6/11/2021

Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, June 13, 2021

 



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Zoom Webinar

Haiti vs. Imperialism and
Neocolonialism: Yesterday and Today

Sunday June 13, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM 
Eastern Time (US and Canada)

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Yg8_Sef-SeGWe5y68OlX6A?link_id=0&can_id=ce6300feb8de7811dba1e3a0efb93e08&source=email-zoom-webinar-haiti-vs-imperialism-and-neocolonialism-yesterday-and-today&email_referrer=email_1197622&email_subject=zoom-webinar-haiti-vs-imperialism-and-neocolonialism-yesterday-and-today

U.S. Peace Council • P.O. Box 3105, New Haven, CT 06515 • (203) 387-0370 • USPC@USPeaceCouncil.org 
• https://uspeacecouncil.org • https://www.facebook.com/USPeaceCouncil/ • @USPeaceCouncil

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People's March & Rally 2021
 
Sunday, June 27th – 10:30 A.M.—on the route of the very first Gay Liberation March
 
A call for action from Juanita MORE! and Alex U. Inn. All Black Lives Matter! All-Trans Lives Matter! All Brown Lives Matter, All Indigenous Lives Matter!
 
On Sunday, June 27, 2021, on the route of the very first Gay Liberation March, 51 years ago, we will roar our voices in solidarity with our Black, Brown, and Indigenous Trans and Queer family, friends, lovers, and neighbors. We stand in protest of transgender and racial injustice, police violence, killings, unjust healthcare, and unrelentless gun control, and let’s not ever forget the reparations to Black People. We demand changes!
 
We will show up in droves with amplified voices to advocate for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, denounce and condemn police violence against our communities, and raise awareness for the need to defund police departments, which will allow for funds to be reallocated to social services, mental healthcare providers, and social justice organizations., After losing 600,000 lives to Covid-19, most of which are Black, Latinx, and Indigenous, we insist on consistent universal healthcare for everyone and support the continuance of the Affordable Care Act.
 
People’s March will be led by an all-Black, Brown, and Indigenous committees of Trans and Queer activists, community leaders, artists, and performers.
Join us as we Unite To Fight for our civil rights!
We will not be silenced!
 
PLEASE BE RESPONSIBLE. People’s March & Rally Organizers ask for you to please be in compliance with our Federal and California state laws to wear Masks, if not vaccinated, and to remain safely physically distant. (CDC Info.) Masks will not be provided.


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Pacifica Radio: Mumia and Leonard Peltier Say NO to Undemocratic Bylaws Scheme!

 

KPFA and other Pacifica stations are the only media outlets that have covered environmental health struggles sympathetically at times, [ that most others] have ignored altogether. Pacifica is an important grassroots resource that must be defended.

 

An advisory to listeners of Pacifica's community radio stations:

 

There is yet another undemocratic by laws scheme underway.

 

If you are a member of KPFA, or of KPFK in Los Angeles, or know people who may be subscribers to KPFT (Houston), WBAI (New York City), or WPFW (Washington, DC), a ballot should have come by email to each member today (June 7.)

 

PLEASE use that ballot to VOTE ***NO*** on this wasteful and ill-advised scheme !!!

 

Endorsers of a NO vote include Harry Belafonte, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Cindy Sheehan, Danny Glover, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Lenny Foster and Lydia Ponce (AIM), Jack Heyman and Clarence Thomas (ILWU Local 10), Black Agenda ReportThe San Francisco Bay ViewBlack Star News, Alameda County Peace & Freedom Party, and both the Oakland Greens and the San Francisco Green Party 

 

Numerous others endorsing a NO vote include popular Pacifica producers; see: :

 

https://pacificafightback.org/endorsers-of-the-vote-no-campaign-for-democracy-and-diversity-at-pacifica/

 

and 

 

https://pacifica-democracy-project.org/endorsements/  

 

At least two endorsements claimed for the bylaws scheme are bogus, those of Martin Sheen and of Jane Fonda:

 

https://pacificafightback.org/jane-fonda-never-endorsed-new-day-pacificas-bylaws-rewrite-vote-no/

 

To find out how bizarre, dishonest, and thoroughly undemocratic the “New Day” schemers are, see:

 

https://pacificainexile.org/archives/9864 

 

Most especially:  

 

Vote No on the New Day Bylaws:  KPFA Local Board Hitting New Heights of Crazy

 

https://pacificainexile.org/archives/9959

 

New Day Moves to Eradicate right of its own Staff to Vote on bylaws overhaul:

 

https://pacificainexile.org/archives/9976

 

1,000 Word Statement Against the Proposed New Day Pacifica Bylaws:

 

https://pacifica-democracy-project.org/blog/1000-word-statement-against-the-proposed-new-day-pacifica-bylaws/

 

For more analysis of the proposed new bylaws and their implications see:

 

https://pacificainexile.org/

 

https://pacificafightback.org/

 

https://pacifica-democracy-project.org/

 

If you did not receive your ballot, here is where to go, to request a replacement:

 

https://elections.pacifica.org/wordpress/bylaws-proposal-petition/

 

Let’s remind these costly schemers that we said “NO" to them before, and that we mean now what we meant then:  NO  



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Photo from San Francisco rally and march in support of Palestine Saturday, May 15, 2021

Stand with Palestine!

Say NO to apartheid!

 

 

Join the global movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people. 

 

#DefendJerusalem

 

#SaveSheikhJarrah

 

#Nakba73 #homeisworthstrugglingfor


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Contact Us

Alliance for Global Justice
225 E 26th St Ste 1

Tucson, Arizona 85713-2925
202-540-8336

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Great news for Kevin Cooper, an innocent man 

on San Quentin's death row:
 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

 

Contact: Governor's Press Office

 

Friday, May 28, 2021

 

(916) 445-4571

 

Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case


SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.

The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.

The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:

https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/5.28.21-EO-N-06-21.pdf

The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.

The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.

A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.

 

A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.

A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.

The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.

While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.

The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:

 www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).

Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:

https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/5.28.21-Clemency-certs.pdf

Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:

https://www.gov.ca.gov/clemency/

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Martha Hennessy and Carmen Trotta released from prison

 

Martha Hennessy was released yesterday, May 26, from Danbury prison after 5 1/2 months confinement to a halfway house in Manchester, New Hampshire which is about a two hour drive from her home in Vermont. Her husband, Stephen Melanson, picked her up and drove her to the halfway house. She expects to have to spend a week or two at the halfway house before being allowed to return home to finish the last few months of her 10 month sentence. She had applied for early release through the CARES Act which allows release for the qualified elderly to reduce the risk of catching COVID. She is looking forward to return to her home and family and her gardening soon. Martha gave a short video statement on getting out and it will be posted on the website shortly.


Carmen Trotta was furloughed today from Otisville prison after being denied release 10 days ago at the last minute because his proposed residence at St. Joseph Catholic Worker house where he has lived and worked for more than 30 years was considered too risky for the virus. He was subsequently approved to live in a friend's apartment near the Catholic Worker. Three friends picked him up at the prison at 9 am and drove him to a halfway house in the Bronx where he was processed for 4 hours and informed of all the rules and restrictions. An ankle monitor was attached and then the friends drove him to the apartment in the East Village where he will be under home confinement. He had not applied for early release. He is supposed to remain in the apartment unless he gets permission to go out for shopping, medical visits or church.



Mark Colville is scheduled to report to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY on June 8 to finish his 21 month sentence. He has already served 15 months in the county jails in Georgia before the trial in October 2019. He may also be eligible for an earlier release but does not intend to apply for any special consideration.

 

EMAIL: kingsbayplowshares@gmail.com

WEBSITE: www.kingsbayplowshares7.org

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Kingsbayplowshares

TWITTER: https://www.twitter.com/kingsbayplow7

INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/kingsbayplowshares7


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Demand Mumia's Freedom:

Governor Tom Wolf -1(717) 787-2500  Fax 1 (717) 772-8284
Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
HarrisburgPA  17120    
 
After calling the governor, send an online communication about our concerns.   https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/#PhoneNumber
 
Let us know what there response was, Thank you.  Mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com
 
ONA MOVE
 

 

Questions and comments may be sent to: info@freedomarchives.org


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For all those who missed the tribute to the life of revolutionary socialist, Ernie Tate:


Hi everyone,

We hope all is well with you.

We are happy to announce that the video recording of "No Life Like It: A A Tribute to the Revolutionary Activism of Ernie Tate" is now available for viewing on LeftStreamed

here: https://youtu.be/_sXWHaIC8D0

and here: https://socialistproject.ca/leftstreamed-video/no-life-like-it/

Please share the link with your comrades and friends.

All the best,

The organizers

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Jeff Bezos has at least $180 Billion!

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The Washington State Supreme Court just ruled to allow the right-wing Recall Campaign against Councilmember Kshama Sawant to move forward.

 

In response, Councilmember Sawant said “This ruling is completely unjust, but we are not surprised. Working people and oppressed communities cannot rely on the capitalist courts for justice anymore than they can on the police.”

 

“Last summer, all across the country, ordinary people who peacefully protested in multi-racial solidarity against racism and police brutality themselves faced brutal police violence. The police and the political establishment have yet to be held accountable, while in stark contrast, more than 14,000 protestors were arrested.”

 

“In October, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously threw out the grassroots recall campaign launched in response to Amazon-backed Mayor Jenny Durkan’s overseeing a violent police crackdown against Seattle protests. Now, this same Supreme Court has unanimously approved the recall against an elected socialist, working-class representative who has unambiguously stood with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

 

“The recall law in Washington State is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true. In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system. It is no accident that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven out of office by a recall campaign for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.”

 

The recall effort against Councilmember Sawant explicitly cited her role in Black Lives Matter protests and the Amazon Tax campaign in their articles of recall. In 2019, Kshama was elected for the third time despite a record-breaking influx of corporate money in Seattle elections, including $1.5 million in corporate PAC spending from Amazon, as well as donations from top Amazon executives and numerous wealthy Republican donors directly to Kshama’s opponent. 

