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Mumia Seeks to Show Top State Judge Doubled as Prosecutor and Jurist Reviewing his Appeals

Philly cops get priority courtroom seats

 

Following a brief hearing in Philadelphia yesterday, Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker, learning that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office had thus far failed find and turn over, in response to his earlier order, any documents showing a role by former District Attorney Ron Castille regarding the department’s handling of an appeal by then death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, adjourned the hearing until Aug. 30. The judge acted to give Abu-Jamal’s attorneys time to depose a former DA employee about a still unlocated memo apparently composed by her for then DA Castile concerning Abu-Jamal’s case.

Later, Tracey Kavanagh, the attorney from the DA’s office who represented the DA's office at the hearing, stood outside on the sidewalk outside the Criminal Justice Center amidst a scrum of TV cameras and said, “We haven’t found any evidence so far that Judge Castille played any role as DA in Abu-Jamal’s appeal of his conviction. It was just a run-of-the-mill appeals process.”

If one wanted evidence of how absurd Kavanagh's assertion was — that the appeal of a 1982 murder conviction and death sentence for the slaying of a white police officer by one of the city’s leading African-American journalists, himself police critic and former member of the city’s Black Panther Party, was anything but a prime political concern for District Attorney Castille, whose office had the responsibility of preventing any challenge to sentence — all one had to do was try to get into the courtroom on Monday.

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I tried. Some 100 or so supporters of Abu-Jamal had shown up at 7:30 in the morning outside the county courthouse on Filbert St. near City Hall to protest his continued incarceration. They then lined up when doors opened to shuffle their way through security in the court building and then up to the 11th floor to line up again at the entrance to the small courtroom Number 1108. By the time I got there, along with many other journalists and interested parties, we found ourselves unable to get into the courtroom. But a lot of police officers, even those arriving later than us, had no trouble gaining entry.

The sheriff’s deputy standing guard in her flak vest at the courtroom entrance, and another guarding a side entrance to the courtroom, saw to it that plenty of cops in uniform, fully equipped with their sidearms and tasers, were allowed inside to sit in the spectator benches and put pressure on the judge and the attorneys from the DA’s office. When anyone left the courtroom, the sheriff controlling access still barred other citizens waiting in the hallway from replacing them. But if a cop left the courtroom, another would freely enter. Over at the side door, other officers were also occasionally being allowed to enter. Clearly space was being reserved in the courtroom for police at this hearing.

In general, police officers are not supposed to wear their uniforms when they are off duty, although in some cities they are allowed to do so if they are doing some security job where the department has specifically authorized them to wear the uniform. Otherwise no. But here they were — even a burly Highway Patrol motorcycle cop decked out ostentatiously in his knee-high leather boots, motorcycle jacket, and ‘30s-era aerodynamic motorcycle officer’s cap.

So that raises the question of who dispatched these officers to sit in the courtroom and to hang out in the hallway. Philly cops don’t provide court security, a task assigned to Sheriff’s Department. So either the Philly Police Department sent them over and they were there on official duty, collecting paychecks to hang around in the hall or sit in the courtroom looking grim and angry, or they were organized by the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union which, like Ahab pursuing his White Whale, has been dedicated to having Abu-Jamal executed or, since 2011 when his death sentence was finally tossed out on Constitutional grounds, to seeing that he never gets out of jail.

Starbucks & Philadelphia's Bitter Brew of (Police-Sanctioned) Pernicious Prejudice

Cops and coffee shop in hot water

Philadelphia police car outside Starbucks location of infamous 4/12/18 arrest incident. PhotoLBWPhiladelphia police car outside Starbucks location of infamous 4/12/18 arrest incident. PhotoLBW
 

Startling Philadelphia Police Department data related to the Starbucks coffee shop location where the flawed mid-April 2018 arrest of two black men sparked outrage internationally shines an unflattering spotlight on tolerance of racial discrimination within the Starbucks corporation and among police in Philadelphia.

This recently released data coupled with other accounts details a year-plus long pattern of discriminatory conduct by Starbucks personnel that seemingly received tacit backing from middle management at Starbucks and by Philadelphia police.

That now infamous April 12th arrest arose when a white manager at a Starbucks location in Philadelphia’s ritzy Rittenhouse Square neighborhood called police on the two black businessmen two minutes after they entered the coffee shop to await a scheduled meeting with a white businessman who arrived as the pair were placed in handcuffs.

