrook, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local representing the city’s bus drivers, called for a demonstration in Washington. “Detroit is a test case,” said Westbrook. “If they can carry this out here, it will spread across the country.”

A proposal to organize a “Youth March for Jobs” on April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was advanced by youth of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together. FIST organizer Tom Michalak said, “Under this system there is no hope for youth. We have to begin to organize and fight for jobs and education.”

Attorney Alice Jennings proposed that May Day be utilized to call for a “no work, no school and no shopping day.” Jennings noted that such actions would draw the attention of people around the country.

RETIREE ANALYZES DEEP CUTS IN POA, SAYS RETIREES MUST VOTE NO

By Diane Bukowski

Detroit city retiree Cheryl Labash explains cuts that POA and attached 400 page addendum will mean to retirees.

Detroit city retiree Cheryl Labash explains cuts that POA and attached 400 page addendum will mean to retirees.

Detroit city retiree Cheryl Labash, who analyzed the entire 400-page addendum to the Plan of Adjustment, explained with a slide show why retirees and their organizations should NOT VOTE for the plan.

EM Kevyn Orr and the state-appointed Jones Day law firm are proposing a balloting process whereby each one of the retirees would cast their vote, despite the confusing legalese in the POA. She said a “yes” vote also means a vote to withdraw lawsuits against the bankruptcy currently pending at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court, which have been filed by the retirement systems and numerous associations, as well as city workers’ unions.

A lawsuit challenging the validity of Public Act 436, under which Orr was appointed, is also ongoing in U.S. District Court in front of Judge George Caram Steeh, although Detroit has been redacted from it in keeping with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes unprecedented bar of lawsuits against not only the debtor, the City of Detroit, but also Governor Rick Snyder and other state officials involved in the Detroit bankruptcy filing.

Cuts for GRS workers will actually exceed 34 percent, up to 70 percent including COLA and benefit cuts.

Cuts for GRS workers will actually exceed 34 percent, up to 70 percent including COLA and benefit cuts.

“Orr proposes to put no city dollars into the General Retirement System pension fund until the year 2023,” Labash explained. “None of his proposals are guaranteed [dependent on whether state approves paltry $800 million in funding]. There will no longer be annual two percent COLA adjustments.” She said Orr wants first of all to cut monthly pension checks for General Retirement System workers by 34 percent, with a phony promise that he will reduce the cut if retirees vote “Yes.”

TH p 20 3 2 14

She explained that Orr wants to go all the way back to 1999 to raid workers’ annuity savings plans, the part they themselves contributed aside from the pension the city paid into. Without presenting proof of his claims, Orr says that the retirement systems used faulty “rates of return” which inflated the value of the accounts, and the city wants that undetermined amount of money back. During the period from 1999 to the crash of 2008, the stock markets were “zooming,” Labash said, meaning that investments made from the annuity accounts also increased accordingly.

Orr attacks Annuity Savings Plans

Orr attacks Annuity Savings Plans

Orr cites no legal basis for his claim that the city has the right to take that money back from retirees. Labash noted that the question also remains open what the city will do to retirees who withdrew and reinvested their annuities on retirement, as the majority of city workers have done.

“Will they take that money out of their pension amounts?” Labash asked.

Sample check stub for retiree who left annuities in her account--will she take 34 percent cut in pension portion as well as undetermined amount from annuity portion?

Sample check stub for retiree who left annuities in her account–will she take 34 percent cut in pension portion as well as undetermined amount from annuity portion?

