Emile de Antonio’s 1983 film, In the King of Prussia, is about the trial of the Plowshares Eight. The judge is played by Martin Sheen and the defendants are played by themselves. It’s available for viewing on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUph8GWFupE
Denver Black Lives
On September 17, six protest leaders, including four members of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, were arrested in Denver, Colorado in a coordinated police action. Those arrested are now being threatened with a litany of bogus felony charges, including “kidnapping.” Four of the arrested individuals—Russel Ruch, Lillian House, Joel Northam, and Eliza Lucero—are protest leaders who have denounced the crimes of the Colorado police, most notably the racist murder of Elijah McClain. The repression against these activists, and many others, is nothing short of police-state retribution. As a PSL statement noted,
“This attack on the Denver anti-racist movement and the PSL is part of a concerted national assault on the Black Lives Matter movement, an attack driven directly from the White House, from Governor’s mansions, and from local police chiefs and police departments around the country.”
It is clear from the manner of the arrests that the Denver area police are trying to punish and intimidate activists. Russel Ruch, for instance, was followed to Home Depot and arrested in the parking lot; Lillian House was surrounded by five police cars as she was driving; and a S.W.A.T. team was sent to Joel Northam’s home. According to the 30-page long arrest affidavits, the police used livestream footage, call transcripts, and social media posts to build a case against those arrested. These coordinated arrests, which utilized both surveillance and brute force, aim to instill fear in every Denver area activist. “Protest, and you could be next” is the message being sent. And the absurd list of felony charges, known as “charge stacking,” means the arrested activists could be facing years, if not decades, in prison.
The arrest of these protest leaders in Denver are part of a larger nationwide crack-down on the Black Lives Matter movement. Across the country, protesters have been snatched off the streets by the police or federal forces in unmarked vehicles. In New York City, the NYPD used facial-recognition software to find and harass a Black Lives Matter activist. And earlier this month, in Washington, federal marshals gunned down Portland activist Michael Reinoehl without warning as he walked to his car.
Left Voice denounces the attempts to repress or otherwise intimidate anti-racist, anti-police activists. It is unacceptable that the state, under direction from both Republican and Democratic Party leaders, targets and intimidates activists fighting for racial justice, while the murderers of Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and many more walk free. The real threat to public safety can be found in every police precinct, every city hall, and every seat of political power.
Drop the charges against Denver PSL activists—Free all the arrested protesters!
To sign the PSL’s petition to have the charges dropped, click here:
To donate to the PSL’s legal defense, click here:
— Left Voice, September 18, 2020
History, Great Britain, and Julian Assange
Below are the comments Clifford D. Conner made at a September 8, 2020 press conference in front of the British consulate in New York City. Conner is an historian and author of Jean Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution and The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump. The court in Britain is holding hearings on the Trump administration’s request to have Julian Assange, the Australian editor, publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, extradited. Assange would be tried in a Virginia court on 17 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison.
In 2010 Assange had the audacity to post a video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter indiscriminately murdering a dozen civilians and two Reuters’ journalists in the streets of Baghdad.
Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, testified in court on September 16 that Assange could not receive a fair trial in the United States. When he pointed out that the Collateral Murder video was clearly a war crime, the prosecution maintained that Assange was not wanted by Washington for it but for publishing documents without redacting names. Ellsberg pointed out that when he leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did not redact a single name.
Assange’s lawyer has since informed the London court that in 2017 former Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Charles Johnson, a far-right political activist, relayed Trump’s offer to pardon Assange if he provided the source for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. This was described to Assange as a “win-win” situation for all involved.
A National Committee to Defend Assange and Civil Liberties, chaired by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker has been set up. For further information, go to: www.facebook.com/CommitteeToDefendJulianAssange. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee: NYCFreeAssange.org
—Dianne Feeley for The Editors, Against the Current
Comments by Clifford D. Conner
I am here at the British Consulate today to protest the incarceration and mistreatment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison in Great Britain, to demand that you immediately release him, and above all, to demand that you NOT extradite Julian Assange to the United States.
As a historian who has written extensively on the case of the most persecuted journalist of the 18th century, Jean Paul Marat, I am in a position to make historical comparisons, and in my judgement, Julian Assange is both the most unjustly persecuted journalist of the 21st century and arguably the most important journalist of the 21st century.
Julian Assange is being hounded and harassed and threatened with life in prison by the United States government because he dared to publish the truth about American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for the whole world to see. This persecution of Julian Assange is an assault on the fundamental principles of journalistic freedom.
The sociopathic Donald Trump and his accomplice, Attorney General William Barr, are demanding that you deliver Assange to them to face false charges of espionage. Every honest observer in the world recognizes Trump and Barr as utterly incapable of acting in good faith. If they succeed in suppressing Julian Assange’s right to publish, it will be a devastating precedent for journalists and publishers of news everywhere—and above all, for the general public, who will lose access to the information necessary to maintaining a democratic society.
If you allow yourselves to become co-conspirators in this crime, History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
Last November, more than 60 doctors from all over the world wrote an open letter to the British government saying that Julian Assange’s health was so bad that he could die if he weren’t moved from Belmarsh Prison, where he was being held, to a hospital, immediately. Your government chose to ignore that letter and he was not hospitalized, then or later. History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
Of all crimes against humanity, the most unforgivable is torture. No nation that perpetrates torture has the right to call itself civilized. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has unequivocally characterized Julian Assange’s treatment in Belmarsh Prison as torture. History will neither forget nor forgive that terrible moral transgression.
Furthermore, the exposure of the widespread use of torture by the United States military and the CIA at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, at Guantánamo Bay, and at so-called “black sites” all over the world, absolutely disqualifies the United States from sitting in moral judgement of anybody. If you deliver Julian Assange into the hands of torturers, history will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
So, I join together today with human rights advocates and advocates of journalistic freedom around the world.
I stand with the Committee to Protect Journalists, which declared: “For the sake of press freedom, Julian Assange must be defended.”
I stand with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which said that the attempt to prosecute Julian Assange is “a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news’.”
And I stand with the ACLU, which said: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”
History will not only record the names of the countries that collaborate in this travesty of justice, but also the names of the individuals—the judges, the prosecutors, the diplomats, and the politicians—who aid and abet the crime. If you, as individuals, choose to ally yourselves with the likes of Donald Trump and William Barr, be prepared for your names to be chained to theirs in infamy, in perpetuity.
History will certainly absolve Julian Assange, and it certainly will not absolve his persecutors.
—Against the Current, November/December 2020
Call for the immediate release of
Syiaah Skylit from CDCR custody!
Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/gavin-newsom-call-for-the-immediate-release-of-syiaah-skylit-from-cdcr-custody-blacktranslivesmatter?recruiter=915876972&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=abi_gmail&utm_campaign=address_book&recruited_by_id=7d48b720-ecea-11e8-a770-29edb03b51cc
Syiaah Skylit is a Black transgender woman currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). Syiaah has been a victim of multiple acts of brutal, senseless violence at KVSP at the hands of prison staff and others in custody. Many of these attacks are in retaliation for her advocacy for herself and other trans women.
Syiaah’s life is currently at risk due to racist, transmisogynist violence at the hands of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCr). While all the offending officers should be fired, this isn’t about a couple of bad apples. We have centuries of evidence that prison will never be safe — for Black people, for trans people, and especially not for Black trans women.
“I’m not going to make it out of this prison alive if I’m left here any longer.”
— Syiaah Skylit, June 2020
While incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison between 2018 and the present, prison staff have subjected Syiaah to severe and persistent physical, sexual, and psychological abuse (see below for examples, with content warnings). Staff at Kern Valley State Prison are also responsible for the 2013 death of Carmen Guerrero, a transgender woman who was forced to be housed with an individual who made it clear to officers that he would kill Ms. Guerrero if he was celled with her. Earlier this year, that individual was given the death penalty for killing Ms. Guerrero just eight hours after CDCR officers forced them to cell together.
Facing immediate danger, Syiaah has repeatedly asked to be transferred to a women’s facility and CDCR has repeatedly denied her requests. We demand that Governor Newsom and CDCR immediately release Syiaah to her community and family before she falls further victim to the lethal danger that transgender people face in prison.
[Content note: assault, sexual violence, anti-Black racism, transmisogny]
While in CDCR custody between 2018 and the present, Syiaah has:
- Been physically attacked by CDCR staff multiple times;
- Been threatened with sexual assault with a baton by CDCR staff;
- Been forced by CDCR staff to parade through the yard naked from the waist down;
- Been stripped naked by CDCR staff and left overnight in her cell without clothes, blankets, or a mattress;
- Been attacked by other people in custody who admitted that CDCR staff directed them to do so;
- Had her property stolen and destroyed by CDCR staff;
- Been maced in the face and thrown in a cage after reporting an assault;
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as an individual she testified against who is facing attempted murder charges for his assault of a transgender woman. As Syiaah feared, this individual violently attacked her as revenge. This man was then allowed to attack a gay man after attacking Syiaah.
