CodePink is holding a brief covid-safe vigil Saturday, September 26 in San Francisco to mark the United Nations International Day to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons .
PLEASE JOIN US!
What: United Nations International Day to Eliminate all Nuclear Weapons Vigil
Where: Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market: One Ferry Building, San Francisco. When you RSVP you will receive specific location details.
When: Saturday, September 26, 2020 12PM - 1PM PT
Did you know? Nancy Pelosi squashed Congress' historic vote on legislation that would have cut the Pentagon budget by 10%. And she blocked Barbara Lee's legislation to cut the Pentagon budget by 50%. We will remind her that we still need to slash the Pentagon budget and invest in life-affirming programs such as healthcare, clean energy, affordable housing, education, and fighting covid and the climate emergency!
Messaging options for the Day:
Pelosi Votes For Nuclear Weapons
Divest From Nuclear Weapons
Invest in Peace!
Fund Housing, Jobs, and Healthcare
Healthcare NOT Warfare
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.
Alicia Jrapko and Medea Benjamin
Co-Chairs of the Cuba Nobel Prize Committee
To update your email subscription, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
History, Great Britain, and Julian Assange
Below are the comments Clifford D. Conner made at a September 8, 2020 press conference in front of the British consulate in New York City. Conner is an historian and author of Jean Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution and The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump. The court in Britain is holding hearings on the Trump administration’s request to have Julian Assange, the Australian editor, publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, extradited. Assange would be tried in a Virginia court on 17 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison.
In 2010 Assange had the audacity to post a video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter indiscriminately murdering a dozen civilians and two Reuters’ journalists in the streets of Baghdad.
Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, testified in court on September 16 that Assange could not receive a fair trial in the United States. When he pointed out that the Collateral Murder video was clearly a war crime, the prosecution maintained that Assange was not wanted by Washington for it but for publishing documents without redacting names. Ellsberg pointed out that when he leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did not redact a single name.
Assange’s lawyer has since informed the London court that in 2017 former Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Charles Johnson, a far-right political activist, relayed Trump’s offer to pardon Assange if he provided the source for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. This was described to Assange as a “win-win” situation for all involved.
A National Committee to Defend Assange and Civil Liberties, chaired by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker has been set up. For further information, go to: www.facebook.com/CommitteeToDefendJulianAssange. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee: NYCFreeAssange.org
—Dianne Feeley for The Editors, Against the Current
Comments by Clifford D. Conner
I am here at the British Consulate today to protest the incarceration and mistreatment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison in Great Britain, to demand that you immediately release him, and above all, to demand that you NOT extradite Julian Assange to the United States.
As a historian who has written extensively on the case of the most persecuted journalist of the 18th century, Jean Paul Marat, I am in a position to make historical comparisons, and in my judgement, Julian Assange is both the most unjustly persecuted journalist of the 21st century and arguably the most important journalist of the 21st century.
Julian Assange is being hounded and harassed and threatened with life in prison by the United States government because he dared to publish the truth about American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for the whole world to see. This persecution of Julian Assange is an assault on the fundamental principles of journalistic freedom.
The sociopathic Donald Trump and his accomplice, Attorney General William Barr, are demanding that you deliver Assange to them to face false charges of espionage. Every honest observer in the world recognizes Trump and Barr as utterly incapable of acting in good faith. If they succeed in suppressing Julian Assange’s right to publish, it will be a devastating precedent for journalists and publishers of news everywhere—and above all, for the general public, who will lose access to the information necessary to maintaining a democratic society.
If you allow yourselves to become co-conspirators in this crime, History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
Last November, more than 60 doctors from all over the world wrote an open letter to the British government saying that Julian Assange’s health was so bad that he could die if he weren’t moved from Belmarsh Prison, where he was being held, to a hospital, immediately. Your government chose to ignore that letter and he was not hospitalized, then or later. History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
Of all crimes against humanity, the most unforgivable is torture. No nation that perpetrates torture has the right to call itself civilized. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has unequivocally characterized Julian Assange’s treatment in Belmarsh Prison as torture. History will neither forget nor forgive that terrible moral transgression.
Furthermore, the exposure of the widespread use of torture by the United States military and the CIA at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, at Guantánamo Bay, and at so-called “black sites” all over the world, absolutely disqualifies the United States from sitting in moral judgement of anybody. If you deliver Julian Assange into the hands of torturers, history will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
So, I join together today with human rights advocates and advocates of journalistic freedom around the world.
I stand with the Committee to Protect Journalists, which declared: “For the sake of press freedom, Julian Assange must be defended.”
I stand with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which said that the attempt to prosecute Julian Assange is “a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news’.”
And I stand with the ACLU, which said: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”
History will not only record the names of the countries that collaborate in this travesty of justice, but also the names of the individuals—the judges, the prosecutors, the diplomats, and the politicians—who aid and abet the crime. If you, as individuals, choose to ally yourselves with the likes of Donald Trump and William Barr, be prepared for your names to be chained to theirs in infamy, in perpetuity.
History will certainly absolve Julian Assange, and it certainly will not absolve his persecutors.
—Against the Current, November/December 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.
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)
Johnson the Invisible Brat
Johnson the invisible brat,
Thinks he’s better than us all,
For he’s a posh prime minister,
Who defies international law,
No matter how many graves get filled,
Or the cupboards are running bare,
You bet you can rely on this,
Johnson won’t be there.
Hancock, Priti, any sycophant,
It doesn’t matter who,
Can keep a straight face on camera,
While reading the lies on the autocue.
Nursing homes, schools there’s Covid everywhere,
But whenever there’s a crisis,
Johnson isn’t there
Depravity, depravity there’s no match for his depravity.
He is nastiness in human form, with not a shred of common humanity.
You may read him in a by-line, or see his face in the morning paper,
But when there’s a problem to deal with,
Boris Johnson won’t be seen till later.
Depravity, depravity the are no bounds to his depravity,
He’s already broken every law and conduct of normality,
His powers of crass dishonesty are way beyond compare,
He lies in every sentence and doesn’t seem to care,
You may look for him in Downing Street or in another lair,
But when a job is needing done,
Boris Johnson is never there.
He’ll sack anyone who happens in his way
And tear up any treaty he doesn’t like today,
He is outwardly respectably but he cheats all his friends
He’ll trample over anyone to get to his own ends,
Or he’ll send his hoodlum Cummings to crush dissenting minds.
Lies, corruption, negligence we know he doesn’t care
But when there is money to be made,
Johnson and mates will be there.
In Britain he acts like a dictator doing just as he wants,
Ignoring real life tragedies while posing for photo stunts,
For all his fake bravado, he’s just another coward,
A liar, a bully a posh self-centred fraud.
He’s an invisible prime minister who is never here,
But whenever there’s Trump’s arse to kiss,
You can be sure that,
Boris Johnson will reappear.
Calamity then catastrophe with grand theft larceny,
Another billion of our money flushed down the lavat’ry,
He cares not for our suffering our deaths and our pain,
Fake news and lies again and again,
When things go wrong and account is called,
It is always someone else’s fault,
What ever the problem no matter where
He always can claim that he wasn’t there.
Covid 19’s, coming,
He says we’ll take it on the chin,
World beating, moonshot, track and trace,
Endless lies and spin
Just more meaningless hot air from this uncaring buffoon,
Exam results fiasco, yet he never showed his face.
Children going hungry a national disgrace
We must take matters in our own hands,
To make things proper here,
Have confidence in our own powers,
Make Johnson and his kind
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
- 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:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
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:Donald 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)
You are receiving this list because you have opted in on our website.
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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:
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!
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
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)
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: email@example.com (Prison Superintendent). firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.comDemand 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.
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.
The Supreme Court was never meant to be the only arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution.
By Jamelle Bouie, Opinion Columnist, Sept. 22, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/22/opinion/down-with-judicial-supremacy.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Beyond the obvious — that liberals need some way to respond to President Trump as he moves to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — what does it mean that mainstream Democrats are considering once unthinkable ideas like adding seats to the court?
Perhaps, as some conservatives argue, it’s evidence that Democrats aren’t as committed to the norms of American democracy as they claim to be. Perhaps, as some hopeful liberals believe, it’s evidence that Democrats are finally beginning to buck the timid institutionalism that so often shapes their politics.
I take a different perspective. If Democrats are willing to treat a Republican-dominated Supreme Court as a partisan and ideological foe, if they’re willing to change or transform it rather than accede to its view of the Constitution — two very big ifs — then they’re one important step along the path to challenging judicial supremacy, the idea that the courts, and the courts alone, determine constitutional meaning.
The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution and establish its meaning for federal, state and local government alike. But this power wasn’t enumerated in the Constitution and isn’t inherent in the court as an institution. Instead, the court’s power to interpret and bind others to that interpretation was constructed over time by political and legal actors throughout the system, from presidents and lawmakers to the judges and justices themselves.
If judicial supremacy was constructed, then it was also contested, and that contestation is a recurring part of American political life. “The judiciary is not the sole guardian of our constitutional inheritance and interpretive authority under the Constitution has varied over time,” the legal scholar Keith E. Whittington writes in “Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy: The Presidency, the Supreme Court and Constitutional Leadership in U.S. History.”
