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Chiricahua National Monument, near Wilcox Arizona and Aqua Prieta Mexico, Photo by Craig Rock


B o r d e r l a n d s    D i g e s t
(www.borderlandsdigest.com) - Editor Craig Rock

Exploring the border between chaos and cooperation:
Reading and Writing about Justice Issues
an independent monthly journal with a focus on
 the environment, immigration and criminal justice

"What is a rebel? A man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation.
He is also a man who says yes from the moment he makes his first gesture of rebellion.
A slave who has taken orders all his life suddenly decides he can not obey some new command.
What does he mean by saying "no"?
He means, for example, that this has been going too long.....
In other words, his no affirms the existence of a borderline.
Albert Camus, The Rebel, 1951

August 2020 




Final Issue - for awhile anyway
by Craig Rock, Editor

July 30, 2020 - This issue of Borderlands Digest marks the end of news story links that I’ve been posting over the last few years. The case against President Trump is closed. The evidence is in. We are the jury; cast your vote in the November election. Educate your neighbor! Help people to vote! If Covid-19, police shootings, and Trump’s view of the world haven’t alerted us to the dangers we face because of environmental degradation, a poorly managed healthcare system, and an unfair criminal justice system, nothing will.

….Would we even have guessed that this Covid-19 virus would be anything but a plot in a fictional movie or TV series? Can we afford another four year years of a president who determines his actions and measures his effectiveness by his TV ratings and a ego? Or can we afford his cronies who so easily choose the health of the economy (actually their personal fortunes) over the health and welfare of our people? Or an economic system that significantly disregards consumer rights in so many ways?

Just maybe we can learn from this disaster, and the sick will get well, the unemployed will go back to work, and those who illegally tried to take advantage of this tragedy will go to prison for a very long time.

See links on page 4 (Eco Links) for some of the organizations and news outlets you might consider supporting. Check back from time to time for new feature articles. Thanks for your support! 
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Some Important News Links

Feds begin prosecuting coronavirus PPP loan fraud. Some companies may fight back — and win, Los Angeles Times, July 23, click here

‘What choice do we have?’: Portland’s ‘Wall of Moms’ faces off with federal officers at tense protests, Washington Post, July 22, 2020, click here

YouTube Video


Steve Lopez's Column: Gasping, afraid, alone. What it’s like to die a COVID-19 death, Los Angeles Times, July 18, click here

Federal Officers Deployed in Portland Didn’t Have Proper Training, D.H.S. Memo Said, New York Times, July 18, click here

"Rather than tamping down persistent protests in Portland, Ore., a militarized presence from federal officers seems to have re-energized them."

Despite Supreme Court ruling, Trump administration rejects new DACA applications, Los Angeles times, July 16, 2020, click here

Fighting Alone, I'm a GOP Governor. Why didn't Trump help my state with coronavirus testing, Washington Post, July 17, 2020, click here. (Adapted from Larry Hogan's forthcoming book,  Still Standing: Surviving Cancer, Riots, a Global Pandemic, and the Toxic Politics That Divide America.”


The White House Really Doesn’t Want You to Know How Bad the Coronavirus Crisis Is, Vice News, July 15, 2020,

"As coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket, the Trump administration is ordering hospitals to send their coronavirus data directly to the Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public health experts say the move, which would make the information inaccessible to the public, is “dangerous and breeds distrust.”

Click here to read the article by Paul Blest for Vice News


Another effort to limit information access within the federal government
Press Release from the Voice of America (VOA) July 14, 2020

VOA Director’s Statement on CDC’s Media Interview Policy Excluding VOA Journalists

"We were shocked to read the internal CDC documents instructing the agency's media relations office to refuse media requests from "anyone associated with Voice of America," citing White House tweets accusing VOA of spreading Chinese propaganda. VOA, a federally-funded independent news organization, strongly rejects the accusations and calls on the CDC to immediately withdraw the instructions. The CDC documents were released this week in response to a Knight First Amendment Institute’s FOIA request......"


