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Bonnie Weinstein, Moderator
Colin Kaepernick Supports Mumia!
This message is from: the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
21 November 2020
Colin Kaepernick is a professional football quarter-back with a sterling record, but he is now an unemployed free agent. This could not be a more important indication of systemic racism in the US, nor a greater condemnation of the corporate worms that own football in this country.
In the 49ers' third preseason game in 2016 Kaepernick sat during the playing of the US National anthem prior to the game, as a protest against police brutality and systematic oppression of blacks in this country. Throughout the regular season, Kaepernick continued his protest by kneeling during the anthem. During a post-game interview that year, Kaepernick explained his position stating, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Colin Kaepernick Speaks Out...and Gets Opposition
Since then, Kaepernick has continued his outrage against ongoing racist police murders of black people, such as that of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among many others. This has, of course, not come without opposition. President Trump mobilized his racist base with comments such as this: NFL owners should "fire" players who protest during the national anthem.
Kaepernick has been unemployed in professional football since the end of the 2016 season.
Kaepernick Supports Mumia Abu-Jamal
Now, Colin Kaepernick has come out with a statement in defense of one of the most important political prisoners in recent US history: Mumia Abu-Jamal. We say this not because other political prisoners are not important--they are--but because prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier are specifically singled out as enemies of the state...of the US government specifically.
Mumia, falsely accused of killing a Philadelphia cop in 1981, and Peltier, also falsely accused, in his case of killing federal agents at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975, are both the victims of frame-ups that extend through all levels from the US Justice Department, the FBI, and to national, state and local politicians and officials. These cases are prime examples of a racist and class-divided society that is corrupt every inch of the way from top to bottom.
An Important Time for Prisoners
Colin Kaepernick’s statement on former Black Panther and MOVE supporter Mumia Abu-Jamal is an accurate and riveting summary of the false case made against this determined anti-racist fighter, who continues his insightful commentaries from behind bars in his 39th year of incarceration for a crime he did not commit.
This statement comes at an important time for all prisoners in the US, particularly those in federal and state prisons, because of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Prisoners have been denied protective measures, or sent to solitary confinement, or arbitrarily moved to other prisons resulting in the spread of infections in those prisons.
The Labor Action Committee To free Mumia Abu-Jamal initiated several protests at San Quentin Prison beginning in May 2020. This work is now being carried forward by the No Justice Under Capitalism Coalition (NJUC) https://www.facebook.com/NoJusticeUnderCapitalism/Colin Kaepernick’s Statement on Mumia:Free Mumia (6:52) Colin Kaepernick
When I was invited to speak on behalf of Mumia, one of the first things that came to mind was how long he's been in prison. How many years of his life had been stolen away from him, his community, and his loved ones. He's been incarcerated for 38 years. Mumia has been in prison longer than I've been alive.
When I first spoke with Mumia on the phone, I did very little talking. I just listened. Hearing him speak was a reminder of why we must continue to fight. Earlier this year, The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner issued a statement, noting that prolonged solitary confinement, the precise type often used in the United States, amounts to psychological torture. Mumia Abu-Jamal has spent roughly 30 out of his 38 years in solitary confinement.
In his book Live From Death Row, Mumia wrote that prison is a second by second assault on the soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self, an oppressive steel and brick umbrella that transforms seconds into hours, and hours into days. He has had to endure this second-by-second assault on his soul for 38 years.
He had no record before he was arrested and framed for the death of a Philadelphia police officer. Since 1981, Mumia has maintained his innocence. His story has not changed. Mumia was shot, brutalized, arrested, and chained to a hospital bed. The first police officer assigned to him wrote in a report that the “Negro male made no comment” as cited in Philly Mag. Yet 64 days into the investigation, another officer testified that Mumia had confessed to the killing. Mumia’s story has not changed, but we're talking about the same Philadelphia Police Department whose behavior “shocks the conscience,” according to a 1979 DOJ report. Behaviors like shooting nonviolent suspects, abusing handcuffed prisoners, and tampering with evidence.
It should therefore come as little surprise that, according to Dr. Johanna Fernandez, over one third of the 35 officers involved in Mumia's case, were subsequently convicted of rank corruption, extortion, and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions in unrelated cases. This is the same Philadelphia Police Department where officers ran racial profiling sweeps, like Operation Cold Turkey in March, 1985, targeting Black and Brown folks; and bombed the MOVE house in May of that year, killing 11 people, including five children and destroying 61 homes.
The same Philadelphia police department, whose officers eight days before the 2020 presidential election, shot Walter Wallace Jr. dead in the streets in front of his crying mother. The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police has unrelentingly campaigned for Mumia’s execution. During their August, 1999, national meeting, a spokesperson for the organization stated that they will not rest until Abu-Jamal burns in hell. The former Philadelphia president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Richard Castello, went as far as to say that if you disagree with their views of Mumia, you can join him in the electric chair and that they will make it an electric couch.
The trial judge on Mumia's case in 1981, Albert Sabo was a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police. Court reporter Terry Maurer Carter even heard Judge Sabo telling a colleague “I'm going to help them fry the nigger.”
Found in December, 2018, in an inaccessible storage room of the DA's office, six boxes of documents for Mumia's case reveal previously undisclosed and highly significant evidence showing that Mumia’s trial was tainted by a failure to disclose material evidence in violation of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. In November, 2019, the Fraternal Order of Police filed a King's Bench Petition asking the court to allow the state attorney general, not the Philadelphia DA's office, to handle the upcoming appeals.
As the FOP president John McNesby said just last year, “Mumia should remain in prison for the rest of his life.” And a King's Bench order provides the legal angle for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to uphold Judge Sabo’s original wish, which was for Mumia ultimately to die in prison.
Today we're living through a moment where it's acceptable to paint “end racism now” in front of the Philadelphia Police Department’s 26th district headquarters, and yet a political prisoner who has since the age of 14 dedicated his life to fighting against racism, continues to be caged and lives his life on a slow death row. We're in the midst of a movement that says Black Lives Matter. And if that's truly the case, then it means that Mumia’s life and legacy must matter. And the causes that he sacrifices life and freedom for must matter as well.
Through all of the torture Mumia has suffered over the past 38 years, his principles have never wavered. These principles have manifested themselves in his writing countless books while incarcerated, in his successful radio show, and the time and energy he has poured into his mentorship of younger incarcerated folks and the continued concern for the people suffering outside of the walls. Even while living in the hells of the prison system, Mumia still fights for our human rights. We must continue to fight for him and his human rights.
Well, Mumia is 66 years old. He is a grandfather. He is an elder with ailments. He is a human being that deserves to be free.
MOVE Family Says: Free Mumia!
MOVE family statement regarding the “apology” by Philadelphia officials for the 1985 bombing of their home.
December 7, 2020—ONA MOVE Everybody!
This is a statement from the MOVE family to let y’all know that the MOVE family ain’t interested in no apology from any officials in Philadelphia for the 1985 bombing of our family, causing the murder of 11 of our MOVE family members (five of our children and six of our adult sisters and brothers.) If city officials are sincere about rectifying the debacle of 1985, they would release our brother, Mumia Abu-Jamal immediately! They can’t give us back our 11 family members they murdered in 1985, but they can give us back our brother, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been in prison 39 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and everybody knows this—including the mouthpiece for the Fraternal Order of Police—Maureen Faulkner. MOVE is saying that if Philadelphia officials think offering an apology is the answer, they should be offering apologies to the families of Walter Wallace, Winston Hood, William Green and the families of the countless other victims of police brutality and murder in the city of so call “Brotherly Love.”
We’re saying an apology without action is meaningless!
Release Mumia Abu-Jamal! Long Live John Africa!—The MOVE Family
This message from the No Justice Under Capitalism Coalition,
Forwarded by the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2020
For information call: Courtney Morris 510-335-9384 or Richard Tan 650-996-7888
Facebook / Instagram: @NoJustice Under Capitalism
San Quentin Prison Staff Forcing Prisoners to
Accept Liability for Their Own Deaths from COVID-19
SAN QUENTIN, CA – Prisoners at San Quentin State Prison are reporting that, over the past week, San Quentin medical staff have been pressuring prisoners to sign waiver forms accepting legal responsibility for their own deaths from COVID-19.
That, despite more than 10 months of continuous neglect and Eighth Amendment violations by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) which has, so far, killed 28 prisoners at the prison.
Multiple prisoners at San Quentin tell the same story. From December 2 – 4, they were taken to the medical unit and pressured by a nurse to accept an unsafe transfer to another California prison.
If they refused the transfer, the nurse would then pressure the prisoner to sign a waiver form. The form (attached) states, in part: “I agree to hold the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the staff of the medical department and the institution free of any responsibility for injury or complications that may result from my refusal [of the transfer].”
The prisoner is then pressured to initial sentences such as:
“I understand that due to my age, I am at high risk for developing serious complications [from COVID-19] . . .”
“I understand that I have one or more medical conditions that makes me high risk for developing serious complications [from COVID-19] . . .”
“I understand that COVID-19 could lead to serious complications such as lengthy hospitalizations or even death.”
“I understand that living in places where individuals are in close contact and physical distancing is difficult to follow, such as prison dormitory [sic], will increases [sic] my risk of being infected by COVID-19.”
Coercing prisoners to accept legal liability for their own deaths from COVID-19 is truly bizarre, given San Quentin’s documented, 10-month-long history of continuous indifference to prisoners’ lives – since the COVID-19 pandemic began, guards at San Quentin and throughout the California prison system have not worn masks, and moved freely between tiers.
A recent (October 2020) report by the California Office of the Inspector General states that prison staff frequently do not wear masks, and that there has only been one disciplinary action against a staff person, during the entire pandemic, at San Quentin for not wearing a mask.
The waiver form also demands that prisoners accept liability for being medically vulnerable and elderly. In fact, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported (December 6, 2020), CDCR has consistently refused to release at-risk elderly and immunocompromised prisoners, completely ignoring more than 5,200 out of the 6,500 at-risk prisoners in California prisons.
Overcrowding at San Quentin is also not the fault of individual prisoners.
In the gym at San Quentin, CDCR claimed in June 2020 that prisoners were six feet apart when housed in bunk beds. In actuality, prisoners were only six feet apart if they slept head to toe and the distance was measured diagonally.
Following months of public pressure and protest, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco issued a decision, In re Ivan Von Staich (2020) 56 Cal.App.5th 53, holding that CDCR had violated the Eighth Amendment and ordering San Quentin to reduce its population by 50 percent - the minimum amount required for social distancing to take place.
Instead of accepting responsibility for their criminal neglect, Gov. Gavin Newsom and leaders at CDCR are now attempting to shift responsibility for their actions onto the backs of the victims of the state’s own incompetence and malfeasance.
