ZOOM WEBINAR: Moving Money
from the Military to Human Needs
Register at: https://tinyurl.com/y3un85rg
U.S. Peace Council • P.O. Box 3105, New Haven, CT 06515 • (203) 387-0370 • USPC@USPeaceCouncil.org
• https://uspeacecouncil.org • https://www.facebook.com/USPeaceCouncil/ • @USPeaceCouncil
Do Trump and coronavirus have you down? Then join us on September 26 to celebrate the 15 year anniversary of one of the world’s most beautiful projects: Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade!
The Henry Reeve Brigade will celebrate its 15th anniversary next month! Yes, it will have been 15 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and prompted then-Cuban president Fidel Castro to offer to send doctors to help treat patients in the storm’s aftermath. The US government refused this offer, but Cuba was not deterred from wanting to show the world some much needed solidarity.
Since its founding, the brave women and men of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade have given emergency medical assistance to more than 3.5 million people in over 50 countries. To honor their compassion and commitment, we will hear directly from Cuban doctors working on the frontlines of the pandemic.
What: Cuban Doctors Speak: 15 years of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade
When: Saturday, September 26 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT
Where: Online via Zoom, YouTube and Facebook.
There’s even more good news: Danny Glover will be on with us to offer his commentary, and journalist/author Vijay Prashad will host this fascinating conversation! Please join Danny, Vijay, and the Cuban medical personnel for this celebratory event. We promise it will nurture your soul.
Alicia Jrakpo and Medea Benjamin
P.S. The attacks on Cuba’s medical internationalism are not stopping! Even Human Rights Watch (HRW), a liberal NGO, has joined in on the Trump administration’s campaign to slander this amazing example of solidarity. If you have not already, please read the rebuttal to the HRW report then sign and share the petition asking HRW to retract their flawed report!
Also, Vijay Prashad has just published a lovely article about why Cuban doctors deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Check it out!
P.P.S. 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel just made a video endorsing the Nobel for Cuban Doctors campaign! Click here to watch it!.
Want to make your own short video explaining why you support the Henry Reeve Brigade? Upload it to Twitter and tag @CubaNobel. Then we’ll be happy to like and retweet it! It’s a great way of spreading the word about the campaign.
We look forward to working with you to continue the aspirations of the Nobel Peace Prize for the Cuban Doctors campaign. Watch for our upcoming webinars and film series.
Remember to follow us in social media:
Alicia Jrapko and Medea Benjamin
Co-Chairs of the Cuba Nobel Prize Committee
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The six remaining Kings Bay Plowshares defendants have had their sentencing dates moved from September to October 15 and 16. They had requested a continuance because they want to appear in open court in Georgia and the virus situation there is still too out of control to safely allow it.
Steve Kelly has now served almost 29 months in county jails since the action in April, 2018 so has already met the guidelines for his likely sentence. The court may not want to grant him further extensions. (You can send a postcard to Steve to let him know you're thinking of him. Directions on writing here.)
The other defendants are not sure if they would prefer to seek more continuances or choose virtual appearances for sentencing in solidarity with Steve on those dates in October if it appears unsafe to travel to Georgia at that time. Check the website for updates.September 9 will be the 40thanniversary of the first plowshares action in King of Prussia, PA. Eight activists, known as the Plowshares Eight, entered the GE plant where nosecones for nuclear missile warheads were manufactured. They hammered on several and poured blood on the nosecones and documents.
Emile de Antonio’s 1983 film, In the King of Prussia, is about the trial of the Plowshares Eight. The judge is played by Martin Sheen and the defendants are played by themselves. It’s available for viewing on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUph8GWFupE
Denver Black Lives
On September 17, six protest leaders, including four members of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, were arrested in Denver, Colorado in a coordinated police action. Those arrested are now being threatened with a litany of bogus felony charges, including “kidnapping.” Four of the arrested individuals—Russel Ruch, Lillian House, Joel Northam, and Eliza Lucero—are protest leaders who have denounced the crimes of the Colorado police, most notably the racist murder of Elijah McClain. The repression against these activists, and many others, is nothing short of police-state retribution. As a PSL statement noted,
“This attack on the Denver anti-racist movement and the PSL is part of a concerted national assault on the Black Lives Matter movement, an attack driven directly from the White House, from Governor’s mansions, and from local police chiefs and police departments around the country.”
It is clear from the manner of the arrests that the Denver area police are trying to punish and intimidate activists. Russel Ruch, for instance, was followed to Home Depot and arrested in the parking lot; Lillian House was surrounded by five police cars as she was driving; and a S.W.A.T. team was sent to Joel Northam’s home. According to the 30-page long arrest affidavits, the police used livestream footage, call transcripts, and social media posts to build a case against those arrested. These coordinated arrests, which utilized both surveillance and brute force, aim to instill fear in every Denver area activist. “Protest, and you could be next” is the message being sent. And the absurd list of felony charges, known as “charge stacking,” means the arrested activists could be facing years, if not decades, in prison.
The arrest of these protest leaders in Denver are part of a larger nationwide crack-down on the Black Lives Matter movement. Across the country, protesters have been snatched off the streets by the police or federal forces in unmarked vehicles. In New York City, the NYPD used facial-recognition software to find and harass a Black Lives Matter activist. And earlier this month, in Washington, federal marshals gunned down Portland activist Michael Reinoehl without warning as he walked to his car.
Left Voice denounces the attempts to repress or otherwise intimidate anti-racist, anti-police activists. It is unacceptable that the state, under direction from both Republican and Democratic Party leaders, targets and intimidates activists fighting for racial justice, while the murderers of Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and many more walk free. The real threat to public safety can be found in every police precinct, every city hall, and every seat of political power.
Drop the charges against Denver PSL activists—Free all the arrested protesters!
To sign the PSL’s petition to have the charges dropped, click here:
To donate to the PSL’s legal defense, click here:
— Left Voice, September 18, 2020
Call for the immediate release of
Syiaah Skylit from CDCR custody!
Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/gavin-newsom-call-for-the-immediate-release-of-syiaah-skylit-from-cdcr-custody-blacktranslivesmatter?recruiter=915876972&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=abi_gmail&utm_campaign=address_book&recruited_by_id=7d48b720-ecea-11e8-a770-29edb03b51cc
Syiaah Skylit is a Black transgender woman currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). Syiaah has been a victim of multiple acts of brutal, senseless violence at KVSP at the hands of prison staff and others in custody. Many of these attacks are in retaliation for her advocacy for herself and other trans women.
Syiaah’s life is currently at risk due to racist, transmisogynist violence at the hands of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCr). While all the offending officers should be fired, this isn’t about a couple of bad apples. We have centuries of evidence that prison will never be safe — for Black people, for trans people, and especially not for Black trans women.
“I’m not going to make it out of this prison alive if I’m left here any longer.”
— Syiaah Skylit, June 2020
While incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison between 2018 and the present, prison staff have subjected Syiaah to severe and persistent physical, sexual, and psychological abuse (see below for examples, with content warnings). Staff at Kern Valley State Prison are also responsible for the 2013 death of Carmen Guerrero, a transgender woman who was forced to be housed with an individual who made it clear to officers that he would kill Ms. Guerrero if he was celled with her. Earlier this year, that individual was given the death penalty for killing Ms. Guerrero just eight hours after CDCR officers forced them to cell together.
Facing immediate danger, Syiaah has repeatedly asked to be transferred to a women’s facility and CDCR has repeatedly denied her requests. We demand that Governor Newsom and CDCR immediately release Syiaah to her community and family before she falls further victim to the lethal danger that transgender people face in prison.
[Content note: assault, sexual violence, anti-Black racism, transmisogny]
While in CDCR custody between 2018 and the present, Syiaah has:
- Been physically attacked by CDCR staff multiple times;
- Been threatened with sexual assault with a baton by CDCR staff;
- Been forced by CDCR staff to parade through the yard naked from the waist down;
- Been stripped naked by CDCR staff and left overnight in her cell without clothes, blankets, or a mattress;
- Been attacked by other people in custody who admitted that CDCR staff directed them to do so;
- Had her property stolen and destroyed by CDCR staff;
- Been maced in the face and thrown in a cage after reporting an assault;
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as an individual she testified against who is facing attempted murder charges for his assault of a transgender woman. As Syiaah feared, this individual violently attacked her as revenge. This man was then allowed to attack a gay man after attacking Syiaah.
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as individuals with histories of attacking trans women and other LGBTQI+ people, in spite of her pleas to be placed separately;
- Been thrown in administrative segregation after being the victim of an attack;
- Has had all of her recent documented complaints of discrimination and violence rejected under false pretenses;
- Has had contact with her legal representatives restricted to one phone call a week;
- Has been humiliated and discriminated against for going on a hunger strike as a form of protest;
- Has expressed numerous, documented concerns for her safety and had them blatantly ignored.
In spite of the constant violence Syiaah continues to survive, she continues to demonstrate her resilience and dedication to learning and growing. She has earned certifications in many educational and vocational programs and support groups.
We as Syiaah’s community and chosen family are ready to support her with a safe and successful reentry plan if Governor Newsom uses his executive powers to grant her clemency. Organizations that can offer Syiaah comprehensive reentry support including housing and employment upon her release include TGI Justice Project, Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG), and Medina Orthwein LLP.
You can read more about Syiaah's story in this article by Victoria Law for Truthout as well as this one by Dustin Gardiner for the SF Chronicle.
Please sign and share this petition to #FreeSyiaah and declare #BlackTransLivesMatter!
Please also check out our social media toolkit to support Syiaah!
[Please do not donate as prompted after signing, as the money goes to change.org and not to any cause associated with Syiaah.]
Art by Micah Bazant at Forward Together.
Write to Kevin “Rashid” Johnson:
Kevin Johnson #264847
Wabash Valley Correctional Facility
6908 S. Old U.S. HWY 41, P.O. Box 500
Carlisle, IN 47838
Snowden vindicated by court ruling – time to drop
Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA telephone surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden was illegal and likely unconstitutional. This ruling should finally end any remaining debate on whether Snowden’s actions constituted whistleblowing, and on his necessity of going to the press. The question now is how to remedy the legal and ethical dilemma he was placed into. It’s time to either drop his charges or pardon him.
The court’s ruling validates Snowden on multiple levels. It settles beyond doubt that his belief in the illegality of the programs he witnessed was reasonable. The panel of judges ruled that the mass telephone surveillance conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act was illegal. And while they refrained from issuing a ruling on the Constitutional challenge, they strongly suggested that the program was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They ruled that the government’s claims about the effectiveness of the surveillance had been lies, and that its legal theory about the necessity of mass collection of phone data was “unprecedented and unwarranted.”
