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.
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
On Monday 9 August speakers from Cuba, Bolivia and Britain will discuss recent events on the island: the misreporting, the role of US economic warfare and funding in fuelling unrest, and the urgent need for aid, solidarity and an international campaign against US intervention.
What’s going on in Cuba?
Monday August 9, 10:30 A.M. PST
(Need eventbrite app on smart phone)
SpeakersBárbara Montalvo Álvarez, Cuban ambassador to the UKCristina Escobar, Radio Havana, CubaOllie Vargas, Kawsachun News, BoliviaRichard Burgon MPGrahame Morris MPLen McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the UnionRob Miller, Director, Cuba Solidarity Campaign
An economic crisis caused by the tightening of the US blockade, 243 additional US sanctions, and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to serious shortages in food, fuel, and medicines in Cuba. Rather than seeking to alleviate this suffering, the administrations of Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden, have sought to exploit the frustrations of the Cuban people in recent months. Cheered on by a right-wing Cuban American lobby in Florida, the international press hugely exaggerated the scale of protests on 11 July, while at the same time downplayed or ignored the role of the blockade and US funding of opposition groups and social media campaigns, and misrepresented pro-government demonstrations as opposition.
Panellists will reflect on what happened on 11 July, how it has been reported, and why an end to the US blockade, as demanded by 184 countries at the United Nations in June, should be a moral and humanitarian obligation for the US government and for anyone genuinely wanting to aid the Cuban people.
Find out more and register today
Read the CSC statement on events
Donate to the CSC COVID-19 Medical Appeal
We look forward to seeing you on 9 August.Yours in solidarity,The Cuba Solidarity Campaign team
Let Cuba Live Exhibition
On the anniversary of the 26th of July Movement’s founding, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research launches the online exhibition, Let Cuba Live. 80 artists from 19 countries – including notable cartoonists and designers from Cuba – submitted over 100 works in defense of the Cuban Revolution. Together, the exhibition is a visual call for the end to the decades-long US-imposed blockade, whose effects have only deepened during the pandemic. The intentional blocking of remittances and Cuba’s use of global financial institutions have prevented essential food and medicine from entering the country. Together, the images in this exhibition demand: #UnblockCuba #LetCubaLive
Please contact email@example.com if you are interested in organising a local exhibition of the exhibition.
What is a General Strike?
"A general strike is a strike action in which a substantial proportion of the total labor force in a city, region, or country participates.
General strikes are characterised by the participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces and tend to involve entire communities.
General strikes first occurred in the mid-19th century and have characterised many historically important strikes." (1)
· The U.S. Government is not serving its people
· The United States is the only developed country that requires zero paid time off for maternity leave (2)
· Unemployment rose to 14% in 2021 because companies refused to raise wages (3)
· Only 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of all global carbon emissions (4)
· Federal Minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009 (5)
· 40 million Americans live at, or below the national poverty line (6)
· Pharmaceutical companies are extorting patients for medications (7)
· And the average American is $90,460 in debt just to afford basic necessities like housing, food, clothes, education, and medical bills (8)
In an effort to combat this tyranny we propose a national Strike starting on October 15th, 2021.
This demonstration serves to show your company, and our country as a whole, that you deserve basic human rights.
Your labor is a bargaining tool and you are worth more than what society is offering you.
· 25% corporate tax rate (No loopholes)
· Free Healthcare for all
· 12 weeks paid paternity and maternity leave
· $20 minimum wage
· 4-day work week
· Stricter Environmental Regulations on Corporations (Bans on single use and micro plastics, and limited emissions)
If you support any or all of our goals, stand in solidarity with us on October 15th by taking off work.
What you can do:
· Abstain from going in to work starting on October 15th
· Do not participate in economic activity starting on October 15th
· Contact your Local Representatives to express our demands
· Spread the word and inform your family, friends, and colleagues about the strike
· Increase class consciousness by educating those around you through our learn page
If you plan on participating, sign the petition so others can get an idea of our collective strength.
Will I get Fired?
The law provides some protection for striking workers. Companies fire people for illegal reasons all the time, so please use caution and your own discretion when disclosing to your employer.
· NLRA Protects your right to strike even if you are
not a union member because you are engaging in concerted activity (9)
· Companies have tried to retaliate before, and it doesn't look good for them (10)
· For those of you who still express concerns here is a
"Basic Guide to the National Labor Relations Act"
· Even more information
if you are not convinced
Please contact the National Labor Relations Board to find out more about your unique situation.
What if I absolutely cannot take off?
You can still support the movement by spreading the word through the links below!
Facebook and Twitter
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.
On July 27th whistleblower Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison for exposing the US drone program. CODEPINK has known Daniel since he spoke at our Drone Summit in 2013. There are a few ways you can support Daniel at this time, and one way to do that is write him letters! Daniel loves receiving letters. Please return to this page in the future, as his address will change once he moves facilities to carry out his sentence.
Daniel E. Hale
William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Ctr.
2001 Mill Rd.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Please also visit standwithdanielhale.org, which is run by Daniel's core support team to see updates and other ways to support him.
Sign the petition at:https://www.codepink.org/danielhale?utm_campaign=daniel_hale_national&utm_medium=email&utm_source=codepink
DANIEL HALE SENTENCED TO 45 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR DRONE LEAK
“I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life,” Hale said at his sentencing.
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
and here: https://socialistproject.ca/leftstreamed-video/no-life-like-it/
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:
I don’t usually do this. This is discussing my self. I find it far more interesting to tell the stories of other, the revolving globe on which we dwell and the stories spawn by the fragile human condition and the struggles of humanity for liberation.
But I digress, uncomfortably.
This commentary is about the commentator.
Several weeks ago I underwent a medical procedure known as open heart surgery, a double bypass after it was learned that two vessels beating through my heart has significant blockages that impaired heart function.
This impairment was fixed by extremely well trained and young cardiologist who had extensive experience in this intricate surgical procedure.
I tell you I had no clue whatsoever that I suffered from such disease. Now to be perfectly honest, I feel fine.
Indeed, I feel more energetic than usual!
I thank you all, my family and friends, for your love and support.
Onwards to freedom with all my heart.
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.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
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:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
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.”
Emmett Till’s cousin Ollie Gordon recalled him as a jokester who “loved to make people laugh” as she reflected on their childhood together ahead of what would have been his 80th birthday.
By Adeel Hassan, July 24, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/24/us/emmett-till-80th-birthday.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
Ollie Gordon was only 7 years old in August 1955, when the life that she shared with three generations of her family, including her cousin Emmett Till, on the South Side of Chicago was overturned.
Emmett, 14, had traveled to visit relatives in the Mississippi Delta, where he was abducted by two white men. His body was found days later in a river, mutilated and beaten with a bullet in the head.
“That was the first death that my parents and siblings had experienced,” Ms. Gordon said in an interview this week. “Then to know that he was taken by white men — we would have nightmares that somebody was going to come and take us.”
Ms. Gordon, 73, reflected on her cousin’s life ahead of what would have been his 80th birthday on Sunday, as well as on the echoes of his death in the events of 2020, with the killing of George Floyd also galvanizing a civil rights movement.
“I understand it when someone is called ‘the new Emmett Till,’” she said. “They don’t know what else to compare it to. A lynching can still be a lynching without the hanging.”
The past 18 months have also been a period of deep personal pain for Ms. Gordon. Her daughter, Airickca Gordon-Taylor, who led an organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of Emmett and his mother, died in March after living with kidney problems for decades.
I spoke with her this week, and our conversation below has been condensed and lightly edited.
Most people remember Emmett Till for his death, but you knew him in life. What do you remember of your time together in Chicago?
We actually lived in the same apartment. My parents migrated from Mississippi to Chicago in the early ’50s, and I was born in ’48. We lived in the family building.
I was around him when I was 3 to 7. He was more of a sibling than a cousin.
He was a jokester; he loved to make people laugh. There was a time when he took two dollar bills, and in between them he had cut up newspaper pages to the same size. With a dollar bill on the top and one on the bottom, it looked like he made a big wad of money. He showed it to his mom. She asked: “Where did you get all this money from?” He was lying down on the floor laughing.