Similarly, Orr continues to claim in the POA that the retirement funds are $3.7 billion underfunded, according to “the city’s actuary” Milliman, Inc. However, both Orr and Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie testified during the bankruptcy trial that there is no written documentation of that claim. The retirement systems’ actuaries have said the rate of underfunding approximates only $800,000, in the only written report issued.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes (3rd from left) at forum Oct. 10, 2012, in five of six speakers endorsed PA 4, emergency manager law, and using Ch. 9 bankruptcy. They were (l to r) Frederick Headen of Treasurer's office, Edward Plawecki (neutral), Douglas Bernstein and Judy O'Neill, who trained EM's, with O'Neill co-authoring PA4, and Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, a chief witness for Orr during bankrtupcy trial.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes (3rd from left) at forum Oct. 10, 2012, in five of six speakers endorsed PA 4, emergency manager law, and using Ch. 9 bankruptcy. They were (l to r) Frederick Headen of Treasurer’s office, Edward Plawecki (neutral), Douglas Bernstein and Judy O’Neill, who trained EM’s, with O’Neill co-authoring PA4, and Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, a chief witness for Orr during bankrtupcy trial.

The boom which led to increased rates of return to both the city’s pension and annuity funds was in fact created by the illegal practices of the banks, not the retirement systems. Global banks were involved during that period in an orgy of illegal predatory mortgage and municipal bond lending which collapsed in on itself in 2008, devastating Detroit’s neighborhoods with mass foreclosures and evictions, and its city services and jobs. Retirement systems across the country also sustained losses on their investments.

TH crisis 3 2 14

“Orr never talks about the racist disinvestment in the city of Detroit, or the way the city has been red-lined,” Labash said. “The auto companies gutted the city’s employment during the ’70’s and ’80’s, closing every single auto plant except Jefferson Assembly and Poletown, which are running with a vastly decreased workforce. He doesn’t talk about the mortgage foreclosure crisis or the crash of 2008, the huge economic meltdown created by the banks.”

Banks responsible for crisis, not retirees and workers.

Banks responsible for crisis, not retirees and workers.

She concluded, “Why should WE have to pay for a crisis we didn’t create? Instead, Detroit’s debt to the banks must be canceled, there must be a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, tax breaks for GM, Chrysler and [developers] must be canceled! Bring back the hundreds of millions that Detroit sends to the Pentagon!”

All Out April 1 – Last day to file your objection in court

March 07, 2014

City retirees and supporters protest outside court Aug. 19, 2013.

City retirees and supporters protest outside court Aug. 19, 2013.

File your objection to the “Plan for the Adjustment of Debts of the City of Detroitand/or “Disclosure Statement With Respect to Plan for the Adjustment of Debts of the City of Detroit”.

The deadline for filing is April 1, 2014.

At the March 17 meeting of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, a workshop will be held to assist you in filling out your objections.  The meeting starts at 7 pm and takes place at 5920 Second Ave., Detroit.

Down load instructions and form here:

Microsoft Word version – People’s Objection to Plan of Adjustment

PDF version – People’s Objection to Plan of Adjustment

All Out April 1 At Federal Courthouse – 10 AM

City retiree Cecily McClellan addresses rally.

City retiree Cecily McClellan addresses rally.

Calling on all City of Detroit retirees, current City workers, residents and other concerned people for a mass protest outside the Federal Courthouse in Detroit (231 W. Lafayette St.). Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has a “Plan of Adjustment” that will loot the pension funds to pay off the bankers. 90% of the bank debt owed by City of Detroit will be paid 100%. Only a small percentage of lenders will take a hit. Meanwhile Orr wants to give $85 Million to Bank of America and UBS as a reward for illegal bond swaps—but they stole over $300 Million from us through these swaps over the past 6 years.

Retirees with Ed McNeil of AFSCME Co. 25 at left.

Retirees with Ed McNeil of AFSCME Co. 25 at left.

Fight back or starve! That is the choice for over 20,000 retirees. Health care has been eliminated for those under 65. Now they want to take 34% of the little retirees get after decades of loyal service. The plan of adjustment assures that no banker will miss a meal, but for retirees it’s a death sentence.

