Haiti vs. Imperialism and
Neocolonialism: Yesterday and Today
Sunday June 13, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Eastern Time (US and Canada)
• https://uspeacecouncil.org • https://www.facebook.com/USPeaceCouncil/ • @USPeaceCouncil
We will not be silenced!
Pacifica Radio: Mumia and Leonard Peltier Say NO to Undemocratic Bylaws Scheme!
KPFA and other Pacifica stations are the only media outlets that have covered environmental health struggles sympathetically at times, [ that most others] have ignored altogether. Pacifica is an important grassroots resource that must be defended.
An advisory to listeners of Pacifica's community radio stations:
There is yet another undemocratic by laws scheme underway.
If you are a member of KPFA, or of KPFK in Los Angeles, or know people who may be subscribers to KPFT (Houston), WBAI (New York City), or WPFW (Washington, DC), a ballot should have come by email to each member today (June 7.)
PLEASE use that ballot to VOTE ***NO*** on this wasteful and ill-advised scheme !!!
Endorsers of a NO vote include Harry Belafonte, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Cindy Sheehan, Danny Glover, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Lenny Foster and Lydia Ponce (AIM), Jack Heyman and Clarence Thomas (ILWU Local 10), Black Agenda Report, The San Francisco Bay View, Black Star News, Alameda County Peace & Freedom Party, and both the Oakland Greens and the San Francisco Green Party
Numerous others endorsing a NO vote include popular Pacifica producers; see: :
At least two endorsements claimed for the bylaws scheme are bogus, those of Martin Sheen and of Jane Fonda:
To find out how bizarre, dishonest, and thoroughly undemocratic the “New Day” schemers are, see:
Vote No on the New Day Bylaws: KPFA Local Board Hitting New Heights of Crazy
New Day Moves to Eradicate right of its own Staff to Vote on bylaws overhaul:
1,000 Word Statement Against the Proposed New Day Pacifica Bylaws:
For more analysis of the proposed new bylaws and their implications see:
If you did not receive your ballot, here is where to go, to request a replacement:
Let’s remind these costly schemers that we said “NO" to them before, and that we mean now what we meant then: NO
Photo from San Francisco rally and march in support of Palestine Saturday, May 15, 2021
Stand with Palestine!
Say NO to apartheid!
Join the global movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
Martha Hennessy and Carmen Trotta released from prison
Martha Hennessy was released yesterday, May 26, from Danbury prison after 5 1/2 months confinement to a halfway house in Manchester, New Hampshire which is about a two hour drive from her home in Vermont. Her husband, Stephen Melanson, picked her up and drove her to the halfway house. She expects to have to spend a week or two at the halfway house before being allowed to return home to finish the last few months of her 10 month sentence. She had applied for early release through the CARES Act which allows release for the qualified elderly to reduce the risk of catching COVID. She is looking forward to return to her home and family and her gardening soon. Martha gave a short video statement on getting out and it will be posted on the website shortly.
Mark Colville is scheduled to report to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY on June 8 to finish his 21 month sentence. He has already served 15 months in the county jails in Georgia before the trial in October 2019. He may also be eligible for an earlier release but does not intend to apply for any special consideration.
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
Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter was speaking at an American Legion service in Hudson, Ohio, on Monday when he was intentionally silenced.
By Neil Vigdor, June 3, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/03/us/american-legion-ohio-mic-cut-speech.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
A little more than four minutes into Barnard Kemter’s speech at a Memorial Day service organized by the American Legion post in Hudson, Ohio, an unusual thing happened: His microphone was silenced.
Mr. Kemter, 77, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served in the Persian Gulf war, had been crediting formerly enslaved Black Americans with being among the first to pay tribute to the nation’s fallen soldiers after the Civil War when his audio cut out on Monday.
Soon after, he said in an interview on Thursday, he learned that he had been intentionally muted by the event’s organizers, who disapproved of his message.
Now, the head of the American Legion of Ohio is seeking the resignation of two of the event’s organizers, and the organization has opened an investigation into the matter.
“Like anyone else, I figured it was a technical difficulty,” said Mr. Kemter, who tapped the microphone to see if it was on and continued his speech to a few hundred people with his unamplified voice.
The two organizers who have been called upon to resign, Cindy Suchan-Rothgery and James Garrison, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
But in an interview this week with The Akron Beacon Journal, Ms. Suchan-Rothgery acknowledged that she or Mr. Garrison — she did not specify — had turned off Mr. Kemter’s microphone for two minutes. She told the newspaper that Mr. Kemter’s narrative “was not relevant to our program for the day” and that the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”
The episode swiftly drew international attention to the solemn observance in Hudson, a town of some 22,000 people about 15 miles north of Akron, Ohio, at a time of reckoning in the country over racial injustice.
Until that moment, the service had resembled countless others that take place every Memorial Day. There was the playing of taps, the reading of the names of local armed forces members who died while serving the nation and the placement of wreaths.
The American Legion of Ohio said on Twitter on Thursday that the group’s commander, Roger Friend, had requested the resignations of Ms. Suchan-Rothgery and Mr. Garrison. It also noted that it had opened an investigation.
Mr. Friend said in an email on Thursday night that he would not be commenting further until that investigation was concluded.
In a statement issued on Thursday on Twitter, James W. Oxford, the national commander of the American Legion, saluted Mr. Kemter for his efforts to highlight the “important role played by Black Americans in honoring our fallen heroes.”
“We regret any actions taken that detracts from this important message,” Mr. Oxford said. “Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, the national headquarters is very clear that The American Legion deplores racism and reveres the Constitution.”
Mr. Kemter, who grew up in Hudson and had been invited by the local American Legion post to speak at the event, said he had researched his 11-minute speech and practiced it several times.
As a courtesy to the event’s organizers, he said, he sent a copy of his speech to Ms. Suchan-Rothgery three days before the service. On Sunday, he said, she replied.
“She just said she wanted changes made,” said Mr. Kemter, who lives in Pataskala, Ohio, which is more than two hours from Hudson.
Mr. Kemter said that Ms. Suchan-Rothgery had forgotten to save her notations on the word processing document that he had sent to her, so he just went ahead with his speech on Memorial Day.
“I did not have time to rewrite a speech,” he said.
As he took the microphone, Mr. Kemter mentioned his roots in Hudson and said that Memorial Day was a “day of solemn contemplation over the cost of our freedoms.” He said the observance had been born out of necessity when the nation was faced with the task of burying 600,000 to 800,000 Civil War dead.
“Memorial Day was first commemorated by an organized group of Black freed slaves less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered,” he said on Monday, citing research by David W. Blight, a Yale University history professor.
On May 1, 1865, Mr. Kemter said, a large group of formerly enslaved people organized a tribute to Union soldiers who had died at what had been a Confederate prisoner of war camp in Charleston, S.C.
“The ceremony is believed to have included a parade of as many as 10,000 people, including 3,000 African American schoolchildren singing the Union marching song, ‘John Brown’s Body,’” he said.
That was when Mr. Kemter’s microphone was silenced.
“It’s sad that it had to develop like that,” he said. “My whole intent on the speech was to be informative, educational and to pay tribute to African American contributions to the Memorial Day service and traditions.”
Since the murder of George Floyd, the racial justice movement has received millions of dollars in donations. But some chapters have questioned how those funds are spent.
By John Eligon, June 4, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/04/us/black-lives-matter.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
In the year since George Floyd was murdered, racial justice organizations across the country have been inundated with millions of dollars in donations and thousands of eager new activists. They have earned a prominent platform that puts them on the front lines of political and social battles.
Their influence has been immediate: A local organization helped St. Louis elect a Black woman as mayor for the first time. A longtime activist group in Louisville, Ky., oversaw what became a hub for protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor. And in Chicago, activists have lobbied the city to fund a program that would dispatch paramedics, instead of police officers, to people experiencing mental health crises.
But the surge in attention has also brought greater scrutiny and exposed tensions and challenges within a movement that saw tremendous growth over the past year, much like other progressive groups such as the Women’s March, which saw three of its leaders step down amid controversy.
In a very public dispute, several chapters within the national organization known as the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation broke away, claiming that the group’s national leaders had failed to provide financial transparency or include the chapters in decision-making. And family members of some victims of police killings have openly criticized racial justice organizations, accusing them of raising money in their children’s names but not supporting the families and their work to make change.
“I just feel like all these organizations that were made were made after someone had lost their loved one,” said Michael Brown Sr., who established his own foundation after his son, Michael, was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. “And they see that these parents are coming up with organizations already. They should be able to get on board and support these families that’s going through this.”
Since the police killing of Mr. Brown’s son led to a new wave of civil rights activism seven years ago, organizers of protests and marches have openly embraced a grass-roots philosophy. They have avoided individual leaders, seeking instead to build a movement by the people, for the people.
But the tensions playing out complicate the road ahead for the organizations that have sprouted from this movement, as their sway has only grown since Mr. Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. In the weeks after his killing in May 2020, an estimated 15 million to 26 million people participated in about 4,700 demonstrations across America, accounting for the largest movement in the country’s history.
That growth has brought great visibility, but also difficult questions over how to sustain it and how to effect meaningful change, whether through donations to political campaigns, services to families or investments in Black communities — or all of the above.
Chapters that broke from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, calling themselves the #BLM10, issued an open letter in December that said internal attempts at seeking transparency had gone nowhere.
Among their primary concerns, they said, was that the national organization had not detailed how much it had raised in donations or how the money had been spent. The national group also had not given much financial support to the chapters for the work they were doing in their communities, they said. If Black Lives Matter could not be transparent with its own members, the chapters argued, then it could not be a credible advocate for the communities it aimed to serve.
Leaders of the global network defended the way it was spending money, and emphasized that the breakaway chapters criticizing the group were not officially affiliated with it. The infusion of funds over the past year will allow the global network to build out its infrastructure so it can become a sustainable operation, said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter which is affiliated with the global network.
“I think we have to be very, very clear again that we are a power-building organization that works in concert with families,” she said, “but not a social service organization for families.”
As some leaders have risen to international attention, they have faced backlash from activists who see that ascent as a betrayal of the movement’s grass-roots spirit. And activists who once accused legacy civil rights leaders and organizations of being too mainstream and detached from the masses are now facing those same criticisms.
From W.E.B. Du Bois’s criticism that Booker T. Washington was too accommodating to white people, to ministers objecting to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s approach to protest as too worldly, tensions have long been a part of social justice movements.
“With visibility comes vulnerability, which is why you have to be tight in what you do,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, an often polarizing figure who has parlayed a long career in activism into becoming a political and media figure and the creator of a civil rights group, National Action Network, with chapters throughout the nation.
Younger activists who criticized him several years ago for not being grass-roots enough have recently turned to him for advice as they wrestle with the type of scrutiny he has faced, he said.
“I think out of the tension, it will make us all settle and find more possible ways to work together,” he said. “I think that sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but it’ll bring us to a better place, I hope.”
For years, national leaders warned that the Black Lives Matter movement could fracture if internal concerns were voiced publicly, said YahNé Ndgo, who recently stepped back as a core organizer with one of the breakaway chapters, Black Lives Matter Philly. That prevented many chapters from speaking up, she said.
But when the national leaders spun off a new organization, BLM Grassroots, last year to act as an umbrella for all chapters, those with concerns had to speak up, Ms. Ndgo said. It felt like another attempt by the national organization to evade accountability, she said.
“If a group is not acting in service to the movement,” she said, “then it has to be addressed.”
Amid questions from critics, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which received tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization last year, in February released its most complete accounting in its roughly six-year history. It reported receiving $90 million in donations last year, the most it had ever raised in a year. A majority of the funds were saved, the report said, with $8.4 million spent on operational expenses and $21.7 million distributed to local aid organizations and chapters.
