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Pacifica’s Current Board Structure is Destroying the Network

by Concerned Pacifican Tuesday, Sep. 29, 2009 at 2:19 PM

Carol Spooner's finger-wagging review of the current state of Planet Pacifica ignores the crushing impact of the new 122-member National Board structure. Top-heavy, hugely expensive, conflict-ridden and racially polarized, this five-year old Board system was instituted to assure greater democracy and prevent the corporatization of Pacifica. But instead of protecting Pacifica, the new governance structure is destroying Pacifica. Itʼs bred factionalism, dysfunction, self-dealing, a plethora of litigation and staff purges network-wide.

Pacifica’s Current Board Structure is Destroying the Network – Carol Spooner’s Long-Sought Purge Now Well Underway

Carol Spooner's finger-wagging review of the current state of Planet Pacifica ignores the crushing impact of the new 122-member National Board structure. Top-heavy, hugely expensive, conflict-ridden and racially polarized, this five-year old Board system was instituted to assure greater democracy and prevent the corporatization of Pacifica.

But instead of protecting Pacifica, the new governance structure is destroying Pacifica. Itʼs bred factionalism, dysfunction, self-dealing, a plethora of litigation and staff purges network-wide.

The sad fact is that under this Board system Pacifica has become a pariah organization and the miserable object of universal pity and contempt. Until the governance structure is thrown out, Pacifica Radio will never be able to stabilize and focus on its historic mission.

But for Spooner and her faction, entrenched staff and false cries of racism are the problem.

Spooner says that the termination or removal earlier this year of seven males of color, including CFO Lonnie Hicks and WPFW GM Ron Pinchback, was necessary to restore financial stability.

But the reality is that since 2003, Spooner has demanded the summary dismissal of many of those same individuals on purely factional grounds.

In early 2004, then Board member Spooner made illegal and strident demands for the immediate termination of the entire network management, including CFO Lonnie Hicks and WPFW GM Ron Pinchback. Those demands earned a formal censure by then Board chair Leslie Cagan.

Later that year, Spooner physically assaulted a female staff member in a pique of anger after failing to get the Board to summarily fire the then Executive Director. The staff member, a single mother, demanded that Spooner resign.

Spoonerʼs statement that simply because you replaced fired people of color with people of color means you can't be, or be called, racist is shocking. The fact is it does not matter what the color of the person is you replace a fired person of color with. The firing itself for racially motivated reasons is illegal irrespective of any subsequent actions.

Spooner ignores the fact that Pacificaʼs attorney at the time of the firings warned the Pacifica Board against those summary firings precisely on the basis that it exposed the network to possible charges of racial discrimination. As a result of recommending against the terminations, the network attorney was then forced out.

The fact is that Spooner and the faction she represents have been openly seeking the summary dismissal of many paid staff around the network for years. Financial mismanagement is a convenient excuse. And once removed, the very Board members who had openly demanded their removal end up replacing those paid staff members.

In fact, naked self-dealing by current and past Board members is common in the new Pacifica.

In her latest email, for instance, Spooner does not reveal that for the last several years she has been working for Free Speech Radio News (FSRN), an independent entity funded almost entirely by Pacifica. FSRN has received some two million dollars from the network without any strings attached. Unlike Pacifica staff members, or Democracy Now!, FSRN is not required to fundraise and, in fact, raises functionally nothing for the network.

But while Pacifica staff members are laid off due to "economic reasons," or fired supposedly because of financial mismanagement, Spoonerʼs FSRN outfit still receives hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from the network.

This fact should be a wake-up call to the entire Pacifica community and media reform movement. Pacifica is threatened not by entrenched staff or false claims of racism. But like in the late 1990s, the National Board itself is the problem -- unjust firings, gagging dissident producers, self-dealing, running up legal bills, deepening racial divisions and putting at risk the entire organization for narrow personal or factional gain. The solution is clear -- the current Board structure must go, the sooner the better.
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Racism screams but has little to say

by call me what you want by now Wednesday, Sep. 30, 2009 at 5:03 PM

quoted from above "simply because you replaced fired people of color with people of color means you can't be, or be called, racist is shocking. The fact is it does not matter what the color of the person is you replace a fired person of color with. The firing itself for racially motivated reasons is illegal irrespective of any subsequent actions.

