Medicare for All March and Rally in SF
Today! Saturday, July 24th
Assemble at 10:00 AM at the Embarcadero Plaza
(1 Ferry Building)
March down Market Street to the Civic Center Plaza for post-march rally at 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.
Write in Support Of Daniel Hale, Drone Whistleblower Facing Up to ten 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
Frustrated by more than a year of picking up people they say Greece has illegally pushed out, Turkish officials invited journalists to witness rescues firsthand.
By Carlotta Gall, July 18, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/18/world/europe/greece-migrants.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
ABOARD A TURKISH COAST GUARD VESSEL — Wet and shaken, women and children were pulled aboard the Turkish patrol boat first, then the men and more children.
A 7-year-old girl in striped leggings, Heliah Nazari, shivered uncontrollably as she was set down on the deck. An older woman retched into a plastic bag.
They were two of 20 asylum seekers from Afghanistan who had been drifting in the dark, abandoned in rudderless rafts for four hours before the Turkish Coast Guard reached them.
Just hours earlier they had been resting in a forest on the Greek island of Lesbos when they were caught by Greek police officers who confiscated their documents, money and cellphones and ferried them out to sea.
“They kicked us all, with their feet, even the children, women, men and everyone,” said Ashraf Salih, 21, recounting their story. “They did not say anything, they just left us. They weren’t humane at all.”
The Turkish Coast Guard officials described it as a clear case — rarely witnessed by journalists — of the illegal pushbacks that have now become a regular feature of the dangerous game of cat and mouse between the two countries over thousands of migrants who continue to attempt the sea crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as a way into Europe.
Since a mutual agreement broke down last year, Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads over how to deal with the continuing flow of migrants along one of the most frequented routes used since the mass movement boomed in 2015.
Then, one million migrants, mostly Syrians fleeing the war in their country, led the surge into Europe. The flow is much reduced — 40,000 have arrived by sea into Europe so far this year — but it is now dominated by Afghans, raising fears that the escalating conflict there and the American withdrawal of troops could bring larger numbers.
For more than a year, Turkey has turned a blind eye to the migrants, allowing them to try the sea crossing to Greece. That country has resorted to expelling migrants forcibly, disabling their boats and pushing them back to Turkey when they are caught at sea.
Increasingly, Greece is even removing asylum seekers who have reached its islands, forcing them into life rafts and towing them into Turkish waters, as the compassion many Greeks had shown during earlier waves of migration has given way to anger and exhaustion.
The tactic of so-called pushbacks has been roundly denounced by refugee organizations and European officials as a violation of international law and of fundamental European values. The Greek government denies that it has pushed back any migrants, while insisting on its right to protect its borders.
“Numerous cases have been investigated, including by the European Union,” Notis Mitarachi, minister for migration and asylum in Greece, said last week, “and reports have found no evidence of any breach of E.U. fundamental rights.”
Philippe Leclerc, head of the United Nations refugee agency in Turkey, said his office had presented evidence, including “accounts of violence and family separations” to the Greek ombudsman, requesting the cases be investigated, without result.
The two countries are at an impasse, with Turkey demanding that Greece end the pushbacks first, and Greece demanding that Turkey first take back 1,400 migrants whose asylum requests have been rejected, Mr. Leclerc said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has been widely accused of precipitating the crisis, when in February last year he announced he was opening his country’s borders for migrants to travel to Europe.
Turkish officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak to the news media, said the step was taken to draw world attention to Turkey’s own burden in hosting some four million asylum seekers from other nations’ wars — more than 3.6 million Syrians, along with 400,000 other people from Afghanistan, Asia and the Middle East. It is the single largest refugee community in the world, and has taken over whole suburbs of Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.
But the action was interpreted in Greece as a kind of blackmail to extort money and other concessions from the European Union on a range of issues.
It led to clashes between migrants and Greek border guards on the Turkish-Greek border and caused the conservative Greek government to adopt aggressive new measures against migrants, including the pushbacks.
Greece has struggled to handle the influx of more than 100,000 asylum cases and overcrowded refugee camps on its islands while other European countries have done little to share the burden.
But Turkish officials stress that the numbers Greece is handling are nothing compared with the scale of the strain on Turkey. Resentment against the migrants in Turkey has grown as economic conditions have worsened, threatening Mr. Erdogan’s political standing. He, in turn, has railed against wealthier states shirking their responsibilities toward the world’s refugees and not doing enough to end the conflicts that cause them to flee.
Frustrated after more than a year of picking up thousands of migrants left by their Greek counterparts, the Turkish Coast Guard invited journalists recently on a patrol boat to witness what they said were the Greek violations.
“It is obvious they were pushed back,” Senior Lt. Cmdr. Sadun Ozdemir, the Northern Aegean group commander of the Turkish Coast Guard, said after his crew had rescued the 20 Afghans. “They did not come from the sky.”
He said the Greek vessel had probably towed the rafts deep into Turkish territorial waters before cutting them adrift, which he said was an additional violation.
One raft was overloaded and the thin bottom leaking, he said. “That boat could have sunk in one or two minutes, and possibly they do not know how to swim and they could have drowned.”
As often happens, the Turkish crew received an email from their Greek counterparts that migrants were drifting in the area — a seeming effort by the Greeks to mitigate loss of life but something the Turks say is an implicit sign of Greek culpability.
Tommy Olsen, who runs the Aegean Boat Report, a Norwegian nonprofit that tracks arrivals of migrants on the Greek islands, confirmed through photographs and electronic data that members of the group had been on the island of Lesbos that day.
A local photographer also took pictures of some of them in front of a Greek church, a landmark on the south of the island. Another photograph showed Mr. Salih and his mother resting beside the fence of a house, with the girl in striped leggings drinking juice and smiling.
The pushbacks also damage relations between the Greek and Turkish Coast Guards and interfere with work against drug and people trafficking, Commander Ozdemir said.
Commercial ships as well as navy and coast guard vessels pass through the northern Aegean and could easily hit the small rafts and boats, which have no lights or means of navigation, he added.
“This thing we call ‘pushback’ in English is a very innocent expression,” he said. But the action was anything but, he said, hoping to convey “how desperate the situation is.”
Interviews with migrants rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard in several incidents over the course of four nights revealed the scale of Greek violations and the growing desperation of migrants.
One group of 18 people, from Africa and the Middle East, were rescued after their engine broke down.
Muhammad Nasir, 29, said he had fled the war in Yemen after his father was killed. He was trying to join his uncle in Britain. He said he had been pushed back seven times by the Greek Coast Guard; this was his eighth attempt.
“For three months, I have been trying,” he said, his voice cracking. “I feel disappointed. I cannot stay in Turkey, I do not have a job and my family are waiting for me to help them.”
An Afghan teenager with an injured leg, Reyhan Ahmedi, 16, was picked up after six hours at sea alone after being expelled by Greece. He said he had fled his home in the town of Gereshk, in southern Afghanistan, as attacks from the Taliban escalated. When he got news that his home had been bombed and was unable to reach his parents, he decided to make a bid to reach Europe.
“I thought I should take myself away from Afghanistan and find a better future for myself,” he said. “I want to get an education.”
Unpredictable winds, fire clouds that spawn lightning, and flames that leap over firebreaks are confounding efforts to fight the blaze, which is sweeping through southern Oregon.
By Henry Fountain, Published July 19, 2021, Updated July 20, 2021
A firefighting aircraft returning to base on Thursday with the Bootleg Fire’s pyrocumulonimbus cloud in the background. Credit...Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Reuters
A towering cloud of hot air, smoke and moisture that reached airliner heights and spawned lightning. Wind-driven fronts of flame that have stampeded across the landscape, often leapfrogging firebreaks. Even, possibly, a rare fire tornado.
The Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon, spurred by months of drought and last month’s blistering heat wave, is the largest wildfire so far this year in the United States, having already burned more than 340,000 acres, or 530 square miles, of forest and grasslands.
And at a time when climate change is causing wildfires to be larger and more intense, it’s also one of the most extreme, so big and hot that it’s affecting winds and otherwise disrupting the atmosphere.
“The fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s changing the weather,” said Marcus Kauffman, a spokesman for the state forestry department. “Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do. In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”
The Bootleg Fire has been burning for two weeks, and for most of that time it’s exhibited one or more forms of extreme fire behavior, leading to rapid changes in winds and other conditions that have caused flames to spread rapidly in the forest canopy, ignited whole stands of trees at once, and blown embers long distances, rapidly igniting spot fires elsewhere.
“It’s kind of an extreme, dangerous situation,” said Chuck Redman, a forecaster with the National Weather Service who has been at the fire command headquarters providing forecasts.
Fires so extreme that they generate their own weather confound firefighting efforts. The intensity and extreme heat can force wind to go around them, create clouds and sometimes even generate so-called fire tornadoes — swirling vortexes of heat, smoke and high wind.
The catastrophic Carr Fire near Redding, Calif., in July 2018 was one of those fires, burning through 130,000 acres, destroying more than 1,600 structures and leading to the deaths of at least eight people, some of which were attributed to a fire tornado with winds as high as 140 miles per hour that was captured on video.
Many wildfires grow rapidly in size, and the Bootleg Fire is no exception. In the first few days it grew by a few square miles or less, but in more recent days it has grown by 80 square miles or more. And nearly every day the erratic conditions have forced some of the nearly 2,200 firefighting personnel to retreat to safer locations, further hindering efforts to bring it under control. More than 75 homes and other structures have burned.
On Thursday night along its northern edge, the fire jumped over a line that had been treated with chemical retardant, forcing firefighters to back off. It was just the latest example of the fire overrunning a firebreak.
“This fire is a real challenge, and we are looking at sustained battle for the foreseeable future,” said Joe Hessel, the incident commander for the forestry department.
And it’s likely to continue to be unpredictable.
“Fire behavior is a function of fuels, topography and weather,” said Craig B. Clements, director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at San Jose State University. “It changes generally day by day. Sometimes minute by minute.”
