5/04/2021

Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, May 4, 2021

       





A Tribute to the Life, Activism, and Legacy of Ernie Tate


May 30, 2021, 2:00-4:00 PM (EDT)


About this Event

We warmly welcome you to join us for a tribute to the life, activism and legacy of Ernie Tate (1934-2021).

Ernie Tate believed capitalism is a cruel and unjust system that has to be changed. Ernie was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1934 and emigrated to Canada in 1955. As a Marxist, union activist and revolutionary, Ernie spent his life working to achieve that in organizing against the war in Vietnam, in union struggles at Toronto Hydro, for protecting universal healthcare and living wages, and much else. Ernie, along with Tariq Ali, was a leading organizer of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in Britain, worked for Bertrand Russell’s International War Crimes Tribunal and was a founding member of the International Marxist Group in Britain. In 2014, Ernie published a memoir of his life on the far left in Canada and Great Britain called Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 1960s. This two-volume memoir is an important resource for anyone interested in a gritty account of mid-20th century revolutionary movements. It has been a source of information for the 2020-2021 Undercover Policing Inquiry hearings, taking place in England, in which the illegal and immoral activities of police agents in infiltrating the left have been laid bare.

Ernie died on February 5th this year. Please join us to reflect upon and celebrate Ernie’s life, activism and legacy with many of his comrades and friends from around the world, including: Tariq Ali and Phil Hearse (England), Riche Venton (Scotland), Barry Sheppard and Suzanne Weiss (USA), Pam Frache, Judy Rebick, Caroline Egan, Sam Gindin, Bryan Palmer, Rob Fairley, and John Riddell (Canada), and Patrick Bond (South Africa).

The event will be online, on ZOOM. Please register for your free ticket on Eventbrite. A link to the ZOOM room will be sent to you.

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/no-life-like-it-a-tribute-to-the-revolutionary-activism-of-ernie-tate-tickets-150849684467

Hosted by Socialist Project, Centre for Social Justice, Spring, Resistance, Green Left Weekly, Socialist Viewpoint

 

 

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Update: Mumia Abu-Jamal is Recovering from Heart Surgery!



Mumia's wife, Wadiya, has spoken to Mumia and reports that he sounded strong. He still needs to be free to get the medical care he needs for his weakened physical condition and, because he's innocent! 

 

https://jamaljournal.blogspot.com/2021/02/take-action-mumia-is-seriously-ill-he.html


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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Jeff Bezos has at least $131 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) California Man Dies After Officers Pin Him to Ground for 5 Minutes

The death of Mario Arenales Gonzalez came one day before a former Minneapolis officer was convicted of murdering George Floyd. Body camera footage was released on Tuesday.

By Will Wright, Published April 27, 2021 Updated April 28, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/27/us/mario-gonzalez-alameda-police.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

A screenshot from body camera footage of Mario Arenales Gonzalez, who died in police custody in Alameda, Calif., last week.

A screenshot from body camera footage of Mario Arenales Gonzalez, who died in police custody in Alameda, Calif., last week. Credit...Alameda Police Department


Body camera footage was released on Tuesday of a 26-year-old man who died in police custody after officers in Alameda County, Calif., pinned him facedown on the ground for five minutes.

 

The footage from the Alameda Police Department shows the man, Mario Arenales Gonzalez, becoming unresponsive while in handcuffs and police officers quickly beginning chest compressions.

 

Mr. Gonzalez died on April 19, one day before Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of murdering George Floyd by restraining him for nine minutes and 29 seconds, holding him to the pavement with his knee long after Mr. Floyd had become unresponsive.

 

An initial police report from Alameda, south of Oakland, said that “a physical altercation ensued” when officers tried to detain Mr. Gonzalez and that “at that time, the man had a medical emergency.” The report said Mr. Gonzalez had died in a hospital later that day.

 

Julia Sherwin, a lawyer representing Mr. Gonzalez’s family, called the explanation “misinformation,” comparing it to the initial police report after Mr. Floyd’s death. Mr. Gonzalez’s family was also concerned with why the police used force in the first place, Ms. Sherwin said.

 

“His death was completely avoidable and unnecessary,” she said, adding, “Drunk guy in a park doesn’t equal a capital sentence.”

 

At a news conference on Tuesday, Gerardo Gonzalez said his brother had not been posing any threat when he died.

 

“Alameda police officers murdered my brother,” he said.

 

Three police officers have been placed on administrative leave, and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office are both conducting independent investigations. The city of Alameda has also hired Louise Renne, the former city attorney for San Francisco and a former president of the San Francisco Police Commission, to conduct its own investigation.

 

In addition to the body camera footage, the city released two audio recordings from people who had called 911 to report a Hispanic man later identified as Mr. Gonzalez.

 

One man says Mr. Gonzalez has been loitering for about a half-hour and appears to be breaking store security tags off alcohol bottles. Another man says Mr. Gonzalez is talking to himself at a fence near the caller’s backyard. “He seems like he’s tweaking, but he’s not doing anything wrong,” he says. “He’s just scaring my wife.”

 

In the body camera footage, the first officer at the scene asks on his radio whether a nearby store has reported any recent thefts, describing Mr. Gonzalez, who has two Walgreens shopping baskets.

 

The officer, who identifies himself as Officer McKinley, then continues to speak with Mr. Gonzalez, asking whether he knows Alameda and whether he is thinking of hurting himself or others. Mr. Gonzalez struggles to maintain the conversation or provide his name.

 

Another officer arrives about seven minutes after the first officer.

 

“Here’s the plan,” the first officer says. “I’ve got to identify you, so I know who I’m talking to — make sure you don’t have any warrants or anything like that. You come up with a plan, let me know you’re not going to be drinking in our parks over here. And then we can be on our merry way.”

 

“Merry-go-round?” Mr. Gonzalez replies.

 

The two officers then ask Mr. Gonzalez for identification and tell him to keep his hands out of his pockets before they begin trying to detain him.

 

“Can you please put your hand behind your back and stop resisting us?” the second officer says after several minutes.

 

The officers eventually push Mr. Gonzalez to the ground facedown and handcuff him. “What are we going to do?” the first officer asks. “Just keep him pinned down?”

 

“It’s OK, Mario,” the officer later says. “We’re going to take care of you.”

 

The first officer asks for Mr. Gonzalez’s last name and his birthday and tells him to keep talking. He answers in whimpered bursts and later begins grunting. At one point, he seems to say, “Please don’t do it.”

 

After about four and a half minutes of body camera footage showing Mr. Gonzalez pinned to the ground, a third officer is seen on his legs. When one officer asks if they should roll him on his side, another replies, “I don’t want to lose what I got.”

 

“We have no weight on his chest, nothing,” the second officer observes, pointing to Mr. Gonzalez’s back. As the first officer tries to adjust his position, the second says: “No, no, no. No weight, no weight, no weight.”

 

Seconds later, the officers notice that Mr. Gonzalez has become unresponsive. They roll him onto his side and then push him onto his back and begin chest compressions after checking for a pulse.

 

After emergency medical workers respond, the first officer explains that they administered Narcan, which can reverse overdoses. “He went from combative to nonresponsive almost immediately,” he says.

 

Several experts testified during Mr. Chauvin’s trial that the prone position was dangerous because it could impair breathing and that officers should put people they are detaining onto their sides as quickly as possible.

 

The three officers put on leave were Eric McKinley, Cameron Leahy and James Fisher, a city spokeswoman said on Tuesday. When asked for more details about the death of Mr. Gonzalez, she pointed to the Police Department’s previous news releases about the encounter.


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2) Private Autopsy Shows Deputies Shot Andrew Brown Jr. 5 Times

The fatal shot was to the back of the head, lawyers for Mr. Brown’s family said. Cries are growing for the authorities in Elizabeth City, N.C., to release body camera footage.

By Richard Fausset, Published April 27, 2021, Updated April 28, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/27/us/andrew-brown-jr-shooting-autopsy.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Demonstrators gathered in support of Mr. Brown in Elizabeth City on Monday.

Demonstrators gathered in support of Mr. Brown in Elizabeth City on Monday.Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times


ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — Lawyers for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in coastal North Carolina last week, said on Tuesday that a private autopsy paid for by Mr. Brown’s family showed that he was hit by five bullets and killed by a shot to the back of the head.

 

The results of the autopsy, which the lawyers described in a news conference, came as the F.B.I. announced that it was opening a civil rights investigation into the April 21 shooting, and as Gov. Roy Cooper called for a special prosecutor to take over a case that currently rests with the local district attorney.

 

It also came amid simmering tension in Elizabeth City, a majority-Black city of about 18,000 people. Residents have been peacefully protesting in the streets since the death of Mr. Brown, who was Black, demanding that body camera footage from the shooting be released to the public. On Tuesday, the city and surrounding Pasquotank County, both already under self-imposed states of emergency, established curfews from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

 

A hearing on whether to release the body camera footage was scheduled for Wednesday morning. The judge hearing the petition, filed by the sheriff’s office, was also expected to consider a separate petition requesting the release of the videos filed by a group of news media outlets, including The New York Times.

 

Members of Mr. Brown’s family, plus one of the family’s lawyers, were shown 20 seconds of footage on Monday. On Tuesday, lawyers for the family, including Ben Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd and several other people killed by the police, continued to express anger that they were shown only a snippet of what must have transpired, saying that Mr. Brown had been subject to an “execution.”