No Justice Under Capitalism (NJUC) is a coalition working on behalf of prisoners throughout California. NJUC has organized protests in front of San Quentin since May 2020, along with other actions at prisons across the state, in front of CDCR’s offices in Sacramento, and in front of Governor Newsom’s and CDCR Secretary Diaz’s homes.
NJUC calls for immediate mass releases of prisoners as the only safe response to the COVID-19 crisis in California prisons, prioritizing elderly and immunocompromised prisoners, as well as prisoners whose sentences are almost over.
SIGN PETITION: Don't reincarcerate Jalil Muntaquim
Support for Jalil Muntaqim petition from the Movement for Black Lives:
Please click the below link to sign & share widely.Support for Jalil MuntaqimSTATEMENT OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR JALIL MUNTAQIM We the undersigned fully support the New York State Parole Board’s decision to release Jalil Muntaqim. The parole process is meant to evaluate a person for release based on who they are today, not to extend one’s sentence into perpetuity. Mr. Muntaqim has been incarcerated since 1971, when he was 19 years old. During his 49 years in prison, Mr. Muntaqim has led education/mentorship programs for prisoners, earned several educational degrees and mentored many younger incarcerated men. He has been commended for preventing prisoner violence and promoting safety. As a result, hundreds of organizations and individuals have stepped forward to support his release including community and faith leaders, family members, and the NY State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. The Board finally acted honorably in following the guidelines put forth by New York State Executive Law 259-(i). A 2011, bi-partisan amendment to the law passed by Republican and Democratic lawmakers makes it clear that an individual’s readiness for successful re-entry should take priority in the decision to grant release. Upon his release, Mr. Muntaqim was warmly welcomed by a large, diverse set of community leaders and residents of Rochester, New York. He reported to his parole officers and followed instructions to sign up for various social services required by all senior citizens in his position. He was handed a large stack of paperwork including a voter registration form. Muntaqim, eager to follow instructions, appropriately filled out and signed everything required of him. Now, the Rochester District Attorney is attempting to reincarcerate an elder recovering from COVID-19 because he filled out a form as instructed. We are statewide and national organizations, community and faith leaders, elected officials, civil rights organizations, public defenders, and residents of the Rochester area. We pledge our continuing support for Mr. Muntaqim and our assistance in facilitating his reintegration into society. We vehemently oppose any efforts to remove him from our community and/or place him back in prison.Please click the below link to sign & share widely.Charlie HintonNo one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side
Drop the Charges Against Jalil Muntaqim
By David Andreatta - December 7, 2020https://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/drop-the-charges-against-jalil-muntaqim/Content?oid=12588206
Sandra Doorley, the Monroe County district attorney, made a bad decision in October, when she charged Bottom with felonies related to him illegally registering to vote. Continuing the prosecution will only make it worse.
Not that Bottom, who lives in Brighton under the name he assumed in prison, Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, didn’t attempt to register to vote. He did. He filled out the paperwork on Oct. 8, a day after he was released from prison on parole.
The problem with his timing was that parolees in New York are allowed to vote only upon receiving a conditional pardon from the governor that restores their voting rights — and Muntaqim hadn’t received that pardon.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued such pardons as a matter of course on a monthly basis since 2018, when he signed an executive order directing the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to submit to the governor each month a list of every felon newly eligible for parole, with each name to be “given consideration for a conditional pardon that will restore voting rights.”
Anyone on the list would be eligible for a pardon as long as they weren’t flagged for any specific concern. Most parolees receive their pardon within four to six weeks of their release. The pardon doesn’t expunge their record or restore other rights stripped from them, such as the right to own a gun.
Cuomo denied Muntaqim a pardon when his name came up for consideration in November, spokespeople for the governor and the Department of Corrections said.
By then, Muntaqim had already been arraigned on felony charges of tampering with public records and offering a false instrument for filing, which carry maximum penalties of seven years and four years in prison, respectively. He is scheduled to appear next in Brighton Town Court on Dec. 14.
If convicted, Muntaqim will likely return to prison and die there. He is 69 years old.
Not that Muntaqim’s fate matters much to a lot of people.
The concept of disenfranchising felons dates to colonial days, when certain criminals were stripped of rights in a practice known as civil death. Later Americans applied their own uniquely racist twist to the practice after the Civil War, when many states used it to deprive Black men of the vote they had recently gained.
Today, the impact of these laws still falls disproportionately on poor people of color.
The Supreme Court interprets the Constitution in such a way that upholds these restrictions, which are a confusing patchwork of laws that vary by state.
Forty-eight states prohibit current inmates from voting and 30 keep parolees from the polls, according to the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group for criminal justice reform. Indeed, if Muntaqim resided in 20 other states, he wouldn’t be in this predicament.
“The laws are different from state to state, they’re very confusing, and the penalties for these offenses are extreme and unconscionable,” Nicole Porter, the director of advocacy at the Sentencing Project, said. “I don’t know how these prosecutors sleep at night.”
A national movement to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people is gaining steam, though.
Advocates say restoring voting rights to former felons helps them shed the stigma of criminal conviction and empowers them to be responsible citizens with a voice in their community.
But many conservative groups oppose the movement. They point out that supporters often make no mention of restoring other rights, such as the right to own a gun, suggesting that the push is really just about getting the votes of felons.
“You lose many other rights besides your right to vote when you are convicted of a felony,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that tracks voting prosecutions. “Yet many of those moving for immediate restoration of the ability to vote when a felon steps out of prison don’t seem very concerned about restoring those rights.”
They have a point. The movement to expand access to the vote has become a political hot potato, with Republicans opposing it and Democrats tending to support it, in part because they stand to gain the most from it.
Perhaps not surprisingly, then, it was the head of the Monroe County Republican Party, William Napier, who alerted Doorley to Muntaqim’s registration, which was filed under his birth name. Napier even called a news conference for the occasion.
The case was a gimme for Doorley, who is also a Republican. That Muntaqim attempted to register to vote is so clear it doesn’t require the qualifier “allegedly” here.
Whether he did it with intent to defraud, which is required for the charges to stick, is another matter, however.
It is absurd to think that a man who spent nearly 50 years behind bars would be so hellbent on casting a ballot in a single election as to jeopardize his newfound freedom on Day One. It seems obvious that Muntaqim didn’t know what he was doing when he filled out that form.
Muntaqim and his lawyer, a public defender, wouldn’t comment on his circumstances. But his mother has cast his actions as “a mistake,” saying the voter registration form was in “a packet of papers that was issued to him to help him assimilate himself back into society.”
Friends of Muntaqim said that packet was given to him by the county’s Department of Human Services, which helps newly released prisoners acclimate. Those packets include everything a former inmate might need — information on Medicaid, food stamps, child care, becoming an organ donor, and a voter registration form.
“I don’t think he was trying to game the system” by signing the form, said James Schuler, who has known Muntaqim since they met as inmates at Auburn Correctional Facility in 2000. “One thing he wanted to be more than anything was a productive member of society. They gave him paperwork to do that and he signed.”
Schuler, 52, described Muntaqim as “a leader” and “a peacekeeper” in prison, where he earned college degrees and mentored inmates.
After nearly 50 years of incarceration, Muntaqim corrected his bad decision to the extent he could. The New York Board of Parole recognized that when it deemed him ready to return to society, having taken into consideration his disciplinary record, personal growth, and the severity of his crimes.
Doorley said in an interview that her charges against him have nothing to do with his criminal past. She said they were about answering allegations of voter fraud in the weeks before the election and that Muntaqim’s case seemed straightforward.
“Is it a major thing?” she asked of the charges. “No.”
Not to her, but the stakes for Muntaqim are life-changing at a time when the nation is changing to recognize the implications of disenfranchising people who look like him.
Asked if she would consider dropping the charges, Doorley replied, “I don’t think we’ve ruled anything out. It’s not like we’re rushing to a grand jury. Obviously, we may consider making some plea offer.”
Now it’s Doorley turn to correct her bad decision.
David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at email@example.com
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
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
Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons
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 November numbers offer clues that what was once temporary unemployment is becoming more permanent.
By Neil Irwin, Dec. 4, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/upshot/jobs-report-unemployment.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage
A line for food distribution in Brooklyn on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Food banks have seen a sharp rise in demand this year. Credit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times
The bad news in the November jobs numbers reported Friday isn’t in the rate of job creation, though that was pretty bad.
Employers added only 245,000 positions last month, and even if you adjust for the one-time effects of temporary census jobs being eliminated, it would take 29 more months to return to February employment levels at that rate of job creation. But at least there is good reason to expect those numbers to improve once coronavirus vaccines are widely available.
The thing that is most worrying is what seems to be happening among the people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. The jobs report offers clues that what was once temporary unemployment is becoming more permanent — in ways that, if unchecked, could do long-term damage to millions of families and to the economic potential of the United States.
Although the unemployment rate fell last month, to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent, it was for the worst of reasons: Many Americans gave up even looking for work. The number of adults not in the labor force — neither working nor actively seeking work — rose by 560,000, as the labor force participation rate dropped by 0.2 percentage points.
The share of prime working-age Americans working — those between 25 and 54 — was unchanged in November at 76 percent and remains far below its 80.5 percent share in February. The number of people who are not in the labor force but say they want a job is 2.2 million higher than it was in February.
A growing share of the unemployed have been out of work for a long time. The number of Americans unemployed for more than 27 weeks rose by 385,000 in November. Since only September, the number of these long-term unemployed is up by a devastating 1.5 million people — a 64 percent increase.
A central lesson of the grinding recovery that followed the 2008-9 recession is that these prolonged periods of unemployment (actively seeking a job) or nonemployment (not working, and also not looking) have long-term effects.
Even as the economy recovered, people had experienced various forms of damage. Some people’s skills became outdated. But more generally, many people just lost a sense of attachment to the work force. It’s much harder to find a job when you’ve been out of work for years than when you’ve been on a short-term layoff.
And that’s before you get to the more social dimensions of the problem; those out of the work force can become vulnerable to developing addictions and other mental health problems. The nonemployment crisis of the 2010s and the opioid crisis of the 2010s weren’t completely separate.
In that episode, the share of prime-age Americans who were employed did not return to its January 2008 level until August 2019! When economists talk about what a slow, disappointing expansion that was, this is a big part of what they are referring to.
There is a good chance to avoid that fate in the recovery from the pandemic recession. A quick snapback in employment after widespread vaccination is possible in 2021, and it could pull many of those long-term unemployed and nonemployed back into the work force quickly, after only a year or so of detachment from the rhythms of work life.
This is normally the point in analyzing a bad jobs report where one points out silver linings — those little reasons for optimism that are hiding if you know where to look.
This month, they are hard to find.
The data in the new numbers are based on employment levels in the week of Nov. 8-14. Various real-time data sources point to a softening in economic activity since then, as coronavirus infections have risen and weather has turned colder, limiting outdoor dining and retail options. December employment numbers could well be worse.