There is plenty of money. Gov. Snyder is withholding hundreds of millions of revenue sharing owed Detroit. Orr could sue BofA, UBS and other big banks to recover the $300 Million they stole in the pension swaps deal and over $500 Million in ill-gotten gains via the Water Department bond swap. The banks who destroyed our cities with racist predatory loans have been fined $50 Billion by the federal government (Chase Bank paid $13 Billion alone!). Detroit should get some of that huge sum as restitution for destroying our neighborhoods.

Youth gives presentation in solidarity with his elders and residents of Detroit.
Youth gives presentation in solidarity with his elders and residents of Detroit.

The City will pay ZERO into the pension fund for the next 10 years, depending entirely on charitable contributions which are not guaranteed. Cost of living increases are to be eliminated. Orr wants to make retirees pay back 34% of what they’ve already collected since June 2013 and take back some annuity money from retirees going back to 1999!

Only a MASS MOVEMENT will stop this terrorist conspiracy. Civil and worker rights were affirmed by the courts only after the mass struggle forced them. Lawyers in the courts need the support of thousands in the streets to drive home the point – this is UNACCEPTABLE.

Issued by: Moratorium NOW! Coalition (Moratorium-Mi.org); Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee 313-680-5508

Also go to http://detroitdebtmoratorium.org/ and http://www.d-rem.org/.


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MICH. SUPREME COURT HEARS 3 KEY CASES TODAY RE: USSC RULING BARRING MANDATORY JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE

Some of Michigan’s 371 juvenile lifers involved in current litigation: (l to r, top through bottom row), Cortez Davis, Raymond Carp, and Dakotah Eliason, awaiting Michigan Supreme Court hearing of their cases March 6, 2014 ; plaintiffs in USDC case Hill v. Snyder: Henry Hill, Keith Maxey, Dontez Tillman, Jemal Tipton, Henry Hill, Nicole Dupure, Giovanni Casper, Jean Cintron, Matthew Bentley, Bosie Smith, Kevin Boyd, Damion Todd, and Jennifer Pruitt; Edward Sanders and David Walton, in prison since 1975 at the age of 17; (photos show some lifers at current age, others at age they went to prison).

Some of Michigan’s 371 juvenile lifers involved in current litigation: (l to r, top through bottom row), Cortez Davis, Raymond Carp, and Dakotah Eliason, awaiting Michigan Supreme Court hearing of their cases March 6, 2014 ; plaintiffs in USDC case Hill v. Snyder: Henry Hill, Keith Maxey, Dontez Tillman, Jemal Tipton, Henry Hill, Nicole Dupure, Giovanni Casper, Jean Cintron, Matthew Bentley, Bosie Smith, Kevin Boyd, Damion Todd, and Jennifer Pruitt; Edward Sanders and David Walton, in prison since 1975 at the age of 17; (photos show some lifers at current age, others at age they went to prison).

Former Gov. William Milliken, 109 others filed amicus brief on behalf of defendants

 At issue: whether USSC ruling in Miller v. Alabama is retroactive

 The fate of 363 children sentenced to die in Michigan’s prisons at stake

 March 6, 2014

Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, each14 at the times of their crimes in Arkansas and Alabama.
Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, each14 at the times of their crimes in Arkansas and Alabama.

 DETROIT – The Michigan Supreme Court is hearing the cases of three men sentenced as juveniles to die in prison today. A key issue in each case is whether the landmark 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision banning juvenile life without parole sentences as “cruel and unusual punishment” will be held by the state to be retroactive. That case was Miller v. Alabama/Jackson v. Arkansas.

The expected rulings in the cases of Cortez Davis, 16 when he was incarcerated, Raymond Carp, 15, and Dakotah Eliason, 14, will affect the future of Michigan’s 363 juvenile lifers, many of whom have languished behind bars for decades. Michigan has the second highest number per capita of children sentenced to die in prison of any state. The U.S. is the only country in the world that allows such sentences.

Edward Sanders, a devout Muslim, during early years of incarceration.
Edward Sanders, a devout Muslim, during early years of incarceration.