 

Mr. Crump also on Tuesday used the shooting to argue that the culture of American policing remains deeply flawed. He tweeted video footage of a Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office truck driving down a residential street with deputies sitting in the back, dressed in tactical gear. Mr. Crump referred to it as “the militarized police force rushing to kill Andrew Brown,” adding, “This has become a constant sight across America, the evolution of policing that’s now terrorizing communities of color!”

 

The video was obtained by WAVY, a Virginia-based television station, through a public records request and shows the truck arriving at a home, followed by shouting and orders to “Get your hands up.”

 

Deputies from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office fired several times at Mr. Brown after arriving at his house to serve drug warrants. Seven deputies were placed on administrative leave after the killing. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, a lawyer for the family who watched the 20-second video with them on Monday, said the footage showed Mr. Brown sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when deputies began shooting.

 

The shooting continued, she said, as Mr. Brown drove away from the deputies. Lawyers for the family have asserted that Mr. Brown, 42, was unarmed at the time.

 

The Sheriff’s Office filed a petition in state court late Monday asking that the footage be released to Mr. Brown’s adult son, Khalil Ferebee, after mounting pressure from a range of officials, including Mr. Cooper and the Elizabeth City Council, that it be made public. Under state law, only a judge can authorize the release of body camera footage.

 

Sheriff Tommy Wooten II, who has faced calls to resign from the local N.A.A.C.P., has said that he supports the release of the footage as long as it would not jeopardize the investigation into the shooting by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

 

The findings of an official government autopsy have also not been publicly released. But during the news conference on Tuesday, Wayne Kendall, one of the lawyers for the family, said the independent pathologist’s finding that Mr. Brown was shot in the back of the head supported the lawyers’ contention that Mr. Brown had been shot while fleeing the scene.

 

“This, in fact, was a fatal wound to the back of Mr. Brown’s head as he was leaving the site, trying to evade being shot at by these particular law enforcement officers who we believe did nothing but a straight-up execution,” Mr. Kendall said.

 

The F.B.I.’s civil rights investigation was opened by the agency’s Charlotte field office, which will work with federal prosecutors and the civil rights division of the Justice Department, according to a statement.

 

Mr. Cooper, in a tweet, said the appointment of a special prosecutor would “help assure the community and Mr. Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias.”

 

Mr. Cooper said his position reflected the recommendation, made in a recent task force report on criminal justice reform, to appoint a special prosecutor to handle all police use-of-force cases.


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3) Three Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges in Ahmaud Arbery Shooting

The Justice Department’s announcement of the charges was the latest in a string of moves to make civil rights protections a priority.

By Katie Benner and Will Wright, Published April 28, 2021, Updated April 29, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/28/us/politics/ahmaud-arbery-shooting.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage

The shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery helped prompt last year’s widespread racial justice protests.

The shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery helped prompt last year’s widespread racial justice protests. Credit...Sean Rayford/Getty Images


WASHINGTON — Three Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

 

The deadly encounter helped fuel nationwide racial justice demonstrations last year, and the charges are the most significant hate crimes prosecution so far by the Biden administration, which has made civil rights protections a major priority.

 

The suspects — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William Bryan, 51, all of whom are white — were each charged with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race. They were also charged with one count of attempted kidnapping.

 

Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with one count each of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm. Travis McMichael is accused of shooting Mr. Arbery.

 

The men intimidated Mr. Arbery “because of Arbery’s race and color,” the eight-page indictment said.

 

“As Arbery was running on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Ga., Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at Arbery, using their truck to cut off his route and threatening him with firearms,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

 

Mr. Bryan, known as Roddie, joined the chase and used his truck to cut off Mr. Arbery, the department said. The three men were accused of chasing after Mr. Arbery in their trucks in an attempt to detain him against his will.

 

The federal indictment in the Arbery case marks the third time in a week that the Justice Department has taken a significant step to address allegations of policing abuses or of a high-profile civil rights violation around the country. The department also announced broad investigations into the Minneapolis and the Louisville police departments, which both fired officers last year who had been involved in two of the highest-profile deaths of Black people that spurred widespread protests.

 

Those investigations were revealed shortly after a former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murdering George Floyd, a Black man who died last May. A state investigation in Kentucky into the death of a Black medical worker named Breonna Taylor who was shot by Louisville police during a botched raid of her home ended in no charges in her death, only an indictment on a lesser count against one officer.

 

Taken together, the Justice Department actions indicate that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is carrying out his vows to aggressively pursue civil rights matters.

 

In a meeting this month with civil rights leaders, Mr. Garland quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and pledged that the Justice Department would “once again deploy all of its considerable resources to ensure, in the words of Dr. King, ‘justice for all people.’”

 

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Mr. Arbery’s mother, said she and her family were grateful to see the indictments. Although the length of time it took to secure the indictment was discouraging, she said, “we never gave up hope.”

 

“He was killed because of hate. It was initiated by hate,” Ms. Cooper-Jones said of her son. “We look at this as one step closer to justice for Ahmaud.”

 

The killing of Mr. Arbery in February 2020 prompted an outcry after news reports and video footage indicated a local prosecutor had wrongly determined that the pursuers had acted within the bounds of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, and that Mr. McMichael had shot Mr. Arbery in self-defense.

 

Months after the shooting, video surfaced that seemed to undercut the idea that Mr. McMichael acted in self-defense. The video showed Mr. Arbery jogging, then coming upon a man standing beside a truck and another man in the pickup bed. After Mr. Arbery runs around the truck, shouting is heard and then he reappears, tussling with the man outside the truck. Three shotgun blasts are then fired.

 

George E. Barnhill, the district attorney for Georgia’s Waycross Judicial Circuit, later recused himself from the case, and the state took over the investigation.

 

Jason Sheffield, a lawyer representing Travis McMichael, said the federal indictment “ignored the totality of the evidence” that his team has presented in defense of his client.

 

“We all want restorative justice in this country, especially in cases like this that highlight the space in between tragedies and laws, and practices that are problematic,” Mr. Sheffield said. “Forcing a case into a narrative that simplifies the problem and creates only two choices is fundamentally unfair and wrong.”

 

Kevin Gough, a lawyer for Mr. Bryan, said that his client had “committed no crime,” and that they were disappointed with the federal indictment. “We look forward to a fair and speedy trial, and to the day when Mr. Bryan is released and reunited with his family,” Mr. Gough said.

 

A lawyer for Gregory McMichael did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

All three suspects also face state charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

 

No date has been set for the state trial. State and federal prosecutors work together to determine when they will try their cases. State prosecutors, who often can bring a broader array of charges, typically go to trial first.

 

Kimberly Isaza, a spokeswoman for the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on any effect the federal charges might have on the state’s case.

 

Mr. Garland made clear in a March 30 memo to all employees that prosecuting hate crimes was among the Justice Department’s top priorities, as law enforcement data showed a rise in such episodes.

 

“We will persist in our efforts to investigate and appropriately prosecute those who attack members of our communities, set fire to places of worship or use the internet to threaten bodily injury to other persons because of their real or perceived protected characteristics,” Mr. Garland wrote.

 

He called for more community outreach and data collection so the department could better understand the nature and extent of hate-based crimes, and he said the department had begun a 30-day review to determine how it could best use its tools to more forcefully combat hate crimes.


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4) Inside the Chauvin Jury Room: 11 of 12 Jurors Were Ready to Convict Right Away

One juror described the seven hours of closed-door deliberations that led to Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction.

By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 29, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/29/us/chauvin-jury-brandon-mitchell.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=US%20News

“It was important for me as a Black man to be in the room,” said Brandon Mitchell, one of the 12 jurors who decided Derek Chauvin was guilty of murdering George Floyd.

“It was important for me as a Black man to be in the room,” said Brandon Mitchell, one of the 12 jurors who decided Derek Chauvin was guilty of murdering George Floyd. Credit...Caroline Yang for The New York Times


Seated at tables six feet apart in a hotel conference room, 12 jurors scribbled letters on slips of paper to indicate how they were leaning on a murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer on trial for killing George Floyd.

 

When the jury foreman tallied the votes that morning, one of the jurors recalled, there were 11 papers with a “G” written on them — guilty. One paper said “U,” for unsure.

 

The seven women and five men spent the next few hours poring over the evidence in one of the most closely watched trials in a generation, according to Brandon Mitchell, who has been the only juror to publicly describe the deliberations last week near Minneapolis. Mr. Mitchell said the jurors watched the graphic videos of Mr. Floyd’s death, discussed the testimony of many of the witnesses and experts, and created their own timeline using markers and a whiteboard. By lunchtime, Mr. Mitchell said, the juror who had been unsure, a white woman, had made up her mind: Mr. Chauvin was guilty of all charges.

 

Mr. Mitchell, 31, a high school basketball coach in Minneapolis, described the deliberations in an interview on Thursday, shedding light on what had happened inside the jury room before the jurors convicted Mr. Chauvin on two murder charges and a manslaughter charge.

 

Mr. Mitchell said he was excited when he was chosen for the jury and glad to see that the jury was diverse; there were four Black jurors, including Mr. Mitchell, as well as six white jurors and two multiracial jurors. They ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s.

