News Releases

*Obama in Latin America* Assessing AIPAC

President Obama is making his first trip south of the U.S. border since February of 2014. On April 9, he will be in Kingston, Jamaica for meetings with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and the leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization made up of 15 Caribbean governments. Then on April 10 and 11, he will be in Panama City, Panama where he’ll participate in the seventh Summit of the Americas alongside the leaders of every independent government in the hemisphere including — for the first time — the Republic of Cuba.

MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, beeton at, @Dan_Beeton
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which has just released a primer on Obama’s trip. Weisbrot also just wrote the pieces “Obama Should Put an End to Extreme Austerity in Jamaica” and “Obama Could Face Another Disastrous Summit Due to Sanctions Against Venezuela.”

There has been a great deal of discussion of the U.S.-Israeli relationship recently. On Friday, an all-day conference at the National Press Club examines “The Israel Lobby: Is It Good for the U.S.? Is It Good for Israel?

For more information on the conference or to arrange an interview with the organizers or participants, contact: Delinda C. Hanley, news_editor at or Grant F. Smith.

Participants include:

Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and activist living in the U.S.; he is author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Former congressman Paul Findley is the author of They Dare To Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s LobbyNick Rahall is a former member of congress from West Virginia. Paul Pillar is a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University. M.J. Rosenberg is a writer, primarily on matters relating to Israel; he is former editor of AIPAC’s Near East Report and as senior adviser to then-Executive Director Thomas Dine. Seth Morrison has held leadership posts in various local, regional and national Jewish organizations, starting in college as a youth leader in Young Judea. He is currently active in Jewish Voice for Peace.

Amani Alkhatahtbeh is the founding editor-in-chief of Gideon Levy is a columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz and a member of its editorial board.

Grant F. Smith is the director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy and is the author of two unofficial histories about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government and Foreign Agents: AIPAC from the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal.

See the full list of speakers and other information on the conference.

Police Killing and the Criminalization of Poverty

Video of Walter Scott’s killing has shed a light on the actions of the police officer involved and somewhat, on police conduct generally — but a recently released report highlights how minor infractions ruin lives. The report begins: “Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans. A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping in a park can all result in jail time. In this report, we seek to understand the multi-faceted, growing phenomenon of the ‘criminalization of poverty.'” See PDF of the report.

Huffington Post reports: “The confrontation started when [North Charleston Police Officer Michael] Slager had reportedly pulled over Scott because of a broken taillight. It escalated into a foot chase as Scott allegedly fled because there were family court-issued warrants for his arrest.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “The victim was engaged to be married and worked for a trucking supply company, L. Chris Stewart [who is representing the Scott family] said. The attorney said Scott was driving a used Mercedes he had recently purchased from a neighbor and was on his way to buy parts for the car when Slager encountered him.”

KAREN DOLAN, karen at, @karendolan
JODI L. CARR, jodicarr at
Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty Project. Carr is a research associate with the group and a doctoral student in education policy at George Mason University. They co-wrote a recently-released report: “The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty,” which includes an introduction by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Dolan said today: “The situation that led to the alleged murder of Walter Scott by a white police officer in North Charleston, S.C. is, sadly, indicative of the crisis created by the growing criminalization of poverty in America.

“Poor people are targeted and aggressively policed for minor infractions such as the broken taillight on Mr. Scott’s car. Once pulled over, other debts or warrants for similar misdemeanors may show up, resulting in arrest and jail time and increased spiraling of debt. Lives are ruined.

“When you put that overwrought situation in the middle of the factors that cause racial profiling and aggressive police action against black men, you get the killing of Walter Scott.”

See Dolan’s piece “The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty.”

Video of Killing of Walter Scott: Tip of an Iceberg?

The New York Times reports: “A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting in the back and killing an apparently unarmed black man while the man ran away.

“The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, said he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man, Walter L. Scott, 50, fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.”

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at, @kevinagray
Co-editor of the new book Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.  He said today: “Clearly, if that video hadn’t come out, this murder would have been covered up. The video clearly shows that the police lied. And it’s not uncommon for the police to lie. We have to ask about the shooting police officer’s partner. …” Gray appeared on “Democracy Now!” this morning.