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Recent Interview with Naomi Klein in The Guardian July 13, 2020

Klein: 'We must not return to a pre-Covid status quo'

(Ms. Klein offers some ideas about how the Covid pandemic has created possibilities for a new and better way of living that involves climate justice, equality, and 'investing in people.'  Here are excerpts from the interview conducted by Katharine Viner. The full article can be read by clicking the Guardian website.

Klein on classrooms of the future

"So how are we going to live with this thing? Are we going to accept pre-Covid “normal”, only much diminished, without the relationships that sustain us? Are we going to allow our kids to have all of their learning mediated by technology? Or are we going to invest in people?

Instead of pouring all of our money into a Screen New Deal and trying to solve problems in a way that diminishes our quality of life, why do we not go on a teacher-hiring spree? Why do we not have twice as many teachers with half-the-size classrooms and figure out a way to do outdoor education?"

On effective multi-racial demonstrations

"But then there is a question that a lot of people are asking , which is what are all these non-black people doing at the protests? That is what is new, certainly at this scale. Many of these demonstrations are truly multiracial; black-led multi-racial demonstrations. Why is this time different?

I have a few ideas. One has to do with the softness that the pandemic has introduced into our culture. When you slow down, you can feel things; when you’re in that constant rat race, it doesn’t leave much time for empathy. From its very beginning, the virus has forced us to think about interdependencies and relationships. The first thing you are thinking about is: everything I touch, what has somebody else touched? The food I am eating, the package that was just delivered, the food on the shelves. These are connections that capitalism teaches us not to think about."

 A good time for a big change

"The only times that we can point to – and this is a hard truth – when our societies have moved fast and changed big and catalytically are moments of great depression or war. Yet we now know we can change quickly. We have seen it. We have dramatically changed our lives. And we found out that our governments have trillions of dollars that they could have marshalled this whole time.

All of that is potentially radicalising. I do feel we have a chance. I would not describe myself as optimistic, because this is a future we have to fight for. But if we just look at moments in history when we have won big changes, they are moments like this."


Guest Article

Clean Air and Covid-19

by Dr. Joanne Leovy 

Covid-19 presents many questions. Among the most vexing, why are some people asymptomatic or mildly ill while others develop severe disease? In the absence of a cure, can we predict who might require hospitalization, need ventilation or die? Can anything help to reduce the risk of severe illness in the absence of a highly effective treatment or vaccine? 

Epidemiologic analyses clearly show that Covid-19 more severely impacts older people, men, and those with obesity, heart disease and immune-compromising conditions. A combination of health and social factors likely increase the risk in communities of color. Another fascinating and potentially modifiable factor is exposure to air pollution. 

Air pollution causes myriad health problems. The strongest evidence implicates two pollutants emitted primarily from vehicle tailpipes and fossil fuel combustion, ground level ozone and fine particulates. These pollutants cause acute and chronic respiratory, cardiovascular, perinatal and neurologic problems. Ground level ozone and fine particulate pollution cause reversible lung function impairment, airway inflammation and leaky blood vessels. Long term ozone exposure is linked to an increased risk for ARDS, the form of lung failure common in Covid-19 patients. Because ozone forms in sunny and hot conditions, it is a major pollutant in Las Vegas and Reno in the summer. Particulates raise lung levels of IL-6 and other cytokines believed to be major drivers of the hyper-inflammatory response seen in seriously ill Covid-19 patients. A 12 year study of 60 million U.S. Medicare recipients demonstrated substantially increased mortality in people who lived in areas of either high ozone or high particulate pollution. A 2019 study estimated that Nevada has 97 excess deaths and nearly $900 million in health costs due to air pollution. 

What is the link to Covid-19 disease? At least two studies now show a tantalizing correlation between high levels of fine particulates and high levels of Covid-19. A preliminary Italian survey revealed that the highest concentration of fine particulates are in the same region of Northern Italy that had catastrophic numbers Covid-19 infections, raising an interesting hypothesis. An April 2020 study from Harvard shows a clear trend between cases per million residents and fine particulate pollution. Pollution-related pre-existing health conditions and acute inflammation could play a role in a higher Covid-19 burden. Other data suggests increased virus transmission areas with particulate pollution as some viruses can bind to fine particulates in the air and travel distances. 