I remember riding around the neighborhood with his mom to look for him when he was out past his curfew. His mom was single at the time, so he had chores and responsibilities. He was very capable of paying the bills — the gas bills and the light bills — and cleaning up the house.
He had a stutter, because he had polio when he was younger and it left him with a speech impediment. He did OK in school, but he wasn’t a lover of school. He did enough to get by, because his mom was on him. He had a golden retriever named Mike, and he was very fond of the dog.
Tell me more about what Emmett was like.
He would go over to the A&P, and he would help customers take their groceries home to earn spending money. His grandmother made sure that he was very respectful to the older people. He would shovel the snow and rake the leaves for neighbors.
He was the only child and his mother doted on him. He was spoiled, but he was loved and disciplined. They had rules and expectations of him as a young man.
I remember our last Christmas together, in December 1954. He had gotten that big hat you see him wearing in all his pictures. He was leaning on the TV and myself and my siblings are sitting on the sofa.
What was life like in 1955?
He wanted this motorbike — well, not like the ones you have today — but a bike with an engine. But his mom thought he was just going to kill himself on it. He also wanted to go visit Mississippi. He was begging his mom so hard and she gave in and let him go.
She thought that by going to Mississippi, he would be safer than getting on the bike. So she taught him how to behave and how to act cautiously because Mississippi was different from what he was used to.
What do you recall from hearing the news of his killing that August?
I remember how sick his mother got. She got deathly ill at around the time he was abducted. It’s a mother’s instinct, she didn’t know it at the time.
Of course, when the phone call came, we had a pretty happy home; then there was a lot of screaming and crying. That was the first death that my parents and siblings had experienced. Then to know that he was taken by white men — we would have nightmares that somebody was going to come and take us.
Sunday would have been his 80th birthday. Do you remember celebrating any of his birthdays with him?
I don’t, but I’m sure that we had a cake or something.
And then, my daughter and I always went to the cemetery and released balloons together. We wanted to remember his life, he had a life before death. Emmett and his mom are buried about a block and a half apart. My daughter is adjacent to his mom.
I’m so sorry for your loss.
Airickca fought to keep justice for Emmett. She died at the onset of the virus in March 2020. My daughter was working with a lot of mothers who lost their children to hate crimes.
She founded the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation. At one point, she had an altercation with Lil Wayne. That’s when the foundation really got discovered, and parents started coming to us. So my child was looking for justice for Emmett, but along the way she helped motivate other parents.
What have the last 16 months been like for you?
I have not done a lot in the last year because I lost my child, and she was my only child, and that was very grievous. For me, I’ve lost so many people that the wound just deepens further. I had breast cancer. The last year and a half have not been easy for me, as I have pre-existing conditions.
How did the killing of George Floyd and all that followed affect you?
It does something to my spirit. Sometimes I don’t want to watch the news. The police killings are lynchings, and I can’t call them anything else.
Emmett, and now George Floyd begging for his mama.
Emmett’s mom used to cry every single day. She was a teacher, and she would sit in her classroom and cry. Her students would notice. She cried from the day of Emmett’s murder to the day she died.
I lost my child and I was with her. Emmett was not with his mom and he died in a horrible, abusive way. I can’t say that I have that kind of pain. I have pain that penetrates, but her pain is of a magnitude that I cannot imagine.
The Intercept, July 24, 2021
July 24, 2021—The missiles that killed Salim bin Ahmed Ali Jaber and Walid bin Ali Jaber came in the night. Salim was a respected imam in the village of Khashamir, in southeastern Yemen, who had made a name for himself denouncing the rising power of Al Qaeda’s franchise in the Arabian Peninsula. His cousin Walid was a local police officer. It was August 21, 2012, and the pair were standing in a palm grove, confronting a trio of suspected militants, when the Hellfires made impact.
The deaths of the two men sparked protests in the days that followed, symbolizing for many Yemenis the human cost of U.S. counterterrorism operations in their country. Thousands of miles away, at the U.S. military’s base in Bagram, Afghanistan, Daniel Hale, a young intelligence specialist in the U.S. Air Force, watched the missiles land. One year later, Hale found himself sitting on a Washington, D.C., panel, listening as Salim’s brother, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, recalled the day Salim was killed.
“As Fazil recounted what happened next, I felt myself transported back in time to where I had been on that day, 2012. Unbeknownst to Fazil and those of his village at the time was that they had not been the only ones watching Salem approach the jihadist in the car. From Afghanistan, I and everyone on duty paused their work to witness the carnage that was about to unfold. At the press of a button, from thousands of miles away, two Hellfire missiles screeched out of the sky, followed by two more. Showing no signs of remorse, I, and those around me, clapped and cheered triumphantly. In front of a speechless auditorium, Fazil wept.”
Hale recalled the emotional moment and others stemming from his work on the U.S. government’s top-secret drone program in an 11-page, handwritten letter filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this week.
Hale was indicted by a grand jury and arrested in 2019 on a series of counts related to the unauthorized disclosure of national defense and intelligence information and the theft of government property. In March, the 33-year-old pleaded guilty to leaking a trove of unclassified, secret, and top-secret documents to a news organization, which government filings strongly implied was The Intercept. His sentencing is scheduled for July 27, 2021.
The Intercept “does not comment on matters relating to the identity of anonymous sources,” Intercept Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed said at the time of Hale’s indictment. “These documents detailed a secret, unaccountable process for targeting and killing people around the world, including U.S. citizens, through drone strikes,” Reed noted. “They are of vital public importance, and activity related to their disclosure is protected by the First Amendment.”
Federal prosecutors are urging Judge Liam O’Grady to issue a maximum sentence, up to 11 years in prison, arguing that Hale has shown insufficient remorse for his actions, that his disclosures were motivated by vanity and not in the public interest, and that they aided the United States’ enemies abroad—namely the Islamic State.
“These documents contained specific details that adversaries could use to hamper and defeat actions of the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community,” the government claimed. “Indeed, they were of sufficient interest to ISIS for that terrorist organization to further distribute two of those documents in a guidebook for its followers.”
Prosecutors have acknowledged, however, that Hale’s sentencing was “in an unusual posture” because the probation officer in the case, who makes recommendations to the court, “has not seen some of the key facts of the case,” namely those that the government says support its claim that Hale’s disclosures had the potential to cause “serious” or “exceptionally grave” harm to U.S. national security. The Intercept has not reviewed the documents in question, which remain under seal, shielded from public scrutiny.
Harry P. Cooper, a former senior official in the CIA and noted agency expert on classified materials who did review the documents, provided a declaration in Hale’s case on the potential national security threat posed by the release of the documents.
Cooper, who maintains a top-secret clearance and has trained top-level officials at the agency, including the director of the CIA, said that while some of the documents did constitute so-called national defense information, “the disclosure of these documents, at the time they were disclosed and made public, did not present any substantial risk of harm to the United States or to national security.”
Commenting on the government’s claim that Hale’s disclosures were circulated by ISIS, Cooper said, “such publication further supports my conclusions, because it suggests that the adversaries treated the documents as trophies rather than as something that would give a tactical advantage, given that publication would reduce to zero any tactical advantage that the documents might otherwise have given.”
“In short,” Cooper said, “an adversary who has gained a tactical advantage by receiving secret information would never publicize their possession of it.”
Hale was charged under the Espionage Act, a highly controversial 1917 law that has become a favored tool of federal prosecutors pursuing cases of national security leaks. The law bars the accused from using motivations such as informing the public as a defense against incarceration, and yet, Hale’s alleged personal motivations and character came up repeatedly in a sentencing memo filed this week, with prosecutors arguing that he was “enamored of journalists” and that as a result, “the most vicious terrorists in the world” obtained top-secret U.S. documents.
In their own motion filed this week, Hale’s lawyers argued that the former intelligence analyst’s motivations were self-evident—even if the government refused to recognize them. “The facts regarding Mr. Hale’s motive are clear,” they wrote. “He committed the offense to bring attention to what he believed to be immoral government conduct committed under the cloak of secrecy and contrary to public statements of then-President Obama regarding the alleged precision of the United States military’s drone program.”
