Israel Hits Gaza With Airstrikes as Hamas Increases Rocket Fire
As localized violence in Jerusalem grew into a cross-border conflict, at least 26 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed, according to officials in Gaza. Two people in Israel were also reported killed.
By Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner, May 11, 2021
Calling on All Friends and Supporters of Palestine to join us in commemorating the 73rd year of the Palestinian catastrophe and in defending Jerusalem, which has been under brutal and relentless attack!
For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, we ask you to join us this Saturday!
Saturday, May 15th
12:00 - 3:00pm: Community mural
3:00 - 5:00pm: COMMUNITY RALLY
Valencia and Liberty Street
(between 20th and 21st street)
San Francisco, CA
As we approach the anniversary of the Nakba, the colonization of Palestine and forced expulsion of Palestinians continues. Though this is apparent across Palestine, it is most clear in the heart of Jerusalem, Palestine’s capitol: in the village of Sheikh Jarrah, in Silwan, in Batan Al Hawa, where Palestinian families are being threatened with imminent expulsion from their homes by the Israeli regime, Zionist militias and its colonial settlers.
In addition to showing up to the streets to uplift the demands of our families back home, this year we want to also acknowledge the housing evictions and ongoing gentrification of San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, where we are holding our rally this year. The Mission has forever been a pillar for Palestinian migrants and especially among the immigrant and black and latinx communities.
A place of robust and rich history, culture, and connections, it does not go unnoticed that black and brown communities and the poor are constantly pushed out of their homes to make way for big profit and expansion. We ask our siblings to join us in the streets as we defend our homeland in Palestine and join together in the streets of San Francisco.
As we mark 73 years of Nakba, we also celebrate 73 years of international resistance and struggle for liberation.
We are following Covid precautions with an emphasis on community safety, social distancing and masks. Sanitizer and extra masks will be available, so please come join us!
A Tribute to the Life, Activism, and Legacy of Ernie Tate
About this Event
We warmly welcome you to join us for a tribute to the life, activism and legacy of Ernie Tate (1934-2021).
Ernie Tate believed capitalism is a cruel and unjust system that has to be changed. Ernie was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1934 and emigrated to Canada in 1955. As a Marxist, union activist and revolutionary, Ernie spent his life working to achieve that in organizing against the war in Vietnam, in union struggles at Toronto Hydro, for protecting universal healthcare and living wages, and much else. Ernie, along with Tariq Ali, was a leading organizer of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in Britain, worked for Bertrand Russell’s International War Crimes Tribunal and was a founding member of the International Marxist Group in Britain. In 2014, Ernie published a memoir of his life on the far left in Canada and Great Britain called Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 1960s. This two-volume memoir is an important resource for anyone interested in a gritty account of mid-20th century revolutionary movements. It has been a source of information for the 2020-2021 Undercover Policing Inquiry hearings, taking place in England, in which the illegal and immoral activities of police agents in infiltrating the left have been laid bare.
Ernie died on February 5th this year. Please join us to reflect upon and celebrate Ernie’s life, activism and legacy with many of his comrades and friends from around the world, including: Tariq Ali and Phil Hearse (England), Riche Venton (Scotland), Barry Sheppard and Suzanne Weiss (USA), Pam Frache, Judy Rebick, Caroline Egan, Sam Gindin, Bryan Palmer, Rob Fairley, and John Riddell (Canada), and Patrick Bond (South Africa).
The event will be online, on ZOOM. Please register for your free ticket on Eventbrite. A link to the ZOOM room will be sent to you.
Hosted by Socialist Project, Centre for Social Justice, Spring, Resistance, Green Left Weekly, Socialist Viewpoint
Update: Mumia Abu-Jamal is Recovering from Heart Surgery!
Mumia's wife, Wadiya, has spoken to Mumia and reports that he sounded strong. He still needs to be free to get the medical care he needs for his weakened physical condition and, because he's innocent!
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Bezos has at least $180 Billion!
The Washington State Supreme Court just ruled to allow the right-wing Recall Campaign against Councilmember Kshama Sawant to move forward.
In response, Councilmember Sawant said “This ruling is completely unjust, but we are not surprised. Working people and oppressed communities cannot rely on the capitalist courts for justice anymore than they can on the police.”
“Last summer, all across the country, ordinary people who peacefully protested in multi-racial solidarity against racism and police brutality themselves faced brutal police violence. The police and the political establishment have yet to be held accountable, while in stark contrast, more than 14,000 protestors were arrested.”
“In October, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously threw out the grassroots recall campaign launched in response to Amazon-backed Mayor Jenny Durkan’s overseeing a violent police crackdown against Seattle protests. Now, this same Supreme Court has unanimously approved the recall against an elected socialist, working-class representative who has unambiguously stood with the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“The recall law in Washington State is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true. In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system. It is no accident that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven out of office by a recall campaign for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.”
The recall effort against Councilmember Sawant explicitly cited her role in Black Lives Matter protests and the Amazon Tax campaign in their articles of recall. In 2019, Kshama was elected for the third time despite a record-breaking influx of corporate money in Seattle elections, including $1.5 million in corporate PAC spending from Amazon, as well as donations from top Amazon executives and numerous wealthy Republican donors directly to Kshama’s opponent.
The Recall Campaign is backed by a host of corporate executives and developers, including billionaire landlord and Trump donor Martin Selig; Jeannie Nordstrom of the billionaire union-busting, retail giant Nordstrom dynasty; Airbnb Chief Financial Officer and former Amazon Vice President Dave Stephenson; Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President Matt Westphal; wealthy Trump donors like Dennis Weibling, Vidur Luthra and Greg Eneil; and plethora of major real-estate players, such as John Stephanus, whose asset management company, Epic, has ranked amongst Seattle’s top 10 landlords for evictions.
Now, because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Recall Campaign is able to begin collecting signatures to get a recall election on an upcoming ballot. With the financial backing of the corporate elite, we know the Recall Campaign will have unlimited resources to collect their signatures.
That’s why we need your support to massively expand our Decline-to-Sign campaign and defeat this attack on all working people. The Recall Campaign has already raised $300,000. Can you make a contribution to the Kshama Solidarity Campaign today so that we have the necessary resources to fight back?
Kshama Solidarity Campaign
Copyright © 2021 Kshama Solidarity Campaign, All rights reserved
PLEDGE: Stand with Kshama Sawant Against the Right-Wing Recall!
The right wing and big business are going after Councilmember Sawant because she’s been such a powerful voice for working people – for leading the way on the Amazon Tax, on the $15 minimum wage, and for her role in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Amazon spent millions trying to unseat Kshama last year and failed. Now the Recall Campaign is raising money from corporate executives and rich Republicans to try to overturn that election and all our victories. Their campaign is saying Kshama’s support for Black Lives Matter was promoting “lawlessness” – this is a racist attack on the movement. The right wing will be collecting signatures to get the recall on the ballot; we’re building a Decline-to-Sign movement to keep our voice on the City Council and win COVID relief for working people.
Sign the pledge at:
Paid for by Kshama Solidarity Campaign
PO Box 20611, Seattle, WA 98102
9 minutes 29 seconds
Pass COVID Protection and Debt Relief
Stop the Eviction Cliff!
Forgive Rent and Mortgage Debt!
Millions of Californians have been prevented from working and will not have the income to pay back rent or mortgage debts owed from this pandemic. For renters, on Feb 1st, landlords will be able to start evicting and a month later, they will be able to sue for unpaid rent. Urge your legislator and Gov Newsom to stop all evictions and forgive COVID debts!
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock our state, with over 500 people dying from this terrible disease every day. The pandemic is not only ravaging the health of poor, black and brown communities the hardest - it is also disrupting our ability to make ends meet and stay in our homes. Shockingly, homelessness is set to double in California by 2023 due the economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19. 
Housing is healthcare: Without shelter, our very lives are on the line. Until enough of us have been vaccinated, our best weapon against this virus will remain our ability to stay at home.
Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?
This click-to-call tool makes it simple and easy.
Renters and small landlords know that much more needs to be done to prevent this pandemic from becoming a catastrophic eviction crisis. So far, our elected officials at the state and local level have put together a patchwork of protections that have stopped a bad crisis from getting much worse. But many of these protections expire soon, putting millions of people in danger. We face a tidal wave of evictions unless we act before the end of January.
We can take action to keep families in their homes while guaranteeing relief for small landlords by supporting an extension of eviction protections (AB 15) and providing rent debt relief paired with assistance for struggling landlords (AB 16). Assembly Member David Chiu of San Francisco is leading the charge with these bills as vehicles to get the job done. Again, the needed elements are:
Improve and extend existing protections so that tenants who can’t pay the rent due to COVID-19 do not face eviction
Provide rent forgiveness to lay the groundwork for a just recovery
Help struggling small and non-profit landlords with financial support
Ten months since the country was plunged into its first lockdown, tenants still can’t pay their rent and debt is piling up. This is hurting tenants and small landlords alike. We need a holistic approach that protects Californians in the short-run while forgiving unsustainable debts over the long term. That’s why we’re joining the Housing Now! coalition and Tenants Together on a statewide phone zap to tell our elected leaders to act now.
Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?
Time is running out. California’s statewide protections will start expiring by the end of this month. Millions face eviction. We have to pass AB 15 before the end of January. And we will not solve the long-term repercussions on the economic health of our communities without passing AB 16.
ASK YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO SAY YES ON AN EVICTION MORATORIUM AND RENT DEBT FORGIVENESS -- AB 15 AND AB16!!!
Let’s do our part in turning the corner on this pandemic. Our fight now will help protect millions of people in California. And when we fight, we win!
Tell the New U.S. Administration - End
Economic Sanctions in the Face of the Global
Take action and sign the petition - click here!
To: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and all Members of the U.S. Congress:
We write to you because we are deeply concerned about the impact of U.S. sanctions on many countries that are suffering the dire consequences of COVID-19.
The global COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crash challenge all humanity. Scientific and technological cooperation and global solidarity are desperate needs. Instead, the Trump Administration escalated economic warfare (“sanctions”) against many countries around the globe.
We ask you to begin a new era in U.S. relations with the world by lifting all U.S. economic sanctions.
U.S. economic sanctions impact one-third of the world’s population in 39 countries.
These sanctions block shipments and purchases of essential medicines, testing equipment, PPE, vaccines and even basic food. Sanctions also cause chronic shortages of basic necessities, economic dislocation, chaotic hyperinflation, artificial famines, disease, and poverty, leading to tens of thousands of deaths. It is always the poorest and the weakest – infants, children, the chronically ill and the elderly – who suffer the worst impact of sanctions.
Sanctions are illegal. They are a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. They are a crime against humanity used, like military intervention, to topple popular governments and movements.
The United States uses its military and economic dominance to pressure governments, institutions and corporations to end all normal trade relations with targeted nations, lest they risk asset seizures and even military action.
The first step toward change must be an end to the U.S.’ policies of economic war. We urge you to end these illegal sanctions on all countries immediately and to reset the U.S.’ relations with the world.
Add your name - Click here to sign the petition:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Among the thousands who have died in prisons and jails from the coronavirus were dozens of people approved for parole or not convicted of a charge for which they were arrested.
By Rebecca Griesbach and Libby Seline, May 6, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/us/coronavirus-inmates-parole.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
Joe Dan Channel was granted parole from a Texas prison in late 2019. But the 62-year-old man was still behind bars several months later when he fell ill with the coronavirus and died only a few weeks before his release date.
In Florida, Lawrence Carter, a disabled Vietnam veteran in his late 70s, also fell ill from Covid-19 while he was incarcerated and died. He had not been convicted of the drug possession charge that brought him to jail: Mr. Carter was contesting the charge against him and had been awaiting trial in Seminole County.
