Seattle Clears ‘Occupied’ CHAZ/CHOP Zone Amid Protester Resistance

07-01-2020 Associated Press (www1.cbn.com)

Seattle police block a street with their bikes in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, July 1, 2020. Police in Seattle have torn down demonstrators' tents in the city's occupied protest zone after the mayor ordered it cleared. (AP Photo/Aron Ranen)

Seattle police block a street with their bikes in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, July 1, 2020. Police in Seattle have torn down demonstrators’ tents in the city’s occupied protest zone after the mayor ordered it cleared. (AP Photo/Aron Ranen)

SEATTLE (AP) – Seattle police early Wednesday showed up in force at the city’s “occupied” protest zone, tore down demonstrators’ tents, and used bicycles to herd the protesters so the officers could carry out an executive order from the mayor for the area to be vacated.

Television images showed no immediate signs of clashes between the police, many dressed in riot gear, and dozens of protesters at the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone that was set up near downtown following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Police moved into the zone known as CHOP at about 5 a.m. and a loud bang was heard at about 6:15 a.m. followed by a cloud of smoke. KUOW radio reported police had made at least 10 arrests by 5:30 a.m.


Pedestrians walk in Seattle, where streets are blocked off in what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) zone (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The protesters have occupied several blocks around a park for about two weeks and police had abandoned a precinct station following standoffs and clashes with the protesters, who called for racial justice and an end to police brutality.

Police on Wednesday said they moved in to protect the public after Mayor Jenny Durkan issued the order for protesters to leave.

“Since demonstrations at the East Precinct area began on June 8th, two teenagers have been killed and three people have been seriously wounded in late-night shootings,” Seattle police said on Twitter. “Police have also documented robberies, assaults, and other violent crimes.

The tweet added that “suspects in recent shootings may still be in the area, and because numerous people in the area are in possession of firearms.” 

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said in a statement that she supports peaceful demonstrations but that “enough is enough.”

“The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings–-two fatal-robberies, assaults, violence, and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area,” she said.

There had been mounting calls by critics, including President Donald Trump, to remove protesters following the fatal shootings.

Protesters have said they should not be blamed for the violence in the area. 

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

If Colin Kaepernick snags Nobel Prize, he’ll reach it by standing on big shoulders

SPORTING GREEN // SCOTT OSTLER

Scott Ostler July 1, 2020 Comments (SFChroncle.com)

Colin Kaepernick looks on during his NFL workout held at Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Ga., on November 16, 2019. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/TNS)
1of2Colin Kaepernick looks on during his NFL workout held at Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Ga., on November 16, 2019. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/TNS)Photo: Carmen Mandato / TNS
Dr. Edwards thinks Kaepernick deserves more than another NFL job.
2of2Dr. Edwards thinks Kaepernick deserves more than another NFL job.Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle 2018

If Colin Kaepernick winds up being awarded a Nobel Prize, will that beef up his resume enough to get him a job as an NFL quarterback?

Sorry, that’s a silly question, beneath the dignity of one man’s campaign to see Kaepernick honored by the Peace Prize folks in Oslo.

Dr. Harry Edwards, noted sports sociologist, plans to nominate Kaepernick for the Nobel Peace Prize. Edwards’ timing is good, with Kaepernick’s stock soaring, but it would be a mistake to call Edwards a bandwagon jumper.

The good doctor helped design and build that bandwagon.

Four years ago, when Kaepernick was receiving more jeers than cheers for his kneeling protests during NFL national anthems, Edwards gathered up a Kaepernick No. 7 49ers jersey and a pair of his cleats, and shipped them to the National Museum of African American history and Culture in Washington, D.C., where they are on display.

“A Nobel nomination was always my ultimate goal for Kaepernick,” Edwards told me this week, “not only because he deserves it, but because he would stand in representation of all of the other unsung athletes who have contributed and sacrificed so much while paving the way and priming the pump for those who would come after.”

Edwards is referring to Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Curt Flood, Jesse Owens and many other sports figures deeply involved in — and leaders of — the struggle for equal rights.

Doc can talk. He has a way with words, he’s got a boatload of ’em, and he plans to use some of them to convince the Nobel committee that Kaepernick is worthy.