For a slight hint of optimism, one of the big categories of job loss that dragged down the November numbers will probably reverse. Retailers cut about 35,000 jobs, according to the official numbers, which are adjusted for the typical seasonal patterns. But if you ignore those seasonal adjustments, the sector added 302,000 jobs — stores did do holiday hiring, just less than past experience would have predicted.
The good news, such as it is, is that in January this pattern should reverse itself, creating an apparent employment surge when seasonal adjustments are applied.
In a miserable November for American workers, this is what counts as a cause for optimism: The people who weren’t hired as temporary help at retailers this holiday season won’t lose their jobs in January.
But the real hope for 2021 is that enough of the unemployed and nonemployed Americans can come back to work quickly enough that the long-lasting effects of that last scarring downturn can be prevented.
On Dec. 21, Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be no more than a dime’s width apart in the night sky. The last time that could be seen was in 1226.
By Michael Levenson, Dec. 6, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/06/science/space/jupiter-saturn-align-christmas-star.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
For months, Saturn and Jupiter have appeared to be courting, as the giant celestial bodies have gradually drawn nearer in the night sky.
Over the next two weeks, as their orbits align more closely, the planets will pull closer until they appear to be just a tenth of a degree apart — about the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length, according to NASA.
The encounter, known as a great conjunction, happens about every 20 years. But this one — arriving on Dec. 21, the winter solstice — is special, astronomers said.
It will be the closest alignment of Saturn and Jupiter, the largest planets in our solar system, since 1623. But that conjunction, just 14 years after Galileo built his first telescope, was 13 degrees away from the sun, making it almost impossible to view from Earth, said Amy C. Oliver, a spokeswoman for the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian.
This one will be the closest visible encounter between the two giants since the Middle Ages, in 1226, Ms. Oliver said. The next time the planets will be this close is 2080, she said, making the event a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle for most adults.
Across the United States, the best view of the two planets coming into near-alignment will be just after sunset, in the southwestern portion of the sky.
“It’s a very elegant astronomical event to watch in the night sky,” said Renu Malhotra, a professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona. “It’s a very romantic event to see these planets approaching each other.”
Although best appreciated with binoculars or a telescope, the encounter should be visible to the naked eye.
Konstantin Batygin, a professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology, said he had been watching Jupiter, his favorite planet, and Saturn draw closer to one another on nightly walks with his pit bull, Bagheera.
“It’s the rare astronomical event where you can appreciate the motion of the planets around the sun without being some kind of astronomer,” Professor Batygin said. “You can still go outside close to Christmas and say, ‘Wow, those two planets sure are close to one another, and they aren’t usually.’ It’s one of these rare times when the majesty of the solar system presents itself to the naked eye.”
But such encounters were not always viewed so lyrically. In ancient times, people considered planetary alignments to be bad omens, portending calamity, Professor Malhotra said.
“There was reason to fear that the gods were conspiring when they got closer in the night sky,” she said. “It might have ominous meaning to people on Earth.”
The conjunction is the result of the orbital paths of Jupiter and Saturn coming into line, as viewed from Earth. Jupiter orbits the sun about every 12 years, and Saturn about every 29 years.
Although they will appear to be close together — resembling a bright ball or a tipped-over snowman in the sky, Ms. Oliver said — the planets will not actually be that close. In fact, they will be more than 400 million miles apart, she said.
“Jupiter and Saturn will appear as two wandering stars that are kind of right on top of one another,” Professor Batygin said. “If you wait long enough, it’s bound to happen, because their orbital paths intersect. But it doesn’t happen that often.”
Some people are calling the conjunction a Christmas star because of its arrival around the holiday.
Ms. Oliver said that on the days before and after Dec. 21, “as soon as it gets dark outside, everybody should go outside and take a look.”
“For most adults, this is your one big opportunity to see this,” she said. “Really young kids might get another chance. For the rest of us, it’s now or never.”
Reeling from the pandemic, transit agencies are grappling with drastic reductions in ridership and pleading for help from Washington.
By Christina Goldbaum and Will Wright, Dec. 6, 2020
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subway and buses and two commuter rail lines, is threatening drastic service cuts. Credit...Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times
In Boston, transit officials warned of ending weekend service on the commuter rail and shutting down the city’s ferries. In Washington, weekend and late-night metro service would be eliminated and 19 of the system’s 91 stations would close. In Atlanta, 70 of the city’s 110 bus routes have already been suspended, a move that could become permanent.
And in New York City, home to the largest mass transportation system in North America, transit officials have unveiled a plan that could slash subway service by 40 percent and cut commuter rail service in half.
Across the United States, public transportation systems are confronting an extraordinary financial crisis set off by the pandemic, which has starved transit agencies of huge amounts of revenue and threatens to cripple service for years.
The profound cuts agencies are contemplating could hobble the recoveries of major cities from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco, where reliable transit is a lifeblood of the local economies.
Trains and buses carry the office workers, shoppers and tourists who will help revive stores, restaurants, cultural attractions, hotels and other key businesses that have been battered by the outbreak.
The financial collapse of transportation agencies would especially hurt minority and low-income riders who tend to be among the biggest users of subways and buses.
For months, transit officials around the country have pleaded for help from the federal government, but with no new lifeline forthcoming and many systems facing December deadlines to balance their budgets, agencies have started to outline doomsday service plans that would take effect next year.
A glimmer of hope emerged in recent days, when a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress proposed $15 billion for public transit agencies as part of a $908 billion framework for a pandemic-relief package.
The plan, which President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said he supports, would provide nearly half of the $32 billion that transit leaders have lobbied for in recent months and that is intended to provide short-term relief.
But it has yet to be endorsed by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, who has proposed a smaller stimulus plan that contains no financing for public transit. On Friday, Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker and a Democrat, expressed optimism that a compromise deal could be achieved before the end of the year.
Even if they receive some aid, transit agencies in some large cities have experienced such severe financial losses that officials say they will be forced to pare back service to save operating funds while serving riderships that are far below normal levels.
It is unclear whether ridership will ever fully return to pre-pandemic levels even after effective vaccines become widely available. Some commuters may end up working from home permanently; others may abandon public transit if cuts cause service to deteriorate.
“This is existential peril,” said Ben Fried, a spokesman for TransitCenter, an advocacy group.
“The economic rationale for cities is that people are in close proximity and can do a lot of things without spending a lot of time traveling from place to place,” Mr. Fried said. “If the transit network is seriously diminished in a dozen or so cities that are a focal point for a large share of the nation’s economic output, then that’s going to have severe impacts on the national economy.”
Since the pandemic swept across America in the spring, bringing urban life to a standstill and ushering in new work-from-home norms, nearly all of the sources of money that public transit relies on have been pummeled.
Ridership, and fare revenue along with it, vanished practically overnight after lockdown orders were enacted. As the economy slid into recession, the sales and income tax revenue used to finance many transit networks plunged. And cities and states sunk into their own financial crises, threatening government subsidies for public transit systems.
New York City’s transit agency, which is grappling with the biggest losses of any system in the country, forecasts a $6.1 billion deficit next year. Officials in Boston are dealing with a $600 million budget hole, and Chicago’s agency anticipates a $500 million shortfall.
By September, nationwide ridership on mass transit had crept back to nearly 40 percent of its pre-pandemic levels from a low of 19 percent in April, according to the American Public Transportation Association, a lobbying group.
But the numbers have plateaued in recent weeks as the virus surges throughout the country, making this the longest and most severe period of suppressed ridership for any of the nation’s public transit systems.
In New York, ridership is at 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels, while on rail lines in Washington and San Francisco, it is below 15 percent of its usual levels.
“The effect on ridership in each of our agencies — subway, buses, Metro-North, Long Island Railroad — is dramatically worse than even in the Great Depression,” said Patrick J. Foye, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subway and buses and two commuter railroads.
Many big city systems rely on fare revenue more heavily than their counterparts in smaller cities and rural areas and have tended to get a smaller share of federal support relative to their size.
Fares contribute 70 percent of the operating budget in San Francisco, 40 percent in New York and Washington and about 33 percent in Boston.
There is no legislative text yet for the bipartisan proposal that Republican and Democratic Senators are now negotiating, nor are there specifics for how the transit aid would be divided among agencies.
“This is not limited to big, urban cities and states — lots of rural areas depend on buses that also get federal funding — so it has some degree of bipartisan support,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader, said in an interview. “But there are some who have never wanted any federal help for mass transit and that’s who we are up against.”
The stimulus package that is being negotiated is likely to face opposition from some liberal lawmakers who consider it insufficient and some conservatives who are unwilling to add to the national debt.
“The real answer to the economic problems is to get rid of what causes the economic problems and they’re caused by economic dictates from governors that forbid commercial activity,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m not for borrowing any more money.”
When transit agencies have faced financial shortfalls in the past, they have typically turned to city and state governments or they have lobbied elected officials for new sources of revenue like dedicated taxes.
But many municipal and state governments are grappling with their own financial problems, forcing transit agencies to look to Washington.
“Unlike some other transit properties, we don’t have our own revenue source, we have two sources of revenue, it’s either the farebox or the subsidies from our local and state government,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, the general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. “They are both under tremendous financial distress right now, so where do we turn?”
Many urban transit systems have exhausted the money they got from an earlier federal stimulus bill and have also imposed service cuts.
In New York, overnight subway service has been suspended since May. In Los Angeles, bus service has been slashed nearly 30 percent and rail service has also been cut. And the Bay Area Rapid Transit light-rail system in San Francisco has ended late night service and pushed wait times for trains from 15 to 30 minutes.
The cuts have helped stabilize operations and allowed them to continue providing at least limited service. But officials warn that the cutbacks could become permanent and that more could be added at the beginning of next year, a devastating prospect for the essential workers and low-wage riders who continue to rely on public transit.
Around 2.8 million American workers in essential industries like health care, grocery stores and pharmacies used public transit to get to work in 2018, according to an analysis of census data by the TransitCenter. That was 36 percent of all transit commuters in the U.S. work force that year, the group said.
“We have been the ones that have kept the economy of this country afloat because we do not have the luxury to work from home,” said Mayra Romero, 43, a restaurant worker in Boston who travels by bus from her home in nearby Chelsea, Mass. “We have been the ones who have been risking our lives and exposing ourselves.”
Margaret Dunn, who lives in Clinton, Md. and works at a hotel in Washington, used to work until midnight before she was laid off in March. Now, as she waits for a call to return to her job, she worries that service cuts could leave her with few travel options once her shift ends.
“We direly need some help.” she said, adding that she may have to rely on Uber or her husband to drive her.
In Washington, transit officials say that if the system receives sufficient federal assistance they will revive service as much as possible to help coax riders back as vaccines are distributed and the cadence of normal life begins to return.