Fights over the power and authority of the judiciary have been especially fierce at those points in American history when an ambitious president atop a rising coalition has tried to remake the political order according to that coalition’s understanding of the Constitution. These presidents, Whittington argues, “achieve ‘greatness’ through their ability to tear down the inherited but discredited regime and raise up a new one in their own image. They ‘reconstruct’ the nation by reinterpreting its fundamental commitments.”
Two instances come to mind.
The first dates to the very beginning of the 19th century. In a desperate bid to secure its ideological goals and establish a beachhead against Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans, the Federalist Party under President John Adams fought to consolidate federal judicial authority over state law. Adams lost the election of 1800 to Jefferson, but the lame-duck Federalist-controlled Congress passed a new judiciary act meant to bind the incoming administration. The act, the historian Gordon S. Wood explains in “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815,”
eliminated circuit court duty for the justices of the Supreme Court by creating six new circuit courts with sixteen new judges. It broadened the original jurisdiction of the circuit courts, especially in cases involving land titles, and provided for the easier removal of litigation from state to federal courts.
The act also removed a justice from the Supreme Court, shrinking it from six members to five. Then Adams, still as the outgoing president, appointed a host of new Federalist judges, including his last secretary of state, John Marshall, as chief justice.
Facing this as president-elect, Jefferson complained that the Federalists had “retired into the judiciary as a stronghold” from which “all the works of republicanism are to be beaten down and erased.”
“By a fraudulent use of the Constitution which has made judges irremovable,” he added, “they have multiplied useless judges merely to strengthen their phalanx.”
Rather than let the Federalist Party’s rear-guard action stand, Jefferson and his allies reversed it following a bitter debate in Congress. They destroyed the newly created circuit courts, revoked tenure from the relevant federal judges and restored the sixth seat to the Supreme Court. Crucially, Jefferson refused to recognize judicial commissions delivered after Adams left office. This led to Marshall’s famous decision in Marbury v. Madison, where he reserved for the “judicial department” the right “to say what the law is,” which Jefferson later condemned as that which “would make the judiciary a despotic branch.”
Fifty years later, at midcentury, the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and William Seward fought a similar battle against a Supreme Court beholden to the “slave power” that was dominated by Democratic appointees, including Chief Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the Court’s infamous majority opinion in the 1857 case Dred Scott v. Sanford.
In Dred Scott, the Court ruled that Black Americans “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” It held that Congress could not ban slavery in federal territories, and it struck down the 1820 Missouri Compromise as an unconstitutional limitation on the rights of slaveholders. Backed by much of the Democratic Party, including President James Buchanan, the court effectively outlawed the Republican Party’s antislavery platform.
The response, as the historian Matt Karp details in a recent essay for Jacobin magazine, was “political war on the idea of an all-powerful judiciary.” From 1857 through the 1860 election, Republicans attacked the court for, in their view, overstepping its constitutional bounds. They condemned justices as mere political appointees and challenged the court’s claim to judicial supremacy, distinguishing its right to decide individual cases from any greater authority to decide the meaning of the Constitution. Lincoln himself made this point to the country at large in his first inaugural address:
The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.
Speaking to the assertion by Southern slaveholders that their interests ought to dictate the fate of an entire nation, Lincoln also said that
a majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.
“Whoever rejects it,” he continued, “does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism.”
President Trump will make a nomination to the Supreme Court and Senate Republicans are very likely to confirm her, whoever she turns out to be. Irrespective of norms or promises, the rules of American politics say that Republicans can take this step, even if it throws the legitimacy of Republican rule — which rests on control of an interlocking set of counter-majoritarian institutions — into sharp relief. But that standard also frees Democrats to act, should they have the opportunity.
Democrats are not yet united on court reform — far from it. But the skeptical should know that if they do not act, they will not govern. At no point in the last 20 years have the majority of Americans voted to give conservative jurists unchecked power to interpret the Constitution. But those jurists have it, and that gives them the power to unravel the federal government as Americans have known it since Franklin Roosevelt took aim at the Depression.
If Democrats win in 2020 and want to deliver on their promises, they will have to do something about the courts. There is no choice other than impotence in the face of a conservative judicial redoubt. The United States may not be a “pure democracy,” but it’s not a judgeocracy either, and if protecting the right of the people to govern for themselves means curbing judicial power and the Supreme Court’s claim to judicial supremacy, then Democrats should act without hesitation. If anything, they’ll be in good historical company.
The protests are moving into white residential neighborhoods, where activists demand that people choose a side.
By Nellie Bowles, Sept. 21, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/21/us/black-lives-matter-protests-tactics.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
PORTLAND, Ore. — Terrance Moses was watching protesters against police brutality march down his quiet residential street one recent evening when some in the group of a few hundred suddenly stopped and started yelling.
Mr. Moses was initially not sure what the protesters were upset about, but as he got closer, he saw it: His neighbors had an American flag on display.
“It went from a peaceful march, calling out the names, to all of a sudden, bang, ‘How dare you fly the American flag?’” said Mr. Moses, who is Black and runs a nonprofit group in the Portland, Ore., area. “They said take it down. They wouldn’t leave. They said they’re going to come back and burn the house down.”
Mr. Moses and others blocked the demonstrators and told them to leave.
“We don’t go around terrorizing folks to try and force them to do something they don’t want to do,” said Mr. Moses, whose nonprofit group provides support for local homeless people. “I’m a veteran. I’m for these liberties.”
Nearly four months after the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, some protesters against police brutality are taking a more confrontational — and personal — approach. The marches in Portland are increasingly moving to residential and largely white neighborhoods, where demonstrators with bullhorns shout for people to come “out of your house and into the street” and demonstrate their support.
These more aggressive protests target ordinary people going about their lives, especially those who decline to demonstrate allegiance to the cause. That includes a diner in Washington who refused to raise her fist to show support for Black Lives Matter, or, in several cities, confused drivers who happened upon the protests.
But the tactics are dividing supporters of Black Lives Matter, with some worried that the confrontational approach will antagonize people who would be otherwise be receptive to the message, or play into conservatives’ critique of the protests, which have been largely nonviolent nationally.
Others, frustrated that little has changed since Mr. Floyd was killed, say that sitting idly and watching a protest without participating nowadays is to show tacit support for racism.
“We don’t need allies anymore,” said Stephen Green, an investor and entrepreneur in Portland who is Black. “We need accomplices.”
In Rochester, N.Y., protesters have confronted people at outdoor restaurants, shaking dinner tables. Marchers in Washington also accosted people eating outside, urging everyone to raise their fists to show their allegiance to the movement.
The more personal tactics echo those being used against elected officials, with activists showing up not only outside mayor’s offices but their homes as well. The apartment building where the mayor of Portland lives has been vandalized. Protesters lit fires outside, ignited fireworks and broke into one of the businesses in the building on his birthday. In San Jose, Calif., demonstrators graffitied and egged the mayor’s house and lit an American flag in front of it, according to the police. In Rochester, people have recently posted police officers’ home addresses and information about their families, according to a police spokeswoman.
In Portland, Jessie Burke, who is white and owns a coffee shop in the city, said the message of the movement was getting lost as the protests escalate and target ordinary residents in their homes.
“Everyone was looking for solutions at first, but now it’s just a nightly fight that has gotten progressively more violent — and every neighborhood worries that the fight will come to their neighborhood,” Mr. Burke said. “It’s: ‘Wake up, wake up, you need to be in the street protesting if you stand for this.’”
Still, Mr. Green argued that the tactics were working, even as they inconvenienced him and his family. He described the smell of tear gas and wail of sirens as the marches came to his neighborhood, which he said kept his 7-year-old daughter awake.
“It’s one thing if you can see something on TV, but if you can hear it and you can smell it in your house, that brings it home,” said Mr. Green, who grew up in Portland. “We need people willing to say, ‘I’m down to lose this friend because stuff needs to change. I’m down to make my neighbor uncomfortable.’ Being nice wasn’t changing anything.”
Lindsey E. Murphy agreed. She marched with the protesters through one of Portland’s wealthiest neighborhoods on a recent night and found it deeply moving. She watched white demonstrators shouting at white residents that Black lives matter — and the residents joining in with the chant.
“The crowd was — I won’t even say mostly white — I’ll say it was an almost exclusively white crowd marching through the whitest neighborhood in Portland shouting ‘Black lives matter’ and ‘Black lives are magic,’” said Ms. Murphy, who is Black and hosts an educational children’s YouTube series. “What I was witnessing was a lamenting prayer, a cry of remorse and shame among the white people. That’s what I saw. It was healing.”
The American flag that generated controversy is displayed in Kenton, a neighborhood of Portland with small bungalows, lush front gardens and ripe fruit trees. Weeks after the confrontation, the husband and wife who fly the flag said they were fearful of retaliation from the roving protesters, who had found their phone number.
But they say they will not be intimidated into removing the flag.
“I will not take my flag down,” said the husband, who declined to provide his name in a brief interview.
The same night the protesters came to the couple’s door last month, they marched into Kenton’s commercial district and used restaurant picnic tables as fuel for fires. They collected the colorful wooden dividers the neighbors had recently built for outdoor dining and set those ablaze as well. Mr. Moses and others in the community ran into the protests with fire extinguishers.