The report caught the attention of Mr. Brown, who has at times seen the foundation he established after his son’s killing struggle to get resources, he said. In a video posted to social media, he stood alongside a local activist, who demanded that Black Lives Matter contribute $20 million to local organizers.
After releasing the video, Mr. Brown met with Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and other leaders from the organization. “We’re working on developing tangible relationships to aid in the work that we do within our foundation and the community,” Mr. Brown said in an interview. Last week, Ms. Cullors resigned from her post, saying that she planned to focus on other projects and that her departure was unrelated to criticism she has faced.
While BLM Grassroots will center on the work by local organizers in its various chapters, the national arm will focus on fund-raising, grant making and serving as an “action-oriented think tank of the movement,” according to the report on its operations.
The organization has increasingly sought to be a force in politics and last year created a political action committee to support candidates in November’s elections. It also lobbied against the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and drafted public safety legislation called the Breathe Act that it plans to champion before Congress.
But some activists say the optics are troubling. The families of some victims struggle financially, while the leaders of racial justice organizations oversee large fund-raising hauls that come, in part, from the public’s sympathy for the deaths of their loved ones.
Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy who was killed by Cleveland police officers in 2014, blasted Tamika Mallory, a co-founder of an organization called Until Freedom, calling her a “clout chaser” after she appeared at the Grammys in March.
Similar criticism has been widespread, with some local activists chastising national leaders for appearing more interested in publicity and fund-raising over the gritty work of pushing for change on the ground.
“We’re not trying to do celebrity activism,” said the Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, the executive director of Black Lives Matter-Oklahoma City. “We’re trying to save lives, uphold lives and to empower Black lives.”
Still, even with internal tensions, racial justice organizations say the past year has put them in a strong position.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has grown and gained influence among elected officials. Leaders say they now have 20 chapters, some of which engage in local battles to reduce police department budgets and institute policy changes.
There are now 17 breakaway chapters loosely collaborating to support the work they do in their respective communities, such as bailing out protesters who get arrested and providing resources and assistance to the families of those killed by the police.
Several families of people killed or injured by the police are turning toward one another for support instead of formal activist groups. Saying she was tired of what she saw as activists trying to make money off the victims of police violence, Lisa Simpson, whose son, Richard Risher, was fatally shot by the Los Angeles police in 2016, said she was starting her own movement with other victims’ families.
As much as some racial justice organizations argue they are working to change the system to prevent future police killings, that work can sometimes be of little comfort to people like Ms. Simpson who have lost their children.
“Because when the money’s gone, I got days where I cry, where I’m sad, where I’m angry, where I’m upset,” Ms. Simpson said.
Ultimately, the public tussle over the Black Lives Matter movement may serve to strengthen it, said Daniel Gillion, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies protest movements. The conflict allows a broad cross-section of people to have a say in shaping the movement, which bolsters the democratic principles upon which it was founded, he said.
“This isn’t Nancy Pelosi talking with congressional members behind closed doors,” he said. “It’s not that. It is truly grass roots, involving multiple people chiming in. And that’s what you want.”
By Stephen Vider and David S. Byers, June 5, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/05/opinion/Supreme-Court-LGBTQ-foster.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Contributors%20%20Opinion
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on a case that could upend, in the name of religious freedom, 50 years of progress in the effort to provide better support for L.G.B.T.Q. children in the foster system. Such a decision would be a devastating setback for all children in foster care, and set a dangerous precedent that could have broad repercussions.
The question the court has been asked to decide is whether the city of Philadelphia can bar Catholic Social Services from screening future foster parents. The agency claims a religious right under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause to exclude lesbian and gay couples as foster parents.
If the court’s conservative majority rules in favor of Catholic Social Services, the most obvious losers would be prospective lesbian and gay foster parents. Yet those with the biggest stake are L.G.B.T.Q. children and adolescents. A ruling for the agency would not only threaten hard-won advances to recognize and support L.G.B.T.Q. youth, but would embolden foster care agencies across the country to acquiesce in and perpetuate discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. people.
On any given day, there are over 400,000 children and adolescents in foster care in the United States. Trauma is built into the system. Children are typically removed from their families of origin because of reports of abuse or neglect, or because a guardian has died or been incarcerated. While there is no recent federal data on L.G.B.T.Q. young people in the foster care system, various studies, including one published in 2019 in the journal Pediatrics, show that L.G.B.T.Q. young people are over represented, with rates ranging from 24 to 34 percent.
For these L.G.B.T.Q. youth, the trauma is often different. Many are pushed out of their family homes because of homophobia and transphobia; once in foster care, they are often more vulnerable to harassment and abuse. L.G.B.T.Q.-affirming foster parents offer the best chance of providing a supportive home for those children and adolescents if they can’t remain with their families. This case directly threatens them.
When the case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, was argued before the Supreme Court in November, lawyers for Catholic Social Services maintained that the city should grant it an exemption from Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination law and simply allow it to refer lesbian and gay couples to another agency. Wouldn’t that, in Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s words, be a “win-win”? The agency’s lawyers also emphasized that the organization had served the community for more than a century. Why should it be stopped now from handling foster care?
But those arguments ignored an important fact: Since the early 1970s, state and local agencies have shown an increasing investment in protecting and supporting L.G.B.T.Q. children in the foster system.
As the journalist Michael Waters recently recounted in The New Yorker, with the rise of gay liberation, social workers in several states began placing L.G.B.T.Q. youth with lesbian and gay foster parents. This intervention was at once radical and pragmatic: While straight foster parents often rejected L.G.B.T.Q. young people, many lesbians and gay men were eager to step in. In some cases, as the legal historian Marie-Amelie George has shown, agencies actively reached out to L.G.B.T.Q. organizations for help.
One of the earliest and most expansive collaborations of this kind emerged in 1980 in Philadelphia when Eromin, a seven-year-old L.G.B.T.Q. counseling center, was licensed as a children and youth service agency. The previous year, two city social workers had obtained a meeting with the director of the Philadelphia County Children and Youth Agency to discuss the needs of L.G.B.T.Q. youth in the foster system. Eromin was soon enlisted to run training sessions for the agency’s staff on how to support these young people. By June 1980, the city asked Eromin to develop its own foster care program.
By 1981, Eromin began recruiting lesbian and gay foster parents and opened one of the first L.G.B.T.Q. group homes in the country, housing up to 12 young people at a time — most of them teens of color. As we detail in our 2019 article in American Psychologist, Eromin’s staff had no affirming clinical theories or models to draw on, so they developed novel approaches of care, often guided by their own experiences as L.G.B.T.Q. people, an approach we call clinical activism. As they learned, they also partnered with other agencies in their area and provided them with training, building a coalition of services. Eromin was forced to close its doors for financial reasons in 1984, but its efforts helped lead to the city’s first conference on social services for lesbian and gay youth later that year. Today, there are many organizations around the country that support L.G.B.T.Q. foster parents and young people.
The Fulton case is ultimately a tragic distraction from the pressing issues facing youth in foster care today, and the case has the potential to exacerbate the trauma that is already widespread in the child welfare system. Foster care abolitionists, for example, point out that Black, Indigenous and, in many areas, Latinx children are disproportionately separated from their families, and call for ending the child welfare system as we know it. These advocacy efforts have yet to substantially account for the needs of L.G.B.T.Q. children and youth. We should indeed be focused on finding ways to reduce out-of-home foster care placements for children and adolescents. But placements that are necessary should be integrated with L.G.B.T.Q.-affirming community programs under the presumption that all children and young people could be L.G.B.T.Q. Instead, we are fighting discrimination disguised as religious freedom.
Potential foster parents who agree to be chosen on an exclusionary basis would perpetuate anti-L. G.B. T. Q. stigmas. They would be unfit to provide foster care to L.G.B.T.Q. young people — or to their cisgender/straight peers.
The impact would extend beyond Philadelphia. Other agencies across the United States would also feel free to exclude L.G.B.T.Q. parents. According to Family Equality, 11 states have laws allowing faith-based foster care agencies to exclude L.G.B.T.Q. parents. Family Equality says more states are considering similar discriminatory legislation.
A decision in favor of Catholic Social Services could also undermine laws prohibiting employment and housing discrimination, and efforts by states to ban so-called “reparative” therapies in religiously oriented clinics. Religious rationales for homophobic and transphobic discrimination would be legitimized.
A win for Catholic Social Services would reinforce the problems we continue to face. And that is unquestionably a lose-lose.
Dr. Vider is an assistant professor of history and director of the Public History Initiative at Cornell University, and the author of the forthcoming “The Queerness of Home: Gender, Sexuality, and the Politics of Domesticity After World War II.” Dr. Byers is an assistant professor of social work at Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, and a postdoctoral associate at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell University.
Late Monday, police arrested activists and appeared to use a crowd-dispelling sonic device at the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, which would carry oil across sensitive waterways and tribal lands.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, Matt Furber and Coral Davenport
Hiroko Tabuchi reported from New York City, Matt Furber from the protests in Minnesota and Coral Davenport from Washington. Published June 7, 2021, Updated June 8, 2021
Demonstrators near Park Rapids, Minn., on Monday. Credit...Tim Gruber for The New York Times
A portion of the Line 3 Pipeline near Park Rapids, Minn. The project would carry 760,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada through tribal lands. Credit...Tim Gruber for The New York Times
PARK RAPIDS, MINN. — The protesters who gathered in the boreal forests of Northern Minnesota came from across the country — Native American tribes and their supporters, environmentalists and religious leaders — all to fight an expansion of Line 3, a $9 billion pipeline operated by the Canadian company, Enbridge, that would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil through Minnesota’s delicate watersheds and tribal lands.
Some said they had come ready to risk arrest by lying down in the path of construction. Others said they were here to support tribes that have been battling oil and gas pipelines for years, including the highly contentious Dakota Access Pipeline.
Late on Monday, police began making arrests after dozens of activists used an old fishing boat, bamboo and steel cable to blockade the road to a construction site off Highway 71 north of Park Rapids. Several hundred others scaled the fence at the site and occupied it, some climbing atop diggers and transformer boxes or chaining themselves to construction equipment.
Police in riot gear “broke through the steel fences and they just began arresting everyone,” said Tara Houska, a tribal attorney and member of the Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe along the Canadian border. “This is an act of violence on tribal land,” she said.
Police later escalated their attempts to end the protest, using what appeared to be a crowd-dispelling sonic device known as an LRAD, or Long Range Acoustic Device, on the protesters, and using bolt cutters and saws to cut people loose from the equipment they had chained themselves to.
Near midnight, representatives of the legal aid nonprofit National Lawyers Guild, who were present at the protest, said more than 100 people had been arrested. As the last of the police closed in, a core group of protesters made a stand at the boat. A lone voice shouted in the dark, “Water is life.”
Local police had earlier dispatched a helicopter to try to disperse the crowd at the pump station, kicking up clouds of dust.
Earlier in the evening, Cory Aukes, sheriff of Hubbard County, had said that arrests would be continuing through the evening, and that because there would not be enough room at the local county jail to house the detainees, they would be transferred to other counties as well. “We’ve arrested a lot of people,” he said. “And it’s up to them how long this gets drawn out.”
Over the weekend and into Monday, some 2,000 people took part in drum circles and prayer gatherings, and surveyed the network of construction sites that dot the woods. More than 100 protesters pitched tents to settle in for the night at another site near the Mississippi River’s headwaters, and some said they would camp out indefinitely to prevent Enbridge from digging there.
“Taking care of the water is our responsibility, and we take that responsibility seriously,” said Winona LaDuke, executive director and a co-founder of Honor the Earth, a Native environmental advocacy organization that is a lead group opposed to the pipeline. “We’ve been at this fight against Enbridge for seven years already. It’s like an invasion.”
