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
SIGN PETITION: Don't reincarcerate Jalil Muntaquim
Support for Jalil Muntaqim petition from the Movement for Black Lives:
Please click the below link to sign & share widely.Support for Jalil MuntaqimSTATEMENT OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR JALIL MUNTAQIM We the undersigned fully support the New York State Parole Board’s decision to release Jalil Muntaqim. The parole process is meant to evaluate a person for release based on who they are today, not to extend one’s sentence into perpetuity. Mr. Muntaqim has been incarcerated since 1971, when he was 19 years old. During his 49 years in prison, Mr. Muntaqim has led education/mentorship programs for prisoners, earned several educational degrees and mentored many younger incarcerated men. He has been commended for preventing prisoner violence and promoting safety. As a result, hundreds of organizations and individuals have stepped forward to support his release including community and faith leaders, family members, and the NY State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. The Board finally acted honorably in following the guidelines put forth by New York State Executive Law 259-(i). A 2011, bi-partisan amendment to the law passed by Republican and Democratic lawmakers makes it clear that an individual’s readiness for successful re-entry should take priority in the decision to grant release. Upon his release, Mr. Muntaqim was warmly welcomed by a large, diverse set of community leaders and residents of Rochester, New York. He reported to his parole officers and followed instructions to sign up for various social services required by all senior citizens in his position. He was handed a large stack of paperwork including a voter registration form. Muntaqim, eager to follow instructions, appropriately filled out and signed everything required of him. Now, the Rochester District Attorney is attempting to reincarcerate an elder recovering from COVID-19 because he filled out a form as instructed. We are statewide and national organizations, community and faith leaders, elected officials, civil rights organizations, public defenders, and residents of the Rochester area. We pledge our continuing support for Mr. Muntaqim and our assistance in facilitating his reintegration into society. We vehemently oppose any efforts to remove him from our community and/or place him back in prison.Please click the below link to sign & share widely.Charlie HintonNo one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side
VICE News Video: What Really Happened at Standing Rock, Featuring Chase Iron Eyes
We worked with VICE News to produce this powerful episode of "I Was There." Featuring an exclusive interview with Chase Iron Eyes, the episode describes the NoDAPL protests in depth and in relation to the present moment.
View video at:
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.
You can read more about Syiaah's story in this article by Victoria Law for Truthout as well as this one by Dustin Gardiner for the SF Chronicle.
Please sign and share this petition to #FreeSyiaah and declare #BlackTransLivesMatter!
Please also check out our social media toolkit to support Syiaah!
[Please do not donate as prompted after signing, as the money goes to change.org and not to any cause associated with Syiaah.]
Art by Micah Bazant at Forward Together.
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.
*please email a copy of your letter..to email@example.com---EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
CALL: Governor Pete Ricketts--402-471-2244 & SoS Robert B. Evnen---402-471-2554 & AG Doug Peterson--402-471-2683
His peers criticized this appearance. The press purposefully didn't cover it. He simply wanted to inspire young minds with the beauty and power of science, drawing attention to the power of ALL human minds, regardless of race.
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” -Albert Einstein
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Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or 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:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
Reality Winner Tests Positive for COVID, Still Imprisoned
With great anguish, I’m writing to share the news that NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, still in federal prison, has tested positive for COVID-19. Winner, despite her vulnerable health conditions, was denied home release in April – the judge’s reasoning being that the Federal Medical Center, Carswell is “presumably better equipped than most to deal with the onset of COVID-19 in its inmates”.Since that ruling, COVID infections at Carswell have exploded, ranking it now as second highest in the nation for the number of cases, and substantially increasing the likelihood that its medical capacity will be overwhelmed.This news comes one week after Trump’s commutation of convicted felon Roger Stone, and two months after the home release of Trump’s convicted campaign manager, Paul Manafort:
Roger Stone’s Freedom Is All the More Outrageous While Reality Winner Languishes in PrisonDonald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence is galling on numerous levels. It’s a brazen act of corruption and an egregious obstruction of an ongoing investigation of the President and his enablers. There are few figures less worthy of clemency than a Nixonian dirty trickster like Stone. But the final twist of the knife is that Reality Winner, the honest, earnest, anti-Stone of the Russian meddling saga, remains in federal prison.
Please share this with your networks, and stand with us in support of Reality Winner and her family during this critical time.
Thank you,Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
You are receiving this list because you have opted in on our website.
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You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this listWHISPeR Project at ExposeFacts 1627 Eye Street, NW Suite 600 Washington, DC 20006
Subject: Shut Down Fort Hood! Justice for Vanessa Guillén. Sign the petition!
SHUT DOWN FORT HOOD NOW!JUSTICE FOR
PFC. VANESSA GUILLÉN!
Sign the Petition
In late April, Pfc. Vanessa Guillén went missing from her base in Ft. Hood, Texas. It took her family and friends working night and day to appeal to the commanding officers to get any attention whatsoever about her whereabouts. Vanessa had told her family she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor.For more than three months, Vanessa’s higher-ups paid little attention to her family’s urgent pleas to investigate her disappearance. She was treated as being disposable.In late June, her body was found 25 miles from the base. Vanessa had been tragically murdered by her abuser who later killed himself upon capture.The unspeakable crimes against Vanessa Guillén have opened a floodgate of testimonies about sexual assault in the military. Many women and LGBTQ2S+ people are telling their heartbreaking stories with the hashtag #iamvanessaGuillén.Vanessa’s death is a result of sexual harassment in the military, which is deplorable. Fort Hood is the worst. According to the Pentagon’s own reports, it has the most sexual assaults of any Army post in the country. That is why it must be shut down now!In addition, Fort Hood, the single biggest military post in the U.S. armed forces, is named after a Confederate general. Its name glorifies racism and slavery.When Vanessa Guillén enlisted in the Army, she thought she’d be doing good and it would be helpful to her. Instead, it destroyed her. But how could it not when the military exists not to help people, but to defend Wall Street? It invaded and still occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, killing millions, just for oil profits.The case for Justice for Vanessa is very much linked to the movement for Black Lives. Young people of color must have other options than police violence or going to war for their future.WE DEMAND:•Investigate Fort Hood Commanding General Robert White and others for conspiracy to cover up Pfc. Vanessa Guillén’s murder. Why did it take a mass movement to find what happened?
•Shut down Ft. Hood! There is no other way to end the deplorable conditions soldiers face.
•Job training, education, COVID-19 relief, not war! If we shut down the Pentagon, the annual U.S. defense budget of $1 trillion could be used for people’s needs, not war.
•End misogyny and homophobia in the military. Justice for Vanessa and all survivors.
147 W 24th St.
New York City, NY 10011
This legacy belongs to all of us:
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forest to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. . . Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature–but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.” The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man 1876. —Friedrich Engels
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (Official Video 2019)
BlackRock loves to make a killing on killing: Over a thousand Americans have been killed by Tasers — 32 percent of them are Black Americans. Tasers are made by the colossal law enforcement supplier Axon Enterprise, based in Arizona.
One of their top shareholders happens to be Blackrock. Recently Blackrock has been trying to be sympathetic to the atrocities of murders waged on Black Americans and communities of color. If we ramp up massive pressure and blow the whistle on their deadly stocks, we can highlight that divesting from Tasers and the war in our streets will be a step in the right direction in building a fair and just society.
This issue is important to having peace in our streets. But this will only work if people participate. Send an email to Blackrock to divest from the Taser manufacturer Axon Enterprise which is responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans, and CODEPINK will pull out all the stops to make sure Blackrock execs hear our call:
Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers!
Blackrock could do this. They recently announced that they were divesting from fossil fuels — signaling a shift in their policies. If CEO Larry Fink cares about “diversity, fairness, and justice” and building a “stronger, more equal, and safer society” — he should divest from Tasers.
Plus, compared to Blackrock’s other holdings, Taser stocks aren’t even that significant!
But if Blackrock does this, it could be the first domino we need to get other investment companies on board too. Send an email to BlackRock and share this widely!
Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers!
If there’s one thing our community stands for, it’s peace and social justice. And one way we can help achieve that is by cutting off the flow of cash into the manufacturing of Tasers. So, let’s come together to make that happen, and help prevent more innocent Americans from being killed with these senseless tools.
Nancy, Carley, Jodie, Paki, Cody, Kelsey, and Yousef
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If you haven't seen this, you're missing something spectacular:
On Saturday May 30th filmmaker and photographer David Jones of David Jones Media felt compelled to go out and serve the community in some way. He decided to use his art to try and explain the events that were currently impacting our lives. On day two, Sunday the 31st, he activated his dear friend author Kimberly Jones to tag along and conduct interviews. During a moment of downtime he captured these powerful words from her and felt the world couldn’t wait for the full length documentary, they needed to hear them now.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.—BAUAW
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
I didn't do nothing serious man
please I can't breathe
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
man can't breathe, my face
just get up
I can't breathe
I can't breathe sh*t
I can't move
my stomach hurt
my neck hurts
some water or something
I can't breathe officer
don't kill me
they gon' kill me man
come on man
I cannot breathe
I cannot breathe
they gon' kill me
they gon' kill me
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
please I can't breathe"
Then his eyes shut and the pleas stop. George Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after.
By ShakaboonaTrump Comic Satire—A Proposal
Write to Shakaboona:Smart Communications/PA DOCKerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE7826SCI RockviewP.O. Box 33028St. Petersburg, FL 33733
Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons
Raping, torturing their way across
the continent—400 years ago—
Colonial settler thugs launched this
endless crimson tide rolling down on
endless crimson tide leaving in-
visible yellow crime
scene tape crisscrossing Tallahassee
to Seattle; San Diego to Bangor…
Choctaw, Mohawk, Cayuga, Blackfeet,
Shooting Sioux, Shawnee, Chickasaw,
Looting Lakota land; Looting Ohlone
Looting Ashanti, Fulani, Huasa, Wolof,
Yoruba, Ibo, Kongo, Mongo, Hutu, Zulu…
endless crimson tide—hot lead storms—
Shooting, looting Mexico for half of New
Mexico; a quarter of Colorado; some of
Wyoming and most of Arizona; Looting
Mexico for Utah, Nevada and California
is dirty like Duterte—howling for shooting;
Next time demented minions raise rifles to
shoot; Remind them that
Real looters wear Brooks Brothers suits;
Or gold braid and junk medals ‘cross their
chests. Real looters—with Capitalist Hill
Not FOX-boxes, silly sneakers, cheap clothes…
Veterans Join Call for a Global Ceasefire
www.couragetoresist.org ~ 510.488.3559 ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist
Oakland, CA 94610-2730
"The biggest block from having society in harmony with the universe is the belief in a lie that says it’s not realistic or ￼humanly possible."
"If Obama taught me anything it’s that it don’t matter who you vote for in this system. There’s nothing a politician can do that the next one can’t undo. You can’t vote away the ills of society people have to put our differences aside ban together and fight for the greater good, not vote for the lesser evil."
—Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
When faced with the opportunity to do good, I really think it’s the instinct of humanity to do so. It’s in our genetic memory from our earliest ancestors. ￼It’s the altered perception of the reality of what being human truly is that’s been indoctrinated ￼in to every generation for the last 2000 years or more that makes us believe that we are born sinners. I can’t get behind that one. We all struggle with certain things, but I really think ￼￼that all the “sinful” behavior is learned and wisdom and goodwill is innate at birth. ￼ —Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
Mumia Abu-Jamal: New Chance for Freedom
Police and State Frame-Up Must Be Fully Exposed!
Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent. Courts have ignored and suppressed evidence of his innocence for decades.... But now, one court has thrown out all the decisions of the PA Supreme Court that denied Mumia's appeals against his unjust conviction during the years of 1998 to 2012!
This ruling, by Judge Leon Tucker, was made because one judge on the PA Supreme Court during those years, Ronald Castille, was lacking the "appearance of impartiality." In plain English, he was clearly biased against Mumia. Before sitting on the PA Supreme Court, Castille had been District Attorney (or assistant DA) during the time of Mumia's frame-up and conviction, and had used his office to express a special interest in pursuing the death penalty for "cop-killers." Mumia was in the cross-hairs. Soon he was wrongly convicted and sent to death row for killing a police officer.....
* * * * *
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning and intrepid journalist, a former Black Panther, MOVE supporter, and a critic of police brutality and murder. Mumia was framed by police, prosecutors, and leading elements of both Democratic and Republican parties, for the shooting of a police officer.. The US Justice Department targeted him as well... A racist judge helped convict him, and corrupt courts have kept him locked up despite much evidence that should have freed him. He continues his commentary and journalism from behind bars. As of 2019, he has been imprisoned for 37 years for a crime he did not commit.
Time is up! FREE MUMIA NOW!
* * * * *
DA's Hidden Files Show Frame-Up of Mumia
In the midst of Mumia's fight for his right to challenge the state Supreme Court's negative rulings, a new twist was revealed: six boxes of files on Mumia's case--with many more still hidden--were surreptitiously concealed for decades in a back room at the District Attorney's office in Philadelphia. The very fact that these files on Mumia's case were hidden away for decades is damning in the extreme, and their revelations confirm what we have known for decades: Mumia was framed for a crime he did not commit!
So far, the newly revealed evidence confirms that, at the time of Mumia's 1982 trial, chief prosecutor Joe McGill illegally removed black jurors from the jury, violating the Batson decision. Also revealed: The prosecution bribed witnesses into testifying that they saw Mumia shoot the slain police officer when they hadn't seen any such thing.... Taxi driver Robert Chobert, who was on probation for fire-bombing a school yard at the time, had sent a letter demanding his money for lying on the stand....... Very important, but the newly revealed evidence is just the tip of the iceberg!
All Evidence of Mumia's Innocence Must Be Brought Forward Now!
Mumia Abu-Jamal's trial for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner was rigged against him from beginning to end........ All of the evidence of Mumia's innocence--which was earlier suppressed or rejected--must now be heard:
• Mumia was framed - The judge at Mumia's trial, Albert Sabo, was overheard to say, "I'm gonna help 'em fry the n____r." And he proceeded to do just that.... Mumia was thrown out of his own trial for defending himself! Prosecution "witnesses" were coerced or bribed at trial to lie against Mumia.. In addition to Chobert, this included key witness Cynthia White, a prostitute who testified that she saw Mumia shoot Faulkner... White's statements had to be rewritten under intense pressure from the cops, because she was around the corner and out of sight of the shooting at the time! Police bribed her with promises of being allowed to work her corner, and not sent to state prison for her many prostitution charges.
• Mumia only arrived on the scene after Officer Faulkner was shot - William Singletary, a tow-truck business owner who had no reason to lie against the police, said he had been on the scene the whole time, that Mumia was not the shooter, and that Mumia had arrived only after the shooting of Faulkner. Singletary's statements were torn up, his business was wrecked, and he was threatened by police to be out of town for the trial (which, unfortunately, he was)...
• There is no evidence that Mumia fired a gun - Mumia was shot on the scene by an arriving police officer and arrested. But the cops did not test his hands for gun-powder residue--a standard procedure in shootings! They also did not test Faulkner's hands. The prosecution nevertheless claimed Mumia was the shooter, and that he was shot by Faulkner as the officer fell to the ground. Ballistics evidence was corrupted to falsely show that Mumia's gun was the murder weapon, when his gun was reportedly still in his taxi cab, which was in police custody days after the shooting!
• The real shooter fled the scene and was never charged - Veronica Jones was a witness who said that after hearing the shots from a block away, she had seen two people fleeing the scene of the shooting.... This could not have included Mumia, who had been shot and almost killed at the scene. Jones was threatened by the police with arrest and loss of custody of her children. She then lied on the stand at trial to say she had seen no one running away.
• Abu-Jamal never made a confession - Mumia has always maintained his innocence. But police twice concocted confessions that Mumia never made. Inspector Alfonso Giordano, the senior officer at the crime scene, made up a confession for Mumia. But Giordano was not allowed to testify at trial, because he was top on the FBI's list of corrupt cops in the Philadelphia police force... At the DA's request, another cop handily provided a second "confession," allegedly heard by a security guard in the hospital......... But at neither time was Mumia--almost fatally shot--able to speak.. And an earlier police report by cops in the hospital said that, referring to Mumia: "the negro male made no comment"!
• The crime scene was tampered with by police - Police officers at the scene rearranged some evidence, and handled what was alleged to be Mumia's gun with their bare hands... A journalist's photos revealed this misconduct. The cops then left the scene unattended for hours.. All of this indicates a frame-up in progress....
• The real shooter confessed, and revealed the reason for the crime - Arnold Beverly came forward in the 1990s. He said in a sworn statement, under penalty of perjury, that he, not Mumia, had been the actual shooter. He said that he, along with "another guy," had been hired to do the hit, because Faulkner was "a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area"! (affidavit of Arnold Beverly).
• The corruption of Philadelphia police is documented and well known - This includes that of Giordano, who was the first cop to manufacture a "confession" by Mumia... Meanwhile, Faulkner's cooperation with the federal anti-corruption investigations of Philadelphia police is strongly suggested by his lengthy and heavily redacted FBI file......
• Do cops kill other cops? There are other cases in Philadelphia that look that way. Frank Serpico, an NYC cop who investigated and reported on police corruption, was abandoned by fellow cops after being shot in a drug bust. Mumia was clearly made a scape-goat for the crimes of corrupt Philadelphia cops who were protecting their ill-gotten gains.
• Politicians and US DOJ helped the frame-up - Ed Rendell, former DA, PA governor, and head of the Democratic National Committee--and now a senior advisor to crime-bill author Joe Biden--is complicit in the frame-up of Mumia. The US Justice Department targeted Mumia for his anti-racist activities when he was a teenager, and later secretly warned then-prosecutor Rendell not to use Giordano as a witness against Mumia because he was an FBI target for corruption..
* * * * *
All this should lead to an immediate freeing of Mumia! But we are still a ways away from that, and we have no confidence in the capitalist courts to finish the job. We must act! This victory in local court allowing new appeals must now lead to a full-court press on all the rejected and suppressed evidence of Mumia's innocence!
Mass Movement Needed To Free Mumia!
Mumia's persecution by local, state and federal authorities of both political parties has been on-going, and has generated a world-wide movement in his defense... This movement has seen that Mumia, as a radio journalist who exposed the brutal attacks on the black community by the police in Philadelphia, has spoken out as a defender of working people of all colors and all nationalities in his ongoing commentaries (now on KPFA/Pacifica radio), despite being on death row, and now while serving life without the possibility of parole (LWOP)...
In 1999, Oakland Teachers for Mumia held unauthorized teach-ins in Oakland schools on Mumia and the death penalty, despite the rabid hysteria in the bourgeois media. Teachers in Rio de Janeiro held similar actions. Letters of support came in from maritime workers and trade unions around the world.. Later in 1999, longshore workers shut down all the ports on the West Coast to free Mumia, and led a mass march of 25,000 Mumia supporters in San Francisco................
A year later, a federal court lifted Mumia's death sentence, based on improper instructions to the jury by trial judge Albert Sabo.. The federal court ordered the local court to hold a new sentencing hearing... Fearing their frame-up of Mumia could be revealed in any new hearing, even if only on sentencing, state officials passed. Much to the chagrin of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)--which still seeks Mumia's death--this left Mumia with LWOP, death by life in prison..
Mumia supporters waged a struggle to get him the cure for the deadly Hepatitis-C virus, which he had likely contracted through a blood transfusion in hospital after he was shot by a cop at the 1981 crime scene. The Labor Action Committee conducted demonstrations against Gilead Sciences, the Foster City CA corporation that owns the cure, and charged $1,000 per pill! The Metalworkers Union of South Africa wrote a letter excoriating Governor Wolf for allowing untreated sick freedom fighters to die in prison as the apartheid government had done. Finally, Mumia did get the cure.. Now, more than ever, struggle is needed to free Mumia!
Now is the Time: Mobilize Again for Mumia's Freedom!
Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal | Mumia Abu-Jamal is an I.....
Message to the People
A voice from inside Pennsylvania’s gulag
LETTERS NEEDED FOR
Dear Friends, Supporters, and Family,
In light of the provisions of the CARES Act meant to decrease the risk to prisoner heath, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Attorney General has delegated to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons the authority to release certain vulnerable prisoners to home confinement. Currently, the process for identifying appropriate candidates for home confinement have not been solidified but we believe it may help to write to the BOP Director and Southeast Regional Director and ask that Leonard be immediately considered and transitioned to his home on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.Your letters should be addressed to:
Michael CarvajalDirector320 First Street NWWashington, DC 20534
J.A. KellerSoutheast Regional DirectorFederal Bureau of3800 Camp Crk Prk SW, Building 2000Atlanta, GA 30331
We have not drafted a form letter or correspondence. Your pleas should come from your heart as an individual who has supported Leonard for so many years. Say what you would like but we have put together some talking points that will assist you in your letter writing. Below are some helpful guidelines so your letter touches on the requirements of the Attorney General’s criteria for releasing inmates like Leonard to home confinement
OPENING:• Point out that Leonard is an elder and is at risk for example.” Mr. Peltier is 75 years old and in very poor health; his only desire is to go home to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation and live out the remainder of his years surrounded by his family.”
MEDICAL:The AG and CDC guidelines for releasing inmates requires the health concerns cause greater risk of getting the virus. Leonard has the following conditions you can list in your letter• Diabetes• Spots on lung• Heart Condition (has had triple by-pass surgery)• Leonard Peltier suffers from a kidney disease that cannot be treated at the Coleman1facility and impacts as an underlying condition if contracting the virus.
RISK TO COMMUNITY:To qualify for release to home confinement we must show that Leonard poses no risk to the community.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT/RENTRY PLAN:To qualify for release to home confinement we must show that Leonard has a reentry plan. Leonard has support from the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Band and has family land on the reservation where he can live.
RISK OF COVID 19:To qualify for the release to home confinement must show that Leonard is at reduced risk to exposure of COVID 19 by release than he is at Coleman 1. Currently Rolette County, ND has no cases of COVID 19, Sumter County has at least 33 cases.
Questions and comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Advocates briefed senators on allegations that a doctor working with an ICE detention center performed unnecessary or overly aggressive procedures.
By John Washington, Jose Olivares, October 27 2020https://theintercept.com/2020/10/27/ice-irwin-women-hysterectomies-senate/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=The%20Intercept%20Newsletter
AT LEAST 17 women treated by a doctor alleged to have performed unnecessary or overly aggressive gynecological procedures without proper informed consent remain in detention at Irwin County Detention Center, a privately run facility in Georgia housing U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees, according to a briefing and written materials submitted by attorneys and advocates to Senators in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. The total number of women known to have been seen by the doctor since 2018 who say they underwent or were pressured to undergo unnecessary treatments has risen to 57 — a higher number than previously known — according to the group of lawyers.