CARLOS MILLER, carlosmiller at
Miller founded the website and is author of The Citizen Journalist Photography Handbook. His recent pieces include: “Texas Deputies Caught on Camera Punching Pregnant Woman During CPS Visit,” “San Francisco Cops Caught on Video Beating Man With Nightstick as he Yells for Help,” “Minnesota Cop Claims to be ‘Officer Friendly’ as he Threatens to Break Legs of Young Man in Custody” and “New Jersey Cops Tried Confiscating Cameras After Mauling Man to Death With Police Dog.”

Miller just wrote the piece “South Carolina Cop Arrested for Murder After Video Shows Him Shooting Man in Back,” which states: “Prior to the video materializing, North Charleston police officer Michael Slager claimed he had chased Walter Scott on foot Saturday after trying to pull him over for a broken tail light.

“Slager claimed he tried to subdue Scott with a taser, only for Scott to take the taser from him before trying to overpower him, making the cop fear for his life, leaving him no choice but to open fire and kill the 50-year-old man.

“And he would likely have gotten away with it had it not been for a pesky bystander with a video camera.

“The video, posted below, shows Slager firing eight times from at least 20 feet away as Scott runs away, who ends up falling on the grass.

“Slager then calmly walks up to him as he speaks into his radio, informing dispatchers of ‘shots fired.’

“He then orders Scott to ‘put your hands behind your back’ as he appears to drop his taser next to his body, most likely an attempt to plant evidence against him.

“The video, recorded by an anonymous witness, lasted for more than three minutes, showing another cop arriving on the scene after Scott was already handcuffed. At no point in the video did the cops notice they were being recorded.

“The witness did a good job of keeping the camera trained on them without voicing any displeasure as we’ve seen so many people do in the past. …”

Background: The person who took the video showing the killing remains anonymous. Miller has said in the past: “I’ve been arrested three times while filming police — the last time was when the police dispersed Occupy Miami. I tell people: you have to be so clean because they’ll find a way to come after you — it’s like a ‘Blue Mafia.’ They all stick together and will find any pretext to come after someone.”

Late last year the choking death of Eric Garner set off headlines, but the video of the police choking him was taken by Ramsey Orta — who was indicted on weapons charges shortly after making that video public and remains at Rikers Island prison. There have been reports he fears for his life.

Reuters reported “At some point during his arrest, Orta told officers, ‘You’re just mad because I filmed your boy,’ an NYPD spokeswoman said.” CBSNewYork reported: “Orta’s mother, Emily Mercado, said police have been following her son ever since he recorded Garner’s arrest.” The report quotes his wife, Chrissie Ortiz, stating: “The day after they declare it a homicide, you find someone next to him with a gun, and you saw him pass it off? Out in public when he knows he’s in the public spotlight? It makes no sense.”

The Criminalization of Poverty

poorgetprisonKAREN DOLAN, karen at, @karendolan
JODI L. CARR, jodicarr at
Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty Project. Carr is a research associate with the group and a doctoral student in education policy at George Mason University. They co-wrote a recently-released report: “The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty,” which includes an introduction by Barbara Ehrenreich.

The report finds: “Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans. A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping in a park can all result in jail time. In this report, we seek to understand the multi-faceted, growing phenomenon of the ‘criminalization of poverty.’

“In many ways, this phenomenon is not new: The introduction of public assistance programs gave rise to prejudices against beneficiaries and to systemic efforts to obstruct access to the assistance.

“This form of criminalizing poverty — racial profiling or the targeting of poor black and Latina single mothers trying to access public assistance — is a relatively familiar reality. Less well-known known are the new and growing trends which increase this criminalization of being poor that affect or will affect hundreds of millions of Americans. These troubling trends are eliminating their chances to get out of poverty and access resources that make a safe and decent life possible.”