“Kaepernick’s commitment, courage and sacrifices were carried out with a silent dignity that spoke to the world of the urgency of his call for justice and human rights, and the world has responded,” Edwards said.

Edwards beefs up his case by linking Kaepernick to his predecessors. Their efforts are all intertwined, a continuum of courage.

Here’s an example: When Robinson broke through Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947, he modeled the strategy, commitment and steely resolve that would become tools of the Civil Rights movement that would heat up a decade later. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. learned from a baseball player.

Robinson inspired King, who inspired Barack Obama. King and Obama have been awarded Nobel Prizes, but not Robinson. Time to let sports folk in on the party? Edwards believes it is, and in his position as sociology professor emeritus at Cal, he has the power to nominate.

Here’s another example: Edwards’ Olympic Project for Human Rights led to the 1968 Olympics medal-stand protest by U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos. When Nelson Mandela was in prison in South Africa, he had a photo of the Smith-Carlos protest smuggled into his cell on Robben Island, and used that photo to illustrate how sports can be a venue for resistance and change.

Mandela also invoked Edwards’ doctorate thesis on how sports can model resistance and display new values.

My favorite part of Edwards’ campaign is his suggestion to the committee as to what image they should keep in mind as they consider Kaepernick. You would never, ever guess what that image is. Not Kaepernick kneeling, not Smith and Carlos on the medal stand, not Robinson dancing off third, challenging the world.When Colin Kaepernick ran wild against the PackersVideo: San Francisco Chronicle

First, Edwards notes, “Women have always represented the very best in what is America,” and cites powerful symbols such as the Statue of Liberty and the blindfolded Lady Justice.

In 2003, a 13-year-old girl was chosen to sing the national anthem before an NBA game in Portland. The girl stumbled on the words and was near humiliation and panic when she was rescued by Trail Blazers head coach Maurice Cheeks, who stepped in and led the girl and the crowd through the anthem.

Portland Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks, left, joins in with Natalie Gilbert in singing the national anthem before Portland’s playoff game against the Dallas Mavericks in Portland, Ore., Friday, April 25, 2003. Gilbert had faltered and stopped singing, and Cheeks walked over from the bench to help her finish the song. (AP Photo) HOUCHRON CAPTION (05/04/2003-2-STAR)(05/04/2003): The often cold and hard sports world caught a warm and soft side of Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks, left, when he helped 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert finish the national anthem. HOUCHRON CAPTION (07/06/2003): Portland Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks comes to 13-year- old Natalie Gilbert’s rescue before an April NBA playoff game.Photo: AP

To Edwards, that girl represents a youthful nation, America, being helped and uplifted by a black athletic figure. Sure, that’s a bit of a stretch, an odd mashup of symbols, but you have to give it to Doc Edwards for creativity.

Some of us thought Kaepernick’s highest aspiration would be to get another NFL job. Edwards thinks bigger.

Scott Ostler is a columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: sostler@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @scottostler

Scott Ostler

Follow Scott on: https://www.facebook.com/SFChronicle/scottostler

Scott Ostler has been a sports columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle since 1991. He has covered five Olympics for The Chronicle, as well as one soccer World Cup and numerous World Series, Super Bowls and NBA Finals.

Though he started in sports and is there now, Scott took a couple of side trips into the real world for The Chronicle. For three years he wrote a daily around-town column, and for one year, while still in sports, he wrote a weekly humorous commentary column.

He has authored several books and written for many national publications. Scott has been voted California Sportswriter of the Year 13 times, including six times while at The Chronicle. He moved to the Bay Area from Southern California, where he worked for the Los Angeles Times, the National Sports Daily and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

©2020 Hearst

The platform of the Movement for Black Lives

2020 Policy Platform (m4bl.org)

The Preamble
END THE WAR ON BLACK COMMUNITIES
END THE WAR ON BLACK YOUTH
END THE WAR ON BLACK WOMEN
END THE WAR ON BLACK TRANS, QUEER, GENDER NONCONFORMING AND INTERSEX PEOPLE
END THE WAR ON BLACK HEALTH AND BLACK DISABLED PEOPLE
END THE WAR ON BLACK MIGRANTS
END TO ALL JAILS, PRISONS, AND IMMIGRATION DETENTION
END THE DEATH PENALTY
END THE WAR ON DRUGS
END THE SURVEILLANCE ON BLACK COMMUNITIES
END TO PRETRIAL DETENTION AND MONEY BAIL
THE DEMILITARIZATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT
END THE USE OF PAST CRIMINAL HISTOY

Will New York Launch a Public Bank?