Legal experts focused on the drone program strongly dispute the prosecution’s claim that Hale’s disclosures did not provide a significant public service. Indeed, for many experts, shedding light on a lethal program that the government had tried to keep from public scrutiny for years is vital.
“The disclosures provided important information to the American public about a killing program that has virtually no transparency or accountability, and has taken a devastating toll on civilian lives abroad in the name of national security,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, director of the Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School. “They helped reveal how some of the most harmful impacts of this program, in particular the civilian toll, were obscured and hidden.”
Thanks in large part to the government’s efforts to keep the drone program under tight secrecy, the task of calculating the human impact of the program has been left to investigative journalists and independent monitoring groups. The numbers that these groups have compiled over the years show a staggering human cost of these operations. The U.K.-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, or TBIJ, estimates the total number of deaths from drones and other covert killing operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia to run between 8,858 and 16,901 since strikes began to be carried out in 2004.
Of those killed, as many as 2,200 are believed to have been civilians, including several hundred children and multiple U.S. citizens, including a 16-year-old boy. The tallies of civilian casualties are undoubtedly an undercount of the true cost of the drone war—as Hale’s letter to the court this week and the documents he allegedly made public show, the people who are killed in American drone strikes are routinely classified as “enemies killed in action” unless proven otherwise.
Following years of pressure—and in the wake of the publication of the materials Hale is accused of leaking—the Obama administration introduced new requirements for reporting civilian casualties from covert counterterrorism operations to the public in 2016, disclosing that year that between 64 and 116 civilians were believed to have been killed in drone strikes and other lethal operations. However, the Trump administration revoked that meager disclosure requirement, leaving the public once again in the dark about who exactly is being killed and why.
War for profit
In the government’s view, Hale’s principal interest was reckless self-aggrandizement. “Hale’s vanity overrode the commitments he made to his country,” the prosecution said in its sentencing memo. The letter Hale wrote to the court paints a starkly different picture, however, one of a young man scarred by his role in the nation’s longest war.
Hale describes, in vivid terms, his struggles with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and how his decision to share classified information with a journalist was motivated by an irrepressible sense of obligation.
“To say that the period of my life spent serving in the United States Air Force had an impression on me would be an understatement,” Hale wrote in his letter to O’Grady, dated July 18. “It’s more accurate to say that it irreversibly transformed my identity as an American.”
Hale told the judge about the first drone strike he witnessed, days after he first deployed to Afghanistan. The operation was conducted before sunrise, targeting a group of armed men brewing tea around a campfire in the mountains of Paktika province.
“That they carried weapons with them would not have been considered out of the ordinary in the place I grew up, much less within the virtually lawless tribal territories outside the control of the Afghan authorities. Except that among them was a suspected member of the Taliban, given away by the targeted cellphone device in his pocket. As for the remaining individuals, to be armed, of military age, and sitting in the presence of an alleged enemy combatant was enough evidence to place them under suspicion as well. Despite having peacefully assembled, posing no threat, the fate of the now tea drinking men had all but been fulfilled. I could only look on as I sat by and watched through a computer monitor when a sudden, terrifying flurry of Hellfire missiles came crashing down, splattering purple-colored crystal guts on the side of the morning mountain.
“Since that time and to this day, I continue to recall several such scenes of graphic violence carried out from the cold comfort of a computer chair. Not a day goes by that I don’t question the justification of my actions. By the rules of engagement, it may have been permissible for me to have helped kill those men—whose language I did not speak, customs I did not understand, and crimes I could not identify—in the gruesome manner that I did. Watch them die. But how could it be considered honorable of me to continuously have laid in wait for the next opportunity to kill unsuspecting persons, who, more often than not, are posing no danger to me or any other person at the time. Never mind honorable, how could it be that any thinking person continued to believe that it was necessary for the protection of the United States to be in Afghanistan and killing people, not one of whom present was responsible for the September 11th attacks on our nation. Notwithstanding in 2012, a full year after the demise of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. I was part of killing misguided young men who were but mere children on the day of 9/11.”
Nevertheless, Hale wrote, he kept his head down and continued his work identifying targets for American drones. Along the way, the profit motives embedded in the war on terror became increasingly apparent.
“The evidence of this fact was laid bare all around me. In the longest and most technologically advanced war in American history, contract mercenaries outnumbered uniform wearing soldiers two-to-one and earned as much as ten times their salary. Meanwhile, it did not matter whether it was, as I had seen, an Afghan farmer blown in half, yet miraculously conscious and pointlessly trying to scoop his insides off the ground, or whether it was an American flag-draped coffin lowered into Arlington National Cemetery to the sound of a 21-gun salute. Bang. Bang. Bang. Both served to justify the easy flow of capital at the cost of blood—theirs and ours. When I think about this, I am grief-stricken and ashamed of myself for the things that I’ve done to support it.”
Hale described for the court the “most harrowing day” of his deployment, “when a routine surveillance mission turned into disaster.” For weeks the Americans had been tracking a group of car bomb manufacturers based in the Jalalabad area. “It was a windy and clouded afternoon when one of the suspects had been discovered heading east at a high rate of speed,” Hale recalled. His supervisors believed that the driver may have been making a run for the Pakistan border. “A drone strike was our only chance and already it began lining up to take the shot,” Hale wrote. The clouds and wind derailed the strike, with the missile missing its target by a matter of a few meters.
The vehicle continued on for a while before coming to stop. Hale described watching as a man stepped out and “checked himself as though he could not believe he was still alive.” Then, to Hale’s astonishment, a woman got out of the car as well and walked to the trunk. Hale later learned that there were two young children huddled inside. They were ages three and five. A unit of Afghan soldiers found them in a dumpster the following day. The younger of the two “was alive but severely dehydrated,” Hale recalled. “The eldest was found dead due to unspecified wounds caused by shrapnel that pierced her body.”
“Whenever I encounter an individual who thinks that drone warfare is justified and reliably keeps America safe,” Hale wrote, “I remember that time and ask myself how could I possibly continue to believe that I am a good person, deserving of my life and the right to pursue happiness.”
Amid waves of criticism from human rights groups and mounting evidence of extensive civilian casualties in multiple countries around the world, President Barack Obama made his first public comments on the issue of American drone strikes in 2013. Hale recalled watching the address on television. “The president said that a high standard of ‘near certainty’ needed to be met in order to ensure that no civilians were present,” he wrote. “But from what I knew, of the instances where civilians plausibly could have been present, those killed were nearly always designated enemies killed in action unless proven otherwise.” In describing what would become a central component of his counterterrorism legacy, Obama spoke of the category of “imminent threats,” drawing a comparison between the target of a drone strike and a sniper with his sights set on an unsuspecting crowd.
In time, Hale wrote, he came to question this analogy.
“As I understood it to be, the unassuming crowd had been those who lived in fear and terror of drones in their skies and the sniper in this scenario had been me. I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public that it kept us safe, and when I finally left the military, still processing what I had been a part of, I began to speak out, believing my participation in the drone program to have been deeply wrong.”
In Hale’s account, his turning point came after he left the Air Force. After much deliberation, he had taken a job at a defense contractor where he would retain his security clearance and access to top-secret information. One day, after work, a colleague suggested pulling up some archived drone strike footage. The “bonding ceremonies” around “war porn” were not uncommon, Hale wrote. “I partook in them all the time while I was deployed to Afghanistan,” he said. “But on that day, years after the fact, my new friends gaped and sneered, just as my old ones had, at the sight of faceless men in the final moments of their lives. I sat by watching too; said nothing and felt my heart breaking into pieces.”
“My conscience, once held at bay, came roaring back to life. At first, I tried to ignore it. Wishing instead that someone, better placed than I, should come along and take this cup from me. But this too was folly. Left to decide whether to act, I could only do that which I ought to before God and my own conscience. The answer came to me, that to stop the cycle of violence, I ought to sacrifice my own life and not that of another person.