The coronavirus tore through the nation’s prisons, jails and immigration detention centers over the past year, killing more than 2,700 people who were incarcerated. Dozens of them, including Mr. Channel and Mr. Carter, died after being approved for release by a parole board or while being held in jail without a conviction. That finding comes from a New York Times review of state and federal court records and data, and interviews with prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and court administrators.
Mr. Channel, who had a history of drug arrests, was one of at least nine prison inmates around the country who was cleared for release by state parole boards but died within weeks of their scheduled discharges, the review showed. Mr. Carter was one of more than 50 men and women who died of Covid-19 in local jails while awaiting trial on the charges that brought them there.
The deaths raise troubling questions about the way the country’s justice system responded to a pandemic that infected incarcerated people at more than three times the national rate. Defense attorneys, judges and some prosecutors have been critical.
“We have, as Americans, a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, and as prosecutors, we have responsibilities to protect against cruel and unusual punishments,” said Andrew H. Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, Fla. “So being in jail or prison, especially for a nonviolent offense, should not be a death sentence.”
Some counties and states released incarcerated people during the pandemic as a precaution. New Jersey and California sent home thousands of prison inmates before the ends of their sentences to reduce overcrowding and try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Hundreds of local jails released tens of thousands of inmates during the early days of the pandemic.
But a vast majority of states resisted calls to free inmates early or expedite parole.
The pandemic has been particularly devastating in the nation’s criminal justice system: Tens of thousands of trials and parole hearings were canceled; families said they were unable to afford even modest bail amounts amid record job losses; and facilities were ill-equipped to handle outbreaks of a virus that spread rapidly, especially in close quarters.
In 2019, just before the onset of the pandemic, Mr. Channel was serving a three-year sentence at Larry Gist State Jail in Beaumont, Texas, for felony bail jumping and failing to appear for a court date.
Mr. Channel was a skilled hunter of deer and wild boar and a gregarious man who loved riddles, his family said, but he struggled with addiction, including to methamphetamine.
Arrested on a low-level drug possession charge that prosecutors later dropped, Mr. Channel had been granted parole in October 2019 by the state’s parole board. He was scheduled to be released once he completed a six-month drug treatment program in late June or early July 2020, according to Timothy McDonnell, chief of staff for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
But as the virus battered the state’s prisons, he was infected, and he died in a hospital on June 2. Mr. Channel had told relatives that he feared that getting infected might kill him because of his underlying health issues, including a heart condition.
“I try to just remember all the good times and try to push the fact that he died alone and away from everyone to the back of my mind,” said Brittany Channel, 32, Mr. Channel’s niece. “It’s all I can do, honestly.”
The drug rehabilitation course, which was all that kept Mr. Channel from being released sooner, is not required for all inmates imprisoned for drug offenses, Mr. McDonnell said, adding that such decisions are made on an individual basis by the parole board. Mr. McDonnell said the programs were available only inside Texas prisons, so Mr. Channel would not have been able to finish the course while at home.
“The Board of Pardons and Paroles values the treatment programs that are available within the institution and believe that they have been instrumental in helping to reduce the state’s recidivism rate,” Mr. McDonnell wrote in an email.
Brittany Channel said her uncle’s death was unnecessary.
“When he went to prison, it wasn’t for a violent crime,” she said. “No one was victimized in any kind of way. And it’s just so hard for me to accept the way that the prison system treated that situation. It’s mind-boggling to say the least.”
In Florida, drugs were also at the center of Mr. Carter’s legal problems.
In November 2019, police officers found Mr. Carter sleeping inside a vehicle in Sanford, Fla., that appeared to have been involved in a collision, according to a police report. Officers found small amounts of heroin and cocaine in a black purse and arrested him, according to the report.
Mr. Carter told family and friends that he was confident he would be acquitted and out of jail within a month or two because he believed that the police search had been improper.
For Mr. Carter, the stakes in the case were high. When he was arrested, he was on parole after having served seven years of a 15-year drug trafficking sentence. If he was found to have violated his parole by possessing drugs, he would be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
But Jaya Balani, his lawyer, said that if Mr. Carter could prove the police search had been illegal, she could get the drug charges dropped and a parole violation would no longer be an issue.
Mr. Carter’s decision to contest the charges — including requesting police body camera footage — meant that his trial date kept getting delayed. In the spring of 2020, it was postponed indefinitely by coronavirus prevention protocols.
“He was talking in his sleep about trying to get out,” said Titus Manning, Mr. Carter’s cellmate in the Seminole County jail’s medical unit. “He’d call the guards and ask them, ‘Why am I in here? I’m 76 years old. Why am I in here?’”
Years earlier, diabetes had led to the amputation of one of Mr. Carter’s legs and half of the other one. In jail, Mr. Manning said, Mr. Carter had waited several months for insulin medication, and once the insulin arrived, Mr. Carter had become too weakened to inject himself.
“You could see the man’s bones in his hands,” said Mr. Manning, who wrote a letter to Jessica J. Recksiedler, the circuit judge who was handling Mr. Carter’s case, urging her to consider granting Mr. Carter release pending trial. “It was like he was fading away.”
Mr. Manning said he never received a response to the letter. A spokeswoman for Judge Recksiedler said the judge did not respond because while the letter had been “well-intentioned,” it had been “improper” not to send it to “all parties” in the case.
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office declined to respond to written questions about Mr. Carter, including the status of his insulin. The department said it could not disclose medical information about current or former inmates.
In a news release announcing Mr. Carter’s death, the sheriff’s office wrote that the jail’s medical staff had examined Mr. Carter for “congestion and cold symptoms” on Aug. 19. Three days later, he was tested for the coronavirus and found to be positive. On Aug. 24, he was taken to a hospital. The jail announced his death on Sept. 2.
Reporting was contributed by Izzy Colón, Brendon Derr, Ann Hinga Klein, Danya Issawi, Derek M. Norman, Chloe Reynolds, Rachel Sherman, Maura Turcotte and Timothy Williams. Research was contributed by Kitty Bennett and Sheelagh McNeill.
Culture, once considered exclusive to humans, turns out to be widespread in nature.
By Natalie Angier, May 7, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/07/science/animals-chimps-whales-culture.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Science
Julia, her friends and family agreed, had style. When, out of the blue, the 18-year-old chimpanzee began inserting long, stiff blades of grass into one or both ears and then went about her day with her new statement accessories clearly visible to the world, the other chimpanzees at the Chimfunshi wildlife sanctuary in Zambia were dazzled.
Pretty soon, they were trying it, too: first her son, then her two closest female friends, then a male friend, out to eight of the 10 chimps in the group, all of them struggling, in front of Julia the Influencer — and hidden video cameras — to get the grass-in-the-ear routine just right. “It was quite funny to see,” said Edwin van Leeuwen of the University of Antwerp, who studies animal culture. “They tried again and again without success. They shivered through their whole bodies.”
Dr. van Leeuwen tried it himself and understood why.
“It’s not a pleasant feeling, poking a piece of grass far enough into the ear to stay there,” he said. But once the chimpanzees had mastered the technique, they repeated it often, proudly, almost ritualistically, fiddling with the inserted blades to make sure others were suitably impressed.
Julia died more than two years ago, yet her grassy-ear routine — a tradition that arose spontaneously, spread through social networks and skirts uncomfortably close to a human meme or fad — lives on among her followers in the sanctuary. The behavior is just one of many surprising examples of animal culture that researchers have lately divulged, as a vivid summary makes clear in a recent issue of Science. Culture was once considered the patented property of human beings: We have the art, science, music and online shopping; animals have the instinct, imprinting and hard-wired responses. But that dismissive attitude toward nonhuman minds turns out to be more deeply misguided with every new finding of animal wit or whimsy: Culture, as many biologists now understand it, is much bigger than we are.
“If you define culture as a set of behaviors shared by a group and transmitted through the group by social learning, then you find that it’s widespread in the animal kingdom,” said Andrew Whiten, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, and the author of the Science review. “You see it from primates and cetaceans, to birds and fish, and now we even find it in insects.”
Culture “is another inheritance mechanism, like genes,” Hal Whitehead of Dalhousie University, who studies culture in whales, said. “It’s another way that information can flow through a population.” But culture has distinct advantages over DNA when it comes to the pace and direction of information trafficking. Whereas genetic information can only move vertically, from parent to offspring, cultural information can flow vertically and horizontally: old to young, young to old, peer to peer, no bloodlines required.
Genes lumber, but culture soars. In 1980, for example, an observant humpback whale discovered that by smacking its tail hard against the water, the tiny fish on which it preyed were prompted to ball up into tidy packages fit for comparatively easy capture and consumption. The enhanced hunting technique, called lobtail feeding, quickly spread along known lines of humpback social groups, aided, researchers suspect, by the cetacean talent for acrobatic mimicry among members of a pod. Today, more than 600 humpbacks are lobtail feeders. “This would only be the case if it was socially transmitted,” Dr. Whiten said.
Sperm whales likewise used crowdsourcing to outwit Ahab. In a new study examining whaling logs from the 19th century, Dr. Whitehead and his colleagues determined that when New England whalers first started hunting a naïve population of sperm whales in the north Pacific, they were essentially harpooning fish in a barrel, harvesting untold gallons of the fine spermaceti oil contained in the whale’s distinctive top hat of an acoustical organ. In just three to five years, however, long before the whalers had made a dent in the whale population, their hunting success rate had plunged by nearly 60 percent.
“The whales were very quickly learning from each other ways to avoid being harpooned,” Dr. Whitehead said. Tip No. 1: Humans are not like your traditional enemy, the killer whale, so forget the old defense strategy of forming a tightknit circle with your babies protected in the middle. “That just gives the whalers something to aim their harpoon at,” Dr. Whitehead said. Tip No. 2: Swim upwind fast — humans hate rowing upwind in the ocean, and they’ll soon give up the chase. Tip No 3: Find your inner Moby; dive deep, rise up and smash that whaling vessel to pieces.
Some differences between animal tribes make sense only if viewed through a cultural lens. Liran Samuni, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, and her colleagues have been following two neighboring groups of bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The home ranges of the chimpanzee-like apes overlap considerably, and the bonobo troops meet and mingle frequently, grooming one another, traveling and foraging together, and pausing often for mutual pelvic rubdowns.
But a there is a salient distinction between them. Once or twice a month, bonobos supplement their vegetarian diet with meat, and when these two troops turn carnivorous, they seek out different prey. One group goes after anomalures, which resemble flying squirrels, while the other hunts small antelopes called duikers.
“No matter where they are, even when the group is together, they maintain the preference,” Dr. Samuni said. “If a hunt begins, it follows group lines: The duiker group chases duikers, the anomalure group pursues anomalures.” Dr. Samuni suggests that the prey specialization serves either to reduce competition between neighbors or solidify a sense of team identity. “We all like to feel we belong to a group, and that feeling has ancient origins,” she said.
Peter Richerson of the University of California at Davis, who studies the coevolution of genes and culture in humans, admitted he was once reluctant to talk about animal culture, but he has since changed his mind. “This is a golden age of animal culture and nonhuman learning studies,” he said.
He is particularly impressed by recent research showing that animal migrations, long considered the essence of mindless instinct in motion, are, in fact, culturally determined. “Mountain sheep have to learn their migrations from other sheep,” he said. Whooping cranes are long-distance migrators, and when their numbers declined so precipitously that there were no adult birds to teach young birds the route, conservationists stepped in and used ultralight airplanes as whooping crane tutors. Even farm animals can be repositories of cultural wisdom, as ranchers discover when they precipitously sell off their entire herd.
“Cows learn your ranch, and if you start over again with new cows, they won’t know where the water is, or where the best places to huddle are,” Dr. Richerson said. “There’s a lot more going on in a cow’s head than you might think.”