AUTHOR Sadef Ali Kully

DATE June 25, 2020 (citylimits.org)

Senator James Sanders
Senator James Sanders of Queens is the lead sponsor of the Senate’s public-banking bill.

Now is the time to create  a public banking system as the city prepares for deep budget cuts amid an inequitable economic crisis stemming from the Coronavirus pandemic, advocates testified Wednesday.

The state legislature is considering a bill, introduced in January, which would authorize local municipalities to lend money to public banks and authorize public ownership of stock in them.

The bill is currently both in the state Assembly and Senate legislature’s banks committees for evaluation before it is scheduled for a vote. The Senate bill S5565A and the Assembly bill A09665A, introduced by Queens state Senator James Sanders and state Assemblymember Ron Kim, respectively.

“Through public banking, New York can reinvest in local communities and strengthen our economy. Public banks would support small and worker-owned businesses, affordable housing, living-wage jobs, responsible financial services, renewable energy and other sustainable infrastructure, and more – meeting critical community needs and strengthening our ability to withstand future crises,” said Tousif Ahsan, the Civic Engagement Coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), in testimony Wednesday.

A public bank is a bank of which a state, municipality or other public entity is the owner–unlike a private bank, where the owners are usually private shareholders. Current major public banking models include the Bank of North Dakota and the German Public Bank System as well as many nations’ postal bank systems. In North Dakota, the public banking system was created to serve its agricultural economy and has existed for more than a century. 

Last October, California passed a law that would allow local counties and municipalities to create public banks. The following month, San Francisco launched a task force to create a plan for establishing a public bank for that city. The task force report is due June 30th.

In New York, Public Bank NYC, a coalition of over 30 advocacy groups, has been pushing elected officials for the last two years to create a public bank system for local or state governments. NYPIRG, Chayya Community Development Corporation, New Economy Project, South Bronx Unite, Cooper Square Committee, New York Communities for Change, Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union are some of the members of the coalition.

According to the coalition, under current law, local governments who are interested in establishing a public bank must apply for a commercial bank charter, which advocates say forces the local government to change the public banking approach to conform to a system designed for private, for-profit banking. 

The Sanders bill would update and authorize the state Department of Financial Services to issue special-purpose public bank charters to counties and regions across the city. 

“In New York, all the money that gets collected by a city or a state has to go somewhere. So the city collects your taxes, it collects fees and interest from all different sources and that money is being spent in different ways throughout the year. But there’s always a pool of like several billion dollars, which is the city’s cashflow,” says Andy Morrison, campaigns director for New Economy Project (a group in the Public Bank NYC coalition). 

Morrison said the mayor, the comptroller and the head of the department of finance, appointed by the mayor, decide which banks are designated to the city’s capital. JP Morgan Chase is one of the banks. 

Morrison said the city should create its own institution so that, instead of giving it to Wall Street banks to hold onto, it can leverage it. For example, in North Dakota, the state deposits revenue in the public bank and then it is able to leverage those deposits and make loans to support economic development within the state. Public banks can also partner with smaller community banks and smaller credit unions that serve low-income, immigrant neighborhoods and communities of color around the city to expand financial options for consumers.

Advocates in their testimony said the case for public banking was strengthened by the way  for-profit banking reacted during the Coronavirus epidemic.  “Big banks have shut out small businesses from desperately-needed emergency relief,” read the testimony, during the pandemic crisis and a public bank would support small businesses hardest-hit by COVID-19, “Through public banking, New York can reinvest in local communities and strengthen our economy. Public banks would support small and worker-owned businesses, affordable housing, living-wage jobs, responsible financial services, renewable energy and other sustainable infrastructure, and more – meeting critical community needs and strengthening our ability to withstand future crises.”