“I am thankful to Allah to be back down state,” Edward Sanders, incarcerated for 39 years since 1975 at the age of 17 for an incident in which he was not the shooter, told this reporter in a JPay email. “I am rooming with a guy who has done more than 44 years as a JLWOP [juvenile life without parole]. He has been in prison longer than the guy up north that had about 42 years.”

Sanders, who had been brutally attacked by another prisoner at a facility in the upper peninsula, was finally granted his transfer request after a long campaign including numerous articles in the Voice of Detroit.

Sanders said earlier that the state parole board had once again denied him an opportunity for a parole hearing, after 39 years. He has obtained his college degree, taught law courses to other prisoners, and acted as an accomplished jail-house lawyer, among other achievements, but the state parole board is notorious for ignoring actual accomplishments of rehabilitation. Instead, according to recent comments by a former head of the parole board, they focus solely on the initial crime. They are not currently obligated even to see a prisoner in person for a review, but can just hand back a “no-interest” response.

Former Rep. Governor William Milliken at 90th birthday party.
Former Rep. Governor William Milliken at 90th birthday party.

Former Michigan Governor William Milliken and 109 retired judges, attorneys, prosecutors, state bar officials and law professors have signed an amicus brief stating that the defendants should now be eligible for parole under terms of the USSC Miller/Jackson ruling. Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette and various appeal courts have claimed that the decision is not retroactive.

The Milliken et. al. brief is available at Milliken amicus brief JLWOP. It reads in part:

Milliken box

CORTEZ DAVIS

Cortez Davis of Detroit, now 36, has been incarcerated for twenty years. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vera Massey Jones declared at his sentencing, “[I]n this instance when this young man was not the person who pulled the trigger, he was an aider and abettor in an armed robbery, he was convicted of first-degree murder by the jury . . . the only other option of then sentencing him as an adult and imposing a life sentence, mandatory life sentence, is cruel and unusual punishment, when everyone agrees that he is capable of rehabilitation.”

Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Vera Massey-Jones
Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Vera Massey-Jones

Judge Massey-Jones sentenced Davis to a determinate term of 10 to 40 years, but an appeals court overturned her decision, forcing her to re-sentence him to life without parole. After the Miller/Jackson ruling, his case was remanded to her for re-sentencing. But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, an ardent foe of second chances for juvenile lifers, appealed and blocked the re-sentencing.

Massey-Jones is due to retire next year.

“I stayed here because I wanted to see justice done to my people,” Judge Jones said regarding her lengthy tenure.  “I followed my father around Recorder’s Court when I was a little kid . . . .I had a great deal of respect for him and for the other people who happened to be African-American lawyers, and really fought for people’s rights. And so, to me, doing the right thing was more important than anything else. And doing the right thing back then was not to sentence Mr. Davis to natural life in prison.”

RAYMOND CARP 

(For official court website summary of cases, click on Summary of Juvenile Life without Parole cases to be heard before MSC June 6.)

Raymond Carp, of St. Clair Shores, now 23, has been incarcerated since 2006 for aiding and abetting his then 22-year-old brother in the robbery-murder of an elderly woman neighbor. Carp was 15. His brother Brandon Gorecki stabbed and killed the woman. Carp’s prison record shows he has a scar on his arm from a suicide attempt.

An appeals court ruled that Miller/Jackson was not retroactive in his key case. That decision has so far blocked all other juvenile lifer cases from proceeding for resentencing.

Judge Michael Talbot, member of the right-wing Federalist Society.
Judge Michael Talbot, member of the right-wing Federalist Society.

The court was led by right-wing Judge Michael Talbot, who sentenced another juvenile lifer, Damion Todd, to “life without parole at hard labor” in the 1980’s, even though there is no such sentencing statute on the books in Michigan law. Talbot was exposed as a member of the ultra-right-wing Federalist Society in a 1999 report called “Hijacking Justice.” (Click on The Federalist Society Special Report for more info.)