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as individuals with histories of attacking trans women and other LGBTQI+ people, in spite of her pleas to be placed separately;
- Been thrown in administrative segregation after being the victim of an attack;
- Has had all of her recent documented complaints of discrimination and violence rejected under false pretenses;
- Has had contact with her legal representatives restricted to one phone call a week;
- Has been humiliated and discriminated against for going on a hunger strike as a form of protest;
- Has expressed numerous, documented concerns for her safety and had them blatantly ignored.
In spite of the constant violence Syiaah continues to survive, she continues to demonstrate her resilience and dedication to learning and growing. She has earned certifications in many educational and vocational programs and support groups.
We as Syiaah’s community and chosen family are ready to support her with a safe and successful reentry plan if Governor Newsom uses his executive powers to grant her clemency. Organizations that can offer Syiaah comprehensive reentry support including housing and employment upon her release include TGI Justice Project, Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG), and Medina Orthwein LLP.
Please sign and share this petition to #FreeSyiaah and declare #BlackTransLivesMatter!
Please also check out our social media toolkit to support Syiaah!
[Please do not donate as prompted after signing, as the money goes to change.org and not to any cause associated with Syiaah.]
Art by Micah Bazant at Forward Together.
Snowden vindicated by court ruling – time to drop
Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA telephone surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden was illegal and likely unconstitutional. This ruling should finally end any remaining debate on whether Snowden’s actions constituted whistleblowing, and on his necessity of going to the press. The question now is how to remedy the legal and ethical dilemma he was placed into. It’s time to either drop his charges or pardon him.
The court’s ruling validates Snowden on multiple levels. It settles beyond doubt that his belief in the illegality of the programs he witnessed was reasonable. The panel of judges ruled that the mass telephone surveillance conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act was illegal. And while they refrained from issuing a ruling on the Constitutional challenge, they strongly suggested that the program was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They ruled that the government’s claims about the effectiveness of the surveillance had been lies, and that its legal theory about the necessity of mass collection of phone data was “unprecedented and unwarranted.”
Legally, a whistleblower does not need to ultimately be proved correct about the concerns they report. If they simply have a “reasonable belief” their employer is breaking the law, they are entitled to whistleblower protections. While any plain reading of the Fourth Amendment and the FISA statutes should have sufficed to prove a reasonable concern, this ruling is beyond sufficient affirmation that Snowden’s concern was “objectively reasonable”.
While he should have been able to make a protected whistleblower disclosure based on such concerns, those channels were not a realistic option. As an outside contractor, he would not have been guaranteed protection under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) statute in place at that time. Critics of Snowden also conveniently ignore the history of other NSA employees who blew the whistle on these programs before him. The internal channels were used to “catch and kill” the complaints of at least four previous surveillance whistleblowers, placing them – and even the Congressional intelligence committee staffer they went to – under criminal leak investigations. Snowden saw, for example, the punitive treatment of NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake. Drake went through every conceivable internal channel: his boss, the NSA Inspector General (IG), the Defense Department IG, and the House & Senate Intel Committees. Not only did they fail to redress his grievances, many acted to further punish him: ignored his concerns, marginalized him, forced him out, blacklisted him, and ultimately drove his failed criminal prosecution.
Snowden correctly assessed that the only remaining option was to go to the press, and the 9th Circuit ruling credits him for choosing that path, noting that his disclosures enabled “significant public debate over the appropriate scope of government surveillance”. Indeed, this ruling simply would not have been possible without his public disclosures. The government had long maneuvered to keep mass surveillance programs beyond this kind of judicial scrutiny.
As a witness to large scale illegality, and without effective or safe channels, Snowden was placed in a dilemma: break his agreement to protect classified information, or break his sworn oath to uphold the laws and defend the Constitution. He chose to honor his higher duty and so turned to the only other available channel that could serve as a check against government wrongdoing: the press. Snowden turned to the “Fourth Estate” and it played exactly the role the Founders intended. We cannot now prosecute him as a spy or abandon him to a lifetime of exile for having done so.
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
Johnson the Invisible Brat
Johnson the invisible brat,
Thinks he’s better than us all,
For he’s a posh prime minister,
Who defies international law,
No matter how many graves get filled,
Or the cupboards are running bare,
You bet you can rely on this,
Johnson won’t be there.
Hancock, Priti, any sycophant,
It doesn’t matter who,
Can keep a straight face on camera,
While reading the lies on the autocue.
Nursing homes, schools there’s Covid everywhere,
But whenever there’s a crisis,
Johnson isn’t there
Depravity, depravity there’s no match for his depravity.
He is nastiness in human form, with not a shred of common humanity.
You may read him in a by-line, or see his face in the morning paper,
But when there’s a problem to deal with,
Boris Johnson won’t be seen till later.
Depravity, depravity the are no bounds to his depravity,
He’s already broken every law and conduct of normality,
His powers of crass dishonesty are way beyond compare,
He lies in every sentence and doesn’t seem to care,
You may look for him in Downing Street or in another lair,
But when a job is needing done,
Boris Johnson is never there.
He’ll sack anyone who happens in his way
And tear up any treaty he doesn’t like today,
He is outwardly respectably but he cheats all his friends
He’ll trample over anyone to get to his own ends,
Or he’ll send his hoodlum Cummings to crush dissenting minds.
Lies, corruption, negligence we know he doesn’t care
But when there is money to be made,
Johnson and mates will be there.
In Britain he acts like a dictator doing just as he wants,
Ignoring real life tragedies while posing for photo stunts,
For all his fake bravado, he’s just another coward,
A liar, a bully a posh self-centred fraud.
He’s an invisible prime minister who is never here,
But whenever there’s Trump’s arse to kiss,
You can be sure that,
Boris Johnson will reappear.
Calamity then catastrophe with grand theft larceny,
Another billion of our money flushed down the lavat’ry,
He cares not for our suffering our deaths and our pain,
Fake news and lies again and again,
When things go wrong and account is called,
It is always someone else’s fault,
What ever the problem no matter where
He always can claim that he wasn’t there.
Covid 19’s, coming,
He says we’ll take it on the chin,
World beating, moonshot, track and trace,
Endless lies and spin
Just more meaningless hot air from this uncaring buffoon,
Exam results fiasco, yet he never showed his face.
Children going hungry a national disgrace
We must take matters in our own hands,
To make things proper here,
Have confidence in our own powers,
Make Johnson and his kind
Take Action Now
Write, email and call the Nebraska Board of Pardons. Request that they expedite Ed’s application, schedule his hearing for the October 2020 meeting and commute his sentence.
His peers criticized this appearance. The press purposefully didn't cover it. He simply wanted to inspire young minds with the beauty and power of science, drawing attention to the power of ALL human minds, regardless of race.
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” -Albert Einstein
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Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Reality Winner Tests Positive for COVID, Still Imprisoned
With great anguish, I’m writing to share the news that NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, still in federal prison, has tested positive for COVID-19. Winner, despite her vulnerable health conditions, was denied home release in April – the judge’s reasoning being that the Federal Medical Center, Carswell is “presumably better equipped than most to deal with the onset of COVID-19 in its inmates”.Since that ruling, COVID infections at Carswell have exploded, ranking it now as second highest in the nation for the number of cases, and substantially increasing the likelihood that its medical capacity will be overwhelmed.This news comes one week after Trump’s commutation of convicted felon Roger Stone, and two months after the home release of Trump’s convicted campaign manager, Paul Manafort:Donald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence is galling on numerous levels. It’s a brazen act of corruption and an egregious obstruction of an ongoing investigation of the President and his enablers. There are few figures less worthy of clemency than a Nixonian dirty trickster like Stone. But the final twist of the knife is that Reality Winner, the honest, earnest, anti-Stone of the Russian meddling saga, remains in federal prison.
Please share this with your networks, and stand with us in support of Reality Winner and her family during this critical time.
Thank you,Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
You are receiving this list because you have opted in on our website.
Want to change how you receive these emails?
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:
Blackrock could do this. They recently announced that they were divesting from fossil fuels — signaling a shift in their policies. If CEO Larry Fink cares about “diversity, fairness, and justice” and building a “stronger, more equal, and safer society” — he should divest from Tasers.
Plus, compared to Blackrock’s other holdings, Taser stocks aren’t even that significant!
But if Blackrock does this, it could be the first domino we need to get other investment companies on board too. Send an email to BlackRock and share this widely!
If there’s one thing our community stands for, it’s peace and social justice. And one way we can help achieve that is by cutting off the flow of cash into the manufacturing of Tasers. So, let’s come together to make that happen, and help prevent more innocent Americans from being killed with these senseless tools.