And more buzz in a bee’s bonnet. Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University of London and his colleagues showed that bumblebees could be trained in a stepwise manner to tug on a string and gradually uncover a source of sugar. Very few of the bees could figure out the string-pulling trick on their own, but once there was an experienced individual in their midst, the other bumblebees learned by watching. Moreover, the researchers reported in the journal PLoS Biology, the string-pulling skill could be transferred from colony to colony, even in semi-natural conditions outdoors. The authors’ conclusion: A bumblebee’s brain may easily fit on a lentil, but that’s quite enough “for the cultural spread of unusual skills.”
Federal documents indicate that while the Biden administration has cleared migrant children from border detention centers, now shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services are strained.
By Eileen Sullivan, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Luke Broadwater, May 7, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/07/us/politics/migrant-children-shelters.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
WASHINGTON — Biden administration officials have insisted that they have gotten better control of a surge of migrant children that has swamped detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
But documents obtained by The New York Times indicate that the problem has moved to other facilities, like convention centers in Dallas, San Diego and Long Beach, Calif., which are nearing capacity as funds for more space are scarce.
The migrant children are far better cared for at the new facilities, operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, than they were at crammed jails run by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, according to administration officials. But health department officials are taking about a month on average to move the children and teenagers out of government custody and into the care of a family member or sponsor in the United States.
The White House this week allowed the Department of Health and Human Services to redirect $850 million to migrant care, according to an internal document dated May 6. Another nearly $850 million could be available in the coming weeks. Before that transfer was completed, the administration estimated that it would need another $4 billion before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, according to the document.
In all, over the past week, more than 21,000 children were living in shelters under government care, leaving the shelters around 80 percent full. A shelter at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas has a capacity of 2,270 — and a caseload of 1,990. The San Diego Convention Center’s 1,450 beds are all taken. The Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio is 90 children away from its 2,100 limit and announced on Friday it would stop taking in migrant children after this month. The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center is similarly full, according to the document.
According to the document, a $366 million shortfall hits this month “and grows quickly through July.” Officials project the cost for the entire 2021 fiscal year could be higher than $8 billion.
Biden administration officials have framed their response to the migrant surge as a triumph of governmental logistics. In a matter of weeks, the administration was able to set up a dozen additional facilities to house and care for these children who, during March and much of April, were arriving alone by the thousands and forced to stay in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, sleeping on gym mats with foil sheets, often without bathing.
Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, visited the border this week to tour the department’s far less crowded facilities, which were originally intended to hold adults caught trying to enter the country without proper documentation. The department broadcast before-and-after photographs showing the progress that had been made in moving the children out.
“We have re-engineered the process for the treatment of unaccompanied children — the transfer of them to Health and Human Services shelters where they belong,” Mr. Mayorkas said Friday when he spoke to Border Patrol agents in Donna, Texas. “A Border Patrol station is no place for a child.”
But the Biden administration has yet to solve one of the more troubling bottlenecks in the system at the border: quickly and safely releasing the minors from the shelters to vetted sponsors in the United States. The process is a balance of making sure the children are released to safe situations as well as trying to minimize the time they spend in government custody, said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the chief executive of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
The Biden administration has also said many sponsors feared coming forward to claim minors after a Trump-era program required the health department to share background information on all adults in a child’s prospective household with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. President Biden has rescinded the program.
On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services said, the time in government custody has improved significantly from an average of 42 days when Mr. Biden took office to the current stay of about a month. On Thursday, 775 children were released from government care, which is about 300 more than were being released last week. But officials at the border report a need for more case managers to help move the children out of government custody, even as federal employees from other agencies have already been deployed to fill in the gaps.
The Department of Health and Human Services also said that there was no immediate risk of running out of money to care for the migrant children. The additional $850 million the program received this week, the department said, was to cover pandemic-related costs for testing and other precautions. And the need for additional funds was not a new problem, the department said, and it pointed to a nearly $3 billion request in 2019 from the Trump administration when there was a similar influx in migrants.
“The Unaccompanied Children program has long relied on funding transfers to meet its mission, and this year faces the additional expense of rebuilding a decimated system while taking pandemic-related safety precautions, such as testing and social distancing,” Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement on Friday.
Mr. Biden blames the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies for leaving his team ill equipped to handle the migrant surge this spring. When migrants — mostly from Central America who were fleeing poverty, violence and natural disasters — started to arrive at the southwestern border in large numbers, the government did not have enough shelters to safely house children who arrived alone.
The Biden administration so far has not asked Congress for an emergency spending bill, which could distract from Senate Democrats’ efforts to pass immigration legislation. A 2019 request for more funding for the situation at the border set off a bitter fight in Congress, and a new request would most likely fuel criticism from Republicans who have made clear that they intend to seize on Mr. Biden’s border policies to galvanize their party’s base before the midterm elections.
“It’s politics. It’s not about substance or process. If the government needs money to manage the border, they should get money to manage the border,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, the director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It’s an emergency. It wasn’t planned or in the budget that they would have record numbers of unaccompanied kids.”
On Friday, Representative Nanette Barragán, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the House homeland security subcommittee on border security, toured the shelter at the convention center in Long Beach and said the Biden administration was providing minors with much more humane conditions in the health department facilities than they had while in Border Patrol custody, where she said youths slept on mats on the ground and lacked medical care.
“Let’s get the kids out of Border Patrol custody as quickly as possible,” Ms. Barragán said in an interview after touring the shelter, which housed 728 migrant children, with room for only 72 more. “In the H.H.S. custody, even in the emergency centers, they have medical staff, they have beds, they have television, they have activities.”
Even so, she said she was “concerned” with data showing that the program was in need of more money in the coming months.
“Make no mistake,” Ms. Barragán said, “there are things we need to work on.”
Migrant surges in the spring are typical, but this year has brought record numbers.
While previous administrations focused on expanding the number of facilities run by border agents, the Biden administration has pivoted by spending money on developing temporary shelters in convention centers, military sites and vacant arenas.
“The administration is qualitatively looking at this response to this migration event in a different way,” said Cris Ramón, an immigration consultant based in Washington.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Mr. Biden promised that the United States would return to being a compassionate destination for migrants, a sharp contrast with the harsh policies put in place by President Donald J. Trump, who used an emergency public health rule to turn children away. Mr. Biden has committed to allowing these children to enter the country.
And housing the migrant children is not the only challenge on the border for the Biden administration.
The United States has also been increasingly allowing migrant families to enter the country because of new barriers to sheltering families in Mexico. As a result, the administration has struggled to find space for them and has turned to housing them in hotels before releasing them into the country.
The administration is expected to expand the number of hotels holding families this weekend, according to a senior homeland security official, a sign of the potential increase in crossings by migrants in the near future.
Jeffrey Parker had called 911 to report that he was suicidal and was holding a gun to his head when he was fatally shot by Officer William Darby, prosecutors said.
By Michael Levenson, May 7, 2021
A police officer in Huntsville, Ala., was convicted of murder on Friday for fatally shooting a man who had called 911 to report that he was suicidal and who was holding a gun to his head when the police arrived, prosecutors said.
The officer, William Darby, who had been strongly defended by the Police Department and cleared of wrongdoing by a city review board, will face 20 years to life in prison when he is sentenced for the killing of Jeffrey Parker, 49, on April 3, 2018, according to prosecutors.
The verdict stunned city leaders, who had maintained that Officer Darby was justified in using deadly force. The Huntsville City Council had voted to dedicate $125,000 in public money for the officer’s criminal defense, according to AL.com. And police officers throughout Alabama had been watching the case because of how frequently they respond to mental health crises.
“We are in the first stages of shock,” the Huntsville police chief, Mark McMurray, said in a statement. “While we thank the jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe Officer Darby is a murderer. Officers are forced to make split-second decisions every day, and Officer Darby believed his life and the lives of other officers were in danger.”
Prosecutors said the evidence showed that the first officer on the scene, Genisha Pegues, had been trying to help Mr. Parker when Officer Darby showed up. Officer Darby, who was 25 and had been on the force for about 18 months, shot Mr. Parker 11 seconds after entering his house, according to Martin Weinberg, a lawyer who represents Mr. Parker’s family.
“In this particular case, there was zero hostility or aggression by Mr. Parker when the officers arrived,” the Madison County district attorney, Robert L. Broussard, said at a news conference. Yet Officer Darby’s response was “off the charts,” he said.
“The facts of the case bore out that there was nothing justified about this encounter with Mr. Parker, and justice was served,” Mr. Broussard said.
Officers called to Mr. Parker’s house found him “suicidal” and holding a gun, the police said in a statement in August 2018. After Mr. Parker disregarded several orders to drop his weapon, Officer Darby fatally shot him, the police said.
According to a lawsuit filed by Mr. Parker’s family, Officer Darby was the third officer to arrive at Mr. Parker’s house that day.
Officer Pegues had entered with her gun pointed down and found Mr. Parker sitting on a couch with a gun to his head, according to the lawsuit. She had been talking to him when Officer Darby arrived about five minutes later, according to the lawsuit.
Officer Darby began screaming at Officer Pegues while he was still in the front yard, according to the lawsuit, telling her to point her gun at Mr. Parker because “he can shoot you!” Officer Darby then repeatedly yelled at Mr. Parker to put his gun down before firing a single shot that killed Mr. Parker, the lawsuit states.
About a month later, a review board convened by the Huntsville Police Department concluded that Officer Darby’s use of deadly force had been “within policy,” the city said.
But a Madison County grand jury indicted the officer in August 2018.
At Officer Darby’s trial, Officer Pegues testified that she had never felt that Mr. Parker was a threat, and a prosecutor argued that Officer Darby had been the initial aggressor, according to WSFA, a local television station.
Officer Darby’s lawyer, Robert Tuten, contended that Officer Darby had not been the initial aggressor and had been protecting not only himself but his fellow officers, WFSA reported. After the verdict on Friday, Mr. Tuten vowed to appeal.
“To say that people are shocked by this verdict would be a big understatement,” Mr. Tuten said at a news conference. “This was a very important case to Alabama law enforcement,” he added, and could affect the way officers throughout the state respond to people with guns and threats of suicide.
“Everybody has been watching this,” Mr. Tuten said.
Mayor Tommy Battle said that he disagreed with the verdict and that Officer Darby had the right to appeal. “Officer Darby followed the appropriate safety protocols in his response on the scene,” he said in a statement. “He was doing what he was trained to do in the line of duty.”
Bill Parks, a longtime friend of Mr. Parker's, said he hoped that the conviction would prompt officers to respond more humanely to people in mental health crises.
At a news conference on Friday, Mr. Parks said his friend had been “a very kind soul” who had loved music and “could fix anything” but who had also had his “demons.”
“He just asked for help,” Mr. Parks said. “He wanted help, and what ended up in a situation where he asked for help turned out terribly.”
Peter Stuyvesant was an enslaver. So were other prominent New Yorkers whose names are all over the city.
By Julianne McShane, May 7, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/07/nyregion/slavery-nyc.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
Last month, Vanessa Thompson stepped outside the juice bar where she works on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn and noticed a green and white sticker on a light pole. She leaned in for a closer look.
“John van Nostrand was a slave owner,” it said. “According to the US census in 1790, the (Van) Nostrands owned 6 people.”
Ms. Thompson, who is Black, was dumbfounded. “I didn’t even know anything about that,” she said. “He could’ve owned me.”
The sticker was partly the brainchild of Elsa Eli Waithe, 33, a comedian living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who, along with two collaborators, has been on a mission to let New Yorkers know that a good number of the city’s streets, subway stations and neighborhoods are named after enslavers.
The project was inspired in part by a talk between Mx. Waithe, who is Black and grew up in Norfolk, Va., and a white friend about a Confederate monument in Portsmouth, Va., that was dismantled last August. Mx. Waithe recalled the friend’s dismissing the statue as a Southern issue, a regional affront.
But just a few months before, while scrolling through social media, Mx. Waithe had stumbled upon records from the nation’s first census in 1790, which listed well-known New York families like the Leffertses, the Boerums and the Nostrands. To the right of those names was another category: “slaves.”