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recently appointed Talbot to take control of 36th District Court, the only court left where judges and juries are comprised solely of Detroit residents and Black Detroiters can at least hope for a modicum of justice.

In Jan. 2013, U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara countered the Carp appeals court decision, ruling in Hill v. Snyder that the USSC decision was indeed retroactive.

U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O'Meara
U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara

“Indeed, if ever there was a legal rule that should – as a matter of law and morality – be given retroactive effect, it is the rule announced in Miller,” said Judge O’Meara. “To hold otherwise would allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.”

Judge O’Meara extended the reach of his ruling to include all Michigan juvenile lifers, but the case has dragged out as attorneys for juvenile lifers and the state spar over ways to effectuate it. In November, 2013, Judge O’Meara mandated that the state put procedures in place by Jan. 2014, but the state has appealed his ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On March 5 Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed Public Act 22 of 2014, which bars retroactivity for juvenile lifers unless either the state or federal supreme courts affirm it, emphasizing the importance of rulings in today’s cases.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

It reads in part, “If the state supreme court or the United States supreme court finds that the decision of the United States supreme court in Miller v Alabama . . . applies retroactively to all defendants who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes, and that decision is final for appellate purposes, the determination of whether a sentence of imprisonment for a violation . . . .shall be imprisonment for life without parole eligibility or a term of years . . . .shall be made by the sentencing judge or his or her successor as provided in this section. For purposes of this subsection, a decision of the state supreme court is final when either the United States supreme court denies a petition for certiorari challenging the decision or the time for filing that petition passes without a petition being filed.”

DAKOTAH ELIASON

Dakotah Eliason of Niles, Michigan, 14 at the time he shot and killed his grandfather in 2010, said he had been contemplating homicide or suicide out of “sadness” or “pent-up anger.”  A friend had recently committed suicide, a cousin died in a car accident, and his pet dog, which which an expert testified constituted his closest relationship, had died. His mother had recently relinquished her parental rights after his father lost his job, assigning him and his sister to their grandparents’ residence.

Dakotah Eliason at time of sentencing.
Dakotah Eliason at time of sentencing.

Eliason was an honor roll student with no previous behavioral issues. He said he sat with a gun in his bedroom at his grandfather’s house for several hours deciding whether to kill himself or someone else so that he could be executed.

James Henry, the director of the Southwest Michigan Children’s Trauma Assessment Center, testified later that an interview with Eliason 17 months after the shooting revealed he was still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the events prior to the shooting, and had “dissociated from reality.”

An appeals court decision by two of three judges on the panel, citing Miller and Carp, remanded his case for re-sentencing limited as follows:

“Therefore, the only discretion afforded to the trial court in light of our first-degree murder statutes and Miller is whether to impose a penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Carp, 298 Mich App at 527.”

Appeals Court Judge Elizabeth Gleicher
Appeals Court Judge Elizabeth Gleicher

However, the third judge on the panel, Elizabeth Gleicher, said in a partial dissent,

“I concur with the result reached by the majority regarding defendant Dakotah Eliason’s challenges to his first-degree-murder conviction. I write separately to respectfully express my belief that the Michigan Constitution forbids the trial court from resentencing Dakotah to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.”

Michigan’s Constitution goes even further than the U.S. Constitution, banning cruel OR unusual punishment as opposed to cruel AND unusual punishment.

“Furthermore,” Gleicher said, “because Michigan’s parole guidelines do not take into account Dakotah’s youth at the time he committed the crime, I believe that both the United States and Michigan Constitutions mandate that the trial court consider sentencing Dakotah to a term of years that affords him a realistic opportunity for release.”

VIDEO ABOVE: Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and a MacArthur Fellow, argued the cases of Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Arkansas before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of two prisoners who were 14 when they were sentenced to life without parole. On June 25, 2012, the high court ruled that sentencing children under the age of 18 to death is prison is “cruel and unusual punishement” and therefore unconstitutional. Stevenson’s own grandfather was killed by a group of youths, but he has devoted his own life to fighting for fair sentencing, particularly for juveniles. In this video, he discusses earlier Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Florida, which he also argued, that resulted in a ruling that life without parole for juveniles in non-homicide cases is unconstitutional.