Nancy, Carley, Jodie, Paki, Cody, Kelsey, and Yousef
To update your email subscription, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven't seen this, you're missing something spectacular:
On Saturday May 30th filmmaker and photographer David Jones of David Jones Media felt compelled to go out and serve the community in some way. He decided to use his art to try and explain the events that were currently impacting our lives. On day two, Sunday the 31st, he activated his dear friend author Kimberly Jones to tag along and conduct interviews. During a moment of downtime he captured these powerful words from her and felt the world couldn’t wait for the full length documentary, they needed to hear them now.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.—BAUAW
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
I didn't do nothing serious man
please I can't breathe
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
man can't breathe, my face
just get up
I can't breathe
I can't breathe sh*t
I can't move
my stomach hurt
my neck hurts
some water or something
I can't breathe officer
don't kill me
they gon' kill me man
come on man
I cannot breathe
I cannot breathe
they gon' kill me
they gon' kill me
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
please I can't breathe"
Then his eyes shut and the pleas stop. George Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after.
By ShakaboonaTrump Comic Satire—A Proposal
Write to Shakaboona:Smart Communications/PA DOCKerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE7826SCI RockviewP.O. Box 33028St. Petersburg, FL 33733
Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons
Veterans Join Call for a Global Ceasefire
www.couragetoresist.org ~ 510.488.3559 ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist
Oakland, CA 94610-2730
"The biggest block from having society in harmony with the universe is the belief in a lie that says it’s not realistic or ￼humanly possible."
"If Obama taught me anything it’s that it don’t matter who you vote for in this system. There’s nothing a politician can do that the next one can’t undo. You can’t vote away the ills of society people have to put our differences aside ban together and fight for the greater good, not vote for the lesser evil."
—Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
When faced with the opportunity to do good, I really think it’s the instinct of humanity to do so. It’s in our genetic memory from our earliest ancestors. ￼It’s the altered perception of the reality of what being human truly is that’s been indoctrinated ￼in to every generation for the last 2000 years or more that makes us believe that we are born sinners. I can’t get behind that one. We all struggle with certain things, but I really think ￼￼that all the “sinful” behavior is learned and wisdom and goodwill is innate at birth. ￼ —Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
Major Tillery, a prisoner at SCI Chester and a friend of Mumia, may have caught the coronavirus. Major is currently under lockdown at SCI Chester, where a coronavirus outbreak is currently taking place. Along with the other prisoners at SCI Chester, he urgently needs your help.
500 E. 4th St.
Chester, PA 19013
Telephone: (610) 490-5412
Email: email@example.com (Prison Superintendent). firstname.lastname@example.org (Superintendent's Assistant)Please also call the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at:Department of Corrections
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Telephone: (717) 737-4531
This telephone number is for SCI Camp Hill, which is the current number for DOC.
Reference Major's inmate number: AM 9786
Email: email@example.comDemand that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections immediately:
2) Disinfect all cells and common areas at SCI Chester, including sinks, toilets, eating areas and showers;
3) Provide PPE (personal protective equipment) for all inmates at SCI Chester;
4) Provide access to showers for all prisoners at SCI Chester, as a basic hygiene measure;
5) Provide yard access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
6) Provide phone and internet access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
7) Immediately release prisoners from SCI Chester, including Major Tillery, who already suffers from a compromised immune system, in order to save their lives from execution by COVID-19.
It has been reported that prisoners are now receiving shower access. However, please insist that prisoners be given shower access and that all common areas are disinfected.
The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
The company, which produced OxyContin, faces penalties of $8.3 billion. But families of those addicted are skeptical of the tangible benefits.
By Dan Levin, Oct. 21, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/us/oxycontin-victims-purdue-pharma.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
Emily Walden’s son T.J. was prescribed opioids throughout his childhood to help him recover from a series of operations. But he became addicted only once he started using OxyContin. He was a 21-year-old member of the Kentucky National Guard when he died of an opioid overdose four years later.
Ever since her son’s death, Ms. Walden has devoted herself to a singular mission: convincing the federal government to hold pharmaceutical executives personally responsible for their role in the nation’s opioid crisis. At the top of her list is the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, and the wealthy Sackler family that owns the company.
Yet Ms. Walden felt little relief when the Justice Department announced on Wednesday that Purdue would plead guilty to criminal charges as part of an $8.3 billion settlement, or that the Sacklers would pay $225 million in civil penalties. The company is in bankruptcy court, so it is unlikely to pay anything close to the negotiated settlement, and the Sacklers remain free.
“Purdue, once again, played the game and won,” said Ms. Walden, the chairwoman of The Fed Up! Coalition, an advocacy group.
More than 20 years after the introduction of OxyContin — and nearly 450,000 opioid overdose deaths later — Wednesday’s announcement brought little solace to the survivors of the opioid crisis and the families whose loved ones became its victims. Purdue agreed to plead guilty to felony charges of defrauding federal health agencies and violating anti-kickback laws.
The deal does not end thousands of lawsuits brought by states, cities and others against the most prominent defendant in the opioid epidemic.
In North Caldwell, N.J., Lora Goldwater recalled the agony of watching her son struggle with an opioid addiction that began with OxyContin in college, leading to heroin and seven stints in rehab before he became sober nearly four years ago.
“I’m lucky because my son did not die,” she said. “But between the ages of 18 and 25, he must have gone to at least half a dozen funerals, if not more, of people who did not make it to the other side.”
For Ms. Goldwater, the settlement is insufficient unless the Sacklers and Purdue executives face criminal charges, which prosecutors said could still happen. “They definitely engaged in criminal activity due to greed, insensitivity and because they felt they could get away with it.”
Jake Bradshaw was a 17-year-old high school student in rural Minford, Ohio, two decades ago when OxyContin pills began appearing at parties. Soon, what started as a weekend dalliance became an unrelenting dependence for Mr. Bradshaw and many of his classmates. They swallowed opiates before school, snorted painkillers in the bathrooms and crushed up pills with a baseball at the back of classrooms. “In a very short amount of time, 30 percent of my class was addicted to a hard opiate that’s pretty much like heroin,” he said. “And no one knew how to deal with it.”
Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in Ohio’s fight against opioids. It would lead the state with high rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Drug overdoses killed more Ohio residents in May than in any month in at least 14 years, according to state data, as drug abuse has increased amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m a huge believer that if we had not seen OxyContin in this area, we would not have a heroin and fentanyl epidemic,” said Mr. Bradshaw, who was addicted to opioids for more than 10 years. While he was heartened by the news that Purdue would plead guilty to criminal charges, he questioned the tangible benefits of the deal for devastated communities. “Hopefully, it’ll bring some kind of closure to the families whose kids got addicted to OxyContin and now are dead,” he said.
One of Mr. Bradshaw’s former classmates, Ralph Boggs, 38, recounted how a doctor prescribed OxyContin to him in the early 2000s, a few years after he was seriously injured in a car crash. Soon, he was buying OxyContin at pill mills in the Midwest and Florida, where doctors took cash and asked no questions. “It was like walking in and out of a Family Dollar,” he said.
He ended his addiction during a seven-year prison sentence, but Mr. Boggs could not escape the destruction wrought by the opioid crisis. In March, his 18-year-old son, Ethan, fatally overdosed on fentanyl, shortly after his high school in Portsmouth, Ohio, closed amid the pandemic.
Mr. Boggs dismissed the $8.6 billion settlement as a slap on the wrist for causing so much grief to so many people. “We can’t get our loved ones back,” he said. “To me that’s not worth anything. You can’t write a dollar amount for that.”
Critics say the agency has applied scant oversight and negligible penalties despite virus outbreaks at many plants in the spring.
By Noam Scheiber, Oct. 22, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/22/business/economy/osha-coronavirus-meat.html
When the pandemic hit in March, a JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo., began providing paid leave to workers at high risk of serious illness.
But last month, shortly after the plant was cited by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a serious virus-related safety violation and given two initial penalties totaling about $15,500, it brought the high-risk employees back to work.
“Now the company knows where the ceiling is,” said Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union local that represents the workers, about half a dozen of whom have died of Covid-19. “If other workers die, it’s not going to cost them that much.”
JBS USA said the return of the vulnerable workers in late September had nothing to do with the citation. “It was in response to the low number of Covid-19 cases at the facility for a sustained period of time,” a spokesman said, noting that the company began informing workers of the return in late July.
The JBS case reflects a skew in OSHA’s Covid-related citations, most of which it has announced since September: While the agency has announced initial penalties totaling over $1 million to dozens of health care facilities and nursing homes, it has announced fines for only two meatpacking plants for a total of less than $30,000. JBS and the owner of the second plant, Smithfield Foods, combined to take in tens of billions of dollars worldwide last year.
The meat industry has gotten the relatively light touch even as the virus has infected thousands of its workers — including more than 1,500 at the two facilities in question — and dozens have died.
“The number of plants with outbreaks was enormous around the country,” said David Michaels, an epidemiologist who headed the agency in the Obama administration and now teaches at the George Washington University School of Public Health. “But most OSHA offices haven’t yet issued any citations.”