Spooner ignores the fact that Pacificaʼs attorney at the time of the firings warned the Pacifica Board against those summary firings precisely on the basis that it exposed the network to possible charges of racial discrimination"

if all the reasons for any employment or election moves are all based on colors of any kind, what else could arouse more easy-to-identify loud accusations of "discrimination !!!"....repeatedly.

it has been noticed in many other areas as well as Pacifica that the only two races in USA that have any say are "black" [of varied hues} and "whites" [ actually pinks and of varied hues]...no one else need apply.

Checking census data though....interesting as it may be to ignore...[ see this site re census data : http://www.infoplease.com/spot/bhmcensus1.html ]
"...As of July 1, 2007, the estimated population of black residents in the United States, including those of more than one race. They made up 13.5 percent of the total U.S. population..."

but from all the accusations vehemently made repeatedly in Pacifica, as any place else also, the black population appears to be at least 49-1/2% or more when demanding not only inclusion, but insisting on being part of every single group or event.
The entitlement of 13.5% pretending to be 3X that number in this USA makes for questionable basis for representations righteously claimed as entitlements.

Not that blacks should be invisible or fired or replaced, but the claims of racial discrimination keep making the news and loudly and repeatedly, and the numbers just dont give that claim validity.

Why are not hispanics who may have arrived [back again] to these lands claiming they are 65% when they too are only about 16% of the USA total [see census data on URL below ]

Now ....if anyone is talking about individual people, with talents, skills, experience in this work, with managerial abilities, with good personalities that can accomplish more than another of the same type, that is different.

But if race is the constant and main factor of every dispute, there is something skewed happening, not just in Pacifica, but in the USA and it's media too.

so the article writer above focuses, as usual, on the same easy-to-repeat and easy-to-claim but not prove
story: race matters more than anything else.

what is wrong with this picture?

it contains no colors, black and white are not colors, but absence of color and all light colors or blankness...
can we get past this same framework and talk about
real people and what they have done, can do, will do, promise to do, and can prove it too ?

Then Pacifica will be setting a progressive and novel
scene of how we run our business and our stations.
Otherwise, the same old same old accusations and demands are not going to do more than going to war in some other land does for us all.

death to old ways of thinking and repeating.
growth to formulating human examination and humane selections for jobs, programers, and board members. Wouldnt it be good to move on by now ?
huh ?

but who will allow this to happen...easier to use the old bludgeoning words, weapons and never think past the old versions of who we thought we were...back so very long ago...

ugh
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Re: Pacifica’s Current Board Structure is Destroying the Network

by Terry Goodman Thursday, Oct. 01, 2009 at 1:05 PM
tgoodman4@roadrunner.com

As is typical of anonymous Indymedia acticles about Pacifica, the piece "Pacifica’s Current Board Structure is Destroying the Network" is biased, presenting misinformation as fact to manipulate opinion. Such articles reflecting a narrow ideological interpretation of historical events commonly appear in the middle of each Pacifica delegate election period. This refutation attempts to balance those distortions with accuracy.

There is certainly little doubt that Pacifica’s current board structure has problems or that the network is in distress, but the true causes of the network's disfunction actually predate its democratization. The original article is also generally correct in its central claim that a long-sought purge is underway. But what those primarily responsible for the network's problems now call an assault on everything good and decent is viewed by others as the long-delayed remedy to persistent mismanagement and the long-needed implementation of needed reform -- i.e, the success of the democratic governance model.

>Carol Spooner's finger-wagging review of the current state of Planet Pacifica ignores
>the crushing impact of the new 122-member National Board structure.

The Pacifica National Board has only 21 or 22 Members who serve as a Board of Directors. The others in the "122-member" figure are locally-elected delegates who choose the Directors and have very little power beyond that. Spooner criticizes the democratized PNB for its years of inaction in delaying assumption of its management oversight role.

>Top-heavy, hugely expensive, conflict-ridden and racially polarized, this five-year
>old Board system was instituted to assure greater democracy and prevent the
>corporatization
>of Pacifica.