 

“The pressure, I was ready to embrace it,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Whichever way the verdict went — guilty or not guilty — it was important for me as a Black man to be in the room.”

 

He said he had expected, before the trial, that he would struggle to come to the right decision in the case, but that after three weeks of testimony, he found the evidence overwhelming.

 

“I had no doubt in my mind,” Mr. Mitchell said of his decision about Mr. Chauvin’s guilt. Jurors discussed the case for about seven hours over two days before reaching a verdict on the afternoon of April 20, Mr. Mitchell said. They spent much of the first evening of deliberations getting to know one another rather than talking about the case, he said.

 

Mr. Chauvin, the white officer who was videotaped kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd, a Black security guard, for more than nine minutes last May, is scheduled to be sentenced in June and could face decades in prison.

 

Immediately following closing arguments in the trial on April 19, jurors gathered in a conference room at the hotel where they were sequestered and surrendered their phones for deliberations, Mr. Mitchell said. They took a vote on whether to keep their masks on during deliberations (they chose, unanimously, to take them off), and soon moved to discussing the evidence and the law.

 

They first considered second-degree manslaughter, the least serious of the charges Mr. Chauvin was facing, and the juror who would later indicate uncertainty about murder said she was unsure about the manslaughter charge, Mr. Mitchell said. Sitting at individual tables that were placed in a U-shape, the jurors took turns describing their thoughts. The jurors decided to wait until the second day of deliberations to discuss the murder charges, but dinner did not arrive for several more hours, so they made small talk instead, chatting about their jobs and children.

 

At 6:45 the next morning, deputies knocked on each of their hotel doors to wake them up for breakfast and a second day of deliberations, Mr. Mitchell said.

 

As the jurors considered the murder charges, Mr. Mitchell said, they focused at one point on the exact cause of Mr. Floyd’s death. Many jurors said they believed the prosecutors’ version of what had happened — that Mr. Chauvin’s knee had caused Mr. Floyd’s death — but at least one juror who supported a conviction said she could not be sure that Mr. Chauvin’s knee had been the cause. Still, Mr. Mitchell recalled, the juror said she believed that the former officer was nonetheless responsible because he had continued to pin Mr. Floyd down even after he lost consciousness and never provided medical aid.

 

After several hours of discussions over a third-degree murder charge, all of the jurors said they favored a conviction, Mr. Mitchell said, and after another half an hour, they had agreed on a second-degree murder conviction as well.

 

Jurors decided to wait until after lunch to fill out the forms that would make their decision official, Mr. Mitchell said.

 

“We didn’t want to rush,” he said. “We took a pause to soak it in and say, ‘This is what we’re about to do.’”

 

Shortly before 2 p.m., they alerted deputies that they had reached a verdict and were rushed from the hotel to the courtroom, where Judge Peter A. Cahill read the verdict.

 

Mr. Mitchell said that for many of the jurors, including himself, the most powerful witness testimony had come from Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a lung expert who pinpointed what he said was the exact moment that Mr. Floyd took his final breath.

 

“He just had all of our attention 100 percent,” Mr. Mitchell said of Dr. Tobin, who testified for the prosecution. “I don’t know if there is any other witness that captured us like that.”

 

Mr. Mitchell said he found the defense team’s case to be weak, lacking in revelatory testimony that might poke holes in the prosecution’s case.

 

“I was waiting for a moment that was going to be climactic like ‘Wow!’ — a ‘Boom! Aha!’ moment — and it just never happened,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Nothing ever hit. It was kind of deflating. It made the case easy.”

 

Judge Cahill has said that the jurors’ identities will be kept secret until at least October, though they are free to speak publicly if they choose to. One of the two alternate jurors, who attended the trial but was excused before deliberations began, has spoken publicly, saying she never doubted that Mr. Chauvin was guilty.

 

Throughout the trial, the jurors referred to one another only by their juror numbers — Mr. Mitchell was No. 52 — until they began deliberations and shared their names. Mr. Mitchell said he and the other jurors made tentative plans to get together for drinks in the summer or the fall, when the case is no longer drawing as much attention.

 

Mr. Mitchell said that in the weeks after Mr. Floyd’s death, he had been determined not to watch the video of Mr. Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck, but had seen some of it when it began playing automatically on a social media feed.

 

As protests engulfed Minneapolis following Mr. Floyd’s death, Mr. Mitchell, who lived downtown, said he had frequently discussed the killing with high school students on the teams he coached to help them express the anger and sadness they felt. He said that he found the protests warranted and necessary, and that he hoped they would lead to change.

 

“I just want to see police be more compassionate when it comes to Black men, instead of moving with such aggression,” he said.

 

Kitty Bennett contributed research.


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5) A third of Basecamp’s workers resign after a ban on talking politics.

By Sarah Kessler, April 30, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/30/technology/basecamp-politics-ban-resignations.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
“Every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant,” Jason Fried, Basecamp’s chief executive, wrote in a blog post.

“Every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant,” Jason Fried, Basecamp’s chief executive, wrote in a blog post. Credit...Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images


About a third of Basecamp’s employees have said they are resigning after the company, which makes productivity software, announced new policies banning workplace conversations about politics.

 

Jason Fried, Basecamp’s chief executive, detailed the policies in a blog post on Monday, calling “societal and political discussions” on company messaging tools “a major distraction.” He wrote that the company would also ban committees, cut benefits such as a fitness allowance (with employees receiving the equivalent cash value) and stop “lingering and dwelling on past decisions.”

 

Basecamp had 57 employees, including Mr. Fried, when the announcement was made, according to a staff list on its website. Since then, at least 20 of them have posted publicly that they intend to resign or have already resigned, according to a tally by The New York Times. Basecamp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

Mr. Fried and David Hansson, two of Basecamp’s founders, have published several books about workplace culture, and news of their latest management philosophy was met with a mix of applause and criticism on social media.

 

After the newsletter Platformer published details of a dispute within the company that contributed to the decision to ban political talk, Mr. Hansson wrote in another blog post that Basecamp had offered severance of up to six months of salary to employees who disagreed with the founders’ choice.

 

“We’ve committed to a deeply controversial stance,” Mr. Hansson, Basecamp’s chief technology officer, wrote. “Some employees are relieved, others are infuriated, and that pretty well describes much of the public debate around this too.”

 

Coinbase, a start-up that allows people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, announced a similar ban last year, with a similar offer to give severance to employees who disagreed. The company said 60 of its employees had resigned, about 5 percent of its work force.


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6) Hundreds Reported Abnormal Menstruation After Exposure to Tear Gas, Study Finds

A scientific paper expands on social media reports of sudden onset of periods, spotting and other menstrual peculiarities during last summer’s protests in Portland, Ore.

By Heather Murphy, May 1, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/01/us/period-tear-gas-study-portland.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
Protesters facing tear gas outside the U.S. District Court building in Portland, Ore., in July. A scientist asked if their menstrual cycles had changed after they were exposed to tear gas. Nearly 50 percent said yes.

Protesters facing tear gas outside the U.S. District Court building in Portland, Ore., in July. A scientist asked if their menstrual cycles had changed after they were exposed to tear gas. Nearly 50 percent said yes. Credit...Mason Trinca for The New York Times


At some point last summer, there were just too many reports of protesters who had experienced abnormal menstrual cycles after being exposed to tear gas for Britta Torgrimson-Ojerio, a nurse researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, to dismiss them as coincidence.

 

A preschool teacher told Oregon Public Broadasting that if she inhaled a significant amount of gas at night, she’d get her period the next morning. Other Portland residents shared stories of periods that lasted for weeks and of unusual spotting. Transgender men described sudden periods that defied hormones that had kept menstruation at bay for months or years.

 

Dr. Torgrimson-Ojerio decided she would try to figure out whether these anecdotes were outliers or representative of a more common phenomenon. She surveyed around 2,200 adults who said they had been exposed to tear gas in Portland last summer. In a study published this week in the journal BMC Public Health, she reported that 899 of them — more than 54 percent of the respondents who potentially menstruate — said they had experienced abnormal menstrual cycles.

 

“Even though we cannot say anything scientifically definitive about these chemical agents and a causal relationship to menstrual irregularities,” Dr. Torgrimson-Ojerio said, “we can definitively say that in our study most people who had menstrual cycles or a uterus reported menstrual irregularities after reporting exposure to tear gas.”

 

Downstream effects, like the impact on fertility, are not known, but “this is our call to action to ask our scientific community to turn their eye to this issue,” she said.

 

Dr. Torgrimson-Ojerio was also interested in whether people had experienced other problems more than a few hours after being exposed to tear gas. She found that 80 percent of survey participants had, with difficulty breathing being among the most prevalent complaints.

 

Kira Taylor, a professor of epidemiology and population health at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences who is conducting a similar study, said that Dr. Torgrimson-Ojerio’s study provided “some of the first solid evidence” that tear gas might be linked to menstrual abnormalities. It is also “the first study to document the longer-term effects of tear gas exposure in a large population,” she said.

 

Sven-Eric Jordt, a professor of anesthesiology, pharmacology and cancer biology at the Duke University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, applauded the work.

 

Most of the research that police agencies and the government rely on to inform them about tear gas safety “are outdated, often 50 to 70 years old, and don’t measure up to modern toxicological approaches,” he said. “Most of these studies were conducted in young healthy men at the time, either police or military, and not in women, or in a general civilian population representing protesters.”