The disparity in the way OSHA has treated health care and meatpacking is no accident. In April, the agency announced that it would largely avoid inspecting workplaces in person outside a small number of industries deemed most susceptible to coronavirus outbreaks, like health care, nursing homes and emergency response.
Experts concede that with limited resources for inspections, OSHA, part of the Labor Department, must set priorities according to risk. Some, like Dr. Michaels, argue that this makes it more important to issue a rule instructing employers on the steps they must take to keep workers safe. But the agency chose instead to issue a set of recommendations, like six feet of distance between workers on a meat-processing line.
A Labor Department spokeswoman said OSHA already had more general rules that “apply to protecting workers from the coronavirus.”
Around the time of the recommendations, President Trump signed an executive order declaring meatpacking plants “critical infrastructure” to help ensure that they remained open during the pandemic.
Some union officials representing health care workers praise OSHA for its enforcement work. “Given the times we live in, frankly I am thrilled that we’ve gotten OSHA to issue so many citations,” said Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, which represents about 14,000 nurses and other health workers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“We see improved health and safety in the workplace because of those citations,” she said. “That’s a win for us.”
But when it comes to meatpacking, many union officials and safety experts said there had largely been a regulatory vacuum, one they worry will lead to another round of outbreaks as cases spike again this fall.
“We’re worried that we’re going to see what happened happen again,” Ms. Cordova of the Colorado local said.
OSHA’s oversight of the meatpacking industry has been in the spotlight in a case filed by workers at a Maid-Rite plant in Dunmore, Pa., accusing the agency of lax regulation.
The suit contended that OSHA had done little for weeks after a worker filed a complaint in April describing insufficient precautions amid an outbreak at the plant, and after other workers filed a complaint in May asserting that they faced “imminent danger” because of the risk of infection there.
When OSHA finds that conditions pose an “imminent danger” to workers, it typically intervenes quickly and asks the employer to mitigate the risk. But in a hearing before a federal judge in late July, a local OSHA official testified that she did not consider the term to be appropriate in the Maid-Rite case.
The official said that because OSHA’s central office had designated all meatpacking facilities to be “medium risk,” the agency would not rush to conduct a formal inspection absent some “outlying” issue. The OSHA area director said that of nearly 300 Covid-related complaints his office had received at the time, it had not deemed any an imminent danger.
The agency inspected the Maid-Rite plant on July 9, months after the initial complaint, finding that many workers were spaced two to three feet apart with no barriers separating them. A Labor Department lawyer said at the hearing that OSHA was still studying the feasibility of requiring the company to space them farther apart.
A Maid-Rite spokeswoman said the company was following guidelines suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “as we have been since they were released.”
OSHA has also been accused by union officials and even company executives of having been slow to visit the two meatpacking facilities that it has cited so far.
Ms. Cordova sent the agency a letter on March 23 asking it to conduct a spot check of the JBS plant and several other workplaces that her union represents. In response, she said, a local OSHA official told her that his office did not have capacity for inspections.
The agency eventually visited the 3,000-worker plant on May 14, after the plant had closed amid an outbreak and then reopened, and several workers had died.
At Smithfield, whose plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., was the other one cited by OSHA, even the company professed frustration over the agency’s inspection constraints.
Keira Lombardo, a Smithfield executive vice president, said in a statement that the company had “repeatedly urged OSHA to commit the time and resources to visit our operations in March and April,” adding, “They did not do so.”
The Labor Department spokeswoman said the agency had six months to complete an investigation under the law.
B.J. Motley, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers local representing workers at the plant, said an OSHA inspection there in mid-May had been thorough, including several dozen interviews. But he said that the company had taken too long to add safety features, and that the penalty was insufficient.
According to Ms. Cordova and Mr. Motley, both plants have provided protective equipment like masks since the spring, but workers often still stand within a few feet of one another.
JBS and Smithfield said they were contesting their citations because the violations applied to conditions at their plants before OSHA had issued guidance. “It attempts to impose a standard that did not exist in March,” the JBS spokesman said.
The companies do not have to take the steps the agency recommended, such as distancing, while they contest the citations, but said their current standards largely exceeded OSHA’s guidance. Both companies said that they had installed barriers between many workers, taken air-purification measures and started virus screening and testing programs. They said that many of the safety measures were in place by late April, and that the rates of infection among their workers were low today.
The Labor Department has defended the penalties for JBS and Smithfield as the maximum allowed under the law for a single serious violation. While OSHA could have cited each plant for multiple instances of the same safety lapses, John L. Henshaw, who served as head of OSHA under President George W. Bush, said this practice was supposed to be reserved for employers who willfully failed to protect workers.
“Either the inspector or the area director or the solicitor’s office — somebody sort of looked at all the evidence and saw what maybe the company was trying to do and did, even though it wasn’t successful,” Mr. Henshaw said.
But Ann Rosenthal, who retired in 2018 as the Labor Department’s top OSHA lawyer after working under administrations of both parties, said the agency could have cited each facility for multiple violations — for different portions of the plant where there were hazards.
“They could well have said that hazards exist on the first floor, the second floor, etc., and could have gotten the penalty over $100,000,” Ms. Rosenthal said. “At least it would have looked like an effort to start to be serious.”
Other experts said the agency could fall further behind in protecting meatpacking workers in the coming months, pointing not just to rising infection rates nationally but to recent changes in the way OSHA regulates employers.
Dr. Michaels, the former OSHA head, cited the agency’s recent reinterpretation of an Obama-era rule that had required employers to report any hospitalization or amputation that resulted from a workplace incident.
Under the new interpretation, outlined last month, an employer is no longer required to report a Covid-related hospitalization within 24 hours of learning about it. Instead, the employer must report only hospitalizations that occur within 24 hours of the worker’s exposure to the virus on the job — timing that may be impossible to determine.
The spokeswoman for the Labor Department said that after initially considering the more expansive interpretation, it had concluded that only the narrower interpretation could be defended in court.
Dr. Michaels said that the regulation was critical for highlighting hot spots and problem areas, and that its weakening was deeply concerning.
“It’s a way to guarantee you have no reports,” he said of the change. “They’re telling employers: ‘Don’t worry. We’re not going to make you do anything.’”
Liberty doesn’t mean freedom to infect other people.
By Paul Krugman, Opinion Columnist, Oct. 22, 2020
Michael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock
A long time ago, in an America far, far away — actually just last spring — many conservatives dismissed Covid-19 as a New York problem. It’s true that in the first few months of the pandemic, the New York area, the port of entry for many infected visitors from Europe, was hit very hard. But the focus on New York also played into right-wing “American carnage” narratives about the evils of densely populated, diverse cities. Rural white states imagined themselves immune.
But New York eventually controlled its viral surge, in large part via widespread mask-wearing, and at this point the “anarchist jurisdiction” is one of the safest places in the country. Despite a worrying uptick in some neighborhoods, especially in religious communities that have been flouting rules on social distancing, New York City’s positivity rate — the fraction of tests showing presence of the coronavirus — is only a bit over 1 percent.
Even as New York contained its pandemic, however, the coronavirus surged out of control in other parts of the country. There was a deadly summer spike in much of the Sunbelt. And right now the virus is running wild in much of the Midwest; in particular, the most dangerous places in America may be the Dakotas.
Last weekend North Dakota, which is averaging more than 700 new coronavirus cases every day, was down to only 17 available I.C.U. beds. South Dakota now has a terrifying 35 percent positivity rate. Deaths tend to lag behind infections and hospitalizations, but more people are already dying daily in the Dakotas than in New York State, which has 10 times their combined population. And there’s every reason to fear that things will get worse as cold weather forces people indoors and Covid-19 interacts with the flu season.
But why does this keep happening? Why does America keep making the same mistakes?
Donald Trump’s disastrous leadership is, of course, an important factor. But I also blame Ayn Rand — or, more generally, libertarianism gone bad, a misunderstanding of what freedom is all about.
If you look at what Republican politicians are saying as the pandemic rips through their states, you see a lot of science denial. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, has gone full Trump — questioning the usefulness of masks and encouraging potential super-spreader events. (The Sturgis motorcycle rally, which drew almost a half-million bikers to her state, may have played a key role in setting off the viral surge.)
But you also see a lot of libertarian rhetoric — a lot of talk about “freedom” and “personal responsibility.” Even politicians willing to say that people should cover their faces and avoid indoor gatherings refuse to use their power to impose rules to that effect, insisting that it should be a matter of individual choice.
Which is nonsense.
Many things should be matters of individual choice. The government has no business dictating your cultural tastes, your faith or what you decide to do with other consenting adults.
But refusing to wear a face covering during a pandemic, or insisting on mingling indoors with large groups, isn’t like following the church of your choice. It’s more like dumping raw sewage into a reservoir that supplies other people’s drinking water.