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MAYOR CHOKWE LUMUMBA: A REVOLUTIONARY HERO FOR THE AGES; WAS HE MURDERED? DETROIT BUS FOR FUNERAL MARCH 8

Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, MS. and long-time revolutionary attorney from Detroit.

Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, MS. and long-time revolutionary attorney from Detroit.

‘Who Killed The Mayor?’ Miss. Supervisor Says Chokwe Lumumba Was Assassinated, Farrakhan Offers To Fund Autopsy

News OneBy Kirsten West Savali

Mar 4, 2014

Hinds County, Miss. supervisor Kenny Stokes believes that late Jackson mayor Chokwe Lumumba was assassinated and he wants an autopsy performed to rule out foul play, reports the Clarion-Ledger.

[Meanwhile, his son Chokwe Antwar Lumumba gave the following statement to the Jackson Free Press in response:

“We know that our father was loved and appreciated by many and a number of people both in Jackson and around the world have inquired into the manner of his death. At this time, there has been no information provided to the family other than that provided at the time of his death by the doctors. The family will explore all possible causes of his death.”]

Mayor Chokwe Lumumba celebrates election victory June 5, 2013 with his daughter Rukia at his right and son Chokwe Antar at right. There is a move on to have his son replace him as mayor.
Mayor Chokwe Lumumba celebrates election victory June 5, 2013 with his daughter Rukia at his right and son Chokwe Antar at right. There is a move on to have his son replace him as mayor.

Lumumba, a legendary human rights activist and attorney who was elected mayor of Jackson last June, died of alleged natural causes on February 25.

Speculation has been rampant that he was killed because of his platform of self-determination for the Black community and his refusal to tap-dance around issues of white supremacy and systemic racism in the Deep South.

Hinds County coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart insists that Lumumba, who previously battled cancer, died of natural causes, but valid suspicions can’t be soothed with words. Lumumba’s supporters want proof.

Read what Stokes had to say below:

Hinds County Commissioner Kenneth Stokes
Hinds County Commissioner Kenneth Stokes

“We gonna ask a question: Who killed the mayor? We’d feel a lot better if there was an autopsy,” Stokes said at the beginning of his speech. “First they say it’s not a heart attack and not a stroke, then what was it? You don’t just die like that and you’re healthy.”

“So many of us feel, throughout the city of Jackson, that the mayor was murdered,” Stokes told a WAPT reporter after his speech. “I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m not going to try to say it in a way where the people feel, you know, that we should have said it in another way.”

“I believe that someone killed him. Now I can’t prove it, but I’m going to say it,” Stokes said. “That’s how I feel in my heart, and a lot of other people feel he was killed.”

Watch Supervisor Stokes speak on Mayor Lumumba’s death below:

As previously reported by NewsOne, Lumumba served four years on the Jackson City Council before running for mayor. He was elected on June 4, 2013, winning the general election with 86 percent of the vote.

“I’m just delighted. I feel wonderfully well about the people and their vote. Our slogan has been the people must decide and the people gave us an outstanding mandate today for positive change in the city of Jackson,” Lumumba said after the results were announced. “We intend to work diligently and put all our hearts and efforts into that and we’re going to be calling upon the people to work with us. We’re not working by ourselves.”

Chokwe Lumumba, VP of RNA, in Detroit.

Chokwe Lumumba, VP of RNA, in Detroit.

Lumumba spent part of the ’70s and ’80s as vice-president of the Republic of New Afrika, an organization which advocated for “an independent predominantly black government” in the southeastern United States and reparations for slavery [and which was founded in the city of his birth, Detroit, Michigan].