Behind the scenes, Native lawyers have been urging the Biden administration to intervene. They are trying to flex a newfound political clout among tribal nations — Native Americans now hold important positions within the Biden administration — and say they intend to hold Mr. Biden to his campaign promises on racial equity, particularly for their communities.
The project, which received its final approvals under President Trump, is a 340-mile rerouting of a wider pipeline network. Once completed, it would carry 760,000 barrels of tar-sands oil a day from Alberta, Canada, across northern Minnesota and into Wisconsin to the tip of Lake Superior.
In April, Enbridge’s chief executive, Al Monaco, said Line 3 was on schedule to be completed by the end of the year. Native American tribes see the construction as a violation of their tribal sovereignty, an issue that President Biden explicitly pledged to prioritize during his campaign.
The pipeline would pass through treaty-protected tribal lands, they stress, including watersheds that support wild rice, a staple food and important cultural heritage of the Ojibwe People. And in the event of a spill, the heavy oil traveling through the pipeline could sink to the bottom of rivers and streams, complicating a cleanup, environmental groups warn.
In recent years, protesters in Minnesota and across the country have faced a growing number of local bills, backed by the oil and gas industry, that in many cases would make trespassing on or impeding the operation of pipelines and other infrastructure a felony. Minnesota has not yet passed such a bill, but since construction began at Line 3 in December, the Northern Lights Task Force — a police force funded by Enbridge, as mandated under the state’s approval of the pipeline project — have arrested more than 70 protesters since construction began on Dec. 1, according to a task force tally.
The Line 3 expansion also tests the Biden administration’s commitment to climate policy.
In his first week as president, Mr. Biden signed an executive order vowing to address climate change, rejoined the Paris climate agreement among the nations of the world, and canceled another pipeline, the Keystone XL, which would also have brought tar-sands oil, one of the dirtiest forms of energy, from Canada. He also recently suspended oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
At the same time, the Biden administration has defended a huge Trump-era drilling project and has taken other actions that could guarantee the drilling and burning of oil and gas for decades. And the president has so far stayed silent on Line 3, which would carry enough oil that, when burned, would add nearly 200 million tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere each year during the pipeline’s lifetime, according to the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. That’s the equivalent impact of annual emissions from 45 coal-fired power plants, or 38 million cars.
“Particularly from a climate standpoint, the case for a brand-new, massive tar-sands pipeline is extremely thin and frankly nonexistent,” said Moneen Nasmith, an attorney with the environmental legal organization, EarthJustice, which is challenging the pipeline.
We respect everyone’s right to peacefully and lawfully protest, but trespass, intimidation, and destruction are unacceptable,” Michael Barnes, a spokesman for Enbridge, said in an email. He said 44 workers had been evacuated from the site, including employees of a Native-owned contractor.
The project employed more than 500 Native workers and had brought more than 5,000 construction jobs to the region overall, he said. “We hoped all parties would come to accept the outcome of the thorough, science-based review and multiple approvals of the project. Line 3 has passed every test through six years of regulatory and permitting review,” he said.
So far, protests have had little effect on construction, which began in December and was 60 percent complete, he said.
Built in the 1960s, the current crude oil pipeline has been beset with corrosion, leaks and spills, forcing Enbridge in 2008 to reduce its capacity by half, to 390,000 barrels a day. In 2015, Enbridge cited corroding pipes and future oil demand to say it would reroute Line 3, a move that would allow it to restore its original capacity.
Opponents have tried a number of legal challenges. A decision is expected this month in one case, filed in Minnesota state court by tribes and environmental groups, which has focused on whether Enbridge carried out an adequate environmental review.
Two other cases challenge the project’s permits, issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, under the Clean Air Act. Opponents argue that the Army Corps failed to fully consider how an oil spill would affect the Lake Superior watershed.
Native lawyers and lobbyists have also been working their Washington connections. Late last month, Ms. Houska, the tribal attorney, pressed top Biden officials on what she saw as policy hypocrisy: Having canceled Keystone XL, how could the administration then allow Line 3 to go forward?
“This is a huge project with huge climate implications,” Ms. Houska said she told Gina McCarthy, the White House domestic climate adviser, and David Hayes, who advises Mr. Biden on land and water use policy. “You can’t cancel Keystone and then build an almost identical tar sands pipeline,” she said.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the meeting.
Tribal leaders are hoping that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who made history as the first Native American Cabinet member, will also be influential in Mr. Biden’s decision on the Enbridge pipeline.
Ms. Haaland’s public views on oil pipelines are well known: In 2016, Ms. Haaland joined the Standing Rock Sioux protesters in North Dakota who camped out for months in opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Department declined to comment on the role that Ms. Haaland might play in determining the fate of Line 3.
Meanwhile, one of the most senior officials with authority to determine whether pipeline permits could be reviewed or rescinded is Jaime Pinkham, the Army Corps of Engineers’ acting Assistant Secretary of Civil Works, who is a member of the Pacific Northwest’s Nez Perce Tribe. In 2016, Mr. Pinkham co-wrote an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune opposing the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.
A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said Mr. Pinkham is scheduled to meet with tribal members later this month at their request.
“The point has been for a long time to get to at least where we had the ear of those who were making decisions of consequence on tribal sovereignty,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, a Native activist who played a key role in the campaign urging Mr. Biden to nominate Secretary Haaland. “Hopefully that means that more of these decisions will be made to the benefit and with respect for tribal sovereignty.”
Global emissions dropped last year, but the decline wasn’t nearly enough to halt the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
By Brad Plumer, June 7, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/climate/climate-change-emissions.html?action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage
The amount of carbon dioxide piling up in Earth’s atmosphere set a record last month, once again reaching the highest levels in human history despite a temporary dip in the burning of fossil fuels worldwide caused by the coronavirus pandemic, scientists said Monday.
Scientific instruments atop the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii showed that levels of carbon dioxide in the air averaged 419 parts per million in May, the annual peak, according to two separate analyses from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Those readings are about half a percent higher than the previous high of 417 parts per million, set in May 2020. Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas driving global warming and researchers have estimated that there hasn’t been this much of it in the atmosphere for millions of years.
The stark new milestone comes as leaders from the Group of 7 nations prepare to meet in Cornwall, England, this week to discuss how they might step up efforts to tackle climate change. The data provides yet another warning that countries are still very far from getting their planet-warming greenhouse gases under control.
Global emissions temporarily dipped last year as countries locked down amid the pandemic, shuttering businesses and factories. According to the International Energy Agency, the world emitted 5.8 percent less carbon dioxide in 2020 than it did in 2019, the largest one-year drop ever recorded.
But that dip made little difference to the total amount of carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere. On the whole, humanity still emitted more than 31 billion tons of carbon dioxide last year, from sources such as cars that burn gasoline or power plants that burn coal. While about half of that carbon dioxide is absorbed by the world’s trees and oceans, the other half stays in the atmosphere, where it lingers for thousands of years, steadily warming the planet through the greenhouse effect.
“As long as we keep emitting carbon dioxide, it’s going to continue to pile up in the atmosphere,” said Ralph Keeling, a geochemist who runs the Scripps Oceanography CO2 program. The project, begun by his father, Charles D. Keeling, has been taking readings since 1958 at a NOAA observatory on the Mauna Loa volcano.
Dr. Keeling noted that last year’s drop in annual emissions was too small to be detected in the atmospheric data, since it can be overshadowed by natural fluctuations in carbon emissions from vegetation and soil in response to seasonal changes in temperature and soil moisture. Scripps scientists have previously estimated that humanity’s emissions would need to drop by 20 percent to 30 percent for at least six months to result in a noticeable slowing of the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
And, scientists have said, there’s only one way to stop the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from continuing to grow: nations would need to essentially zero out their net annual emissions, primarily by switching away from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies that do not emit carbon dioxide, such as electric cars fueled by wind, solar or nuclear power.
Last month, the International Energy Agency issued a detailed road map for how all of the world’s nations could reach net zero emissions by 2050. The changes would be drastic, the agency found: Countries would have to stop building new coal plants immediately, ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035 and install wind turbines and solar panels at an unprecedented rate.
If nations managed to hit that goal, they could limit total global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels. (The Earth has already warmed more than 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times.) Doing so could help humanity avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change, such as the irreversible collapse of polar ice sheets or widespread crop failures.
But so far, the agency warned, the world is not on track to hit that goal. Total annual emissions are currently expected to rise at their second-fastest pace ever this year as countries recover from the pandemic and global coal burning approaches its all-time high, led by a surge of industrial activity in Asia.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere currently varies by about 10 parts per million over the course of a year. It reaches a peak each May, before the seasonal growth of vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere, which has about two-thirds of the Earth’s land mass, removes some of the gas through photosynthesis.
The May average first topped 400 parts per million in 2014 — a milestone that attracted worldwide media coverage. Since then, emissions have continued to soar. The latest full-year average, for 2019, was 409.8 parts per million, about 46 percent higher than the preindustrial average of 280.
“The last decade has seen the most rapid growth of any decade in human history,” Dr. Keeling said. “So it’s not just that the levels are high, it’s that they’re still rising fast.”
The current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are likely comparable to those seen during the Pliocene era, 4.1 million to 4.5 million years ago, the Scripps scientists said. While that period is not a perfect guide to what would happen today, it can provide some clues. By analyzing ice cores and ocean sediments, researchers have determined that temperatures during that time were nearly 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than in the modern preindustrial era and that sea levels were about 78 feet higher than today.
An analysis by ProPublica based on Internal Revenue Service documents showed billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk benefited from vagaries in the tax code.
By Alan Rappeport, June 8, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/08/us/politics/income-taxes-bezos-musk-buffett.html?surface=most-popular&fellback=false&req_id=251468333&algo=bandit-all-surfaces-uh-lasttoday-alpha-01&variant=3_bandit-all-surfaces-uh-lasttoday-alpha-01&pool=pool/91fcf81c-4fb0-49ff-bd57-a24647c85ea1&imp_id=88721656&action=click&module=Popular%20in%20The%20Times&pgtype=Homepage
WASHINGTON — The 25 richest Americans including Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Elon Musk paid relatively little — and sometimes nothing — in federal income taxes between 2014 and 2018, according to an analysis from the news organization ProPublica that was based on a trove of Internal Revenue Service tax data.
The analysis showed that the nation’s richest executives paid just a fraction of their wealth in taxes — $13.6 billion in federal income taxes on $401 billion of their wealth.
The documents reveal the stark inequity in the American tax system, as plutocrats such as Warren Buffett, Jeffrey Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Elon Musk were able to benefit from a complex web of loopholes in the tax code and the fact that the United States puts its emphasis on taxing labor income versus wealth.
The rare window into the tactics of the nation’s top billionaires comes as President Biden is trying to overhaul the tax code to raise taxes on corporations and the rich. Mr. Biden has proposed raising the top income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent.
But the documents and the conclusions of the analysis could renew calls for Mr. Biden to consider a wealth tax, like those championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. Ms. Warren’s plan would apply a 2 percent tax to an individual’s net worth — including the value of stocks, houses, boats and anything else a person owns, after subtracting any debts — above $50 million.
Mr. Biden and his advisers have deemed the idea unworkable.
Ms. Warren said on Twitter that the report showed “our tax system is rigged for billionaires who don’t make their fortunes through income, like working families do.”
ProPublica did not reveal how it obtained the information and it could not be independently verified by The New York Times. But the publication said the documents were provided to the outlet “in raw form, with no conditions or conclusions” and that it had run the information past every executive whose information was included in the article.