Not everyone loves the idea of public banking. “The risks of public banks are many, but a scattered business focus, undue political influence and lack of oversight top the list,” read a 2018 op-ed in The Hill. “Distant U.S. history records the experience of several state banks — and they were not happy ones. Nearly all failed, usually because of political interference that resulted in making risky loans or operating with too little capital (or both), then collapsing when boom times ended.” 

The author, Rob Nichols, is the president and CEO of the American Bankers Association. The opposition of the banking industry could be formidable: Over the past decade, banks, banking trade groups and PACs have donated more than $3.5 million to candidates for local and state office throughout New York, according to a state Board of Elections database.

US coronavirus ‘bailout’ scam is $6 trillion giveaway to Wall St – Economist Michael Hudson explains

Moderate Rebels Facing the Covid-19 pandemic, the US Congress rammed through the CARES Act — which economist Michael Hudson explains is not a “bailout” but a massive, $6 trillion giveaway to Wall Street, banks, large corporations, and stockholders. Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton discuss the enormous financial scam with Hudson, who reveals how the economy actually works, with the Federal Reserve printing money so rich elites don’t lose their investments. TRANSCRIPT, show notes, and links: https://moderaterebels.com/transcript… PART 1 OF 2 Part 2: https://moderaterebels.com/transcript… Michael Hudson’s website: https://michael-hudson.com (Interview recorded on April 13, 2020) ||| Moderate Rebels ||| Please consider supporting us on PATREON: https://www.patreon.com/ModerateRebels Website: https://moderaterebels.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/moderate_rebels Facebook: https://facebook.com/moderaterebelsradio Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/moderaterebels Minds: https://minds.com/moderaterebels Steemit: https://steemit.com/@moderaterebels#ModerateRebels

The People Must Rise Up and Remove Trump-Pence From This Horror Show Handling of the Pandemic

July 02, 2020 by Common Dreams

The citizenry must quickly mount irresistible pressure for Trump and Pence to step aside.

by Ralph Nader

 50 Comments

The country simply cannot wait until Inauguration Day, January 21, 2021. (Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

The country simply cannot wait until Inauguration Day, January 21, 2021. (Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Major changes in society can be accomplished by a fast-emerging, broad-based civic jolt so obvious and persuasive that it overwhelms the entrenched powers. The most urgent job is for people to organize to get Trump and Pence to step aside from their bungling, making-matters-worse mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic. The White House should let a professional pandemic control specialist with public health experience and an appreciation of science replace the current and ongoing Trump horror show.

Many Republican operatives watching the daily Trump virus spectacle are terrified by how the President fabricates, fantasizes, confuses, and endangers the country. As Trump lowers his and their poll numbers, Republicans would welcome such a replacement.

“We the People,” are seeing the failing Donald Trump over-riding his own scientists and paralyzing any federal leadership and coordination of state efforts, as he measures all moves by his delusional ego. The citizenry must quickly mount irresistible pressure for Trump and Pence to step aside. Let Trump focus on the November election, which is all he cares about anyway, apart from watching Fox News for hours each day, lying to the public and endlessly tweeting slanders and insults.

Trump is so cruel and out of touch that he is letting his henchman cut nursing home safety regulations, end health and safety protections for workers, consumers, and communities, and pursue the end of Obamacare by stripping 23 million Americans of their health insurance. Doing this in the middle of a worsening killer pandemic is sheer madness. We have a president at the helm of a careening ship of state acting worse than Captain Queeg.

Would any community tolerate, in Maureen Dowd’s words, such “chaos, cruelty, deception and incompetence,” in their local public safety officials?

Every day the Trump virus spreads further, while its presidential enabler is making sure sick Americans are left unprotected, and workers are left unemployed.

To be sure, there have been thousands of articles, columns, editorials, and TV/radio reports of the grotesque delays, perverse actions, quackery, and faking over the grim realities by Trump and Pence. All this takes place against the backdrop of his blundering son-in-law who is overseeing and furthering corrupt corporate bailouts. But, inexplicably, reporters and columnists avoid the conclusions that should stem from their own convictions and writings. One exception is the Washington Post editorial in May 2020, calling for Trump and Pence to step aside and let people who know what they’re doing take the reins.

The country simply cannot wait until Inauguration Day, January 21, 2021. Every day the Trump virus spreads further, while its presidential enabler is making sure sick Americans are left unprotected, and workers are left unemployed. More and more innocents are paying the ultimate price for this public health and economic disaster.

