Write in Support Of Daniel Hale, Drone Whistleblower Facing Up to 10 Years in Prison
His Sentencing is July 27
For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Herb Mintz
Photos and Interviews: Steve Zeltzer
To view or participate, a Zoom registration is required.
After registration, participants will receive a Zoom invitation. Events are subject to change or cancellation due to COVID-19 related issues. Check our website at laborfest.net prior to each event or for a calendar of all events.
LaborFest is the premier labor cultural arts and film festival in the United States. LaborFest recognizes the role of working people in the building of America and making it work even in this time of COVID-19. The festival is self-funded with contributions from unions and other organizations that support and celebrate the contributions of working people.
Sincere Greetings of Peace:
The “In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition*” invites your participation and endorsement of the planned October 2021 International Tribunal. The Tribunal will be charging the United States government, its states, and specific agencies with human and civil rights violations against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.
The Tribunal will be charging human and civil rights violations for:
• Racist police killings of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people,
• Hyper incarcerations of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
• Political incarceration of Civil Rights/National Liberation era revolutionaries and activists, as well as present day activists,
• Environmental racism and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people,
• Public Health racism and disparities and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and
• Genocide of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people as a result of the historic and systemic charges of all the above.
The legal aspects of the Tribunal will be led by Attorney Nkechi Taifa along with a powerful team of seasoned attorneys from all the above fields. Thirteen jurists, some with international stature, will preside over the 3 days of testimonies. Testimonies will be elicited form impacted victims, expert witnesses, and attorneys with firsthand knowledge of specific incidences raised in the charges/indictment.
The 2021 International Tribunal has a unique set of outcomes and an opportunity to organize on a mass level across many social justice arenas. Upon the verdict, the results of the Tribunal will:
• Codify and publish the content and results of the Tribunal to be offered in High Schools and University curriculums,
• Provide organized, accurate information for reparation initiatives and community and human rights work,
• Strengthen the demand to free all Political Prisoners and establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission mechanism to lead to their freedom,
• Provide the foundation for civil action in federal and state courts across the United States,
• Present a stronger case, building upon previous and respected human rights initiatives, on the international stage,
• Establish a healthy and viable massive national network of community organizations, activists, clergy, academics, and lawyers concerned with challenging human rights abuses on all levels and enhancing the quality of life for all people, and
• Establish the foundation to build a “Peoples’ Senate” representative of all 50 states, Indigenous Tribes, and major religions.
Endorsements are $25. Your endorsement will add to the volume of support and input vital to ensuring the success of these outcomes moving forward, and to the Tribunal itself. It will be transparently used to immediately move forward with the Tribunal outcomes.
We encourage you to add your name and organization to attend the monthly Tribunal updates and to sign on to one of the Tribunal Committees. (3rd Saturday of each month from 12 noon to 2 PM eastern time). Submit your name by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please endorse now: http://spiritofmandela.org/endorse/
Dr. A’isha Mohammad
– Coordinating Committee
Created in 2018, In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition is a growing grouping of organizers, academics, clergy, attorneys, and organizations committed to working together against the systemic, historic, and ongoing human rights violations and abuses committed by the USA against Black, Brown, and Indigenous People. The Coalition recognizes and affirms the rich history of diverse and militant freedom fighters Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Graca Machel Mandela, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and many more. It is in their Spirit and affirming their legacy that we work.
HIROSHIMA APPEAL OF 2021
Stop ongoing drive for nuclear war and constitutional revision!
Appeal for endorsement for and participation in August 6 Hiroshima Grand Action on the 76th Anniversary of Atomic Bombing on Hiroshima!
No to ongoing preparation for nuclear attack and aggressive war on China!
We are facing an impending nuclear war in 2021, 76 years after the Atomic Bombing on Hiroshima.
Japan-US Summit Talk in April has confirmed the defense of Japan with all possible abilities including nuclear weapons, and the need of buildup of Japanese own defense capabilities as well as exercise of the so-called “right of collective self-defense” in case of emergency of Taiwan.
In line with this decision, the US forces are constructing anti-China missile network in the first line of archipelago from Okinawa to Philippine, and Japan Defense Forces are dispatching intensified troops to Okinawa mainland and South Western Islands, meanwhile Japan-US joint military exercises are frequently repeated in these sea areas.
We are firmly opposed to the ongoing drive for nuclear war on China, Japanese participation in it and constitutional revision to legitimate all these schemes of war.
Let’s stand up for independent action to open up a brilliant future of our own!
While a large number of people are losing their lives, being deprived of necessary medical treatment, the Suga administration is putting all priority on carrying out the Tokyo Olympic Games in shameless disregard of devastating medical collapse. Anger of Japanese people is boiling up against his politics for the profit of 1% “wealthy capitalists’ class” with ignoring 99% people suffering under the concentration of accumulated contradictions of the
capitalist society in its deepening crisis.
Enough is enough, a society in which people are squeezed, scrapped and thrown on the street to die!
What we urgently need now is to stand up for independent action to open up a future for us 99% people. In recent years we have witnessed encouraging examples of struggles: The longtime struggles by the people exposed to the “black rain” (contaminated rain just after the atomic bombing on Hiroshima) has won the suit recognizing the health disorders due to internal exposure to radiation; the conclusion of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty has been achieved as a result of the efforts of the victims of atomic bombing and nuclear casualties of the world; nationwide struggle has been developed headed by Fukushima people against the concealment of nuclear exposure, emission of contaminated water and all the governmental nuclear policy; Hiroshima struggle against war and nuke has been tenaciously continued. All these struggles have been organized under the active initiative of atomic bomb victims, labor unions, peace organizations, students and young people themselves.
We call on you to join us in Hiroshima in solidarity with the world-wide independent struggles of the people, such as in Myanmar, Hongkong and elsewhere for the future of 99% people of the world!
Raise our voice against war and nuke on August 6th!
In line with the move to constitutional revision by the Abe and Suga administrations, a continuous attempt has been made to suppress demonstrations on the Hiroshima Day with an aim of crushing the fighting history on August 6th. Resisting this reactionary trend, represented typically by the recent city assembly decision of pseudo “Peace Promotion Law”, which in its essence intends to prohibit the rally and demo as disturbances of the August 6th commemoration ceremony, victims of the atomic bombing and many people have expressed their firm opposition, headed by Mr Mimaki, acting director of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations of Hiroshima, who warns that this repressive measure brings us back to the political situation in Japan at the time of the atomic bombing, when people was silenced by the war-time brutal regulation of freedom of speech.
The Hiroshima municipal authority is still shamelessly intending to invite Prime Minister Suga to the August 6th ceremony in Hiroshima.
Let’s stop ongoing drive for nuclear war and constitutional revision of the Suga administration!
Down with the Suga administration by the people’s anger of August 6th of Hiroshima!
Location: Higashi Ward Community Cultural Center
Testimony by the victims of A-bombed victims
Meeting of youth and students
Lecture on the victim of the “black rain” by Professor Emeritus Megu Otaki
Assembly in front of the A bomb Dome
After silent prayer, demonstration to oppose the participation of Prime minister Suga in the ceremony (destination of the demonstration is the Head office of the Chugoku Electric Power Company)
August 6th Hiroshima Grand Assembly
At the arena of the Prefectural General Gymnasium
Demonstration in Downtown Hiroshima to Peace Memorial Park
Bus study tour: visits to monuments and old battlefield commemorating of A bombing
Start from the east gate of Hiroshima Castle, reservation needed
August 6 Hiroshima Grand Action Organizing Committee
We hope all is well with you.
We are happy to announce that the video recording of "No Life Like It: A A Tribute to the Revolutionary Activism of Ernie Tate" is now available for viewing on LeftStreamed
Please share the link with your comrades and friends.
All the best,
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:
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
Jeff Bezos has at least $180 Billion!
9 minutes 29 seconds
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
The close ties between coroners and law enforcement have fueled an unusual and unregulated industry: for-profit forensic examinations.
By Erika Hayasaki, Published July 8, 2021, Updated July 11, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/08/magazine/the-police-called-it-an-accident-she-turned-to-1-800-autopsy.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Vidal Herrera at the 1-800-Autopsy facility. Credit...Bethany Mollenkof for The New York Times
Katrina Eisinger awoke early one morning in March 2018 to a phone call from West Anaheim Medical Center in Orange County, Calif. “We have your son here,” the voice said, instructing her to come right away. It was still dark outside, and Katrina changed out of her nightgown, pulled on workout clothes and rushed to the hospital. Her son, 35-year-old Christopher Eisinger, was in a coma. She looked at the tubes attached to his body. She saw what looked like blood in one of them. A former X-ray tech and pharmaceutical sales representative, Katrina noticed the urine in another tube was brown and thought his kidneys were shutting down. His right eye was swollen.
No one could tell her exactly what happened to him. Katrina learned that Christopher had been dropped off by an ambulance after an incident involving the Anaheim Police Department. “We don’t know how long he was without oxygen,” a nurse told her. At some point before he arrived, Christopher’s pulse stopped. After intubation, it came back with an irregular beat. Now he was in respiratory failure.
The physician on duty, Dr. Jennifer Mason, said she had been told that Christopher was in an “altercation” and had to be restrained. “While sitting in handcuffs, the patient became unresponsive, thus prompting their call to 911,” Mason wrote in her medical report. An officer told her, “The patient had to be held down by his head to the concrete because he was wiggling.”
Five days later, detectives showed up to Christopher’s bedside, inquiring about whether he had used drugs. “I’m asking them, ‘What happened?’” Katrina recalled. “They’re just like, ‘We’re asking the questions here.’”
Christopher was brain dead, and the family made the wrenching decision to take him off life support. “It was very difficult,” Christopher’s father, Jay, who lives in Indiana, said. “Katrina and I both agreed. We didn’t want him to live that way.” Katrina had heard that the last sense to go before death was hearing. So she played gospel music, along with Whitney Houston and songs from “Frozen” and “Phantom of the Opera,” which he enjoyed singing throughout his life. As a boy, Christopher loved being pampered. Katrina used to take him with her to get mani-pedis and facials. In the hospital, Katrina stroked his head and clipped his toenails. In those final moments, his friends told stories of their favorite memories of him. Eight days after being hospitalized, on March 9, 2018, he died in his mother’s arms, surrounded by loved ones.
Christopher’s mother had worked in a corporate job for 30 years, saving money to send her two sons to private schools. She raised them in the church. The family lived a middle-class life, taking summer boat trips on a lake and snowboarding in the winters. But as Christopher grew older, he struggled with drug use. Katrina kicked him out of the house at one point, an act of desperation and love. She was hopeful that he would find a better path. The day before he ended up in the hospital, he sent her a text: “Trying to get my responsible on,” he wrote, asking her to pray for him. “God’s plan!”
In the days after he died, Katrina’s mind flashed to the bruises on her son’s body, the handcuff marks on his wrists, his busted and bulging eye. She thought of the phone call she received the day after he ended up in the hospital, from someone demanding to speak to Christopher. She lost her temper: “He’s in a [expletive] coma!”
To her, the clues were piling up, all pointing to excessive force by the police. But this revelation did not come easily. She is Black, and Christopher’s father is white. She was well aware that Black men died violently at the hands of police officers in America all the time. But she never thought it would happen to her son. For most of their lives, Katrina said, she lived in denial, thinking her ascendancy into a particular level of privilege would somehow shield them. “I blame myself,” she said. “I should have had my head out of the sand.”