The report highlights:

– “the targeting of poor people with fines and fees for misdemeanors, and the resurgence of debtors’ prisons — the imprisonment of people unable to pay debts resulting from the increase in fines and fees;

– “mass incarceration of poor ethnic minorities for non-violent offenses, and the barriers to employment and re-entry into society once they have served their sentences;

– “excessive punishment of poor children that creates a ‘school-to-prison pipeline';

– “increase in arrests of homeless people and people feeding the homeless, and criminalizing life-sustaining activities such as sleeping in public when no shelter is available; and

– “confiscating what little resources and property poor people might have through ‘civil asset forfeiture.’ …

“Private companies are profiting off the expanded number of people in the criminal justice system by charging fees for supervision and other costs related to probation. If the people under probation cannot pay, they often face jail time.”

See: PDF of the full report.

“Saudi (and U.S.) Aggression in Yemen”

CNN reports this morning: “Yemeni officials said Saudi airstrikes targeting a military base on Tuesday hit a nearby school, injuring at least a half dozen students.” The New York Times reports: “Pakistan’s defense minister told Parliament on Monday that Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan for aircraft, warships and soldiers to join its offensive against the Houthis in Yemen, possibly signaling Saudi plans to expand its war there.” 

SUSANNE DAHLGREN, susanne.dahlgren at
Dahlgren is currently visiting research associate professor at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore. An anthropologist from Finland who has lived in and written extensively on Yemen, she is author of Contesting Realities: The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen. Her most recent piece is “Four Weddings and a Funeral in Yemen.”

SHEILA CARAPICO, scarapic at
Carapico is a professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia. She recently wrote the piece “A Call to Resist Saudi (and U.S.) Aggression in Yemen,” which states: “Saudi Arabia is an oppressive, reactionary regime historically resistant to progressive movements in Yemen and elsewhere. It is also a linchpin in the U.S.-NATO military industrial complex and the endless war on terror.

“This war risks regional escalation and conflagration. Already, autocratic leaders of Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan (whose citizens are skeptical) seem to have agreed to join the fight, with Egypt reportedly preparing to send 40,000 ground troops. Arab League leaders meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last weekend ordered the Houthis to surrender and pledged to create a joint Arab military force.

“The pretext of the ‘legitimacy’ of the Gulf Cooperation Council-anointed administration is a figment of hegemonic imagination. Public opinion inside Yemen is kaleidoscopic and mercurial, but few accept this excuse for intervention.

“The Sunni versus Shi’a sectarian narrative misrepresents Yemenis’ multiple proclivities for partisan, regional and class-based leadership. If anything, the escalating war pits the billionaire royal elites of the Gulf against the downtrodden of the Peninsula. Bombardments are both terrifying and deadly. Attacks on al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons in Hajjah governorate, a dairy factory near Hodeida and other locations have left dozens of non-combatants dead, according to human rights groups. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, says ‘the country seems to be on the verge of total collapse.'”

Somali and Kenya: Roots of al-Shabab

The New York Times reports: “Kenyan fighter jets bombed two training camps of the Shabab militant group in Somalia, defense officials said on Monday, the first military response to the attack on a university last week that killed nearly 150 students.

“Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, had vowed to respond ‘in the severest way possible’ to the massacre at the university.

“Military officials said it was difficult to assess the damage because of heavy cloud cover. Kenya has carried out bombing raids in Somalia after terrorist assaults in the past, and the Shabab militants, knowing what was coming, have often abandoned their camps after major attacks.”

Samatar is professor and chair of the Department of Geography, Environment & Society at the University of Minnesota. He said today: “The brutality of al-Shabab is simply staggering. Its latest atrocity is the outright killing of over 100 students at Garissa University [in Kenya]. But what people also need to understand is the insidiousness of the Kenyan government and its actions in Somalia, which al-Shabab uses as a pretext to rally people in Somalia.

“If Kenya and the international community are serious about defeating al-Shabaab it can only be done by well resourced professional Somali security forces. The international community has failed to help Somalis build such a force. In addition Kenya and Ethiopia must withdraw their troops from Somalia as well as their efforts to gerrymander politics in that country by supporting certain factions in Somalia. The regime in Mogadishu is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent and can not galvanize the Somali people.

“The international community, including Africans, have been not only oblivious to the plight of the Somali people, but have turned them into a disposable political football since the collapse of their state in 1991. For years the world watched warlord terrorists rape, loot and kill Somalis with impunity.