“So I contacted an investigative reporter, with whom I had had an established prior relationship, and told him that I had something the American people needed to know.”
—The Intercept, July 24, 2021
By Reid J. Epstein, July 26, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/26/us/politics/lebron-james-criminal-justice-reform.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20Politics
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James produced the Protect Our People campaign to highlight racial justice and encourage senators to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Credit...Kim Klement/Associated Press
More Than a Vote, the organization launched a year ago by prominent Black athletes and entertainers to protect African Americans’ voting rights, is launching a campaign focused on the nation’s criminal justice system.
The campaign, called Protect Our People, kicked off Monday with an episode of the HBO series “The Shop,” which is produced by the basketball star LeBron James and Maverick Carter, Mr. James’s close friend and business partner. Mr. James was among the charter members of More Than a Vote.
The episode features a conversation about racial justice and police killings between Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo, Natasha Cloud, the pro basketball player who skipped the 2020-21 W.N.B.A. season to focus on social justice concerns; Benjamin Crump, an attorney who has represented families of Black people killed by police; Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd; the journalist Jemele Hill; and Meek Mill, the rapper and criminal justice activist.
“2020 proved that when athletes speak out about the issues that matter to them, people listen. As we said at the beginning of this year, this effort was never about one election,” said Michael Tyler, a spokesman for More Than a Vote. “The Protect Our People campaign will replicate the successful model of harnessing athlete activism in electoral politics and apply it to the ongoing fight to move public opinion and change criminal justice policies that regularly victimize Black communities.”
The Protect Our People campaign has also produced advertisements online urging senators to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in March but remains stalled in the Senate. And it intends to push for local legislation, including a proposal in California to implement a statewide system for revoking the license of police officers who commit serious misconduct and a referendum in Cleveland that would create an independent oversight panel to investigate police misconduct.
By Ned Resnikoff, July 26, 2021
Alessandra Sanguinetti/Magnum Photos
Even if you don’t live in California, you’ve probably seen the pictures of tents lining Venice Beach. Or maybe you’ve seen photographs of Oakland’s sprawling homeless encampments, or the crowds of people living on the street in Los Angeles’s Skid Row neighborhood. Those images, while stark, do not come close to capturing the scope of the state’s homelessness crisis.
Numbers come a little closer. California is home to nearly 12 percent of the country’s total population but, as of January 2020, 28 percent of its unhoused population, according to federal statistics. More than half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population resides in California. All told, the federal government’s most recent point-in-time count tells us that roughly 161,548 Californians were homeless as of just one night in early 2020, 113,660 of whom were unsheltered — and this was before Covid-19 plunged the United States into crisis.
The political implications of mass homelessness cut deep, cut to the very foundations of our democratic system, in fact. Widespread homelessness is both a symptom of democratic decline and a harbinger of worse to come.
It should never have gotten this bad. Homelessness is solvable. Its primary driver is housing unaffordability (not a sudden recent increase in mental illness or substance use disorder, despite claims to the contrary), and so the solution has always been more housing, particularly for those who don’t currently have it. But California has allowed homelessness to metastasize over the past few decades. As the humanitarian crisis has gotten worse, it has become a political crisis. Homelessness is one of the major themes in this year’s campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a growing number of commentators have cited it as evidence that the “California dream” is dying.
But to eulogize the California dream or fret over the governor’s electoral prospects is to miss the larger picture.
The structural factors that threaten U.S. democracy have directly contributed to homelessness in California. Take structural racism. In his landmark book “The Color of Law,” Richard Rothstein outlined how the government spent decades segregating neighborhoods as a matter of public policy, stifling Black homeownership and pushing Black Americans and other people of color into zones of concentrated urban poverty.
California was an early innovator in racist housing policies: Berkeley was most likely the birthplace of single-family zoning, which constricts housing supply and pushes up the cost of housing. This policy puts it out of reach for low-income households, in particular the people of color it was intended to keep out.
More than a century after it was first enacted, Berkeley is now in the process of undoing single-family zoning. But at both the city and the state level, other racist policies remain on the books. Some of them are baked into the state’s Constitution, which the voters amended in 1950 to restrict development of low-income public housing. And California’s decades-long effort to keep low-income Black residents out of adequate housing continues to bear fruit: today, Black people make up 6.5 percent of the state’s overall population, but 40 percent of its homeless population.
Similarly, as economic inequality has threatened the nation’s political system, it has most likely exacerbated homelessness in California. In a recent paper, researchers presented evidence that income inequality may fuel homelessness in regions where housing supply fails to keep up with demand. The authors theorized that this may be because the wealthiest households in an unequal city bid up the cost of housing for everyone else, making it increasingly unaffordable to lower-income residents. This appears to be exactly what happened in the Bay Area, where the unfathomable wealth generated by the tech boom has been mostly captured by those at the top of the income distribution.
Because Bay Area cities have failed to produce enough supply to keep up with population increases, lower and middle-income residents now have to compete for housing with the super-wealthy, whose ability to outbid everyone else continually forces prices up. As a result, homes in Berkeley sold for about 19 percent above asking price on average in the first three months of this year, the highest citywide average in the nation.
Building more housing would break this dynamic. But much like federal efforts to expand voting rights, California’s fight to expand housing supply has been stymied by what I consider vetocracy. I alluded to one example of this vetocracy earlier: Article 34 of the state Constitution, which requires voter approval for any low-income public housing project to be built in a community. Another oft-cited example is the state’s California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, which, generally, requires environmental impact assessments of new developments. “Not In My Back Yarders” have capitalized on this prima facie reasonable requirement, burying proposed developments in CEQA litigation that can slow projects to a crawl, or kill them entirely.
Even as the homelessness crisis has grown out of the same factors as the crisis of democracy, it has directly contributed to democratic decay. California’s continual failure to make inroads against widespread homelessness risks fomenting anger, cynicism and disaffection with the state’s political system. A state that appears powerless to address fundamental problems does not make a very persuasive case for its own survival. As such, state and local policymakers need to take homelessness seriously as not only a humanitarian disaster, but a threat to liberal democracy.
Taking the threat seriously does not mean doubling down on cruel and ineffective policies, such as the criminalizing of homelessness or relying on temporary shelters to keep the unhoused out of sight. It means spending political capital to ensure that, long term, California can dramatically increase its housing supply. And it means offering immediate Housing First services to those who have already been pushed into homelessness.
Housing First policies start with the premise — validated by a wealth of empirical research (including from my employer, University of California, San Francisco’s Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative) — that people who are homeless need stable housing in order to benefit from the other services, such as behavioral health care and substance use treatment, that will put them on a path to full recovery.
This month, California took an important step in the right direction. The most recent budget signed by Governor Newsom includes $12 billion earmarked for combating homelessness, primarily through Housing First-aligned efforts. This amount, while significant, still represents only an initial step. Homelessness has become so dire in large part because the state allowed it to fester for years. It will require years more work, planning, public investment and legal reform, to undo the results. The cost will be high, but the cost of inaction is far higher.
Ned Resnikoff is policy manager for the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco.
By Lydia Millet, July 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/books/review/the-council-of-animals-nick-mcdonell.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Book%20Review
In my favorite childhood books, the animals always spoke. But in the books I’ve read as an adult, the talking beasts have been replaced by human characters — equally made up, though often less charismatic. Still, I sorely miss those wise, anthropic creatures, so I was delighted to open Nick McDonell’s novel “The Council of Animals” and discover some friendly critters engaged in witty banter. Here, I thought, might be a fantastic hybrid of the childlike and the mature — as its publisher once described, a “Roald Dahl meets ‘Animal Farm’” classic to be savored by all ages.
The setup is this: A small group of familiar mammal species, including a cat, a dog, a horse and a bear — plus one delusional, hyper-religious crow whose intelligence, for a member of the ingenious corvid family, appears distinctly subpar — holds a meeting to decide the fate of humanity. Humans have recently been reduced, it turns out, from billions to a dozen in the wake of an event called The Calamity. Maybe that calamity was climate change, maybe a nuclear disaster; its cause is unclear and, at this point in history, hardly needs to be specified, since the disaster possibilities before us are so richly abundant. The animals in the council, well schooled in the principles of “demoscratchy,” gather to vote on whether to kill and eat the last people or let them live.