Mr. Redman said that nearly every day the fire had created tall updrafts of hot air, smoke and moisture called pyrocumulus clouds, some of them reaching up to 30,000 feet. One day, he said, they saw one of these clouds collapse, which can happen in early evening when the updraft stops.
“All that mass has to come back down,” he said, which forces air at the surface outward, creating strong, gusty winds in all directions that can spread a fire. “It’s not a good thing.”
Last Wednesday, though, conditions led to the creation of a larger, taller cloud called a pyrocumulonimbus, which is similar to a thunderhead. It likely reached an altitude of about 45,000 feet, said Neil Lareau, who studies wildfire behavior at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Like a thunderhead, the huge cloud spawned lightning strikes, worrying firefighters because of their potential to start new fires. It may have also brought precipitation.
“Some of these events rain on themselves,” said John Bailey, a professor of forestry at Oregon State University.
Rain can be a good thing, by dampening some of the fuels and helping slow the fire. But by cooling the air closer to the surface, rain can also create dangerous downdrafts, Dr. Lareau said.
There have also been reports of fire whirls, small spinning vortexes of air and flames that are common to many wildfires and are often inaccurately described as fire tornadoes. Fire whirls are small, perhaps a few dozen feet in diameter at their largest, and last for a few seconds to a few minutes.
But Dr. Lareau said there were some indications that the Bootleg Fire might have created an actual fire tornado, which can be several thousand feet in diameter, have wind speeds in excess of 65 miles an hour, extend thousands of feet into the air and last much longer. “It looks like it’s been producing some pretty significant rotation,” he said.
Fire tornadoes occur as a plume of hot air rises within a fire, which draws more air from outside to replace it. Local topography and differences in wind direction, often caused by the fire itself, can impart a spin to this in-rushing air, and stretching of the air column can cause it to rotate faster, like a figure skater pulling her arms in to increase her spin.
Mr. Redman said the incident command had not received any reports of a fire tornado. “But it's totally possible” for one to occur in a fire this big and intense, he said. “When we get these extreme events, it’s stuff we’ve got to watch for.”
Other kinds of extreme fire behavior are more common. But the duration of the extreme behavior in the Bootleg Fire has stunned some of those fighting it.
“It’s day after day of that extreme behavior and explosive growth,” Mr. Kauffman said. “And you can’t really fight fire under those conditions. It’s too dangerous.”
The root cause of most of the extreme behavior is the huge amount of heat the fire is pumping out.
The amount of heat is related to the dryness of the fuel — trees and other vegetation, both dead and alive. And the fuels in Southern Oregon, as well as most of the West, are extremely dry, a result of the severe drought afflicting most of the region.
Dr. Clements likened it to a campfire. “You want the driest tinder and logs to get that fire going,” he said. “Same thing in a forest fire. That’s why we’ve been monitoring the drought.”
If vegetation is damp, some of the energy from burning is used to evaporate its moisture. If there is no moisture to evaporate, the fire burns hotter. “More heat is released,” he said. “The flames are bigger.”
Oregon was also hit in late June by an extreme heat wave, when record temperatures in some places were broken by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit. That dried out the vegetation even more. In Southern Oregon, the fuels were as dry as they’d be at the end of summer in a more normal year.
“We’ve had a lot of fuel that was ready to burn,” Dr. Bailey said.
What would help end the extreme behavior, and eventually the fire itself, is a good, widespread rain. But that doesn’t appear to be in the offing.
“We’re not seeing any significant relief in the next week at least,” Mr. Redman said. “But I don’t think we can get any worse.”
By Bryce Covert, an independent journalist who focuses on the economy, with an emphasis on policies that affect workers and families, July 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/opinion/covid-return-to-office.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
With more than half of American adults fully vaccinated against Covid, employers and employees alike have turned their eyes back to the office. They’re locked in a conflict over when they’ll return and, when they do, what the return will look like. But we shouldn’t just be talking about the parameters of how we get work done in a postpandemic world. We should be pushing to do less of it.
In truth, the debate over the return to the office is fraught. Employers are used to being able to dictate when and where employees work, but we have now discovered that a lot of work can be done at odd hours between remote school lessons and from home offices or even the comfort of one’s bed.
So now there’s a tense push and pull over when and how much people should start commuting and how much power over the question employees can exert. Everyone is focused on how we will make work work after such a severe shock to the system for how things used to get done. But the ultimate answer won’t be found in hybrid remote and in-person offices or even in letting employees shift their hours around. The way to make work work is to cut it back.
Nearly everyone went into overdrive when the pandemic hit, and we aren’t showing signs of letting up. By April of 2020, during the first big Covid spike, homebound working Americans were logging three more hours on the job each day. As our commutes disappeared, we poured much of the extra time not into our own lives but into our Zoom meetings and Slack messages. Working on a primary job ate up the most of the saved time (35.3 percent of it to be exact); an additional 8.4 percent went to a second job. The line blurred between work and home, and we let work take over. No wonder a third of Americans now say they’re burned out by working at home.
But as we start to fumble our way back to some sort of normal, it’s not enough for employees to demand that our hours return to what they were. Prepandemic, nearly a third of Americans clocked 45 hours or more every week, with around 8 million putting in 60 or more. While Europeans have decreased their work hours by about 30 percent over the past half century, ours have steadily increased. We have long needed better work-life balance, but despite constantly trying to hack our lives by waking up before dawn or exercising during lunch, that can be achieved only by actually working less.
To Americans, who log 7 to 19 percent more time on the job than our European peers, that may sound heretical. But we should heed the other countries that have come to this realization. This year, the Spanish government announced a pilot program to entice companies to try out a four-day workweek without reducing anyone’s pay. Last month, Japan released economic policy guidelines encouraging employers to do the same. Iceland just published results from an experiment with a four-day week in Reykjavik that ran from 2015 to 2019 and found that productivity didn’t decline and in some cases even improved. The reduced schedule showed “that we are not just machines that just work,” one Icelandic participant said. “We are persons with desires and private lives, families and hobbies.” Employees reported being less burned out and healthier.
Working too long is bad for our health, associated with not just weight gain and more alcohol and tobacco use but also higher rates of injury, illness and death. A study that looked at long work hours across 194 countries found a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, leading to about 745,000 attributable deaths. Long work hours are “the largest of any occupational risk factor calculated to date,” the authors wrote.
There is a class divide in overwork in the United States, however. The demand to spend 60 hours at an office is one that depletes the lives of professional, higher-paid workers. What would appear to be an opposite problem plagues those at the lower end of the wage scale. In 2016, about one-tenth of American workers were working part time but trying to get more hours. Despite current hand-wringing that these workers are refusing to come back to the job, thanks to lucrative unemployment benefits, the problem is typically the opposite: People who work in retail or fast food often struggle to get enough hours to qualify for benefits and pay their bills, just to survive.
They also struggle to cobble them together into a predictable schedule. Sixteen percent of American workers’ schedules fluctuate based on their employers’ needs. The people who suffer from just-in-time scheduling that never quite adds up to a normal 9 to 5 aren’t spending their off hours on leisure. They’re working second and third jobs. They are hovering over an app to find out if they’re going to be called into work and are scrambling to piece child care and transportation together if and when they are. Employers are still usurping their time by forcing them to be available at a moment’s notice.
“The overlap between the overworked executive and the underemployed hourly worker,” said Susan Lambert, a professor of social work at the University of Chicago, is “that they cannot fully engage in their personal or their family life.” Employers steal both overtime hours spent in front of a computer and off hours spent piecing a decent income together.
If everyone worked less, though, it would be easier to spread the work out evenly to more people. If white-collar professionals were no longer expected or required to log 60 hours a week but 30 instead, that would be a whole extra job for someone else. That would allow more people into positions with middle-class incomes, particularly young people looking to put college educations to use. We could even guarantee everyone a floor, a certain number of hours, at the same time that we lower the ceiling. That would push low-wage employers to fully use the people they have and not treat them as interchangeable cogs to be called upon or turned away whenever demand necessitates.
The goal, Dr. Lambert told me, is “one reasonable job per person.” Not “two for one and half for another.”
A reduction in work doesn’t have to mean a reduction in anyone’s living standards. In 1930, in the midst of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2030, we would need to work only 15 hours a week. Technological advances and increasing productivity and prosperity would mean we could have everything we needed by doing less. But while Keynes underestimated the jump in technology and wealth we would experience in the intervening years, instead of working less, we’re working harder than ever.
That doesn’t mean we’re producing more. There’s a point at which we simply cannot squeeze any more useful work out of ourselves, no matter how many more hours we put in. Studies show workers’ output falls sharply after about 48 hours a week, and those who put in more than 55 hours a week perform worse than those who put in a typical 9 to 5. Even during the pandemic, as work hours shot up, output stayed flat, which means productivity actually fell.
None of this is news. Henry Ford famously reduced shifts in his auto plants in 1914 to eight hours a day without cutting workers’ pay and was rewarded with a boom in output. Years later, after mass strikes and mobilization and during the same depression that inspired Keynes, the 40-hour workweek became enshrined in law by the Fair Labor Standards Act. But there’s nothing scientific or preordained about working eight hours a day, five days a week. It’s just the norm we’ve accepted — and increasingly blown right past.
Keynes took the opportunity of a generational economic depression when millions were thrown out of work to look forward and imagine what the future could, and should, look like. Workers used the Depression as an opportunity to force through legislation that levies a penalty on employers that make people work more than 40 hours a week. The pandemic is our chance to do something similar. Employees hold a lot of power over employers scrambling to ramp production back up and negotiate over what the new office normal will look like.
This is an opportunity for us to seek more control over not only where we work but how much we work, too. Americans can’t be content just to gain the right to work 6 to 2 instead of 9 to 5. We have to demand time off that lasts longer than Saturday and Sunday. We have to reclaim our leisure time to spend as we wish.
A politically active company just waded into one of the most fraught issues in the world, and the reaction was immediate.