“The U.S. actually backed the warlords against the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC), which was trying to bring some stability to the country. In 2005, the UIC defeated the warlords and created peace in Mogadishu for the first time in years and without any help from the international community. Rather than engaging with the UIC, the U.S. and its African clients considered them as terrorists and Ethiopia was given the green light to invade and dismantle it. Ethiopian forces took over Mogadishu on December 25, 2006, and the prospect of a peaceful resurrection of Somalia perished.

“The brutality of the Ethiopian occupation has been documented by human rights groups. Resisting the Ethiopian occupation became the rallying cry for all Somalis. Some of the toughest challengers of the Ethiopian war machine were segments of the UIC militia known as al-Shabab. Their valour endeared them to many Somalis and this marked the birth of al-Shabab as we know it today. Had the international community and particularly the West productively engaged the UIC, I am confident that al-Shabab would have remained an insignificant element of a bigger nationalist movement.

“Kenya’s original rationale for invading Somalia was to protect its citizens and tourist-based economy from al-Shabab’s predations. For many this argument seemed reasonable as al-Shabab was accused of kidnapping several expatriates from Kenya. According to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity, there were credible reports that the Kenyan government had planned on gaining a strong sphere of influence in the lower region of Somalia long before the al-Shabab-affiliated incidents.”

See Samatar’s piece “The Nairobi massacre and the genealogy of the tragedy.”

Iran Deal Myths: Sanctions

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (@JZarif) — in a clear rebuff to U.S. government officials’ claims about when sanctions would be lifted on Iran — has tweeted the following since the nuclear agreement was announced on Thursday:

* “The solutions are good for all, as they stand. There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on.”

* “Iran/5+1 Statement: ‘US will cease the application of ALL nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions.’ Is this gradual?”

* “Iran/P5+1 Statement: ‘The EU will TERMINATE the implementation of ALL nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions’. How about this?”

Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian negotiator who is now at Princeton University, said on “Democracy Now!” this morning disputed the often-repeated notion that the sanctions compelled the Iranian side to accept the agreement. In fact, he states, the Iranian side had put forward such a framework in 2003, but it was rejected. He also dismissed much-covered Israeli objections, since Israel has a massive nuclear weapons arsenal, refuses to allow any inspections and sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at, @reeseerlich
Foreign correspondent Erlich’s books include The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis. He recently wrote the piece “Lifting U.S. sanctions to Iran’s satisfaction won’t be easy” for Global Post. In 2013, he wrote the piece “Iranians say U.S. sanctions hit wrong target.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at, @GarethPorter
Porter is an investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He recently wrote the piece “Iran demands lifting of sanctions for ‘irreversible’ moves, says insider” for Middle East Eye.

Porter said today: “The final hours of the negotiations on the historic deal reached Thursday were marked by ‘brinksmanship’ by both sides, according to U.S. diplomat, seeking to convince the other side that there would be no deal unless the other side gave way on two remaining key issues: R&D on advanced centrifuges and the modalities of lifting sanctions.

“In the end the negotiators resorted to compromise language that either left the issue to be resolved in later negotiations or achieved a compromise that leans toward the Iranian demand.”

California Drought: Sign of “New Geologic Age”

MARK HERTSGAARD, mark at, @markhertsgaard
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Hertsgaard — author of the book Hot — stated on “Democracy Now!” today: “The new executive order by Gov. Brown issued yesterday really focused mainly on the urban sector. … What was striking about the order is that it did not require those same kind of cuts from the agriculture sector, which, in California, is the big player in water. Agriculture uses about 80 percent of all of the developed water here in the state. … The absolute historic low in the snowpack that we’re seeing here, quite frankly, it’s quite scary, but it’s quite directly related to climate change.

“There are communities out in Central Valley, the poor communities where a lot of farm workers live, that literally don’t have water coming out of their household taps anymore. That is not the case for Mr. Stewart Reznick and a lot of bigger farmers. In fact, my story in the Daily Beast [“How Growers Gamed California’s Drought“] started with a conference that Mr. Reznick and his pistachio company, Paramount Farms, held just last month, where they bragged, literally bragged and celebrated about the record profits that they are making on pistachios, on almonds, and not only the profits, but the record production levels, and the record acreage levels, which means that as the state has been going into drought, nevertheless agricultural interests are planting more and more acreage.”