Reducing pollution quickly improves health. Both short and long term studies show mortality reduction with modest measures to clean the air. Technologies available now including higher fuel efficiency and electric vehicles, non-fossil electricity and energy efficiency have the potential to save many lives. A 2019 study estimated that just electrifying factories and industrial facilities that burn coal or oil, and replacing residential wood stoves with electric heat would cut particulate pollution enough to cut the pollution-related death rate in half, and would save much more money in health costs than the cost of transition. A small bright light in the pandemic has been the clearer skies across many cities as people ceased much of their travel. A recent study in China estimated that 77,000 fewer people died during the mandatory shutdown due to reduced air pollution. Perhaps our Nevada experience of unusually clean skies in March and April will lend support to efforts to work for cleaner air. Clean air saves lives.

(Dr. Leovy is a family practice doctor in Las Vegas, Nevada) References for this article can be found in a Word document at the bottom of this page.

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Recent News - Links

After an Arrest at a Black Lives Matter Protest: Deportation Proceedings  A Phoenix activist was supporting one cause, and caught up in the unresolved fight of another. New York Times, July 11, 2020 click here

ICE Offering 'Citizens Academy' Course with Training on Arresting Immigrants, Newsweek, July 9, 2020, click here

Over 40% of staff at Eloy Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19, operators say, AZ Central, July 8, click here

Dakota Access Pipeline to Shut Down Pending Review, Federal Judge Rules,
New York Times, July 6, 2020, click here

Energy companies abandon long-delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Washington Post, July 5, 2020, click here

Public will not see full Mueller report until after November Election
Supreme Court blocks release of full Mueller report while it hears Trump’s appeal, Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2020, click here

Supreme Court won’t force Texas to allow absentee ballots for all voters,
Washington Post, June 26, 2020, click here

White House intensifies effort to install Pentagon personnel seen as loyal to Trump, Washington Post, June 25, 2020, click here


Ruling applies to asylum seekers turned down at initial screenings

Supreme Court agrees with Trump administration on limits on asylum seekers, Washington Post, June 25, 2020, click here

U.S. attorney who was investigating people close to Trump now says he will step down, ending standoff with attorney general, Washington Post, June 2020, click here 

In Minnesota, the legacy of a lynching continues to haunt — and echo across decades
 Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2020, click here

Kamala Harris wants America to turn protest into policy. Is she the one to make it happen?, Washington Post, June 19, click here


Supreme Court rules for ‘Dreamers,’ rejects Trump’s repeal of immigration program, Los Angeles Times, June 18, click here

56 former prosecutors write to appeals court in support of bail for lawyers accused of throwing molotov cocktail at police vehicle,  Washington Post, June 16, click here


A War Against Climate Science, Waged by Washington’s Rank and File, New York Times, June 15, click here
"Efforts to block research on climate change don’t just come from the Trump political appointees on top. Lower managers in government are taking their cues, and running with them."


Supreme Court lets stand California’s ‘sanctuary’ law on undocumented immigrants, Washington Post, June 15, click here


Supreme Court says gay, transgender workers are protected by federal law forbidding discrimination on the basis of sex, Washington Post, June 15, click here


Supreme Court refuses to reconsider immunity that shields police accused of brutality, Washington Post, June 15, click here


Is There a Religious Left?, The New Yorker, June 11, 2020click here
Why progressive activism rooted in faith is so often misconstrued.

Free Food, Free Speech and Free of Police: Inside Seattle’s ‘Autonomous Zone’
President Trump challenged Seattle’s mayor to “take back your city” after police vacated a precinct and protesters laid claim to the neighborhood around it.
New York Times, June 11, 2020click here

Why Minneapolis Was the Breaking Point, Atlantic Magazine, (Wesley Lowery), June 10, click here

What’s a journalist supposed to be now — an activist? A stenographer? You’re asking the wrong question.
Washington Post, June 7click here

ProPublica: Ex-White House Official Cashed In On Faulty Masks For Tribes, Fronteras Desk, KJZZ Radio, June 4, click here

The Story Behind Bill Barr’s Unmarked Federal Agents
"The motley assortment of police currently occupying Washington, D.C., is a window into the vast, complicated, obscure world of federal law enforcement." Politico, June 5, click here

Tear Gas Is Way More Dangerous Than Police Let On — Especially During the Coronavirus Pandemic

"In the middle of a respiratory pandemic, law enforcement agencies have used tear gas in especially dangerous ways. The chemical agent also seeps into homes, contaminates food, furniture, skin and surfaces, and can cause long-term lung damage." ProPublica, June 4, click here to read more.