“Every person whose tax information is described in this story was asked to comment,” ProPublica said, adding that those who responded “all said they had paid the taxes they owed.”
In a separate editors’ note, the outlet said it was publishing the information “quite selectively and carefully — because we believe it serves the public interest in fundamental ways, allowing readers to see patterns that were until now hidden.”
The report highlights the techniques that the wealthy often use to reduce their tax bills, including taking advantage of a complex web of loopholes and deductions that are perfectly legal and can significantly reduce — or erase — tax liability. That includes borrowing huge sums of money backed by enormous stock holdings. Those loans are not taxed and the interest that the executives pay on the money can often be deducted from their tax bills.
In 2007, Mr. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, paid nothing in federal income taxes even as his company’s stock price doubled. Four years later, as his wealth swelled to $18 billion, Mr. Bezos reported losses and received a tax credit of $4,000 for his children, according to ProPublica.
One example that ProPublica unearthed was that Mr. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway. Mr. Buffett has long said publicly that the tax code should hit the rich harder, but he paid just $23.7 million in taxes from 2014 to 2018, when his wealth rose by $24.3 billion.
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service did not immediately have a comment on the disclosures on Tuesday, but Charles Rettig, the I.R.S. commissioner, was scheduled to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning.
At the hearing, Mr. Rettig said that he could not comment on the apparent breach at his agency but said that it was being scrutinized.
“I can confirm that there is an investigation with respect to the allegations that the source of the information in that article came from the Internal Revenue Service,” Mr. Rettig said. “The investigators will investigate.”
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the finance committee, told Mr. Rettig that he was concerned about the security of taxpayer data. He also emphasized that the disclosures made clear that the tax code needs to be rewritten.
“What this data reveals is that the country’s wealthiest, who profited immensely during the pandemic, have not been paying their fair share,” Mr. Wyden said, adding that he has proposals to fix that disparity.
Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, the top Republican on the committee, said that the disclosures added to his concern about a Biden administration proposal to give the I.R.S. more access to the financial information of taxpayers. He suggested that the agency could not be trusted to keep the data secure.
The president said on Twitter on Tuesday that he was continuing to work with Republicans on infrastructure and jobs legislation and said that he would not seek a tax increase on anyone who earns less than $400,000.
“It’s long past time the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share,” Mr. Biden said.
By Jesus Jiménez, June 7, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/us/washington-marijuana-covid-vaccine.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
A worker at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company packaged pre-rolled marijuana joints near Shelton, Wash., in April 2018. Credit...Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
As part of its strategy to vaccinate more of its population, Washington State will allow adults to claim a free marijuana joint when they receive a Covid-19 vaccination shot.
The state’s liquor and cannabis board announced on Monday that the promotion, called “Joints for Jabs,” was effective immediately and would run through July 12.
The board said it would allow participating marijuana retailers to provide customers who are 21 or older with a prerolled joint at their stores when they received their first or second dose at an active vaccine clinic. The promotion applies only to joints, not to other products like edibles.
So far in Washington, 58 percent of people have received at least one dose, and 49 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.
Washington is not the only state to offer a cannabis promotion. An Arizona dispensary recently announced a similar campaign, providing free marijuana joints or gummy edibles to Arizonans 21 and older who receive a vaccination.
Washington’s liquor and cannabis board recently allowed for a free beer, wine or cocktail to residents with proof of vaccination.
Since the U.S. pace of vaccinations began to decline sharply in mid-April, states and cities have started promotions like free beer in New Jersey and a raffle to win full-ride college scholarships in New York and Ohio. Several states have held lotteries awarding cash prizes of $1 million or more.
Andy Slavitt, a White House virus adviser, has said the Biden administration was encouraging states to be creative — including through lotteries or other financial incentives — to get people vaccinated. The federal government is allowing states to use certain federal relief funds to pay for those types of programs.
By Binyamin Appelbaum, Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board, June 8, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/08/opinion/income-tax-billionaires.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by George Marks/Getty Images
Wealthy Americans can save a lot of money by cheating on their federal income taxes, but that’s nothing compared with how much money they’ve been saving by following the rules.
In a revealing examination of tax records for 25 of the wealthiest Americans, the journalism nonprofit ProPublica reported Tuesday that some of the nation’s most prominent billionaires declared relatively little taxable income in comparison with the rapid growth of their wealth.
Jeff Bezos, for example, added an estimated $99 billion in wealth between 2014 and 2018 but reported only $4.22 billion in taxable income during that period. Warren Buffett, who amassed $24.3 billion in new wealth over those years, reported $125 million in taxable income.
ProPublica, which says it doesn’t know who provided the confidential data, has performed a valuable public service by publishing it, illuminating how some of the wealthiest people in the United States essentially live under a different system of income taxation from the rest of us.
An army of volunteers quickly rushed to the defense of the nation's billionaires, insisting that they can’t be faulted for following the rules. But it is not a coincidence that the United States uses a definition of taxable income that happens to be hugely advantageous for rich people. The new data suggests that we need to consider a different definition of taxable income.
For tax purposes in the United States, income is basically defined as money. A person who receives a share of stock, for example, does not need to report the value as income. If an investment increases in value, that also does not count as taxable income. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman estimated in April that the wealthiest Americans are holding about $2.7 trillion in wealth on which they have not paid taxes.
The logic of this standard rests on a tripod of assumptions that aren’t true.
The first is that an increase in asset value is in some sense unreal, or at least unusable. The Supreme Court established the standard in 1920, ruling that a woman who received some shares of stock didn’t need to pay tax on the value because the transfer of the shares “takes nothing from the property of the corporation and adds nothing to that of the shareholder.”
The reality, however, is that many wealthy Americans live lavishly by borrowing against the value of their assets. ProPublica provides the example of Elon Musk, who has pledged shares of Tesla stock worth $57.7 billion as collateral for personal loans. That provides Mr. Musk with plenty of spending money. Indeed, he apparently has relatively little need for conventional income. ProPublica reported that in 2018 he paid nothing in federal income taxes.
The second and very common falsehood is that people will eventually pay taxes on their wealth — that they get to determine the timing but they do not get to avoid the taxman.
This is risible. It is easy to accumulate wealth that is never taxed. Assets can be siloed in nonprofit foundations whose main beneficiaries may be the people who run them. Assets can also be passed on to children and grandchildren. Better yet, the government allows heirs to take ownership at the present value, erasing the accumulated tax liability.
Mr. Buffett is never going to pay taxes on the vast majority of his wealth. He is quite open about this, telling ProPublica that he believes it’s better for society for his fortune to be distributed as charity “than if it is used to slightly reduce an ever-increasing U.S. debt.”
The third objection is that taxing wealth is a bureaucratic nightmare. There are difficulties, such as fixing rules for determining the value of assets. There also are downsides, such as the possibility that someone might have to sell an asset to pay taxes. But we know it can be done because Americans already pay property taxes, and it seems to work fine.
Even for those who aren’t ready to jump onto the wealth tax bandwagon, the data obtained by ProPublica underscores the need for a significant overhaul of the system.
The federal income tax is designed to be progressive, meaning that those who make more money are supposed to pay taxes at higher rates. But the richest Americans don’t. Public data shows that in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, the top 0.001 percent of taxpayers — roughly 1,400 households — paid a smaller share of income in taxes than the rest of the top 1 percent. The effective tax rate for that elite group was 22.9 percent.
According to ProPublica, the very richest Americans paid taxes at an even lower rate — just 13.3 percent of their taxable income in 2018. That was less than the median American household, which paid about 14 percent in federal taxes on about $70,000 in taxable income.
For some, the effective tax rate was significantly lower. ProPublica reported that Michael Bloomberg, a former New York mayor, paid just 3.7 percent of income in taxes.
The ProPublica story does not say that the rich broke any laws. For all we know, they all followed the law punctiliously. But it’s worth noting that we don’t really know, because the government has largely given up on verifying that the rich pay what they owe.
The Biden administration has proposed a number of changes that would chip away at these inequities, including a higher top tax rate on reported income, more funding and changes in rules that would help the I.R.S. to crack down on tax avoidance and eliminating the “step up” rule that allows heirs to avoid taxes on some accumulated wealth.
But none of those changes suffice to address the basic unfairness that the wealthy are living by a different set of rules, lavishly spending money that isn’t taxed as income.
I’ve argued that the government should disclose the amounts that everyone pays in income taxes, just as it discloses property taxes. The ProPublica story underscores the argument for transparency: It allows Americans to judge how well the system is working.
As I wrote in 2019, “Publishing a list of millionaires who paid little or no taxes this year could significantly reduce the number of millionaires who pay little or no taxes next year.”
Past disclosures, including the Panama Papers and the revelations about Donald Trump’s finances, have offered glimpses of the prevalence of tax avoidance. This newest data offers something more comprehensive. I hope it is enough to convince people that change is necessary.
Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday in the 1996 killing of Angie Dodge in Idaho, a crime for which Christopher Tapp was exonerated.
By Neil Vigdor, Published June 8, 2021, Updated June 9, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/08/us/angie-dodge-murder.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
Brian Leigh Dripps Sr., 55, right, and his lawyer, James Archibald, at Mr. Dripps’s sentencing on Tuesday. Credit...Monte Laorange/The Idaho Post-Register, via Associated Press
An Idaho man was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for the rape and murder of an 18-year-old woman in 1996, a crime for which another man was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 20 years.
The real perpetrator, Brian Leigh Dripps Sr., in the killing of Angie Dodge of Idaho Falls, Idaho, emerged after her mother sought to have investigators take another look at the case, which changed course as a result of advances in DNA analysis and the use of genetic genealogy.
That evidence connected Mr. Dripps to the crime, not Christopher Tapp, the innocent man who was originally convicted in Ms. Dodge’s killing. Legal advocates said that the police in Idaho Falls had coerced him into confessing to the crime. Mr. Tapp was exonerated in July 2019 after serving 20 years in prison.
Mr. Dripps, 55, ultimately confessed to killing Ms. Dodge, though he said he had intended only to rape her. He pleaded guilty in February to first-degree murder and rape. Under the terms of a plea agreement, he must serve at least 20 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
“A young man spent a significant part of his life in prison for no good reason,” Judge Joel E. Tingey of Idaho’s Seventh District Court said during the sentencing on Tuesday, addressing Mr. Dripps. “He was innocent. That falls on you.”
On June 13, 1996, Ms. Dodge had been sleeping when Mr. Dripps broke into her apartment in Idaho Falls, raped her and then nearly decapitated her, the authorities said. Her killing went unsolved for about a year, until a friend of Ms. Dodge was arrested in an unrelated rape that also involved a knife.
Mr. Tapp, who was 20 at the time, was friends with the man and had emerged as a suspect himself. Representatives of the Innocence Project, which works to overturn wrongful convictions, said that investigators had threatened to pursue the death penalty against Mr. Tapp and offered him immunity if he confessed to killing Ms. Dodge, which he did and later tried to renounce.
Despite DNA evidence collected from the crime scene that did not match his own, Mr. Tapp was convicted of rape and murder in May 1998.
The case regained momentum in 2014 when Carol Dodge, Ms. Dodge’s mother, contacted an expert on false confessions, who sought the involvement of the Innocence Project. Not convinced that her daughter’s killer had been brought to justice because of the lack of a DNA match, she had asked to see the confession tapes.
Ms. Dodge enlisted the help of a genealogist, who was able to create a new DNA profile for her daughter’s killer from evidence collected at the crime scene. According to an arrest warrant affidavit from 2019, a family tree of potential suspects led to Mr. Dripps, who had lived across the street from Angie Dodge at the time of her murder but had moved to Caldwell, Idaho, on the other side of the state. A discarded cigarette butt from Mr. Dripps matched the DNA evidence taken from the crime scene, the affidavit said.