Legally, a whistleblower does not need to ultimately be proved correct about the concerns they report. If they simply have a “reasonable belief” their employer is breaking the law, they are entitled to whistleblower protections. While any plain reading of the Fourth Amendment and the FISA statutes should have sufficed to prove a reasonable concern, this ruling is beyond sufficient affirmation that Snowden’s concern was “objectively reasonable”.
While he should have been able to make a protected whistleblower disclosure based on such concerns, those channels were not a realistic option. As an outside contractor, he would not have been guaranteed protection under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) statute in place at that time. Critics of Snowden also conveniently ignore the history of other NSA employees who blew the whistle on these programs before him. The internal channels were used to “catch and kill” the complaints of at least four previous surveillance whistleblowers, placing them – and even the Congressional intelligence committee staffer they went to – under criminal leak investigations. Snowden saw, for example, the punitive treatment of NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake. Drake went through every conceivable internal channel: his boss, the NSA Inspector General (IG), the Defense Department IG, and the House & Senate Intel Committees. Not only did they fail to redress his grievances, many acted to further punish him: ignored his concerns, marginalized him, forced him out, blacklisted him, and ultimately drove his failed criminal prosecution.
Snowden correctly assessed that the only remaining option was to go to the press, and the 9th Circuit ruling credits him for choosing that path, noting that his disclosures enabled “significant public debate over the appropriate scope of government surveillance”. Indeed, this ruling simply would not have been possible without his public disclosures. The government had long maneuvered to keep mass surveillance programs beyond this kind of judicial scrutiny.
As a witness to large scale illegality, and without effective or safe channels, Snowden was placed in a dilemma: break his agreement to protect classified information, or break his sworn oath to uphold the laws and defend the Constitution. He chose to honor his higher duty and so turned to the only other available channel that could serve as a check against government wrongdoing: the press. Snowden turned to the “Fourth Estate” and it played exactly the role the Founders intended. We cannot now prosecute him as a spy or abandon him to a lifetime of exile for having done so.
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
Take Action Now
Write, email and call the Nebraska Board of Pardons. Request that they expedite Ed’s application, schedule his hearing for the October 2020 meeting and commute his sentence.
*please email a copy of your letter..to firstname.lastname@example.org---EMAIL: email@example.com
CALL: Governor Pete Ricketts--402-471-2244 & SoS Robert B. Evnen---402-471-2554 & AG Doug Peterson--402-471-2683
His peers criticized this appearance. The press purposefully didn't cover it. He simply wanted to inspire young minds with the beauty and power of science, drawing attention to the power of ALL human minds, regardless of race.
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” -Albert Einstein
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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.
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:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
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.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
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 Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
Reality Winner Tests Positive for COVID, Still Imprisoned
With great anguish, I’m writing to share the news that NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, still in federal prison, has tested positive for COVID-19. Winner, despite her vulnerable health conditions, was denied home release in April – the judge’s reasoning being that the Federal Medical Center, Carswell is “presumably better equipped than most to deal with the onset of COVID-19 in its inmates”.Since that ruling, COVID infections at Carswell have exploded, ranking it now as second highest in the nation for the number of cases, and substantially increasing the likelihood that its medical capacity will be overwhelmed.This news comes one week after Trump’s commutation of convicted felon Roger Stone, and two months after the home release of Trump’s convicted campaign manager, Paul Manafort:
Roger Stone’s Freedom Is All the More Outrageous While Reality Winner Languishes in PrisonDonald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence is galling on numerous levels. It’s a brazen act of corruption and an egregious obstruction of an ongoing investigation of the President and his enablers. There are few figures less worthy of clemency than a Nixonian dirty trickster like Stone. But the final twist of the knife is that Reality Winner, the honest, earnest, anti-Stone of the Russian meddling saga, remains in federal prison.
Please share this with your networks, and stand with us in support of Reality Winner and her family during this critical time.
Thank you,Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
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Subject: Shut Down Fort Hood! Justice for Vanessa Guillén. Sign the petition!
SHUT DOWN FORT HOOD NOW!JUSTICE FOR
PFC. VANESSA GUILLÉN!
Sign the Petition
In late April, Pfc. Vanessa Guillén went missing from her base in Ft. Hood, Texas. It took her family and friends working night and day to appeal to the commanding officers to get any attention whatsoever about her whereabouts. Vanessa had told her family she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor.For more than three months, Vanessa’s higher-ups paid little attention to her family’s urgent pleas to investigate her disappearance. She was treated as being disposable.In late June, her body was found 25 miles from the base. Vanessa had been tragically murdered by her abuser who later killed himself upon capture.The unspeakable crimes against Vanessa Guillén have opened a floodgate of testimonies about sexual assault in the military. Many women and LGBTQ2S+ people are telling their heartbreaking stories with the hashtag #iamvanessaGuillén.Vanessa’s death is a result of sexual harassment in the military, which is deplorable. Fort Hood is the worst. According to the Pentagon’s own reports, it has the most sexual assaults of any Army post in the country. That is why it must be shut down now!In addition, Fort Hood, the single biggest military post in the U.S. armed forces, is named after a Confederate general. Its name glorifies racism and slavery.When Vanessa Guillén enlisted in the Army, she thought she’d be doing good and it would be helpful to her. Instead, it destroyed her. But how could it not when the military exists not to help people, but to defend Wall Street? It invaded and still occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, killing millions, just for oil profits.The case for Justice for Vanessa is very much linked to the movement for Black Lives. Young people of color must have other options than police violence or going to war for their future.WE DEMAND:•Investigate Fort Hood Commanding General Robert White and others for conspiracy to cover up Pfc. Vanessa Guillén’s murder. Why did it take a mass movement to find what happened?
•Shut down Ft. Hood! There is no other way to end the deplorable conditions soldiers face.
•Job training, education, COVID-19 relief, not war! If we shut down the Pentagon, the annual U.S. defense budget of $1 trillion could be used for people’s needs, not war.
•End misogyny and homophobia in the military. Justice for Vanessa and all survivors.
147 W 24th St.
New York City, NY 10011
This legacy belongs to all of us:
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forest to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. . . Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature–but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.” The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man 1876. —Friedrich Engels
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (Official Video 2019)
BlackRock loves to make a killing on killing: Over a thousand Americans have been killed by Tasers — 32 percent of them are Black Americans. Tasers are made by the colossal law enforcement supplier Axon Enterprise, based in Arizona.
One of their top shareholders happens to be Blackrock. Recently Blackrock has been trying to be sympathetic to the atrocities of murders waged on Black Americans and communities of color. If we ramp up massive pressure and blow the whistle on their deadly stocks, we can highlight that divesting from Tasers and the war in our streets will be a step in the right direction in building a fair and just society.
This issue is important to having peace in our streets. But this will only work if people participate. Send an email to Blackrock to divest from the Taser manufacturer Axon Enterprise which is responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans, and CODEPINK will pull out all the stops to make sure Blackrock execs hear our call:
Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers!
Blackrock could do this. They recently announced that they were divesting from fossil fuels — signaling a shift in their policies. If CEO Larry Fink cares about “diversity, fairness, and justice” and building a “stronger, more equal, and safer society” — he should divest from Tasers.
Plus, compared to Blackrock’s other holdings, Taser stocks aren’t even that significant!
But if Blackrock does this, it could be the first domino we need to get other investment companies on board too. Send an email to BlackRock and share this widely!
Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers!
If there’s one thing our community stands for, it’s peace and social justice. And one way we can help achieve that is by cutting off the flow of cash into the manufacturing of Tasers. So, let’s come together to make that happen, and help prevent more innocent Americans from being killed with these senseless tools.
Nancy, Carley, Jodie, Paki, Cody, Kelsey, and Yousef
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If you haven't seen this, you're missing something spectacular:
On Saturday May 30th filmmaker and photographer David Jones of David Jones Media felt compelled to go out and serve the community in some way. He decided to use his art to try and explain the events that were currently impacting our lives. On day two, Sunday the 31st, he activated his dear friend author Kimberly Jones to tag along and conduct interviews. During a moment of downtime he captured these powerful words from her and felt the world couldn’t wait for the full length documentary, they needed to hear them now.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.—BAUAW
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
I didn't do nothing serious man
please I can't breathe
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
man can't breathe, my face
just get up
I can't breathe
I can't breathe sh*t
I can't move
my stomach hurt
my neck hurts
some water or something
I can't breathe officer
don't kill me
they gon' kill me man
come on man
I cannot breathe
I cannot breathe
they gon' kill me
they gon' kill me
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
please I can't breathe"
Then his eyes shut and the pleas stop. George Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after.
By ShakaboonaTrump Comic Satire—A Proposal
Write to Shakaboona:Smart Communications/PA DOCKerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE7826SCI RockviewP.O. Box 33028St. Petersburg, FL 33733
Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons
Raping, torturing their way across
the continent—400 years ago—
Colonial settler thugs launched this
endless crimson tide rolling down on
endless crimson tide leaving in-
visible yellow crime
scene tape crisscrossing Tallahassee
to Seattle; San Diego to Bangor…
Choctaw, Mohawk, Cayuga, Blackfeet,
Shooting Sioux, Shawnee, Chickasaw,
Looting Lakota land; Looting Ohlone
Looting Ashanti, Fulani, Huasa, Wolof,
Yoruba, Ibo, Kongo, Mongo, Hutu, Zulu…
endless crimson tide—hot lead storms—
Shooting, looting Mexico for half of New
Mexico; a quarter of Colorado; some of
Wyoming and most of Arizona; Looting
Mexico for Utah, Nevada and California
is dirty like Duterte—howling for shooting;
Next time demented minions raise rifles to
shoot; Remind them that
Real looters wear Brooks Brothers suits;
Or gold braid and junk medals ‘cross their
chests. Real looters—with Capitalist Hill
Not FOX-boxes, silly sneakers, cheap clothes…
Veterans Join Call for a Global Ceasefire
www.couragetoresist.org ~ 510.488.3559 ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist
Oakland, CA 94610-2730
"The biggest block from having society in harmony with the universe is the belief in a lie that says it’s not realistic or ￼humanly possible."
"If Obama taught me anything it’s that it don’t matter who you vote for in this system. There’s nothing a politician can do that the next one can’t undo. You can’t vote away the ills of society people have to put our differences aside ban together and fight for the greater good, not vote for the lesser evil."
—Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
When faced with the opportunity to do good, I really think it’s the instinct of humanity to do so. It’s in our genetic memory from our earliest ancestors. ￼It’s the altered perception of the reality of what being human truly is that’s been indoctrinated ￼in to every generation for the last 2000 years or more that makes us believe that we are born sinners. I can’t get behind that one. We all struggle with certain things, but I really think ￼￼that all the “sinful” behavior is learned and wisdom and goodwill is innate at birth. ￼ —Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
Mumia Abu-Jamal: New Chance for Freedom
Police and State Frame-Up Must Be Fully Exposed!
Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent. Courts have ignored and suppressed evidence of his innocence for decades.... But now, one court has thrown out all the decisions of the PA Supreme Court that denied Mumia's appeals against his unjust conviction during the years of 1998 to 2012!
This ruling, by Judge Leon Tucker, was made because one judge on the PA Supreme Court during those years, Ronald Castille, was lacking the "appearance of impartiality." In plain English, he was clearly biased against Mumia. Before sitting on the PA Supreme Court, Castille had been District Attorney (or assistant DA) during the time of Mumia's frame-up and conviction, and had used his office to express a special interest in pursuing the death penalty for "cop-killers." Mumia was in the cross-hairs. Soon he was wrongly convicted and sent to death row for killing a police officer.....
* * * * *
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning and intrepid journalist, a former Black Panther, MOVE supporter, and a critic of police brutality and murder. Mumia was framed by police, prosecutors, and leading elements of both Democratic and Republican parties, for the shooting of a police officer.. The US Justice Department targeted him as well... A racist judge helped convict him, and corrupt courts have kept him locked up despite much evidence that should have freed him. He continues his commentary and journalism from behind bars. As of 2019, he has been imprisoned for 37 years for a crime he did not commit.
Time is up! FREE MUMIA NOW!
* * * * *
DA's Hidden Files Show Frame-Up of Mumia
In the midst of Mumia's fight for his right to challenge the state Supreme Court's negative rulings, a new twist was revealed: six boxes of files on Mumia's case--with many more still hidden--were surreptitiously concealed for decades in a back room at the District Attorney's office in Philadelphia. The very fact that these files on Mumia's case were hidden away for decades is damning in the extreme, and their revelations confirm what we have known for decades: Mumia was framed for a crime he did not commit!
So far, the newly revealed evidence confirms that, at the time of Mumia's 1982 trial, chief prosecutor Joe McGill illegally removed black jurors from the jury, violating the Batson decision. Also revealed: The prosecution bribed witnesses into testifying that they saw Mumia shoot the slain police officer when they hadn't seen any such thing.... Taxi driver Robert Chobert, who was on probation for fire-bombing a school yard at the time, had sent a letter demanding his money for lying on the stand....... Very important, but the newly revealed evidence is just the tip of the iceberg!
All Evidence of Mumia's Innocence Must Be Brought Forward Now!
Mumia Abu-Jamal's trial for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner was rigged against him from beginning to end........ All of the evidence of Mumia's innocence--which was earlier suppressed or rejected--must now be heard:
• Mumia was framed - The judge at Mumia's trial, Albert Sabo, was overheard to say, "I'm gonna help 'em fry the n____r." And he proceeded to do just that.... Mumia was thrown out of his own trial for defending himself! Prosecution "witnesses" were coerced or bribed at trial to lie against Mumia.. In addition to Chobert, this included key witness Cynthia White, a prostitute who testified that she saw Mumia shoot Faulkner... White's statements had to be rewritten under intense pressure from the cops, because she was around the corner and out of sight of the shooting at the time! Police bribed her with promises of being allowed to work her corner, and not sent to state prison for her many prostitution charges.
• Mumia only arrived on the scene after Officer Faulkner was shot - William Singletary, a tow-truck business owner who had no reason to lie against the police, said he had been on the scene the whole time, that Mumia was not the shooter, and that Mumia had arrived only after the shooting of Faulkner. Singletary's statements were torn up, his business was wrecked, and he was threatened by police to be out of town for the trial (which, unfortunately, he was)...
• There is no evidence that Mumia fired a gun - Mumia was shot on the scene by an arriving police officer and arrested. But the cops did not test his hands for gun-powder residue--a standard procedure in shootings! They also did not test Faulkner's hands. The prosecution nevertheless claimed Mumia was the shooter, and that he was shot by Faulkner as the officer fell to the ground. Ballistics evidence was corrupted to falsely show that Mumia's gun was the murder weapon, when his gun was reportedly still in his taxi cab, which was in police custody days after the shooting!
• The real shooter fled the scene and was never charged - Veronica Jones was a witness who said that after hearing the shots from a block away, she had seen two people fleeing the scene of the shooting.... This could not have included Mumia, who had been shot and almost killed at the scene. Jones was threatened by the police with arrest and loss of custody of her children. She then lied on the stand at trial to say she had seen no one running away.
• Abu-Jamal never made a confession - Mumia has always maintained his innocence. But police twice concocted confessions that Mumia never made. Inspector Alfonso Giordano, the senior officer at the crime scene, made up a confession for Mumia. But Giordano was not allowed to testify at trial, because he was top on the FBI's list of corrupt cops in the Philadelphia police force... At the DA's request, another cop handily provided a second "confession," allegedly heard by a security guard in the hospital......... But at neither time was Mumia--almost fatally shot--able to speak.. And an earlier police report by cops in the hospital said that, referring to Mumia: "the negro male made no comment"!
• The crime scene was tampered with by police - Police officers at the scene rearranged some evidence, and handled what was alleged to be Mumia's gun with their bare hands... A journalist's photos revealed this misconduct. The cops then left the scene unattended for hours.. All of this indicates a frame-up in progress....
• The real shooter confessed, and revealed the reason for the crime - Arnold Beverly came forward in the 1990s. He said in a sworn statement, under penalty of perjury, that he, not Mumia, had been the actual shooter. He said that he, along with "another guy," had been hired to do the hit, because Faulkner was "a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area"! (affidavit of Arnold Beverly).
• The corruption of Philadelphia police is documented and well known - This includes that of Giordano, who was the first cop to manufacture a "confession" by Mumia... Meanwhile, Faulkner's cooperation with the federal anti-corruption investigations of Philadelphia police is strongly suggested by his lengthy and heavily redacted FBI file......
• Do cops kill other cops? There are other cases in Philadelphia that look that way. Frank Serpico, an NYC cop who investigated and reported on police corruption, was abandoned by fellow cops after being shot in a drug bust. Mumia was clearly made a scape-goat for the crimes of corrupt Philadelphia cops who were protecting their ill-gotten gains.
• Politicians and US DOJ helped the frame-up - Ed Rendell, former DA, PA governor, and head of the Democratic National Committee--and now a senior advisor to crime-bill author Joe Biden--is complicit in the frame-up of Mumia. The US Justice Department targeted Mumia for his anti-racist activities when he was a teenager, and later secretly warned then-prosecutor Rendell not to use Giordano as a witness against Mumia because he was an FBI target for corruption..
* * * * *
All this should lead to an immediate freeing of Mumia! But we are still a ways away from that, and we have no confidence in the capitalist courts to finish the job. We must act! This victory in local court allowing new appeals must now lead to a full-court press on all the rejected and suppressed evidence of Mumia's innocence!
Mass Movement Needed To Free Mumia!
Mumia's persecution by local, state and federal authorities of both political parties has been on-going, and has generated a world-wide movement in his defense... This movement has seen that Mumia, as a radio journalist who exposed the brutal attacks on the black community by the police in Philadelphia, has spoken out as a defender of working people of all colors and all nationalities in his ongoing commentaries (now on KPFA/Pacifica radio), despite being on death row, and now while serving life without the possibility of parole (LWOP)...
In 1999, Oakland Teachers for Mumia held unauthorized teach-ins in Oakland schools on Mumia and the death penalty, despite the rabid hysteria in the bourgeois media. Teachers in Rio de Janeiro held similar actions. Letters of support came in from maritime workers and trade unions around the world.. Later in 1999, longshore workers shut down all the ports on the West Coast to free Mumia, and led a mass march of 25,000 Mumia supporters in San Francisco................
A year later, a federal court lifted Mumia's death sentence, based on improper instructions to the jury by trial judge Albert Sabo.. The federal court ordered the local court to hold a new sentencing hearing... Fearing their frame-up of Mumia could be revealed in any new hearing, even if only on sentencing, state officials passed. Much to the chagrin of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)--which still seeks Mumia's death--this left Mumia with LWOP, death by life in prison..
Mumia supporters waged a struggle to get him the cure for the deadly Hepatitis-C virus, which he had likely contracted through a blood transfusion in hospital after he was shot by a cop at the 1981 crime scene. The Labor Action Committee conducted demonstrations against Gilead Sciences, the Foster City CA corporation that owns the cure, and charged $1,000 per pill! The Metalworkers Union of South Africa wrote a letter excoriating Governor Wolf for allowing untreated sick freedom fighters to die in prison as the apartheid government had done. Finally, Mumia did get the cure.. Now, more than ever, struggle is needed to free Mumia!
Now is the Time: Mobilize Again for Mumia's Freedom!
Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal | Mumia Abu-Jamal is an I.....
Message to the People
A voice from inside Pennsylvania’s gulag
LETTERS NEEDED FOR
Dear Friends, Supporters, and Family,
In light of the provisions of the CARES Act meant to decrease the risk to prisoner heath, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Attorney General has delegated to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons the authority to release certain vulnerable prisoners to home confinement. Currently, the process for identifying appropriate candidates for home confinement have not been solidified but we believe it may help to write to the BOP Director and Southeast Regional Director and ask that Leonard be immediately considered and transitioned to his home on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.Your letters should be addressed to:
Michael CarvajalDirector320 First Street NWWashington, DC 20534
J.A. KellerSoutheast Regional DirectorFederal Bureau of3800 Camp Crk Prk SW, Building 2000Atlanta, GA 30331
We have not drafted a form letter or correspondence. Your pleas should come from your heart as an individual who has supported Leonard for so many years. Say what you would like but we have put together some talking points that will assist you in your letter writing. Below are some helpful guidelines so your letter touches on the requirements of the Attorney General’s criteria for releasing inmates like Leonard to home confinement
OPENING:• Point out that Leonard is an elder and is at risk for example.” Mr. Peltier is 75 years old and in very poor health; his only desire is to go home to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation and live out the remainder of his years surrounded by his family.”
MEDICAL:The AG and CDC guidelines for releasing inmates requires the health concerns cause greater risk of getting the virus. Leonard has the following conditions you can list in your letter• Diabetes• Spots on lung• Heart Condition (has had triple by-pass surgery)• Leonard Peltier suffers from a kidney disease that cannot be treated at the Coleman1facility and impacts as an underlying condition if contracting the virus.
RISK TO COMMUNITY:To qualify for release to home confinement we must show that Leonard poses no risk to the community.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT/RENTRY PLAN:To qualify for release to home confinement we must show that Leonard has a reentry plan. Leonard has support from the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Band and has family land on the reservation where he can live.
RISK OF COVID 19:To qualify for the release to home confinement must show that Leonard is at reduced risk to exposure of COVID 19 by release than he is at Coleman 1. Currently Rolette County, ND has no cases of COVID 19, Sumter County has at least 33 cases.