But in other cities, additional federal aid may not guarantee the return of service. In Boston, New York and San Francisco, transit officials have said they plan to recalibrate service to match what they expect to be long-lasting, depressed levels of ridership.
“With the first tranche of money we got, we immediately put it in place to plug the budget gap because there was so much uncertainty, but as a consequence that money will run out this fiscal year,” said Steve Poftak, the general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which serves the Boston area. “We want to do as much as we can in this period of low ridership so we have a reserve in place that we can apply to fiscal year 2022.”
“That’s been our approach,” he added. “Preserve our service now, but also keep an eye toward the future.”
Transit experts worry that with more cuts public transportation agencies could plunge into a “death spiral,” where increasingly unreliable service keeps riders away, pushing systems deeper into financial distress.
With public health officials expecting the distribution of vaccines to begin early next year, agencies could wind up cutting service just as riders return to their commutes.
“Transit is not going to be there for people at the exact moment they are ready for transit again,” said Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an advocacy group. “We are looking at millions of people getting ready to head back to their workplaces and the thing they relied on to get there won’t be reliable anymore.”
Reporting was contributed by Emily Cochrane and Aishvarya Kavi from Washington, and Pranshu Verma from New Orleans.
Concerns about vaccination are unfortunate, but they have historical roots.
By Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist, Dec. 6, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/06/opinion/blacks-vaccinations-health.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
It would appear that the people in American hit hardest by Covid-19 — Black people — are also the group most leery about the prospects of a vaccine.
As a Pew Research report published last week pointed out: “Black Americans are especially likely to say they know someone who has been hospitalized or died as a result of having the coronavirus: 71 percent say this, compared with smaller shares of Hispanic (61 percent), White (49 percent) and Asian-American (48 percent) adults.”
But that same report contained the following: “Black Americans continue to stand out as less inclined to get vaccinated than other racial and ethnic groups: 42 percent would do so, compared with 63 percent of Hispanic and 61 percent of white adults.”
The unfortunate American fact is that Black people in this country have been well-trained, over centuries, to distrust both the government and the medical establishment on the issue of health care.
In the mid-1800s a man in Alabama named James Marion Sims gained national renown as a doctor after performing medical experiments on enslaved women, who by definition of their position in society could not provide informed consent.
He performed scores of experimental operations on one woman alone, an enslaved woman named Anarcha, before perfecting his technique.
Not only that, he operated on these women without anesthesia, in part because he didn’t believe that Black women experienced pain in the same way that white women did, a dangerous and false sensibility whose remnants linger to this day.
When he finally got his experiments to be successful, he began to use them on white women, but he would begin to use anesthesia for those women.
As medical writer Durrenda Ojanuga wrote in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 1993: “Many white women came to Sims for treatment of vesicovaginal fistula after the successful operation on Anarcha. However, none of them, due to the pain, were able to endure a single operation.”
Sims would go on to become known as the Father of Gynecology, even though, as one researcher put it:
“Sims failed utterly to recognize his patients as autonomous persons and his own personal drive for success cannot be minimized, especially as a balance to the enormous amount of praise accorded Sims for his work and for subsequent applications of the technique developed in Montgomery and elsewhere.”
After the Civil War and the freeing of the enslaved, the limited and fragile infrastructure for Black people in this country collapsed and an epidemic of disease flourished.
Many formerly enslaved people were estranged from the small gardens they used to grow things for home remedies. The larger plantation that had sick houses saw operations cease.
White doctors refused to see Black people and white hospitals refused to admit them. Furthermore, federal, state and local governments squabbled over whose responsibility it was to provide health care for the newly freed men and women, with no entity truly wanting to assume that responsibility.
Because of all of this, Jim Downs, a professor at Gettysburg College, estimates that at least one quarter of all former slaves got sick or died between 1862 and 1870.
For nearly half of the 20th century, women — often Black — were forcibly sterilized, often without their knowledge. As The Intercept reported in September, “Between 1930 to 1970, 65 percent of the 7,600-plus sterilizations ordered by the state of North Carolina were carried out on Black women.”
As Ms. Magazine pointed out in 2011:
“Some women were sterilized during cesarean sections and never told; others were threatened with termination of welfare benefits or denial of medical care if they didn’t ‘consent’ to the procedure; others received unnecessary hysterectomies at teaching hospitals as practice for medical residents. In the South it was such a widespread practice that it had a euphemism: a ‘Mississippi appendectomy.’”
Even famed Mississippi civil rights heroine Fannie Lou Hamer was a victim of forced sterilization. As PBS has pointed out, “Hamer’s own pregnancies had all failed, and she was sterilized without her knowledge or consent in 1961. She was given a hysterectomy while in the hospital for minor surgery.” Hamer would later say, “[In] the North Sunflower County Hospital, I would say about six out of the 10 Negro women that go to the hospital are sterilized with the tubes tied.”
Furthermore, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains: “In 1932, the Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began a study to record the natural history of syphilis in hopes of justifying treatment programs for blacks. It was called the ‘Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.’ ”
Hundreds of Black men were told they were being treated for syphilis, but they were not. They were being observed to see how the disease would progress. The men suffered under this experiment for 40 years.
I hope that America can overcome Black people’s trepidations about this vaccine, but it is impossible to say that that trepidation doesn’t have historical merit.
Otherwise, there won’t be enough shots to go around, even in rich countries.
By Achal Prabhala, Arjun Jayadev and Dean Baker
Mr. Prabhala is a public health activist. Mr. Jayadev and Mr. Baker are economists, Dec. 7, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/07/opinion/covid-vaccines-patents.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
As some reports would have it, this is the beginning of the end. Three coronavirus vaccines have posted excellent results, with more expected to come.
But this is not the beginning of the end; it is only the beginning of an endless wait: There aren’t enough vaccines to go around in the richest countries on earth, let alone the poorest ones.
That’s why it makes little sense that the United States, Britain and the European Union, among others, are blocking a proposal at the World Trade Organization that would allow them, and the rest of the world, to get more of the vaccines and treatments we all need.
The proposal, put forward by India and South Africa in October, calls on the W.T.O. to exempt member countries from enforcing some patents, trade secrets or pharmaceutical monopolies under the organization’s agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, known as TRIPs.
It cites the “exceptional circumstances” created by the pandemic and argues that intellectual property protections are currently “hindering or potentially hindering timely provisioning of affordable medical products”; the waiver would allow W.T.O. member countries to change their laws so that companies there could produce generic versions of any coronavirus vaccines and Covid-19 treatments.
The idea was immediately opposed by the United States, the European Union, Britain, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Australia and Brazil. It was opposed again at another meeting in November, and again last week.
By our count, nearly 100 countries favor the proposal, and yet because almost all decisions at the W.T.O. are made by consensus, a small number of countries can thwart the will of the majority, even a super majority. (The organization has 164 members.)
The U.S. trade representative is reported to have said that protecting intellectual property rights and otherwise “facilitating incentives for innovation and competition” was the best way to ensure the “swift delivery” of any vaccines and treatments. The European Union has argued that there was “no indication that intellectual property rights issues have been a genuine barrier in relation to Covid-19-related medicines and technologies.” The British mission to the W.T.O. agrees, characterizing the waiver proposal as “an extreme measure to address an unproven problem.”
In fact, the novel technology at the heart of the Moderna vaccine, for example, was developed partly by the National Institutes of Health using U.S. federal funds. Moderna then received a total of some $2.5 billion in taxpayer money for research support and as preorders for vaccines; by the company’s own admission, the $1 billion contribution it received for research covered 100 percent of those costs.
Moderna has pledged not to enforce its “Covid-19 related patents against those making vaccines intended to combat the pandemic.” But as Doctors Without Borders has pointed out, that offer is less generous than it seems since other types of intellectual property, such as know-how or trade secrets, typically are needed to develop and produce vaccines.
Pfizer, for its part, received a $455 million grant from the German government to develop its vaccine, and then, by our count, nearly $6 billion in purchase commitments from the United States and the European Union.
AstraZeneca benefited from some public funding while it was developing its vaccine, and received a total of more than $2 billion from the United States and the European Union for both research and in purchase commitments. It also signed a deal worth $750 million to supply the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance with a total of 300 million doses.
In other words, the vaccines developed by these companies were developed thanks wholly or partly to taxpayer money. Those vaccines essentially belong to the people — and yet the people are about to pay for them again, and with little prospect of getting as many as they need fast enough.
We calculate, based on Pfizer’s and Moderna’s stated vaccine-production capacity and their supply deals with the United States and the European Union, as well as Japan and Canada, that these countries can expect, at best, to have about 50 percent of their populations covered by the end of 2021. Considering that 82 percent of the vaccines Pfizer says it can produce through next year and 78 percent of Moderna’s have already been sold to rich countries, according to the advocacy group Global Justice Now, imagine the likely shortages and delays for the rest of the world. (Canada is said to have placed so many preorders that it could end up with 10 doses per capita.)
AstraZeneca, to its credit, has struck deals with manufacturers in India and Latin America, as well as with Gavi, to help poor countries get access to its vaccine. (It has also committed not to make a profit from its vaccine during the pandemic — though, according to a Financial Times report based on company documents, AstraZeneca has retained the right to declare the end of the pandemic as early as July 2021.) That said, the company estimates that it will be able to make three billion doses by the end of 2021; that’s enough for only 20 percent of the world’s population.
Poor countries have faced such problems before. The W.T.O.’s creation in 1995 coincided with a surge of H.I.V./AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. By 1996, new treatments were developed that made AIDS a mostly manageable condition — though only for people who could afford them. Nongeneric drugs cost about $10,000 a year at the turn of the century, and were well out of the reach of many people in, say, South Africa. It took the South African government almost a decade to break the monopolies held by foreign drug companies that kept the country hostage, and kept people there dying.
In Brazil, Gilead Sciences, the monopoly owner of sofosbuvir, a breakthrough treatment for hepatitis C, has been in a deadlock with the government over expanding and cheapening access to the drug for Brazilians. By several accounts, when Gilead Sciences obtained patents for sofosbuvir in early 2019, it hiked the price for Brazilian public agencies from $16 to $240 a capsule. Yet that would drop to about $8 if the drug were produced locally under a compulsory licensing scheme that the TRIPs agreement already allows in some circumstances.
Countries in which drugs are relatively cheap, such as India, face another kind of challenge: attempts to overturn the laws that make those drugs accessible there. Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, fought a decade-long battle to secure monopoly control in India over its treatment for leukemia, and in the process tried to have a key provision of Indian patent law struck down as unconstitutional. (It failed on both fronts.)
What’s more, the crisis of access to affordable medicines also affects countries whose governments defend extensive intellectual property protections for companies: Insulin, for example, can be punishingly expensive in the United States.