 

The Recall Campaign is backed by a host of corporate executives and developers, including billionaire landlord and Trump donor Martin Selig; Jeannie Nordstrom of the billionaire union-busting, retail giant Nordstrom dynasty; Airbnb Chief Financial Officer and former Amazon Vice President Dave Stephenson; Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President Matt Westphal; wealthy Trump donors like Dennis Weibling, Vidur Luthra and Greg Eneil; and plethora of major real-estate players, such as John Stephanus, whose asset management company, Epic, has ranked amongst Seattle’s top 10 landlords for evictions.

 

Now, because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Recall Campaign is able to begin collecting signatures to get a recall election on an upcoming ballot. With the financial backing of the corporate elite, we know the Recall Campaign will have unlimited resources to collect their signatures.

 

That’s why we need your support to massively expand our Decline-to-Sign campaign and defeat this attack on all working people. The Recall Campaign has already raised $300,000. Can you make a contribution to the Kshama Solidarity Campaign today so that we have the necessary resources to fight back?

 

In solidarity,

Hannah Swoboda

Fundraising Director

Kshama Solidarity Campaign

 

Copyright © 2021 Kshama Solidarity Campaign, All rights reserved

PLEDGE: Stand with Kshama Sawant Against the Right-Wing Recall! 

The right wing and big business are going after Councilmember Sawant because she’s been such a powerful voice for working people – for leading the way on the Amazon Tax, on the $15 minimum wage, and for her role in the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Amazon spent millions trying to unseat Kshama last year and failed. Now the Recall Campaign is raising money from corporate executives and rich Republicans to try to overturn that election and all our victories. Their campaign is saying Kshama’s support for Black Lives Matter was promoting “lawlessness” – this is a racist attack on the movement. The right wing will be collecting signatures to get the recall on the ballot; we’re building a Decline-to-Sign movement to keep our voice on the City Council and win COVID relief for working people.

Sign the pledge at:

      https://www.kshamasolidarity.org

 

Paid for by Kshama Solidarity Campaign

PO Box 20611, Seattle, WA 98102


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  9 minutes 29 seconds


I've been hearing over and over again on the news—on TV and in print—the figure of "almost eight minutes." Even in Charles M. Blow's Opinion Piece this morning in the New York Times, "On Hallowed Ground," he reported "almost nine minutes" that Derik Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd's neck. But that was not true. It was nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds—not until the paramedics brought the gurney beside George's body did Chauvin finally get up. All the while the other cops stood by and threatened bystanders, including a first responder, to keep away from Chauvin—to let him continue to murder George Floyd. 

I wrote a comment to Blow's column this morning as follows:

"CORRECTION: It wasn't "nearly nine minutes." It was nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds! Let that sink in! Nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds. Not until the paramedics arrived, felt for George Floyd's non-existent pulse at his neck, Chauvin still kneeling on his neck, that finally, with the gurney beside his body, did Chauvin finally get up. By then George was dead. Chauvin made sure of that, and the other cops stood by and did NOTHING except threaten the people standing by in horror." —Bonnie Weinstein

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/28/opinion/george-floyd-minneapolis.html#commentsContainer&permid=112204341:112204341

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This beautiful and powerful exhibit is ongoing 

and can be viewed online at:



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Pass COVID Protection and Debt Relief

 

Stop the Eviction Cliff! 


Forgive Rent and Mortgage Debt!


Sign the Petition:

 

https://www.acceaction.org/stopevictioncliff?utm_campaign=ab_15_16andutm_medium=emailandutm_source=acceaction

 

Millions of Californians have been prevented from working and will not have the income to pay back rent or mortgage debts owed from this pandemic. For renters, on Feb 1st, landlords will be able to start evicting and a month later, they will be able to sue for unpaid rent. Urge your legislator and Gov Newsom to stop all evictions and forgive COVID debts!

 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock our state, with over 500 people dying from this terrible disease every day. The pandemic is not only ravaging the health of poor, black and brown communities the hardest - it is also disrupting our ability to make ends meet and stay in our homes. Shockingly, homelessness is set to double in California by 2023 due the economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19. [1]

 

Housing is healthcare: Without shelter, our very lives are on the line. Until enough of us have been vaccinated, our best weapon against this virus will remain our ability to stay at home.

 

Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?

 

This click-to-call tool makes it simple and easy.

 

https://www.acceaction.org/stopevictioncliff?utm_campaign=ab_15_16&utm_medium=email&utm_source=acceaction

 

Renters and small landlords know that much more needs to be done to prevent this pandemic from becoming a catastrophic eviction crisis. So far, our elected officials at the state and local level have put together a patchwork of protections that have stopped a bad crisis from getting much worse. But many of these protections expire soon, putting millions of people in danger. We face a tidal wave of evictions unless we act before the end of January.

 

We can take action to keep families in their homes while guaranteeing relief for small landlords by supporting an extension of eviction protections (AB 15) and providing rent debt relief paired with assistance for struggling landlords (AB 16). Assembly Member David Chiu of San Francisco is leading the charge with these bills as vehicles to get the job done.  Again, the needed elements are:  

 

Improve and extend existing protections so that tenants who can’t pay the rent due to COVID-19 do not face eviction

 

Provide rent forgiveness to lay the groundwork for a just recovery

 

Help struggling small and non-profit landlords with financial support

 

Ten months since the country was plunged into its first lockdown, tenants still can’t pay their rent and debt is piling up. This is hurting tenants and small landlords alike. We need a holistic approach that protects Californians in the short-run while forgiving unsustainable debts over the long term. That’s why we’re joining the Housing Now! coalition and Tenants Together on a statewide phone zap to tell our elected leaders to act now.

 

Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?

 

Time is running out. California’s statewide protections will start expiring by the end of this month. Millions face eviction. We have to pass AB 15 before the end of January. And we will not solve the long-term repercussions on the economic health of our communities without passing AB 16.

 

ASK YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO SAY YES ON AN EVICTION MORATORIUM AND RENT DEBT FORGIVENESS -- AB 15 AND AB16!!!

 

Let’s do our part in turning the corner on this pandemic. Our fight now will help protect millions of people in California. And when we fight, we win!

 

In solidarity,

 

Sasha Graham

[1] https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-01-12/new-report-foresees-tens-of-thousands-losing-homes-by-2023

ACCE Action

http://www.acceaction.org/


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Tell the New U.S. Administration - End 


Economic Sanctions in the Face of the Global


 COVID-19 Pandemic



Take action and sign the petition - click here!


https://sanctionskill.org/petition/

 

To: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and all Members of the U.S. Congress:  

 

We write to you because we are deeply concerned about the impact of U.S. sanctions on many countries that are suffering the dire consequences of COVID-19.

 

The global COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crash challenge all humanity. Scientific and technological cooperation and global solidarity are desperate needs. Instead, the Trump Administration escalated economic warfare (“sanctions”) against many countries around the globe.

 

We ask you to begin a new era in U.S. relations with the world by lifting all U.S. economic sanctions.

 

U.S. economic sanctions impact one-third of the world’s population in 39 countries.

 

These sanctions block shipments and purchases of essential medicines, testing equipment, PPE, vaccines and even basic food.  Sanctions also cause chronic shortages of basic necessities, economic dislocation, chaotic hyperinflation, artificial famines, disease, and poverty, leading to tens of thousands of deaths. It is always the poorest and the weakest – infants, children, the chronically ill and the elderly – who suffer the worst impact of sanctions.  

 

Sanctions are illegal. They are a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. They are a crime against humanity used, like military intervention, to topple popular governments and movements.

 

The United States uses its military and economic dominance to pressure governments, institutions and corporations to end all normal trade relations with targeted nations, lest they risk asset seizures and even military action.

 

The first step toward change must be an end to the U.S.’ policies of economic war. We urge you to end these illegal sanctions on all countries immediately and to reset the U.S.’ relations with the world.


Add your name - Click here to sign the petition:


https://sanctionskill.org/petition/



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A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWdJdODKO6M&feature=youtu.be

Screen shot from video.

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https://www.nlg.org/federalrepressionresources/

Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 

The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 

State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:

Know Your Rights Materials

The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides. 

WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office

We also recommend the following resources: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective


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Articles

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1) We’re Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic, and We’re Braced for the Worst

By Shannon Brewer, Ms. Brewer is the clinic director at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, June 9, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/09/opinion/abortion-mississippi-supreme-court.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Philippe Pache/Getty Images

JACKSON, Miss. — I could see the pain on the patient’s face as soon as she walked through the door of the abortion clinic where I work. She was unbearably sick from pregnancy complications and had been in and out of the hospital for weeks. She had just driven almost 200 miles to reach us because there are so few abortion clinics in the South. Like most of the patients who come through my clinic, she thought she’d be able to get an abortion that day.

 

I had to tell her that under Mississippi law, patients like her cannot get an abortion on their first visit to a clinic. Instead, they have to sit through state-mandated “counseling” — visits that can take several hours. Then they have to come back another day to get the pills for their medication abortion or have their procedure. Often, patients are not able to make that second appointment until the following week or later because we’re booked up or because they can’t make arrangements for child care or get time off work again.

 

The patient pleaded with me through tears, as many do. She did not understand why such laws exist. “Baby, I don’t make the laws,” I told her. “But we have to follow them or we’ll get shut down.”

 

In fact, those layers of state restrictions were working against her just as lawmakers had intended — pushing abortion out of reach, especially for those struggling to make ends meet. I watched her walk out after “counseling,” not knowing if I’d see her again. She made it back to get her abortion the next week, but not all patients do.

 

For 20 years now, I’ve been working at Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which we affectionately call the Pink House because it’s painted bubble gum pink. It was difficult for women to get an abortion when I started in 2001, but I had no idea just how bad things would get. We are now the only abortion clinic remaining in Mississippi.

 

Three weeks ago, it became clear that things could soon get a whole lot worse.

 

When Mississippi’s Legislature passed a ban on almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in 2018, I was outraged but not worried. This ban is plainly unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said that states cannot ban abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, typically around 23 weeks of pregnancy at the earliest. So we sued the state — as we have before — and the ban has been blocked ever since. I was not concerned when the state appealed to the Supreme Court. I expected the court would not take up the case.