Remarkably, many prominent figures still don’t seem to understand (or aren’t willing to understand) why we should be practicing social distancing. It’s not primarily about protecting ourselves — if it were, it would indeed be a personal choice. Instead, it’s about not endangering others. Wearing a mask may provide some protection to the wearer, but mostly it limits the chance that you’ll infect other people.
Or to put it another way, irresponsible behavior right now is essentially a form of pollution. The only difference is in the level at which behavior needs to be changed. For the most part, controlling pollution involves regulating institutions — limiting sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants, requiring cars to have catalytic converters. Individual choices — paper versus plastic, walking instead of driving — aren’t completely irrelevant, but they have only a marginal effect.
Controlling a pandemic, on the other hand, mainly requires that individuals change their behavior — covering their faces, refraining from hanging out in bars. But the principle is the same.
Now, I know that some people are enraged by any suggestion that they should bear some inconvenience to protect the common good. Indeed, for reasons I don’t fully understand, the rage seems most intense when the inconvenience is trivial. Case in point: with around 5,000 Americans dying each week from Covid-19, Donald Trump seems obsessed with the problems he apparently has with low-flush toilets.
But this is no time for people to indulge their petty obsessions. Trump may complain that “all you hear is Covid, Covid, Covid.” The fact, however, is that the current path of the pandemic is terrifying. And we desperately need leadership from politicians who will take it seriously.
The pandemic is causing inequality to soar, but increasingly the privileged are discovering that they can’t bend the world to their will.
By Ginia Bellafante, Oct. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/nyregion/nyc-homeless-hotel.html?surface=most-popular&fellback=false&req_id=546537136&algo=bandit-all-surfaces&imp_id=589763332&action=click&module=Most%20Popular&pgtype=Homepage
Homeless advocates painted slogans at the townhouse of the lawyer leading the charge to remove homeless men from a hotel on the Upper West Side. Credit...Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times
On Monday, a group of Upper West Siders who had organized against the placement of 235 homeless men in a residential hotel in their neighborhood received some unwelcome news. On the morning the men were supposed to move far downtown, a judge ruled that they could remain where they were. Relocating would be too disruptive and traumatic to people piecing their lives back together amid a pandemic
Until that point, it seemed the antagonists had civic power on their side; self-interest was coming up ahead as it so often does. Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to get the homeless men out of the complainants’ way — removing them from the Labradoodle serenity of the West 70s, where a vocal minority was maintaining that their lives had been upended by ugliness and disorder.
The idea that it would take at least a month before the homeless men could be relocated prompted rage in a closed Facebook group, where little effort was made to conceal the most unsettling prejudices.
As one woman, a corporate executive, theorized, the men probably sought to stay in the neighborhood, not in pursuit of some stability but rather because there are “lots of stores to shoplift from” and “unmanned vestibules they can vandalize.” In fact, the overall crime rate in the neighborhood over the past month is down from the same period last year; there have been no murders, no shootings.
The anger among some of those opposed to the temporary shelter wasn’t just that they hadn’t been given what they wanted but that they didn’t get what they paid for. In this instance, they had hired an expensive lawyer, Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani, to help them get the unhoused out of view. Now in their private social media postings they wondered where he was and what he had really done for them.
Clearly his contributions were sufficient enough to ignite the fury of protesters on the other side of the debate, who defaced Mr. Mastro’s East Side townhouse this week, marking it with red paint and profanities (“Randy Mastro You Can’t Displace Us”).
The fight over sheltering exemplifies just one of the ways the pandemic has deepened the class divide, while paradoxically revealing that old-style transactionalism no longer reliably yielded the same gifts. The privileged were now playing on a game board that had changed.
This bewildered entitlement is not confined to those hoping to buy their way to a version of the Upper West Side that felt like Westchester. It was echoed by parents in New York’s private-school world, as plans for reopening were announced in August. Many schools — because of teacher resistance, building constraints and so on — were not going to be able to offer live instruction five days a week.
This infuriated many parents, who believed that their high tuition fees ought to serve as a hedge against inconvenience during a global crisis. One email I came across from a father sent to the head of his children’s school began by calling the proposed schedule “a failure” and pointing out that for $50,000 a year, his exposure, essentially, should be minimized.
An excellent article in the new issue of the Atlantic that ignited the schadenfreude of parents from Bethesda, Md., to Newton, Mass., made similar observations about the diminishing returns on a particular kind of loaded investment. In the piece, the writer, Ruth S. Barrett, outlines the shifting fortunes of wealthy and maniacal parents who immerse their children in boutique sports — squash, fencing — purely as a means of lubricating the path to the Ivy League.
For a long time, a commitment to 10,000 hours, live-in coaches and sports psychologists on speed-dial could position a child toward that goal well enough. But the coronavirus killed sports at a time when a focus on equity was already causing universities to re-evaluate the patrician leanings of their athletic programs. The course was shutting down; the dream of Dartmouth was becoming the reality of Michigan State.
During the seven months the pandemic has had us by the scruff, millions of people have been propelled into crises of joblessness, grief, fear, faith, poverty, dislocation. But even as the rich have managed to accelerate their gains in a perpetual war against fairness, the victories have become more complicated. This has become especially obvious at the level of urban policy, where the disparity is the most pronounced.
If the world were not in such chaos at the moment, the fate of a luxury condominium building on West 66th Street would have surely gained much more attention. Last month, a New York State Supreme Court judge unexpectedly overruled the city’s decision to allow the construction of what would have become the tallest building on the Upper West Side. Extell, a major developer and birther of Billionaire’s Row, had planned to fill the tower with 198 feet of empty vertical space to create more apartments on higher floors, which command more money.
But the effect of what the judge equated to “putting a frankfurter in the middle of a hamburger” was “too brazen to be called a subterfuge.’’ Instead, he wrote, “the developer simply thumbed its nose at the rules.” (A few days earlier, the same judge, Arthur F. Engoron, ordered Eric Trump to sit for a deposition in an investigation of fraud into his family’s real estate business.)
For a brief time, the homeless men housed at the Lucerne, the residential hotel on the Upper West Side where they have been permitted to stay, were to be sent to a Radisson Hotel near Wall Street. There, too, some residents balked at the prospect of their arrival. At a community meeting a few weeks ago, one woman living in a 408-unit building on Pine Street, where the condominiums were designed by Armani/Casa, said that it was “inevitable” that congregating 235 men, some with substance-abuse and mental-health issues, would “increase violent events throughout the neighborhood.”
When it was determined that the men would remain at the Lucerne after all, it looked as if the residents of the financial district had “won.’’ But as it happened, other homeless men were soon going to be coming to the Radisson. And eventually, it would be made into a permanent shelter.
Accusing a women’s rights group of ties to Communist rebels, the general told an actress she could be killed if she associated with the organization.
By Jason Gutierrez, Oct. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/world/asia/philippines-liza-soberano-parlade.html?surface=most-popular&fellback=false&req_id=546537136&algo=bandit-all-surfaces&imp_id=881637982&action=click&module=Most%20Popular&pgtype=Homepage
MANILA — The 22-year-old actress’s voice broke last week as she talked about being threatened online with rape. She said she worried about the environment that her young nieces would grow up in, and called for creating “a better future for everyone.”
This week, a Philippine general said that unless she changed her ways, she could end up dead.
The general, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade — the de facto head of a military task force fighting a long-running Communist insurgency in the Philippines — directed his criticism not at the remarks made by the actress, Liza Soberano, but at the forum where she made them: an online discussion on the rights of women and girls organized by the youth wing of Gabriela, a women’s rights group that the military claims is tied to Communist guerrillas. (Gabriela denies the accusation.)
“Liza Soberano, there’s still a chance to abdicate that group,” General Parlade said on Facebook. Otherwise, he said, she would “suffer the same fate” as Josephine Ann Lapira, a young activist who was killed in a 2017 battle between the military and the Communist rebels, the New People’s Army.
The general’s comments led to an outcry from social media users, liberal politicians and the Commission on Human Rights, an independent government body.
“Coming from a high-ranking military official, such a statement is a form of suppression and restriction that serves to dissuade those who speak up for their beliefs and advocacies,” a member of the rights commission, Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, said on Friday.
A lawyer for Ms. Soberano, Jun Lim, said that the actress was “apolitical,” and accused General Parlade of “red-tagging” her — that is, accusing her of being a Communist. “Expressing her love and respect for women and children is her personal advocacy,” Mr. Lim said.
General Parlade denied implying that Ms. Soberano was a Communist, saying that he had meant only to warn her against associating with militants. He said he supported women’s rights.
But some of the general’s critics said his comments reflected a hostility toward women that is prevalent in President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.
In his Facebook remarks, General Parlade also warned another Filipina celebrity — Catriona Gray, who won the Miss Universe pageant in 2018 — against associating with left-leaning activist groups. And he accused Angel Locsin, an outspoken actress, of being involved with the rebels.