“The Council of Animals” is a hybrid tale for sure. It has the feel of a bedtime story spun to entertain, say, a niece or nephew, sprinkled with jokes based on animals’ bodies and sounds; but there are winks and nods for older readers in Easter eggs of punster humor throughout (“Woof Point,” for instance, is the name of a prestigious military academy for dogs, a reference not tailored to child readers). The cast of characters relies on animal stereotypes and hierarchies — sly, scheming cats and obedient dogs; fine mammals at the top and unpleasant insects like cockroaches at the bottom — in line with common notions a child might be handed by her elders about wildlife. In its shape, the novel resembles an O. Henry short story or a movie like “Planet of the Apes,” with an ironic, dramatic twist at the end that’s not too surprising.
Notably, in an era of large-scale, human-caused animal extinction, it’s the question of human salvation, not the destruction of the natural world, that’s at the core of the plot. Animal forms and personalities are deployed as proxies for our own social and political factions and tendencies (following precedents from Aesop to Orwell, Richard Adams’s “Watership Down” or even Karel Capek’s brilliant “War With the Newts”). They are clowns performing a lightweight puppet show with conversational styling but a shockingly heavy subject. That tension is purposeful, of course — this is a satire of manners in which ponderous matters are treated as fodder for the equivalent of dinner-party badinage. (Though it’s the sort of dinner party where, in the course of an evening, one of the guests may rudely and suddenly gulp down another.)
To child readers, this book might seem like all talk and no action, while to adult readers, it may seem too childlike, for “The Council of Animals” is a replicator, rather than interrogator, of fixed ideas about animals’ subservience to people and their roles as human instruments. Its levity of tone can be read as gentle handling or glib reduction, depending on your taste. For some readers, the story may land as a playful pantomime, meant to be received in that spirit of fun and seasoned with a thoughtfulness that’s broad but not too deep. But for those readers who may be discomfited by the casual use of animal figures as caricatures, and to those who, like me, are compelled by the subjectivity and uniqueness of other life-forms and are acutely anxious about their imminent peril at our hand, the book resonates more like a joke being told in the wake of an untimely death … and in the fleeting moments before the next death occurs.
As diversions for young readers, fiction has near-infinite license for silliness — to critique whimsical child’s literature straight-faced and primly feels foolish, like trying to scrutinize a prancing pink unicorn under a microscope. But since “The Council of Animals” has been likened to Orwell, though, the critical bar is set higher: McDonell — a journalist with a record of reporting on war and its casualties — clearly wishes to offer us more than child’s fare alone.
But through its inversion of the risks of current human activity — the conceit that human extinction, rather than the mass extinction of others, is the looming specter that haunts our kind — the novel enacts a kind of gamification of the tragedy of loss. This well-intentioned fable returns us once more to the arc of narcissism that has increasingly defined our dominant myths. Other animals and plants are being drastically, swiftly obliterated across the globe and may survive, in many cases, only in captivity or not at all as the coming decades unspool; but still people are the heroes, the villains and the victims in every epic. Why not? The world belongs to us.
So, as thousands of species hover on the brink of extinction in our own backyard — only 10 little vaquita porpoises, the last of their kind in the world, remain in the Gulf of California, for instance — this story concerns itself with a fictional 12 last humans.
Certainly the threat of human extinction, in “The Council of Animals,” also serves as a metaphor for the disappearance of others — hence the symbolic role reversal. But if all signs point everywhere, why bother to post those signs at all?
Daniel Hale, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst, was sentenced to 45 months in prison Tuesday, July 27, 2021, after pleading guilty to leaking a trove of government documents exposing the inner workings and severe civilian costs of the U.S. military’s drone program. Appearing in an Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom, the 33-year-old Hale told U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady that he believed it “was necessary to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.”
“I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take—precious human life,” Hale said. “I couldn’t keep living in a world in which people pretend that things weren’t happening that were. Please, your honor, forgive me for taking papers instead of human lives.”
In delivering his judgement, O’Grady said that Hale was “not being prosecuted for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people” and that he “could have been a whistleblower…without taking any of these documents.”
Though the nearly four-year sentence fell short of the maximum sentence of 11 years behind bars sought by federal prosecutors, the conviction marked another victory for the U.S. government in an ongoing crackdown on national security leaks that has spanned multiple presidential administrations.
Hale was indicted by a grand jury and arrested in 2019 on a series of counts related to the unauthorized disclosure of national defense and intelligence information and the theft of government property. In addition to documents related to how the government chooses its drone strike targets—and information detailing how often people who are not the intended targets of those strikes are nonetheless killed—Hale was also linked to the release of a secret, though unclassified, rulebook detailing how the U.S. government places individuals in its sprawling system of watchlists. Long shrouded in secrecy, the release of the rulebook has been celebrated by advocacy groups as a triumph of the post-9/11 era.
Since his indictment more than two years ago, government filings have strongly implied that The Intercept was the recipient of Hale’s disclosures. In a statement on Tuesday, Intercept Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed said, “Daniel Hale will spend years in prison for leaking documents that the government implied were published by The Intercept. These documents revealed the truth about the U.S. government’s secretive, murderous drone war, including that the killing of civilians was far more widespread than previously acknowledged. The Intercept will not comment on our sources. But whoever brought the documents in question to light undoubtedly served a noble public purpose.”
She added: “Hale was also charged with disclosing a secret rule book detailing the parallel judicial system for watchlisting people and categorizing them as known or suspected terrorists without needing to prove they did anything wrong. Under these rules, people, including U.S. citizens, can be barred from flying or detained in airports and at borders while being denied the ability to challenge government declarations about them. The disclosure of the watchlisting rule book led to dozens of legal actions and important court victories for the protection of civil liberties.”
As has become standard practice in the U.S., Hale was charged under the Espionage Act, and he pleaded guilty to one count in March. Under the highly controversial 1917 law, defendants cannot point to their efforts to inform the public about government actions and operations as a defense for leaking classified information. President Barack Obama weaponized the anti-spying law as a tool to hammer government employees who were sources for national security stories, particularly those that were unflattering for the government. The Trump administration continued the practice and now, so too, has the Biden administration.
“In today’s sentencing, the court did reject the prosecution’s extreme demands, but Hale’s prison sentence is nonetheless another tragic example of how the government misuses the Espionage Act to punish alleged journalistic sources as spies, a practice that damages human rights, press freedom, and democracy,” Reed added in her statement.
Hale’s support team, in a statement following the sentencing, said: “everyone agrees #DanielHale is not a spy. He is a deeply honorable man who is being punished simply for acting on his conscience and telling the truth.”
Ahead of his sentencing this week, Hale filed an 11-page handwritten letter to the court detailing the motivations behind his actions. In vivid detail, Hale recalled his own experience locating targets for American drone strikes. By some estimates, U.S. drone operations abroad, conducted by both the military and the CIA, have killed between 9,000 and 17,000 people since 2004, including as many as 2,200 children and multiple U.S. citizens. Those estimates, however, undercount the true cost of remote American warfare—as Hale noted in his letter to the court last week, the U.S. military has a practice of labeling all individuals killed in such operations as “enemies killed in action” unless proven otherwise.
“With drone warfare, sometimes nine-out-of-ten people killed are innocent,” Hale said on Tuesday. “You have to kill part of your conscience to do your job.”
In their sentencing filing, Hale’s defense lawyers said that he had “felt extraordinary guilt for having been complicit in what he viewed as unjustifiable killings” through his involvement in the drone program and argued that his disclosures were compelled by a sense of moral duty. In motions filed in the past week, government prosecutors sought to rebut this picture, painting Hale as a self-interested egomaniac who risked his freedom to ingratiate himself with the journalists he admired and compared his justifications to those of a heroin dealer.