Barr seeks to subdue D.C. protests by ‘flooding the zone’ with federal firepower, Washington Post, June 3, click here "Experts see parallels to authoritarian regimes."


EPA limits states and tribes’ ability to protest pipelines and other energy projects, Washington Post, June 1, click here

"The move changes the way the Clean Water Act has been applied for half a century. The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule Monday curtailing the rights of states, tribes and the public to object to federal permits for energy projects and other activities that could pollute waterways across the country."

Op-Ed: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge
"Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air........What you should see when you see black protesters in the age of Trump and coronavirus is people pushed to the edge, not because they want bars and nail salons open, but because they want to live. To breathe...."

Los Angeles Times, May 30, click here to read the complete article by Kareem's Op-Ed's piece.

A birdwatcher, a dog and Amy Cooper. Another viral racial incident in America, Los Angeles Times, May 26, click here

This newspaper has never forgotten the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — and its fight continues, LA Times, May 22, click here

Coronavirus is stalling air quality, pollution rules, even in eco-minded California, Los Angeles Times, May 13, click here

Clean water is key for Navajo Nation, other tribes, to avoid next pandemic Tucson Sentinel, May 12, 2020, click here

A Former Farmworker on American Hypocrisy
In the pandemic, “illegal” workers are now deemed “essential” by the federal government. Opinion, New York Times, May 6, 2020, click here to listen or read

Advocates with mask donation turned away from San Diego immigration detention center, Los Angeles Times, April 25, click here


Without a single COVID-19 death, Vietnam starts easing its coronavirus lockdown, Los Angeles Times, April 23, click here

Earth Justice Report April 23

The Clean Water Case of the Century

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to keep the Clean Water Act intact, dealing a major loss to the Trump administration and its pro-polluter agenda. The fate of the nation’s clean water had hung in the balance in County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund.

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Journal Contents 
Editor Craig Rock, duniterock@gmail.com, send in your stories, poems and photos by the 24th of the month. Click on most images to enlarge.
(Pages are accessible from links at the top and bottom of each page.)

Page 1 - Recent news links; updated stories.

Page 2 -  Art and its connections to justice issues through non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography, history, exhibits and other formats.

Page 3 - Older News Links and press releases 

 Page 4 Eco Links (Environment - Links and Reports) - Links to Interesting Websites.
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Quote of the Month

What Ilhan Omar actually said about ‘dismantling’ systems in the U.S. government, Washington Post, July 8, 2020, click here

"As long as our economy and political systems prioritize profit without considering who is profiting, who is being shut out, we will perpetuate this inequality. ....We must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression, wherever we find it. ...... We are not merely fighting to tear down the systems of oppression in the criminal justice system; we are fighting to tear down systems of oppression that exist in housing, in education, in health care, in employment [and] in the air we breathe.” Ilhan Omar





A Message from John Lewis via New York Times, July 30

Together, You
Can Redeem the Soul
of Our Nation


"While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity."

Read the article written John Lewis
with instructions that it be published
on the day of his funeral, CLICK HERE
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From the Washington Post, July 11, 2020, click here to read the  full article

Trump's Pardon History

".....Here’s a look at the crimes for which the law-and-order president has opted to unilaterally circumvent justice:

  • Lying about contacts involving a man, Julian Assange, who served as a conduit for Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and who is currently under indictment (Stone)
  • Three war crimes, including two murders (Clint Lorance)
  • Murder (Michael Behenna)
  • Alleged murder (Mathew Golsteyn)
  • Arson that burned 139 acres of federal land (Steven and Dwight Hammond)
  • Corruptly trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat for personal gain (Blagojevich)
  • Using his high profile after the 9/11 attacks to commit tax fraud (Kerik)
  • Refusing a judge’s order to stop detaining people suspected of being undocumented immigrants (Arpaio)"
  • __________________________
Originally published by ProPublica, July 9, 2020
Republished under the Creative Commons License

How a Key Federal Civil Rights Agency Was 
Sidelined as Historic Protests Erupted

Launched by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Community Relations Service has been without a director and short-staffed during recent unrest. The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to eliminate the agency.