By Eric Nagourney, Published July 19, 2021, Updated July 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/19/world/middleeast/israel-ben-jerrys-ice-cream.html?surface=most-popular&fellback=false&req_id=272952313&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=942931338&action=click&module=Popular%20in%20The%20Times&pgtype=Homepage
Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream purveyor famous for taking stands on hot-button social issues, announced Monday that it was ending sales in the Israeli-occupied territories — plunging itself into one of the most contentious debates on the international stage.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” it said in a statement.
With that, an unabashedly political company that over the years has embraced the Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform movements also appeared to offer support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to apply economic and political pressure on Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.
But the company emphasized that it was not boycotting the country as a whole — “we will stay in Israel,” it said — just withdrawing from markets in the West Bank.
The announcement was greeted with anger by many prominent Israelis, who urged people to stop stocking up on Chubby Hubby, Cherry Garcia or any of Ben and Jerry’s other iconic flavors.
“Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy,” tweeted former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader.
The current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, called the company’s decision “morally wrong” and said, “Ben & Jerry’s has decided to brand itself as the anti-Israeli ice cream.”
Ben & Jerry’s declined to comment beyond its statement.
Among other goals, organizers of the boycott movement want Israel to end its occupation of all the land captured in 1967 and dismantle the barriers that separate Israel from much of the West Bank and divide many Palestinian neighborhoods.
While boycott promoters hailed Ben & Jerry’s announcement, they immediately made it clear it was not enough.
“We warmly welcome their decision but call on Ben & Jerry’s to end all operations in apartheid Israel,” said a post on the Twitter account of the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee.
Ben & Jerry’s withdrawal from the occupied territories will not take effect immediately, as its current contract with the company that produces its ice cream in Israel does not expire until the end of next year. And that vendor, Ben & Jerry’s Israel, moved quickly to disassociate itself from the company.
“We will continue to sell all over Israel!” it declared, adding, “We call on the Israeli government and to all consumers: Do not allow Israel to be boycotted.”
In its own statement, the Vermont-based ice cream maker’s parent company, Unilever, said that it was “fully committed” to its presence in Israel, but acknowledged Ben & Jerry’s right “to take decisions about its social mission.”
On the same day of Ben & Jerry’s announcement, the Israeli defense minister, Benny Gantz, spoke with the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the need to advance trust-building steps between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, also spoke with Mr. Abbas.
By Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of law and American history, is the author, most recently, of “On Juneteenth,” July 21, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/21/opinion/haiti-us-history.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Opinion
When assassins killed President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti on July 7, pushing the country to the brink of chaos, it may have struck many Americans as the latest in a string of political upheavals and destabilizing disasters in an unfortunate country with which the United States should have little to do. But the revelation that two of the suspects were American citizens was a reminder of the complicated history of our relations with Haiti — a needlessly tragic history, driven by self-interest and the politics of racism. As the United States now offers to help Haiti restore political order, it should be kept squarely in mind that Haiti is more than just a troubled neighbor. It is a nation whose revolutionary fight for freedom helped make the United States the country that it is today.
In 1791 the enslaved people of Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue, engineered the first and only successful slave revolt in modern history. Saint-Domingue was France’s richest colony, made so by the worldwide demand for sugar and the slavery-based economy that fulfilled it. Led by Toussaint Louverture, Africans on the island violently threw off their enslavers, whose countrymen themselves had only recently overthrown a monarchy that had oppressed people for generations. For reasons both strategic and principled, in early 1794, the French government accepted the declaration of the end of slavery in Saint-Domingue made by the rebels in August of 1793. Some in France saw abolition as in keeping with their own revolutionary ideals.
This period is popularly known as the “Age of Revolution.” First came the Americans, aided by the French, in 1776. The French followed with the fall of the Bastille in 1789. Thomas Jefferson, an ardent supporter of the French Revolution and still under its spell, wrote to his daughter Martha in 1793 as if the events in Saint-Domingue were part of an unstoppable wave sweeping the globe. “St. Domingo has expelled all it’s (sic) whites, has given freedom to all it’s (sic) blacks, has established a regular government of the blacks and coloured people, and seems now to have taken it’s (sic) ultimate form, and that to which all of the West India islands must come.”
Americans watched these proceedings closely. As refugees from Saint-Domingue arrived in the United States, bringing news of the successful revolt, white Southerners were alarmed, fearing replication of the events on the island. Apparently, when whites fought and killed for their freedom, as the Americans and French had, it was noble and heroic. But when Blacks killed whites, who had used force to enslave them and would not be talked out of the practice, they were simply murderers.
Many Black Southerners, however, were inspired. In 1800, a man named Gabriel planned, with some other Blacks in Richmond, Va., to strike against slavery. The plot was foiled, and white Virginians put in place new restrictions on the enslaved and on free Blacks in the state, hoping to prevent other revolts. President Jefferson, mindful of the desires of his Southern political base, adopted a hostile stance toward Saint-Domingue. The stage was set for isolation of the tiny island nation, a choice that had enormous consequences for its development.
Napoleon brought a new challenge to Saint-Domingue when he decided in 1802 to reassert control over French colonies in the Americas. He sent a fleet to the island to accomplish the task. The residents fought back and, with the help of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries yellow fever, repelled the invaders. This victory was fateful not only for the residents of Saint-Domingue, who went on to form an independent republic that they renamed Haiti, but also for the course of American history.
Napoleon, as part of his plan to re-establish the French empire in the Caribbean, was hoping to use the territory of Louisiana as a supply station for the island colonies. Once the Haitians had shattered his dream, Napoleon saw no reason to hold on to the territory. He was eager to sell it, and President Jefferson was equally eager to buy. The purchase doubled the size of the United States, which obtained 530 million acres for $15 million. If not for the French defeat at the hands of the Haitians, the sale may not have come off, leaving the United States possibly forever divided by a huge swath of French-controlled land or forced into armed conflict with the French over it. Of course, what the United States really bought from France was the right to contend with the various Indigenous people who had their own claims to the land.
Instead of welcoming and supporting the fledgling republic, the United States refused to recognize Haiti until 1862, after the Southern states seceded from the Union. Despite this formal recognition, after the assassination of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam in 1915, the United States occupied the island until 1934. Think of how different its prospects would have been had Haiti been fully embraced from the very beginning, instead of reviled, and if Haitians hadn’t been forced in 1825, in one of the most disgraceful details in the history of the oppression of Haiti, to pay reparations to their enslavers and their heirs in exchange for official recognition. The reparations created a crushing debt that blighted the country’s future.
Throughout this history, race was at the heart of the matter, as even Jefferson in his old age acknowledged. The Haitians, who suffered enormously for their victory in the early years of the 19th century and who were treated so poorly by Americans and Europeans for decades after that, gave the people and the government of the United States a generally unrecognized benefit. Writing in “History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson,” Henry Adams said it plainly: the “prejudice of race alone blinded the American people to the debt they owed to the desperate courage of five hundred thousand Haytian Negroes who would not be enslaved.”
Americans’ debt to the Haitian people may never be repaid. But if we are supposed to be able to learn from history, we should be obliged, in true good faith, to try.
Haiti Action Committee, July 19, 2021
Today, in Haiti, the violent rule of Jovenel Moise has come to a violent end. Moise himself had recently said he had “about a million enemies,” and that was undoubtedly true. In his effort to maintain power and exercise full dictatorial control, he not only sparked a powerful grassroots uprising, but angered other factions within Haiti’s elite.
It may take quite a while to fully decipher the internecine battles within ruling circles that led to his demise. In the midst of all the confusion and sensationalism surrounding what happened—Colombian hit squads, a Haitian American doctor and politician arrested as a conspirator, the supposed ignorance of the U.S. Embassy as armored SUVs rolled up on Moise’s house, DEA informants and other U.S. assets involved in the plot, the arrest of Moise’s head of palace security—we need to analyze the fundamental issues at stake in Haiti right now.
As we do this, it is important to identify and reject the racist tropes that have always dominated mainstream media discussion of Haiti and are once again at play. From the time of its revolution against the brutal French slave system, and its historic victory against that system, Haiti has been derided and demonized. In the wake of Moise’s assassination, we have been subjected to the usual racial code words: “dysfunction,” “chaos,” “gang warfare,” “failed state.” All of this hides the guiding hand of the United States and other imperial powers in creating the conditions that have brought about this disastrous period for Haitians. And it studiously ignores the steadfast fight for democracy, education, healthcare and dignity embodied by Haiti’s unshakeable popular movement.
An op-ed in The Washington Post stated, without a trace of irony: “There’s a hidden story here—one that is rarely discussed—when countries such as Haiti—so often end up with toxic, destructive leaders.” An editorial in the same newspaper called for a stepped-up United Nations occupation, asking “Does Anyone Have a Better Idea?” ignoring the fact that the current 17-year UN occupation brought a deadly cholera epidemic, rampant sexual exploitation, and violent repression of the popular movement. The “better idea,” of course, is for Haitians to determine their own destiny, free from the corrupt and dictatorial regimes imposed upon them by foreign forces.
Today’s crisis in Haiti has its roots in the 2004 U.S.-orchestrated coup against the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization. Lavalas means “flash flood” in Creole, signifying the gathering together of people’s power. The Lavalas movement emerged in the struggle to rid Haiti of the U.S.-backed Duvalier dictatorships in the 1980s, and brought Aristide into office in 1991 and then again in 2001. Under Lavalas administrations, more schools were built than in Haiti’s entire history, funding was dramatically increased for public health and literacy projects, the minimum wage was doubled, and the brutal Haitian Armed Forces was abolished. This was all laid waste when the U.S. organized a coup d’etat against Aristide and then orchestrated a UN occupation to derail this process of progress and change.
Instead of the steps towards inclusion, economic and social reform under Aristide, which he characterized as moving “from misery to poverty with dignity,” for the last 17 years Haitians have had to deal with yet another foreign occupation, this time by the United Nations, and a series of reactionary regimes that have looted the state treasury, increased food insecurity and poverty, and organized terror campaigns against the opposition. The unraveling that Haiti is experiencing today flows directly from this assault on Haiti’s nascent democracy, and on its sovereignty.