The failed gambling czar, selected to be our fake president by the unelected Electoral College, crazily gives himself a “ten” rating, admits no mistakes, and refuses to learn from other nation’s comparative successes against the virus.

Putting health professionals in charge of the “war” against the Covid-19 pandemic has worked in Taiwan, New Zealand, Thailand, Uruguay, and Canada’s British Columbia and other countries with sane leadership. These countries are showing far, far superior life-saving results and fewer economic convulsions.

Mr. Trump, if you’re not going to resign for America’s sake, at the least, step aside for your own political campaign’s sake. A coordinated civic jolt and a laser-beam demand from the people can make you and the alarmed GOP realize you are not capable of doing the job that needs to be done. Of course, if Congress wasn’t a rubber stamp, our first branch of government could stop this lethal incompetence by mandating professional pandemic management.

For those doubters of this happening, remember the ringing statement by the demanding abolitionist Frederick Douglass—”Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”  Trump is a paper mache figure who hides behind bluffs and snarls. A civic jolt can displace him much like the statutes of slavers.

Start your “step aside” demand by calling the White House opinion phone number 202-456-1111. Urge your friends to do the same. There is no time to delay.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest books include: To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn’t Too Late to Reverse CourseHow the Rats Re-Formed the CongressBreaking Through Power: It’s easier than we think, and Animal Envy: A Fable

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Governor Newsom Signs California’s Public Banking Act Into Law

Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom gets an enthusiastic greeting on Market Street at the 2005 Pride Parade (Mark Constantini/The Chronicle 2005)

By Lucille Bartholomew on October 7, 2019 (covfinancialservices.com)

On October 2, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed California’s Public Banking Act, AB 857, into law.  California previously prohibited cities and counties from extending credit to any person or corporation, and required that local agencies deposit all funds to state or national banks.  

Sunrise Movement Says Wins by Corporate Democrats Like McGrath and Hickenlooper Must Be ‘Moment of Reckoning’ for Progressives

July 01, 2020 by Common Dreams

“These were not races that progressives could afford to sit out, but too many organizations did.”

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer

 28 Comments

U.S. Senate candidates Andrew Romanoff of Colorado and Charles Booker of Kentucky were defeated in Democratic primary races in June.

U.S. Senate candidates Andrew Romanoff (L) of Colorado and Charles Booker (R) of Kentucky were defeated in Democratic primary races in June. (Photos: Andrew Romanoff/Facebook; Charles Booker/Facebook)

After a pair of U.S. Senate candidates backed by the Sunrise Movement was defeated by more corporate-friendly centrists in recent Democratic primary races, the youth-led climate group’s political director expressed hope Wednesday that the losses would serve as “a moment of reckoning for the progressive movement, and that all of us reflect on what we can do to build power and take advantage of these races going forward.”

“These were winnable races if more organizations decided to prioritize them.”
—Evan Weber, Sunrise Movement

“I’m not going to say these races are important moral victories that mean we need to work harder next time; the truth is, these races were ours for the taking and progressives blew it,” the movement’s Evan Weber said in a statement. “These were not races that progressives could afford to sit out, but too many organizations did.”

Sunrise had endorsed former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who was beat Tuesday by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. They were competing to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November.

The movement had also supported Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker. After all the votes of last week’s election were tallied, he was defeated by Amy McGrath, who will face off against GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“The final results show we could have won,” Weber said Wednesday. “Despite being outspent by almost $20 million in Kentucky, and 7-to-1 in Colorado, we fell only just short. These were winnable races if more organizations decided to prioritize them.”

He further warned of the potential electoral and political consequences of these two losses, explaining:

Voters are tired of cookie cutter Democrats who pretend they’re Republicans and who listen to consultants and donors, instead of working people. When voters learn they have a choice and hear about our candidates, they want to vote for people like Charles and Andrew. These candidates need us to have their backs and help them get the resources they need to spread their message.

That didn’t happen in time for Charles and Andrew, and because of that, Democrats’ chances of flipping the Senate seats in Colorado and Kentucky just went way down. That makes everything else we’re fighting for a lot harder, from a Green New Deal to Medicare for All.