Remdesivir, a drug used to treat Covid-19 (with mixed results), is now in short supply in the United States and Europe. Gilead Sciences, remdesivir’s manufacturer, has retained its monopoly over the drug in rich countries, but in May it signed licensing agreements with companies in 127 countries so that they could produce generic versions for sale there. The result? While there have been shortages of the drug in the West, it has been available in increasingly stable supplies in several poor countries, sometimes at one-tenth of the price.
But the governments of rich countries can push back against Big Pharma, too, and sometimes have done so — despite the pharmaceutical industry’s sometimes colossal financial clout. (Campaign and lobbying contributions from drug makers to the U.S. federal government totaled some $4.7 billion between 1999 and 2018, according to one recent study.) In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States feared an anthrax attack and needed unusually large supplies of ciprofloxacin from Bayer; when the government threatened to bypass the company’s patent and buy generic alternatives, the company lowered the price of the antibiotic and increased supplies.
In Britain last year, families of children with cystic fibrosis petitioned the government to suspend a company’s monopoly over Orkambi, the first significant treatment for the disease. After political parties threw their weight behind the petition, Vertex, the maker of Orkambi, agreed to sell the drug at a much lower price than it had been holding out for.
As for coronavirus vaccines and Covid-19 treatments, another meeting of the TRIPs Council is scheduled for Dec. 10; on Dec. 16 and 17 the W.T.O.’s general council, one of the organization’s highest decision-making bodies, will meet. The United States, the European Union and Britain are expected to dig their heels in.
Yet mounting pressure from poor countries at the W.T.O. should give the governments of rich countries leverage to negotiate with their pharmaceutical companies for cheaper drugs and vaccines worldwide. Leaning on those companies is the right thing to do in the face of a global pandemic; it is also the best way for the governments of rich countries to take care of their own populations, which in some cases experience more severe drug shortages than do people in far less affluent places.
Last month, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal denounced the TRIPs waiver proposal put forward by India and South Africa as a “patent heist,” adding that “their effort would harm everyone, including the poor.” In fact, the effort would help everyone, including the rich — if only the rich could see that.
The police killing of a disabled Palestinian fueled nationwide protests. But the authorities have failed to rein in the use of excessive force, which has a long history.
By David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon, Dec. 7, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/07/world/middleeast/israel-police-brutality-palestinian.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
JERUSALEM — The school for the mentally disabled in Jerusalem’s Old City made a point of preparing its Palestinian students for interactions with the Israeli police.
There were frequent role-playing exercises, sometimes with real officers from a nearby police post playing themselves: How to say hello. How to present an ID. How to not be afraid.
Iyad al-Hallaq, a 31-year-old with autism, was a star pupil. But early on a Saturday, those lessons failed him. When police officers called out to him along the ancient Via Dolorosa, he took flight. He was quickly cornered, and a rookie officer, apparently sensing a threat, shot and killed him.
The May 30 shooting was so disturbing — Mr. al-Hallaq was unarmed, those who knew him called him harmless, and witnesses said his teacher had shouted at the officers that he was disabled — that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a tragedy and Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued an apology.
Hoping to ignite a “Palestinian Lives Matter” movement, activists tried to link Mr. al-Hallaq’s killing to that of George Floyd in Minneapolis five days earlier, turning his name into a rallying cry. Since then, outrage over police brutality has grown after police officers and commanders were videotaped pummeling and choking anti-government protesters.
Prosecutors have recommended that the officer who shot Mr. al-Hallaq be charged with manslaughter but a conviction would be as exceptional as the killing was shocking. More likely, experts say, the outrage will dissipate, the prosecution will fizzle and little will change. The officer has not yet been formally charged.
But Israel’s problem with police brutality is not going away. Since at least the 1970s, efforts to rein in violent officers and impose accountability for their actions have repeatedly failed. The result is a system that often lets officers off the hook for all but the most damning and public excesses, and sometimes even for those.
The vast majority of complaints of police violence — 86 percent in the most recent year for which statistics are available — are never investigated, according to Justice Ministry records. Those that are almost never lead to criminal charges or even disciplinary action.
Critics say a culture of impunity pervades the police force, particularly in cases with minority victims. Ethiopian-Israelis, ultra-Orthodox Jews and left-wing activists are disproportionately victimized, critics say, while Palestinians receive the roughest treatment.
Lethal force, while rare, is wielded almost exclusively against Arabs and other minorities: Of 13 people known to have been killed by the police last year, 11 were Palestinians and two were of Ethiopian descent.
“Police officers know that there’s no accountability, so they’re more careless when it comes to certain populations,” said Fady Khoury, a Palestinian human rights lawyer.
Deadly errors, like the one that killed Mr. al-Hallaq, are often ascribed to inexperience. The least experienced officers, teenage draftees fulfilling their military obligations in the border police, are routinely assigned to the most volatile hot spots, like Jerusalem’s Old City.
Police officials insist that they do not tolerate brutality in the ranks.
“I don’t know any commander who wants a violent officer in his unit,” said Chief Superintendent Arad Braverman, who commands a 150-officer detachment of border police in the Old City. “I don’t know of any commander who knows he has a violent officer in his group or in his unit and he doesn’t oust them.”
The increasing use of body cameras, he said, will make it harder to get away with brutality. And he said that officers were well trained in the proper use of force, with reminders before every shift and monthly case studies.
Superintendent Braverman said that although it was impossible to avoid assigning raw recruits to friction points like the Old City, they were paired with experienced officers precisely to avoid deadly misjudgments.
But critics say that Israel’s police chiefs have too often failed to take a strong stand against excessive force.
“When the police are brutal and the leadership keeps silent, it’s screaming consent,” said Eran Schendar, who established the Justice Ministry’s Department of Investigations of Police Misconduct in 1992 and led it until 2003. “The fish stinks from the head.”
Experts attribute the seeming intractability of Israel’s police brutality problem to the mixed mission of the force: the police role of maintaining law and order melded with the military one of securing the front lines of a national conflict.
The Department of Investigations of Police Misconduct, which handles brutality complaints, often hesitates to investigate brutality allegations for fear that officers will shrink from using force when necessary, a 2017 comptroller’s audit found. Similarly, reform efforts invariably run up against dire warnings from police commanders of a “chilling effect” on officers’ aggressiveness.
“They say, we’re an organization where force is one of our main tools, and if we start restricting our policemen in using it too much, they’ll be too soft,” Mr. Schendar said. “And there we have a problem.”
If anything, the Justice Ministry may be easing its scrutiny.
The police force draws around 1,200 brutality complaints a year. While the majority are dropped before an investigation is opened, the number of indictments has fallen sharply. After rising for several years, they plummeted to just eight in 2018 from 44 the previous year, according to the most recent data available.
Short of prosecution, the misconduct unit can refer cases to the police force for disciplinary action. But the number of officers facing police disciplinary tribunals for excessive force fell from 86 in 2005 to just seven in 2015, according to the comptroller’s audit.
With few exceptions, the misconduct unit pursues only cases it considers slam-dunks.
Hila Edelman, the unit’s top prosecutor, said her outfit was as aggressive as it could be, and pointed proudly to its 87 percent conviction rate. But she said it was legally limited to pursuing cases with a “reasonable chance of conviction.”
“It’s not mathematics,” she said. “I wish I could put the evidence into a machine and it would tell me whether we’d get a conviction.”
She said the misconduct unit faces enormous obstacles: Often the sole witnesses in brutality cases, beyond the victim and the accused, are other police officers who refuse to incriminate one another. Judges are reflexively sympathetic to officers. The accusers often have criminal records, undercutting their credibility. And many Palestinians don’t bother filing complaints, doubting the system will do anything to help them.
Ms. Edelman dismissed the idea of seeking more indictments to send a message that excessive force would not be tolerated. That could mean more acquittals, she said, which could be interpreted as “a kosher certificate saying this action was fine.”
“I’m doing the most I can,” she said.
Lawyers for victims, however, say the misconduct unit too readily gives officers the benefit of the doubt, or lets complaints slide altogether, often failing to interview the accused or gather surveillance footage.
“They do the minimum of the minimum,” said Khalil Zaher, an East Jerusalem attorney with the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.
When Haim Einhorn, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, complained that a police officer had punched him in the face in the tumult of a 2017 street protest in which he was only a bystander, the misconduct unit let the allegation languish for 18 months before declining to investigate.
Mr. Einhorn, 33, said he had the feeling that “I was submitting evidence and they were doing nothing.”
After Israel’s Supreme Court upbraided investigators, the case was reopened in May. By then, any surveillance images were long gone.
And when five off-duty border police officers viciously beat a Bedouin grocery worker in Tel Aviv in 2016, an attack captured on video, charges against four were dropped, and the investigation dragged on so long that the fifth had already completed his service and was no longer subject to disciplinary proceedings before they even began.
Efforts to tackle the problem systematically have been stymied by a shocking lack of data.
Neither the police nor the Justice Ministry have a system for tracking complaints against individual officers, leaving them ill-equipped to expose patterns of abuse and weed out violent officers.
And claims that minorities bear the brunt of police brutality are difficult to prove when the misconduct unit does not gather demographic information about the victims.
“They say it would be racist to collect it,” said Guy Lurie, an expert on the justice system at the Israeli Democracy Institute.
Mr. Schendar, the misconduct unit’s founder, said he had established the policy but now believes it was a mistake, saying such data is vital.
Palestinian lawyers say that the bias is obvious.
“They’re violent with everyone, but even more with Palestinians and Arabs,” Mr. Zaher said. “They’re much quicker to shoot at Palestinians. You rarely see them shoot at Israelis.”
Of the 11 Palestinians killed by the police in 2019, several were shot in the act of violent attacks, the authorities said, usually armed with knives. But three were shot after stealing cars, and a teenager was shot while trying to climb over Israel’s West Bank security barrier.
Badi Hasisi, chairman of Hebrew University’s Institute of Criminology, said violence was ingrained in the culture of the Israeli police force, which grew out of the paramilitary force the British maintained in Palestine.
“As colonial police, they were meant to deal with uprisings,” Professor Hasisi said. “They were more concerned with control — to be able to mobilize resources without any bureaucratic constraints.”
That imperative, he said, can still be seen in the force’s abiding resistance to accountability measures, viewing them as “sticks in the bicycle wheel.”
Missing in Israel, advocates say, is an agency empowered to tackle brutality as a systemic problem, the way the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has intervened against police departments across the United States.
Also unlike the United States, where plaintiffs can win multimillion-dollar settlements or jury awards including punitive damages, Israel’s civil courts provide only a weak backstop. The Israeli police paid less than $700,000 in 2019 to resolve an undisclosed number of use-of-force lawsuits, records show.