Moise was a U.S.-backed tyrant, ruling by decree, handpicked by his mentor and predecessor, Michel Martelly of the right-wing PHTK party, whose own election in 2010 had been orchestrated by then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In 2015, Moise’s sham election as president was denounced as an “electoral coup d’etat” by the grassroots movement in Haiti. Hundreds-of-thousands of Haitians took to the streets every day for over two months, forcing the election results to be annulled. The follow-up election was just as illegitimate—filled with fraud, voter suppression, and intimidation. Yet the U.S./UN and the OAS (Organization of American States) immediately sanctioned its legitimacy, setting the stage for his Duvalier-like dictatorship.
From the day he was selected, Moise’s regime was a testament to corruption and terror. Implicated in a money laundering scheme during Martelly’s presidency, Moise was accused of having taken in $5 million for his role in the scheme. After he assumed office, he simply removed the head of the agency that had done the investigation. Throughout Haiti, Moise was known as the “indicted one.”
Soon after, the Petrocaribe scandal exploded. Venezuela had provided Haiti with oil for years at well below the market rate. With the profits from the oil sales, the Haitian government was supposed to fund schools, hospitals and other social programs. Instead, under both Martelly and Moise, the money disappeared, pocketed by government officials, to the tune of over $3 billion. “Where is the Petrocaribe money?” was the slogan as a full-scale uprising demanded Moise’s resignation.
As mass protests grew and his government teetered, Moise turned to full-scale terror, weaponizing criminal elements and turning them into death squads backed by sectors of his police force (financed and trained by the United States) and using them to attack opposition neighborhoods. The most horrific example was in Lasalin in November 2018, where hundreds were killed, women were gang raped, and people’s homes were burned to the ground, forcing a mass exodus out of the community. Operating with impunity, paramilitary forces tied to Moise’s government, including the so-called G-9 led by ex-police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, unleashed a wave of violence throughout the poorest communities of Port-au-Prince, making life in the country unlivable. Tens-of-thousands of Haitians have had to flee their homes, becoming internal refugees, in order to escape the death squads. Kidnappings have soared in Port-au-Prince, where even market vendors with little or no resources have been abducted.
This was the regime that the U.S. and the UN occupation supported with unwavering political backing and millions of dollars in aid. In the wake of the assassination, we are seeing more of the same, with hardly any disguise. For example, on July 18th, the U.S. and its colonial Core Group (a consortium composed of the U.S, France, Germany, Canada, Brazil, the OAS, the UN, Spain and the European Union) announced their support for Ariel Henry, who Moise had designated as Prime Minister two days before his death. Within a day, the interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, resigned. The Core Group then urged Henry to form a new government, which undoubtedly will follow in the footsteps of the Moise and Martelly regimes.
These moves, and others that are sure to come, are designed to perpetuate elite control of Haiti, with new faces at the top, and to marginalize the role of the mass popular movement
We should be clear, in this regard, on the positions taken over the last months by the Biden Administration. When a new wave of large-scale protests erupted in Haiti this past February, demanding that Moise leave office, particularly since his term had officially expired on February 7th, the Biden State Department and the OAS announced its support for him to stay one more year and to organize a new set of elections in September. Their backing is what allowed Moise to retain power. The Biden Administration continues to insist that new presidential and Parliamentary elections should be held in September, under the aegis of the current Haitian government. This rush to a new set of phony elections is designed to keep elite and foreign control of Haiti. It has been opposed by the popular movement, which is demanding instead a transitional government of public safety (Sali Piblik), constructed by broad sectors of Haitian society, which could then establish a basis for free and fair elections.
In 2019, as popular mobilizations against the Moise regime surged, Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization stated:
“It is imperative that we respect the people’s aspirations for progress and for a just society. It is paramount that we stand in solidarity with the people’s protests demanding a new form of state. The nation deserves a new system that is more in harmony with the dreams of our founders, a new vision of the republic rooted in justice, transparency and participation... No cosmetic solution will bring an effective and lasting solution to the crisis in which we are plunged. This system has run its course. It cannot be patched up. It must be changed.”
As we build solidarity with Haiti over this next period, as we oppose continued foreign intervention, and as we challenge the U.S. government’s on-going sabotage of Haitian democracy, we should keep those words in mind.
We need to demand the following:
1. Cut off all U.S. aid for the Haitian police once and for all.
2. Stop the Biden Administration’s support for the PHTK regime regardless of what new figurehead becomes president.
3. End U.S. support for sham elections in Haiti
4. Support the right of the Haitian people to form, through their own popular movement, their own transition government free from U.S. interference. No more U.S./UN military intervention in Haiti.
Robert Roth is an educator and a co-founder of Haiti Action Committee
—Haiti Action Committee, July 19, 2021
Haiti Action Committee
PO Box 2040
Berkeley, CA 94702
Contributions to Haiti Action Committee are not tax deductible for IRS purposes
 The Haitian Tèt Kale Party is a Haitian political party. Tèt Kale means “Bald Headed” in Haitian Creole.
Officials at the Federal Reserve and White House thought fast price gains would pass. Rent increases could make it a slow fade.
By Coral Murphy Marcos, Jeanna Smialek and Jim Tankersley, July 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/22/business/economy/rising-rents-inflation.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage
Kaitlin Cindrich is facing a $200 monthly increase in rent this August if she and her husband can renew their apartment lease in Provo, Utah. That 25 percent jump is not something she expected, and the 21-year-old fears she may have to skip doctor appointments for her autoimmune disease to keep up with the payments.
Still, she acknowledges there isn’t much choice but to pay more. “We are hoping to stay because everything is so expensive right now that I would be paying the same whether I’m here or somewhere else,” Ms. Cindrich said.
The rental market, which slumped during the pandemic, has snapped back more quickly than many economists predicted, and renters across the country are facing sticker shock. When the pandemic hit, many people who lost their jobs discontinued their apartment leases to live with parents or roommates temporarily. Others fled big cities out of health concerns. Apartments went empty, and landlords began offering incentives, such as a free month, to entice tenants.
Now, as people move out on their own again or return to cities and office jobs, and as existing renters find they can’t afford to buy a home in a booming housing market, demand for apartments and single-family rentals is rebounding — and even looking hot in some places. Rents last month rose 7 percent nationally from a year earlier, Zillow data shows. While that was measured against a weak June 2020, the gain was also a robust 1.8 percent from May.
“After a year, jobs are coming back strongly, and this is recreating the housing demand for rental units and occupancy is rising,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.
If rents continue to take off, it could be bad news both for those seeking housing and for the nation’s inflation outlook. Rental costs play an outsize role in the Consumer Price Index, so a meaningful rise in them could help keep that closely watched government price gauge, which has picked up sharply, higher for longer. Rents are only about half as important to the Federal Reserve’s preferred Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation index, but a long bout of high C.P.I. inflation may influence consumers’ expectations for future price gains, which could in turn quicken them.
Consumer prices jumped a rapid 5.4 percent in the year through June, but much of the increase was tied back to the economy’s reopening from the pandemic. Policymakers at the Fed and White House have maintained that today’s strong price pressures should fade as the economy gets back to normal, as one-off problems pushing up used car prices are resolved and as a spike in demand that’s elevating furniture and washing machine costs begins to abate.
Yet that’s where housing costs could kick in. Measures of rent and what’s called “owners’ equivalent rent” — which uses rental data to try to put a price on how much owners would pay for their housing if they hadn’t bought a home — make up nearly one-third of the Consumer Price Index. Both tend to move slowly, but are defying expectations that they would take time to bounce back.
“We’re seeing owners’ equivalent rent move up fairly sharply already,” said Alan Detmeister, an economist at UBS and a former Fed staff official. “I expect it’s going to get worse later this year and into early next.”
He and other economists said it was too early to tell to what extent, and for how long, rents would prop up overall prices.
“I do think we’ll see some upside from rents, and that will offset some of the declines in goods categories,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. But the “only way” that rents rise enough to keep inflation uncomfortably high, she added, is “if wages are persistently higher.”
How much landlords can charge hinges on how much tenants can afford. Lower-paid workers are seeing strong pay gains, but many economists expect those to fade as the economy gets through reopening.
Another key factor, Mr. Yun said, is whether “homebuilders are being active to supply new homes and apartments to match up with this rise in rent.”
Data do suggest that a substantial new supply of apartments should be on the way this year, but it’s unclear whether they will match up with the demand in location and timing.
For now, the rental experience diverges across markets. Rents have appreciated rapidly in places like Boise, Idaho; Spokane, Wash.; and Phoenix, while big cities on the coasts have lagged, based on Zillow data. Rents in New York City and San Francisco are recovering quickly but remain cheaper than two years ago.
In New York, “the rental market was crushed,” said Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Miller Samuel, a local real estate appraisal firm. But the pace of new leases over the past three months, with tales of bidding wars, is turning that around. Mr. Miller expects rents to fully recover as companies bring workers back to the office this autumn, pulling them back from far-flung remote work locations, he said.
“There’s going to be another wave,” he added. “We’re just past peak Zoom.”
Data from Apartment List, a listing site, confirms the trend visible in the Zillow numbers: So far in 2021, rental prices nationally have grown 9.2 percent, compared with the 2 to 3 percent that is typical from January to June. According to the most recent data available, prices were higher than economists at Apartment List would have expected had prepandemic trends persisted.
“In the short run, prices are going to continue to soar, because occupancy rates are sky high right now,” said Igor Popov, an economist at Apartment List. He said that price gains should moderate as supply increased, but that it was unclear when that would happen.
In the meantime, the hot housing market should keep rental demand strong.
“Rents are a trailing spouse to house price appreciation,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at the employment data provider ADP, who previously worked at the real estate company Redfin. “You have a housing market that is chronically undersupplied, and has been for a decade. That isn’t going away.”
Higher rental costs can have a big impact on people’s lives. Christine Gitau, 23, of Homewood, Ala., is going back to live with her parents because she can’t afford the $100 increase to renew her lease on the $530-a-month apartment she started renting last July.
“I’m very frustrated, angry and stressed because of the rent hike,” Ms. Gitau said.