In recent weeks, as protests against police violence and systemic racism have swept across the nation, a key federal civil rights agency — an agency created to bridge racial divides — has been largely absent.

Dubbed “America’s Peacemaker,” the Community Relations Service was established in 1964 as civil rights protesters across the South came under attack. The service, which is part of the Justice Department, is credited with helping to avert bloodshed during some of the most contentious demonstrations of the 1960s.

When Martin Luther King Jr. staged a march in Selma, Alabama in 1965 — just days after Alabama state troopers and local cops assaulted protesters in an infamous confrontation known as “Bloody Sunday” — it was CRS officials who worked to avert another round of violence.

More recently, in 2018, when Sacramento police shot to death Stephon Clarke, an African American man, a five-person CRS team was on the ground in less than 24 hours. The team helped to arrange an emergency meeting between the city council and a community furious over the killing of the unarmed 22-year-old.

“If you can get a conversation started, things are less likely to go stupid,” said Ronald Wakabayashi, the CRS regional director who led the team in Sacramento and has since retired.

Sidelined by Trump

But now, during perhaps the most significant civil rights moment in a half century, the CRS has been sidelined, sending out just a handful of staffers to cities experiencing unrest and making few public statements. Between May 25, the date of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, and June 15, the agency put out four Tweets and some Facebook posts — none of which mentioned the growing national outcry over decades of abusive policing in communities of color.

Current and former CRS leaders and staffers say the agency’s muted response reflects the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle it over the past three years, leaving it short-staffed and rudderless.

President Donald Trump, in his budget proposals, has repeatedly recommended eliminating the agency. The CRS, whose work often occurs out of public view, continues to exist only because Congress has repeatedly restored its funding.

But even with that funding, the agency’s ability to carry out its mission has diminished dramatically. Though the CRS is budgeted for 34 full-time employees — down from 58 in 2017 — it now has 29, according to current and former employees, and the headcount was even lower in recent months. It is supposed to be managed by 10 regional directors but now has only three. As Trump’s first term comes to a close, the White House has yet to nominate a permanent director for Senate approval, and at present the CRS doesn’t have an acting director.

“Morale is extraordinarily low. They feel like they can’t do the work” said Grande Lum, who headed the CRS from 2012 to 2016 and still talks to current CRS employees. “These are career employees, they’re not political appointees like I was. They have been doing this under every administration, Republican and Democrat, and this administration is saying, ‘We don’t really want you.’”

Former federal officials said the decline of the CRS fits a broader pattern at the Trump Justice Department, which has taken an interest in religious freedom cases but has turned away from other civil rights issues. Under the leadership of Jeff Sessions and current Attorney General Wiliam Barr, the department has curtailed the use of civil litigation to reform troubled police forces and sought to roll back legal protections for transgender people.

“In this administration anything dealing with civil rights has a target on it,” said Becky Monroe, who served as acting director of the CRS during the Obama years and now works for the nonpartisan Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Lum compared the Trump administration’s moves to gut the agency before a massive wave of protests to the administration’s much-criticized decision to dissolve the National Security Council’s pandemic unit before the coronavirus crisis hit. Both decisions, he said, deprived the federal government of experienced leaders at a key moment.

Though many of the marches and demonstrations over the past six weeks were peaceful, others devolved into the sort of chaos the CRS was designed to help deter, with police officers using batons, tear gas and rubber bullets to push back crowds, and protesters hurling rocks and bottles at cops, burning buildings and ransacking businesses. Gunfire has rung out in many cities, killing civilians and at least one law enforcement officer. On July 4 a driver slammed into marchers who had taken over a Seattle highway, leaving one person dead.

Current and former employees told ProPublica that some CRS staffers were reluctant to go out into the streets because of the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, though they noted that employees are continuing to work from home, using phone calls and videoconferences to conduct trainings and stay on top of events as they unfold around the country.