Questions and comments may be sent to email@example.com
Major Tillery, a prisoner at SCI Chester and a friend of Mumia, may have caught the coronavirus. Major is currently under lockdown at SCI Chester, where a coronavirus outbreak is currently taking place. Along with the other prisoners at SCI Chester, he urgently needs your help.
500 E. 4th St.
Chester, PA 19013
Telephone: (610) 490-5412
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Prison Superintendent). email@example.com (Superintendent's Assistant)Please also call the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at:Department of Corrections
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Telephone: (717) 737-4531
This telephone number is for SCI Camp Hill, which is the current number for DOC.
Reference Major's inmate number: AM 9786
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgDemand that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections immediately:
2) Disinfect all cells and common areas at SCI Chester, including sinks, toilets, eating areas and showers;
3) Provide PPE (personal protective equipment) for all inmates at SCI Chester;
4) Provide access to showers for all prisoners at SCI Chester, as a basic hygiene measure;
5) Provide yard access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
6) Provide phone and internet access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
7) Immediately release prisoners from SCI Chester, including Major Tillery, who already suffers from a compromised immune system, in order to save their lives from execution by COVID-19.
It has been reported that prisoners are now receiving shower access. However, please insist that prisoners be given shower access and that all common areas are disinfected.
The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Officials in Rochester, N.Y., spent months trying to suppress video footage of the police encounter that led to Mr. Prude’s death.
By Michael Wilson and Edgar Sandoval, Published Sept. 15, 2020, Updated Sept. 16, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/15/nyregion/rochester-police-daniel-prude.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
City records show how officials sought to frame the narrative around Daniel Prude’s death in the hours and days after his encounter with the police.
Daniel Prude was in Rochester visiting his brother when he was detained by the police. Credit...Roth and Roth LLP, via Associated Press
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It was early June, days after the death of George Floyd, and cities around the country were erupting in protests against police brutality.
In Rochester, the streets were relatively calm, but behind closed doors, police and city officials were growing anxious. A Black man, Daniel Prude, had died of suffocation in March after police officers had placed his head in a hood and pinned him to the ground. The public had never been told about the death, but that would change if police body camera footage of the encounter got out.
“We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers’ actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement nationally,” a deputy Rochester police chief wrote in an email to his boss. “That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blowback in this community as a result.”
His advice was clear: Don’t release the body camera footage to the Prude family’s lawyer. The police chief replied minutes later: “I totally agree.”
The June 4 exchange was contained in a mass of city documents released on Monday that show how the police chief, La’Ron Singletary, and other prominent Rochester officials did everything in their power to keep the troubling videos of the incident out of public view, and to prevent damaging fallout from Mr. Prude’s death.
The dozens of emails, police reports and internal reviews reveal an array of delay tactics — from citing hospital privacy laws to blaming an overworked employee’s backlog in processing videos — used in that mission.
The documents show how the police attempted to frame the narrative in the earliest hours, playing up Mr. Prude’s potential for danger and glossing over the tactics of the officers who pinned him, naked and hooded, to the ground before he stopped breathing.
In a police report on the confrontation, marking a box for “victim type,” an officer on the scene listed Mr. Prude — who the police believed had broken a store window that night — simply as an “individual.” But another officer circled the word in red and scribbled a note.
“Make him a suspect,” it read.
Mr. Prude’s death has sparked daily protests in Rochester, as well as accusations of a cover-up from his family. Earlier this month, the city’s mayor, Lovely Warren, suspended seven officers involved in the encounter.
The documents were contained in a 323-page internal review of Mr. Prude’s death and the city’s actions in the ensuing months. She cited the report, which she released on Monday, in her decision to fire Mr. Singletary two weeks before he was to step down.
Mr. Prude was found by the police around 3 a.m. on March 23, ranting naked in the street, telling at least one witness he had the coronavirus. Mr. Prude had just arrived at his brother’s home in Rochester, and was seemingly under the influence of PCP, his brother had told police.
Officers handcuffed him, but when Mr. Prude ignored orders to stop spitting, they placed a hood over his head. He became agitated, and three officers pinned him, one leaning heavily on Mr. Prude’s head. Mr. Prude’s pleas changed to gurgling noises and he stopped breathing. He was removed from life support a week later.
In their incident reports, officers described the encounter with Mr. Prude as peaceful until he began spitting and demanding a gun. After officers restrained him, he “threw up and then became unresponsive,” a police lieutenant wrote in an email four hours later.
A preliminary review of the incident singled out Officer Mark Vaughn, who restrained Mr. Prude’s head “using a segmenting technique” until he “appears to ease pressure to the area.”
In fact, Officer Vaughn leaned heavily on Mr. Prude’s head in a push-up position that lasted at least 68 seconds, a New York Times analysis of the body camera footage showed. He relented after Mr. Prude appeared to have lost consciousness. Police officials would later say Mr. Prude suffered a drug overdose.
Mr. Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, and other family members had immediate doubts that he died of an overdose. They contacted a lawyer, Elliot Shields, who filed a legal notice April 3 compelling the city to preserve evidence from the encounter, a precursor to a wrongful-death lawsuit.
He also filed a demand under the state’s Freedom of Information Law that all documents and videos pertaining to Mr. Prude’s arrest be handed over.
On April 10, the county medical examiner released its autopsy findings, ruling Mr. Prude’s death a homicide from asphyxia, and noting the PCP in his system. Chief Singletary wrote a summary of the incident (“Officers did stabilize the individual on the ground”) for Justin Roj, the city’s communications director.
“The mayor has been in the loop,” the chief wrote then.
Mayor Warren has said she was not told of the struggle with officers that preceded Mr. Prude’s cardiac arrest — only that he had suffered a drug overdose.
By April 21, the state attorney general’s office had informed local officials that it was opening an investigation into the death.
Days later, the Rochester police concluded its own investigation: “The officers’ actions and conduct displayed when dealing with Prude appear to be appropriate and consistent with their training,” an internal report stated.
In late May, Mr. Shields, the Prudes’ lawyer, began following up on his open records request, saying the deadline to hand over the materials had lapsed.
But officials in Rochester were increasingly reluctant to turn them over. Mr. Floyd died on Memorial Day, and scenes of unrest were spreading across the country.
Mark Simmons, the deputy chief, shared his concern about “blowback” from the public. He was not alone.
“I am very concerned about releasing this prematurely in light of what is going on in Rochester and around the country,” Police Lt. Michael E. Perkowski wrote in an email to Stephanie A. Prince, a city lawyer. “I may be overthinking, but would think the chief’s office and the mayor’s office would want a heads-up before this goes out.”
The officials who wanted to keep the videos away from the public appeared to find a convenient, if unlikely, means to do so: the attorney general’s inquiry. Mr. Simmons, Ms. Prince and others repeatedly suggested that the city not turn over records to Mr. Prude’s family because the case was under investigation, a blanket exception to the open records laws.
Mr. Simmons raised the possibility in his email to the chief, to deny the records request “based on the fact that the case is still active, as it is currently being investigated for possible criminal charges to be brought forth by the A.G.’s office.”
Ms. Prince raised a similar strategy: The city could stall the general release of videos by allowing a lawyer for the Prude family to view them in a meeting with the attorney general’s office, but not be permitted to keep his own copies. She told others in an email June 4 that this idea came from Jennifer Sommers, a state assistant attorney general.
“What her office typically does and what she’s suggested for this matter,” Ms. Prince wrote, is to invite a lawyer for the Prude family to view the case file in person, “provided he agrees to sign an agreement that he cannot scan/copy/otherwise attempt to reproduce the information. This way, the A.G. is making the file available to the family’s attorney, but we are not releasing anything to the public.”
She repeated the idea the following day: “This way, the city is not releasing anything pertaining to the case for at least a month (more like 2), and it will not be publicly available.”
The attorney general’s office has denied playing any role in releasing the videos. “The Prude family and the greater Rochester community deserve answers, and we will continue to work around the clock to provide them,” the state attorney general, Letitia James, said in a statement.
A meeting with the lawyer and the attorney general’s office took place in June, and another, with Mr. Shields and members of the Prude family, took place in July. But Mr. Shields was unrelenting in his demands to obtain the videos. The city pushed back, citing the sensitivity of the images of Mr. Prude’s naked body, his privacy as a patient who received medical attention and, in late July, the “enormous backlog of work” for the lone employee who reviews body camera videos for release.
Copies of the videos were finally released to Mr. Shields on Aug. 12, more than four months after he requested them. The videos were mailed via the U.S. Postal Service.
He released them to the public on Sept. 2. The response was just as the officials had feared, filling blocks of downtown Rochester with protesters every night since.
Mr. Simmons, the deputy chief who urged the videos not be released, was demoted to a lieutenant last week. The demotion did not last long: On Monday, he was named acting police chief.
Ghosted by their employers, members of the profession are facing “a full-blown humanitarian crisis — a Depression-level situation.”
By David Segal, Sept. 18, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/business/housekeepers-covid.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
The scariest day of Maria Del Carmen’s life started with a phone call that initially cheered her up.
A native of Mexico, she has spent the last 24 years as a housekeeper in Philadelphia and had a dozen regular clients before the pandemic began. By April, she had three. Food banks became essential to feeding herself and her three children. To earn extra money, she started selling face masks stitched on her sewing machine.
So in mid-August, when a once-regular client — a pair of professors from the University of Pennsylvania and their children — asked her to come and clean, she was delighted. No one was home when she arrived, which seemed like a wise precaution, given social distancing guidelines. What struck her as odd were the three bottles of Lysol on the dining room table. She had a routine at every home, and it had never involved disinfectant.
Ms. Del Carmen started scrubbing, doing laundry and ironing. After a few hours, she stepped outside to throw away some garbage. A neighbor spotted her and all but shrieked: “Maria, what are you doing here?!” The professors and their children, the neighbor said, had all contracted the coronavirus.
“I was terrified,” Ms. Del Carmen recalled. “I started crying. Then I went home, took off all of my clothing, showered, got in bed, and for the next night and the next day, I waited for the coronavirus.”
She never got sick, but she still is livid. At 58 and, by her account, overweight, she considers herself at high risk. That is why she never took off her mask while cleaning that day — diligence she thinks might have saved her life.
“There are a lot of people who don’t want to disinfect their own homes,” she said, “so they call a housekeeper.”
The pandemic has had devastating consequences for a wide variety of occupations, but housekeepers have been among the hardest hit. Seventy-two percent of them reported that they had lost all of their clients by the first week of April, according to a survey by the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The fortunate had employers who continued to pay them. The unlucky called or texted their employers and heard nothing back. They weren’t laid off so much as ghosted, en masse.
