Photo by Brooke Anderson
BLOCK THE BOAT: A HUGE VICTORY!
Short Report Back: by toby blomé
Last Friday, after two very successful community pickets during both the day and night ILWU longshoremen shifts, starting at 6:00am and 4:00pm the Israeli Apartheid Zim-charted Volans ship left the dock at Berth 30, at approx. 6:00 pm, Friday, June 4, 2021, with CARGO STILL LOADED!
Huge thanks to AROC (Arab Resource & Organizing Center) for their amazing network and community organizing capabilities!
Hundreds participated, six gates were successfully picketed, and a great shuttle service was organized by AROC to help get people to berth 30. Huge thanks to all the ILWU workers, who understood and respected our picket line!!
Amazing photos by Brooke Anderson: (Worth a peek!)
Activists with SZAC (Stop Zim Action Committee), the group I’ve been working with, have been monitoring the Volans ship since it left dock on Friday evening, and although the ship's location had not been included on satellite reports for many hours afterwards, there has been no sign of the ship returning to the Oakland port—A VICTORY!
Very proud to have played a small part in this amazing community resistance to Israel’s brutal oppression of Palestine. So proud of Oakland and the greater Bay Area!! A people united will never be divided! Thanks to everyone who participated!
"Resistance is Justified when People are Occupied!"
It Ain’t Over: All signs indicate that the Volans ship is headed to Vancouver, Canada. This is the greeting they will get:
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
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
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: email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
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.”