The new numbers of relevant cases and women who remain in detention were included in the materials submitted to the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill about the ordeal over women’s medical care at Irwin. Organized by the Senate Democratic Caucus, attorney Sarah Owings of Owings MacNorlin law firm in Atlanta, two women previously detained in Irwin, and four independent doctors presented recent findings, including more than 60 pages of written materials, in a Monday briefing for the senators. The briefings came as part of Congressional investigations into the allegation, which Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress have pledged to look in to.
As the number of women alleging medical misconduct at Irwin, which is run by the private prison company LaSalle Corrections, grows, advocates for detainees worry that there may never be a full accounting. The numbers presented to the Senate on Monday were limited to only those cases lawyers could identify, the advocates said. Because of the opacity of the immigration system and the constant flux of detainees — as well as the deportation of witnesses and survivors — a comprehensive review is unlikely.
“It pains me to know that there could be many more women out there who will never be able to talk about what happened to them and the abuse that they suffered while at Irwin, let alone receive a measure of redress, while living with the life-long damage to their bodies and spirits,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director of Project South, which first raised the issues in a whistleblower complaint. “ICE and the private prison corporation LaSalle must be held to account.”
In the Senate briefing, the doctors and former detainees outlined a pattern of gynecological operations conducted by Dr. Mahendra Amin, the doctor at the center of the allegations, and the “uniform absence of truly informed consent,” according to materials submitted on Capitol Hill by the coalition of attorneys, advocates, and women recently detained in Irwin. After allegations of the medical abuses came to light in September, following the whistleblower complaint first reported by The Intercept, ICE said it stopped referring patients to Amin.
The materials submitted to Congress were compiled by on-the ground organizations; attorneys, including Owings; and advocates, led by the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, Project South, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Georgia Detention Watch, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative.
In response to an inquiry from The Intercept about the growing numbers of women alleging medical misconduct and congressional interest in the case, Amin’s lawyer, Scott Grubman, sent a statement responding to a Los Angeles Times story published last week about a medical review of some of the immigration detainees’ cases. In the statement, Grubman, who said the doctor could not comment on individual cases because of privacy regulations, claims that there are “serious questions to the veracity” of the LA Times reporting, specifically citing that the team of medical experts didn’t request medical records from Irwin County Hospital or Amin himself. (Records of medical procedures are also maintained by ICE and can be requested by attorneys or detainees.)
Grubman, who did not respond to specific follow-up questions from The Intercept, has maintained throughout the ordeal that Amin is cooperating with investigators and that the doctor will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
The widespread attention on the women at Irwin has amplified calls for better medical care in immigration detention, where there has been a dramatic increase in deaths over the past year. Advocates for immigration detainees have long complained of dangerously poor medical care in the sprawling patchwork of often privately run detention facilities.
Initial reports estimated that 20 or more women detained in Irwin had undergone full or partial hysterectomies in the last six years. Amin and his attorney dispute the claims. New information collected by attorneys and advocates who spoke with The Intercept — and who presented their findings to the Senate, including the written materials, which The Intercept reviewed — points to a broader pattern of women being pressured to undergo potentially unnecessary procedures.
Overall, the attorneys counted 57 confirmed patients of Amin, 17 of whom remain at Irwin as of October 25. (The Intercept was able to speak with attorneys who represented at least 52 of those women.) None of them have received any follow-up gynecological care since ICE stopped sending patients to Amin five weeks ago.
“The recent allegations by the independent contracted employee raise some very serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and thoroughly,” said Tony Pham, ICE’s acting director, in a statement to The Intercept. Pham said ICE welcomes efforts of both the Department of Homeland Security, ICE’s parent agency, as well as the department’s Office of Inspector General to investigate. The statement concluded, “If there is any truth to these allegations, it is my commitment to make the corrections necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare and safety of ICE detainees.”
The Senate briefing comes on the heels of an independent medical review led by the ALLGOOD Foundation. The review, which was first reported in the LA Times article, was conducted by nine board-certified OB-GYNs and two nursing experts who reviewed over 3,200 pages of medical records for 19 of the women who had alleged medical misconduct by Amin. The team, according to their report, found “a disturbing pattern of aggressive treatment, including ‘overcalling’ the need for invasive surgeries, unwarranted pressure to undergo surgery, and a failure to obtain informed consent.”
“Not Something You Can Go Back From”
Over the past five weeks, since the whistleblower complaint emerged, a steady stream of women who visited with Amin have shared their stories with the press. One, Jamileth, whose name has been changed for fear of retaliation, told The Intercept that Amin did procedures on her without getting her permission. In May, amid a nine-month stint at Irwin, she began experiencing stomach pain and irregular periods. The ICE detention center sent her to Amin.
“He did a vaginal ultrasound, but he didn’t ask me if I wanted one or not. He just did it,” Jamileth told The Intercept in Spanish. “I don’t know, he treated me in a very — well, in a very rough way.”
According to Jamileth, Amin said she had an ovarian cyst. She said he asked if he could give her an injection — Jamileth does not know for what — and then suggested surgery to remove the cyst. Jamileth refused both the injection and the operation, saying she needed to consult with her family first. In the end, she refused to see Amin again.
“I didn’t want to return, because I had seen other examples,” Jamileth said, explaining that she had seen other women in detention after visits with Amin. She described, in one instance, seeing a woman return from surgery: “She was bleeding through the wound, she was purple, black in her stomach, and it looked really bad.”
Several women told their attorneys they were prescribed Depo-Provera, a hormonal birth control shot with sometimes serious side effects, without their consent. One woman, after her operation and shot of Depo-Provera, was “still unclear what exactly happened to her body,” according to the briefing materials provided to Senate Democrats. There were a number of cases that resulted in lasting confusion. One woman was deported to El Salvador and thinks that she had a hysterectomy but remains unsure, according to the materials provided to senators.
Another woman went to Amin for pain she suspected resulted from having fibroid cysts removed from her uterus before her time in detention, according to the Senate briefing. Amin administered three shots to her, explaining they were “for the pain,” according to her recollection in the briefing. Only after she was returned to Irwin did she learn from a nurse there that she had been given Depo-Provera.
When the woman asked about the shots at a follow-up appointment, Amin got defensive. “I’m trying to help you,” he said, according to the testimony in the briefing. He later pressured her into submitting to a hysterectomy, the testimony said, telling the detainee, “You’re an old woman, why would you want to have more babies?” She refused the surgery.
Yet another woman said she felt lucky when she was diagnosed with Covid-19 — the detention center failed to take basic precautionary measures, refused to test symptomatic detainees, and underreported cases of Covid-19, according to the earlier whistleblower report — and her hysterectomy was delayed. ”I felt like I didn’t have control over my life,” she said. She eventually refused the surgery and was deported.
The medical review of pathology reports conducted by ALLGOOD showed “a pattern of overly aggressive care,” including “inappropriate, unconsented transvaginal procedures,” “exaggerated interpretations of imaging results,” and less invasive methods not being pursued.
Attorney Benjamin Osorio, who represents two of the women tallied in the Senate briefing, said in an interview with The Intercept that one of his clients was told a hysterectomy was the only possible option to remove a possibly cancerous cyst. “There are less invasive, less aggressive treatments, but he took out her whole reproductive system,” Osorio explained “That’s not something you can go back from.”
The Intercept spoke to Yuridia, who was deported three days after undergoing an operation she said she did not comprehend and did not consent to. She was dumped into Mexico not knowing what happened to her, still bleeding, wondering if she still had a uterus, her attorney Kathleen Hoyos told The Intercept. It was a month before Yuridia, who asked to be identified by her first name because of an ongoing immigration case, was able to see a gynecologist in Mexico and learn what had happened to her. (She had been given a shot of a hormonal contraceptive and underwent a dilation and curettage to remove a cyst.) Hoyos said, “All she knew was what happened to her was wrong.”
Deportations Concern Congress
Since the initial whistleblower report was submitted in September, ICE has deported at least five women who were seen by Amin. At least two more women may be deported this week, according to the Senate briefing. “ICE, LaSalle, and DHS are ensuring fewer witnesses are able to participate in the pending federal investigation,” the Senate briefing materials say.
Members of Congress are taking note. “Advocates have shared with my team that many of the women who questioned Dr. Amin’s advice were quickly deported, and that many others at the facility are now fearful of seeking medical care at all,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said in a statement to The Intercept. “We need a full accounting of what has been done to the women at Irwin, so we can hold perpetrators of any horrific actions accountable, and give the American people the answers they deserve.”
Last Friday, eight members of Congress, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.; and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., sent a letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet outlining concerns about gynecological procedures on women in Irwin. They requested that Bachelet lead an investigation into the procedures conducted on immigrant women.
“These allegations illustrate a clear pattern of alleged human rights violations by DHS,” the letter says. “This pattern of behavior is perpetuated and encouraged by the consistent and unforgivable failure of the United States government and its institutions to take these allegations seriously by investigating them in a transparent, thorough, and impartial manner.”
Last week, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., also sent a letter to ICE, along with Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., demanding that Irwin be shut down.
One detained woman quoted in Monday’s Senate briefing materials also called for Irwin to be shut down, adding, “We could die locked up in here.”
Demonstrators gathered in the streets for a second night after Walter Wallace Jr. was killed by two officers.
By Jon Hurdle, Oct. 28, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/us/philadelphia-protests-walter-wallace.html
Demonstrators gathered in the streets for a second night Tuesday after Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man, was killed by two officers. Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
PHILADELPHIA — Protesters looted stores and scuffled with police late Tuesday in a second night of street protests over the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man, during a confrontation more than 24 hours earlier.
Local television and news websites showed looters entering stores in the Port Richmond neighborhood, northeast of the city center, while officers struggled with protesters in the heart of West Philadelphia, where Mr. Wallace was killed on Monday afternoon after approaching police officers with a knife.
The victim’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., urged looters to stop. “It will leave a bad scar on my son, with all this looting and chaos,” Mr. Wallace said in an interview on CNN. “This is where we live, and it’s the only community resource we have, and if we take all the resource and burn it down, we don’t have anything.”
Danielle Outlaw, the police commissioner, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that she would release information about the shooting within the next few days but that she did not know whether it would include body camera footage from the officers who shot Mr. Wallace.
“It’s common for officers to respond to domestic disturbance or any type of call with a gun because it’s one of the tools we carry on our tool belt,” said Commissioner Outlaw, who added that the officers were not carrying stun guns.
The protests in Philadelphia are the latest in a series of nationwide demonstrations demanding justice after the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, among others.
In addition to signs and chants, some of the rallies from New York to Portland, Ore., have included looting, arson and destruction of police vehicles. Officers have aggressively targeted protesters at times, firing tear gas and striking them with batons.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, sought to validate protesters’ anger over the death of Mr. Wallace while discouraging violence and attacks on the police.
“We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death,” Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris said. But, they added: “Looting is not a protest, it is a crime. It draws attention away from the real tragedy of a life cut short.”