Ms. Cindrich in Provo, a full-time student at Brigham Young University, worries she will have to apply for more student loans to pay for her apartment or cut expenses in other areas.
“I have a severe autoimmune disease, and I spend hundreds of dollars each month on medication,” she said. “The rent hike probably means I might not be able to go to my monthly doctor appointments.”
That human impact makes rising rent a political challenge, especially when the Biden administration is already fending off attacks from Republicans over the burst in inflation.
Administration officials say they are watching housing prices and their effects on inflation. They continue to insist that most of the price pressures in the economy are temporary.
The officials, and President Biden himself, have also pushed for additional spending measures that would over time increase the supply of housing and, the officials say, hold down rental increases, spikes in housing prices and inflationary pressure.
Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda includes $213 billion to help jump-start more affordable housing. Those efforts were not included in the bipartisan infrastructure agreement that he struck with centrist lawmakers, but they could be end up, at least in part, in a go-it-alone spending bill that Democrats plan to push this summer in Congress.
Even if they succeed, those efforts would take years to bear fruit.
Some, like Dr. Popov, expect recent gains to moderate on their own this year. Others said bigger increases might lay ahead: Many consumers are flush with cash from government stimulus checks, and the Fed’s cheap-borrowing policies are heating up the housing market.
“There’s a tremendous amount of stimulus, and I think that has potential to create upward pressure on rent prices,” Mr. Miller, the appraisal executive, said.
By Susannah Meadows, July 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/22/opinion/yosemite-west-coast-smoke.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Smoke from the Ferguson fire in Yosemite National Park in 2018. Credit...Noah Berger/Associated Press
I recently visited Yosemite National Park after decades away. In 1993, I spent a summer there as a park ranger intern, and came to know and love the park deeply. On this trip, I saw its transformation at the hands of climate change. It was devastating.
Coming into the park from the south, up California 41, I looked out onto mountains that appeared studded with giant charred toothpicks. The 2018 Ferguson fire had decimated this once magnificent forest.
Other trees were dying off, victims of bug infestations abetted by warming temperatures and milder winters. The waterfalls were pathetic wisps in the wind, shadows of the lush, white horse-tails that spilled down the summer I lived there.
Wildfire, tree-death, and dwindling waterfalls are natural occurrences. But these problems are exacerbated by climate change, according to the National Park Service.
With the worsening heat — it hit 104 degrees in the valley this month — you can’t enjoy being there as much. The West Coast is being battered by those three awful cousins, drought, heat and wildfire. When will the hot weather leave certain unforgettable, vertical hikes, like to the top of Half Dome, out of reach?
Yosemite’s last two glaciers are rapidly retreating. They will most likely disappear in a few decades, threatening the summer and autumn water supply in these mountains. By the time I visited in the first week of July, some of the streams in the high country — relied upon by animals and backpackers alike — were already dry. The river that threads through the valley, the Merced, was low and listless. When I lived alongside it years ago, it was so swollen with melted snow and the rapids so loud, I would have to close my window before making a phone call.
The evidence of our planet’s warming is all around us. But many of us have been able to comfort ourselves, if only slightly, with the knowledge that the more cataclysmic fallout is still a ways off, that it may be preventable. Perhaps the gradual nature of the worsening conditions we see everyday has lulled us into a sense of complacency.
What I saw in Yosemite feels like a wake-up call that’s come too late.
The park is an international treasure, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and climate change is trashing it. If we can’t even protect protected land, then what about more vulnerable targets of climate catastrophe, like the people we care about?
That Edenic summer so many years ago, stewards like me worried about things that now seem picayune: tourists littering, climbers drilling holes into El Capitan. We broke up fire rings because we thought they marred the wilderness. We patiently explained to backpackers how to hang their food to keep it away from bears.
The principles of “leave no trace” were our religion. We thought we were safeguarding a hallowed place. But we were learning how to swim when a tsunami was coming.
Back then, I fell hard for Yosemite’s awesome beauty. But over those months of reaching deep into its canyons and meadows along the veins of hiking trails, what awed me most was its might, its invincibility. Those 3,000-foot cliff drops and rushing waters were gorgeous, but they were threatening, too. Yosemite’s — and by extension, nature’s — power felt limitless.
The park’s magisterial hunks of granite have been there for what feels like forever. Part of the Sierra Nevada range that forms the backbone of eastern California, they were shoved up into peaks millions of years ago. Later, a glacier carved the U-shaped valley. We humans, I was sure, could do nothing to this place by comparison.
Now, almost 30 years later, in what might be the most profound shift of all, the power dynamic between humans and Yosemite has changed. To see nature so vulnerable not only feels depressing, but wrong, disorienting and scary.
“It’s reminiscent of that moment when an adult child starts to experience their parent not just as a caregiver, but as someone who is starting to need care,” Alejandro Strong, an environmental philosopher who founded Apeiron Expeditions to lead people on trips into the wilderness, told me after I’d returned home.
We talked about the transcendentalists. “Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller — their accounts of nature are that it’s perfect,” Dr. Strong said. “You would go and learn from this limitless teacher. Nature was pure truth. It offered access to the infinite, a stand-in for God.” Yosemite brought to its knees shows how naïve it was to think so.
We’ve had it upside down all along. Nature wasn’t ever invincible — and we know this because we’ve been able to hurt it so much, Dr. Strong says. Because we had a long period of stability until recently, we thought nature was all powerful, that it would be here forever. “We’re being shocked out of that now,” he said.
I went to Yosemite with my 13-year-old son, Beau. I wanted to introduce him to a place I’ve talked about his whole life. He’s a hiking enthusiast who climbs gentle mountains in the state parks outside New York City. It was time, I figured, to knock his socks off. I was not expecting to leave Yosemite writing a kind of obituary for it.
That first glimpse Beau got of the valley — its colossal, polished granite walls facing off against each other — still delivered. Yosemite isn’t over yet. He had seen plenty of photos of that view, but he said, “I had no idea it would be this pretty.”
What he didn’t see, because he wasn’t there before, was the startling emptiness in the right side of the postcard. With this year’s snowpack below average, Bridalveil Fall was a trickle sooner in the year than it once would have been. I wish he’d had a chance to see it the way it was before.
The decision not to seek the death penalty in federal cases around the country has raised defense lawyers’ hopes that the administration may end the practice.
By Benjamin Weiser and Hailey Fuchs, July 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/22/nyregion/justice-department-death-penalty.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
One man was charged in Orlando, Fla., with kidnapping and fatally shooting his estranged wife. Another man was indicted in Syracuse, N.Y., in the armed robbery of a restaurant and the murders of two employees. And a third man was charged in Anchorage with fatally shooting two people during a home invasion.
Those cases and four others prosecuted in federal courts around the country all had a common theme — they were among cases in which the Justice Department under President Donald J. Trump directed federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty if they won convictions.
But now, under a new presidential administration, the Justice Department has moved to withdraw the capital punishment requests in each of the seven cases. The decisions were revealed in court filings without fanfare in recent months.
The decision not to seek the death penalty in the cases comes amid the Biden administration’s broad rethinking of capital punishment — and could signal a move toward ending the practice at the federal level.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a moratorium on federal executions and ordered a review of the way death sentences are carried out. But the decision not to seek the death penalty in cases where it had already been authorized goes further, taking capital punishment off the table in cases that are still being prosecuted.
It was not immediately clear whether the decision to withdraw the death penalty authorizations in the seven cases was part of a broader effort, and the Justice Department has not announced policy changes in how or when the government seeks the death penalty.
But the change in approach from the previous administration has been pronounced.
After a near two-decade hiatus in federal executions, Mr. Trump’s administration, during his last six months in office, carried out the executions of 13 death row inmates, including three in the final days of his presidency.
But Mr. Garland, who as attorney general has the final say on whether to seek capital punishment in a federal prosecution, has not personally authorized the death penalty in any case since he assumed office in March, the Justice Department said in a statement.
And in a memorandum announcing the moratorium this month, Mr. Garland noted concerns about the death penalty, including its disparate impact on people of color and the troubling number of exonerations, and all but encouraged Congress to review the issue.
The withdrawal of death penalty authorizations and the absence of new cases under Mr. Garland has raised hope among death penalty lawyers and others that the administration’s approach to the highly divisive issue could signal a new policy on capital punishment.
“I don’t know where this is all going,” said Lisa Peebles, the federal public defender in Syracuse whose client, William D. Wood Jr., no longer faces a potential execution in the two restaurant murders. “But I’m hoping it’s heading in the direction of a moratorium and eventual abolishing of the death penalty,” she added.
Ms. Peebles said that in Mr. Wood’s case, the defense did a full-blown investigation last year and determined that he suffered from intellectual deficits, which she said disqualified him from being subject to the death penalty. She said the local United States attorney’s office, with her permission, had experts conduct their own assessment and reached the same conclusion. Both studies were submitted to the Justice Department, she said, and she believes they influenced its decision.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the case.
Other lawyers are still waiting for responses to their requests for de-authorization of the death penalty in their clients’ cases.
Jacqueline K. Walsh, an attorney, said she submitted a de-authorization request to the Justice Department under Mr. Trump in January 2020 on behalf of her client, an alleged gang member charged in Detroit with two murders. He has pleaded not guilty.
Ms. Walsh said that her submission argued that the government should be barred from seeking the death penalty against her client, whom she described as a person with intellectual disability.
She has yet to receive an answer even from the new administration, she said, but added, “I believe that we have a friendlier ear, given the language in the memorandum authored by the attorney general.”
One of the most prominent cases in which the defense has indicated it may ask the Justice Department to withdraw authorization involves Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek man charged in a 2017 truck attack that killed eight people on a crowded Manhattan bike path.
A federal indictment said Mr. Saipov carried out the attack for the purpose of joining the Islamic State, or ISIS.
After Mr. Saipov’s arrest, Mr. Trump declared on Twitter “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY,” and Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, eventually authorized federal prosecutors to seek it.