 

Dr. Torgrimson-Ojerio and her colleagues recruited survey participants through social media and links on the websites of The Oregonian and the Oregon Health Authority in July and August.

 

The researchers asked participants to explain precisely how their periods had been affected after exposure to tear gas. Increased cramps, unusual spotting and uncharacteristically intense or long bleeding were the most common reactions. A number of people who don’t usually have periods because of hormone therapy or age reported unexpected bleeding and spotting, Dr. Torgrimson-Ojerio said.

 

This study has limitations. It is not a random sample.

 

“It is possible that people who feel that their health was damaged by tear gas might have been more likely to respond than people who were also exposed, yet did not feel such harmful effects,” Dr. Taylor said. “This means that some of the numbers might be exaggerated.”

 

Given that subjects were permitted to participate anonymously, researchers could not verify their accounts.

 

Nor can the study answer how or why tear gas might be contributing to menstrual irregularities or to what extent other factors are also involved. The authors acknowledge that the high levels of stress and anxiety among protesters, for example, could also have contributed to the physical response.

 

“It is possible that pain, stress, dehydration and exertion play a role,” Dr. Jordt said. Alternatively, tear gas may act as an “endocrine disrupter,” interfering with normal hormonal function.

 

“The tear gas agent CS, sometimes used by police, is a chlorinated chemical compound and produces additional chlorinated byproducts when burned in the canisters used by the police,” he said. “Exposure to chlorinated chemicals can affect menstrual health.”

 

Alexander Samuel, a molecular biologist in France, has been investigating similar questions since French protesters began reporting menstrual irregularities.

 

He mentioned two additional areas for exploration: whether tear gas is metabolized into cyanide, which may cause heavy menstrual bleeding, and the role a traumatic event may play in altering menstrual cycles.

 

Suspicions about tear gas and menstruation first came up more than a decade ago, during the Arab Spring protests, Dr. Jordt noted.

 

In 2011, Chile also banned the use of tear gas after a study suggested that CS gas could cause miscarriages and harm young children. Three days later, the Chilean police lifted the ban, insisting that the type of tear gas they used was perfectly safe.


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7) Psychiatry Confronts Its Racist Past, and Tries to Make Amends

But there is a lot to apologize for — from Reconstruction to today.

By Judith Warner, Published April 30, 2021Updated May 1, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/30/health/psychiatry-racism-black-americans.html?action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage
Dr. Cheryl Wills chaired a yearlong task force exploring structural racism in psychiatry. “In psychiatry, just like any other profession, it needs to start at the top,” she said.
Dr. Cheryl Wills chaired a yearlong task force exploring structural racism in psychiatry. “In psychiatry, just like any other profession, it needs to start at the top,” she said. Credit...Amber Ford for The New York Times

Dr. Benjamin Rush, the 18th-century doctor who is often called the “father” of American psychiatry, held the racist belief that Black skin was the result of a mild form of leprosy. He called the condition “negritude.”

 

His onetime apprentice, Dr. Samuel Cartwright, spread the falsehood throughout the antebellum South that enslaved people who experienced an unyielding desire to be free were in the grip of a mental illness he called “drapetomania,” or “the disease causing Negroes to run away.”

 

In the late 20th century, psychiatry’s rank and file became a receptive audience for drug makers who were willing to tap into racist fears about urban crime and social unrest. (“Assaultive and belligerent?” read an ad that featured a Black man with a raised fist that appeared in the “Archives of General Psychiatry” in 1974. “Cooperation often begins with Haldol.”)

 

Now the American Psychiatric Association, which featured Rush’s image on its logo until 2015, is confronting that painful history and trying to make amends.

 

In January, the 176-year-old group issued its first-ever apology for its racist past. Acknowledging “appalling past actions” on the part of the profession, its governing board committed the association to “identifying, understanding, and rectifying our past injustices,” and pledged to institute “anti-racist practices” aimed at ending the inequities of the past in care, research, education and leadership.

 

This weekend, the A.P.A. is devoting its annual meeting to the theme of equity. Over the course of the three-day virtual gathering of as many as 10,000 participants, the group will present the results of its yearlong effort to educate its 37,000 mostly white members about the psychologically toxic effects of racism, both in their profession and in the lives of their patients.

 

Dr. Jeffrey Geller, the A.P.A.’s outgoing president, made that effort the signature project of his one-year term of office.

 

“This is really historic,” he said in a recent interview. “We’ve laid a foundation for what should be long-term efforts and long-term change.”

 

Dr. Cheryl Wills, a psychiatrist who chaired a task force exploring structural racism in psychiatry, said the group’s work could prove life-changing for a new generation of Black psychiatrists who will enter the profession with a much greater chance of knowing that they are valued and seen. She recalled the isolation she experienced in her own early years in medicine, and the difficulty she has had in finding other Black psychiatrists to whom she can refer patients.

 

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “In psychiatry, just like any other profession, it needs to start at the top,” she said of her hope for change. “Looking at our own backyard before we can look elsewhere.”

 

For critics, however, the A.P.A.’s apology and task force amount to a long-overdue, but still insufficient, attempt at playing catch-up. They point out that the American Medical Association issued an apology in 2008 for its more than 100-year history of having “actively reinforced or passively accepted racial inequalities and the exclusion of African-American physicians.”

 

“They’re taking these tiny, superficial, palatable steps,” said Dr. Danielle Hairston, a task force member who is also president of the A.P.A.’s Black caucus and the psychiatry residency training director at Howard University College of Medicine.

 

“People will be OK with saying that we need more mentors; people will be OK with saying that we’re going to do these town halls,” she continued. “That’s an initial step, but as far as real work, the A.P.A. has a long way to go.”

 

The question for the organization — with its layers of bureaucracy, widely varied constituencies and heavy institutional tradition — is how to get there.

 

Critics operating both inside and outside the A.P.A. say that it still must overcome high hurdles to truly address its issues around racial equity — including its diagnostic biases, the enduring lack of Black psychiatrists and a payment structure that tends to exclude people who can’t afford to pay out of pocket for services.

 

“All these procedural structures that are in place are helping to perpetuate the system and keep the system functioning the way it was designed to function,” said Dr. Ruth Shim, the director of cultural psychiatry and professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, who left the A.P.A. in frustration last summer.

 

They all add up, she said, to “an existential crisis in psychiatry.”

 

A racist history

 

White psychiatrists have pathologized Black behavior for hundreds of years, wrapping up racist beliefs in the mantle of scientific certainty and even big data. The A.P.A. was first called the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, according to Dr. Geller, who last summer published an account of psychiatry’s history of structural racism. The group came into being in the wake of the 1840 federal census, which included a new demographic category, “insane and idiotic.”

 

The results were interpreted by pro-slavery politicians and sympathetic social scientists to find a considerably higher rate of mental illness among Black people in the Northern states than among those in the South.

 

In the decades following Reconstruction, prominent psychiatrists used words like “primitive” and “savage” to make the cruelly racist claim that Black Americans were unfit for the challenges of life as independent, fully enfranchised citizens.

 

T.O. Powell, superintendent of the infamous State Lunatic Asylum in Milledgeville, Ga., and president of the American Medico-Psychological Association (the precursor to the A.P.A.), went so far as to outrageously state in 1897 that before the Civil War, “there were comparatively speaking, few Negro lunatics. Following their sudden emancipation their number of insane began to multiply.”

 

Psychiatry continued to pathologize — and sometimes demonize — African-Americans, with the result that, by the 1970s, the diagnosis of psychosis was handed out so often that the profession was essentially “turning schizophrenia into a Black man’s disorder of aggression and agitation,” said Dr. Hairston, a contributor to the 2019 book, “Racism and Psychiatry.”

 

Since then, numerous studies have shown that an almost all-white profession’s lack of attunement to Black expressions of emotion — and its frequent conflation of distress with anger — has led to an under-diagnosis of major depression, particularly in Black men, and an overreliance upon the use of antipsychotic medications. Black patients are less likely than white patients to receive appropriate medication for their depression, according to a 2008 report published in “Psychiatric Services.”

 

Fixing the problem

 

To change course, and serve Black patients better, organized psychiatry is going to need to make a higher priority of training doctors to really listen, said Dr. Dionne Hart, a Minneapolis psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist and an adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

 

“We checked a lot of boxes publicly,” she said in an interview. “Now we have to do the work. We have to show we’re committed to undoing the harm and working with all of our colleagues from all over the country to recognize trauma and acknowledge trauma where it exists and get people appropriate treatment.”

 

Psychiatrists lean liberal, and many say that people with mental illness are a marginalized and underserved group. In 1973, the A.P.A. made history by removing “homosexuality” as a psychiatric diagnosis from the second edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But the kind of soul searching that occurred around that decision has taken much longer with race.

 

Psychiatry today remains a strikingly white field where only 10.4 percent of practitioners come from historically underrepresented minority groups, who now make up nearly 33 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2020 study published in “Academic Psychiatry.” That study found that in 2013, Black Americans were only 4.4 percent of practicing psychiatrists.

 

The discipline’s history of pathologizing Black people — to “regard Black communities as seething cauldrons of psychopathology,” as three reform-minded authors put it in 1970 in the American Journal of Psychiatry — has deterred some Black medical students from entering the profession.