Thirty officers were injured on Monday as protesters threw bricks and rocks at them, a police spokesman said, adding that one officer had a broken leg after being struck by a pickup truck. The Pennsylvania National Guard was expected to send hundreds of people to Philadelphia within the next few days, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Demonstrators gathered in response to the death of Mr. Wallace. In a video posted on social media, shouts of “Back up!” and “Put the knife down!” can be heard he walks toward two officers before collapsing in a flurry of gunshots. A woman wails as more officers arrive.
“Bro, they just killed him in front of me,” a man can be heard saying in the video. “Y’all ain’t have to give him that many shots.”
Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement on Monday night that he had spoken with Mr. Wallace’s family and that a full investigation of the shooting would be conducted.
“I have watched the video of this tragic incident,” he said, “and it presents difficult questions that must be answered.”
Azi Paybarah contributed reporting from New York.
A long-awaited official report strongly criticized Britain’s main opposition party, which Mr. Corbyn once led. His reply to the findings prompted his suspension.
By Benjamin Mueller, Oct. 29, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/29/world/europe/jeremy-corbyn-labour-anti-semitism.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
[Note to readers: This article keeps repeating that Jeremy Corbyn is Anti-Semitic because the Tories declared that being Anti-Zionism and Anti-Israel apartheid is Anti-Semitic which it is NOT. Corbyn defended the people of Palestine who are fighting for their right to be free people with equal rights in Israel, and for an end to the wall imprisoning the Palestinian people in Gaza. The article says nothing about what Corbyn actually said and only accuses him of being Anti-Semitic…tell a lie over and over again and people will believe it…sound familiar? This article is the perfect example of this.]
LONDON — Britain’s main opposition party, Labour, suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday after he tried to deflect blame for the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations.
Mr. Corbyn made his comments after a human rights watchdog in Britain said in the findings of a formal investigation that the party bore responsibility for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” against Jewish members, reinforcing complaints that long clouded Mr. Corbyn’s tenure as party leader from 2015 to 2020.
A few hours after Mr. Corbyn posted a statement on Facebook blaming “opponents inside and outside the party” and the media for overstating Labour’s failures on anti-Semitism, the party said that Mr. Corbyn had been suspended.
“In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation,” the party said.
Before the suspension was announced, Keir Starmer, Mr. Corbyn’s successor as leader of the party, responded to the watchdog report by apologizing.
“I found this report hard to read and it is a day of shame for the Labour Party,” he said, standing behind a lectern bearing the slogan “A New Leadership” — an unsubtle signal of his effort to turn the party away from the hard-left policies and the sometimes divisive leadership of Mr. Corbyn. “We have failed the Jewish people, our members, our supporters and the British public.”
The watchdog, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission — an independent official body whose recommendations are legally enforceable — said it had investigated complaints of anti-Semitism and found that Labour’s political leadership had interfered in the party’s own investigations of anti-Semitic incidents. Those included a complaint against Mr. Corbyn, who stepped down as party leader in April.
Mr. Starmer said that the party had already taken steps to combat anti-Semitism, including changes in how complaints were handled.
The commission’s report described the party as having created a culture that could, at times, be seen as tolerant of anti-Semitism and accused two former party officials of anti-Semitic comments that it said amounted to unlawful harassment.
Complaints of anti-Semitism prompted an exodus of Jewish lawmakers and members from the Labour Party during Mr. Corbyn’s leadership and contributed to a groundswell of public discontent that culminated in Labour’s devastating loss in a December general election.
That vote, won by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, put Britain on an irreversible path toward leaving the European Union and handed Mr. Johnson an overwhelming majority in Parliament.
Mr. Corbyn’s own response to the watchdog report acknowledged anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, but at the same time cast the yearslong scandal as a creation of its political opponents.
In the statement on Facebook that triggered his suspension from Labour, he said that he had tried to make it easier to expel anti-Semitic members and that his leadership team had involved itself only “to speed up, not hinder the process.”
“One anti-Semite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media,” he added. “That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.”
The leader of Poland’s ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, accused demonstrators of seeking the destruction of the nation and appealed to supporters to “defend Poland.”
By Marc Santora, Monika Pronczuk and Anatol Magdziarz, Published Oct. 28, 2020, Updated Oct. 29, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/world/europe/poland-women-abortion-strike.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=World%20News
Tens of thousands of women took to the streets in dozens of Polish cities and towns for a nationwide strike on Wednesday to protest a top court’s decision to ban nearly all abortions, even as the nation’s leading politician urged his conservative supporters to “defend Poland.”
The call by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the deputy prime minister and leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, to fight back against the protesters and his description of the opposition as “criminals” seeking to “destroy the Polish nation,” threatened to escalate an already tense moment in the deeply divided nation.
“This is the only way we can win this war,” Mr. Kaczynski said, using martial language that critics said served as a call to arms.
His remarks, made in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday and in a video posted Tuesday night to his supporters on Facebook, came as protests stretched into a sixth straight day and drew in the Roman Catholic Church, with demonstrators interrupting Mass, vandalizing church facades and staging sit-ins at cathedrals as they held coat hangers aloft to symbolize dangerous abortions.
One group of women donned long red dresses and white bonnets meant to evoke the subjugated women in the Handmaid’s Tale novel and television series and marched into a cathedral and down the aisle between worshipers.
The women protesting the abortion ruling have been joined by a host of other groups opposed to what they see as the authoritarian drift of the ruling party. The ban on abortion — made by a court ruling that is not subject to appeal — was for many the culmination of a multiyear effort by the ruling party to undermine the rule of law and, step by step, take control of the judicial system.
Twice before, in 2016 and 2018, the ruling party moved in Parliament to impose a ban on abortion. But it backed off both times after nationwide demonstrations underscored the political cost. This time, the ban came through the Constitutional Tribunal, which is firmly controlled by party loyalists.
The widespread outpouring of anger over the past week reflected the pent-up frustration felt by many after watching the steady erosion of institutions meant to safeguard democracy, said Marcin Matczak, a constitutional scholar and law professor at the University of Warsaw.
The court’s decision on abortion, he said, “would not be possible without the previous assault on the rule of law.”
The grievance with the church is also, in many ways, the culmination of watching the critical role many of its leaders have played in the political victories of the Law and Justice party.
On Wednesday, people — overwhelmingly women — poured out from their offices to take part in the work stoppage. They filled the streets in cities like Gdansk, Lodz, Warsaw and Wroclaw, but also in smaller towns like Siemiatycze in eastern Poland, which used to be a stronghold of the Law and Justice party.
In Warsaw, a large crowd — most of them wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus — marched to Parliament, blocking traffic, and chanting “Come with us!” to the people watching from windows and balconies along the route.
Many of the protesters carried signs bearing anti-government slogans and umbrellas, which became the symbol of protests in 2016 against efforts to ban abortion.
“My uterus is not your playground,” one sign read. “I wish I could abort my government,” said another.
The country’s Constitutional Tribunal issued its ruling on Thursday, tightening what were already among the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.
The court’s decision halted pregnancy terminations for fetal abnormalities, virtually the only type of abortion currently performed in the country. Abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape and those threatening the life of women are still formally legal.
Even before Mr. Kaczynski’s call to action on Tuesday to his Facebook supporters — in which he called on people to defend Poland, patriotism and “in particular” Polish churches — right-wing extremists had seized on the protests and formed vigilante groups outside of churches, leading to clashes and small brawls with protesters.
Edit Zgut, a fellow at the Germain Marshall Institute, said Mr. Kaczynski was using the “ultimate populist manifesto: If you are criticizing us, you are against the nation.”
Mr. Kaczynski’s call to oppose the demonstrations came as the nation faces the largest outbreak of the coronavirus since the pandemic began in the spring. Doctors have warned that hospital beds are running low, ventilators are in short supply and the health care system could soon buckle under the pressure.
“When others were getting ready for a war with the virus, you were getting ready for a war with the nation,” Donald Tusk, the former president of the European Council and a leading opposition figure, said in comments directed against the government on Twitter. “Back out before a tragedy occurs.”
The anger on the streets has been raw, with women saying they feel they have been made pawns in the government’s culture wars.
The church holds a special place in Polish society, in part because of the integral role that many priests, as well as the Polish pope, John Paul II, played in the 1980s in the Solidarity movement and the fight for freedom from communist rule.
For many Poles, the role of the church in politics today feels like a betrayal.
“Now it’s not really just about abortion, it’s a protest about the loss of humanity,” said Emma Herdzik, an actress who has attended protests in Warsaw.
As protests have persisted, the threat of violence has started to loom ever larger, with right-wing extremists rushing to join the fray. And Mr. Kaczynski’s exhortations to his supporters may encourage them further.
Robert Bakiewicz, the leader of an ultranationalist group, had already said his supporters would form a “Catholic self-defense” force, what he called a “national guard,” to confront “neo-Bolshevik revolutionaries.”
“The sword of justice is hanging over them and, if necessary, we will crush them to dust and destroy this revolution,” he told reporters Monday. “If the Polish nation isn’t able to give us this security, we will take action.”
His supporters clashed with demonstrators outside St. Alexander’s Church in the center of Warsaw this week, and an image of one of them throwing a protester from the steps of the church has been shared widely around the country.
Outside the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, one of Poland’s holiest Catholic shrines, police deployed tear gas to separate protesters and nationalists, according to local radio reports. In Poznan, where protesters staged a sit-in at a cathedral, one protester was badly beaten by nationalists who confronted the group, according to the local news website TenPoznan.
At a demonstration in Warsaw on Monday, a car hit two women participating in the protests. Some observers said it looked as if the car was driven into the crowd deliberately. One of the women was treated for injuries in the hospital and later released, according to the police.
On Wednesday, Gazeta Wyborcza, the country’s largest daily newspaper, reported that the driver was a 44-year old government security officer from the Internal Security Agency. He was detained by the police, according to the authorities.
The combustible mix of public unrest and the pandemic added to the uncertainty of the moment and led to a remarkable series of bitter exchanges in Parliament.
Opposition lawmakers carried protest signs as they confronted Law and Justice members, and tried to approach Mr. Kaczynski on Tuesday.
Mr. Kaczynski, who was protected by Parliament’s security unit, denounced the opposition as “Russian agents,” while female Law and Justice lawmakers shielded him with their bodies.
Cezary Tomczyk, the parliamentary leader of the main opposition party, Civic Platform, accused Mr. Kaczynski of issuing a “call to lynching” and condemned what he said was the creation of “militias” loyal to the ruling party.
After they reached Parliament on Wednesday, demonstrators tried blocking an exit, scuffling with the police guarding the building.
“Let’s do a lockdown for our parliamentarians,” said Marta Lempart, one of the Women’s Strike leaders, through a megaphone. “We will do everything not to let them get out.”
“Until the Middle Ages finish in Poland,” added a voice from the crowd.
Even before the pandemic, Social Security’s finances were under growing pressure. The next president and Congress will play a crucial role in what happens next.
By Tara Siegel Bernard, Oct. 28, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/your-money/social-security-biden-trump.html
Joyce Welch, 73, lives solely on the $1,370 that she receives each month from Social Security. She lives with her son in Sacramento to make ends meet. Credit...Max Whittaker for The New York Times
Social Security has always seemed like a future problem, with experts long predicting a benefits squeeze in the decades ahead. But the coronavirus has put tens of millions of Americans out of work, and economists are predicting that the recovery will take years.
That means the future is now.
If nothing is done to shore up the program, all benefit checks will need to be cut by roughly one-quarter in perhaps 11 years — or, if the recession is protracted and severe, maybe even sooner.