 

Then last month, I got a call from my lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights. The Supreme Court would hear Mississippi’s appeal, she said. It would reconsider whether states may ban abortion before the point set forth in Roe.

 

If the ban is upheld and Roe is reversed, it would make an already awful situation yet more dire. Women may need to drive even farther, across multiple states, to get abortion care.

 

We desperately need — we have long needed — Congress to intervene.

 

If the court reverses Roe and allows states to ban abortion earlier than viability, nearly half of the states could take action to ban abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Already, at least 10 states have trigger laws in place that are designed to ban abortion immediately should Roe be overturned. We will become two separate countries: one where women can control their bodies and futures, and one where they cannot.

 

But the truth is, we are already two separate countries.

 

While some states, including California and New York, have laws protecting abortion rights, the laws in Mississippi are designed to make abortion hard to get and to make clinics like mine harder to operate. There are now five states with just one remaining abortion clinic, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

 

Abortion is absolutely a racial and economic justice issue. A large majority of our patients are Black women like me. The legislatures passing these laws in Mississippi and other Southern states are mostly male and predominantly white. The laws are inherently racist and classist; they keep Black and brown people down. And the research is clear: A woman who is denied an abortion is more likely to live in poverty even years later.

 

People who can afford to fly many states over are able to avoid this spider web of laws. Many of the women who can’t afford that, who manage to make it through our doors, have spent every penny they have and driven for hours, and had to take time off work and find the money for gas, a hotel and child care — only to have to force their way through a pack of protesters shouting “whore” and “murderer.”

 

But what really haunts me are the women I never see — the ones who can’t make it here.

 

The ability to control your own body and future should not depend on where you live, who you are and how much money you make. But state lawmakers have made that our reality. And if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, this inequality will be hugely magnified.

 

We need the federal government to put an end to this assault on our rights. We need it to protect abortion access everywhere, for everyone.

 

On Tuesday, members of Congress reintroduced a bill that would do exactly that — the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill, which was first introduced in 2013 but has never been passed, would protect against state laws like Mississippi’s two-trip requirement and 15-week ban. It would do so by creating a statutory right for health care providers to deliver abortion care and a right for patients to receive that care without medically unnecessary restrictions.

 

If this legislation becomes law, abortion access will be protected in every state. The law would surely face stiff legal pushback from Mississippi and other anti-abortion states, but Congress has passed laws protecting health care access, and this one should be treated no differently.

 

This year must be the year the bill passes. We have needed Congress’s help for many years, but now we need it more than ever.



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2) Are Vets and Pharmacists Showing How to Make Careers Work for Moms?

By Nicholas Kristof, June 9, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/09/opinion/women-motherhood-jobs.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

Image Source, via Getty Images


Veterinarians and pharmacists may be able to help us with more than our pets and our pills. Perhaps they can also guide America to a society that works better for America’s moms.

 

Women today outnumber men in colleges, in law schools and in medical schools. Yet while women seem better credentialed than men, their careers and incomes have stagnated.

 

Full-time female workers overall get 82 cents for each dollar made by men, and it’s much worse for those who are well educated. The median pay for female college graduates working full time is only 72 cents for every dollar earned by male equivalents, and the figure has barely budged for 30 years.

 

Women have constituted half of new accountants since the 1980s, but they still make up only 16 percent of equity partners in large accounting firms. Fifteen years after graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, 35 percent of men have made partner but only 18 percent of women.

 

“Women continue to feel shortchanged,” notes Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor, in a forthcoming book called “Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey Toward Equity,” from which most of the figures here are drawn. “They fall behind in their careers while earning less than their husbands and male colleagues.”

 

We often assume the fundamental cause of this inequity is old-fashioned discrimination, in the form of chauvinists who pay women less for the same work. It would be simpler if that were true — but Goldin cites evidence that while pay discrimination persists, it is not the central problem.

 

Early in careers, women earn almost as much as men, and those who don’t have children continue to (mostly) hold their own in the earnings race.

 

Nor is the gap the result primarily of women choosing lower-paid professions, as some claim. That may explain one-third of earnings gaps, not more.

 

The big challenge is that for most women, about 10 years into a career, babies make it much more complicated in jobs indifferent to parenting — and that suggests a larger, structural barrier to women’s career advancement.

 

“It’s systemic,” Goldin told me. “We have to go back to the drawing board and think harder.” She argues that without addressing parenting, the solutions bandied about are “the economic equivalent of tossing a box of Band-Aids to someone with bubonic plague.”

 

When a child is sick, one parent — it’s usually the mom — has to extricate from work and rush to the pediatrician. In theory, father and mother could trade off these responsibilities, but then neither would make partner. So in practice the man is often the designated career maximizer, while the woman sacrifices career advancement for the sake of family.

 

“Both are deprived,” Goldin writes. “Men forgo time with family; women forgo career.”

 

This made me think of my own family. My wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and I believe deeply in gender equity — we wrote a book about it — and yet, looking back, I see this was true of us. I was typically the one who flew off to cover coups, leaving Sheryl (who has more graduate degrees than I do) to deal with the kids’ birthday planning or the bat in the bedroom.

 

But there is hope, and that takes us to veterinarians.

 

It used to be that vets, like top lawyers, financiers and management consultants, often worked long and irregular hours. Dogs triumphed; vet families suffered. But 77 percent of new vets are female, and they have nurtured a system of group and emergency practices that is more family friendly: If Rover gets sick at night you take him to a 24-hour emergency clinic.

 

Likewise, the neighborhood pharmacist often toiled long hours and offered personal services. But today you call in a prescription and don’t expect to see a particular pharmacist. This allows pharmacists to work much more flexibly, so one-third of female pharmacists in their 30s work fewer than 35 hours a week.

 

By various measures, pharmacy is now one of the most equitable and family-friendly professions in America. And similar flexible practices are reshaping female-dominated fields of medicine such as pediatrics and obstetrics.

 

Could finance or consulting be structured more like this? If a C.E.O. is willing to trust his sick child to an on-call pediatrician, then why not let an on-call C.P.A. handle a weekend accounting question?

 

“I’m amazed when a lawyer, accountant, consultant or financier makes a case for nonsubstitutability among professionals in his area, but can’t answer why delivering a baby isn’t the equivalent,” Goldin writes.

 

The pandemic was potentially transformative, creating an opportunity for corporations to introduce more flexibility and remote work. Likewise, President Biden’s proposals for high-quality day care would be a Godsend for parents.

 

Goldin argues that we may be at a turning point, but that will depend on whether men embrace systemic changes that allow the flexibility pioneered by pharmacy and vet practices. The critical step, Goldin advises: “Get men on board.”

 

And that is why I wrote this column.


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3) The Keystone XL pipeline project has been terminated.

By Coral Davenport, June 9, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/09/business/keystone-xl-pipeline-canceled.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
The Keystone XL pipeline faced stiff opposition from environmental activists for years.
The Keystone XL pipeline faced stiff opposition from environmental activists for years. Credit...Jabin Botsford/The New York Times

The Canadian pipeline company that had long sought to build the Keystone XL pipeline announced Wednesday that it had terminated the embattled project, which would have carried petroleum from Canadian tar sands to Nebraska.

 

The announcement was the death knell for a project that had been on life support since President Biden’s first day in office and had been stalled by legal battles for years before that, despite support from the Trump administration.

 

On the day he was inaugurated, Mr. Biden, who has vowed to make tackling climate change a centerpiece of his administration, rescinded the construction permit for the pipeline, which developers had sought to build for over a decade. That same day, TC Energy, the company behind the project, said it was suspending work on the line.

 

On Wednesday, the company wrote in a statement that it “will continue to coordinate with regulators, stakeholders and Indigenous groups to meet its environmental and regulatory commitments and ensure a safe termination of and exit from the project.”

 

Environmental activists cheered the move and used the moment to urge Mr. Biden to rescind the Trump-era permits granted to another pipeline, the Enbridge Line 3, which would carry Canadian oil across Minnesota. Hundreds of protesters were arrested earlier this week in protests against that project.

 

“The termination of this zombie pipeline sets precedent for President Biden and polluters to stop Line 3, Dakota Access, and all fossil fuel projects,” said Kendall Mackey, a campaign manager with 350.org, a climate advocacy group. “This victory puts polluters and their financiers on notice: Terminate your fossil fuel projects now — or a relentless mass movement will stop them for you.”

 

On Capitol Hill, Republicans slammed Mr. Biden. “President Biden killed the Keystone XL pipeline and with it, thousands of good-paying American jobs,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy committee. “On Inauguration Day, the president signed an executive order that ended pipeline construction and handed one thousand workers pink slips. Now, ten times that number of jobs will never be created. At a time when gasoline prices are spiking, the White House is celebrating the death of a pipeline that would have helped bring Americans relief.”

 

The 1,179-mile pipeline, which would have carried 800,000 barrels a day of petroleum from Canada to the Gulf Coast, had become a lightning rod in broader political battles over energy, the environment and climate change. After environmental activists spent years making the case to President Barack Obama that approval of the pipeline would be a devastating blow to his efforts to fight climate change, Mr. Obama in 2015 announced that his administration would reject its construction permit.

 

Two days after his inauguration in 2017, President Donald J. Trump, who during the campaign promised to overturn Mr. Obama’s environmental legacy, signed an executive order rescinding Mr. Obama’s decision and allowing the pipeline to go forward. But in 2018, after some portions of the pipeline had been built, a federal judge blocked further construction of the project on the grounds that the Trump administration did not perform adequate environmental reviews before rescinding the Obama decision. The project had been largely stalled since then.


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4) Glacier Blood? Watermelon Snow? Whatever It’s Called, Snow Shouldn’t Be So Red.

Researchers are starting to investigate the species that drive alpine algal blooms to better understand their causes and effects.

By Cara Giaimo, June 11, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/11/science/watermelon-snow-algae-glacier-blood.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Science

Sampling red-colored snow in the Alps.