That Starbucks manager, identified in news reports as Holly Hylton, claimed the two businessmen had defiantly rejected her requests to leave the shop because they had not immediately made purchases. One of the pair had asked to use the shop’s bathroom a request rejected by Hylton, who declared bathroom access is limited to paying customers only.

Hylton claimed she was merely enforcing Starbucks corporate policy. However, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, said it was “completely inappropriate to engage the police” because those two men were not creating a “disturbance.”

That recently released data – Philadelphia police 911 call logs – list 69 police responses to various incidents at that 1801Spruce Street Starbucks location between January 2016 and April 18, 2018. Those incidents ranged from improper operation of the security system to robbery.

What Does ‘Denuclearization’ Mean in the Negotiations for an End to the Korean War?

Ending US occupation of South Korea

Media news reports and commentary as well as political statements coming out of Washington on the surprising blossoming of peace talks between North and South Korea tend to focus on the question of whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is really “serious” about eliminating his recently developed nuclear weapons arsenal, or whether he will just try to keep what he has while decrying US military threats to his regime.

Missing in all the verbiage has been any reporting on the long US history of nuclear weapons in South Korea, where the US still, 65 years after the end of fighting on the peninsula, maintains at least three military bases and 28,000 combat-ready troops.

That history includes the US keeping as many as 950 nuclear bombs and a variety of delivery systems — rockets, planes and even howitzers that fire nuclear shells — within miles of the North Korean border.

The US military still calls the shots in South Korea,  even over that country's own militaryThe US military still calls the shots in South Korea, even over that country's own military
 

An excellent 2017 report by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, based upon publicly available Defense Department documents, gives detailed history of the basing of nuclear weapons — strategic and tactical — in South Korea during at least 33 years of the 65 years that the US and North Korea have been officially in a state of war. That report makes it clear that North Korea continues to have a bull’s eye on it for US Trident submarines patrolling the north Pacific, and for nuclear-capable aircraft based on Guam, Okinawa and possibly or potentially in Japan, where the US has a major naval base.

The report states that US nuclear weapons were finally fully removed from South Korea in 1991, on orders from then President George H. W. Bush, but discussions to return them took place on several occasions when tensions rose on the peninsula, including as recently as 2011 during the Obama administration.

In US reporting on the peace negotiations between North and South Korea, and in speculation about whether Kim Jong-un is “serious” about “giving up” his country’s nukes, there is typically a mention that while “denuclearization” for the US means Kim giving up his nukes, the term for Kim and North Korea might mean a demand that the US pull its troops from South Korea and shut its bases there.

US Media Fudge Rebels' Douma Surrender Date to Imply Alleged Assad Chemical Attack Turned Tide

Shifting timeline to oonfirm US propaganda

 

Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have only recently reached Douma, scene of an alleged chemical bombing attack on April 7, and have not yet had time to test samples they collected to see if banned poison chemicals were actually used, but already US mainstream media reporting on the situation in the Damascus suburb where the alleged chemical attack is said to have occurred is starting to shift. That shift tends to make the story to fall more comfortably in line with the US government position that the attack, if it happened, was the work of the Syrian military, and that Assad's "attack" caused rebels to surrender and agree to leave the embattled city.

The problem is, though, that back on April 1, a week before the alleged attack, the Associated Press was reporting something quite different: namely that rebels in Douma were beginning to evacuate the area they had held for years, under a safe passage agreement negotiated with the Syrian government, according to which buses would be able to remove them to safety in the north of the country. That report made clear that the rebel resistance had already collapsed g and that the rebel fighters were going to be evacuated in following days by chartered buses, which had already begun moving them out of the city well before April 7.

A French state television report on April 1 also reported that on that date:
 

Negotiators in the last rebel-held bastion in Syria's eastern Ghouta reached a deal on Saturday with the Russian side to evacuate the wounded from Douma to rebel-held northern Syria, local sources familiar with the deal said.
The agreement was reached by the negotiating committee that comprises both civic leaders and representatives of Jaish al-Islam, the rebel faction in control of Douma, the sources said.
The committee has been negotiating a deal to spare the city a military assault by the Syrian army and its allies who encircle it. They have threatened to storm the city if rebels do not agree to surrender the last patch in the enclave in return for safe passage to insurgent-held territory in northwestern Syria.
 