“I can’t forgive you, ever,” Ms. Dodge told Mr. Dripps in court on Tuesday. “You have shattered our family. And there is no way to pick up the pieces ever again.”
As Ms. Dodge’s family members gave victim impact statements in court on Tuesday, some of them said that there was more than one victim.
“Chris Tapp should be given the opportunity to voice his nightmare to this court,” Ms. Dodge’s brother Todd Dodge said. “He served and lost 20 years of his life because of Mr. Dripps.”
Mr. Dripps, whose lawyer said he was drunk and high on cocaine at the time of the crime, apologized to Ms. Dodge’s family at the sentencing.
“I would just like to say that I am sorry,” he said, adding that he knew that the Dodge family would not forgive him. “I just wish I could do over that night.”
Genetic genealogy has been credited with providing investigators with breakthroughs in more than 40 cold cases, a majority of them yielding arrests. On occasion, the process, which involves comparing DNA evidence with the information in genealogy databases, has exonerated those wrongfully convicted. In Ms. Dodge’s killing, it did both.
“Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for some type of closure on such a crime,” Judge Tingey said just before sentencing Mr. Dripps. “On such a brutal crime.”
The federal government often gives less help to Black disaster survivors than their white neighbors. That’s a challenge for President Biden, who has vowed to fight both inequality and climate change.
By Christopher Flavelle, June 7, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/climate/FEMA-race-climate.html?action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage
Roy Vaussine and Charlotte Biagas live in modest, single-story homes about a dozen miles apart in southwest Louisiana. When Hurricane Laura tore through their community last August, the damage was nearly identical. A tree crashed through the roof of each house. Neither had insurance. Each sought help from the federal government.
At that point, their stories diverge. The Federal Emergency Management Agency initially gave Mr. Vaussine $17,000 in assistance; Ms. Biagas and her husband, Norman, got $7,000.
Their situations are different in another respect: Mr. Vaussine is white. Charlotte and Norman Biagas are Black.
A growing body of research shows that FEMA, the government agency responsible for helping Americans recover from disasters, often helps white disaster victims more than people of color, even when the amount of damage is the same. Not only do individual white Americans often receive more aid from FEMA; so do the communities in which they live, according to several recent studies based on federal data.
Leaders at FEMA are wrestling with the complicated question of why these disparities exist — and what to do about them. The problem seems to stem from complex systemic factors, like a real estate market that often places higher values on properties in communities with many white residents, or the difficulty of navigating the federal bureaucracy, which tends to favor people and communities that have more resources from the beginning.
The impact from this disparity is long-lasting. White people in counties with significant disaster damage that received FEMA help saw their personal wealth jump years later while Black residents lost wealth, research published in 2018 shows.
The imbalance comes as climate change fuels more frequent and more destructive storms, wildfires and other disasters, and marginalized communities tend to be both the most exposed to damage and least able to recover financially.
FEMA declined to comment on individual cases, citing privacy concerns, and said it had created an internal working group to examine the issue. In April, it asked the public for examples of policies “that perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and/or other underserved groups,” as well as ideas for improvement.
“We are advancing this work,” said Justin Knighten, FEMA’s director of external affairs, adding that the agency is working on a comprehensive public response. “That is a top priority for the administrator.”
The racial disparities in FEMA’s disaster assistance present a test for President Biden, who has made fighting both racial inequality and climate change central themes of his administration.
“All FEMA programs and policies need to be equitable, due to the disproportionate impact of disasters on marginalized communities,” said Chauncia Willis, co-founder and chief executive of the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management, a nonprofit group in Georgia. “It needs to become a core goal.”
The pressure on FEMA to address racial disparities is growing. The Government Accountability Office is looking at FEMA’s actions “to ensure more equitable outcomes” in its disaster programs. The agency’s own advisory council said FEMA isn’t meeting its legal requirement to provide aid without discrimination on racial or other grounds. During her Senate confirmation, the first question faced by Deanne Criswell, President Biden’s choice to run FEMA, was how she would ensure Black, brown and Latino survivors get equal access to disaster aid.
“It is unacceptable that minority communities not only feel the impact of natural disasters far more severely than others, but they also often have more difficulty obtaining assistance from the federal government,” Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
The research so far suggests that the scale of the problem is immense.
After a disaster, FEMA’s Individual Assistance program offers grants to survivors who do not have insurance, providing as much as $36,000 for home repairs. Before giving money, FEMA or its contractors inspect a property for damage, and then determine whether that damage was caused by the disaster and how much to provide in assistance.
Ethan J. Raker, who recently earned a Ph.D. at Harvard and will be taking up an assistant professor position at the University of British Columbia this summer, used a public record request to obtain 5.4 million applications for FEMA assistance from homeowners affected by hurricanes between 2005 and 2016. He found racial disparities at every stage of the process.
The higher the percentage of Black residents living in a specific ZIP code, the less likely applicants there were to get an inspection, without which FEMA typically will not fund repairs, he found.
Even when disaster victims in African-American neighborhoods were able to get a damage inspection, 11 percent had their requests denied with no reason given. By comparison, just 4 percent of homeowners in white neighborhoods were denied with no reason given.
And when homeowners in Black areas succeeded at getting their applications approved, FEMA awarded them less money on average than applicants in white areas — between 5 percent and 10 percent less, Dr. Raker found.
A 2019 paper by Stephen Billings and Emily Gallagher, at the University of Colorado, found a similar pattern after Hurricane Harvey. Homeowners who lived on blocks with a greater share of nonwhite residents, as well as lower incomes and credit scores, had a lower chance of getting approved for FEMA grants.
“It should be the other way around,” Dr. Gallagher said, noting that more vulnerable populations have an even greater need for federal disaster assistance.
When it comes to money that FEMA reimburses counties and municipalities for rebuilding roads, bridges, hospitals and other facilities after a disaster, racial disparities exist as well.
Counties with a significant share of Black, Hispanic or Native American residents often receive less money from FEMA than mostly white counties, even when suffering the same amount of damage, according to a study published in 2019 by Simone J. Domingue, then a researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who analyzed FEMA grants to 1,621 counties from 2012 through 2015.
Racial disparities also exist in FEMA’s program that purchases and then demolishes damaged homes. Those buyouts are meant to help individual homeowners leave a dangerous location, and reduce future federal costs by avoiding paying for more damage in that spot.
But buyouts can leave people worse off, especially lower-income families who may not have enough money to purchase a home in a safer location. Buyouts can also hurt a community by hollowing it out, making it less attractive while also shrinking the tax base.
In a paper published last year, James R. Elliott, a sociology professor at Rice University, looked at FEMA buyouts around the country from 1990 to 2015. Dr. Elliott and his co-authors found that FEMA “seems to be disproportionately demolishing homes in communities of color,” he said.
The various FEMA programs appear to be making racial inequality worse, sometimes in surprising ways.
Research published in 2018 found that, for white Americans, living in a county hit by a large disaster was a financial boon. Those white residents didn’t just see their wealth grow — it grew five times as much, on average, as the wealth of white residents in counties without major disasters, according to the research by Dr. Elliott and Junia Howell, a sociology professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Wealth in these cases largely referred to changes in home values.
For Black residents of those same disaster-struck counties, by contrast, wealth levels shrank after a disaster, according to the research.
Changes in home values are probably part of the reason, according to the authors: As white neighborhoods receive new federal investment, demand for houses in those neighborhoods goes up, while Black neighborhoods often get less federal spending and so struggle to recover. And Black residents may be more likely to suffer a financial setback, such as losing a home or a job.
“The more aid an area receives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the more this inequality grows,” Dr. Howell and Dr. Elliott wrote. “FEMA aid — as currently administered — appears to exacerbate the problem.”
In interviews, researchers said they had no reason to believe FEMA was intentionally discriminating. Rather, the differences may flow from the realities of real estate, municipal finance and the challenges of navigating the federal bureaucracy.
Counties with more nonwhite residents may have less tax revenue, which means fewer staff or resources to navigate the complex process of seeking FEMA grants, or less money to pay the local share that FEMA requires. And houses in Black neighborhoods may have lower property values, which makes them more attractive for government buyout programs with limited funds.
More money to rebuild communities after a disaster may increase property values, pricing out lower-income renters. And individual disaster assistance tends to benefit homeowners more than renters, and people of color are more likely to rent.
The process of seeking FEMA’s help is also demanding, requiring documentation, internet access and time — making it burdensome for those who may be temporarily displaced, whose livelihood may be disrupted, and who may be also struggling to care for children or other family members.
The challenges of navigating that system can be seen in the cases of Mr. Vaussine and Mr. and Mrs. Biagas.
Hurricane Laura sent a pine tree through the roof of the single-story house that Charlotte Biagas grew up in, near a bayou on the north side of Lake Charles. That led to extensive water damage; six weeks later, Hurricane Delta dumped more rain into the home.
Her husband, a 55-year-old Navy veteran, had been working for his brother-in-law’s tiling and flooring business. But the pandemic caused business to dry up, and, with it, his income.
Then the hurricane hit, throwing their lives further into disarray: The couple had to move in with their son, three hours away near Houston. FEMA gave them a trailer to stay in, which remains parked in their driveway. The couple are only now in the process of moving back into their house.
Mr. Biagas described the application process as horrible. “My wife had to submit applications over and over again,” he said. “It was a very trying time.”
A tree also broke through the roof of Mr. Vaussine’s house, knocking out the back wall and destroying his bedroom and bathroom. But in a sense, Mr. Vaussine, an 87-year-old retired oil rig worker, was lucky: His niece, Sharon Moses, was able to handle his application process. Ms. Moses said her uncle has been able to stay with his girlfriend while his house is being repaired. He has yet to move back in.
Keith Turi, FEMA’s assistant administrator for disaster recovery, said in a statement: “Comparing what externally appears to be similar types and amounts of damage is an inaccurate way of evaluating whether a given household received the appropriate level of assistance.”
“If a person believes damages were not accurately captured and included, they can work with our FEMA team to appeal,” Mr. Turi said.
But the appeals process also leaves people of color at a disadvantage, experts said.
The Biagases and Mr. Vaussine appealed to FEMA for more money with the help of SBP, a nonprofit group that helps people cope with the complexity of FEMA programs.
Of the 33 families in and around Lake Charles that SBP has helped appeal their awards, 11 won more money, and the remaining cases are still in process, according to Reese May, the group’s chief strategy and innovation officer. None have been denied.
That success rate suggests that FEMA’s awards are too low, putting the onus on disaster survivors to fight for more, Mr. May said. Appealing is “an arduous process, and one that’s often confusing to the applicant.” Only 3 percent of FEMA applicants file an appeal, the Washington Post reported in April.
The appeals by the Biagases and Mr. Vaussine were both successful, thanks in part to SBP’s help obtaining independent damage estimates. They showed that Mr. Vaussine’s house suffered $60,821 in damage. Mr. and Mrs. Biagas had an almost identical amount of damage, $57,735.
In the end, Mr. and Ms. Biagas received a total of $26,000 from FEMA. Mr. Vaussine got $35,500. In each case, SBP is paying the difference between what FEMA provided and the total cost of repairs, using money raised from donors.
Mr. Biagas said the FEMA staff he dealt with “gave no indication of any kind of racism.” But he said that his neighborhood, which is predominantly African-American, is recovering more slowly than other areas nearby where most of the residents are white.
“We’re still rebuilding, and they’re up and running,” Mr. Biagas said. “I don’t understand it.”