Protesters that night broke into the Portland Police Association building and set it on fire. A man was later seen scrubbing the sidewalk graffiti — a popular message was “PPB = KKK,” meaning that the Portland Police Bureau is the Ku Klux Klan.
Mr. Green said that he opposed the destruction of property, but that he also understood it. And he believes, generally, that the more direct protest tactics in residential areas are working because they make the movement more personal, and reveal who truly supports change. If someone is against the movement, they keep their lights off or refuse to raise their fist, he said, adding that taking the debate into homes and to families is essential.
Some residents in Portland say the tactics are escalating as the protests become increasingly dominated by white people, including anarchists and supporters of antifa, the diffuse collection of militant left-wing activists that has a strong presence in the region.
The movement is splintered in Portland between more mainstream Black Lives Matter marches and the more aggressive, sometimes chaotic antifa or black bloc protests, where demonstrators dress in black and wear motorcycle helmets or ski masks to make it difficult to identify — or later prosecute — them.
One night this month, there were two protests promoted on the Black Lives Matter Portland Events page: a “nonviolent protest” in the city center and “an autonomously organized direct action march.”
No one appeared to be at the city center protest. But around 200 people were at the other event.
They gathered in an unlit park in a residential neighborhood around 8 p.m. Everyone wore black, including some protesters who had on body armor and motorcycle helmets. They hastily set up picnic tables and supply booths in the dark, using cellphones for light to showcase their goods. There was a food table overflowing with protein bars and Monster energy drinks.
A small free literature selection was set up on the grass and overseen by three people in ski masks. It was a popular offering, and people crowded around, craning to see the pamphlets.
Titles included “Why Break Windows”; “I Want To Kill Cops Until I’m Dead”; “Piece Now, Peace Later: An Anarchist Introduction to Firearms”; “In Defense of Smashing Cameras”; and “Three-Way Fight: Revolutionary Anti-Fascism and Armed Self Defense.”
The energy was something like a carnival in the dark.
“Paint balloons, get your paint balloons,” someone barked.
But around 9:30, the group was in some organizational chaos. They had decided that the neighborhood close by was too racially diverse for them to protest in. They needed to go somewhere whiter.
So the protesters caravaned 20 minutes away to Alberta, a more affluent neighborhood that began being gentrified in the 1990s. They reassembled and marched through the streets.
Neighbors in impressive Craftsman-style homes pulled down their shades and turned off their lights, though many could be seen peering out of dark windows. One woman stepped out of an expansive home looking angry; upon seeing the crowd, she quickly retreated indoors. A few young couples stood in their doorways. A Black woman driving past honked and cheered.
One white man stepped onto his patio clapping and hollering in support of the passing march. The group called for him to join. He smiled and waved them on, still clapping. They began to chant that he was spineless. He looked worried. But the march moved along, and he went back into his house.
“You’ll never sleep tight, we do this every night,” the protesters chanted.
by DENNIS BERNSTEIN, SEPTEMBER 21, 2020
lllAn Exclusive Interview with Kevin Cooper
I interviewed long-time death-row prisoner, Kevin Cooper in San Quentin, on August 18th. Cooper is now a double survivor of death-row and Covid19. My Flashpoints Radio Team did some of the key research that helped to rescue Cooper in 2004 when he was exactly three hours forty-seven minutes from a California state-sponsored murder.
Cooper has been incarcerated for over 37 years (35 years on death Row) for the murder of the Ryan family and child guest Christopher Hughes, a brutal crime he doggedly maintains he did not commit. Currently, having exhausted appeals through the courts, Kevin is requesting that Governor Newsom order an innocence investigation to consider all the evidence that points to others and exonerates Kevin Cooper. Gov. Newsom has ordered DNA testing which has almost been completed at this time.
Quoting from a letter from Norman Hile, Kevin’s lawyer, to Gov. Newsom on July 6, 2020:
“The current profound awakening in California and the US as a whole to the systematic racism that affects Black lives every day is a clarion call to examine, under a bright light, the racism that drove the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of Kevin Cooper. The murder of George Floyd, and of so many other Black men, by racist law enforcement has brought us to a moment where the State of California can no longer look away. It is time to finally provide Kevin Cooper with a meaningful opportunity to prove his innocence.
“It is undeniable that racism was the driving factor in the SBSD’s [San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department] investigation and framing of Mr. Cooper and in the SBCDA’s prosecution and conviction of him. Racism drove this case from the moment the SBSD became aware of Mr. Cooper and continued unabated until he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death.”
Dennis Bernstein: We are joined, from San Quentin Prison, Death Row, by Kevin Cooper. Kevin, it is good to talk to you again. It’s been too long.
Kevin Cooper: Thank you, Dennis. Thank you for welcoming me back. I’m glad to be back. It’s been a long time.
DB: Been a long time, and we are glad that we are still talking. But let’s come in this door. We have seen the invasion of -19. The prisons have been the petri dish. I understand, not only did you have to face off with
Death Row, you had to face off with COVID-19. How are you doing? And what’s it like there, in terms of the disease?
KC: Personally, I’m doing well. I do believe I did have COVID-19, but I recovered from it. It’s hell on earth, just like it’s always been. It’s just a double dose of it. We inmates are trying to do the best that we can, to survive, as we’ve always done. But like I said, it’s a double dose, now.
DB: Kevin, the Flashpoints show has been on this case for many years. One of our producers, Leslie Kean, former producer here, did a lot of work on the case. We care a great deal about it. You’re in this battle for a long time. Can I ask you, what keeps you going? After all these years, how come you’re able to continue to struggle for an exoneration? Is that because you’re innocent?
KC: My innocence is what keeps me going. I mean, that is my motivating factor. And that’s all I know. I just keep goin’ and keep goin’ and keep goin’. I can’t stop. If I stop, they win. And I don’t want them to win. So, I keep going.
DB: We know that you’re in a battle now with the Governor of California. You are calling for an Innocence Investigation. What is an Innocence Investigation?
DB: What does that mean? Tell us about that and what the Governor’s position is, at this point.
KC: Innocence Investigation is exactly what it says. They investigate the innocence claims that are in my case. I am no longer dead in the court system, because the court system has rubber stamped me through it. And every time I went to the court, they denied me. But yet I have all these Constitutional violations. I have no less than six Brady Violations, and one is enough to get you a new trial. And I have no less than six.
And for people who don’t know what a Brady Violation is, it’s when the State willingly or unknowingly withholds material, exculpatory evidence from the defense, evidence that can prove a person’s innocence.
So, they did that, six times. They destroyed evidence, they planted evidence, they lied about witnesses. They did all types of stuff that they have historically done to people like me, in situations like this. And so,
we’re tryin’ to get all this exposed, in a hearing. And if we do that, then I’ll get out. I have no doubt about that. So, we’re not in a battle with the Governor. We’re waiting for this final DNA testing to get done so that
he can decide whether or not to give it to me. And if he does give it to me, we all believe that they’ll get me out, my legal team.
DB: Wow. It’s been a long, hard struggle. Kevin, I wanna ask you to step back a little bit and talk about your response to Black Lives Matter. Black lives in the prison, what does that look like? And has that given you any extra support, in your battle for freedom?
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC: Yes, and because I read, study, and understand our history of Black people in America, I understand that every generation has had some type of organization or people to come and fight for our humanity, our human rights, because we can’t have any other type rights, civil rights, or any other type rights, unless we first have human rights. And so, at this point in time in our history, it’s Black Lives Matter.
But before them, you can see it was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. And before them, you can say it was SNCC, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Or you could say it was the Urban League or CORE, Congress of Racial Equality, or the SCLC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, that Martin Luther King was a part of. Or you could even say it was Malcolm X and the [inaudible] relations that he was after. And before that, Marcus Garvey, and all through that, A. Philip Randolph. So, my point is, you can go all the way back to Frederick Douglass and before him. And we’ve always had people or
organizations to fight for us. And right now, it’s Black Lives Matter, because Black lives do matter. They haven’t mattered throughout the history of this country, but they matter, now.
And we are makin’ these people accountable, even with this death penalty, which I have experienced and wouldn’t have really experienced, if they had executed me, in 2004, when I came within 3 hours and 42
minutes of being strapped down to that gurney and burned alive from the inside, with those poisonous,lethal injection drugs. So, we understand that this criminal justice system, how unjust it is, from the back end, where I’m at, to the front end, where George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and everybody else was at, when they got murdered.
So, we need Black Lives Matter, not just as an organization that protests on the street. But we need that mentality to come up here in this criminal justice system. We need that mentality to get up there in Washington DC in Congress and in the United States Senate and in the White House, where those people, up in there, understand that Black lives matter.
DB: What’s ‘good trouble’, to you? What does that phrase mean, to you? ‘Making good trouble’?
KC: Doing what I’m doing, what I have been doing, what I have been doin’, since I’ve met you and Leslie Kean, a long time ago. What I — what Mumia Abu Jamal was doing and what every other person is doing, what
Angela Davis is doing, and what Black Lives Matter is doing, what — you know, making good trouble. Don’t let things stay as, quote, unquote, “normal”. Because when things are normal, when we get murdered, when we get discriminated against, you know? People do all types of foul things to us, when things are normal.