According to the census, the Lefferts family enslaved 87 Black people throughout New York City (Prospect Lefferts Gardens and an avenue in that Brooklyn neighborhood were named after them). The Boerums owned 14 slaves (the neighborhood Boerum Hill is named for them). And the Nostrands (of the eight-mile-long Nostrand Avenue), enslaved 23 people (this number would nearly double by the beginning of the 19th century).
The discovery sparked Slavers of New York, a sticker campaign and education initiative dedicated to calling out — and eventually mapping — the history of slavery in New York City.
Designed by Ada Reso, 30, who is Mx. Waithe’s roommate, and with research by Maria Robles, 33, the stickers, which mimic street signs, feature the names of prominent New Yorkers and provide details on the number of slaves they owned.
So far, the trio has distributed about 1,000 stickers, mostly in Brooklyn, though they hope to expand eventually throughout the five boroughs.
The group’s mission reflects a growing body of scholarship challenging the assumption that New York City, and the North more generally, was an idyllic land of freedom.
“We’ve all been given this education around, ‘Slavery happened in the South, and the North were the good guys,’ when in reality it was happening here,” Ms. Robles said.
Enslaved labor was foundational to New York’s early development and economic growth, said Leslie M. Harris, a professor of history and African-American studies at Northwestern University and author of “In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.”
For parts of the 17th and 18th centuries, the city was home to the largest urban slave population in mainland North America, Dr. Harris said. At one point, 40 percent of Manhattan households owned slaves, most of them Black women doing domestic work, she explained. The local economy was also heavily dependent on the slave trade: Wall Street banks and New York brokers financed the cotton trade and shipped the crop to New England and British textile mills, according to Jonathan Daniel Wells, a history professor at the University of Michigan.
For enslaved people in the South who escaped to New York, a main stop on the Underground Railroad, permanent freedom was not guaranteed. Throughout the first half of the 19th century, Black people were often kidnapped in New York City — both those who had been born free and those who had escaped bondage — and were sold in the South. The Fugitive Slave Act facilitated the practice, which was chronicled most recently by Dr. Wells in his book “The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War.”
Slavery dates to the city’s very beginnings. In the 17th century, Peter Stuyvesant, the director-general of the Dutch colony that gave rise to New York, enslaved 15 to 30 people on his 62 acres, part of which was in the area that is now the Bowery, according to Jaap Jacobs, an honorary reader in the school of history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who is working on a Stuyvesant biography.
Today many sites still bear his name: Stuyvesant High School and Stuyvesant Town among them. The websites for the school and apartment complex do not mention his history as a slave trader and owner. Neither does St. Mark’s Church, under which Stuyvesant is buried (although it does have a section outlining its work in racial justice).
But the Stuyvesant stickers, which were distributed around the city last fall, offer the additional information.
“Peter Stuyvesant was a slave trader,” they read. “Peter Stuyvesant trafficked 290 human beings in the first slave auction in Manhattan.”
Stuyvesant High School, which offered admission to eight Black students out of 749 spots for the 2021-22 academic year, is working to update its website to include more context on Stuyvesant, according to a Department of Education spokeswoman, who added that the department “has a sustained commitment to build an anti-racist education system that serves all children, in all school communities.”
Nadeem Siddiqui, the general manager of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, said that the vast apartment complex near the East River “will always be a community that supports equity for all, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for racism or discrimination of any kind.”
And St. Mark’s Church has hosted virtual conversations with Dr. Jacobs focusing on “slavery in Stuyvesant’s world,” according to the Rev. Anne Sawyer, its rector. She added that a temporary memorial outside the church honors slaves owned by members of the church and by Stuyvesant on the Bowery.
Unlike many movements, Slavers of New York is not seeking explicitly to strip the names of enslavers from the public eye, Mx. Waithe said.
“Our goal is to get the information to the people who live in and around the community and let them decide what they want to do about it,” Mx. Waithe said.
Back in Crown Heights, in front of Lionheart Natural Herbs and Spices, a Nostrand sticker has been on a parking meter for months. Tracey Reid, the store’s owner, seems fine with it staying put. “It’s important for people to not just think, ‘OK, we’re on Nostrand Avenue,’ but to know it’s part of the history of slavery,” she said.
The project has seen a few detractors, mostly in the form of people who may see the stickers as vandalism and remove them. Last fall, all of the stickers on Bergen Street in Brooklyn disappeared within an hour of going up, according to Ms. Reso and Ms. Robles.
On a recent rainy Sunday afternoon, the two put a Nostrand sticker on a crosswalk pole at the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Lincoln Place in Crown Heights. Passers-by were asked if they were aware of the family’s history.
Simbi Ogbara, 25, was not, she said. But upon learning more, she said she hoped the avenue’s name would be changed.
“It doesn’t make me feel proud of living on this street,” said Ms. Ogbara, who is Black.
This was a typical response, Ms. Robles said. “The facts speak for themselves.”
The 16-year-old girl was fatally shot while threatening a young woman with a knife. She had spent two years shuttling among Ohio foster homes, hoping to return to her mother.
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ellen Barry and Will Wright, May 8, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/08/us/columbus-makhia-bryant-foster-care.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Ma’Khia Bryant in a selfie provided by her family.Credit...Ma'Khia Bryant/Don Bryant and Paula Bryant, via Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The voice on the 911 call is a teenage girl’s, and it is quavering, as if she has been crying.
“I want to leave this foster home,” she tells the dispatcher. “I want to leave this foster home.”
When two police officers arrived at the home in Columbus, Ohio, they reported later, they met an agitated ninth grader, Ja’Niah Bryant, who told them that the fighting at 3171 Legion Lane was getting worse and worse.
They said there was nothing they could do, and this seemed to push her over an edge. She became “irate,” the officers wrote in their report, and told them that if she was not allowed to leave, “she was going to kill someone.”
Twenty-three days later, Ja’Niah called 911 again, telling the police that she and her older sister were being threatened by two young women who used to live at the house. Officers arrived in the middle of a melee outside the house, and one of them fatally shot Ja’Niah’s 16-year-old sister, Ma’Khia Bryant, who was lunging at one of the women, brandishing a steak knife.
The shooting, which occurred moments before a jury in Minneapolis convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, released a new wave of anger over shootings by the police. To calm the furor, the Columbus police quickly released body camera footage, which showed some of the fight outside the house and, they said, demonstrated that the officer had acted to protect the other woman.
But Ms. Bryant’s tragic death was also preceded by a turbulent journey through the foster care system, which had cycled Ma’Khia through at least five placements in two years — after her own mother was found to be negligent — despite efforts by their grandmother to reunite the family.
Ohio places children in foster care at a rate 10 percent higher than the national average, and child welfare officials here are considerably less likely than in the country as a whole to place children with their relatives. Black children, like Ma’Khia and her sister, account for nearly a third of children removed from homes — nearly twice their proportion in the population.
A review of Ma’Khia’s pathway through foster care shows that it failed her in critical ways.
Research has demonstrated that children fare far better when they remain with family members, a practice known as kinship care. It also shows that each successive placement causes additional trauma, further setting back a child in crisis.
“Everybody knows and the research has proven over and over and over again that the best placement for children is with their kin,” said Ronald R. Browder, the president and chief executive of the Ohio Federation for Health Equity and Social Justice. “But the focus has always been on foster care.”
What the Bryant sisters wanted, Ja’Niah said, was to return to their family.
“We can go to Mommy or Grandma, it doesn’t matter, as long as we can get off the system,” Ja’Niah recalled Ma’Khia telling her younger siblings, who were also in foster care. “That was her biggest thing, she didn’t want to be in the foster care system until she was 18.”
A spokeswoman for Franklin County Children Services, which had custody of the siblings, declined to comment on Ma’Khia’s case, citing confidentiality laws. Angela Moore, their foster mother at the time of Ma’Khia’s death, talked about the teenager and the events leading up to her death but did not respond later to detailed questions about the Bryant girls and their care.
This account is based on interviews with Ma’Khia’s family members and acquaintances, as well as court documents, and other case records that were provided by her mother’s lawyer.
The oldest of four children born to Paula Bryant, a nursing assistant, and Myron Hammonds, Ma’Khia was removed from her mother’s home in 2018, and spent 16 months living with her grandmother Jeanene Hammonds.
When her grandmother was kicked out by her landlord, the siblings went into foster care and spent two years cycling through short-term placements, arrangements that dissolved one after another.
People who knew Ma’Khia had trouble recognizing her in the chaotic footage of the shooting released by the police. Staff members at her school saw her as quiet and diligent, the kind of student who would hug her teacher’s aide every morning before math. She had a tight knot of girlfriends, who lavished one another with affection. Aaliyaha Tucker, 16, recalled her once coming to school with her hair in an outrageous style she called a “rainbow horn,” extending vertically from the top of her head and then bursting into a mop.
“She didn’t care what other people thought of her,” said Aaliyaha, who allowed tears to run down her face. “She taught us how to love ourselves.”
By this spring, when Ma’Khia’s sister placed the first call to the police, her life in foster care had spiraled into dysfunction and disorder, family members said. And it was about to get much worse.
The chute of the system
In 2018, Paula Bryant had moved with her five children — including a teenage son from a previous relationship — into a house in West Columbus, where, she said in an interview, the landlords did not mind her credit problems. Mr. Hammonds, Ma’Khia’s father, did not live with the family and Ms. Bryant described herself as raising the children largely on her own.
The Hilltop neighborhood once housed blue-collar workers for a General Motors plant, but the plant was shuttered years ago, and many of the bungalows have been converted into cheap rentals. It has one of the highest crime rates in the city.
Andrea Douglass, 37, a pastor’s wife who lived two doors down from the Bryant family that year, has gotten used to turbulence. When shootings occur on her block, she said, “it’s a big hubbub for a day or two and then life just moves on.” But, three years later, she can still remember the fights between Ms. Bryant and her daughters.
“The girls ran out of the house terrified, and were hanging out in the backyard screaming while the mom was yelling at them,” Ms. Douglass said, recalling that she was worried about their safety. “I never want kids to be afraid. When kids are afraid, that is a problem.”
The family had been on the radar of Children Services for several years, amid repeated complaints that the two youngest children were absent from school. In February 2017, Ms. Bryant took Ma’Khia, Ja’Niah and two younger siblings to one of the agency’s offices and said “she was at her wits end” and could no longer handle them, according to a Children Services document outlining the case. The children, Ms. Bryant told the agency, had “no respect” for those around them.
The move to Hilltop had been difficult for her daughters, who missed their friends on the East Side, Ms. Bryant said. “They were kind of rebelling in the home,” she said. The police came, she said, when she was arguing with Ma’Khia and Ja’Niah over bedtimes, and their younger sister, Azariah, ran outside and yelled for help.
“The officers said, you have just lost control as a parent, meaning, you can tell them to go to bed, go upstairs right now, and they’re not going to go,” she said. The children told police officers that they had suffered physical abuse from their mother and an older half brother, according to the mother’s lawyer, Michelle Martin, though Ms. Bryant denied ever abusing them. A magistrate judge dismissed the abuse claims against Ms. Bryant in February 2019 but found that she had neglected the children, according to court documents.
Ms. Bryant said she was detained while Ma’Khia and her three younger siblings “went in the paddy wagon.”
Ms. Hammonds, their grandmother, took the four children into her two-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the couch so the children could have the beds. After about six months, she began receiving $1,200 a month in aid from the state to cover their care.
Service agencies offer far less support to family members who agree to take care of children in need: The per diem allowances paid to licensed foster parents are often 10 times greater than the public assistance paid to relatives. A grandparent can become licensed as a foster parent, but it can take as long as six months, said Anthony Capizzi, an Ohio family court judge who took part in a comprehensive review of the state’s family services in 2019.
Ms. Hammonds did not have that long to wait.
“I was worn out,” she recalled. “I was doing all the laundry, all the cooking, and I was working a part-time job at the time. And it was difficult because these children came from a lot of dysfunction.”