Since July, hours have started picking up, though far short of pre-pandemic levels, and often for lower wages.
“We plateaued at about 40 percent employment in our surveys of members,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the alliance. “And because most of these people are undocumented, they have not received any kind of government relief. We’re talking about a full-blown humanitarian crisis, a Depression-level situation for this work force.”
The ordeal of housekeepers is a case study in the wildly unequal ways that the pandemic has inflicted suffering. Their pay dwindled, in many cases, because employers left for vacation homes or because those employers could work from home and didn’t want visitors. Few housekeepers have much in the way of savings, let alone shares of stock, which means they are scrabbling for dollars as the wealthiest of their clients are prospering courtesy of the recent bull market.
In a dozen interviews, housekeepers in a handful of cities across the country described their feelings of fear and desperation over the last six months. A few said the pain had been alleviated by acts of generosity, mostly advances for future work. Far more said they were suspended, or perhaps fired, without so much as a conversation.
Scrubbing a fluffy little dog named Bobby
One of them is Vicenta, a 42-year-old native of Mexico who lives in Los Angeles, and who, like many contacted for this article, did not want her last name used because she is undocumented.
For 10 years, she had earned $2,000 a month cleaning two opulent homes in gated communities in Malibu, Calif. This included several exhausting weeks in 2018, when fires raged close enough to cover both homes in ash. Three times a week, she would visit both houses and scrub ash off floors, windows, walls and, for one family, a fluffy little dog named Bobby.
Vicenta received nothing extra for the added time it took to scour those houses during the fires. She would have settled for a glass of water, she said, but neither family offered one.
“It was incredibly hot, and my mouth and throat were really sore,” she recalled. “I should have seen a doctor, but we don’t have health insurance.”
If Vicenta thought her years of service had banked some good will, she was wrong. Early in May, both families called and left a message with her 16-year-old son, explaining that for the time being, she could not visit and clean. There was some vague talk about eventually asking her to return, but messages she left with the families for clarification went unreturned.
“Mostly, I feel really sad,” Vicenta said. “My children were born here, so they get coupons for food, but my husband lost his job as a prep cook in a restaurant last year and we are three months behind on rent. I don’t know what will happen next.”
Housekeepers have long had a uniquely precarious foothold in the U.S. labor market. Many people still refer to them as “the help,” which makes the job sound like something far less than an occupation. The Economic Policy Institute found that the country’s 2.2 million domestic workers — a group that includes housekeepers, child care workers and home health care aides — earn an average of $12.01 an hour and are three times as likely to live in poverty than other hourly workers. Few have benefits that are common in the American work force, like sick leave, health insurance, formal contracts or protection against unfair dismissal.
‘A treadmill life’
This underclass status can be traced as far back as the 1800s, historians say, and is squarely rooted in racism. Domestic work was then one of the few ways that Black women could earn money, and well into the 20th century, most of those women lived in the South. During the Jim Crow era, they were powerless and exploited. Far from the happy “mammy” found in popular culture like “Gone With the Wind,” these women were mistreated and overworked. In 1912, a publication called The Independent ran an essay by a woman identified only as a “Negro Nurse,” who described 14-hour workdays, seven days a week, for $10 a month.
“I live a treadmill life,” she wrote. “I see my own children only when they happen to see me on the streets.”
In 1935, the federal government all but codified the grim conditions of domestic work with the passage of the Social Security Act. The law was the crowning achievement of the New Deal, providing retirement benefits as well as the country’s first national unemployment compensation program — a safety net that was invaluable during the Depression. But the act excluded two categories of employment: domestic workers and agricultural laborers, jobs that were most essential to Black women and Black men, respectively.
The few Black people invited to weigh in on the bill pointed out the obvious. In February 1935, Charles Hamilton Houston, then special counsel to the N.A.A.C.P., testified before the Senate Finance Committee and said that from the viewpoint of Black people, the bill “looks like a sieve with the holes just big enough for the majority of Negroes to fall through.”
The historian Mary Poole, author of “The Segregated Origins of Social Security,” sifted through notes, diaries and transcripts created during the passage of the act and found that Black people were excluded not because white Southerners in control of Congress at the time insisted on it. The truth was more troubling, and more nuanced. Members of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration — most notably, the Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau Jr. — persuaded congressional leaders that the law would be far simpler to administer, and therefore far more likely to succeed, if the two occupations were left out of the bill.
In the years that followed, Black domestic workers were consistently at the mercy of white employers. In cities like New York, African-American women lined up at spots along certain streets, carrying a paper bag filled with work clothes, waiting for white housewives to offer them work, often for an hour or two, sometimes for the day. A reporter, Marvel Cooke, and an activist, Ella Baker, wrote a series of articles in 1935 for The Crisis, the journal of the N.A.A.C.P., describing life in what they called New York City’s “slave markets.”
The markets’ popularity diminished in the ’40s after Mayor Fiorello La Guardia opened hiring halls, where contracts were signed laying out terms for day labor arrangements. But in early 1950, Ms. Cooke found the markets in New York City were bustling again. In a series of first-person dispatches, she joined the “paper bag brigades” and went undercover to describe life for the Black women who stood in front of the Woolworths on 170th Street.
“That is the Bronx Slave Market,” she wrote in The Daily Compass in January 1950, “where Negro women wait, in rain or shine, in bitter cold or under broiling sun, to be hired by local housewives looking for bargains in human labor.”
That same year, domestic work was finally added to the Social Security Act, and by the 1970s it had been added to federal legislation intended to protect laborers, including the Fair Labor Standards Act. African-American women had won many of those protections by organizing, though by the 1980s, they had moved into other occupations and were largely replaced by women from South and Central America as well as the Caribbean.
A total lack of leverage
Today, many housekeepers are undocumented and either don’t know about their rights or are afraid to assert them. The sort of grass-roots organizations that tried to eradicate New York City’s “slave markets” are lobbying for state laws to protect domestic work. Nine states have domestic workers’ rights laws on the book. Last summer, Senator Kamala Harris introduced the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would guarantee a minimum wage and overtime pay, along with protections against racial discrimination. The bill has yet to pass, and if it did, labor advocates and historians say it would merely be a beginning.
“It’s important to get a federal bill, but it leaves unanswered the question of enforcement,” said Premilla Nadasen, the author of “Household Workers Unite” and a professor of history at Barnard College. “The Department of Labor is overextended and it tends not to check up on individual employers. The imbalance of power between employer and employee has been magnified by the pandemic because millions of people are now looking for work. And xenophobic rhetoric has made women more fearful of being deported.”
The pandemic has laid bare not just the vulnerability of housekeepers to economic shocks but their total lack of leverage. Several workers said they had clients who would not let anyone clean who has had Covid-19; others know clients who will hire only Covid survivors, on the theory that after their recovery, they pose no health risk. Housekeepers are often given strict instructions about how they can commute, and are quizzed about whether and how much they interact with others. But they have no idea whether their employers are taking similar precautions. Nor, in many cases, are they accorded the simple decencies that are part of formal employment.
“It would be nice to have at least two days’ notice when someone cancels on you, either to let you know or compensate you for your time,” said Magdalena Zylinska, a housekeeper in Chicago who helped lobby for a domestic workers’ rights bill that passed in Illinois in 2017. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that if I don’t work, I don’t get paid and I still have to buy food, pay bills, utilities.”
Ms. Zylinska emigrated from Poland more than 20 years ago and has yet to get a week of paid vacation. The closest she came was in 1997, when a couple handed her $900 in cash, all at once — for work she’d just finished, work she would soon do, plus a holiday bonus.
“The couple said, ‘Merry Christmas, Maggie,’” she said. “I remember counting that money four times.”
The program aims to counter social media that bombards young people with images of perfect bodies.
By Thomas Erdbrink and Martin Selsoe Sorensen, Sept. 18, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/world/europe/denmark-children-nudity-sex-education.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
COPENHAGEN — “OK, children, does anyone have a question?” the TV show’s host, Jannik Schow, asked. Only a few in the audience of 11- to 13-year-olds raised their hands. “Remember, you can’t do anything wrong,” he said. “There are no bad questions.”
You can’t blame the children if their thoughts were elsewhere. On a stage before them in a heated studio in Copenhagen stood five adults in bathrobes. There was a brief moment of silence, as faces turned serious. Having discussed it for days before in school, the children knew what was coming next. Mr. Schow gave a little nod, and the adults cast off their robes.
Facing the children, and the cameras, they stood completely naked, like statues, with their hands and arms folded behind their backs.
And so began a recording of the latest episode of an award-winning Danish children’s program, “Ultra Strips Down,” which is shown on Ultra, the on-demand children’s channel of the national broadcaster, DR. The topic today: skin and hair.
The show’s producers say the program is meant as an educational tool to fight body shaming and encourage body positivity. And so first reluctantly, later enthusiastically, the children from the Orestad School in Copenhagen asked the adults questions like: “At what age did you grow hair on the lower part of your body?” “Do you consider removing your tattoos?” “Are you pleased with your private parts?”
One of the adults, Martin, answered that he had never had “negative thoughts” about his private parts. Another adult, also named Martin, admitted that when he was young he had worried about size. “But the relationship with myself has changed over time,” he said.
With serious looks on their faces, the children nodded.
The program is now in its second season, and while perhaps a shock to non-Danes, it is highly popular in Denmark. Recently, however, a leading member of the right-wing Danish People’s Party, Peter Skaarup, said he found “Ultra Strips Down” to be “depraving our children.”
“It is far too early for children” to start with male and female genitalia, he told B.T., a Danish tabloid. At that age, he said, they “already have many things running around in their heads.”
“They have to learn it at the right time,” he added, saying this information should be presented by parents or schools “so that it is not delivered in this vulgar way, as the children’s channel does.”
For the most part, though, Danes have long been comfortable with nudity, at public beaches, for instance.
Mr. Schow, 29, who helped develop the concept of the show after a producer came up with the idea, said the point was also to counter the daily bombardment of young people with images of perfect — unrealistic — bodies. The adults are not actors, but volunteers.
“Perhaps some people are like, ‘Oh, my God, they are combining nakedness and kids,’” Mr. Schow said. “But this has nothing to do with sex, it’s about seeing the body as natural, the way kids do.”
Many Danes believe children should not be shielded from the realities of life, giving them a lot of unsupervised time to play and explore, even if they might hurt themselves.
“We recognize the significance of a bruise,” said Sofie Münster, a nationally recognized expert in “Nordic Parenting.” “Danish parenting generally favors exposing children rather than shielding them.”
One famous example of how far the Danes take this philosophy was the euthanization and dissection of a giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo in 2014, where children observed from the front row.