“We thought we had more than a decade, and now it could be less than a decade,” said Kathleen Romig, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “That makes a big difference both psychologically and in policy terms.”
The pandemic has hastened the cash crunch’s arrival by wiping out jobs and the payroll taxes — Social Security’s dedicated source of revenue — that they provide. Fewer people are paying into the retirement trust fund, and the longer they’re out of work, the deeper the problem becomes. (Even more pressing may be a fix for Social Security’s disability program, which has a trust fund of its own. A report issued by the Congressional Budget Office last month projects that fund could be exhausted in 2026.)
Despite such grim projections, Social Security hasn’t received a lot of attention during the presidential campaign, given everything else going on. But whoever wins next week will have little choice but to stretch out his hand toward the third rail of politics. And both candidates have offered ideas that could significantly shift how Social Security works.
President Trump hasn’t released a proposal, but he has said he wants to eliminate the payroll tax — Social Security’s lifeblood — as an expansion of the temporary holiday enacted by executive action over the summer. (Few companies have stopped collecting the tax, which would have to be repaid in 2021.)
“At the end of the year, on the assumption that I win, I’m going to terminate the payroll tax,” he said in August. Instead, he said, he would pay for the program through the general budget, which could count on “tremendous growth.”
Mr. Trump has stated this on more than one occasion, but Sarah Matthews, deputy White House press secretary, said the president meant only that he wanted to forgive the taxes deferred under his order.
“President Trump will always protect Social Security, as he has stated numerous times,” she said.
Policy experts are highly skeptical that the payroll tax could be eliminated; it would require congressional action and be politically difficult. But if it happened, Social Security would have to compete for funding in a way it hasn’t before.
“We have a very crowded budget as it is,” said Shai Akabas, economic policy director at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “And having Social Security in the mix with everything else puts the program at risk in the future.”
Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, has released a proposal that’s more moderate than many offered by his party’s progressive wing. But it would nonetheless make fundamental changes.
Mr. Biden proposes an expansion of the payroll tax, but only on the highest-earning Americans. Currently, the payroll tax — 12.4 percent, split between employees and employers — applies to the first $137,700 of a worker’s earnings. Under Mr. Biden’s plan, high earners would also have the tax assessed on their earnings above $400,000. (Because the $137,700 threshold rises over time, eventually all income up to $400,000 would be subject to the tax — in about 30 years, the Urban Institute estimated.)
For decades, the amount a worker pays into the system has factored into how much they ultimately receive in benefits. But Mr. Biden has suggested that higher earners might not get anything in return for the added tax they pay, a change that would break a link that has been in place since the program began. The issue is still being studied, however, and no decision has been reached.
“A key principle of social insurance in general — and the Social Security program in particular — is that contributions are linked to benefit calculations,” said William Arnone, chief executive office of the National Academy of Social Insurance, a nonpartisan group of social insurance experts.
Mr. Biden’s plan also proposes more generous benefits, including a new minimum benefit for new retirees equivalent to 125 percent of the poverty level, or $15,950 in 2020. He would also allow certain caregivers unable to work full time to earn Social Security credits. Those provisions and others would immediately lift more than 350,000 beneficiaries out of poverty, according to a recent analysis by the Urban Institute.
And all retirees would probably see their benefit checks grow slightly faster. Mr. Biden’s plan would calculate cost-of-living adjustments using a different price index that more closely tracks the spending of older consumers, like on health care bills.
Even with the tax on high earners, Mr. Biden’s proposal would buy the program only an additional five years of solvency, according to the Urban Institute analysis, though it would soften the benefit cuts that would be necessary if further changes weren’t made.
Mr. Biden’s policy advisers, however, said the proposal was something of an opening bid. “The vice president’s financing proposal shows how he would protect and increase benefits for all Social Security recipients while making a down payment on long-term solvency,” said Gene Sperling, an outside adviser to Mr. Biden and a former national economic adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Just about every American has something at stake, or someone close who does: Roughly 178 million workers contribute to the program, and, this year, an estimated 45.8 million retirees will receive nearly $70 billion in benefits — the average monthly check is about $1,500 per month, according to the Social Security Administration.
Under current law, retirement benefits can come only out of the trust fund, which will be depleted by 2034, according to Social Security Administration estimates that do not take the pandemic into account. At that point, taxes collected will be enough to pay only 76 percent of benefits. (A Congressional Budget Office report from September predicted the trust funds would run out in 2031; others, including the Bipartisan Policy Center, project it could be sooner.)
The cost of inaction is serious, Mr. Akabas said, because as insolvency creeps closer, the changes necessary will become increasingly painful — tax increases will need to be greater, any cuts more severe.
“The longer we wait to fix the problem,” he said, “the fewer people who can play a role in the solution.”
About half the population 65 and older lives in households that receive at least half of their income from Social Security, according to a 2017 study published in the Social Security Bulletin. Roughly 25 percent of elderly households rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income.
Joyce Welch, a 73-year-old retiree in Sacramento, subsists on Social Security alone. A single mother who raised two sons, she worked full time for most of her life. But her health started to decline roughly 15 years ago because of an undiagnosed autoimmune disease, and within a couple of years, she had to retire from her job as a site supervisor and family consultant at a caregiver support center in Los Angeles.
Ms. Welch paid $800 a month to extend her health insurance through COBRA, which she funded with retirement savings that quickly dwindled because of early-withdrawal penalties. She eventually applied for Social Security Disability, and moved in with her youngest son.
“I lost my home, my life savings and my independence,” she said.
Her Social Security retirement check of $1,370 is deposited on the third of each month, and she shops for the month at Costco and a local food co-op. By the 15th — after paying for her share of rent and other expenses — Ms. Welch has just a few dollars left.
Without the program, she’d have nothing. “What happened to me,” she added, “is not unique.”
Supervisors denied civil-rights prosecutors’ request to use a grand jury for their investigation into the 2014 shooting of a Black boy by a Cleveland police officer, but did not tell his family.
By Charlie Savage and Katie Benner, Oct. 29, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/29/us/politics/tamir-rice-shooting-investigation.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department decided more than a year ago to effectively shut down its civil-rights investigation into the high-profile killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy carrying a pellet gun who was shot by a Cleveland police officer in 2014, according to people familiar with the matter.
Career prosecutors had asked in 2017 to use a grand jury to gather evidence in their investigation, setting off tensions inside the department. In an unusual move, department supervisors let the request languish for two years before finally denying permission in August 2019, essentially ending the inquiry without fully conducting it.
But more than a year later, the department has yet to take the bureaucratic steps to close the case, like completing a draft memo explaining why it declined to indict anyone. And it has not told the Rice family or the public that it will not charge the police officer.
Subodh Chandra, a former federal prosecutor who is representing the Rice family, said Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, was devastated. “When Samaria Rice heard the news, she cried out repeatedly, ‘I’m not ready for this!’” Mr. Chandra said. “The federal investigation was her last hope for justice. Accountability was so important to her and her family.”
The Justice Department’s press office declined to comment. Henry Hilow, a lawyer for the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association who represented the two officers involved in the case, did not return a phone message left with his assistant on Thursday.
Tamir Rice’s killing became a touchstone in the national debate over race and policing and prompted protests. But the prospect of bringing a federal case against Timothy Loehmann, the officer who shot him, was broadly seen as challenging because prosecutors would need to prove that he had intentionally violated Tamir’s civil rights. His pellet gun looked real, a 911 dispatcher had failed to relay that it might have been a toy wielded by a juvenile, and Officer Loehmann shot him immediately upon arriving.
The investigation had stagnated in the final year of the Obama administration. President Trump’s two attorneys general, Jeff Sessions and William P. Barr, have set a tone that their Justice Department will not aggressively police the conduct of local law-enforcement officials, but the matter was apparently handled by civil rights division supervisors. A former department official said Mr. Sessions was never briefed about prosecutors’ request for permission to use a grand jury, and a current one said the same about Mr. Barr.
State prosecutors have broader latitude to charge police officers with crimes based on lower standards of proof, like manslaughter resulting from recklessness. But in late 2015, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor announced that a grand jury, on his recommendation, had decided not to charge Officer Loehmann with any crime under state law.
The outcome upset lawyers for the Rice family, especially after the disclosure that the prosecutor apparently permitted the police officers to read prepared statements before the grand jury without cross-examining them. The Rice family asked for a federal civil-rights investigation, and the Justice Department said it was conducting a review.
Since then, Cleveland agreed in 2016 to pay $6 million to the Rice family to settle a lawsuit, and Officer Loehmann was fired in 2017. But the Justice Department has been largely silent about what was happening with its investigation.
Current and former officials familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, described a dysfunctional and delayed effort. They spoke in response to inquiries by The New York Times after it learned that David Z. Seide, a lawyer representing a person familiar with the case, filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, accusing the department of mishandling the matter.
Mr. Seide, a senior counsel at the Government Accountability Project, which assists whistle-blowers, approached The Times after the inspector general’s office informed him last week that it would not investigate the complaint. Lawmakers have not empowered Mr. Horowitz to scrutinize allegations of ethical violations and professional misconduct by department lawyers. (Congress is weighing legislation to expand his jurisdiction; Mr. Barr has objected to it.)
The case stagnated throughout 2016, the final year of the Obama administration, according to the interviews, including with Mr. Seide’s client. One factor, several people said, was that federal law enforcement officials in Ohio were reluctant to further pursue Officer Loehmann.
The Justice Department had obtained a so-called consent decree to overhaul the Cleveland Police Department on matters like training and wanted to focus on such systemic issues. In addition, officials recognized that it would be difficult to prove intent to meet the legal standard to convict the officer of a federal civil-rights crime, they said.
Other people familiar with the case said another problem caused delays: The civil rights division needed to gather and review local investigative files. Local officials, they said, had dragged their feet in turning over all the evidence.
In 2017, after Mr. Trump took office, the civil rights division reassigned the investigation to two career prosecutors, Jared Fishman and Nick Reddick. They began trying more aggressively to gather further evidence.
One angle they proposed exploring was whether Officer Loehmann and his partner had given statements whose accuracy was subject to scrutiny for potential obstruction of justice charges; if so, the department could leverage them to build toward civil-rights charges. In particular, they wanted to know the extent to which Officer Loehmann had clearly and repeatedly warned Tamir to put his hands up before shooting him, as the officer claimed he had.
Under Justice Department rules, criminal prosecutors with the civil rights division must receive permission to use a grand jury to subpoena for documents or witness testimony. In mid-2017, the people said, Mr. Fishman and Mr. Reddick wrote a roughly 20-page memo analyzing the case and requesting permission to pursue a grand jury investigation.
Two career supervisors in the section concurred with the request, the people said. They submitted the memo to Robert Moossy Jr., a deputy assistant attorney general, who, although a career official, works alongside Mr. Trump’s political appointees who run the division.
Typically, the people said, such a request is approved or denied within a few weeks. But no one responded to the memo. In fall 2018, the career prosecutors submitted a supplemental memo of about equal length that contained additional evidence and analysis making the case that a grand jury investigation was justified, the people said. But that memo also yielded no response.
The inaction prompted suspicions among career lawyers that political appointees were running out the clock: The statute of limitations generally expires after five years for obstruction charges, and the officers made their statements in 2014 and 2015. But they had no direct knowledge of the discussions within the division’s front office — which was first led by John Gore and then Eric S. Dreiband after October 2018 — nor about interactions, if any, regarding the case with the attorney general’s office.