By Shannon Brewer, Ms. Brewer is the clinic director at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, June 9, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/09/opinion/abortion-mississippi-supreme-court.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
JACKSON, Miss. — I could see the pain on the patient’s face as soon as she walked through the door of the abortion clinic where I work. She was unbearably sick from pregnancy complications and had been in and out of the hospital for weeks. She had just driven almost 200 miles to reach us because there are so few abortion clinics in the South. Like most of the patients who come through my clinic, she thought she’d be able to get an abortion that day.
I had to tell her that under Mississippi law, patients like her cannot get an abortion on their first visit to a clinic. Instead, they have to sit through state-mandated “counseling” — visits that can take several hours. Then they have to come back another day to get the pills for their medication abortion or have their procedure. Often, patients are not able to make that second appointment until the following week or later because we’re booked up or because they can’t make arrangements for child care or get time off work again.
The patient pleaded with me through tears, as many do. She did not understand why such laws exist. “Baby, I don’t make the laws,” I told her. “But we have to follow them or we’ll get shut down.”
In fact, those layers of state restrictions were working against her just as lawmakers had intended — pushing abortion out of reach, especially for those struggling to make ends meet. I watched her walk out after “counseling,” not knowing if I’d see her again. She made it back to get her abortion the next week, but not all patients do.
For 20 years now, I’ve been working at Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which we affectionately call the Pink House because it’s painted bubble gum pink. It was difficult for women to get an abortion when I started in 2001, but I had no idea just how bad things would get. We are now the only abortion clinic remaining in Mississippi.
Three weeks ago, it became clear that things could soon get a whole lot worse.
When Mississippi’s Legislature passed a ban on almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in 2018, I was outraged but not worried. This ban is plainly unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said that states cannot ban abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, typically around 23 weeks of pregnancy at the earliest. So we sued the state — as we have before — and the ban has been blocked ever since. I was not concerned when the state appealed to the Supreme Court. I expected the court would not take up the case.
Then last month, I got a call from my lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights. The Supreme Court would hear Mississippi’s appeal, she said. It would reconsider whether states may ban abortion before the point set forth in Roe.
If the ban is upheld and Roe is reversed, it would make an already awful situation yet more dire. Women may need to drive even farther, across multiple states, to get abortion care.
We desperately need — we have long needed — Congress to intervene.
If the court reverses Roe and allows states to ban abortion earlier than viability, nearly half of the states could take action to ban abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Already, at least 10 states have trigger laws in place that are designed to ban abortion immediately should Roe be overturned. We will become two separate countries: one where women can control their bodies and futures, and one where they cannot.
But the truth is, we are already two separate countries.
While some states, including California and New York, have laws protecting abortion rights, the laws in Mississippi are designed to make abortion hard to get and to make clinics like mine harder to operate. There are now five states with just one remaining abortion clinic, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
Abortion is absolutely a racial and economic justice issue. A large majority of our patients are Black women like me. The legislatures passing these laws in Mississippi and other Southern states are mostly male and predominantly white. The laws are inherently racist and classist; they keep Black and brown people down. And the research is clear: A woman who is denied an abortion is more likely to live in poverty even years later.
People who can afford to fly many states over are able to avoid this spider web of laws. Many of the women who can’t afford that, who manage to make it through our doors, have spent every penny they have and driven for hours, and had to take time off work and find the money for gas, a hotel and child care — only to have to force their way through a pack of protesters shouting “whore” and “murderer.”
But what really haunts me are the women I never see — the ones who can’t make it here.
The ability to control your own body and future should not depend on where you live, who you are and how much money you make. But state lawmakers have made that our reality. And if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, this inequality will be hugely magnified.
We need the federal government to put an end to this assault on our rights. We need it to protect abortion access everywhere, for everyone.
On Tuesday, members of Congress reintroduced a bill that would do exactly that — the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill, which was first introduced in 2013 but has never been passed, would protect against state laws like Mississippi’s two-trip requirement and 15-week ban. It would do so by creating a statutory right for health care providers to deliver abortion care and a right for patients to receive that care without medically unnecessary restrictions.
If this legislation becomes law, abortion access will be protected in every state. The law would surely face stiff legal pushback from Mississippi and other anti-abortion states, but Congress has passed laws protecting health care access, and this one should be treated no differently.
This year must be the year the bill passes. We have needed Congress’s help for many years, but now we need it more than ever.
By Nicholas Kristof, June 9, 2021
Image Source, via Getty Images
Veterinarians and pharmacists may be able to help us with more than our pets and our pills. Perhaps they can also guide America to a society that works better for America’s moms.
Women today outnumber men in colleges, in law schools and in medical schools. Yet while women seem better credentialed than men, their careers and incomes have stagnated.
Full-time female workers overall get 82 cents for each dollar made by men, and it’s much worse for those who are well educated. The median pay for female college graduates working full time is only 72 cents for every dollar earned by male equivalents, and the figure has barely budged for 30 years.
Women have constituted half of new accountants since the 1980s, but they still make up only 16 percent of equity partners in large accounting firms. Fifteen years after graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, 35 percent of men have made partner but only 18 percent of women.
“Women continue to feel shortchanged,” notes Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor, in a forthcoming book called “Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey Toward Equity,” from which most of the figures here are drawn. “They fall behind in their careers while earning less than their husbands and male colleagues.”
We often assume the fundamental cause of this inequity is old-fashioned discrimination, in the form of chauvinists who pay women less for the same work. It would be simpler if that were true — but Goldin cites evidence that while pay discrimination persists, it is not the central problem.
Early in careers, women earn almost as much as men, and those who don’t have children continue to (mostly) hold their own in the earnings race.
Nor is the gap the result primarily of women choosing lower-paid professions, as some claim. That may explain one-third of earnings gaps, not more.
The big challenge is that for most women, about 10 years into a career, babies make it much more complicated in jobs indifferent to parenting — and that suggests a larger, structural barrier to women’s career advancement.
“It’s systemic,” Goldin told me. “We have to go back to the drawing board and think harder.” She argues that without addressing parenting, the solutions bandied about are “the economic equivalent of tossing a box of Band-Aids to someone with bubonic plague.”
When a child is sick, one parent — it’s usually the mom — has to extricate from work and rush to the pediatrician. In theory, father and mother could trade off these responsibilities, but then neither would make partner. So in practice the man is often the designated career maximizer, while the woman sacrifices career advancement for the sake of family.
“Both are deprived,” Goldin writes. “Men forgo time with family; women forgo career.”
This made me think of my own family. My wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and I believe deeply in gender equity — we wrote a book about it — and yet, looking back, I see this was true of us. I was typically the one who flew off to cover coups, leaving Sheryl (who has more graduate degrees than I do) to deal with the kids’ birthday planning or the bat in the bedroom.
But there is hope, and that takes us to veterinarians.
It used to be that vets, like top lawyers, financiers and management consultants, often worked long and irregular hours. Dogs triumphed; vet families suffered. But 77 percent of new vets are female, and they have nurtured a system of group and emergency practices that is more family friendly: If Rover gets sick at night you take him to a 24-hour emergency clinic.
Likewise, the neighborhood pharmacist often toiled long hours and offered personal services. But today you call in a prescription and don’t expect to see a particular pharmacist. This allows pharmacists to work much more flexibly, so one-third of female pharmacists in their 30s work fewer than 35 hours a week.
By various measures, pharmacy is now one of the most equitable and family-friendly professions in America. And similar flexible practices are reshaping female-dominated fields of medicine such as pediatrics and obstetrics.
Could finance or consulting be structured more like this? If a C.E.O. is willing to trust his sick child to an on-call pediatrician, then why not let an on-call C.P.A. handle a weekend accounting question?
“I’m amazed when a lawyer, accountant, consultant or financier makes a case for nonsubstitutability among professionals in his area, but can’t answer why delivering a baby isn’t the equivalent,” Goldin writes.
The pandemic was potentially transformative, creating an opportunity for corporations to introduce more flexibility and remote work. Likewise, President Biden’s proposals for high-quality day care would be a Godsend for parents.
Goldin argues that we may be at a turning point, but that will depend on whether men embrace systemic changes that allow the flexibility pioneered by pharmacy and vet practices. The critical step, Goldin advises: “Get men on board.”
And that is why I wrote this column.
By Coral Davenport, June 9, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/09/business/keystone-xl-pipeline-canceled.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
The Canadian pipeline company that had long sought to build the Keystone XL pipeline announced Wednesday that it had terminated the embattled project, which would have carried petroleum from Canadian tar sands to Nebraska.
The announcement was the death knell for a project that had been on life support since President Biden’s first day in office and had been stalled by legal battles for years before that, despite support from the Trump administration.
On the day he was inaugurated, Mr. Biden, who has vowed to make tackling climate change a centerpiece of his administration, rescinded the construction permit for the pipeline, which developers had sought to build for over a decade. That same day, TC Energy, the company behind the project, said it was suspending work on the line.
On Wednesday, the company wrote in a statement that it “will continue to coordinate with regulators, stakeholders and Indigenous groups to meet its environmental and regulatory commitments and ensure a safe termination of and exit from the project.”
Environmental activists cheered the move and used the moment to urge Mr. Biden to rescind the Trump-era permits granted to another pipeline, the Enbridge Line 3, which would carry Canadian oil across Minnesota. Hundreds of protesters were arrested earlier this week in protests against that project.
“The termination of this zombie pipeline sets precedent for President Biden and polluters to stop Line 3, Dakota Access, and all fossil fuel projects,” said Kendall Mackey, a campaign manager with 350.org, a climate advocacy group. “This victory puts polluters and their financiers on notice: Terminate your fossil fuel projects now — or a relentless mass movement will stop them for you.”
On Capitol Hill, Republicans slammed Mr. Biden. “President Biden killed the Keystone XL pipeline and with it, thousands of good-paying American jobs,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy committee. “On Inauguration Day, the president signed an executive order that ended pipeline construction and handed one thousand workers pink slips. Now, ten times that number of jobs will never be created. At a time when gasoline prices are spiking, the White House is celebrating the death of a pipeline that would have helped bring Americans relief.”
The 1,179-mile pipeline, which would have carried 800,000 barrels a day of petroleum from Canada to the Gulf Coast, had become a lightning rod in broader political battles over energy, the environment and climate change. After environmental activists spent years making the case to President Barack Obama that approval of the pipeline would be a devastating blow to his efforts to fight climate change, Mr. Obama in 2015 announced that his administration would reject its construction permit.
Two days after his inauguration in 2017, President Donald J. Trump, who during the campaign promised to overturn Mr. Obama’s environmental legacy, signed an executive order rescinding Mr. Obama’s decision and allowing the pipeline to go forward. But in 2018, after some portions of the pipeline had been built, a federal judge blocked further construction of the project on the grounds that the Trump administration did not perform adequate environmental reviews before rescinding the Obama decision. The project had been largely stalled since then.
Researchers are starting to investigate the species that drive alpine algal blooms to better understand their causes and effects.
By Cara Giaimo, June 11, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/11/science/watermelon-snow-algae-glacier-blood.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Science
Sampling red-colored snow in the Alps. Credit...Jean-Gabriel/Valaey/Jardin du Lautaret/UGA/CNRS/ALPALGA
Winter through spring, the French Alps are wrapped in austere white snow. But as spring turns to summer, the stoic slopes start to blush. Parts of the snow take on bright colors: deep red, rusty orange, lemonade pink. Locals call this “sang de glacier,” or “glacier blood.” Visitors sometimes go with “watermelon snow.”
In reality, these blushes come from an embarrassment of algae. In recent years, alpine habitats all over the world have experienced an uptick in snow algae blooms — dramatic, strangely hued aggregations of these normally invisible creatures.
While snow algae blooms are poorly understood, that they are happening is probably not a good sign. Researchers have begun surveying the algae of the Alps to better grasp what species live there, how they survive and what might be pushing them over the bleeding edge. Some of their initial findings were published this week in Frontiers in Plant Science.