So, we can’t let things be normal, because we’re tired of suffering under normal circumstances. We have to make good trouble, to make people see that their normal is our pain and suffering. And we’re tired of
suffering and having pain, because of them. So, we must ‘Get up, get into it, and get involved’, using the words of James Brown. We must! That’s what gettin’ in good trouble means, to me. Good trouble is no
longer sitting down and being silenced, because silence is betrayal. It really is! Bein’ complicit is givin’ the other side to go ahead to keep on whippin’ our ass. People are shooting us. People keep their knee on
our neck. We can no longer — I mean, we really couldn’t do it, before, and a lot of us have always fought back. But we really can’t stand it, now, because now, we have more people understanding that their plight in this country is right alongside ours. That’s why you see so many poor people — poor white people, Latino people, Native American people, involved in this movement, right now. That’s what makes it different than any movement, before. They can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.
DB: What do you think about the expanding White Power movement? We have a serial white supremacist in the White House, and he has opened up the door and given the go-ahead for folks to, shall we say, ‘express themselves’. I’m wondering what you think about — what’s your reaction to this new White Power movement, where you can — where a vigilante can walk down the street in Kenosha and shoot people, after having a conversation with the Sheriff and getting some water and encouragement? Your thoughts on the White Power movement?
KC: Well, I look at it this way, Dennis. There’s always been a White Power movement in America, always. It ain’t never went nowhere. Never! The only thing that’s different now, between then and now, is the fact that you have a guy in the White House, and he brought people out from behind the closet door, out of the woods, out of their sheets, and all of that stuff. They’re out in the open, more so, now, than ever since the 1960s or ‘50s or ‘40s. So, I honestly believe that these people, who are sick in the head like that, they’re never gonna change. Not the majority of ‘em. So, we just have to keep going and keep fighting and keep building’, regardless of what they do.
See, in my mind, it’s not about what they do. It’s about what we do. We’re not gonna stand there and let us — let them just dog us out. We gotta stand up and get in good trouble. But there’s always been and will always be a White Power movement in America, because America was founded on –
Recording: You have 60 seconds remaining.
KC: And this racism that America was founded on has not left, and it will not leave. There have always been Black people or Black organizations, who have always stood up and fought for us.
On the other side of the coin, since the coins are — do have two sides, there’s always been those who have been opposed to us. But we’re not in this country today because of those people, those white supremacists and those white supremacist presidents, like Trump and Woodrow Wilson and Reagan and W. Bush and H.W. Bush and — you know, I can keep going, all the way down the line. Even, some degree, Clinton. No. We’re not here — still here because of them. We’re still here, in spite of them, despite them, you know what I’m sayin’? Because we keep fighting.
My mentality, and I’m in a prison where white supremacy is in here, white supremacists, and they — and officers. And I know that, but — in that court system that I’m in, there’s white supremacy. But we don’t care what they do, to a degree, because it’s not about what they do. It’s about what we do. And that’s how I see white supremacy. It’s there. It’s gonna – it’s always been here. It’s always gonna be there. It’s always
gonna be here. We just gotta keep on fighting’. And if we fight long enough and hard enough, eventually, we’re gonna win. We are! We are! That’s what I believe. Dennis, I say this, in all due respect and all due
truth. If I had not been fighting all these years in this white supremacist criminal justice system, these people would’ve tortured and murdered me, in 2004. The only reason why I’m alive today is because I fought, and a whole bunch of other people fought against this white supremacist criminal justice system and proved that they were wrong and that they framed me. Now, I’m still stuck here, on this modern-day plantation, in this Death Row Section, but it’s not like [laughs] – I’m dead. And as long as I’m alive, there’s a chance I can get out. So, we keep fighting.
DB: Kevin, the situation in — in —Death Row there and in the prison at San Quentin has really been a very terrible scourge, and it was caused by the system, the same white supremacist system, wasn’t it?
KC: It’s my understanding that this COVID-19 virus got here in this prison because one prison, who had infected inmates down in Southern California, transported ‘em all the way up here to Northern California and some of ‘em here. And the rest took on a life of its own. I mean, the coronavirus spread throughout this prison, and a lot of people died. And I think 26 inmates died. Half of ‘em, or a little less than half, were on Death Row, you know? And that happened because these people in this system — now, I can’t say all of ‘em. I’m not gonna whitewash all of ‘em like that, but the majority of ‘em, they don’t give a damn about us people. You know? They don’t. Because if they did, common sense would’ve told ‘em not to do nothin’ like that. But they don’t use common sense. You know? They don’t use things that you and I would use. They do things that they know is gonna mess with people, because that’s what they do. They mess with us. They mess with us mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically —
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC:—and any other type way they can mess with us. That’s what they do, because they’re oppressors. Oppressors don’t give a damn about the people they’re oppressing. And whatever they did, they didn’t do it for those inmates’ best interests. They didn’t have their best interests at heart. And so, we’re stuck in the situation that we’re in. I think that things are getting better, but I can’t tell, because I’m stuck in this cage. I don’t know.
DB: What does the medical care system look like, inside the prison? Were they up for this? Were they up for this outbreak?
KC: No. They were not. I mean, historically, healthcare in prison systems around this country, and especially in the state of California, have notoriously been bad, the worst in the world, in some cases. And in this state, even in this prison, has been under a Federal court order. It’s been monitored to get it right, because inmates were dyin’ from preventable deaths, because the healthcare system was bad. Now, when this coronavirus broke out, no. Nobody was ready for it, not the inmates, not the officials, not the officers, you know, because some of them, I mean, a lot of them got sick. One of ‘em, I know, died, and he was a good officer. You know?
But it’s just — it just happened. But those of us who were in here, behind enemy lines, we took the brunt of the pandemic. We were the worst off. We suffered the most. And our families are still sufferin’, Dennis, because they won’t let us have contact visits. They won’t even let us have visits through the glass, video visits, or no type visits, you know? We don’t — I haven’t seen anybody since, I believe, January. Not my attorneys, not my family, not my friends, nobody. So, this is not good for us.
DB: But this is the nature of the system, that that’s how they attempt to keep prisoners powerless, right, to cut them off from the source of love, energy and support. Wouldn’t you say that’s a part of prison treatment?
KC: Yeah. That’s true. I mean, if it wasn’t for these telephones. And in truth, they took the telephones away from us during this pandemic, for a couple weeks, because they said they were afraid that we would get
coronavirus from the telephones, even though they were wiping ‘em down with this very powerful disinfectant called Cell Block, which they pass out just to clean these cages. And they use it in the showers, because it’s supposed to kill coronavirus. But nonetheless, they wouldn’t give us the phones.
So, we found out later that the reason why they wouldn’t give us the phones, because certain inmates were calling the news media and telling them what was going on in here. They were talking to their family
members and telling their family members, and their family members were in turn talking’ to the news media and exposing’ all this stuff that was happening’ to us in here. So, therefore, these people decided to
take the phones from us. But we finally got ‘em back, but it’s just the principle of the thing. Yeah. They don’t care about us. They don’t care about our families. They don’t care about nothin’, man. These are
oppressors. Oppressors don’t care about us, man. They don’t care about our families.
They all — you know. They just don’t. Just not into — this is a money-making machine. This is a business, the business of death, the business of imprisonment, the business of modern-day enslavement, you know?
That’s what this is. It’s a business. And they can say — what’s the saying? ‘It ain’t nothin’ personal. It’s business.’ And that’s the mentality that these people have. It’s business! So what, you don’t get to see your family? Don’t worry about it. It’s business! It ain’t nothin’ personal.
But in the men’s eyes, it is personal, because without our families, man, a lot of us don’t have nothin’. Our families is what keeps us alive and keeps us going, that love that we have, that connection that we have, that commitment that we have, or that responsibility that we have to each other.
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC: That’s one of the strongest things that we have, that keeps us not just alive, as far as on a physical level, but on an emotional level, or on a mental level, on a psychological level.
DB: Kevin Cooper — we’re speaking with Kevin Cooper, at San Quentin Prison. He’s on Death Row. We’re talking about — really, what we’re talking about, the fact that there’s an opportunity now, after all these years of struggling to get the truth out about Kevin’s case, he’s got tremendous support from the Innocence Project, from several sections of it. And they’re now moving to have the Governor open up the door for an Innocence Investigation. We are delighted and really honored to be speaking with Kevin, on Death Row. It’s been a long road for us, and I wanna ask you, Kevin, has your case — do you think your case has helped to call attention to other cases, other innocence cases, and also, on the struggle to abolish the Death Penalty?
KC: In truth, I cannot answer that question. I don’t know if my case has had that type of impact on the criminal justice system. But I do know that it has had a positive impact on everybody who learns the truth about this case. You know? From the United Nations, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, former Judges on the California Supreme Court, certain Governors from Texas and Louisiana, and a whole slew of other people have found out about this case. And they have stood up and said, ‘No, man, you can’t do this. We support this guy. We want this man to have a Innocence Investigation’, because the evidence has all been disproven, that they used to convict me.
