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Alex Jones must pay extra $45m for hoax claims
The Angola 3's Albert Woodfox, who survived decades of solitary confinement, dies
A wrongful murder conviction forced Woodfox to spend 43 years and 10 months in solitary confinement at Louisiana's Angola Prison. He has died at the age of 75.
(Image credit: Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images)
Despite al-Zawahiri strike, US officials are concerned about tracking terrorism threats in Afghanistan
Bowman Unveils Bill to Allow Biden to Identify Profiteering and Regulate Prices
Amid soaring inflation and record corporate profits, progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) unveiled a bill on Thursday aimed at combating the increasing costs for expenses ranging from housing to gas.
The Emergency Price Stabilization Act would create a sub-task force within the White House to monitor price raises and corporate profiteering, potentially making recommendations to the president to regulate and moderate prices in food, energy, housing, health care and transportation. The group would have subpoena power over corporations’ financial records in order to determine if companies are raising prices for profit or out of necessity.
“From impossible rents and utility bills to soaring costs for food, health care, and other necessities of life, people in America are being crushed by the burden of high prices and wages that can’t keep pace,” Bowman said in a statement. “We cannot simply step back and allow the Federal Reserve, which hiked interest rates again last week, to address inflation on the backs of everyday people. That approach means throwing people out of work and risking a recession.”
Indeed, while progressive analysts and experts point out that high corporate profit margins are a large driving force behind this year’s high inflation, Republicans and corporations have obscured the truth, falsely claiming that inflation is due to Democratic spending and wage raises. Though polling finds that most Americans acknowledge corporations’ role in high prices, corporate media and politicians’ obfuscation of the causes of inflation are likely suppressing efforts to control corporate profits.
With no end in sight to rising inflation, consumers are now being squeezed for every penny they have. Rent rose a record 11.3 percent last year, food prices rose 10.4 percent over 12 months, ending in June, and gas prices in June were up nearly 50 percent over the last year.
Meanwhile, corporations are bragging about their record margins, celebrating inflation and a volatile economy as opportunities to raise prices. According to the Economic Policy Institute, over half of price raises since the second quarter of 2020 are attributable to higher corporate profit margins.
Bowman recently told The American Prospect that the bill isn’t about setting price controls across all sectors, but rather taking a more critical and regulated approach against inflation with a “new economic playbook,” and examining inflation’s true causes, “giving the American people a look at corporate books.” The efforts would be akin to efforts in the U.S. around World War II to control inflation and protect the economy.
The bill has garnered the support of a number of economists and progressive advocates, who say that the proposal would be a major step toward creating an economy with a greater focus on protecting consumers and the public.
“In these times of overlapping emergencies, we need a new policy toolkit for monetary stabilization. The Emergency Price Stabilization Act of 2022 presents a critical step in this direction,” said Isabella Weber, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, economics professor. “If prices of essentials can be stabilized, this preserves purchasing power and enables investment and growth, instead of reverting to austerity.”
Sixteen House Democrats have cosponsored the bill, including progressive heavy hitters like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Cori Bush (Missouri) and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts). A wide swath of progressive organizations and labor unions have also endorsed the bill.
DeSantis Suspends Prosecutor Who Said He Wouldn’t Enforce State Abortion Law
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended a state prosecutor who promised not to prosecute individuals over the state’s newly enacted 15-week abortion ban.
DeSantis suspended 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Andrew Warren on Thursday. Shortly after, the Florida governor made a statement in Tampa, which is near the attorney’s area of jurisdiction.
DeSantis accused Warren of “neglect of duty” and of being incompetent in performing his job. Under Florida law, state prosecutors can only be removed by a governor under certain conditions, including those two criteria.
DeSantis’s executive order cites the fact that Warren had joined prosecutors across the U.S. in signing a pledge not to enforce abortion bans if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and states enacted laws prohibiting or restricting the procedure. The order also predicted that Warren would refuse to enforce a ban on gender-affirming care should such a ban be passed by the Florida legislature.
The suspension takes effect immediately, though Warren will still retain his title, as state law requires the Florida Senate to take action to formally remove him from his post. In the meantime, Warren’s duties will be fulfilled by Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez, who was appointed by DeSantis.