Sampling red-colored snow in the Alps. Credit...Jean-Gabriel/Valaey/Jardin du Lautaret/UGA/CNRS/ALPALGA


Winter through spring, the French Alps are wrapped in austere white snow. But as spring turns to summer, the stoic slopes start to blush. Parts of the snow take on bright colors: deep red, rusty orange, lemonade pink. Locals call this “sang de glacier,” or “glacier blood.” Visitors sometimes go with “watermelon snow.”

 

In reality, these blushes come from an embarrassment of algae. In recent years, alpine habitats all over the world have experienced an uptick in snow algae blooms — dramatic, strangely hued aggregations of these normally invisible creatures.

 

While snow algae blooms are poorly understood, that they are happening is probably not a good sign. Researchers have begun surveying the algae of the Alps to better grasp what species live there, how they survive and what might be pushing them over the bleeding edge. Some of their initial findings were published this week in Frontiers in Plant Science.

 

Tiny yet powerful, the plantlike bacteria we call algae are “the basis of all ecosystems,” said Adeline Stewart, a doctoral student at Grenoble Alpes University in France and an author of the study. Thanks to their photosynthetic prowess, algae produce a large amount of the world’s oxygen, and form the foundation of most food webs.

 

But they sometimes overdo it, multiplying until they throw things out of balance. This can cause toxic red tides, scummy freshwater blooms — or unsettling glacier blood.

 

While it’s unclear exactly what spurs the blooms, the color — often red, but sometimes green, gray or yellow — comes from pigments and other molecules that the snow algae use to protect themselves from ultraviolet light. These hues absorb more sunlight, causing the underlying snow to melt more quickly. This can change ecosystem dynamics and hasten the shrinking of glaciers.

 

Inspired by increasing reports of the phenomenon, researchers at several alpine institutes decided to turn their attention from algae species in far-flung habitats to those “that grow next door,” said Eric Maréchal, the head of a plant physiology lab at Grenoble Alpes University and a leader of the project.

 

Because so many different types of algae can live and bloom in the mountains, the researchers began with a census in parts of the French Alps to find out what grows where. They took soil samples from five peaks, spread over various altitudes, and searched for algal DNA.

 

They found that many species tend to prefer particular elevations, and have most likely evolved to thrive in the conditions found there. One key genus, fittingly named Sanguina, grows only above 6,500 feet.

 

The researchers also brought some species back to the lab to investigate their potential bloom triggers. Algae blooms occur naturally — the first written observation of glacier blood came from Aristotle, who guessed that the snow had grown hairy red worms from lying around too long.

 

But human-generated factors can worsen such outbursts and make them more frequent. Extreme weather, unseasonably warm temperatures and influxes of nutrients from agricultural and sewage runoff all play a role in freshwater and ocean algae blooms.

 

To see if the same was true for glacier blood, the researchers subjected the algae to surpluses of nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus. While they have not found anything significant so far, they plan to continue this line of testing, Mrs. Stewart said.

 

The limits of DNA sampling mean that even this study gives an incomplete picture of what’s living in and under the snow, said Heather Maughan, a microbiologist and research scholar at the Ronin Institute in New Jersey who was not involved. Still, it revealed the “incredible diversity” of alpine algae — underscoring how little we know about them, as well as their potential to “serve as beacons of ecosystem change,” she said.

 

In the coming years, the researchers will keep track of how species distributions shift over time, which may shed light on the overall health of the ecosystem, Mrs. Stewart said. They will also try to establish whether temperature patterns correlate with blooms, and begin to compare species compositions in white versus colorful snow. Eventually, they hope to decipher the blood-red message.

 

“There’s so little that we know,” she said. “We need to dig deeper.”


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5) Our Response to Climate Change Is Missing Something Big, Scientists Say

Yes, planting new trees can help. But intact wild areas are much better. The world needs to treat warming and biodiversity loss as two parts of the same problem, a new report warns.

By Catrin Einhorn, June 10, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/10/climate/biodiversity-collapse-climate-change.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Climate%20and%20Environment
Migrating cranes near Straussfurt, Germany. Climate change and biodiversity are “more deeply intertwined than originally thought,” one of the leaders of the new report said.
Migrating cranes near Straussfurt, Germany. Climate change and biodiversity are “more deeply intertwined than originally thought,” one of the leaders of the new report said. Credit...Jens Meyer/Associated Press

Some environmental solutions are win-win, helping to rein in global warming and protecting biodiversity, too. But others address one crisis at the expense of the other. Growing trees on grasslands, for example, can destroy the plant and animal life of a rich ecosystem, even if the new trees ultimately suck up carbon.

 

What to do?

 

Unless the world stops treating climate change and biodiversity collapse as separate issues, neither problem can be addressed effectively, according to a report issued Thursday by researchers from two leading international scientific panels.

 

“These two topics are more deeply intertwined than originally thought,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chairman of the scientific steering committee that produced the report. They are also inextricably tied to human well being. But global policies usually target one or the other, leading to unintended consequences.

 

“If you look at just one single angle, you miss a lot of things,” said Yunne-Jai Shin, a marine biologist with the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development and a co-author of the report. “Every action counts.”

 

How we got here

 

For years, one set of scientists and policymakers has studied and tried to tackle the climate crisis, warning the world of the dangers from greenhouse gases that have been building up in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. The lead culprit: burning fossil fuels.

 

Another group has studied and tried to tackle the biodiversity crisis, raising alarms about extinctions and ecosystem collapse. The lead culprits: habitat loss because of agriculture, and, at sea, overfishing.

 

The two groups have operated largely in their own silos. But their subjects are connected by something elemental, literally: carbon itself.

 

The same element that makes up heat-trapping carbon dioxide, methane and soot is also a fundamental building block of the natural world. It helps form the very tissue of plants and animals on earth. It’s stored in forests, wetlands, grasslands and on the ocean floor. In fact, land and water ecosystems are already stashing away half of human-generated emissions.

 

Another connection between climate and biodiversity: People have created emergencies on both fronts by using the planet’s resources in unsustainable ways.

 

For the last couple of decades, the climate crisis has largely overshadowed the biodiversity crisis, perhaps because its threat seemed more dire. But the balance may be shifting. Scientists warn that declines in biodiversity can lead to ecosystem collapse, threatening humanity’s food and water supply.

 

“Climate change of four or five degrees is just such an existential threat to people, it’s hard to imagine,” said Paul Leadley, one of the authors and an ecologist at Paris-Saclay University.

 

And, he continued, “if we lose a really large fraction of species on earth, that’s an existential threat.”

 

What’s not working

 

Businesses and countries have increasingly looked to nature as a way to offset their emissions, for example, by planting trees to absorb carbon. But the science is clear: Nature can’t store enough carbon to let us keep on spewing greenhouse gases at our current rates.

 

“A clear first priority is emissions reductions, emissions reductions and emissions reductions,” Dr. Pörtner said.

 

Just last month, the world’s leading energy agency declared that if the world wants to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, nations would need to stop approving new coal, oil and gas projects immediately.

 

To make matters worse, some measures being used or proposed to address climate change could devastate biodiversity.

 

“Some people are out there selling this message that if we cover the whole planet with trees, that will solve the climate problem,” Dr. Leadley said. “That’s a mistaken message on many levels.”

 

In Brazil, parts of the Cerrado, a biodiverse savanna that stores large amounts of carbon, have been planted with monocultures of eucalyptus and pine in an attempt to meet a global reforestation goal. The result, researchers have written separately, is an “impending ecological disaster” because they destroy the native ecosystem and the livelihoods of local communities, including Indigenous people.

 

Europe once hoped to lead the world in biofuels until realizing they led to deforestation and increased food prices. Another kind of bioenergy, wood pellets, is currently booming in the southeastern United States, despite concerns about pollution and biodiversity loss.

 

Climate interventions tend to hurt biodiversity more than the other way round, and some trade-offs must occur, the authors wrote. Solar farms, for example, eat up wildlife habitat, a particular concern for places with threatened species. But, critically, they generate clean energy.

 

The report highlights ways to mitigate the damage to biodiversity, for example by grazing livestock around them, improving carbon soil stocks and avoiding intact habitat. Pollinator gardens on solar farms can help nurture insects and birds. While wind farms can hurt migrating birds, the authors note that modern turbines cause much less damage.

 

The solutions

 

By protecting and restoring nature, the report said, we can safeguard biodiversity, help limit warming, improve human well being and even find protection from the consequences of climate change, like intensified flooding and storms.

 

In the Casamance region of Senegal, for example, local communities restored mangroves and adopted sustainable fishing measures, improving their catch, bringing back dolphins and 20 species of fish, storing carbon and protecting their coastline, said Pamela McElwee, an environmental anthropologist at Rutgers University who was one of the authors.

 

“Mangroves are a really special type of ecosystem,” she said, “in that they do it all for humans.”

 

While mangroves are themselves vulnerable to climate change, Dr. McElwee said they appear less threatened than once thought, because restoration efforts are working.

 

In the Hindu Kush mountains of South Asia, a project has conserved an area about the size of Belgium, restoring high-altitude forests and rangelands and protecting threatened snow leopards and musk deer, the report says, while keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. The 1.3 million people who live there, straddling Nepal, India and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, have seen enhanced household incomes through tourism and sustainable farming.

 

Urban areas, too, can do their part with native trees, green spaces and coastal ecosystems, the researchers said.

 

The report was the first collaboration between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

 

John P. Holdren, an environmental scientist at Harvard University and a former White House science adviser who was not involved in the report, called it “a must-read for our time.”

 

Brad Plumer contributed reporting.