Four days after Christopher died, Dr. Nicole Ellis, a forensic pathologist contracted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Coroner’s Division, conducted the official autopsy. Six other people attended the procedure, including four members of the Sheriff’s Department forensics team and, to Katrina’s dismay, two officers from the Anaheim Police Department.
Ellis noted that Christopher had an enlarged heart and blocked arteries. She concluded that the cause of his death was “sudden cardiac arrest” due to heart disease and the “effects of methamphetamine.” The manner of death, Ellis wrote, was “accident.”
Katrina did not buy it. Don’t tell me he blew a clot and had a heart attack, she thought. How did you determine that?
Katrina knew she wanted a second opinion; she felt that another, independent expert would uncover the truth. Her lawyers agreed and decided to call 1-800-Autopsy, well known among legal circles in the area and the first place that pops up online when searching “private autopsy Los Angeles.” The company’s motto: “The deceased must be protected and given a voice.”
Vidal Herrera, owner of 1-800-Autopsy, is a towering man who hands out red baseball caps that read, “Make ‘Autopsies’ Great Again.” He operates his business out of an unmarked building not far from the California State University Los Angeles campus. It has a nondescript gated exterior, accessed through a long back alley. In a parking lot sits a van emblazoned with painted images of yellow crime-scene tape, a dead body under examination and the words “Private Autopsies,” “Medical Mal Practice” and “Wrongful Death Specialist.” On one end of the building, inside a bright and heavily ventilated examination room, two forensic doctors conduct autopsies day and night.
Suspicion lies at the heart of many of the calls that come in — a feeling that loved ones don’t have all the answers and don’t trust the ones they’ve been given. Along with a steady stream of police-related inquiries and general concerns over medical malpractice, this past year has brought scores of Covid-related cases to 1-800-Autopsy. It is among dozens of private-autopsy services that operate across the country in commercial buildings, laboratories and in the backs of funeral homes. Some cater to hospitals, medical examiner’s offices or legal firms, while others market to the general public. Some mobile autopsy services even come directly to their customers, carting along instruments and cleaning materials.
For families like the Eisingers, and their legal teams, private-autopsy experts are an imperfect solution. They are largely unregulated: The National Association of Medical Examiners offers a list of private-autopsy services for paying customers but warns it has not verified the training or experience of those on it (“Please conduct your own investigation and assessment of the qualifications,” its site suggests). But in the absence of faith in a system run by the police, the city, the county or the local coroner, they are seen by many as a necessary check on the system.
Inside 1-800-Autopsy, Herrera’s décor veers toward the morbid. A stairwell is lined with framed movie posters: “Doctor Death,” “The Night Stalker,” “Heat Wave.” Floor rugs bear images of human skulls. Herrera’s sofas resemble the plush interior of coffins. As a side hustle, he rents out his equipment as props for movie and television shoots, but his main business is autopsies. Herrera’s wife, Vicki, fields calls to 1-800-Autopsy at all hours from her home office, 20 minutes away in La Crescenta, Calif.
Families wonder if an autopsy might settle their fear that a loved one received the wrong medicine. Some relatives have called requesting to have their loved ones exhumed, unable to put their skepticism to rest. Last fall, Vicki dialed the family of a man who was given convalescent plasma treatments for Covid-19. He died, and the family grew suspicious. They told her that the nurse was rude. Desperate to know more, they paid the $3,600 autopsy fee, spreading it across three credit cards.
Herrera said the volume of exam requests and autopsies quadrupled last year alone, largely as a result of Covid. Inside the facility, the gleaming cooling units have been newly upgraded and expanded to handle the rising number of inquiries. The business conducts up to 25 autopsies a week.
There is a shortage of certified forensic pathologists in the country, with only around 500 of them working full time in 2,400 jurisdictions in the United States. Before the 1970s, between 40 to 60 percent of people who died in a U.S. hospital received autopsies. That rate has since plummeted to 4 percent. If a death is not deemed suspicious or unusual, the body will not go to a local medical examiner or coroner for an examination. Doctors also do not promote or conduct autopsies in-house as they might have in the past.
“Hospitals don’t get paid for an autopsy,” said Dr. Sally Aiken, chairwoman of the National Association of Medical Examiners, who also serves as a forensic pathologist in Washington State. “It’s not going to be a profit center for them.” Hospitals were once also required to perform a certain number of autopsies for accreditation. But that practice has gone away. Advances in medical technology like magnetic resonance imagining, which do not require cutting open a body, bolster a belief that autopsies are less necessary. But pathologists say there’s no substitute for a traditional examination.
In some states, medical examiners, who are board-certified forensic pathologists, are appointed to oversee local autopsies. But many death investigations rely on coroner-led systems. Coroners are not required to have medical degrees and may have little experience. They are elected or appointed positions, often working with private pathologists. Dr. Ellis, the initial pathologist for Christopher’s autopsy, was contracted by the Orange County sheriff-coroner through a company, Juguilon Medical Corporation. In 2011, ProPublica found that one of Juguilon’s doctors had failed the certification exam at least five times. Within this patchwork of death-investigation systems nationally, there is a long history of mistrust over tangled relationships between elected county coroners and local law enforcement. In California’s 58 counties, 48, including Orange County, have coroners who are also elected sheriffs.
In March, a damning 188-page report conducted by a commission of lawyers, professors and human rights experts from 11 countries characterized a history of police violence against Black people in the United States as a violation of international law. The commissioners’ inquiry found that medical examiners and coroners have “worked in tandem with the police to obstruct justice.” When Linwood Lambert Jr. died after being tased about 20 times by the police in South Boston, Va., in 2013, according to the report, the medical examiner’s office concluded that he died of “acute cocaine intoxication.” An attorney for Lambert's estate, who was interviewed by the commissioners, said the medical examiner testified in her deposition that a Virginia state trooper was present during the autopsy. The medical examiner also said she did not know there was video footage of the incident or that Lambert had been tased several times. The footage was withheld until Lambert’s sister filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.
In California’s San Joaquin County, Steve Moore, an elected sheriff-coroner, was stripped of his coroner duties in 2018 after two pathologists resigned, including Dr. Bennet Omalu (known for his findings on brain damage in N.F.L. players). They claimed he was ignoring opinions of forensic pathologists and interfering with their work. In his resignation letter, Omalu accused Moore of protecting officers. Omalu said Moore certified some law-enforcement-caused deaths as accidents when they should have been ruled as homicides. Moore has denied interfering with forensic investigations, but the San Joaquin coroner system was disbanded and replaced by a medical examiner’s office model led by a board-certified forensic pathologist. Mistrust in the system still lingers.
The human rights report cited a National Association of Medical Examiners survey in which one in five respondents reported being pressured by a public official to change cause-of-death determinations or manner-of-death determinations. Commissioners found evidence of a pattern of complicity in cover-ups by state examiners, as well as private death investigators hired to reach independent findings. Medical examiners and coroners have at times “endorsed demonstrably false causes of death to exonerate police officers and minimize the role of excessive force in the victim’s death.”
When Christopher Eisinger’s body arrived at 1-800-Autopsy in late March 2018, the doctor on the morning shift was John C. Hiserodt, a wiry man with snowy white hair who often wears Hawaiian shirts. Hiserodt also operates his own office in Garden Grove, Calif., where his staff conducts pathology lab tests. His degrees hang on his office wall: the University of California, San Diego; U.C. Irvine for his Ph.D.; and U.C.L.A. for his doctorate of medicine. His bookshelves hold copies of “Principles and Practice of Surgical Pathology and Cytopathology,” alongside Tupperware containers and glass jars containing embalmed human organs.
Over the course of roughly two hours, Hiserodt presided over the autopsy from a nearby stool, clipboard in hand. He examined Christopher’s body externally first, front and back, photographing extremities. A second autopsy, Hiserodt explained, is more difficult than a first exam. “All the organs have been already removed, cut up and put in a bag,” he said. “Especially gunshot wounds, where they might even remove the wound, so you don’t know which is the entrance and which is the exit.”
Christopher had no gunshot wounds, so Hiserodt watched as his forensic technician undid the sutures, opening the incisions made by the coroner’s office, examining each organ. When a case is listed as an “in custody” death, Hiserodt also checks for marks on the wrists, knees or hands, as well as abrasions. They reopened the back incisions made at the coroner’s office, and he looked for deep bruising on the muscles. “There may not be any evidence of bruising,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean someone didn’t sit on their back.”
Hiserodt also eventually watched the body-camera footage of Christopher’s struggle with the police. In an autopsy, the body itself does not always tell the entire story. The events leading up to a death can be just as relevant to a pathologist’s investigation. Hiserodt, like other forensic pathologists, takes into consideration information about the scene, witness statements, state of mind and toxicology tests.
Five officers had apprehended Christopher, their knees and hands on his body. At one point in the footage, Christopher says he can’t breathe. “In an in-custody death, where the decedent has methamphetamine in his blood,” Hiserodt told me, “it’s always a battle between what did he die from?” Was it the drugs? Or the weight and restraint used by officers “when you’re handcuffed, on your abdomen, prone position, and they sit on your chest on your back to restrain you, hog tie you and you can’t breathe. Which is it?”
In Hiserodt’s final report, he noted cardiovascular disease, an enlarged heart, 70 percent occlusion in the coronary artery, pulmonary edema (caused by fluid in the lungs), blunt-force trauma to the head, proptosis (bulging right eye), swelling and contusions on Christopher’s left cheekbone and blood in his sinuses. He determined the cause of death was from an “altercation with multiple officers during restraint or arrest.”
“There’s a physiological response called air hunger,” Hiserodt told me. “You need oxygen. Otherwise, you’re going to pass out. So you say, ‘I can’t breathe.’” But your chest is moving. Air is coming in and out, but you can't feel it. It’s like drowning. “You’re breathing, but you’re not getting any oxygen.” You black out, he added. “You’re going to die.”
In deaths like Christopher’s, lawyers for the police might argue that a person could actually breathe if he could talk at all, Hiserodt said. Attorneys might even ask jurors to hold their breath and try to speak at the same time to prove their point. (Derek Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, used that same argument during his closing arguments over the murder of George Floyd. “If you can talk, you can breathe.”) In Christopher’s case, Hiserodt called it a hypoxic death, caused by police restraint.
With Covid delays, the civil case against the city of Anaheim would not go to trial for another half a year. But Hiserodt was preparing for the Christopher Eisinger case anyway. “I’m getting my deposition lined up,” he told me. “I’m going to whack ’em.”
In serving the private-autopsy market of Greater Los Angeles, 1-800-Autopsy is hardly the only game in town. Edgar Artiga runs On Demand Autopsy, one of Herrera’s biggest competitors, out of a leased back room inside Destiny Funeral Home in Long Beach. Artiga learned the business of autopsies from Herrera and eventually broke off to start his own venture, first as a mobile autopsy technician in 2015, then opening his own headquarters in 2019. As for Herrera, the focus for Artiga is on working with families. “They want an independent set of eyes to go in and validate or inform them of the truth,” Artiga said. “That’s what we do.”