Warren, who serves in an elected position, is viewed as a “rising star” in Democratic circles throughout the state. He decried his suspension as a “political stunt” and an “illegal overreach that continues a dangerous pattern by Ron DeSantis of using his office to further his own political ambition.”
Today’s political stunt is an illegal overreach that continues a dangerous pattern by Ron DeSantis of using his office to further his own political ambition. It spits in the face of the voters of Hillsborough County who have twice elected me to serve *them*, not Ron DeSantis… pic.twitter.com/RzPXksSSWa
— Andrew Warren (@AndrewWarrenFL) August 4, 2022
“The people have the right to elect their own leaders — not have them dictated by an aspiring presidential candidate,” Warren said, noting DeSantis’s ambitions for higher office.
“Based on the governor’s track record with unconstitutional orders, this will be just as unconstitutional,” he went on.
Warren further condemned the governor’s action during a Thursday interview on CNN.
The order is “not even talking about things that I’ve done in the office,” Warren said. “It is talking about things I may do in the future…I mean this is out of, like, 1984 Orwellian thought police.”
White House summoned Chinese ambassador to condemn provocations
Schumer: Inflation Reduction Act Has Votes to Pass After Concessions to Sinema
Conservative Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) announced on Thursday that she will support the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) after Democratic leaders agreed to take out proposals to raise taxes on businesses and the wealthy in order to fund the bill.
Sinema said in a statement that, after the Senate parliamentarian reviews the budget package, she will “move forward” with the bill. With Sinema’s support, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) says that the Senate now has all 50 Democrats on board to pass the bill via a simple majority vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris’s vote being the 51st.
Sinema’s opposition was likely the last roadblock Democrats needed to clear after they announced the bill last week following negotiations with conservative Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). Among the many large concessions made to appease Manchin are fossil fuel industry giveaways and the exclusion of a host of proposals to support middle- and lower-income Americans. In order to get Sinema’s support, Democrats also had to nix plans to close a tax loophole that allows the wealthy to dodge millions of dollars in taxes.
The carried interest loophole, which allows private equity investors and hedge fund managers to pay a lower tax rate on their incomes due to lower taxes on capital gains, was slated to raise $14 billion in funds over the next decade.
But lobbyists have long lobbied against proposals to close the loophole, and many of those same lobbyists have targeted Sinema in particular on the IRA, taking out ads in Arizona to sway the lawmaker against the proposal. Instead of the carried interest proposal, Democrats have added a 1 percent excise tax on companies’ stock buyback plans to raise funds, according to CNN.
Sinema had also raised concerns about the 15 percent corporate minimum tax proposal, which is the main revenue raiser in the bill. In fact, lobbyists said that she had directly asked business groups in private calls if the proposal was “written in a way that’s bad” for the businesses. But nixing the minimum tax would weaken Manchin’s goal of reducing the deficit, and it’s unclear if the proposal is still in the bill.
More proposals may be taken out after the Senate parliamentarian reviews the budget reconciliation bill, in which all of the proposals must have an impact on the nation’s budget. It’s unclear if the parliamentarian will rule against any parts of the bill.
Currently, the bill contains about $433 billion in new spending, $369 billion of which will be directed toward climate initiatives that it is estimated will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by the end of the decade. But the bill also includes major giveaways to the fossil fuel industry — giveaways so significant that executives at major oil and gas companies like Exxon have thrown their support behind the package.
Another proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate a limited number of prescription drug prices made it into the bill, which is a mere shadow of last year’s Build Back Better Act. At its smallest, that bill was worth $1.75 trillion, and included a wide range of proposals that are now off the table, like guaranteed paid family leave.
Republicans are colluding to get the drug price proposal nixed by the parliamentarian — and, though the parliamentarian’s opinion is merely a suggestion and there is no legal mandate to follow it, Democrats had allowed a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 to be nixed from their bill last year after the parliamentarian ruled against it.
Schumer announced on Thursday that the Senate will be taking the first steps to pass the bill when the chamber reconvenes on Sunday. If it passes with all 50 Democratic votes, the chamber will begin a “vote-a-rama,” an often cumbersome process during which lawmakers can introduce an unlimited number of amendments to the bill. The bill will then go to the House.