When similar protests occurred during past administrations, Monroe said, CRS staffers were “on the ground working with community leaders” to address tensions and keep people safe.

Even if more CRS staff were being sent out now, said Monroe, the president’s recent inflammatory speeches and tweets would complicate their ability to do their job. “Right now, I think the president and this administration have really undermined the core mission of the agency by trying to incite racist violence,” she said. “We literally have a president of the United States who is doing the opposite of what the Community Relations Service was created to do.”

A Justice Department spokesperson said the agency has “prioritized the safety of its employees” during the pandemic, but since the wave of protests began, staffers have been allowed to meet face-to-face with small groups of people as long as they wear masks.

“To date, CRS leadership has approved all requests for deployment under this procedure,” said the spokesperson, who declined to say which cities CRS staff have been dispatched to, but said they were in touch with leaders in 65 cities.

The spokesperson defended CRS staffing levels and said the agency is currently hiring more employees.

“Throughout our history as an agency, there have always been periods of unrest, and CRS has always responded to the best of its ability, knowing that there is always more that could be done,” the spokesperson told ProPublica, noting that some of the agency’s most important work “begins after the protests have subsided and when community groups and local law enforcement are ready to work together on areas of needed reform.”

Community Relations Serice and its Beginnings

The history of the CRS begins with Lyndon Johnson, who as a U.S. senator in the late 1950s envisioned a mediation service that would seek to quell disputes between racial and ethnic groups.

Years later, as president, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark law that banned racial discrimination in housing, employment, voting education and so-called public accommodations — retail businesses, restaurants, hotels and the like. Included in the sweeping and transformative legislation were a few brief paragraphs establishing the CRS.

Those paragraphs instructed the new agency to “provide assistance … in resolving disputes, disagreements, or difficulties relating to discriminatory practices based on race, color, or national origin.”

For Johnson, the creation of the CRS “reflected his conviction that most conflict could be negotiated,” according to a forthcoming history of the agency written by Lum and another former CRS leader, Bertram Levine. It also reflected an uncomfortable truth: The Justice Department didn’t have nearly enough lawyers to sue every business or local government agency that refused to comply with the Civil Rights Act and its prohibition on racial segregation.

Required by law to keep most of its activities confidential, the new agency played a quiet, behind-the-scenes role throughout the second half of the 1960s as civil rights activism swept across the country. In 1965, CRS staffers were on the ground in Selma, Alabama, the site of some of the ugliest episodes of the era. After police killed protester Jimmie Lee Jackson and brutalized marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge — a horrific event that would come to be known as “Bloody Sunday” — CRS leaders convinced local authorities not to attack subsequent marches led by King and others.


Hate Crimes and the CRS

A new federal hate crimes law, passed in 2009, broadened the CRS mandate, directing the agency to work to prevent hate crimes, including those targeting LGBTQ individuals and institutions. Since then, the agency has led discussion groups for high schools torn apart by bullying and harassment and helped a state prison develop policies for handling transgender inmates.

CRS teams, at least until recently, have continued to respond to a wide range of conflicts. In 2010, CRS employees worked to defuse a tense, potentially lethal situation in Phoenix when a small band of neo-Nazis armed with assault rifles confronted a large group of demonstrators, including many Latinos, who had gathered at the Arizona Capitol to denounce a new anti-immigration law adopted by the state.

The CRS hasn’t always been successful at preventing violence and chaos. Even at its peak, it was a small agency confronting entrenched and complex problems.

Bogeymans and Misinformation

And over the past decade it has become something of a bogeyman for conservative activists and right-wing pundits who claim the agency has deviated from its mission and is now covertly orchestrating protests and aggravating racial discord. Those claims were strenuously denied by CRS personnel who spoke to ProPublica.

“Because we work with communities of color, some people believe we’re instigating these issues. We’re not. We’re helping them resolve these conflicts,” said one CRS employee, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Much of the controversy stems from a campaign by Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group, which claims that CRS staffers “actively worked to foment unrest” in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.

According to Judicial Watch, the CRS helped to “organize and manage rallies and protests” in Sanford as part of a Justice Department “pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Martin. This incendiary narrative was picked up by a host of right-wing media outlets, including The Daily Caller, Breitbart News, WorldNetDaily, PJ Media and the biggest of them all, Fox News.