In arguing that Hale should receive a maximum sentence of more than a decade in prison, the government repeatedly referred to secret evidence—unavailable for public review—purporting to show that the Islamic State had circulated Hale’s disclosures online, thus putting American lives at risk. Harry P. Cooper, a former senior official in the CIA and noted agency expert on classified materials who reviewed the documents and provided a declaration in Hale’s case, offered a starkly different interpretation.
“The disclosure of these documents, at the time they were disclosed and made public, did not present any substantial risk of harm to the United States or to national security,” Cooper said in a sworn declaration. “In short, an adversary who has gained a tactical advantage by receiving secret information would never publicize their possession of it.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg dismissed that reasoning, arguing that Hale’s case in fact deserved a harsher sentence than other prior whistleblower cases on the convoluted basis that, unlike in those cases, it was difficult to substantiate what harm his disclosures had actually done. “We do not know whether this information already has been or will be used in the future by terrorists or other foreign adversaries,” Kromberg wrote. “What we can be sure of is that Hale’s actions risked damage to the safety and security of Americans in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.”
The Justice Department also rejected Hale’s argument that he was providing a public service by revealing information about covert military operations that had killed civilians. “According to Hale, what he did was legally wrong but morally right,” prosecutors wrote. “In analogous circumstances, no one would award such a reduction to a heroin dealer who admitted that he violated the law by distributing heroin, but simultaneously asserted that by distributing the heroin he was helping society rather than harming it.”
Hale is a descendant of Nathan Hale, the American patriot who was hanged by the British for stealing documents in 1776. Addressing the court Tuesday, Hale quoted the words often attributed to his famed ancestor: “My only regret is that I have but one life to give to my country, whether here or in prison.” As he did in the letter he submitted to the court last week, Hale, in his appearance before the judge, focused his attention on the victims of U.S. foreign policy.
“I believe that it is wrong to kill,” Hale said, “but it is especially wrong to kill the defenseless.”
—The Intercept, July 27, 2021
New Jersey has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. The governor will sign a bill enabling new parents to receive free at-home wellness checks from registered nurses.
By Precious Fondren, July 29, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/29/nyregion/maternal-mortality-new-jersey.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
New Jersey is one of the most dangerous states in the country for women to give birth, particularly Black women, who are seven times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications in the state than white women.
A new bill establishing a universal home nurse visitation program for newborns is designed to help address that. The bill, which Gov. Philip D. Murphy is set to sign on Thursday, is part of a broader plan to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the state, which experts say is the fourth highest in the country.
For every 100,000 live births in New Jersey last year, more than 26 women died because of pregnancy-related complications, according to America’s Health Rankings’ analysis of C.D.C. data. The data showed clear racial disparities.
“For Black women, they have the worst rates in the state, the state has among the worst rates in the country, and the country has among the worst rates in the world, so that’s put us in a place where we need to focus on changing this,” said Dr. Vijaya Hogan, a perinatal epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and a lead consultant on New Jersey’s plan.
The broader plan, known as Nurture New Jersey and spearheaded by the state’s first lady, Tammy Murphy, aims to decrease the state’s maternal mortality rates by 50 percent in five years.
“I can’t fathom that a mother could die due to maternity-related complications or the baby won’t live past its first birthday and that’s because of the color of somebody’s skin,” Ms. Murphy said. “We signed up to try and move the needle here in New Jersey, and make New Jersey a safer, more equitable and a fairer state for everyone.”
Under the home visitation program, which is voluntary, a registered nurse would come to the home of families with newborns for a free wellness check, regardless of parents’ income or insurance status. Research shows that the more support mothers have after birth, the better the outlook for them and their babies.
“This is a huge step in the right direction for moms, families and infants,” said Mr. Murphy, a Democrat. “Visits like this are proven to strengthen families’ shot at success and economic growth.”
While Oregon has a similar program, New Jersey will be the first state to offer home visits within the first two weeks after a birth. Adoptive parents will be eligible, as well as those who experience stillbirths. Families will be allowed up to three free home visits within three months and services are expected to become available within the year.
Even though she had a network of support when she gave birth to her daughter, State Senator Teresa Ruiz, a sponsor of the bill, said having a lactation specialist come to her home made her feel more secure about her transition into motherhood.
“I had a good structure of support all around,” she said, “and I can tell you that even with all of that, and understanding my rights and advocating for myself as best as I could, nothing gave me that sense of just ease until that nurse came to my house and said to me that what I was doing was right.”
Nurses will be specially trained to go into the home and assess both the mother and baby, checking for physical problems, issues with breastfeeding, postpartum mood disorder, and any social factors affecting the family. Ms. Ruiz said the home visit is also a chance for the nurse to connect families to other important resources they may need.
“I think back to when I was a new mother and had a community nurse come out, it was very helpful,” said Cecilia Zalkind, the president of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which pushes for polices that advance child welfare in New Jersey. “It really is to see how the family is doing, to offer assistance, and to give the parents some assurance that the baby is doing well.”
Suzanne Spernal, vice president of women’s services at RWJBarnabas Health, a network of health care providers in New Jersey, described the program as a “home run” that would provide key opportunities for early intervention.
“We know that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are one of the most underdiagnosed and under-treated complications of pregnancy, so this gives us a chance to do that assessment in the week or two following delivery,” Ms. Spernal said.
“We know that oftentimes when moms and families are experiencing some kind of life-threatening complication that they’ve had the symptoms for hours or days before they present to care,” she added. “This is an opportunity to intervene earlier so that we’re able to possibly circumvent some of these catastrophic adverse events for mom and baby.”
Brittany Rice, a birth care coordinator at the Birth Center of New Jersey, said the center already does after-birth follow-ups with its patients, but that new mothers can always benefit from extra help.
“If mom and baby are well-supported, everyone does better,” she said.
A new study looks at “the mortality cost of carbon”: lives lost or gained as emissions change over time.
By John Schwartz, July 29, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/29/climate/carbon-emissions-death.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Climate%20and%20Environment
What is the cost of our carbon footprint — not just in dollars, but in lives?
According to a paper published on Thursday, it is soberingly high, and perhaps high enough to help shift attitudes about how much we should spend on fighting climate change.
The new paper, published in the journal Nature Communications, draws on multiple areas of research to find out how many future lives will be lost as a result of rising temperatures if humanity keeps producing greenhouse gas emissions at high rates — and how many lives could be saved by cutting those emissions.
Most of the deaths will occur in regions that tend to be hotter and poorer than the United States. These areas are typically less responsible for global emissions but more heavily affected by the resulting climate disasters.
R. Daniel Bressler, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, calculated that adding about a quarter of the output of a coal-fired power plant, or roughly a million metric tons of carbon dioxide, to the atmosphere on top of 2020 levels for just one year will cause 226 deaths globally.
By comparison, the lifetime emissions beyond 2020 levels of a handful of Americans (3.5, to be precise) will result in one additional heat-related death in this century.
Mr. Bressler also contrasted the effects of people in nations with big carbon footprints with those in smaller ones. While the carbon emissions generated by fewer than four Americans would kill one person, it would require the combined carbon dioxide emissions of 146.2 Nigerians for the same result. The worldwide average to cause that single death is 12.8 people.
The new paper builds on the work of William Nordhaus, a Nobel laureate who first determined what is known as the “social cost of carbon” — an economic tool for measuring the climate-related damage to the planet caused by each extra ton of carbon emissions. The concept has been a crucial part of policy debates over the expense of fighting climate change, because it is used to calculate the cost-benefit analysis required when agencies propose environmental rules. The higher the social cost of carbon, the easier it is to justify the costs of action.
The current version of the Nordhaus model — the “Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy,” or DICE — puts the social cost of carbon at about $37 per metric ton. The Obama administration’s estimates put the figure at $50 a ton, but the Trump administration cut the estimate to as little as $1. The Biden administration is working on its own social cost of carbon, expected early next year; a preliminary figure released in February roughly matched the Obama administration’s.
In his paper, Mr. Bressler incorporated recent public health research that estimates the number of excess deaths attributable to rising temperatures into the latest version of the DICE model. The resulting extended model produced a startlingly high figure for the social cost of carbon: $258 per metric ton.