The Foundation itself is run by an Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer chosen by the Pacifica National Board. These officers have some staff (fewer now, after layoffs, than in prior years), so it is not really "top-heavy." The Board, which has been afflicted by the "racial polarization" of a particular faction in the years since democratization, provides nominal oversight over the activities of the Executive Director (CEO) and the CFO. The Board is "conflict-ridden" by design, since Pacifica's democratization uses methods of proportional representation in voting that assure voice to several minority factions among stakeholders, and this has allowed for roadblacks to progress and substantial governance disfunction. The "hugely expensive" portion of the structure is the local delegate elections which occur in two out of every three years at a cost of about $200,000 each. The cost of elections could be substantially reduced through a transition to internet voting. The remaining costs of governance could be substantially reduced by boards focusing their attention on the policy revision and management oversight roles rather than wasting meeting time on contentious matters beyond the boards' scope of authority. The current PNB has significantly cuts meeting costs as compared to the arrangements previous left to the now exiled prior management.

>this five-year old Board system was instituted to assure greater democracy and
>prevent the corporatization of Pacifica.

The system was instituted to assure greater democracy in governance, and that has occurred. "Preventing corporatization" is problematical as an identified objective, because Pacifica is unambiguosly a California nonprofit corporation. In the minds of many who fought to achieve governance democratization, the purpose of this step was to protect the Foundation's Mission, since the general membership from whom Pacifica's financing is primarily obtained was perceived to be more generally dedicated to that Mission than the "old boy's network" that had produced a Board of Directors by means other than election by the project membership now identified as listeners and staff.

>But instead of protecting Pacifica, the new governance structure is destroying
>Pacifica.

Actually, the new governance structure is only just beginning to accomplish long-needed reforms and repair the damage caused by previous management. To make Pacifica's democratization evolutionary rather than revolutionary, stakeholders such as staff were guaranteed one-fouth of the seats in governance, and the power of managers was protected by prohibiting their dismissal without joint agreement between the Executive Directpr and the Local Station Board. Where management and staff found common interest, such as in maintaining the status quo, reform by governance was roadblocked or delayed.

>It's bred factionalism, dysfunction, self-dealing, a plethora of litigation and staff
>purges network-wide.

Factionalism actually existed prior to democratization, but it has been given a more formal shape through Pacifica's electoral politics. Pro-management and anti-management factions have appeared, as have pro-straff and anti-staff factions. There have also been factions for and against various sorts of programming, though many in governance still recognize that station programming needs protection from meddling by Pacifica's internal politicians.

Governance dysfunction has been encouraged by management and staff, as this protects the power of the status quo. Actual "self-dealing" is prohibited by law and has only been a problem when management has impeded financial inspections by Directors. Pacifica's current management leadership was at the forefront of prior governance efforts for fiscal accountability.

When LaVarn Williams was appointed as interim Pacifca CFO to replace Lonnie Hicks, it was not "self-dealing" because Williams was no longer a Foundation Director. Holding an MBA and having years of experience in corporate finance, she was well qualified for the position, not to mention her years of distinguished volunteer service as Foundation Treasurer and Chair of the PNB's Finance Committee. As an example of her ability, dedication, and integrity, she now additionally serves as interim General Manager of station WBAI, probably without receiving any salary for that work.

As the elected Chair of the Pacifica National Board, Grace Aaron became interim Executive Director of Pacifica by California statute when the position became vacant upon the resignation of Nicole Sawaya, so there was no "self-dealing" there. She initially served in this capacity with no salary, but could not afford to continue on that basis. The PNB has likely voted to award her a salary in order to keep her during its permanent Executive Director search, but this was a disclosed conflict of interest permitted under law because a more qualified individual was not easily available for a lesser rate -- a situation not dissimilar from the volunteer service of Dan Siegel as iED while being paid as the Foundation's Counsel. Board Chair/CEO combinations are fairly common in the corporate world, which helps explain why the California statute on CEO vacancies works like it does.

There was one case of Board Member Rob Robinson receiving the award of a fixed-fee contract for services related to preparation of a digital distribution strategy for the network. In this case the conflict of interest was fully disclosed and the statutory requirements to avoid prohibited self-dealing were fully met.

The only other situations reported in recent memory where a credible allegation of "self-dealing" might be made were in connection with Don Rojas who is no longer employed as WBAI's General Manager and in connection with Bernard White who has been dismissed as WBAI's Program Director.