Some such amendments will come from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). Because Democrats have made significant concessions to Manchin and his corporate and fossil fuel donors, the bill is now much weaker than what progressives had originally wanted last year. As such, Sanders announced on Wednesday that he would be introducing provisions to remove proposals to expand the oil and gas industry from the bill and to expand Medicare and the drug price plan, and encouraged others to introduce amendments to strengthen the package.
The Secret Service Text Cover-Up Keeps Getting Bigger
The growing super-scandal surrounding text messages from 1/6 that were deleted by the Secret Service, Homeland Security and now the Department of Defense leaves one grasping for adjectives that fit the moment. Journalist Seth Abramson was unequivocal on Tuesday — “Biggest Cover-up in American History” — and I am hard-pressed to dispute him.
“So now we have missing Secret Service texts that could establish contacts between Donald Trump and the domestic terrorists of Stop the Steal, missing DHS texts that would reveal secret lobbying by Trump’s ‘legal team,’ and possibly missing Pentagon texts about *martial law*,” Abramson wrote on Twitter. “The *practical* question, now: do Americans have a moral right to presume the worst about Trump entities that deliberately destroyed federal evidence regarding January 6? Has the USSS, DOD or DHS left us with any choice but to assume the deleted texts would be incriminating?”
A moral right? At this juncture, can people reasonably do anything other than expect the worst?
No, the trick here isn’t convincing people that a pack of Trump-tied insurrectionists scrubbed evidence of their crimes from government devices. The trick is getting people to overcome the amazing gravitational pull of “too much already!” and summon the will to act, to make Congress act, to decide that this seemingly eternal Trumpian farce be halted and broken once and for all. This far, no farther.
It was bad enough when the Secret Service announced it had deliberately deleted all texts from the day before and day of the insurrection. When pressed, they managed to come up with one (1) text message related to the inquiry. The situation screamed “cover-up!” and carried genuinely ominous overtones of potential Secret Service involvement in Donald Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election by way of riot.
On July 29, it was reported that Homeland Security watchdogs knew of the deletions in December, and began in February the process of recovering them, only to have that process abruptly terminated by Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari. “Cuffari, a former adviser to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), has been in his post since July 2019 after being nominated by Trump,” reports The Washington Post. A separate Post report details accusations leveled against Cuffari in 2003, when he “was accused of misleading federal investigators and running ‘afoul’ of ethics regulations while he was in charge of a Justice Department inspector general field office in Tucson.”
On August 1, “Two influential House Democrats called on Monday for two officials at the Department of Homeland Security’s independent watchdog to testify to Congress about the agency’s handling of missing Secret Service text messages from the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, accusing their office of engaging in a cover-up,” according to The New York Times. Joseph Cuffari is one of the two officials so called.
Not shady enough yet? Try this on for size, courtesy of CNN:
The Defense Department wiped the phones of top departing DOD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting any texts from key witnesses to events surrounding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, according to court filings.
The acknowledgment that the phones from the Pentagon officials had been wiped was first revealed in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit American Oversight brought against the Defense Department and the Army. The watchdog group is seeking January 6 records from former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, among other prominent Pentagon officials — having filed initial FOIA requests just a few days after the Capitol attack.
At least the Watergate burglars had the sense to pull their stunt in the dead of night. These clowns are out there in broad daylight trashing crucial evidence pertaining to an attempted coup, and have done so within the walls of the Secret Service, Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.
Not only is this cover-up massive, it is altogether audacious, brazen, almost arrogant… and why not? This is Washington D.C., right? Nobody ever gets into actual trouble here, unless you took a bus from out of town to participate in the Capitol riot. Then, you’re probably busted. The ones who summoned you there and turned you loose? A few deleted texts later and they’re enjoying a steak at the Capitol Hill Club, irony definitely intended.
Consider all this when you hear Trump and his people promote their plans for “Schedule F”: the deliberate replacement of merit-based government employees with people loyal to Trump. Feed this into any “what could happen?” algorithm and smoke will belch from the computer vents.
“Schedule F involves nothing less than the obliteration of vast swaths of the federal workforce,” I wrote last week, “who would reportedly be replaced by employees loyal to Trump and his madding MAGA horde. It is the realization of Steve Bannon’s war on the administrative state, combined with Trump’s apparently bottomless need to inflict chaotic pain in the name of revenge, and would damage the function of the federal government for generations.”