 

“Some people in my family, even now won’t say that I’m a psychiatrist,” Dr. Hairston noted. “A family member told me on my match day that she was disappointed that I had matched to psychiatry and not another specialty — it seemed like I was letting the family down.”

 

The difficulty in finding a Black psychiatrist can put a damper on the willingness of Black patients to seek treatment. And psychiatric help is also strikingly inaccessible for patients without money.

 

Psychiatry is an outlier among other medical specialties for the extent to which its practitioners choose not to participate in public or private health insurance programs.

 

In 2019, a study by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission found that psychiatrists were the least likely medical providers to accept any type of health insurance: Just 62 percent were accepting new patients with either commercial plans or Medicare, while an even more anemic 36 percent were accepting new patients using Medicaid. In contrast, across all providers, 90 percent reported accepting new patients with private insurance, 85 percent said they accepted those with Medicare and 71 percent were willing to see Medicaid patients.

 

Many psychiatrists say they do not participate in health insurance because the reimbursement rates are too low. A 2019 study showed that, nationwide, reimbursement rates for primary care physicians were almost 24 percent higher than for mental health practitioners — including psychiatrists. In 11 states, that gap widened to more than 50 percent.

 

The A.P.A.’s advocacy in this particular area of equity has focused on pushing for full insurer compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, a 2008 law that requires health insurance plans that provide mental health care coverage to do so at a level comparable to what they provide for physical health care.

 

While the profession hopes for higher reimbursement rates, the gap that affects patients, in the short term, is inequitable access to treatment. “The thing that’s always bothered me the most in the practice of psychiatry is, you can talk about your commitment to things like equity, but if you have a system where a lot of people can’t get access, so many patients are cut off from access to quality care,” said Dr. Damon Tweedy, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University and the author of “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine.”

 

“What are our values?” said Dr. Tweedy, who sees patients at the Durham Veterans Affairs Health Care System. “We might say one thing, but our actions suggest another.”


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8) Three Colorado Officers Resign After Arrest of Woman With Dementia

Body-camera footage of the arrest of Karen Garner has drawn widespread outrage, as has another video that showed officers laughing at the footage.

By Michael Levenson, April 30, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/30/us/colorado-police-dementia.html?surface=most-popular&fellback=false&req_id=358822537&algo=bandit-all-surfaces-uh-lasttoday-alpha-01&variant=3_bandit-all-surfaces-uh-lasttoday-alpha-01&pool=pool/91fcf81c-4fb0-49ff-bd57-a24647c85ea1&imp_id=701874857&action=click&module=Popular%20in%20The%20Times&pgtype=Homepage
Karen Garner asking for help from her painful injuries.
Karen Garner asking for help from her painful injuries. Credit...Loveland Police, via The Life & Liberty Law Office

Three members of a Colorado police department have resigned after they arrested and booked a 73-year-old woman with dementia who was thrown to the ground and handcuffed after she was suspected of shoplifting, officials said on Friday.

 

The woman, Karen Garner, was pinned against a squad car, and her arm was twisted behind her back, breaking a bone and dislocating her shoulder during the roadside arrest in Loveland, Colo., last June, a lawsuit says.

 

Body-camera footage of the arrest and footage from Walmart security cameras that was released by Ms. Garner’s lawyer this month prompted widespread outrage, as did another video that showed three police officers laughing at a station as they watched the footage.

 

The district attorney for Larimer County, Gordon P. McLaughlin, has said that, after seeing the body-camera footage, he requested a criminal investigation, to be assisted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the F.B.I.

 

On Friday, Loveland’s police chief, Robert L. Ticer, said that two police officers who had arrested Ms. Garner — Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali — as well as a community service officer, Tyler Blackett, who had booked Ms. Garner, were “no longer employed” by the Loveland Police Department.

 

A city spokesman later clarified that the officers had resigned.

 

Master Sgt. Philip Metzler, who was supervising Mr. Hopp and Ms. Jalali, has been placed on administrative leave, the chief said.

 

All four officers were named as defendants in a federal lawsuit filed by Ms. Garner, which claims violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act and alleges use of excessive force and failure to provide medical care.

 

A fifth officer named in the lawsuit, Sgt. Antolina Hill, is still assigned to her duties at the Police Department, Chief Ticer said. The lawsuit contends that Sergeant Hill and Mr. Blackett “were both aware of Ms. Garner’s injuries and need for medical treatment and personally complicit in the continued denial of that critical care.”

 

At a news conference on Friday, Chief Ticer acknowledged that Ms. Garner’s arrest had stirred anger locally, nationally and internationally.

 

“Our goal at the Loveland Police Department has always been to make our community proud,” he said. “We failed, and we are very sorry for that.”

 

It was not immediately clear if the officers who resigned had lawyers. Eric Ziporin, a lawyer who is representing the city in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to an email.

 

Sarah Schielke, a lawyer for Ms. Garner and her family, said the resignations were not enough.

 

“They were not fired. They resigned,” she said in a statement. “Despite what the world has seen they did on not one but two horrifying videos, they will still receive benefits paid by Loveland.”

 

Chief Ticer, asked about footage of Ms. Garner’s arrest, said at the news conference: “I share the community’s concerns on this. It hurt to see that.”

 

Asked about the officers who were seen laughing at the footage, Chief Ticer said: “That is not the Loveland Police Department. The Loveland Police Department is comprised of men and women that are out there taking calls for service right now, that are working very hard and honoring our community.”

 

Ms. Schielke criticized those comments and said Chief Ticer should resign.

 

“He is wrong,” she said in an interview. “It not only is the Loveland Police Department, but it’s his Loveland Police Department. He’s responsible for what happens in it.”


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9) People of Color Breathe More Hazardous Air. The Sources Are Everywhere.

Researchers uncovered stark disparities between white people and minorities across thousands of categories of pollution, including trucks, industry, agriculture and even restaurants

“‘If you go to communities of color across this country and ask them, ‘What’s the source of the environmental problems?’ they can point you to every one: the highway, the chemical plants, the refineries, the legacy pollution left over from decades ago, in the houses, in the air, in the water, in the playgrounds,’ he said. ‘Empirical research is now catching up with the reality: that America is segregated and so is pollution.’”

By Hiroko Tabuchi and Nadja Popovich, April 28, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/28/climate/air-pollution-minorities.html?action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage

A home near the Marathon Petroleum Company refinery in River Rouge, near Detroit.

A home near the Marathon Petroleum Company refinery in River Rouge, near Detroit. Credit...Emily Rose Bennett for The New York Times


Over the years, a mountain of evidence has brought to light a stark injustice: Compared with white Americans, people of color in the United States suffer disproportionately from exposure to pollution.

 

Now, a new study on a particularly harmful type of air pollution shows just how broadly those disparities hold true. Black Americans are exposed to more pollution from every type of source, including industry, agriculture, all manner of vehicles, construction, residential sources and even emissions from restaurants. People of color more broadly, including Black and Hispanic people and Asian-Americans, are exposed to more pollution from nearly every source.

 

The findings came as a surprise to the study’s researchers, who had not anticipated that the inequalities spanned so many types of pollution.

 

“We expected to find that just a couple of different sources were important for the disparate exposure among racial ethnic groups,” said Christopher W. Tessum, an assistant professor in environmental engineering and science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who led the study. “But what we found instead was that almost all of the source types that we looked at contributed to this disparity.”

 

The study builds on a wealth of research that has shown that people of color in America live with more pollution than their white neighbors. Fine particulate matter air pollution, known as PM 2.5, is harmful to human health and is responsible for 85,000 to 200,000 excess deaths a year in the United States.

 

Racial and socioeconomic disparities in exposure to PM 2.5 have been well documented and have persisted despite an overall decline in particulate pollution. But the researchers sought to get a better grasp of whether these disparities came from just a handful of sources, or whether the inequalities could be seen more widely.

 

They used an air quality model to analyze data from the Environmental Protection Agency on more than 5,000 emission sources collected as part of a 2014 nationwide emissions survey. Then they identified differences in exposure to each by broad race-ethnicity and income groups, based on United States census data.

 

They found that nearly all emissions sources caused disproportionate exposures for people of color, on average, as well as separately for Black, Hispanic and Asian people. Black people were exposed to higher-than-average concentrations from all major emissions groups, while white people were exposed to lower-than-average concentrations from almost all categories. The disparities were seen nationally, as well as at the state level, across income levels and across the urban-rural divide.

 

These findings were consistent with the experiences of communities on the ground, said Robert D. Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University who has written for more than 30 years about the need to redress environmental racism, and who was not involved in the study.

 

“If you go to communities of color across this country and ask them, ‘What’s the source of the environmental problems?’ they can point you to every one: the highway, the chemical plants, the refineries, the legacy pollution left over from decades ago, in the houses, in the air, in the water, in the playgrounds,” he said. “Empirical research is now catching up with the reality: that America is segregated and so is pollution.”

 

On Wednesday, the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group founded by former officials from the E.P.A., released a separate report that found that 13 refineries across the United States had released elevated levels of benzene, another harmful pollutant, into mostly minority and lower income neighborhoods in 2020.

 

These disparities have roots in historical practices, like redlining, under which the federal government marked certain neighborhoods as risky for real estate investments because their residents were Black. For decades, residents of redlined areas were denied access to federally backed mortgages and other credit, fueling a cycle of disinvestment and environmental problems in those neighborhoods.