Unlike Herrera, though, Artiga manages the bodies, runs the business and does all the cutting himself. His colleague, the pathologist Stephan Grigorian, leads the autopsy analysis and medical results. “Right now, I’m reviewing an autopsy,” Grigorian told me. “It’s, like, done by a moron.” A hospital was being sued because of it. Families can pay thousands of dollars and initiate lawsuits, all based on reports that turn out to be flawed. Grigorian explained he can’t afford to make such mistakes.
“I’m going to do my autopsy,” Grigorian told me. “Then, I’m going to review theirs.” His secondary exam will try to determine if the first pathologist “did something wrong, something they were not supposed to do. It’s like a critique,” a kind of death peer review.
Aiken, of the National Association of Medical Examiners, uses a more cautious metaphor, comparing second autopsies to getting another opinion on a knee injury: One doctor might suggest physical therapy, while another recommends surgery, but “it may not be that either one of them was wrong.” Differences in opinion in the autopsy world might come down to each individual pathologist’s training and experience, Aiken explained, without it necessarily being clear whose viewpoint deserves to carry more weight.
Even so, Aiken says she welcomes additional critiques of her own forensic work. “When cases of mine go out, as they frequently do, for review, I really like to know what the other person said,” she said. “That’s quality improvement. That’s feedback. Many times, they just agree with you. There are times when their slant might be a little different.” Either way, she added, it’s valuable to have multiple perspectives. “That’s why I like the system we have. It’s adversarial.”
Every expert might agree that a person died while hanging from a rope, for example, based on marks on the neck and evidence at the scene. But pathologists may differ on the manner of death. One pathologist might call it suicide. Another might conclude that the person was strangled before being hanged by a rope (as the forensic pathologist hired by Jeffrey Epstein’s brother is claiming). In the absence of clear video footage or eyewitnesses, there is still room for interpretation — the particular angle of a neck-bone break does not prove, without a doubt, what caused it.
The fact that there is room for interpretation at all allows for competing findings and dueling expert witness testimonies in court, and the relatively low bar for entering the field attracts people willing to profit from that gray area. Shawn Parcells, who assisted in the autopsy of Michael Brown, started a private-autopsy business in Kansas in 2012. Prosecutors claim that he performed autopsies, though he had no medical degree, and lied to coroners about doing so. Parcells has been banned from the autopsy business since March 2019, until the charges against him are settled.
In the trial of Derek Chauvin, David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner of Maryland, testified on behalf of the defense. Fowler said that Floyd did not die of asphyxia, but other important factors included cardiac arrhythmia, heart disease, drug use and potential exposure to carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe. A few years before, in 2018, Fowler determined that the death of 19-year-old Anton Black, which occurred after an encounter with the police, was an accidental sudden cardiac incident. Black’s family filed a federal lawsuit in December against Fowler and officers, claiming that Black was held in a prone position for roughly six minutes after he had been tased and handcuffed as he “struggled to breathe, lost consciousness and suffered cardiac arrest.” The police claimed drugs were involved, according to the complaint, although toxicology tests showed no evidence of that. Black’s mother watched her son plead for help while officers pinned him down in front of her home.
In February, The Journal of Forensic Sciences published a study that measured bias in forensic-pathology decisions. Fowler disputed the study, which looked at 133 decisions and found that nonmedical information, like race, can influence their manner-of-death conclusions. Fowler and other medical examiners called for a retraction, but the journal declined. Now Maryland’s attorney general is conducting an independent review of reports of deaths in police custody during Fowler’s tenure.
In their March report, the international human rights commissioners called for the United States to require more independent death investigations, conducted separately from government-run coroner or medical examiner’s offices. But the unregulated nature of the private-autopsy field means it can also be a refuge for doctors with checkered résumés. Hiserodt himself falsified data in a federal grant application during his tenure as a cancer researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 1989. A federal office later found him guilty of scientific misconduct. But by then, Hiserodt had already entered the field of pathology, working for a period at the Allegheny County coroner’s office to conduct autopsies.
In 1997, as an assistant professor of surgical pathology at U.C. Irvine, he created what he believed could be a treatment to save the life of a girl dying from a brain tumor. Without obtaining any federal or university approvals, he delivered his unapproved cancer vaccine to the 8-year-old’s family in Florida, to be injected into her brain. Hiserodt believed he obtained the necessary approvals, but as The Los Angeles Times reported, this resulted in an F.D.A. investigation. He left the university and went back into forensic pathology.
This past March, the civil trial on behalf of the family of Christopher Eisinger finally began, in socially distanced proceedings at Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, Calif. A handful of demonstrators stood outside the courthouse holding signs. One read, “Stop Orange County police brutality.”
“Now, you’re going to hear the coroner testify,” Annee Della Donna, an attorney representing Christopher’s family, told the jury in her opening statements on March 18. The defense, she explained, would argue “he had a bad heart.” But there were five officers on top of him, Della Donna continued. “It’s amazing this coincidence. This is what they always say: It’s not the officers’ fault.” The problem was, she said, ''13 minutes with no oxygen. You're brain dead. Chris never woke up.”
The judge warned the jurors not to pay attention to the protesters outside the courtroom and to ignore any other trials similar to this one. In Minneapolis, Chauvin’s trial was taking place at the same time.
Throughout the six-week trial, Katrina refused to watch the body-camera footage of her son, even as it was played and replayed from every angle. Each time, she quietly stood up and walked out of the courtroom.
In the footage that jurors watched, a flashlight cuts through bushes, leading to a dim porch. Officers catch up to Christopher, and he is on the ground, muttering and grunting under their bodies. They tell him to stop resisting. They continue to pin him down.
“Let go of my arm,” an officer says.
Minutes pass. Christopher seems to garble: “I can’t breathe.” He goes silent.
Officers cuff him, roll him over and prop him up. His head slumps. An officer checks his pulse. Christopher’s eyes close.
Officers carry his unconscious body off the porch, closer to the street. They sit him upright, hands behind his back, his mouth hanging open.
“Have you used any drugs?” an officer asks twice. Christopher does not respond.
“OK, I’m not feeling a pulse now,” an officer says.
A group of officers surrounds Christopher, his limp body spread across the grass, waiting for paramedics to arrive.
In the end, attorneys for Christopher’s family decided not to call Hiserodt to testify. After 1-800-Autopsy conducted the exam, the attorneys researched Hiserodt’s background and discovered his history of scientific misconduct. “He had a lot of problems,” Della Donna told me. “We can’t have anyone walk into that court who isn’t sterling clean.” (Hiserodt, defending his record, said, “If a person makes a mistake in their past, if they paid their dues, they should be forgiven. I pride myself in how I do my forensic work.”)
The attorneys asked the jury for $30 million in damages against Anaheim and its Police Department. A week later, on April 20, the guilty verdict against Chauvin came in as Katrina and Jay still awaited the decision in their case. Katrina took a sleeping pill that evening and sat on her bed staring at the news. Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, appeared on the screen, talking about supporting the many mothers who have lost children to police violence. Katrina felt as if Carr were talking directly to her.
Nine days after the Chauvin verdict, the jurors announced they had reached a decision. Christopher’s father listened via cell phone. Katrina squeezed Della Donna’s arm as it was read aloud. Jurors found that the Anaheim Police Department used excessive force. They placed 78 percent of the responsibility for Christopher’s death on the officers and awarded his parents $2.275 million in damages.
Katrina felt vindicated but also exhausted and traumatized. “They didn’t expect us to fight so hard.” She still wished the officers would face criminal charges. Katrina thought of the cases that don’t get their day in court. The ones not caught on video.
She could not know if including the testimony of an independent pathologist would have led to a more decisive victory, would have swayed the jury to believe that the police were completely responsible for her son’s death. Her heart told her that to have an expert refute the coroner’s report might have made even more of a difference.
The Eisinger family’s attorneys never told Hiserodt why they didn’t ask him to testify, but he nonetheless called the verdict “excellent.” He has conducted hundreds of autopsies in the three years since examining Christopher’s body: Covid cases, celebrity deaths, nursing-home patients and police victims, including that of 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee, who was killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies last August after riding his bike on the wrong side of the street. Law enforcement claimed Kizzee reached for a gun before he was shot. Hiserodt concluded that Kizzee was struck 15 times, including seven in his back side.
Any secondary autopsy involving the police is particularly daunting, Hiserodt told me. There is objective methodology involved in forensic analysis: handcuff marks, the location of bruises, heart occlusion. “You’ve got a body,” he said, “and you’ve got to figure out what happened.”
But at the end of the day, Hiserodt said, subjectivity also plays a key role. When multiple pathologists end up with varying conclusions, “it’s not so much the discrepancy of the findings,” he said. “It’s the interpretation.”
When a Northern Cheyenne family questioned their daughter’s untimely death, official indifference deepened their pain — and their suspicions.
By Elizabeth Williamson, July 11, 2021
Aiyanna Highwolf, one of Allison Highwolf’s daughters, tending to her mother’s grave on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Credit...Tailyr Irvine for The New York Times
NORTHERN CHEYENNE RESERVATION, Mont. — The knock on the door came at 3 a.m., when Pauline Highwolf opened it to see a police officer from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Don’t tell me,” she said, backing away.
The body of her 26-year-old daughter, Allison Highwolf, had been found alone in a motel room in Hardin, the officer said. It was February 2015, and Ms. Highwolf, who had been living in the motel with her boyfriend, had died of smoke inhalation from a fire of unclear origin.
The state medical examiner’s report said the manner of her death was undetermined, but suggested suicide. Ms. Highwolf’s family suspected foul play, given the strange circumstances. Ms. Highwolf had struggled with alcohol, her family members acknowledged, but she was a mother of four and they did not believe that she would take her own life.
The boyfriend told police he had returned to the motel that night to find the room filled with smoke and Ms. Highwolf’s body blocking the door.
Six years later, the circumstances of Ms. Highwolf’s death remain a mystery, one of many involving Native women who disappear or meet violent ends with alarming regularity. Her family and the local authorities agree that the case was shoddily handled and the initial investigation haphazard, as is often the case for Native Americans.
“They put her in the category of ‘just another drunken Indian,’” said one of Ms. Highwolf’s sisters, Rhea New Holy. “But she wasn’t.”
Today, under pressure from her family and an advocacy group in California, Ms. Highwolf’s case is under review. Pauline Highwolf is relieved it has been reopened, but she says a six-year effort to get there underscores the need for change in the way such cases are handled.
“We want to keep fighting, until we are heard,” she said. “And we want everyone who lost someone to keep fighting and know they’re not alone.”
In Montana, Native Americans, mostly young women, accounted for one-third of the 110 active missing persons cases in the missing persons’ clearinghouse at the end of 2019, according to a 2020 study by the state’s Justice Department. Big Horn County, where Ms. Highwolf’s body was found, and neighboring Rosebud County, home of the Northern Cheyenne reservation, lead the state for the number of missing people reported per capita. Last year, in the same town where Ms. Highwolf died, the body of Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, 18, who had been missing, was found in a backyard. Her case remains open.
Nationally, similar cases often linger unresolved for years. The authorities cite lack of evidence, lack of resources or confusion among Indian, local and federal jurisdictions. Victims’ families and their supporters blame discrimination, apathy and incompetence by law enforcement.
Underreporting and poor record-keeping obscure the dimensions of the problem, but data that does exist suggests the risk of rape or sexual assault is 2.5 times higher for Native women, and murder is their third leading cause of death, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute.