In July 2019, Mr. Barr decided that the department would not seek an indictment of the New York City police officer who had put Eric Garner into a chokehold in July 2014, ignoring his cries of “I can’t breathe”; Mr. Garner passed out and was later pronounced dead. Shortly after that public announcement, the people said, word reached the career ranks that their request to use a grand jury to investigate the Rice case had been denied.
Another department official, defending its handling of the Rice investigation on the condition of anonymity, noted that the matter was still not technically closed and suggested that the department might, in theory, someday change course and empower prosecutors to use a grand jury after all. Still, Mr. Seide said the statute of limitations for the final statements that might yield potential obstruction charges would expire by year’s end.
In one respect, the Garner case was similar to Tamir Rice’s killing: In both instances, federal law enforcement officials who worked with the local police departments were more reluctant than civil rights division prosecutors in Washington to pursue a federal police brutality case. In another respect, it was very different: The Garner case received a full grand jury investigation, while the Rice case was quashed without one.
Mr. Chandra said the “stench of political interference hovers over this case” and called the outcome tragic.
“It was devastating to learn that this supposedly ‘law-and-order’ administration defied the judgment of career prosecutors, slow-rolled the investigation to let the statute of limitations run out, hid from the crime victim’s family its decision not to prosecute, and let the officers get away with murder and obstruction of justice,” he said.
Populations have rebounded in recent decades, but some scientists on the panel that evaluated the proposal said it was deeply flawed.
By Catrin Einhorn, Oct. 29, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/29/climate/wolves-endangered-species-list.html
A gray wolf in Montana. By the mid-20th century they had nearly vanished from the lower 48 states. Credit...Alan and Sandy Carey/Nature Production, via Minden Pictures
Gray wolves, one of the first animals shielded by the Endangered Species Act after Americans all but exterminated them in the lower 48 states, will no longer receive federal protection, officials announced Thursday.
“After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement.
Environmentalists condemned the decision as dangerously premature and vowed to take the Fish and Wildlife Service back to court, where they have successfully blocked previous attempts to strip wolves of federal protections. “Wolves just occupy a fraction of their former range,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and chief executive of Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental group. “There’s so much work that needs to be done.”
The new rule will officially publish on Tuesday and become effective 60 days after that. Then, states and tribes will assume control of the nation’s wolves, except for a subspecies called the Mexican wolf that remains under federal protection.
It was the second time in recent years that the federal government had tried to take wolves off the endangered species list; the last attempt, under the Obama administration, was withdrawn amid strong opposition.
Thursday’s decision came despite significant concerns raised by scientists who performed the independent review that is required before the Fish and Wildlife Service can delist a species. Four out of the five researchers charged with reviewing the proposal raised substantive concerns.
“I thought it was critically flawed,” said Carlos Carroll, an independent biologist with the Klamath Center for Conservation Research who said the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal, which is based on the consensus that wolves now face a low risk of extinction, ignored the importance of genetic variation in species.
That variation will be critical to allowing the animals to adapt to future threats like climate change, Dr. Carroll said, and is essential for their long-term survival. “That is the building block of their ability to persist,” he said.
Another reviewer, Adrian Treves, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he was troubled that the Fish and Wildlife Service seemed to disregard his concerns that the proposal did not accurately estimate how many wolves would be killed by people.
“I predict that the consequence of the inaccurate risk assessment is that gray wolves are not secure in the Western Great Lakes,” he wrote last month in a follow-up memo to the federal Office of Management and Budget, “and the federal government will have to re-list them again, either by federal court mandate or after another wolf population crash.”
Dr. Carroll and Dr. Treves are also co-authors of an article published Wednesday in the journal BioScience rebutting the Fish and Wildlife Service’s argument for delisting wolves.
Officials said the 442-page final ruling, made public on Thursday, had taken into account the concerns in the peer review but gave few details. Dr. Carroll did not agree. “If the Service had seriously addressed the issues we raised, they couldn’t have come to the same conclusion,” he said.
Before the arrival of Europeans, wolves flourished from coast to coast in North America, living in forests, prairies, mountains and wetlands. After two centuries of eradication campaigns — the colonial authorities, then states and eventually the federal government paid bounties for dead wolves — the animals had all but vanished. By the mid-20th century, perhaps 1,000 were left in the lower 48 states, mainly in northern Minnesota.
Wolves’ numbers began to rebound after they were placed under federal protection in the 1960s, and in the mid-1990s, the Service took a bold new step, relocating 31 wolves from Canada into Yellowstone National Park. They multiplied quickly, and now about 6,000 wolves range the western Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountains, with small numbers spreading into Oregon, Washington and California.
But with their recovery came old conflicts. Ranchers complained of lost livestock, hunters of decreased deer and elk.
The matter is complicated by a fundamental disagreement over the extent of the Endangered Species Act’s scope: Must it simply save animals from the risk of extinction in the wild, or must it restore them until they occupy an environmentally significant role in their ecosystems?
“There’s little federal guidance on this question and no state-level goals for what ecological outcomes should look like,” said Ya-Wei Li of the Environmental Policy Innovation Center. “As a result, people on both sides of the issue continue to wrestle over ‘how much is enough’ conservation under the Act.”
Because wolves are not in immediate danger of extinction in the lower 48 states and are even spreading into new habitats, Mr. Li said the government should focus its resources on hundreds of species that are far more imperiled.
But other advocates and scientists point to the ripple effects of restoring top predators to an ecosystem. Wolves, for example, help new trees and other critical vegetation grow by reducing deer and elk grazing. A healthier habitat supports myriad species.
“Wolves shape the places where they live,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are so many places where they lived before and can thrive again.”
Despite Thursday’s ruling, Colorado could be the next place where wolves make a comeback. A groundbreaking question on the ballot in Tuesday’s election will let voters decide whether to reintroduce wolves to the state.
“You have wolf lovers and wolf haters,” said Jon T. Coleman, a historian at the University of Notre Dame who has written about the relationship between wolves and people in America. The controversy protects the species, he said, but also limits progress.
“Everybody backs into their camps,” he said.
Children from Central America are being sent across the border to Mexico, where they may not have any family. An internal email said the transfers violated the government’s own policies.
By Caitlin Dickerson, Published Oct. 30, 2020Updated Oct. 31, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/us/migrant-children-expulsions-mexico.html?referringSource=articleShare
U.S. border authorities have been expelling migrant children from other countries into Mexico, violating a diplomatic agreement with Mexico and testing the limits of immigration and child welfare laws.
The expulsions, laid out in a sharply critical internal email from a senior Border Patrol official, have taken place under an aggressive border closure policy the Trump administration has said is necessary to prevent the coronavirus from spreading into the United States. But they conflict with the terms upon which the Mexican government agreed to help implement the order, which were that only Mexican children and others who had adult supervision could be pushed back into Mexico after attempting to cross the border.
The expulsions put children from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at risk by sending them with no accompanying adult into a country where they have no family connections. Most appear to have been put, at least at first, into the care of Mexican child welfare authorities, who oversee shelters operated by religious organizations and other private groups.
The expulsions, which appear to number more than 200 over the past eight months, reflect the haphazard nature with which many of the administration’s most aggressive immigration policies have been introduced. In many cases, they have led to the shuffling of young children between U.S. government agencies — and now between the governments of countries that are not their own. For years, the Trump administration’s handling of migrant children has left members of families separated for months on end and unable to reach one another.
A report to the courts this month revealed that the parents of 545 such children currently in the United States, some of them separated from their families as long ago as 2017, still have not been located.
Under existing diplomatic agreements and U.S. policies, children from countries other than Mexico are supposed to be put on flights operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to their home countries, where they can be reunited with their families.
Rumors of children from other countries being expelled into Mexico have swirled among nonprofit workers advocating for child welfare in Mexico and the United States. But locating any such children has been difficult because of spotty reporting from Mexican government authorities.
But an email from the U.S. Border Patrol’s assistant chief, Eduardo Sanchez, obtained by The New York Times, makes it clear that such transfers have not only occurred, but that they are a clear violation of U.S. policy.
“Recently, we have identified several suspected instances where Single Minors (SM) from countries other than Mexico have been expelled via ports of entry rather than referred to ICE Air Operations for expulsion flights,” Mr. Sanchez wrote.
Referring to the federal public health statute upon which the administration’s border closure policy rests, he continued, “Please note that if not corrected, these actions will place Title 42 operations in significant jeopardy and must be ceased immediately. To reiterate, under no circumstances should a SM from a country other than Mexico be knowingly expelled to Mexico.”
Brian Hastings, chief of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, acknowledged in an interview that non-Mexican children had been sent back into Mexico.
Mr. Hastings said that without rapidly returning migrants under the pandemic rule, “we would have massive amounts of infections, massive amounts of commingling and again, we would fill a hospital.” He said border agents were directed to contact the Mexican consular office each time an unaccompanied child was expelled.
And Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection agency, acknowledged in a separate interview this week that such expulsions would violate an agreement between Mexico and the United States. “That’s not part of their policy,” Mr. Morgan said of Mexico.
The two officials said that the expulsion policy has helped prevent the kind of overcrowding in border facilities that led to widespread criticism over the agency’s care for children last year.
But border agents have now been directed to exempt most children under the age of 10 from the expulsion policy and transfer them to shelters in the United States that are overseen by the U.S. Health and Human Services agency, Mr. Hastings said.
The coronavirus pandemic created an opportunity for the Trump administration to enact its most stringent border restrictions yet. Thousands of children have since been rapidly expelled to their home countries after crossing the border into the United States — a departure from years of established practices, under which children traveling without adult guardians were transferred into an American government shelter system, where they were assigned to caseworkers who worked to reunite them with American sponsors while their cases for asylum were being considered in the courts.
Contrary to that policy, the children expelled during the pandemic have been held only briefly in Border Patrol facilities or in hotels before being sent to their home countries, often without any notification to their families ahead of time. Some have had to borrow cellphones when they arrive at airports to look for family members who may be willing to take them in.
The latest expulsions add a new and potentially more devastating complication, creating even more confusion for families from Central America and elsewhere who may be trying to find their children.
It is possible that some of the expelled children may have had family members in Mexico who were themselves waiting for entry to the United States, but Mexican authorities did not provide information about children handed off to their shelters.
A Salvadoran father living in California who asked not to be named because he is undocumented said he first learned that his 15-year-old daughter had been expelled into Mexico in August, when he received a phone call from the Salvadoran embassy in Ciudad Juárez.
“They said I had to stay calm because she was going to be OK,” the father said. “I didn’t know what to ask, it was just all confusing.” His daughter had no family in Mexico, he said.
She had been waiting in El Salvador to be approved for a visa to enter the United States under a special program for victims of sexual violence, based on what had happened to her in her home country, he said. He was not sure why she had tried to cross the American border before she was approved to do so — he assumed it was out of fear for her safety.
After lawyers intervened on the girl’s behalf, arguing that her rights had been violated during the expulsion, she was allowed into the United States and is now living in a shelter in Arizona. Her father said he was waiting for permission from the U.S. government to be reunited.
“I’ve been out of my mind,” he said. “This is a really, really stressful situation. It’s about your kids, you want always the best for them, but at the same time you know that you can’t physically protect them or do anything right now, so that is really frustrating.”
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the practice of expelling migrant children in federal court, arguing that it violates child welfare laws, such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, as well as national immigration laws, which require special protections for migrant children traveling alone.