“The provisional government of Republic of New Afrika was always a group that believed in human rights for human beings,” Lumumba told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “I think it has been miscast in many ways. It has never been any kind of racist group or ‘hate white’ group in any way…. It was a group which was fighting for human rights for black people in this country and at the same time supporting the human rights around the globe.”

As an attorney, Lumumba represented legendary activist, poet, actor and Hip-Hop artist Tupac Shakur in several cases, and his godmother, Assata Shakur, whom Lumumba called a “Black Panther heroine.”

Assata Shakur in Cuba/Photo: Kenneth Snodgrass
Assata Shakur in Cuba/Photo: Kenneth Snodgrass

Lumumba was also founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and his platform called for a move towards Black self-determination in the Deep South.

Lumumba referred to himself as a “Fannie Lou Hamer Democrat,” a nod to the fearless civil rights leader who organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the White supremacist Dixiecrats that ruled the Land of Jim Crow at the time.

The National Conference of Black Lawyers is coordinating fundraising for the costs of an independent autopsy. To read their Legal Biography of Chokwe Lumumba, click on http://www.ncbl.org/chokwe-lumumba-a-legal-biography//

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan announced during his recent Saviour’s Day Address that fundraising would not be necessary because he would pay for the autopsy:

Chokwe, I’ve known him for nearly 40 years. He passed away about a week ago. His funeral will be on the 8th of this month. And he died under circumstances that we don’t know what it was. He became the mayor of Jackson, MS. And any of you who know Mississippi and know Jackson…a Black man being mayor and trying to do right by all the people is not a mayor that those people want.

He was in the hospital. He was on the phone doing mayoral business. He was laughing. He was in good spirits and within a few hours, he was dead. I understand that they’re guarding his body and I was so happy to learn that they are getting an independent pathologist because medical examiners…we can’t trust them when our babies are dead and they make it seem as if it were under ‘natural circumstances.’

They lie to protect the government. We have to have our own independent pathologists and whatnot to look after us, so I understand they’re trying to raise the money. I told them don’t even waste time, call me. I will give you whatever it takes to get our own forensic specialist to go in and make sure that our brother died under the right circumstances.

A special election to replace Mayor Lumumba has been scheduled for April 8.

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UPDATED: Chokwe Lumumba: Radical New Mayor Of Jackson, MS Dies At 66 [VIDEO]

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS

Special Note: A bus is leaving from Detroit Thursday, March 6, at 6 p.m.; arrives in Jackson, MS 10 a.m.; leaves Jackson Sunday 7 a.m, returns at 10 p.m. Cost of trip including bus ride and hotel is $225.00. Contact Shushanna Shakur for reservations at 313-244-9909.

The City of Jackson has announced funeral arrangements for Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. The arrangements are as follows:

THE BODY WILL LIE IN STATE

(Public Viewing)

City of Jackson – City Hall 219 South President Street Jackson, Mississippi 39205

Friday, March 7, 2014 11:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

(Remembrance Hour) 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

CELEBRATION OF LIFE SERVICE

Jackson Convention Center 105 E. Pascagoula Street Jackson, Mississippi 39204

Saturday, March 8, 2014 11:00 a.m.

Internment following the Celebration of Life Service at Autumn Woods Memorial Gardens

4000 West Northside Drive in Jackson, Mississippi, 39209.

Anyone wishing to send flowers may send them to: Willis & Sons Funeral Home, 5235 Robinson Road Ext. Jackson, Mississippi 39205

Please send letters of condolence to: City of Jackson – City Hall Attention: Halima Olufemi 219 South President Street Jackson, Mississippi 39205

Special memorials in Detroit: Sat. March 15, 1 pm at Fellowship Chapel, 7707 W. Outer Drive, Detroit; 5:30 to 8:30 P.M. Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History: African drummers, dancers, singers, poets, film.

CHOKWE LUMUMBA LIVES! DARE TO STRUGGLE–DARE TO WIN!
A NO STRUGGLE, NO DEVELOPMENT PRODUCTION/ KENNY SNODGRASS


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