Then her landlord found out that the children had moved into the apartment and told her she would have to move. She scrambled, placing the older girls at a summer camp and the younger two siblings in temporary foster care. When the camp ended, she had few options.
In desperation, she called the children’s caseworker to ask if she could take them to a hotel with her for a few nights, but the caseworker said that was not allowed. He told her to drop the two older girls off at Franklin County Children Services, a hulking brick edifice in downtown Columbus.
She found it frustrating; she felt the children belonged with their family.
“They could’ve just given me what they give one foster parent, and then I could’ve gotten housing, taken care of the kids and done what I needed to do,” Ms. Hammonds said.
When they pulled up to the building, she said, Ma’Khia did not want to get out of the car.
“She didn’t want to leave me,” she said. “I think about that all the time.”
‘Where’s my sister?’
There was no chance at that point that the children would go back to their mother, who was still struggling to meet requirements for counseling and scheduled visits. Instead, the county placed all four children in foster care.
Ms. Hammonds slept wherever she could for several months — sometimes in hotel rooms, sometimes with friends, and many nights in her car — until she secured a home that could accommodate the children. In December 2019, Ms. Hammonds submitted a petition to the court for their return, but it was rejected.
Though the court’s reasoning is not known, the Children Services agency had reported to the court that Ms. Hammonds had failed to meet all of the children’s needs and had not made sure they attended all necessary counseling appointments, according to Ms. Martin, the mother’s lawyer, who said the conditions imposed were unreasonable.
The girls, meanwhile, were placed in group homes. Ja’Niah recalled that, not long after their grandmother dropped them off, she and Ma’Khia were told they had to go into separate rooms for physical examinations. When she emerged, her sister was no longer there.
“I said, ‘Where’s my sister?’” she said. “It was like, ‘We don’t know, we’ll check,’ but he never got back. So that’s when I realized we were being split up.”
After that, Ja’Niah said, the two sisters moved through half a dozen living situations. There was, she said, a foster home so strict that Ma’Khia was often not allowed to leave the house; a group home with dog feces on the floor; a foster mother who screamed at the top of her lungs, not realizing Ma’Khia was recording it all on her phone.
Even when the living situation was good, and a foster parent in Dayton mused about adopting Ma’Khia, her sister was not interested, Ja’Niah said. “She wanted to get back to me, to family. To Columbus,” she said.
At school, Ma’Khia kept her family issues to herself. Jessica Oakley, the teacher’s aide who worked with her at Canal Winchester High School, recalled her as “a hard worker, a sweet girl, very shy.” At the end of ninth grade, she made the school’s honor roll.
She was diligent about schoolwork, and continued to seek out Ms. Oakley’s assistance even when the school shut down because of the coronavirus, once spending eight hours with her teacher on a Google Hangout, going through all her homework.
“She was definitely my girl,” Ms. Oakley said.
She said it was rare for Ma’Khia to mention anything about her family — except for Ja’Niah.
“She was very protective of her sister,” she said. “She was like, ‘No one messes with my baby sister.’”
Micheale Cates, 54, one of the foster parents who briefly housed Ma’Khia during that period, was friends with Ms. Moore, who took her in later. She would not discuss the details of the case, but she said she had noticed a pattern: Children who had escaped from traumatic family situations often long to return to them.
“Home is more than just a location, it’s where you have a level of comfort,” she said.
“Ma’Khia really was a family person, she needed that,” she said. “But, see, sometimes it’s not the best for the children. These children get triggered. I know the whole idea — keep them together, keep them together — sometimes that’s the worst thing for these kids.”
An afternoon at Angie’s
The two girls ended up at Ms. Moore’s house on Legion Lane — not far from their grandmother’s house, and together for the first time since they left her care.
The suburban home is neat and well-tended, with bunches of artificial yellow flowers poking out of the turf beside the door. The two sisters would make TikTok videos, dance, go skating, or go to an amusement center called Scene75 that has rides and video games, Ms. Moore said. Ma’Khia, she said, was not troublesome.
“She’s a quiet girl. She doesn’t start fights anywhere. She wasn’t a troubled child,” she said. “She was fun. She loved her family. She loved her siblings. They were close.”
Still, Ms. Moore placed repeated calls to 911 in which she seemed to struggle to manage the children she had taken in.
Sometimes, she was calling to report that a teenager had “gone AWOL,” failing to return home by curfew. But late last year, Ms. Moore sounded deeply shaken as she asked the police to remove a 10-year-old boy — or, as she put it, “one of my irate foster youths” — from her home.
The boy could be heard in the background, alternately roaring and howling, as Ms. Moore told the police that he had been knocking ornaments off her Christmas tree. Three hours later, she made a repeat call for assistance, saying she did not feel safe driving the 10-year-old in for a psychiatric evaluation.
After a brief initial interview, Ms. Moore declined to answer questions about conditions inside the home in the period before the shooting.
Ms. Cates, who formerly cared for Ma’Khia, said Ms. Moore faced a problem common to many foster parents: The agency expected her to work full-time outside the home, a situation that forced her to leave foster children unsupervised.
“I believe she was a loving, caring foster parent,” she said. But, she added, “foster parenting is a full-time job.”
By this spring, Ja’Niah said, Ms. Moore’s home had become increasingly tense. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, she said, Ms. Moore had accused the girls of stealing the cards that carry cash benefits for food.
And she said Ms. Moore sometimes left them unsupervised, or with former foster children, women in their 20s who, she said, berated them and mocked Ma’Khia’s speech impediment.
After school on April 20, the two Bryant girls found themselves alone in the house with Tionna Bonner, 22, one of Ms. Moore’s former foster children and, Ja’Niah said, her special favorite.
Ms. Bonner, who had come to celebrate Ms. Moore’s birthday the previous day, was now scolding the girls, saying they were habitually disrespecting Ms. Moore.
“She’s like, ‘My mom told you all to clean up this house, it’s dirty,’” Ja’Niah said.
The dispute escalated quickly, but when Ja’Niah called Ms. Moore, who was at work, she said she was too busy to get involved, Ja’Niah said. So each of them called for backup: Ja’Niah called her grandmother, and Ms. Bonner called another young woman, Shai-Onta Craig-Watkins, 20, who had lived in the house as a foster child. Neither Ms. Bonner nor Ms. Craig-Watkins agreed to be interviewed for this article.
Ms. Hammonds rushed over and described standing on the stairway inside, trying to protect her granddaughters as the older women threatened to beat them up. Ms. Bonner had pulled out a knife, Ja’Niah and her grandmother said, and Ma’Khia had grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen. Ja’Niah went into her room and called 911. In the call, placed at 4:32 p.m., Ja’Niah asked for help as people shouted in the background.
Someone could be heard saying, “I’m not scared of no knife.”
“It’s 3171 Legion Lane,” Ja’Niah told the dispatcher. “We got Angie’s grown girls trying to fight us, trying to stab us, trying to put her hands on our grandma. Get here now!”
Twelve minutes later, the police arrived.
In a brief lull, Ms. Craig-Watkins left the house and the sisters began to pack up their things, thinking the worst of the situation was over. As they rushed out of the house, their father was pulling in to come to their aid. But also arriving was Ms. Craig-Watkins, who had returned with two more people. The two groups crossed paths, and Ms. Craig-Watkins spit toward the family, Ja’Niah and Ms. Hammonds said.
“I feel like that really made Ma’Khia really mad when she spit,” Ja’Niah said. “That’s when everything just went left.”
A police officer stepped out of his car and walked toward the driveway just as Ma’Khia turned her attention to Ms. Craig-Watkins and could be heard on a video from a neighbor’s surveillance camera threatening to stab her.
As Ma’Khia charged, Ms. Craig-Watkins tumbled to the ground, and Ma’Khia’s father tried to kick her. Ma’Khia turned to Ms. Bonner and backed her up against a car.
Ma’Khia raised a knife, and Officer Nicholas Reardon, a white 23-year-old who was the first officer to approach the scene, shot four times at Ma’Khia, who slumped down.
As Ma’Khia’s body lay on the ground, police officers led Ja’Niah inside Ms. Moore’s house, along with her father’s young son.
Ja’Niah turned on the television to find some cartoons for her younger brother to watch. Instead, what flashed on the screen first was a news report: a jury in Minneapolis had found Mr. Chauvin guilty of murdering Mr. Floyd.
Before an officer took her phone, she sneaked into a bathroom and made one more call for help.
“I called my real mom — my biological mom — and I told her, I said, ‘I need you. They just shot Ma’Khia. Get here now,’” Ja’Niah recalled. “I needed her.”
In addition to the disciplinary action they have faced, the boys’ mother said that at least one of her three sons has been bullied because of the shirts.
By Jesus Jiménez, May 9, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/09/us/black-lives-matter-shirt-oklahoma-school.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
Two brothers, 8 and 5, were removed from their Oklahoma elementary school classrooms this past week and made to wait out the school day in a front office for wearing T-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter,” according to the boys’ mother.
The superintendent of the Ardmore, Okla., school district where the brothers, Bentlee and Rodney Herbert, attend different schools had previously told their mother, Jordan Herbert, that politics would “not be allowed at school,” Ms. Herbert recalled on Friday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has called the incident a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights.
On April 30, Bentlee, who is in the third grade, went to class at Charles Evans Elementary in a Black Lives Matter shirt, which Ms. Herbert said he had picked out himself to wear.
That evening, Ms. Herbert learned that the school’s principal, Denise Brunk, had told Bentlee that he was not allowed to wear the T-shirt. At Ms. Brunk’s direction, he turned the shirt inside out and finished out the school day.
On Monday, Ms. Herbert went to the school to ask the principal what dress-code policy her son had violated, Ms. Herbert said. Ms. Brunk referred her to the Ardmore City Schools superintendent, Kim Holland.
“He told me when the George Floyd case blew up that politics will not be allowed at school,” Ms. Herbert said on Friday, referring to Mr. Holland. “I told him, once again, a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt is not politics.”
Neither Ms. Brunk nor Mr. Holland responded to emails or phone calls seeking comment on Friday.
On Tuesday, Ms. Herbert’s three sons — Bentlee; Rodney, who is in kindergarten; and Jaelon, a sixth grader, all of whom are Black — went to their schools in matching T-shirts with the words “Black Lives Matter” and an image of a clenched fist on the front.
Later that morning, Ms. Herbert received a call from Rodney’s school, Will Rogers Elementary, telling her that she needed to either bring Rodney a different shirt or let the school provide one for him, or Rodney would be forced to sit in the front office for the rest of the school day. Rodney did not change shirts, and he sat in the office until school was over.
Ms. Herbert learned later that day that Bentlee had also been made to sit in his school’s front office, where he missed recess, and did not eat lunch in the cafeteria with his classmates.
Jaelon, 12, encountered no issues at Ardmore Middle School because of his T-shirt, his mother said.
In an interview with The Daily Ardmoreite, Mr. Holland suggested that the T-shirts were disruptive.
“It’s our interpretation of not creating a disturbance in school,” Mr. Holland told the newspaper. “I don’t want my kids wearing MAGA hats or Trump shirts to school either because it just creates, in this emotionally charged environment, anxiety and issues that I don’t want our kids to deal with.”
Mr. Holland said there had been similar cases in the district this year.
“Most of it has not been an issue until this lady here has been angry about it,” Mr. Holland told The Ardmoreite. “I wish she weren’t so upset.”
Ms. Herbert said she met with Mr. Holland on Monday and asked him what would happen if she sent her children to school in “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts again.
“He told me nothing could be done because it wasn’t against policy,” Ms. Herbert recalled.
Indeed, the dress code outlined in the district’s Elementary Student Handbook makes no mention of politics. It says that “sayings or logos” on shirts or tops “should be in good taste and school appropriate.”
“Any clothing or apparel that disrupts the learning process is prohibited,” the handbook adds, stipulating that principals have the final say on “the appropriateness of dress.”