“Even apart from the general illegality of Title 42, it is separately illegal under the immigration laws to expel a non-Mexican child to Mexico,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney in the case.
The government has recently begun referring to migrant children who cross the border alone differently — as “single minors” rather than “unaccompanied alien children” — reinforcing the notion that while the pandemic-related border closure is in place, such children are not eligible for the legal protections that would otherwise have been available to them.
According to public data, U.S. authorities have expelled more than 200,000 people since the new public health border closure took effect, but the administration would not answer questions about how many of them were children, nor about how many were sent to Mexico. In December, border authorities acknowledged in federal court that at least 8,800 children have been expelled from the United States since March.
The human rights organization Women’s Refugee Commission, working with several other advocacy organizations, filed a public records request with Mexican authorities and received data suggesting that at least 208 Central American children had been returned to the custody of Mexican authorities between March 21 and June 5.
Mexican child welfare authorities did not respond to requests for comment.
Adults have also been expelled during the pandemic, in relatively large numbers, allowing some of them to quickly attempt to re-enter the country.
To combat repeat attempts, Mr. Hastings said, the Border Patrol has begun expulsion flights into the interior of Mexico for Mexican adults who have tried to enter the United States four or more times.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting from McAllen, Texas.
By Jamelle Bouie, Oct. 30, 2020
For many millions of Americans, the presidency of Donald Trump has been a kind of transgression, an endless assault on dignity, decency and decorum. They experience everything — the casual insults, the vulgar tweets, the open racism, the lying, the tacit support for dangerous extremists and admiration of foreign strongmen — as an attack on the fabric of American society itself. And they see the worst of this administration, like separating children from their families at the border, as an unparalleled offense against the values of American democracy.
There’s no question these are useful beliefs — they are responsible for the mass outrage against Trump at the beginning of his term, the wave against the Republican Party in the 2018 midterm elections and the currently strong anti-Trump energy of at least half of the voting public — but it’s hard to say they are true ones. Trump is transgressive, yes. But his transgressions are less a novel assault on American institutions than they are a stark recapitulation of past failure and catastrophe.
For as much as it seems that Donald Trump has changed something about the character of this country, the truth is he hasn’t. What is terrible about Trump is also terrible about the United States. Everything we’ve seen in the last four years — the nativism, the racism, the corruption, the wanton exploitation of the weak and unconcealed contempt for the vulnerable — is as much a part of the American story as our highest ideals and aspirations. The line to Trump runs through the whole of American history, from the white man’s democracy of Andrew Jackson to the populist racism of George Wallace, from native expropriation to Chinese exclusion.
And to the extent that Americans feel a sense of loss about the Trump era, they should be grateful, because it means they’ve given up their illusions about what this country is, and what it is (and has been) capable of.
There is very little about Donald Trump or his policies that doesn’t have a direct antecedent in the American past. Despite what Joe Biden might say about its supposedly singular nature (“The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening”), the president’s racism harkens right back to the first decades of the 20th century, when white supremacy was ascendant and the nation’s political elites, including presidents like Woodrow Wilson, were preoccupied with segregation and exclusion for the sake of preserving an “Anglo-Saxon” nation.
Trump’s indifference to the pandemic is, in the same way, an echo of the Hoover administration, which stood by as the country was crushed by economic depression and the immiseration of millions of Americans. It is impossible (for me at least) to think about child separation without also thinking about chattel slavery and the nation’s vast trade in enslaved people, conducted over decades under three generations of American presidents, including men like James Polk, who — decades removed from planter-politicians like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe — bought and sold human beings from the White House.
The president’s personal corruption is unique — there’s never been someone in the White House so clearly committed to the most petty forms of graft — but his lawlessness (and that of his administration) is the direct outgrowth of a contempt for accountability that stretches across four decades of Republican presidencies, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. Trump does nothing more than embody Nixon’s quip to David Frost that “when the president does it … that means that it is not illegal.” And in that, he’s backed by deputies like Attorney General William Barr, who on his first turn through Washington helped cover up Iran-contra for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and who is now, under Trump, ready to abuse the law for the sake of the president’s re-election.
Trump isn’t the first president in recent memory to let Americans suffer and die in the face of a deadly hurricane — that distinction goes to the aforementioned George W. Bush. And he’s certainly not the first to let a plague kill thousands of Americans — that distinction goes to Reagan (of course, for his dull response to the flu pandemic in 1918, Wilson deserves that distinction too).
Trump has helped bring ugly forces out into the open, giving aid and comfort to assorted racists and white nationalists. Yet it’s also true that these groups and individuals have always been with us and that our focus on Trump betrays a lack of attention to the ways in which they’ve grown and changed over time, waiting for a moment like this one.
Read the catalog of horribles for Donald Trump and his White House and what you find is an administration that has embraced the worst aspects of our political culture and merged them into a potent brew of destruction, lawlessness and authoritarianism. But to recognize this is to see as well how it doesn’t make sense to say that Trump is an aberration from the mainstream of American life. Instead, he is the exclamation point on our consistent failure to live up to our own self-image.
Perhaps more than most, Americans hold many illusions about the kind of nation in which live in. We tell ourselves that we are the freest country in the world, that we have the best system of government, that we welcome all comers, that we are efficient and dynamic where the rest of the world is stagnant and dysfunctional. Some of those things have been true at some points in time, but none of them is true at this point in time.
What Trump has done is made it difficult to maintain the illusion. Whenever he finally leaves the scene, we can either take the opportunity to look with clear eyes and assess this country as it is and as it has been or again seek the comfort of myth.
Coronavirus tests are free, yet data show some wealthy neighborhoods are testing at nearly four times the rate of poor neighborhoods. Why?
By Ginia Bellafante, Oct. 30, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/nyregion/nyc-covid-testing.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
This week, in an anxious nation where nearly any encounter with a screen has become triggering, Kim Kardashian West took a shot with all her firepower, announcing plans for her 40th birthday. To the undoing of Twitter, she noted that she had flown friends and family to a private island to pretend “things were normal just for a brief moment.” The pandemic at the heart of the current peculiarities was easily circumvented by quarantine and “2 weeks of multiple health screens.”
Covid cases are now rising around the country, with the prospect of the holidays heightening the fear of another wave. In an effort to avert further disaster, mayors and governors have begun to preach a doctrine of mirthlessness to American families — this will be the year of pie eaten alone in front of an iPad. Many will have little choice but to comply.
Others, however, will find a way to create their own private islands, traveling to places where they will sit at long communal tables, conviviality unhindered. The difference, in many instances, will come down to testing, who does and does not get it, another mark of division amid all the gripping upheaval that is shaped by class.
In New York, the disparities are unmistakable. Recently, Wil Lieberman-Cribbin, a doctoral student in environmental health at Columbia, tabulated the prevalence of coronavirus testing in the city, during the months of September and October, according to ZIP code.
Overwhelmingly, the wealthiest neighborhoods — in fact, most of Manhattan below 110th Street — showed the highest rates of testing, while the poorest neighborhoods, in Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx, for example, largely correlated with the lowest. In some instances, the differences between the most affluent communities and the least advantaged were four times as great.
So many months into the pandemic, these inequities might have been corrected; instead they have simply been left to persist. In September, Mr. Lieberman-Cribbin, in conjunction with fellow researchers, published a paper in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine that looked at analogous testing data for March and April and found a similar imbalance. The authors concluded that widespread testing and public-health outreach was urgently needed in the city’s most vulnerable populations.
As it happened, the tide took things in a different direction. In effect, testing among the privileged was routinized. It became a function of neurosis; of a return to office work or private school; of an iron will to avoid certain constraints and sacrifices in lifestyle. In recent years, urgent-care centers have come to fill gentrified neighborhoods, making it no harder to get a Covid test in many places than it is to pick up a box of Raisin Bran; concierge medicine, delivering quick results, has filled other parts of the void.
As Emanuela Taioli, the director of the Institute for Translational Epidemiology at Mount Sinai, pointed out, testing in Manhattan has evolved as a mechanism for screening and contact tracing, while in low-income communities, it has been deployed more narrowly as a diagnostic tool for those already experiencing symptoms or otherwise at high risk.
This is not the way to contain a virus. What concerns public-health experts is that high rates of positivity have emerged in areas with low rates of testing, which suggests that infection could be much more widespread than it appears. In the early days of the pandemic, testing was virtually impossible for all but the visibly sick. Since then, the city has created 200 testing sites, where it is free. But disseminating information about these sites — where they are, what sort of identification is needed when you get there, what risks the process might pose to immigration status and so on — has been fraught.
To address some of this confusion, the Health Department created “tailored webinars.” But, along with other online sources, they have turned out to be of little use to the many low-income people with no internet access. “We just don’t have the technology,” Shirlene Cooper, an AIDS activist living in Flatbush, Brooklyn, told me. “For me, a person living with H.I.V., no one told me what to do.”
In the view of Beverly Xaviera Watkins, a social epidemiologist at the University of California-Irvine, messaging in low-income communities of color hasn’t been inadequate; it has been “horrendous.” It has had little success overriding deeply held suspicions of a medical class that has a long history of exploiting Black Americans or disabling a broader mistrust of government. These strains of doubt are amplified in public housing, where decades of neglect and deceit have resulted in buildings tainted with lead paint and mold and a vanished faith among people who live there that their well-being is anyone’s priority.
Not long ago, Dr. Watkins began investigating the spread of the coronavirus in buildings of the New York City Housing Authority. With Karen Blondel, an environmental-justice advocate and longtime resident of the Red Hook Houses, she surveyed a representative sample of people living in three complexes in Brooklyn and found that a vast majority of respondents had not been tested even though more than a third knew someone who had died of Covid-19.
At one point, the city had workers knocking on doors to ask people if they wanted to be tested, but this, Ms. Blondel observed, served only to spread more fear. The people who showed up were strangers, and those on the other side of the door experienced a sense of invasion. They worried, too, about what might be done surreptitiously with their bodily submissions — what else would clinicians be looking for?
Dr. Watkins’s survey also included a question about a potential vaccine, another explosive subject. Nearly half in the group said they were not sure that they would take one if it were offered. A few people wondered if it might give you the disease. There was also an urban myth circulating that the vaccine would contain a tracker that allowed the government to check your movements.
“I thought it was insane at first, but then I kept hearing it,” Dr. Watkins told me. “The thing is, you could get control of the virus everywhere in the city, but if you can’t get it down in public housing, you’ve lost the war.”
A training slide show that urged officers to “always fight to the death” is no longer used but has raised an outcry in a state that has struggled with police violence.
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Oct. 31, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/31/us/kentucky-state-police-hitler.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
A slide show once shown to cadets training to join the Kentucky State Police includes quotations attributed to Adolf Hitler and Robert E. Lee, says troopers should be warriors who “always fight to the death” and encourages each trooper in training to be a “ruthless killer.”
The slide show, which came to light on Friday in a report from a high school newspaper, brought harsh condemnation from politicians, Jewish groups and Kentucky residents, but not from the Kentucky State Police department itself, which said only that the training materials were old.
Morgan Hall, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, which oversees the State Police, said that the slide show was “removed” in 2013 and was no longer in use but declined to answer a list of questions, including queries about how long the material was used and how many cadets had seen the training.