Abroad it was seen by many as a nightmarish spectacle, topped off by the feeding of the carcass to the lions, but in Denmark people shrugged their shoulders. The children in the audience that day had asked “very good questions,” one zoo official told CNN.
“While some may prefer to be overcareful, we may prefer to be under-careful,” Ms. Münster said. “It’s about being free and finding yourself.” If a child falls from a tree and breaks an arm, that might not be “ideal,” she added, but it can serve a larger purpose.
A children’s program featuring naked adults might be taking the Danish approach to the extreme, she admitted. But the Danish way of dealing with easing children’s anxieties over body issues is “to expose them” to naked bodies.
“This is how we educate our children,” she said. “We show them reality as it is.”
Asked during the program on skin and hair why she decided to take part, one of the adults, Ule, 76, said she wanted to show the children that perfect bodies are rare and that what they see on social media is often misleading.
“On Facebook or Instagram, many people are fashion models,” she said. “Us here, we have ordinary bodies. I hope you will understand that normal bodies look like this,” she told the audience, pointing at her naked self.
During the recording, when one of the Martins told the children that when he was their age, boys and girls used to share the same locker room and showers, Mr. Schow intervened, asking them if they would find that awkward.
“Yessss,” they all responded. “It feels more safe to shower with others of the same gender,” a boy explained on camera.
Shame of being imperfect comes from social media, Mr. Schow said.
“Ninety percent of the bodies you see on social media are perfect, but that is not how 90 percent of the world looks,” he said. “We have extra fat, or hair, or pimples. We want to show children from an early age that this is fine.”
In its first season, in 2019, “Ultra Strips Down” won an award for the best children’s program of 2019 at the Danish TV Festival. In the 2020 season, the show, which is produced by the Danish branch of Warner Bros. International Television Production, will offer five new episodes on a variety of topics, each to an audience from mostly different schools.
The children’s safety comes first, the show’s producers said. Parents must consent for children to be on the program; the producers do not show the children and the adults in a single shot; and the children are asked frequently if they feel comfortable.
If a child does become uncomfortable, she or he can join their teacher in the studio. “But we have had over 250 children in our audience,” Mr. Schow said, “and this has never happened.”
Rasmus Engelhardt Gundersen, a graphic designer who is the father of one of the children participating, said, “We had no reservations.”
“The notion that people are different and have different bodies is something we’d like children to experience,” he added.
The recorded episodes, now available in censored clips of the program on YouTube, feature adults with different body types — white, Black, fat, thin, short, tall, old and young. There was John, a person with dwarfism, and Muffe, a man who had small horns implanted under the skin of his bald head.
Complete inclusiveness is one of the show’s key objectives, which is why the children were also introduced to Rei, who is transgender, had a vasectomy and testosterone treatment, and who identifies as they/them.
“I’m not a boy, not a girl, I’m a bit of everything,” said Rei, showing a tattoo-covered chest and a shaved head. “I have seven hairs of beard now,” Rei said.
The children wanted to know if Rei had “felt different in school,” what bathroom they use and what swimwear they chose for the beach.
After the show, three children sat cross-legged in the grass outside the TV studio to discuss the experience. At first, they said, they had giggled at the idea of the show. But they had learned something useful, they said.
“It was funny,” said Theodore Knightley, 11. “I liked the advice they gave us.”
Ida Engelhardt Gundersen, 13, said she had been nervous at the start. “I’m not used to seeing volunteers butt naked and asking them questions,” she said. “But we learned about the body and about how other people feel about their bodies.”
Sonya Chakrabarthy Geckler, 11, said that she hadn’t been sure what to expect. But, she said, she “felt more confident about her own body now.”
The Education Department has told Connecticut schools that desegregation grants will be cut off Oct. 1 if they continue to allow transgender students to choose the teams they compete on.
By Luke Broadwater and Erica L. Green, Sept. 18, 2020
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s state championship for indoor track and field in New Haven in February. The conference allows transgender athletes to compete on teams that correspond with their gender identity. Credit...Jessica Hill for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Education Department is preparing to withhold millions of dollars from Connecticut schools over their refusal to withdraw from an athletic conference that allows transgender students to compete on teams that correspond with their gender identity.
The move to withhold about $18 million intended to help schools desegregate could have national implications for both transgender athletes and students of color.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights has warned officials at three Connecticut school districts that it will not release desegregation grants as planned on Oct. 1, unless the districts cut ties with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference over its transgender policies. Negotiations among the parties continued Thursday evening.
Officials with the conference, which governs high school athletics in the state, say their policies conform to Connecticut law.
The five-year grants totaled about $45 million, and the remaining $18 million was destined for districts in New Haven, Hartford and southeast Connecticut that operate magnet schools under a federally approved voluntary desegregation plan. The money generally allows students from Black and Hispanic communities to attend high-performing schools outside their neighborhoods.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has championed similar school choice programs for decades, and President Trump has highlighted the issue in his re-election campaign.
But that drive is colliding with the administration’s intent to broadly deny legal protections to transgender Americans. The Education Department has already withdrawn Obama administration guidance that encouraged schools to allow transgender students to choose bathrooms that match their gender identity.
But some district officials said withholding money to coerce schools into withdrawing from an athletic conference was the administration’s most forceful move yet to end protections for transgender students.
“It’s effectively extortion,” New Haven’s mayor, Justin Elicker, said. “The federal government is trying to force us to take a side against transgender individuals.”
Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said the administration gave the three school districts several opportunities to quit the sports league before threatening to pull the grant funding.
“It’s not extortion to require school districts to follow federal law,” Ms. Morabito said. “In fact, it’s the opposite. Congress requires the department to withhold funds from schools that aren’t in compliance with the law.”
The issue of transgender athletes on female high school sports teams is the subject of a federal lawsuit in Connecticut. But well before a ruling, the Education Department in May warned the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference that it considers allowing biologically male athletes to participate in girls’ sports a violation of Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in programs that receive federal funding.
“Connecticut applicants declined — on multiple occasions — to assure the Office for Civil Rights that they are in compliance with Title IX,” Ms. Morabito said.
The department’s move threatens the existence of Connecticut’s magnet program, school officials said. Mr. Elicker predicted that losing $3 million in funding this year and next year would result in deep programmatic cuts.
But the potential withholding of desegregation grants by the administration has broader implications, said Sarah Hinger, a senior staff lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Racial Justice Program; 16 states have policies similar to Connecticut’s.
“The intent and the impact here is to send a message to try to influence how other school districts will act, and that is deeply concerning,” Ms. Hinger said. “This is certainly very troubling for both L.G.B.T. students and students of colors. This is one more example of how DeVos has undermined and undercut their rights.”
The districts facing the funding threats say they feel blindsided.
“It’s shocking to me,” said Michael H. Graner, the superintendent of Groton Public Schools, which could lose about $1.5 million in grant money.
The district’s programs that are in jeopardy, Mr. Graner said, have nothing to do with transgender athletes. He said he could be forced to lay off four teachers at middle schools that do not even have sports teams and dismantle other parts of the desegregation program.
“We’re talking about this year’s budget,” Mr. Graner said. “The teachers are already working. The buses are already transporting the children. This would destabilize the magnet system.”
The grants are intended to encourage districts to create magnet schools that offer challenging academic content or distinct teaching approaches. New Haven Public Schools has received the funds for more than 20 years, helping students attend any school in the district and attracting some students from the suburbs, said Michele Bonanno, the district’s magnet school coordinator.
“The intent of the magnet grant is to carry out the intent of Brown v. Board of Education,” Ms. Bonanno said, citing the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case that declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. “You can imagine how heartbroken we’ve been. To pit a minority community against the L.G.B.T. community is disgraceful.”
The Education Department has told districts the grant funding will come through as scheduled if they sign an “assurance” form attesting that they will not participate in the athletic conference.
The forms state that the Office for Civil Rights has determined that “by permitting the participation of biologically male students in girls’ interscholastic track,” the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has “denied female student-athletes benefits and opportunities.”
The Education Department focused its attention on Connecticut after the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization, filed complaints against the athletic conference and the Glastonbury school board on behalf of three high school student-athletes. The students contend that the policy gives transgender students an unfair advantage in athletic competition, which can be critical to college recruiting and scholarship opportunities.
The conference responded that it adopted the policy in 2013 in accordance with federal and state guidelines, stating, “Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports.”
Transgender rights advocates had been awaiting word on whether the department would change its position after a Supreme Court decision in June held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex, extended to gender identity.
In its initial notification to the districts in May, the Office for Civil Rights said that its findings were limited to the individual cases, and not a formal policy.
But in a revised letter to the Connecticut districts issued on Aug. 31, the department said that had changed and that its interpretation of civil rights law “should be relied upon.”
Nonetheless, the New Haven school district voted this month to stay in the athletic conference and explore its legal options.
Michelle C. Laubin, a lawyer representing New Haven and Groton schools, said the Education Department’s stance undercut the Office for Civil Rights’s reason to exist.
“If the school district declines to engage in discrimination for transgender youth, the result is less education funding to support students of color in desegregation efforts in Connecticut,” Ms. Laubin said. “I never thought I’d see a day when the Office for Civil Rights would be advocating either of those policies.”
The gap between rates set for private insurers and employers vs. those by the federal government stirs the debate over a government-run health plan.
By Reed Abelson, Sept. 18, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/health/covid-hospitals-medicare-rates.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
Hospitals across the country are charging private insurance companies 2.5 times what they get from Medicare for the same care, according to a new RAND Corporation study of hospital prices released on Friday.
In a half-dozen of 49 states in the survey, including West Virginia and Florida, private insurers paid three or more times what Medicare did for overnight inpatient stays and outpatient care.
“The prices are so high, the prices are so unaffordable — it’s just a runaway train,” said Gloria Sachdev, the chief executive of the Employers’ Forum of Indiana, a coalition that worked with RAND on the study. This year’s report expanded on the research the nonprofit organization conducted in 2019 on hospital prices in 25 states.
The study, which exposes the aggressive pricing by mega-hospital systems that have gained enormous market power through widespread consolidation, is sure to kick-start the debate over the U.S. health care system and the need to overhaul it.
While the pandemic caused losses for many hospitals, many of these big systems are sitting on large profit reserves, while also receiving some of the $175 billion in aid Congress allocated to make up for their costs and lost revenue.
Employers provide health insurance coverage for more than 153 million Americans. The companies and insurers in the study paid nearly $20 billion more than Medicare would have for the same care from 2016 through 2018, according to the RAND researchers.
The findings cast doubt on the ability of private employers and insurers to competitively purchase health care for workers and their families compared to the federal government, said Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which helped fund the study. “You have this widening gap,” she said.
Proponents of a so-called public option seize on such price-gouging news to argue that creating a government health plan that could use its clout to demand lower prices would help bring down the cost of care.