To Ms. Herbert, the idea that her 8-year-old son would not “be able to express that his life matters” was ludicrous.
On Friday, the A.C.L.U. of Oklahoma sent a letter to Mr. Holland, Ms. Brunk and James Foreman Jr., president of the Ardmore City School Board of Education.
In the letter, the A.C.L.U. said it would be a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights to be prohibited from wearing clothing that says “Black Lives Matter.”
If the school district does not reverse its policy and allow students to wear “Black Lives Matter” clothing, it must be prepared to prove in federal court how wearing the T-shirts creates “a substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities,” the A.C.L.U. said. “Anything less than that would be found to be a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights.”
It cited a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which addressed the issue of a group of students who wore black armbands to object to the Vietnam War. A principal told the students that they would be suspended if they wore the armbands at school.
The court ruled 7-2 that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
“This has been the unmistakable holding of this Court for almost 50 years,” the A.C.L.U. said.
Mr. Foreman and the other members of the school board did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
In addition to issues with disciplinary action, Ms. Herbert said Bentlee has now been bullied at school over his T-shirt. When Bentlee returned from school on Thursday, he told his mother that two white boys had picked on him.
“One boy told him that his life does not matter, and the other one told him to just get suspended,” Ms. Herbert said.
The principal told Ms. Herbert the situation would be handled, she said.
“With everything going on in the world today, I keep my boys informed,” Ms. Herbert said, adding that the family watched the news together. “They know what’s going on.”
Out of principle, Ms. Herbert said she would continue to support her sons in wearing the T-shirts to school.
Despite the turmoil, the shirts were never intended to be an “attention-seeking ordeal,” Ms. Herbert said. “I don’t see Black Lives Matter disrupting anything.”
The police entered the compound and fired rubber-tipped bullets. Anger was already building in response to the looming expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in the city.
By Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner, May 10, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/10/world/middleeast/jerusalem-protests-aqsa-palestinians.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Israeli police officers detaining a Palestinian. Credit...Ammar Awad/Reuters
JERUSALEM — Hundreds of Palestinians and a score of Israeli police officers were injured on Monday after the police entered the Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews, after a week of rising tension in the city.
The police fired rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades at stone-throwing Palestinians who had stockpiled stones at the site in expectation of a standoff with the police and Jewish far-right groups.
By the afternoon, more than 330 Palestinians had been injured, with at least 250 people hospitalized, according to a representative of the Palestinian Red Crescent. One person was hit in the head by a bullet and was in critical condition, the medical aid group said, with at least two more in serious or critical condition.
At least 21 police officers were injured, according to the police.
Tensions rose as the day progressed despite last-minute Israeli efforts to de-escalate.
The police announced on Monday afternoon that thousands of far-right Israelis who had planned a provocative march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City would be restricted to a less contentious route to avoid a head-on confrontation.
The march is an annual event to mark the capture of East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, an anniversary known in Israel as Jerusalem Day. Israel subsequently annexed that part of the city, a move that most of the world has not recognized. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
The Israeli police also decided Monday to block Jews from entering the Aqsa compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
On Sunday, the Israeli Supreme Court delayed a decision on the expulsion of six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, a ruling that was to have been issued Monday, trying to defuse another potentially explosive element.
After days of threats from Hamas, the Islamic militant group, that it would respond to Israeli actions in Jerusalem, the group’s military wing set an ultimatum, calling on Israel to withdraw its security forces from the Aqsa mosque compound and another area of East Jerusalem, and to release all Palestinians detained during the recent disturbances by a 6 p.m. deadline on Monday.
Bracing for a possible escalation, despite international efforts to calm the atmosphere, the Israeli military said Monday that it was closing areas and roads near the border of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian coastal territory where Hamas holds sway.
Militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel overnight Sunday, after sending incendiary balloons into Israeli farmland for the past several days. Israel returned fire, barred fishermen from the territory from accessing the sea and shut a key crossing between Gaza and Israel.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the military, said the army had been “looking to stabilize the situation” and avoid escalation.
But with tensions spiraling, the army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, postponed a major preplanned military exercise by a day and ordered the military “to focus all efforts on preparations and readiness for escalation scenarios,” according to a military statement.
Videos posted on Twitter showed scenes of chaos earlier in the day both outside and inside the mosque, where some worshipers could be seen sheltering from explosions while others threw stones and set off fireworks. In another clip, police officers were seen striking a man being detained in part of the mosque compound. By early afternoon, the police had retreated from the site.
Another video released by the police showed young men throwing stones from the perimeter of the mosque compound onto the land below. A separate clip, taken by a surveillance camera, appeared to show a Jewish man swerving into a passer-by after stones hit his car and Palestinians pulled open the car doors. The Hadassah Medical Center reported that a 7-month-old girl was also treated after being lightly injured in the head by a rock.
Witnesses at the mosque reacted with shock at the Israeli police tactics at one of the world’s holiest sites. “Why have they been attacking the Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan?” asked Khaled Zabarqa, 48, a lawyer who said he had been praying at the mosque compound before escaping after the first shots were fired.
“The Aqsa Mosque is a sacred place for Muslims,” Mr. Zabarqa added. “Israel is starting a religious war.”
Mr. Zabarqa and other witnesses said the fighting began around 8 a.m. after the police entered the mosque compound and began firing.
The Israeli government said the police responded only as a last resort after the Palestinians had started the clash by throwing stones at them.
“We wanted today to pass as quietly as possible,” said Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. “Unfortunately, Palestinian extremists had the opposite goal.”
Mr. Netanyahu praised the police for “taking a strong stand.”
“A struggle is now being waged for the heart of Jerusalem,” he said. “It is not a new struggle. It is the struggle between intolerance and tolerance, between lawless violence and law and order,” he added, casting the confrontations as the continuation of a sectarian struggle for the city over hundreds of years.
Jerusalem Day is always fraught. But the atmosphere was especially febrile on Monday because the confrontations followed weeks of escalating tensions in the city, where restrictions on Palestinian access to the Old City during the holy month of Ramadan, a far-right march through the city center in April, and street assaults by both Jews and Arabs have all contributed to a volatile atmosphere.
In recent days, pressure rose further as protest protests grew over the looming expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. For Palestinians and their advocates, the case has become a stand-in for the wider campaign to force out Palestinians from parts of East Jerusalem and for their past displacement in the occupied territories and within Israel.
Tensions escalated again Friday night, as the police fired rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades and Palestinians threw stones following prayers at the Aqsa compound. Video showed some grenades landing inside the mosque.
The tensions were compounded when a Palestinian killed an Israeli in a drive-by shooting in the occupied West Bank last week, setting off a manhunt by the Israeli Army in the West Bank and raids on Palestinian homes. Israeli soldiers later shot dead a Palestinian teenager in a separate incident.
A court decision on the families’ evictions in East Jerusalem, scheduled for Monday, was postponed on Sunday, in part to try to defuse the rising tensions.
Nevertheless, scuffles broke out in Sheikh Jarrah on Monday afternoon, as a group of far-right lawmakers tried to mark Jerusalem Day by forcing their way into the street inhabited by the Palestinians listed for eviction. A group of leftist and Arab lawmakers blocked their path, setting off a brief scrum, before at least one far-right lawmaker, Itamar Ben Gvir, broke through the Arabs’ lines.
“Everything is connected,” one of the Arab lawmakers, Aida Touma-Sliman, said of the day’s many intertwining tensions. The various standoffs across Jerusalem reflected the “struggle of a people under occupation who want to liberate their land, houses and souls,” she said.
The violence comes against a backdrop of political instability in both Israel and the occupied territories. The Palestinian Authority recently canceled what would have been the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.
And after a fourth Israeli election in just two years, Israeli opposition parties are locked in negotiations to form a coalition government and replace Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s prime minister. Mr. Netanyahu is serving in a caretaker capacity as he stands trial on corruption charges.
Myra Noveck contributed reporting from Jerusalem and Iyad Abuheweila from Gaza City.
The A.F.L.-C.I.O. and other groups are seeking to make use of a new enforcement mechanism in the updated North American trade deal.
By Thomas Kaplan, May 10, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/10/business/economy/mexico-trade-deal-labor-complaint.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Business
The complaint against the Tridonex factories in Matamoros, Mexico, includes accusations that workers haven’t been able to elect their union leaders or ratify their collective bargaining agreement. Credit...Daina Solomon/Reuters
WASHINGTON — The A.F.L.-C.I.O. and other groups filed a complaint with the Biden administration on Monday over claims of labor violations at a group of auto parts factories in Mexico, a move that will pose an early test of the new North American trade deal and its labor protections.
The complaint focuses on the Tridonex auto parts factories in the city of Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. said workers there have been harassed and fired over their efforts to organize with an independent union, SNITIS, in place of a company-controlled union. Susana Prieto Terrazas, a Mexican labor lawyer and SNITIS leader, was arrested and jailed last year in an episode that received significant attention.
The trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, was negotiated by the Trump administration to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement and took effect last summer. While it was negotiated by a Republican administration, the deal had significant input from congressional Democrats, who controlled the House and who insisted on tougher labor and environmental standards in order to vote in favor of the pact, which needed approval from Congress.
The trade pact required Mexico to make sweeping changes to its labor system, where sham collective bargaining agreements known as protection contracts, which are imposed without the involvement of employees and lock in low wages, have been prevalent.
The complaint is being brought under a novel “rapid response” mechanism in the trade deal that allows for complaints about labor violations to be brought against an individual factory and for penalties to be applied to that factory. The complaint was filed by the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Service Employees International Union, SNITIS and Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
“U.S.M.C.A. requires Mexico to end the reign of protection unions and their corrupt deals with employers,” Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said in a statement, using the abbreviation for the trade deal. “The ongoing harassment of Susana Prieto and SNITIS members is a textbook violation of the labor laws Mexico has pledged to uphold.”
The trade deal seeks to improve labor conditions and pay for workers in Mexico, which proponents say would benefit American workers by deterring factory owners from moving their operations to Mexico from the United States in search of cheaper labor. Enforcement of the pact is one of the main trade challenges facing the Biden administration.
Tridonex is a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Cardone Industries, which is controlled by Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. said. In 2016, Cardone announced plans to move its brakes division to Mexico and lay off more than 1,300 workers in Philadelphia, according to news reports and public records.
The complaint includes several accusations of labor violations, including that workers have not been able to elect their union leaders or ratify their collective bargaining agreement, and that more than 600 workers were fired by their employer in acts of retaliation. It also accuses the state of Tamaulipas of denying the right of workers to choose the union that represents them.
“There couldn’t be a clearer case,” said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents Cardone workers in Philadelphia.
In a statement, Cardone said it was “committed to leading labor practices, fostering constructive relationships with employees and fully respecting the universal principle of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.”
“We are committed to fully complying with all applicable labor laws and regulations with respect to our Tridonex facilities in Matamoros, Mexico,” the statement said. “Should an inquiry be initiated to further discuss this, we would welcome it and be fully transparent and responsive in addressing all governmental requests for information.”
The rapid response mechanism in the trade deal allows for the United States to take action against an individual factory in Mexico if workers there are being denied their rights to free association and collective bargaining. It was among the provisions that Democrats highlighted as an improvement in the final agreement compared with the Trump administration’s original version of the trade deal.
If the United States decides there is sufficient evidence of workers’ rights being denied, it would then request that Mexico conduct a review of the allegations. After that step, a panel could be established to investigate the matter. Under the rapid response process, the factory could face penalties, and repeat offenders could even have their goods blocked from entering the United States.
Mexico approved an overhaul of its labor laws in 2019, but it is being phased in over several years, and the implementation of the changes remains a major question mark.
A report released in December by an independent board created by the United States to monitor the labor changes said that Mexico had made progress but that significant obstacles remained. The report noted that the protection contract system was still in place, and that most unionized workers still could not elect their leaders in a democratic manner.