Those deleted texts must be recovered. I have to believe there is a way. “Nothing is ever really deleted” is what they’ve been telling us for years now.
Nothing except, perhaps, the truth.
Remembering NBA legend Bill Russell
Russell, who died July 31, led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles. He was also the first Black head coach in the NBA and a civil rights activist. Originally broadcast in 2001.
Canada to ban import of handguns pending total freeze
Young Americans are living at home longer. We want to hear your stories on why
Recent studies have found younger Americans are living at home longer. Are you aged between 18 and 34 and living in a multigenerational household? We want to hear from you.
(Image credit: The Good Brigade/Getty Images)
Black Panther and Former Political Prisoner Albert Woodfox Has Died of COVID
Albert Woodfox, who was held in solitary confinement longer than any prisoner in U.S. history, has died at the age of 75 due to complications tied to COVID-19. The former Black Panther and political prisoner won his freedom six years ago after surviving nearly 44 years in solitary over a wrongful murder conviction of a prison guard. Fellow imprisoned Panthers Herman Wallace and Robert King were also falsely accused of prison murders, and they collectively became known as the Angola 3. Democracy Now! interviewed Albert Woodfox in his first live TV interview just three days after his 2016 release, and multiple times afterward. “I’m just trying to learn how to be free,” Woodfox said. “I’ve been locked up so long in a prison within a prison.” Woodfox went on to write his memoir, Solitary, and continued to fight for prison reform after his release.TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
Albert Woodfox, who was held in solitary confinement longer than any prisoner in U.S. history, has died at the age of 75 due to complications of COVID-19. The former Black Panther and political prisoner won his freedom six years ago after surviving nearly 44 years in solitary confinement. He helped establish the first chapter of the Black Panther Party at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola to address horrific conditions at the former cotton plantation.
In 1972, he and a fellow imprisoned Panther, Herman Wallace, were falsely accused of stabbing prison guard Brent Miller to death. Woodfox and Wallace always maintained their innocence and said they were targeted for their organizing with the Black Panthers. Miller’s own widow would later urge the state of Louisiana to free Albert Woodfox, after she became convinced he was innocent. Woodfox, Wallace and a third Black Panther, Robert King, were collectively known as the Angola 3. For decades, Amnesty International and other groups campaigned for their release. Robert King was freed in 2001. Herman Wallace was freed in 2013, only after a federal judge threatened to jail the warden of Angola prison if he refused to release him that day. Herman Wallace died one day after his release, of liver cancer. But the state of Louisiana continued to refuse to release Albert Woodfox. He was eventually freed on his 69th birthday, February 19th, 2016.
Three days after his release, Democracy Now!’s Renée Feltz and I interviewed Albert Woodfox in his first live TV interview.
AMY GOODMAN: Albert Woodfox, can you talk about your plans today? You’ve walked out of the prison. You haven’t been free in 45 years. What are you most struck by? What are your greatest challenges now or your moments of joy since Friday?
ALBERT WOODFOX: For me, you know, as strange as it may sound, when I was in prison, I had established who I was and ways to fight for what I believed in. Being released into society, I am having to learn different techniques, you know, of how to — I’m just trying to learn how to be free. I’ve been locked up so long in a prison within a prison. So, for me, it’s just about learning how to live as a free person and just take my time. Right now the world is just speeding so fast for me, and I have to find a way to just slow it down and, you know, just enjoy my family. That’s been a great source of energy.
Being able to sit down with King and laugh and touch him, and he touch me, and hug each other and stuff is, you know, grateful. He has been a man that ever since he walked out of prison, he has spent the last 15 or more years of his life fighting for — to get me and Herman out. And, you know, there are very few human beings who have shown the character and the strength and the determination as my friend and comrade, Robert King. …
You know, the Black Panther Party may not exist, but we still exist. And we continue to — we will continue to struggle to free some of our comrades, and to, you know, stand shoulder to shoulder and try to take on all of the injustices that we can that goes on in America every day.
RENÉE FELTZ: Albert, it’s so great to have you join us. Can you explain the significance of going to visit your mother’s gravesite and why that was the first place that you wanted to go?