Rebels fleeing Douma by bus caravan under a Russian-negotiated 'safe passage' agreementRebels fleeing Douma by bus caravan under a Russian-negotiated 'safe passage' agreement
 

These accounts of course raise serious questions as to why Assad would opt to drop a few chemical bombs as he’s accused by the US of doing, killing a few dozen local residents while predictably angering the world community and giving the US an opening to bomb his forces. Why do that if Assad’s military forces had already won full control of the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s capital city region, with an agreement, already being implemented, to ship the rebels out of the city?

The coming world that should be

New TCBH! poem:

 
 
There is a world coming that should be.
I can see it.
It’s close to being the world we have
But different in some important ways:
More food for the hungry,
More love,
More honesty,
Less gas and oil and meaningless death and wars,
More love,
Oh, I already said that, more love.
 

And let it be soon
Before it’s too late
And the door closes
For the creation of would-be worlds.
But whether there is a new world
The time for the end to this old world has arrived
With a clap of thunder,
So loud it makes your brain go numb.
It makes your ears ring
Like the great gong
In the courtyard of a Buddhist temple
To an ant climbing on the gong,
When the gong is struck 33 times
For the 33 faces of the Buddha.
 

Starbucks has a Racism Problem, but the Police, both Racist and Authoritarian, are Worse

Shut up or you’re under arrest

 

At a time when we have over a millions young high school and college students march in the streets demanding a ban on assault-style semi-automatic rifles, and an end to mass shootings, as well as continued protests over police shootings of unarmed and all too often black or latino young people, it might seem trivial to see a wave of national outrage over an incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks shop involving two black men who were arrested by police for refusing a manager’s order to leave because they weren’t buying anything.

But when you look at the story closer it becomes clear that, as horrible as the Starbucks manager at this one store, and Starbuck corporate management, have been shown to be, this ugly incident really is also about the more serious issue of the increasingly militarized and authoritarian behavior of our nation’s police — a problem which we as a society have come to accept as normal.

Consider for a moment what transpired: Two 23-year-old black men, Rashon Nelson and Dante Robinson, casually but well-dressed, last week entered a Starbucks located in a toney mostly white residential section of central Philadelphia at Spruce and 18th Street and sat down to wait for a white property developer who was going to discuss a potential real estate deal with them. One of the men, Nelson, needed to use the restroom, which required obtaining a key or an access code as many urban coffee shops do. He was denied access by the store manager, allegedly because they hadn’t purchased anything yet. The manager then went over to the two seated men and told them they had to leave, according to Nelson. Offended because, of course, many customers — at least white ones — routinely use Starbucks restrooms without buying something first, they went back to their seats to wait for the person coming to meet them, as countless people do who arrive early for a planned meeting at Starbucks.

The manager then took things further, dialing 911 and calling for the police to come and evict the two. It was an outrageous act, and would have been even if she had waited until the men had been sitting for some time without buying anything. After all, Starbucks patrons (at least white ones), routinely go into Starbucks, sit for long periods of time talking, reading or using electronic equipment, and using the restrooms, and then leave. Reportedly a local white jogger actually trotted in and used the restroom at this particular Starbucks as this incident was developing, without anyone complaining or stopping him. I myself, a white freelance writer who works at home all day, often take a break and visit my local Starbucks to work for a while with my phone and computer, just to have some human contact. I may meet a friend from the neighborhood, or just hear other conversation while I work. Often I’ll buy a coffee, but not necessarily if I’m already over-caffeinated. Nobody bothers me, or any others I see just sitting and reading a paper or talking with a friend, again often at an empty table devoid of coffee product. But admittedly as I think of it, most of those sitting around staring into computers or smartphones or reading are white or Asian, not black.

Developer Andrew Yaffee objects to police arresting two men waiting to meet him for to discuss a business deal at a Philly Starbucks (twitter vid screen grab)Developer Andrew Yaffee objects to police arresting Rshon Nelson and Dante Robinson (center) waiting to meet him for to discuss a business deal at a Philly Starbucks (twitter vid screen grab)
 

After the manager called 911 and reported that two men were refusing her demand that they leave her store, Philly’s Finest raced to the scene, apparently in force with between six and eight officers converging on the location by car and bike. Most of those who showed up were white, including a supervisor whose presence indicated the cops were expecting trouble.

Mistreatment Of Dr. King's Legacy By New Jersey Officials Sparks Sharp NAACP Rebuke

Does delay evidence discrimination?

House in Camden, NJ where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. plotted a protest that produced his first lawsuit against discrimination.House in Camden, NJ where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. plotted a protest that produced his first lawsuit against discrimination.
 