Judicial Watch said it based its assertions on some 350 pages of internal CRS documents, including emails and travel records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

But as the story began to circulate through the conservative media ecosystem in 2013, PolitiFact, a nonpartisan fact-checking site, evaluated Judicial Watch’s claims and concluded they were mostly false. “Justice Department employees were sent to Sanford, in part to deal with community uprising, including protests,” noted the site. “But they were sent with the idea of keeping the situation peaceful and calm, not to instigate or condone protests or violence.”

A ProPublica review of the internal CRS documents found no support for the allegations made by Judicial Watch. The organization did not respond to questions.

CRS employees who were on the ground in Sanford said they spent their days trying to ensure that nobody got hurt during three major protest events and a student-led sit-in outside the police department. Thomas Battles, then the CRS regional director overseeing the Southeast, started conversations between the local police and members of the New Black Panther Party, who’d shown up to a demonstration heavily armed, raising fears that the protest might turn into a gun battle. In the end, “there were no arrests, no injuries,” recalled Monroe, who was present at the scene.


Jeff Triplett, who was mayor of Sanford at the time of the protests, has praised the CRS for its help and credited the agency for acting as an emissary between public officials and activists.

But by the time Trump was sworn in as president, in 2017, the Heritage Foundation, one of the most influential conservative think tanks in Washington, had adopted the Judicial Watch line.

“The CRS budget should be entirely eliminated,” wrote Heritage in its budget recommendations for Trump’s first year in office. “Rather than fulfilling its mandate of trying to be the peacemaker in community conflicts, the CRS has raised tensions in local communities in recent incidents.”

Since then, the Trump administration has sought to do away with the CRS. The administration’s 2019 budget proposal offered no money for the agency. And its proposed 2020 budget would have eliminated the CRS and directed another unit of the Justice Department to take over its work, with a greatly reduced staff. The administration characterized the plan as an attempt to improve efficiency.

Congress blocked those moves, increasing funding to the office from $14.4 million in 2017 to $16 million in 2020.

Asked how that increased funding was being spent despite the smaller staff, the DOJ spokesperson said “all CRS appropriated funding has been dedicated to CRS requirements and mission accomplishment” including updated training materials, strategic planning, social media, and websites dealing with hate crimes.

The cuts in staff have shrunk the frontline team. Lum said that when he directed the agency, he had about 30 staffers, known as conciliation specialists, that he could deploy to cities and towns in crisis. Today the CRS has 16 specialists it can send into the field, according to the DOJ spokesperson.

Cuts in Programs and Staff

During the Trump years, as the staffing numbers dropped, Wakabayashi, as a regional director, went from overseeing four states and Guam, to managing 15 states plus the island territory, a geographic area stretching from the far side of the Pacific to Alaska to middle America. “It was a steep learning curve. If you talk about square miles or time zones, it’s huge,” he recalled.

The DOJ spokesperson said the agency has posted four jobs since March and is in the process of hiring another regional director.

Equally concerning for Wakabayashi, who spent two decades at the CRS, is what he sees as a movement away from the agency’s legacy of acting as mediators during crises.

“The conciliators have their hands tied,” he said. The CRS has scuttled “a lot of the custom work that we did. When you’re in a conflict situation, you go in and look at what the problems are and what people’s concerns are.”

In Wakabayashi’s view, the CRS is now focused on what he called “off-the-shelf programs,” including training seminars about the Sikh and Muslim faiths and community forums on hate crimes. “They’re not bad — they come out of our own tradition of work — but they’re not useful if you use them mechanically.”

In 2017, the CRS jettisoned a program dealing with racial profiling that brought together civilians, advocacy groups and law enforcement officers in a neutral setting to discuss bias in policing. It was replaced with a new program that makes no mention of profiling, according to the CRS staff.

Monroe doesn’t think it’s an accident that the CRS has gone without a director for several years. “It demonstrates that they don’t think it’s an agency that merits the leadership it needs,” she said.

To view the above story on ProPublica's site along with photos



A ProPublica Report, July 1, 2020

TRUMP, INC.
Why Do People Want to See
 Donald Trump’s Tax Returns?