“There’s a lot of energy behind the public option, and this is clearly one of the reasons,” said Dan Mendelson, the founder of Avalere Health, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm.
Employers say the proof of how much more they pay underscores the need for change. “The report lays out in stark terms what the employers have been dealing with for years,” said Elizabeth Mitchell, the chief executive of the Pacific Business Group on Health, a San Francisco group that represents employers and companies in the region. “If we want to keep a private market in U.S. health care, it has to function,” she said. “It’s really not functioning.”
A public option, distinct from the more controversial “Medicare for all” proposals that would do away with private insurance, has been embraced by Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee. Democrats and even some Republicans seem open to the idea, according to a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Hospitals warn that they might not be able to function if they were paid Medicare rates. “There is certainly a cost shift, because the government knowingly underpays,” said Tom Nickels, an executive vice president for the American Hospital Association, a trade group. He warned that hospitals would lose billions of dollars in revenue. Some could be shuttered if forced to operate at lower Medicare payments.
“We cannot survive in that kind of the world,” he said, adding that many hospitals are struggling financially because of the pandemic. “To suggest cutting hospitals during a pandemic is outrageous.”
The report, which has data from the District of Columbia and every state but Maryland (because that state sets hospital rates), provides a sweeping view into the wide variation of prices paid by private insurers, which pay multiples of what Medicare does for a hospital stay or an M.R.I. “The magnitudes are quite eye-catching,” said Michael R. Richards, a health economist at Baylor University who reviewed the study.
The most costly hospital system in the nation from 2016 through 2018, according to the researchers, was John Muir Health in Walnut Creek, Calif., near San Francisco. Private insurers pay its hospitals four times what Medicare reimburses for care.
“We believe our private insurance payments are appropriate for the quality of care we provide in the market we serve,” the system said in a statement, noting that its loses money on Medicare patients.
In Indiana, Parkview Health, based in Fort Wayne, also remained one of the most expensive, charging private insurers in 2018 three times what Medicare paid for an overnight hospital stay and more than four times the Medicare rate for outpatient care. Employers pressured Anthem, the state’s largest insurer, to force Parkview to lower prices by threatening to drop it from the plan’s network.
The RAND data “predates Parkview’s new agreements with several major insurance companies and direct-to-employer partnerships,” as well as significant prices reductions for outpatient care, said Parkview’s chief executive, Mike Packnett, in a statement.
The RAND report also documents a wide variation in prices within the same hospital system. Mass General Brigham, formerly Partners Healthcare, was the most expensive system in Massachusetts, but Massachusetts General, one of its premier hospitals, charged private insurers nearly three times what Medicare paid in 2016 through 2018, compared to roughly two times for the system’s Newton-Wellesley Hospital, according to the study.
Variation in payments is the result of differences in the type and complexity of services offered, said a spokesman for the system, as well as its research and teaching responsibilities.
Well-known and well-respected hospitals like Mass General “are the hospitals within the system that are likely to get the highest prices,” said Christopher M. Whaley, one of the RAND authors.
In some markets, the lack of an alternative means employers have no room to negotiate, said Suzanne Delbanco, the executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform, a nonprofit that works with businesses to develop new ways of paying for medical care. “In a market that is highly consolidated with no choices, it can be logistically infeasible,” she said.
The pandemic could make things worse as big hospitals scoop up struggling physician practices or their smaller competitors. In West Virginia, Mountain Health Network is made up of the 2018 merger of two hospitals, after Cabell Huntington acquired its competitor over the objections of federal officials. Cabell was one of the nation’s most expensive systems from 2016 through 2018, according to the study. Mountain Health now reportedly has its eyes on a local physician group. The network said it could not comment on the findings.
Some hospitals argue they charge more because they deliver better care, and there does seem to be some association. “What we see is quality and the ability to charge high prices are intrinsically related,” said Craig Garthwaite, a health economist at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who says some hospitals may be taking the extra money to invest in ways of improving quality.
Employers have had mixed success in pushing back against high-priced hospitals. Indiana employers succeeded in pressuring Anthem to take action, according to Ms. Sachdev. The insurer threatened to drop Parkview from its network, before reaching an agreement in July in which the hospital offered significant savings. Two state employees’ plans, in Montana and Oregon, have also been able to negotiate contracts that use Medicare prices as a benchmark for what they will pay, according to the RAND researchers.
But in other areas, the hospitals have been less willing to budge. In Colorado, employers have had productive discussions with some of the specialty hospitals and independent hospitals, said Robert J. Smith, the executive director of the Colorado Business Group on Health. “We’ve made very little progress with health systems,” he said.
Many employers, including some represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, oppose government action, but others are growing more open to the idea of some sort of government intervention, ranging from rate regulation to a public option. “They are increasingly seeing in some cases the need for regulatory intervention because the market is broken,” Ms. Mitchell said.
But the pandemic and the potential threat it poses for many hospitals could put off any discussion, even if the Democrats were to win the White House and the Senate. “The hospitals are the most effective, most sympathetic lobby there is,” said Dr. Robert Berenson, a policy analyst at the Urban Institute.
Democrats will also have to figure out how to design a plan that people find both affordable and comprehensive, in contrast to some of the mid-tier plans sold under the Affordable Care Act, said Rodney Whitlock, a former Republican Senate staffer who now works for McDermott+Consulting. “How can the Democrats create a public option that is not clearly better than private insurance?” he asked. “If they don’t, they will be tagged as failing.”
Sarah Collins Rudolph lost her right eye at age 12 when a bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church and killed four Black girls, including her sister.
By Allyson Waller, Sept. 19, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/19/us/birmingham-church-bombing-restitution.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
Even though it has been more than 50 years since Ku Klux Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., Sarah Collins Rudolph said remnants from the blast could still be found in her body.
She lost her right eye and still has a piece of glass in her left eye from when shards struck her face. Her doctor fears trying to remove it.
“He’s afraid that if something happens, I’ll go blind,” she said.
She has spent years contacting local and state politicians, seeking some form of restitution for the injuries and decades of trauma she has endured from that fateful day in 1963.
In a Sept. 14 letter addressed to Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, lawyers representing Ms. Rudolph called on the state of Alabama to issue a formal apology and compensate Ms. Rudolph “to right the wrongs that its past leaders encouraged and incited.”
Ms. Rudolph, 69, said that some detractors had said she was trying to capitalize on the unrest and protests across the United States in response to the deaths of Black people including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, but she said that was not the case.
“I’ve heard people were saying that ‘She wants something just because George Floyd and them got money,’ but no, that wasn’t it,” Ms. Rudolph said. “I’ve been trying for years.”
On Sept. 15, 1963, dynamite exploded at the church, killing four Black girls: Denise McNair, 11, and the 14-year-olds Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, Ms. Rudolph’s sister.
It was an explosion that “shook the whole city of Birmingham,” Ms. Rudolph said, and although she survived, it has been nearly impossible for her to forget the effects it has had on her life.
She was unable to attend her sister’s funeral as she spent almost a month in the hospital after the bombing, having more than 20 shards of glass removed from her body.
In a photo in Life magazine, a young Ms. Rudolph is seen in a hospital bed with swollen lips, tousled hair and patches on her eyes.
When she returned to school, her grades dropped. As she got older, her desire to become a nurse waned, she said. She started working at foundries, wanting to cover up the scars of her past with the protective gear she wore while on the job.
“I wanted to just hide myself,” she said.
Over the years, she has become sensitive to loud sounds and has experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. Visits to doctors are also a reminder of the past.
It took time before Ms. Rudolph was open to talking about being the “fifth girl” in the bombing.
The law firm Jenner & Block became interested in securing justice for Ms. Rudolph after a former partner heard her speak at an event last year, said Ishan K. Bhabha, one of the lawyers representing Ms. Rudolph.
The law firm’s letter doesn’t specify how much in compensation Ms. Rudolph is seeking, but Alison Stein, another lawyer representing Ms. Rudolph, said her legal team hoped to work with the governor’s office to reach a resolution.
Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for Ms. Ivey, said that the governor had received the letter and that her staff was reviewing it.
The explosion happened at a pivotal moment during the civil rights movement, providing the nation and the world with a vivid portrait of the horrors of racism and influencing future civil rights legislation.
Months earlier in Birmingham, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth had led demonstrations against segregation that were met with brutality from the authorities under the direction of Eugene Connor, the city’s public safety commissioner.
Gov. George Wallace also did nothing to quell racial tensions, Ms. Rudolph said, citing the governor’s infamous words from his 1963 inaugural address: “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
“If they had stopped all this racism, this segregation and all that, maybe they wouldn’t have put a bomb in the church,” Ms. Rudolph said.
George Rudolph, Ms. Rudolph’s husband, is a Vietnam veteran who said he could relate to his wife’s post-traumatic stress disorder and her sensitivity to loud sounds. He said he wished she had been granted the same sort of compensation received by victims of other tragedies, such as the Sept. 11 attacks or the Boston Marathon bombings.
“You should be safe in a church or in your own home,” Mr. Rudolph said. “Sarah never did get anything for what she went through.”
It took years before the Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for the bombing were convicted, with part of the delay attributed to the former F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered field agents not to meet and share evidence with state and federal prosecutors.
In 1977, Robert E. Chambliss was convicted of the murder of Denise McNair, and in 2001, Thomas E. Blanton Jr. was convicted on four counts of first-degree murder. Mr. Blanton died in June.
In 2002, Ms. Rudolph testified at the trial of Bobby Frank Cherry after also having testified at the trials of Mr. Chambliss and Mr. Blanton, she said. Mr. Cherry was convicted of murder that same year.
Mr. Chambliss, Mr. Blanton and Mr. Cherry all died in prison. Herman Cash, who was named as a suspect in early F.B.I. case files, died in 1994 without ever being charged.
Emails from a former top Trump health official and his science adviser show how the two refused to accept Centers for Disease Control and Prevention science and sought to silence the agency.
By Noah Weiland, Sept. 18, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/us/politics/trump-cdc-coronavirus.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Politics
WASHINGTON — On June 30, as the coronavirus was cresting toward its summer peak, Dr. Paul Alexander, a new science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services, composed a scathing two-page critique of an interview given by an experienced scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, a 32-year veteran of the C.D.C. and its principal deputy director, had appealed to Americans to wear masks and warned, “We have way too much virus across the country.” But Dr. Alexander, a part-time assistant professor of health research methods, appeared sure he understood the coronavirus better.
“Her aim is to embarrass the president,” he wrote, commenting on Dr. Schuchat’s appeal for face masks in an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“She is duplicitous,” he also wrote in an email to his boss, Michael R. Caputo, the Department of Health and Human Services’s top spokesman who went on medical leave this week. He asked Mr. Caputo to “remind” Dr. Schuchat that during the H1N1 swine flu outbreak in 2009, thousands of Americans had died “under her work.”