MAUDE BARLOW, sdey at, @councilofcdns
Barlow is author of Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever and is a former UN adviser on water. She recently wrote: “Our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter ‘a new geologic age’ — a ‘planetary transformation’ akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. This is according to 500 renowned scientists brought together in Bonn at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 2013. A majority of the world’s population lives within 30 miles of water sources that are badly impaired or running out, the scientists said. …

“So how are world leaders and global institutions dealing with this threat? Very badly and with no plan. This is because the water crisis has been misdiagnosed.

“While recognized as real, the water crisis is usually seen as a symptom of climate change, itself caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Droughts are almost always reported as the result of climate change. While no doubt greenhouse gas emission-driven climate change does have an important and negative impact on watersheds, warming temperatures and speeding up evaporation, there is another story that needs to be told.

“Massive water diversion for flood irrigation and the over-exploitation of groundwater has left large areas of the world without water. The destruction of the Aral Sea and Lake Chad — once the fourth and sixth largest lakes in the world respectively — was not caused by climate change. It was a result of relentless extraction for commodity exports.

“The drought crisis in California is not climate change per se, but the massive engineering of the state’s water supplies to provide for a handful of powerful farmers. A huge amount of the state’s water is exported as ‘virtual water’ embedded in export commodities. The Ogallala Aquifer is not being depleted by climate change, but from unremitting extraction, mostly for corn ethanol.

“Removing water from water-retentive landscapes leaves behind parched lands and desertification, another cause of the water crisis. Removing vegetation from water-retentive landscapes changes the water patterns forever. The current crisis in Brazil — once a water rich country — is largely due to the destruction of the rainforest. Take down the forests and the hydrologic cycle is negatively affected.”

Barlow is national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

* Atlanta Testing Scandal “Tip of Iceberg” * AFT Teams with Coke

The Guardian in “Why the Atlanta cheating scandal failed to bring about national reform” states: “‘Atlanta is the tip of the iceberg,’ says Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, a nonprofit opposed to current testing standards. ‘Cheating is a predictable outcome of what happens when public policy puts too much pressure on test scores.'”

BOB SCHAEFFER, bobschaeffer at, @fairtestoffice
See FairTest’s fact sheet: “Tests, Cheating and Educational Corruption” [PDF]: “Erasing errors and filling in correct test answers is just one of many ways to ‘cheat’ on standardized tests. The scandals in Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey and many other jurisdictions are the tip of an iceberg. Across the nation, strategies that boost scores without improving learning, including narrow teaching to the test and pushing out low-scoring students, are spreading rapidly. Widespread corruption that undermines educational quality is an inevitable consequence of the overuse and misuse of high-stakes testing, just as [social scientist] Donald Campbell predicted.

FairTest notes that in 1976, Campbell’s Law was formulated: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor. . . when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.”

See also FairTest’s list of 40 states with confirmed test cheating; “50+ Ways Schools ‘Cheat’ on Testing: Manipulating High-Stakes Exam Scores for Political Gain” [PDF]; and “How Testing Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline.”

Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Reporter writes in “Why Did the AFT End Its Coca-Cola Boycott?” “In October, 2014, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution to boycott all Coca-Cola products.

“The resolution — ‘Stop Coca-Cola’s Abuse of Children and Violation of Human Rights’ — called for a boycott of Coca-Cola products based upon a litany of violations of workers’ rights and child labor laws on the part of the company.

“Now, just four months after that resolution was passed, the AFT executive committee, has reversed course and passed a resolution ending the boycott.”

Instead, on March 23rd, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Ed Potter, Coke’s director of global workplace rights, signed a partnership agreement. Mokhiber notes: “Also on hand was former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, who is a member of the Coca-Cola board of directors.”