Ben Davis, the director of international affairs for the United Steelworkers and the board’s chair, said the complaint filed on Monday “has all the elements of the structural problem that we face with worker rights in Mexico.” The rapid response mechanism, he said, is a way to hold companies accountable.
“This is the first time that we’ve had anything like this in a trade agreement,” he said, “and so we think it’s pretty important for it to be used, to be used effectively and hopefully to be something that we can apply in other places.”
It remains to be seen how the Biden administration will respond to the complaint. An administration official said the administration would “carefully review” rapid response mechanism complaints.
The United States trade representative, Katherine Tai, previously served as the chief trade counsel for the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. In that post, she played a key role in negotiations between House Democrats and the Trump administration over revisions to the trade agreement.
Ms. Tai has said that enforcing the agreement is a priority, and the first meeting of the commission that oversees the pact — consisting of Ms. Tai and her counterparts from Canada and Mexico — is set to take place next week, according to a spokeswoman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington.
At a Senate hearing last month, Ms. Tai said there were “a number of concerns that we have with Mexico’s performance of its commitments under U.S.M.C.A.,” without offering specifics.
“We did our very best to put in the most effective tools for enforcement that we know how,” she said at another point in the hearing. “And they may not be perfect, but we’re not going to know how effective they’re going to be if we don’t use them.”
As localized violence in Jerusalem grew into a cross-border conflict, at least 26 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed, according to officials in Gaza. Two people in Israel were also reported killed.
By Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner, May 11, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-airstrikes.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Carrying the body of an 11-year-old, Hussain Hamad, during his funeral in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, on Tuesday. He was killed in an explosion during the conflict. Credit...Khalil Hamra/Associated Press
ASHKELON, Israel — Cross-border fighting between Israel and militant groups in Gaza intensified on Tuesday, with Israel carrying out deadly airstrikes in the Palestinian territory and Hamas firing heavy barrages of rockets at Israeli cities.
At least 26 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed in at least 130 Israeli strikes on Monday and Tuesday, and 122 others were wounded, according to health officials in Gaza. Two people in Israel were killed in strikes on the Israeli seaside city of Ashkelon on Tuesday, and at least 56 Israelis have received hospital treatment, according to medical officials.
As multiple salvos of rockets streaked out of Gaza in rapid succession, one hit a school in Ashkelon, just 13 miles up the coast from Gaza.
The school was empty at the time because the Israeli authorities had ordered all schools within a 25-mile radius of Gaza closed in anticipation of rockets.
Several more slammed into the port city of Ashdod, a little farther up the coast, where at least one hit a house. The emergency services reported several people wounded lightly.
A spokesman for Hamas’s military wing who is known as Abu Obeida said that 137 rockets had been launched at Ashkelon and Ashdod within five minutes. That number could not be immediately verified, but the rain of fire was unusually intense and may have overpowered Israel’s antimissile defenses. Residents of Ashkelon were told to remain in shelters as sirens wailed, warning of incoming rockets.
The Israeli military, prepared for the latest eruption of cross-border fighting with militant groups in Gaza, designated a code name for its operation just hours after the deadly violence began: Guardians of the Walls, a reference to the ancient ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem. The militant groups had their own code name for their campaign: Sword of Jerusalem.
By early Tuesday morning, barely 12 hours after Hamas, the Islamist militant group that holds sway in Gaza, had launched a surprise volley of rockets toward Jerusalem, Israel had carried out at least 130 retaliatory airstrikes in the Palestinian coastal territory, according to an Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. Militant groups had fired hundreds of rockets into Israel by the afternoon, according to military officials.
Colonel Conricus said early Tuesday that 15 militants had been killed in strikes by jets and unmanned drones.
He did not confirm or reject the reports of civilian deaths, adding, “We are doing everything possible to avoid collateral damage.”
Hamas said that a number of its militants had been killed and that some others had been reported missing in an Israeli attack on a target, without giving further details.
Although the intensity of the fighting seemed to have waned slightly during the night, Colonel Conricus said that the military’s air campaign was still in its “early stages.” Journalists were unable to enter the coastal enclave on Tuesday morning because of rocket fire near the crossing point from Israel.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it had reinforced its troops and was “prepared for a variety of scenarios.”
The cross-border military conflict escalated rapidly on Monday evening after weeks of rising tensions and confrontations between the police and Palestinian protesters in and around the ancient center of Jerusalem, including at the sacred Aqsa compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Hamas, casting itself as the Palestinian defender of the contested city, had issued a series of threats and ultimatums.
The immediate trigger appears to have been a police raid at the mosque compound on Monday morning to disperse crowds and stone-throwing protesters with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-tipped bullets. More than 330 Palestinians were wounded, at least three critically, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. At least 21 police officers were wounded.
But as the conflict expanded and the airstrikes began, it quickly became deadly.
In Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, the Masri family was grieving for two young boys who were killed on Monday evening. Ibrahim, 11, and Marwan, 7, had been playing outside their home when a missile struck, according to their uncle, Bashir al-Masri, 25.
For Mr. Masri, the attack showed that Israel had no concern for civilian life.
“They target buildings with children, they target ambulances, they target schools,” he said by telephone. “And all the world, beginning with America, says that people in Gaza are terrorists. But we are not terrorists. We just want to live in peace.”
He also called on Israel to end a blockade on Gaza that has placed heavy restrictions on goods and materials, lest they be used to make weaponry. The blockade, coupled with similar restrictions by Egypt, has crippled Gaza’s economy and led to high unemployment.
“God knows how we live in Gaza — and the number one reason is the Israeli siege,” said Mr. Masri, who is one of the roughly 50 percent of Gazans without work. “They want to kill us. But they cannot.”
About a dozen miles north, in a suburb of Ashkelon, residents were startled shortly before 6 a.m. by a rocket strike on an apartment block. The rocket crashed through the window of a third-story apartment in Kohav HaTzafon, an area that is home to mostly Russian immigrants, and it shattered several others with its impact.
Six people wounded by the direct hit on the building, four of them from one family, were transported to Barzilai Medical Center, the main hospital in Ashkelon. The parents were in moderate to serious condition and their two children, ages 6 and 12, along with the two others were lightly wounded, according to the hospital.
The father of the family, Edward Weinstock, speaking on public radio from his hospital bed a few hours later, said that the rocket had landed in his son’s bedroom and that the family had not had time to reach the safety of the stairwell. “Lucky he was not there,” he said of his son. “I found myself lying on the floor, not understanding what had happened.”
Sitting among the shattered glass in her son’s second-floor apartment, Maria Nagiv, 61, said she understood little about the events that had led to the attack.
“What happened in Jerusalem?” she asked as shards crunched beneath her feet. “I haven’t been following anything about that.”
She added: “All the world says that the Jews make trouble. But what have I done wrong? I didn’t do anything, and they still send us bombs.”
A few minutes later, the sirens sounded again, warning of another rocket nearby.
The Iron Dome, an Israeli antimissile defense system, successfully intercepted about 90 percent of rockets headed for populated areas, according to military officials.
Many of the rockets fired out of Gaza were short-range projectiles, primarily aimed at civilian communities within a few miles of the border.
The Israeli military said that its targets had included the weapons manufacturing sites of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group, as well as military facilities and two offensive tunnels. A Hamas battalion commander who was at home in a residential apartment building was also targeted, according to the military.
Neither the location nor the condition of the person said to be a battalion commander was immediately clear.
But health officials said that the bodies of three civilians had been removed from the ruins of the building.
Two of them were said to be members of a family that lived three floors below the apartment of the person alleged to be a commander — Amira Soboh, 58, and her son Abdelrahman, 17, who had cerebral palsy. They were killed by falling rubble, said Ms. Soboh’s older son, Osama Soboh.
Mr. Soboh, a 31-year-old civil servant, questioned why Israel had targeted a civilian building. “It’s not a military barracks, it’s not posing any danger to Israel,” he said. “This was an old woman with a child with cerebral palsy.”
“This is my mom,” he added. “It’s a very hard thing to say farewell to the most precious person you have on Earth.”
The military wing of Hamas, known as the Qassam Brigades, issued a statement after the strike on the building warning Israel that if it kept hitting civilian houses, “We will turn Ashkelon into hell.”
The first barrage of rockets quickly followed.
As the day wore on, there seemed no end in sight. Israel struck more targets in Gaza. Hamas hit back with the extensive salvos of rockets that reached civilian areas in Ashdod.
In a phone interview with a state-funded broadcaster, an Ashkelon City Council member, Amichai Siboni, paused the conversation three times as he sought the nearest bomb shelter.
“There is a siren right now, I am looking for a safe room in a supermarket, I see around me elderly shoppers getting down to the floor,” Mr. Siboni said as he searched. “They are anxious and holding on to each other on the ground.”
Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem.
By Carmen Maria Machado
Ms. Machado is the author of “Her Body and Other Parties,” a collection of short stories, and “In the Dream House,” a memoir, May 11, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/opinion/censorship-domestic-violence-book.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Carmen Maria Machado. Credit...Yael Malka for The New York Times
When I was in my early 20s, I was in an abusive relationship with another woman. Soon after it ended, I did what I always did when I was heartbroken: I looked for art that spoke to my experience. I was surprised to find shockingly few memoirs of domestic violence or verbal, psychological and emotional abuse in queer relationships. So I wrote into that silence: a memoir, “In the Dream House,” which describes that relationship and my struggle to leave it.
This year, a parent in Leander, Texas — livid that “In the Dream House” appeared on high school classes’ recommended reading lists — brought a pink strap-on dildo to a school board meeting. Voice trembling with disgust, she read excerpts from my book — including one where I referred to a dildo, inspiring the prop — before arguing that letting a student read my book could be considered child abuse.
She, and the other parents like her, demanded the removal of my book and several others from district reading lists for high school English class book clubs, from which students were allowed to select one of 15 titles. The school board ultimately decided to remove a number of books, including “V for Vendetta” and a graphic novel version of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and is currently considering whether it should remove more, including mine.
I have teamed up with Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult, Jacqueline Woodson and many other authors whose works have been targeted for removal from class reading lists in Leander. In conjunction with PEN America, a group that promotes free literary expression, we wrote a letter to the school district demanding that our books remain available to students. While our books may contain passages that are potentially uncomfortable, challenging or even offensive, exposure to our books is vital to expanding minds, affirming experiences, creating appreciation for the arts and building empathy — in short, respecting the adults that the students in Leander, Texas, will soon become.
Schools rarely provide education about relationships. Teenagers aren’t often taught that extreme jealousy is not romantic, but is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. The sections of my book read aloud by the outraged parent in that meeting are part of a larger story, examining what it means to be so head over heels in love, in lust or both that you let someone treat you badly.
It was painful and difficult to recount that experience for my book, to lay plain my own vulnerabilities and dark moments. But I’m glad I did it. Now that it’s out in the world, I receive easily a dozen messages a week from readers. They thank me; they open up to me; they describe the life-changing experience of feeling seen. More than one person has told me my book gave them the clarity and strength to leave an unhealthy relationship.
Book bans in America are nothing new. As long as there have been writers, there have been reactionaries at their heels. (Boston held its first book burning in 1650.) Today in the United States, books that feature characters who are Black, Latinx, Indigenous, queer or trans — or are written by authors who identify that way — frequently make up a majority of the American Library Association’s annual list of the top 10 books most often censored in libraries and schools. These book bans deprive students of a better understanding of themselves and each other. As a writer, I believe in the power of words to cross boundaries at a time of deep division. Now more than ever, literature matters.
Those who seek to ban my book and others like it are trying to exploit fear — fear about the realities that books like mine expose, fear about desire and sex and love — and distort it into something ugly, in an attempt to wish away queer experiences.