ALBERT WOODFOX: Well, when my mom passed away, I had made a request to go to her funeral and say my final goodbye. Warden Burl Cain denied that request. And the same thing happened with my sister when she passed away. My family and friends had made arrangements to allow me to go and say goodbye. Again, Warden Burl Cain denied that. So, for some years now, there has always been this emptiness when it came to my mom and my sister, because I never had a chance to say a final goodbye. And so, that’s why it was important that one of my first acts of being free was to relieve that burden off of my soul.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Albert Woodfox speaking on Democracy Now! February 22nd, 2016, three days after his release after over 40 years in solitary confinement.
Following his release, Albert would go on to spend years speaking out against solitary confinement while campaigning for the release of other political prisoners. He also wrote a remarkable memoir with Leslie George titled Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement. My Story of Transformation and Hope. The memoir won an American Book Award and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In 2019, Democracy Now!’s Juan González and I interviewed Albert Woodfox in our New York studio after the publication of the book.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do you feel today? How have you adjusted, after 43 years in prison?
ALBERT WOODFOX: Well, hopeful. You know, Rob and I still travel around, across America and outside of America, to talk about solitary confinement, which we believe is the most horrible and brutal nonphysical attack upon a human being by another human being. Throughout my four decades-plus of solitary confinement, I’ve watched men go insane, I’ve watched men physically hurt themselves, you know, trying to deal with the pressure of being confined to a 9-by-6 cell 23 hours out of every 24-hour period.
And being free now, I still suffer, you know, claustrophobic attacks. I’m able to address them better now because my physical movement is beyond nine feet now. And so, you know, I can walk in my house. I can go in the backyard of my house. I can go on the sidewalk, or there’s a park, which I often visit, a block and a half away from my house. So, the only remedy for me when I had claustrophobic attacks was the space. So this has made it easier to deal with those attacks.
AMY GOODMAN: And you write, “Gassing prisoners was the number one response by security to deal with any prisoner at Angola who demanded to be treated with dignity. … In the seventies we were gassed so often every prisoner in CCR almost became immune to the tear gas.” You were being gassed in solitary confinement?
ALBERT WOODFOX: Yeah. Well, you know, the sergeants were provided with these little — it’s like a little deodorant can. And if you would try to get a certain, like, more toilet paper, or you complained about the toilet in your cell not working, you know, and if the officers didn’t like the way you were talking, or if you were trying to defend yourself from being handled in a disrespectful manner and stuff, they would squirt the gas in your face, you know? And usually that would be followed by — they would come into your cell and beat you and handcuff you, then bring you and put you in what’s called the dungeon.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In the book, you describe, very graphically, the situation at Angola when you first got there, before you were in solitary, and the rampant rapes that were occurring in the prison. And once you became politically conscious and you were returned there, you talk about how you insisted that on your — in your section, that there was going to be no more rapes. Talk about that and the impact that your political organizing had on the way you dealt with your fellow prisoners.
ALBERT WOODFOX: Well, the incident that started the prison chapter of the party to form anti-rape squads was, I was in my dormitory — I was housed in Hickory 4 at that time — and this young kid was assigned a bed across from me. And the saddest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life is to look at another human being and see that his spirit has been shattered. And this kid, you know, he was just sitting there, and I could see tears rolling out of his eyes. And, you know, I always have believed that, in life, an individual incident raises your level of consciousness. And so, once your level of consciousness is raised, you become aware of whatever conditions, individuals. And so, how you respond to that, you know, is pretty much determined on that level of conscious. And I think at that moment that I said, “I can no longer accept this. I can no longer tolerate this.”
So, the next day, I had a talk with Herman Wallace. And we used to go out on the football field. That’s how we used to have our meetings, like we were practicing football, throwing the football around and having political discussions and stuff. And so we discussed with the other members about the rape and slave trade that was going on in Angola. And so we decided to start providing protection for these kids coming in, to let them know that they had other options, other than being made victims.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you maintain your sanity, 44 years in solitary confinement?
ALBERT WOODFOX: Well, I think the fact that, you know, I was a member of the Black Panther Party. I had a political consciousness. I had values and principles instilled by my mom that I grew into. You know, I didn’t realize how much my mom had built and set a foundation in me, even though I was resisting it. And, you know, over the decades, we had programs geared toward making the men better. We had schools. We used to hold schools and political classes. But, you know, as many battles as we won, as many men as we saved, as many men as we helped keep their sanity, we lost twice as many men, you know. And there were times when I had to fight really hard for my own sanity. And I thank the fact that what I was doing.