So, it’s just a matter of us gettin’ the opportunity to show our side in a open forum, that the criminal justice system denied me, for all these years. And if they do that, if I get that from Governor Newsom, and like I said earlier, we believe that I’ll get outta here. Now, if I get outta here, that does not — that does not mean that I will be free. Excuse me. What that means is, I will no longer be on this modern-day plantation, because freedom — true freedom, without equality, there’s no freedom, at all. So, I understand, you know, that — if I get outta here, I will be in a status of a second-class citizen, or something like that.
I will continue the work that other “second-class citizens” have done in this country, to help make this country better, such as John Lewis, who got in good trouble, such as Malcolm X, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael and Ella Baker, and a whole bunch of other people, who’s too many for me to name in this brief conversation. But they were considered second-class citizens, when they took it on them — on themselves to fight back. So, I will be out there on the front line, along with my brothers and sisters that struggle, fighting to bring this crime against humanity to an end. I will be definitely workin’ for all of us and fighting for our human rights, because it’s important for my wellbeing to know that I belong and that I am part of this struggle.
DB: Kevin, it’s like you were given [laughs] — it was an attempt at a — sort of a multiple death sentence. If they don’t kill you in the — in the killing chamber, they’re gonna kill you with COVID. But in that regard, we — you know, when we talk about Black Lives Matter — Black and Brown Lives Matter, Indigenous Lives Matter, this goes far beyond the prison, in terms of the racism that really comes up — being brought up by the pandemic and how different people are much more vulnerable than others. You wanna talk about how racism comes into it, through the economy, through the economics of it?
KC: I just recently wrote a essay and called “Disproportionate Blues”, which was about how African Americans and Native Americans and Latino Americans are disproportionately affected by this coronavirus pandemic.
And this is our history, in our country. This is why Black people invented the Blues, so — because they had to find some way to express themselves about the horrendous conditions, from healthcare, to jobs, to housing or lack thereof, to everything else that we were facing in this country.
This is why the Blues was invented. So, if you fast forward all the way up to date and all that time in between, while things have changed for certain people — for certain people, for those same certain people of a lower class, things have not changed all that much, from redlining to where a person can or cannot live, to the type of schools their children can or cannot go to, to the type of jobs that a person can or cannot get, because of their education. These things all play a part in why coronavirus is affecting us. The Policies of this country have made it so that healthcare is not a human right. They don’t wanna give us healthcare. They want money. Everything’s about money, in this capitalistic society. And so, if you cannot afford to pay for healthcare, then, therefore, you do without it. And when you do without it, oh, well, you find out what happens when cases like coronavirus come around. So, we all, who are poor people in this country, are catchin’ hell. So, some Black people are escapin’ this, because they have money. But the ones that don’t, we’re in trouble. And it’s — it’s a historical fact. So, when people say, ‘Times have changed’, to a degree, they have. But to a larger degree, they have not, because racism — it’s like when they build a building, when they build a courthouse or they build a hospital, it’s like they have racism in the — in the cement, right? So, it’s like institutional racism. It’s all up in there.
And it affects it so much that it’s killing us. They don’t kill us one way, Dennis, they kill us another way. Or they put us in a position to kill ourselves. And then, they say it’s our fault. It’s our fault for having high blood pressure. It’s our fault for bein’ obese. It’s our fault that we live in food deserts. It’s our fault that we have to eat processed food. It’s our fault that we live in rat and roach-infested apartment buildings.
Everything’s our fault! But no, man, it ain’t our fault. It’s the system’s fault. But yet, we pay the price.
DB: You’re listening to Flashpoints, on Pacifica Radio. Again, we’re speaking with Kevin Cooper, on Death Row. And Kevin is in a battle towards exoneration. He has the — he’s calling for an Innocence Investigation to be granted by Governor Newsom of California. We’re keeping a very close eye on that as well. Kevin, can I ask you, what — what are some of your favorite books? What are you reading, now?
KC: I just finished reading “Caste”, by Isabel Wilkerson. And before that, I read James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time”. I’m getting ready to read, because I just received, “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle”, by Angela Davis. And, you know, I do a lot of reading. I read a lot of books, you know. So, I’m always reading about this struggle that we are in, this historic struggle that we’re in. And it helps me to better understand my situation, why that I’m in here, and they know I’m innocent, but yet, I’m still in here, goin’ on 40 years. You know? Because innocence makes no difference in America. They don’t give a damn about killin’ innocent people on the front end of this criminal justice system or the back end of this criminal justice system or fixin’ it all in between.
So, they give us these draconian sentences of 100 years or 200 —
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC: — so, when I read all these books, and I understand this historic struggle that we’re in, it gives me not just knowledge and not just a better understanding, but a will not to succumb to my circumstance. You know?
It keeps me — these books that I read keep my back straight. Because as Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘They can’t ride your back, if your back is not bent over.’ You know? So, it’s like, reading, to me — and I guess it could be for everybody. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. So, I love to read, and I’m thankful for all the people who send me books.
DB: Are you – have you always been a reader? Were you a reader, as a kid?
KC: Oh, hell, no. I was stuck on stupid, as a kid. I didn’t know the first thing about books, when I was a kid. I grew up thinking that white people were the greatest thing on earth. I mean, I was all messed up. I was uneducated and miseducated. I didn’t know too much about nothin’. You know? And that’s why I put myself in the position for those devils to get their hands on me, and they did the rest.
Because — and that’s another reason why I testified in my own behalf at trial, because I was so naïve, so stupid, so believin’ in this rotten-ass system. I said, ‘If I get up on this witness stand and tell the truth, they’re gonna believe me, and they’re gonna let me go.’ When I got up on the witness stand, and I told the truth, they did not shake my story. They did not change my story. They did not prove that I was lyin’. And yet, still, the jury found me guilty. Yeah. So, no. When I was a child, man, I — no, I was all messed up. But I’m not messed up, no more. And that’s the good thing about it. I’ve learned.
DB: Still learning, right? And how many books are you allowed to have in your — in your cell? Do you have a little library there, or do you — can you keep your favorite books?
KC: Oh, first — all right. First, let me — I mean you no disrespect, all right? I gotta correct you on that. This is not my cell, right? If it’s anybody, it’s the taxpayers’ cell. This is a cage, that I’m forced to live in, against my will. I will never — claim this as mine. Nothing in this joint is mine.
But in this cage that I’m in, I’m allowed to have 10 books. So, I’m always sendin’ books out and gettin’ new books sent in. But you know — but it’s good, because the books that I send out, I send to people who share ‘em with other people, especially youngsters, so they can gain knowledge.
DB: Books are crucial, behind bars. That’s for sure. I remember teaching in Rikers Island, and I had a book of poems by Etheridge Knight that I lent to one student in my class at Rikers. And it was a little dog-eared, it was a little ripped up, it came back all beautifully taped together, all nicely re-put together, and I — with a little note saying, ‘Hey, Teach, this book is too important to let unravel here. So, take better care [laughs] of your books.’
KC: [laughs] Right. And I even had your book up in here, you know? And so, I thank you for sending it to me. [Follow the Money] I forgot to mention that, you know? All the interviews that you did and — over the years, and you even have my interview in there, after I came back from that near-death experience, in 2004. So, that — you know, and it’s up in here. So, I thank you for that.
DB: Well, I — well, I’m happy to hear that. I really am. And of course, it’s really good to speak with you. I wanna give you a chance. I’d like to open the mic, and why don’t you — what would you like to talk about? What have I forgotten to ask you? I’m gonna — we’re gonna end by, you know, how people can find out more information about your case. But before that, what — what did I miss? What did we miss?
KC: Dennis, you didn’t miss too much of nothin’, because this is real life, and everything is continuing to grow, continuing to move. And I’m still here. The struggle is most definitely here, and it’s not gonna —
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC: — the struggle, this movement, is not going away, because they’re growing stronger. And so, I’m gonna continue to do my part, as everybody in my life, who is in my life, I mean, really in my life is, because if they weren’t, they would no longer be in my life or part of what I do. I think we’re good. I really do. Considering the type of circumstance that I’m in, and what we have to go through, to make this phone call and all that, yeah. We’re good. We handled our business. And I thank you for allowing me to speak on your program.
DB: Well, it’s an honor. And we all are learning together. And I have to ask you the final question. How can people, if they want, get more background? How can they help? How can they let the Governor know that they might want to see Kevin Cooper walk out of those — through those prison gates, into the [laughs] –—the larger — I guess we could say, the larger prison that’s now being run by a white supremacist [laughs] in the White House? How can people learn more?
KC: [laughs] Well, anybody who is very interested in my case and situation, they can go to kevincooper.org and learn about my case and a lot of the people and organizations who have supported me. They can go to my other website, freekevincooper.org. My Facebook page is currently bein’ redone, but I do have a Facebook page. Actually, that’s freekevincooper. And if anybody really wanted to take that extra step, they could also write the Governor and ask him to grant me an Innocence Investigation.
And for whatever reason that they can find out why I’m on one of these websites with ‘em, because —
Recording: You have 60 seconds remaining.
KC:— I have the support of the people, then I’m good. And I do have support of a lot of people. But you can never have too much. So, with that said, and I thank you so much. And I wish everybody at KPFA well, and all of you stay safe and virus-free.