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6) The Case Against Zoos

By Emma Marris

Ms. Marris is an environmental writer and the author of the forthcoming book “Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World,” June 11, 2021

“Elephants aren’t the only species that try to flee a zoo life. Tatiana the tiger, kept in the San Francisco Zoo, snapped one day in 2007 after three teenage boys had been taunting her. She somehow got over the 12-foot wall surrounding her 1,000-square-foot enclosure and attacked one of the teenagers, killing him. The others ran, and she pursued them, ignoring all other humans in her path. When she caught up with the boys at the cafe, she mauled them before she was shot to death by the police. Investigators found sticks and pine cones inside the exhibit, most likely thrown by the boys. Apes are excellent at escaping. Little Joe, a gorilla, escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston twice in 2003. At the Los Angeles Zoo, a gorilla named Evelyn escaped seven times in 20 years. Apes are known for picking locks and keeping a beady eye on their captors, waiting for the day someone forgets to lock the door. An orangutan at the Omaha Zoo kept wire for lock-picking hidden in his mouth. A gorilla named Togo at the Toledo Zoo used his incredible strength to bend the bars of his cage. When the zoo replaced the bars with thick glass, he started methodically removing the putty holding it in. In the 1980s, a group of orangutans escaped several times at the San Diego Zoo. In one escape, they worked together: One held a mop handle steady while her sister climbed it to freedom. Another time, one of the orangutans, Kumang, learned how to use sticks to ground the current in the electrical wire around her enclosure. She could then climb the wire without being shocked. It is impossible to read these stories without concluding that these animals wanted out.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/11/opinion/zoos-animal-cruelty.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Opinion

Photographs by Peter Fisher for The New York Times


After being captives of the pandemic for more than a year, we have begun experiencing the pleasures of simple outings: dining al fresco, shopping with a friend, taking a stroll through the zoo. As we snap a selfie by the sea lions for the first time in a year, it seems worth asking, after our collective ordeal, whether our pleasure in seeing wild animals up close is worth the price of their captivity.

 

Throughout history, men have accumulated large and fierce animals to advertise their might and prestige. Power-mad men from Henry III to Saddam Hussein’s son Uday to the drug kingpin Pablo Escobar to Emperor Charlemagne all tried to underscore their strength by keeping terrifying beasts captive. William Randolph Hearst created his own private zoo with lions, tigers, leopards and more at Hearst Castle. It is these boastful collections of animals, these autocratic menageries, from which the modern zoo, with its didactic plaques and $15 hot dogs, springs.

 

The forerunners of the modern zoo, open to the public and grounded in science, took shape in the 19th century. Public zoos sprang up across Europe, many modeled on the London Zoo in Regent’s Park. Ostensibly places for genteel amusement and edification, zoos expanded beyond big and fearsome animals to include reptile houses, aviaries and insectariums. Living collections were often presented in taxonomic order, with various species of the same family grouped together, for comparative study.

 

The first zoos housed animals behind metal bars in spartan cages. But relatively early in their evolution, a German exotic animal importer named Carl Hagenbeck changed the way wild animals were exhibited. In his Animal Park, which opened in 1907 in Hamburg, he designed cages that didn’t look like cages, using moats and artfully arranged rock walls to invisibly pen animals. By designing these enclosures so that many animals could be seen at once, without any bars or walls in the visitors’ lines of sight, he created an immersive panorama, in which the fact of captivity was supplanted by the illusion of being in nature.

 

Mr. Hagenbeck’s model was widely influential. Increasingly, animals were presented with the distasteful fact of their imprisonment visually elided. Zoos shifted just slightly from overt demonstrations of mastery over beasts to a narrative of benevolent protection of individual animals. From there, it was an easy leap to protecting animal species.

 

The “educational day out” model of zoos endured until the late 20th century, when zoos began actively rebranding themselves as serious contributors to conservation. Zoo animals, this new narrative went, function as backup populations for wild animals under threat, as well as “ambassadors” for their species, teaching humans and motivating them to care about wildlife. This conservation focus “must be a key component” for institutions that want to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit organization that sets standards and policies for facilities in the United States and 12 other countries.

 

This is the image of the zoo I grew up with: the unambiguously good civic institution that lovingly cared for animals both on its grounds and, somehow, vaguely, in their wild habitats. A few zoos are famous for their conservation work. Four of the zoos and the aquarium in New York City, for instance, are managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which is involved in conservation efforts around the world. But this is not the norm.

 

While researching my book on the ethics of human interactions with wild species, “Wild Souls,” I examined how, exactly, zoos contribute to conservation of wild animals.

 

A.Z.A. facilities report spending approximately $231 million annually on conservation projects. For comparison, in 2018, they spent $4.9 billion on operations and construction. I find one statistic particularly telling about their priorities: A 2018 analysis of the scientific papers produced by association members between 1993 and 2013 showed that just about 7 percent of them annually were classified as being about “biodiversity conservation.”

 

Zoos accredited by the A.Z.A. or the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria have studbooks and genetic pedigrees and carefully breed their animals as if they might be called upon at any moment to release them, like Noah throwing open the doors to the ark, into a waiting wild habitat. But that day of release never quite seems to come.

 

There are a few exceptions. The Arabian oryx, an antelope native to the Arabian Peninsula, went extinct in the wild in the 1970s and then was reintroduced into the wild from zoo populations. The California condor breeding program, which almost certainly saved the species from extinction, includes five zoos as active partners. Black-footed ferrets and red wolves in the United States and golden lion tamarins in Brazil — all endangered, as well — have been bred at zoos for reintroduction into the wild. An estimated 20 red wolves are all that remain in the wild.

 

The A.Z.A. says that its members host “more than 50 reintroduction programs for species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.” Nevertheless, a vast majority of zoo animals (there are 800,000 animals of 6,000 species in the A.Z.A.’s zoos alone) will spend their whole lives in captivity, either dying of old age after a lifetime of display or by being culled as “surplus.”

 

The practice of killing “surplus” animals is kept quiet by zoos, but it happens, especially in Europe. In 2014, the director of the E.A.Z.A. at the time estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 animals are euthanized in European zoos each year. Early in the pandemic, the Neumünster Zoo in northern Germany coolly announced an emergency plan to cope with lost revenue by feeding some animals to other animals, compressing the food chain at the zoo like an accordion, until in the worst-case scenario, only Vitus, a polar bear, would be left standing. The A.Z.A.’s policies allow for the euthanasia of animals, but the president of the association, Dan Ashe, told me, “it’s very rarely employed” by his member institutions.

 

Mr. Ashe, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, suggested that learning how to breed animals contributes to conservation in the long term, even if very few animals are being released now. A day may come, he said, when we need to breed elephants or tigers or polar bears in captivity to save them from extinction. “If you don’t have people that know how to care for them, know how to breed them successfully, know how to keep them in environments where their social and psychological needs can be met, then you won’t be able to do that,” he said.

 

The other argument zoos commonly make is that they educate the public about animals and develop in people a conservation ethic. Having seen a majestic leopard in the zoo, the visitor becomes more willing to pay for its conservation or vote for policies that will preserve it in the wild. What Mr. Ashe wants visitors to experience when they look at the animals is a “sense of empathy for the individual animal, as well as the wild populations of that animal.”

 

I do not doubt that some people had their passion for a particular species, or wildlife in general, sparked by zoo experiences. I’ve heard and read some of their stories. I once overheard two schoolchildren at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington confess to each other that they had assumed that elephants were mythical animals like unicorns before seeing them in the flesh. I remember well the awe and joy on their faces, 15 years later. I’d like to think these kids, now in their early 20s, are working for a conservation organization somewhere. But there’s no unambiguous evidence that zoos are making visitors care more about conservation or take any action to support it. After all, more than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums worldwide every year and biodiversity is still in decline.

 

In a 2011 study, researchers quizzed visitors at the Cleveland, Bronx, Prospect Park and Central Park zoos about their level of environmental concern and what they thought about the animals. Those who reported “a sense of connection to the animals at the zoo” also correlated positively with general environmental concern. On the other hand, the researchers reported, “there were no significant differences in survey responses before entering an exhibit compared with those obtained as visitors were exiting.”

 

A 2008 study of 206 zoo visitors by some members of the same team showed that while 42 percent said that the “main purpose” of the zoo was “to teach visitors about animals and conservation,” 66 percent said that their primary reason for going was “to have an outing with friends or family,” and just 12 percent said their intention was “to learn about animals.”

 

The researchers also spied on hundreds of visitors’ conversations at the Bronx Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. They found that only 27 percent of people bothered to read the signs at exhibits. More than 6,000 comments made by the visitors were recorded, nearly half of which were “purely descriptive statements that asserted a fact about the exhibit or the animal.” The researchers wrote, “In all the statements collected, no one volunteered information that would lead us to believe that they had an intention to advocate for protection of the animal or an intention to change their own behavior.”

 

People don’t go to zoos to learn about the biodiversity crisis or how they can help. They go to get out of the house, to get their children some fresh air, to see interesting animals. They go for the same reason people went to zoos in the 19th century: to be entertained.

 

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A fine day out with the family might itself be justification enough for the existence of zoos if the zoo animals are all happy to be there. Alas, there’s plenty of heartbreaking evidence that many are not.

 

In many modern zoos, animals are well cared for, healthy and probably, for many species, content. Zookeepers are not mustache-twirling villains. They are kind people, bonded to their charges and immersed in the culture of the zoo, in which they are the good guys.

 

But many animals clearly show us that they do not enjoy captivity. When confined they rock, pull their hair and engage in other tics. Captive tigers pace back and forth, and in a 2014 study, researchers found that “the time devoted to pacing by a species in captivity is best predicted by the daily distances traveled in nature by the wild specimens.” It is almost as if they feel driven to patrol their territory, to hunt, to move, to walk a certain number of steps, as if they have a Fitbit in their brains.

 

The researchers divided the odd behaviors of captive animals into two categories: “impulsive/compulsive behaviors,” including coprophagy (eating feces), regurgitation, self-biting and mutilation, exaggerated aggressiveness and infanticide, and “stereotypies,” which are endlessly repeated movements. Elephants bob their heads over and over. Chimps pull out their own hair. Giraffes endlessly flick their tongues. Bears and cats pace. Some studies have shown that as many as 80 percent of zoo carnivores, 64 percent of zoo chimps and 85 percent of zoo elephants have displayed compulsive behaviors or stereotypes.