 

“Communities of color, especially Black communities, have been concentrated in areas adjacent to industrial facilities and industrial zones, and that goes back decades and decades, to redlining,” said Justin Onwenu, a Detroit-based organizer for the Sierra Club. “And a lot of our current infrastructure, our highways, were built on — built through — Black communities, so we’re breathing in diesel emissions and other pollution just because we’re located right next to these highways,” Mr. Onwenu said.

 

The latest research, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, shows how that legacy continues to cast a shadow. Emissions from industry, construction and both light- and heavy-duty vehicles were among the sources that caused the largest absolute disparities for Black, Hispanic and Asian-Americans.

 

Particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants, meanwhile, was one of the only sources that substantially affected white Americans more than average. That was explained, Dr. Tessum said, by the predominantly white demographics of many coal towns. Coal power plants also tend to have smoke stacks that are many hundreds of feet high, scattering fine particles more evenly across larger areas.

 

Likely for the same geographic reason, white Americans were slightly more exposed to particulate pollution from agriculture, including from soil tilling and wind erosion. But in California, which produces more than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts, Hispanic people were disproportionately exposed.

 

Newer industries can perpetuate these inequalities. A large Latino population in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, for example, near one of the nation’s largest concentration of Amazon warehouses, has suffered from the heavy diesel traffic that feeds the sprawling e-commerce hub.

 

“These warehouses are being built within feet of existing homes, within feet of schools,” said Cesunica E. Ivey, an assistant professor in chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside, who was not involved in the study. “Local voices in those neighborhoods are often drowned out,” she said. “And they can’t just move. You need resources to relocate.”

 

The coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a disproportionate toll on Black, Latino and other communities, added to the burdens.

 

“A lot of families have kids with asthma. There’s high rates of respiratory illness. Many people have died from cancer and other types of diseases,” said Vivian Huang, a director at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, which works with communities that live at the fence line of refineries and other polluting facilities in California. “The Covid pandemic has just exacerbated these immense inequalities.”

 

One surprising source of pollution that disproportionately affects communities of color, though a smaller source of emissions over all, were restaurants. A recent study that looked at Oakland, Calif., and Pittsburgh found that emissions from commercial kitchens — mostly from their use of cooking oils — were a surprisingly large fraction of particulate air pollution in those cities. More people of color tended to live nearby, and so were more exposed.

 

Getting a clearer picture of how different sources of air pollution affect different groups of people is important, because history has shown that simply reducing overall emissions does not address racial and other disparities, said Joshua Apte, an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of both the PM 2.5 and commercial kitchen studies.

 

“When nearly every major source category in the U.S. disparately impacts people of color, reducing sources alone is really insufficient to solve this problem,” he said. “We have to think about where the sources are as well.”


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10) Is America a Racist Country?

By Charles M. Blow, May 2, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/02/opinion/america-racism.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype

=Homepage
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He said on Fox News last week that “our systems are not racist.”
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He said on Fox News last week that “our systems are not racist.” Credit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Last Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina added himself to the long list of Republicans who have denied the existence of systemic racism in this country. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday” that “our systems are not racist. America’s not a racist country.”

 

Graham argued that the country can’t be racist because both Barack Obama and Kamala Harris had been elected and somehow, their overcoming racial hurdles proves the absence of racial hurdles. His view seems to be that the exceptions somehow negated the rule.

 

In the rebuttal to President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, the other senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican in the Senate, parroted Graham and became an apologist for these denials of racism, saying too that the country wasn’t racist. He argued that people are “making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal.”

 

Scott’s argument seems to leave open the possibility that America may have been a racist country but that it has matured out of it, that it has graduated into egalitarianism.

 

I personally don’t make much of Scott’s ability to reason. This is the same man who said in March that “woke supremacy,” whatever that is, “is as bad as white supremacy.” There is no world in which recent efforts at enlightenment can be equated to enslavement, lynching and mass incarceration. None.

 

It seems to me that the disingenuousness on the question of racism is largely a question of language. The question turns on another question: “What, to you, is America?” Is America the people who now inhabit the land, divorced from its systems and its history? Or, is the meaning of America inclusive of those systems and history?

 

When people say that America is a racist country, they don’t necessarily mean that all or even most Americans are consciously racist. However, it is important to remember that nearly half the country just voted for a full-on racist in Donald Trump, and they did so by either denying his racism, becoming apologists for it, or applauding it. What do you call a country thus composed?

 

Historically, however, there is no question that the country was founded by racists and white supremacists, and that much of the early wealth of this country was built on the backs of enslaved Africans, and much of the early expansion came at the expense of the massacre of the land’s Indigenous people and broken treaties with them.

 

Eight of the first 10 presidents personally enslaved Africans. In 1856, the chief justice of the United States wrote about the Dred Scott case, in an infamous ruling that would be issued in 1857, that Black people “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

 

The country went on to fight a Civil War over whether some states could maintain slavery as they wished. Even some of the people arguing for, and fighting for, an end to slavery had expressed their white supremacist beliefs.

 

Abraham Lincoln said during his famous debates against Stephen A. Douglas in 1858 that among white people and Black ones “there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of the superior position being assigned to the white man.”

 

Some will concede the historical point and insist on the progress point, arguing that was then and this is now, that racism simply doesn’t exist now as it did then. I would agree. American racism has evolved and become less blunt, but it has not become less effective. The knife has simply been sharpened. Now systems do the work that once required the overt actions of masses of individual racists.

 

So, what does it mean for a system to be racist? Does the appellation depend on the system in question being openly, explicitly racist from top to bottom, or simply that there is some degree of measurable bias embedded in those systems? I assert the latter.

 

America is not the same country it was, but neither is it the country it purports to be. On some level this is a tension between American idealism and American realism, between an aspiration and a current condition.

 

And the precise way we phrase the statement makes all the difference: America’s systems — like its criminal justice, education and medical systems — have a pro-white/anti-Black bias, and an extraordinary portion of America denies or defends those biases.

 

As Mark Twain once put it: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

 

Being imprecise or undecided with our language on this subject contributes to the murkiness — and to the myth that the question of whether America is racist is difficult to answer and therefore the subject of genuine debate among honest intellectuals.

 

Saying that America is racist is not a radical statement. If that requires a longer explanation or definition, so be it. The fact, in the end, is not altered.


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11) Migrants Separated From Their Children Will Be Allowed Into U.S.

A handful of parents from Mexico and Central America who were deported under the Trump administration’s family separation policy will be reunited this week with their children.

By Miriam Jordan, May 3, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/us/migrant-family-separation.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Migrants being deported from the United States along a bridge that connects El Paso and Mexico, in March.
Migrants being deported from the United States along a bridge that connects El Paso and Mexico, in March. Credit...Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Four parents from Mexico and Central America who were among thousands of migrants deported without their children under the Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy will be allowed to join their children in the United States this week, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

 

The parents, who are from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, will be the first families to reunite in the United States since the Biden administration began taking steps to unravel the 2018 policy that attempted to deter families from trying to enter the country by separating children and parents.

 

Another 30 migrants are expected to be allowed into the country in 30 to 60 days to reunite with their children, who like most others have been living with relatives in the United States, according to two sources familiar with the administration’s plans.

 

“They are children who were 3 years old at the time of separation. They are teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years,” Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in announcing the impending arrivals on Sunday.

 

The four women scheduled to cross the border in Texas and California this week are among parents of some 5,500 children known to have been separated under the zero-tolerance policy officially introduced by former President Donald J. Trump in spring 2018. While most families have been reunited in recent years, more than 1,000 remain apart, mainly because a parent was removed from the United States.

 

Mr. Mayorkas said that he could not provide details about the families because of privacy considerations, saying only that two of the mothers had been separated from their sons in late 2017, before the Trump administration had extended the policy across the entire southwestern border.

 

Immigrant advocates and lawyers welcomed the decision to bring a handful of parents to the United States but said that more must be done to address the harm inflicted by the policy.

 

“We are pleased the Biden administration has now taken its first steps to address the harm caused by the Trump administration’s barbaric family separation practice and thrilled for the four families who will be reunited this week,” said Lee Gelernt, lead counsel in an ongoing class-action lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union brought against the policy in 2018.

 

“But we certainly do not intend to take a victory lap at this point. It is not enough for these families to be reunited,” he said.

 

Mr. Gelernt’s team, which is negotiating with the Biden administration to settle the lawsuit, has demanded financial compensation, mental health services and legal permanent residency for all separated families, among other things.

 

The family separation policy was a key step in the Trump administration’s moves to crack down on unauthorized immigration. The goal was to deliver a powerful deterrence to those hoping to come to the United States, a formidable roadblock that affected even families who may have been legally entitled to asylum from persecution in their home countries.

 

The policy was first made public with a memo in April 2018. Later it surfaced that families had been separated as early as 2017 as part of a pilot program conducted near El Paso. All told, about 5,500 children were separated from their parents.

 

Under the measure, Border Patrol agents criminally charged parents with illegally entering the United States, imprisoned them and placed their children in government-licensed shelters around the country. Images and audio of children weeping after being forcibly removed from their parents drew widespread condemnation.

 

In June 2018, a federal judge in California ordered the government to rescind the policy and promptly reunify families, saying that the practice “shocks the conscience” and violated the Constitution.