The New Jersey State NAACP Conference has demanded rejection of an unusual study commissioned by New Jersey’s Historic Preservation Office (HPO) that discounts the significance of the first lawsuit against discrimination ever filed by legendary civil right leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

NAACP State Conference President Richard T. Smith, in a recent letter to HPO, strongly criticized the recommendations and the “very formation” of that study conducted by a team of researchers from Stockton University in New Jersey.

New Jersey’s Historic Preservation Office paid $20,000 for that study as part of its review of an application seeking historic designation for a property in Camden, New Jersey where Dr. King stayed occasionally while attending seminary school in Chester, Pennsylvania nearly 70-years-ago.

King formulated the protest that produced his first lawsuit at that Camden property according to documentation unearthed over the past four years by a New Jersey researcher.

Richard Smith’s letter, on behalf of the NAACP Conference composed of 41 branches in 21 counties, “strongly” urged HPO to reject the study that discounted King’s first lawsuit, a salient event in King’s development as a civil rights activist. The NAACP letter characterized events surrounding that lawsuit as “very significant to American and New Jersey history…”

The NJ Historic Preservation Office had no comment on the NAACP’s letter because that office had not received the NAACP’s letter a HPO spokeswoman stated six days after the NAACP sent its letter.

That controversial study is the first study ever sought by the HPO for a New Jersey Historic Register listing. Because the HPO had placed over 51,000 properties and sites on the NJ Historic Register without a study, Smith’s letter stated that fact “alone causes us serious concern.”

Philadelphia's Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident

Ross fails racism test...again

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross explains his cops' actions in arresting two black patrons in Starbucks (click on image to play video)Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross explains his cops' actions in arresting two black patrons in Starbucks (click on image to play video)
 

Philadelphia’s top cop, Richard Ross, an African-American, has once again exhibited his blind spot on racial bigotry by police during his defense of a specious arrest of two black men inside a Starbucks coffee shop recently that triggered strong condemnation from the mayor of the so-called City of Brotherly Love.

The arrest of those black men for trespassing while they sat inside a Starbucks awaiting their meeting with a white developer to discuss a possible real estate investment deal sparked social media outrage, an apology from the corporate head of Starbucks and a strident assessment from Philadelphia’s Mayor James Kenney.

That Starbucks incident, Kenney said, “appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”

Yet, despite wide-ranging condemnations and growing protests at the Starbuck located in Center City at 18th and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ross made a Facebook video two days after that controversial arrest where he continues to declare that his officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Ross said his officers “were professional” in providing a “service” to the Starbucks employees at that coffee shop located in a ritzy residential area of downtown Philadelphia. Reports indicate the Starbucks shop personnel initially said the pair were loitering, later insisting their offense was trespassing. Ross' defense ignored the bigotry that ignited the encounter producing the arrest, bigotry not addressed by the predominately white group of arresting officers.

Ross said police responded to a 911 call from that Starbucks reporting a “disturbance” – apparently a reference to the non-confrontational refusal of the two men to leave the coffee shop as demanded by that shop’s manager. The men insisted that they were waiting for a third party to arrive and join them. (That third person, in fact, the developer, arrived as cops were cuffing the two black patrons. He reacted angrily to police demanding to know why they were arresting his associates -- to no effect.)

A cellphone video of the incident, taken by a customer, does not show any disturbance or even loud resistance to police by the pair, who calmly submitted to the arrest.

Police held the pair for over seven hours before their release after midnight. That release resulted from Starbucks personnel, who claimed a disturbance, declining to press charges and Philadelphia’s District Attorneys Office stating there was a “lack of evidence that a crime was committed.”

No Indication in the US that the Country is at War Again

Keeping it normal in the world's leading rogue nation

 

It was a beautiful sunny Spring day yesterday in Philadelphia, birthplace of the United States. Crowds of people took advantage of temperatures that were in the '80s for the second day in a row to stroll the streets of Center City, shopping and patronizing the various restaurants and coffee shops. The only sign that the US had just attacked the capital of another Middle East country with a shock-and-awe blitz of cruise missiles was a small group of Marxist protesters gamely standing in a line along 15th Street on the west side of City Hall, holding up signs criticizing the attack on Syria and pointing out how US military spending and endless wars are robbing schools, health care and other human needs of funding.

The hastily arranged protest by several dozen activists was not derided by the strolling tourists and passing drivers so much as it was simply ignored like a part of the scenery.