 

Elephants are particularly unhappy in zoos, given their great size, social nature and cognitive complexity. Many suffer from arthritis and other joint problems from standing on hard surfaces; elephants kept alone become desperately lonely; and all zoo elephants suffer mentally from being cooped up in tiny yards while their free-ranging cousins walk up to 50 miles a day. Zoo elephants tend to die young. At least 20 zoos in the United States have already ended their elephant exhibits in part because of ethical concerns about keeping the species captive.

 

Many zoos use Prozac and other psychoactive drugs on at least some of their animals to deal with the mental effects of captivity. The Los Angeles Zoo has used Celexa, an antidepressant, to control aggression in one of its chimps. Gus, a polar bear at the Central Park Zoo, was given Prozac as part of an attempt to stop him from swimming endless figure-eight laps in his tiny pool. The Toledo Zoo has dosed zebras and wildebeest with the antipsychotic haloperidol to keep them calm and has put an orangutan on Prozac. When a female gorilla named Johari kept fighting off the male she was placed with, the zoo dosed her with Prozac until she allowed him to mate with her. A 2000 survey of U.S. and Canadian zoos found that nearly half of respondents were giving their gorillas Haldol, Valium or another psychopharmaceutical drug.

 

Some zoo animals try to escape. Jason Hribal’s 2010 book, “Fear of the Animal Planet,” chronicles dozens of attempts. Elephants figure prominently in his book, in part because they are so big that when they escape it generally makes the news.

 

Mr. Hribal documented many stories of elephants making a run for it — in one case repairing to a nearby woods with a pond for a mud bath. He also found many examples of zoo elephants hurting or killing their keepers and evidence that zoos routinely downplayed or even lied about those incidents.

 

Elephants aren’t the only species that try to flee a zoo life. Tatiana the tiger, kept in the San Francisco Zoo, snapped one day in 2007 after three teenage boys had been taunting her. She somehow got over the 12-foot wall surrounding her 1,000-square-foot enclosure and attacked one of the teenagers, killing him. The others ran, and she pursued them, ignoring all other humans in her path. When she caught up with the boys at the cafe, she mauled them before she was shot to death by the police. Investigators found sticks and pine cones inside the exhibit, most likely thrown by the boys.

 

Apes are excellent at escaping. Little Joe, a gorilla, escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston twice in 2003. At the Los Angeles Zoo, a gorilla named Evelyn escaped seven times in 20 years. Apes are known for picking locks and keeping a beady eye on their captors, waiting for the day someone forgets to lock the door. An orangutan at the Omaha Zoo kept wire for lock-picking hidden in his mouth. A gorilla named Togo at the Toledo Zoo used his incredible strength to bend the bars of his cage. When the zoo replaced the bars with thick glass, he started methodically removing the putty holding it in. In the 1980s, a group of orangutans escaped several times at the San Diego Zoo. In one escape, they worked together: One held a mop handle steady while her sister climbed it to freedom. Another time, one of the orangutans, Kumang, learned how to use sticks to ground the current in the electrical wire around her enclosure. She could then climb the wire without being shocked. It is impossible to read these stories without concluding that these animals wanted out.

 

“I don’t see any problem with holding animals for display,” Mr. Ashe told me. “People assume that because an animal can move great distances that they would choose to do that.” If they have everything they need nearby, he argued, they would be happy with smaller territories. And it is true that the territory size of an animal like a wolf depends greatly on the density of resources and other wolves. But then there’s the pacing, the rocking. I pointed out that we can’t ask animals whether they are happy with their enclosure size. “That’s true,” he said. “There is always that element of choice that gets removed from them in a captive environment. That’s undeniable.” His justification was philosophical. In the end, he said, “we live with our own constraints.” He added, “We are all captive in some regards to social and ethical and religious and other constraints on our life and our activities.”

 

What if zoos stopped breeding all their animals, with the possible exception of any endangered species with a real chance of being released back into the wild? What if they sent all the animals that need really large areas or lots of freedom and socialization to refuges? With their apes, elephants, big cats, and other large and smart species gone, they could expand enclosures for the rest of the animals, concentrating on keeping them lavishly happy until their natural deaths. Eventually, the only animals on display would be a few ancient holdovers from the old menageries, animals in active conservation breeding programs and perhaps a few rescues.

 

Such zoos might even be merged with sanctuaries, places that take wild animals that because of injury or a lifetime of captivity cannot live in the wild. Existing refuges often do allow visitors, but their facilities are really arranged for the animals, not for the people. These refuge-zoos could become places where animals live. Display would be incidental.

 

Such a transformation might free up some space. What could these zoos do with it, besides enlarging enclosures? As an avid fan of botanical gardens, I humbly suggest that as the captive animals retire and die off without being replaced, these biodiversity-worshiping institutions devote more and more space to the wonderful world of plants. Properly curated and interpreted, a well-run garden can be a site for a rewarding “outing with friends or family,” a source of education for the 27 percent of people who read signs and a point of civic pride.

 

I’ve spent many memorable days in botanical gardens, completely swept away by the beauty of the design as well as the unending wonder of evolution — and there’s no uneasiness or guilt. When there’s a surplus, you can just have a plant sale.

 

Photographs by Peter Fisher. Mr. Fisher is a photographer based in New York.


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7) What the Rich Don’t Want to Admit About the Poor

By Ezra Klein, June 13, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/13/opinion/stimulus-unemployment-republicans-poverty.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos

I’m not going to pretend that I know how to interpret the jobs and inflation data of the past few months. My view is that this is still an economy warped by the pandemic, and that the dynamics are so strange and so unstable that it will be some time before we know its true state. But the reaction to the early numbers and anecdotes has revealed something deeper and more constant in our politics.

 

The American economy runs on poverty, or at least the constant threat of it. Americans like their goods cheap and their services plentiful and the two of them, together, require a sprawling labor force willing to work tough jobs at crummy wages. On the right, the barest glimmer of worker power is treated as a policy emergency, and the whip of poverty, not the lure of higher wages, is the appropriate response.

 

Reports that low-wage employers were having trouble filling open jobs sent Republican policymakers into a tizzy and led at least 25 Republican governors — and one Democratic governor — to announce plans to cut off expanded unemployment benefits early. Chipotle said that it would increase prices by about 4 percent to cover the cost of higher wages, prompting the National Republican Congressional Committee to issue a blistering response: “Democrats’ socialist stimulus bill caused a labor shortage, and now burrito lovers everywhere are footing the bill.” The Trumpist outlet The Federalist complained, “Restaurants have had to bribe current and prospective workers with fatter paychecks to lure them off their backsides and back to work.”

 

But it’s not just the right. The financial press, the cable news squawkers and even many on the center-left greet news of labor shortages and price increases with an alarm they rarely bring to the ongoing agonies of poverty or low-wage toil.

 

As it happened, just as I was watching Republican governors try to immiserate low-wage workers who weren’t yet jumping at the chance to return to poorly ventilated kitchens for $9 an hour, I was sent “A Guaranteed Income for the 21st Century,” a plan that seeks to make poverty a thing of the past. The proposal, developed by Naomi Zewde, Kyle Strickland, Kelly Capatosto, Ari Glogower and Darrick Hamilton for the New School’s Institute on Race and Political Economy, would guarantee a $12,500 annual income for every adult and a $4,500 allowance for every child. It’s what wonks call a “negative income tax” plan — unlike a universal basic income, it phases out as households rise into the middle class.

 

“With poverty, to address it, you just eliminate it,” Hamilton told me. “You give people enough resources so they’re not poor.” Simple, but not cheap. The team estimates that its proposal would cost $876 billion annually. To give a sense of scale, total federal spending in 2019 was about $4.4 trillion, with $1 trillion of that financing Social Security payments and another $1.1 trillion support Medicaid, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

 

Beyond writing that the plan “would require new sources of revenue, additional borrowing or trade-offs with other government funding priorities,” Hamilton and his co-authors don’t say how they’d pay for it, and in our conversation, Hamilton was cagey. “There are many ways in which it can be paid for and deficit spending itself is not bad unless there are certain conditions,” he said. I’m less blasé about financing a program that would increase federal spending by almost 20 percent, but at the same time, it’s clearly possible. Even if the entire thing was funded by taxes, it would only bring America’s tax burden to roughly the average of our peer nations.

 

I suspect the real political problem for a guaranteed income isn’t the costs, but the benefits. A policy like this would give workers the power to make real choices. They could say no to a job they didn’t want, or quit one that exploited them. They could, and would, demand better wages, or take time off to attend school or simply to rest. When we spoke, Hamilton tried to sell it to me as a truer form of capitalism. “People can’t reap the returns of their effort without some baseline level of resources,” he said. “If you lack basic necessities with regards to economic well-being, you have no agency. You’re dictated to by others or live in a miserable state.”

 

But those in the economy with the power to do the dictating profit from the desperation of low-wage workers. One man’s misery is another man’s quick and affordable at-home lunch delivery. “It is a fact that when we pay workers less and don’t have social insurance programs that, say, cover Uber and Lyft drivers, we are able to consume goods and services at lower prices,” Hilary Hoynes, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, where she also co-directs the Opportunity Lab, told me.

 

This is the conversation about poverty that we don’t like to have: We discuss the poor as a pity or a blight, but we rarely admit that America’s high rate of poverty is a policy choice, and there are reasons we choose it over and over again. We typically frame those reasons as questions of fairness (“Why should I have to pay for someone else’s laziness?”) or tough-minded paternalism (“Work is good for people, and if they can live on the dole, they would”). But there’s more to it than that.

 

It is true, of course, that some might use a guaranteed income to play video games or melt into Netflix. But why are they the center of this conversation? We know full well that America is full of hardworking people who are kept poor by very low wages and harsh circumstance. We know many who want a job can’t find one, and many of the jobs people can find are cruel in ways that would appall anyone sitting comfortably behind a desk. We know the absence of child care and affordable housing and decent public transit makes work, to say nothing of advancement, impossible for many. We know people lose jobs they value because of mental illness or physical disability or other factors beyond their control. We are not so naïve as to believe near-poverty and joblessness to be a comfortable condition or an attractive choice.