He coined a term for the relationship between the increased emissions and excess heat deaths: the “mortality cost of carbon.”
Heat waves, which have been made more frequent and more potent by climate change, have been linked to illness and death, with profound effects in less affluent countries. The recent off-the-charts temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and Canada have already been linked to hundreds of deaths.
Others have tried to put numbers on the mortality associated with climate change and the added costs that it entails, most notably the Climate Impact Lab at the University of Chicago. Maureen Cropper, senior fellow at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan environmental research organization in Washington, suggested that Mr. Bressler’s $258 estimate appeared to be too high, in part because of the way that the paper looks at how people around the world view the value of their own lives. She added that “although one may disagree with some of the author’s assumptions, it is important for researchers to continue the effort.”
Mr. Bressler acknowledged that there were areas of uncertainty in the paper, including those built into some public health research investigating excess deaths caused by heat. He also relied solely on heat-related deaths without adding other climate-related causes of death, including floods, crop failures and civil unrest. The result is that the actual number of deaths could be smaller, or greater. “Based on the current literature,” he said, “this is the best estimate.”
Richard Revesz, a professor at New York University School of Law, praised the new work, which extends research that he and others have done to view the social cost of carbon as the beginning of an understanding of the costs of climate change, not the full cost.
“It could well have a significant impact on climate change policies,” he said.
The new research also shows the stark difference between personal carbon footprints and the kind of change that can be achieved through actions at the scale of government and business. Having calculated that 4,434 metric tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere would result in one death during this century, Mr. Bressler said that simply taking one coal-fired power plant offline and replacing it with a zero-emissions alternative for just one year, would result in a “mortality benefit of saving 904 lives” over the century. “That would be a lot more impact than a personal decision,” he said.
But he added that he was not promoting one form of action over another.
“I’m just quantifying things,” he said, adding that ultimately, “you just have to reduce carbon.”
The discovery of multiple nooses has set off heated debates about the responsibility of companies and the ability of workers to speak their mind.
By Davey Alba, July 30, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/30/technology/amazon-nooses-warehouse.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
WINDSOR, Conn. — The town of Windsor has developed a niche in the world of warehouses and manufacturing, taking advantage of wide open spaces and crisscrossing interstates in nearby Hartford. Walgreens has a large facility here, as does Dollar Tree.
So when Amazon approached the town last year with a proposal to add a large distribution center — adding up to 1,000 jobs — local officials considered it a great opportunity.
“There are other mayors and selectmen that would give their left arm to have Amazon in their town,” Mayor Donald Trinks said in a recent interview. “It was worthy of our attention and our support of the project.”
But instead of uplifting the community of nearly 30,000 people, more than a third of whom are Black, the development has sent the town up in arms.
On at least four separate occasions in the past three months, workers building the Amazon warehouse found ropes that looked like nooses at the construction site. Their discoveries have set off clashes involving Black workers, racial justice activists, town officials and the numerous companies involved, raising questions about the responsibility of out-of-town companies to be responsive to local concerns as well the ability of workers to challenge people in power.
The disagreements have spilled into coffee shops and bars, the local press and town hall meetings, generating coverage from national and international news organizations. A rally in the middle of town meant to promote unity turned instead into a shouting match between the mayor and a local activist, with protesters crying out, “Who hung the noose?” Another protest by racial justice activists is planned for Saturday.
The workers and activists say their concerns about the nooses are not being taken seriously enough by many officials and the companies, including Amazon, the developer and the construction firm tied to the project. And the workers say they worry that if they speak up more, they will face retribution.
Town officials, including the police chief and the mayor, say the nooses are a serious problem. But the police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have not pinned down the culprits. And some officials say the problem has been blown out of proportion by activists and the news media because of the public’s fascination with Amazon.
Representatives for Amazon and the other companies involved say they have done everything they can, delaying construction twice, adding security and cameras at the site and putting up $100,000 in award money for anyone who can provide information about the nooses. Those are unusual steps, particularly for Amazon, which often avoids getting caught up in local affairs. The companies also say their power is somewhat limited, because there are dozens of subcontractors that have a hand in the project and are not under their direct control.
Adding to the turmoil is disagreement about even some of the most basic facts of the case, like how many nooses have been found. The N.A.A.C.P., which has held multiple news conferences in Windsor, says there were up to eight nooses. The police say two were actual nooses, while the six others were ropes with the kind of loop often used in construction projects.
“I don’t recall anything like this ever happening before,” Mr. Trinks said about his town. “I don’t know what the message is” that the perpetrators are trying to send, he said, “but it’s an offensive and disgusting statement.”
The site of the future Windsor Amazon fulfillment center — part of a huge building spree by the company — sits four miles from the center of town, near Interstate 91. It is surrounded by rolling farm fields with few buildings across the landscape, and is expected to serve the greater New York and Connecticut area.
As with many of its new warehouses, Amazon will not take ownership until the project is complete, which is expected next spring. Until then, the site is owned by Scannell Properties, a developer based in Indiana. Scannell has hired RC Andersen, a New Jersey company, to handle the construction, including hiring around three dozen subcontractors.
The steel frame of the building, which will end up standing five stories tall with 3.8 million square feet of space for Amazon goods, was rising by December.
The problems began a few months later. In late April, a local television reporter, acting on a tip, asked the town’s police chief whether his department would look into a noose found on the second floor of the rising building. The local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. was sent a similar tip as well as a photograph of the noose hanging.
By the time police officers arrived, the noose had already been taken down by the site’s safety team, said Donald Melanson, the Windsor chief of police.
Scot X. Esdaile, the president of the Connecticut chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., who had spoken to several Black workers about the nooses, said workers had told him that they felt the noose was taken down in an attempt to prevent the public from learning about it.
Robert Andersen, the president and owner of RC Andersen, said that was never the intention.
“We immediately contacted the police,” Mr. Andersen said. “Then from that point forward, we followed their lead on whatever we should do.”
The worker concerns grew over the next couple of days, when they found five more ropes that the police said “could be interpreted as nooses.” But the outrage really escalated two weeks later — after many people thought the problems at the site had been addressed — when workers found a seventh noose-like rope hanging from a beam.
It was “the discovery that drew the ear of many, many others that this had happened,” Chief Melanson said in an interview.
The N.A.A.C.P. held a news conference at the construction site the next day, on May 20, calling the acts “hate crimes.” The group said Amazon needed to do a better job of answering questions about what was happening at the site.
Carlos Best, a Black worker who had worked on the project until January, said during the news conference that racism at the site extended beyond the nooses. He had “personally heard racial remarks made toward my people, and other races as well,” he added. “It was a daily thing.”
Despite all the attention, workers reported an eighth noose a week later.
By that point, Amazon and Scannell had added security measures and said they were committed to holding the perpetrators accountable.
But many activists said this wasn’t enough. Keren Prescott and the Rev. Cornell Lewis, local community organizers who started groups called PowerUp CT and the Self Defense Brigade to advocate social justice, organized several demonstrations to demand that Amazon take stronger action to ensure the safety of Black construction workers. At one demonstration, Mr. Lewis, along with members from the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and the New Black Panthers showed up at the construction site, some of them carrying guns. Mr. Lewis said the activists were there to defend the Black workers and make them feel empowered to speak their mind.
Their anger intensified when the police made a startling statement: The department believed only two of the eight ropes were actually nooses — the first one they had investigated, and the last one.
Chief Melanson said a hangman’s noose has “a very specific knot” that tightens and “is made to withstand the strength of a human body.” He said the other ropes had a loop tied on the end that is used on construction sites for “many different reasons, like lashing down equipment.”
Ms. Prescott, the community organizer, said the police’s conclusion was “the biggest slap in the face.”
“Don’t make it seem as if Black people don’t work in construction,” Ms. Prescott said. “We know what typical knots and cables look like.”
Other local residents have also voiced their opposition to how the episodes at the construction site were being handled.
The nooses symbolize “one of the most detrimental issues to Black people in the United States,” Leroy Smith, a Windsor resident, said at one Town Council meeting. “To bring up that reminder, and to have this going on in 2021, is totally unjustifiable.”