“There’s a hesitancy within our communities to work with law enforcement because law enforcement doesn’t care about us,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, a Pawnee Nation member who is chief research officer at the Seattle Indian Health Board and directs the Urban Indian Health Institute.
The Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act, two bills signed in late 2020, proposed channeling more federal resources and attention to these cases, improving cross-jurisdictional enforcement and data collection. But putting the change into action has been slow, advocates say, despite stated support from President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo citizen who has made missing and murdered Indigenous women a policy priority.
Instead, a patchwork of committed people and groups helps families search for missing loved ones and plead for full investigations of unexplained deaths.
Mary Kathryn Nagle, a lawyer who represents pro bono the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, calls the effort “the most hopeless line of work you can do in America.”
“No one in a position of authority is going to help you,” said Ms. Nagle, who is a Cherokee Nation citizen. “I think a lot of families give up.”
Not the Highwolf family.
“I went on a rampage of anger,” Pauline Highwolf said. “I want to live to see justice for my baby.”
A Strange Fire
Pauline Highwolf described her daughter as her “miracle baby,” born amid complications mother and daughter both survived. Growing up, Allison Highwolf had an effervescent personality, her mother said, and worked sporadically at the Boys & Girls Club in Lame Deer. Sometimes she joined her mother at powwows.
“She was humble and loving,” Pauline Highwolf recalled. “And forgiving, no matter what anybody did to her. She would see people making fun of people with addictions on the street, and she would get mad and say, ‘Don’t laugh at them. Don’t make fun of them. What if it’s one of us?’ It made us think. It made everybody think.”
Allison Highwolf had the first of her four daughters, Rayven, while still in her teens. Three more daughters followed, but Ms. Highwolf’s connection to the girls’ two fathers soon frayed. The daughters now range in age from 8 to 15.
“I was digging through her stuff and the letters she would write to her babies, and I just sat here and cried,” Pauline Highwolf recalled. “She was a good mother, a good mama. She loved her kids so much. It was just her relationships that went bad.”
At the time of her death, Ms. Highwolf and her boyfriend were living at the Rodeway Inn in Hardin, in part because neither of their families approved of the relationship. The boyfriend, Stephen Auker, worked nights. Police said the fire in the motel room started sometime between his departure for work in the late afternoon and the time Ms. Highwolf was found dead, around midnight.
In a phone call, Mr. Auker responded by offering to connect The Times with his attorney, but he did not provide the attorney’s name or respond to subsequent efforts to reach him.
The county coroner did not allow Ms. Highwolf’s family to see her body, which was covered in soot. She was autopsied at the state medical examiner’s office in Billings. A few days later, a mortician delivered her body, dressed in a white lace blouse, pants and moccasins her family chose for her, to the front room of Pauline Highwolf’s single-story house on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, where most of her family still lives.
Mourners arrived at the house for her wake. Some brought earrings for Ms. Highwolf to wear. Ms. New Holy would play Dani and Lizzy’s “Dancing in the Sky,” a song about young, untimely death that Ms. Highwolf loved. But when the family opened the coffin, they gasped in horror.
Ms. Highwolf’s face looked injured, with a scuff on her cheek and a bulging bruise on her forehead. The family folded down her lace collar and pulled up her sleeves. Pauline Highwolf used her cellphone to photograph marks on her daughter’s face, neck, wrists and hands. Fears that she had been beaten or strangled tormented them.
A toxicology report had confirmed the presence of alcohol and methamphetamine in Ms. Highwolf’s blood. Her family did research on their own, unsure whether the levels were high enough to have rendered her unable to escape the smoke that filled the small motel room. Pauline Highwolf appealed to the police for information but was rebuffed.
“Just because your daughter died, the world doesn’t revolve around you,” she said one officer told her.
Efforts to pursue a wrongful-death lawsuit against the motel fizzled, Ms. New Holy said. Private investigators cost more than the family could afford.
By 2019, four years after Ms. Highwolf’s death, another sister, Kim Red Cherries, used Facebook to contact the Sovereign Bodies Institute, a nonprofit in California that helps Indigenous people who are the victims of sexual violence. Last month, after nearly two years of effort, Annita Lucchesi, the organization’s director, who had publicly declared Ms. Highwolf’s death a murder, arranged a meeting with the Montana state medical examiner and other authorities to begin a review of Ms. Highwolf’s case.
The nearly four-hour meeting, held late last month and described to The New York Times by participants, raised more questions.
Jay Harris, the Big Horn County Attorney, reviewed copies of police reports in the meeting, including one that said the police found an entry in a journal in the motel room that could be interpreted as a suicide note. It was the first time the family had heard of such a note, and Pauline Highwolf remains skeptical of it. She has since seen a photograph of it and said she was unsure whether the handwriting was her daughter’s.
Pauline Highwolf also strongly objected to a statement in the post-mortem report that her daughter had “a prior history of suicide attempts.” That was not the case, she said. Mr. Harris said the information came from a Big Horn County law enforcement officer on the night of Allison Highwolf’s death, but could not explain why the officer included it. The officer has since left the department, and did not respond to messages left on his cellphone.
The medical examiner, Dr. Robert Kurtzman, and a member of his staff who conducted Ms. Highwolf’s autopsy, reviewed the post-mortem report. They told Ms. Lucchesi, who represented the family in the meeting, that the marks that Ms. Highwolf’s family photographed on her face and neck did not appear in photos taken before her autopsy.
The funeral home’s “preparation of the decedent for the viewing was inadequate, and did not conceal common post-mortem artifacts which are commonly mistaken for traumatic injury,” Dr. Kurtzman, who reviewed the family’s photos, told The Times, recounting what he told Ms. Lucchesi in the meeting.
“There were no internal or external injuries indicative of strangulation,” he said. “The cause of death was clearly due to carbon monoxide intoxication, as a consequence of smoke and soot inhalation.”
Pauline Highwolf, the state medical examiner and the Big Horn County Attorney agree that there were substantial gaps in the initial investigation. Of three cellphones found in the motel room, the county lawyer and Ms. Lucchesi said information in the file suggests only one phone was searched. The motel surveillance video, though mentioned in the case file, is missing.
Without further answers, resolution remains elusive.
“I still feel they’re in the wrong, and committed a lot of violations that they’re not admitting,” Pauline Highwolf said of law enforcement.
She wants to participate in future case review meetings. The Big Horn County Attorney’s office expects that the review will not be completed until the fall.
In a statement on Friday, Mr. Harris said his office would oversee a re-review “to ensure that best efforts have been made to uncover any criminal activity associated with Highwolf’s death.”
“In addition to working with law enforcement investigators, my office is working with representatives of the family to conduct a full prosecutorial review of all evidence available,” the statement said. It concluded that “there is no statute of limitations in Montana for homicide, but time is always of the essence when the interests of justice and closure to family and loved ones is at stake.”
On one recent afternoon, Ms. Highwolf’s four daughters clustered around their grandmother’s kitchen table, making a decoration for their mother’s grave: a depiction of a red dress, a symbol of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s movement.
Ms. Highwolf is buried in a parched hilltop cemetery where several generations of her family lie, her grave strung with lights that her family can see from their front window at night.
The compounds can form PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” which have been linked to cancer and birth defects. The E.P.A. approvals came despite the agency’s own concerns about toxicity.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, July 12, 2021
A drilling rig near homes in a Denver suburb. Credit...Jim West/Alamy
For much of the past decade, oil companies engaged in drilling and fracking have been allowed to pump into the ground chemicals that, over time, can break down into toxic substances known as PFAS — a class of long-lasting compounds known to pose a threat to people and wildlife — according to internal documents from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The E.P.A. in 2011 approved the use of these chemicals, used to ease the flow of oil from the ground, despite the agency’s own grave concerns about their toxicity, according to the documents, which were reviewed by The New York Times. The E.P.A.’s approval of the three chemicals wasn’t previously publicly known.
The records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by a nonprofit group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, are among the first public indications that PFAS, long-lasting compounds also known as “forever chemicals,” may be present in the fluids used during drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, E.P.A. scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The E.P.A. scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.
“The E.P.A. identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” said Dusty Horwitt, researcher at Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The documents, dating from the Obama administration, are heavily redacted because the E.P.A. allows companies to invoke trade-secret claims to keep basic information on new chemicals from public release. Even the name of the company that applied for approval is redacted, and the records give only a generic name for the chemicals: fluorinated acrylic alkylamino copolymer.
However, an identification number for one of the chemicals issued by the E.P.A. appears in separate E.P.A. data and identifies Chemours, previously Dupont, as the submitter. A separate E.P.A. document shows that a chemical with the same EPA-issued number was first imported for commercial use in November 2011. (Chemours did not exist until 2015, though it would have had the responsibility to report chemicals on behalf of its predecessor, Dupont.)
There is no public data that details where the E.P.A.-approved chemicals have been used.
But the FracFocus database, which tracks chemicals used in fracking, shows that about 120 companies used PFAS — or chemicals that can break down into PFAS; the most common of which was “nonionic fluorosurfactant” and various misspellings — in more than 1,000 wells between 2012 and 2020 in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Because not all states require companies to report chemicals to the database, the number of wells could be higher.
Nine of those wells were in Carter County, Okla., within the boundaries of Chickasaw Nation. “This isn’t something I was aware of,” said Tony Choate, a Chickasaw Nation spokesman.
Nick Conger, an E.P.A. spokesman, said that the chemicals in question were approved a decade ago, and that amendments to laws since then now required the agency to affirm the safety of new chemicals before they are allowed into the marketplace. He said the redactions in the documents were mandated by a statute protecting confidential business information. The Biden administration had made addressing PFAS a top priority, he added, for example by proposing a rule to require all manufacturers and importers of PFAS since 2011 to disclose more information on the chemicals, including their environmental and health effects.
Chemours, which has in the past agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle injury claims related to PFOA pollution, did not provide comment.
An Exxon spokesman, in response to questions regarding whether it uses the chemicals, said, “We do not manufacture PFAS.”
Chevron did not respond to a request for comment.
The presence of PFAS in oil and gas extraction threatens to expose oil-field employees and emergency workers handling fires and spills as well as people who live near, or downstream from, drilling sites to a class of chemicals that has faced increasing scrutiny for its links to cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems.
A class of man-made chemicals that are toxic even in minuscule concentrations, for decades PFAS were used to make products like nonstick pans, stain-resistant carpeting and firefighting foam. The substances have come under scrutiny in recent years for their tendency to persist in the environment, and to accumulate inside the human body, as well as for their links to health problems like cancer and birth defects. Both Congress and the Biden administration have moved to better regulate PFAS, which contaminate the drinking water of as many as 80 million Americans.
Industry researchers have long been aware of their toxicity. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when the environmental attorney Rob Bilott sued Dupont for pollution from its Teflon plant in Parkersburg, W.Va., that the dangers of PFAS started to be widely known. In settlements with the E.P.A. in the mid-2000s, Dupont acknowledged knowing of the dangers of PFAS, and it and a handful of chemicals manufacturers subsequently committed to phase out the use of certain kinds of PFAS by 2015.
Kevin A. Schug, a professor of analytical Chemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington, said the chemicals identified in the FracFocus database fell into the PFAS group of compounds, although he added that there was not enough information to make a direct link between the chemicals in the database to the ones approved by the E.P.A. Still, he said it was clear “that the approved polymer, if and when it breaks down in the environment, will break down into PFAS.”