 

Most families were reunited within months. However about 1,000 families remained separated because a parent had been deported, and an estimated 645 parents — in the United States or abroad — still had not been contacted by the time Mr. Trump left office.

 

President Biden vowed from the beginning of his presidency to make reuniting migrant families a top priority.

 

Within weeks of taking office, he signed a series of executive orders intended to roll back Mr. Trump’s most stringent anti- immigration policies. A central piece of his early agenda was an interagency task force, led by Mr. Mayorkas, to identify and reunite all migrant families separated at the border by the previous administration.

 

It has been a mammoth undertaking. Contact information for many parents is outdated or unavailable, and some parents have disappeared or prefer not to be found out of fear. The task force has managed to find about 200 out of the 645 remaining parents, and it recently reported that it is reviewing 5,600 additional files from early 2017 that could contain evidence of more separations.

 

“One of the things is, we don’t know yet where those kids are. We’re trying like hell to figure out what happened,” Mr. Biden said last week in an interview with NBC News.

 

“It’s almost like being a sleuth, and we’re still continuing to try like hell to find out where they are,” he said.

 

Last year, a group of nine deported parents were allowed to enter the United States to rejoin their children after the federal judge in the class-action lawsuit, Dana Sabraw of the Federal District Court in San Diego, ordered their return. About a dozen others managed to return with the help of private lawyers.

 

But these efforts faced strong resistance from the Trump administration.

 

“Even with a court order, bringing back parents was vigorously resisted at every stage,” said Linda Dakin-Grimm, a Los Angeles lawyer who represented a Guatemalan father who returned last year. The man had been separated from his 12-year-old daughter.

 

She said that the Biden administration’s decision to allow deported parents into the country signaled “the beginning of a new way that’s important. But there remains a huge lift to be accomplished.”

 

Mr. Mayorkas did not reveal when additional parents would be allowed into the United States to join their children but said that the arrivals this week would be the first of many.

 

“We are accomplishing reunifications without delay,” he said.

 

Michelle Brané, a veteran immigrant-rights advocate serving as executive director of the Biden administration task force, said her team has been combing through records, often incomplete, to piece together and review cases.

 

In addition to demands for legal residency and monetary compensation, some advocacy groups are calling on the Biden administration to consider filing civil lawsuits or even criminal charges against officials in the Trump White House who were behind either the design or implementation of the family separation policy. When asked about this on Sunday, Mr. Mayorkas said that the Justice Department was part of the reunification task force, but he did not commit to pursue investigations. “We have not excluded accountability, but our focus right now is on the reunification of the families,” he said.

 

Parents arriving this week will be allowed to remain in the country at least temporarily on humanitarian parole.

 

Lawyers familiar with the process said that the parents would be allowed to remain in the country for at least a few years, or until longer-term solutions, like green cards, are explored. Generally, people who enter the country are entitled to apply for asylum within a year of arriving in the country.


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12) Widespread Commodity Shortages Raise Inflation Fears

For products as diverse as lumber and microchips, price increases are filtering through the economy.

By Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan, May 3, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/business/economy/commodity-shortages-inflation.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Politics
An apartment complex in Orlando, Fla., being built by Roger B. Kennedy Construction, which says many of its suppliers are raising their prices 10 to 20 percent.
An apartment complex in Orlando, Fla., being built by Roger B. Kennedy Construction, which says many of its suppliers are raising their prices 10 to 20 percent. Credit...Octavio Jones for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In a normal year, Ron Whelan, vice president of Roger B. Kennedy Construction, receives one or two “Dear Valued Customer” letters from suppliers notifying him of price increases for certain materials. This year, a stack of 30 such warnings sits on his desk in Orlando, Fla., alerting him that things as diverse as lumber, drywall, aluminum and steel are going to cost 10 to 20 percent more.

 

The notices are the result of commodity shortages that are rippling across the United States economy as growing demand for housing, cars, electronics and other goods runs up against supply chain congestion and high tariffs left behind by former President Donald J. Trump.

 

The shortages — and the price increases they are eliciting — are being watched closely by the Biden administration, which is under increasing pressure from industry groups and businesses to take steps to ease them. Automakers want the White House to help them get the semiconductors they need to make cars, while the housing industry is asking for tariff relief.

 

Pressure to intervene could intensify as the administration pushes for a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure investment package that includes money for building roads, bridges and electric vehicle charging stations — all of which could become increasingly expensive if prices keep rising.

 

“We keep waiting for things to settle down and get back to normal, but they haven’t,” Mr. Whelan said. He has considered using other material, such as metal stud systems rather than wood framing, for some construction projects because the price of lumber has almost tripled in the last year.

 

Economists and policymakers are carefully tracking the shortages as they hunt for signs of inflation, and companies are increasingly worried that the price spikes may not be temporary.

 

The Federal Reserve’s latest Beige Book survey found that businesses were citing “Covid-related disruptions in production and supply chain logistics” as reasons for shortages and price spikes of commodities such as “agricultural products, building materials, cleaning products and microchips.”

 

For now, the Fed is not overly concerned about the price increases, viewing them as temporary and not the type of inflation that could spiral out of control. The Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, said last week that officials expected to see short-lived price spikes as the economy reopened and consumers started spending again.

 

Still, he acknowledged that the shortages could weigh on certain sectors, like the housing market, where inventories are “tremendously low” and builders are “struggling to keep up with demand.”

 

“If you’re an entry-level housing buyer, it’s a problem because it’s just going to be that much harder to get that first house,” Mr. Powell said.

 

And the Institute for Supply Management’s March survey of manufacturers said labor shortages and elusive parts were stunting the factory sector.

 

“Extended lead times, wide-scale shortages of critical basic materials, rising commodities prices and difficulties in transporting products are affecting all segments of the manufacturing economy,” said Timothy R. Fiore, chairman of the institute’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

 

In corporate earnings calls last month, some of America’s largest companies warned that higher commodity prices would soon be passed on to consumers.

 

“The commodity cost challenges we faced this year will obviously be larger next fiscal year,” said Andre Schulten, chief financial officer of Procter & Gamble, noting that its baby care, feminine care and adult incontinence products are scheduled for price increases in September. “We will offset a portion of this impact with price increases.”

 

Darius Adamczyk, chief executive of Honeywell, said the company was seeing substantial increases in the prices of steel, semiconductors and copper.

 

“That’s definitely a watch-out item for the year and for us, inflation is taking hold,” Mr. Adamczyk said. “I don’t think things are going to abate. The short cycle is definitely hot.”

 

A White House official who asked to remain anonymous to share the administration’s internal thinking said that price stability was primarily the Fed’s responsibility but that the administration was taking the risk of inflation seriously. While the administration anticipates temporary increases in prices as the economy reopens, the official said, it does not believe they will lead to a broader overheating of the economy.

 

Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said the shortages were largely a result of factories being unable to keep up with pent-up demand that was being unleashed as consumers emerged from the pandemic ready to spend.

 

And many factories are still not operating at a full clip. A shortage of truckers and clogged ports are also gumming up the gears that keep supply chains moving.

 

“This is better described as suppliers working at, or near, capacity and still unable to keep up,” Mr. Ashworth said. “Expanding capacity will take a lot longer.”

 

The shortages are more than just a nuisance — they are affecting crucial areas of the U.S. economy and could hurt growth. A global microchip shortage has caused disruptions across industries, but it has been particularly disruptive for the auto industry, with General Motors, Ford Motor and others temporarily halting production at factories, in some cases for weeks at a time.

 

In the United States, automakers could end up making as many as 1.3 million fewer vehicles this year as a result of the shortage, according to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group. Ford said last week that its production in the second quarter would be about 50 percent lower than planned and that the shortage would reduce the company’s profit about $2.5 billion in 2021.

 

Carmakers want the Biden administration to urge that semiconductor suppliers give priority to the automotive industry so they can get the chips they need for vehicle production, said Matt Blunt, the president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents G.M., Ford and Stellantis, the company formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and PSA of France.

 

“If you look at our economic impact, when you cannot build a car in the United States because you’re lacking a handful of semiconductors, that has an entirely different economic impact than if you can’t build a consumer electronics product in Asia because you’re lacking semiconductors,” Mr. Blunt said. “So we think it’s appropriate for everybody involved, including the U.S. government and the administration, to encourage suppliers to prioritize a critical industry that has a critical impact on U.S. employment and our nation’s economy.”

 

After taking office, President Biden ordered a 100-day review of the semiconductor supply chain, and he proposed spending $50 billion on semiconductor research and manufacturing as part of his infrastructure plan. Last month, the White House hosted a virtual summit meeting on semiconductors with a group of business executives.

 

But the complex global supply chains involved in chip manufacturing do not lend themselves to quick or easy solutions to the current supply problems, leaving Mr. Biden with little apparent power to mitigate the shortage in the near term.

 

Manufacturing chips can take as long as 26 weeks from when a customer orders them, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents chip companies. And expanding U.S. chip manufacturing, as Mr. Biden wants to do, is more of a long-term aspiration, given the time and expense required to build new plants.

 

Any intervention by the Biden administration intended to help automakers could wind up hurting other industries that rely on chips, such as tech companies and appliance makers, which have made their opposition known to the administration.