Weber urged U.S. progressives to get “serious” about matching the party establishment’s discipline while also acknowledging that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which works to elect party members to the upper chamber, “is not an easy beast to take on.”

When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “decides to anoint somebody, he pulls out all the stops, and puts so much money in their bank account that they don’t even know what to do with it,” Weber said, referencing the DSCC’s support for the victors in Colorado and Kentucky.

“We’ve proven in these races that we don’t need to match their spending dollar for dollar if we run candidates who better speak to the electorate,” Weber added, “but we will keep losing these races if we don’t come in early enough to make a difference, if we refuse to support movement candidates together when they make the brave, difficult choice to step up and run for office without bank accounts full of cash.”

Despite the recent defeats, Sunrise celebrated victories in New York last week when first-term Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the lead House sponsor of the Green New Deal, swept her primary race in the 14th Congressional District and former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman won his race in the 17th District.

Sunrise has endorsed Dr. Arati Kreibich—a city council member and neuroscientist who is facing off against right-wing Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey’s 5th District on July 7—as well as Mike Siegel, a civil rights attorney and former public school teacher who will take on Pritesh Gandhi in Texas’ 10th District on July 14.

The movement is also supporting other progressives in upcoming Democratic primaries, including Alex Morse‘s challenge to Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) on September 1 as well as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), whose election is on August 4, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the lead sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the upper chamber, whose primary fight against Rep. Joe Kennedy III is on September 1.

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PUTIN DECLARED TRIUMPHANT IN REFERENDUM ALLOWING HIM TO RULE UNTIL 2036 – FIVE HOURS BEFORE POLLS CLOSE

Opposition groups cast doubt on projection of overwhelming support for amendments that would allow Putin to stay in power past 2024 

Oiled by the Kremlin’s election machine, the result of Vladimir Putin’s vote on constitutional reform – one that would allow him to rule until 2036 – was never in doubt.

But the decision by Russia’s election commission to publish “preliminary” live results five hours before polling closed was a novelty that shocked even the most cynical of observers.

The initial projection of 73 per cent in favour of amendments was broadly in line with exit polls published by state pollsters FOM and VTsIOM. They projected 70 per cent and 76 per cent respectively, also before the end of polling.

Opposition groups painted an altogether different picture. At 5.30pm local time (3.30pm GMT), their own exit polls projected a near tie in Moscow (47.76 per cent for, 52.24 against) and a heavy defeat for the president in his home city of St Petersburg (38.2 percent for, 61.8 per cent against).

The constitutional plebiscite was an unusual electoral exercise for Russia, with polling stretched over seven days and in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic. Authorities said the unprecedented measure was necessary to ensure safe voting.

Read more

For critics, it was a trick to boost turnout from a population tired of their longtime leader.

The vote is taking place in a tricky period for Mr Putin, who has lost much of his glow after a torrid few months of largely absent Covid-19 crisis management. According to Levada Centre, Russia’s most independent pollster, Mr Putin is still trusted by 59 per cent of Russians, but that figure is down 30 per cent from a post-Crimea high of three years ago.

In open polling, ie when Russians are asked to name the politicians they most trust themselves, support drops to 29 per cent. The figure is lowest among young voters, with less than one in 10 expressing affiliation.✕

This week’s ballot asked for a “yes” or “no” answer to 206 amendments in entirety, with the proposal to reset term limits buried deep amongst them. It was “technically impossible” to ask voters to go through the changes one by one, authorities claimed.

Invariably, official campaign literature focused on the other 205 amendments, targeting populist pressure points from marriage as a heterosexual union, to indexation guarantees for pensions and other social benefits. In his address to the nation on Tuesday, Mr Putin made no mention of the all-important clause on term limits.

On their part, officials claimed the vote to be Russia’s cleanest yet. Deputy elections chief Nikolai Bulayev talked about a “breakthrough” in the low number of complaints received.

Mr Putin said that election manipulation methods such as forced voting, “rounding errors” in counting and inflating turnout were “inadmissible”. But there was evidence of all methods being rolled out – and more.

On Thursday, the first day of voting, Pavel Lobkov, a journalist for the independent Dozhd television channel, reported he had managed to vote twice. He was later questioned by police for his efforts, with prosecutors now threatening criminal charges for “election fraud”.