Ms. Gray, in particular, has been vocal about the government’s crackdown on human rights organizations and its passage of a contentious antiterrorism law that rights groups say was designed to stifle opposition voices.
“To Liza and Catriona: It is difficult and painful to be at the front lines fighting beside persons oppressed by a norm that advocates rape, murder and exploitation,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said by telephone.
“We will be monitoring him from now on,” Senator Hontiveros said of General Parlade. “He should not use his power as a general and threaten these women.”
Mr. Duterte, a self-confessed womanizer, has been repeatedly accused of misogyny. He once joked about the gang rape of an Australian missionary during a prison riot in the southern Philippines, saying that he should have been allowed to participate.
The New People’s Army, the armed wing of the country’s Communist Party, has been waging guerrilla warfare since 1969. Mr. Duterte, who calls himself a leftist and who once studied under the party’s founder, Jose Maria Sison, wooed the rebels to the negotiating table soon after taking office and had hoped to complete a peace deal before stepping down in 2022.
But the relationship soured, with the rebels and the military accusing each other of continuing to foment violence. Mr. Duterte scrapped the peace talks and said he would resume them only if Mr. Sison returned to the Philippines from self-imposed exile in the Netherlands.
Gabriela, the country’s most prominent women’s rights organization, has denied having ties to the Communist Party or the rebels. Arlene Brosas, a Philippine lawmaker who is a member of Gabriela, said the military was using a “rehashed script” to attack the group.
“Our 20 years of advancing women and children’s rights inside and outside of Congress cannot be smeared by their repeated lies,” she said.
Ms. Soberano is a popular film and television actress whose breakthrough came with “Forevermore,” a soap opera on the ABS-CBN network. On Friday, ABS-CBN issued statements in support of both Ms. Soberano and Ms. Locsin, who also appears on the network.
In the online discussion last week, Ms. Soberano became emotional as she talked about supportive messages she had received from women after filing a criminal complaint against someone alleged to have posted a rape threat against her on social media.
“I cried when they sent me those messages,” she said, “because I didn’t realize how many women were struggling to stand up for themselves.”
The change has occurred so slowly that at times I hardly noticed it.
By Brian Groh, Mr. Groh is a novelist, Oct. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/opinion/trump-country-2020-election.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — For 20 years, off and on, I’ve lived in this small, blue-collar town about 30 minutes west of Cincinnati. My grandparents, immigrants from Germany, bought my old farmhouse, on 15 acres, during World War II. I’ve always felt that this town embodies much of what I love about the Midwest: friendliness, a lack of pretension and a prevailing sense of decency among neighbors.
A few weeks ago, I met up with a good friend, an 84-year-old retiree named Frank, who lives nearby. He told me that he’d put up a “Biden-Harris” lawn sign, and within 36 hours it had been stolen. In response, his girlfriend taped another sign to the inside of their ranch home’s front window. Frank immediately took it down. “The chair I like to sit in is right there,” he explained. “The next time they come, I’m afraid it might be a brick, or a bullet.” Just a few years ago, I would have said that Frank was overreacting. Now I’m not so sure.
Over the past four years, my hometown has become radicalized. This is a loaded word, but it’s the only way to describe it.
As recently as 2008, I saw Bill Clinton speak at our community center, where the crowd was so large that people had to listen to him from loudspeakers in a nearby firehouse. The mood was electric. “People are broke at the end of every month,” he said. “This has to change.” He promised that with Democratic leadership, it would. An aggressive new energy policy would bring jobs, with higher incomes.
And this promise was very welcome. At the time, the best job I could find was at a call center, selling home security systems. But I felt hopeful. I stuck an Obama sign in my yard and a campaign bumper sticker on my old Corolla. Like a lot of my neighbors, I believed that Democrats would, in fact, improve the town’s fortunes, and on election night, Barack Obama carried the state.
But things didn’t improve. Not really. The latest census reports median household income in Lawrenceburg as $30,735, with a little over 32 percent of us in poverty. And in 2014, according to The New York Times, our small county (which is over 97 percent white) sent more people to prison than San Francisco. In January, our hospital cited a “higher number of uninsured patients” as a reason it needed to “right-size” its work force by laying off 31 employees and eliminating behavioral health services.
And there are darker omens. Last fall, my teenage nephew came running into the house, wide-eyed, saying he’d found a human skull in the woods. I followed him until, panting at the bottom of a ravine, I saw the skull trapped in a thicket of sticks and leaves, missing several of its front teeth. The police arrived, and for the rest of the night, I watched from my bedroom window as flashlights swept over the long grass, through the woods, until they were finally swallowed by darkness.
It was an overdose, an officer told me later, the victim most likely another casualty of the nation’s opioid epidemic. (In 2017, in this county, there were 80 opioid prescriptions for every 100 residents.) The young man seemed to have died higher up on the hill, where they found more of his remains. The rain must have washed his skull down the slope.
The skull felt like a portent, but also a turning point. Months later, I noticed a vendor at a roadside stand selling Trump flags. “Trump 2020: Keep America Great,” one read. Another read “Trump 2020: No More [Expletive].” It was more than half a year away from the election, and I remember thinking: Why flags? A flag was something people fought under, and for; something people carried to war. By the summer, another vendor popped up selling flags with even bolder slogans like “Trump 2020: [Expletive] Your Feelings,” “Liberty or Die,” “Make Liberals Cry Again.” The economy was in the dumps but the flag business was booming.
And not just Trump flags. In the past few months, I have seen three Confederate flags hoisted in neighbors’ yards, where previously I’d seen none. Just a few weeks ago, two masked men appeared outside our high school, holding a large KKK flag and fliers, apparently scouting for young recruits.
At times, all of this has felt like a horror movie, where it starts off happily enough — in a sun-drenched, idyllic farmhouse — and then the darkness slowly takes over. The change has occurred so slowly that at times, I hardly noticed it, until one day I barely recognized my hometown.
Last week, I drove down for a closer look at the nearest Trump stand, where alongside the flags hung Trump T-shirts. One read, “I’m a Deplorable.” And it reminded me of my grandparents, of how they felt while still in Germany: willing to work as hard as anyone but seeing no way to improve their circumstances. In my more charitable moments, I can see my neighbors’ xenophobia and racism and their Trump-loving thuggishness as symptoms of alienation from people who feel forsaken and disdained. This is, perhaps, the part of me that still feels deeply connected to where I live. But I’ve been appalled by the ugliness I’ve seen here this past year. And more often, in the dwindling autumn light, I find myself staring at my grandparents’ old farmhouse and wondering if it’s finally time to pack my bags.
Brian Groh (@BrianHGroh) is the author of the novel “Summer People.”
A squalid tent camp on the border is the result of President Trump’s unprecedented limits on asylum. Some people have waited in filthy conditions for more than a year to obtain refuge in the United States.
By Caitlin Dickerson, Oct. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/us/mexico-migrant-camp-asylum.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Children ran through the migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico, while it was being fumigated. Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times
MATAMOROS, Mexico — A butter yellow sun rose over the crowded tent camp across the river from Texas and a thick heat baked the rotten debris below, a mixture of broken toys, human waste and uneaten food swarming with flies.
Clothing and sheets hung from trees and dried stiff after being drenched and muddied in a hurricane the week before.
As residents emerged from the zipper-holes of their canvas homes that morning in August, some trudged with buckets in hand toward tanks of water for bathing and washing dishes. Others assembled in front of wash basins with arms full of children’s underwear and pajamas. They waited for the first warm meal of the day to arrive, though it often made them sick.
The members of this displaced community requested refuge in the United States but were sent back into Mexico, and told to wait. They came there after unique tragedies: violent assaults, oppressive extortions, murdered loved ones. They are bound together by the one thing they share in common — having nowhere else to go.
“Sometimes I feel like I can’t hold on anymore,” said Jaqueline Salgado, who fled to the camp from Southern Mexico, sitting outside her tent on a bucket as her children played in the dirt. “But when I remember everything I’ve been through, and how it was worse, I come back to the conclusion that I have to wait.”
Ms. Salgado is one of about 600 people stranded in a place that many Americans might have thought would never exist. It is effectively a refugee camp on the doorstep of the United States, one of several that have sprung up along the border for the first time in the country’s history.
After first cropping up in 2018, the encampment across the border from Brownsville, Texas, exploded to nearly 3,000 people the following year under a policy that has required at least 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for the entirety of their legal cases, which can take years.
Those who have not given up and returned home or had the means to move into shelters or apartments while they wait have been stuck outside ever since in this camp, or others like it that are now strung along the southwest border.
Many have been living in fraying tents for more than a year.
The Trump administration has said the “remain in Mexico” policy was essential to end exploitation of American immigration laws and alleviate overcrowding at Border Patrol facilities after nearly two million migrants crossed into the United States between 2017 and 2019.
The Mexican authorities have blamed the American government for the situation. But they have also declined to designate the outdoor areas as official refugee camps in collaboration with the United Nations, which could then have provided infrastructure for housing and sanitation.