What little accountability exists often seems to require incontrovertible video evidence: A bystander’s video of an officer beating a truck driver in East Jerusalem quickly prompted the officer’s firing. Officers who were recorded beating a Palestinian man outside the Old City — who prosecutors say had been falsely arrested for assaulting them — were eventually charged with assault and obstruction of justice.
But while officials promised to distribute body cameras to 12,000 police officers by the end of this year, only around 5,500 have been deployed, few with the units most often sent into volatile situations.
And cameras are not a cure-all.
That was one of the lessons from the killing of Mr. al-Hallaq.
At 31, he was poised to gain new independence. At his school just off the Via Dolorosa, where he learned cooking, gardening and “life skills,” he had begun communicating his feelings — a breakthrough, his teachers said.
“These are the moments that we, as professionals, are waiting for,” said the principal, Issam Jammal.
His teachers were helping Mr. al-Hallaq search for a paying job. His parents had bought him an apartment and were working on finding him a wife.
“He would say, ‘Mama, marry me off,’” said his mother, Rana al-Hallaq.
Mr. al-Hallaq liked to be the first one at school and to retrieve the morning’s deliveries of warm pita. At around 6 a.m. on May 30, he was passing through the Lions Gate, one of the passageways through the Old City’s ancient walls, when officers called to him.
He ran, prosecutors said.
Two border police officers, alerted to a possible attacker, gave chase: a 19-year-old rookie and a 21-year-old commander nearing the end of his service.
Mr. al-Hallaq ran about 100 yards toward his school, just around the corner. The older officer fired at his legs but missed.
Mr. al-Hallaq turned into a storage area for city trash collectors. Witnesses said he cowered in a corner, his back against a wall.
His teacher, seeing the confrontation unfold, said she yelled, in Hebrew, that Mr. al-Hallaq was disabled.
The rookie officer told investigators he believed Mr. al-Hallaq was about to pull a weapon. He fired once. After his commander told him to cease firing, prosecutors say, the officer fired again. Israeli law prohibits his name from being published while the case remains under investigation.
Ten police surveillance cameras blanket the path Mr. al-Hallaq took along the Via Dolorosa. Two more cameras are trained on the spot where Mr. al-Hallaq fell.
But the day before, prosecutors said, the recorder the cameras were wired to had been unplugged.
The rookie officer’s lawyer, citing her client’s youth and inexperience, expressed confidence the case would be dropped.
A new generation of practitioners says the profession pays inadequate attention to different kinds of diets, body types and lives.
By Priya Krishna, Dec. 7, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/07/dining/dietitian-diversity.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
Long before she decided to help others eat better by becoming a dietitian, Jessica Wilson learned that the profession was unlikely to offer much to people like her.
Growing up as a Black girl in a mostly white area of Sacramento, Calif., she was bullied for her size and subjected to unpleasant visits with dietitians, who taught portion control with the aid of unappetizing plastic models of green beans and chicken breasts.
In her dietetics program at the University of California, Davis, Ms. Wilson was the only Black student. A single day was devoted to what the curriculum called “ethnic diets.” “It was not, ‘These are interesting and awesome,’” she recalled. “It is, ‘These are why these diets are bad. Next class.’”
Mexican food was dismissed as greasy. Indian food was heavy. Ms. Wilson was taught to prescribe a bland “kale-and-quinoa” diet. When she started treating patients — including many who, like her, are people of color or identify as queer — she learned how much those identities informed their perspectives on health, and how little she’d been taught about that.
“It makes people feel so guilty for not being able to eat what Goop would recommend,” said Ms. Wilson, 38. “I was no longer able to use the tools that had been given to me in school with good conscience.”
As the coronavirus pandemic has made Americans more aware of their health and eating habits, many have turned to registered dietitians like Ms. Wilson (or to nutritionists, who are not always required to obtain a specific education or certification). Yet the advice they get can sometimes seem more tailored to some past era than to the motley, multicultural nation the United States is in 2020.
In recent years — and particularly in the last several months, amid the national discussion about race — many dietitians have begun speaking out and reimagining the practice in a more inclusive way, often without institutional support.
Today, Ms. Wilson counsels many people of color on eating a healthy diet based on the foods they grew up with and love. Hazel Ng, 48, who runs a private practice in Alhambra, Calif., has created handouts for her Chinese clients that showcase produce found in Asian grocery stores, like bitter melon and lychees.
In June, Sherene Chou, 36, a dietitian with a private practice in Los Angeles, organized a group letter to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — the largest and most powerful organization for food and nutrition professionals — outlining steps it should take to address systemic racism in the field, including antiracism training and more support for people of color. Leaders of numerous dietetics groups lent their support, signing the letter on behalf of 70,000 practitioners and students.
Many of these dietitians say the academy’s research, programs and articles ignore non-Western cuisines, or imply that they are unhealthy. They feel the profession places too much emphasis on consuming less and not enough on understanding individual eating habits. And, they add, it perpetuates an ideal of thinness and gender normativity that can exclude different body types and identities.
“It is a good-old-girls’ club where, as a person of color, you have to do so much to be invited,” said Jessica Jones, a dietitian in Richmond, Calif., and a founder of the inclusive dietetics website Food Heaven.
In response to these criticisms, the academy said it is working hard to broaden its ranks and resources to better reflect different cultures.
“Like other professions in health care and countless other fields, nutrition and dietetics has for many years experienced underrepresentation by persons of color in its membership and leadership ranks,” it said in a statement last week. “The academy knows change will not happen overnight. Still, we are making real progress that will create permanent change in our organization, our profession and our communities.”
The group is influential in setting the United States Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines that Americans are urged to follow; its members make up half of the 20-member committee that oversees those recommendations. In a July report, the committee acknowledged that the dietary approaches it studies don’t “qualitatively address cultural variations in intake patterns,” yet said the resulting guidelines allow a “tremendous amount of flexibility” that allows them to be tailored to an individual’s cultural and taste preferences.
The recipe database on MyPlate, the agriculture department’s healthy-eating website, includes 98 dishes classified as “American,” but just 28 “Asian” recipes and nine “Middle Eastern” ones. Though it lists 122 “Latin American/Hispanic” recipes, they include dishes like a “skinny pizza” made with tortillas. The Asian recipes include “Oriental Rice” and “Oriental Sweet and Sour Vegetables.”(A spokesman for the department said that “expanding the recipe database and other MyPlate consumer resources to reflect more diversity is one of our top priorities.”)
If the options seem narrow, they may begin with the narrowness of the profession. More than 71 percent of the nation’s roughly 106,000 registered dietitians are non-Hispanic white, according to the academy’s Commission on Dietetic Registration. Nearly 84 percent are women.
Entry requirements are steep: Practitioners must earn a degree from an accredited program, complete an internship (sometimes unpaid) or a supervised learning program, and pass a registration exam with a $200 entrance fee. Starting in 2024, a graduate degree will be required to take the exam.
“This is an expensive profession, with no guarantee that you are going to have a high salary,” said Lisa Sasson, a professor in the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University. She called the new graduate-degree mandate “unconscionable” and “an even greater barrier to people of color in our profession.”
The academy said that its charitable foundation provided more than $500,000 in scholarships and grants from 2017 to 2019 “for diverse individuals within the field,” and that those funds continue to grow.
Internships are highly competitive, and some even require the intern to pay. Alice Figueroa, 33, who runs a private practice in the East Village of Manhattan, said she struggled to afford food during her internship, even as she was advising others how to eat. Evelyn Crayton, 74, who was the academy’s first Black president, said many of the people in charge of matching students with internships are white, and may be more likely to select applicants who look like them.
Funding for dietetics programs at many historically Black colleges and universities, including Fort Valley State University and Grambling State University, has been cut since the 1970s. The number of Black dietitians fell by 18 percent, to 1,107, from 1998 to 2019, according to the academy’s Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.
Even when Dr. Crayton was president of the academy, in 2015 and 2016, she felt out of step with its other leaders. “I have heard that behind my back they called me an angry Black woman, because I raised questions,” she said. Her nominations of Black dietitians for leadership roles, she added, were frequently snubbed.
Told of her comments, the academy responded, “We were not aware of this until now, and we are very saddened to hear that Evelyn was subjected to these inexcusable statements. They do not reflect the academy’s core values and we are moving swiftly to investigate this matter.”
The profession’s exclusivity goes beyond race. Kai Iguchi, 28, a dietitian working at Rogers Behavioral Health in Oconomowoc, Wis., didn’t feel comfortable coming out as nonbinary to graduate-school classmates. “When the program itself as a culture is very cisgender, thin, white and female,” they said, “it is hard to be different and succeed.”
Mx. Iguchi said what they learned at school did little to address the unique problems that transgender and nonbinary clients face — being misgendered by their dietitians and family members, or feeling discomfort with overtly feminine imagery on health materials. Adult transgender people are also at high risk of developing eating disorders, according to a 2019 study by the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Even some dietitians who teach the standard curriculum find it wanting. “I have reached my limit with my textbook,” said Maya Feller, an adjunct professor in nutrition at New York University, adding that it doesn’t take into account social factors that often explain why people of color are disproportionally affected by health issues.
She said she was also unhappy with educational resources like MyPlate, which recommends meals like salmon, brown rice and broccoli, but not the curried chana and doubles served by her mother, who grew up in Trinidad. (After her interview for this article, Ms. Feller was hired as a consultant to help make MyPlate more inclusive.)
“If I saw that plate and then looked at my doubles, I would be like, ‘Well, my food is no good.’”
Ms. Feller, 43, tries instead to promote an “ongoing and consistent education around cultural humility” — not telling patients what they can’t eat, but considering the foods they have access to, and embracing, not stigmatizing, their cultural preferences.
It rankles Ryan Bad Heart Bull, 36, a Native American dietitian who works with the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, S.D., that many of his peers praise the nutritional value of traditional Indigenous ingredients like salmon and bison, without understanding how federal government policies have made it harder for Native Americans to hunt and forage on their own land. To be ignorant of this cultural and historical context, “and then to turn around and say bison meat is one of the best meats you can eat and here are the ways you can incorporate it into your diet,” he said, “it is insulting and saddening.”
In 2019, he published a guide for the American Indian Cancer Foundation to educate Native cancer survivors about the nutritional value of their traditional foods.
Diksha Gautham, 27, a nutritionist in San Francisco, tells her mostly South Asian-American clientele that a healthy diet can include palak paneer and aloo tikki. As a child, she said, she harbored a “blind perception that anything that wasn’t dry-ass chicken and broccoli,” including the dal and rice her mother cooked, “was bad for me.” No nutritional database she has encountered includes Indian ingredients, so she created her own guides to healthful Indian food.
A Toronto dietitian, Nazima Qureshi, 29, has self-published “The Healthy Ramadan Guide” with her husband, Belal Hafeez, a personal trainer. It includes meal plans that adhere to fasting guidelines, with recipes like stuffed dates and za’atar roasted chicken, and exercises to give people energy going into daily prayers.