 

Most Americans don’t think of themselves as benefiting from the poverty of others, and I don’t think objections to a guaranteed income would manifest as arguments in favor of impoverishment. Instead, we would see much of what we’re seeing now, only magnified: Fears of inflation, lectures about how the government is subsidizing indolence, paeans to the character-building qualities of low-wage labor, worries that the economy will be strangled by taxes or deficits, anger that Uber and Lyft rides have gotten more expensive, sympathy for the struggling employers who can’t fill open roles rather than for the workers who had good reason not to take those jobs. These would reflect not America’s love of poverty but opposition to the inconveniences that would accompany its elimination.

 

Nor would these costs be merely imagined. Inflation would be a real risk, as prices often rise when wages rise, and some small businesses would shutter if they had to pay their workers more. There are services many of us enjoy now that would become rarer or costlier if workers had more bargaining power. We’d see more investments in automation and possibly in outsourcing. The truth of our politics lies in the risks we refuse to accept, and it is rising worker power, not continued poverty, that we treat as intolerable. You can see it happening right now, driven by policies far smaller and with effects far more modest than a guaranteed income.

 

Hamilton, to his credit, was honest about these trade-offs. “Progressives don’t like to talk about this,” he told me. “They want this kumbaya moment. They want to say equity is great for everyone when it’s not. We need to shift our values. The capitalist class stands to lose from this policy, that’s unambiguous. They will have better resourced workers they can’t exploit through wages. Their consumer products and services would be more expensive.”

 

For the most part, America finds the money to pay for the things it values. In recent decades, and despite deep gridlock in Washington, we have spent trillions of dollars on wars in the Middle East and tax cuts for the wealthy. We have also spent trillions of dollars on health insurance subsidies and coronavirus relief. It is in our power to wipe out poverty. It simply isn’t among our priorities.

 

“Ultimately, it’s about us as a society saying these privileges and luxuries and comforts that folks in the middle class — or however we describe these economic classes — have, how much are they worth to us?” Jamila Michener, co-director of the Cornell Center for Health Equity, told me. “And are they worth certain levels of deprivation or suffering or even just inequality among people who are living often very different lives from us? That’s a question we often don’t even ask ourselves.”

 

But we should.



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8) Private Inequity: How a Powerful Industry Conquered the Tax System

The I.R.S. almost never audits private equity firms, even as whistle-blowers have filed claims alleging illegal tax avoidance.

“People earning less than $25,000 are at least three times more likely to be audited than partnerships, whose income flows overwhelmingly to the richest 1 percent of Americans. …The top five publicly traded firms reported net profits last year of $8.6 billion. They paid their executives $8.3 billion. …Even if the agency’s budget were significantly expanded, veterans of the I.R.S. doubt it would make much difference when it comes to scrutinizing complex partnerships. ‘If the I.R.S. started staffing up now, it would take them at least a decade to catch up,’ …‘They don’t have enough I.R.S. agents with enough knowledge to know what they are looking at. They are so grossly overmatched it’s not funny.’”

By Jesse Drucker and Danny Hakim, June 12, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/business/private-equity-taxes.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Business

Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone Group’s chief executive, with President Donald J. Trump in 2017.

Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone Group’s chief executive, with President Donald J. Trump in 2017. Credit...Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


There were two weeks left in the Trump administration when the Treasury Department handed down a set of rules governing an obscure corner of the tax code.

 

Overseen by a senior Treasury official whose previous job involved helping the wealthy avoid taxes, the new regulations represented a major victory for private equity firms. They ensured that executives in the $4.5 trillion industry, whose leaders often measure their yearly pay in eight or nine figures, could avoid paying hundreds of millions in taxes.

 

The rules were approved on Jan. 5, the day before the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Hardly anyone noticed.

 

The Trump administration’s farewell gift to the buyout industry was part of a pattern that has spanned Republican and Democratic presidencies and Congresses: Private equity has conquered the American tax system.

 

The industry has perfected sleight-of-hand tax-avoidance strategies so aggressive that at least three private equity officials have alerted the Internal Revenue Service to potentially illegal tactics, according to people with direct knowledge of the claims and documents reviewed by The New York Times. The previously unreported whistle-blower claims involved tax dodges at dozens of private equity firms.

 

But the I.R.S., its staff hollowed out after years of budget cuts, has thrown up its hands when it comes to policing the politically powerful industry.

 

While intensive examinations of large multinational companies are common, the I.R.S. rarely conducts detailed audits of private equity firms, according to current and former agency officials.

 

Such audits are “almost nonexistent,” said Michael Desmond, who stepped down this year as the I.R.S.’s chief counsel. The agency “just doesn’t have the resources and expertise.”

 

One reason they rarely face audits is that private equity firms have deployed vast webs of partnerships to collect their profits. Partnerships do not owe income taxes. Instead, they pass those obligations on to their partners, who can number in the thousands at a large private equity firm. That makes the structures notoriously complicated for auditors to untangle.

 

Increasingly, the agency doesn’t bother. People earning less than $25,000 are at least three times more likely to be audited than partnerships, whose income flows overwhelmingly to the richest 1 percent of Americans.

 

The consequences of that imbalance are enormous.

 

By one recent estimate, the United States loses $75 billion a year from investors in partnerships failing to report their income accurately — at least some of which would probably be recovered if the I.R.S. conducted more audits. That’s enough to roughly double annual federal spending on education.

 

It is also a dramatic understatement of the true cost. It doesn’t include the ever-changing array of maneuvers — often skating the edge of the law — that private equity firms have devised to help their managers avoid income taxes on the roughly $120 billion the industry pays its executives each year.

 

Private equity’s ability to vanquish the I.R.S., Treasury and Congress goes a long way toward explaining the deep inequities in the U.S. tax system. When it comes to bankrolling the federal government, the richest of America’s rich — many of them hailing from the private equity industry — play by an entirely different set of rules than everyone else.

 

The result is that men like Blackstone Group’s chief executive, Stephen A. Schwarzman, who earned more than $610 million last year, can pay federal taxes at rates similar to the average American.

 

Lawmakers have periodically tried to force private equity to pay more, and the Biden administration has proposed a series of reforms, including enlarging the I.R.S.’s enforcement budget and closing loopholes. The push for reform gained new momentum after ProPublica’s recent revelation that some of America’s richest men paid little or no federal taxes.

 

The private equity industry, which has a fleet of almost 200 lobbyists and has doled out nearly $600 million in campaign contributions over the last decade, has repeatedly derailed past efforts to increase its tax burden.

 

The I.R.S. commissioner, Charles Rettig, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, declined to be interviewed for this article. But in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, he acknowledged that the agency wasn’t doing enough to scrutinize partnerships.

 

“If you’re a wealthy cheat in a partnership, your odds of getting audited are slightly higher than your odds of getting hit by a meteorite,” Senator Ron Wyden, the committee’s chairman, told Mr. Rettig at the hearing. “For the sake of fairness and for the sake of the budget, it makes a lot more sense to go after cheating by the big guys than focus on working people.”

 

Yet that is not what the I.R.S. has done.

 

A Lucrative Distinction

 

Private equity firms typically borrow money to buy companies that they see as ripe for turnarounds. Then they cut costs and resell what’s left, often laden with debt. The industry has owned brand-name companies across nearly every industry. Today its prime assets include Staples, Petco, WebMD and Taylor Swift’s back music catalog.

 

The industry makes money in two main ways. Firms typically charge their investors a management fee of 2 percent of their assets. And they keep 20 percent of future profits that their investments generate.

 

That slice of future profits is known as “carried interest.” The term dates at least to the Renaissance. Italian ship captains were compensated in part with an interest in whatever profits were realized on the cargo they carried.

 

The I.R.S. has long allowed the industry to treat the money it makes from carried interests as capital gains, rather than as ordinary income.

 

For private equity, it is a lucrative distinction. The federal long-term capital gains tax rate is currently 20 percent. The top federal income tax rate is 37 percent.

 

The loophole is expensive. Victor Fleischer, a University of California, Irvine, law professor, expects it will cost the federal government $130 billion over the next decade.

 

Back in 2006, Mr. Fleischer published an influential article highlighting the inequity of the tax treatment. It prompted lawmakers from both parties to try to close the so-called carried interest loophole. The on-again, off-again campaign has continued ever since.

 

Whenever legislation gathers momentum, the private equity industry — joined by real estate, venture capital and other sectors that rely on partnerships — has pumped up campaign contributions and dispatched top executives to Capitol Hill. One bill after another has died, generally without a vote.

 

An Unexpected Email

 

One day in 2011, Gregg Polsky, then a professor of tax law at the University of North Carolina, received an out-of-the-blue email. It was from a lawyer for a former private equity executive. The executive had filed a whistle-blower claim with the I.R.S. alleging that their old firm was using illegal tactics to avoid taxes.

 

The whistle-blower wanted Mr. Polsky’s advice.

 

Mr. Polsky had previously served as the I.R.S.’s “professor in residence,” and in that role he had developed an expertise in how private equity firms’ vast profits were taxed. Back in academia, he had published a research paper detailing a little-known but pervasive industry tax-dodging technique.

 

The loophole is expensive. Victor Fleischer, a University of California, Irvine, law professor, expects it will cost the federal government $130 billion over the next decade.

 

Back in 2006, Mr. Fleischer published an influential article highlighting the inequity of the tax treatment. It prompted lawmakers from both parties to try to close the so-called carried interest loophole. The on-again, off-again campaign has continued ever since.

 

Whenever legislation gathers momentum, the private equity industry — joined by real estate, venture capital and other sectors that rely on partnerships — has pumped up campaign contributions and dispatched top executives to Capitol Hill. One bill after another has died, generally without a vote.

 

An Unexpected Email

 

One day in 2011, Gregg Polsky, then a professor of tax law at the University of North Carolina, received an out-of-the-blue email. It was from a lawyer for a former private equity executive. The executive had filed a whistle-blower claim with the I.R.S. alleging that their old firm was using illegal tactics to avoid taxes.