“It has been the first time we have been in this situation,” Shant Dermegerditchian, director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ office in Monterrey, Mexico. “And we certainly don’t support this.”
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this week to review the policy after it was successfully challenged in the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case will not be resolved until after the election, so those living in the camp have months of waiting ahead, if not longer.
The camp drew attention during Thursday night’s presidential debate, when former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. noted, “This is the first president in the history of the United States of America that anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country,” he said. “They’re sitting in squalor on the other side of the river.”
The arrival of the coronavirus has made things much worse. Though only a few cases broke out at the camp, most of the American aid workers who entered regularly to distribute supplies stopped coming, hoping to avoid transporting the virus.
The Gulf Cartel, which traffics drugs across the border and is as powerful a force as local law enforcement, moved in to fill the void.
The gang charges tolls to camp residents who decide to swim across the river on their own and sometimes kidnaps them for ransom. Beatings and disappearances have also become more common — sometimes to protect women or children who are being abused, but other times because camp residents have violated the gang’s rules about when and where they are permitted to roam outside their tents.
Nine bodies have washed ashore on the banks of the Rio Grande near the camp in the last two months; the Mexican authorities said most of the deaths were a result of a rise in gang activity during the pandemic.
“I haven’t done anything, I haven’t stolen anything, and still I have to keep escaping. Why?” Ms. Salgado said that day in August.
She said she and her children were on the run from her abusive husband, who drank excessively and would beat them when he was upset, and because her brother had been kidnapped and killed. Just then, her 11-year-old son, Alexander, who seemed to have only vaguely been paying attention, put down his toys and started to heave.
“He is constantly nervous,” his mother said. “Every time we fought, his anxiety would make him sick and he would end up vomiting.”
Most children in the camp have not attended formal schooling since they left home. Parents agonize over whether they will be able to make up for the lost time. Some have become worried enough to launch their children across the river on the backs of smugglers, sending them alone on the last leg of their dangerous journey to the United States.
Those who cannot bear to make such a decision are often tormented by second-guessing.
“I was scared I would never see him again because he’s all I have,” said Carmen Vargas, clinging to the arm of her 13-year-old son, Cristopher, who has a mop of curly brown hair and is tall for his age. “But my son needs to go to school. He’s only 13 years old and practically he has lost two years already.”
Cristopher teared up listening to his mother describe the life they had left behind. She pulled out identification cards showing that she had been a municipal police officer in Honduras, but said her success became a liability when she put a powerful drug cartel member in jail in 2018. Within hours, the cartel announced a hit on Ms. Vargas. She and Cristopher fled, leaving behind the ornate wooden furniture she had saved up to buy and a refrigerator full of food.
With cupped palms, Ms. Vargas caught beads of sweat that dripped down her forehead as she spoke. She apologized for the stench; just outside her tent, insects crawled around a pile of feces that had washed up when the river flooded. “You have to withstand everything here: sun, water, cold, heat, we have it all.”
The camp residents are chronically sick with flulike viruses and stomach bugs that wend endlessly through the tents and with respiratory problems aggravated by the dusty air. Their skin is pockmarked from the throngs of mosquitoes that overwhelm the camp after it rains.
Most acknowledge that life on the other side of the border would hardly be charmed — especially if they lost their asylum cases and had to live in the shadows.
“Without papers is it still better to be in the U.S. rather than here? Yes, it’s a thousand times better,” said Lucia Gomez, from Guerrero, Mexico, as she picked up clothing and toys that had been scattered outside their tent by hurricane winds. “They might find you, detain you and deport you,” she said. “But if you manage to avoid them, you will be able to put food on the table.”
In her arms, she held her youngest child, an 8-month-old boy named Yahir, whose back was covered in a bumpy heat rash. Her son William, 16, plopped cherries into his mouth from a plate that was covered in flies.
Ms. Gomez said her family had made a run for the camp from Southern Mexico after their home was ransacked and her husband and father-in-law were shot to death. “A man came in and shouted, ‘Put your hands up!’” her 8-year-old son Johan chimed in, holding his arms up as if he were holding an imaginary gun.
“That is why we wait,” she said. “We try to get through this unworthy life. And we try to resist for our children’s sake.”
Volunteer groups bought the laundry basins and water tanks, as well as hand-washing stations and a row of concrete showers that, after months of laying dry in the middle of the camp, were recently connected to a water source.
But their efforts have often felt futile. Since the camp appeared, the invisible wall of policies blocking its inhabitants from being allowed into the United States has only grown taller and more fortified.
Some have found ways to improvise a modicum of comfort. Antonia Maldonado, 41, from Honduras, stood in a kitchen she had cobbled together under tattered blue tarps suspended from trees. She placed raw chicken onto a grate over an open flame, using a scavenged piece of wood resting on two stacks of upside-down buckets as a countertop.
She said she had been looking toward the election for hope that a new administration might ease some of the restrictions put into place by President Trump.
“Not a leaf gets into that country without his permission,” Ms. Maldonado said, adding, “I just want to live with dignity. I’m not asking for riches.”
Some parents pinch pesos to buy decorations and treats from supermarket reject bins for their children’s birthdays. But many walk around the camp with bloodshot eyes, constantly on the brink of tears, or in a zombielike state, as if they have shut down emotionally.
When Rodrigo Castro de la Parra arrived in Matamoros, he alternated between emotional extremes. In the span of a year, he had gone from being a shy high school student who liked to stay up late at night and draw flowers in his notebook to the head of his entire family. That was after the 18th Street Gang, the most brutal and powerful gang in Guatemala, murdered his mother and sister — signaling a grudge that meant he and the rest of his relatives could be next on its kill list.
“I can’t sleep,” he said one afternoon, sitting outside the tents where he lived with his wife, daughter, grandmother, orphaned niece and his 16-year-old-sister, who had given birth after arriving at the camp. “Sometimes I feel hysterical.” He said he worried that someone else in his family could be killed.
But only two weeks later, it was Mr. Castro de la Parra’s body that washed out of the river at one edge of the camp. His death was a mystery. The police investigated it as a possible homicide but ultimately determined that he had drowned.
His wife, Cinthia, was still in shock when she took a bus back to Guatemala City for the repatriation of her husband’s body. She also hoped to replace her travel documents that had been soaked in his pants when he died.
She would need them when she went back with their 2-year-old to try again.
The pandemic death toll could be lowered by next spring if more Americans wear masks, a new analysis finds.
By Apoorva Mandavilli, Oct. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/health/covid-deaths.html?surface=home-discovery-vi-prg&fellback=false&req_id=443157487&algo=identity&imp_id=123612967&action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage
Universal mask use could prevent nearly 130,000 deaths from Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in the United States through next spring, scientists reported on Friday.
The findings follow an assertion by Dr. Scott W. Atlas, the president’s science adviser, that masks are ineffective, in a tweet later taken down by Twitter for spreading misinformation. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance recommending mask use in public settings, including public transportation.
A surge of infections, driven in part by neglect of safety precautions, has begun to overwhelm hospitals in much of the nation. More than 75,000 new cases were reported in the United States on Thursday, the second-highest daily total nationwide since the pandemic began. Eight states set single-day case records.
These numbers are likely to continue through the fall and winter, with a steady rise in cases and deaths until January and staying high after that point, said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and lead author of the report.
“We strongly believe we are heading into a pretty grim winter season,” Dr. Murray said.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, also offered a rough estimate of the pandemic’s toll in the United States: perhaps 500,000 deaths by March 2021, even with social distancing mandates reinstated in most states.
Other experts cautioned that, as with any model, the new estimates are based on many assumptions and should not be seen as predictions.
“It’s not a prediction or forecast, because we can will this number out of existence,” said Shweta Bansal, an infectious disease modeler at Georgetown University who was not involved in the new work.
Instead, she said, the model should be seen as a “sophisticated thought experiment” whose conclusions can significantly change if people alter their behavior.
“I’d like for people to see this study as a call to action, sort of a wake-up call, especially for those individuals who are unconvinced by the devastation that this pandemic is causing,” she said.
Epidemiological models that try to predict trends far into the future, as the new one does, are particularly prone to flaws “given how dynamic the situation is, and how quickly things can change,” added Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease modeler at the University of Toronto.
Still, she and others said, the numbers seem reasonable as a rough estimate of the toll by March 2021 if current trends continue.
Dr. Murray and his colleagues analyzed the number of cases, testing rates, mask use and cellphone data to estimate people’s movements from the first recorded case in each state through Sept. 21. They then estimated the death toll until March 2021 for each state, with or without mandates for social distancing and mask use.
If many states continue to roll back the mandates in place, the team found, the number of deaths by Feb. 28 could top one million, with one-third occurring in California, Florida and Pennsylvania.
More plausibly, states might reinstate distancing mandates when daily deaths reach a threshold of eight deaths per million. That would result in 511,373 deaths by the end of February 2021, according to the model.