A week earlier, a colleague from the same channel was taken in for questioning after he uncovered a corrupt scheme to register elderly voters for electronic voting. Some of the most egregious manipulations during the week were recorded in the northern capital of St Petersburg.

There, election officials were recorded by local journalists stuffing papers into the ballot box. At another polling station, an election observer claimed officials refused to give him access to voting numbers.

When journalist David Frenkel followed up on these claims a day later, he was seriously assaulted by a police officer and another unidentified man. He ended up in hospital with a broken shoulder bone.

The election monitoring group Golos reported a total of 1,500 separate infringements during the seven-day vote. Ella Pamfilova, Mr Bulayev’s boss at the election commission, dismissed the claims, and Golos as a “toxic and degraded” organisation.

Ilya Azar, the journalist who has become an unexpected alternative protest figurehead, has announced a protest for 6pm local time (4pm BST) in Pushkin Square. He was responding to a “coup d’etat”, he said in a Facebook post. But in an open admission of the impossibility of protesting in Russia, he said he would not be openly encouraging others to join him.

“Let every man decide for himself,” he said. “They should know 20,000 rouble [£230] fines and 30-day jail terms are very likely.”

SF Vietnam War vet Lee Thorn, peace activist who aided Laos, dead at 77

Kevin Fagan June 29, 2020 (SFChronicle.com)

Six years after he went to Laos to launch the first pedal-powered wireless computer designed for remote villages, San Franciscan Lee Thorn's project was creating a new network of medical computers in Vietnam to help rural clinics trade up-to-date information over the Internet. The peace activist has died at 77.
1of3Six years after he went to Laos to launch the first pedal-powered wireless computer designed for remote villages, San Franciscan Lee Thorn’s project was creating a new network of medical computers in Vietnam to help rural clinics trade up-to-date information over the Internet. The peace activist has died at 77.Photo: Kevin Fagan, The Chronicle
Lee Thorn, right, a Vietnam veteran and founder of San Francisco's Jhai Foundation, explains to Laotian schoolgirls how the world's first wireless, bicycle-powered PC will operate. Associated Press photo by Apichart Weerawong
2of3Lee Thorn, right, a Vietnam veteran and founder of San Francisco’s Jhai Foundation, explains to Laotian schoolgirls how the world’s first wireless, bicycle-powered PC will operate. Associated Press photo by Apichart Weerawong
San Francisco peace activist Lee Thorn has died at 77.
3of3San Francisco peace activist Lee Thorn has died at 77.Photo: Chris Stewart / San Francisco Chronicle

The Vietnam War left a terrible mark on Lee Thorn, searing him with post-traumatic stress disorder from guilty memories of loading bombs onto jets to rain fiery death upon Laos. So he left a mark in return.

After mustering out of the U.S. Navy in 1967, he co-founded Veterans for Peace and then devoted his life to trying to heal the impoverished nation he helped devastate all those years ago.

Throughout decades of tireless campaigns, Thorn uplifted poor villagers in Laos by installing pedal-powered computers and supporting jungle coffee farmers, medical clinics and bomb-clearance campaigns. Just before he died of cancer at 77 on June 25 near his San Francisco home, some of his final words were about the country he had come to adore.All the stories, all the timeUnlock The Chronicle for 95¢SUBSCRIBE

“I tried to do the best I could to make up for what we’d done there,” he told The Chronicle by phone from his hospice bed at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, where he died. His voice was barely perceptible, weakened by the disease. “I wish I could have done a lot more.”

When reminded of the efforts he’d made and how he had overcome the homelessness and alcoholism he sank into after the war, he managed a chuckle.

“Yeah, it’s been a pretty good ride, hasn’t it?” he whispered.

Thorn made his first stride into activism after his 1967 honorable discharge from the Navy when, as a student at UC Berkeley, he co-founded the Veterans for Peace group. A forerunner of the veterans anti-war movement, the group grew to 65,000 members by 1972, as Thorn combined efforts with fellow Vietnam veteran and future Secretary of State John Kerry and activist-singer Joan Baez. When it later merged with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Thorn settled into a career as a community organizer for peace, disability rights and anti-poverty causes.