Mr. Saipov’s trial has been long delayed, most recently because of the pandemic. At a court hearing in Manhattan on June 3, Mr. Saipov’s lawyer, David E. Patton, said he would seek reversal of the death penalty authorization for his client and was waiting to see whether the Justice Department’s new leadership would make changes to the government’s policies in capital cases.
“President Biden ran on a campaign to end the federal death penalty,” Mr. Patton said, suggesting strongly that if the authorization was withdrawn, Mr. Saipov would plead guilty and serve a life sentence.
“I doubt there would be a trial, period,” Mr. Patton said.
Rachel Pharn, a survivor of the attack — the truck crushed her foot and badly bruised her arm and shoulder — said that she was “not an absolutist” about the death penalty and that it seemed fair for the government to seek capital punishment and for Mr. Saipov’s lawyers to fight against it.
“I would look toward the government to make the right decision,” she said.
Of the seven cases in which Mr. Garland has dropped the death penalty authorization, three defendants, including the man in Orlando and two defendants in Louisiana, have since pleaded guilty.
Some legal experts said it was too early to tell what the seven scattered cases signified, and one lawyer suggested Mr. Garland could have been even more assertive.
“I think it’s a good and important step by the attorney general, but there’s no question that it’s not far enough,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the Capital Punishment Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
“President Biden should issue a much broader moratorium,” Ms. Stubbs added. “He should ask for a moratorium on all death penalty prosecutions.”
But Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a nonprofit group in Sacramento, Calif., that supports crime victims and the death penalty, was critical of Mr. Garland’s decisions in the seven cases. “The families of murder victims are clearly not included in the calculus when ordering U.S. attorneys not to pursue capital punishment in the worst cases,” he said.
Under Mr. Garland, the Justice Department has continued to fight the appeal of the death sentence imposed on Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine Black churchgoers in Charleston in 2015. And in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of helping to carry out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260, the Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty, which had been overturned on appeal.
Robert Blecker, a professor emeritus at New York Law School and a proponent of capital punishment, said he had no problem with the idea that one administration would reverse a decision to seek a death sentence made by an earlier administration.
“Reasonable minds can and do differ as to the death penalty,” Professor Blecker said. “What one set of prosecutors see as death-worthy, another may not.”
A pending death penalty case in Kentucky may be an example of that.
It was in February — during the early days of the Biden administration but before Mr. Garland assumed his post — that the United States attorney’s office for the Western District of Kentucky filed court papers saying it intended to seek the death penalty against Victor Everette Silvers, who had been charged with the murder of his estranged wife, an active duty soldier at the Fort Campbell military base. He has pleaded not guilty.
But in a news release, the prosecutors noted that the decision to seek capital punishment had been made by Jeffrey A. Rosen, while he served as the acting attorney general during the final month of the Trump administration.
“Rosen authorized and directed the United States attorney’s office for the Western District of Kentucky to seek the death penalty,” the release said.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the decision by the department, then led by Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, to file a death penalty authorization that had been decided on by Mr. Trump’s administration.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Silvers’s attorneys say they want a fresh chance to plead their case with Mr. Garland’s staff.
“The defense team will be seeking an audience with the new administration in an effort to overturn this decision and persuade the attorney general to de-authorize the death penalty in this particular case,” the lawyers wrote to the judge in May.
The judge, Thomas B. Russell, in an order this month, urged the defense, the prosecutors and the Justice Department to “act quickly and cooperate to the fullest extent regarding this matter.”
Alain Delaquérière contributed research.
Sierra Leone appeared set to become the 23rd African country to abolish capital punishment.
By Ruth Maclean, July 23, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/23/world/africa/africa-death-penalty-abolition.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
DAKAR, Senegal — Lawmakers in Sierra Leone opened debate and are expected to vote on Friday on whether to abolish the death penalty, a momentous step that would make the West African country the 23rd on the continent to prohibit capital punishment.
Expectations ahead of a vote on the issue heavily favored abolition, a long-sought goal of civil society organizations and legal practitioners who see the death penalty as a vestige of Africa’s oppressive colonial history.
“This is a horrible punishment and we need to get rid of it,” said Oluwatosin Popoola, a legal adviser at the rights group Amnesty International, a leading critic of capital punishment.
A vast majority of the 193 member states of the United Nations have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.
The vote in Sierra Leone came against the backdrop of a steady march in Africa to discard brutal laws imposed by past colonial masters. In April, Malawi ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. In May of 2020, Chad did the same.
Nearly half of Africa’s 54 independent countries have abolished the punishment, more than double the number from less than two decades ago.
While death sentences and executions have declined globally in recent years, they do not necessarily reflect the growing number of countries that have banned capital punishment. At least some of the declines are attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic, which slowed or delayed judicial proceedings in many countries. And in some, like the United States, executions were ramped up in 2020.
As in previous years, China led the 2020 list of countries that execute the most people, killing thousands, according to Amnesty International, which compiles capital punishment statistics. The exact figures for China are not known, as its data remains a state secret.
Next in 2020 came Iran, which executed at least 246 people, and then Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and in sixth place the United States, with 17 executions. Most of the American executions were of federal prisoners in the last six months of President Donald J. Trump’s term, a turnaround after years of an informal moratorium.
The last time the death penalty was carried out in Sierra Leone was 1998, when at the apex of a devastating civil war, 24 soldiers were executed by firing squad for having participated in a coup the year before.
Still, convicts have languished for years on death row, where their rights are minimal and where they know that a new government could carry out the punishment without warning.
In 2016, the minister of internal affairs at the time publicly ordered the gallows cleaned at the central prison in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, after two men were sentenced to hang. The men had been found guilty of murdering a popular D.J. While public opinion favored the hangings, they were never carried out.
Dozens of death sentences in Sierra Leone have been handed down every year. As of the end of last year, at least 94 people remained on death row.
One Sierra Leonean woman was sentenced to death in 2010 for the murder of her abusive boyfriend. He had been attacking her with a pipe, and she picked up a knife in self-defense. She was just 17, and should not have been subject to adult legal proceedings.
Another was convicted of having murdered her baby stepdaughter by feeding her battery fluid — when really she had given the sick child water. She was on death row for six years.
Both women were eventually released, with the help of AdvocAid, a nonprofit group that helps girls and women entangled in Sierra Leone’s legal system. But for years, the prospect of execution hung over them.
President Julius Maada Bio’s government has worked on several reforms to the criminal justice system, including the repeal of a law frequently used to repress the media. In May, at a review of Sierra Leone’s human rights record at the United Nations, the government announced it would abolish capital punishment as well.
“It’s a really big deal in all aspects, in Sierra Leone and internationally,” said Mr. Popoola. “Regionally, there’s been a progressive move in Africa toward the abolition of the death penalty.”
Sierra Leone would be the first of the English-speaking West African countries to abolish the punishment.
A decade ago, a commission in Ghana recommended abolition, but in recent years efforts have stalled.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, at least 2,700 people are on death row — the highest number by far on the African continent.
Gambia had been on track to abolish the death penalty last year, when a new Constitution was drafted. But it was rejected by Parliament. Still, Gambia’s president has made some significant moves away from capital punishment, Mr. Popoola said.
These are all countries that, like Sierra Leone, obtained independence from the Britain in the late 1950s and 1960s — around the same time as that colonial power was carrying out its own last executions.
“The death penalty is a colonial imposition, and these laws were inherited from the U.K.,” said Sabrina Mahtani, the co-founder and former executive director of AdvocAid.
The strike was the first against the militants since the Biden administration put strict limits on military action in the East African nation pending a review of drone policy.
By Eric Schmitt and Declan Walsh, July 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/us/politics/us-drone-strike-shabab-somalia.html?action=click&algo=bandit-all-surfaces&block=more_in_recirc&fellback=false&imp_id=341157348&impression_id=c3e30533-ebc2-11eb-b963-53ff16c6a398&index=3&pgtype=Article&pool=more_in_pools%2Fafrica®ion=footer&req_id=375149348&surface=eos-more-in&variant=0_bandit-all-surfaces
Shabab fighters near Mogadishu in 2012. Credit...Farah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The United States conducted a drone strike against Shabab militants in Somalia on Tuesday, the first such military action against the Qaeda affiliate in East Africa since the Biden administration took office in January.
The strike was carried out by military aircraft against Shabab fighters who were attacking members of the Danab, an elite American-trained Somali commando force, near the town of Galkayo in the country’s north, said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Cindi King.
The Biden administration placed new limits on drone strikes outside active war zones when it took office on Jan. 20, to give it time to develop a permanent policy. The Trump administration set broad rules for strikes in particular countries and delegated authority to commanders in the field about when to carry them out, but proposals for strikes are now generally routed through the White House.
The White House has since rejected a handful of requests by the military’s Africa Command to carry out drone strikes against Shabab targets in Somalia because they did not meet the new standards. But in this case, Mrs. King said, White House approval was not needed because the Africa Command has the authority to conduct strikes in support of allied forces under what the military calls collective self-defense.
Under orders from President Donald J. Trump, most of the 700 American troops based in Somalia to advise and assist Somali military and counterterrorism forces were withdrawn in the waning weeks of his administration, and sent to nearby Kenya and Djibouti.
Mrs. King said the Danab commandos were being advised remotely by American trainers when they came under attack.
“There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation,” Mrs. King said in an email. “U.S. forces were conducting a remote advise-and-assist mission in support of designated Somali partner forces.”
Galkayo is a divided city that sits on a fault line between two major clans, and it is on a major smuggling route used by militants traveling between Al Shabab’s heartland in southern Somalia and the northern part of the country. The city has been a focus of Shabab interdiction efforts by the Danab and other Somali government forces.
Mrs. King said fighting between Al Shabab and Somali forces was delaying the Africa Command’s assessment of the airstrike, the seventh overall this year against the militants, but the first since Jan. 19, the day before President Biden’s inauguration.
The strike came as the Biden administration was considering whether to reverse the U.S. military withdrawal from Somalia that took place under Mr. Trump.
An interagency review, underway for several months, has not yet been completed, a U.S. official said. But under one option being considered, a smaller number of American troops would be redeployed to military bases in southern Somalia, near the border with Kenya, where Al Shabab’s influence is strongest.