GARY RUSKIN, gary.ruskin at, @garyruskin
Ruskin is executive director of U.S. Right to Know, a new nonprofit organization that investigates and reports “on what food companies don’t want us to know about our food.”

Ruskin said: “The Coca-Cola Company preys on American children. It is responsible in part for the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes that afflicts our nation’s children.

“It is not the proper role of the American Federation of Teachers to partner with child predators, such as Coca-Cola. By partnering with a child predator, the AFT’s agreement will undermine the moral authority of teachers nationwide. That is a regrettable outcome for teachers, schools, and especially our children, who deserve so much better from their teachers.”

Mumia’s Case and Prison Health

AP reports: “Former death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal was rushed to a hospital to be treated for complications from diabetes, according to family members and supporters who asserted Tuesday that the state prison system has been providing him with substandard medical care.

“Abu-Jamal’s blood sugar was dangerously high when he arrived at Schuylkill Medical Center on Monday, and he could have slipped into a diabetic coma, relatives and supporters said at a news conference outside the hospital, where he remained under heavy guard.

“‘He’s still very weak,’ said his wife, Wadiya Jamal. …

“Amnesty International has maintained that Abu-Jamal’s trial was ‘manifestly unfair’ and failed to meet international fair trial standards. His writings and radio broadcasts from death row put him at the center of an international debate over capital punishment and made him the subject of books and movies.”

NOELLE HANRAHAN, globalaudiopi at
A private investigator and journalist based in Philadelphia, Hanrahan is director of Prison Radio. She edited Mumia Abu-Jamal’s book All Things Censored and for years has produced his recordings from death row and now from prison. He has always maintained his innocence and many human rights groups have charged irregularities in his trial. She helped produce the documentary “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

[Breaking: She states that today — Wednesday — the family is being denied visitation.]

BRET GROTE, bretgrote at
Grote is legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center, which has been representing Abu-Jamal. Grote said today: “Mumia does not have a history of diabetes, but had been experiencing a series of symptoms that should have alerted medical staff at the prison to the onset of the disease. Instead, he was not given comprehensive diagnostic treatment and a medical crisis emerged that could have resulted in his slipping into a diabetic coma or worse.

“Prison officials only relented and permitted visitation under immense public pressure from all over the world. Keep it up. If the prison had its way, nobody would know Mumia was hospitalized, nor would they have permitted visits or the release of any medical information to family.” See more from Grote and other supporters here.

Grote can also address attempts by the state of Pennsylvania to effectively silence Abu-Jamal. See: “Prisoners and Advocacy Groups Win Right to a Trial on Constitutionality of the Silencing Act.”

Dr. COREY WEINSTEIN, corey2w at
Weinstein is a California-based doctor with decades of extensive experience with health care in prisons who has followed Abu-Jamal’s case. He has retired from work in the American Public Health Association and the World Health Organization Health in Prison Project.

He said today: “Mumia was in the prison infirmary for two weeks prior to his diabetic crisis and he entered the Critical Care Unit at Schuylkill Medical Center with a blood sugar of 779 and diabetic shock. I’m concerned that he became so sick while under 24 hour a day medical care in the prison infirmary. He remains weak and quite sick, but was allowed to speak briefly to two family members.

“Generally, once a prisoner gets to an outside hospital, they are treated without prejudice to the best ability of the staff of that hospital. The problem for many prisoners is that once a crisis has passed and they’re sent back to prison with orders for care.

“Being diabetic for example requires medication, proper diet and exercise, which prisons frequently don’t provide. You need to monitor blood sugar four times a day. But prisons often don’t allow monitoring devices or needles in the general population. So getting minimally adequate care is fraught with real problems in a prison setting, especially outside of the infirmary. In Mumia’s case, with his special status, it’s even more difficult.

“There are tremendous barriers to prison health for a variety of common conditions like low grade chronic liver failure, psychiatric conditions (which are frequently aggravated in a crowded prison setting), or chronic pain, which lots of prisoners suffer from because of history of trauma, beatings or gun shot wounds. Needed narcotic prescriptions for maintenance are frequently prohibited because of potential for abuse.

“Lawsuits are sometimes won over these issues eventually, so many states are under federal watch on these issues, including California.”

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