 

The whistle-blower wanted Mr. Polsky’s advice.

 

Mr. Polsky had previously served as the I.R.S.’s “professor in residence,” and in that role he had developed an expertise in how private equity firms’ vast profits were taxed. Back in academia, he had published a research paper detailing a little-known but pervasive industry tax-dodging technique.

 

Mr. Polsky began talking with the former private equity executive, whose I.R.S. claim accused three firms of illegally using fee waivers. (Whistle-blowers receive a portion of whatever the I.R.S. recovers as a result of their claims.)

 

Before long, Mr. Polsky heard from a second whistle-blower. And then a third.

 

The whistle-blowers — whose previously undisclosed claims are not public but were reviewed by The Times — had independently obtained dozens of private equity and venture capital firms’ partnership agreements from former colleagues in the industry, laying out the fee waivers in great detail.

 

The arrangements all had the same basic structure. Say a private equity manager was set to receive a $1 million management fee, which would be taxed as ordinary income, now at a 37 percent rate. Under the fee waiver, the manager would instead agree to collect $1 million as a share of future profits, which he would claim was a capital gain subject to the 20 percent tax. He’d still receive the same amount of money, but he’d save $170,000 in taxes.

 

The whistle-blowers, two of whom hired Mr. Polsky to advise them, argued that this was a flagrant tax dodge. The whole idea behind the managers’ compensation being taxed at the capital gains rate was that they involved significant risk; these involved almost none.

 

Many of the arrangements even permitted partners to receive their waived fees if their private equity fund lost money.

 

That was the case at Bain Capital, whose tactics a whistle-blower brought to the attention of the I.R.S. in 2012. That year, Bain’s former head Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president.

 

Another whistle-blower’s claim described fee waivers used at Apollo — one of the world’s largest buyout firms, with $89 billion in private equity assets — as being “abusive” and a “thinly disguised way of paying the management company its quarterly paycheck.”

 

Apollo said in a statement that the company stopped using fee waivers in 2012 and is “not aware of any I.R.S. inquiries involving the firm’s use of fee waivers.”

 

Prompted at least in part by the whistle-blower claims, the I.R.S. began examining fee waivers at a number of private equity firms, according to agency documents and lawyers who represented the firms.

 

This would be the last time the I.R.S. seriously examined private equity, and it would not amount to much.

 

Codifying a Tax Dodge

 

Early in his first term, President Barack Obama floated the idea of cracking down on carried interest.

 

Private equity firms mobilized. Blackstone’s lobbying spending increased by nearly a third that year, to $8.5 million. (Matt Anderson, a Blackstone spokesman, said the company’s senior executives “are among the largest individual taxpayers in the country.” He wouldn’t disclose Mr. Schwarzman’s tax rate but said the firm never used fee waivers.)

 

Lawmakers got cold feet. The initiative fizzled.

 

In 2015, the Obama administration took a more modest approach. The Treasury Department issued regulations that barred certain types of especially aggressive fee waivers.

 

But by spelling that out, the new rules codified the legitimacy of fee waivers in general, which until that point many experts had viewed as abusive on their face.

 

To the frustration of some I.R.S. officials, private equity firms now had a road map for how to construct the arrangements without running afoul of the government. (The agency continued to review fee waivers at some firms where whistle-blowers had raised concerns.)

 

The Treasury secretary at the time, Jacob Lew, joined a private equity firm after leaving office. So did his predecessor in the Obama administration, Timothy F. Geithner.

 

Inside the I.R.S. — which lost about one-third of its agents and officers from 2008 to 2018 — many viewed private equity’s webs of interlocking partnerships as designed to befuddle auditors and dodge taxes.

 

One I.R.S. agent complained that “income is pushed down so many tiers, you are never able to find out where the real problems or duplication of deductions exist,” according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation of partnerships in 2014. Another agent said the purpose of large partnerships seemed to be making “it difficult to identify income sources and tax shelters.”

 

The Times reviewed 10 years of annual reports filed by the five largest publicly traded private equity firms. They contained no trace of the firms ever having to pay the I.R.S. extra money, and they referred to only minor audits that they said were unlikely to affect their finances.

 

Current and former I.R.S. officials said in interviews that such audits generally involved issues like firms’ accounting for travel costs, rather than major reckonings over their taxable profits. The officials said they were unaware of any recent significant audits of private equity firms.

 

No Money Owed

 

For a while, it looked as if there would be an exception to this general rule: the I.R.S.’s reviews of the fee waivers spurred by the whistle-blower claims. But it soon became clear that the effort lacked teeth.

 

The agency did not audit most of the 32 private equity firms that were the subject of one whistle-blower’s claims, according to an I.R.S. document reviewed by The Times. So far, the agency appears to have recovered only small amounts in back taxes, including a total of less than $1 million from two firms, according to two people familiar with the audits. (A handful of audits are ongoing.)

 

In 2014, the I.R.S. began auditing the fee waivers used by Thoma Bravo, a large San Francisco private equity firm that owns companies like McAfee and JD Power, according to records reviewed by The Times. One of the whistle-blowers had asserted that Thoma Bravo managers were avoiding taxes by claiming their waived fee income was capital gains, even though it entailed negligible risk.

 

Agents tried to impose back taxes and penalties on Thoma Bravo, the records show. The company appealed. An internal I.R.S. review panel sided with Thoma Bravo. The challenge was over. “We are not proposing any adjustments” to the company’s tax returns, an I.R.S. official in the agency’s Chicago office informed Thoma Bravo in a July 2018 letter, reviewed by The Times.

 

A Thoma Bravo spokesman declined to comment.

 

Kat Gregor, a tax lawyer at the law firm Ropes & Gray, said the I.R.S. had challenged fee waivers used by four of her clients, whom she wouldn’t identify. The auditors struck her as untrained in the thicket of tax laws governing partnerships.

 

“It’s the equivalent of picking someone who was used to conducting an interview in English and tell them to go do it in Spanish,” Ms. Gregor said.

 

The audits of her clients wrapped up in late 2019. None owed any money.

 

The Mnuchin Compromise

 

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Trump vowed to “eliminate the carried interest deduction, well-known deduction, and other special-interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors, and for people like me, but unfair to American workers.”

 

But his administration, stocked with veterans of the private equity and hedge fund worlds, retreated from the issue.

 

In 2017, as Republicans rushed through a sweeping package of tax cuts, Democrats tried to insert language that would recoup some revenue by collecting more from private equity. They failed.

 

“Private equity weighs in so consistently and so aggressively and is always saying that Western civilization is going to end if they have to pay taxes annually at ordinary income rates,” said Mr. Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.

 

While White House officials claimed they wanted to close the loophole, congressional Republicans resisted. Instead, they embraced a much milder measure: requiring private equity officials to hold their investments for at least three years before reaping preferential tax treatment on their carried interests. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who had previously run an investment partnership, signed off.

 

“We were trying to strike a balance between protecting the tax base with making sure that we didn’t inadvertently penalize legitimate business and investment activity,” said George Callas, who was senior tax counsel to Paul Ryan, the House speaker.

 

It was a token gesture for an industry that, according to McKinsey, typically holds investments for more than five years. The measure, part of a $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts, was projected to generate $1 billion in revenue over a decade.

 

Private equity cheered. One of the industry’s top lobbyists credited Mr. Mnuchin, hailing him as “an all-star.”

 

Mr. Fleischer, who a decade earlier had raised alarms about carried interest, said the measure “was structured by industry to appear to do something while affecting as few as possible.”

 

Months later, Mr. Callas joined the law and lobbying firm Steptoe & Johnson. The private equity giant Carlyle is one of his biggest clients.

 

‘The Government Caved’

 

It took the Treasury Department more than two years to propose rules spelling out the fine print of the 2017 law. The Treasury’s suggested language was strict. One proposal would have empowered I.R.S. auditors to more closely examine internal transactions that private equity firms might use to get around the law’s three-year holding period.

 

The industry, so happy with the tepid 2017 law, was up in arms over the tough rules the Treasury’s staff was now proposing. In a letter in October 2020, the American Investment Council, led by Drew Maloney, a former aide to Mr. Mnuchin, noted how private equity had invested in hundreds of companies during the coronavirus pandemic and said the Treasury’s overzealous approach would harm the industry.

 

The rules were the responsibility of Treasury’s top tax official, David Kautter. He previously was the national tax director at EY, formerly Ernst & Young, when the firm was marketing illegal tax shelters that led to a federal criminal investigation and a $123 million settlement. (Mr. Kautter has denied being involved with selling the shelters but has expressed regret about not speaking up about them.)

 

On his watch at Treasury, the rules under development began getting softer, including when it came to the three-year holding period.

 

In December, a handful of Treasury officials working on the regulations told Mr. Kautter that the rules were not ready. Mr. Kautter overruled his colleagues and pushed to get them done before Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin left office, according to two people familiar with the process.

 

On Jan. 5, the Treasury Department unveiled the final version of the regulations. Some of the toughest provisions had vanished. Among those was the one that would have allowed the I.R.S. to scrutinize transactions between different entities controlled by the same firm. The result was that it became much easier to maneuver around the three-year holding period.

 

“The government caved,” said Monte Jackel, a former I.R.S. attorney who worked on the original version of the proposed regulations.

 

Mr. Mnuchin, back in the private sector, is starting an investment fund that could benefit from his department’s weaker rules.

 

A Charmed March

 

Even during the pandemic, the charmed march of private equity continued.

 

The top five publicly traded firms reported net profits last year of $8.6 billion. They paid their executives $8.3 billion. In addition to Mr. Schwarzman’s $610 million, the co-founders of KKR each made about $90 million, and Apollo’s Leon Black received $211 million, according to Equilar, an executive compensation consulting firm.

 

The industry’s lawyers have largely decoded the 2017 law and discovered new ways for their clients to avoid taxes.

 

The industry’s lawyers have largely decoded the 2017 law and discovered new ways for their clients to avoid taxes.


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