The option of continuing American military operations from bases in northern Kenya — informally known as “over the horizon” — has grown less attractive in recent months since a diplomatic spat between Somalia and Kenya severed air links between the two countries for several weeks.
The Somalis and Kenyans are at odds over several issues, including ownership of a triangle of oil-rich waters in the Indian Ocean. In May, diplomats from Qatar mediated between the two countries and appeared to have reached a deal.
But soon relations plunged again, and Somalia suspended all flights from Kenya, including those involving American military aircraft based at Manda Bay, in northern Kenya, which were positioned to carry out counterterrorism missions.
Air traffic has since resumed. But the U.S. official said American military planes had also been refused permission to cross into Somalia during the standoff — a hurdle that convinced military planners that they could not rely exclusively on bases in Kenya for their Somali operations.
Hussein Mohamed contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia.
By Adam Liptak, July 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/22/us/politics/mississippi-supreme-court-abortion.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
WASHINGTON — Calling Roe v. Wade “egregiously wrong,” Mississippi’s attorney general urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to do away with the constitutional right to abortion and to sustain a state law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The court will hear arguments in the case in the fall, giving its newly expanded conservative majority a chance to confront what may be the most divisive issue in American law: whether the Constitution protects the right to end pregnancies.
Lower courts blocked the Mississippi statute, calling it a cynical and calculated assault on abortion rights squarely at odds with Supreme Court precedents. The justices agreed to hear the case in May, just months after Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has said she personally opposes abortion, joined the court. She replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a proponent of abortion rights, who died in September.
The new filing, from Attorney General Lynn Fitch, was a sustained and detailed attack on Roe and the rulings that followed it, notably Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that said states may not impose an “undue burden” on the right to abortion before fetal viability — the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb, or about 23 or 24 weeks.
“The Constitution does not protect a right to abortion,” Ms. Fitch wrote. “The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion. Nothing in the Constitution’s structure implies a right to abortion or prohibits states from restricting it.”
She told the justices that the scope of abortion rights should be determined through the political process. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this court returns abortion policy to the states — where agreement is more common, compromise is often possible and disagreement can be resolved at the ballot box.”
The law at issue in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392, was enacted in 2018 by the Republican-dominated Mississippi Legislature. It banned abortions if “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” was determined to be more than 15 weeks. The statute included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a severe fetal abnormality.”
The law was challenged by Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, which is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, an advocacy group. The center’s president, Nancy Northup, said she was dismayed by the state’s new filing.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Ms. Northup said in a statement. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The precise question the justices agreed to decide was “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” Depending on how the court answers that question, it could reaffirm, revise or do away with the longstanding constitutional framework for abortion rights.
Ms. Fitch urged the justices to take the third approach, saying it would bolster the legitimacy of the court.
“Roe and Casey are unprincipled decisions that have damaged the democratic process, poisoned our national discourse, plagued the law — and, in doing so, harmed this court,” she wrote.
The unrest exposed the nation’s deep divisions ahead of a moment many had hoped would help mend a fractured nation.
By Catherine Porter, July 23, 2021
A burning roadblock on the streets of Cap-Haïtien. Credit...Federico Rios for The New York Times
CAP-HAÏTIEN, Haiti — The coffin of Haiti’s assassinated president, Jovenel Moïse, was carried by men in military uniform to a central stage and covered with a Haitian flag on Friday as onlookers tucked in bouquets of white flowers before a state funeral, a moment that many hoped would help mend a fractured nation.
Just hours earlier, the northern city of Cap-Haïtien — 30 minutes from his family homestead where the ceremony will be held — had burned with anger and frustration, exposing Haiti’s deep divisions and the distrust of the elite in the country’s less developed north.
Two weeks after Mr. Moïse was killed in his own bedroom outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, the country is still spinning with unanswered questions and seething with anger. The authorities say that he was killed by a group of Colombian mercenaries, and several members of Mr. Moïse’s own security detail have been questioned and taken into custody as well.
But on Friday morning, there were no signs of the protests that had raged in the city the previous evening, and the streets were clear but dark — there was no electricity.
The state funeral, planned for the Moïse family homestead less than a half-hour from downtown Cap-Haïtien, was expected to draw diplomats from around the world — including a presidential delegation from the United States, led by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — and officials from throughout the country.
The group will include Juan Gonzalez, President Biden’s top adviser on Latin America; Representative Jeff Fortenberry, Republican of Nebraska; Michele J. Sison, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti; and Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the White House said in a statement. The State Department said that Daniel Foote, a career diplomat, would serve as its special envoy for Haiti on Thursday; he will also be part of the delegation.
The group from the United States plans to meet with the Haitian politicians who have been vying to replace Mr. Moïse, as well as representatives of civil society organizations.
Yet the turmoil before the ceremony raised security issues and questions over whether all of the people intending to pay respects to Mr. Moïse would be able to reach the funeral.
In the president’s family compound, a few miles south of Cap-Haïtien’s downtown, workers rushed to finish the last preparations of a grand staging area. White stands were filled with more than 1,000 white chairs, set in a rectangle around a large tent, with flowing white curtains, where the president’s coffin was expected to be laid, surrounded by bouquets of white flowers.
As the sun began to lighten the sky, workers rolled out carpets of green AstroTurf and stapled red and blue ribbons to the stands.
“Today, we are all sad,” said Wilkens Saint-Louis, 32, pausing for a moment from his task of sweeping leaves.
On Thursday, the streets billowed with the black smoke of burning tires, a common form of protest in a country split by geography, wealth and power. Large crowds of demonstrators ran though the narrow colonial streets, chanting, “They killed Jovenel, and the police were there.”
Distrustful of the elite coming from the capital, angry men tried to block the arrival of mourners from outside the city, throwing a concrete block at the lead car of a motorcade that had navigated through the fire, and later dragging a concrete telephone pole across a road.
“We sent them someone alive, they sent him back a cadaver,” screamed Frantz Atole, a 42-year-old mechanic, promising violence. “This country is not going to be silent.”
A new government was installed in the capital this week, and its leaders vowed to get to the bottom of the killing and to build consensus among the country’s political factions and its civil society groups.
Yet the unrest on Thursday threatened to turn hopes of consensus into a naïve, unrealized dream.
“The bourgeoisie from Port-au-Prince are responsible. They are the reason for all of this,” said Emmanuella Joseph, a 20-year-old secondary school student, crying into a face cloth on the side of the road at the tail end of a running protest. “All I’m asking is to shut down all the streets to stop them from coming.”
She added that the president’s killers had been outsiders who had long meddled with the country’s destiny. “What kind of nation comes and kills a president?”
Others shouted that the police and presidential guard, whose members sustained no reported injuries during the attack on the president’s home, had been complicit in the murder.
Cap-Haïtien was dressed for mourning on Thursday. It was once the capital of the French colony of St. Domingue, which claimed one of the most brutal slave plantation economies in the world and was later overwhelmed by the world’s most successful slave rebellion. Banners strung across the roads read “Justice for President Jovenel” and “Thank you President Jovenel. You gave your life for the people’s fight and it will continue.”
Just off the city’s main stone square, where rebel leaders were executed more than two centuries ago, mourners lined up to sign condolence books and light candles before a large photo of the president in a government building.
“We are living in a time that’s so fragile,” said Maxil Mompremier, standing outside the colonial-era Notre Dame de L’Assomption Cathedral, where Mr. Moïse’s supporters had gathered earlier for a service. “Nobody understands what happened. A lot of people are afraid.”
Hailing from the north of the country, Mr. Moïse was not well-known in the country’s power center of Port-au-Prince when the governing party chose him as its candidate in the 2015 election. He was born in the town of Trou-du-Nord, and later began his entrepreneurial career from Port-de-Paix, where he became president of the Chamber of Commerce.
That he was killed far away in Port-au-Prince inflamed old divisions between the less developed north and the country’s capital and economic center. It also deepened the rifts between the country’s small elite and its destitute majority.
“It comes back incessantly in all the history of Haiti,” said Emile Eyma Jr., a historian based in Cap-Haïtien, speaking of the resentment felt by northerners. “What is dangerous is that both the question of color and the question of regionalism are weaponized for purely political reasons.”
The president’s wife, Martine Moïse, who was injured in the attack, has said that her family would pay for the funeral. Planes arrived at the normally sleepy airport throughout Thursday, with more scheduled to arrive on Friday.
But on the streets of this city, the anger burned.
“We are going to protest all night,” Mr. Atole vowed as tires burned on a bridge behind him. “We are going to give them a hard time in town.”
Santa Barbara G-Man Reinvestigates Decades-Old Murders to Prove Death Row Inmate Innocent
By Lily Mae Lazarus, July 22, 2021https://www.independent.com/2021/07/21/fighting-to-free-kevin-cooper/
PRIME SUSPECT: Evidence points to Lee Furrow as a prime suspect in the Ryen murders, Parker believes. Furrow served time at San Quentin for the murder of Mary Sue Kitts in the 1970s.
Kevin Cooper awaits death in his San Quentin prison cell, as he has during the 36 years since he heard the ultimate punishment pronounced in a San Diego County courtroom. He has always protested his innocence since being arrested for the horrific murders of four people in 1983. His appeal for clemency was answered by Governor Gavin Newsom a month ago, spurred in part by the footwork of Tom Parker, the former assistant agent in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office who retired to Santa Barbara and is convinced of Cooper’s innocence.
Parker is somewhat of a G-man turned local criminal justice warrior. Prior to his retirement in 1994, Parker was second in command at the FBI’s Los Angeles bureau. He led the FBI’s investigation of the Rodney King beating in 1991. Parker also served on the Santa Barbara Fire and Police Commission for two years. He joined Cooper’s defense team in 2011 and now works free of charge in the quest to prove Cooper’s innocence. Using his investigative expertise, Parker has traveled across the country, gathering evidence that debunks the prosecution’s side of the story.