Some of Dalina Soto’s Latinx and Asian clients in the Philadelphia area have been told by other dietitians that they can’t eat white rice. “They shut down,” she said. “Either they go way to the extreme, where they are no longer eating any of their cultural foods, or the other side is, ‘I am just not going to manage my disease.’”
“My goal is to bring them in the middle,” said Ms. Soto, 32. She’ll suggest a salad alongside their rice and beans.
Still, many of these practitioners feel frustrated as they try to nudge the dietetic establishment toward change.
The profession is governed by the academy’s board. One subsidiary organization, the Commission on Dietetic Registration, sets professional requirements and fees; another, the Accreditation Council, certifies programs. Together, these entities and their majority-white leadership act as gatekeepers, their critics argue, limiting deep-rooted change.
The academy, which has about 100,000 members, funds research and hosts the largest annual conference for dietitians, the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo. In 2016, it announced the Second Century Initiative, an effort to expand its reach and teachings around the globe.
The academy has had a diversity and inclusion committee since 1987. But, like all the academy’s committees, it is filled by volunteers. Teresa Turner, 37, a member from 2015 until May, said the academy offers the panel few “resources or benchmarks.” “Its only purpose,” Ms. Turner said, “is to make the academy look like they are doing something.”
The academy denied those assertions, saying the committee plays an active role, recommending strategies to recruit people from underrepresented groups to join the profession, and the academy, and promote their advancement.
A group that calls itself Audit the Academy (whose members include Ms. Turner, Ms. Figueroa and Ms. Chou) said the academy research it has seen is largely conducted by white dietitians studying nondiverse populations; if they study communities of color, they often do so from a white perspective. Members also see little representation of transgender and nonbinary people.
“If we are invisible in the research,” said Sand Chang, 42, an Oakland, Calif., psychologist who specializes in the transgender health and eating disorders, “we are going to be invisible in assessment and treatment.”
The academy, however, said it “offers materials, programs and educational opportunities to help its members provide care to a diverse array of clients,” including articles about treating transgender individuals.
In June, the organization responded to pressure from disaffected members by committing to developing action plans to address inequities in the profession. It has created a new Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, and conducted virtual forums to hear the concerns of 126 randomly selected members.
Shannon Curtis, 30, a Houston dietitian who helped found a group called Dietitians for Change, attended one of the sessions. “Although it was empowering to know that we are not the only ones screaming about this,” she said, “it was kind of a waste of time, in my opinion, because I am not exactly confident that they will take this information and put it into an action plan they will actually act on.”
Other organizations have emerged to address the inequities in the profession, like Diversify Dietetics, founded in 2018 by Tamara Melton and Deanna Belleny. It offers resources like mentors and educational materials to help students of color pass the registration exam.
In response to criticisms that it is harder for nonwhite dietitians to succeed in the profession, the academy offered an interview with Kristen Gradney, a senior director at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. La, and one of several registered dietitian nutritionists who speak on behalf of the academy.
Ms. Gradney, 40, said that while the academy “has really missed the mark” in preparing dietitians to deal with diverse populations, it is starting to make progress. Still, she said “true change” would probably not come from the academy, but from grass-roots initiatives like Diversify Dietetics, where she serves on the advisory board.
In 2018, Dr. Crayton, the academy’s past president, hosted a conference in Montgomery, Ala., where she lives, for World Critical Dietetics, an organization that champions a more inclusive approach to dietetics. Panels discussed the role that unconscious bias plays in education, and whether the registration exam was fair to all students.
Dr. Crayton took participants to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma, where in 1965, peaceful protesters marched for civil rights. “I could never have done that with the academy,” she said with a laugh. She said events like that could help pave a path toward sweeping change.
“I don’t know how to get to people’s hearts, but it is a heart thing,” she said. In a discipline that deals with such a deeply personal matter — one’s eating habits — “there has to be a change of heart, where people really feel empathy for groups who they are trying to include.”
To conquer the dual, interrelated crises of Covid-19 and climate change we have to start small, and dream big.
By Fabien Cousteau, Mr. Cousteau is an ocean explorer., Dec. 9, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/09/opinion/covid-climate-change-ocean.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
This is an article from Turning Points, a special section that explores what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead.
Turning Point: The spread of Covid-19 in 2020 led to dramatic reductions in global carbon dioxide emissions, with one study finding that emissions fell by roughly 1.5 billion metric tons during the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2019 — the largest half-year decline in recorded history.
“No ocean, no life.” Being a Cousteau, this message was practically written into my DNA. And it’s one I’ve tried to share with the world through my many years of work as an environmental advocate.
Unfortunately, given the dire state of our oceans today, it’s clear that the message hasn’t gotten through to most people.
As we reflect on 2020 — one of the most socially and scientifically difficult years in recent memory — and look for ways to move forward, it’s crucial that we understand this simple fact: Without a healthy ocean we will not have a healthy future.
Many of us have experienced the magic and beauty of the ocean. Yet its vital connection to our daily lives — the ways in which it supplies the oxygen we breathe and nourishes the crops we eat — remains far less understood.
I’ve had the challenge — and the privilege — of spending 31 continuous days living in an underwater habitat, which has given me a unique perspective on the intrinsic value of the ocean as our primary life support system. The truth, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, is that our planet would more appropriately be called Ocean, not Earth. Without our water, Earth would be just one of billions of lifeless rocks floating in the inky-black void of space.
How can we change our perspective on the ocean as it relates to our planet? We can start by heeding the lessons of 2020. While the coronavirus has caused great suffering and tragedy, it has also shed light on some of the invisible structures that underpin our daily lives, from racial injustice to the extreme disparities in wealth that burden our communities. While these realities have always been plain to some, it took the seismic shifts created by the pandemic for many of us to wake up to them.
The pandemic has also served to remind us of the beauty of nature. As Covid-19 spread across the globe in the spring, prompting nation upon nation to impose strict lockdown measures, the natural world briefly reasserted itself: Cloudy Venetian canals grew clearer. The smog dissipated over the Hollywood Hills. Cars vanished from the roads, leading to a significant, though temporary, drop in carbon dioxide emissions. These developments were encouraging, suggesting that dramatic change was possible, and that there was hope for a greener future after all.
Yet, as the pandemic has continued, it has also caused the use of disposable plastics to skyrocket. Grocery bags and latex gloves fill our trash bins. Discarded face masks flow down the drains of our city streets and into our waterways, potentially harming sea life. Whether we realize it or not, discarded plastics are choking the life out of our ecosystem.
Both environmental pollution and the pandemic share an unnerving trait: The mechanisms and processes that underlie them remain largely invisible to the naked eye. We can’t see the microplastic contaminants we may be ingesting when we eat food from the sea today, just like we can’t see the respiratory droplets of the coronavirus as they pass from person to person. This fact can make these threats feel particularly overwhelming.
But we aren’t alone in these fights. None of us are naturally immune to the virus, or to the effects of pollution and climate change. And we can create real change if we act collectively.
Seemingly small, everyday actions can help combat both pollution and the virus. For example, wearing a washable and reusable mask is an easy way to protect your neighbor’s health and assure that less plastic ends up in the ocean. To protect our waterways further, we should avoid buying consumer goods wrapped in plastic, which will in turn lower the demand for such products.
We live in a closed-loop system. We can’t actually throw things “away.” The plastic we toss in the garbage often just ends up inside the bodies of marine animals, before finding its way back inside of us.
Like my grandfather, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, I believe that we protect what we love, and love what we understand. We have the ability to dictate the magnitude of the coronavirus and climate crises if we can simply absorb the lessons of science, including the hard truth that devastation awaits if we act too late. We must learn that to be on nature’s side is to be on humanity’s side.
Now, more than ever, we need hope. But we can’t just wait around for it; we have to create it.
One way I’m building toward a more hopeful future — and contributing to the effort to find solutions to the pressing problems that confront us — is through the creation of Proteus, intended to be the world’s most advanced underwater research station and habitat. The first in a projected network of Proteus habitats will be located 60 feet below the surface of the Caribbean Sea off the island of Curaçao, and will serve, essentially, as an international space station for ocean exploration, allowing scientists and observers from around the world to live under the sea for weeks or potentially months on end.
As they do, they’ll unlock more of the ocean’s secrets. With only roughly 5 percent of Earth’s oceans explored thus far, there is an urgent need, and an ideal opportunity, to better understand how the ocean affects climate change, and what it can teach us about clean energy and food sustainability.
And, of course, there’s the ocean’s astonishing biodiversity. What medical breakthroughs might we stumble upon through the discovery of new species?
The first Proteus habitat, slated for completion in 2023, will feature a video production studio, intended to allow millions of people around the globe a chance to experience the wonders of life under the sea. Through Proteus, more will come to understand the power of our simple message: No ocean, no life.
Every day that we fail to find solutions to the climate crisis is a day that we come closer to losing another species to the ravages of a warming planet. Climate change isn’t going to slow down so that our own priorities can catch up.
Yet I have hope. A research station like Proteus is essential to protecting our waters — and to assuring our future: I believe the marine environment may well contain natural compounds that could help ease this pandemic or the next one.
Historically, in times of extreme crisis, humanity has come together to share ideas, put in place bold solutions and find new ways to survive. Now is the time for similar action. As we look to 2021 and beyond, we must finally take the steps necessary to protect our oceans, relying on science and the power of human ingenuity. Our lives depend on it.
Fabien Cousteau, an aquanaut and environmentalist, is the founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center.
Asian honeybees have exhibited what scientists call a form of tool use to deter attacks by giant predatory wasps.
By Katherine J. Wu, Published Dec. 9, 2020, Updated Dec. 10, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/09/science/bees-poop-murder-hornets.html?surface=home-discovery-vi-prg&fellback=false&req_id=725927346&algo=identity&variant=no-exp&imp_id=568807927&action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage
When it comes to the hunt, giant hornets in the genus Vespa do not mess around.
These matchbox-size terrors — a group that includes the infamous “murder hornets” — will invade honeybee hives, brutally behead the residents and carry the mangled carcasses back to their young. A small cavalry of the hangry hornets can exterminate a colony of bees in hours.
But even the mightiest of monsters can be stopped. And a good way for honeybees to fend off Public Insect Enemy No. 1 might be to serve them a helping of No. 2.
To ward off giant hornet attacks, honeybees in Vietnam will adorn the entrances to their nests with other animals’ feces, a defensive behavior called fecal spotting, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One. The odious ornamentation seems to repel the wasps — or at least seriously wig them out — and offers the intriguing possibility that honeybees might use stool as a type of rudimentary tool.