Chief Melanson said that hundreds of people had been interviewed and that the department was still following leads. But he said the nooses, while serious symbols of hate, didn’t leave anyone physically harmed.
“Racism anywhere is wrong,” Chief Melanson said. “But I think it’s important to realize that there’s many other things where people are killed, and people shot, you know, with real victims.”
He added: “There’s a lot of people trying to do the right thing here, and blame needs to be placed on the people who hung the noose, not the people who are trying to stop it.”
Amazon, which has met several times with the N.A.A.C.P., said it would continue to provide enhanced security and free counseling for workers at the site.
“Hate, racism or discrimination have no place in our society and are certainly not tolerated by Amazon,” said Kelly Nantel, a company spokeswoman.
Mr. Lewis, however, is not satisfied. He said that he, Ms. Prescott and other activists had asked repeatedly for a meeting with Amazon and its construction partners, and that they had yet to secure one.
If they do not get a meeting, Mr. Lewis said he and other activists would occupy the construction site.
“They need to know we’re serious,” he said.
The administration made a last-ditch, failed appeal to Congress to extend the moratorium to buy more time to fix a dysfunctional rental aid program.
By Glenn Thrush, Matthew Goldstein and Conor Dougherty, July 31, 2021
Sheriff’s deputies speaking with an apartment manager about an apartment with an eviction order in Los Angeles. Credit...Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
A nationwide moratorium on residential evictions is set to expire on Saturday after a last-minute effort by the Biden administration to win an extension failed, putting hundreds of thousands of tenants at risk of losing shelter, while tens of billions in federal funding intended to pay their back rent sit untapped.
The expiration was a humbling setback for President Biden, whose team has tried for months to fix a dysfunctional emergency rent relief program to help struggling renters and landlords. Running out of time and desperate to head off a possible wave of evictions, the White House abruptly shifted course on Thursday, throwing responsibility to Congress and prompting a frenzied — and ultimately unsuccessful — rescue operation by Democrats in the House on Friday.
The collapse of those efforts reflected a cascade of breakdowns in the federal government’s attempts to get states to speed housing assistance to tenants. Hampered by a lack of action by the Trump administration, which left no real plan to carry out the program, Mr. Biden’s team has struggled to build a viable federal-local funding pipeline, hindered by state governments that view the initiative as a burden and the ambivalence of many landlords.
As a result, the $47 billion Emergency Rental Assistance program, to date, disbursed only $3 billion — about 7 percent of what was supposed to be a crisis-averting infusion of cash.
Adding to the urgency, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh warned last month, when the Supreme Court allowed a one-month extension of the eviction moratorium to stand, that any further extensions would have to go through Congress. But there was little chance that Republicans on Capitol Hill would agree, and by the time White House officials asked, only two days remained before the freeze expired, angering Democratic leaders who said they had no time to build support for the move.
“Really, we only learned about this yesterday,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had publicly and privately urged senior Biden administration officials to deal with the problem themselves.
“What a devastating failure to act in a moment of crisis,” said Diane Yentel, the president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which had pressed for an extension of the moratorium. “As the Delta variant surges and our understanding of its dangers grow, the White House punts to Congress in the final 48 hours and the House leaves for summer break.”
The federal eviction moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November, was effective, reducing by about half the number of eviction cases that normally would have been filed since last fall, according to an analysis of filings by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.
Advocates have argued it is also a public health imperative, because evictions make it harder for people to socially distance.
The lapse of the federal freeze is offset by other pro-tenant initiatives that are still in place. Many states and localities, including New York and California, have extended their own moratoriums, which should blunt some of the effect. In some places, judges, cognizant of the potential for a mass wave of displacement, have said they would slow-walk cases and make greater use of eviction diversion programs.
On Friday, several government agencies, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency, along with the Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Departments, announced that they would extend their eviction moratoriums until Sept. 30.
Nonetheless, there is the potential for a rush of eviction filings beginning next week — in addition to the more than 450,000 eviction cases already filed in courts in the largest cities and states since the pandemic began in March 2020.
An estimated 11 million adult renters are considered seriously delinquent on their rent payment, according to a survey by the Census Bureau, but no one knows how many renters are in danger of being evicted in the near future.
Bailey Bortolin, a tenants’ lawyer who works for the Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, said the absence of the moratorium would lead many owners to dump their backlog of eviction cases into the courts next week, prompting many renters who received an eviction notice to simply vacate their apartments rather than fight it out.
“I think what we will see on Monday is a drastic increase in eviction notices going out to people, and the vast majority won’t go through the court process,” Ms. Bortolin said.
The moratorium had been set to expire on June 30, but the White House and C.D.C., under pressure from tenants groups, extended the freeze until July 31, in the hopes of using the time to accelerate the flow of rental assistance.
A crash effort followed, led by Gene Sperling, who was appointed in March to oversee Mr. Biden’s pandemic relief efforts, including emergency rental assistance programs created by coronavirus aid laws enacted in 2020 and 2021.
Mr. Sperling, working with officials in the Treasury Department, moved to loosen application requirements and increase coordination among the state governments, legal aid lawyers, housing court officials and local nonprofits with expertise in mediating landlord-tenant disputes.
In June, 290,000 tenants received $1.5 billion in pandemic relief, according to Treasury Department statistics released last week. To date, about 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.
But administration officials concede the improvements have not progressed quickly enough. Over the past week, Mr. Sperling; Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council; Susan Rice, Mr. Biden’s top domestic policy adviser; and Ms. Rice’s deputy on housing policy, Erika C. Poethig, made a late plea for Mr. Biden to extend the freeze, according to two people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.
Dana Remus, the White House counsel, expressed concerns that an extension could prompt the Supreme Court to strike down the administration’s broad use of public health laws to justify a range of federal policies, and her view prevailed, the officials said.
In a statement Friday evening, Mr. Biden sought to put the onus on local officials to provide housing aid, saying “there can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants.”
“Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can,” he added.
In the past week, Wally Adeyemo, the deputy Treasury secretary overseeing the program, had sent letters to officials in several localities, including New York, warning that their share of the cash could be taken back if it was not spent by mid-September, according to two senior administration officials. The White House is especially concerned about the sluggish pace of spending in Florida.
Emily A. Benfer, a professor at Wake Forest University who specializes in health and housing law, said it was not entirely fair to blame the states, because many local governments had had to build their rental assistance programs from scratch.
It has also been difficult to gain buy-in from landlords, who are required to fill out complex financial forms and follow strict eligibility rules. Some simply do not want to, especially if they have more informal arrangements with tenants. In addition, many landlords and tenants, do not even know the aid program exists.
Big and small landlords are nearly unanimous in their disdain for the C.D.C.’s moratorium and the patchwork of state and local moratoriums that have augmented it.
“They just said ‘You cannot evict and that’s it,” said Shaker Viswanathan, 65, who owns 16 units in San Diego. “The tenants are the ones that they are trying to take care of, and not anybody else. We still have to make mortgage payments.”
If there is one point both tenants and landlords agree on, it is that gaining access to the money remains difficult, and the process must be streamlined.
“These applications are just a bear” said Zach Neumann, a lawyer who runs the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project in Denver, which has received dozens of calls and emails from renters panicked by the end of the freeze. “It adds a ton of time onto the process and that increases the risk for tenants.”
Evictions can be personal crises for all involved — so traumatic, in fact, that many tenants will often leave without resisting just to avoid the ordeal, according to marshals and sheriffs responsible for showing up at people’s doors, hauling out their belongings and locking them out.
Kristen Randall, a constable who oversees evictions in the Tucson area, has been reaching out to people on both sides to figure out what happens next.
It is a mixed, cloudy picture. Some landlords who are waiting for tenants to get rental assistance are in no rush to evict. Others are planning to take legal action next week to enforce judgments against tenants they have already taken to court.
Ms. Randall spent part of Friday visiting renters who faced imminent eviction.
“It has been an emotional day,” she said.
Ms. Randall repeated what she has been telling those tenants: “When you leave on your own, it is better than me showing up and locking you out.”
Ron Lieber contributed reporting.