They do not try to hide their contempt, or their homophobia. They accuse teachers who want to assign my book of “grooming” students, language that’s often used to accuse someone of being a pedophile and a common conservative dog-whistle when it comes to queer art. They want to shield their children from anything that suggests a world beyond their narrow perception.
As anyone can tell you — as history can tell you — this is ultimately a fool’s errand. Ideas don’t disappear when they’re challenged; banned books have a funny way of enduring. But that doesn’t mean these efforts are without consequences.
The high school seniors affected by this action are on the cusp of adulthood, if not already there. Soon, they will go into the world. They will date and fall in love and begin relationships, good and bad. I understand that for a parent, it’s almost unthinkable to imagine that your child could experience such trauma. But preventing children from reading my book, or any book, won’t protect them. On the contrary, it may rob them of ways to understand the world they’ll encounter, or even the lives they’re already living. You can’t recognize what you’ve never been taught to see. You can’t put language to something for which you’ve been given no language.
Why do we not see these acts of censorship for what they are: shortsighted, violent and unforgivable?
The attempts by settlers to forcibly displace Palestinian families have set off a catastrophe.
By Rula Salameh, May 11, 2021
Ms. Salameh is a Palestinian community organizer and film producer from Jerusalem.
Palestinians protesting at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday. Credit...Amir Levy/Getty Images
JERUSALEM — I watched the wailing ambulances bring the injured, the medical staff carry them on stretchers and the nurses guide them into the emergency ward. I saw blood-soaked clothes and gauze-wrapped necks and faces.
On Monday more than 330 Palestinians were wounded by the Israeli police at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Many of those needing medical attention were taken to Al Makassed hospital, about a mile and a half from the mosque, in East Jerusalem.
Tensions had been rising as Israel blocked access for Palestinians from outside Jerusalem headed to the mosque for prayers during the last days of Ramadan, the sacred Muslim month of fasting. Serious violence erupted on Jerusalem Day, an annual event to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967. Early Monday, Israeli police officers stormed the mosque compound and began firing rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades at Palestinians who were throwing stones.
I am a Palestinian community organizer and film producer and live in Beit Hanina, less than five miles from Al Aqsa Mosque and Al Makassed hospital. I have been part of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation for years.
Soon after the Israeli forces entered Al Aqsa, I called a spokesman for the Palestinian Red Crescent, who was inside the compound. “The police have been shooting people with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters,” he told me, stress and exhaustion evident in his voice. “People are being shot in their chests, faces, heads.” The injured included older people, women and children, he continued, though the majority were young men. (The Israeli police force said 21 officers had also been injured.)
I raced with a few friends to the hospital to check how we could help, whether it was donating blood for the injured or arranging food and transportation for their families. Desperate voices were calling out for information about their sons, husbands, brothers, who had been taken there for treatment. I overheard a doctor instruct two nurses about a patient. “He is still in critical condition. He might lose his eye,” he said. “We’ll do further tests and then inform his family.” The overworked nurses nodded and rushed to get new arrivals onto examination tables.
My phone rang relentlessly. Friends and colleagues from all over the world were calling and asking what they could do for Sheikh Jarrah, a tiny East Jerusalem neighborhood about two miles from the Aqsa compound. The events unfolding at Sheikh Jarrah were the context of the escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces at Al Aqsa Mosque and elsewhere in the territories.
Palestinian residents of the neighborhood have been protesting for weeks to prevent the eviction of Palestinian families sought by Israeli settlers. The protests underscore that the expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah are part of the broader expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland — a process that started during the establishment of Israel in 1948 and turned about 750,000 Palestinians into refugees.
The protests at Al Aqsa against denying us access to our holy sites are related to the same oppressive process of disenfranchisement and occupation.
The Sheikh Jarrah families who have faced eviction are Palestinian refugees who were driven from their homes in Haifa and Jaffa during the 1948 war. Israel prevented refugees from returning to their cities, seized their homes and moved Jewish Israeli families in. In the 1950s, the Jordanian government, which controlled East Jerusalem until 1967, settled 28 refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah in coordination with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
After the 1967 war, when Israel extended its occupation to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, Jewish settlers began making claims on the refugees’ houses in Sheikh Jarrah. The settlers have been relying on a 1970 Israeli law that allows Jewish people to reclaim properties their families owned in East Jerusalem before 1948.
In 2009, settlers began taking over some of the families’ homes in Sheikh Jarrah, displacing 53 refugees, including 20 children, under Israeli court order. I met the affected families in 2009. We organized together, brought delegations of Israeli and international solidarity activists to the neighborhood and laid the foundations for a grass-roots movement. I co-produced a documentary on the community’s response to those expulsions.
Last fall, Israeli courts ruled to evict several more Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Four of those families appealed, and an Israeli Supreme Court hearing was scheduled for their case on Monday.
Led by a new generation of Palestinians, the community in Sheikh Jarrah resumed and heightened its protest movement. Scores of Palestinian youths joined the Sheikh Jarrah families to break the Ramadan fast each night, eating, singing and dancing together, despite being attacked by the settlers with stones and being beaten, Tasered, arrested and doused with a stinking liquid by the police.
On Saturday, thousands of Palestinians were on their way to Jerusalem to spend the final days of Ramadan in Al Aqsa Mosque, as is our tradition. When stopped by the Israeli police from entering the city, they parked their cars and buses on the highway and began walking. Residents from across East Jerusalem — including Sheikh Jarrah — drove to the highway to pick them up.
It gives me hope to see displays of unity and support from all parts of Palestine and abroad. #SaveSheikhJarrah pops up on my Twitter feed every few seconds, in Arabic and English. Activists on the ground have made it clear that these evictions are not a “real estate deal between private parties,” as the Israeli government tries to portray it, but part of a systemic policy to replace Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem with Jewish Israelis.
The energy and momentum emanating from Sheikh Jarrah have been palpable and inspiring. The world is watching Sheikh Jarrah. On Sunday, the attorney general of Israel asked the Supreme Court to postpone its ruling. A new date will be set within a month. I believe the suspension of the court ruling and the escalation of violence by Israel in Al Aqsa and Gaza is an effort to shift focus from Sheikh Jarrah.
The Sheikh Jarrah families and their struggle against forced displacement yet again are emblematic of our liberation struggle. After the Israeli police injured hundreds of Palestinians in Al Aqsa Mosque, militants in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets at Israel — which, according to the Israeli military, injured six Israeli civilians. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza, killing at least 28 people, including 10 children.
I received numerous messages about Al Aqsa, Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah, which underscored that what happens at Al Aqsa and in Gaza is intrinsically tied to Sheikh Jarrah. We see our collective fate in the future of Sheikh Jarrah.
I also see our collective fate in the irrepressible resistance led by my young friends in Sheikh Jarrah. I saw it in the eyes of 22-year-old Mohammed El-Kurd as he lit a cigarette, perched atop the hood of an Israeli police car. I saw it in his younger brother Mahmoud and their neighbor Tala Obeid, who were arrested on May 4 while protesting and were marched to the police station, keeping their backs erect and heads held high.
The Netanyahu government miscalculates that our resistance to encroaching colonization and Israeli supremacy will wane in the coming days. It is not only the future of the families in Sheikh Jarrah that is at stake. It is the future of our homes, our homeland.
By Farhad Manjoo, May 12, 2021
Jessica Craig-Martin/Trunk Archive
I was reading about Jeff Bezos’ new boat last week when I began to understand one of my greatest failures as a pundit. This might seem an outsize reaction to a bit of maritime news, but as Bloomberg reported, Bezos’ is no ordinary boat. It is, instead, a “superyacht” — a 417-foot, three-mast sailing vessel that could be one of the largest such yachts ever built, if not in length then perhaps in moral recklessness. In a boom time for billionaires, Bloomberg says, the market for these most elephantine of yachts is roaring.
There was one detail that sent me reeling: At a cost of more than $500 million, you’d think the Amazon founder’s yacht would be outfitted with every luxury. Nope — it lacks a helipad, which couldn’t be accommodated because of the boat’s enormous sails. Bezos’ partner, Lauren Sanchez, is a helicopter pilot, so how would she get on and off the big boat? For the world’s richest man the answer is obvious — another boat. The Bezos superyacht will be accompanied by a smaller yacht — maybe call it Lil Yachty — whose primary function is as a place to land and park the helicopter.
Hence my heartburn: Two years ago, I was part of a boomlet in lefty opinion circles calling for American society to reconsider our fondness for billionaires. To me it seemed self-evidently immoral for anyone to possess a billion American dollars in wealth. We could argue where exactly the line was, but a billion was indefensibly beyond it — it’s far more money than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes, and far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however quickly he can ship you toilet paper.
The problem with billionaires was not just the obscenity of their wealth, though in a society where millions of people go without food, that was certainly part of it. It was also that their wealth was rarely questioned, even though it’s clear that extreme wealth corrupts — it buys power, especially political power, and uses that power to perpetuate its winnings at the expense of the rest of us, ultimately corroding democracy.
But in early 2019 — with progressives like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez releasing popular plans aimed at curbing extreme wealth — it looked like we were ready for a new social order. It looked like we were ready to abolish billionaires, as I put it.
I argued that we ought to enact economic policies that recoup some of the booty from the super-wealthy, but more important, instead of worshiping these masters of the universe, we should begin to look upon billionaires with moral suspicion. We should wonder about the kind of person who would hold claim to that level of wealth in a world weeping with so much suffering.
Typing these words now I want to reach out and shake myself out of my delusions — what a sweet summer child I was to believe my fellow Americans would put billionaires on the run. The anti-billionaire boomlet died with the Democratic presidential primaries. Since then billionaires have grown only wealthier and more powerful than ever. Now it feels like we can’t quit them — even after a pandemic in which billionaires prospered beyond all measure while so many others suffered great loss, we are nowhere close to putting any significant curbs on extreme wealth.
The world is enthralled with billionaires, almost shamelessly so. In just the last couple weeks, one billionaire, Elon Musk, sent cryptocurrency markets reeling by pumping a “memecoin,” successfully tested a prototype rocket meant to travel to Mars, and then took a charming turn as the host of “Saturday Night Live.” Bill and Melinda Gates, already both lauded and vilified (often unfairly, sometimes on the mark) for their role in global public health, announced a divorce whose cause and ramifications are just beginning to unravel. And besides the boat story, Bezos is the subject of an excellent new book, “Amazon Unbound,” by the Bloomberg journalist Brad Stone. In it, Bezos emerges as the ur-billionaire of our time, the deft wielder of a fortune so vast that he and his company are becoming “perilously close to invincible,” Stone writes.
As a matter of politics, that proposition is hard to refute. On the campaign trail, Joe Biden declined to “demonize” the wealthy and told rich donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” for their standard of living — a promise he has kept. The Biden White House has proposed tax increases on the wealthy, but the president has remained far from a tax on accumulated wealth or other efforts to snip the wings of the extremely wealthy. On the right, there may be growing suspicion of “woke corporations,” but on policy, Republicans remain glued to the interests of billionaires, not least the self-proclaimed billionaire who just left the White House.
How did I so misread the moment — why was I ever so optimistic that we could curb the power of the richest among us? I could say something self-serving, like that I overestimated my fellow Americans’ sense of shame, but the truth is that I got caught up in the moment. Traumatic as it was, for a time the Trump era seemed to open up wide possibilities on the left — remember that early in the Democratic presidential primaries, Sanders and Warren were top contenders. There suddenly seemed new space to question some of America’s fundamental cultural tenets, among them the idea that excessive wealth should be considered a mark of benevolence rather than greed.
But the pandemic quickly short-circuited these possibilities. As the incompetence of the government came into full view, billionaires began to look like our saviors — Bezos was keeping our houses stocked, Gates was minding public health and Musk was building the climate-friendly future. So when billionaires grew billions of dollars richer while the world locked down, hardly a peep of criticism rang out.
Now the billionaires are unleashed and untouchable. Behold their mighty yachts — and their other, smaller yachts, too, God help us.