Pacifica's problems with litigation, other than the early lawsuits that prompted democratization, have been primarily management-related employee lawsuits and not at all governance-related. Previous purges have typically been station management initiated so as to forestall needed reform, while the current purge is more Executive Director initiated in an attempt to institute needed reform. The need for reform is generally recognized now because financial reports are not being mischaracterized, but the nature and direction of the reforms needed is of course a matter of partisan interpretation.

>The sad fact is that under this Board system Pacifica has become a pariah organization
>and the miserable object of universal pity and contempt.

There's some truth here, but the assumption that the current Board system is the cause is not well-founded. If governance members were trained in the principles of policy governance and stuck to their assigned role, the system could work. It is not a substantially different system than the structure that works well in other nonprofit organizations. In actual fact, Pacifica has difficulting attracting good managers because those managers can expect constant abuse from the various factions opposing change, which are the same factions that have always sought to marginalize governance and keep it ineffective. The author of the original Indymedia article identifying the Pacifica democratic structure as the cause of long-standing problems rather than source of their eventual remedy clearly intends readers to abandon organizational democracy now that it is beginning to show fruit.

>Until the governance structure is thrown out, Pacifica Radio will never be able to
>stabilize and focus on its historic mission.

The management of the Pacifica Foundation and its radio stations is largely exempt from meddling by the largely paralyzed Pacifica National Board. Financial stabilization and Mission focus is fully within the authority of management when good executive leadership is in place.

>But for Spooner and her faction, entrenched staff and false cries of racism are the
>problem.

Entrenched staff and false cries of racism can be problems when they impede needed reform, but Pacifica's biggest problem is its weak programming.

>Spooner says that the termination or removal earlier this year of seven males of
>color, including CFO Lonnie Hicks and WPFW GM Ron Pinchback, was necessary to restore
>financial stability.

Pacifica's largely black male leadership was largely responsible for its declining revenues and runaway expenses.

>But the reality is that since 2003, Spooner has demanded the summary dismissal of
>many of those same individuals on purely factional grounds.

The reality is that since 2003, Spooner has demanded the dismissal of many of those individuals for cause. The issue became factionalized because some considered the targeted individuals to be protectors of others similarly incompetent.

>In early 2004, then Board member Spooner made illegal and strident demands for the
>immediate termination of the entire network management, including CFO Lonnie
>Hicks and WPFW GM Ron Pinchback. Those demands earned a formal censure by then Board
>chair Leslie Cagan.

As a member of Pacifica's interim Pacifica National Board, Spooner's calls for management dismissals were not illegal, they were instead an attempted exercise of governance oversight. Spooner served as Foundation Secretary and chaired the Board's Governance and Finance Committees. iPNB Chair Leslie Cagan had no personal power to censure Spooner. Censure requires a Board vote.

>Later that year, Spooner physically assaulted a female staff member in a pique of
>anger after failing to get the Board to summarily fire the then Executive Director.
>The staff member, a single mother, demanded that Spooner resign.

Considering the distortions through this article, I give no credit to this allegation in the absence of specific reference to evidence of claims.

>Spooner's statement that simply because you replaced fired people of color with people
>of color means you can't be, or be called, racist is shocking.

Calling dismissals racist just because the persons dismissed are of color is shocking.

>The fact is it does not matter what the color of the person is you replace a fired
>person of color with.

That's a reassuring observation.

>The firing itself for racially motivated reasons is illegal irrespective of any
>subsequent actions.

A firing is illegal if it is for racially motivated reasons. Incompetent employees are not protected from dismissal by their race.

>Spooner ignores the fact that Pacifica's attorney at the time of the firings warned
>the Pacifica Board against those summary firings precisely on the basis that it
>exposed the network to possible charges of racial discrimination.

Okay, maybe incompetent employees are protected from dismissal by their race.

>As a result of recommending against the terminations, the network attorney was then
>forced out.

The facts here seem mixed up. Pacifica's attorney for most of the time when Spooner served on the iPNB was Kevin Finck. A subsequent Foundation Counsel, Dan Siegel recently resigned after CFO Lonnie Hicks was dismissed. Siegel and Hicks were both part of the Pacifica financial problem requiring remedy. Both had illegally blocked Director inspections investigating credible allegations of financial mismanagement.