DB: All right. Well, I want you to come back. Maybe next time, we could do this at KPFA, if the — if we don’t have the virus, and we don’t have the virus of that prison. Maybe we can look eye to eye, and —
Maybe we can look eye to eye, and and have the next conversation together. Thank you, Kevin.
KC: You got my word, that’ll happen. Thank you.
The engineering and land management that enabled the state’s tremendous growth have left it more vulnerable to climate shocks — and those shocks are getting worse.
By Christopher Flavelle, Sept. 20, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/climate/california-climate-change-fires.html?searchResultPosition=1
San Francisco at dusk.Credit...Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times
California is one of America’s marvels. By moving vast quantities of water and suppressing wildfires for decades, the state has transformed its arid and mountainous landscape into the richest, most populous and bounteous place in the nation.
But now, those same feats have given California a new and unwelcome category of superlatives.
This year is the state’s worst wildfire season on record. That follows its hottest August on record; a punishing drought that lasted from 2011 to last year; and one of its worst flood emergencies on record three years ago, when heavy rains caused the state’s highest dam to nearly fail, forcing more than 180,000 people to flee.
The same manufactured landscapes that have enabled California’s tremendous growth, building the state into a $3 trillion economy that is home to one in 10 Americans, have also left it more exposed to climate shocks, experts say.
And those shocks will only get worse.
“There’s sort of this sense that we can bend the world to our will,” said Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist in San Francisco for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Climate change is exposing the vulnerabilities in the systems that we’ve engineered.”
Those systems include some of the greatest accomplishments in American public infrastructure: Transporting huge amounts of water from the mountains to the coast and from north to south. Creating almost 1,500 reservoirs to store that water until it’s needed. Subduing the fires that are part of forest ecosystems, making more land livable for millions but stocking those forests with fuel in the process. Building dense cities along a shoreline susceptible to erosion and flooding.
Those accomplishments reflect the optimism that defines California, according to R. Jisung Park, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who focuses on climate adaptation. But like so much that underpins modern American life, they weren’t designed to accommodate the increasingly harsh extremes of climate change.
Dr. Park, like other experts interviewed, noted that California’s engineered landscapes are not the only factor behind its high-impact disasters. The state’s size and geographic diversity expose it to an unusually wide range of extreme climate events. And its large population means that when disasters do strike, they are very likely to affect large numbers of people.
Still, the manufactured systems that support the state’s population and economy have left the state especially vulnerable. The wildfires are only the latest example of how climate change can cause engineered landscapes to go awry. Those blazes are partly the result of hotter temperatures and drier conditions, scientists say, which have made it easier for vegetation to ignite, causing fires to become bigger, more intense and more frightening.
“Sometimes you feel really small and helpless,” said Mandy Beatty, who manages and maintains trails through the forests of the Sierra Nevada for the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, a nonprofit group. On a chalkboard in her house in Plumas County, on the edge of the forests, she counts how long she and her husband have endured the smoke. Friday was Day 33. The fire, still raging, is on the other side of the mountain.
The intensity of the fires also reflects decades of policy decisions that altered those forests, according to Robert Bonnie, who oversaw the United States Forest Service under President Barack Obama. And the cost of those decisions is now coming due.
In an effort to protect homes and encourage new building, governments for decades focused on suppressing fires that occurred naturally, allowing the buildup of vegetation that would provide fuel for future blazes. Even after the drawbacks of that approach became clear, officials remained reluctant to reduce that vegetation through prescribed burns, wary of upsetting residents with smoke or starting a fire that might burn out of control.
That approach made California’s forests more comfortable for the estimated 11 million people who now live in and around them. But it has also made them more susceptible to catastrophic fires. “We’ve sort of built up this fire debt,” Mr. Bonnie said. “People are going to have to tolerate smoke and risk.”
President Trump, apparently referring to the increase in vegetation, has responded to California’s fires by telling the state to “clean your floors.” But most of the forests in California are federally owned, Mr. Bonnie noted, and Mr. Trump has sought to cut spending on forest management. And Mr. Bonnie said the fuels that matter most aren’t on the forest floor, but rather the trees themselves — and the best solution is letting more of them burn safely.
Another example of California’s engineered landscape is the sprawling system of transporting and storing water. Three-quarters of the state’s precipitation falls north of Sacramento, according to Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. But three-quarters of the state’s water use is south of Sacramento.
“The vast majority of our people are concentrated in the areas where the water is not,” Dr. Mount said. California’s response was to build what he called “by far the West’s most complicated storage and conveyance system.”
That system moves water that falls as snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains to the south and west, providing drinking water for the state’s coastal cities and irrigation for farms in the arid Central Valley, turning California into an agricultural powerhouse that produces one-quarter of the nation’s food.
Climate change is now shaking that system.
Precipitation patterns are becoming more extreme: The dry years are becoming drier, forcing cities and farmers to deplete their underground aquifers — something that Frances C. Moore, an assistant professor of environmental economics and climate science at the University of California, Davis, called a “race to the bottom.”
“That is not something that’s a sustainable response,” Dr. Moore said.
At the same time, wet periods are becoming wetter, which brings challenges of its own. Heavy rains threaten to overwhelm the vast network of aqueducts, reservoirs and dams that hold that water.
That increases the likelihood of the sort of catastrophe that almost struck three years ago, Dr. Mount said. A combination of intense rain and structural damage nearly caused the failure of the Oroville Dam, the nation’s highest, which would have unleashed disastrous flooding north of Sacramento.
Oroville is unlikely to be a one-off event. California has more dams rated “high hazard” than almost any other state, according to figures from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. California’s state auditor reported in January that while the state has upgraded the Oroville Dam, others around California continue to pose a risk.
“You’re got 40 million people who are dependent on this system, which was designed in the last century,” Dr. Mount said. “It’s not a surprise that you’re seeing many crises.”
Climate change is also threatening California’s coastline, the longest in the nation after Alaska and Florida. That coastline is less physically exposed to rising seas than parts of the Atlantic, where water levels are rising more quickly, according to Dr. Dahl at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
But California’s more densely populated coast, combined with its use of landfill to expand waterfront communities and its famous cliff-side homes, mean the state has more people at jeopardy from rising seas.
“We’ve built right to the edge of the water,” Dr. Dahl said. “We’ve altered the coastline to suit our needs, and we’re increasingly seeing the limitations of that.”
To some, California’s vulnerability to climate change is just one more challenge for the state to engineer its way out of, even as it keeps growing.
Annie Notthoff, a California water expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the state has already made progress on water efficiency, encouraging cities and counties to cut their water use and recycle wastewater.
“I think that if we’re smart, and we use new technology, there’s room for everyone,” Ms. Notthoff said. “I believe in California. I’m fifth-generation.”
That optimism is shared, perhaps unsurprisingly, by state officials. Kate Gordon, a senior climate adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom, described a series of steps the state is taking to cope with climate risks, including shifting more development into cities and away from the edge of the wilderness, and designing coastal roads and bridges with rising seas in mind.
“We’ve allowed for a development pattern that’s completely sprawled, which I don’t think we can keep doing,” Ms. Gordon said. “We have a lot of ability to be more compact, to be more efficient.”
Others were more wary. Solomon Hsiang, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and co-director of the university’s Climate Impact Lab, described being stuck inside as smoke filled the sky, and walking around his home with a hand-held air-quality indicator to find out which rooms had the worst air. “Everyone who could leave town has left town,” he said.
Climate change in California is more than just an escalating series of short- and long-term disasters, Dr. Hsiang said. It’s also eroding the idea that the state can mold itself into whatever it wants to be, insulated from the physical threats around it.
“California was the land of opportunities,” Dr. Hsiang added. “There’s this story that we can have it all, and that’s just not true.”
Thomas Fuller contributed reporting from Quincy, Calif.
Watching TV news from the past helps me get a grip on the present.
By Farhad Manjoo, Opinion Columnist, Sept. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/opinion/trump-media.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
After the 2016 election, I was deeply shaken not just by the outcome, but by the terrifying sense that I did not understand the nation as well as I’d thought I did. To blunt the shock, I went on a bender through American history. I dove into books about the Civil War, the Progressive era and, finally, Robert Caro’s titanic biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, where I washed up on the shores of the turbulent 1960s.
I discovered something amazing: After 1960, much of history as many Americans experienced it — through popular culture on TV, on the radio and at the movies — is preserved and easily accessible online. With a few clicks around YouTube, history leaps into the present, often in ways that deepen and complicate the narrative.
For instance, Caro ably describes Johnson’s stirring first presidential address to Congress. It was five days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the new president pressed lawmakers to pass civil rights legislation in Kennedy’s honor. “Everywhere you looked, people were crying,” the journalist Hugh Sidey wrote.
Watching the speech is something else. “All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today,” Johnson begins, and the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. You feel the weight of the hushed chamber and Johnson’s labored delivery. And then, the trauma that enveloped the audience is transformed, over the 24-minute address, into cheering determination, even hope.
That was the speech that hooked me, and soon I found myself living a second life in the past. I’d spend my days as a journalist covering the raucous present; but on and off over the last few years, on nights and weekends and vacations, I’d jump into my digital DeLorean and take up residence in earlier times — making my way, slowly, through the 1960s and then the ’70s, accompanied by an unending library of historical documents and pop cultural artifacts I found online.