Decorating one’s home with dung might sound indecorous, especially for the docile bees that so many people associate with candy. “We think of bees visiting pretty flowers and collecting sweet nectar,” said Rachael Bonoan, a bee biologist at Providence College who wasn’t involved in the study. “This is the complete antithesis to that.”
But the scat-based strategy appears to capitalize on a relatable trend: Most creatures aren’t keen on muddying their meals with someone else’s waste.
A team of researchers led by Heather Mattila, who studies bees at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, was first alerted to the baffling behavior nearly a decade ago while doing field work in Vietnam, where honey bees are terrorized by Vespa soror hornets, a close sister species of the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, that frightened people in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year.
Local beekeepers had spied a smattering of grayish-brown gunk around the entrances to honey bee colonies, which the insects seemed to decorate in a frenzy in the wake of hornet assaults. No one was certain what the substance was, but “it didn’t smell good,” Dr. Mattila said. One keeper noticed bees buzzing around some water buffalo droppings, and wondered if it was the source of the stench.
Dr. Mattila and her colleagues started scouting local farms, squatting in pig pens and chicken coops. In time, Dr. Mattila spotted a honeybee alighting on a jumble of chicken scat. The bee tugged diligently at a mote of the muck with her mouthparts, then carried it away. “I remember running back to the apiary, screaming, ‘It’s true, it’s finally true!’” Dr. Mattila said.
Hours of video footage proved the insect’s act wasn’t an anomaly. When the researchers placed buffets of animal dung near several apiaries, bees harvested clumps of it, dabbing their nests in carefully mounded lumps, each roughly the size of a sesame or poppy seed. Spotting seemed to spike in the days after hornets attacked. At their most bedecked, the colony entrances looked “like an everything bagel,” Dr. Mattila said.
Honeybees are typically fastidious creatures, keeping their households spotlessly clean. “Bees don’t even poop in their own hives,” Dr. Bonoan said. Hauling around another animal’s feces, she added, can carry risks of disease or even death.
But hornets spent less time lurking around the entrances of nests freckled with feces, and were less likely to team up to invade colonies.
It’s not yet clear how big an impact spotting has on survival. Honeybees have an array of tactics they deploy when danger is afoot, including a devious and sometimes self-sacrificial move called balling, in which a phalanx of worker bees swarms a hornet to suffocate or overheat it. In the long run, dung might not make a huge difference.
The researchers also don’t know how the flecks of feces are dissuading the hornets. One possibility is that they’re avoiding the noxious plant compounds that linger in some excrement. Dr. Mattila noted that the bees seemed to go especially bonkers for chicken droppings.
And, of course, “poop is really smelly,” Dr. Bonoan said. Feces might act like a reverse deodorant, overlaying its foul stench atop the alluring waxy, floral scent that typically wafts from more pristine nests.
Because spotting involves deliberate manipulation of manure, Dr. Mattila’s team argued that it might qualify as tool use. Dr. Bonoan said she wasn’t yet sold on the idea, noting that the feces might not be altered enough along the way.
Known tool users like humans might be tempted to try and thwart giant hornets with slurries of scat, especially as concerns about invasive Vespa species continue to command national attention. While Asian giant hornets don’t typically pay humans much mind, they can occasionally deliver searingly painful, venom-laced stings.
But there’s no guarantee that all giant hornets will shy away from dung, said Margarita López-Uribe, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University who wasn’t involved in the study. Beekeepers also shouldn’t rush out to spray their hives with feces, which could contaminate the valuable honey within.
Bees might benefit from fecal spotting, Dr. Bonoan said. But “if you’re a human, don’t use poop to try and protect yourself from a murder hornet.”
Much about the shooting death of Casey Goodson Jr. by a sheriff’s deputy has been disputed — what led to it, why it happened and where exactly on his body Mr. Goodson was shot.
By Lucia Walinchus and Richard A. Oppel Jr., Dec. 14, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/14/us/casey-goodson-columbus-ohio-shooting.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the moment before Casey Goodson Jr. was shot dead by a sheriff’s deputy at the entrance of his home, his lifelong neighbor heard a man shouting, as if he were arguing, and then a burst of gunfire.
The neighbor, Andrew Weeks, rushed to a window and saw three men outside, at least one holding a rifle. He called the police, unaware that the three men — all in plain clothes — were law enforcement officers.
Before long, the block was lined with emergency vehicles, and Mr. Goodson was carried out on a stretcher, fatally wounded from several gunshot wounds.
Mr. Goodson, 23, was killed by a local sheriff’s deputy, Jason Meade, who was assigned to a fugitive task force organized by the U.S. Marshals. Members of the task force had been in the area looking for someone in an operation that had nothing to do with Mr. Goodson.
While those details aren’t in question, almost everything else about the Dec. 4 shooting — the events that preceded it, why it happened, where exactly on his body Mr. Goodson was shot — has been disputed. And the case, the latest in a series of police killings of Black men this year, has roiled Columbus, prompted hundreds to demonstrate in the city’s streets and underscored tensions between the city’s Black community and the authorities.
“The whole situation is just completely out of control,” said Brenda Davis, who has lived across from Mr. Goodson’s home in Northeast Columbus for more than 20 years and also serves as the secretary of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “We are hearing so many conflicting reports.”
According to the U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, Peter Tobin, members of the fugitive task force saw Mr. Goodson waving a gun while he was driving his car. Deputy Meade, a 17-year veteran of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, gave chase.
“That’s when the deputy, at some point after that, he confronted him,” Mr. Tobin said, “and it went badly.”
Deputy Meade’s lawyer, Mark Collins, said that Mr. Goodson pointed a gun at the deputy. But Mr. Goodson’s family members, who were inside the house and heard the gunfire, said they did not see a gun near him after he was shot.
The Columbus police, who are investigating the case, said there were “reports of a verbal exchange” before the shooting, and that a gun was “recovered from Mr. Goodson.” But they have not said where the gun was found, whether in Mr. Goodson’s hands, elsewhere on his body, or in his car.
There is no video footage of the confrontation that led to Mr. Goodson’s death, unlike other high-profile shooting deaths of Black men, like Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga., Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C., and Tamir Rice in Cleveland. And unlike officers with the Columbus Police Department, Franklin County sheriff’s deputies do not wear body cameras, though approval to purchase cameras has been discussed for months.
In a meeting last week, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, which includes oversight of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, agreed that Mr. Goodson’s death has given new urgency to approve the budget for body cameras.
Mr. Goodson’s family said he had ambitions to own commercial trucks, had taken classes to earn a commercial driver’s license and had also talked about becoming a firearms instructor. They said he emphasized to other family members the importance of proper firearms handling.
His relatives described him as a gentle soul who was never in trouble with the law, and they said he saw himself as his family’s protector after his grandfather’s death.
“He was just a Black man coming home from a dentist’s appointment. He didn’t do anything,” his mother, Tamala Payne, said of the Dec. 4 encounter.
Ms. Payne, who spoke to reporters during an online news conference last week, called for protests in her son’s name to be nonviolent. “My son was a peaceful man, and I want his legacy to continue in peace,” she said.
She also urged the authorities to charge Deputy Meade.
“I want Jason Meade arrested. I want Jason Meade charged. And I want Jason Meade’s badge taken, and I don’t want Jason Meade to ever be able to practice in law enforcement again,” she said. “And that is what Casey’s protests and Casey’s rallies are about. This is about receiving justice for my son.”
Deputy Meade, who was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, was one of seven deputies who fired weapons during a deadly 2018 standoff. None of the deputies was found at fault. He was also orally reprimanded last year for violating the sheriff’s office’s rules on reporting Taser use.
Mr. Goodson’s death has capped a year that has seen tensions rise between the police in Columbus and Black residents, who account for slightly less than a third of the city’s population of 900,000 but are pulled over at alarmingly higher rates than white residents.
Activists have criticized the Police Department’s record of stopping Black motorists. Between 2012 and 2016, Columbus police officers made 84 percent more stops per resident in neighborhoods that were at least three-quarters Black.
During weeks of protests in Columbus this summer after the killing of George Floyd, who died after being pinned beneath the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, there were many complaints that Columbus officers used excessive force against demonstrators. The Columbus City Council allocated funds for an investigation into those claims, and 19 accusations of misconduct remain under review.
On Friday, the Columbus police chief, Tom Quinlan, vowed that protesters demanding justice for Mr. Goodson would be allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights, and that all officers would be wearing body cameras and have badge numbers visible.
“I hear the cries of this community,” Chief Quinlan said. “I hear your demands for answers, for accountability, and for justice.”
Chief Quinlan has pledged an “independent, meticulous, unbiased” probe. The F.B.I. and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are also investigating.
The Ohio attorney general’s office, whose Bureau of Criminal Investigation often investigates shootings involving police officers, said it declined to do so in this case because the request was not made until three days later, after witnesses had been interviewed and the scene cleared.
“We do these tough investigations all the time — but from the beginning,” the attorney general, Dave Yost, tweeted last week. “This one belongs to CPD.”
At a rally at Columbus’ Statehouse on Saturday, people who knew Mr. Goodson described him as empathetic. Malissa Thomas-St. Clair, his sixth-grade teacher, said he was a model student who reached out to her by text message when her own son was killed in 2013.
“I remember you as a strong woman, but if you ever need an ear to talk to, I’ll be here for your support,” she said he wrote.
She said she last saw him alive not too long before his death, at a store where he was shopping for his dog.
“Listen to me clearly, young people,” she said at the rally. “Casey Goodson was a good man. He couldn’t hurt nobody. When it registered who they were talking about, I knew instantly in my soul, they got this one wrong.”
After the shooting, Mr. Tobin, the U.S. Marshal, said that it had been justified. But after the city’s mayor, Andrew Ginther, sharply criticized him for “uninformed” statements that had damaged the public’s perception of the investigation, Mr. Tobin reversed course on Friday, saying his comments were “premature.”
Mr. Tobin also sought to put some distance between his task force and Deputy Meade’s actions, saying the deputy was acting on his own, independent authority during his pursuit and shooting of Mr. Goodson.
The police have said that no one witnessed the shooting, and they have not said where on his torso — his front, back or side — Mr. Goodson was shot.
But Mr. Goodson’s family and their lawyer, Sean Walton, said that Mr. Goodson was shot three times in the back. They also said that the only things he had in his hands were a face mask to protect him from the coronavirus and Subway sandwiches he had brought home for himself and his family. He had just inserted his house keys into a lock on a side door when he was shot, a woman who identified herself as his sister, Kaylee Harper, said in an emotional Facebook post.
Mr. Weeks, Mr. Goodson’s neighbor across the street, said that little about the shooting added up. The officers he saw were not in uniform, so how could Mr. Goodson have known they were law enforcement — either when he drove past them, or when one pursued him, Mr. Weeks asked.
“What if he sees the cop, and he has no clue it’s a cop?” Mr. Weeks said. “The stories are just so different.”
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