>The fact is that Spooner and the faction she represents have been openly seeking the
>summary dismissal of many paid staff around the network for years.

A Pacifica faction has been demanding that bad Pacifica managers be dismissed for years. That faction recently became a majority on the Pacifica National Board through the influence of the democratic election of local delegates by the Pacifica membership.
Opening seeking change is part of the democratic governance process, and management blocking needed change is subject to dismissal under the concept of accountability.

>Financial mismanagement is a convenient excuse.

Lack of operating funds is an inescapable handicap.

>And once removed, the very Board members who had openly demanded their removal end
>up replacing those paid staff members.

A Foundation Director and former Director with demonstrated histories of fiscal responsibility have recently been appointed as interim Executive Director and interim Chief Financial Officer of the Foundation while permanent managers are sought.

>In fact, naked self-dealing by current and past Board members is common in the new
>Pacifica.

As explained in answer to the previous allegation of self-dealing above, this charge is simply not true.

>In her latest email, for instance, Spooner does not reveal that for the last several
>years she has been working for Free Speech Radio News (FSRN), an independent entity
>funded almost entirely by Pacifica.

The fact merits disclosure, but does not disqualify Spooner's opinions. FSRN depends upon Pacifica's survival for its continued funding, so there is a concordance of interest. Alternative media is a small world and those who leave one such organizaton often find employment in another similar organization.

>FSRN has received some two million dollars from the network without any strings
>attached.

Those who negotiated the contract with Pacifica on behalf of FSRN probably don't consider it a "no-strings" agreement.

>Unlike Pacifica staff members, or Democracy Now!, FSRN is not required to fundraise
>and, in fact, raises functionally nothing for the network.

Pacifica benefits from the fundraising that FSRN does on its own behalf, because the quality of the program is improved by application of these additional resources. The requirement that Pacifica staff members fundraise is occasionally a liability to fundraising efforts.

>But while Pacifica staff members are laid off due to "economic reasons," or fired
>supposedly because of financial mismanagement, Spooner's FSRN outfit still receives
>hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from the network.

The only really valid question with respect to the Pacifica-FSRN or Pacifica-Democracy Now! agreements is whether or not Pacifica is getting its money's worth. This is the same question that has been applied in some employee dismissals, retentions, and layoffs.

>This fact should be a wake-up call to the entire Pacifica community and media reform
>movement.

That Pacifica pays FSRN for news is a wake-up call?

>Pacifica is threatened not by entrenched staff or false claims of racism.

Pacifica is well-served by some entrenched staff but not by others. False claims of racism don't help the situation any.

>But like in the late 1990s, the National Board itself is the problem --

The National Board is always part of the problem and part of the solution.

>unjust firings, gagging dissident producers, self-dealing, running up legal bills,
>deepening racial divisions and putting at risk the entire organization for narrow
>personal or factional gain.

Unjust firings are not good, but most recent firings have been fully justified. Gagging dissident producers is not good, but what is currently being characterized as "gagging" was mostly just a warning that existing policies against character defamation would be enforced. Illegal self-dealing has largely been stopped in part through the current reform effort. Managers under whose tenure expensive lawsuits arose have been eased out or dismissed. "Racial divisions" have been an excuse for poor job performance and a roadblock to improving standards and implementing appropriate accountability. Pacifica's interim leadership is not in the struggle for personal gain, as demonstrated by their long histories of volunteer service to the organization, but it is a sad commentary on the state of Pacifica's electoral politics when the financial sustainability of a station is recognized as an essential issue by one faction and dismissed as a distraction by another.

>The solution is clear -- the current Board structure must go, the sooner the better.

The current Board structure cannot be changed unless the membership votes to change it or a court appoints a receiver that removes the few powers that the Pacifica Board of Directors retain. The only sooner solution potentially available to Pacifica is bringing in good management. If the Board can improve management through executive selection, policy review, and general oversight, it can help solve problems. Otherwise, it can only create problems.

Good management can typically work around a disfunctional Board. Better management can improve a Board by providing training, guidance, and leadership.