It is a project I commend you to try. Go live for a bit in another, far-off decade, and I promise it will give you fresh perspective on a present as nutty as ours.
Doing so will take a bit of work. Although the internet contains uncountable historical treasures, its most-used services tend to constrict our focus to the instantaneous ever-present. Every moment on social media offers up a deluge of novelty; news is always breaking, memes always trending, hot takes never not taken.
The Trump years, especially, have been marked by a barrage of events so overwhelming that each new day seems to scramble every day that preceded it. We are all Dory, Nemo’s forgetful fish friend, so unsettled by the present that we forge — I’m sorry, my pocket just buzzed, what was I saying?
Right. To visit the past online, you need to deliberately seek it out. My method was straightforward; I began by reading. In addition to Caro’s Johnson biography, the historian Rick Perlstein’s excellent books on the rise of modern conservatism — which take readers from Barry Goldwater through the treacheries of Richard Nixon to, in the latest volume, the political era dominated by Ronald Reagan — are a perfect place to start.
Then, as you read, seek out videos online. Among other things, you will find the chilling news coverage of Johnson arriving at Andrews Air Force Base after the assassination. There’s Johnson’s 1965 speech introducing the Voting Rights Act, in which he invoked the anthem “We Shall Overcome,” a speech that made Martin Luther King Jr. cry. You will find King’s own thundering speeches — not just the most famous one, but also many others worthy of your time, including the last one he gave.
You see Malcolm X parrying with derisive reporters (“What is your real name?”). There’s news coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, as delegates cheer inside and riots erupt outside. Here is Walter Cronkite telling Americans the truth about the war in Vietnam, which pushed Johnson not to run for re-election. By the time you get to Nixon you are overwhelmed with video — from his slick 1968 campaign ads to the dramatic trip to China to the endless hours of content related to Watergate.
Sure, there are easier ways to understand Watergate. “Slow Burn,” the Slate podcast that documented Nixon’s downfall, may be a better use of your time than watching every minute of the investigation. But the magic of the internet is how it collapses time; you can listen to a documentary produced in 2017 about a break-in in 1972, and then, if you want to fall in even further, you can watch testimony in the Senate’s 1973 Watergate hearings as if it were just unfolding.
There’s unexpected value in consulting the originals. “One of the things I tried to get across was the extraordinarily high level of civic commitment that the public showed in following these things, because it was complicated and slow,” Perlstein said of Watergate. After watching long stretches of Senate hearings in the background while I cooked or cleaned the kitchen, I understood what he meant.
The Trump era has drawn numerous comparisons to the 1960s and early ’70s. Both periods have had protests, riots, police brutality, political turmoil and corruption and endless war. And both have been consumed by unsettled questions over race, gender and equality.
What has stood out to me is not the similarities in plot but the differences in presentation. Watching TV news from the past is jarring and refreshing. A lot of it is outmoded — this is the news as seen through the eyes of old white men — but there are aspects to coverage from the past that I felt myself pining for in the present.
When broadcast news was tightly controlled by three TV networks, there was an antiquated formality to the spectacle. I marveled at the tone of the presidential news conferences from the time.
The basic grammar of political media was different from what we see today: The questions were longer and more complex, the answers more detailed and nuanced. Even under a president as mendacious as Nixon, the political universe was still bounded by a shared sense of reality. Facts mattered, and documentary evidence had weight. If a politician said something today that contradicted what he (or, rarely, she) said yesterday, or there were recordings of a president disclosing something in private that undermined what he’d said in public, the inconsistencies were considered damning.
Broadcast news, which the TV networks offered as public service, also had little room for cheap punditry and outrage in search of profits. As a result, the coverage was more serious than anything on the dial today — no shouting talking heads, no montages of precisely edited sound bites, nothing engineered to drive you to share with your million friends. But because broadcast news was the only game in town, it was also more trustworthy, and more influential — perhaps explaining why both Johnson’s and Nixon’s presidencies ultimately collapsed under the weight of their own distortions.
In the fishbowl of 2020, where the news is fragmented and none of us can remember yesterday, we are not at all so lucky.
Mr. Prude had a somewhat troubled life in Chicago, with a series of personal tragedies disrupting his attempts at finding meaningful stability.
By Robert Chiarito and Sarah Maslin Nir, Sept. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/nyregion/daniel-prude-profile-rochester.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Daniel Prude died after the police in Rochester put a mesh hood over his head. Credit...Roth and Roth LLP, via Associated Press
CHICAGO — On the last day anyone on Chicago’s West Side saw Daniel Prude alive, he was his usual self, shooting the breeze with a loose band of neighbors outside of a local carwash.
He was the imp of the group, often playacting that he was itching for a fight, only to break into a wide grin the minute fists were raised. The only thing different that day was his repeated requests for a spare $20.
The money was for an Amtrak ticket: He was leaving his hometown that day for his brother’s home in Rochester, N.Y.
Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Prude was near death after a confrontation with the police in Rochester. He had what the police said was a psychotic episode, leading him to burst from his brother’s home, shirtless and shoeless, into the frigid Rochester streets, as his brother frantically dialed 911 for help.
By the time the police found him, he was naked, and had shouted that he had the coronavirus. Officers put a mesh hood over his face when he resisted, and pressed his head into the pavement until he lost consciousness. A week later, on March 30, Mr. Prude, 41, was dead.
It would take months for his family to know of his ordeal, when they obtained footage from the officers’ body cameras. This month they shared it publicly, accusing the police of covering up the incident.
When Mr. Prude died on March 30, few knew of his death or the circumstances surrounding it. Now his name has joined the rallying cry against police brutality and racism alongside those of other Black people who died during police encounters, like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
His death has roiled Rochester: The city’s mayor, Lovely Warren, has since fired the chief of police and suspended the seven officers involved in the encounter; the state attorney general’s office has opened its own investigation and a grand jury will now examine the case.
Mr. Prude’s life was enigmatic, dotted by pain, loss and hardship. His playful interactions with his friends hid the fractures snaking through his life: the deaths of two of his brothers, his anguish over a nephew’s recent suicide and his increasing reliance on drugs to cope with the loss — Mr. Prude had been home in their shared apartment when the teenager shot himself last fall, friends said. He also had just been kicked out of the home he shared with his sister, after a spate of paranoid outbursts had frightened her.
In an interview, his brother, Joe, insisted that Daniel had no children; hours later that same day, a news conference was held in Chicago on behalf of his five children. (Mr. Prude was not married to any of the children’s mothers, and there were varying accounts of how involved he was in their lives.)
His sister-in-law said that she did not know him to drink or use drugs. But the police said Mr. Prude had overdosed on Phencyclidine, or PCP, and an autopsy, which determined that he had suffered “complications of asphyxia,” listed acute intoxication by phencyclidine as a contributing factor toward his death.
And outside the carwash, his friends — who refer to themselves as the 12th Street group, after the original name of this stretch of squat buildings on West Roosevelt Road — said they regularly shared bottles of Hennessy, and had seen him high in the weeks before he left Chicago.
Mr. Prude held jobs in warehouses and factories on Chicago’s Southwest Side, amid a slew of arrests — at least 37 since 1998, according to Cook County records, mostly for crimes like drug possession and driving without a license. At least two of his arrests were for violent scuffles with domestic partners.
But friends said that Mr. Prude’s life had seemed to mostly stabilize, until the nephew’s suicide led him to increasingly use illicit substances that he told them helped him cope with the loss, but led to more erratic behavior.
Despite the inner turmoil, Mr. Prude was dedicated to a job he held at Gold Standard Baking, a commercial bakery near the south bank of the Chicago River, according to Jason Hunley, a former co-worker, who said that Mr. Prude was responsible for shepherding pastries down the line and into the oven.
Mr. Prude took it upon himself to help others in the neighborhood get jobs at Gold Standard, according to Antonio Hall, 42, a childhood friend who now co-owns an apparel company. “Everybody that was willing to work that knew Rell, he’d get you in there,” Mr. Hall said, using a nickname for Mr. Prude that derived from his middle name, Terrell (also sometimes spelled Terrel on official reports). “That’s the type of guy he was.”
The best part of the job, he would tell the 12th Street group, was how it enabled him to buy gifts like trendy sneakers for his grown children. “He’d say, ‘I got to be a daddy before I’m anything,’” his friend, April Jones, recalled as she hung out not far from the carwash, Nation Wide Hand Car Wash, on a recent afternoon.
Mr. Prude grew up in Lawndale Gardens, a public housing complex of two-story brick rowhouses spread across about seven acres in the Marshall Square neighborhood. He was one of five siblings, four boys and one girl. The Prude children were raised by their mother Dorothy, a bus driver whose strictness kept them out of trouble, said Olivia Jenkins, 68, who lived near the family in a unit in Lawndale Gardens.
Daniel attended Manley Career Academy High School, after graduating from John Spry Community School; he peers out shyly from page 27 of its eighth grade yearbook, where he lists his favorite TV show: “Martin.” He liked dogs, said Mr. Hall, who grew up with the Prude children, and said they used to take in stray animals and train them.
Daniel was in elementary school when the first of a series of tragedies befell the Prude family: According to Joe Prude, their brother, Timmy, was 11 when he was struck by a car on the way to school and died.