Tiny yet powerful, the plantlike bacteria we call algae are “the basis of all ecosystems,” said Adeline Stewart, a doctoral student at Grenoble Alpes University in France and an author of the study. Thanks to their photosynthetic prowess, algae produce a large amount of the world’s oxygen, and form the foundation of most food webs.
But they sometimes overdo it, multiplying until they throw things out of balance. This can cause toxic red tides, scummy freshwater blooms — or unsettling glacier blood.
While it’s unclear exactly what spurs the blooms, the color — often red, but sometimes green, gray or yellow — comes from pigments and other molecules that the snow algae use to protect themselves from ultraviolet light. These hues absorb more sunlight, causing the underlying snow to melt more quickly. This can change ecosystem dynamics and hasten the shrinking of glaciers.
Inspired by increasing reports of the phenomenon, researchers at several alpine institutes decided to turn their attention from algae species in far-flung habitats to those “that grow next door,” said Eric Maréchal, the head of a plant physiology lab at Grenoble Alpes University and a leader of the project.
Because so many different types of algae can live and bloom in the mountains, the researchers began with a census in parts of the French Alps to find out what grows where. They took soil samples from five peaks, spread over various altitudes, and searched for algal DNA.
They found that many species tend to prefer particular elevations, and have most likely evolved to thrive in the conditions found there. One key genus, fittingly named Sanguina, grows only above 6,500 feet.
The researchers also brought some species back to the lab to investigate their potential bloom triggers. Algae blooms occur naturally — the first written observation of glacier blood came from Aristotle, who guessed that the snow had grown hairy red worms from lying around too long.
But human-generated factors can worsen such outbursts and make them more frequent. Extreme weather, unseasonably warm temperatures and influxes of nutrients from agricultural and sewage runoff all play a role in freshwater and ocean algae blooms.
To see if the same was true for glacier blood, the researchers subjected the algae to surpluses of nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus. While they have not found anything significant so far, they plan to continue this line of testing, Mrs. Stewart said.
The limits of DNA sampling mean that even this study gives an incomplete picture of what’s living in and under the snow, said Heather Maughan, a microbiologist and research scholar at the Ronin Institute in New Jersey who was not involved. Still, it revealed the “incredible diversity” of alpine algae — underscoring how little we know about them, as well as their potential to “serve as beacons of ecosystem change,” she said.
In the coming years, the researchers will keep track of how species distributions shift over time, which may shed light on the overall health of the ecosystem, Mrs. Stewart said. They will also try to establish whether temperature patterns correlate with blooms, and begin to compare species compositions in white versus colorful snow. Eventually, they hope to decipher the blood-red message.
“There’s so little that we know,” she said. “We need to dig deeper.”
Yes, planting new trees can help. But intact wild areas are much better. The world needs to treat warming and biodiversity loss as two parts of the same problem, a new report warns.
By Catrin Einhorn, June 10, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/10/climate/biodiversity-collapse-climate-change.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Climate%20and%20Environment
Some environmental solutions are win-win, helping to rein in global warming and protecting biodiversity, too. But others address one crisis at the expense of the other. Growing trees on grasslands, for example, can destroy the plant and animal life of a rich ecosystem, even if the new trees ultimately suck up carbon.
What to do?
Unless the world stops treating climate change and biodiversity collapse as separate issues, neither problem can be addressed effectively, according to a report issued Thursday by researchers from two leading international scientific panels.
“These two topics are more deeply intertwined than originally thought,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chairman of the scientific steering committee that produced the report. They are also inextricably tied to human well being. But global policies usually target one or the other, leading to unintended consequences.
“If you look at just one single angle, you miss a lot of things,” said Yunne-Jai Shin, a marine biologist with the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development and a co-author of the report. “Every action counts.”
How we got here
For years, one set of scientists and policymakers has studied and tried to tackle the climate crisis, warning the world of the dangers from greenhouse gases that have been building up in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. The lead culprit: burning fossil fuels.
Another group has studied and tried to tackle the biodiversity crisis, raising alarms about extinctions and ecosystem collapse. The lead culprits: habitat loss because of agriculture, and, at sea, overfishing.
The two groups have operated largely in their own silos. But their subjects are connected by something elemental, literally: carbon itself.
The same element that makes up heat-trapping carbon dioxide, methane and soot is also a fundamental building block of the natural world. It helps form the very tissue of plants and animals on earth. It’s stored in forests, wetlands, grasslands and on the ocean floor. In fact, land and water ecosystems are already stashing away half of human-generated emissions.
Another connection between climate and biodiversity: People have created emergencies on both fronts by using the planet’s resources in unsustainable ways.
For the last couple of decades, the climate crisis has largely overshadowed the biodiversity crisis, perhaps because its threat seemed more dire. But the balance may be shifting. Scientists warn that declines in biodiversity can lead to ecosystem collapse, threatening humanity’s food and water supply.
“Climate change of four or five degrees is just such an existential threat to people, it’s hard to imagine,” said Paul Leadley, one of the authors and an ecologist at Paris-Saclay University.
And, he continued, “if we lose a really large fraction of species on earth, that’s an existential threat.”
What’s not working
Businesses and countries have increasingly looked to nature as a way to offset their emissions, for example, by planting trees to absorb carbon. But the science is clear: Nature can’t store enough carbon to let us keep on spewing greenhouse gases at our current rates.
“A clear first priority is emissions reductions, emissions reductions and emissions reductions,” Dr. Pörtner said.
Just last month, the world’s leading energy agency declared that if the world wants to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, nations would need to stop approving new coal, oil and gas projects immediately.
To make matters worse, some measures being used or proposed to address climate change could devastate biodiversity.
“Some people are out there selling this message that if we cover the whole planet with trees, that will solve the climate problem,” Dr. Leadley said. “That’s a mistaken message on many levels.”
In Brazil, parts of the Cerrado, a biodiverse savanna that stores large amounts of carbon, have been planted with monocultures of eucalyptus and pine in an attempt to meet a global reforestation goal. The result, researchers have written separately, is an “impending ecological disaster” because they destroy the native ecosystem and the livelihoods of local communities, including Indigenous people.
Europe once hoped to lead the world in biofuels until realizing they led to deforestation and increased food prices. Another kind of bioenergy, wood pellets, is currently booming in the southeastern United States, despite concerns about pollution and biodiversity loss.
Climate interventions tend to hurt biodiversity more than the other way round, and some trade-offs must occur, the authors wrote. Solar farms, for example, eat up wildlife habitat, a particular concern for places with threatened species. But, critically, they generate clean energy.
The report highlights ways to mitigate the damage to biodiversity, for example by grazing livestock around them, improving carbon soil stocks and avoiding intact habitat. Pollinator gardens on solar farms can help nurture insects and birds. While wind farms can hurt migrating birds, the authors note that modern turbines cause much less damage.
By protecting and restoring nature, the report said, we can safeguard biodiversity, help limit warming, improve human well being and even find protection from the consequences of climate change, like intensified flooding and storms.
In the Casamance region of Senegal, for example, local communities restored mangroves and adopted sustainable fishing measures, improving their catch, bringing back dolphins and 20 species of fish, storing carbon and protecting their coastline, said Pamela McElwee, an environmental anthropologist at Rutgers University who was one of the authors.
“Mangroves are a really special type of ecosystem,” she said, “in that they do it all for humans.”
While mangroves are themselves vulnerable to climate change, Dr. McElwee said they appear less threatened than once thought, because restoration efforts are working.
In the Hindu Kush mountains of South Asia, a project has conserved an area about the size of Belgium, restoring high-altitude forests and rangelands and protecting threatened snow leopards and musk deer, the report says, while keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. The 1.3 million people who live there, straddling Nepal, India and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, have seen enhanced household incomes through tourism and sustainable farming.
Urban areas, too, can do their part with native trees, green spaces and coastal ecosystems, the researchers said.
The report was the first collaboration between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
John P. Holdren, an environmental scientist at Harvard University and a former White House science adviser who was not involved in the report, called it “a must-read for our time.”
Brad Plumer contributed reporting.
By Emma Marris
Ms. Marris is an environmental writer and the author of the forthcoming book “Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World,” June 11, 2021
“Elephants aren’t the only species that try to flee a zoo life. Tatiana the tiger, kept in the San Francisco Zoo, snapped one day in 2007 after three teenage boys had been taunting her. She somehow got over the 12-foot wall surrounding her 1,000-square-foot enclosure and attacked one of the teenagers, killing him. The others ran, and she pursued them, ignoring all other humans in her path. When she caught up with the boys at the cafe, she mauled them before she was shot to death by the police. Investigators found sticks and pine cones inside the exhibit, most likely thrown by the boys. Apes are excellent at escaping. Little Joe, a gorilla, escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston twice in 2003. At the Los Angeles Zoo, a gorilla named Evelyn escaped seven times in 20 years. Apes are known for picking locks and keeping a beady eye on their captors, waiting for the day someone forgets to lock the door. An orangutan at the Omaha Zoo kept wire for lock-picking hidden in his mouth. A gorilla named Togo at the Toledo Zoo used his incredible strength to bend the bars of his cage. When the zoo replaced the bars with thick glass, he started methodically removing the putty holding it in. In the 1980s, a group of orangutans escaped several times at the San Diego Zoo. In one escape, they worked together: One held a mop handle steady while her sister climbed it to freedom. Another time, one of the orangutans, Kumang, learned how to use sticks to ground the current in the electrical wire around her enclosure. She could then climb the wire without being shocked. It is impossible to read these stories without concluding that these animals wanted out.”
Photographs by Peter Fisher for The New York Times
After being captives of the pandemic for more than a year, we have begun experiencing the pleasures of simple outings: dining al fresco, shopping with a friend, taking a stroll through the zoo. As we snap a selfie by the sea lions for the first time in a year, it seems worth asking, after our collective ordeal, whether our pleasure in seeing wild animals up close is worth the price of their captivity.
Throughout history, men have accumulated large and fierce animals to advertise their might and prestige. Power-mad men from Henry III to Saddam Hussein’s son Uday to the drug kingpin Pablo Escobar to Emperor Charlemagne all tried to underscore their strength by keeping terrifying beasts captive. William Randolph Hearst created his own private zoo with lions, tigers, leopards and more at Hearst Castle. It is these boastful collections of animals, these autocratic menageries, from which the modern zoo, with its didactic plaques and $15 hot dogs, springs.
The forerunners of the modern zoo, open to the public and grounded in science, took shape in the 19th century. Public zoos sprang up across Europe, many modeled on the London Zoo in Regent’s Park. Ostensibly places for genteel amusement and edification, zoos expanded beyond big and fearsome animals to include reptile houses, aviaries and insectariums. Living collections were often presented in taxonomic order, with various species of the same family grouped together, for comparative study.
The first zoos housed animals behind metal bars in spartan cages. But relatively early in their evolution, a German exotic animal importer named Carl Hagenbeck changed the way wild animals were exhibited. In his Animal Park, which opened in 1907 in Hamburg, he designed cages that didn’t look like cages, using moats and artfully arranged rock walls to invisibly pen animals. By designing these enclosures so that many animals could be seen at once, without any bars or walls in the visitors’ lines of sight, he created an immersive panorama, in which the fact of captivity was supplanted by the illusion of being in nature.
Mr. Hagenbeck’s model was widely influential. Increasingly, animals were presented with the distasteful fact of their imprisonment visually elided. Zoos shifted just slightly from overt demonstrations of mastery over beasts to a narrative of benevolent protection of individual animals. From there, it was an easy leap to protecting animal species.