The findings underscore how, for decades, the nation’s laws governing various chemicals have allowed thousands of substances to go into commercial use with relatively little testing. The E.P.A.’s assessment was carried out under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which authorizes the agency to review and regulate new chemicals before they are manufactured or distributed.
But for years, that law had gaps that left Americans exposed to harmful chemicals, experts say. Furthermore, the Toxic Substances Control Act grandfathered in thousands of chemicals already in commercial use, including many PFAS chemicals. In 2016, Congress strengthened the law, bolstering the E.P.A.’s authority to order health testing, among other measures. The Government Accountability Office, the watchdog arm of Congress, still identifies the Toxic Substances Control Act as a program with one of the highest risks of abuse and mismanagement.
In recent days, whistle-blowers have alleged in the Intercept that the E.P.A. office in charge of reviewing toxic chemicals tampered with the assessments of dozens of chemicals to make them appear safer. E.P.A. scientists evaluating new chemicals “are the last line of defense between harmful — even deadly — chemicals and their introduction into U.S. commerce, and this line of defense is struggling to maintain its integrity,” the whistle-blowers said in their disclosure, which was released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Maryland-based nonprofit group.
David R. Brown, a public health toxicologist and former director of Environmental Epidemiology at the Connecticut Department of Health, said the E.P.A. was “expressing concerns at a level that should have caused alarm.” Particularly concerning, he said, was that at oil and gas wells, “you’re putting the chemicals into a high temperature, high pressure environment and that’s highly reactive.”
Mr. Conger, the E.P.A. spokesman, said the agency was committed to investigating the whistle-blowers’ complaints.
The concerns add to the risks posed by hundreds of chemicals used in drilling and fracking, which involves boring deep holes into the earth, and then injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations to unlock oil and gas deposits.
In a 2016 report, the E.P.A. identified more than 1,600 chemicals used in drilling and fracking, or found in fracking wastewater, including close to 200 that were deemed carcinogens or toxic to human health. The same E.P.A. report warned that fracking fluid could escape from drill sites into the groundwater and that leaks could spring from underground wells that store millions of gallons of wastewater.
Communities near drilling sites have long complained of contaminated water and health problems that they say are related. The lack of disclosure on what sort of chemicals are present has hindered diagnoses or treatment. Various peer-reviewed studies have found evidence of illnesses and other health effects among people living near oil and gas sites, a disproportionate burden of which fall on people of color and other underserved or marginalized communities.
“In areas where there’s heavy fracking, the data is starting to build to show there’s a real reason for concern,” said Linda Birnbaum, the former director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and an expert on PFAS. The presence of PFAS, she said, was particularly worrisome. “These are chemicals that will be in the environment, essentially, not only for our lifetimes, but forever,” she said.
An F.C.C. rule that went into effect last month is meant to help put a stop to those relentless calls about your extended warranty, and others.
By Christine Hauser, July 12, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/article/stop-robocalls-scam-fcc.html?surface=most-popular&fellback=false&req_id=890749711&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=17465813&action=click&module=Popular%20in%20The%20Times&pgtype=Homepage
Jenny Kane/Associated Press
The calls look vaguely familiar, as if they could be coming from a neighbor’s phone. Sometimes they’re ominous warnings about your Social Security number. A friendly voice pretends to be concerned about the warranty on a car you don’t have.
Americans get millions of illegal robocalls every month, despite attempts by the telecommunications industry and government agencies to stop them.
The latest effort by the Federal Communications Commission — the government agency that regulates communications — to cut down on the calls uses a technology called Stir/Shaken, which went into effect on June 30. While it has nothing to do with James Bond and martinis, it is meant to add to the arsenal of defenses against “bad guys” who trick people.
Here’s how it works.
What is the F.C.C. doing to stop scam calls?
In short, the F.C.C. is trying to make sure that if you’re getting a call, the network on which it is being made is verifying the caller. Many unwelcome calls that fill your screen are scams that try to get money, or that manipulate the caller ID to appear as if a government agency or a neighbor is on the line, a disguise called spoofing.
The F.C.C.’s first step was setting a June 30 deadline for what it calls “voice service providers” (you know them as phone companies) to register their efforts to reduce the scourge of scams in a public Robocall Mitigation Database. So far, more than 1,500 of them have, the F.C.C. said.
Starting on Sept. 28, phone companies must refuse calls from providers that have not registered with the F.C.C.
At the center of the effort is Stir/Shaken, the technology that aims to verify calls as they move through networks to recipients. (The name Stir/Shaken is derived from Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-Based Handling of Asserted Information Using Tokens. You can see why they went with the nickname.)
“This is a good day for American consumers who — like all of us — are sick and tired of illegal spoofed robocalls,” Jessica Rosenworcel, the commission’s acting chairwoman, said in a June 30 statement.
But she warned there was “no silver bullet in the endless fight against scammers.”
How to recognize a scam
The industry has been trying to deter phone infiltrators for years. The nation’s largest providers, including T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, announced in 2019 that they had been experimenting with Stir/Shaken. Tools like block functions, or apps like Robokiller, have been created to address the problem.
But the calls kept coming.
The F.C.C. hopes to get all providers, including smaller regional networks, on board. That would reduce spoofing by verifying calls as they pass through different networks, from the caller to the recipient.
While some robocalls are legal — such as recorded messages about school closings and political campaigns — most are not, according to industry estimates.
YouMail, a call-blocking company, estimates that 4.4 billion robocalls were placed to consumers in the United States in June, about 573 million of them auto warranty and health-related scams.
The scams often keep in step with seasons or events. On Friday, Katherine Fernández Rundle, the state attorney for Miami-Dade County, warned people about unsolicited calls from charities claiming to help the victims and families of Champlain Towers South, the condo building that partly collapsed in Surfside, Fla.
“Unfortunately, even in these most devastating moments, there are some individuals who may see the kindness and generosity of our community as a potential source of easy cash by running a charitable scam,” she said.
This year, there was a rise in vaccine-related scams. Health insurance scams appeared around enrollment periods, the F.C.C. said. The F.C.C. said it received the most complaints about auto warranty scams.
“Seeing a local number or the name of a government agency or local law enforcement may, unfortunately, encourage consumers to answer the call and to trust, or fear, the robocallers,” Will Wiquist, an F.C.C. spokesman, said.
The new plan is not a silver bullet
Some businesses legitimately use caller ID to show their switchboard number or toll-free number, rather than a specific department or extension.
Scammers exploit that by creating a spoof ID that looks as if it is coming from a police station or another neighborhood source.
The Stir/Shaken technology targets that manipulation. The carrier uses it to create a digital signature that authenticates the number’s path from start to finish, said Jim McEachern, the principal technologist for Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, which focuses on industry problems.
“At the end they can say ‘Ah, this call is actually from this number,’” he said. “There is end-to-end verification, which gives you insight into the caller and how legitimate they are.”
“The key thing here is it was never intended to be a silver bullet,” he said, speaking of the F.C.C.’s new push with Stir/Shaken. “It was intended to be a tool to help.”
Add tools to your arsenal
Mr. McEachern said if someone knocked on your door wearing a mask, you’d be unlikely to answer. If they show their face and identification you can still get scammed, “but you have a whole lot of information to work with,” he said.
Alex Quilici, the chief executive of YouMail, the call blocking company, said “bad guys” could create a scam behind authentic numbers that are conveyed to the consumer as verified.
“Stir/Shaken is supposed to stop calls from spoofed phone numbers,” he said. “It is a significant speed bump. But it is not a wall.”
The approach should be a layered defense. Unwanted sales calls can be blocked by registering your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Phone companies offer verification labeling on cellphones or indicate that it is a likely scam. Apps can block a scam call or dump it in voice mail.
It is also important to understand the policy of federal departments. One scam showed the IRS and its toll-free number as the caller ID, the F.C.C. said. But the Internal Revenue Service does not initiate contact that way, or by email, texts or social media, or demand payment by threatening a police or immigration response.
You can report a scam call to the Federal Trade Commission, which will analyze it to identify trends used by illegal callers. If you have lost money to a scam, it should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, the consumer protection agency. (Use ReportFraud.ftc.gov. )
Mr. McEachern said he never trusts a call, such as from a bank or credit card company, that he does not initiate. Instead, he might call back using the number on his card. Another red flag is if someone demands money or information using pressure. And if an offer sounds too good to be true, he said, it probably is.
Apps can be helpful, but like email scams and computer viruses, new phone scams will emerge. Mr. McEachern likened Stir/Shaken to putting security lights outside your house, only to find an intruder had ferreted out an alternative dark place.
“It is going to be a moving target,” he said.
By Rachel Cernansky, July 10, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/10/opinion/indigenous-maori-new-zealand-environment.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Guest%20Essays
Maori leaders and members of the Australian Defense Force and the charitable group Haka for Life at a service in April in Sydney, Australia, to honor the First Nations People of Australia and Indigenous Maori for their contribution to the protection of Australia and New Zealand. Credit...Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
Violet Lawson, a land owner in Kakadu, Australia, studies her land for the right time to set fires that are not too hot but still clear the underlying debris and fuel to prevent larger wildfires. The Australian government sees benefits in having Indigenous people look after their lands according to their traditional methods. Credit...Matthew Abbott for The New York Times
Nearly two decades ago, when the New Zealand highway authority was planning the Waikato Expressway, people from the Māori tribe Ngāti Naho objected. The highway would encroach on an area that, in Māori tradition, was governed by a water-dwelling creature, a taniwha.
The authorities took those concerns into account and rerouted the road to circumvent the area in question. As a result, a year later, when the area was hit by a major flood, the road was unharmed.
“I’m still waiting for the headline, ‘Mythical Creature Saves the Taxpayer Millions,’” said Dan Hikuroa, a senior lecturer in Māori studies at the University of Auckland and member of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe. He has often wondered if, once the flood hit, the technical team later said, “Why didn’t you just say it’s a flood risk area?”
Like many Indigenous peoples around the world, the Māori have developed their understanding of their environment through close observation of the landscape and its behaviors over the course of many generations. Now the New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency regularly looks for ways to integrate traditional Māori knowledge, or mātauranga, into its decision-making. Mr. Hikuroa has been appointed the culture commissioner for UNESCO New Zealand, a role he said is centered on integrating Māori knowledge into UNESCO’s work.
Western-trained researchers and governments are increasingly recognizing the wealth of knowledge that Indigenous communities have amassed to coexist with and protect their environments over hundreds or even thousands of years. Peer-reviewed scientific journals have published studies demonstrating that around the world, Indigenous-managed lands have far more biodiversity intact than other lands, even those set aside for conservation.
Embracing Indigenous knowledge, as New Zealand is trying to do, can improve how federal governments manage ecosystems and natural resources. It can also deepen Western scientists’ understanding of their own research, potentially, by providing alternative perspectives and approaches to understanding their field of work. This is ever more urgent, particularly as the climate crisis unfolds. “It is Indigenous resilience and worldview that every government, country and community can learn from, so that we manage our lands, waters and resources not just across budget years, but across generations,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico and America’s first Native American cabinet secretary, said in remarks to the United Nations.