Years later, on an evening in 2008, another brother, Byron, 23, was shot and killed near where they grew up; the murder remains unsolved. Their mother died shortly after.
In the wake of the deaths, Daniel stepped up into the role of the family’s “protector,” Joe said, moving in with his sister Tameshay, who goes by Tammy, and growing close with her sons.
“If you were sad and you were going through something he would pick up on it, and give you a motivational talk — or just tell a joke and make you laugh if that’s what you needed,” said Tashyra Prude, 18, one of Mr. Prude’s daughters, whose nickname, Shyra, was tattooed on his shoulder.
“Everybody sees my father now as somebody who was helpless and who was in a bad mental state at the time of his death,” Ms. Prude said. “But I didn’t know him as that.”
An arrest on domestic battery charges in 2016 (the case was later dropped) listed Mr. Prude as a member of the Conservative Vice Lords, or CVL, a notorious Chicago gang. The affiliation was confirmed by Mr. Hunley, the former co-worker who was also a childhood friend, but he said that membership did not mean Mr. Prude engaged in any gang activities, and that the association with such groups was a rite of passage for young men from the neighborhood.
For the past several years, Mr. Prude seemed to be on a steady path forward. Then, in September 2018, one of his teenage nephews shot and killed himself in the home they shared. “He used to talk about it all the time, and I think he probably felt responsible because he was the uncle,” said Ike White, 48, a friend.
“Tim got hit by a car and died. Byron got shot and died. Their momma died. Then his nephew,” Mr. White added. “That will affect a person, all that death in his life.”
Mr. Prude quit his job at Gold Standard, and began working at a warehouse. He was smoking PCP more frequently, according to several friends, who asked not to be named because they did not want to upset his family.
When using PCP, he could become erratic. His play-fighting sometimes spiraled into actual fistfights. Shortly after his nephew’s death, the 12th Street group stopped allowing him to hang out with them at the carwash when he was high.
On the train to Rochester, Mr. Prude’s behavior remained unsteady. Amtrak workers eventually kicked him off the train in Buffalo, he told his brother. He said he was pickpocketed by a passenger, his cellphone stolen. Later that day, he started talking about the devil and was suffering from hallucinations.
His brother had him hospitalized for an evaluation, but Mr. Prude was sent home by doctors hours later, only to flee into the streets later that night, when he was confronted by the police in an encounter that would prove fatal.
But on his final day in Chicago, March 22, he was there with his neighbors on Roosevelt Road, outside of Nation Wide, chatting with the 12th Street group and asking around for a spare $20 for his ticket to Rochester.
It was his childhood friend, Mr. Hall, who reached into his pocket and gave him that $20, he said. “I asked him when he would be back,” he recalled. “And he said he wasn’t sure.”
A report shows Black neighborhoods have been more heavily patrolled, but police officials have said that enforcement is mostly driven by 911 and 311 calls, not racial bias.
By Alan Feuer, Sept. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/nyregion/nypd-arrests-race.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
When Bill de Blasio first ran for mayor in 2013, he promised that under his administration New York City police officers would patrol residents less aggressively than in the past, especially in predominately Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Five years later, with the help of the police, the City Council and the city’s district attorneys, Mr. de Blasio managed to reduce the total number of arrests, criminal summonses and pedestrian stops by more than 500 percent. At the same time, the city’s crime rate fell to lows not seen since the 1950s.
One thing did not change, however, according to a report released this week by the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice: Black neighborhoods continued to be policed at a higher rate than white ones.
Though overall enforcement started dropping in 2011 — near the end of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s final term — and kept falling sharply during Mr. de Blasio’s first five years in office, Black New Yorkers were still arrested and stopped at nearly twice the rate of the average city resident, the new report said. White New Yorkers were arrested and stopped at about only a third of the average rate.
“Despite significant efforts to shrink the footprint of the criminal justice system, we still see these racial disparities,” said Erica Bond, the data center’s policy director.
Police officials have long maintained that racial disparities in enforcement are a consequence of the higher volume of 911 and 311 calls in the city’s low-income neighborhoods rather than bias. More officers are deployed to those areas in response to complaints, driving up arrests, they have said.
The report’s findings come as New York, like other cities across the country, is struggling with a sharp rise in violent crime and with calls to redefine the role of the police in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of officers in Minneapolis.
They also have emerged at an exceptionally fraught political moment, when the New York City police and city leaders have found themselves trying to account for a disturbing rise in gun violence over the summer.
That debate has only intensified as President Trump and his allies in the local police unions have blamed the spike in shootings on failed liberal attempts to rein in the police, and as some city Democrats have accused the police of engaging in a slowdown and backing off on enforcement.
The study’s results appear to confirm as well that predominately Black communities, experience an unequal share of police killings and more frequent contact with the police in general.
The new report sidestepped the question of why Black New Yorkers were still being stopped and arrested at the same unequal rate as they were under Mr. Bloomberg. As first a Republican and then a registered independent, Mr. Bloomberg oversaw a “stop-and-frisk” program under which the police searched people for weapons and contraband in high-crime neighborhoods.
“There’s not going to be a single answer,” Ms. Bond said.
Enforcement declined under de Blasio …
Less than a month after taking office, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, announced that he was ending the city’s long legal battle over the Police Department’s practice of stopping and often frisking people on the street, a tactic that a federal judge had ruled in 2013 was racially biased.
Settling the lawsuit was just one move in a broader effort to rein in the more aggressive tactics the police had practiced under Mr. Bloomberg and his Republican predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
In 2014, William J. Bratton, then the city’s police commissioner, ordered officers, with some exceptions, to start issuing criminal summonses instead of making arrests for people caught with marijuana.
Two years later, the City Council passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which moved several quality of life offenses, like littering, public urination and open-container violations, from the criminal to the civil courts.
In 2018, the district attorneys in Brooklyn and Manhattan laid out plans to stop prosecuting most people arrested on marijuana charges, which had historically been enforced most heavily against Black and Hispanic residents.
These policies had a drastic effect. In 2011, the total number of arrests, criminal summonses and pedestrian stops by the police reached a high point of nearly 1.5 million. But by 2018, those enforcement actions dropped more than fivefold to less than 292,700 — even as crime rates also fell.
Pedestrian stops saw the steepest decline, the new study found, falling by 98 percent from 2011 to 2018. Criminal summonses decreased by 83 percent in the same period. The study determined that misdemeanor arrests came down by nearly half in those years and felony arrests decreased by 13 percent.
… yet racial disparities remained.
Even after years of the police using a lighter approach, the study found that Black New Yorkers were still nearly six times more likely to be stopped or arrested in 2018 than white New Yorkers were. And the ratio has not changed in more than a decade, according to the report. In 2003, Mr. Bloomberg’s second year in office, it was exactly the same.
“We’ve seen really great progress, but the status quo is never good enough,” said Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio. “There is clearly work to do and we’re not going to be shy about it.”
For some Black New Yorkers, the likelihood of being stopped or arrested had actually gone up, the study found.
Black teenagers, 16 and 17 years old, were nine times more likely to encounter police enforcement in 2018 than their white counterparts. That same year, Black people 18 to 20 years old were nearly eight times more likely to be stopped or arrested than whites of the same age.
“Everything is different about policing in communities of color, and it always has been,” said Delores Jones-Brown, a visiting professor of criminal justice at Howard University. “Black people, especially young people, don’t get to enjoy public space in same way whites do.”
The police say 911 calls determine enforcement.
Police officials did not respond to requests for comment on the report, but the Police Department has long insisted that it deploys its officers in response to requests for help: Police activity, senior officials have said, is principally driven by 911 and 311 calls, not racial bias.
“It’s the nature of police assignments that you put the bulk of your cops on the dots — the hot spots, if you will,” Mr. Bratton, the former commissioner, said in an interview. “Those hot spots are based on call workloads and complaints, and there are a much larger proportion of them in poor minority neighborhoods.”
Mr. Bratton added that while more people might be getting stopped or arrested in Black neighborhoods than in white ones, more victims of crime in those places were also being helped by the police. “It’s Policing 101,” he said. “You put cops where things are happening that you’re trying to prevent.”
Ms. Jones-Brown, however, said the greater attention Black neighborhoods received from the police could not solely be attributed to more crimes being committed in those places. The federal judge who ruled in the stop-and-frisk case, she noted, found that the majority of the pedestrian stops in those neighborhoods never turned up evidence of a crime.
“Even with the drop in enforcement, some officers are still being cued into Black males as targets,” she said. “Black kids in particular are often treated as a target group, not as individuals.”
Preeti Chauhan, the data center’s director, said that to better understand the racial disparities, researchers would need more data about how the Police Department deploys its officers and how many stops and arrests are “discretionary” as opposed to responses to calls for service. But the study her group released did not include that analysis.
Richard Aborn, the president of the nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said there was no simple answer to why Black neighborhoods were more heavily policed, but racial bias could not be ruled out as a factor.
“The majority of calls for service do come from communities of color,” he said. “But I think there’s a secondary response, which is that there is implicit bias in policing like there is in every other part of life.
“It’s very hard to measure how that plays out in enforcement activity,” Mr. Aborn added, “but I don’t deny that it exists.”
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