Lee Thorn with helpers Theresa Kingston and Damon Styer paste labels on coffee bags. Chronicle photo by Katy Raddatz

Lee Thorn with helpers Theresa Kingston and Damon Styer paste labels on coffee bags. Chronicle photo by Katy Raddatz

In 1998, he read a newsletter article by Bounthanh Phommasathit, a Laotian woman who had fled the village of Phon Hong in the 1970s to become a social worker in Ohio. She wanted to help her people back home. Thorn and a friend stuffed backpacks with medical supplies, delivered them to Phon Hong, and the widespread reaction by veterans and Laotians was so positive he founded the Jhai Foundation with Phommasathit’s help.

Jhai means “hearts and minds working together” in Laotian, and until its recent closure it provided economic and technical help to poor villages throughout Laos. Its biggest moment came in 2003, when Thorn recruited tech pioneer Lee Felsenstein to create a computer that could be powered by bicycle pedals and communicate through Wi-Fi cards tacked to mountaintop trees.

The idea was to give internet access to Laotians living in huts with no electricity so they could find current prices for rice, silk and chickens and not be lowballed by city buyers. Thorn and Felsenstein — who invented the Osborne 1, the world’s first portable computer — led a team to Laos to install the so-called Jhai Computer, and after several tries the Jhai took hold as the first pedal-powered wireless computer designed for Third World villages.

Thorn expanded his efforts in Laos to include exporting coffee beans to America, installing wells, and supporting efforts to clear unexploded bombs and mines from the countryside. U.S. forces dumped 2 million tons of bombs on Laos, making it the most heavily bombed nation per capita in history.

Asked what disturbed him most about participating in the Vietnam War, Thorn would say it was his hitch on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger loading cluster bombs and phosphorous rockets onto warplanes headed over the ancient Plain of Jars and other targets in Laos.

At night, he screened on-board films of the sorties.

“Guys would die, and I would close down inside a little more each time,” Thorn recalled. “What we were doing, killing that many people from the air, broke something inside of me.”

Thorn was born in Kansas City, Mo., to Lee Everett Thorn II, a movie theater executive, and Shirley Thorn, a school nurse. After his Navy service and as he built his career as an activist, Thorn married, divorced, and struggled with homelessness and alcoholism before getting clean and earning an MBA at the University of San Francisco. In 1988, he married Bernadette McAnulty, and they remained together in San Francisco until his death.

“My dad understood that real change in the world is what matters,” said Thorn’s son, National Public Radio host Jesse Thorn.

“To have unconditional acceptance in the place where he went to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, and to know his work engendered gratitude and not resentment, meant so much to him,” he said. “And I felt it when I went to Bounthanh’s village in 2005, and everyone treated me like I was their child.”

Michael Blecker, director of the veterans aid group Swords to Plowshares, said Thorn did other vets with PTSD a service by being so open about his struggles — and did everyone else a bigger service with his reconciliation work.

“Lee was the real deal in every respect as someone who was tormented, tortured by what he went through,” Blecker said. “He did his homework and made sure he understood the story. He was an activist, a scholar, a organizer. His fingerprints are everywhere in the efforts to heal from the war.”

Thorn is survived by his wife; his sons Jesse of Los Angeles, John Thorn and Brendan Thorn of San Francisco; and three grandchildren.

Services are pending.

Kevin Fagan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kfagan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @KevinChron

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Kevin Fagan

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Kevin Fagan is a longtime reporter at The San Francisco Chronicle. He specializes in enterprise news-feature writing and breaking news, taking particular pleasure in ferreting out stories others might not find — from profiling the desperate lives of homeless drug addicts to riding the rails with hobos, finding people who sleep in coffins and detailing the intricacies of hunting down serial killers.

From 2003 to 2006, Kevin was the only beat reporter in the United States covering homelessness full time. He has witnessed seven prison executions and has covered many of the biggest breaking stories of our time, from the Sept. 11 terror attacks at Ground Zero and the Columbine High School massacre to Barack Obama’s election as president, the deadly Mendocino Complex, Wine Country and Ghost Ship fires and the Occupy movement. Homelessness remains a special focus of his, close to his heart as a journalist who cares passionately about the human condition.

He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Jose State University and was raised in California and Nevada.