You know, throughout all this, I developed an unbelievable love for humanity and dedicated myself to doing whatever I can to better humanity. And so, I remember reading something from Mr. Mandela, and he said, “If a cause is noble, you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.” And I thought what we were doing was a noble cause. So we were prepared. And so the beatings and the gassings and the decades of solitary confinement, you know, was really — although painful and difficult, it never got to the point where they were able to break us.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s amazing to me that rather than just leaving it all behind — I mean, it already consumed so many decades of your life — you are spending your life, free, talking about what’s happening inside. I think, to say the least, it’s impossible for anyone who hasn’t gone through this to understand what it means to live in a 6-by-9-foot cell for more than four decades. How did you maintain your sanity? Describe for us being in that cell, what it felt like.
ALBERT WOODFOX: You know, actually, the measurements to the cell are 6 by 9, six feet wide, nine feet long. But there is actually less space available, because you have two bunks attached to the wall that takes up half of the cell, and you have a toilet bowl, face bowl combination on the back wall, and you have an iron table with a bench on the thing. So you have a very narrow pathway in which you can move back, forward in the cell. You know, when you’re first put in solitary confinement, you go through this period where you want to scream, you know, because nothing you can do to fight this. In hindsight, I would say it was probably the early stages of claustrophobia, you know, but it depend on the individual.
As time goes on, you learn to control your emotions, your feeling of being smothered and being confined. And so, but then, you know, when we’re first put in solitary confinement, you could only have like two or three pair of underwear and a T-shirt. And, you know, you couldn’t have books or radios and those things. Those things were gained later as a result of our resistance and organizing and hunger strikes and stuff like that. We won the right to, you know, change.
AMY GOODMAN: Albert, you wrote, “My proudest achievement in all my years in solitary was teaching a man to read.”
ALBERT WOODFOX: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you do that? And who was this man?
ALBERT WOODFOX: Well, his name’s Charles, and we became good friends. And since, you know, my mom couldn’t read or write anything but her name, you know, there’s certain things people that can’t read or write, certain techniques they use and stuff. And so, I picked this up on him. And, you know, the CCR, the cellblock, is 15 men to a cell. And the uniqueness about, I guess, in Louisiana, is the front of the cell is made out of bars. It’s not a completely concrete enclosed cell. So, I just asked him one day. I said, “Man, you know, don’t get mad, but can you read and write?” And he said, you know, “No, I can’t.” And I just told him. I said, “Well, I can help you learn how to read and write, but you’ve got to really want it. You’ve got to want this badder than anything.”
And so I used the dictionary, starting off. You know, in dictionaries, at the bottom of each page, there’s a sound key on how you pronounce words, as to how they’re spelled. And I taught him about, you know, vowels and adjectives, and, you know, just basically, I teached him how to shape words. And he really wanted it, you know, because I told him — I said, you know, “Any time, I don’t care what, night or day, you hit a wall, you call me.” And he called me 2 or 3 in the morning, you know, and “I can’t pronounce this word.” And so I would ask him to spell it, and then I’d remind him of, you know, the voice key at the bottom of the page and how you pronounce alphabets, and help him, you know, think.
AMY GOODMAN: He was in solitary, too.
ALBERT WOODFOX: Yeah, he was about three or four cells down from me.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you communicate? How did you communicate with other people in solitary?
ALBERT WOODFOX: Well, you talk, holler up and down the tier. You know, this is one of the ways I developed the habit of waking up in the very early a.m., because the tier stops showering. There’s no noise. The doors are not opening and closing. And, you know, so you are able to really concentrate on what you’re doing. So, even now, you know, I wake up 3, 3:30 in the morning, and this is when I do most of my reading. I still read, try to read at least two hours a day. So, there are some things, habits that I developed in prison, I still try to hold onto.
AMY GOODMAN: Your final thoughts, as you go out into the world, as you travel the world taking advantage of every moment in the free world?
ALBERT WOODFOX: Well, you know, my hope has always been for a better humanity and to try to be a part of that, to try to say something or do something that will make, if it’s no more than one human being, stop and think and, you know, start a dialogue that can leave into — that can change into a movement. You know, I’ve always said that one individual can cause chaos; mass movements can cause change. So, you know, I still firmly believe in that.