Indigenous scholars warn, though, that while traditional knowledge can be used to benefit the world, it can also be mishandled or exploited. Dominique David Chavez, a descendant of the Arawak Taíno in the Caribbean, and a research fellow at the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and the National Science Foundation, says that, as Western scientists, “we are trained to go into communities, get that knowledge and go back to our institutions and disseminate it in academic journals.” That can be disruptive to traditional knowledge sharing, from one generation to another, she says, which should be the priority — ensuring that Indigenous knowledge systems are preserved in and supportive of the communities that developed them. In Puerto Rico, known by its Indigenous people as Borikén, Ms. Chavez is studying ways to restore the connections and traditional knowledge transmission patterns between elders and youth.
Bridging Indigenous and Western science also means respecting the ecosystem of values in which the knowledge systems are embedded. For instance, the practice of planting a diversity of crops and building healthy soil for water retention — today known as “regenerative agriculture” — has existed in Indigenous communities around the world throughout history. Yet the growing push to adopt regenerative agriculture practices elsewhere is often selective, using industrial pesticides, for example, or leaving out the well-being of people who farm the land.
“In Indigenous sciences, it’s not possible to separate the knowledge from the ethics of the responsibility for that knowledge — whereas in Western science, we do that all the time,” said Robin Wall Kimmerer, the director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York in Syracuse and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. The scientific method is designed to be indifferent to morals or values, she adds. “Indigenous knowledge puts them back in.”
Ideally, the shared use of Indigenous knowledge can help mend broken relationships between Indigenous and Western communities.
In upstate New York, Ms. Kimmerer points to sweetgrass, a native plant used for traditional basketry. She was approached by a tribe concerned about the decline of the plant and looking for a solution.
Government regulations had already restricted its harvest. “One thing people often think about is, is it being overharvested?” Ms. Kimmerer said. She helped to conduct studies that ultimately showed that harvesting sweetgrass, following Indigenous protocols, is the very thing that will help it to thrive. “If you just leave it alone, it starts to decline.”
For her, that speaks to a core flaw in Western approaches to land management: the belief that human interaction is necessarily harmful to ecosystems. “That’s one of the reasons Native people were systematically removed from what are today’s national parks, because of this idea that people and nature can’t coexist in a good way.” But Indigenous knowledge, Ms. Kimmerer said, is really all about, ‘Oh yes we can, and we cultivate practices for how that is possible,’” she said.
While combating wildfires last year, Australian authorities turned to Aboriginal practices. While researchers have connected the severity of the fires to climate change, Ms. Kimmerer added that how Australia’s land has been managed in the modern era may have also played a role. Aboriginal people had “been managing that land in a fire landscape for millenniums, ” she said. “The fact that Indigenous science has been ignored is a contributing factor to the fires there.”
As the world increasingly recognizes the accomplishments of many Indigenous communities that successfully coexist with ecosystems, there is much for Western society to learn.
“We have this notion that Western science is the pathway to truth. We don’t really even entertain the possibility that it could come from somewhere else,” said Ms. Kimmerer. “Resource managers, land managers need to understand that there are multiple ways of knowing.”
The director John Singleton uses the experiences of a father and son, Tre and Furious, to depict how a Black community comes undone.
By Lawrence Ware, Published July 12, 2021, Updated July 13, 2021
Tre is at the wheel when he and Ricky are pulled over in a traffic stop. Credit...Columbia Pictures
When John Singleton’s first film, “Boyz N the Hood,” was released on July 12, 1991, it immediately made him a household name in many Black communities across the country. The movie was so well received that my mother decided to take me to see the film in the theater.
This was a big deal.
I was only 10 years old, but, despite my mother’s reluctance to let me watch movies with sex scenes, she explained that it was important that I experience “Boyz.” After the credits rolled, I understood why.
Ostensibly the story of three friends, Tre, Ricky and Doughboy, growing up in South-Central Los Angeles, it showed how white supremacy set the conditions that ended in neighborhoods devastated by crime and, ultimately, violence. Not many white people are featured in the film, but the impact of whiteness on Black life permeates the screen.
This is evident when Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) interacts with Los Angeles’s finest. As a child he sees how even a Black police officer doesn’t take his father, Furious (Laurence Fishburne), seriously when he reports a home break-in; when Tre is older, the same officer pulls a gun on him during a routine traffic stop. He quickly learns that the cops are there to neither protect nor serve him or his neighbors. What Singleton shows us about the relationship between the police and Black residents may be well understood now, but at the time it was rare for the Black community’s view on policing to be so well embodied by Hollywood. I was always taught to be wary of officers as a young Black man, but this was one of the first times I saw the rationale for that fear onscreen in a major American film.
Tre may be the focal point, but it is through Furious that Singleton makes plain his ideas about white supremacy.
Early on, Furious takes a young Tre (Desi Arnez Hines II) to the beach for some father-son bonding time. They talk about girls, sex and life. Then Furious mentions his time in Vietnam. (Surely Singleton was thinking of the young soldier Fishburne played in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” while he filmed the scene.) “Don’t ever go in the Army, Tre,” he says. “Black man ain’t got no place in the Army.”
I sat up in the theater because this was the exact conversation I’d had with my grandfather.
An Army veteran who had fought in World War II, M.C. Murray and I talked about how he felt the country let him down upon his return. He expected things to be better but was forced to fight again, only this time, the enemy was American racism. He even talked to me about how his experience left him with the realization that there were two worlds in the military: one for white soldiers and another for Black ones. That “Boyz” scene, though brief, is full of that history. It shows us that Furious’s ideas about race were shaped by his service and that his treatment in the armed forces haunts him.
It is clear that Furious has left-of-center Black ideas with that exchange, but it is only later in the film that those ideas are spoken of with clarity and boldness. That’s when Tre and his best friend Ricky (Morris Chestnut), now high school seniors, take the S.A.T., then visit Furious at his office, a financial services firm that helps local residents buy their own homes.
The boys go with Furious to a street corner where the older man makes plain his (and Singleton’s) ideas about how Blackness is affected by white supremacy. This moment introduced me to a phenomenon that has come to shape the lives of Black people in the country for the next 30 years. The promise and theft of the American dream from Black families provides the backdrop for the film’s prescient message about changes that were coming to Black communities across the country.
Gentrification is “what happens when the property value of a certain area is brought down,” Furious says in a monologue that would be preachy if it were not delivered by one of the most talented actors of the ’90s. “They bring the property value down, they can buy the land at a lower price, then they move all the people out, raise the property value and sell it at a profit.” A bystander played by the brilliant Whitman Mayo blames the declining property value on Black youth selling drugs. In response, Furious voices what this movie has been trying to tell us all along: Black people are not the ones who bring drugs into the country — even if they are the ones dying every day.
This is the scene that takes a pretty good film about Black life and makes it into a great one. Today, gentrification has dramatically altered the community represented in “Boyz N the Hood” — and Black communities like it around the country.
On the surface, the film appears to be about Black crime and Black children coming of age, but just outside the frame Singleton is saying something more. Systemic racism is the real villain in this movie. It is a theme that he would revisit both in “Poetic Justice” and “Rosewood.” It is what sets the stage for Ricky to be killed at the end of “Boyz” and is the cause for the crime and nihilism embraced by Doughboy (Ice Cube). The characters’ choices start to make sense. They are either embracing the chaos that surrounds them or trying to escape it.
In essence, this is a postapocalyptic world. Except what was destroying their landscape wasn’t an alien invasion or a virus. It was ravaged by white supremacy.
Singleton saw this 30 years ago, and his message remains as important now as it was then.
world-outlook.com, July 13, 2021https://world-outlook.com/2021/07/13/u-s-orchestrated-protests-against-cuban-government/
Carlos Lazo (center) and other Cuban Americans in Miami are organizing pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., to demand lifting of U.S. sanctions against Cuba and an end to Washington’s economic war. (Photo: Carlos Lazo Facebook page – www.facebook.com/elprofeylaislabella)
Big-Business Media Lie: US-Cuba Normalization Committee Statement
The following is a statement the International US-Cuba Normalization Committee released to the press July 12, 2021.
World-Outlook is publishing it to counter the disinformation campaign the big-business media has unleashed in recent days as part of Washington’s efforts to foment a social explosion and destabilize Cuba, which faces serious challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and an intensified U.S. economic war.
The statement also points to upcoming Cuba solidarity activities across the United States on July 25 that can help put pressure on Washington to lift its criminal sanctions against Cuba.
Photos, captions, subheadings, and footnotes are by World-Outlook.com.
The International US-Cuba Normalization Committee (http://www.us-cubanormalization.org) denounces in the strongest terms the latest campaign of bipartisan Washington to subvert and politically destabilize the Cuban government. This despicable effort aims to take advantage of the very real economic stress and mounting human suffering – compounded with spikes in COVID-19 infections and deaths on the island – which are themselves precisely the consequences of the US extraterritorial war against Cuba. This US blockade escalated under the Trump administration, continues unabated under Biden’s.
We reject any US intervention in Cuba that for decades have aimed at so-called “regime change,” that is, the eradication of the Cuban Revolution since its 1959 triumph. This criminal policy has nothing to do with “human rights” or “democracy.” We aim to educate, organize, and mobilize to support all efforts by people of good will who respect Cuban sovereignty and oppose the blockade. We urge all to assist with the pandemic thru the “Syringes for Cuba campaign http://www.ghpartners.org/syringes4cuba.
Let Cuba live!
We reiterate our demands to end all US economic and travel sanctions. STOP US SUBVERSION AND INTERVENTION NOW! LET CUBA LIVE!
We have seen 243 measures imposed by the Trump Administration, and, in the final days of his regime, to include Cuba in a list of countries sponsoring terrorism, a spurious, arbitrary, hypocritical, illegitimate, and unilateral list that the US government has adopted, believing themselves the emperors of the world. This outrageous decree has also been perpetuated by President Biden and his team.
The blockade has caused shortages in the country, especially of food, medicines, raw materials, and supplies. Cuba’s tourism industry, a key source of foreign exchange to counter the US blockade and maintain essential social services, has been devastated. We pledge to redouble our solidarity efforts on every front!
OUR RESPONSE MUST BE TO MOBILIZE IN EVER LARGER NUMBERS THE INTERNATIONAL JULY 25 CARAVANS AND THE NATIONAL CARAVAN IN WASHINGTON, DC TO GREET CARLOS LAZO AND THE BRIDGES OF LOVE MOVEMENT OF CUBAN-AMERICANS AGAINST THE BLOCKADE.
WE STRONGLY URGE YOU, IF YOU CAN, TO GO TO DC. IF NOT, ATTEND THE CARAVAN IN YOUR CITY, HELP ASSIST IN PUBLICITY, USE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA, TELEPHONE, AND EMAILS TO INFORM YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, CO-WORKERS AND COLLEAGUES.
The President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel appeared live on national radio and television saying:
“We call on all revolutionaries to take to the streets to defend the Revolution in all places.”
“The streets belong to the revolutionaries and the State has all the political will to dialogue, but also to participate.