Ms. Hall said in a statement that it was “unacceptable” that such material had ever been included in law enforcement training. “Our administration does not condone the use of this material,” she said. She added that the cabinet agency “began an internal review” after learning about the material on Friday.
Kentucky State Police have assisted the Louisville Metro Police Department during protests over Louisville police officers’ killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency room technician shot by the police when they raided her apartment in March. The state agency also helped to investigate the Taylor killing, providing a ballistics report to the state attorney general before he determined that the officers who shot Ms. Taylor were justified.
The quotations attributed to Hitler, the genocidal leader of Nazi Germany, and Lee, the Confederate general, are included among 33 slides that were shown to cadets in the Kentucky State Police Academy as part of a slide show entitled “The Warrior Mindset.”
“The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence,” reads one quotation attributed to Hitler, who is quoted more than anyone in the training document. Some of the statements attributed to Hitler link to a website providing biographical information about him and listing books by and about him.
The training itself emphasizes that troopers must be ready to employ violence in order to do their jobs properly. One of the slides that quotes Hitler — under the heading “Violence of Action” — also says troopers should “be the loving father, spouse, and friend as well as the ruthless killer.” Another says warriors “always fight to the death, they never quit” and that they must be willing to “commit to the fight.”
The title page indicates that the training was created by a retired captain, Curt Hall, who could not be reached for comment. Local news reports, Mr. Hall’s LinkedIn page and a news release from the State Police in 2018 indicate that Mr. Hall was an assistant commander at the police academy from 2005 to 2015 and later served as a commander in the internal affairs department and as the commander of one of the agency’s 16 regional posts.
The lesson appears to be at least partially in line with “warrior training,” a controversial practice that often begins during basic training in academies and is modeled on military boot camp, which many police departments embrace. Many of the nation’s police academies and departments have long emphasized a warrior mentality, experts have said, with officers trained for conflict and equipped with the gear and weapons of modern warfare. Critics have said the specialized training can lead officers to believe they are under constant threat of being harmed and can intensify encounters with civilians.
The slide show was obtained by a lawyer who is suing a Kentucky State Police trooper who shot and killed Bradley J. Grant, 37, in 2018. David Ward, the lawyer, said he had received a copy of the slide show after filing a public records request for documents that the trooper had seen when he was going through training at the academy in 2013.
Mr. Ward said he was shocked by the material, and that it seemed to coincide with the combative nature of the trooper’s encounter with Mr. Grant that preceded the fatal shooting. The State Police said at the time that Mr. Grant had confronted two officers with a shotgun before he was killed, but Mr. Ward said Mr. Grant had been pointing the shotgun at his own chin and asking officers to shoot him.
“This type of training — these quotes — creates a mind set that these troopers are at war, that they need to come to work ready for battle,” Mr. Ward said. “This type of mind set is likely to create an adversarial situation or a violent encounter, and I think that becomes even more likely when you encounter a person who is suffering a mental health crisis and is less likely to respond to verbal commands in a rational way.”
The slide show was first reported by The Manual Redeye, a student newspaper at duPont Manual High School in Louisville, in an article written by the 16-year-old and 14-year-old sons of another lawyer involved in the lawsuit against the trooper.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, a Democrat, said in a statement. “It is further unacceptable that I just learned about this through social media. We will collect all the facts and take immediate corrective action.”
The 33-slide presentation ends with a quotation usually attributed to Theodore Roosevelt about credit belonging to “the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”
It ends: “Questions??”
Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio contributed reporting.
Despite pledges for debt relief and expanded programs, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have delivered meager aid, say economists.
"Since the pandemic began, the I.M.F. has allocated $500 million to cover the costs of debt suspension, while handing out more than $100 billion in fresh loans. More than $11 billion from the loan proceeds has paid off private creditors, according to a report from the Jubilee Debt Campaign."
By Peter S. Goodman, Nov. 1, 2020
Women lined up to receive cash assistance in Hyderabad, Pakistan, earlier this month. Families have lost livelihoods and struggled to feed themselves in the pandemic. Credit...Nadeem Khawar/EPA, via Shutterstock
LONDON — Like much of the developing world, Pakistan was alarmingly short of doctors and medical facilities long before anyone had heard of Covid-19. Then the pandemic overwhelmed hospitals, forcing some to turn away patients. As fear upended daily life, families lost livelihoods and struggled to feed themselves.
On the other side of the world in Washington, two deep-pocketed organizations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, vowed to spare poor countries from desperation. Their economists warned that immense relief was required to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and profound damage to global prosperity. Emerging markets make up 60 percent of the world economy, by one I.M.F. measure. A blow to their fortunes inflicts pain around the planet.
Wages sent home to poor countries by migrant workers — a vital artery of finance — have diminished. The shutdown of tourism has punished many developing countries. So has plunging demand for oil. Billions of people have lost the wherewithal to buy food, increasing malnutrition. By next year, the pandemic could push 150 million people into extreme poverty, the World Bank has warned, in the first increase in more than two decades.
But the World Bank and the I.M.F. have failed to translate their concern into meaningful support, say economists. That has left less-affluent countries struggling with limited resources and untenable debts, prompting their governments to reduce spending just as it is needed to bolster health care systems and aid people suffering lost income.
“A lost decade of growth in large parts of the world remains a plausible prospect absent urgent, concerted and sustained policy response,” concluded a recent report from the Group of 30, a gathering of international finance experts, including Lawrence Summers, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, and Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.
The wealthiest nations have been cushioned by extraordinary surges of credit unleashed by central banks and government spending collectively estimated at more than $8 trillion. Developing countries have yet to receive help on such a scale.
The I.M.F. and the World Bank — forged at the end of World War II with the mandate to support nations at times of financial distress — have marshaled a relatively anemic response, in part because of the predilections of their largest shareholder, the United States.
During a virtual gathering of the two organizations this month, the U.S. Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, urged caution. “It is critical that the World Bank manage financial resources judiciously,” he said, “so as not to burden shareholders with premature calls for new financing.”
The World Bank is headed by David Malpass, who was effectively an appointee of President Trump under the gentlemen’s agreement that has for decades accorded the United States the right to select the institution’s leader. A longtime government finance official who worked in the Trump administration’s Treasury Department, he has displayed contempt for the World Bank and the I.M.F.
“They spend a lot of money,” Mr. Malpass said during congressional testimony in 2017. “They’re not very efficient. They’re often corrupt in their lending practices.”
Under his leadership, the World Bank has required that borrowers deregulate domestic industry to favor the private sector as a condition for loans.
“There is an ideological attitude here, a more conservative attitude of, ‘Well, it’s going to be money that goes to waste,’” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. In the midst of a crisis caused not by profligacy but by a pandemic, he added, “that’s a very wrongheaded attitude.”
World Bank officials said the institution had expanded lending at a historic pace, while defending Mr. Malpass’s demand for tighter conditions on loans as responsible stewardship. “He wants to have good country outcomes,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s managing director of operations. “He wants to make sure that the programs reach people.”
The I.M.F. is run by a managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist who previously worked at the World Bank. She is answerable to the institution’s shareholders. The Trump administration has resisted calls to expand the I.M.F.’s reserves, arguing that most of the benefits would flow to wealthier countries.
In April, as worries about poor countries intensified, world leaders issued elaborate promises for help.
“The World Bank Group intends to respond forcefully and massively,” Mr. Malpass said. At the I.M.F., Ms. Georgieva said she would not hesitate to tap the institution’s $1 trillion lending capacity. “This is, in my lifetime, humanity’s darkest hour,” she declared.
But the I.M.F. has lent out only $280 billion. That includes $31 billion in emergency loans to 76 member states, with nearly $11 billion going to low-income countries.
“We have really stepped up in terms of quick disbursement to be able to support countries that are in need,” Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, director of the I.M.F.’s Strategy Policy and Review department, said in an interview.
The World Bank more than doubled its lending over the first seven months of 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, but has been slow to distribute the money, with disbursements up by less than a third over that period, according to research from the Center for Global Development.
The limited outlays by the I.M.F. and the World Bank appear to stem in part from excessive faith in a widely hailed initiative that aimed to relieve poor nations of their debt burdens to foreign creditors. In April 2020, at a virtual summit of the Group of 20, world leaders agreed to pause debt payments through the end of the year.
World leaders played up the program as a way to encourage poor countries to spend as needed, without worrying about their debts. But the plan exempted the largest group of creditors: the global financial services industry, including banks, asset managers and hedge funds.
“The private sector has done zilch,” said Adnan Mazarei, a former deputy director at the I.M.F., and now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “They have not participated at all.”
Concerns about developing countries’ debts rested atop the reality that many were spending enormous shares of their revenues on loan payments even before the pandemic.
Since 2009, Pakistan’s payments to foreign creditors have climbed to 35 percent of government revenues from 11.5 percent, according to data compiled by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, which advocates for debt forgiveness. Ghana’s payments swelled to more than 50 percent of government revenues from 5.3 percent.
As the pandemic spread, Pakistan raised health care spending but cut support for social service programs as it prioritized debt payments.
The debt suspension was at best a short-term reprieve, delaying loan payments while heaping them atop outstanding bills.
Some 46 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, have collectively gained $5.3 billion in relief from immediate debt payments. That is about 1.7 percent of total international debt payments due from all developing countries this year, according to data compiled by the European Network on Debt and Development.
Mr. Summers recently described the debt suspension initiative as “a squirt gun meeting a massive conflagration.”
But the program has proved powerful in one regard: It conveyed a sense that the troubles of the poorest countries have been contained.
“Part of the reason why so little has been done is that there was a misguided expectation that you could provide all the support low-income countries needed simply by deferring payments on their debts,” said Brad Setser, a former U.S. Treasury official and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
This month, the G20 extended the program into the middle of next year. Ms. Georgieva has chided private creditors for remaining on the sidelines.
Private creditors have been reluctant to offer debt suspension in part because of uncertainty over who will reap the benefits. Many developing countries have borrowed aggressively from Chinese institutions in a process both opaque and uncoordinated. If American or European institutions forgo collecting on their debts, the money may simply be passed on to a Chinese lender rather than lifting health care spending.
Private creditors maintain that poor countries have not requested relief, recognizing that credit rating agencies may treat debt suspension as a default — a status that jeopardizes their future ability to borrow.
“They don’t want to lose the market access,” said Clay Lowery, executive vice president of research and policy at the Institute of International Finance, a trade association representing financial companies around the world.
But that fear has been actively fomented by creditors, discouraging poor countries from seeking relief.
“The private sector is often highly misleadingly aggressive in suggesting that debt restructuring will cut countries off forever, and that complying with its wishes will get them new money very soon,” Mr. Summers said in an interview.
Some argue that anything short of debt restructuring, in which terms are renegotiated and creditors absorb losses on loans, merely extends the pain — for borrowers and lenders alike.
Critics of the I.M.F. say its handling of the pandemic has displayed the same trait that has long defined its mission — a bias toward ensuring that creditors get paid, even at the expense of wrenching spending cuts in poor countries.
Since the pandemic began, the I.M.F. has allocated $500 million to cover the costs of debt suspension, while handing out more than $100 billion in fresh loans. More than $11 billion from the loan proceeds has paid off private creditors, according to a report from the Jubilee Debt Campaign.
“International financial institutions are going to leave countries in much worse shape than they were before the pandemic,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, a Manila-based alliance of 50 organizations. “Their interest is not primarily about these countries getting back on their feet, but to get these countries back into the business of borrowing.”
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