And so, that’s — you know, Robert and I and Herman, you know, when we were in prison, the one thing we always noticed is that we didn’t have a voice. And because of the men and women and children that were hidden behind the walls of prison and in solitary, nobody knew what we looked like. So we had made a vow that we would be the voice of those men and women and children, and we would be the face.
You know, I think what people in America and around the world have to realize, that prisoners don’t come from another planet. They come from your family. They come from homes. And they might make mistakes. Usually, the economic system brings depression. And, you know, I mean, I know that there is a very small percentage of human beings who do some horrible things, you know, but the overwhelming majority — you know, you come from a family. You don’t come from an alien planet. And they need to, you know, remember that. And they need to love them and support them, you know, because prisons or any state institution, without oversight and without consequences, unchecked power corrupts. And that’s the situation you have in prisons in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Former Black Panther Albert Woodfox, speaking on Democracy Now! in 2019 shortly after the publication of his award-winning book, Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement. My Story of Transformation and Hope. He died Thursday of COVID at the age of 75. We’ll speak to his loved ones after break.
AMY GOODMAN: “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” by Gladys Knight & the Pips, a favorite of Albert Woodfox.
Amazon is buying Roomba vacuum maker iRobot for $1.7 billion
iRobot is most famous for the circular-shaped Roomba vacuum, which would join voice assistant Alexa and Ring security cameras among smart home features offered by Amazon.
(Image credit: Elise Amendola/AP)
Israeli airstrikes in Gaza kill 9, including senior lslamic Jihad leader
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Jury Awards Sandy Hook Parents $4.1 Million in Alex Jones Defamation Case
A jury in Austin, Texas, has awarded the parents of a child victim of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting $4.1 million in their defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who has spread lies about family members of victims for nearly a decade.
Jones’s lies over the years have been devastating, the parents said during the trial, and included claiming on his InfoWars website that their child, Jesse, didn’t actually exist, much less die in the shooting. Jones has also claimed that the grieving parents were paid actors, and falsely described the Sandy Hook shooting as a “hoax” orchestrated by the government in order to influence Americans’ views on gun control.
The parents set to receive the defamation award, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, said that they had been stalked, harassed, and received death threats as a result of Jones’s flagrantly false and incendiary commentary. They had sought $150 million for the defamation and emotional distress they endured, while Jones’s lawyers had argued that he should only have to pay a single dollar after being found guilty.
It’s possible that the parents will be awarded more in punitive damages the jury has yet to decide upon. The jury returns on Friday to begin that process.
“Punitive damages are the opportunity for the jurors to send a message,” said Jill Huntley Taylor, a trial consultant who spoke to The Washington Post.
After it was announced that he owed $4.1 million to the parents, Jones appeared to take no responsibility for his actions, saying that he “followed disinformation, but not on purpose.”
Jones also appeared to view the amount — which is much lower than what the parents had asked for — as a personal win. “I apologized to the families and the jury understood that,” he said, going on to call the outcome a “big victory against the tyrants and the new world order.”
Mark Bankston, a lawyer for the parents, said that they were satisfied with the judgment.
“Neil and Scarlett are thrilled with the result and look forward to putting Mr. Jones’s money to good use,” Bankston said. “With punitive damages still to be decided and multiple additional defamation lawsuits pending, it is clear that Mr. Jones’s time on the American stage is finally coming to an end.”
Earlier this week, Bankston caught Jones in a lie, revealing during a cross-examination that Jones’s lawyers had accidentally sent him two years worth of phone data. Although Jones had previously testified that he hadn’t sent messages about the parents or other family members of Sandy Hook victims, the phone data proved otherwise.
Bankston then asked a flustered, sweaty and visibly nervous Jones if he knew “what perjury is,” alluding to the possibility of more legal consequences for the InfoWars host in the future.
It’s also possible that Jones’s phone records will be examined by the January 6 committee, as they may include his conversations with allies of former President Donald Trump in the run-up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol building — including his communications with the Oath Keepers, a far right militant group that had discussed providing Jones and others with security on the day of the attack.
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(Image credit: Jodi Westrick/Michigan Radio)