 

In comments submitted to the Commerce Department last month, CTIA, a trade group representing the wireless industry, wrote that the federal government “should refrain from allocating semiconductor resources to specific industries versus others.” It warned that such a move would “cause unintended consequences that would be detrimental to a range of the United States’ most critical industries.”

 

The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents tech companies, urged against “picking winners or losers by prioritizing certain industries over others.” The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers said semiconductor chips “should not be reallocated from the home appliance industry to another product or use.”

 

Intensifying the supply chain problems are hefty tariffs that Mr. Trump imposed on Chinese imports, along with steel and aluminum from Europe and other parts of the world. The Biden administration has said it is reviewing the tariffs, but it has so far been reluctant to make a sharp change of course on trade.

 

“That’s the one where it’s a third rail in terms of politics, domestically,” Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said of removing the China tariffs. “It would probably be interpreted as being weak on China somehow.”

 

Last month, a bipartisan group of senators led by Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, sent a letter to Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, urging her to restart the process for American businesses to apply for exemptions from tariffs on Chinese imports so they can more easily buy products that are difficult to get from other countries.

 

Other industries are also urging the Biden administration to offer relief from tariffs.

 

The Associated General Contractors of America wrote to Mr. Biden in February, urging him to reach a new softwood lumber agreement with Canada to help alleviate a lumber shortage in the United States. The group noted that the rising prices mean higher building costs for projects at schools, hospitals, restaurants and offices.

 

Ken Simonson, chief economist for the contractors association, said he was disappointed that his group had received no response from the White House.

 

“I think that it’s undermining some of his goals to support more jobs in this country and also what he proposes to do on infrastructure,” Mr. Simonson said. “It is going to drive up costs and completion times for projects if we don’t have more availability of materials for affordable prices.”


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13) Pfizer Reaps Hundreds of Millions in Profits From Covid Vaccine

The company said its vaccine generated $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of this year.

By Rebecca Robbins and Peter S. Goodman, May 4, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/04/business/pfizer-covid-vaccine-profits.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Politics
Pfizer’s vaccine is disproportionately reaching the world’s rich.
Pfizer’s vaccine is disproportionately reaching the world’s rich. Credit...Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Last year, racing to develop a vaccine in record time, Pfizer made a big decision: Unlike several rival manufacturers, which vowed to forgo profits on their shots during the Covid-19 pandemic, Pfizer planned to profit on its vaccine.

 

On Tuesday, the company announced just how much money the shot is generating.

 

The vaccine brought in $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of this year, nearly a quarter of its total revenue, Pfizer reported. The vaccine was, far and away, Pfizer’s biggest source of revenue.

 

The company did not disclose the profits it derived from the vaccine, but it reiterated its previous prediction that its profit margins on the vaccine would be in the high 20 percent range. That would translate into roughly $900 million in pretax vaccine profits in the first quarter.

 

Pfizer has been widely credited with developing an unproven technology that has saved an untold number of lives.

 

But the company’s vaccine is disproportionately reaching the world’s rich — an outcome, so far at least, at odds with its chief executive’s pledge to ensure that poorer countries “have the same access as the rest of the world” to a vaccine that is highly effective at preventing Covid-19.

 

As of mid-April, wealthy countries had secured more than 87 percent of the more than 700 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines dispensed worldwide, while poor countries had received only 0.2 percent, according to the World Health Organization. In wealthy countries, roughly one in four people has received a vaccine. In poor countries, the figure is one in 500.

 

Pfizer has said it is committed to making its vaccine accessible globally. It announced on Tuesday that it had shipped 430 million doses to 91 countries or territories. A Pfizer spokeswoman, Sharon Castillo, would not say how many of those doses have gone to poor countries, where Pfizer has said it is not profiting on vaccine sales.

 

The World Health Organization figures make clear that Pfizer has provided minimal help to the world’s poorest countries.

 

The company pledged to contribute up to 40 million doses to Covax, a multilateral partnership aimed at supplying vaccines to poor countries. That represents less than 2 percent of the 2.5 billion doses that Pfizer and its development partner, BioNTech, aim to produce this year.

 

The doses that Pfizer pledged to Covax are “a drop in the ocean,” said Clare Wenham, a health policy expert at the London School of Economics.

 

Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca both vowed to sell their vaccines on a nonprofit basis during the pandemic. Moderna, which has never made a profit and has no other products on the market, decided to sell its vaccine at a profit.

 

Unlike Moderna’s vaccine, Pfizer’s shot is not crucial to the company’s bottom line. Last year, Pfizer earned $9.6 billion in profits, before the Covid vaccine had any discernible impact on its results.

 

Pfizer frequently points out that it opted not to take federal funds proffered by the Trump administration under Operation Warp Speed, the initiative that promoted the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines.

 

But BioNTech received substantial support from the German government in developing their joint vaccine. And taxpayer-funded research aided both companies: The National Institutes of Health patented technology that helped make so-called messenger RNA vaccines possible. BioNTech has a licensing agreement with the N.I.H., and Pfizer is piggybacking on that license.

 

Pfizer has kept the profitability of its vaccine sales opaque. The United States, for example, is paying $19.50 for each Pfizer dose. Israel agreed to pay Pfizer about $30 per dose, according to multiple media reports.

 

In some cases, such as when the European Union recently agreed to buy 1.8 billion Pfizer doses, the company isn’t disclosing its prices.

 

The pricing for the United States was in line with the cost of seasonal flu vaccines and much less expensive than vaccines for conditions like shingles, which can run into several hundred dollars.

 

“That price point does not seem offensive, even if you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about prescription drugs,” said Stacie Dusetzina, an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Just thinking about any prescription you’d fill, you’d be hard-pressed to find pretty much anything for $20.”

 

But the fact that Pfizer appears to have earned something like $900 million in pretax profits from its vaccine — coupled with its comparatively small sales to poor countries — suggests that profits have trumped other considerations. That could undercut the company’s embrace of loftier principles.

 

“At Pfizer, we believe that every person deserves to be seen, heard and cared for,” the chief executive, Albert Bourla, said in January as the company announced it would join Covax. “We share the mission of Covax and are proud to work together so that developing countries have the same access as the rest of the world.”

 

But the company seems to have prioritized higher-priced sales.

 

“Despite all the talk about Covax, they have been far more interested in bilateral deals, because that’s where they make their money,” said Richard Kozul-Wright, director of the division on globalization and development strategies at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva. “It’s one of the great public relations triumphs of recent corporate history.”

 

Multiple factors explain the inequitable nature of Pfizer’s vaccine distribution.

 

The shot, which must be stored and transported at very low temperatures, is less practical for hard-to-reach parts of the world than other shots, like those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, that can simply be refrigerated. Some poor countries were initially not hit hard by the virus, and so their governments had less urgency to place orders for the Pfizer vaccine, to the extent that they could afford to pay for the shots.

 

“Not everyone was interested in the vaccine or prepared to take steps; thus, conversations continue, including working with Covax beyond their initial order of 40 million doses,” said Ms. Castillo, the Pfizer spokeswoman.

 

In India, where the virus is raging out of control, Pfizer’s vaccine is not being used. The company applied for emergency authorization there but withdrew the application in February because India’s drug regulator was not willing to waive a requirement that it run a local clinical trial. At the time, India’s coronavirus case numbers were manageable and vaccines being made locally were thought to be sufficient.

 

Pfizer and India’s government have since resumed talks. On Monday, Mr. Bourla said the company would donate more than $70 million worth of medicine to India and is trying to fast-track the vaccine authorization.

 

Pfizer has publicly promised to run its company not solely for the enrichment of shareholders, but for the betterment of society.

 

Mr. Bourla, who earned $21 million last year, was among the 181 heads of major companies who signed a Business Roundtable pledge in 2019 to focus on serving an array of “stakeholders,” including workers, suppliers and local communities — not only investors.

 

The financial figures that Pfizer reported on Tuesday understate how much money the vaccine is generating. Pfizer splits its vaccine revenue with BioNTech, which will report its own first-quarter results next week. BioNTech said in March that it had locked in revenue of nearly 10 billion euros, or about $11.8 billion, based on vaccine orders at the time.

 

The vaccine is expected to keep generating significant revenue for Pfizer and BioNTech, especially because people are likely to need regular booster shots. Pfizer said on Tuesday that it expects its vaccine to generate $26 billion in revenue this year, up from its previous estimate of $15 billion.

 

Vaccine developers have been trying to play down the financial upside. Last week, when AstraZeneca reported its vaccine revenue, it said that the vaccine effort had slightly dented its overall profits.

 

Companies are eager not to be seen as profiting from the pandemic, especially as pressure mounts on the Biden administration to relax protections on intellectual property and allow poor countries to produce more affordable versions of the vaccines. Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies have staunchly opposed such proposals.

 

A group of developing countries led by South Africa and India has proposed to the World Trade Organization that intellectual-property protections be loosened on coronavirus vaccines during the pandemic.

 

The proposal is intended to pressure pharmaceutical companies to ensure access to vaccines for developing countries, perhaps by offering discounted prices or by partnering with other companies to increase capacity.

 

“It could just be an incentive for companies to come forward and collaborate,” Mustaqeem De Gama, councilor at the South African mission to the W.T.O. in Geneva, said in an interview late last year. “But if left to the choice of companies, usually companies will refuse to collaborate and share what knowledge they have.”


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