“We are not going to hand over sovereignty, or the independence of this nation. They have to pass over our corpse if they want to overthrow the Revolution.”2
July 11, 2021, statement by President of Cuba
Read the Cuban media to get the truth
Juventud Rebelde (translates to English); http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/cuba/2021-07-11/la-calle-en-cuba-es-de-los-revolucionarios
Granma (translates to English); http://www.granma.cu/cuba/2021-07-11/en-vivo-presidente-de-cuba-comparece-en-vivo-ante-el-pueblo-de-cuba
Cuban President Diaz-Canel statement on You Tube: https://youtu.be/eaXnrqaHHd8 (Español);
English text http://www.us-cubanormalization.org/viva-cuba/the-order-to-fight-is-given-the-revolutionaries-to-the-streets/
Organizing Committee, International Conference for the Normalization of US-Cuba Relations (us-cubanormalization.org)
Saving Lives Campaign US-CANADA-CUBA Cooperation (savinglivescampaign.org)
New York-New Jersey Cuba Sí Coalition (cubasinynjcoalition.org)
National Network OnCuba (nnoc.info)
Canadian Network on Cuba (canadiannetworkoncuba.ca)
Table de concertation et de solidarité Québec – Cuba (https://www.facebook.com/TCSQC)
 For more information see related articles published July 9, 2021, on World-Outlook.com: Car Caravans to End U.S. Blockade of Cuba Expand (in English), and Se expanden las caravanas de automóviles para exigir fin al bloqueo estadounidense de Cuba (en Español).
 See July 12, 2021, Granma article with extensive quotes from the Cuban president’s July 11 statement: ‘We Will Defend the Revolution Above All Else’.
By Charles M. Blow, July 14, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/14/opinion/jim-crow-voter-suppression.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Bettmann, via Getty Images
In the wake of the Civil War, liberals in the North went about establishing Reconstruction, passing the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, greatly expanding the rights of Black people in America, and putting severe restrictions on Southern states before they could be readmitted to the Union.
But of course, the Northern liberals soon grew impatient with and tired of dealing with Reconstruction and the racial issues in the South. At the same time, racial terror was regaining strength in the region.
After Reconstruction was allowed to fail, the last remaining federal troops — who had helped protect Black people from the terrorists — were withdrawn from the South. Even though there was a large percentage of Black voters in many of these states — and Black voters were the majority in some — the terrorists were able to significantly reduce that voter participation through intimidation and violence.
In Mississippi, where Black voters were the overwhelming majority, this suppression succeeded well enough that in 1890 the state called a constitutional convention to write white supremacy into the DNA of the state and to restrict the Black vote.
Only one Black delegate was invited to the convention.
When Mississippi established its Jim Crow Constitution, it didn’t submit it to the public for a vote. Instead, it simply declared that “This Constitution, adopted by the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, shall be in force and effect from and after this the first day of November, A.D. 1890.”
If it had gone before the people, Black voters would have surely voted it down.
Because the Constitution was not put before the voters, there was some question about its validity, but that was put to rest in 1892, when, as The New York Times reported, “The Supreme Court today settled the point, which was made in a contested election case, holding that the Constitutional Convention was the embodiment of the sovereignty of the people, and that it was competent for it to put into effect the new Constitution without submission to be voted on.”
Without the courts or Congress stepping in to protect voter rights, Mississippi served as the shining beacon of a way forward, and state after state in the South followed, copying the Mississippi example and calling state constitutional conventions of their own, establishing Jim Crow in the South.
The racist South may have fallen in defeat in the Civil War, but it rose in victory in the ballot war.
Once Jim Crow was established, Washington was in no hurry to dismantle it. Liberals simply worked around it. For decades, they simply accommodated Southern racists so as not to offend them and to retain the possibility of earning their votes.
Black voters in the region, disenfranchised and therefore disempowered, were essentially written out of the political calculus.
It would take more than seven decades before Congress would fully restore voting rights for Black people in the South. So, a 30-year-old Black voter in Mississippi who was disenfranchised in 1890 very likely died never having cast another ballot.
These voter suppression efforts were so effective and so emboldening that they even developed a movement — though unsuccessful — to repeal the 15th Amendment that had guaranteed Black men the right to vote.
In 1903, Representative John S. Williams of Mississippi, a proponent of the repeal, called the 15th Amendment “one of the greatest crimes in political history.”
Fast forward to the present, when Donald Trump is calling his election loss “the greatest fraud in the history of our country from an electoral standpoint,” in part because it was made possible by the votes of Black and brown people.
Most of Trump history was a failure and embarrassment, but one of its great ignoble successes is that it is ushering in Jim Crow 2.0.
Just as in the 1890, the courts and Congress are not doing much to stop the march of voter suppression. In 1890, Benjamin Harrison, a business-minded liberal who believed in Black people’s right to vote, was in office. He endorsed the federal elections bill that would protect Black people from raging voter suppression in the South.
The bill passed in the House but languished and died in the Senate — even though liberals controlled both chambers — in part because those liberals were more focused on other issues.
Then, as The Washington Post reported, around the time of the Mississippi constitutional convention, “African Americans from 40 counties in Mississippi had protested to President Benjamin Harrison, but he declined to intervene.”
President Biden hasn’t declined to intervene, but he has dragged his feet and not used the full force of the bully pulpit and still hasn’t given a full-throated endorsement of ending the filibuster to protect voting rights.
America is having a déjà vu moment, reliving in real time a horrendous history of more than a century ago, and it is impossible for us to understand how Democrats in Washington don’t see that.
There is no reason to believe that this round of voter suppression is the end of those efforts, and every reason to dread that any successful implementation of them would serve as an accelerant of further suppressive efforts.
Voter suppression is like an invasive weed. Either snatch it up by the root at the first sign of a sprig or it will spread, unchecked, and consume the whole garden.
By Melinda Wenner Moyer, a science journalist and the author of the forthcoming book “How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes,” from which this essay is adapted, July 15, 2021
If race is largely a social construct, then teaching children about it will only perpetuate racism — right? Wrong: Studies show precisely the opposite. Open conversations about race and racism can make white children less prejudiced and can increase the self-esteem of children of color.
If states ban the teaching of critical race theory, as conservative lawmakers in many are attempting to do, or if schools don’t provide consistent education about racism and discrimination, it’s imperative that parents pick up the slack.
Even if we don’t want them to, children do notice differences in race and skin color. And that means that attempts to suppress discussions about race and racism are misguided. Those efforts won’t eliminate prejudice. They may, in fact, make it worse.
So-called colorblind parenting — avoiding the topic of race in an effort to raise children who aren’t prejudiced — is not just unhelpful, it actually perpetuates racism. That’s because racism isn’t driven solely by individual prejudice. It’s a system of inequity bolstered by racist laws and policies — the very fact that opponents of teaching critical race theory are trying to erase.
Some people, especially white people like me, may shy away from talking to their children about race, either because they’ve been socialized to treat the subject as taboo or because they fear that instilling an awareness of race is itself problematic. That’s a privilege that nonwhite families often don’t have — racism is a fact of life that many can’t ignore. While parents of white children may be able to choose if, when and how they have these conversations, parents of children of color often have no choice but to discuss the subject as it arises.
Parents may believe their children are too young to learn about topics like prejudice, discrimination and violence. But it’s possible — advisable, actually — to have age-appropriate conversations about race and racism throughout children’s lives, including when they are very young.
I asked more than 80 parents about how they think their children view race. Many said their children are oblivious to skin color. Yet research strongly contradicts this notion. Babies as young as 3 months old discern racial differences, and they prefer looking at faces that share their caregivers’ skin color.
Racial awareness and prejudice continue to develop during the preschool and grade school years. A 2012 study showed that many white parents of preschoolers believed that their children harbored no racial prejudice. When the researchers tested the children, though, some said they wouldn’t want Black friends.
Children learn from what they see. They notice that in American culture, race and power intersect in a clear way. Children may observe, for instance, that all but one president has been white, that many of the wealthiest people are white and that more working-class people are people of color.
When children aren’t presented with the context required to understand why our society looks the way it does, “they make up reasons, and a lot of kids make up biased, racist reasons,” said Rebecca Bigler, a developmental psychologist who studies the development of prejudice. Children often start to believe that white people are more privileged because they’re smarter or more powerful, Dr. Bigler says.
Parents should explicitly challenge these wrong assumptions and explain the role of centuries of systemic racism in creating these inequities. Brigitte Vittrup, a psychologist at Texas Woman’s University, and George W. Holden, a psychologist at Southern Methodist University, found that white children whose parents talked with them about race became less prejudiced over time, compared with children whose parents didn’t have such conversations.
Another study co-written by Dr. Bigler found that white children who had learned about racial discrimination had more positive attitudes toward Black people than children who were not exposed to that curriculum. The same researchers later found that classroom discussions about racial discrimination also had a positive impact on Black children.
Indeed, children of color also benefit from conversations about race and racism. In particular, Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor and Nancy E. Hill at the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that when families of color regularly talk about their culture’s values and traditions, children develop a strong sense of identity and pride, and they fare better in terms of self-esteem, psychological health and academic success.
But talking about race isn’t enough. Parents should also foster respect for diverse cultural backgrounds by ensuring their children interact with people who are different from them. If you can choose where you live or where your children go to school, it helps to prioritize diversity. And consider the curriculum: Children who hear teachers talk explicitly about race are better at identifying bias than students who are given vague messages about kindness and equality.
At home, choose books, TV shows and movies with characters from a variety of backgrounds — and discuss the characters’ race and ethnicity with your children. When all of the characters are white, acknowledge it. Start a conversation about why that might be the case, and why it’s not representative of the world we live in. Point out racist tropes in books, movies and TV shows when you see them.
Encourage your children to be friends with children of different races, too. “Friendships are a major mechanism for promoting acceptance and reducing prejudice,” explained Deborah Rivas-Drake, a psychologist and educational researcher at the University of Michigan. But if you’re white, don’t expect people of color to do the labor of educating your children about race.
If you’re like me, you may struggle with conversations about race, but they get easier. If your children comment on someone’s skin color, instead of shushing or scolding them, explain the science of skin color — that we all have a pigment in our skin called melanin that protects against ultraviolet radiation. Your melanin levels depend on how much your parents have and on where your ancestors lived.
If your children make racist or insensitive comments, gently probe for more information before responding. “Get a sense of what they understand it to mean from their perspective,” said Howard C. Stevenson, a professor of urban education and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “Where did they hear it from? How is it being used in the social context they’re in? Then you have a better angle to how you can speak to it.”
These conversations can feel awkward, but remember that whatever your children don’t learn about race from you, they’ll learn from the media, their friends or their own imaginations.
Racism won’t end until parents — and children — see prejudice, recognize its perniciousness and unravel the system that fuels it.
By Farhad Manjoo, July 15, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/15/opinion/coronavirus-vaccine-south-africa.html?action=click&algo=bandit-all-surfaces&block=more_in_recirc&fellback=false&imp_id=254442657&impression_id=7151e963-e575-11eb-9776-016f3b076b9e&index=3&pgtype=Article&pool=more_in_pools%2Fopinion®ion=footer&req_id=896043726&surface=eos-more-in&variant=0_bandit-all-surfaces
Emmanuel Croset/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The images flooding out of riot-torn South Africa are horrifying. On Tuesday, a woman in a high-rise building apparently set alight by looters tossed her child to the hoped-for safety of a crowd far below. Emergency workers have been attacked in several places; one medical service began transporting the injured in an armored ambulance. In much of the central district of the port city of Durban, the police were overwhelmed and shopping malls and stores were gutted.
The nation’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, warned against ethnic conflict, a threat his critics called groundless and that only increased tensions.
But as I swiped through the pictures and videos flying across my South African relatives’ group chats this week, I was struck by the many posts that suggested an even bitterer flavor of doom — a kind of psychological crackup.