Trump has broken a long tradition of presidents sharing their tax histories. Two Supreme Court cases are looking at whether House committees and a New York grand jury can subpoena financial institutions for Trump’s personal and business tax filings.

by Kristen Doerer for ProPublica July 1, 6:24 p.m. EDT

Stay up to date with email updates about WNYC and ProPublica’s investigations into the president’s business practices.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases regarding access to President Donald Trump’s tax filings soon. At the heart of the cases: Can House committees and a New York grand jury subpoena financial institutions for Trump’s personal and business tax filings?

If the Supreme Court rules against Trump, it opens the possibility that the public could eventually see his personal tax return and business records, though experts say it would be unlikely to happen quickly. Here’s why people want to see Trump’s tax returns and what they may reveal about the president.

Why Do Presidents Share Their Tax Returns in the First Place?

Since Richard Nixon, presidents have shared their tax returns in some way or another with the public. Nixon perhaps explained why best: “I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their president’s a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.”

But Nixon had not shared his tax returns entirely willingly. During the Watergate scandal, an IRS employee leaked information from Nixon’s tax returns that suggested that the president had underpaid his taxes for two years. As reporters put pressure on Nixon to disclose his returns, he finally shared them, confirming that he had wrongly claimed a deduction and woefully underpaid his taxes. Nixon, who was under audit at the time, was sent a tax bill of about $470,000 plus interest to pay in back taxes from the IRS.

Nixon’s release of his federal returns set a precedent. While no law requires presidential candidates (or the president for that matter) to share his or her tax returns, it was understood among future candidates: The office of the presidency requires a certain amount of transparency, and voters have a right to know if their president pays his or her fair share of taxes and, yes, “whether or not their president’s a crook.”

Read the rest of the story, click here

Why Do People Want to See Trump’s Tax Returns?

While Trump promised to share his tax returns during his 2016 campaign, he refused to do so when he assumed office, breaking this four-decade tradition among presidents and presidential candidates.

Trump has claimed that voters don’t care about his taxes. Polls suggest otherwise. According to a 2019 Pew Research poll, 64% of Americans say that Trump has a responsibility to share his tax returns. His refusal to share them has some Americans wondering what he’s hiding.


So, Why Isn’t He Sharing Them Voluntarily?

Trump has offered many reasons for not sharing his tax returns. He has said that he couldn’t share them while he was under audit — but an audit wouldn’t prevent him from sharing them — and he has simply said that his tax rate is “none of your business.”

Pundits have made guesses as to why, suggesting that perhaps he’s not as rich as he says he is, that he has financial ties to Russia, that he’s paid no income tax or that he hasn’t donated as much to charity as he said he has.

OK. But Why Is the Supreme Court Involved?

Multiple House committees have subpoenaed the accounting firm and banks used by Trump for 10 years of his personal financial records, those of his three oldest children and those of parts of his businesses. The Manhattan district attorney’s office also issued subpoenas for those financial records in addition to eight years of Trump’s business and personal tax returns. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legal battles, which have been consolidated into two cases — Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP and Trump v. Vance — in early July. Separately, the House Ways and Means Committee sued the Treasury Department for Trump’s tax returns, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defied the committee’s subpoena for them.

In late 2019, an investigation by Heather Vogell of ProPublica and WNYC’s joint podcast, “Trump, Inc.,” found major inconsistencies between how three of the Trump Organization’s properties — 40 Wall Street, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and Trump Tower — reported financial information to New York City tax authorities and lenders.

For other articles and podcasts about the Trump Empire
read this introduction and click the link below

Exploring the Business of Trump

He’s the president, yet we’re still trying to answer basic questions about how his business works: what deals are happening, whom they’re happening with, and if the president and his family are keeping their promise to separate the Trump Organization from the Trump White House.

“Trump, Inc.” is a joint reporting project from WNYC Studios and ProPublica that digs deep into those questions. We’ll be laying out what we know, what we don’t and how you can help us fill in the gaps.

Find “Trump, Inc.” wherever you get your podcasts.

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ĉ
Craig Rock,
Jun 5, 2020, 3:31 PM