Other models don’t look as far into the future or haven’t taken seasonality into account, and have underestimated the number of deaths that could result, Dr. Murray said.
Such models “feed the not very science-based views that are circulating out there that the epidemic is over, or the worst is behind us,” he said. “And that’s a pretty risky strategy.”
But Dr. Tuite said she was unsure whether even accounting for seasonality, deaths would peak in the spring, as the model estimates. Dr. Murray’s model does not take into account the treatments available now for people who are hospitalized, she added.
For example, deaths among hospitalized patients have dropped to 7.6 percent from 25.6 percent in the spring, according to one study.
The new research rests on other flawed assumptions, Dr. Bansal said. The model offers estimates for individual states but does not account for age- or location-based variations within states, and the figures are based on limited testing and death data from the early part of the pandemic.
Because of these and other assumptions, the estimated number of deaths is at best an approximation. Still, the figure underscores the need for individual and population-wide precautions.
Dr. Murray and his colleagues showed that mask use, in particular, has a considerable impact, cutting down the risk of infection at both an individual and population level by about half.
As of Sept. 20, just under half of Americans reported that they always wear a mask. But regular mask use by 95 percent of the population would save 129,574 lives, according to the new analysis. Regular mask use by just 85 percent of Americans could prevent 95,814 deaths by March 2021, possibly forestalling restrictive lockdowns, Dr. Murray said.
“Increasing mask use is one of the best strategies that we have right now to delay the imposition of social distancing mandates and all the economic effects of that, and save lives,” he said.
Mask mandates and penalties for not wearing a mask can raise the numbers of people wearing the face coverings, he suggested.
The mask estimates are also likely to be rough approximations, but even so, Dr. Tuite said, “the qualitative finding is really important, which is that it has an impact, and an impact in a way that’s far less disruptive than lockdowns or other more restrictive types of interventions.”
Masks are an effective and inexpensive tool to stem the spread of the virus and yet have unfortunately become politicized, like much else in the pandemic, said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University in Atlanta.
“If you wear a mask, you’re a Democrat,” he said. “If you don’t wear a mask, you are a Republican. And I think that’s what’s totally wrong.”
“The fact that we continue making masks such a political issue is really upsetting,” he added, “because quite frankly, I don’t want to see people die.”
Jordan Woll, October 23, 2020https://www.liberationnews.org/trump-and-biden-agree-u-s-empire-should-reign-supreme/
The Party for Socialism and Liberation is running Gloria La Riva for president as an alternative to the two parties of war and capitalism
The final presidential debate of the 2020 campaign took place last night. While most of the time was taken up by vapid sloganeering or demagoguery, at least one concrete conclusion can be drawn from the event: on matters of war and empire, Donald Trump and Joe Biden fundamentally agree.
The two candidates argued about who has been more of a friend to Ukraine, which has been ruled by right wing governments riddled with overt neo-Nazis since the 2014 U.S.-backed overthrow of the country’s corrupt but democratically-elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Biden was tasked to be something of a colonial governor of Ukraine for a time after the overthrow of Yanukovych, overseeing the transfer of power during his tenure as Vice President to Barack Obama.
Trump on the other hand boasted about how he has equipped the Ukrainian military — where open fascists hold particular sway — with “tank-buster” weapons which Biden had been unwilling to provide himself. These weapons, ostensibly for defense against some future Russian aggression, are more likely to be used against the anti-government Ukrainians who took up arms in the country’s east in response to the 2014 right-wing putsch.
Genuflecting to the Pentagon’s “great power competition” doctrine of preparation for world war, Trump was swift to point out the severe sanctions he has imposed on Russia and the fact that he has convinced many NATO allies to contribute billions of dollars they would rather not have in order to “guard against Russia.” Trump has also scrapped important arms control treaties with Russia, increasing the likelihood that the nuclear arsenal which the Obama administration previously decided to “modernize” and expand will actually be used.
For his part, Biden pointedly reiterated the debunked claim that Russian president Putin has personally put bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, as if Afghans need a monetary incentive to resist the U.S. occupation of their country. The Democrat cryptically warned that Russia would not want to see Joe Biden as president “because they know I know them, and they know me.”
China has been the primary target of renewed Cold War rhetoric by the ruling class of the United States and it was another popular punching bag for the two candidates. While Trump mostly focused on blaming China for COVID-19 and bragging about the supposed successes of his trade war, Biden reminded viewers that during his term as Vice President, B52 and B1 bombers were sent on missions to fly through China’s Air Defense Identification Zone. Biden explained that these dangerous U.S. incursions into areas surrounding China are examples of how he will make China “play by the rules.”
On the issue of peace in Korea, Biden managed to position himself to the right of Trump. Objecting to Trump’s position that his negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have helped ensure peace, and that it is desirable to avoid war, Biden argued that Trump “legitimized North Korea”. Biden bragged about how the Obama administration engaged in a military buildup on the Korean peninsula, called Kim Jong-un a “thug” and — most ridiculously — compared Kim to Hitler.
While there are some contrasts in politics and style between the two, 2020’s final presidential debate demonstrated clearly that the political parties of the United States ruling class are united in their aggression toward China, Russia and any other entity that stands in the way of the rule of U.S. banks and corporations over the whole world.
Protesters clashed with the police hours after the death of Walter Wallace Jr. The mayor said the shooting raised “difficult questions that must be answered.”
By Azi Paybarah, Oct. 27, 2020
The Philadelphia police on Monday fatally shot a 27-year-old Black man who they said was armed with a knife, touching off protests and violent clashes. Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer, via Associated Press
The Philadelphia police on Monday fatally shot a 27-year-old Black man who they said was armed with a knife, touching off protests and violent clashes hours later.
Mayor Jim Kenney said the shooting, which was partially captured on video by a bystander, raised “difficult questions that must be answered,” and the police commissioner promised an investigation.
Late Monday night, protesters marched through West Philadelphia, and video posted on social media appeared to show the police clashing with demonstrators. A police car was burned, and four officers were reported to have been hospitalized after being struck by bricks. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that another officer was hit by a truck.
The shooting took place around 4 p.m., as the police responded to a report of a man armed with a knife. Video that was posted on social media shows the man, later identified by a City Council member as Walter Wallace Jr., walking into the street as people yell and two police officers aim their guns at him.
At one point, Mr. Wallace, who is several feet away from the officers in the video, walks toward them as they quickly move backward. The camera points down toward the ground as about a dozen shots are heard.
The camera quickly moves up as Mr. Wallace falls to the ground, and people rush toward him, including the officers. One woman who is screaming appears to throw something at one of the officers.
“Bro, they just killed him in front of me,” a man can be heard saying. “Y’all ain’t have to give him that many shots.”
Sgt. Eric Gripp, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, told The Inquirer that officers had ordered Mr. Wallace to drop the knife and that he had “advanced toward the officers.” After the officers shot Mr. Wallace, one of them drove him to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, he said.
The Police Department did not respond to email messages seeking comment.
Mr. Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., said his son had struggled with mental health issues, and was on medication, The Inquirer reported. “Why didn’t they use a Taser?” he asked. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation.”
Mr. Kenney, the mayor, said he had watched “the video of this tragic incident” and spoken with Mr. Wallace’s family “to hear their concerns firsthand, and to answer their questions to the extent that I am able.”
The city’s police commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, said in a statement, “I recognize that the video of the incident raises many questions.” She added, “I will be leaning on what the investigation gleans to answer the many unanswered questions that exist.”
In a statement, the council member who identified Mr. Wallace, Jamie Gauthier, said she wanted the police to “immediately” release the officers’ body camera video from the incident. “The public deserves a full, unvarnished accounting of what took place today,” she said.
Ms. Gauthier also criticized the officers for firing their weapons. “Had these officers employed de-escalation techniques and nonlethal weapons rather than making the split-second decision to fire their guns, this young man might still have his life tonight,” she said.
The Philadelphia district attorney, Larry Krasner, said his office was looking into the shooting and urged the public to be patient.
“We intend to go where the facts and law lead us and to do so carefully, without rushing to judgment and without bias of any kind,” he said in a statement. “In the hours and days following this shooting, we ask Philadelphians to come together to uphold people’s freedom to express themselves peacefully and to reject violence of any kind.”
At around 9:30 p.m., protesters were marching through the streets of West Philadelphia, with a parade of vehicles honking behind them. Just after 11 p.m., video posted on Twitter showed police officers using batons as they clashed with a large group of people on a residential street. Taryn Naundorff, 21, who recorded the video, said the police “started forcefully pushing back the crowd and beating anyone who wouldn’t back up.”
At least one police car was set on fire. A protest outside the 18th District Police Station turned violent, with four officers being hit with bricks and being taken to the hospital, according to a local NBC television station.
There have been widespread demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice across the country since May, when George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by the police in Minneapolis.
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.”
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