What began last week as scattered protests over the jailing of Jacob Zuma, the nation’s former president, has turned into a plunder free of meaning and intention, so indiscriminate that it seems almost cathartic. On Monday, just as Ramaphosa promised in a droning national address to get tough on looters, a split-screen showed a crowd meeting no resistance as they broke into a bank — but not an ordinary bank, a blood bank. All the while nobody seems to know what’s actually happening, as misinformation rockets through a locked-down, screen-dependent population.
South Africa has been a very fragile nation for a very long time — a place of persistent economic struggle and breathtaking inequality, intolerable violence, and racial animus still lurking beneath every national controversy. (Sound familiar?) But until this week I had never seriously entertained the idea that the place might suddenly fall apart. As was evident in the country’s bloodless handover from racist rule, troubled as it has been, there was a fundamental social stability undergirding South African society that I believed would hold.
But now it looks as if something key has been lost. The coronavirus may have dealt South Africa a blow that even AIDS could not, driving the country of my birth down the path of madness, a society slumping into the abyss.
The possibility of such collapse terrifies me — not just as a native South African, but as an American. Thanks to mass vaccination, it’s beginning to feel like morning in wealthy parts of the world, notwithstanding the social and political dislocations the virus has created in the United States. But on much of the rest of the planet it is still dark night.
What is happening in South Africa is different from what’s happening in Haiti, whose president was assassinated last week; or in Cuba, where thousands took to the streets in protest over rising poverty and state indifference; or in Colombia, Brazil, Lebanon and other places where protests and unrest have flared up in recent months. Yet there is an obvious common thread that suggests a systemic failure — a pandemic that refuses to abate is ripping societies apart. The coronavirus has gutted economies, depleted social, medical and security services, corroded trust and created opportunities for rampant violence and political persecution. And in the absence of effective vaccination programs, there isn’t any room for hope, either.
“These are fragile places with many underlying vulnerabilities,” said Masood Ahmed, the president of the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit that aims to reduce poverty in developing nations. “That is what we need to worry about — as the months wear on, you’re going to see a lot more countries where trust levels and tolerance will start fraying.”
This isn’t just their problem. Because the virus respects no borders, it’s ours, too. But it’s also important to remember that how we address today’s pandemic will have consequences for the many global threats to come. If the billions of people in the world’s middle- and low-income countries continue to feel hopelessly locked out of any chance at liberation from the virus, what will happen as the world is transformed by climate change?
Global poverty has declined significantly over the last 40 years — but because climate change could pose severe threats to Africa and South Asia, where most of the world’s poorest people live, the World Bank warns that, without swift action, it will be extremely difficult to further reduce extreme poverty. Among scholars of development, there remains a great deal of debate about the effectiveness of international aid to address international problems. But as Ahmed pointed out, in the case of Covid-19, what the wealthy world owes the developing world is not any kind of mystery. The fix for South Africa’s most pressing threat is the same as the solution to ours: a well-organized, well-funded mass vaccination program. What’s missing is global leadership and determination — a serious effort by the international community, with the United States in the lead, to rid the planet of any place where the virus might thrive. Think the Berlin Airlift or the Marshall Plan, but for vaccines.
And things are urgent. The coronavirus has reversed decades of progress on global development. The number of people experiencing hunger shot up by hundreds of millions last year, the most since at least 2006. Global peacefulness declined for the ninth year in a row, with a marked increase in riots and other violent demonstrations.
It sure feels like the world is on the brink. To pull back it needs help from those on more solid ground.
Surveys of food deliverers and others who work for app-based services illustrate the hazards they have faced during the pandemic.
By Patrick McGeehan, July 15, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/15/nyregion/nyc-gig-workers-pay.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
They zipped around New York City on bikes, bringing restaurant meals to customers too fearful to venture out. Others drove for Uber and Lyft, ferrying different passengers, never knowing if they might be risking their health.
Throughout the pandemic, gig workers have been considered essential to helping New York function even as many residents sheltered at home. People who lost jobs during the pandemic took on gig work as a way to make some money.
But despite that, many gig workers say they are left too vulnerable to the coronavirus and have not been fairly compensated.
Though the minimum wage in New York City is $15 an hour, many residents who work for app-based services like UberEats, DoorDash and Lyft earn less than half that and cannot pay rent and other expenses, according to surveys of gig workers in the city. But a large share are immigrants, many of them undocumented, who feel they have few other options, the surveys show.
“The face of this work force has changed significantly and become predominantly immigrant,” said Maria C. Figueroa, director of labor and policy research at the ILR School at Cornell University.
Ms. Figueroa, who conducted a survey of more than 500 gig workers in the city this spring, said many immigrants lost jobs in restaurants, stores and construction last year and turned to making deliveries for app-based companies. “We asked them, why did you take this job?” she explained. “They said this was the only job available.”
After factoring in the costs of buying their own smartphones, electric bikes and other gear, delivery workers in New York City were earning between $6.57 and $7.87 per hour, not counting tips, Ms. Figueroa said. She said tips were excluded because of their unpredictability in a system where gratuities often go directly to the app company and workers often complain that they are shorted.
“There are a lot of cases of irregularities in the payment of tips,” she said.
Ms. Figueroa cited the example of a worker named Jonan who was promised a $70 tip for delivering a large order of bagels and coffee to an office building in Manhattan last month. “He received $2.50 from the app,” she recounted, and got no more even after appealing to the restaurant and the app’s worker center.
One of the main appeals of gig work is supposed to be the flexibility; it allows workers to set their own hours and work part time to earn money on the side. Many New Yorkers seem to rely on gig jobs to make ends meet.
A separate survey of gig workers conducted last summer by the Community Service Society of New York, an anti-poverty group, concluded that about one-fifth of all employed New Yorkers were involved in gig work to some degree. That is a higher share than the society had estimated in 2019 and, it says, higher than the estimates of government agencies, which generally do not exceed 10 percent.
Most app-based workers said gig work was their primary source of income, though most said they would prefer to have permanent, full-time jobs, said Debipriya Chatterjee, senior economist for income inequality at the Community Service Society and one of three authors of a recently released report on the findings.
“Gig work is not just a side hustle for New Yorkers,” she said.
The society’s survey also found that gig workers were “significantly more likely” than regular employees to have suffered health and financial problems during the pandemic, Ms. Chatterjee said. More than one-third (38 percent) of gig-based workers reported that they or a family member had been infected with Covid-19, compared with about one-fourth (26 percent) of regular employees, she said.
Pedro Acosta, a longtime driver for Uber who lives in East New York, Brooklyn, said he stopped driving for two months last year after contracting the virus and having trouble breathing.
Mr. Acosta, 53, a married father of six, said, “Everybody in my family had the virus,” including his mother, his brother and his three sisters. A brother-in-law sought treatment for Covid and “never came out of the hospital” before he died, he said.
During his hiatus, Mr. Acosta said he “begged for food” for the first time in his working life at a food pantry operated by a church near his home. He also had to defer his rent payment for a while last year.
A spokeswoman for DoorDash called the findings in the surveys “flawed and misleading’‘ and added that “nationally, Dashers earn over $25 per hour they’re delivering and $33 per hour in Manhattan.’‘
Still, food and housing insecurity are bigger problems for gig workers, Ms. Chatterjee said, citing findings of the survey, which was part of an annual report issued by the Community Service Society. This year, it included questions about gig work, given the growing presence of app-based services, including for-hire vehicles, personal shopping, and food and package delivery.
Nearly half of gig workers said they worried all or most of the time about meeting their expenses, compared with less than one-fourth of regular employees, according to the survey. By last summer, 43 percent of app-based gig-workers said they had fallen behind on their rent or mortgage payments, compared with just 17 percent of regular employees.
Gig workers were also more than twice as likely as regular employees to lack health coverage, to have struggled to fill a prescription or delayed medical care, Ms. Chatterjee said. More than half of gig workers reported having at least three hardships — health, housing or food — during the pandemic, compared with less than one-quarter of regular employees, the survey found.
Navara Campbell, who lives in northern Manhattan, said she had repeatedly been robbed while working for app-based delivery services, including Amazon. She said she quit one gig because it involved pushing heavy items like cases of bottled water on a cart through city streets.
Working conditions at app-based services have been the subject of much debate among lawmakers in New York and across the country.
In California, a law known as AB5 went into effect in early 2020 requiring many gig workers for app-based businesses like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to be reclassified as employees rather than independent contractors.
But Uber and Lyft refused to comply and funded a public referendum that was approved by voters and exempted drivers like those working for those companies from some mandated employee benefits while granting them other protections.
Lyft has set up political action committees in New York and Illinois to head off legislation similar to California’s that would force app-based companies to classify their drivers as employees, qualifying them for all the benefits regular employees receive, such as workers’ compensation and paid sick leave.
In Albany, bills have been introduced that would address some of the concerns of worker advocates, but a proposed bill that would have allowed gig workers to organize got bogged down before the latest session ended. That bill, which had the support of some of the big app companies, was controversial because it could have pre-empted protections granted to gig workers at the local level.
The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission adopted several years ago a minimum wage of $17.22 an hour, after expenses, for yellow cabdrivers and drivers for ride-hail apps. A set of bills pending in the City Council would provide several more protections for delivery workers, including a minimum wage and faster payment from the apps.
Cesar Vargas, deputy chief of staff for Councilman Carols Menchaca, one of the bills’ sponsors, said they had support from Speaker Corey Johnson and were being discussed with representatives of the app companies.
But some gig workers are not sure that their situation would improve if they were reclassified as employees, with bosses setting their schedules for them.
“I love being an independent contractor and I will fight for it,” Mr. Acosta said. One of the best aspects of driving for Uber, he said, was that it allowed him to take one of his children to school or to a medical appointment without losing an entire day’s pay.
And his earnings from Uber have recently been boosted by a shortage of drivers and the financial incentives Uber has offered to try to entice drivers back onto the streets, allowing him to support his family.
“Right now,” he said, “it’s good because a lot of drivers are not working.”
BY KHALEDA RAHMAN, July 13, 2021
Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964
The daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. has hit back at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy after he invoked the words of the late civil rights activist while decrying critical race theory.
McCarthy tweeted a clip from his appearance on The Rubin Report on Monday, where he referenced a line in King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech.
"Critical Race Theory goes against everything Martin Luther King Jr. taught us—to not judge others by the color of their skin," McCarthy wrote alongside the clip from the show. "The Left is trying to take America backward."
But Dr. Bernice King responded to the tweet, advising the Republican leader to study her father's teachings more closely.
"Rep. McCarthy, I encourage you to study my father's teachings & words well beyond the last lines of 'I Have A Dream,'" she wrote. "This nation has yet to firmly commit to the intensive, multi-faceted work of eradicating racism against Black people. You should help with that."
Bernice King also included an image of her father's book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? and urged McCarthy to "please read this."
"In this book, written after 'I Have A Dream,' my father writes about racism in detail," she wrote in another tweet. "He shares about "white backlash" and the need for white people to commit to ending racism. Today, this would be called dangerous. It was called dangerous then. My father was assassinated."
She added that when her father "shared his dream that we, his four children, would one day not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character, he was beckoning people to end racism, not deny its existence."
In another tweet, she added: "If only people would invoke my father to: Eradicate racism, militarism & poverty. Ensure just, equitable housing & lending practices. Provide livable wages. End healthcare disparities. Prevent voter suppression. Work for true peace, which includes justice."