Parker’s trust in Cooper’s proclaimed innocence is out of the ordinary for him. “I’m always skeptical on cases where somebody has gotten the death penalty, but I’ve seen some that were wrongful convictions,” said Parker. This skepticism changed after Parker reviewed Cooper’s case files and saw “a very good likelihood” Cooper is innocent.
“I continued going through these cases to see if I could figure something out that would be a plausible motive,” said Parker, “number one, for the murders, because it didn’t make a lot of sense that Cooper would have committed these murders; and number two, a plausible basis to prove that he was in fact wrongfully convicted and that somebody else did it.”
Parker believes he’s found a connection between the victims, who raised Arabian horses, and the last man executed in California, Clarence Ray Allen. Parker then ran down what he believes to be new suspects with means and motive that prove Cooper was simply at the right place at the wrong time.
It has been an uphill battle. The prosecutor built a strong case based on what Parker views as circumstantial evidence that connected Cooper to the murders, which were brutal and bloody. Late at night on June 4, 1983, four victims — Franklin Douglas Ryen; Peggy Ryen; their daughter, Jessica, 10; and an 11-year-old houseguest, Christopher Hughes — were killed by dozens of blows with a hatchet or ax, a knife, and possibly a third weapon like an ice pick, according to the coroner. Young Joshua Ryen, having a sleepover with his friend Chris, survived, though he sustained serious wounds. Their home was in an affluent section of Chino Hills, roughly 130 miles from the Mexican border.
Two days before the murders, Cooper, a serial burglar and accused rapist, had escaped from minimum security at the California Institution for Men in Chino. He’d hidden out in a vacant house, the Lease residence, next door to the Ryens’ home until the night before the murders.
It was Chris Hughes’s father, come to pick up his son, who found the murder scene. During the investigation, deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department conducted two searches of the Lease residence. While the first proved insignificant, secondary searches uncovered a host of new evidence, including a bloodstained khaki-green button, identical to some sewn on field jackets worn by inmates at the prison; prison-issue loose tobacco; cigarette butts; and a hatchet sheath. Investigators also found hairs in the Lease residence similar to the murder victims’.
In the Ryen house, investigators found shoe-print impressions that appeared to come from tennis shoes worn by prison inmates. Investigators found a single drop of blood that did not belong to the victims, which a criminalist who analyzed the blood linked to “a Black person.”
The Ryen family’s station wagon was missing from their home. The vehicle was found in a church parking lot in Long Beach, 40 miles west of where the murders occurred. Upon first inspection, the car had blood smeared across the front and back seats. Deputies later found a small hair they believed probably came from a Black person and two cigarette butts with the same prison-issue tobacco.
Cooper’s story was that he’d hidden at the Lease house but left at dark the night before the murders and hitchhiked to Tijuana. He found work aboard a boat that was headed south, but bad weather caused the captain to turn instead across the border to Santa Cruz Island, off Santa Barbara. Cooper was captured after a couple boating at Santa Cruz had returned to town and recognized his photograph on a wanted poster. They contacted authorities, and the young woman told officers Cooper had raped her. This rape accusation, which was never formally charged, contributed to Cooper being sentenced to death.
Kevin Cooper has sworn for 36 years he is innocent. He has long declared that investigators framed him and that law enforcement ignored potentially exonerating evidence. And central concerns remain regarding evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, and possibly planted or hidden from the defense.
Governor Orders Review
Since his sentencing, Cooper has filed multiple appeals; all have been denied. Notably, in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a dissenting opinion on Cooper’s case with the opening remark: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”
This year, on May 28, Governor Newsom signed an executive order calling for an independent investigation into Cooper’s clemency application. As a result, the law firm of Morrison & Foerster will conduct a comprehensive review of Cooper’s trial and appellate records. It allows a reevaluation of all existing evidence and recently conducted DNA tests, which could never happen on appeal. Newsom’s executive order is the latest progression in the governor’s opposition to the death penalty since he suspended it in California in 2019.
Cooper’s defense attorney, Norman Hile, is excited that an independent investigation will occur. He stated, “We are very confident it will show Kevin Cooper is innocent and that he should be released from prison.”
According to Parker, “The courts, unfortunately, have been swayed into believing that the police are always right, and that the police always tell the truth. And that just isn’t the case.”
On the other hand, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson wrote to Newsom, stating, “Cooper’s claims and defenses are not new or novel, and they have been repeatedly examined and tested for more than thirty-five years.” (Cooper’s trial was moved to San Diego due to the notoriety of the crime in San Bernardino.)
Cooper’s defenders have expressed numerous concerns about the behavior of law enforcement and the investigators, as well as the contamination and disposal of evidence. They point to confessions — albeit third-party hearsay — pertaining to a longtime suspect. Many question how one man could use the multiple murder weapons in the short time in which the coroner said the murders occurred. And Joshua Ryen’s testimony, as well as hairs found at the crime scene, described three white perpetrators; Cooper is Black. Parker has investigated the validity of these concerns as a part of his work on Cooper’s defense.
The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department has a history of skirting the rules. The sheriff at the time, Floyd Tidwell, was later convicted for the theft of more than 500 firearms from county evidence rooms — he would gift them to his supporters. A lab technician, who claimed he found shoe-print evidence pointing to Cooper’s guilt, was later fired for stealing heroin from an evidence room; he was also responsible for “discovering” evidence in a separate case that was later found to be planted.
Only four days after the Ryen murders, Sheriff Tidwell announced to the media that investigators had identified the killer. His certainty, according to Parker, was based solely on the fact that Cooper had just escaped from prison. The evidence found at the scene certainly supported that conclusion, though Parker and members of the judiciary question the validity of that evidence. For instance, the prison-jacket button allegedly recovered was the wrong color for the uniform Cooper wore, and the fingerprint evidence placed a deputy in the Lease house, possibly planting the hatchet sheath, who denied ever being in that house.
Similar questions remain regarding evidence found in the Ryen residence, including a pin-sized drop of blood in a hallway. Prosecutors claimed it belonged to Cooper; Parker believes it was planted after the fact. “There’s no reason that that blood drop would’ve been where it was,” he said. That drop of blood had a strange trajectory after it was tested at the crime lab. First, the criminologist altered his records to show a result conforming to Cooper’s known blood characteristics. The drop was labeled totally “consumed” during testing; inexplicably, it reappeared in a different form when further testing was useful to the prosecution.
A bloody T-shirt had an even stranger history after it entered the crime lab. Found nearby shortly after the murders, the T-shirt’s first tests disclosed only blood from the victims; Cooper’s blood was not on the T-shirt. Subsequent tests, however, located not simply Cooper’s blood, but Cooper’s blood containing a preservative only used to store blood samples. Cooper’s defenders believe that authorities took blood from samples he’d given, one vial of which was discovered empty, and contaminated the shirt. That T-shirt was improperly stored, the DNA degraded, and retesting is now impossible.
The same pattern surrounds the stolen family car, which had been parked in the driveway with its keys in the ignition. The first detailed search of the vehicle found no evidence tied to Cooper. In a second search, deputies found evidence of prison-issued tobacco and cigarette butts, akin to those found in Cooper’s hideout, some of which disappeared from police evidence. Despite a legal obligation to preserve evidence in death-penalty cases, Parker said the Ryens’ station wagon was scrapped years ago, along with any surviving evidence it might have held.
Parker Points the Finger
The Ryen family’s stolen car and a pair of bloodied coveralls may connect to hearsay testimony collected by Parker that paints a different picture of the murders.
Two former girlfriends of a longtime potential suspect named Lee Furrow provided sworn statements, said Parker, in which they relayed identical stories of a confession to killing people that match the Ryen murders. One of these women claims Furrow carried a briefcase containing knives, a hatchet, and an ice pick. More recently, two different witnesses claimed Furrow bragged to them about having murdered an entire family.
These accounts relate to testimony in 1983 from a woman named Diana Roper. She told the authorities her boyfriend, Lee Furrow, returned home late on the evening of the murders wearing blood-spattered coveralls. He was driving a white station wagon with wood paneling and a luggage rack, like the one stolen from the Ryen driveway. Although deputies entered the bloodied coveralls into evidence, on the day of Cooper’s arraignment, their superior officers said to get rid of them; they were not tested for the victims’ blood.
Roper also stated that on the day of the murders, she noted Furrow returned to her home without his hatchet. The tool, resembling one of the reported murder weapons, was missing from his tool belt.
What is known about Furrow is that he is a convicted murderer who in 1977 pleaded guilty to killing Mary Sue Kitts in 1974 on the orders of Clarence Ray Allen, who was covering up a burglary. According to Parker, “Clarence Ray Allen had a long record of basically either going after and injuring or killing people that have turned against him for one reason or another.” Furrow was released the year prior to the Ryen family massacre.
Allen and the Ryens both raised Arabian horses, a popular trend among equestrians in the early 1980s. They had disagreed over a horse he had purchased from them, and there are indications the Ryens had repossessed the animal.
Furrow has never been arrested or charged in connection to the murders. However, after collecting statements from Furrow’s acquaintances and potential suspects, Parker and a fellow retired FBI agent decided to interview Furrow and attempt to collect his DNA. Furrow lived in Pennsylvania, and Parker invited him to a hotel across the border in New Jersey to talk about the Ryen murders. Unlike Pennsylvania, New Jersey allows recordings with the consent of only one party to the conversation.
“We got the two adjoining hotel rooms. We wired one up with hidden cameras, and we put a couple of other cameras in the room, too, so that we could observe him from all angles,” said Parker. “We staged the room the way we wanted it: where we wanted him to sit, and where I would sit.”
Furrow denied having any involvement in the murders, Parker said. He also maintained his innocence when he was questioned about the bloody coveralls by San Bernardino authorities a year after the murders. Furrow agreed to Parker’s interview voluntarily and agreed to have his DNA collected.
That evidence will be part of the independent investigation, Parker said. And as Kevin Cooper waits in San Quentin, it is evident that the counsel appointed by the governor will have much to examine.
Parker noted, “It’s such a complicated situation where you’ve got a case that’s 36 years old, and times have changed so much in terms of what technology is capable of, but hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”