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"Concern" or AgitProp?

by Frank LeFever Monday, Oct. 12, 2009 at 10:13 AM
helpfixwbai@yahoo.com

Interestingly, in this year's WBAI election campaign (for LSB), we have seen a number of "non-aligned" and reasonable sounding people (some anonymous, some LSB candidates) who contrast with the shrill demagogues of the "Justice & Unity"/TakeBack faction that had been in control of WBAI and (in league with odd bedfellow turf-protectors at KPFA, WPFW and KPFK) in control of Pacifica.

They raise serious-sounding questions about governance and finance, etc., but the full canon of their work reveals a distinct avoidance of the role of these turf-protectors in obscuring WBAI's steady loss of listeners, membership, and financial support, year by year. [see http://www.takeforwardwbai.org/wbaifinancialdecline.html ]

As has been traditional, critics of the budget shenanigans that allowed WBAI's bills to be paid by other stations were vilified, some times explicitly as "racist". In local Finance Committee meetings, I was one of the "villains" who "wanted" to cut staff, and in the Programming Committee I was diagnosed as having a "melanin deficiency disease" (I kid you not!).

In Bernard White's desperate campaign to get back at the trough, he cites something like seven people dismissed who were black and outrageously asserts they were dismissed BECAUSE they were black. two problems with this: [1] he fails to list some of the WHITE staff who were "dismissed", [3] fails to differentiate those who were dismissed for poor management and those who were laid off due to budget-required staff layoffs.

It is also disingenuous to describe discontinued personnel as black and suggest that is a suspicious coincidence -- as if one should be suspicious because so many Canadians were injured when a building collapsed in Toronto!

Bernard sees only one shared attribute among managers recently removed from their positions: "race"; but judging by the first report of the newly-appointed WPFW General Manager (who, incidentally, shares their "racial" attribute), there may be something else Bernard White and Ron Pinchback have in common:

"...we have been unearthing unpaid invoices to us from the 2007 Gala event which was itself a curious accounting misadventure in the many ways it blended Pacifica Foundation payments with those from WPFW...WPFW has not fared well with its events. Our latest, popularly known as “The Duck Race”, lost $14,612.40..."
http://www.pacificafoundation.org/national/documents/task,doc_download/gid,110/

I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. In Bernard White's case, besides sloth in performing the job he was paid for (3rd highest salary in Pacifica?), self-dealing (as Program Director, assuming a starring role in the a.m. prime time "Wake Up Call"), he is known to have pocketed cash receipts from a WBAI fundraiser and used them for his own private purposes. Some of us think that was just the visible tip of an iceberg.

Fueled by the tawdriest of incentives, he and the "TakeBackWBAI" gang do not hesitate to destroy Pacifica's credibility in the progressive community by asserting its members have elected a majority in governance that is racist, gags on-air producers, and over-ride station autonomy and community interests -- but most of all, "RACIST!"
[see: http://www.takeforwardwbai.org/pacificakickingdown.html]

I have been charged with making allegations with no basis and (on air, in a candidate forum) of not giving Bernard a chance to defend himself. In point of fact, I have repeatedly asked him to do so and here are some of his non-responses: http://www.takeforwardwbai.org/bernardwhitedefendshimself.html

Judge for yourself whether this is the defense an honest man would make against allegations that he had mis-used his employer's funds.

Keep in mind: whenever someone says "it's not the money, it's the principle of the thing", it is usually the money.

Of course, money is not the whole story: turf-protectors have ego investments, causes to promote, perhaps schemes for a larger role in their political careers (cf. Sara Flounders and the infiltration by WWP, cf. Bernard's sometimes explicit ambition to make WBAI a "Black" station -- succeeding where Harlem heavyweights such as Sutton and Rangel have failed).

As Terry says, democracy does not effect change overnight, but if we give up on it prematurely it will never change anything.
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October 2017 Honduras Coup Update N15 9:23PM

National US Gov as wellas EPA slow to act on Abandoned uranium Mines Cleanup in Southwest N15 10:50AM

OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Comedy Fundraiser N14 10:47AM

Republicans against the Poor and the Sick N14 4:16AM

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US Executions Violate The 14th, 8th, and 1st Amendments To The Constitution N10 10:51PM

BUSTED: Watch LAPD cops plant drugs in black suspect’s wallet – unaware body cams were on N10 5:32PM

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