April 14 demonstration against Trump attack on Syria outside Philadelphia City Hall (Lindorff photo)April 14 demonstration against Trump attack on Syria outside Philadelphia City Hall (Lindorff photo)
 

Totally missing was any protest action by the larger peace and justice organizations like United for Peace & Justice or groups like MOVE or True Blue Democrats -- the ones that are now calling themselves the "Resistance" to President Trump. Indeed, the so-called Resistance has been seeking pledges from supporters to come out on the street the moment Trump tries to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Obviously the organization has a huge mailing list, but it sure didn't use it to call people to action in protest of Trump's criminal launching of an attack on Syria, ostensibly intended to "punish" Syrian leader Barhar Al-Assad for an alleged, but not proven, chemical attack on Douma, a suburb of Damascus on April 7.

How could such organizations have taken action? The Democratic Party "leaders" of this "Resistance" -- people like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were actually cheering the Trump attack on Syria, as were many other Democratic members of Congress who keep talking about "resisting" Trump. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders was just demanding that the president first get Congressional approval before attacking.

Never mind that the attack on Syria was both a major war crime under the UN Charter, a treaty drawn up largely by the US, approved by the US Senate and signed into law in 1945, or that Trump had absolutely no authority under the Constitution to launch the attack, since Syria posed no threat, imminent or otherwise, to the US or its allies.

It's almost as if the attitude among the broader "Resistance" movement against Trump just went, "Phew, that's over. At least he didn't attack the Russians and get us into WWIII!"

Screenshot of video purporting to show White Helmets treating victims of alleged Syrian chemical attack in Douma on April 7Screenshot of video purporting to show White Helmets treating victims of alleged Syrian chemical attack in Douma on April 7
 

The response of the American public, save for a few dedicated soulslike those gathered at the City Hall protest in Philly, has been largely ho-hum. Uptown a bit at Temple University, students were strolling around the campus also enjoying the nice weather, some of them completely unaware that their nation had just launched a major attack on another country. There was no sign of protest there either. Indeed, a Google search for protest only turned up events relating to the earlier threats of action or to last year's launching of a smaller cruise missile attack on Syria by Trump. There were protests planned for today, and a few around the country for yesterday, but really one had to look abroad to Greece to find an example of a major protest against the attack on Syria, even though the US was joined by token forces from the UK and France, both members of NATO and the European Union.

President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of Commiting

'Mine is bigger!'

 

The single most important thing that happened last night when the US military on President Trump’s orders launched a wave of over 100 cruise missiles against Syria was that once again the US violated the most profound international law of war: initiating a war of aggression against a nation that posed no threat, imminent or otherwise, to the US or its allies.

Called a “Crime against Peace,” this violation (whose perpetrators, under the precedent set in the Nuremberg Trials that followed World War II, can face capital punishment), is considered worse than any other war crime because, as US Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson explained in his argument at the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals, a war of aggression is “not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

President Trump, during his televised White House announcement just after the launching of his bombing attack on Syria, said, “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons…We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

He was making the argument that the US, acting on its own authority without any sanction from the UN Security Council as required under international law, somehow had a duty to, on its own, punish Syria for its alleged violation of a Geneva Convention against the use of chemical weapons.

US destroyer launching cruise missile at Syria (US Navy photo)US destroyer launching cruise missile at Syria (US Navy photo)
 

Putting aside for a moment the important question of whether the Syrian government actually did use chemical weapons in the Douma suburb of Damascus, which is in fact highly suspect, even if that country’s leader, Basher al Assad, did order the use of a banned chemical weapon, Assad’s crime would be far less serious than the crime Trump and the US perpetrated under international law.

Fortunately, it appears as if saner members of the largely crazy Trump administration — notably Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general — prevailed over the neoconservative warmongering chicken hawk John Bolton, recently ensconced in the ever-changing National Security Advisor spot, with the result that the much ballyhooed US cruise missile attack on Syria’s purported “chemical arms infrastructure” was limited to three sites.

More importantly, earlier talk of hitting “command-and-control” centers like government buildings in Damascus, or Syrian air bases — places where Russia had warned that it had its own military personnel and that could have provoked a Russia military response — was pushed aside and such targets were left off the hit list. That meant the risk, about which Mattis pointedly warned in recent days, of this US attack morphing uncontrollably into a war between the two nuclear superpowers operating in Syria, the US and Russia, was minimized.

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by Dr. Radut