The “educational day out” model of zoos endured until the late 20th century, when zoos began actively rebranding themselves as serious contributors to conservation. Zoo animals, this new narrative went, function as backup populations for wild animals under threat, as well as “ambassadors” for their species, teaching humans and motivating them to care about wildlife. This conservation focus “must be a key component” for institutions that want to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit organization that sets standards and policies for facilities in the United States and 12 other countries.
This is the image of the zoo I grew up with: the unambiguously good civic institution that lovingly cared for animals both on its grounds and, somehow, vaguely, in their wild habitats. A few zoos are famous for their conservation work. Four of the zoos and the aquarium in New York City, for instance, are managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which is involved in conservation efforts around the world. But this is not the norm.
While researching my book on the ethics of human interactions with wild species, “Wild Souls,” I examined how, exactly, zoos contribute to conservation of wild animals.
A.Z.A. facilities report spending approximately $231 million annually on conservation projects. For comparison, in 2018, they spent $4.9 billion on operations and construction. I find one statistic particularly telling about their priorities: A 2018 analysis of the scientific papers produced by association members between 1993 and 2013 showed that just about 7 percent of them annually were classified as being about “biodiversity conservation.”
Zoos accredited by the A.Z.A. or the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria have studbooks and genetic pedigrees and carefully breed their animals as if they might be called upon at any moment to release them, like Noah throwing open the doors to the ark, into a waiting wild habitat. But that day of release never quite seems to come.
There are a few exceptions. The Arabian oryx, an antelope native to the Arabian Peninsula, went extinct in the wild in the 1970s and then was reintroduced into the wild from zoo populations. The California condor breeding program, which almost certainly saved the species from extinction, includes five zoos as active partners. Black-footed ferrets and red wolves in the United States and golden lion tamarins in Brazil — all endangered, as well — have been bred at zoos for reintroduction into the wild. An estimated 20 red wolves are all that remain in the wild.
The A.Z.A. says that its members host “more than 50 reintroduction programs for species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.” Nevertheless, a vast majority of zoo animals (there are 800,000 animals of 6,000 species in the A.Z.A.’s zoos alone) will spend their whole lives in captivity, either dying of old age after a lifetime of display or by being culled as “surplus.”
The practice of killing “surplus” animals is kept quiet by zoos, but it happens, especially in Europe. In 2014, the director of the E.A.Z.A. at the time estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 animals are euthanized in European zoos each year. Early in the pandemic, the Neumünster Zoo in northern Germany coolly announced an emergency plan to cope with lost revenue by feeding some animals to other animals, compressing the food chain at the zoo like an accordion, until in the worst-case scenario, only Vitus, a polar bear, would be left standing. The A.Z.A.’s policies allow for the euthanasia of animals, but the president of the association, Dan Ashe, told me, “it’s very rarely employed” by his member institutions.
Mr. Ashe, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, suggested that learning how to breed animals contributes to conservation in the long term, even if very few animals are being released now. A day may come, he said, when we need to breed elephants or tigers or polar bears in captivity to save them from extinction. “If you don’t have people that know how to care for them, know how to breed them successfully, know how to keep them in environments where their social and psychological needs can be met, then you won’t be able to do that,” he said.
The other argument zoos commonly make is that they educate the public about animals and develop in people a conservation ethic. Having seen a majestic leopard in the zoo, the visitor becomes more willing to pay for its conservation or vote for policies that will preserve it in the wild. What Mr. Ashe wants visitors to experience when they look at the animals is a “sense of empathy for the individual animal, as well as the wild populations of that animal.”
I do not doubt that some people had their passion for a particular species, or wildlife in general, sparked by zoo experiences. I’ve heard and read some of their stories. I once overheard two schoolchildren at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington confess to each other that they had assumed that elephants were mythical animals like unicorns before seeing them in the flesh. I remember well the awe and joy on their faces, 15 years later. I’d like to think these kids, now in their early 20s, are working for a conservation organization somewhere. But there’s no unambiguous evidence that zoos are making visitors care more about conservation or take any action to support it. After all, more than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums worldwide every year and biodiversity is still in decline.
In a 2011 study, researchers quizzed visitors at the Cleveland, Bronx, Prospect Park and Central Park zoos about their level of environmental concern and what they thought about the animals. Those who reported “a sense of connection to the animals at the zoo” also correlated positively with general environmental concern. On the other hand, the researchers reported, “there were no significant differences in survey responses before entering an exhibit compared with those obtained as visitors were exiting.”
A 2008 study of 206 zoo visitors by some members of the same team showed that while 42 percent said that the “main purpose” of the zoo was “to teach visitors about animals and conservation,” 66 percent said that their primary reason for going was “to have an outing with friends or family,” and just 12 percent said their intention was “to learn about animals.”
The researchers also spied on hundreds of visitors’ conversations at the Bronx Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. They found that only 27 percent of people bothered to read the signs at exhibits. More than 6,000 comments made by the visitors were recorded, nearly half of which were “purely descriptive statements that asserted a fact about the exhibit or the animal.” The researchers wrote, “In all the statements collected, no one volunteered information that would lead us to believe that they had an intention to advocate for protection of the animal or an intention to change their own behavior.”
People don’t go to zoos to learn about the biodiversity crisis or how they can help. They go to get out of the house, to get their children some fresh air, to see interesting animals. They go for the same reason people went to zoos in the 19th century: to be entertained.
A fine day out with the family might itself be justification enough for the existence of zoos if the zoo animals are all happy to be there. Alas, there’s plenty of heartbreaking evidence that many are not.
In many modern zoos, animals are well cared for, healthy and probably, for many species, content. Zookeepers are not mustache-twirling villains. They are kind people, bonded to their charges and immersed in the culture of the zoo, in which they are the good guys.
But many animals clearly show us that they do not enjoy captivity. When confined they rock, pull their hair and engage in other tics. Captive tigers pace back and forth, and in a 2014 study, researchers found that “the time devoted to pacing by a species in captivity is best predicted by the daily distances traveled in nature by the wild specimens.” It is almost as if they feel driven to patrol their territory, to hunt, to move, to walk a certain number of steps, as if they have a Fitbit in their brains.
The researchers divided the odd behaviors of captive animals into two categories: “impulsive/compulsive behaviors,” including coprophagy (eating feces), regurgitation, self-biting and mutilation, exaggerated aggressiveness and infanticide, and “stereotypies,” which are endlessly repeated movements. Elephants bob their heads over and over. Chimps pull out their own hair. Giraffes endlessly flick their tongues. Bears and cats pace. Some studies have shown that as many as 80 percent of zoo carnivores, 64 percent of zoo chimps and 85 percent of zoo elephants have displayed compulsive behaviors or stereotypes.
Elephants are particularly unhappy in zoos, given their great size, social nature and cognitive complexity. Many suffer from arthritis and other joint problems from standing on hard surfaces; elephants kept alone become desperately lonely; and all zoo elephants suffer mentally from being cooped up in tiny yards while their free-ranging cousins walk up to 50 miles a day. Zoo elephants tend to die young. At least 20 zoos in the United States have already ended their elephant exhibits in part because of ethical concerns about keeping the species captive.
Many zoos use Prozac and other psychoactive drugs on at least some of their animals to deal with the mental effects of captivity. The Los Angeles Zoo has used Celexa, an antidepressant, to control aggression in one of its chimps. Gus, a polar bear at the Central Park Zoo, was given Prozac as part of an attempt to stop him from swimming endless figure-eight laps in his tiny pool. The Toledo Zoo has dosed zebras and wildebeest with the antipsychotic haloperidol to keep them calm and has put an orangutan on Prozac. When a female gorilla named Johari kept fighting off the male she was placed with, the zoo dosed her with Prozac until she allowed him to mate with her. A 2000 survey of U.S. and Canadian zoos found that nearly half of respondents were giving their gorillas Haldol, Valium or another psychopharmaceutical drug.
Some zoo animals try to escape. Jason Hribal’s 2010 book, “Fear of the Animal Planet,” chronicles dozens of attempts. Elephants figure prominently in his book, in part because they are so big that when they escape it generally makes the news.
Mr. Hribal documented many stories of elephants making a run for it — in one case repairing to a nearby woods with a pond for a mud bath. He also found many examples of zoo elephants hurting or killing their keepers and evidence that zoos routinely downplayed or even lied about those incidents.
Elephants aren’t the only species that try to flee a zoo life. Tatiana the tiger, kept in the San Francisco Zoo, snapped one day in 2007 after three teenage boys had been taunting her. She somehow got over the 12-foot wall surrounding her 1,000-square-foot enclosure and attacked one of the teenagers, killing him. The others ran, and she pursued them, ignoring all other humans in her path. When she caught up with the boys at the cafe, she mauled them before she was shot to death by the police. Investigators found sticks and pine cones inside the exhibit, most likely thrown by the boys.
Apes are excellent at escaping. Little Joe, a gorilla, escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston twice in 2003. At the Los Angeles Zoo, a gorilla named Evelyn escaped seven times in 20 years. Apes are known for picking locks and keeping a beady eye on their captors, waiting for the day someone forgets to lock the door. An orangutan at the Omaha Zoo kept wire for lock-picking hidden in his mouth. A gorilla named Togo at the Toledo Zoo used his incredible strength to bend the bars of his cage. When the zoo replaced the bars with thick glass, he started methodically removing the putty holding it in. In the 1980s, a group of orangutans escaped several times at the San Diego Zoo. In one escape, they worked together: One held a mop handle steady while her sister climbed it to freedom. Another time, one of the orangutans, Kumang, learned how to use sticks to ground the current in the electrical wire around her enclosure. She could then climb the wire without being shocked. It is impossible to read these stories without concluding that these animals wanted out.
“I don’t see any problem with holding animals for display,” Mr. Ashe told me. “People assume that because an animal can move great distances that they would choose to do that.” If they have everything they need nearby, he argued, they would be happy with smaller territories. And it is true that the territory size of an animal like a wolf depends greatly on the density of resources and other wolves. But then there’s the pacing, the rocking. I pointed out that we can’t ask animals whether they are happy with their enclosure size. “That’s true,” he said. “There is always that element of choice that gets removed from them in a captive environment. That’s undeniable.” His justification was philosophical. In the end, he said, “we live with our own constraints.” He added, “We are all captive in some regards to social and ethical and religious and other constraints on our life and our activities.”
What if zoos stopped breeding all their animals, with the possible exception of any endangered species with a real chance of being released back into the wild? What if they sent all the animals that need really large areas or lots of freedom and socialization to refuges? With their apes, elephants, big cats, and other large and smart species gone, they could expand enclosures for the rest of the animals, concentrating on keeping them lavishly happy until their natural deaths. Eventually, the only animals on display would be a few ancient holdovers from the old menageries, animals in active conservation breeding programs and perhaps a few rescues.
Such zoos might even be merged with sanctuaries, places that take wild animals that because of injury or a lifetime of captivity cannot live in the wild. Existing refuges often do allow visitors, but their facilities are really arranged for the animals, not for the people. These refuge-zoos could become places where animals live. Display would be incidental.
Such a transformation might free up some space. What could these zoos do with it, besides enlarging enclosures? As an avid fan of botanical gardens, I humbly suggest that as the captive animals retire and die off without being replaced, these biodiversity-worshiping institutions devote more and more space to the wonderful world of plants. Properly curated and interpreted, a well-run garden can be a site for a rewarding “outing with friends or family,” a source of education for the 27 percent of people who read signs and a point of civic pride.
I’ve spent many memorable days in botanical gardens, completely swept away by the beauty of the design as well as the unending wonder of evolution — and there’s no uneasiness or guilt. When there’s a surplus, you can just have a plant sale.
Photographs by Peter Fisher. Mr. Fisher is a photographer based in New York.