Of Dr. Schuchat’s assessment of the dangers of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, he fumed, wrongly, “The risk of death in children 0-19 years of age is basically 0 (zero) … PERIOD … she has lied.”
Dr. Alexander’s point-by-point assessment, broken into seven parts and forwarded by Mr. Caputo to Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, was one of several emails obtained by The New York Times that illustrate how Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander tried to browbeat career officials at the C.D.C. at the height of the pandemic, challenging the science behind their public statements and trying to silence agency staff.
On Friday, two days after Mr. Caputo went on medical leave and Dr. Alexander was dismissed from the Department of Health and Human Services, the C.D.C. reversed a heavily criticized recommendation suggesting that people who have had close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus do not need to get tested if they have no symptoms. The emails shed light on the monthslong fight that led to their departures.
Far from hiding what they knew about the virus’s danger, as Bob Woodward’s new book contends President Trump was doing, the emails seem to indicate that aides in Washington were convinced of their own rosy prognostications, even as coronavirus infections were shooting skyward.
At the same time, Mr. Caputo moved to punish the C.D.C.’s communications team for granting interviews to NPR and trying to help a CNN reporter reach him about a public relations campaign. Current and former C.D.C. officials called it a five-month campaign of bullying and intimidation.
For instance, after Mr. Caputo forwarded the critique of Dr. Schuchat to Dr. Redfield, C.D.C. officials became concerned when a member of the health department’s White House liaison office — Catherine Granito — called the agency to ask questions about Dr. Schuchat’s biography, leaving the impression that some in Washington could have been searching for ways to fire her.
In another instance, Mr. Caputo wrote to C.D.C. communications officials on July 15 to demand they turn over the name of the press officer who approved a series of interviews between NPR and a longtime C.D.C. epidemiologist, after the department in Washington had moved to take ownership of the agency’s pandemic data collection.
“I need to know who did it,” Mr. Caputo wrote. A day later, still without a reply, Mr. Caputo wrote back. “I have not received a response to my email for 20 hours. This is unacceptable,” he said. “I need this information to properly manage department communications. If you disobey my directions, you will be held accountable.”
On Friday, a department spokeswoman said Mr. Caputo, in his comments about interview approvals, had been trying to make sure that the C.D.C. followed protocols dating to prior administrations that the department clear interview requests for health officials. The C.D.C. did not have an immediate comment, nor did Mr. Caputo.
In the months leading up to their exits, the two had routinely worked to revise and delay the C.D.C.’s closely guarded and internationally admired health bulletins, called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, in an effort to paint the administration’s pandemic response in a more positive light.
Far from apologetic, Dr. Alexander told The Globe and Mail of Toronto this week that the C.D.C. had written “pseudoscientific reports” and that he was better suited to examine data than agency scientists.
“None of those people have my skills,” Dr. Alexander said. “I make the judgment whether this is crap.”
The judgments he rendered — and the punishments that Mr. Caputo appeared intent to mete out — had a demoralizing effect on the agency.
One C.D.C. communications official became so worried about Mr. Caputo’s threat that she wrote to other senior staff asking how to reply, saying that she was “uncomfortable turning over our employee’s name to Mr. Caputo, given the hostility of the message.”
In another email to an agency communications officer who had directed a CNN reporter to contact Mr. Caputo about a vaccine public relations campaign, Mr. Caputo shot back, “In what world did you think it was your job to announce an administration public service announcement campaign to CNN?”
The C.D.C. press official then apologized, which did not satisfy Mr. Caputo. “We will discuss this on a teleconference tomorrow,” he wrote. “I want your H.R. representative in attendance.” He then scolded the official for removing Dr. Redfield from the email thread after Mr. Caputo had added the director in a prior email.
In the emails obtained by The Times, Mr. Caputo repeatedly added Dr. Redfield, who was overseeing an 11,000-person agency, to email chains about news media disputes. People familiar with the emails said it was an attempt to use Dr. Redfield to shame his own staff.
People familiar with Dr. Redfield’s responses to the emails said that he would call senior aides sounding resigned to the orders and asking how to navigate Mr. Caputo’s demands. Often, he tried to delay or ignore Mr. Caputo until the tension subsided.
Perhaps most illuminating in the emails was the way the top officials at the C.D.C. saw the disease in fundamentally different ways than confidants and loyalists of Mr. Trump’s. In the interview that provoked Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander, Dr. Schuchat referred to “a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, ‘Hey, summer, everything is going to be fine, we’re over this.’”
“And we are not even beginning to be over this,” she said. “I think we need to continue to learn and continue to apply what we’re learning and be humble about our assumptions.”
At the time of her interview, the United States was setting record levels of new infections and was weeks away from an even more catastrophic peak of almost 70,000 new cases a day. States like Arizona were pausing the reopening of their businesses.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease expert, testified to a Senate panel that the country could hit 100,000 new cases a day.
That portrait of the virus was at odds with the one the White House had strained to present. The day Dr. Schuchat lamented there was “way too much virus across the country,” Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told reporters, “We’re aware that there are embers that need to be put out.”
Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network that week that he believed the virus was “at some point” going to “sort of just disappear, I hope.”
Dr. Alexander also had his own ideas of the virus’s staying power. He disputed Dr. Schuchat’s claim that children were vulnerable to it. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that while it is rare, the virus can be lethal to children, who can readily transmit it to more vulnerable family members.
“It also causes no symptoms as it is so mild … you don’t even know you have it,” Dr. Alexander wrote. “Many people never knew they had it. Not one indication. It is very false her statement that it causes death in children.”
At one point in his response to Dr. Schuchat, Dr. Alexander appeared to endorse the largely rejected strategy of “herd immunity,” or allowing the virus to freely spread until enough people develop antibodies that it dies for lack of human hosts.
“Importantly, having the virus spread among the young and healthy is one of the methods to drive herd immunity,” he wrote. “This was not the intended strategy but all must be on deck now and it is contributing positively at some level.”
The clashes between the White House and C.D.C. intensified this week, when Mr. Trump publicly slapped down congressional testimony Dr. Redfield gave, in which he praised masks and estimated that a vaccine might not be widely available to the public until the middle of 2021.
“I think he made a mistake when he said that,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday.
On Friday, the president told reporters the broad American public would have access to a coronavirus vaccine by April, again snubbing his C.D.C. chief.
Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting.
Baseless rumors about wildfires in the West are a sign of danger ahead
By Nicholas Kristof, Opinion Columnist, Sept. 19, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/19/opinion/sunday/wildfires-united-states.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
A staging area for evacuees with R.V.’s and horse trailers at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby, Ore. Credit...Kristina Barker for The New York Times
YAMHILL, Ore. — The West has been burning, and one forest fire reached about five miles from the Most Beautiful Farm in the World, where I grew up here in the rolling hills west of Portland.
I told my mom to get ready to evacuate in a hurry. She replied that the important things to save weren’t documents but our farm dogs — one of whom is wary of vehicles for fear that the next stop will be the vet.
In the end the local fire was extinguished because of the heroic work of a local fire department made up mostly of volunteers. They were bolstered with a deluge of food, drinks and gratitude from the community.
This was the best of rural America, and it was followed on Thursday night by what seemed the best sound in the world: rain pattering on the roof. Still, the fires fill me with disquiet for three closely related reasons.
First is the fear that these fires and their accompanying smoke represent the new normal. Researchers estimate that air pollution in China causes 1.6 million deaths a year, and smoke from fires in the West may eventually cause respiratory diseases that claim more lives than the fires themselves.
Second is frustration at the federal government’s paralysis. Just a couple of months ago, President Trump rushed to send in unwanted federal agents to deal with protests and trash fires in downtown Portland, but he seems indifferent when millions of acres and thousands of homes burn across the West.
“It’ll start getting cooler,” he advised, and that seems to be his strategy for fires, just as “it’ll go away” was his strategy for managing the coronavirus.
Third is the reaction of so many ordinary citizens here in Oregon and around the country: Instead of seeing these mammoth forest fires as a wake-up call to the perils of a warming planet, they believe and spread wild conspiracy theories suggesting that these fires were the work of shadowy leftist arsonists.
Trump and Fox News, along with various right-wing websites, have nurtured a panic about the anti-fascists known as antifa, so now we have groundless rumors that forest fires are being set by antifa or Black Lives Matter protesters.
These conspiracy theories aren’t just coming from fringe figures. Michael Cross, the Republican nominee for attorney general of Oregon, alleged in a Facebook post: “I’ve heard of at least 14 people involved in starting these fires and this is just in the last 12 hours. … Sounds to me like domestic terrorism.”
Likewise, a failed Republican Senate candidate in Oregon, Paul J. Romero Jr., falsely tweeted that six antifa activists had been arrested for arson.
Let’s be clear that there is zero evidence that political extremists have set any fires. The F.B.I. called the reports untrue and pleaded with the public not to spread rumors that “take valuable resources away [from] local fire and police agencies.” Three sheriff’s offices in Oregon issued similar statements.
“STOP. SPREADING. RUMORS,” begged the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, which added that “our 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun” with calls based on false reports.
There should be no mystery about what actually caused the fires to become so dangerous: dry conditions exacerbated by climate change coupled with an unusual windstorm. (At least 13 Oregon fires were started when the windstorm downed power lines, Willamette Week reported.) The scientific consensus is overwhelming: Higher temperatures dry out forests, creating a risk that we are entering an age of “megafire.”
Back in 2000, the First National Climate Assessment warned that the Northwest faced increased risk of fire danger, and it is one of the most discussed consequences of climate change.
The conspiracy theories create real perils. Some citizens in Oregon set up armed roadblocks to stop cars and look for arsonists. A couple photographing fires in the town of Molalla somehow provoked rumors of antifa arsonists, prompting gunmen to search for them. “Apparently I came very close to being shot by a group of ‘vigilantes,’” the woman, Jennifer Paulsen, tweeted afterward.
I’ve seen militias set up armed checkpoints in countries like Yemen and Sudan, but I never expected to see them in my beloved home state. In Multnomah County, the sheriff warned that people could be arrested for setting up illegal checkpoints, and on Tuesday, sheriff’s deputies issued criminal citations to three men for establishing a roadblock.
This is an echo of something I wrote about in June: a hysteria in rural towns that they were about to be attacked by antifa, leading citizens to pull out their guns and gather to fight back. When the invaders never showed up, the vigilantes sometimes regarded this as vindication: They had scared off the attackers.
All this rumormongering leaves me feeling that the social fabric is unraveling, as if the shared understanding of reality that is the basis for any society is eroding. The ugliness also raises a question: If we see this unraveling now when the science is clear and the rumors are so manifestly groundless, then what might happen in November if the election results are close? Brace yourselves.
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